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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/24/12

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Richard Clarke

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. It is election night. Polls have just officially closed right here in the great state of New York. And at this hour, NBC News is declaring the race in New York, according to our results -- New York, hello? There we go. According to NBC News right now, results in New York, 95 delegates are at stake, the primary having just closed. Occasionally, we get calls at the moment that the polls close. That is not the case in New York with zero percent in. Polls closed about an hour ago in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. NBC News is projecting that Mitt Romney is the winner in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Voters in the great state of Rhode Island also have the chance to cast their ballots tonight. NBC News now projecting that Mitt Romney has won the state of Rhode Island. The same story in neighboring Connecticut. NBC News is projecting that Mitt Romney will win in Connecticut tonight. And in the state of Delaware tonight, NBC News declaring that Mitt Romney has won in the great state of Delaware. Although Delaware is the second smallest state in the country with 17 total delegates at stake for the entire state, it has a little bit of special significance in terms of today`s news -- tonight`s Republican primaries in particular, because Newt Gingrich told NBC News yesterday that if he didn`t finish at least a close second to Mitt Romney in Delaware, that he would have to, quote, "reassess" his campaign. That led to some speculation that if the Delaware race is a blowout for Mitt Romney tonight, we might see Newt Gingrich formally suspending his campaign and effectively quitting the race this evening. Mr. Gingrich spoke in the last hour. He did not quit the race. We`ll have more on his Mr. Gingrich`s remarks tonight and his future in the race coming up in the show. Mr. Romney`s speech tonight, interestingly, is not taking place in any of the states that were voting today. Mitt Romney was not speaking in New York or Pennsylvania or Rhode Island or Connecticut or Delaware. And he`s not doing what some other candidates have done this year, which is to not give their speech in a state that has just voted, but instead give their speech in a state that is about to have a primary soon in the next round of voting. Instead, Mitt Romney tonight is giving his speech in a state that voted a long time ago, a state that has symbolic resonance because it is where he launched his campaign for the presidency. So, we`re not being confusing here, he`s not speaking tonight in the place where he initially launched his candidacy back in 2008 when he started running for president. When he ran in 2008, do you remember where he launched his campaign? It was at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan, right? They were trying to make it seem like Massachusetts wasn`t his home state and Michigan was. The drag about that was, the camera angle. Because the camera angle made it look like Mitt Romney was in the movie "Northwest by Northwest" and was running from a crop duster while he was masking his announcement. That big prop plane with the propeller right behind him. Yes. So Mr. Romney tonight is going back to where he announced his presidential candidacy, but not where he announced it four years ago. He`s going back tonight to the place where he announced he was running in this year`s elections. So instead of going back to Michigan this time, he`s going back to New Hampshire. Now, in the New Hampshire announcement speech this year, they didn`t have any sort of camera angle problems like they had with the crop duster thing in 2008. The problem they had with the 2012 campaign launch was, do you remember Sarah Palin`s clam bake, right? Back when people were wondering if Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska might be running for president this year? Governor Palin made sure she just happened to be in New Hampshire for a clam bake on the same day that Mitt Romney was in New Hampshire announcing his candidacy, totally upstaging him as you see on the front page of "The New Hampshire Union Leader," stepping all over Mitt Romney`s headlines that day. And Mrs. Palin getting to New Hampshire that day wasn`t an accident. It was no easy task. Her bus tour literally had to barrel through tornadoes in Massachusetts in order to get her to New Hampshire on time to big foot Mitt Romney. But there she was, just 20 minutes away from where Mitt Romney was about to make the biggest announcement of his political life, stealing all his political thunder. So it`s not like the 2012 Mitt Romney for president launch went perfectly smoothly this time around. But nevertheless, the Romney campaign has decided tonight to return to the scene of the crime for this speech tonight. And there`s no thematic or substantive connection between New Hampshire and all of the places that voted tonight. So, I think we are left to conclude that the New Hampshire choice for tonight`s speech is supposed to have symbol resonance. Just as his campaign win the Republican nomination this year, started in New Hampshire. Now that he`s sort of taking care of winning the Republican nomination, tonight in New Hampshire, he will start his campaign to win the general election. I think that is the emotional and symbolic residence behind Mitt Romney speaking tonight in New Hampshire. Moments ago, Romney started that beginning again speech in New Hampshire. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: Thank you for that. Welcome and thank you, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: And tonight I can also say thank you, America, because after 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and more than a few long nights, I can say with confidence and gratitude that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility, and together we are going to win on November 6th. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: We launched this campaign not far from here. Beautiful day in June on a farm in New Hampshire. It`s been an extraordinary journey. You know, Americans have always been eternal optimists, but over the last three and a half years, we have seen hopes and dreams diminished by false promises and weak leadership. Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired. And many of those who are fortunate enough to have a job are working harder for less. For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job and won`t be home as often. For grandparents who can`t afford the gas to visit their grandchildren anymore. For the mom and dad who never thought they would be on food stamps. For the small business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month, to all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I`ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, fighting chance. To all of you I have a simple message: hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight. (APPLAUSE) (CHANTING) ROMNEY: Tonight is the start of a new campaign to unite every American who knows in their heart that we can do better. The last few years have been the best that Barack Obama can do. It`s not the best America can do. Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointments of the Obama years. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: And it`s the start of a new and better chapter that we will write together. There`s already been a long campaign. But many Americans are just now beginning to focus on the choice before the country. In the days ahead, I`ll look forward to spending time with many of you personally. I want to hear what`s on your mind. Hear about your concerns. I want to learn about your families. I want to know what you think we can do to make this country better and what you expect from your next president. I`ll probably tell you a little bit about myself. I`ll start by talking about my wife Ann, of course. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: And I`ll probably bore you with stories of my sons and grandkids. I`ll tell you how much I love the country -- this extraordinary land where someone like my dad who grew up poor, never graduated from college, could pursue his dreams and work his way up to running a great car company. Only in America could a man like my dad become governor of the state where he once sold paint from the trunk of his car. I`d say to you - - (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: When I see you, I think I`ll tell you may have heard that I was successful in business. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: Yes, that rumor is true. But you might not have heard that I became successful by helping start a business that grew from 10 people to hundreds of people. You might not have heard that our business helped start other businesses like Staples and the Sports Authority and the new steel mill and a new learning center called Bright Horizons. And I`d tell you that not every business made it. There were good days and bad days, but every day was a lesson. After 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job creating recovery! (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: Four years ago Barack Obama dazzled us in front of Greek columns with sweeping promises of hope and change. But after we came down to earth, after all the celebrations and the parades, what do we have to show for 3 1/2 years of President Obama? AUDIENCE: Nothing! ROMNEY: Is it easier to make ends meet? AUDIENCE: No. ROMNEY: Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? AUDIENCE: No. ROMNEY: Have you saved what you need for retirement? AUDIENCE: No. ROMNEY: Are you making more at your job? AUDIENCE: No. ROMNEY: Do you have a better chance of getting a job? AUDIENCE: No. ROMNEY: Are you paying less at the pump? AUDIENCE: No. ROMNEY: If the answer were yes to those questions, then President Obama would be running for re-election based on his record -- and rightly so. But because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions and distractions and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time, but in the here and not now. It`s still about the economy. And we`re not stupid. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: People are hurting in America. We know that something is wrong, terribly wrong with the direction of the country. We know that this election is about the kind of America we will live in and the kind of America we`re going to leave to future generations. Now, when it comes to the character of America, President Obama and I have very different visions. Government is at the center of his vision. It dispenses the benefits, borrows what it can`t take, consumes a greater and greater share of the economy. You know, with Obamacare fully installed, government would have control of almost half of the economy, and we would have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society. This president is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. He`s asking us to accept that Washington knows best and can provide all. We have already seen where that path leads. It erodes freedom. It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit and it hurts the very people it`s supposed to help. Those who promise to spread the wealth around only ever succeed in spreading poverty around. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: Other nations have chosen that path. It leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt and stagnant wages. I have a very different vision for America and for our future. It`s an America driven by freedom where free people pursuing happiness in their own unique ways create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. And because there`s so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard working, educated, skilled employees is intense, so wages and salaries rise. I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents -- some successful even beyond their wildest dreams and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: This America is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: We will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends businesses. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: We will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: We will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits in the very taxpayers they serve. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: And we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts onto the next. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: In the America I see, character and choices matter -- and education, hard work and living within our means are valued and rewarded, and poverty will be defeated. Not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that`s taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: This is the America that was won for us by the nation`s founders and earned for us by the greatest generation. It`s the America that`s produced the most innovative, most productive and most powerful economy in the world. And as I look around at the millions of Americans without work, the graduates who can`t get a job, the soldiers who return home to an unemployment line, it breaks my heart. This does not have to be. It`s the result of failed leadership and a faulty vision. We will restore the promises of America only if we restore the principles of freedom and opportunity that made this nation the greatest nation on earth. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: Today, the hill before us is a little steep. We`ve always been a nation of big steppers. Many Americans have given up on this president, but they haven`t ever thought of giving up not on themselves, not on each other and certainly not on America. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: In the days ahead join me, join me in the next step toward the destination of November 6th when across America, we can give a sigh of relief and know that the promise of America has been kept. The dreamers can dream a little bigger. The help wanted signs can be dusted off and we can start again. This time, we`ll get it right. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: We will -- AUDIENCE: Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. ROMNEY: W will stop the days of apologizing for success at home and never again apologize for America abroad. (APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: It was a time not so long ago, when each of us could walk a little taller and stand a little straighter because we had a gift that no one else in the world shared. We were Americans. That meant something different to each of us, but it meant something special to all of us. We knew it without question, and so did the world. Those days are coming back. That`s our destiny. (APPLAUSE) AUDIENCE: Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt! ROMNEY: You see, we believe in America. We believe in ourselves. Our greatest days are ahead. We are, after all, Americans! God bless this great nation. God bless this United States of America and God bless you good people. Thank you so much. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Mitt Romney speaking to a very rowdy crowd of his supporters in New Hampshire just moments ago, having won Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island primaries tonight. Mr. Romney there declaring in effect the primary campaign over and ending with a new assertion. There was a time not long ago when we could walk a little taller and stand straighter because we were Americans. Mr. Romney saying those days are not true now. He has a plan to bring them back. We`ll be back with reaction to Mr. Romney`s speech and what happened on the other side of the campaign trail, President Obama`s events today. We`ve also got Richard Clarke here for the interview tonight. Steve Schmidt is here. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: With primaries tonight in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut, all being wrapped up in Mitt Romney`s favor, polls have closed in New York as of about 24 minutes ago. Mitt Romney just gave a speech to a raucous crowd in New Hampshire. In none of the places that were voting tonight, but in the place where he announced his campaign for president this year. Joining us now is Steve Schmidt, formerly John McCain`s presidential senior strategist. He`s now a Republican strategist and an MSNBC political analyst. Steve, it`s always a pleasure to have you here. Thanks. STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, this speech, it`s hard to know on a primary night whether a speech is just another speech, particularly when there`s no drama at all about what`s going to happen in the primaries. But you think it was significant for Romney. SCHMIDT: It is significant because tonight Mitt Romney became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. MADDOW: Didn`t he become the nominee six months ago? SCHMIDT: I think we all knew it was going to come. Today is the day it happened. (CROSSTALK) SCHMIDT: He declared it. Everybody acknowledges it with the exception of Newt Gingrich. He`s going to be the Republican nominee. And I think this was by far his best speech that he`s given on any of this primary nights. This was an economic speech aimed exactly to the middle of the electorate. This has a message that has appeal in the middle of the electorate. It`s a message that unites the entirety of the Republican Party on these