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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/28/12

Guests: Dan Rather, Ahmed Rashid

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Jonathan Alter, great to have you with us tonight. Thank you. That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. Big news night. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Yes, it is a huge news night. And I feel like everything we`ve been covering for the last few days is not only in motion, but the motion is picking up speed. SCHULTZ: It certainly is. MADDOW: Thanks a lot, Ed. I appreciate it. SCHULTZ: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. With Newt Gingrich all but dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination last night, with the news that he`s dramatically cutting back his staff and his campaign appearances, and he plans to somehow attain the nomination, he says, just by showing up in Tampa at the convention to collect it? With the news out from a new CNN poll that says 92 percent of Republican voters feel that Mitt Romney is somewhat likely, very likely, or almost certain to attain the Republican nomination, 92 percent, and no other candidate is getting anywhere close to that number. With Ron Paul himself and the Ron Paul campaign all but conceding to "The New York Times" today that they don`t know why the fervor on the campaign trail for Ron Paul has not translated into any practical progress toward the nomination for Dr. Paul, with Rick Santorum`s last great hope appearing to be the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday and with news that he is still being outspent there five to one by Mr. Romney, that`s better than the 10 to one it had been, but still, it`s very bad. With the not particularly gusty winds of the Republican presidential race all seemingly, now, at least, blowing in the direction of a Mitt Romney nomination, two things happened today. Two things happened on Mitt Romney`s personal campaign trail today that typify what his challenges are going to be. Two things. First, there is the Mitt Romney as human being problem. A new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll shows that Mr. Romney is very broadly disliked. Now, it sounds mean or personal to say that about a person, I do not mean it in a mean or personal way, but these are his numbers. Head to head, Mitt Romney trails President Obama in basic popularity by 30 -- excuse me, by19 points. For Mr. Romney specifically, the percentage of people who like him is 34 percent. The percentage of people who do not like him is 50 percent. That is a higher unfavorable score than President Obama has ever received at any point in his presidency in this poll. The only other Republican candidate who has a -- who at any point in this campaign has had an "I don`t like you" you number as big as that one is Newt Gingrich and Newt Gingrich appears to love being disliked. Most worrying for Mr. Romney, though, is this. The 34 percent of people who say they like him is the lowest "I like you" number for any leading presidential candidate in this poll at this point in the primary season since 1984. Ow! This is not the sort of thing that just befalls you as a candidate, though. Sad as this may be, this is not the sort of thing that just happens to you. This is less like a stomach flu and more like a hangover. This is something that you kind of have to bring upon yourself. And campaigning today in Wisconsin, Mr. Romney once again showed how he has brought numbers this bad upon himself. Unprompted, Mr. Romney brought up what he said was a humorous anecdote -- he used the word "humorous" -- regarding Michigan and Wisconsin. So, listen to this. This is the story that he volunteered to Wisconsin voters today during a telephone town hall. Listen. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a few connections with the state of Wisconsin. One of the most humorous, I think, really, is to my father. You may remember that my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors. As the president of the company, he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin. Now, later, he decided to run for governor of Michigan. And so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign. And I recall at one parade where he was going down the streets, he was led by a band. And they had a high school band that was leading each of the candidates. And his band did not know how to play the Michigan fight song. It only knew how to play the Wisconsin fight song. So every time they would start playing "on Wisconsin, on Wisconsin," my dad`s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop, because they didn`t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: See! He was running for office, for Pete`s sake! You don`t want to remind voters how you made a living shutting down American factories and sending their jobs away. To be clear, nobody asked Mr. Romney about this. He brought this up himself, as the funniest thing he could think of to talk to people in the Midwest about -- the hilarity of shutting down factories and then trying to avoid voters being mad at you about it. That is how you earn numbers like this! And no, it`s not jealousy. People don`t hate rich guys just because they`re rich guys. Rich guys who have hilarious stories to tell about closing down American factories, though? Yes, it is conceivable that people hate that. So that`s one Mitt Romney problem, typified today on the campaign trail. The second big problem of the Mitt Romney candidacy also on display in the other major news from the campaign trail today, and that was Mr. Romney today collecting the endorsement of President Bush. Now -- not him, the other President Bush, the other one. Other one! Yes, thank you. The senior President Bush. That`s actually a picture of George H.W. Bush and Mitt Romney and Barbara Bush and a pooch meeting together last year. But