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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/19/12

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Steve Clemons

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Ed. I am -- I have to say, I was sort of wondering whether or not you`ve seen it. I was sort of like, I don`t, denying to myself that you might have. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: I was going to pull a stunt tonight, take the tie off, undo the shirt. But then I said, well, what am I going to do with the gut? What will I do then? You know, Rachel is correct. I want to think you`re correct in your assessment. MADDOW: Ed, I meant every word of it but not at all in a creepy way. And I appreciate it, man. Thank you. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: That`s really funny. It was really funny to be put in that position the first time around. But now, whoo! OK. All right. Thanks to you at home for staying with us the next hour. You, too, have a barrel-chested heartland virility that cannot be denied, dear viewer, obviously. OK. We`ve got a lot coming up tonight. I have to tell you, we`ve got a best new thing in the world tonight that is foreign, that is on tape and that brought the entire newsroom to a screeching halt today in a astonishment. That is coming up. We`ve got some very good news, or at least interesting and progressive news from a very unexpected Republican place in the American southwest, coming up. And we`ve got Steve Clemons joining us to talk about how some of the politics on the Afghanistan war may be unexpectedly changing. But we start with the presidential campaign trail. And in order to talk about what`s happening on the presidential campaign trail today, we have to talk about Jerry Falwell. This is Jerry Falwell. He is dead, sadly. This is Pat Robertson. He is alive, happily. I bring this up because these guys are frequently confused with one another. Both men are or were televangelists who founded televangelist universities. The universities themselves are frequently conflated, confused with one another. It`s just hard to remember which one is which. My mnemonic for remembering which university is which is that Pat Robertson founded Regent University. R, R, right? Regent University is the school where Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell as a 30-something-year-old mid-career student wrote a thesis about how public policy should be designed to punish cohabitators, homosexuals and fornicators. Bob McDonnell is now the governor of Virginia, but is a Regent University graduate. You also -- you also used to be able to remember Regent University as the Pat Robertson university and as the one of those two easily conflated televangelist universities where Mitt Romney had spoken, to great political effect back in the last presidential election. Mitt Romney spoke at Regent, at the Pat Robertson televangelist school back in 2007 when he was trying to run an even more conservative, specifically socially conservative campaign for the presidency. This time around, Mr. Romney has all but locked up the nomination. He has perceived to be not running quite as hard right a campaign this time around, but I think that is more perception than reality because today, it was announced Mitt Romney is going to finally make it not just to Regent University but also to the other televangelist university. The one you remember was founded by Jerry Falwell, because it ends in L, which is where Liberty starts. Liberty University founded by this guy. Their commencement speaker this year is this guy. Now, the reason this is important in terms of understanding how Mitt Romney is running this campaign against Barack Obama, what kind of campaign this is because the chief distinguishing feature of Liberty University, of the Falwell place, Liberty University in American conservative politics right now is that Liberty University is the hard liner institution against the homosexual menace. I mean, some parts of the Republican Party are moderating on the issue of gay rights. Dick Cheney, who has a gay daughter, he`s out in favor of same sex marriage rights. Ken Mehlman, who ran the really anti-gay George W. Bush reelection effort in 1994, has now himself came out of the closet. Mr. Mehlman organizing pro-gay rights efforts, particularly among Republican big dollar donors, zillionaires. Some of those Republican big dollar donor zillionaires who are very pro-gay rights like hedge fund manager Paul Singer, for example, they have been part of the pro-gay marriage, pro-gay rights renaissance inside the Republican Party even while they`ve been supporting Mitt Romney for president this year -- Mitt Romney and his very, very anti-gay campaign. The daughters and wives of both George W. Bush and John McCain have come out publicly for gay marriage rights. If there is going to be a Supreme Court ruling that establishes some sort of national foothold for same sex marriage rights nationwide, it`s going to be because of George Bush`s deeply, deeply conservative solicitor general, Ted Olson, who along with David Boies has been pushing that same sex marriage case. The Republican-dominated New Hampshire legislature refused to repeal same sex marriage rights this year. It was the Republicans in state Senate in New York who crossed over on the same sex marriage issue in this state, allowing New York state to legalize same sex marriage last year. There are a lot of pro-gay rights Republicans and pro-gay rights conservatives now. That has been an interesting thing to see the gay rights movement contend with. It has also created an interesting