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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/01/12

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Dan Dicker

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. That is a 99 percent and 1 percent split that we can all understand. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Absolutely. MADDOW: Thanks, man. SCHULTZ: You bet. MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. The Wyoming Republican caucuses closed yesterday. Mitt Romney won. The Washington state Republican caucuses are on Saturday. But the next big Republican contest, the big pile of delegates, that`s coming up on Tuesday. Super Tuesday, March 6th. And in the lead up to Tuesday, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney is meeting the Ohio media. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The issue of birth control, contraception, Blunt/Rubio is being debated, I believe, later this week, that deals with or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on that? MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not for the bill. But, look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, a husband and wife, I`m not going there. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "I`m not for the bill." "I`m not going there." That was Mitt Romney in an interview with the Ohio News Network, proclaiming that he is against something called the Blunt Amendment, or the Blunt/Rubio amendment. The amendment would let employers pick and choose what their employees get from health insurance. Now, this, of course, sprung from a Republican desire that your boss should be able to block you from getting contraception, specifically. But the way the language of the amendment is written, it would apply to anything in health care. Your boss decides whether or not you get it, from health insurance. So Mitt Romney in Ohio says he is against the Blunt amendment. Within about an hour of Mitt Romney saying that, he changed his mind. Or at least his campaign changed his mind. The campaign came out and say, actually, he did not mean what he just said. Then they put the candidate himself back out there to talk to another reporter, to try to explain. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) ROMNEY: I didn`t understand his question. Of course, I support the Blunt Amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception. So I was simply -- misunderstood the question, and, of course, I support the Blunt Amendment. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, you kid! Of course, I support the Blunt amendment. I always have, I always will. Can I go now? What Mitt Romney first said that he was against and then said that he was for is an amendment that was voted on in the U.S. Senate today -- an amendment that would allow employers to opt out of providing anything in their health insurance plans, as long as they said that their reason for doing that was either a religious belief or a moral conviction. Mitt Romney first said that he was against that, and then he said he was for it. But it turns out that his first position, being against it, was his position for way longer than just an hour. That was his position for his whole previous life. When Mitt Romney signed Massachusetts health reform, what they call Romneycare, when they signed that into law in 2006, that law reaffirmed the long-standing mandate in Massachusetts that health insurance plans have to cover birth control. In doing that, in signing that law, Mr. Romney signed Republicans like Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who also signed a law requiring health insurance in his state to cover birth control. Romney did this, Huckabee did this, a lot of Republican governors did this. This was a Republican policy. This Obama travesty of justice that would be overturned by the Blunt Amendment, this was a Republican idea, for years. So the problem is not that Mitt Romney flubbed the question, when he said he didn`t think employers should be able to deny coverage for birth control. The problem is that he was stating what the Republican position was on this for years when he flubbed it. Republicans like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were for mandating birth control coverage before they were against it. And yet today, every single Republican in the United States Senate except for one said that they, too, were against this. Republicans even like Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who is trying really hard to appear moderate, Scott Brown voted today to allow employers to deny birth control coverage to their employees. Your boss gets to decide whether your health insurance covers contraception. But Scott Brown, as a state senator, voted for the exact opposite thing. When he was a state senator in Massachusetts, Scott Brown voted for the Mitt Romney law, mandating that employers have to cover birth control for their employees. So this is an absolute mess for the Republicans. Regardless of what you think about this issue, this is a mess. This thing that used to be a Republican idea, this thing they`re all on record as supporting is now something they want to be seen as 100 percent against. And it`s more than just a hypocrisy problem for them. Democrats would very much love Republicans to keep on talking about this, not just because of hypocrisy, but because the public disagrees with Republicans on this. The public is on the side of the Democrats on this issue. The Obama campaign`s Tumblr page today posted this mock permission slip. This is amazing. Showing what life would be like if Republicans got their way on this issue. It`s a mock permission slip. It says, "I have discussed the employee`s contraceptive options with her and I verify that her use of these methods is /is not in agreement