the senior President Bush and Mr. Romney will be meeting together again tomorrow in Houston, to mark the official endorsement of Mr. Romney`s candidacy by Poppy Bush. That endorsement was announced today. Now, if you are tracking bushing in presidential politics news this year, that means that Mr. Romney now has the endorsement of George H.W. Bush, he has the endorsement of Barbara Bush, the elder, the first President Bush`s wife, the former first lady, who did robocalls for Mitt Romney in one of the earlier primary states. Mr. Romney also that as the endorsement of Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. He also has the endorsement of Jeb Bush, Jr., Jeb Bush`s son, Jeb, Jr., you may recall, endorsed Jon Huntsman last year, but since then, Mr. Huntsman dropped out of the race and endorsed Mitt Romney. And so, by transitive property and because Jeb Bush, Jr. also followed Mr. Huntsman`s lead, Mr. Romney also has an endorsement from Jeb Bush`s son, Jeb, Jr. So, George Sr., Barbara Sr., Jeb Sr., Jeb Jr. -- who are we missing here? Oh, yes! This is the other big problem for Mr. Romney. And to be fair, it would be a problem for any Republican nominee this year. The most interesting story in American domestic politics continues to be the efforts of post-George W. Bush, post-Dick Cheney Republican Party politicians figuring out who they are. The party nominated John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008, and with all due respect to them as politicians, these two do not seem to have stuck in the minds of anyone, really, as the next generation of national leaders for the Republican Party, and the legacy of George W. Bush himself and of his presidency, at this point, seems still too toxic for anybody to seek that particular blessing in modern politics. Not only do we not have a George W. Bush endorsement for Mitt Romney or anyone else, but does anybody expect that there`s going to be one? And if it does happen, would that be a good day for the campaign or a bad day for the campaign? And so in order to collect Republican Party establishment bona fides, in the race for president in 2012, you really can`t tap the last Republican president, whose legacy is still radioactive and likely will be for a long time. Because you can`t tap that, you instead have to jump a generation. You have to skip the most recent experience of Republican national leadership and go back to that guy`s dad. And that makes for awkward politics. Look at this. This is what`s called a first day cover. When they release a new postage stamp for collectors, the first day cover things in the bottom there. When they release a new postage stamp, they release not just the stamp itself, but also for collectors or people who have a special interest in the subject of the stamp, they release this first day thing. And it has the postmark of the first day it was issued. It has a little extra piece of information about the stamp, maybe some little bit of extra art. This particular stamp came out in March 1972. It is an 8 cent stamp. It`s the American postal stamp commemorating the importance of family planning. On this first day cover, you can see, this is an artist sketch of Margaret Sanger, she`s the founder of Planned Parenthood. The quote that goes along with her there on the first day cover is, "no woman can call herself free until she can choose whether or not to be a mother." This is the Planned Parenthood stamp from 1972. It is the pro-choice stamp. And what you`re looking at here is a letter from George H.W. Bush to Planned Parenthood that year. Mr. Bush was U.N. ambassador at the time and this letter, he wrote from his office at the United Nations, to Alan Guttmacher, the president of Planned Parenthood at the time, congratulating the president of Planned Parenthood and his colleagues on their new family planning pro-choice stamp. Quote, "Efforts like this that help further work of worldwide importance are something for which country can justly be proud. I`m honored to own this first day cover and deeply appreciative of the dedication that it symbolizes." George H.W. Bush writing that to Planned Parenthood. Before he was a U.N. ambassador, Mr. Bush, of course, had been a member of Congress. And while he was in the House, he introduced the Family Planning Act of 1970. For his enthusiastic promotion of family planning, of contraception, of Planned Parenthood in particular, George H.W. Bush earned himself a congressional nickname. His congressional nickname -- can we put it up on the screen? His congressional nickname was "Rubbers" -- that`s what they called him. And today through the magic of the Republican Party`s absolutely bat bleep chaotic politics, today "Rubbers" announced that he was endorsing this man -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: Planned Parenthood, we`re going to get rid of that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Back in your father`s Republican Party, George H.W. Bush wrote in glowing praise of Planned Parenthood. His own Republican politician father had been the first national treasurer of Planned Parenthood back in the 1940s. But today, Poppy Bush swallowed all that and endorsed Mitt Romney, who says he wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood. George H.W. Bush as president cut in half our number of deployed nuclear weapons. He negotiated reductions and weapons with Russia when they were still the Cold War and they were still the Soviet Union. But that guy, today, swallowed all that and announced he was endorsing Mitt Romney, who is now questioning whether President Obama might essentially be a traitor about even talking to the Russians, about talking about achieving a fraction of the type of arms reduction that Poppy Bush achieved with them two decades ago. It`s like this on foreign policy. It`s like this on social conservatism. It`s like this on basic domestic policy. Mitt Romney says