left flank problem for the Obama administration which has been very pro-gay rights as an administration but which is headed by a president who still will not say he is in favor of same sex marriage rights. But as conservatives started to change their mind on this issue, the old line, the hard line, the oh, no you don`t, super anti-gay/hold the line folks have been this place where Mitt Romney is giving the commencement address next month. When CPAC, the big conservative confab decided they were going to allow a gay rights group to be part of their conference in 2010, Liberty University withdrew from the conference, they withdrew from CPAC, they convened their own protest conference on the evils of homosexuality, how you can be cured of your homosexuality, how gay rights are destroying the First Amendment somehow and destroying religion. The Liberty University contribution to the health reform debate was this -- alerting the country health reform would result in mandated free sex changes. OK. Liberty University where Mitt Romney is doing the commencement next month, they are kind of obsessed with this stuff. This is their role now in the conservative movement. In 2009, Liberty University got national attention when they dropped official school recognition of the school`s Democratic Party club. Why can there be a Republican Party club recognized on campus and not a Democratic Party club because ,quote, "The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University." What`s so wrong with the Democratic Party platform? Gay rights, gay rights! The Gerry Falwell University also has a Jerry Falwell high school called the Liberty Christian academy. In the spirit of the whole "it gets better" thing, how do you think gay students are faring at the Liberty Christian Academy High School? It turns out they`re not there. At least officially they`re not there. According to the official school handbook, quote, "Liberty Christian Academy does not employ teachers or accept students who are homosexual." Now, that`s for the high school. For the university, it is more complicated and more wonderful. This is the non-discrimination policy for Liberty University`s law school -- try to make sense of this. Quote, "In its employment practices, the school of law does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation but does discriminate on the basis of homosexual conduct." How do they know? I mean, they`re saying they won`t fire you if you are gay but they will fire you if you act gay? What if you`re straight and you act gay? What if you`re not sure but you`re just generally fabulous? A lot of prominent people in the Republican Party are now champions of gay rights. A lot of Republicans support same sex marriage. The modern Republican Party is at least two minds when it comes to gay issues. But the remaining old mind in the conservative movement that is not only not changing but is super angry about all the changing and is aggressively fighting to make the Republican Party and conservative movement go back to as anti-gay as possible -- that`s Liberty University and that`s where Mitt Romney is giving the commencement address next month. Last night, we did this weird thing where we put time stamp on the show to mark a point in time in which Mitt Romney had specific far right positions he had taken during the primary campaign he might want to pretend he never had once the general election rolled around and might want to seem more moderate. With Mitt Romney refusing to take a stand on North Carolina`s anti- constitutional amendment that the state started voting on today, even with President Obama weighing in and saying that he was against it, did that mean that Mitt Romney was going to try to shake the Etch-a-Sketch and erase the previously anti-gay politics to try to seem less super anti-gay? To seem more moderate in gay rights issues in time for the general election campaign? Is he going to ease up on the gay issue? Apparently not. He is still ducking the question on the North Carolina anti-gay constitution amendment. But the announcement he`s going to Liberty University as a de facto presidential nominee would seem to settle the issue of whether or not he`s going to try to seem less anti-gay. If you like super anti-gay Mitt Romney in the primaries, apparently you will love Mitt Romney in the general election, too. The other top contender for what Mr. Romney might abandon from the primaries in order to seem more moderate in the general election is, of course, his stance on immigration. On that one -- ding, ding , ding -- I think we may already have a winner. Remember, the big problem here is that Mitt Romney has a really bad problem with Latino voters. George W. Bush had 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2000 and he won. John McCain had only 31 percent in 2008 and he got creamed. Mitt Romney right now has 14 percent among Latinos in some of the most recent polling. It is not possible to win a national election with a number that low. And the Romney campaign knows it. One of the things Mr. Romney was overheard secretly telling campaign donors last weekend was that his campaign would be, quote, "doomed" if he can`t get his numbers up among Latino voters. But how do you get your numbers up among Latino voters when you say you would veto the DREAM Act? When you say that your immigration will be based on the concept of self-deportation? Please see yourself out. How do you win Latino voters when you adopt as your immigration adviser, the guy who co-wrote the Arizona papers please law, which initially proposed that the police should be able to walk up to you on the street and demand to see your immigration papers, not if you were doing anything illegal, but if you looked like you conceivably might be illegal based on something about how you looked. How can you attract voters when you say that state`s immigration laws should be a model to the nation? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KING, CNN: You talked, Governor, about self-deportation, if businesses do their job asking for the right documents, the people will leave? But what about arresting? Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them as Sheriff Arpaio advocates? ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model in Arizona. They passed a law here there at says people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on E-verify. This E-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who`s here legally and who`s not here illegally. The right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn`t doing -- (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Romney there praising Arizona as a model, praising two things in Arizona: the E-verify system where employers have to check on the legal status of their employees and papers please, which is what the Obama Justice Department has sued Arizona to stop, in which Romney said he would not sue to stop it. I think Arizona is a model for the nation. Yesterday, on this show at this time, we asked how long it would take before Mitt Romney tried to pretend he had nerve said that. And then today, bingo, already, quote, "Update, Romney campaign says he didn`t call SB-1070 in Arizona a model." Mitt Romney, we buried the show in a time capsule thinking that he`d have to dig it up months from now when you starting denying all these positions you`ve taken in the primary. Our time capsule is barely dirty. We still have the shovel in our hand and already you made us dig it up. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: He says that Arizona`s papers please law is a model for the nation. That is what is etched onto the sketch of Mitt Romney on April 18th 2012. Is that still true in the future? Only you in the future have the answer. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We didn`t have to go far. That was last night. And this morning, he said he never said Arizona`s law was a model for the nation. It`s amazing. Listen, they told us they were going to do this. They told that this is how the Republican Party was going to run their candidate for president this year. They`re going to have him take really right wing positions to try to make right wing audiences happy and then they are going to shake the Etch-a-Sketch, hit the reset button, deny he ever took those positions and have him take all new positions to try to convince you that he`s actually quite moderate and reasonable. Today, we learned that he was going to speak at Liberty University on May 12th. Presumably on May 13th, we will get an announcement from the Romney campaign that he never spoke at Liberty University and he doesn`t support that school at all. I understand why they want to do this. I mean, it`s like conscience free living, right? You eat a buffet of fried cheese for lunch and then you tell your cardiologist, it was kale, it was all kale, it was steamed kale, mostly raw really. I understand why you want to do this. I mean, shame and a conscience is the thing that holds you back from doing this. The real question, though, in real politics now, though, is how you run against this if you are on the other side of it. Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the "Washington Post," MSNBC political analyst and kale eater extraordinaire -- Gene, nice to see you. EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I actually had the fried cheese, I`m sorry. But, Rachel, congratulations not only on your best selling book, but also on the world land speed record for time capsules -- a record which will never be broken. One day. That`s as fast as you have to reopen a time capsule. MADDOW: When we did that segment -- when we put together that last night, my worry, I realize this is an investment in our future reporting. We will want to refer back to this. Let`s do the time stamp. But I thought, you know, it`s going to be so long before we go back to this, it`s going to look like ancient history. And now, I think it was something like 10 hours before we got the first major issue on which he caved. Is it really Etch-a-Sketch? Do they really think there is no record of this, that it doesn`t matter, that you can just convince most of the people that you never had that previous position? How does this work? ROBINSON: I don`t know because there is the thing called videotape. There is the internet. There is -- there is in distant universal dissemination of everything anyone ever says or writes, and it lives forever. So, it`s going to be an interesting experiment to see if they, number one, actually really try to do this. I mean, they really going to shake the Etch-a-Sketch. You`re going to have to put that time capsule on a dumb waiter or something to kind of take it up and down everyday. But do they -- you know, are they actually think they will not be called on every single one of these things? Complete with videotape, complete with paragraph marks showing here`s what he wrote and said and here`s when, da, da, da. MADDOW: You know, in looking at the evidence today, trying to figure out what possible basis the Romney campaign could get away from this very clear assertion that Romney had made that Arizona should be a model for the nation -- I mean, he wasn`t asked what should be a model for the nation, he volunteered that Arizona should