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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/07/12

Guests: Evan Wolfson, Betsey Stevenson, Nan Aron

CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks so much. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour -- as you can tell, Rachel is off tonight. All right. When you appear as a guest on a Sunday show, and that includes my own, as a news maker, which is a term of art in the industry for people like the Senate majority leader, the governor of New York, or the vice president of the United States -- ironically, your job as a newsmaker is to not make news. Making news is media jargon for saying something you haven`t said before. In other words, your mission is to go on those shows and only use words in combinations identical to or similar to combinations you have previously deployed. Otherwise, you commit the sin of making news. In fact, one of the Obama administration`s favorite rhetorical strategies for escaping a question is to get very meta and actually come out and say, I`m not going to make news. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Andrea, I`m not going to make news on the president`s beliefs on gay marriage today. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m not going to make news here, Wolf. I`m not going to make news on that today. Good try, though. ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have almost all the confidence in the world that whatever I say is not going to make the news tonight. (END VIDEO CLIPS) HAYES: Vice President Joe Biden is the rare newsmaker who seems to relish in making news. And so, here he was on "Meet the Press" yesterday asked about his position on gay marriage, and here`s what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: The president has said that his views on gay marriage, same-sex marriage, have evolved but he`s opposed to it, you`re opposed to it. Have your views evolved? JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just think that the good news is, as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about is a simple proposition, who do you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person you love? And that`s what people are finding out is what all marriages at their root are about, whether they`re marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals. GREGORY: Is that what you believe? BIDEN: That`s what I believe. GREGORY: You`re comfortable with same-sex marriage now? BIDEN: I -- look, I am vice president of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties, and quite frankly, I don`t see much of a distinction beyond that. GREGORY: In a second term will this administration come out behind same-sex marriage? The institution of marriage? BIDEN: I can`t speak to that. I don`t know the answer to that. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: You can sort of see in Vice President Biden`s response there in the end to the question of theoretical second term policymaking that he thinks he might have gone too far. Perhaps somewhat predictably, minutes after the vice president`s remarks on Sunday, senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod tweeted, "What V.P. said that all married couples should have the same rights is precisely POTUS` position." Which is not exactly true. Vice President Biden didn`t just say that gay couples should have the same rights as straight couples. He said they should be able to get married. But the reason the Obama campaign was in a rush to assure everyone that news was not made after all was because the president famously is not a supporter of freedom to marry. Despite a 1996 candidate survey he answered saying he did support gay marriage rights, the president`s position in recent years has been to support civil unions only. Not actual equality, not gay marriage rights. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, my feelings with this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. My baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think that`s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think this is something we`re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: That position increasingly puts the president at odds not just with the base of his party, not just with Democrats more broadly, but with the American public. That blue line, the one that`s going up, up, up -- it`s moving away from the president`s current stated position on this issue. So, it`s something of an awkward issue for the Obama administration. And it explains why the walk back has not been a straightforward Joe Biden misspoke kind of walk back, but rather an attempt at blurring the line between what Joe Biden said Sunday and what the president has been saying for years and years. That strategy was undermined today when another member of the administration, Education Secretary Arne Duncan set forth and made news on gay marriage again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a little ice breaker, Mr. Secretary. We`re going to go through the whole cabinet. Do you believe that same sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, come on. You`re going to start there? ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Yes, I do. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever said that publicly before? DUNCAN: I don`t know if I`ve ever been asked publicly. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made news. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: That was Sam Stein of "The Huffington Post" pointing out in the end there saying we made news, because Same Stein knows when news is made. In fact, that`s the job at "The Huffington Post." But the real news isn`t the personal feelings of Joe Biden, or the personal feelings of Arne Duncan, or even the personal feelings of the president of the United States. The real news is the growing momentum behind an effort to put a plank supporting marriage equality into the Democratic Party platform this year. If you were to poll the delegates of the Democratic convention, such a plank would almost certainly win by a landslide. A group called Freedom to Marry has penned an open letter and started a petition calling for such a plank. Eleven state party chairs, including the state party chairs in Texas and Kansas, have signed on to that petition. The Texas Democratic Party chair saying, quote, "In Texas, we love all our families. We know to build a strong Democratic Party and a strong Texas, we must honor the core principles of our party and champion the full human rights of every citizen." Four former heads of the DNC have also signed on to the effort and so have more than 40 elected officials, including the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado. And so has the man who is actually chairing the Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, which means there`s really only one thing that seems like it could block official Democratic Party support for marriage equality. In the modern era, party platforms are more or less unofficially handed down by Fiat by the nominee. There are very few platform fights. The context for Joe Biden`s and Arne Duncan`s comments is that with very little notice and fanfare, the Democratic Party now appears to be on a collision course toward a platform fight. The kind of platform fight you rarely see anymore, the kind of platform fight that would be distracting and possibly embarrassing for the president of the United States. If the president wants to maintain his current position on this issue and keep the party platform in line with him, he would essentially have to go to the mat on this. We`d have to use precious political capital to tamp down the civil rights aspirations of key constituency and fight against the stated preferences of the House minority leader, 11 state chairs, four former DNC chairs, the current chair of the convention, and, it appears, his own vice president. Joining us is Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry Campaign. They`re the masterminds behind the petition I just mentioned. It`s great to have you here, Evan. EVAN WOLFSON, FREEDOM TO MARRY PRESIDENT: Great to be with you, Chris. HAYES: I guess, first, I want to get your thoughts on the vice president`s comments on Sunday and then Arne Duncan`s comments on Monday. There was part of me when I heard about the comments on "Meet the Press" before I actually saw it, that maybe this is a calculated approach in which they will have people close to the president essentially endorse full marriage equality, full freedom to marry, and that will seek to satiate the thirst for justice in that community. Then I watched the tape and thought, no, Joe Biden was just sort of speaking what he meant. What is your take on this? WOLFSON: Yes. Well, I`ve known Joe Biden, Vice President Biden, since I interned for him in the Senate in 1976. I saw him on TV like I think viewer did, speaking from the heart, speaking in real passionate and personal terms. He told the story of going into a gay couple`s home and seeing the love in their kids` eyes for their parents. And talking about the families he`s met and how he`s thought about his own values of the Golden Rule and treating others as he wants his family to be treated, and opening his heart and changing his mind. That`s the very same journey that so many Americans have been on, as you just described. I think it was sincere and very much what believes and it is what a majority of the Democrats believe. It`s what a majority of independents believe. It`s what a majority of Catholics believe, and it`s what a majority of Americans believe. HAYES: Why now are you pursuing this strategic objective of getting an official platform plank in the party? Why this year? Why now and what do you think your prospects are for victory? WOLFSON: Well, because it`s important that the party as it does every four years put forward its vision for what the country ought to look like, and the Democratic Party`s vision is much for fighting for families, fighting for fairness, fighting for inclusion. Those are some of the noblest moments in the party`s history. It`s where the party is. It`s where the party wants to take the country. And they should say so. It`s an opportunity to have this conversation. HAYES: Let`s put aside any moral concerns and speak purely as if you and I are paid