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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/27/12

Guests: Steve Kornacki, Charniele Herring

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Jeb Bush says he would, says he would consider being vice president. He said he would consider it. And then he told "Bloomberg News," "I will not consider it. " Put it to rest, he said. Mitch Daniels said everyone should consider the vice presidency. So, maybe that means he wants it. He says actually, just because he thinks everybody should consider it doesn`t mean that he wants it. Marco Rubio, he gave a foreign policy speech that seemed very much like a vice presidential audition this week. And then in the middle of the speech, he lost the last page of it. Was that on purpose to try to make him seem vice presidential maybe in the lovable Dufus category of vice presidential type casting perhaps? Of course not. But that is the kind of thing that people ask in the inane but fun game of vice presidential speculation that we all get to play every four years. Rob Portman, he got all but anointed vice president by the common wisdom Beltway bible,, this week. Who is Rob Portman? Exactly. That`s supposed to be good this year, they say. Who knows? The vice presidential guessing game is fun in the way that car bingo is fun. Oh, barn. AMC eagle wagon. Semi truck weigh station. Bingo. Vice presidential guessing is like car bingo because it passes the time. It is pointless. It`s fun. And it is more about the process than it is about the outcome -- in that the speculative handicapping in the choices for vice president seems really to have no effect on who the campaigns pick. Honestly, nobody knows who the campaign is going to pick as a vice president for Mitt Romney until the pick is made. And more importantly, perhaps, the vice presidential pick usually means nothing to the campaign. Other than the first initial blip once the announcement is made, it never really seems to have much effect on the presidential horse race, except very occasionally in a negative way, a la John McCain. But still, this is all unavoidable in election years. It is fun. I think, though, it does have one useful and substantive purpose, which we are experiencing right now. Watching people jockey to try to get pick and as vice president turns out can be a really clear window into something that`s otherwise surprisingly hard to figure out, which is what are the litmus tests. What are the bright lines on policy within a party? What policies are acceptable or desirable even to a particular political party? And what`s a policy position that you`re not allowed to have if you want to rise in stature in your own party in way that being picked as vice president would mean? We are good in this country at covering the horse race. The "who`s ahead" side of politics. We are less good in this country at covering why people are supposed to be in politics in the first place, which is to make policy. But watching Republican merry go round of ambitious wannabe presidents who are all pretending to not want to be president, watching that happened right now and you can watch it -- I mean, there`s 30 articles written about it everyday if you just look at it byline pieces, right? Watching that turns out is showing us where the Republican Party is internally on policy that they don`t otherwise like to talk about in clear terms. Por ejemplo, any big public appearance that a president does feels like a campaign event, right? But the Obama campaign announced this week that the first official Obama campaign re-election event, an event that is not just the president being the president but rather the president overtly campaigning, the first reelection official campaigning events will be held next week at universities in Ohio, naturally, the swing state of all swing states, and also Virginia. Virginia, a very, very important swing state this year. Supposedly one of top assets that any vice presidential prospect should bring to the ticket is the promise that they will win their home state. It`s kind of dubious but supposedly that`s the promise. In the case of Virginia, in the case of Virginia`s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, specifically that already slightly dubious rule of thumb does not seem to apply to him at all. In the case of Bob McDonnell, otherwise known as governor ultrasound, the only recent polling out on the subject was a Quinnipiac University poll last month. It showed that head to head in Virginia, President Obama beats Mitt Romney by eight points. But if you add Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell o the Romney side of the ticket, then Obama still beats Romney but by seven points instead of eight, putting Governor McDonnell on the ticket with Mitt Romney does give Mitt Romney a one-point boost in Virginia. Obviously, that is not enough. That said I`m sure the Romney campaign expects the numbers to tighten and maybe in the end, a one-point bump from governor ultrasound might be good enough? Maybe? Bob McDonnell himself, even though he is not allowed to run for governor in Virginia and he has not declared for any other office, Governor McDonnell himself this week started running, "I`m Bob McDonnell, vote for me" TV ads. Vote for you for what, big guy? He clearly wants to be picked for vice president. Desperation maybe ugly, but it does have the advantage of being obvious, and nestled within the obviousness of Bob McDonnell`s desperation, nestled within the pointless but fun speculation about whether or not Bob McDonnell really has a chance at the vice presidency is one really useful substantive policy question for understand the whole Republican Party for the whole country. And question is this: where is the line inside the Republican Party of 2012 between going too far in being anti-abortion and not going far enough? What policy position do