with my personal beliefs. The employee does/does not have my permission to access birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or any other type of contraception. This decision is only valid until the next evaluation of this the employee`s contraception plans." Is that the permission slip you want to get from your boss? Democrats think most people would say no. So, Republicans, if you want to keep working on this, Democrats are going to give you all the rope you need. Two days ago, Republicans in the House of Representatives held a closed-door meeting to talk about what their agenda should be for the New Year. And what they say they decided on was jobs, jobs, jobs. Quote, "Speaker Boehner presented six categories of legislation, all of which came under the heading of jobs." So after deciding that they were going to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs, what did John Boehner decide that his Republican-controlled House should actually do next? Look at the headline, "Boehner vows to continue contraception fight." What are you doing? You`re bad at your job. There are all of these reasons why this is a bad fight for the Republicans to pick right now -- the hypocrisy, the polling, the substance of it, as a substantive matter, what people think about it. The distraction from what`s supposed to be their main focus. They know all these things. Why are they doing it anyway? I mean, Republicans are not dumb. Republicans can read polls. They know how this is going. When they decided to push the Blunt Amendment in the Senate and lose on it and then keep going on it, why are they doing that? What is it that is more advantageous to them in pursuing all of this stuff than all of its obvious downsides? I think it`s framing. I think it`s the overall long-term conservative goal of framing anything that Democrats are for as a government intrusion into your life that you should resent. Remember when conservative wordsmith Frank Luntz instructed Republicans how to oppose health reform, which words they should use to oppose it. Frank Luntz told Republicans, quote, "If the dynamic becomes President Obama is on the side of reform and Republicans are against it, then the battle is lost. Don`t be against reform. Be against a government takeover of health care. Be against government intrusion into your lives." If it worked with health reform, it can work with birth control too, right? Republicans want sort of a unified field theory of what`s wrong with the Democrats. Don`t say it`s about contraception. Don`t say it`s about women at all. Say it`s about a big government takeover, say it`s about government intrusion, say it`s about government pushing its way into your space. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R), COLORADO: A number of representatives from around the country are very troubled by this unprecedented government intrusion into the First Amendment right of freedom of religion. REP. JEFF FORTENBERRY (R), NEBRASKA: This new mandate, which is an intrusion of government into the faith life of many Americans. SEN. MIKE JOHANNS (R), NEBRASKA: Today`s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion into the internal governance of religious institutions. REP. SCOTT RIGELL (R), VIRGINIA: Preventing government intrusion into the faith and religious conviction of Americans is precisely why our Founders embedded religious freedom into the First Amendment. REP. CHIP CRAVAACK (R), MINNESOTA: Continually chipping away at our basic constitutional freedoms that set the foundation of this the great country sends us down a very slippery slope to further government overreach and intrusion into our individual lives. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: "Further government overreach and intrusion into our individual lives." Here`s the problem: while Republicans are going way out on this problem limb, while they are taking the anti-birth control position -- something they manifestly do not believe in, since it never bothered them when it was their own policy before this year -- when they are going out on this political limb, it`s because they think that they will reap disproportionate rewards from doing it. They think they will reap disproportionate rewards. They think they will reap enough rewards to compensate from all the electoral losses that are going to come from this be, because they want to be seen in the long run, in the big picture, as standing up into government intrusion into your life, government intruding into your health care decisions. But while they are trying to seem like that, Republicans are also simultaneously trying to require by force of law that you take off your pants, put your legs in the stirrups, and greet your government that way. What is happening in the states right now, where Republicans are actually in charge, actually putting things into law, rather than just trying to make political points, is that Republicans are having the government mandate not just insurance companies` coverage for something that you can then decide whether you want it or need it, they`re not just affecting access to something that you might want or availability of something that you might need. They are actually forcing you to have a medical procedure by order of the government, a medical procedure you don`t want, and that your doctor doesn`t think you need, the government`s going to make you do it anyway. But mandating that your health insurance cover birth control, if you want to use it, and if you are prescribed it by your doctor -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRAVAACK: Sends us down a very slippery slope to further government overreach and intrusion into our individual lives. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Right, that`s the intrusion. Last night, we talked about the long-term generational thinking of the conservative movement, that conservatives are willing to have Republicans lose an election here or there, they`re willing to lose in the short term in order to advance their longer term goal, which is to move the country farther to the right, to drag the center in this country to the right, to constantly have Democrats chasing them incrementally to the right, to the point where all of our politics move rightward. The conservative movement is willing to sacrifice a politician or an election cycle in the service of reframing the debate for the country, so that it is in a position further right than it might otherwise be. But even if you buy that, and even if you respect that as political strategy, and I do, I got to say, they`re framing on this in particular is a complete mess. Their problem here is not just, oh, they`re going to lose some elections over this. Sorry, Scott Brown, good luck with your re- election as the anti-contraception guy. Sorry governor vaginal probe, Bob McDonnell, good luck getting picked for president. That`s the kind of problem that we know that the conservative movement doesn`t mind too much. Conservatives have always been willing to sacrifice a few politicians here and there in the service of the longer term goals of the movement. Their problem on this one, though, is that their broader framing on this whole issue is incoherent. You cannot be the "get government out of the doctor`s office" party and simultaneously be the "kick the doctor out of the doctor`s office so Bob McDonnell can get in there instead" party. I mean, you can try to be both of those things, but as my friend Chris Matthews would say, ha! That makes no sense at all. Joining us now to try to make some sense of it is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst. Mr. Robinson, it is a pleasure to have you here. Thanks for being here. EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Great to be here, Rachel. But pardon the intrusion, but I refuse to make sense of this. MADDOW: Give me the view from the beltway. I mean, Republicans are not dumb, Republicans read polls. Republicans read the political tea leaves as well as any Democrats do. Why are they going to keep running with this? After losing today in the Senate, now they`re vowing to take it up in the jobs, jobs, jobs House. What works for -- what works for them on this issue? ROBINSON: I don`t get it, frankly. I mean, maybe there`s some subtle political jujitsu that they`re after here. I think you`re right that the framing is supposed to be government intrusion. But it is incoherent, and you can`t really claim government intrusion if you`re doing the intruding. You`re making the intrusion and mandating this ridiculous new policy that you never would have favored or even thought of in the past. It seems crazy to me, and I`ve been expecting them to try to find some way to back out of it. But if they`re going to press it, fine. Gee, we`re the anti-contraception, anti-sex party? I just don`t get it. MADDOW: The Beltway is D.C., right? But it`s also Maryland and Virginia. And we had this sort of amazing, I don`t know, microcosm today in the Beltway, where we had blue state Maryland today, the governor signing same-sex marriage rights into law, and then in red state Virginia, the governor is about to sign the forced ultrasound bill. I mean, at this point, are the red states and the blue states even waging culture war against each other? Or have we just become two different countries and we don`t even have trade ties anymore? ROBINSON: You know, it seems like we`re in two different dimensions or parallel universes or something like that. I mean, you know, Maryland is a reliably Democratic state, a very liberal state. And it does not surprise me that Maryland has taken the step toward same-sex marriage. You know, Virginia is an interesting place. As you know, it went Democratic last time. It`s historically a red state that has been getting certainly purple and, you know, went blue, and -- but perhaps not permanently. So, it`s going to be very interesting to see what the reaction is in Virginia, particularly in northern Virginia, which a lot more like Maryland than it is like southern Virginia. MADDOW: Where do you think this ends up in presidential politics? The Obama campaign, that employers` permission slip thing that they posted on the Tumblr today was amazing. And they are -- it`s not just that, they are getting more and more vocal on the issue of protecting women`s rights, protecting access to contraception. Mitt Romney seems confused on this issue. This is Rick Santorum`s reason for living, issues like this. Where do you think this ends up in 2012 politics, either just inside the Republican process, or for the general? ROBINSON: I think the attitude for the White House is, if they really want to talk about this stuff, bring it on. Let`s talk about it. They have seen the polling. They understand where public opinion is on this issue. Regardless of long-term framing, public opinion now is against the Republicans. And as long as the conversation is about contraception and not about the economy, I think, you know, every day that that`s the case is a pretty good day as far as the White House is concerned. MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize- winning columnist for "The Washington Post" -- Gene, thank you very much for helping us translate. I`m not sure we got there, but you helped me understand more of the words. (LAUGHTER) ROBINSON: Yes, several steps are involved in this translation, but we`ll try next time. MADDOW: Thank you, Gene. Appreciate it. All right. We`ve got lots still ahead this hour, including a special news update from the axis of evil. Remember the axis of evil? That`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The Virginia state legislator voted