one of the reasons that Newt Gingrich is unqualified to be president is because he once liked the idea of cap and trade. Put aside for a moment the fact that Mitt Romney once too liked the idea of cap and trade, Poppy Bush actually signed cap and trade into law back in 1990. We have done cap and trade before. We did on the issue of acid rain. It kind of worked. And Poppy Bush signed it into law in the Clean Air Act of 1990. Not just in favor of cap and trade, he signed it, he made it law, his policy. But today, he swallowed that and he endorsed Mitt Romney. So when these guys sit down together, with or without the Maltipoo, what do they talk about? Presumably antipathy towards Democrats still unites these guys. In the case of these particular Republicans, having a little trouble relating to the common man, I suppose could be a fruitful topic of discussion. But on the real stuff, on policy, on what they supposedly stand for, how does the Republican Party inter-generationally talk amongst themselves and make any sense of who they are now? And if you can`t make sense of it between just these two individuals at the center of today`s big campaign trail news, just between these two individual men, if you can`t make sense of it between then, how can you present your party in a way to the country that makes any sense to the rest of us? Joining us now is Dan Rather. He`s the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on HDNet. Mr. Rather, thank you for being here. DAN RATHER, ANCHOR, DAN RATHER REPORTS: Always a pleasure. MADDOW: Am I -- I mean, people say now I don`t remember it at the time that George H.W. Bush`s nickname was "Rubbers". Is that possibly apocryphal? Do you remember that? RATHER: No, it`s not apocryphal. That`s what he was known in Congress. Never, to my knowledge, never referred to in print, but other members of Congress started calling him "Rubbers", because he was such a champion of Planned Parenthood, as was Barbara Bush. But for those who don`t remember the time, or weren`t of memory age, George Bush, in order to become the vice presidential candidate with Ronald Reagan, had to disavow all that. James Baker, who was his chief of staff, negotiated with the Reagan people. They, in effect, say, listen, there`s no way we`ll even consider him for the vice presidency with this position of Planned Parenthood. No problem, we`ll put that behind him, jump the other way, and the rest, as they say, is history. MADDOW: Is that -- is that where the seeds of this were sewn? Was it in that, essentially, capitulation in order to advance politically with Ronald Reagan? Or have you sign over time, particularly on this issue of contraception, Planned Parenthood, these other issues with reproductive rights -- did you see those seeds sewn in a way that we shouldn`t be so surprised that it`s coming in such a visible and loud way right now? RATHER: No, I don`t think we should be surprised. It`s taken some years to do it. But the critical moment for George H.W. Bush in many ways in the Republican Party is when he at the 1980 convention said, listen, I`ll do away with Planned Parenthood, I`ll go, you know, anti-abortion. That was the critical moment. Now, it took some years for it to develop. I would say this business of contraception -- I still can`t believe that here in the second decade in the 21st century, in a presidential campaign, that we`re talking about contraception. But do you know any woman of any race, creed, color, or religion who doesn`t use some form of birth control? But here we are. In answer to your question, it started in 1980 with George H.W. Bush making his big change. It was slow for a while and picked up momentum. And when we reached the first decade of the 21st century, it began to really pick up momentum. And then when the Tea Party won big in the 2010 congressional elections, that was a big jump forward, if you want to look at it that way. MADDOW: But the Tea Party movement was sort of -- its brand was everything except social conservatism, right? RATHER: Exactly. MADDOW: Its brand was that we would get away from these divisive issues that didn`t have a fight on the economy and other core things about the nation. We`d stop fighting about stuff like abortion and we`ve move on to these fiscal issues with this libertarian-minded Tea Party. It doesn`t seem to be the way it actually happened at all. RATHER: Well, no, but that`s politics. Most politicians run what football knows as the tea formation, which is that you fake one away and go the other. MADDOW: Yes. RATHER: Which is exactly what they did. MADDOW: On the big picture of what it means for Mr. Romney, not just in his effort to lock up the nomination, which does seem like he`s in the fast lane right now, anything could happen, but seems like he`s in the fast lane. On the march towards the general election, he is going to be the Republican Party`s nominee. What does it mean for him to get the blessing of the Bush family in this way? There`s still the issue about whether George W. Bush will make an endorsement. But big picture, what do you think it means? RATHER: Not very much. Because the Republican Party of president George H.W. Bush is light years away from the Republican Party today. He would be considered, today, a leftist, socialist, or something worse, and pretty for a left. The party has left him long ago. This endorsement, frankly, is not worth the time to talk about it. It`s helpful in that at least it`s a positive for Mitt Romney. OK, former president, and his family, with the exception of the most recent Bush president, endorses him. But in the great scheme of things, doesn`t count for very much of anything. MADDOW: Is it a general election challenge for Mr. Romney or for any eventually Republican nominee, for the party to now be vehemently opposed to the major positions of somebody like George H.W. Bush? I mean, what seems interesting to me about this is the