political hacks and our job purely is to get someone elected regardless of what the moral arguments are. WOLFSON: Right. HAYES: I could see myself advising a politician in the president`s position saying, look, there`s some downside risk if you enforce this and not a lot of upside. The people that the Evan Wolfsons of the world are probably going to vote for you, the people that care about this issue are probably going to vote for you. You risk alienating people who are maybe on the fence by coming out strongly in this. And if I were advising him, I would say, let`s find a way to make this go away. Is that compelling? Are you creating a political problem for a president that I think you would say that you broadly support? WOLFSON: Yes. Well, first of all -- let`s be clear, as today showed, the only way to make this two away is for the president to be forthright in his support for the freedom of marry and the be able to continue talking about the bigger, broader things that he wants to discuss with the American people, the things we all care about, jobs and security and education and so on. But until he does, there were always be the next question and the next regaling, and the next wondering what about this, what about that? And I actually think the political analysis is exactly the opposite. Happily for the president, doing the right thing is also doing the right thing politically. The people who are going to vote for president based on opposition to the freedom to marry are such a small number and will never be for this president because he`s never going to be anti-gay enough to satisfy that small slice. But by contrast, the people the president needs to get elected, the people who want to be with him want him to be where they are. That`s for the freedom to marry. And again it`s not just Democrats. It`s not just young people. It`s independents. HAYES: The president has used this term evolving. It`s been in some sense as the talking point that`s used to describe his position on this specific issue, talking broadly about rights for LBGT folks. There is the 1996 candidate survey which his staff said he meant to say civil unions or meant to talk about civil unions. Some people say it looks as if he`s moved in opposite direction as public opinion. In 1996, he was in favor of this then he was not. How do you understood that word evolving? What do you hear when you hear the president say that word? WOLFSON: Well, what I hear on the one hand is a fair reflection of a journey so many Americans have taken. People have wrestled with this as the president said. People have taken in new information and learned about gay families and why marriage matters and thought about what the vice president said -- love and loyalty to the person you love and added that up and said, you know what, it`s wrong to deny this to these couples. And so many Americans like the vice president have evolved in the way he described. But, you know, evolving is not evolved. And evolved is not evade. HAYES: Right. WOLFSON: And so at some point, there comes a time where even people who may not really care that much or may not be for the freedom to marry don`t want to see in-authenticity. They don`t want to see a president that seems to be on the advice of political operatives or otherwise holding back or dancing. They want to see a president lead. And this president has taken so many important pro-gay, pro-equality, pro-marriage steps of really truly historic magnitude that he`s very little to lose and a lot to gain by completing the journey and being authentic. HAYES: Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry -- thanks so much for your time tonight. Really appreciate it. WOLFSON: Good to be with you. HAYES: The Republicans are dedicated to bringing Europe`s misery to our shores. Europe`s voters have a message for them. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: David Vitter may be known as the gentleman from Louisiana with the sex worker line item on his curriculum, go ahead. You can Google it. The senator`s dangerous obstructionist games may prove to be the difference in President Obama`s re-election chances. The economy, the recovery and David Vitter -- still ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Check this out. This was the scene last night in Paris, France. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) HAYES: Tens of thousands of French citizens gathered into Bastille Square last night. They belted out the French national anthem in unison to celebrate this, the election of a new French president. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) HAYES: That animation is so awesome. The new president`s name is Francois Hollande. Mr. Hollande, who defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in a runoff last night, ran on a platform of reducing France`s reliance on nuclear power, getting French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, support for same-sex marriage and, most importantly, ending France`s experiment with austerity. As the dramatic budget cuts, huge cuts in government spending as a means of boosting the economy. Yesterday was a bad day for austerity around the world. In addition to France ,voters in Greece also threw out a number of politicians who are pushing for more austerity there. In the four years since the Great Recession through threw the whole world off its economic axis, there`s been a grand experiment under way. Do you rescue your nation`s economy through austerity or do you respond by actually increasing government spending, by injecting stimulus into your ailing economy? In broad strokes, the United States and President Obama have chosen stimulus while Europe has chosen austerity. And austerity has turned out to be mighty unpopular. It`s not just the French and Greeks who are now rebelling against austerity measures at the polls. Last month, the Dutch government collapsed entirely over a backlash in the Netherlands over austerity measures. This was the scene last week in Spain. Thousands of demonstrators took to the street to protest against the Spanish`s government insistence on austerity. And British Prime Minister David Cameron who has been the poster boy for austerity saw his party clobbered in local elections last week. Austerity has proved to be massively unpopular across Europe. And it`s not just because it brought with it predictably popular cuts in government services. It`s because it hasn`t seemed to work to get the economy going again. Two years after the election of David Cameron, the UK has slid back into recession. It`s the U.K.`s first double dip recession since the 1970s. This is what`s happened to the U.S. economy and the economy of the U.K since the Great Recession struck. As you can see there, both economies cratered in 2008. Since then the U.K. instituted harsh austerity measures and here`s what happened there. Their economy recovered initially, but it has since taken a turn for the worse. The United States rejected austerity measures and instead opted for a government stimulus package and this was the result -- growth. Slow and at times uneven growth, but growth nonetheless. The U.S. has so far managed to avoid the sort of double dip recession the U.K. is experiencing now. It`s been the same story throughout much of Europe as stimulus measures have jumped started the U.S. economy, eurozone countries which have adopted austerity measures have seen their economies recover at first and then drop off. Here in the U.S., there`s even evidence now that less austerity could have actually improved the economy even more. This graph was posted by Justin Lahart of "the Wall Street Journal" today. It shows that if the federal government had spent money to keep government workers rather than lay them off, the unemployment rate would be somewhere around 7.2 percent instead of 8.1 percent. And yet, in the face of all of this evidence, we are now in the precarious situation in this country where one of the two major political parties is unwaveringly zealously committed to austerity -- massive cut, massive cuts in government spending, a rejection of any government administered stimulus for the economy, precisely the sort of policies that have failed in Europe so far. We have one major party in this country committed to bringing Europe`s misery to our shores and ironically, it`s the party usually busy demonizing everything about Europe. There is, however, one last small glimmering hope to escape the straitjacket of austerity in this country. And you`ll be shocked to learn the not so secret story of how Republicans are cinching the belt on that one, too. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Louisiana Republican David Vitter is a very -- how should I put this -- he`s a very holdy kind of guy. Under Senate rules, a single senator like David Vitter can hold back the nomination indefinitely of almost anyone for almost any reason. It`s a crazy rule, but there it is. This is one main ways David Vitter makes headlines back home, actually. In 2010, the Louisiana Republican blocked a string of nominees by President Obama for positions in the criminal justice system. In 2011, Senator Vitter put a hold on president`s pick for a position in the Department of Interior. This year, in January, a nominee held by Senator Vitter gave up. He waited more than a year to be considered as chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Today, Senator Vitter is back in the news with a pair of new holds for positions that are to the general public slightly obscure but are also probably the two single most important, unfilled positions in the entire country. I really mean that, nothing less than economic recovery and the president`s election chances rest on that. The two men, Jerome Powell and Jeremy Stein are nominated to serve on the Federal Reserve board of governors and Vitter explained his rationale for blocking them this way. "I refuse to provide Chairman Bernanke with two more rubber stamps who approve of the Fed`s activist policies." This quote is a breathtaking statement for a few reasons. One, Vitter is not saying anything about the nominee`s qualifications but simply where their policy preferences might lie. This is all the more remarkable because one economist is a Republican. Economist Justin Wolfer commented today on Twitter, quote, "I don`t know a single economist left or right