today on the revamped vaginal probe ultrasound bill that`s received so much attention. The debate included this speech from Democratic Delegate Jennifer McClellan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DEL. JENNIER L. MCCLELLAN (D), VIRGINIA: We cannot legislate medicine. We cannot legislate morality. We cannot legislate religion. And when we try, we make mistakes. We need to be respectful of every Virginian, whether we think they are centered or not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Judge not lest ye be judged -- she told her colleagues in the House, and then the House voted. The latest from Virginia and how it`s changing politics all across the country still today, that`s straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: You know, this has been a bad week for would-be Republican vice presidents. We just talked about the Blunt amendment, the Republican`s anti-contraception amendment that failed today in the Senate. And Democrats are really excited for Republicans to keep talking about. Technically, it is not just called the Blunt amendment. It is called the Blunt/Rubio amendment. So if somebody`s going to wake up in the Republican Party and realize that being the anti anti-birth control party maybe isn`t the best way to make a run for the presidency, the Blunt/Rubio anti-birth control amendment probably is not going to help Marco Rubio`s chances at being picked for vice president. Similarly, this didn`t get much national notice, but at the end of the last week, the ousted Republican secretary of state in Indiana was sentenced for voter fraud. He had been convicted of six felonies, including voter fraud, and he`s the guy who runs elections in the state of Indiana. Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor in Indiana, had refused to appoint anybody permanently to replace this guy once he was convicted of voter fraud, the governor saying that if the felony convictions could get knocked down to misdemeanors, maybe, then he would be happy to reinstate this guy to run Indiana`s elections. Ultimately, late last week, the Republican secretary of state did not get his felony convictions busted down to misdemeanors, so he can`t get back into office. And now, Indiana might get a Democrat installed in the secretary of state`s seat instead. But Mitch Daniels saying he wanted to put a convicted voter fraud felon in charge of the state`s elections, that probably does not help Mitch Daniels` vice presidential chances either -- which brings, of course, to the other great milquetoast hope for the Republican vice presidential running mate. That would be the forced ultrasound guy from Virginia. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK SEGRAVES, WTOP: You said, again, on this show that you thought that TSA pat-downs were invasive and an infringement on people`s civil liberties. How is a pat-down at an airport, which is clearly can be defined as a public safety component more invasive than compelling, forcing women to go through this medical procedure in order to have an abortion? GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: It`s the manner, from what I understood about this coverage, that the manner these various pat-downs were beneath the dignity of the travelling passengers, and perhaps there were other ways to accomplish the same kind of result for airport security. SEGRAVES: You know, I can hear them screaming when you talking about the dignity of the traveling public. What about the dignity of women? MCDONNELL: I believe this is something that helps respect the dignity of women by making sure that they`ve had all the information. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Nothing respects a women`s dignity like forcing her into a state-mandated medical procedure designed to show her pictures of the fact that she`s pregnant, because the state government assumes that without those forced pictures, a woman can`t understand that. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MCDONNELL: But, Mark, it does not in any way affect what choice the woman will make. It simply says ultrasounds will be given, provided to the woman, and then she is fully free to decide what she should do. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: "What she should do." She doesn`t have a choice, and neither does her doctor, over whether or not that ultrasound is done to her. That decision will be made by Governor Bob McDonnell, because he knows what that woman needs. Doesn`t matter what the doctor says. Bob McDonnell may not have a license to practice medicine, but this is not practice for him, this is government. And in Bob McDonnell`s Virginia, it is government that decides what medical procedures you get. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEGRAVES: On the HPV virus, the mandatory vaccination for the HPV, you allowed parents to opt out. Why not add an opt-out provision for this? MCDONNELL: Well, Mark, all I can say is that this measure is going through the general assembly. I do think that in it`s current form, it is a good policy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In other words, there will be no opt-out. You will have done to you what Governor McDonnell wants done to you. That`s Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, one-time vice presidential hopeful, talking with Mark Segraves on WTOP Radio this week. We actually played some Mark Segraves and Bob McDonnell audio speaking on the same subject on last night`s show. And when we played that, we thought that audio was from this week. It turns out, that was from an earlier interview when it first became clear that this ultrasound thing was going to pass in Virginia. And in fact, our mistake only serves as further proof that what Bob McDonnell does as governor now is answer questions like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEGRAVES: You talked and complained earlier in this show about the White House and the federal government placing unfunded mandates on the states. MCDONNELL: Yes. SEGRAVES: This is an unfunded mandate on women. Who is going to pay? 