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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/17/12

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Steve Kornacki, Sherrod Brown

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Lots of things. Ask my family. Ed, I have to say -- ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: I won`t tell them. I don`t believe that. MADDOW: You travel around the country all the time. You do live radio shows. You do all these events in front of big crowds and stuff. And I see when you come back, you`re like bigger and stronger, like it energizes. And I feel like I go out and I talk to people, I have the greatest time of my life. I`m on the top of the world for that night and next morning I`m like a puddle of suds. I can`t do anything. SCHULTZ: Doesn`t it energize the soul to go out and visit with the people that you broadcast to and you realize that this -- we have chance to make a difference? It drives me. It does. Here I am taking up your time. Well, it`s not Friday night. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: It`s all right. Ed, thank you very much. I will say, to Ed`s point, traveling around the country doing this book tour stuff has had this wonderful benefit for me, which is that I`ve met so many people who watch the show. And when I do the show every night, it`s like me and the camera guys and stuff. It`s like me and Rob, the stage manager. We`re sort in the studio and sort of to be able to go eye to eye with so many of you who watch the show and you like it and bothering to come out and see me to talk about the book. It has been very moving and exhausting. It`s like I leave everything on the field every night after I do that sort of thing and the next morning, I can`t believe I did it. Any way, thank you to you at home for staying with us for this next hour as well. OK. Ready? This is the United States Capitol building. That`s the Capitol building with its iconic dome. But, you know, at the top of the dome, what is that thing that sticks up there? That is a lady. It is the Statue of Freedom. It is a lady in a toga with a sword and a shield and bundles of arrows, the whole thing. She is 19 1/2 feet tall. She was last fully renovated in the early 1990s. They took her down, cleaned her up and had to put her back up using this helicopter which is no small thing when you`re a 19 1/2 foot tall lady and you weigh 15,000 pounds. Now, there is scaffolding around this statute up with the top of the dome once again. We called the architect to the Capitol to find out what exactly is going on with the statue of freedom on top of the dome. They told us that the statue is getting a good cleaning as well as a new sealant to protect her from the elements. I think all of this work is supposed to be done in time for next presidential inauguration which, of course, will be this upcoming January. Now, I don`t know if they were up there fixing her up today or not. But look at this. Look at -- look closely at the scaffolding. Three guys at work at the very tiptop of the Capitol dome today having the best day on earth. Look at their view. Look what they`re able to see from where they are standing. This is so incredible. There`s two guys at the top. There`s another guy toward the bottom. You see? And what those three guys are betting is the best view in the world of a modified 747 that is giving a piggyback ride to the space shuttle Discovery. As you can see, the 747 with the shuttle on top is being followed by what they call a chase plane over there on the upper right corner. That`s a NASA T-38. It looks like a little fighter jet off on the right, following the 747 and the shuttle. The Discovery is the hardest working shuttle in the whole history of the space shuttle program. The Discovery spent over 365 days in space over 39 missions in space. And it sort of looks like it. It looks like it has earned its retirement. You can see that today when it was on top of that 747. In order to get the shuttle from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to D.C, where it`s going to be put on display at the Smithsonian, NASA, look at this, mounted the shuttle to the modified 747. There`s an incredible time lapse video of what it takes to put this on top of the other aircraft. It`s amazing. They only say they have a three- inch leeway, they have three inches of leeway total in terms of how exactly it has to fit on there. Btu when they knew they would have to make this delivery, they made advance plans. They got clearance, and they let everybody know they were not going to fly the shuttle to Dulles Airport and drop it off. They decided they were going to give the space shuttle the best possible welcome to Washington, D.C. It`s like they rolled out the red carpet in the sky. They flew at a low altitude. I think it was about 1,500 feet, down the National Mall and around the Capitol, and by the Washington Monument. Essentially, they did a tour of D.C. for the space shuttle discovery. And it`s weird. I mean, this is not anthropomorphic, right? This is -- it`s not even the animal equivalent of that. What is that, animalistic or something? But there is, even though it`s just a plane and a space shuttle here, there`s something kind of emotional about this. There`s something moving about seeing this spacecraft essentially being shown to the country. It was almost like an honorary procession commending its service to the country. And even if you are not as sappy about space as I am, and you are not as moved by that part of it, it is a different kind of moving to see how much this means to so many people. This is footage of the people who had lined up in Florida this morning near the space center in Florida to watch it leave there for the last time. But, you know, those people live by the space center. Maybe you expect them to love the space center. But then, look at these folks. These folks have turned out in Washington, D.C. "The Washington Post" did some great reporting on this, talking to people who had driven to Washington from places as far away as Michigan, so they could watch the shuttle go by. People have taken the morning off of work, people who pulled their kids out of school to go this as a family. There`s a parking lot of 2,000 parking spaces in it, near Dulles Airport, where people realized they could park to watch the flight today. Every single parking space of the 2,000 was full today. There was an overflow crowd camped out along Route 28 leading up to the airport. People were watching throughout the downtown Washington area on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress tweeted the pictures they took from their pictures in Congress. This was view apparently from Virginia Senator Mark Warren`s office. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon ran outside and captured this kind of picture of incredibly picture of himself pointing directly at the shuttle, as it flew by the Capitol building. John McCain camped out with his wife along a Senate balcony and with his 100-year-old mother, Roberta McCain, so they could all be together to watch it go by. People are excited. I mean, this is not a sad thing. It`s not a chest thumping kind of thing either. It`s a moment. It`s people being inspired by, awed by. People being proud of this thing we have done as a country. And even though there are differences, partisan differences and individual differences on policy around the space program, what we saw today in this show stopping moment in Washington was the opposite of partisan, the opposite of divisive, things bigger than ourselves, like the idea of space exploration I think have a way of making us look beyond the differences between us. It`s cool. It`s profound. It`s a little bit sappy even in a good way. It is a reminder that there are a lot of things on which we agree even in Washington. And actually, today was a day in Washington where that we`re all in this together feeling came both from this noble awe-inspiring thing that our government did with the space program, but it also came both from the most ignoble opposite of inspiring thing that another part of the government has apparently done as well. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: This morning, shameful allegations, 11 Secret Service personnel and five from the U.S. military accused of heavy drinking and soliciting prostitutes. But by last Wednesday, officials at the Hotel Caribe were irritated at the agents` alleged heavy drinking and loud partying. Sources say local women were coming in with agents. The scandal might have remained secret if not for an angry prostitute. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: From the heights of space discovery, the noblest horizons of men to the windowless, poll dancing prostitute and stripper hubs of Cartagena, Colombia, all in one day. The Secret Service scandal that overshadowed President Obama`s trip to Latin America this weekend is, of course, huge news. It`s been called the biggest scandal in the history of the Secret Service. Frankly, even if only half of what`s alleged to have happened actually turns out to have taken place, this may have forever sullied the reputation of the most elite law enforcement organization in the world, let alone the country. But possible very thin silver lining here. At a time when we think of everything in Washington as partisan and as fodder for political one- upmanship, the disgusting Secret Service, I don`t want to pay our hooker scandal, or excuse me, the we don`t want to pay our hooker scandal, is something on which everybody in Washington agrees. Kumbaya! The Republican perspective on the scandal brought to you here by House Speaker John Boehner. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I do think that what has gone on is very embarrassing and I think it`s clear that the investigations going on both in the Pentagon and at the Secret Service. And I hope they get to the bottom of it quickly. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, that is the Republican perspective. For the Democratic perspective, we go to President Obama. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I expect us to observe the highest standards because we`re not just representing ourselves. We`re here on behalf of our people, and that means that we conduct ourselves with the utmost dignity and probity. But, again, I think I`ll wait until the full investigation is completed before I pass final judgment. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Democrats and Republicans in agreement on the nature of the secret service scandal and what to do it about. Same goes for the other gross out Washington scandal of the day. The General Services Administration, worst government department name, best government department parties. Nobody has partied like the General Services Administration since they stopped snorting meth off the toaster ovens at the old Minerals Management Service. The GSA seems to have something wrong with it for some time. This western region GSA conference that they got busted for this year, "Politico" is reporting that spending on that conference went up by 102 percent during the course of the Bush administration. The investigation that led to all of these resignations at the GSA now started a year ago. The chief of the agency has now resigned and apologized. The guy who was running the conference is pleading the Fifth. He didn`t know up at a House hearing on the matter today. He`s pleading the Fifth. But again, possible teeny, teeny, tiny silver lining here -- at a time when we think of everything in Washington as partisan and as fodder for political one-upmanship, the pointless, profligacy, idiotic spending scandal at the GSA is something on which everybody in Washington agrees. In this case, the Republican perspective is brought to you by Republican Congressman Jeff Denham. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JEFF DENHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: It`s got to stop. It`s wasteful abuse of taxpayer dollars. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the Republican take on it. Now, here is the Democratic take on it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: They disregarded one of the most basic tenants of government service. It`s not your money. It`s the taxpayers` money. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings giving the Democrats` line on the scandal, which is exactly the same as the Republicans` line on the scandal. Something bad has happened. We all agree it is bad. Let us condemn it as bad and try to fix it, altogether, kumbaya! Yay! And here`s another bad thing in the news today. Today is Equal Pay Day which sounds good but is very bad. Equal Pay Day is a slightly different date every year. It`s the mathematical calculation of how much longer women have to work to earn the same money that men make. So, based on the fact that a woman now gets 77 cents for every dollar that a man gets, now in 2012. In order to make what a woman made last year, a woman would have to work all of last year plus January, February, March and April up to today, April 17th of this year, just to make what a similarly situated manmade last year alone. Today`s Equal Pay Day, not in a good way. Now, the idea of pay equality for women is what everybody sounds like they are in agreement about. Everybody sort of says the same thing. Por ejemplo, here is the Democratic perspective on the issue from President Obama. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Women can`t wait for equal pay. I won`t stop fighting to address this inequality. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the Democratic take on it. Now, here`s a Republican take on it. Quote, "I support equal pay for women." That`s presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in a new interview with ABC News, that portion of which has not yet aired. But we`ve got the transcript. You see, everybody agrees in theory. But this is one of those issues where although it sounds like everybody is in agreement, kumbaya, I don`t actually think they are all in agreement. It is one thing to say you support the outcome that somehow women and men should be paid equally. But given the fact they are not paid equally now, should we fix it? Should there be a policy implemented to help fix that? ABC`s Diane Sawyer asked Mitt Romney in detail about this and he is refusing to commit on the issue. I think this is incredible. Again, this is right from the transcript Diane Sawyer, "If you were president, if you had been president, would you have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Law?" Mitt Romney, "It`s certainly a piece of legislation I have no intention of changing. I wasn`t there three years ago." Diane Sawyer, "But would you have signed it?" Mitt Romney, "I`m not going to go back and look at all the prior laws and say had I been there, which ones would have supported and signed, but I certainly support equal pay for woman." See, he supports the concept of equal pay for women, but he won`t say if he would have supported the policy? Republicans voted against that. Were they wrong? He`s really not going to answer whether or not he would have signed it? I mean, Governor Romney, two of the members of Congress your campaign has put out to defend you on the equal pay issue both voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Do you think their votes were right or wrong? Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who recently described as a, quote, "hero," and a man of courage. Scott Walker just repealed the state version of the Fair Pay Act. Do you think he was right or wrong to have done that? We put both of those questions to the Romney campaign tonight. So far, they have not given us a comment. There`s a ton of noise in the political system in which we pretend to be fighting about things that actually we agree on. Remember when Republicans lost their minds about Nancy Pelosi possibly using something called deem-and-pass to pass health reform back in 2010, and how deem-and- pass was the worst thing in the whole world? Republicans have just decided to use deem-and-pass to pass their budget in the House of Representatives. So, deem-and-pass. Everybody agrees on this. Pretend to fight about it. The uproar last week about Mitt Romney`s wife not working outside the home. Republicans and Democrats screaming at each other that they value women who don`t work outside the home. You`re saying the same thing as me. I`m saying the same thing as you. Is this still a fight? There`s all this noise in the political system about fake fighting, where both sides actually substantively agree, and there are low moments like the Secret Service scandal where we`re all in agreement in our disgust, there are also high moments like the space shuttle over Washington, where we are all in agreement in our respect and humility. But the things worth moving heaven and earth for in politics and in the media about politics, and in reporting on things like presidential campaigns, the things worth moving heaven and earth for, the most illuminating things in the world, for when the country is coming to a point of decision between, say, two presidential candidates, the stuff that`s really important to focus on in politics and in the media about politics are the issues on which there`s actual disagreement on which you would do A and you would not do A. You would instead do B. So, good on Diane Sawyer for asking this question of Mitt Romney. But trying to pin Mitt Romney down on this now that he won`t get an answer ought to be lighting up the news, lighting up the political world now. Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, senior writer at "Salon" and an MSNBC political contributor -- Steve, thanks for being here. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Happy to be here. MADDOW: What do you make of Mr. Romney not committing on whether or not he would have supported this legislation? Most Republicans voted against this. Is he unwilling to make the same argument that they did in voting it down? KORNACKI: Yes, I think this illustrates perfectly the bind that Mitt Romney is in. It`s a bind that, you know, presidential nominees for the Republican Party and for that matter the Democratic Party are in frequently, which is basically you got start appealing more to the middle when you get the nomination and less to the base. The problem is, everything is heightened with Romney because he`s basically coming to the Republican nomination at the worst time for somebody with his background, a guy who`s suspected of being a moderate, who had a moderate record back in Massachusetts, who got the nomination not by running as a moderate, not by challenging anything that the party has been saying the past few years, but by saying, yes, actually, I was hiding it before but I totally agree with you now. He ran a very conservative platform the Republican Party is going to take probably the most conservative platform we`ve seen since Barry Goldwater this summer. So, basically, he gets the nomination, but he had to give the conservative base everything it wants. And one of the things the conservative base wants is somebody who like them is adamantly opposed to Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And so, this is one of Obama`s signature achievements. If Romney were to come out and say, you know what, yes, I would have signed it, too, then he`s saying one of the signature achievements of the chief enemy of the conservative movement was actually a good thing. And number two, I disagree philosophically with the conservative base that I just spent the past five years telling, you know, they can trust me. That I disagree with them. So, he can`t pick that fight. At the same time, he can`t say everything they want him to say because then that will give away just how extreme the Republican Party base has become in the Obama era. So, he tries to straggle it by saying, well, I wouldn`t get rid of it but then you confront him with, well, OK, but if a Republican Congress passed a repeal bill, would you sign it? He`s not going to answer that either. So, he`s going to try to play this game as long as he can. MADDOW: When you look at previous candidates who have had the same pivot to make, where they`ve got, they have to go very fare right to get the nomination and then they`ve got to go back to the center for the primary, this all happens to a greater or lesser degree with a nominee, right? What is the timing in terms of when they can start telling the base to buzz off? Because it would seem to me that the reason that Mitt Romney seems electable to Republicans is his perceived moderation. And it doesn`t seem like they -- it doesn`t seem like they are in denial any longer that anybody other than Mitt Romney is going to be their nominee this year. So, isn`t this the time when he can start saying, yes, I would have signed Lilly Ledbetter. And actually, yes, I didn`t mean what I said about being so anti-immigrant. Shouldn`t he be making that pivot now getting it out of the way? KORNACKI: Here`s the thing with Romney. I am not sure that there is a time with Mitt Romney and the Republican Party in 2012 where that`s going to be possible. MADDOW: Really? KORNACKI: You know, I can think back to like, you know, Bill Clinton back in 1992, the Sister Soulja moment that we all talk about. That came in May or early June. (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: You know, he took some flak for that, but the Democratic Party was comfortable with him. The conservative base of the Republican Party at this point in history is so uncomfortable with the idea of straying at all from a pure sort of Tea Party ideology, that they had embarrassed. I think they are at the point and they showed this a little bit in 2010 midterms, where they would rather lose elections than sacrifice their principles or do something they perceive as sacrificing their principles. MADDOW: Wow. KORNACKI: We saw it in 2010 when, you know, Sharron Angle and Christine O`Donnell and all those Tea Party candidates won races, even though the base was warned in the primary, you do this, you`re going to lose. And they did lose in the fall. But I think they would rather lose than sacrifice what they believe in. MADDOW: I -- see, I was watching the end of "THE ED SHOW" when Ed was playing those comments about from Ted Nugent where Ted Nugent was talking about, you know, needing to behead the president and saying he would be dead or in jail by this time next year if President Obama is reelected. And I`d not seen anybody else play the long form comments the way that Ed did. I thought I was really glad that they cut it that way so you could hear the context. You hear Ted Nugent talking -- effectively talking about assassinating the president, talking about at least trying to enough that he might be killed in the process. I mean, you can`t really get more radical than that. The Secret Service approached him for his comments and then interspersing with that, his praise for Mitt Romney and how America needs to get behind Mitt Romney and if these blood curdling patriots who are willing to kill for their causes don`t get behind Mitt Romney, he doesn`t know what they`re made of. And I`m having a little cognitive dissonance in trying to match that rhetoric with Mr. Romney. But I feel like hearing that makes me feel the base doesn`t actually care who they`re voting for. It`s just an anti-Obama and they`ll be just as rabid for Romney no matter what stances he takes. KORNACKI: I think it is. But we saw some signs this week that were sort of the Tea Party members of the House of Representatives, the Republican members of the House, are now sending clear signals to Romney that, hey, listen, we understand you got to pivot a little bit here but nothing fundamental. Nothing on the Paul Ryan budget. Nothing on the cuts. Nothing on taxes with the rich. Nothing fundamental can you give up in your pivot and expect us to go along with it. And I looked back at like Dole in `96, I looked at Bush in 2000. I looked at candidates who maybe had some suspicion among the base from what they did in the primaries, or from what they were before, they didn`t face what Romney is facing right now, which is just -- there`s a restiveness in the conservative moment that just hasn`t existed before that`s around them. MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, senior writer and MSNBC political contributor, because we need you on TV talking about that kind of perspective which you got all in your head, you`re great, Steve. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate. KORNACKI: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Have you heard, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann now says Republicans are for women`s right to choose, which is new for Michele Bachmann. Also, it`s deeply, deeply confusing. Stay with me. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When Oklahoma Republicans proposed a total ban on abortion this year, total ban on abortion established by defining a fertilized egg as a person, a Democratic state senator proposed essentially a protest amendment to the Republicans bill. The protest amendment would ban men from using their sperm for anything other than procreation. Ahem. "The Daily Show" a few days ago, "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, asked an Oklahoma Republican co-author of the fertilized egg as a person bill what he thought of the Democratic protest amendment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE SEN. RALPH SHORTEY (R), OKLAHOMA: I think the Johnson amendment is an egregious attack on personal liberties from the government. And quite frankly, it`s embarrassing this was even brought up because it`s just a -- it`s a ridiculous notion. REPORTER: And you`re not going to believe this pro-life state senator`s reasoning. SHORTEY: One, it would be a huge free choice issue. Basically, the government is telling a man what he can and cannot do with his body. REPORTER: OK. SHORTEY: There`s not another individual that knows what`s better for you than you. REPORTER: And who are women to think they can control our bodies? SHORTEY: Right. It`s like who is a man to think they can control women`s bodies? REPORTER: You. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was the daily show last week getting right to the heart of the matter. But then over the weekend, it kind of played itself out again. Michele Bachmann got trapped in the same rhetorical whirlpool and could not get out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Women don`t need anyone to tell them what to do on health care. They can make their own choices for their own body. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not actually what you mean, right? Does the fact that Republicans keep accidentally saying pro-choice things mean that they are now pro-choice? No. Are Republican abortion politics getting more bewildering particularly for the Mitt Romney for president campaign? Yes they are. That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One under appreciated factor in this next election is the effect of the last election. Even as the Beltway media and everybody reporting on the presidential race starts now to focus on the real battlegrounds, the real swing states, I think it`s under appreciated that so many of those states got brand new very conservative governors in 2010. Governors who have been very controversial in office. In Florida, the ultimate swing state, it is going affect things in 2012 that they in their last election elected a very controversial, very, very conservative governor in Rick Scott. And if Florida isn`t the ultimate swing state, what is? Ohio. And similarly, it is going to matter in Ohio in 2012 that in their last round of elections, Ohio elected a very, very conservative Republican governor in John Kasich who has been very, very controversial while in office. In Wisconsin, which Republicans say they want to think of as a swing state, the Republican Party chamber is from Wisconsin. They`re proud of having elected Scott Walker as governor there, succeeding a Democratic governor and winning by a large margin. But Republican Governor Scott Walker is kind of a problem for the Republicans now. This was the headline on this afternoon. The presumptive Republican nominee for governor in Washington state secretly recorded at a political event last week telling people, I`m not Scott walker. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) ROB MCKENNA (R), WA GOV. CANDIDATE: Now unfortunately because of a couple of governors, particularly, Scott Walker, everyone thinks someone is going to be a Republican governor, they`re going to be Scott walker. I`m not Scott Walker. This is not Wisconsin. This is Washington state. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Aww! Republicans running for office now by talking about how they are not Scott Walker. Scott Walker went to Illinois and Michigan today and was greeted with huge protests in both states. Scott "Walker is unpopular when he`s not at home. These controversial governors in the states are going to affect what happens in their states in the presidential election, frankly to the extent that guys like Scott Walker and John Kasich and Rick Scott, and all the rest of them are nationally famous. The fact that they define what it is to be a Republican in governance right now, they are going to affect the 2012 race even beyond their individual states which is I think is why the Democratic Party is doing this. I have to say I think because this ad using a clip of me describing a policy. The Democratic National Committee I think released to us tonight this ad that they`re going to start running tomorrow. So, this isn`t out anywhere else. We are the only ones who got it. But this is an ad that calls on Mitt Romney to answer for the enthusiastic endorsement he`s been touting from the controversial governor of yet another swing state, the governor of Pennsylvania. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett catching flak for defending a controversial bill that`s being discussed in the general assembly. MADDOW: A forced ultra sound bill for Pennsylvanians, a bill that would mandate vaginal probe ultrasounds in many cases. It would also require that the ultrasound viewing screen be placed in the woman`s sight line. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the person doing that ultrasound would have to make sure that the woman can see it. REPORTER: Making them watch, does that go to far in your mind? GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I don`t know how you make anybody watch, OK? Because you just have to close your eyes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Again, that`s an ad that the Democratic National Committee is going to start running tomorrow. And it raises an important question about this campaign, which is I think it`s an open question, whether or not this phenomenal tide of anti-abortion legislation, beyond what they have done in congress but in the states, whether it`s going to hurt the Republicans in this year`s election including at the very, very top of the ticket. This was the signing ceremony yesterday in Mississippi where Republican Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill to target the one abortion provider left in Mississippi, the one last abortion clinic in the state -- targeting that clinic with new regulations it probably cannot meet. So that this bill will by design use the power of state government to drive that clinic out of business. Usually people who support extra regulation bills like this don`t admit they are driving to drive abortion providers out of business, but the Republican governor in this state is perfectly happy that`s what he is trying to do. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. PHIL BRYANT (R), MISSISSIPPI: I think it`s historic. Today you see the first step in a movement to do what we campaigned on. To say we`re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi. We`re going to continue to work to try to end abortion in Mississippi. This is a historic day to end that process. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If this law that that governor signed has its intended affect, this Republican controlled state government will have essentially banned legal abortion in an American state. It will be virtually impossible, if not actually impossible to get a legal abortion in Mississippi. So, Governor Romney, are you for it or against it? This is the state where they put that person hood amendment on the ballot which would have been another way to ban abortion in Mississippi, also likely banning hormonal birth control, including the pill. Mississippi voted that abortion ban down by a large margin. But Mitt Romney said at the time that he would have supported that sort of abortion ban. So now that Mississippi is trying to effectively ban abortion by other means, Mitt Romney, are you for it or against it? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Tax Day. Happy Tax Day. It`s not a regular old Tax Day. It`s Tax Day during an election year and that means both parties would very much like to use this moment and everybody is paying attention to tax rates and money, everybody would like to use this moment to make their own party`s points about tax rates and money. That`s why Senate Democrats brought up the Buffett Rule yesterday. The Buffett Rule would have meant anyone making more than a million bucks a year can`t use rich people tax loopholes to make themselves pay less in taxes than middle class people who do not benefit from those same rich people loopholes. Senate Republicans filibustered the proposed change. They blocked it even though it had enough votes to pass a majority vote. A majority of senators, 51, voted for the Buffett Rule but not enough to override the minority Republicans` filibuster. The Buffett Rule not only has majority support in the United States Senate. It also has majority support among voters, 72 percent of respondents in the latest CNN poll say they were for the Buffett Rule. They agreed that the very rich should not get to pay a lower tax rate than middle class Americans. And Republicans are trying to spin this as Democrats want to raise your taxes. Democrats are spinning in instead as fairness. Democrats instead are saying the system for too long has been gamed to benefit the richest people in the country and that`s not fair. That should stop. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We can settle for an economy where a shrinking number of people do very, very well and everybody else is struggling to get by, or we can build an economy where we`re rewarding hard work and responsibility -- an economy where everybody has a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share and everybody is playing by the same set of rules. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, when you see Republicans talk about this issue like on that Sunday talk shows or whatever, they seem bewildered that President Obama and the Democrats want to run on this. I mean, it is Beltway common wisdom, particularly Republican Beltway common wisdom that populism like this, economic populism does not work. That economic populism doesn`t move the electorate, it doesn`t win elections, and, of course, it upsets wealthy donors who like the system gamed for them. Thank you very much. That Beltway common wisdom, though, is getting tested now. It`s getting tested just not by the Obama re-election effort but by the states. "The New York Times" is reporting that state legislators in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and elsewhere are pushing to raise the minimum wage above federal levels in their own state, arguing that $7.25 an hour is too meager for anyone to live on. Massachusetts lawmakers are aiming to get it up to 10 bucks an hour, which would make Massachusetts with the highest wage until the country. And in Missouri, voters will be asked to vote on a wage referendum on the ballot this November. So, what, right? Economic populism doesn`t move the electorate, right? This kind of stuff doesn`t win elections, right? Democrats shouldn`t bother with this stuff, right? The last time Missouri voters were asked to vote on whether they want to raise the minimum wage, this is what happened. Look at this in Missouri. Look. Hello -- 76 percent -- 76? -- voted yes. This was on the ballot in the midterm elections in 2006. Missouri voters voting three to one for three things: to raise minimum wage in their state from $5.15 to $6.50 an hour or the federal minimum wage, whichever was higher. Also, they voted to raise the minimum wage for people who make most of their living through tips and they voted to institute an annual cost of living increase for anybody making the minimum wage so it goes up with inflation. And with those huge majority for raising the minimum wage, what else happened in Missouri that same year? Well, that same year, in 2006, on that same ballot, Democrat Claire McCaskill