who thinks putting a hold on Stein and Powell is a good idea. I bet you can`t find one." He then followed up, quote, "Literally, every Republican economist I`ve talked to thinks Stein would make a fantastic Fed governor. I agree." Which brings us to the second remarkable thing about Vitter`s quote, which is that he`s accusing Ben Bernanke, a former Bush White House economic adviser, it registered Republican and a man originally appointed to the Fed by W., himself, of being some kind of wild-eyed activist liberal. And third, Vitter is saying though not quite in these words, he opposes any effort to grow the economy. He opposes any effort to bring down unemployment. He`s saying in that quote and showing in his actions that he wants the economy to grind to a halt. He wants it to die. Because there are two strategies basically the government -- the federal government can use to help in times of economic collapse. The first is for the government to step in and spend money to build roads and bridges and so on. During the Great Recession, President Obama asked Congress for almost $800 billion in stimulus spending -- a large amount but an amount that was probably too small. Still, consider this chart. You can see the Obama stimulus kicks in and then new claims for jobless benefits start falling. The government starts spending and fewer people get laid off. The correlation is pretty direct -- government spending props up the economy while the private sector recovers. The other way government can help is the way conservatives have tended to favor and that`s through the Federal Reserve. Until his death a few years ago, conservative economist Milton Friedman preached a gospel of monetary policy overall-ish. The idea was that the Federal Reserve can help a floundering economy by making money cheaper to borrow. If you can borrow money at a lower interest rate, you`re more likely to buy a house, or buy a car or start a business. Milton Friedman`s idea was that the Federal Reserve should take action during crises to make sure the supply of money expands as much as the economy needs to grow. Friedman served as an adviser to President Reagan who considered him a hero of free enterprise, and American prosperity and he was also a hero to Ben Bernanke, whose academic work builds off of Friedman`s. Many people think Bernanke privately wants the Fed to be more aggressive about putting more money into the economy, especially as unemployment remains so stubbornly high. But he needs allies on the Fed to make that happen. It is one glimmer of hope that someone, anyone, will join him and do something to hurry up with job creation rather than watch the labor market slowly burn. And it is that glimmer of hope that David Vitter wants to stamp out. Joining is Betsey Stevenson, an economist and professor with the Wharton School and Princeton, a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the National Bureau of Economic research, and former chief economist for the Department of Labor -- I think I have gotten your full C.V. into that intro. Dr. Stevenson, great to have you here tonight. BETSEY STEVENSON, PRINCETON ECONOMICS PROFESSOR: Great to be here. HAYES: What is the effect of these vacancies on the Federal Reserve going unfilled? STEVENSON: Well, let`s think about how the FOMC works. There are supposed to be 12 voting members. Seven of them should be governors. And that actually means democratically-appointed through Congress approval members. And then five of them represent the 12 Federal Reserve banks, and those bank presidents actually get chosen by the individual bank boards. And so, what we have right now is instead of situation of five governors and five bank presidents and two empty slots. So, first of all, what we have is just, we still have the same amount of work that has to get done. And now, it`s falling on the shoulders of 10 people instead of 12. HAYES: And also, what you`re saying the center of gravity is tipped in an anti-democratic direction by the vacancies basically. STEVENSON: Yes, it`s absolutely right. HAYES: That it`s local bank presidents essentially who are helping drive the policy. And when Ben Bernanke goes to this committee, of the FOMC, the Open Market Committee, they`re the ones, together with the chairman, Ben Bernanke, who say, basically -- to oversimplify it: we`re going to put more money into the economy. We`re going to keep thing where they are. We`re going to take things out of the economy. And there`s been kind of a battle, right, on this committee brewing over what`s the best path forward? STEVENSON: There`s definitely been a battle over thinking about, first of all, I think there`s two issues. One is how much of our current downturn is still due to a shortfall in aggregate demand and therefore very easily impacted by accommodated monetary policy. And then second of all, you know, we really have a hard time forecasting where the economy is going in the future. So, when they`re trying to think about -- well, how much accommodation do we need? They need to say what do we think GDP is going to be next year, or what do we think unemployment is going to be next year? And the question is, how much are we willing to