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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/10/12

Guests: Ezra Klein, Antonio Villaraigosa, Kate Zernike

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks very much. What you were just talking about with Senator Lautenberg, we`ve got more on that ahead this hour. Thanks, man. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Great. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. If things look different, that is because we`re in Los Angeles again tonight. We`re going to be speaking live this hour with the city`s mayor who is also the chair of the Democratic National Convention, Antonio Villaraigosa. But in the world of politics, today, the biggest news was news that everybody knew would come some day. But we didn`t have any real reason to expect that today would be the day it came. And that news is, of course, the de facto crowning of a Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney`s last remaining, even remotely conceivable, long shot, maybe potentially viable opponent conceded the race today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We made a decision to get into this race at our kitchen table against all the odds. And we made a decision over the weekend that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting. We are going to continue to fight for those voices. We`re going to continue to fight for the Americans who stood up and gave us that air under our wings that allowed us to accomplish things that no political expert would have ever expected. I walked out after the Iowa caucus victory and said, game on. I know a lot of folks are going to write, maybe those even at the White House, game over. But this game is long, long ay from over. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: For former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum the race is over as of tonight. Now, oddly, after saying today that his presidential campaign is over, Rick Santorum did go what he had another campaign event tonight with religious rights, anti-gay figure James Dobson of the group Focus on the Family. I don`t know why he did that. Maybe it`s a sign of how Mr. Santorum wants to keep a hand in the old school religious right part of the Republican Party in the post-president presidential candidacy phase of his career, maybe. I don`t know. It might be an oversight that Mr. Santorum did not officially endorse Mitt Romney today in his "I`m getting out" speech. That, of course, left the arm chair candidacy of Newt Gingrich to make a plea today for any remaining Rick Santorum supporters to please now support Newt Gingrich instead. But with Rick Santorum now out of the race, with or without an endorsement, with Newt Gingrich pledging he will show up in Tampa to collect his nomination but he`s really not doing all that much work anymore toward trying to get that nomination in the meantime. With Ron Paul`s quixotic campaign soldering on and attracting large crowds, particularly on college campuses, but with nothing really to show for it in terms of momentum toward the nomination or states won or delegates accumulated, it now seems like it`s OK to say that it is essentially done. And with the sometimes minor distraction of the super sad, true Republican nominating contest effectively now behind us, it is worth admitting that we`re sort of now back to where we started, which is that the most interesting question in all of partisan politics right now, the defining question of the American right in this age is a question that has remained totally open, totally unanswered and totally fascinating ever since roughly February 2004 -- which is when it was confirmed that George W. Bush would not replace his vice president. George W. Bush would not be replacing Dick Cheney on the ticket in order to improve his reelection chances into 2004. And that was critical because nobody ever even for a second thought that Dick Cheney would run for president himself. That he would try to succeed George W. Bush. And so, the succession question has been open since then, the question of who would inherit the leadership of the Republican Party, who would become the new face of the Republican Party, the new spirit of the party in the wake of the George W. Bush years -- that has been the central and most interesting question in American politics for almost a decade now. Post-Bush/Cheney, the party did have to nominate something else for the 2008 race. The party nominated John McCain for president and Sarah Palin for vice president. No one, however, I think would say today that either of them have since emerged as leaders of their party. And so, who is running it? What does the Republican Party stand for after George W. Bush? Who is the Republican Party after George W. Bush? Today on the day that Mitt Romney all but locked up the Republican Party`s next nomination for president, today we learned that the Republican Party post-George W. Bush is the Republican Party of George W. Bush. In a totally unforeseeable, strange confluence of political news, George W. Bush picked today to gather headliner Republicans, governors like Chris Christie of New Jersey and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, members of Congress like Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. George W. Bush picked today to convene in Manhattan, a who`s who of current Republican politicians to campaign for keeping his tax cuts. Wow! The still deeply unpopular president has kept a low profile since leaving office in January 2009. But his emergence today of all days heading up a conference on tax policy and the economy, did put him squarely back into today`s 2012 politics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If you raise tax, in other words, if you let the -- I wish they weren`t called the Bush tax cuts. If they were called some other body`s tax cuts, they are probably less likely to be raised. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Former President Bush should not be so modest about his legacy in the Republican Party. Not only does everybody still call them the Bush tax cuts, but this Republican Party after him is absolutely campaigning on keeping the Bush tax cuts. Despite the decade so far of the Bush tax cuts exploding the national debt, adding trillions to the deficit, remember they said they would pass them because we had a surplus, we had extra money. That`s how they justified passing them in the first place. Despite what the Bush tax cuts have done to the debt and deficit, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, calls for keeping the Bush tax cuts in place, even for the wealthiest people in the country who don`t need more tax cuts, but they are not only keeping them in place, the Ryan/Romney plan calls for doubling down on the most radical idea of the Bush tax cuts in the first place, which was to narrowly target the people who already have the most money in the country and focus intently on giving those people more taxpayer help than anybody else. The Ryan-Romney plan would give the average millionaire, look at this -- Ryan/Romney plan would give the average millionaire $265,000 per year. Extending the Bush tax cuts would give those $129,000 tax cut per year Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are good with that. But then they want to add to it. They get to $265,000 because they are doubling down on that idea, with their own additional rich people bonus tax present -- another quarter of a million dollars for every average millionaire. This is not the politics of past anymore. Talking about George W. Bush right now is right at the center of today`s Republican Party thinking, in today`s politics. Today, President Obama was in Florida arguing for closing the loophole that lets people who make their money as financers, people like Mitt Romney pay essentially mini-tax rates instead of the tax rates that everybody else has to pay. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m saying, you`re bringing in a million bucks or more a year, then what the rule says if you should pay the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle class families do. (APPLAUSE) OBAMA: You shouldn`t get special tax breaks. You shouldn`t be able to get special loopholes. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The president`s proposal is sometimes shorthanded as the Buffett Rule, named after Warren Buffett who usually pays a lower tax rate than his secretary does. I think it might stick better with people if they call it the Romney loophole rather than the Buffett Rule. But in any case, President Obama`s proposal would essentially leave the tax rate for rich people where it currently is, but it would close the loophole that prevents really, really rich people from paying that tax rate if they made their money in the Mitt Romney world of finance. It is a loophole specifically for people whose income comes from the financial sector. George W. Bush in Manhattan today weighed in on that as well. He gave the Republican Party standard line that it would be a mistake to raise any taxes on rich people because we need to ensure that rich people get as much money as possible because they are the job creators. So, the more money rich people are given, the better off we all mysteriously are. To be clear, though, this is not about the overall tax rate on zillionaires going up. It is just a question about whether or not people who specifically make their zillions in hedge funds and private equity, like Mitt Romney did, whether or not they should pay a special mini tax rate that is even less than what other zillionaires pay. It`s a very specific idea. The George W. Bush legacy is the central issue in partisan politics, certainly in Republican politics in this decade. And the way that has played out for Mitt Romney so far is things like Romney having to explain to Poppy Bush, to George H.W. Bush, that no, no, he hasn`t received George W. Bush`s endorsement and then Barbara Bush has to interject and say, we`ll talk about that later. And it`s things like Mitt Romney having a political constraint on his foreign policy in the campaign because his foreign policy in the campaign because his foreign policy advisers are essentially a roster of George W. Bush policy guys. And when America thinks about the foreign policy of George W. Bush, they do not think good things. The central issue of this election, though, of course, is the economy, right? And today, on what I think is an arguably day one of the Romney versus Obama 2012 election, the day that Rick Santorum gets out of the race, the day that the path was cleared for Mitt Romney, today of all days, George W. Bush, helpfully popped out of where ever he`s been to hang the legacy of Bushanomics around Mitt Romney neck. And that is a legacy that in part looks like this. Eight reckless debt-exploding years of fiscal irresponsibility, the sort of image that only hangs around Mitt Romney`s neck, given that he wants to continue any of the same Bush economic policies, this is the sort of thing that also hangs around questions about whether or not somebody like Rob Portman or somebody like Mitch Daniels might have a chance as being Mr. Romney`s vice presidential choice. The problem for each of them is that they were both George W. Bush budget guys and the George w. Bush budget was not a pretty thing. This goes to the central question of what people think of when they feel aggravated about the state of the economy now. Do they think of the current president? Do they think of President Obama? That is what Republicans hope. But is there a possibility that people think about George W. Bush and his economic legacy? His economic record. It`s not