be. In looking back at that, I mean, the other thing that you find is all of these other instances in which he is just praised, SB-1070. He`s praised this papers please law. He`s aligned himself with Kris Kobach, the guy who wrote it. He`s talked about the ideas behind it. He`s talked about Arizona doing it right. He`s -- lavish praise on that law. I wonder if you think that that is going to become a pivot point in the election. Is this getting back to the center of the effort to go after Latino voters? But also, the idea of what good Republican governance is. ROBINSON: Well, I -- how can he get back to the center of Latino voters when he`s so far away? I mean, that`s really a long distance, 14 percent which is unsustainable. How far -- how close can you get to the 31 percent that John McCain had? I think that`s a long shot for Romney and frankly think he`s going to have to look for his votes elsewhere or at least try to convince Latino voters that, well, you know, I won`t do anything for you but Obama hasn`t done that much for you anyhow -- therefore, look at my record on other things. Another interesting thing, though, is that Romney tends to do this. He didn`t have to call the Arizona bill a model but he kind of ad-libbed that, it looked like. He does that all the time. I think those instances are going to get him into trouble. MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-wining columnist for the "Washington Post" -- Gene, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I will see you at the fried cheese buffet later on. ROBINSON: See you there. MADDOW: All right. We got a really, really good best new thing in the world tonight. It involves pizza and scooters and foreigners on tape being awesome. It`s really good. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Would you believe me if I told you that a bold, advance in pizza delivery technology was the best new thing in the world today? After you see the genius video of it, I predict you will believe me. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Are you ready for a somewhat dubious prop experiment that doesn`t totally work but I think makes the point? All right. Here`s how we do it. This is the Republican Party and this is the conservative movement. Conservative movement -- well-funded, well-organized, has long term goals, knows exactly what it stands for. It does not have much trouble moving the Republican Party to its own positions. Now, on the ideological flip side, not the same thing. If you imagine instead this is now the Democratic Party, say this isn`t the conservative movement, this is the liberal movement, this is the progressive movement such as it is. This is effect of the progressive movement on the Democratic Party. There`s not really a differential between the Democratic Party and liberal organizations the same way there is on the right. If there is any differential, the Democratic Party exerts as much influence on the Republican Party -- the Democratic Party institutes as much inertia on the progressive movement as the conservative movement does on the Republican Party. I mean, there`s a reason when I say liberal movement and progressive movement, I trip over it because it doesn`t even particularly sound like a familiar concept in punditry, right? And so, yes, Democrats and liberals work together but there isn`t a sense that the party is being dragged to a more ideologically extreme position by a movement that is more powerful and more organized and more well-funded than the party itself, the way that there is on the right. That dynamic of the conservative movement being able to move the Republicans over to their way of thinking, it is not the same on the left as it is on the right. And that is one of the most frequent misunderstandings in the punditocracy, in the Beltway media. And if you don`t understand that the conservative movement and the Republican Party are two different things, that the conservative movement right now at least is the one that`s got a lot more power and a lot more wherewithal, it can be confusing as to why Republicans do some of the things that they do. I mean, the Republicans are clearly not dancing to their own tune in terms of the Republican Party`s electoral interests when they take on contraception, for example. But the hard core anti-abortion movement, part of the conservative movement which is in fact anti-contraception, they`re exerting a magnetic poll on Republicans and everybody thinks it`s going to cost Republicans in electoral terms. I think it probably will. But it`s what the conservative movement wants and so it`s what they get. Similarly, 72 percent of Americans say there shouldn`t be special tricks, special loopholes that rich people can use to get themselves a lower tax rate than middle class people have. That`s why Democrats in an election year are pushing to close those loopholes. That`s the whole Buffett Rule thing, right? It`s hugely, hugely popular. But Republicans are all signed onto a conservative movement pledge they will never raise a tax which apparently includes never closing a rich people tax loophole. They cannot do a thing that 72 percent of the country wants them to do because they promised some conservative group that they wouldn`t. And so, the interests of the conservative movement are not the same as the Republican Party`s interest. But they scoot the Republican Party to the right to serve the conservative movement`s interests whenever they want to -- even when it hurts Republicans in the short term. We also see it on guns, where the National Rifle Association, the big money, well-organized, long standing key member of the