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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/22/12

Guests: David Englin, Nancy Pelosi

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you very much. You will not believe what she has to say about Rick Santorum, Ed. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: I can only imagine. MADDOW: Thanks, man. Speak with you soon. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Just when you thought Republican politics about sex couldn`t get any weirder this year, just when you thought Republicans had maximized their references to your genitals in their policies, just when you thought the Republican Party of 2012 had completed its list of things they want to legally force your doctor to do to you against your will, the Republican Party`s rhetoric about small government has now taken a turn. It has apparently been surpassed by far more descriptive and specific mandates about not only what size government should be, but what shape government should be, so it can more easily fit inside your pants. Today, in Virginia, a cascade of amazing things happened in Republican politics. First, "The Washington Post" reported that Republican Governor Bob McDonnell`s staff and handful of anti-abortion Republican state legislators met last night to try to salvage the national disaster they had blundered into by passing legislation to force you to have a medically unnecessary vaginal probe by order of the state of Virginia against your wishes, and even if your doctor objects, if you wanted to get an abortion in that state. Now, the legislation has already passed. It`s passed both houses of the Virginia legislature, thanks to Republican majorities in both. And the Republican governor and vice presidential hopeful, Bob McDonnell, had already said that he would sign this bill into law. It was all proceeding apace, this is all going according to plan, until the national media noticed what was going on and everybody freaked out and it made it in a joke on "Saturday Night Live" and there was a giant protest at the state capitol. And as of last night for Bob McDonnell, this whole thing had become, all of a sudden, a political emergency. So, backpedal, backpedal. According to "The Washington Post" reporting, this emergency Republican meeting last night was convened, quote, "after learning that some ultrasounds could be more invasive than first thought." Quote, "Many of the bills supporters were apparently unaware of how invasive the procedure could be." Really? These quotes are attributed to anonymous Virginia officials, presumably Republican officials. And while anonymity sometimes lets you be more honest than you might otherwise be in this case, these unanimous Virginia officials are -- what`s the word? Oh, yes, lying! Or OK to be fair, they might not be lying, they could just be the opposite of smart. These anonymous Virginia officials close to the discussions in Bob McDonnell`s office say that Bob McDonnell and Virginia Republicans are changing their minds now in having an emergency meeting to figure out what they`re going to do because they had no idea, they did not realize that their legislation was requiring forced vaginal probes. They didn`t know. You know, the whole reason the national media, us included, freaked out about this bill in the first place? It`s not -- there wasn`t a freak out when it was originally introduced, there was a freak out when Virginia Democrats explicitly made the Republicans who supported this bill spell out in no uncertain terms that their new law would definitely, specifically, deliberately require the kind of ultrasound that is not the one that looks like this. But rather is the one that looks like this. Virginia Democrat David Englin put forward an amendment which is the whole reason this got national attention. He put forward an amendment in Virginia that said essentially, come on now, you can`t just require a vaginal probe without a woman`s consent. That cannot possibly be what you mean, Virginia Republicans. And Virginia Republicans took a look at that amendment and said actually, yes, that is what we mean. They voted down Mr. Englin`s clarifying amendment on a nearly party line vote. And that`s what started the national freak out about the bill in the first place. So, this whole line today Republicans hadn`t realized they were forcing an internal invasive procedure without a woman`s consent, that whole line is bullpuckey and it is proven so by the voting record on this bill. But then, after we heard about the secret meeting last night, yet more amazing necessary today. We got a statement from the office of Governor Bob McDonnell. The governor trying to appear -- I`m guessing -- vice presidential here, I`m trying at least to appear above the fray while seeming super, super-duper anti-abortion, which after all is central to his political brand. In the governor`s statement he starts by bragging on his sponsorship of anti-abortion legislation in Virginia, including a measure that became law more than 10 years ago. He notes that the mandatory vaginal probe bill being now would amend that statute that he helped write a decade ago. But then the governor comes out against the forcing its way in your genitals part of the new bill. He says, "Mandating an invasive procedure is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state without their consent as a precondition to another medical procedure." Tada! Now, Governor McDonnell did want exactly that, up until yesterday. But now, as of today, he does not want it anymore. What a difference people paying attention makes. Here`s the important part: Bob McDonnell is not saying he`s