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? When you were here last month, you were in favor of the transvaginal ultrasound. A lot of people believe that this is a decision that should be left to the patient and the doctor. Not to lawmakers. What is this something that you feel that politicians know better than the patient and the doctor? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is what Bob McDonnell`s life is like. This is what it`s like this month. This is what it was like last month too, this is what it`s likely to be like from here on out. And that`s why Larry Sabato, the acknowledged dean of Virginia politics, today told the Lynchburg, Virginia, paper that Bob McDonnell`s vice presidential chances are over. Quote, "He`s been hurt by this. I`m of the theory that most things don`t matter, but every now and then, something happens that changes people`s perceptions for a lengthy period. We just had it." Quote, "He should have anticipated this. This is not rocket science. Do you mean that his legislative staff and other people could not have analyzed in advance that this avalanche of social legislation might blow up in his face? It`s obvious." "The Economist" magazine also writing on this week`s edition about Bob McDonnell no longer be viable as a vice presidential choice. "The fact that Mr. McDonnell" -- it`s a quote, "The fact that Mr. McDonnell had not foreseen a public backlash to the vaginal ultrasound requirement seems to some to illustrate his tone-deafness and inattention to detail." Quote -- his vice presidential ambitions are described by "The Economist" as quote, "threatened by a seeming inability to control the excesses of his party." And the local issues columnist of Virginia, local issues columnist of "The Washington Post" this week says that in preparing to sign this ultrasound bill, the second anti-abortion measure he will have signed in a year, McDonnell has, quote, "probably sacrificed whatever chance he had of being picked at the GOP vice presidential nominee." "Assuming that the Republican presidential candidate is Mitt Romney, it would be much harder for him now to tap McDonnell as a running mate. The two of them would immediately have to devote time to defending the ultrasound bill." The columnist Robert McCartney quotes a Republican source saying, quote, "I think the moment in the sun is over." "The ultrasound controversy was probably very unhealthy to the calculus that Romney will make at the convention." Together with Bob McDonnell`s 1989 masters thesis, the from Pat Robertson`s televangelist college, the one about the cohabitators and the fornicators, "this creates a second object of ridicule." Not wanting to be an object of ridicule, like Bob McDonnell now is, may even be affecting the way that these bills, that bills like this are progressing in other states, in Republican-led legislators around the country. Pennsylvania, you will recall, has another one of these bills that is just like the original Virginia transvaginal ultrasound one, except in some ways, Pennsylvania`s is even worse. Pennsylvania`s calls for a mandated ultrasound of sufficient detail, that it is likely a forced vaginal ultrasound in most cases. This is the one that requires that the ultrasound has to be pointed at your face during the procedure, although the government of the state of Pennsylvania will allow you to avert your eyes. That`s the loophole -- you are allowed to move your eyes while the state forces a medical procedure on you. The Pennsylvania bill, though, has stalled. We`ve been trying to track various reports on this since the controversy erupted in Virginia and elsewhere, but it appears that this bill in Pennsylvania has lost at least six of its co-sponsors now. And now, the sponsor of the Pennsylvania bill is looking for a lifeline, telling "The New York Times" that she did not have plans to revise her bill in light of what`s just happened in Virginia, but she says, if Governor Tom Corbett, the Republican Governor Tom Corbett were to ask for changes, just as the Virginia legislature heard from their governor, that would be a consideration. We called Governor Corbett`s office today in Pennsylvania to find out if he`s going to wade into this the way that Bob McDonnell did, thus changing his life forever -- Governor Corbett has not returned our call on the subject, and we do not expect him too, frankly. Although I`d love it if he would. What do you say, Gov, do you want to nuke your vice presidential chances too? Come on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Besides trying to convince everybody that the president of the United States is at war with religion, the other leading Republican charge of the moment against President Obama has to do with algae. Green slime is not just a metaphor in politics anymore. That`s coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Newt Gingrich says that President Obama is a weirdo. He says he`s weird. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And maybe what we ought to do at is we ought to get t-shirts that say "You choose." You have Newt: drill here, drill now, pay less. Barack Obama: have algae, pay more, be weird. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: For Newt Gingrich to call somebody else in politics weird is like watching a python digest itself. It`s inside out. It`s not possible. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GINGRICH: By the end of my second term -- (APPLAUSE) GINGRICH: -- we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: But Mr. Moon base has now pivoted to make his presidential campaign all about energy. And his line is that the president is a weirdo on energy. This is kind of a Republican thing now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I think the American people realize that a president who`s out there talking about algae, algae, when we`re having to choose between whether to buy groceries or fill up the tank is the one who is out of touch. RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: This guy is so out of his league, just throw out there, I`m looking at algae. It`s absurd! In the sane world, this guy would be laughed out of office, not voted out. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: But those Republicans and the talk show host there find so hilarious is a speech last week where the president talked about how high gas prices are and his overall energy approach. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last week, the lead story in one newspaper said, "Gasoline prices are on the rise and Republicans are licking their chops." That`s a quote. That`s the lead -- licking their chops. Only in politics do people root for bad news, do they greet bad news so enthusiastically. You pay more, they`re licking their chops. And you can bet that since it`s an election year, they`re already dusting off their three-point plan for $2 gas. And I`ll save you the suspense. Step one is to drill, and step two is to drill, and then step three is to keep drilling. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Drill, baby, drill. Nothing brings back the 2008 campaign like drill, baby, drill, right? Republicans totally thought they were going to win the presidency in 2008, with drill, baby, drill. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Drill, baby, drill! RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NYC MAYOR: Drill, baby, drill. Drill, baby, drill! SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Because energy produced in America is security for America. And it is jobs for American workers, jobs that can`t be outsourced. Let`s drill, baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall. MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Let me make it very clear: drill, baby, drill, and drill now. PALIN: We will safely drill for the billions of barrels of oil that we have underground, including safely developing offshore resources. We`ll drill here and we`ll drill now. Now you can chant. Drill, baby, drill! (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Republicans definitely thought that John McCain and Sarah Palin would beat Barack Obama and Joe Biden with the drill, baby, drill message four years ago. And this year, they think they can win that message too. So you`ve got Rick Santorum, brandishing an oil write rock during his concession speech after losing Michigan and Arizona. You`ve got Mitt Romney today saying the president, President Obama, is doing all he can to stop oil production in this country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a president who`s not been helping the situation. And then he takes his EPA and uses them to try and stifle the development of oil and gas in this country. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In a classic case of Mitt Romney`s bad timing, he tried out that allegation today on a day when the news headlines on this subject all look like this: "U.S. was net oil-product exporter for the first time since 1949." We are exporting oil now. We are exporting more than we import. Also, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" provided this handy chart this past weekend about U.S. oil production under Presidents Bush and Obama so far. Remember, the Republican line here is that President Obama won`t let there be any oil production in the U.S. That`s the line. They also find all this algae business hysterical, that any administration policy would involve anything other than oil. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: If we`re going to avoid high gas prices every single year, with a lot of politicians talking every single year, but nothing happening, if we`re going to avoid that, then we`ve got to have an "all of the above" strategy that develops every single source of American energy. Not just oil and gas, but also wind and solar and biofuels. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Biofuels. That`s what the Republicans say is hysterical! That`s what Newt Gingrich says is weird, and that means something coming from Newt Gingrich. Algae, right? Biofuels. Biomass. This stuff is just crazy! No Republican would ever support anything so dumb. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PALIN: John and I will adopt the "all of the above" approach to meet America`s great energy challenges. Those hundreds of billions of dollars being re-circulated here in America, that means harnessing alternative sources like the wind and the solar and the biomass and the geothermal. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Sarah Palin/John McCain energy policy, the algae as fuel idea, that has had Republicans like Mike Pence and Darrell Issa and Senator Mike Johanns requesting Department of Energy grants to research algae as fuel -- in an election year, that`s got to be all crazy Democratic nonsense. Drill, baby, drill. Drill, baby, drill. In a year when gas prices really are high, and that really could have an impact on the election, it might be time to ask somebody who actually knows about this stuff whether or not we have any chance at all of the politics around energy getting even marginally less stupid anytime soon. Joining us now is Dan Dicker. He is a CNBC contributor. He`s the author of the book "Oil`s Endless Bid." He`s an energy analyst with more than 25 years oil trading experience. Mr. Dicker, thank you for being here. DAN