just the national debt and deficit that President Bush left behind. This, for example, is median household income during the Bush administration. Median household income, as you can see, actually went down during the time that President Bush was in office. This is the U.S. manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing jobs in the United States during the 1990s heading into the year 2000 heading into the Bush administration. Here`s what happened to manufacturing in the United States under President Bush. Yes, disaster. The manufacturing sector is now rebounding under the current president. Look at what happened during the Bush administration. Throughout most of the 20th century as American workers got more productive, their hourly wages increased as well, right? So, if you did more over the course of the hour, you got paid more for that hour. Worker productivity and hourly wages were sort of tied together as you there. What happened during the Bush years? Yes, worker productivity skyrockets, hourly wages remained totally flat. There was one silver lining during the Bush years, though. There was one economic exception to these rules. Quote, "The sole exception to the 2001 to 2007 period lackluster performance was the growth of corporate profits. Corporate profits experienced annual growth of 10.8 percent as compared with average growth of 7.4 percent for other comparable post-war periods." So, corporations and rich people did great under George W. Bush. Everybody else pretty much got left behind. That is the economic legacy of the George W. Bush years. A legacy which from the perspective of the Mitt Romney campaign probably could have picked a better to crawl out of exile and start making news. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I have decided to stay on the limelight. I have had plenty of limelight. I don`t think it`s good for our country to undermine our president. I don`t intend to do so. But I do intend to remain involved in areas that I`m interested in. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is Ezra Klein, columnist for "The Washington Post" and "Bloomberg News," and, of course, an MSNBC policy analyst. Ezra, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here. EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: How are you? MADDOW: Good. I was surprise to see George W. Bush surfaced today because of its policy impact. But it got me thinking about what he is. I mean, he did a weigh into today`s policy fights. The Bush tax cuts were originally presented as way of paying down the surplus. We had spare money so spend it on a big tax cut. What`s the impact of further extending or doubling down on those kinds of cuts now versus what the situation was 11 years ago? KLEIN: The impact is for, for the first part, $4 trillion in debt. Over 10 years, extending the Bush tax cuts would create $4 trillion in debt. I think it is important to say, that nobody has seriously put on the table, specific spending cuts, that equal $4 trillion. And that`s what you would need to do just to climb out the hole you`re creating. So, for Republicans who say the whole question is deficit, that`s really what`s holding the economy back, if you extend the Bush tax cuts, you dug a $4 trillion hole for yourself that you need to get out of before you can begin doing anything else. So, that is the first piece. The second bit is that problems Bush tax cuts were there to solve, whether or not you think they work, I don`t think the 2000s were particularly great economic year, are not the problems we have now. The Bush tax cuts were developed at a time we had very large surplus, we had a roaring economy. The idea is they were going to super charge investment going forward. Then we had a light recession due to the 2001 busting of the tech bubble. They were supposed to give us insurance there. What we have now, whatever else you think about is not an investment driven recession. We have a recession of the middle class. We have a recession or no longer a recession but a continued economic downturn, a continued sluggish economy, in which consumer spending is not recovering. And giving money to the folks at top is now how you make the middle spend again. It is not suited for our current economic problems. MADDOW: Well, in terms of our current economic problems, not only as you describe the recession of the middle class but also the problem of people at the bottom end of the economic spectrum doing incredibly poorly - - forgive the phrase -- but not only high poverty rates but also a lot of bad socioeconomic indicators that go along with poverty that isn`t short term but that is extending into a year`s long problem. Is the Ryan and Romney economic plan any better for economic inequality, for people at the bottom of the income scale than the policies of the Bush years were? Is that anything on which they`ve had a bit of a course correction? KLEIN: No. It is vastly worse. This is an important point to make because George W. Bush ran as reaction to Newt Gingrich and the Republicans of the 1990s who are considered cruel because they wanted to cut so deep into Medicaid, so deep into welfare and other social programs. And so, he said in his campaign, I will not balance the budget on the backs of the poor, and he didn`t it. What he came in is he increased deficit spending, but he did not pay for his tax cuts or as other spending by cutting Medicaid or cutting food stamps, or cutting your own income tax credit. In fact, he expanded food stamps. He actually expanded the Medicare prescription drug program, creating it in the first place and did much more than that. What Romney and Ryan have proposed is to extend the Bush tax cut, so $4 trillion there, add a couple trillion dollars more in tax cuts. So, now, you`re $6 trillion, $7 trillion, and the way you actually pay for that is you cut into