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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/02/12

Guests: E.J. Dionne, Spencer Ackerman, Diana DeGette

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: It is big. Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thank you. Thanks to you at home for joining this hour. Something really funny happened at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington today. It happened while Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was introducing his wife. Did you see this? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I have the honor and privilege of introducing my wife, Mrs. Mary Sessions, a partner for 42 years who enabled me -- (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Why is everybody laughing? Why is Mrs. Sessions laughing uncomfortably? Didn`t get the math wrong on how long they have been married? What is going -- OK, to the pool report transcript. This is what was happening in the room when Senator Sessions introduced his wife. When he said my wife Mary, when he said that, the jumbo screen in the room cut to this image. This guy, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn and his beard, sitting right next to him. That funny thing happened, right? At the National Prayer Breakfast today -- it was as if just for a moment, just in the minds of the audience there was a funny moment like, maybe Jeff Sessions and Tom Coburn are married. Ha! Even without moments like that, though, the National Prayer Breakfast is a little bit creepy. Do you remember C Street? The C Street house in Washington run by the secretive religious group called The Fellowship or The Family? Subsidized rent on a Capitol Hill mansion for conservative lawmakers, which sort of gives them sketchy tax status. They used to call this grand house on Capitol Hill where the lawmakers lived a church for tax purposes. That has been investigated in the past couple of years since C Street has been involved in a bunch of sex scandals and has gotten more attention. The Fellowship and C Street also makes some fairly radical theological contentions. You may remember from our earlier reporting on them, they, for example, have cited Hitler and Lenin and Mao as leadership models for the powerful politicos they choose for their secret group. They also have ties to some of the worst dictators around the world. And as we have covered extensively on this show, they are tied to some very radical policy positions including the infamous "kill the gays" bill in Uganda. So that`s who organizes the National Prayer Breakfast and always has. And that has always been a creepy thing about the National Prayer Breakfast. And it remains a creepy thing about it. But presidents for decades now always go to these things and always speak at them. And so, President Obama today, like his predecessors, spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. The first lady was there with him. As was Vice President Biden and a pantheon of powerful senators. This is a real Washington establishment event. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s a chance to step back for a moment, for us to come together as brothers and sisters and seek God`s face together. At a time when it is easy to lose ourselves in the rush, and clamor of our own lives or get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down. They humble us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama went on to talk about the poor in America. He went on to say his proposal to increase taxes on the richest people in this country is consistent with Jesus` teachings. He said, quote, "For me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus` teaching that for unto whom much is given, much shall be required." Disgraced religious right organizer Ralph Reed, late of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, Ralph Reed responded to the president`s speech today by saying it strained credulity and President Obama would dare talk about responsibility to the poor in the context of his religious faith. Ralph Reed told "The Washington Post" he found that contention "theologically threadbare". "Talking Points Memo" today highlighted CNN`s takeaway from the president`s speech at the prayer breakfast. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK PRESTON, CNN: And here you have President Obama just moments ago talking to the prayer breakfast. A takeaway from that sound bite, Kyra, two things that really stood out: one, he emphasized that he is a Christian. There is still doubt out there amongst Americans, among some Americans, that he is not Christian and he emphasized that in that speech. He also married faith and public policy together, and he said that people need to take care of each other. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s CNN`s takeaway from the speech? The president is the same religion he has been the entire time he`s been in public life. That`s the news today. I don`t even really mean to ding CNN here. I mean, to a certain extent they are right, that some people will see the fact that President Obama is still a Christian as news. And that isn`t even just about this particular president and the right wing craziness about whether he secretly is foreign and maybe secretly Muslim. Beyond that, in U.S. politics, there is a resistance to the idea that a Democrat could be a religious person. Meanwhile, conservatives are assumed to be religious, and it is assumed that religion informs their policies. Republican politicians happily encourage this perception. Republican presidential candidates this year have been accusing the Obama administration of being anti-religion, accusing President Obama of waging, in fact, a war on religion. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the reasons I`m running is there has been an increasingly aggressive war against religion, and in particular against Christianity in this country. I frankly believe it`s important to have some leadership that stands up and says enough, we are truly guaranteed the right of religious freedom. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama orders religious organizations to violate their conscience. I will defend religious liberty and overturn regulations that trample on our first freedom. GINGRICH: The Obama administration has declared war on the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: And while Republicans accuse Democrats of not just being not religious enough, but being anti-religion, of waging war on religion, while they are saying that about Democrats when Republicans run for office, you can be forgiven for thinking they`re sometimes running for deacon instead. Rick Perry this year was great at it. He bought up, I swear, all of the patriotic looking footage of crosses that you could buy from iStockPhoto. There is the cross flyover again, using it there in another ad. And, again in another ad, we`re flying and Rick Perry is preaching. This is the whole basis of Rick Santorum`s campaign, right? His slogan is faith -- Rick Perry with the crosses in his ads, for Rick Santorum he`s got the slogan, "Faith, Family and Freedom". The name of his tour of the country this year, touring the country, talking about his religion, making the case that his religion is the first reason, faith, family and freedom, the first reason why you should elect him to be president, because of his religion. It has become political short-hand that Democrats are godless, right, and religious conservatives like Rick Santorum, they are doing God`s work. They`re motivated in their policy by what Jesus wants them to do. Here`s what that looks like on the campaign trail now. Yesterday, Rick Santorum spoke in Colorado, he gave what was touted as a big address on health care. When he was done, he opened the floor to questions. And a little kid, can`t see him on camera, but you can hear him, ask Rick Santorum this question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED KID: Can you please help us, like, make medicine cheaper? So people can afford the medicine. RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question, can we help make medicine cheaper? And I think -- I gave the answer to that. We can make medicine cheaper by using markets. That`s how you make medicine cheaper, is that you have free people going out there and competing against each other. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After that, for several minutes, Mr. Santorum proceeds to lecture the crowd about why the thing we need to protect are drug companies in this case and not individual people`s needs. Rick Santorum is, of course, not going to win the presidency. So, it is sometimes hard to take what happens at Rick Santorum`s campaign events seriously. But I think this was amazing. This was an important thing to have happened, especially given the scorn that the right poured on President Obama today, and the skepticism that was shown to him by the press today when the president talked about how his Christianity informs his belief that we ought to care for the poor. While that is happening, while that`s the way the Democrats get treated when they talk about Jesus` teachings leading them to believe that the poor should be cared for, meanwhile on the right, here`s Rick Santorum, universally credited as pious and as driven by his Christian values, and this is how he addresses this issue. At this event, several different people say to Rick Santorum in different ways, I can`t afford my medicine. Is there anything you would do to help me? And his response, he almost sounds annoyed at them, almost angry. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANTORUM: Well, what do we say to the drug companies? Too bad. These kids need the drugs, this person needs the drugs, you can`t charge what it costs. We say, I`m sorry, drug companies agree, you`re bad, we need you to have -- you can`t make a return on your money. Then we will freeze innovation. If that`s what you want, that`s not how the market works. People have no problem going out and buying an iPad for $900. But paying $900 for a drug, they have a problem with it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It actually got worse from there. A mother interrupted Mr. Santorum on point and told him that her child is sick, she said he`s, quote, "worth her life," that she would go bankrupt for him. But that other kids she sees at the oncology ward cannot afford care like she has been able so far to provide her kid. And those kids, she says, are dying. She confronts Mr. Santorum with this. Mr. Santorum scoffs at her. Literally scoffs at her question, laughs at it and then proceeds to make an example out of her for the audience. It is kind of hard to hear her here, but here is that exchange. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are kids in the hospital in the oncology ward dying because they can`t afford the same treatments. (INAUDIBLE) SANTORUM: Here`s the -- this is the point she`s making. These drugs are really expensive and therefore we should not make drug companies charge that. He`s alive today because drug companies thought that they would make money in providing that care and if the drug company didn`t think they could make any money, for providing that care, I hate to put it in these terms, but that drug wouldn`t be here. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: People have no problem going out and buying their iPads for $900, but $200 for a drug, got a problem with that? What was just posed to the candidate by the mother of a sick child is the problem of kids she knows dying in cancer wards because they cannot afford care. Mr. Santorum laughs at her, and then tells her that drug companies ought to be able to charge whatever they want. That was his response on the "Faith, Family and Freedom" tour. Joining us now is "Washington Post" columnist, MSNBC contributor and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, Mr. E.J. Dionne, who writes about religion and politics with alarming alacrity. E.J., thank you for being here tonight. It`s nice to have you. E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be here. Good bless you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thank you. Good (INAUDIBLE). Did you happen -- did you happen to see any of that Santorum exchange? I wanted to leave the show with it tonight because I didn`t feel like it was -- it was made widely available today, maybe because nothing Rick Santorum ask does is seen as being that newsworthy. I thought it was newsworthy. Did you see it as something that would be important? DIONNE: Yes, I think that you put that together with Obama`s speech today. And Santorum`s funny because there are times when he has used this Christian Scripture in the same way that Obama did in a case to make for why we must do things for the poor. Yet I find among a lot of Republicans, they can`t ever extend that to health care. They can`t say, wait a minute, making sure that everybody can afford their medicine, that is kind of out of the beatitudes. And I thought the president`s speech today was important. People will say is it a political speech? Of course, it`s a political speech. Everything presidents say in election years -- everything he says is political. But the argument over what Christianity has to say about how we should live our lives together or how government should act has been going on ever since pretty much Jesus walked the Earth. In our history, we argued about what Christianity said about slavery. The social gospel movement at the turn of the last century said Christianity had a lot to say about social justice. And I just can`t help but pick up on that Ralph Reed point. He said president`s speech was theologically threadbare. Just before I came over here, I found this quotation from Pope John Paul II who many would regard as theologically sophisticated and many see him as a conservative. He said, "The needs of the poor must take priority over the desires of the rich, and the rights of the workers over the maximization of profit." That sounds like it has a lot of relevance to this campaign we`re in the middle of. MADDOW: And what explains the difference in the partisan interpretation of remarks like that? Because you saw the president today in that speech making remarks much -- that echoed those of Pope John Paul there, also that had with biblical illusions, talking about what that -- how that informed how he thinks about economic, how he thinks about how we ought to treat both the rich and the poor in society. It is treated uniformly as being something that say technical partisan exercise where he`s throwing religious stuff out there to sort of give a dog a bone. Nobody in Beltway politics at all reads any legitimacy at all into his religious belief, whereas Rick Santorum is seen as being no question, legitimately motivated by Christian charity at every turn. What explains this sort of partisan basis for how -- for the assumptions of how people like that are greeted in the party? DIONNE: I think when the religious right came along in the late `70s, early `80s, it really drew a different line. I think they were quite successful not only in the minds of many Christians, but also in the minds of many people who aren`t Christian in defining what issues related to morality and values as being only in a very narrow basket -- abortion, now gay marriage, stem cell research, whereas historically what was defined as moral and as a values issue included social justice. Mike Gerson, President Bush`s speechwriter, notes that Franklin Roosevelt may have quoted Scripture, made more religious references than George W. Bush did during his presidency. Yes, there are some real fights, there are battles over how big the religious exemption should be from the contraception requirement under the new health care law -- you and I may have slightly different views on that. But in the broad thrust of things, it`s very hard to see Christianity as indifferent to the poor. Jesus didn`t talk about abortion. He talked a lot about the poor. He didn`t talk about a lot of these issues we talk about, but he did talk a lot about justice and so did the Old Testament prophets. And so, I think what you`re seeing a return to a more robust debate about what Christianity actually says. MADDOW: I hope so. I think that you have been pushing that debate along and I hope -- I hope it`s right and maybe the "I`m not concerned about the poor" thing will help interrupt the Republican equals religious equation that I think has kept us from that debate. E.J., thank you for talking to me about this. I really appreciate it. DIONNE: Amen to that and thank you very much. MADDOW: E.J. Dionne, of course, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and MSNBC contributor and a "Washington Post" columnist. OK. There is a very good reason why Mitt Romney rarely brings up foreign policy. Proof of that ahead. Plus, the latest on this huge fight over Planned Parenthood. A story and a fight that is getting bigger, not smaller. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: What was the Mitt Romney for president campaign`s message of the day today? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I spent my life in the private sector, not quite as successful as this guy, but successful nonetheless. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Today, the Beltway media scoop on Mitt Romney`s campaign for president was this "Washington Post" headline, Mitt Romney relying heavily on small group of super rich donors. "The Post" raising the question of the potential political liability of, quote, "Mr. Romney`s heavy reliance on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for financial support." So that`s the headline the Romney campaign woke up to this morning, then there was appearance with this man. And what`s the Beltway media takeaway from all of this, what was the message of the day for the Mitt Romney for president campaign? According to the belt buckle of the Beltway,, today`s Mitt Romney campaign message was that nobody remembers Mitt Romney saying like a zillionaire that he wasn`t concerned about poor people. That`s forgotten now because of today`s events. Yes, "Politico," because if there`s one thing the joint appearance with Donald Trump swipes out, it`s Mitt Romney`s problem of seeming like an out of touch, callous rich guy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: You`re fired. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Mitt Romney`s dad ran for president too in 1968. He was favored at one point in the race, seen as a safe choice. He was a governor of a state that starts with M. A successful corporate executive, square jaw, great hair, kind of reminds you of somebody, right? Also, he had no foreign policy experience, none to speak of. Which is part of why not Mitt, but George Romney had a fatal error in his presidential campaign. His fatal error was flip-flopping and then getting way out of his depth on the issue of an American war. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, shifting to Vietnam in November of 1965 when you returned from Vietnam, you said, and I`m quoting, "involvement was morally right and necessary and probably reversed the shift in the balance of power greater than if Hitler had conquered Europe". In recent weeks, you said you didn`t think we should have been involved at all, and the President Johnson`s decision to expand the bombing wasn`t going to resolve the problem. Isn`t your position a bit inconsistent with what it was and what do you propose we do now? GEORGE ROMNEY, FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Well, you know, when I came back from Vietnam, I just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody could get. When you -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the generals? G. ROMNEY: When you go over to Vietnam -- well, not only by the generals, but also by the diplomatic corps over there, and they do a very thorough job. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: George Romney, Mitt`s dad, saying he had been brainwashed by the generals and the diplomatic corps in Vietnam and that`s why he flip flopped all over the place on the issue of that war. That brainwashing comment was pretty much the end of his presidential campaign. It would not have been so damaging had George Romney had any credibility on foreign policy and war. But he had no relevant experience on those issues. So the "I was brainwashed" thing stuck. And he was done as a candidate. Now, we`ve got George Romney`s son, and today, George Romney`s son is trying to make a splash in his run for the presidency by going after the current president on our war in Afghanistan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: The president`s mistakes, some of them are calculated based on a philosophy that is hard to understand. And some you scratch your head and say how can you be so misguided and so naive? Today, his secretary of defense unleashed such a policy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What is this unleashed policy that Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, knows is so naive, so misguided, what is this problem? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: The secretary of defense said that on a date certain, the middle of 2013, we`re going to pull out our camp combat troops from Afghanistan. He announced that. He announced that so the Taliban hears it, the Pakistanis hear it, the Afghan leaders hear it. Why in the world do you go to the people that you`re fighting with and tell them the day you`re pulling out your troops? It makes absolutely no sense. His naivety is putting in jeopardy the mission of the United States of America and our commitments to freedom. He is wrong. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It makes no sense to Mitt Romney, no sense, he says. Here is Mitt Romney`s record on foreign policy. I mean, obviously he`s got no record on foreign policy. So that is his record on foreign policy. But here is his record on him talking about foreign policy. The last time he ran for president, Mitt Romney was in favor of a timetable for ending the Iraq war. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: People have to have goals and benchmarks and things which they`re moving towards with flexible timetables and schedules. Those are things which of course exist within our military and within al Maliki`s military. Of course, you have a series of milestones and yardsticks. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You believe there should be a timetable in withdrawing the troops? ROMNEY: Well, there is no question but that the president and Prime Minister al Maliki have to have a series of timetables, milestones that they speak about. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You have to have that. So the last time you ran for president, Mitt Romney was in favor of a timetable for leaving Iraq. Mr. Romney was also against a timetable for leaving Iraq. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I do not support and have never supported a timed withdrawal. So that`s wrong. I have never, ever supported a specific timetable for exit from Iraq. I said I`d veto it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: To be fair to Mr. Romney, the last time he ran for president, the most accurate way to describe his take on the Iraq war was that he was totally for and also totally against a timetable for leaving Iraq. Mr. Romney has also been totally for and totally against the whole idea of that war in first place. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time. I support it now. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Mr. Romney the last time he run for president. Here he is this time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: If we knew at the time of our entry into Iraq that there were no weapons of mass destruction, if somehow we had been give than information, we would not have gone in. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t think we would have gone in at all? ROMNEY: Well, of course not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Well, of course not. So, the last time Mitt Romney ran for president, it was the right decision knowing what we knew then and knowing what we know now to invade Iraq. This time he`s running for president, of course, we wouldn`t have invaded Iraq. This is not 1968. Foreign policy may not be as central to this presidential election as it was to that presidential election. But if Mitt Romney wants to say the war in Afghanistan must not end, and he wants to make his credibility on foreign policy and the wars central to this election, Democrats around the country will join me in saying, all at once now, Mitt Romney, be my guest. Joining us now is Spencer Ackerman, senior writer for He`s also the proprietor of the "Attackerman" national security blog. Spencer, it`s good to see you. SPENCER ACKERMAN, WIRED.COM: Great as always to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: Does Mitt Romney have a George Romney problem in the sense of seeming incoherent on America`s wars? ACKERMAN: Well, I actually want to stick up for George Romney for a second. The whole interview that Romney Sr. gave in 1968, all he was really saying was that he got spun the first time he went to Vietnam and when he saw things more clearly for himself, he believed of course America should withdraw from Vietnam. Those are pretty correct positions, particularly 1968. MADDOW: OK, wait, he`s not saying -- he`s not just saying I got spun. And any of us who have been to war zones, you always know you get spun. ACKERMAN: Right, right. MADDOW: The problem is he got spun and came back and said having been spun, I now believe this is the policy and I George Romney endorse blah. It wasn`t just that he got spun. It`s that he fell for it and it changed his position. ACKERMAN: Well, I kind of think his son Mitt has less of a George Romney problem than a John Kerry problem. MADDOW: OK. ACKERMAN: The Romney campaign on foreign policy reminds me a lot of the Kerry campaign in 2004 on foreign policy where you don`t really get a lot of very sharply drawn distinctions with the president, but you get a lot of invective and a lot of, you know, performed outrage. Like if you just read the transcript of what Romney said on Afghanistan there, it`s actually pretty straight recitation of facts. The secretary of defense said that we`re going to withdraw by a date certain in mid-2013. But then when you hear it, like you just played, it`s a timetable, you can`t believe it. You know, it seems a lot less like Romney has a substantive critique to make than he wants to just show the audience that something Obama has done is self-evidently wrong. MADDOW: He has taken on advisers, foreign policy advisers who are best known for their advocacy of the position that there ought to be negotiations with the Taliban to end the Afghanistan war. He is also made the case on the campaign trail that there should definitely be no negotiations with the Taliban to end the Afghanistan war. He was for and also very much against the Iraq war, for and very much against a timetable to end the Afghanistan war. Because he has taken opposite positions equally ferocious and opposite positions on all of those core issues, is there a path out of that in terms of him trying to come up with some coherent way of explaining all these different positions or some way to apologize and make the contradictions go away? ACKERMAN: Possibly the smartest play for Romney at this point is to make foreign policy a kind of culture war issue. And you`ve sort of heard him do it in a variety of ways throughout the campaign, almost like he`s testing the message -- in which, he just wants to say that Obama doesn`t believe in freedoms sufficiently or he`s somehow not tough enough to protect the country. And if he can convince voters that that`s the kind of threshold issue, then the substantive policies he puts out seems less important by contrast. If he can`t do that, you know, President Obama isn`t running for election, he`s running for re-election, after having killed Osama bin Laden, then it`s going to be a lot more difficult for Romney to wriggle out of the trap you point out he`s kind of stepped himself into. MADDOW: If the Republicans nominate anybody other than Ron Paul, pretending that Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum has a chance here and it could be one of them in addition to Mr. Romney, are we going to end up where the foreign policy fight in the general election is, President Obama who says the Iraq war -- excuse me, the Afghanistan war will end, and these other guys saying, no, it should go on for longer? Is that going to be the big fight? ACKERMAN: I think it is more going to be Obama saying that the Afghanistan war should end and there is a huge asterisk on that because we`re not actually going to pull all the troops out by 