unseated a Republican incumbent senator, Jim Talent, in Missouri. Claire McCaskill was an emphatic supporter of the minimum wage ballot proposition and, frankly, that helped her win. Quote, "Research showed that Democrats in Missouri were twice as likely to vote for Senate challenger Claire McCaskill who upset Republican incumbent Jim Talent because of an initiative to increase the state`s minimum wage that won easy approval in November with 76 percent of the vote." So, if have liked having a Democrat replace a Republican senator from Missouri these past six years, you can thank economic populism for that. You can thank minimum wage for being on the ballot in Missouri for putting Claire McCaskill over the top. What`s happened in Missouri since that election? Well, despite the overwhelming vote by Missourians in favor of a minimum wage rise, that was the first pay raise for minimum wage workers in nine years in Missouri, despite that, despite the huge votes in favor of the raise, Missouri Republicans have been trying over and over and over again to get rid of it. So far, the Republican efforts to get rid of it have not been successful. But this year, Senator Claire McCaskill is up for re-election. It`s been six years, right? And at the same time, chances are that another minimum wage increase is going to be on the ballot this year in Missouri. Organizers have pushing to raise the wage to $8.25 this year in Missouri. The three Republicans who are vying to challenge Senator McCaskill this November all oppose increasing the minimum wage. Also, it should be noted, they don`t have any idea what they are talking about. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the federal minimum wage? Would you vote to increase it? Six seconds. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The issue of the federal minimum wage has been an issue for small businesses. Ands the smaller the business, the more difficult problem that you have. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Do you know what the minimum wage is? UNIDENTIFEID MALE: No, sir. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: No, sir. That was businessman John Buner (ph), one of the Republicans vying to run against Claire McCaskill for that Senate seat in Missouri. Here is another one of those Republicans, former state treasurer, Sarah Stillman (ph). (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about you, Sarah Stillman? SARAH STILLMAN (R), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: Seven dollars and fifty cents an hour. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you in favor of increasing or decreasing it? STILLMAN: I - - UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you in favor of increasing it? STILLMAN: No, I`m not in favor of increasing it at this time. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any explanation. STILLMAN: Well, I think it`s high enough as it is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Actually, no, it`s not as high as you think it is. The federal minimum wage is not $7.50. It`s only $7.25. Good effort to give the right -- you gave the wrong answer with such confidence. Finally, though, we have to go to the third Republican vying to run against Claire McCaskill here. It is current Missouri Congressman Todd Akin. Give it your best shot. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about you, Todd Akin? What`s the minimum wage? Would you vote to increase it? REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: Yes, my belief on this is another example of the wrong thing that the government does. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what the minimum wage is? AKIN: My guess is somewhere in that six or seven but I don`t know the exact number. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Kudos to KMOX Radio for putting it to them and not letting them go away with it. All three Republicans who want to run against Claire are against raising the minimum wage. Also, they do not know what it is, but they are against it nonetheless. And, you know, back in 2006, Missouri was not the only state asking voters if they want to raise minimum wage. Voters in Colorado, and in Colorado, and in Montana, and in Nevada and in Ohio, all were pretty much just as enthusiastic as Missouri was about voting yes to raising the minimum wage. Beltway common wisdom says this stuff doesn`t work. Beltway common wisdom says economic populism doesn`t win elections. Missouri proved that wrong in 2006 and Missouri might prove that wrong again this year. President Obama is trying to prove that wrong at the national level. One prominent Democrat who has staked his career in believing that politics like this works is Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We can settle for an economy where a shrinking number of people do very, very well, and everybody else is struggling to get by. Or we can build an economy where we`re rewarding hard work and responsibility -- an economy where everybody has a fair shot. And everybody`s doing their fair share. And everybody`s playing by the same set of rules. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There was a perennial argument inside the Beltway about campaigning on the idea of fairness in the economy, on the idea of everybody getting a fair shot. The argument inside the Beltway is essentially between those who think that is a dumb idea and those who think that ought to be illegal as an idea. But President Obama is trying to prove the Beltway wrong by campaigning on economic fairness this year. Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has frankly always campaigned to the issue of economic fairness. It has been central to his career and to every election that he`s ever won. Senator Sherrod Brown, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have you here. SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Great to be back, Rachel. Thank you. MADDOW: We were talking a moment ago about the 2006 elections and having minimum wage referenda on the ballot when senators like Claire McCaskill in Missouri and you in Ohio were elected. Do you think that made a difference in your race? BROWN: Yes, I think it does. A couple of things, it gets some people out to vote that might not have been planning to vote because they can go out and vote themselves. It`s not just the minimum wage worker. It`s the one right above minimum wage that usually gets bumped up. But the reason that it works is it tells you something about the character of the candidates because politics is not really left, right, center and compromise and all of that. Politics -- electoral politics is about whose side are you on? And when I`ll stack myself up against any opponent who`s against the minimum wage and let them justify why they`re against the minimum wage, why they`re for tax cuts for the richest people in the country, why they think that oil companies should continue to get subsidies when oil is more than $100 a barrel. And it`s clear to any voter that`s paying attention who`s on their side in those kinds of elections. You know, that`s why the minimum wage is putting it on the ballot. One, I think it`s great for the economy because it brings people`s wages up so they have a chance at a middle-class dream, in reaching that American dream. But it`s great politics, too, because the voters really see what`s in your heart? What`s in your soul? What do you care about? Whose side are you on? And if the voters think you`re on their side, they vote for you. MADDOW: In terms of the context this year in Ohio, thinking about the relatively controversial Republican governor you`ve got in your state, thinking about Ohio, of course, the subject of so much focus as a presidential swing state, thinking about your own re-election effort and especially all that money being spent from out-of-state groups against you -- do you feel like populist issues are back at the center of Ohio politics? BROWN: Sure, I do. Of course, I do. They spent $5.1 million in attack ads against me, more than any other state in the country. I mean, it`s clearly hurt because it`s allot of negative stuff out there, probably funded by the oil companies, we don`t really know, because this is politics 2012, unfortunately. But look back -- and you`ve talked about this, Rachel on the show. In 2010, Republicans won everywhere around the country talking about jobs. What they did in Ohio, though, they attacked collective bargaining rights, they attacked women`s rights, they attacked voters` rights. And the voters saw, these people around on my side. These are people that want to undermine democracy, take away women`s rights, and they`re going after workers and going after the middle class. The Issue 2, the collective bargaining issue, in the ballot, the first time in American history, I believe, that collective bargaining was actually voted on in a statewide ballot. It was clearly an issue whose side are you on? And if you`re on the side of the middle class, if you`re on the side of people who aspire to join the middle class, you voted to preserve collective bargaining rights. If you`re for tax cuts for rich people, you voted and you don`t like collective bargaining rights, you`d be against the minimum wage. I mean, that stuff goes together. And when people evaluate candidates -- and that`s why this year, the people that opposed collective bargaining rights are still on the ascendency in Ohio. MADDOW: Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown running for re-election in Ohio -- sir, thank you very much for being here tonight. It`s always nice to have you here. BROWN: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. If you have had a tough day -- even if you`ve had a great day, if you`ve had a day of any kind whatsoever, I suggest you stick around for the best new thing in the world today. Now matter how you`re feeling, it will improve the way you are feeling. It`s the best one in a really long time. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best best new thing in the world in a long time. All right. Imagine in middle school where the most popular kids are nerds, total nerds, board game nerds. That middle school exists, and it is awesome. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for calling I.S. 318, home of the national chess champions. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: That recorded greeting is the first thing you hear when you call I.S. 318, which is a public school in Brooklyn, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It`s a school where the chess players are the school`s heroes. It`s a regular old New York City school that has developed a really winning chess program, developed it over years. They devoted time and resources to it. They`ve now enrolled about half of the 1,800-member student body of this middle school in chess classes. There`s a new movie that is playing in film festivals right now called "Brooklyn Castle," which is about I.S. 318 and its amazing program. The film`s going to be out in theaters later this year. The woman who made the movie told "The New York Times" today that the chess geeks are the heroes of the school. It`s cool to be really smart. It`s cool to be into chess. Which is totally cool anyway, but that was before what happened this weekend. I.S. 318 is a middle school, right? It`s not a high school. It`s a middle school. So grades six through eight. Kids roughly ages 10 to 13. And this middle school just won the national high school chess championship. They beat the best high school kids in the nation. It`s like a college basketball team beating an NBA team. Look at these awesome kids. James Black (ph), Isaac Bariev (ph), Matthew Kluska (ph) and Justice Williams (ph). Justice Williams and James Black, the ones on the far right and left, are already rated as chess masters. The only thing I mastered in middle school was self-pity and the viola clef. But a middle school beating every high school in the country at something that is this is cool to begin with is frankly better than the best new thing in the world today, but best new thing in the world today is all I have to offer. To the chess team of I.S. 318 Eugenio Maria De Hostos School in Brooklyn, congratulations, you guys. The rest of us are absolutely in awe. That does it for us tonight. Now it is 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