programs for the poor. The only specific cuts they have really named, the main ones are into Medicaid, into food stamps, are into housing subsidies and job training. They talk about it in terms of what they call block renting. But the real secret is they give the money to the states and say that money cannot grow as quickly as the programs are supposed to grow. That`s where the savings come from. So, George W. Bush didn`t balance the budget on backs of the poor by not balancing the budget, Romney and Ryan, ands there`s just no way to get around this, the only plan they have put forward for balancing the budget given their tax plan is on the backs of the poor. It is a shift, but it`s not in the right direction. MADDOW: It`s taking the compassionate conservativism thing deciding it didn`t work out and saying you`ll drop the compassion part. KLEIN: Right. MADDOW: Ezra, columnist for "The Washington Post" and "Bloomberg News" and our great asset here at MSNBC as the policy analyst -- Ezra, thank you very much. I really appreciate it. KLEIN: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. It turns out one area where President George W. Bush did make some positive headway for his party is an area that`s specifically and aggressively being abandoned by Mitt Romney. Adios, elephantes. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Tonight on the interview, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joins me right here in his town, straight ahead. Stick around for that. Plus, we`ve got a best new thing in the world, coming up. All ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today, the skies opened. The sun broke through. The clear day dawned for Mitt Romney when Rick Santorum, his last even remotely, conceivably, maybe plausible rival conceded the race. For Mitt Romney who has had a difficult time this year shaking what was frankly always a pretty weak field of rivals, it must have felt like a ray of warm sunshine beaming down on him after being caught out in a cold rain. What a relief, right? And then, today, all of a sudden, new cloud, rogue cloud. Today, seriously, today, George W. Bush had to pick today to rejoin Republican politics? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: If you raise taxes, in other words, if you let -- I wish they weren`t called the Bush tax cuts. If they were called some other body`s tax cuts, they`re probably less likely to be raised. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Former President George W. Bush reemerging from his post- White House exile to put himself back in the news, back in the center of Republican politics. And this has two main negatives for the Republican Party`s now de facto nominee, Mitt Romney. First and most obviously, there`s the overall challenge for Republicans of Americans as a whole associating the Republican Party with the George W. Bush years. With the Iraq war, with the worse financial catastrophes since the great depression, with torture, with astronomical deficit, with, with -- choose your poison. The last time they had a choice between Barack Obama and a Republican Party still mostly associated with George W. Bush, the George W. Bush era Republican Party lost in a land slide. Today, the party`s nominee from that year was on the Turkish border with Syria demanding that the United States get into another war in the Middle East. The Republican`s vice presidential nominee from that year today is still Sarah Palin. Every day, she does not work in politics except as a commentator in the conservative cable TV network, FOX News. So, for problem one for Mitt Romney and having George W. Bush reentering Republican politics today, hosting his big economic conference with all sorts of Republican boldfaced names today, on what was supposed to be Mitt Romney`s big day in the sun, problem one is that this was the last day in the world the Romney campaign would want America to have a big visual reminder of George W. Bush Republicanism. But beyond the problem of there being bad things about the George W. Bush era that Republicans do not want to remind the country about right now, Mitt Romney also has a different problem of there being some relatively good things about the George W. Bush era, at least when you compare those things to Mitt Romney. Por ejemplo, George W. Bush made a real effort to cultivate the Latino vote. Even though outside of the Cuban committee in Florida, Latinos are not a traditionally Republican constituency. In 2004, President George W. Bush got 44 percent of the Latino vote in the general election, that is a lot for the Republican. Now, in the next election, as I mentioned, Republicans got shellacked. They lost overall in something approaching a landslide. And even as they lost with almost everyone, Republican lost disproportionately with Latinos. The Republican proportion of the Latino vote in 2008 dropped to 31 percent and the Republicans lost the election badly. But now, now look at how Mitt Romney is doing now with Latino voters. Look, yes, no. That`s really bad. That`s 14 percent. I can almost count that high in Spanish and I don`t speak Spanish. John McCain got 31 percent and he got crushed. George W. Bush got 44 percent and now Mitt Romney is at 14? Yes, there`s a reason for that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is self- deportation which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can`t find work here because they don`t have legal documentation to allow them to work here. I`m running for office for Pete`s sake. I can`t have illegals. The question is, if I were elected and Congress would have passed the DREAM Act, would I veto it. And the answer is yes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In addition to that charm offensive toward Latino voters, Mitt Romney ran ads against Rick Santorum attacking him for voting for Sonya Sotomayor