awkwardness of the eyeball to eyeball communication between these two candidates, who if nobody told you they were in the same party and they had to introduce themselves to you, there`s no way you could tell. Is that a liability, how much the Republican Party has changed in its positions? RATHER: I think it is a liability, but probably less than many people think it is and some people wish it would be. American presidential elections are generally about where the country is going, what`s ahead for the country, not what`s behind us. That`s what our elections are generally about. And I`d be very surprised if this doesn`t follow that pattern. Therefore, the candidate who can get the optimistic ground, who says, listen, I`m here to tell you that I`m the best person to carry us into the future is the candidate who`s going to win. That`s what Ronald Reagan in 1980, and let`s keep in mind that President Obama, who widely differs with Ronald Reagan on policy, he`s a close student of Reagan, the politician, we know. MADDOW: Yes. RATHER: And he knows that Ronald Reagan brought to the table in 1980 and again in 1984 when he ran and won by a landslide, was optimism, talking about the future. And you can see Barack Obama trying to do that. And you can also see, I think, Mitt Romney pivot, and pivot very strongly and say, listen, forget about what happened in the primary/caucus campaign. I`m pivoting to the future and I`m here to tell you that the future, I`m the best guy to lead the future. Now, he will also try to demonize President Obama. And the best thing the Republicans have going for them -- I know right now there are many people who think, oh, gosh, Obama`s going to win this election. My personal opinion is -- this election is going to be close. Anybody who thinks that Mitt Romney or whoever it turns out to be as the Republican candidate will be easy to beat in November has another thing coming. This should be a Republican year. One question is whether the Republicans this year will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That Obama is vulnerable. But they`ve hurt themselves time and again on women`s issues, other things during the primary campaign. But by the time we get past Labor Day and start getting into the last two weeks of the campaign, what we`ve been seeing this spring will seem so far back in the past that you and I will be smiling about it. But Romney has to pivot and he has to pivot strongly. He has to demonize Obama, because the strongest thing he has going for him is so many Republicans find President Obama, at the very least, extremely distasteful. And that`s a big motivator for them. Romney`s vulnerability is as follows -- and I hate to keep going back in history. But parties that nominate candidates that are not all that really popular within the party, Michael Dukakis for the Democrats in 1988. MADDOW: Right. RATHER: Bob Dole for the Republicans in 1996, a lot of people within the party in both those cases said, you know, I don`t think this is our best candidate. I don`t really like this candidate, but I`ll hold my nose and go vote for him. In both cases, they lost. And that`s a big part of Romney`s vulnerability. The other is that he doesn`t come across as authentic. You pointed out this joke he tried to pull off -- MADDOW: Mitt Romney as human being, the problem. Yes. RATHER: He`s not authentic. There`ll be a big effort to increase his authenticity as we get into the main weeks and months of the campaign. MADDOW: We`ll be talking about that next on the show, his effort to do that on a late-night show last night with some reverberations mixed back. Dan Rather, it is always such a pleasure to have you here. Dan is, of course, the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on HDNet. And I should that you have a really impressive special coming up on Bahrain, including some really rare footage that very few people in the world have seen about the protest movement in Bahrain right now. Congratulations on getting that. RATHER: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: And we`re going to be posting information about that on our blog. There`s some of that footage right now. I`m looking forward to seeing that, Dan. RATHER: If I can take just a moment, congratulations on your new book, "Drift," and congratulations on "The New York Times" review. MADDOW: Thank you very much. When "The Times" review came out tonight, I just about fainted. RATHER: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: With the aforementioned very bad "I don`t like him" numbers out today on Mitt Romney in the new ABC/"Washington Post" poll, the Mitt Romney campaign knows they`ve got to get their candidate to be more liked in time for the general election. One of their options for doing that, well, they could lightly dust every crowd he`s going to appear before with a spritz of laughing gas. More realistically, they could do the stuff that campaigns always try to do in situations like this, which is that they try to humanize the candidate - - make the candidate seem like more of a regular guy. Like have his body guy post little videos of him eating pancakes. He said they were apparently good. Look, man eats pancakes, I eat pancakes. Man doesn`t seem so bad. You can also mock up a complex diorama of what appears to be the Romney bot doing his own laundry and then have the Romney bot son tweets the said photo. Or you can put him on humanizing television environments like, for example, on a late night talk show. This was Mitt Romney last night on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno". And on the make other humans like me more front, the visit may have been successful -- I don`t know. But in terms of the political issue of the moment, there was a problem for the Romney campaign in last night`s appearance. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: What about pre-existing conditions? I know people who could not get insurance up until this Obamacare and now they`re covered and pre-existing conditions -- (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) LENO: And children also. It seems like children and people with pre- existing conditions should be covered. ROMNEY: Yes. Well, people who have been continuously insured, let`s say someone`s had a job for a while and have been insured and they get real sick and they happen to lose a job or change jobs and they find, gosh, I got a pre-existing condition, I can`t get insured. I`d say, no, as long as you`ve continuously insured, you ought to be able to get insurance going forward. People with preexisting conditions, as long as they`ve been insured before, they`re gong to be able to continue to have insurance. LENO: Well, suppose they were never insured? ROMNEY: Well, if they`re 45 years old and they show up and they say I want insurance because I have heart disease -- it`s like, hey, guys, we can`t play the game like that. We`ve got to get insurance when you`re well and then if you get ill, then you`re going to be covered. LENO: Yes, but there are a lot of people -- I only mention this because I know guys who are in the auto industry and they`re not covered because they work in brake dust and they could -- so they were never able to get insurance. Then they get to be 30, 35, they`ve never been able to get insurance. Now they have it. That seems like a good thing. ROMNEY: Well, look at a circumstance where someone was ill and haven`t been able to get insured so far. People who have done their best to get insured are going to be able to get covered. But you don`t want everyone saying I`m going to sit back until I get sick and then go buy insurance. LENO: No, of course. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Remember that time at the first Republican debate when Wolf Blitzer from CNN asked Ron Paul exactly the same thing. What about someone who gets sick and doesn`t have insurance, what should we as a society do about that? This has gone down in the industry of this campaign as the let him die moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What he should do is whatever he wants to do. That`s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody -- (APPLAUSE) WOLF BLITZER, CNN: But, Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die? PAUL: No -- AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, there was nobody in the crowd last night at the Jay Leno show yelling, "yes, let him die!" the way there was at that Republican debate. But Mitt Romney was making that same argument. If you`re 45 years old and you don`t have health insurance and you develop heart disease, too bad! He says, we can`t play the game like that. So you`ve got to go. Sorry. Unless you have enough cash in your pocket to pay for the treatment of your heart attack, I guess, forget it. You can`t get health insurance, and if you`re going to get sick, you`re going to die. Here`s the weird thing about the health reform law. If you haven`t been paying much attention to the whole policy of health reform, you are very much likely to be against it. That`s what all the polling says. As a whole thing, people don`t like the idea of this Obamacare thing they have heard so much about. It sounds awful, the way it gets talked about. But when you ask people not about health reform as a whole, not about this Obamacare thing they`ve heard about, but about what this policy actually does, turns out they love it! They not only love it if they already support President Obama on other things, they love it no matter who they are. Take that CBS/"New York Times" poll, the one that found that 47 percent of Americans disapprove of the law overall, as opposed to 36 percent, who favor it. So, according to this poll, a huge plurality, almost a majority, does not want this law. More people very much dislike this law than feel any other way about it. Except when you ask those same people about what this law is. Quote, "Do you approve or disapprove of a provision in the 2010 health care law that requires health insurance companies to cover those who may have an existing medical condition or prior illness?" Eighty-five percent approve. Of the Republicans polled, 76 percent approve. Do you approve or disapprove of a provision that laws children to stay on their parent`s health insurance policies until the age of 26? Sixty- eight percent approval. Just of Republicans, 58 percent approval. Do you approve or disapprove of a provision that offers discounts to reduce the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap? It`s commonly called the donut hole. Seventy-seven percent of people approve. Republicans love this one -- 71 percent of Republicans approve. So you ask people if they want the health care law, and they say, no, it`s unconstitutional! It`s tyranny. But if you ask people if insurance companies should be able to deny coverage to somebody because they happen to have cancer, they say, of course not. So it`s like asking somebody, do you want a pepperoni pizza. And they say no. And they say, well, how about some dough with some sauce and some cheese and some pepperoni on it cooked in a pizza oven, and they say, I`ll have it! This comes up again and again in the polling. The Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll this month with the same conclusion. Quote, "One of the consistent contradictions and public opinion on the Affordable Care Act is this, while the law as a whole has never gained majority support, its component parts have been consistently popular over the past few years. Many provisions of the law are popular even among Republicans, like credits to small businesses that offer coverage and a requirement that plans include easy-to-understand summaries of benefits. At least three out of four Republicans, Democrats, and independents support those provisions." Republicans think they are in this very popular