conservative movement, the NRA, has long enforce, absolute pro-gun orthodoxy on All Republican politicians and even some conservative Democrats as well. The NRA is leading on policy to the point when even after the Virginia Tech massacre, the main change in laws was that we got more guns on campuses. To the point where even the post-9/11 anti anti-terror hysteria years, the assault weapons band was allowed to expiry. And by 2010, we had people who are literally on the terrorist watch list, more than 200 people who are literally on the terrorist watch list who were allowed to buy guns. Not like they figured out a secret illegal way to buy guns, but it`s OK to buy guns if you`re on the terrorist watch list. The NRA came out in opposition to the law that would have given the attorney general the authority to deny someone the ability to buy a firearm. NRA members don`t even support that position. Frank Lutz polled on the question in 2009 and found that 80 percent of the NRA members supported prohibiting preventing them from purchasing guns. But the NRA decided it didn`t matter. The NRA insists on absolute orthodoxy. And so, the Republican Party cannot resist the magnetic allure of the conservative movement. They can`t stop the conservative movement dragging them to the right even when it`s not in the Republican Party`s interest. That`s the way it`s always been. Except sometimes it`s not. Here`s headlines that had an exclamation on it for me today. Look at this -- Brewer vetoes bill allowing guns on public property. Brewer -- wait, wait, wait -- vetoes? Yes. Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona for the second time has vetoed a bill which sailed through the Republican controlled Arizona legislature, a bill that could have let people carry guns into city halls, into police stations, in the county courts, into senior centers, into swimming polls, into libraries, into the state capitol. Should everybody be allowed to carry a gun into the state capitol? According to the Republicans in the Arizona legislature, that`s no problem. But Jan Brewer, the Republican governor of Arizona, said no. She said no twice. She said no most recently today. This never happens. This never happens. We put a call into the governor`s office today to see if she would like to talk about it. I would love to hear Governor Brewer`s side of it. Governor Brewer, please come on the show. It will be fun. Walk me through this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Having been on book tour lately and having therefore been in a lot of airports recently, I can personally confirm that in the very fine Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, the airport there has decided to do a weird and awesome thing with these guys. These little things, these little electric cars that take people from gate to gate if you have your foot in a cast or you`re in a hurry or something. There`s basically two problems with those little electric carts in airports. Because they are electric, they do not make noise. They can really sneak up on you without you having any idea they`re right there. To avoid that problem, to avoid problem number one, pretty much every airport I`ve ever been in creates problem number two. They put constantly beeping siren thingies on these electric carts to let you know they`re coming. And frankly, that is really annoying if you`re a passenger in that terminal that day. But think about it, it must be life-threateningly annoying if it is your job to drive one of those carts all day long, everyday at work, with that horrible alert noise blaring all day long -- which is where the infinite genius of Newark airport comes in. At Newark Airport, they have solved the problem of the silent electric cart, not by putting some horrible intrusive honking or beeping siren on the carts, but instead by having the cart drivers just say beep. They just politely say beep, beep, as they drive around the airport, not hitting you in their silent electric cart. Route your next trip through Newark, I swear that they do this. It`s awesome. Why does the Newark Airport do it this way? I have no idea. We actually asked the airport`s spokespeople today whether this was official airport policy, and where it came from? They chuckled at us, and they were very nice, said they would check, but they have not yet gotten back to us. But tonight, on the best new thing in the world, somebody has one upped the beep-beep geniuses at Newark Airport. Somebody has come up with something even better. It`s the best new thing in the world. It`s coming up. It`s on tape. It`s from Holland. It`s really funny. It`s really smart. Beep, beep, stay tuned for that, beep. Beep. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today, a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan, with four U.S. troops aboard. Neither the casualties associated with the crash nor cause of the crash are clear at this point. It`s not known for example if the Black Hawk crashed due to weather or mechanical failure or if it was shot down by enemy fire. Yesterday, the news from Afghanistan was dominated by this revelation from the "Las Angeles Times." A U.S. soldier, reportedly a member of the 82nd Airborne Fourth Brigade Combat Team turned over to the "L.A. Times" 18 photos of his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan. "The Times" said he was a whistle-blower who wanted to expose, quote, "a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops." "The Times" published two of the soldier`s photos. Two photos of U.S. soldiers posing with body parts. The paper also described similar behavior in the other photos that it chose not