economic issues. I thought he looked good tonight. And so, we`re going to have a tough race. It`s going to be a close race. You`re going to see this message, I think he previewed tonight, is going to be the architecture of the campaign, he`s going to try to run against the president. MADDOW: Well, let me ask you about the unifying nature of this, though. I mean, Mitt Romney, one of his early gaffes on the campaign trail that actually did resonate with him saying, I don`t care about the very poor. There`s safety net and if there`s problems, I`ll fix it, or whatever. I don`t care about the very rich, they`ll be fine. He said that. So, he`s got that on his plate. House Republicans just voted to or in the process of eliminating tens of billions of dollars of food stamps. Mitt Romney opens up his speech with talking about people on food stamps -- single mothers working two jobs and seniors who can`t afford gas. These are not the people he has been talking about and it`s not the people who House Republicans have been trying to woo with policies that have been demonizing people in that situation. SCHMIDT: Look, House Republicans are a political anchor for him in this race. They have very low, low approval numbers. He`s going to distance himself from the congressional Republican brand. You saw him do that yesterday with student loans, for example. What you saw today is a speech outlining philosophically how do you create prosperity in this country? How do you create opportunity? This is the alternative version of the speech the president gave earlier in Topeka, where he outlined a progressive vision about how to create prosperity. We have big choices in this election. We have two fundamentally different philosophies I think that are going to be put before the American people with regard to the role, the proper role of government, how you create prosperity in the country. I think you saw Mitt Romney tonight very effectively preview his. MADDOW: I totally disagree. SCHMIDT: Which is shocking to me. No. MADDOW: Mitt Romney, I mean, even if you just look at food stamps. Even if you look at the student loan thing, he`s trying to run as the guy that fully embraced that Paul Ryan Republican budget. Me and Paul Ryan is going to be my guy. He ran an ad that made it look like Paul Ryan was running and not him. Paul Ryan cuts food stamps, would allow interest rates to double. So, if there`s a clear distinction between the two sides here, the two sides are both Mitt Romney. I mean, what`s his position on the stuff he`s now front paging taking both sides? SCHMIDT: Look, I think this country is careening down the path toward a debt crisis. Paul Ryan`s plan, whether you agree with it, whether you disagree with it, is an intellectually serious attempt -- MADDOW: To massively balloon the deficit? SCHMIDT: -- to deal with country`s debt problems. So, Mitt Romney, as a political matter, you will see him walk back from elements of the Ryan budget over the course of the next couple of months. You know, look, what he outlined tonight I think is a big philosophical disagreement. What he`s saying it`s not the job of federal government of the United States to decide who gets what piece of an ever shrinking pie, that a rising tide lifts all boats. We`re all in this together. That everybody benefits from economic growth and the policies of the last four years haven`t worked. And I think that rhetorically in this speech, I think it was his best effort on any of these primary nights. I think you see the preview of an economic argument that I think could well make him the president of the United States. MADDOW: I agree with you that this was a rhetorically powerful speech. I agree with you that that vision, that economic vision would be the kind of contrast, big credible positive contrast of visions. I think that is your vision for what you`d like to hear the Republicans say. It`s not what Mitt Romney said at all tonight. I think him coming out and saying I`m the food stamps guy, I`m the guy who`s going to hook you up -- if you`re on food stamps and you never thought you would be, then I`m your guy, I think it`s amazing for him to also be the Paul Ryan budget guy. SCHMIDT: I think what he is talking about is how we grow the economy and create opportunity. I think he began to outline the contours of that economic message tonight. So, listen, it`s obvious we have disagreements on it. I think there`s big differences in the vision about how to create prosperity and economic opportunity in the country, I think he outlined that speech tonight. MADDOW: You`re hearing it, but he`s not saying it. It`s great to have you, man. Good to see you. Steve Schmidt, senior strategist for the McCain-Palin 2008. And we have news, NBC News is projecting that Mitt Romney wins the GOP primary in the great state of New York. Shocking. I know. Lots more to come including latest primary election results. Richard Clarke is here for the interview. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t want this to be a country where a shrinking number of Americans are doing real well but a growing number of people are struggling to get by. That`s not my idea of America. I want this forever to be a country where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share and everybody is playing by the same set of rules. This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it. That`s what makes us special. That`s what made us an economic super power. That`s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine, and that`s a commitment we have to reaffirm today in 2012. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was President Obama speaking today at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. North Carolina, of course, hugely important for Democrats in 2012, and for this president in particular. When then- Senator Obama beat Senator John McCain there in 2008, that was the first time a Democrat had carried North Carolina in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter back in 1976. And the Obama-Biden campaign fought very hard for every vote they got in North Carolina in 2008. In fact, you remember the night before the election in 2008, the night before the election Barack Obama was in North Carolina, it was an outdoor speech in the rain, you may remember that Mr. Obama`s grandmother who raised him had just passed away that morning. And he addressed North Carolinians with tears in his eyes that night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: After 21 months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coasts of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one day away from changing America. One day. Tomorrow at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change that we need. You can do this right here in North Carolina. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was the night before the election in 2008. The next day, Barack Obama won the state of North Carolina -- first Democrat to do it since the `70s. Then he won the presidential election. This year, it will be more difficult for Democrats to win North Carolina. After going blue in 2008, the state of North Carolina swung deeply red in 2010. And the political consensus in the Beltway now is that it will be difficult for Democrats to win there in 2012 this time around. pointing out that 40,000 young Democrats who are registered to vote in 2008 have since fallen off the state`s voter rolls. But Democrats are trying hard to keep the state in play. With President Obama`s speech there today, with the Democratic convention scheduled in North Carolina, the first week of September, and, frankly, with this big push your younger voters which they need in North Carolina and everywhere, I mean, the Obama campaign is eager to run on the fact that health reform means that young adults can stay on their parent`s health insurance until they are 26. That means that millions of young people who didn`t have health coverage before can have it now -- thanks to an Obama policy that Mitt Romney plans to get rid of. The Obama campaign seems eager to run against Republicans trying to make it harder all over the country for college students to be able to vote. They are eager to run on having reform student loans. Having gotten rid of the totally inexplicable system where banks were a middleman in guaranteed student loans. So, that meant that Wall Street got a guaranteed taxpayer provided multibillion dollar profit for providing no service to students? The Obama administration got rid of that banks in the middle thing. They saved tens of billions of dollars and put that money toward actual students instead. So Democrats have their case to younger voters and to college students. They have their pitch to make and Republicans have theirs. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I joke and I don`t mean to be flip with this, but I -- because I actually see truth in it. I don`t see how a young American can vote for -- well, can vote for a Democrat. I mean, I apologize for being so offensive but I catch your attention. But I mean that -- in the humor, I mean there`s some truth there. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. Test time. Beyond the stylistic vote for me stuff, there`s something specific on which Washington has to make a decision right now that applies to this political point. There`s something that`s going to make an immediate difference in the lives of millions of young people right away -- something on which a decision has to be made. Got to pick a side. You want to see somebody emphatically refusing to pick a side, somebody emphatically refusing to make a decision on this? This was amazing. This was Chuck Todd this morning here on MSNBC with Republican Congressman Connie Mack of Florida. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney and President Obama are both endorsing essentially this plan that would not allow student loan interest rates to double by the summer. Where are you on this? REP. CONNIE MACK (R), FLORIDA: Well, look, I think what`s happening in the state of Florida, if you don`t mind, Chuck, I want to talk about what`s happening here in the state of Florida. TODD: No, I understand that. This is a vote you`re going to have to make in Congress. MACK: Wait, wait. But what I`m telling you is that in the state of Florida, during this Senate campaign, people are concerned about their home and jobs. TODD: You got to cast a vote on this issue about student loans. What vote are you going to cast? MACK: Well, we`ll take it when the vote comes up. We`ll cast that vote. I`m telling you people that are watching, if they`re in Florida, what they`re concerned is about jobs and the economy, and how we`re going to balance a budget with a $16 trillion debt and a $1.4 trillion deficit. This is what -- Chuck, this is what people are talking about. TODD: You don`t think anything is concerned with student loan interest rate? MACK: We will absolutely be able to cast a vote and when that happens, we`ll be happy to do so. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: But what will your happy vote be? Avoid the question much. Republicans do have a position on this. In 2007, student loan rates got cut this half. It was a five-year bill that did that. The five years is up as of this summer. So, if that doesn`t get extended, everybody student loan rates will pop back up to where they were before. They`re going to double. Should everybody`s student loan rates double or shouldn`t they? You have to pick a side on this. The Republican position has been that everybody`s student loan rates should double. The House Republican Paul Ryan budget which Mitt Romney has signed onto would allow the student loan rate to double. And that is not great way to get students to vote for you, which the Democrats seem to understand very well. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: One Republican congresswoman said she had very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt because there`s no reason for that. I`m just quoting here. I`m just quoting. She said -- she said students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts having opportunity dumped in your lap. I`m reading it here. I didn`t make this up. Now, can you imagine saying something like that? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Somebody the audience, according to the transcript, somebody yelled out at President Obama that they trusted him when he said he was quoting there. If you don`t trust him and you want to know what he was quoting from, this is what the president was referring to. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R), NORTH CAROLINA: You know, I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there`s no reason for that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says, "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." You don`t sit on your butt and have it dumped in your lap. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. There was President Obama today in her North Carolina backyard pointing out that`s what she thinks of you if you have student loan debt -- sitting on your butt and having opportunity dumped in your lap. But as the Democrats try to win North Carolina again, as they try to win young voters again as a means to that end, as Mitt Romney returns to New Hampshire to try to start the campaign over again, what the media has to decide and what voters have to decide and in what voters who care about policy are going to have to decide is what the real choice is here because before now, Mitt Romney was signed on to the Paul Ryan plan, right? Paul Ryan plan would decimate food stamps. Tonight in his big speech, he gave his big starting the general election speech as if he`s the candidate of moms and dads who never thought they would be on food stamps. You`re either the guy that wants to cut food stamps dramatically, or you`re the candidate of people on food stamps. Even if you just look at the specific issue of student loans, before now, Mitt Romney was with the Republicans, right? He was signed on to the Paul Ryan budget. He wanted everybody`s student loan rates to double this summer. This has been his position through the primaries. Anybody picking him in the primaries was picking that policy position, because Mitt Romney said that was his policy position. So, if you vote for Mitt Romney, is that in fact the policy you would be voting for? Doubling student loan rates -- that`s where he says he`s been all along. Would you be voting for that or would you be voting for this new guy who is the guy running for office this week? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, you do now. You do now. Oh, really, is the general election, I guess. New week, new policy. Which policy are you going to get if you actually elect this guy? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Tonight, the Republican primaries in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York have been decided in favor of the de facto Republican nominee now, Mitt Romney. It was thought that Newt Gingrich`s best shot at any of these states might be in the state of Delaware. These are the results that we got from Delaware at this hour. 98 percent of precincts reporting Mr. Gingrich trailing Mr. Romney by 30 points. It was thought that Mr. Gingrich has said if he could avoid a blow out in Delaware, that that might be his best justification for staying in the race. We`ll have to see now what Mr. Gingrich decides to do. We`ll keep you posted as we get further info. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: As gas prices stay high, both political parties here in the United States continue to blame each other. Democrats say oil companies shouldn`t be getting tax subsidies and that financiers who speculate on oil prices in some cases are manipulating the market for their own benefit. Republicans, on the other hand, say that Democrats could be using some magic wand to bring gas prices down, but the Democrats don`t want to do that, because communism, or something. Birth certificate. But in the real world of extracting oil from the ground and selling it on the international market, something really interesting has just happened. The number one oil exporter in the Middle East is, of course, Saudi Arabia. The number two oil exporter in the Middle East and third in the world is -- Iran. And 90 percent of the oil that Iran exports comes through this place. This is Kharg Island. It`s off the coast of Iran, way out in the Persian Gulf. Ninety percent of Iran`s oil exports go through the oil terminal on Kharg Island. And the oil terminal on Kharg Island has reportedly just been hit with a devastating computer virus. "Agence France Presse" reporting that over this past weekend, Kharg and Iran`s other oil facilities have had the plug pulled. They`ve had to be totally disconnected from the Internet since the attack. Although no official Iranian media is confirming it, the Web sites of the Iranian oil ministry and the national oil company were reportedly down for hours and an oil ministry spokesperson has been quoted as saying that the virus wiped important data off of servers. Iran has reportedly set up a crisis committee to confront the problem of this virus. A civil defense official describing this virus as a cyber attack. Iran, of course, is under intense international pressure because of its nuclear program, which Iran insists is just for nuclear program, and which the rest of the world insists is for nuclear bombs. To pressure Iran, the international community has been employing every bit of leverage that other countries have against the Islamic republic, particularly on