going to veto this bill in Virginia. He just says he wants to change it slightly so that you will, in fact, still be directed to undergo a medically unnecessary procedure by the state without your consent as a precondition to another medical procedure, the state will still force your doctor in doing medical procedures to you for political reasons. Mr. McDonnell will still force on you things that are not medically indicated, even if they are against your will and against your doctor`s judgment. Mr. McDonnell just will no longer force those things inside your vagina anymore. That`s the big change. But there`s still a mandatory ultrasound. There`s still a mandatory 24-hour waiting period because you can`t be trusted to make a decision without the government intervening and forcing a totally medically unnecessary day-long wait designed specifically to inconvenience and maybe shame you. Lest you be swayed by Bob McDonnell "pick me for vice president" language today about what he sees as the proper and limited role for the state in decisions like this, you should note that one of the anti-abortion bills he co-sponsored as a legislature included language saying that before the state government would allow you to have an abortion in Virginia, your morals should be investigated. Quote, "Prior to an abortion practitioner`s recommendation for an abortion," the legislation stated, "a woman must be evaluated to the specifications of the state government." Quote, "Evaluation of the woman shall include investigation of her moral views about abortion." It`s not the second amazing thing in Virginia. I mean, first, we had this emergency meeting. We had no idea what we were doing. Yes, you totally had every idea what you were doing. But then second, Bob McDonnell trying to define a vision of limited government that includes investigating your morals, and forcing medically unnecessary procedures on you. But now, as of today, stopping just shy of actually putting state government inside your genitals. But the most amazing thing that happened today in Republican politics, in Virginia, is that after Bob McDonnell suggested amending the forced vaginal probe bill so that it still did everything else it did before except for forced vaginal probing, after Bob McDonnell said he wanted the changes to the bill, Republicans in the Virginia Senate said no. They said no to the changes. Republicans in the Virginia Senate today said vaginal probing or bust. The Senate sponsor of the bill today expressed the intention today to strike the bill, to kill the bill. Rather than submit to the changes that would take out the specific deliberate definition instruction that the state ordered forced probing be a vaginal forced probing. Like I said, forced vaginal probing or bust. What on earth is going on with Republicans in Virginia right now? This is more amazing by the minute. Joining us now is Democratic Virginia State Delegate David Englin, who sponsored the failed amendment that would have required a woman`s consent for a transvaginal ultrasound in Virginia. Mr. Englin, thank you very for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have you back. STATE DEL. DAVID ENGLIN (D), VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: It has been hard to follow this from the beginning because it`s cringy to cover this subject. It became hard to cover this today for new reasons because the news on this started moving so quickly and it was sort of hard to sort out. In terms of what I just described there as the process, is that how you understand what happened today? ENGLIN: Rachel, you described it very well. I`m pleased that Governor McDonnell and Virginia Republicans caved in on forced vaginal penetration, but come on. I mean, the fact it took them so long to come around on that issue, they knew very well up front was the problem with the bill is just ridiculous. But then what they did, Governor McDonnell took a small group of men, Republican legislators, behind closed doors, in the dark of night, and decided to play doctor and decided to come up with a new bill. Well, make no mistake -- the new bill still bullies women in to not having abortions. That`s their whole purpose. It includes provisions like requiring women who could be victims of rape or suffering from miscarriages, to have images, ultrasound images placed in their medical file. If that`s not emotional blackmail to prevent abortion, I don`t know what is. MADDOW: So, you`re saying it was governor McDonnell involved directly here, that he was involved personally with a group of all men in coming up with this new language? ENGLIN: We -- that`s right. We asked him, our minority leader asked the question on the House floor and the Republican delegate carrying the governor`s new bill in questioning on the house floor very freely admitted that Governor McDonnell wrote the bill. So this is Governor McDonnell`s bill, this new bill that while granted it no longer requires non-consenting vaginal penetration, it still has a series of medically unnecessary requirements with one purpose and one purpose only -- to bully women in to not exercising their constitutional right and inserting a group of politicians, a group of male Republican politicians, I might add, in the doctor`s office and into the relationship between women and their medical providers. MADDOW: Out of all the news out of Virginia as we have been following this story, the surprise today, after Governor McDonnell, as you`re telling us, wrote this bill, after the changes were requested by the governor`s office, after this meeting last night of Republican officials, the thing that was most surprising to me was that Republicans in the