in her confirmation to a federal circuit court, where she served being nominated to the Supreme Court. Mitt Romney attacked Rick Santorum for that vote as if the nation`s first Latina Supreme Court justice has turned out to be some kind of scandal that politicians should be ashamed of. So, the Republican Party this year is in a fragile position. Their nominee has taken policy positions that are wildly unpopular with Latino voters. And Latino voters are therefore saying that Romney is therefore wildly unpopular with them. That said the last election cycle did see three Latino Republicans elected to statewide offices. The governor offices in Nevada and in New Mexico, as well as the U.S. Senate seat in Florida. And, oh, yes, George W. Bush is kicking around again and Latino voters did not dislike him as much as they disliked Mitt Romney. So, when the Republican Party is in this kind of fragile position, one thing to watch is how the Republican Party tries to course correct. That`s part of why New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez had to all but beat reporters off with a stick in telling them only does she not think she is going to be picked as Mitt Romney`s vice president, she does not want to be is picked as Mitt Romney`s vice president. And if she is picked as Mitt Romney`s vice president, she will say no. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval is finding himself in the same position and he is saying the same thing. Not just I don`t want it, but I will say no if I`m asked. Also, Florida Senator Marco Rubio saying the same thing. Not just, no, I don`t want the job. But I will say no if I`m asked to do the job. The three newly elected statewide Latino Republican officials in the country are now constantly being badgered about whether or not they would please like to be vice president, because the Republican Party has a huge problem with Latino voters and everybody wants to see how Republicans are going to try to fix that. I have a different question about this though. How is the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party, but the Democratic Party going to try to prevent the Republican Party from fixing this problem that it has with Latinos? How is the Democratic Party going to press their advantage here? The next chairman of the Democratic National Convention is the current mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa. He`s here in person for the interview, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Being the top elected official in the nation`s second largest city means dealing with things as diverse as a giant bear on the loose this morning right in the middle of the city. We`ll have more on that later. Also, carmageddon, the shutdown of the busiest freeways in the entire country for a massive blunt force strike construction overhaul. Carmageddon passed without incident and under its time constraints. It means dealing with the largest jail system in the world. The Los Angeles County jails have 22,000 people on them on average, on any average given day. They have been plagued with trouble. Today, L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca announced a commitment to shutting down what`s considered the most problematic facility, the old section of landmark Men`s Central Jail, the landmark decision for the city and frankly, for justice. If you are this particular top elected official in this nation`s second largest city, getting your day-to-day work done also now means handling the responsibility of chairing the Democratic Party`s National Convention this summer, at which the party will renominate Barack Obama for president, spurring him on, the party hopes, to re-election. Joining us tonight for the interview is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles. Mr. Mayor, thanks for being here. It`s nice to see you. MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: Great to be here. I`m a fan. MADDOW: Oh, thank you. Well, I want to ask you about chairing the convention. What do you hope the convention is going to accomplish for the party in terms of sending a message to the voters? What can happen at the convention that can`t happen at the campaign more broadly? VILLARAIGOSA: Well, there`s going to be a spotlight on the convention. An opportunity building up to the convention to get -- to solicit people`s ideas about what they think the platform should be like, what they would like to see in our convention and the campaign, and the conversations that are going to take place at kitchen tables all across the country. It`s an opportunity to be more open with respect to how we have that conversation. MADDOW: One of the controversies that is sort of brewing ahead of the convention and nobody knows sort of, it`s one of real unanswered questions. Nobody knows really what`s going to happen between now and the convention itself is this question of whether or not there is going to be plank on marriage equality in the party`s platform in time for the convention. What`s your position on that and what do you think is going to happen given the president`s own articulated feelings on the issue? VILLARAIGOSA: Well, when I was speaker of the California state assembly, I did all the gay and lesbian civil rights issues, anti- discrimination, domestic partnership benefits, the first registry, the dignity for all students bill. I`ve been on record in support of marriage equality since 1994. I believe it should be part of the platform. But what I`ve said to people is there`s going to be a process. You have to have delegates. They pick a platform committee. They weigh in on what the platform should look like. That process will take place going into the convention. And as I`ve said before, I hope that plank is in there because I think it goes to the heart of who we are. We`re for family values. We`re for the notion that