position of railing against Obamacare. But when they get asked about what they mean, about what it is they`re going to get rid of, even in supposedly friendly human interesty territory like a friendly late-night show, what they end up explaining after just one follow-up question is that they`d prefer the "let him die" plan. No matter how bad the epithet Obamacare can be made to sound, especially if you have some deep-voiced announcer guy, intoning it over the sounds of "Oh, Fortuna," no matter how bad you make Obama care sound, "let `em die" sounds worse. So even though Republicans think they`ve got a P.R. winner with this anti-health reform thing, and they`re very excited about the prospect that the Supreme Court might strike it down, they are one single follow-up question away from "let `em die" policy in terms of their own territory -- and that does not make for a very good bumper sticker either. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a picture taken of a picture being taken at Ft. Hood in Texas. This was taken at a jobs fair today that focused on people who are married to service members. A jobs fair for military spouses. I think this is an amazing picture. The jobs fair idea for veterans or for military families is something that our company did today as well. NBC News did a huge jobs fair for veterans today on board the USS Intrepid, an all warship that`s now a museum in New York harbor. More than a million U.S. veterans cannot find work, NBC today committed to hiring a thousand veterans over the next three years. About 1,300 vets showed up today at the New York event, while other events happened at Ft. Hood and all over the country. Right at the end of January, you might remember us on this show covering the nation`s first parade to thank the troops, returning from Iraq, to say, welcome home. That parade in St. Louis was organized from the start in conjunction with a big effort to help veterans find work. That was part of it from the very beginning. Now, we`re about to get a new round of official welcome home parades. On Saturday morning, Tucson, Arizona, is having a parade to mark the end of the Iraq war, to thank Iraq veterans and say, welcome home. Organizers say they hope you will bring a flag to wave as the troops go by. That is this Saturday in Tucson, Arizona. The next Saturday, April 27th, the city of Houston, America`s fourth largest city will host its welcome home parade to mark the end of the Iraq war. There are also parades now in the planning for Richmond, Virginia, in May, for Rome, Georgia, in June. And now, this one`s really new. People in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, want to get a welcome home parade going there for the July 4th weekend this summer. Strange as it seems to me, there is still no parade planned for New York City. Officials at the Pentagon say they applaud the celebrations in all these other cities, but they don`t want one in New York. They say because, in part, so many Iraq veterans are still serving in Afghanistan. And whether or not you agree with their reasoning, the news about our wars is, in fact, about those two things at once -- stateside trying to find jobs for veterans, trying to find ways to welcome them home, to mark the end of the Iraq war, to give veterans a new way forward into civilian life, and simultaneously, the news of the war that is still on. In recent weeks, we have seen a surge in the killings of American troops by Afghan security forces. They call these green-on-blue killings. The people of the U.S. military is arming and training turning around and using that training and those arms to kill the Americans who are their supposed allies. Marine General John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, told reporters this week that U.S. troops have become appointing what amount to guardian angels at bases they share with Afghan forces, so no one crosses over to the American side of these bases and tries to attack them at night as they sleep in their bunks. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. JOHN ALLEN, USMC: We have taken steps necessary on our side to protect ourselves with respect to, in fact, sleeping arrangements. Internal defenses associated with those small bases in which we operate, the posture of our forces to have someone always over, watching our forces. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: America`s top brass in Afghanistan saying, essentially, U.S. troops need to sleep with one eye open on their own bases. It`s hard to come home from war. It is harder still to still be serving in war. We`ve got more news tonight on just how hard it is to still be serving in war tonight and why and how that war might end, when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Just about two years ago, this show went on the road to Afghanistan and we gave those shows a title. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Good morning, landlocked Central Asia! (END VDIEO CLIP) MADDOW: Bad hair. Good morning, landlocked Central Asia was not just a shout-out to "Good Morning, Vietnam," that Robin Williams movie. It was also a way to remember one thing about Afghanistan`s geography. We have over 90,000 American troops in Afghanistan right now. Over 90,000 troops who need to be fed, clothed, housed, kept warm, kept cool, and kept armed. That means supplies. And how do you get all those supplies into a landlocked country? Well, you`ve got two choices. Three, if you count burrowing through the earth from the other side of the world, but that`s very impractical. So you`ve got two choices. You can fly everything in on big cargo planes, which is somewhat doable, but fantastically expensive, and we do that, in part. The other option is driving. There are a lot of reasons that Pakistan is very important to U.S. foreign policy and to U.S. policy around its war in Afghanistan in particular. But the pact that for a