DICKER, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: Is there any substantive reason why biofuels, alternative energy, algae -- why these things would be more hilarious as a Democratic idea in 2012 than as a Republican idea in 2008? DICKER: No, absolutely not Look, the peak oil guys, I think, have gotten the timing of this incredibly wrong, but their basic thesis is right. This is a limited resource. At some point, we have to develop something other than fossil fuels, at some point. Sooner would be better than later, but at some point we have to do that. And when we talk about our biomass, biofuels, or we talk about geothermal or talk about solar, these are not things that are ready for prime-time yet. Everyone will admit to that. The algae fuel runs at about an equivalent of $8.50 to $9 a gallon right now. But the point is that private companies will not invest money into this, because it`s not profitable yet. Governments have to do this. If governments don`t do this, it won`t get done. Look at the Chinese. They have poured billions of dollars into the solar industry over the last three or four years, and basically they haven`t gotten any profit out of it. Why do they continue to pour money into this? They know that they won`t get any profit out of it for several years. Is it because they`re great humanitarians? No. The reason they do it, because they know when the technology hits and it becomes profitable, they will own the iPad of energy. They will have solar. They will have it exclusively. This is not only good for humanity to invest money into infrastructure, into R&D, in new technologies for energy, this is good for economies. You have to do this in order to stay ahead of the game. MADDOW: We are drilling more oil at home now than at any other time in recent years. The argument, the political argument, which sounds to me just like a stupid argument, is that drilling here now would lower gas prices here today, or at least anytime soon. Is that true? DICKER: Well, we know that`s not true. You hit it mostly in the introduction. We know that domestic production is up, even in the Gulf of Mexico where BP, as we know, famously tried to poison the Gulf. We had a slowdown of permitting in the first three months of 2011, but by the end of the year, we had the largest production number for the Gulf of Mexico than we`ve ever had before. The Bakken is yielding tremendous amounts of oil through fracturing, through new technologies. There are plenty of other plays around the country. So, we are up 3.5 million barrels, as you pointed out, since Obama took office, in terms of domestic production. We are also down in terms of the amount of oil that we import. We`re down 5 million barrels since 2007. Our cars are more efficient than they`ve ever been in our history. We are, as you said, an exporter. So, again, everything fundamentally circles around the fact that drill, baby, drill, is not going to be the solution to this. MADDOW: But that all makes it sound like supply and demand doesn`t determine what our oil prices are. DICKER: Well, that`s what I wrote the book about and that`s the absolute truth. What we have is we have an oil market that`s accessible to everybody who wants to invest in oil as they invest in stocks and bonds. And nothing makes oil a prettier investment right now than a lot of saber- rattling in Iran and the Sudan and Libya and the Arab spring in Egypt and what`s going on in Syria, and on and on and on and on. And that makes oil the most wonderful asset to own right now. And that`s what drives the prices up. And the president`s pretty much said this. He`s pretty much got it right. MADDOW: Does the -- as a guy who thinks about oil prices and commodity prices like this as a living and has for a long time -- does all of the fact-free politicking on this subject ever do anything constructive, or is it all just no nonsense and a distraction? DICKER: It`s nonsense, but people will listen to this, because gas prices hit everybody pretty much equally. I think the president has a serious political problem here. Whether it has basis in fact or not, people are going to be looking for relief and they`re going to be looking for a scapegoat. And that`s why the Republicans have made a political issue out of this nonsense. And it is nonsense. MADDOW: But the truth should prevail. And if you are making truth, that should work. DICKER: Let`s hope. MADDOW: That should work. That`s what I live for, man. Dan Dicker, CNBC contributor, the book is called "Oil`s Endless Bid" - - Dan, thank you for being here. Will you come back sometime? DICKER: I will certainly come back. MADDOW: Nice to have you here. Thank you very much. All right. Right after this show on "THE LAST WORD," Lawrence O`Donnell has his guest my two favorite weekend hosts on MSNBC, Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry, score and score. Don`t miss that. And here, remember the axis of evil? It`s back. Ah, at least here it`s back. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Meanwhile, in the axis of evil, yes, it turns out the world does not stop spinning on its axis, evil or otherwise, while we obsess over whether or not Mitt Romney agrees with Mitt Romney on the issue of contraception. This week, we had an announcement in which might be a huge deal in whether or not there`s going to be a nuclear war on our earth. During the George W. Bush administration, North Korea became a nuclear power, testing the first nuclear weapon in the fall of 2006. Now, we`ve got on the first big news out of that country, since North Korean leader Kim Jong Il killed over in December. "The Associated Press" reporting today that a senior North Korean nuclear negotiator will be traveling to the United States next week. Now, the State Department says there are no plans at the moment for official government meetings with the North