economic matters. Iran is almost wholly economically independent on its ability to sell oil internationally. Sanctions this year have focused on getting even more countries to refuse to buy Iran`s oil. But are Western efforts to stop Iran from selling its oil also now taking the form of actually shutting down Iran`s technical ability to do that? And if so, an act of force like that, is that war? Is that a kind of war? And if the West is waging that kind of war now, also with the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran`s nuclear centrifuges a couple of years ago, and conceivably what just happened this past weekend at Kharg Island, if the West is waging that kind of war now, does that mean we should expect that kind of war to be waged against the West as well? Joining us now for the interview is Richard Clarke. He was the nation`s first special adviser to the president for cyber security. He`s also the nation`s former counterterrorism chief. He`s now chairman of Good Harbor Consulting. His book, "Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What To Do About It" is just out in paperback and it`s great. Richard Clarke, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here. RICHARD CLARKE, GOOD HARBOR CONSULTING: Good to be back. MADDOW: Thinking about that Iranian oil terminal, thinking about Stuxnet, is cyber war a way that countries are waging war with each other now? CLARKE: I think it`s certainly a way that the United States is attacking Iran. You could call it cyber war, which I did, or you could do what I think people in Washington do and call it covert action. It`s not really important whether we call it a war or not. It`s true that the United States and probably Israel are engaged in cyber activities against Iran. And what happened on Kharg probably was either the United States or Israel attacking the digital control systems of the refinery. Just as people could do that to our refineries. And this is the concern. We have kind of crossed the Rubicon. We`ve made it OK by doing it. We destroyed a thousand centrifuges in Iran through a cyber attack. But then the software that we used, 50,000 lines of code, very complicated attack escaped into cyberspace. And people downloaded it all over the world. So people now know how to do it. Not just nation states, but hackers have these 50,000 lines of code. And yes, it`s entirely possible people will attack us. Nation states, terrorist groups, individual hackers. And this is what the debate in Congress is about this week. Where there`s a bipartisan bill in the Senate to do something about improving the standards of protection, for power plants, for oil refineries, for things that they call critical infrastructure. And the Chamber of Commerce and the Republicans in the House are opposing creating standards of protection, because they say it`s regulation. This is an example, Rachel, of knee-jerk right-wing ideology getting in the way solving real problems. MADDOW: Is this type of offense and defense something about which we should think of ourselves as having the same kind of advantage militarily that we have in traditional military means? I mean, the United States spending almost as much as the rest of the world combined on traditional military resources. We think of ourselves as having an almost unbeatable military capacity, despite all of the things that we`ve been involved in, right? Do we have that kind of advantage when it comes to this kind of war? CLARKE: No, we don`t. And you know, we`re both Red Sox fans, so let me make the analogy. What if -- it`s not true this year -- but what if the Red Sox had a killer lineup of hitters that could just slug it over the green monster, but had no bull pen? That`s kind of where we are. We have a tremendous offensive capability, as the United States military and intelligence community. We cannot defend this country today. And so, we are having cyber attacks every day that succeed. They don`t destroy things, they steal things. There`s a massive transfer of intellectual property, of research and development, massive transfer from American companies and government labs to China. And the government is doing nothing to stop it largely because the Congress won`t set up laws and regulations that allow the government to defend the United States. MADDOW: Richard Clarke, the book is "Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What To Do About It." It`s just out in paperback. It was a "New York Times" best seller in hardback. And we were talking before the break here, this is something that has changed the discussion both in policy making circles and those of us that are just interested in national security. Congratulations on the success of this so far. Nice to see you again. CLARKE: Congratulations on your success too with your book. It`s a great book. MADDOW: Thanks very much. I appreciate it. All right. We will be right back. Now, I`m blushing. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Another presidential primary night, the biggest day of voting since Super Tuesday, and it turns out one of the least surprising five-for- five clean sweeps in the history of the groups of five. NBC declaring Mitt Romney the projected winner in the state of New York tonight, in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, once a must-win for Rick Santorum. Tonight, it was won by Mr. Romney. Mr. Romney also the projected winner in Connecticut, as well as in the great state of Rhode Island. And finally, in the first state of Delaware, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich having staked the future of his campaign on a win or a close second there. He did not get it. Five states, five wins tonight for Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee. Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. Thanks for being with us tonight. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END