risk overshooting on inflation in order to balance that risk with, you know, not overshooting on unemployment? HAYES: Right. STEVENSON: And I think people have different tolerance levels. How much inflation risk will you tolerate? And there are folks out there who want to tolerate zero. And those are folks who want to get rid of the dual mandate. They do not want the Federal Reserve board to care about unemployment. They want the board to only care about inflation. HAYES: Yes, let me briefly translate that a little bit because this stuff can get sort of jargony. Basically, the Fed has two jobs which is the dual mandate, right? They`re supposed to reduce unemployment and they`re supposed to also make sure we don`t get a ton of inflation. And there`s a tension between those two because you have to trade off between the two of them. Right now, they`re sitting there as unemployment is very high and inflation is very low, right? And so, the obvious thing, as an amateur, not an economist, myself, but people who are watching this happen, say, look, we have very high unemployment. It`s higher than it`s been in a generation. We have long term unemployment that has tons of people sitting on the sideline on the labor force, the Fed should be doing so much more to get that unemployment down. And there are still people on the Federal Reserve board who are saying, nope, nope, sorry, we`ve done all we can do, this is basically it, right? That is essentially the status quo right now? STEVENSON: I think, yes, that`s exactly right. But I do want to emphasize, you know, I have no idea what Jeremy Stein or J. Powell, what these guys would do. Are they going to be hawkish or dovish? Are they going to vote for more accommodative monetary policy? I don`t know. What I do know is they`re incredibly skilled and that they know the financial system in and out. And they`re going to bring good decision making and strong analytic skills to the board of governors. And that`s what we`re crowding out. You know, Peter Diamond in his complaints about not being appointed said we were drowning out skilled analytic thinking in favor of partisan politics instead. And that`s a mistake for running our monetary policy. HAYES: Yes, Peter Diamond was a Nobel Prize winning economist who was blocked by Republicans and did not make the cut for reasons one imagines similar to the reasons these economists are being blocked. STEVENSON: But actually, you know, Peter Diamond didn`t make the cut because he showed in his research that he cared an thought about unemployment. And so, that was a big no-no. You know, these guys they are blocking now, they`re financial market guys. HAYES: Right. STEVENSON: They are not guys who have shown they care or think about unemployment. I`m not criticizing them. I`m just saying that, you know, we understood -- the constraints were understood. And what the -- you know, the administration chose people to nominate that really you shouldn`t be able to protest against. And that`s what Justin Wolfer`s tweet was all about. These guys are just straight up thinkers. They served under both -- Jeremy Stein served under both administrations. J. Powell`s a Republican. HAYES: Right. STEVENSON: I mean, they`re technocrats who know the financial system. To put a hold on them is absurd. HAYES: Yes, we have seen an evolution similar to what we`ve seen in judicial nominees, which is that the boundary of what is the threshold of acceptability. That first if, you know, you show you`re a liberal, then you`re out. Now, you can`t just be a moderate, you have to show you have conservative bona fides. And so, we`re ending up in this position similar to what we`re seeing in judicial nominees where we have this dysfunction born of reckless holds left and right. Betty Stevenson, economist and professor at Princeton and Wharton -- thank you so much in sharing your considerable smarts with us tonight. It`s a treat. STEVENSON: It`s great to talk with you. HAYES: So, as I said, if you like the run out the clock game of obstruction Republicans are playing with the Fed, then you`ll love what they are pulling in our court system. It`s officially empirically worse than it`s been in a very long time. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: The Mitt Romney campaign had to put out this statement today which is pretty strange considering Romney is the presumptive nominee. Quote, "Governor Romney has a lot of respect for Dr. Paul," that`s Ron Paul, of course, "and the energy his supporters bring to the process. We look forward to working together to help Mitt Romney defeat President Obama this fall. As for individual state conventions, make no mistake the Tampa convention will nominate Mitt Romney and it will be his convention." Think about this -- Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee, the guy who racked up those primary wins, thinks we need to be reminded he will in fact be nominated at his party`s convention. The reason is headlines like these. Ron Paul wins majority of Nevada delegates with Romney all but the nominee, Ron Paul snags delegate majority at Maine`s GOP convention. If this sounds like news, you`re not wrong because Mitt Romney already "won", in