Korean official. He`s just attending a conference, they say. But it is a big deal that he`s coming because yesterday, we learned that Kim Jong Il`s successor, his son Kim Jong Un, who you see here, has agreed to stop the country`s nuclear program in exchange for food -- in exchange for food aid from the West. Now, the dark cloud here is that the North Koreans have made promises like this before, and it`s not like they`re giving up their nuclear weapons. They`re just saying they will stop moving the nuclear weapons program forward. But the silver lining around that dark cloud is that they`re going to allow in U.N. inspectors to verify that they are stopping their weapons program. Also, it is a good thing for the Korean people that they are going to be getting food aid. Also, this is a new North Korean leader. So, who knows? Maybe he`s going to try to be less of an international pariah than his dad. Also, this new North Korea news has driven Republican Senator Jon Kyl apoplectic, which is usually a good sign for the world, and also just fun on its face. Senator Kyl is expressing outrage at the U.S. getting this agreement from North Korea to stop their nuclear weapons program. Senator Kyl saying, quote, "This is just par for the course for an administration that has a demonstrated record of disregarding U.S. national security." It`s unclear if Senator Kyl said that thing about President Obama disregarding national security to the ghost of dead Osama bin Laden or if he just said it under the spectral glow of the ghost. But if we get clarification on that from Senator Kyl`s office, we will let you know. Oh, wow. Did you see that? It was like it has a magnet on it. Let`s try that again. Much better. Score. All right. Further down the axis of evil, for the first time, an Iranian movie won an Oscar this weekend. Director Asghar Farhadi won best foreign language film for his movie "A Separation." It`s a courtroom thriller about a couple trying to get a divorce in Iran, navigating the country`s judicial system. The Oscars work sort of boring, but this Iranian director`s acceptance speech was my favorite speech of the whole night. He said Iranians were happy watching this film win this cultural award because the people of Iran have such a rich and ancient proud culture, even if it has been hidden recently, he said, under the heavy dust of politics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ASGHAR FARHADI, IRANIAN FILM DIRECTOR: I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment. Thank you so much. Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is what he actually said. But according to the Fars News Agency, which is controlled by the powers that be in Iran, that was not what he said at all. The Fars News Agency edited his speech. What he said is what you heard. "I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment. " They translated that as this. "I proudly offer this award to the people of my countries who despite all the tensions and hostility of recent months between the Iran and the West over Iran`s nuclear program, respect all cultures and civilizations." Yes, wow. They just added that in there. They just added a shout-out to the nuclear program, even though he never mentioned that or anything like that in his speech, and even though the speech is on tape, and even though there are people in the world who speak both languages. The Fars News Agency has taken down the false story, reportedly because bloggers and Iranian journalists outside the country raised an uproar over the rather ham-handed way that Iran tried to rewrite this guy`s speech for him. And honestly, that makes me not just happy for him, but happy for the facts. Let`s try this again. There we go. But as long as we are doing the whole axis of evil, if we`re talking North Korea and we`re talking Iran, w also have to talk Iraq. We reported last night on the formal dinner that President Obama and the first lady held at the White House for veterans of the Iraq war. One of the people who was at the dinner last night was retired Army Sergeant Alice Peacock. She helped organize the St. Louis parade. The parade in St. Louis, Missouri, to mark the end of Iraq war. Sgt. Peacock is part of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. And Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is still calling on President Obama to meet with mayors around the country to designate a national day of action to mark the end of the war, and to honor Iraq war veterans. And even as the Pentagon still bizarrely insists that other cities having parades to mark the end of the war is a good thing, but New York City doing that would be a bad thing, I can report very interesting news today. There is going to be a New York parade. It`s not going to be a Canyon of Heroes downtown Manhattan ticker tape parade. It is going to be a Staten Island parade. Get this -- on March 10th, the borough of Staten Island, which you see there, is going to hold a parade specifically for 23 members of the Army reserves, members of the 961st Transportation Detachment from Staten Island. They just got back from Iraq after a year-long deployment. Two New York City Council members from Staten Island are the ones who first asked Mayor Bloomberg to plan a citywide parade down the Canyon of Heroes for all Iraq war voters. Mayor Bloomberg still says no because the Pentagon still says no to that. But on March 10th, Staten Island is going to do it itself. Staten Island is going to hold its own little welcome home from Iraq parade for 23 of Staten Island`s best, which is very cool for Staten Island. And it is also very cool about Staten Island. But the Pentagon is still telling Manhattan no. If I live to be 300 years old, I will never understand why they are doing that. That does 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