you have to have in Republican politics right now to be seen as sufficiently fervent in your desire to criminalize abortion, but to seem so fervent that you would like a kook? Where is that line? I mean, in the broad view of what the Republican Party is doing, what they are acting like in policy making terms, it`s impossible to figure that out. In the past two years, Republicans in the states have introduced more restrictions on abortion rights than at any time since Roe versus Wade, since anytime since abortion became legal in this country nationwide. Last year was a record for new anti-abortion laws enacted in the states. And already, this year, another 75 anti-abortion bills have passed at least one legislative chamber. Now, Democrats are taking note of this trend. Democrats are taking note of the virulently anti-abortion, anti-women`s health climate in the Republican Party of 2012. They see it particularly in this election year as a real political weakness. Want me to prove it? Here is President Obama speaking today at a White House Forum on Women`s Issues. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This contraception fight is illuminating. It`s like being in a time machine. Republicans in Congress were going so far as to say that an employer should be able to have a say in the health care decision of its female employees. I`m always puzzled by this. This is party that says it prides itself on being rabidly anti- regulation. These are folks who claim to believe in freedom from government interference from government and middling. But it doesn`t seem to bother them when it comes to women`s health. Now, we`ve got governors and legislators across the river in Virginia, up the road in Pennsylvania, all across the country saying, that women can`t be trusted to make your own decisions. They`re pushing and passing bills forcing women to get ultrasounds even if they don`t want one. If you don`t like it, the governor of Pennsylvania said you can close your eyes. Just look at some of the debates that we`ve already this year. Instead of putting forward serious plans to help more Americans back to work, a lot of those in the other party have chosen to re-fight battles we settled long ago. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama speaking today at White House Forum on Women`s Issues. As Republicans are becoming way more radical on this issue than they have ever tried to be before in modern time, watching Bob McDonnell, the guy who President Obama described there as the governor across the river, watching Bob McDonnell trying to get the vice presidential nod has given us the best shot we`ve yet had at figuring out the practical limits of Republican politics on this issue. After a lifetime as anti-abortion activist, after 15 years in the state legislature during which he sponsor or co-sponsored 35 anti-abortion bills, "The Washington Post" reported this week that Bob McDonnell`s spokesman was all of a sudden insisting that the paper described the governor`s view on abortion differently than they had before. Now that he is very obviously, desperately trying to be picked as vice president, the governor spokesman said that he now wants it to be known that Bob McDonnell is still super, super anti-abortion but women that are victims of rape and incest, he`ll give them a break. This is a new. Throughout his career, all through the `90s, all the way through to when he ran for governor in 2009, he was very clear, the press about him was very clear, Bob McDonnell was so anti-abortion that even if the way you became pregnant is that you were raped or a close blood relative impregnated you, if you were the victim of incest, throughout Bob McDonnell`s career, even if that`s how you became pregnant, he would insist that the government force you to bear the child that was the result of that pregnancy. But now, now that he can all but smell the East Wing of the White House, his spokesman told "The Washington Post" that now under Bob McDonnell`s leadership, rape victims and incest victims will be getting an exemption. Interesting, right? So, there`s the line, the veep stakes. Trying to get picked as vice president sometimes reveal an important truth that taught us earlier this week that having the government force rape victims and incest victims to do something with their body to do counted as too far in the Republican politics, at least at the national level. That`s what we thought we learned at the beginning of this week. Thank you, Bob McDonnell, for making it clear where that line is. But now, Bob McDonnell has moved the line, going after rape and incest victims we thought was too far for the Republican Party this year., it turns out it`s not too far. Governor McDonnell, after that "Washington Post" piece was published this week, after we reported on the show, he went on WTOP Radio, on "Mark Seagraves" "Ask the Governor" show this week and said, no, no, no, his spokesman was mistaken. Actually, he blamed it on the "Washington Post" inexplicably, but it was his own spokesman statement. He said that he was mistaken. He wants it to be clear that he does want to force rape victims to bear the child that is the result of rape. If you are raped -- say you`re raped by your father or by your uncle -- Bob McDonnell does want the government to force you to bear the child that is the result of that rape. His whole giving rape and incest victims a break thing, that was totally a misunderstanding. He`s not giving them break. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: Well, I`ve said this for 20 years. As a pro-life Catholic, my personal moral view is that abortion is wrong. It should not be permitted except in cases with the life of the mother is in jeopardy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Period. So, he won`t force you to give birth if doing so will kill you, but other than that rape victims shut up. He`s in charge. And Bob McDonnell, it turns out, is kind of a window into the broader Republican Party on this issue. It`s not just him. In South Carolina, Republicans are trying to pass a new rule that would ban state health insurance from covering abortions specifically for women who are the victims of rape or incest, singling them out. Right now, if you`re the victim of rape or incest in South Carolina, and you have state health insurance, you could get an abortion. The Republicans in the legislature there want to repeal that rape and incest exemption. That rule was approved by a Senate subcommittee this week. So, it is officially part of the budget debate in South Carolina. In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott line item vetoed one and a half million dollars set to fund rape crisis centers through the Florida Council against sexual violence. The governor spokesperson saying the reason he vetoed the rape crisis center funding because that funding, Governor Scott`s office claimed was, quote. "duplicative," and, quote, "nobody was able the make it clear why rape crisis centers needed the new funding." Nobody could prove to Governor Scott why he should approve funding for rape crisis centers. It should be noted that the director of the Council Against Sexual Violence, the group that was to distribute the money to rape crisis centers around the state says she gave the governor`s office information about the number of new survivors they are dealing with and she showed them that the rape crisis centers now have waiting lists. It`s kind of hard to imagine rape crisis center waiting lists. We`ll get back to you? That apparently was not proof enough for Rick Scott that rape crisis centers needed any funding. In Iowa, Republicans in the statehouse actually passed a measure to repeal the provision that allows Medicaid funds to be used by women who are raped are or incest victims to get an abortion. That measure in the Iowa Senate, but just barely, it was a tie vote -- a tie vote to block poor women who are the victims of rape or incest, singling them out specifically from having access to abortion. It`s a targeted bill to go after rape victims and incest victims, to make sure they don`t get something they might otherwise get. This is what`s going on in Republican politics right now around women`s rights and abortion rights and the proper role of government. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but you do have to ask, is there a problem here that the Republicans are trying to address? Have rape victims just been coddled too much? Have rape victims had it too easy in America? Have they not had enough of other people doing things to their bodies that they don`t want them to do? Is that a pressing problem that is calling out for Republican legislative intervention? Because the Republican Party is cracking down on victims of rape and incest right now. They`re not cracking down on rape and incest. They are cracking down on the victims of rape and incest. If you think that the victims of rape and incest have been getting way with way too much in this country and it`s time to put a stop to it, then have I got a vice presidential prospect for you. Joining us is Virginia House delegate Charniele Herring. She`s the Democratic minority whip. She`s chair of the legislator`s Reproductive Rights Caucus. Delegate Herring, it`s good to have you with us here tonight. It`s nice to meet you. STATE DELEGATE CHARNIELE HERRING (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: Your governor, Bob McDonnell, made kind of a double reversal this week on specifically on the issue of rape victims and incest victims and abortion. What have you understood his position on that issue to be and has it arisen in Virginia state politics? HERRING: I`ve always understood his position to be, the only exemption would be life of the mother. Then I hear, oh, well, there`s an exception for rape and incest. And now, I`m wearing something back to where he originally was. It`s actually causing my neck to get whiplash because we`re going back and forth so much. It`s a little shocking. And, Rachel, yes, it has been an issue. The governor amended mandatory ultrasound bill in Virginia. He had an opportunity to let his views be known. He did not build an exception into that bill. That was actually Democratic legislature who put an amendment on to the bill to give an exception for rape victims. But he, I think, has been consistent on that, that he only believes if life of the mother. But it`s a little disheartening to see him flip and then say rape and incest because it leaves Virginians note knowing really where he stands. MADDOW: In terms of how his, I would say, apparent vice presidential ambitions are affecting Virginia state politics, have -- do you think that the governor has been describing his positions or legislating and governing in way that reflects national ambitions, or has he been doing the same thing all along. HERRING: I think that right now, it`s clear that he has national ambitions. He campaigned on jobs in the economy then supports extreme social agenda when we`re in session in legislature. Right now, he spent over, you know, several hundreds of thousands of dollars for TV commercials and stomping around for Mitt Romney and other extreme Republicans on their elections and on their campaigning. So, it`s a difference message is being spent. And I know that he`s trying to make up for all the bad publicity that he`s gotten for the mandatory ultrasound bill. He`s trying to cover it. And it`s unfortunate for Virginia because he needs to be here talking about jobs in the economy and actually working with us and working with small business. MADDOW: You know, as a person who has been covering Virginia, sort of -- I think we`ve been covering Virginia more intensely than a lot of other national outlets, mostly because I think the attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, and