decade we have been driving, about half the supplies for our war next door through Pakistan is a big strategic deal. At least it was until this next November when a U.S. air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the border. Pakistan was furious. In response, they shut down the NATO overland supply routes, completely. They turned off this major overland supply line, feeding the war in Afghanistan. Trucking supplies from Pakistan and into Afghanistan has been fraught for years. Extremists have targeted truck convoys, bombing them, setting them on fire. And this isn`t the first time that Pakistan has shut the supply lines down in anger. But they have never shut them down for this long before. And even if Pakistani lawmakers wanted to reopen these supply routes now, there`s real pressure on them not to -- pressure on them from the Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, which threatened lawmakers and their families last week. If they resume shipping supplies to the Afghanistan through Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban said, quote, "We will start attacking all the parliamentarians and their families." That`s the message from the Taliban on the Pakistan side of the border. But on the Afghanistan side of the border, our guest tonight for the interview reports that it is the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Taliban of Afghanistan who have been initiating and trying to participate in talks with the United States about how the American war in Afghanistan ends. Joining us now for the interview is Ahmed Rashid. He`s got a brand- new book out called "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan." Mr. Rashid is essentially the premiere journalist living and working in Pakistan today. It is an honor to have you here. Thanks for coming back. AHMED RASHID, "PAKISTAN ON THE BRINK" AUTHOR: Thank you very much. MADDOW: You report that it was the Taliban in Afghanistan who initiated talks with the U.S., not the other way around. Why was that? RASHID: Well, the Taliban approached Richard Holbrooke through Germany and through Qatar. The reason was once the date of withdrawal in 2014 was announced, they essentially wanted a deal. They didn`t want to leave -- they didn`t want the Americans to leave Pakistan in a state of civil war. They had made it clear that they wanted some kind of power sharing deal with the government in Kabul. They didn`t want to go back to the 1990s and have to re-conquer the whole of Afghanistan, this time, totally opposed by the whole world, just like they were in 1990. And, you know, with they were exhausted. They wanted also to get out of the umbrella of Pakistan. They have been housed and based in Pakistan and they have been very fed up with the kind of manipulation of Pakistan. So they had a lot of reasons to see if the Americans were interested in an end to the war, in a deal, which could result, first of all in a decent withdrawal, so you`re not fighting on the way out. And secondly, something that could eventually bring about a ceasefire, and which could then lead to political negotiations with President Karzai, for a power- sharing agreement, so that war does not break out again when the Americans leave. MADDOW: Has the American strategy, not just for negotiations with the Taliban and Afghanistan, but regional strategy overall, in terms of ending the war, in terms of strategic announcement, has it changed a lot since Richard Holbrooke died? RASHID: Well, it`s become even more fraught. And I mean, Pakistan has not talked to the United States for five months. Only the other day, President Obama met the prime minister. As you said, the road has been shut down and other cooperation, intelligence cooperation have been shut down. Iran, of course, has called, there was always the hope Obama came in saying he wanted to talk to Iran. Holbrooke hoped at one state he could hold Iran aside and perhaps talk about Afghanistan, if not the other issues. Iran is now an enemy. So the regional situation is very fraught. And you need a major diplomatic initiative I think to get these major countries. Russia and the Central Asian republics are, you know, they don`t want a prolonged American presence, but at the same time, they`re very wary of the Americans leaving. MADDOW: In terms of Pakistan`s interests and its leverage -- I mean, Pakistan, as you say, has closed off the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan. It`s kicked out CIA personnel, it has stopped going on a lot of joint missions with the U.S. they are continuing to demand that the U.S. stop the drone bombing campaign. What else is left for Pakistan to threaten to take away, to use as leverage in terms of getting what it wants from the United States? RASHID: Well, I`m hoping that, you know, the meetings this week that have taken place, three meetings, separate meetings with U.S. officials have taken place, that this can try and bring, you know, some cooperation back. The most important is the road. Pakistan has said that they will charge now for the trucks to travel. The U.S. has said, we don`t mind if you charge, just open the road. But the real point is that most of the Taliban leadership is in Pakistan. And the Pakistanis were very upset that this dialogue that started secretly between the Americans and the Taliban bypassed Pakistan, bypassed the intelligence agency, the ISI. And now the America, I think, has to find a way in which it can bring Pakistan, if not to the table, at least bring Pakistan into the negotiations, so they don`t feel totally left out. That is the best way at the moment to try to re-cement ties. I don`t think the relationship will ever go back to what it was under President Bush, and the kind of cooperation and the kind of, you know, things that were happening then. The U.S. will continue doing certain things like firing off drone missiles. The Pakistanis will object to that. So, we`re