Senate said actually, no, we reject the changes. It has to be vaginal penetration by order of the state or nothing. That is the most amazing to me and this has been amazing from the beginning. What do you know about why they are insisting on this, even when it`s now so evidently politically toxic even the governor is all but begging them to let it go? ENGLIN: It`s just shocking overreach, Rachel. You know, when Tim Kaine was governor, Virginia was rated best state for business, best managed state in the country, "Education Week" magazine named us best state to raise a child. Now that Republicans have total control of the Virginia government for the first time in a long time, they turned Virginia into a national laughingstock by pushing this divisive social agenda, and this is all part of that divisive agenda that is trying to insert big government into private matters, such as what women do with their health care and with their doctors. MADDOW: How would you describe the mood in the legislature right now, the mood particularly among your Republican colleagues that you talk to now? What was the rank-and-file`s reaction to governor McDonnell getting involved, releasing the statement, rewriting this bill, and all of his personal involvement here? ENGLIN: They have been flailing on the issue for the last week. Since you and others in the media really started to highlight this issue to the people, and the people started respond, Republicans and Democrats together started to respond and say, look, we don`t think that women should be penetrated without their consent. Republicans here in Virginia have just been flailing, trying to figure out how to get themselves out of this. What they have done is they let Governor McDonnell play Dr. McDonnell and write a new piece of legislation that only compounds the problem. It was sloppily done in the dark of the night without broad public input, without opportunity for the medical community to review what they were doing, and they made mistakes in the language that are going to cause real harm to women -- all in the name of bullying women in to not having abortions. MADDOW: Virginia State Delegate David Englin -- Delegate Englin, thank you very much for your time tonight on this. You`ve done more than anybody to bring this to national attention and we in the media have been covering what you do. But the fact you brought forward the amendment to clarify what the Republicans were doing on this is the reason anybody in the country knows it`s happening. So, thank you for joining us tonight. ENGLIN: Thank you, very kind of you. It`s been a team effort. Virginia Democrats will keep fighting for women`s rights. MADDOW: Thank you, appreciate it. Do you want to hear what Nancy Pelosi has to say about Bob McDonnell and the forced vaginal ultrasound bill in Virginia today? What does Nancy Pelosi have to say about all of this? That`s next. That`s the interview on tonight`s show. Please stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KING, CNN: Because of your history with Speaker Gingrich, what goes through your mind when you think about the possibility, which is more real today than a week or month ago, that he would be the Republican nominee and could you come back here next January or February with a President Gingrich? REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: Let me just say this: that will never happen. KING: Why? PELOSI: He`s not going to be president of the United States. That is not going to happen. Let me just make my prediction and stand by it. It isn`t going to happen. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It isn`t going to happen. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said that a month ago and it kind of seems like she was right. Newt Gingrich has disappeared in the polls. But what about Rick Santorum, does she also think Rick Santorum is not going to happen? I asked Nancy Pelosi that today for the interview on tonight`s show. I also asked her about Bob McDonnell and the contraception and abortion controversies down in Virginia. You will be surprised by her responses. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What`s your take on Rick Santorum? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PELOSI: Right now, as we gather here in another part of the Capitol, there is a hearing, five men are testifying on women`s health. My colleague, Carolyn Maloney of New York, who is on the committee, looked down at this panel from which a woman who was the Democratic witness was excluded, and said, where are the women? And that`s a good question for the whole debate. Where are the women? Where are the women on that panel? Imagine having a panel on women`s health and don`t have any women on the panel. Duh. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Nancy Pelosi the highest ranking woman ever in the American electoral politics. No major party in Congress was led by a woman before Nancy Pelosi. No woman had ever been speaker of the House before Nancy Pelosi. And in the midst of our current national firestorm and national Republican political confusion on issues of women`s health, on the issues which she lately has been ex-claiming duh, Nancy Pelosi joins us tonight for the interview. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Madam Leader, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to have you. PELOSI: It`s my pleasure to be here. MADDOW: Let me start by asking you just about something right on today`s news. Virginia`s Governor Bob McDonnell has backed off from his previously stated intention to sign a bill in Virginia that would mandate - - it`s hard to talk about -- a medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasound for any woman seeking an abortion in Virginia. He said he would sign that, now he`s changing his mind on that. What is your take on what`s going on right now with the politics of choice and abortion rights in the country? PELOSI: Well, I think this is women`s health issue, first and foremost. And what we saw in Congress was five men at the table to talk about women`s health one day last week -- I`m sure you saw it. MADDOW: Yes. PELOSI: But this is something that`s personal with women, sort of a sisterhood about it. Women know that this isn`t any place that public policy should intrude. I`m glad that this will be an improvement over what is happening in Virginia. But the fact is this is not public, it`s very personal. MADDOW: When that, Chairman Issa convened that hearing last week with that all male panel of witnesses, you famously said and I quote, "Duh. The Republican leadership of this Congress thinks it`s appropriate to have a hearing on the subject to women`s health and can purposely exclude women from the panel. What else do you need to know about the subject? If you need to know more, tune in. I may be moved to explain biology to my colleagues." (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Obviously, there is a political difference -- there is a political difference of opinion about what policy ought to be on the subject. But do you actually think there is a difference in understanding? I mean, what would you explain to them if they would listen? PELOSI: Well, first of all the idea they would be talking about contraception in this way is a breakthrough for those of us -- I have been in Congress, this will be my 25th year. MADDOW: Yes. PELOSI: And for 25 years, I have been saying to people this isn`t about abortion. They like to say it is but it`s about contraception. And contraception is something that is universally practiced. The size and timing of families is an important decision to make together with their doctor, with their God. It`s not about some five men sitting around a table in Washington, D.C. But what is interesting about this is that, at last, the country knows all this talk about reproductive freedom really extends to something as personal as family planning and birth control, and depriving women of access to contraception. MADDOW: So, you feel it`s a clarifying -- it`s a clarifying moment even if it has become sort of extreme? PELOSI: Well, I think so. And, you know, to us it`s been extreme all along, but people didn`t believe it when you say you know they don`t believe in family plan and contraception, they believe in the rhythm system but no contraception and the like, and well, that can`t really be because overwhelmingly women -- Catholic women of child-bearing age, they admit that they practice birth control. I`ve come from an era when women were deprived of receiving absolution if they confessed if they used birth control. So, again, it is good to get it out on the table. MADDOW: Yes. PELOSI: And the fact is the president made the right decision and then he moved to a clearer place, which should have been acceptable and was acceptable for many more people. But it also revealed that these folks who were opposing contraception for institutions that are affiliated with religious groups were now saying, well, we don`t think any insurance companies covering any employers and employees should be providing access to contraceptives. So, it really revealed how extreme they are. The maintenance of our -- of the human race has been in the hands of women for thousands of years. It`s something that we understand, and families do together. There should be no public role in this. MADDOW: But one of the politicians in modern American political life who is more aggressive than anyone on the idea that the state ought to have a role in people`s sexual decisions and their family life decisions, is Rick Santorum -- that has been sort of his brand in politics for a long time -- that you famously said when Newt Gingrich`s star was rising in Republican presidential politics, there was no chance he would be president. Now that Rick Santorum`s star is rising, I wonder -- I wonder what you think about his prospects? I mean, a lot of liberals are almost openly wishing for a Rick Santorum nomination because they think President Obama could beat him easily. But what`s your take on Rick Santorum? PELOSI: I would like to leave the Republican selection of their nominee up to them. MADDOW: Yes. PELOSI: I just knew that Newt Gingrich was completely unacceptable. But this is a matter of the marketplace of ideas, Rick Santorum is putting his forth, American people can make their judgment, the Republicans will make theirs as they choose their nominee. And I think what he is saying speaks beyond his own words as to how it is heard by women across our country. And so, we`ll see. I mean, that`s up to the Republicans. I don`t want to get involved in terms of each of the candidates. I was just speaking from the public record about Newt Gingrich. MADDOW: Do you feel like your prediction on Mr. Gingrich was vindicated? Do you feel like -- PELOSI: I didn`t think there was any question about it. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Fair enough. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Leader of the House Democrats, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi ostentatiously not weighing in on Rick Santorum`s prospects for becoming the Republican Party nominee. "That is up to the Republicans," she says, "I don`t want to get involved." I`m not saying this is what is motivating Speaker Pelosi in taking the position, but you kind of hear that a lot from liberals around the country about Rick Santorum. Shhh, don`t interrupt the Republicans, don`t make a sound. They`re about to nominate Rick Santorum! Don`t move a muscle! When we come back, more with Nancy Pelosi, including her reaction to the news that $1 in $4 spent on the presidential race in January, $1 of every $4 spent in the whole country came from five individual zillionaires. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "The Washington Post" today crunched the number on the bit of financial disclosure that we get from the groups running all those political ads on your TV, particularly if you live in one of the early primary states. It turns out $1 in every $4 spent last month on the presidential campaign was spent by five people -- five zillionaires. So, if presidential campaigning is having any influence on who the next president might be, five individual people are wielding a quarter of all of that influence on the whole country. I asked Nancy Pelosi about that today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PELOSI: These kingmakers just weighing in to the tune of millions of dollars. One of them said he`s willing to put up $100 million. Well, we might as well just go to them, cancel the elections, go to them and say, who do you want to be president, who do you want to run Congress? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: More from my interview with the Democratic leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi -- coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: You`re working very hard for the president`s reelection. When you look ahead to November, what do you think -- what worries you most about his prospects for reelection? Do you think it matters in an existential way for his reelection prospects who the Republicans nominate, or do you think it`s broader issues? What`s going on in the economy, gas prices, the president`s own performance as a campaigner, what worries you? PELOSI: Well, I`m not worried because I have great confidence in the president. He`s not going to go out there and run for president against somebody. He will go out there and understanding as he has before, is that elections are about the future, not about your opponent -- except to make the contrast. And we have seen in the past couple years or a few years that usually, it would be a question of we`re all going down the path, what is the role of government. But this is about two different paths. And the president I`m confident and I know, will be out there saying this is what is at stake in this election, this is about the future, about how we educate our children, how we create jobs for our workers, how we secure, have security for our seniors, how we reduce our deficit, protect our people, in a way that isn`t partisan in any way it`s priorities the American people share. And I believe you will see a statement of values from him, not a taking down of his opponent. MADDOW: Part of your responsibilities as Democratic leader is obviously fund-raising and traveling around the country, including here to New York to talk to people who support Democratic politicians and causes. Obviously, this time four years ago, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were locked in one of the most exciting primary battles we ever had as a country. And the fund-raising was sort excited, too. I saw today President Obama actually as an incumbent president raised 30 percent less at this time of the campaign than he had as a candidate running against Hillary Clinton and the other Democrats four years ago. Do you worry at all about Democrats ability to keep up with Republican fund-raising, particularly now that the Republicans can tap these billionaires for huge checks all at once? I mean, Democrats can do that one, too, but Republicans have been doing it more. PELOSI: Well, I`m -- one of the reasons I`m going around the country now is to promote the Disclose Act introduced by Congressman Chris Van Hollen. And what we`re seeing to all these people that you referenced is: stand by your ad. If you want to be putting up millions of dollars, five people putting up I don`t know what big percentage of the dollars that have been raised for the presidential -- MADDOW: One in four. PELOSI: One in $4 -- stand by your ad, let the American people know, what is at stake, it`s the air we breathe, water we drink, safety of our food -- all of these issues where special interests weigh in. The issue of money and politics and special interests weighing in, there is a direct relationship and the American people know it. And so, while we think we`re reaching out to people with great idealism who care about the greatness of our country and the brilliant future, and I trust that we are, there is, in fact, all of this special interest money, the best answer is to minimize the role of money. Our founders created democracy. They took great risk to do it and it was about the will of the people determining who would lead our country, not the bankroll of a few people. And we have to -- right now, I think we have a great opportunity because they see these kingmakers just weighing in to the tune of millions of dollars. One of them said he`s willing to put up $100 million. Well, we might as well go to them, cancel the elections, go them and say, who do you want to be president, who do you want to run Congress, who do you want to be governors of your state? And then forget about the initiatives that free us from special interests. Every day in the Congress in the United States, we have fights about enforcement of clean air, clean water, food safety, public education, public health, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security -- you see how the special interests weigh in. And that is -- I believe that with Disclose, stand by your ad, if the public knows, considers the source they might be thinking differently about being taken in by some ad. But we have to disclose, win, reform the system, and amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision, which has done more to undermine our democracy than almost anything you can name. MADDOW: So you see requiring disclosure with the Disclose Act, putting people`s name on the money they spend as one step in a multipart system that just toward public financing of elections essentially, that takes -- that takes large scale money out of our election system. PELOSI: Well, I think that it also increases the voice of the American people. You have to understand that at the same time, that these people are flooding, deluging the airwaves and the mail and all the rest with their message, they are also part of the effort to suppress the vote. So, voter protection, that means, you know, OK, we can complain about what they passed to make it harder for people to vote, but don`t agonize, organize. We can call attention to the fact that they are trying to minimize the voice of the American people but at the same time we have to get it out there, get the IDs for people, get them registered, voting and make sure their votes count. Because there is a concerted effort, 36 states are attempting it, 20 have already succeeded, with these voter suppression initiatives. We`re talking about voter protection. And they go hand-in-hand with diminishing the role of money in politics. MADDOW: Do you think that Democrats have a role in taking -- not just defending the right to vote against efforts to limit the number of people who can vote through voter ID, but also advancing measures like same day voter registration. PELOSI: Well, I was the chair of the California Democratic Party 30 years ago. And around that time and before and since, our role has always been, and we believe it`s the role of every secretary of state in the country, whatever is your party, to remove obstacles of participation. MADDOW: Yes. PELOSI: Whether that is to voting or to running for office, whatever it is. The first step to voting, to make it easier for people to register and to vote, and to have them have the confidence that when they do, their vote will be counted. But this is again, it`s as fundamental as our democracy. Do we have kingmakers or do we have the people deciding who will win the election? MADDOW: Last time you and I spoke, we had a long -- and I thought really interesting conversation that I thought about for a long time after we had it, about the end of the war this Afghanistan. And not just what America`s role has been in Afghanistan, but what is going to happen to Afghanistan as we leave and once we have left. You obviously had great concerns not only about the overall role of the United States there, but specifically about the women of Afghanistan and how they will fare post- war. With the prospect of talks with the Taliban, with the emergence of what might look like the American off ramp out of combat operations in the country, what are you hoping for from Afghanistan? What are you worried about and what are you hoping for? PELOSI: Well, I go each year to Afghanistan. And in the past year, last year, I went, and I`ll go again this spring -- I saw improvement, improvement in the prospects of when we leave what will happen. But that can only happen -- again, we talk about those that place at the table. And I said this to President Karzai over and over, that can only happen if women are present at the table, making a -- how are we going to reconcile with the Taliban, how are they going to reconcile with the Taliban and how are they going to integrate people back in society from the Taliban? It won`t have legitimacy and it won`t allay the fears of women -- unless women are at the table when the conversations take place. And that`s every step of the way. And -- it`s their best protection, first of all they will have a better solution and second of all have more acceptance among the women and that is important. MADDOW: Do you think it`s possible, do you feel when you suggest that and when you talk about importance of that, that it`s heard? PELOSI: Well, let me say that I`m not the only one saying it, our secretary of state -- Secretary Clinton has been forceful and as the whole Obama administration. But I said, do yourself a favor, have women at the table, because if this is going to be a solution it has to be one that is shaped by women. MADDOW: You are -- I`ll close with this question you are the woman who has -- who has risen higher in American politics than any other in our history, s the first female speaker of the House, third in line succession of the presidency. As this is your 25th year in congress. Congress has an atrocious approval rating, something like 10 percent right now. And it is fashionable in spectrums of society to deride Washington, to deride Congress specifically, to think about public service as something that isn`t necessarily less than honorable, but at least you have to take shots at. In your 25 years in Congress, what has gotten better? What have you seen that has improved in terms of the way we fight it out as a country and the way we legislate, the way we govern? PELOSI: Well, I think technology has made the biggest difference in terms of people being more in touch in real time and being able to register their opinion and that`s really important. I tell my members when they come, your job title and job description are one in the same, representative. You`re an independent representative of your district. You come there to honor your conscience, to uphold the Constitution, to represent your constituents. Sometimes you have to take them down a national path that might not be readily known to them. But, anyway, the technology of communication enables that to happen in real time and the rest. But the fact is some of that has also in flamed the situation, exploiting -- shall we say the Republicans specialty is to inject confusion in the debate. And so we have to have clarity in which a residential debate can give us. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sitting with me today for the interview. Very interesting -- saying that involving women in government in Afghanistan and here makes for policy that works better for no other reason that it`s more likely to have buy-in from the women who make up half the population. A kind of a shot at the male arbiters of the debate over covering birth control in this country I think. Also, some aggressive language from the former speaker there about Democrats needing to protect access to elections. On that issue, she said Democrats need to organize, not agonize. On the subject of money and elections, Citizens United and dark money of secret billionaire funders. I should let you know that Nancy Pelosi`s effort to push the Disclose Act in Congress includes this ad against Stephen Colbert`s super PAC. We`ve got a link to the ad and to stop Colbert Facebook page that`s all about the Citizens United ruling and the Disclose Act, linked to our Web site today at All right. When we come back, we have the best new thing in the world today and something really, really, really wrong about gas prices and Karl Rove and place in South America where they speak Portuguese. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Wake the dogs, let the cat inside from the yard, gather around the TV machine for not so breaking news. Both Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich are talking a blue streak of bullpuckey about an issue that probably matters to you. Factual political fact checking, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: After former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary at the end of January, he was pretty much on top of the world. He was the frontrunner in the Republican race for president, he was awash in cash. Everything was great in Newt Gingrich land. But look what`s happened to Mr. Gingrich since then. He is the green line on this graph. Yes, total collapse. Newt Gingrich`s disappeared into oblivion in the Republican race over the last month. He had sunk like a stone falling through water. And so, Newt Gingrich is a man currently in need of a path back to relevance. Enter potential path back to relevance. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Gas prices are at the highest levels ever for this time of year, up 25 cents a gallon on average since the beginning of 2012. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The recent pike in gas prices while pretty bad news for the U.S. economy has turned out to be great news for the politics of Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich has just released a nearly 30 minute -- 30-minute- long TV ad that`s all about rising gas prices and what president Newt Gingrich will do to bring them down. The ad has Mr. Gingrich in front of this blue curtain you see here, speaking directly into the camera for 29 straight minutes. No video. No graphics. Just this for half an hour. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting today that the Gingrich campaign will run the entire video in key cities until Super Tuesday on March 6th. Your regularly scheduled programming will not be seen tonight so we can bring you 30 straight minutes of Newt Gingrich talking into the camera about energy while sitting in front of a blue curtain. The issue of gas prices and whether there is political advantage to be plunged from them has gotten Republicans very excited in recent day. "The New York Times" reporting last week for instance that House Speaker John Boehner has been using the potential rise in gas prices as a way to essentially buck up the spirits of House Republicans. Quote, "Speaker Boehner instructed fellow Republicans to embrace the gas pump anger they find among their constituents." Republicans are psyched! Republicans see political hay that could potentially get made here. And when Republicans get psyched, when they think there is political hay to be made, they go on TV and they say stuff like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KARL ROVE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, President Obama has been anti-energy from the beginning. The president even gave a loan to Brazil - - Brazil which is eating our lunch economically, internationally. Why do they need our money? They got plenty of their own. He gave them a loan and told them, as you just alluded to, went down there and said, we want to be your best customer. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Karl Rove on the FOX News Channel this week saying that President Obama is so anti-American energy, that he gave a loan to Brazil, so Brazil can drill for oil and we can then buy that oil from them. If you travel around conservative media circles, this has been taken as gospel for the last few years. President Obama loaned Brazil $2 billion so they can drill for oil, while he`s all but stopped oil production here at home. Now, while that might make for an awesome conservative talking point, it also happens to be 100 percent total unadulterated bullpuckey. Here`s Karl Rove again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROVE: Look, President Obama has been anti-energy from the beginning. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama, anti-energy from the beginning. Now, according to Newt Gingrich and his 30-minute infomercial, the Obama administration is, quote, "anti-oil." In fact-based world, here`s what`s actually happening to the American oil industry during the Obama administration. Quote, "The number of oil rigs in U.S. oil fields has more than quadrupled in the past three years. The United States now has more rigs at work than the entire rest of the world." OK, Maddow, but just because we have more oil rigs now, that doesn`t mean we`re actually producing more oil. Yes, yes, it does, actually. This was U.S. oil production during the last four years of the Bush administration. That`s the number of barrels produced per year. Here`s what`s happened under President Obama. Yes, oh, hey, look, oil production is up. We are producing more oil right now than we did at any point during George W. Bush`s second term. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROVE: Look, President Obama has been anti-energy from the beginning. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Sure he has. And I`m the homecoming queen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROVE: The president even gave a loan to Brazil -- Brazil which is eating our lunch economically internationally. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Actually, no. No. On the eating our lunch thing, think what you will -- that`s actually part of the appeal here. But the president did not give a loan to April. A loan was made to the Brazilian oil company by something called the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Not by the president, but by the Export-Import Bank. The remit of the Export-Import Bank is to export more American goods around the world, and the way they do that is they make loans to foreign governments and foreign companies who commit to buying American products. When foreigners buy American stuff, that`s an export. Now, you may like that kind of arrangement, or you may hate it, but it is not the president who made this deal. And as long as you care, this actual decision to extend this actual loan to Brazil, this was a decision made by Export-Import Bank board members who were all appointed by George W. Bush. Somebody, alert Karl Rove! When gas prices go up, as they are going up right now, it is essentially a certainty that some politician somewhere is going to try to make political hay out of it. Those politicians, those political commentators, they deserve to be fact checked when they say stuff like that. And when they are wrong, when they are lying through their teeth, it deserves to be called bullpuckey. It`s very simple. Bullpuckey. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The best new thing in the world today is a sad one, but it is a moving one and it`s amazing. By now, you will have heard that more journalists were killed today in Syria, where the government there has turned the full force of its military on its own people. The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least seven journalists have been killed in Syria so far in the 11 months of the uprising there. The latest three journalists to be killed are a Syrian man Rami Al-Sayed (ph), also two international journalists -- an American reporter and a French photographer. The American, Marie Colvin, reported on CNN this week how her arrival in the besieged city of Homs in Syria had been greeted ecstatically by the people there, almost as a miracle. The people were so grateful that international journalists had braved such dangerous conditions to get to Homs to report on what was happening there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARIE COLVIN, JOURNALIST: There`s an absolutely ferocious shelling this morning, starting at about 6:30 in the morning. Tank shells and mortar rounds, very heavy shells. Several buildings have collapsed. There`s at least 12 dead. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was less than one day before Marie Colvin was killed in the city that she was reporting from, the Syrian city of Homs. Tonight -- and this is what I want to show you. Tonight, this is what happened in Homs. People gathering in the streets there, mourning the deaths of those international journalists who were killed there, trying to cover these people`s story. Watch this. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Obviously, this is shot on a camera phone, a handheld camera. The signs underneath the photos there say "We will not forget you." We all know about the risks that war correspondents take to report from such dangerous places, and when an American journalist is killed in a circumstance like this, I think that we Americans feel it deeply, because we are the people to whom that journalist was trying to convey that very, very dangerous story. But there is something, I`ve got to say, all the more amazing, about seeing the depth of feeling for these journalists from the people whose story they were trying to tell. In the midst of this war, in this city, where these folks are caught in it, they are taking this time and doing this to honor and thank the people who had traveled there to try to get their story told. It`s very powerful stuff. That does it for us tonight. "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell starts right now. And Lawrence will have for you the first live rundown on tonight`s Republican debate in Arizona. If you missed it or you could not stand it, Lawrence is about to bring you all the highlights. Stay with us. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END