publish. On the heels of the apparent massacre of 17 Afghan civilians by a soldier last month, on heels of Americans apparently burning religious books at a prison in Afghanistan the month before that, on the heels of the video surfacing of U.S. troops urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters a month before that, the further revelation of these "L.A. Times" images, it should be known that a couple years after they were taken is yielding a new round of attention and criticism what we are doing in Afghanistan, in our ongoing longest ever U.S. war. There`s two other things going on in the U.S. right now that are not getting as much attention that I think may end up being more important. The first one concerns money. At the big NATO meeting this week to talk about who`s going to pay the estimated $4 billion a year that it`s going to take to run the Afghan security forces after the war, the country that has the second largest force in Afghanistan after us, our great allies, our special relationship, the British, they declared that their contribution to that annual $4 billion cost is going be roughly 0.1 of $1 billion. They pledged that they`d contribute essentially a rounding error to the cost of Afghanistan`s security after the war. Gee, thanks. Second thing, the American presidential election, Mitt Romney has so far not been able to really gain traction in an effort to politicize the Afghanistan war. He has taken positions for and against timetables for withdrawal. He has said he would like to bring the troops home. He has also said we have to stay until the Taliban is defeated. He`s been kind of all over the map on the issue even as he has taken a critical tone. But the Republican Party`s leading hawk, Senator John McCain, has been out this week giving a major speech on Afghanistan, pounding the rhetorical table saying that United States should not be so, quote, "hell bent" on leaving, that even 2014, he`s saying, cannot be the end of the American war in Afghanistan. He`s been saying that we need to plan for years longer indefinite stay in Afghanistan. Now, it is no surprise John McCain is calling for that. That is the kind of thing that, frankly, John McCain always calls for. He has not met a modern war. He was not in favor of us either expanding or us getting into, or extending. But John McCain is making a play for Mitt Romney to start calling for that, too. John McCain appears to be making a play for the Republican presidential campaign to start to be about not ending the war in Afghanistan. Joining us Steve Clemons. He`s Washington editor at large of "the Atlantic." He`s also a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. Steve, it`s great to see you. Thank you for being here. STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Great to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: Do you think John McCain is trying to move Mitt Romney to hard line pro-war/extend the war position on Afghanistan? CLEMONS: I think he`s trying to build out the flank in the Romney campaign that argues that these Pentagon activities around the world are a way to look tough, to look presidential, to look, you know, pugnacious and kind of wrap the flag around it. It`s interesting today that we just learned news that Mitt Romney just hired John Bolton`s former spokesman in the U.N., Rick Grenell as his spokesman on the campaign for national security issues. And so, to some degree, what you see is a kind of toughening up and a ratcheting up of that we need to be tough and President Obama is weak by talking about leaving kind of stick. MADDOW: When you talk about that being a flank within the Romney campaign, it was sort of point of interest when he first announced who his foreign policy advisors are going to be, there was immediate sort of, I think, partisan and political interest in the fact that so many of them were associated with the George W. Bush administration. But also, the other interesting thing was that there were so many. He announced dozens of foreign policy advisors. Do you think is there an internal dynamic that we should know about in the Romney campaign in terms of people who are wanting him to be more hawkish on Afghanistan and others who might be advocating the opposite? CLEMONS: Well, to be fair to Romney, the day that he announced his advisors, he gave a speech at the Citadel where he laid out his strategic vision. I thought a strategic was pretty inchoate. But I give credit to the advisor because there were a lot of people -- John Bolton was not on the list then, but there were a number of advisers on there who I think are, you know, sort of realists, centrists and reflected the same kind of tensions that were inside the Bush administration. What we see happening now in terms of Mitt Romney saying that he is opposed to the timeline President Obama has laid out, though, he accepted it in the past and, you know, dropping a line we should be listening to the generals and not having civilians essentially commander-in-chief making his own decisions and issuing instructions to the military, what you see Romney doing and one faction in his team is reaching deep for their Dick Cheney, finding their inner Dick Cheney, and trying to go back on a track that to me looks a lot more neoconservative than what we`ve heard Romney do in the past. So, to some degree, we see Romney moving in a track we`ve seen play out before with Iraq, other -- with Iran and rhetoric about Iran. And it`s a very surprising move because there`s a lot of poll numbers that show that Americans and -- particularly a lot of Republican Americans are no longer supportive of this war. They