2013 or 2014. But the Republican alternative to that is just going to be what Obama says is wrong. Not necessarily that we have an affirmative plan to win the Afghanistan war, or that we should keep fighting it until, you know, Lord knows when. MADDOW: Doesn`t a smart Democratic campaign, though, say, right, so you want this to go on longer? That`s your solution? I mean, I feel like -- I feel like the Obama campaign, even if you have issues with them on foreign policy, I have a ton of issues with them on a bunch of things, I feel that they are good at messaging by the way we killed bin Laden and we ended the Iraq war. Any problems with that? I feel like they could still do that on Afghanistan, couldn`t they? ACKERMAN: And you heard in the State of the Union, it seems like a fight they really want to have and a contrast they really want to draw -- particularly when the Republicans, with the exception of Ron Paul, are still kind of feeling around what it is they actually think about these things. MADDOW: Spencer Ackerman, senior writer for and proprietor for the "Attackerman" national security blog -- Spencer, I read you every day. Thank you for being with us tonight. ACKERMAN: Thank you so much, Rachel. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. The Planned Parenthood story that has people more angry than any story we have touched on in a good long while is coming up. And I got to tell you, people are really, really angry about this story and that`s even in the context us having ways of finding stories that make people really angry all the time -- something that stands out even from that morass of outrage. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hey, you know that whole issue of whether there ought to be a parade to mark the end of the Iraq war, a parade to thank the troops who fought in that eight-year long war. That debate changed today. The debate over that issue today changed a lot. I think this is exclusive to us. I think you will hear this nowhere else in the news tonight. We`ve got that coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I don`t know about your Internet, but mine have been 15 flavors of lit up this week. People are just lit up about an attack on Planned Parenthood. And I mean lit up like break out the asterisks when you put the tweet up on TV. Lit up like this, because every woman who can`t obtain birth control is a big bleeping deal. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg announcing that he would give a quarter million dollars to Planned Parenthood, personally. Even anti- abortion men who do not have a uterus for the government to control, even some of them standing up for Planned Parenthood now, very publicly. And this new tumbler, have you seen this, Planned Parenthood saved my life, page after page after page after page of testimonials from patients. "I almost bled to death." And "I did not know where else to go". And just -- there is a lot of these, "Thank you, Planned Parenthood." Clearly, Planned Parenthood is not to be messed with. Who would attack a nonprofit that offers so much help with so many medical needs for so many people who could not otherwise afford that help? Who except for maybe the United States Congress where House Republicans voted to take all federal money away from Planned Parenthood. That was in February. In April, they tried it again. House Republicans again voting to cut off Planned Parenthood, knowing Democrats in the Senate would never let it go any further. Or how about the state of Indiana where Indiana Republicans voted to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood last April. Or North Carolina where North Carolina Republicans overwrote a veto to cut funding for Planned Parenthood in June. Or Kansas, same deal, same month -- Republicans voting to kick the legs out from under a nonprofit provider of health care for women. Or Minnesota, where cuts back in Washington led to Planned Parenthood closing half a dozen clinics. One of the patients telling a newspaper, quote, "For rural women like us, this was the only place to go for our annual exams and birth control." That`s most of what Planned Parenthood does -- annual exams, checkups, cancer screenings, family planning, life saving stuff, real care that American women really need even if it skives you out, real stuff that our country is better off if American women get. But conservatives in congress and in state legislatures, the politicians who control Planned Parenthood`s fate, they never let up on them. They have never stopped attacking Planned Parenthood in general, but in particular over this past year, year and a half. Like when Congresswoman Michele Bachmann says Planned Parenthood wants to be the lens crafters of abortion. Or when Senator Jon Kyl says 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion. And then has his office put out a statement, that was not intended to be a factual statement. Or when Congressman Cliff Stearns writes on a conservative Web site that "defunding Planned Parenthood should be a fiscal and moral priority" for the whole country. Months later in September, same congressman, Congressman Stearns, launching an investigation of Planned Parenthood with the call for records that stretches back two decades and covers every state and local Planned Parenthood affiliate with explicit constructions for how the documents produced in response to his investigation are to be photocopied and labeled and filed and boxed. Congressman Stearns initially set a deadline of two weeks for Planned Parenthood to comply with that. This week, we got more news about Congressman Stearns` investigation of Planned Parenthood. And this is the news that turned the Internets into a blazing bonfire of outrage. A breast cancer foundation, the largest in the country, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the one with the pink ribbons everywhere and the races and the walks to raise money, Susan G. Komen decided to pull all of its funding for Planned Parenthood, roughly $700,000. The Komen Foundation explained it would stop helping Planned Parenthood for things like breast exams because Planned Parenthood was being investigated by Congressman Cliff Stearns. It`s a new rule for them, if you`re being investigated, you`re cut off -- at least if the you in this case is Planned Parenthood. One day after the news broke, and infuriated everybody, people had donated so much money to Planned Parenthood that it almost made up for what the Komen Foundation is subtracting. And today, two dozen U.S. senators wrote to the Susan G. Komen for a Cure Foundation and asked them to reconsider their decision. So it is now, now, after so many attacks on Planned Parenthood, now for some reason, now finally people are seriously upset and paying attention. Why is that? Joining us now is Congresswoman Diana DeGette. She is a Democrat of Colorado. She`s the co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. Congresswoman DeGette, it`s good to see you again. Thank you for being here. REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: It`s good to be back with you, Rachel. I`m also the top ranking Democrat on Cliff Stearns` subcommittee. So, I`ve been involved with that issue since day one. MADDOW: Well, how do you all get along, you and Mr. Stearns? DEGETTE: We get along OK, but, you know, you talk about -- you talk about the wires lighting up. My Web site had eight times more hits than we have had on anything else yesterday. People are mad. And the reason they`re mad is because people support breast cancer research and people support Planned Parenthood, which was getting all of this money from the Komen Foundation to do breast cancer screening. And so -- and people just can`t believe it. They feel really feel betrayed. And I`m hearing that outrage from everybody including my own daughters. MADDOW: Is it striking to you, though, after this year of just decimating attacks on Planned Parenthood, not only in state legislatures, but in Congress, it becoming a real priority for Congress? They were going to -- Republicans in the House were going to shut down the federal government over their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, after all of these attacks, this seems to be the one that is really grabbed everybody`s attention? DEGETTE: I`ve got to tell you, I`ve been shaking my head because -- because you would attack an organization, 97 percent of what they do is well woman care. And I think what you have here is you have a juxtaposition of women across America who have used Planned Parenthood for their breast cancer screening, for their cervical cancer screening, for their well woman visits and then you have the Susan G. Komen foundation which everybody has supported because they are opposing breast cancer. Suddenly, it feels to people like they have turned in a very bad way against women`s health and I think that`s what`s making people so upset, they just can`t understand why Komen would be turning against Planned Parenthood. They feel like, you know, Planned Parenthood does breast cancer screening and that`s what the Komen Foundation is all about. So why wouldn`t they be supporting Planned Parenthood? I think -- I think the patients, the women of America almost feel like it is a betrayal, that`s the sense I`m getting. MADDOW: When Congressman Stearns opened this investigation of Planned Parenthood, that now has been used essentially as the excuse for Komen to go after them -- DEGETTE: Yes. MADDOW: You wrote them a letter and you said, "We question the basis for the investigation and whether Planned Parenthood is being singled out as part of a Republican vendetta." DEGETTE: Right. MADDOW: Do we think the Republican opposition to Planned Parenthood is just with Planned Parenthood or is it more general than that? DEGETTE: Well, I think there really is a vendetta against Planned Parenthood. But there`s also a vendetta against women`s health in general. Any organization like Planned Parenthood that does a full range of women`s reproductive care, you know, Planned Parenthood does a small amount of abortions with their own private dollars. Most of what they do, 97 percent of what they do is other kinds of women`s health care. People have gone after them. The Republicans have gone after them. And the thing that I think is really unfair is the Komen Foundation is acting like there has been some kind of magical opening of an investigation which is ongoing. It`s been six months since Chairman Stearns sent out his letter, and Planned Parenthood, from my understanding, complied with that, even though it was really broad. They sent in all of the evidence showing there is no federal funding spent on abortions at Planned Parenthood, all of their federal funding is spent on well women care. And so, nothing has happened and nothing has happened since September. Now, suddenly, in February, we have the Komen Foundation saying they`re not going to give money for breast cancer screening. I mean, it is just puzzling to everybody. MADDOW: Does it seem to you that the Komen Foundation is sort of under the spell of the people who are orchestrating the broader attacks on Planned Parenthood? Have they been brought into this as part of the same attack? DEGETTE: I can`t think of any other reason why suddenly the Komen Foundation would withdraw money for breast cancer screening from Planned Parenthood if it weren`t because of influence from the extreme right, saying, you can`t fund an organization that with its own money funds a full range of reproductive care. I can`t think of why else they would do it. MADDOW: This