Governor McDonnell were elected and came to power at the same time with such interesting very far right backgrounds. And one of the things that`s been interesting covering it, I`m curious to your perspective on this as somebody in the legislature, is that particularly Governor McDonnell always talks about how his priority is jobs, jobs, jobs. He only wants to talk about jobs and the economy. That`s all he wants to be asked questions about when he`s asked questions about other things. He turns his answers around to those issues. But it seems like inside the legislature, there`s a ton of social issues legislation that`s being moved. He moved 35 anti-abortion bills himself as a legislator. What do you see as the distance between the articulation that jobs, jobs, jobs is the agenda, and what your real agenda is, living it day to day as a delegate? HERRING: Right. And that`s exactly. They articulate something -- jobs, jobs, jobs, don`t want to debate on issues, there are social issues that we know that they`re going to take votes on and in fact introduce bills on. And so, what happens as a legislator, and they still don`t have their pulse on middle America -- when they file those extreme bills, what happens is that my office spends time an inordinate amount of time responding to people who are calling, actually frightened to death about what they are seeing and what they are hearing. I mean, that`s very true. And it`s very honest. And it`s very interesting that they always want to minimize these social issues. But they`re -- we`re talking about constitutional rights, voting, access to reproductive health care -- very fundamental things to Americans and they seem not to get that this is something serious and that people will take it serious, and they can`t just turn it off and say, well, I just want to talk about jobs. We got to hold them accountable. MADDOW: Virginia House Delegate Charniele Herring, the Democratic minority whip, chair of the legislature`s reproductive rights caucus -- ma`am, thank you very much for joining us. It`s really nice to have you here on the show. I hope you`ll come back sometime. HERRING: All right. Thank you. Thank you so much, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. This very day, not very long ago, today, just a few hours ago, we, THE RACHEL MADOW SHOW got a note from Rick Santorum. It`s not a form letter. It`s not a fundraising letter. It was address to me signed by him. It just goes to show you never know who`s watching. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Rick Santorum is no longer running for president. He suspended his campaign two and a half weeks ago. Before Mr. Santorum suspended his campaign, this is one of things that he said on the campaign trail. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was just reading something last night from the state of California, and that the California universities, there are -- I think it`s seven or eight of the California system of universities don`t even teach an American history course. It`s not even available to be taught. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The California university system, U.C. system, does not teach American history. American history is not taught and cannot be learned in the University of California system. Why? Why would you think that was true? Why would it be? It doesn`t even make sense. Why? Can you elaborate? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANTORUM: It`s not even available to be taught. Just to tell you how bad it`s gotten in this country where we`re trying to disconnect the American people from the roots of who we are. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: A couple of days after Senator Santorum said that American history classes do not exist in the University of California system, something almost as incredible as that statement happened right here in this room. A Republican, a real life Republican agreed to come on this show. He was John Brabender, a senior strategist for the Rick Santorum campaign. Now, I say this with zero snark -- Republicans of any sustain potential in American politics never agree to come on this show. We ask and we ask and we beg. Sometimes I ask on TV thinking it will increase the leverage, but the answer is always I`d love you to but I can`t. Pencil me in a quarter after never. No. But John Brabender appeared here, a couple of times. And we had a nice civil discussion and I`m really grateful that he was here. In the face of a lot of Republican criticism for agreeing to speak with me, John Brabender deserves credit for being here. John Brabender also deserves credit for saying that if Rick Santorum really had been wrong about the whole no American history in the University of California thing then Mr. Santorum would surely admit fault. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN BRABENDER, SANTORUM CAMPAIGN: I would guess if that somebody he felt was credible gave him information that he thought was credible and he felt he misspoke, I think he would be the first person to say I was wrong and I`m going to tell you. That`s the type of person he is. MADDOW: I will follow up on you that. These are easy ones. BRABENDER: OK. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: They were easy ones. I wasn`t lying. A cursory search of the University of California system course catalog revealed that U.C. Davis alone debunks Rick Santorum. There`s lots of American history courses being taught at the University of California campuses. A further search showed that not just U.C. Davis but all of the other campuses in the U.C. system also teach American history. And we did follow up with Mr. Santorum. Today, just a few hours ago, he responded. He has sent us a note. Here`s the whole thing, quote, "Rachel, on a recent show you discussed a statement I made that American history was not being taught at a number of California state universities." It`s actually the University of California system. But you know what I mean. "You questioned the accuracy of my statement. Based upon your broadcast, I went back and reviewed the facts. It`s clear that my memory about what was taught was faulty. What I should have said was that none of the U.C. campuses teach a survey course in Western civilization. Rachel, I appreciate your efforts pointing out my misstatement and for giving me the opportunity to set the record straight. Signed, Rick Santorum." Senator, if you want to talk about this in person, you`re so welcome here any time you want. My chair is your chair, any time. The letter was polite, articulate, straightforward. It was very kind of Senator Santorum to respond. I have to also say, though, sadly, he`s still wrong. Mr. Santorum said from his note what I should have said was that none of the U.C. campuses teach a survey course in Western civilization. To the Google. This spring at the University of California-Santa Barbara, you can take Western civilization 1050 to 1715. And Western civilization 1715 to the present. At the University of California-Los Angeles, you can take introduction to Western civilization, 1715 to the present. And also, Western civilization, 843 to 1715. Also, introduction to Western Civ, ancient civilizations, pre-history to 843 A.D. At the University of California-Davis, you can take three courses on the history of Western civilization from late antiquity to the renaissance, from the renaissance to the 18th century, and from the 18th century to the present. At U.C.-Berkeley, that bastion of liberal awfulness, you will find a course in the roots of Western civilization. And then down south at U.C.- San Diego where my brother went, you may if you so chose, partake in a course titled "Foundations of Western Civilization". It took Mr. Santorum couple of weeks to write that letter to us, to write that letter claiming, no, no, what I meant was that the U.C. schools survey courses in western civ. It took us, I don`t know, 15 minutes to find all those University of California survey courses on Western civ. You can tell from the tape where Rick Santorum is saying the thing about U.C. that he is really tired and that the campaign trail is exhausting. I have empathy for the exhaustion factor and the too much going on factor affecting what people say on the campaign trail. Also, getting things wrong can be embarrassing. I know. I get stuff wrong. It doesn`t make you bad person to get stuff wrong. You just have to correct it. Particularly when you campaign for president as the person who can be trusted, you got to correct it. If at first your correction goes horribly, horribly wrong, then correct, correct, correct again. You just keep doing it until what you say seems true because we will fact check you. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There are hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars in our federal budget. And those billions fund roughly a gazillion different programs and departments, give or take, a gagillion. So, when Republicans in the House of Representatives were looking to take some dollars from a program or a department, from any program or department, when they needed money to pay for something else, from whom do you think they took the money? What`s the first place they looked? What is the first chip off the chopping block for them? That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There`s a caucus for almost everything in the United States Congress. Caucuses are the sort of small group of legislatures who meet together because they share some common, vaguely legislative interest. One of the best known caucuses for example is the Congressional Black Caucus, made up of African-American legislators in the House and the Senate. There`s also a Congressional Bike Caucus chaired by Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. There`s even a Congressional Bourbon Caucus, populated mostly by members of Congress from Kentucky. I`d prefer a rye caucus if I had a choice. Thank you. There`s all sorts of caucuses, there`s all sorts of causes inside Congress. And this week, we got word that a brand new caucus is forming in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. It`s a Republican only women`s caucus, tentatively called the Women`s Policy Committee. This is not just caucus for the ladies. It is a caucus specifically for the Republican ladies. Of course, this doesn`t arise right now as a coincidence. The Republican Party has a real image problem right now with women. There`s a yawning gap among women voters who are now skewing very heavily toward Democrats and against Republicans. And somewhat belatedly, Republicans appeared to be trying to burnish their cred among the women folk. A Republican women`s only caucus, that will do the trick. Last night, we also mentioned that the 5-year-old Republican Young Guns Caucus formed by Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, they have just unveiled a new Young Guns program for women. It`s called YG Woman Up. Yes, I don`t know. Woman up. They are proposing a slate of female Republican candidates alongside their much larger slate of male Republican candidates. So, Young Guns is proposing a vision of gender equality in congress that`s actually statistically speaking just slightly worse than the gender imbalance is now. But still, they`re doing it in pink. As the Republicans struggle to come up with ways to be more appealing to female voters, congressional Republicans at the same time are pushing back as loudly as they can, angrily even on the idea that they even need to be doing any of this. They are trying to get away from the idea that they even got a problem with women, that they have got to be trying to make go away. They don`t understand why everybody keeps saying they got this women problem. It`s just -- it`s just made up. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My friends, this supposed war on women or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric, bipartisan operatives has two purposes and both are political in their purpose and effect. The first, purely political. The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter. And the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television. I don`t believe the ludicrous, partisan posturing that has conjured up this imaginary war. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Got it. There`s no war on women. It`s imaginary. It`s totally made up. There`s not a shred of evidence to support it. Today, House Republicans decided to hold their big vote on student loans. Did you see this? They caved into the president`s pressure this week. They did a u-turn on their previous position. They agreed to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling this summer. House Republicans passed their bill today and the only real drama here, because they said they were going to do it, the only real drama was how they`re going to pay for it. What are they going to find in the budget to pay for the student loan rate extension? They decided to pay for it by repealing something called the Prevention and Public Health Fund. What does Prevention and Public Health Fund do? It provides for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer. Really you guys? Right when John McCain is giving his whole, it`s all -- you could have picked any government program out there to cut from. Anyone at all, with any sort of symbolic or real resonance whatsoever. And you picked specifically the one that caters to women`s health, you pick the ones that pays for breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings. Seriously? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is the latest plank in the so-called war on women, entirely created -- entirely created by my colleagues across the aisle for political gain. (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Aww, awww! Congressional Republicans, this is not a style issue. The whole war on women thing did not emerge from some Democratic attack machine focus group. It`s not ad hominem, baseless but alliterative political attack. This actually came from observation of what you have been doing. This is about policy. It`s about gutting women`s preventive health care in order to pay for something you didn`t want to pay for. It`s about threatening to shut down the government over federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which you did. It`s about campaigning on jobs, jobs, job, and then using your new power in Congress to launch the biggest rollback in women`s reproductive rights in a generation. Yesterday, the United States Senate passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The Violence Against Women Act -- voting against that bill were 31 Senate Republicans -- 31 Senate Republican men voted against the Violence Against Women Act. Among them proudly standing against the Women Against Violence Act was potential Republican vice presidential nominee Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio voting no on the Violence Against Women Act. I don`t know if there`s a divide here in terms the way the Democrats and Republicans think about this. When Republicans turn away from policy, they turn toward messaging. When Democrats get mired in policy, they go from policy into messaging. They try to turn whatever their policy concern into a message. The parties do it differently. It`s like looking through both side s of a telescope. In this case, the Republicans are convinced that stylistically, they are doing everything perfect about women. What they don`t understand is that the Democratic and the female critique of them on this issue comes not from something that they are pronouncing wrong, or something -- some wrong color or whether or not they say nice things about their wives. It comes from an observation of what they are doing in policy. Joining us now is Steve Kornacki. He`s a senior political writer for and an MSNBC contributor. Steve, thanks very much for joining us. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You`re welcome. MADDOW: Let`s explain this one. Congressional Republicans are accused of waging a war on women. They are very angry about this accusation. And so, let`s get rid of breast cancer and cervical cancer screening. I don`t think that Republicans are dumb. I think we have different cognitive abilities as liberals and conservatives. So, how do you defend yourself against the war in women thing, pounding the table saying you wish it to go away, and then make that decision? KORNACKI: I think not to oversimplify, but where this one stems, as you remember, the big rallying cry of Republicans when health care reform was being passed is, they didn`t read the bill. Read the bill. I don`t think the Republicans actually read the bill. You know, the giveaway on this has always been that Republicans basically took an issue of health care reform where they proposed what Obama ended upcoming with. They originally proposed it and turned on it and called it socialism. That never really made sense. So, obviously, the details of their critique of that law were never really going to make sense. So, one of the talking points to emerge from their fight against health care reform was that this preventive care money amounted to a slush fund. And it just became something that was repeated. Talk radio repeated. Blogs repeated it. There`s a slush fund in there. You know, Sebelius is going to have all that money. We`ve got to get it away from her. So, this looked like, I imagine, a good opportunity for Boehner to say, OK, I`ve got to get the conservatives to go along with kind of giving in a little bit here on an Obama goal, extending the student loans. I`ve got to sell this to the conservatives. What