government shouldn`t interfere with the fundamental liberties that comes with the right to marriage. MADDOW: If that discussion happens at the platform level, and at the party level, does it push to president to go further than he wants to go on that issue as the party`s presidential nominee? VILLARAIGOSA: I`m glad you asked about the president, because let`s be clear, and I think you are very clear. You know, this is the president that passed "don`t ask, don`t tell," who opposes DOMA, who supported and signed anti-hate crimes legislation, who extended benefits to same sex couples in the federal government. I believe ultimately that our party will embrace the most forward progressive plank on that issue. I can`t tell you where the president is going to be. I can tell you where he`s been. And he`s got a record second to none on these issues. MADDOW: In terms of the general election, the contours of the general election, one of the things I was discussing before the break was the real problem that the Mitt Romney candidacy and therefore Republicans in general have right now with Latino voters, you are one of the most prominent and well-known Latino elected officials in the country. You`ve got a very high profile for a very long time. It`s set to only increase with this role as chairman. VILLARAIGOSA: It means I`m old, right? MADDOW: Well, you`ve been doing this since you were 3 years old. But do you think that the Republican can turn it around? And do they turn it around with policy? Or do they turn it around with tone? Do they turn it around by choosing a Latino vice presidential nominee for Mr. Romney? VILLARAIGOSA: They`re going to try to turn it around. I mean, I think Mr. Romney`s campaign person said that they were going to approach this like a kid would with an Etch a Sketch. They`re going to try to erase our memories about what he has said and what he`s done. I think you chronicled a lot of what he`s done. I mean, the idea that we would engage in the south deportation of 11 million people. No country in the history of the world that I know of has ever done that, that you`d separate families that way, that we wouldn`t come up with a more humane way to secure our borders and create a pathway to citizenship. It`s untenable. The fact that the DREAM Act, to him, serving in the military, defending your country is handout, you know, he`s taken positions that are so extreme, so far out of the mainstream for where the Republican Party icon, Ronald Reagan, where George W. Bush, President Bush was at on this issue -- so far out of the mainstream when he`s campaigning with Kris Kobach who is the author of the Arizona and Alabama laws. MADDOW: He says Arizona should be a model for the nation. VILLARAIGOSA: Yes, he does. It`s going to be very difficult to try to move away from what he said and what he`s done. I didn`t see him challenge Mr. Cain when he said jokingly, he says that he was going to electrify the fence. I mean, when you`re a leader and you hear someone say something like that, you stand up and say, no, not on my watch. I want to be a uniter, someone who brings the nation together, someone who solves these tough problems in a more humane way that`s commensurate to our values. So, I don`t -- they`re going to make that effort. I don`t think who you pick for vice president is ever really made a difference for the most part. But they may try to do something like that. There`s no question that they are going to try to move away from where they have been with respect to this primary. And I think it`s important for the media to make sure they are honest about who they are and what they have done. MADDOW: I have to ask you one last Los Angeles question, which is this issue about the jails. The Los Angeles County jail system is so big that it makes national news. We`ve talked about it a lot on this program before. And I know you and I both have worked on California prison issues in previous lives and in previous jobs. Do you have a position at this point on what`s going to happen with this huge old jail in Los Angeles that Sheriff Baca today talked about closings down? VILLARAIGOSA: I think he`s talking about closing down the old part of the jail. That will be -- the devil will be in the details. I want to make sure whatever we do, we`re not just letting people out, that we`re putting re-entry programs together. We`re doing smart things to address the crime issue. I`ve said many times it`s not enough to talk tough. We want to be smart and effective. That means we need to allocate resources for it, too. So, that`s my hope. MADDOW: Mr. Mayor, thank you. It`s great to see you. VILLARAIGOSA: Good to see you, too. MADDOW: I love being here. VILLARAIGOSA: I`m glad you do. MADDOW: Thank you. VILLARAIGOSA: Keep, spend, spend, spend. We need the revenue. MADDOW: Being from northern California saying I like L.A. actually just took a little chuck out. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: Antonio Villaraigosa is the mayor of Los Angeles. He is the chair of this year`s Democratic National Convention. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Programming note. I will be on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" tonight. If you have a really, really good arm, Mr. Leno`s studio is about a stone`s throw from where I`m sitting now. It is always a lot of fun to get to be on the tonight show, both intrinsically and in terms of it being surreal that I`m actually on the freaking "Tonight Show." And I can report, Jay Leno -- the Jay Leno, actually read my book, and I had a great conversation with him about it. So, totally cool and humbling and also surreal. Me talking about my book, "Drift," with Jay Leno, on NBC on "The Tonight Show" tonight -- I know. Great. Also, best new thing in the world, still ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation says it is going to stop funding the conservative group known as ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Coalition. It`s a group that promotes conservative legislation at the state level. The spokesman for the Gates Foundation telling "Roll Call" newspaper this week that it does not plan to make any future grants to ALEC. The Coca-Cola Corporation and Pepsi both had corporate memberships with ALEC and both of those companies have announced plans to drop those memberships. So has Kraft Foods telling "Politico" last week that it will not renew its membership in ALEC. Same with Intuit, the software company behind Quicken and TurboTax. And same with McDonald`s. McDonald`s telling "Mother Jones" that that company has also decided not to renew its ALEC membership this year. In other words, tough times are falling on the folks at ALEC as the group`s typically quiet efforts to push conservative legislation in the states have been getting a lot more attention lately -- from the stand your ground laws like the controversial Florida measure at the center of the Trayvon Martin case right, which ALEC worked with the NRA to export to other legislatures, to new make it harder to vote laws which an ALEC task force adopted in 2009, to draconian anti-immigration measures, ala Arizona`s papers please law which closely resembles a model bill drafted at an ALEC conference. The stuff ALEC does, the legislation ALEC peddles and proliferates among the states is increasingly being regarded as toxic. It`s a group that`s counted in the past on flying under the radar, on nobody knowing what they`re doing. And now that they are no longer under the radar, now that people are paying attention to who they are and what they do, ALEC frankly is becoming political poison. And so, now, is really bad time to be known as a politician who keeps introduce legislation that`s sort of written by ALEC, which is to say it`s a bad time to be New Jersey`s Republican governor, Chris Christie. "The New Jersey Star-Ledger" having just found a pattern of similarities between ALEC`s proposals and several measures championed by the Christie administration. And you might think being outed as the guy who keeps introducing ALEC legislation would be the worst political problem for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but it turns out, Governor Christie is having a really bad political time right now in more ways than the one. Being the ALEC guy at the moment public opinion is turning against ALEC, when even big companies that didn`t mind being part of it before are running away from ALEC in a full on sprint, at the same time that`s happening, Governor Christie is dealing with $1.5 billion corporate welfare record, which is getting more and more attention at a time he really wants to seem like a fiscal conservative. Having not served a full term as New Jersey governor yet, Chris Christie is on the hook for having passed out a record amount of state money to corporations, $1.5 billion. And then there`s today`s bombshell in "The New York Times," news that the reasons Chris Christie gave at the time for unilaterally killing the biggest public works project in the country might not have been real reasons. This is based on findings from a Government Accountability Office report, a bipartisan, nonpartisan report that is set to be released this week. "The Times" is reporting today that Governor Christie exaggerated when he said that unforeseen costs to his state were forcing him to cancel a new train tunnel between New Jersey and New York. "The Times" finding that Mr. Christie also misstated New Jersey`s share of the project`s costs. And while Mr. Christie said at the time that the agreement with the federal government would have required the state to pay for any and all cost overruns in the project, the GOA report says that the federal government was, in fact, offering to share those costs. So what was the problem? Well, having nixed the big tunnel project, Governor Christie spent the money for it, spent the tunnel money on the state`s transportation trust fund, which it just so happens was almost empty at time and which it just so happens is funded by a gasoline tax, which it just so happens Chris Christie made a campaign promise not to raise. So how do these dots connect? Killing a giant state federal infrastructure project did a couple of things for Chris Christie. It helped make him a famous conservative Republican guy. He`s known as the guy who stood up to the feds and killed this expensive tunnel project. He`s got his own bridge to nowhere, but he killed it. It also gave him an extra $4 billion to help him keep a campaign promise. An extra $4 billion to funnel into the transportation trust fund, can thereby keep his promise not to raise the gas tax, which incidentally was the second lowest in the nation. It also means that Amtrak and New Jersey transit trains will continue to share two century-old single-track tunnels underneath the Hudson River. That`s all there is. And those tunnels are now operating at capacity. Over the next two decades, demand is projected to grow 38 percent. Where will the projected growth go if the tunnels are already at capacity? Chris Christie made sure it would go nowhere. Joining us now is Kate Zernike. She`s "The New York Times" reporter who broke today`s story, detailing the federal government`s disputes with Chris Christie official tunnel story. Ms. Zernike, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here. KATE ZERNIKE, NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Let me ask in summarizing your reporting quickly like that, did I get any of the details wrong? That was a lot of details. I wouldn`t be surprised if I misstated something. ZERNIKE: No, I think you hit the high notes. Your first point is that Chris Christie said that the costs would be much higher. Christie came out when he announced