are very tired of it. There`s fatigue and want to see the focus back on the United States and getting the country back in shape. MADDOW: To that point, Steve, I think that`s kind of I guess that`s the heart of the matter. Public attention to the war in Afghanistan waxes and wanes with various scandals and outrages with high profile advances and setbacks. It goes up and down depending what`s going on in the news that day. But as you say, American public opinion is clear. It`s very strongly in favor of ending the war as soon as possible, a majority of the country, even a majority of Republicans, in favor of ending the war sooner than President Obama want to end it. What is the means by which American public opinion about the war has an influence on when the war ends? Is there a means by which that happens? CLEMONS: Well, you know, the connection is obviously through elections. I think President Obama has laid out a track for redeploying America`s strategic assets away from the Middle East, away from South Asia, and away where they have essentially, in the eyes of many other countries in the world and myself, we`ve been stuck in a quagmire and trap. And we`ve not -- you know, Afghanistan does not look like a place that`s leveraging America`s ability to show it`s shaping the international system. It looks like something that`s containing American power and holding us down. Iran has been perceiving America at its limits militarily and this may explain some of Iran`s behavior. Other great stakeholders in the international system have been behaving differently because they sense there`s void in America. So, what Obama is doing in moving and putting an end essentially to this Achilles heel of the U.S. military capacity in Afghanistan has, I think, very helpful to show the world that we`re going to have assets and ability to influence things in other places. Why Mitt Romney is now, who`s been, you know, he sort of -- you know, one thought like George Romney his father, be sort of Rockefeller Republican but he seems the need to show a Goldwater foreign policy. And he`s decided that whatever Obama is for he`s decided to be very much against. And I think that`s what we see as the very slippery North Star Romney is driving in his foreign policy decision. MADDOW: I think there was two ways to run against Mitt Romney on Afghanistan in terms of whether or not this war was going to factor in the election. One was the Jon Huntsman approach, which is to say, we ought to be -- and the Ron Paul approach -- which is to say we ought to be home and we ought to be home now. I`m going to outflank essentially you on the left, or at least on ending the war. And the other way was to go John McCain. And I did not know McCain would push Romney so hard in this. I think he knows that Romney is very sensitive to anything from his right flank. CLEMONS: Right. MADDOW: And I see him lining up that way. But we`ll have to wait for the candidate himself to make a statement. Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for "The Atlantic," senior fellow at the New the American Foundation and my pal, nice to see you? Thanks a lot. CLEMON: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Right after this show, on "THE LAST WORD," President Obama is compared to Hitler and Stalin by a Catholic bishop. Lawrence O`Donnell has that story next. And here, good news, Michigan is mad at us again. Also, the best new thing in the world. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: News from the great state of Michigan tonight where we have been reporting on a drive to overturn one of the most radical new laws in the country. In its current form, the one passed by Republicans last year, Michigan`s emergency manager law lets the state take over cities and school districts. The state overrules the choices made by local elections and instead hands the authority turnover a single unelected overseer who gets unilateral control. An emergency manager can sell off the town`s property, can cancel the contracts, they can move to dissolve the town. They get to say how much power the local elected officials retain. If an emergency manager wants, he or she can take that power, can take all power from elected officials, and never mind who the voters picked to represent them, democracy does not apply at the local level. But democracy it turns out is hard to give up. Opponents of the law organized a petition drive to put the law on the ballot for a citizens` repeal in Michigan. In February, they delivered their petition to the state, saying that they turned in more signatures to get the referendum on the November ballot. Last week, another group challenged those petitions. Their top objections was that the font on the petitions themselves is a hair too small. And so no matter how many Michiganders signed those petition to get rid of the emergency manager thing, they say the board of state canvassers must throw all of the petitions out based on font size. The group that is so outraged by the font size is the project of a Republican consulting firm. The font size challengers have the same address and the same phone number as the Republican firm. The firm`s senior council is the spokesman for the "your font size is too small" effort. One of the three partners in that firm -- hey, look at that -- one of the three partners also serves on the board of state canvassers. That`s the board who gets to make the decision on this. He gets to make the decision about the font size challenge being brought by the group that lives inside his office. He is both the pitcher throwing the baseball and the umpire saying whether or not that pitch was a