better to sell this to conservatives than we`re going to stick it to Obama on his slush fund. So, I think that`s where this came from. And I don`t think anybody ever really had looked at what this exactly means and everything that you just explained. I don`t think they`ve ever looked at that until right now. MADDOW: So, we end up, it`s one of those situations where if you listen to only FOX News and right wing talk radio, then you think this was totally noncontroversial decision from a conservative perspective. If you are willing to break out of that bubble you would have seen the political peril. What Republicans are outside the political bubble? What Republicans are warning these guys in these pitfalls that may lay ahead? I mean, a lot of liberals listen to conservative talk radio or watch FOX News in order to find out what the truth is on the other side, so at least they can be forewarned. A number of Democratic elected officials told me they do that, by way of apologizing that they haven`t been watching me. But it`s -- is there anybody who`s being sort of farsighted about this if only for their political benefit? KORNACKI: Well, it`s tough. First of all, when you have voices that do this usually, they are immediately ostracized and they treated as sell outs and they treated as somebody who`s for some personal reasons going over to the Democratic side and selling out the movement. And you have that risk. But then you have stories like Lisa Murkowski, the senator from Alaska, who originally, you know, who was sort of going along with there is no war on women and then she went home to Alaska, she talked to her actual constituents, she did events out there and she heard from women. And she came back sounding a very different tune. The more that happens, you know, the more I think it`s possible that they start to get this message. But the other part of it is, sometimes it just takes the sort of wander into these traps through their own obliviousness and it takes getting this blow back for it to register. You know, the comparable thing here may end being the payroll tax where Republicans started to pick a fight over how to pay for the payroll tax extension, realized because of the blowback it wasn`t a good idea, and said, we just won`t pay for it. That may be where this ends up now. But it will be interesting to see. MADDOW: On the Violence Against Women Act thing, on this what they are using to pay for the student loan thing and everything -- I have a piece of advice to Republicans who are in Congress. Go talk to Lisa Murkowski. Go talk to the Republican female senators who voted for the Violence Against Women Act. You don`t have to be persuaded by them but hear their reasoning. You`re never going to hear it from me, talk to Republican women. You might be surprised about some of the political pitfalls you can avoid. I`m just saying. Steve Kornacki, senior writer at, MSNBC analyst -- thanks for being here. KORNACKI: Sure. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. This week is a very big anniversary for a very, very big and important thing. It has pretty much gone unmentioned in the news. I have a personal connection to it. And I`m going to be talking about it here in just a moment. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Programming note, this Sunday, day after tomorrow, I will be a guest on "Meet the Press" with David Gregory on NBC. Very excited about that. I`m going to be part of a roundtable with Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, who is always a hoot, and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. Sunday morning, NBC, "Meet the Press". I`ll be there. I hope you will watch. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Imagine it`s a Wednesday afternoon. It is just after 5:00 p.m., close of the business day. You are one of thousands of people transiting through New York City`s Grand Central terminal. You were in the huge, cavernous main terminal of Grand Central and like everyone, you are looking up at the arrivals board for when your train home is due. The Harlem, Hudson, New Haven lines, the Metro North. And at 5:07 p.m. on that Wednesday, as you and a zillion other weary commuters are looking up at that board, this happens. The arrivals board taken over by a huge black banner, all of a sudden, shouting activists everywhere. It says one AIDS death every eight minutes. This is January 23rd, 1991. The United States was at that moment in the midst of going to war in Iraq and Kuwait in Gulf War I. And in Grand Central terminal, the place is just taken over. This banner mounted on balloons. It says, "Money for AIDS, not for war," goes up to the ceiling of grand central, a huge crowd of activists there. Ultimately, 263 AIDS activists would be arrested that day when they moved on marching to the headquarters of the U.N. They had marched on Wall Street that morning. The night before, the same activists has disrupted the CBS Nightly News with Dan Rather. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAN RATHER, TV ANCHOR: This is the "CBS Evening News," Dan Rather reporting. Good evening. ACTIVISTS: Fight AIDS, not Arabs! RATHER: We`re going to take a break for a commercial right now. We`ll break for commercial. Thank you very much. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: They`re saying, "Fight AIDS, not Arabs." Mr. Rather came back on camera. He apologized for the eruption in the studio and the rudeness of the protesters and he resumed his newscast talking about the Gulf War. Those same protesters also got into studios of PBS nightly newscast that night, tried to chain themselves to one of the anchors. They tried and failed to get into the NBC nightly newscast. Six months before that day, that same group of protesters had launched a massive protest at the National Institutes of Health. Watch Tom Brokaw here. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: This is a major day of protests by AIDS activists. One thousand of them converging of the National Institutes of Health outside of Washington, demanding more research on the disease. Eighty-one arrested. NBC correspondent Robert Bazell has more tonight on a group that is taking the AIDS struggle to the streets and beyond that. ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today`s demonstration is the latest of many staged by the militant group, ACT UP, which has gained increasing influence on AIDS policies. The weekly meetings of the New York chapter attract hundreds. And the closely-knit organization accounts 10,000 members nationwide. Mostly young, mostly gay. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s do a big demonstration there and keep it there. (CHEERS) BAZELL: The atmosphere at the meetings and at the group`s headquarters is characterized by enthusiasm and belligerence toward established institutions. Playwright Larry Kramer started ACT UP to accelerate the AIDS drug approval process. LARRY KRAMER, PLAYWRIGHT: What right does the FDA and NIH have to tell a dying person what to do with her or his body? BAZELL: ACT UP`s tactics are often offended. Many Catholics were angered by this demonstration at St. Patrick`s Cathedral in New York, to criticize the church`s opposition to homosexuality and communism. Sometimes the group attacks individuals. ACT UP proclaimed former New York City health commissioner Steven Joseph was more dangerous than the AIDS virus. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think their goals are the right ones and the tactics very much the wrong ones. It`s the brown shirt, storm trooper, unwillingness to see any other point of view and a willingness to condemn any other point of view as evil on it. KRAMER: I am so sick of hearing about our tactics offending people. The Vietnam War was not ended by people being nice. Nice people walk into gas chambers. BAZELL: ACT UP members do more than demonstrate. Mark Harrington has made an expert on AIDS. And he served on an NIH advisory committee, even though he helped organize today`s demonstration. MARK HARRINGTON, ACT UP: Well, I call that the inside/outside strategy that I think ACT UP does really well. BAZELL: ACT UP`s strategy has been enormously successful in getting the Food and Drug Administration to loosen new regulation of new drugs for AIDS. (on camera): Now, the activists are trying to force scientists to work faster to develop and test new treatments. In the past, scientists have strongly resisted such pressure. (voice-over): ACT UP thinks the scientists can be made to listen. Robert Bazell, NBC News, Bethesda. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: It was May of 1990, that report. Just a few months earlier, in the fall of 1989, seven members of the same protest group had chained themselves to the balcony at the New York Stock Exchange, at the opening bell. They unfurled a banner that said, "Sell Welcome." Welcome is the company that made AZT, the only real AIDS drug available at that time. Available technically at a cost of $10,000 a year in 1989 dollars. The New York Stock Exchange had trading halted that day I believe for the first time that was not due to wartime. The company drooped the price of AZT soon after the demonstration. The group that did all of this, of course, was ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. ACT UP was founded 25 years ago this week at a speech in the spring of 1987 by playwright Larry Kramer at New York Gay and Lesbian Center. The medical journals were writing about something that would later be called AIDS, killing people in ever increasing numbers as early as 1981. By the 1987, by the time ACT UP was thousands, more than 37,000 Americans had been diagnosed, more than 20,000 Americans had died. And the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, had never said the word AIDS in public -- 20,000 dead Americans, all in his time in office, before he ever said a word about it. This week, to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of ACT UP, one of the most effective activist groups in American history, long-time members of the group, some new supporters that they have gained from the Occupy protests, they marched again on Wall Street. Again, using the group`s trademark rather bad ass graphics, and demanded a less than a penny toll, essentially a tiny tax on every Wall Street financial transaction. They want it to be used to finance medication and needed services for people with AIDS and to get access -- get people access to health care. AIDS has killed more than 30 million people worldwide. Even in the United States, right now, there are thousands of HIV positive Americans on waiting lists for treatment -- on waiting lists for what are called the AIDS drug assistance programs in the states, programs that do not have enough money to get HIV treatment to Americans who need it, in this country, in 2012. With adequate treatment and health care, living with HIV can be a chronic, manageable condition now. And that`s mostly the way that we think of it in this country now, even though around the world, even here at home, not everyone is there yet and more needs to be done. But the reason AIDS can be a product manageable condition, the reason it`s possible to imagine it ending, the reason ending it is within even reach now, in significant part is due to a very radical group called ACT UP, which I belonged to a big defining chunk of my life before I was ever in media, and which has a deserved place in American history that a lot of people will try to ensure never gets told, that it will be told. Happy 25th birthday, ACT UP. You set out really aggressively and controversially to change the world and you change the world. That does it for us tonight, which is good, because are you totally late for prison. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END