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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/29/2012

Guests: Chellie Pingree, Jeanne Shaheen, Steve Kornacki

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