not going to have a very clear, and we`re not going to have a very committed relationship to each other. MADDOW: In terms of Pakistan being on the brink, you describe Pakistan as not being on the brink of becoming a failed state like Yemen or Somalia, but rather being on the brink essentially of anarchy. Do you think it`s really on the brink, literally, that it`s possible that it`s about to happen? RASHID: The real crisis in Pakistan is internal, domestic, you know, economic, social. The fact that we`ve got Pakistani Taliban, there`s an insurgency in another province, Baluchistan. None of these issues are being tackled by the government or by the military. And it`s this -- you know, when Pakistan tries to, you know, keep India off on one side, Afghanistan off on one side, instead of focusing -- I mean, the theme of my book, essentially, instead of focusing on this adventurism in foreign policy, there should be a total focus on the domestic situation, for at least the next decade. But you have a very powerful military, which remains very ambitious, which still wants to have some kind of parity with India, which wants to have influence in Afghanistan, but we`re a country that is falling apart. And a country that is falling apart can`t do these kinds of things. It`s very much like what the Soviets went through at the end, you know, when Gorbachev was in power, as it kind of fell apart. The political aims of the elite, the ruling elite may be one thing, but, you know, if the domestic situation is falling apart, how can you project yourself like this? MADDOW: Ahmed Rashid, the author of "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan," about -- even without the war in Afghanistan, probably the most important relationship we have with any other country in the world. This is amazing. It`s -- I read everything that you write, but this is great. Thank you very much. Congratulations. RASHID: Thank you. MADDOW: The Newt Gingrich campaign has shifted to a big, strange strategy. We`re calling it the Rosie Ruiz strategy. Details, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Newt Gingrich has a secret new strategy to win the marathon that is the race for the Republican nomination. A hint to his secret, it doesn`t involve actually running the marathon. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When Newt Gingrich got into the presidential race. He got in with a bumpy start. He called Paul Ryan`s kill Medicare budget right wing social engineering, which turns out you`re not supposed to do if you`re a Republican. So, then Mr. Gingrich had to apologize, so that turned him into a flip-flopper. So he tried to demand that his old history be erased. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say on the record any ad which quotes what I say is a falsehood. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Anyone who quotes me is lying. That was an all time great. When asked about his terrible, no good, very bad week on the campaign trail, Mr. Gingrich had an explanation. He said, "Ronald Reagan`s campaign in 1980 campaign was filled with bumps. It happens if you`re the candidate of ideas. It`s going to take a while for the news media that you`re covering something that happens once or twice in the century, a genuine grass-roots campaign of very big ideas." So, according to Gingrich his campaign launch only looks like a disaster but is actually awesome beyond human comprehension. About a month later, when Mr. Gingrich senior campaign staff all quit, his campaign was still to anybody not named Newt Gingrich looking like a really hot mess. But when he was asked about that near collapse, he again had a ready and amazing response. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where did you go wrong? GINGRICH: Oh, I think that it was a big mistake in my part to try to bring in conventional consultants, because I am, much like Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, I`m such an unconventional political figure that you really need to design a very unique campaign that fits the way I operate and what I`m trying to do. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The campaign`s near-collapse could be explained by the same thing explained the disastrous launch. It was too awesome for this world. Mr. Gingrich was too awesome for his own campaign. Understanding Gingrich h the mind of Gingrich is key to understanding the big news that broke late last night. The news that he`s drastically cutting back his campaign schedule and laying off a third of his staff. To all the world, that sounds like Newt Gingrich is quitting. But if you ask the Gingrich campaign, this is not quitting the campaign, it`s a new strategy for winning the campaign. They decided they can sit out the campaign, come in third or fourth place in the primaries and just have Newt Gingrich named the winner at the convention in August. Tada! (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GINGRICH: Look, clearly, we`re going to have to go on a fierily tight budget to get from here to Tampa, but I think we can do it. I intend to be there all the way to Tampa. I`m committed to running all the way to Tampa. All the way through to Tampa. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If you think of the Republican presidential race as a marathon, Newt Gingrich has stopped running in the marathon and decided to drive to the finish line instead. You mean the first one across the finish line wins? OK. I`ll meet you there. I don`t know why all these suckers are running. My way is so much faster, and it has air-conditioning. You would be forgiven for thinking that Newt Gingrich looks like he`s quitting the Republican presidential campaign. That is, in fact, what he`s doing. But according to Mr. Gingrich`s own assessment of himself, it`s really just the start of his awesome drive to the finish line. 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