ball or a strike. And he has not said whether he will step aside or whether he will stay in the game and play both roles. Michigan state law says it`s his choice to make. But wait, there`s more. Turns out it`s not just that one guy and that one guy`s problem. Oh, Michigan, you are amazing. It turns out there is another member of that same board who has exactly the same kind of problem. Another one of the four people on this board works as the political coordinator for a Michigan union. A Michigan union that has a petition drive going for a referendum on union rights. Before collecting signatures, her union asked the board of state canvassers, including their own political coordinator who sits on that board to approve their petition. And when they did that in March, the union`s political coordinator voted for her own union`s petition. She joined the other three board members in approving the petition. She stayed in the game as pitcher and umpire. Just as, so far, the Republican guy has too on the emergency manager thing. And she says it`s OK that union rep, the Democrat in this case, she says it`s OK because the four-member board is supposed to be made of partisans. She says, "What makes the system fair is it takes three votes on the board of canvassers to do anything." So why not let the other three people who don`t have a conflict of interest vote on this? Because everybody on the board could have a conflict of interest that somehow makes all of the conflicts OK? This is seriously how Michigan is handling its democracy? In order to get something voted on on the left or the right, you have to run this gauntlet where the deciders, the gate keepers all have huge direct conflicts of interests? But we`ve decided nobody cares about that? My favorite part about covering what`s going on in Michigan right now is all the scolding we get from the Michigan press about us reporting on things that are shocking and backward and anti-democratic in Michigan but that they say we should not report on nationally because in Michigan, they don`t care about it. Well, we keep getting all of this pushback from Michigan press. Back off, in Michigan, we don`t care about this stuff. We don`t see it as all that bad. Why don`t you see it as all that bad? This week, a former emergency manager in Michigan spoke out about the way the state of Michigan is running things these days. Michael Stampfler is his name. He was the second emergency manager assigned to the city of Pontiac. Governor Rick Schneider replaced him in September. In part, the administration tells us because as an emergency manager, Mr. Stampfler recommended giving the city of Pontiac to the county, essentially letting go of Pontiac having become a place in Oakland County. After having been an emergency manager, after having been willing to essentially dissolve the city he was put in charge of, Michael Stampfler, this guy, is blowing the whistle on the law that empowered him to do all that. He now says, "I do not believe emergency managers can be successful. They abrogate the civic structure of a community for a period of years and return it virtually dismantled for the community to attempt to somehow make a go of it." A guy who has been there, who has been put in unilateral control of an American city says putting someone in unilateral control of an American city doesn`t exactly prepare that city for good governance and for standing on its own two feet in the future. Yes, right. Right? Mr. Stampfler is planning on giving his whistleblower speech on Michigan`s radical emergency manager law next week at a Rotary Club in Wyandotte, which is just south of Detroit. As much as it apparently infuriates the press in Michigan for us to be the ones saying it, it seems this whistleblower guy might be important for a state trying to figure out how its democracy went all cockeyed -- provided, of course, you care if your democracy in your state has gone all cockeyed. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. OK, this is awesome. It`s a conundrum in automotive engineering -- an electric vehicle`s motor does not make noise, which seems like a good thing, less noise. But for safety`s sake, pedestrians need to hear when a car is coming. So, electric cars may need to have a sound artificially added to them in order to make them safer for pedestrians. If you were in charge of coming up with that sound, what sound would you choose? Last year, the Ford Motor Company put four potential sounds out there as a test. Here they are. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: That`s one idea. Traditional car sounds plus a little Jetsons feeling. Here`s another way. In the Netherlands, the Dominos Pizza Company is not owned by the same people as Dominos here in America. And in the Netherlands, they apparently deliver their pizzas by scooter. The company wants to change all the scooters over to electric, but in the interest of pedestrian safety, the Dutch version of Dominos knew they`d have to make their delivery scooters make some noise. And here`s where this gets amazing. And coming up with the noise for their scooters, Dominos, the Netherlands decided to get creative. Listen. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Lekker is the Dutch word for yummy. The noise the scooter makes is yummy, yummy, yummy, pizza, pizza, dominos, dominos. Watch it in action on the street. Watch. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: The best part of it is that`s noise is just a guy going. Lekker, lekker. Best new thing in the world today. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. 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