this decision to cancel the tunnel, he said my steering committee on this tunnel has said that the costs are going will be at least $11 billion and maybe as much as $14 billion. And the GAO report found that these costs -- these estimates didn`t exist. What they said is that for two years, well before Christie took office, that there had been an estimate that it could be anywhere from $9.5 billion to $12.4 billion. These estimates didn`t change. It wasn`t as though the Christie administration came in and suddenly discovered there was some new cost, which is clearly how it was portrayed at the time. And the governor was sort of playing off this idea that the tunnel was supposed to cost $8.7 billion. That has been a very early estimate that was signed on by the federal government and by the New Jersey transit to get their first funding agreement. But New Jersey transit officials had said all along and fought with the federal government saying that this project isn`t going to cost anymore than $10 billion. So the governor clearly overstated when he said that the New Jersey transit said it would be at least $11 billion. MADDOW: And when he -- I remember the contemporaneous reporting at the time. I remember him explaining it as if there was a sudden and previously unforeseen cost projection that he had not seen coming and that`s why we had to act in this unexpected and unilateral way. When he killed the tunnel project way back in October of 2010 -- why didn`t anybody question or challenge those cost estimates that he was putting forward at the time? Why did it take until now toe merge? ZERNIKE: Well, I think, first of all, the cost estimates for a project like this are confusing, so he played on some of that confusion. But also, remember, the governor, as I`ve said, put out this memo, saying my committee says it`s going to be between $11 billion and $14 billion. So you have a memo from the governor saying his steering committee has done this. So I think people took it at face value. But what the GAO report did was look at what the estimates had been over time and find out exactly what the estimates had been. And again, they didn`t find any estimate of $11 billion to $15 billion. They found one point where the federal government said, well it might be as high as $13.7 billion, but that estimate only stood for a day before New Jersey officials came back and said, no, we don`t think it`s going to be higher than $10 billion. So, again, as you say, the governor came out and said, well, I`m shocked, shocked to discover this. But no one should have been shocked by these estimates that had been hanging around for two years. MADDOW: And yet, that has had continuing political fallout, mostly about his reputation as a fiscal conservative. Governor Christie talked about the tunnel project in a speech today, attacking it as a tunnel into the basement of Macy`s, I think trying to caricature it as a sort of bridge to nowhere. Is this actually a new line of attack for Governor Christie? Hadn`t he supported the idea of the tunnel at first, but now he`s attacking not just the cost but the whole idea of the project? ZERNIKE: Yes, he supported this in his campaign in 2009. He supported it through the first months of his governorship. When he canceled the tunnel, he did make noises about this tunnel into the basement of Macy`s, tunnel going nowhere. But he also said at the time, I see the merits of this tunnel. I understand the commuters need this, but we just can`t afford it at this time. And as you say, this really defined his reputation as this fiscal conservative, as a hero in the Republican Party. MADDOW: "New York Times" reporter Kate Zernike -- thank you very much for your reporting on this and helping us to flush it out. I really appreciate your time. ZERNIKE: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Best new thing in the world, coming up, bear teaches human lessons. Yes. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world. OK, I am in here in Burbank, California, part of the greater Los Angeles area. Here on the left is where I am right now at NBC`s bureau in Burbank. But see that big blob of greenish brown between me and La Crescenta? And see that big blob of greenish brown on the other side of La Crescenta? That`s pretty much wild land, hill country. And that is supposed to be the home of this fella -- a male black bear wearing roughly 400 pounds. A bear that has been roaming the streets of La Crescenta and neighboring Glendale for about a month now. The bear was first spotted going through a refrigerator, eating somebody`s meatballs. It`s been seen drinking from a pool and knocking over trash cans. This morning, word went out that the bear was back in town, and with news helicopters in hot pursuit, fish and game authorities were able to corner the bear in somebody`s backyard. But not before the best new thing in the world happened! One guy -- watch this -- learning a vital lesson about text the evening and walking at the same time -- see the guy? See the guy? See the guy? Oh, God, it`s a bear! Can we see that again? In super slow-mo, there`s the bear, there`s the guy texting, looking down, looking at his -- and he notices a little something -- oh, geez, right away? Of course, California fish and game`s advice for anybody who encounters a bear is don`t run away, they say face the animal, make noise, and try to appear as large as possible. But in this case, texting dude is OK. He says he was texting his boss. And also, bear`s OK. Tranquilized and successfully transported to the Angeles National Forest, for released back into the wild, even if it does now have an unsightly ear tag. But this close encounter between a texter and nature, oh, jeez, best new thing in the world today. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORLD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END