past year, all of this time since the 2010 elections, it is still undercovered nationally, but it has been a remarkable year, 18 months, for the anti-abortion movement. They have not only advanced a record number of anti-abortion measures at the state level, they have not only prioritized this nationally almost above all other issues in the House -- in the Republican-controlled House, but they have been able to really change the framing of women`s health issues so that even contraception now is something about which all of the presidential candidates, the Republican presidential candidates are saying is a problem. They`ve all come out to some extent against birth control in running for president. How did -- how did we get back to contraception as a contested issue? DEGETTE: Yes, here we are in the 21st century, it`s 2012, in case anybody wanted to know, and we`re arguing about reproductive care and contraception. I mean, I`m the co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus, as you said. Before, we were arguing about abortion. Now, suddenly, we`re even arguing about whether a woman has a right to family planning. And, of course, if you have full contraception in family planning, then you reduce the number of abortions, which is everybody`s goal. And so, you know, I`m happy to debate anybody at any time about should we have birth control and contraception. I think that`s what you`ve been seeing in the last few days is the American public is waking up and saying, wait a minute, now you`re saying we can`t from breast cancer screening because an organization with its own private money gives a full range of reproductive care? That`s really crazy. I think finally the American public is saying, everybody agrees we should have pregnancy prevention and family planning and breast cancer screening. And what is this war against women`s health that we have going on? MADDOW: Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus -- thank you for helping us try to understand this. I profess to be as bewildered by this as you are. But thank you for helping us get through it. Thank you. DEGETTE: Yes, stay tuned. MADDOW: Yes, seriously. Thank you. All right. Right after the show, on "THE LAST WORD," Lawrence O`Donnell`s guest would be the great Frank Rich. You do no want to miss that. And here, you know how St. Louis had the first parade in the country to mark the end of the war to thank Iraq vets? There`s big news on that. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Here`s an update on something we have been covering a lot recently. But on which the politics have just changed, and changed pretty dramatically. I`m not sure you will hear this anywhere else tonight. This may be exclusive to us. As you know, St. Louis this past weekend was the first American city to hold a welcome home parade to mark the end of the Iraq war. We have a tradition in this country of saying "thank you" and marking the end of a war this way. Although the experience of combat divides American civilians from American soldiers, a ticker tape parade is one way that we have shown that it is a country that goes to war, not just a military, that American troops don`t do it alone, that we`re with them. So far, though, the mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, says there will be no parade in New York City to mark the end of the Iraq war, his office citing Pentagon brass and the fact that the Afghanistan war is still ongoing. Well, today, as I mentioned, the politics of that debate just changed and dramatically because Iraq veterans themselves are weighing in now. And they really like what happened in St. Louis and they think what happened there is a good idea for the whole country. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the first and largest organization of Iraq vets in this country, has launched a petition today, saying if the Giants and Patriots deserve a Super Bowl parade, don`t Iraq vets? They`re singling out New York and Boston because one of those cities is about to have a "congratulations on winning the Super Bowl" parade for its football team. The head of IAVA, Paul Rieckhoff, said today, "This Super Bowl weekend is a critical moment to put the spotlight on our country`s real heroes. The Iraq war has ended. Over 1 million veterans have served and over 4,400 gave their lives. No matter the outcome of this game, our men and women in uniform have more than earned the honor of a ticker tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes" -- which is what they call the parade route in lower Manhattan. "We`re asking Americans nationwide to step up before kickoff this Sunday and petition the president and the mayors of New York and Boston to lead a national day of action to properly honor Iraq veterans` service and sacrifice." This is up on my if you want to see this today. But this is the really important. Here`s what the Iraq veterans are saying on the issue of, oh, we shouldn`t have an end of the Iraq war parade because there`s still another war on in Afghanistan. This is what they say to that. Check this out. "Some of our nation`s leaders disagree that now is the time to celebrate our returning veterans. All Americans know that the fight is not yet over, not in Afghanistan and not at home. But if our country can afford two wars, it can afford two parades and more for our vets to show them that we`ve got their backs." Editorial comment here: it is dumb politics for politicians and Pentagon brass to stand against the actual veterans on this. And honestly, it is nearing obscene that in order to get a parade thanking them for their service, Iraq veterans are having to ask for it. Mr. Menino in Boston, Mr. Bloomberg in New York, Mr. President, the ball is in your court. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END