quotation marks, those contests earlier this year. Back in February, he won the Nevada caucus and Maine straw poll. In Nevada, Romney got 50 percent of the vote, Ron Paul got 19 percent. But when Nevada sends 28 delegates to the party convention this summer, at least 22 supporters, because this weekend, Ron Paul supporters took over the Nevada County Republican conventions. Now, the Nevada delegates are bound to the results from the February caucus which means they have to vote for Romney even though they are Paul supporters. That holds for the first round of voting. If Mitt Romney doesn`t secure the nomination on the first ballot, those delegates are then free to vote for whoever they darn well please. And we already know that at least 22 of them darn well please Ron Paul. In Maine`s February straw poll, Romney got 39 percent to Ron Paul`s 35 percent. When Maine sends its 24 delegates to the convention, 21 will be Ron Paul supporters. Because Maine`s February vote will be nonbinding, those 21 delegates get to vote for Ron Paul in Tampa. In other words, Ron Paul just won Maine. He won Maine using the delegate strategy our own Anthony Terrell said he`d use on the night of the Maine caucus. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANTHONY TERRELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The real race is in delegates. That`s where the Ron Paul camp thinks they`re going to win, with the delegates. And so, some of the volunteers at the couple other places I was at today were handing out sheets of paper explaining to supporters how they could become a delegate. So, it`s not just about the initial vote for the candidate. It`s about sticking around and becoming a delegate to go on further and to vote for Ron Paul at the county convention and at the state convention as well. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: These victories in Nevada and Maine are not unique. Last month Ron Paul supporters took over the Louisiana caucuses, netting Paul almost as many delegates as Romney won in the state`s primary the month before. In Massachusetts, Ron Paul delegates were overwhelmingly elected over Mitt Romney`s. Ron Paul supporters got a Ron Paul supporter elected as state party chair in Alaska. Paul supporters have also secured him half the delegates in Iowa. And more than half the delegates in Minnesota and Washington state. All told, Ron Paul and his supporters have had victories in Nevada, Maine, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Washington. That`s eight states. No. He is not going to secure the Republican nomination. But he and his supporters now have a foot securely in the door of the Republican convention. The question is: will Mitt Romney trip over it? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Tonight, the United States senate voted three new judges to the federal bench. Testimony votes weren`t close. By a final vote of 91-3. Jacqueline Nguyen will be the first Vietnamese-American federal appeal court judge. She`ll be on the ninth circuit court of appeals out west. John Z. Lee will preside in a district court seat in Illinois. He was approved tonight by a voice vote. And Kristine G. Baker was confirmed also by a voice vote for district court seat in Arkansas. There was no controversy in getting these nominations out of the Senate Judiciary Committee either, which voted unanimously on all three nominations. So, unanimous votes in the judiciary committee and overwhelming vote before the full Senate tonight. Easy, right? Well, no, not at all. This undeniably uncontroversial thing the senators did tonight, confirming highly qualified nominees to the federal bench is perhaps the most difficult thing to get done in the current United States Senate. In fact, tonight`s vote only came about as the result of a deal Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid struck back in march. He agreed to hold a debate on a Republican bill to cut business regulations in order to get Republicans to agree in turn to vote on at least two judicial nominations a week. That deal runs out today. Which means we`ll be back to the broken status quo, a status quo rendered in shocking detail in a new report released today. This morning, "The alliance your justice" released their findings of how dysfunctional the Senate has become on judicial appoints. Judicial vacancies are nearly double what they were at this point in the George W. Bush administration. Nearly one out of ten federal judgeships are empty. And that is simply not supposed to be the case this far into a president`s first term. In President Clinton`s first term, vacancies on the federal bench declined by more than half, by 57 percent. In President Bush`s first term, they decline by even more than that. They were down by 60 percent. But at this point in the Obama presidency, current vacancies on the bench have gone up, not down. And they`ve risen by an astonishing 43 percent. I think this bears repeating. At this point in Clinton`s presidency, judicial vacancies had declined 57 percent. At this point in Bush`s presidency, they`ve declined 60 percent. At this point in the Obama administration, vacancies have increased by 43 percent. In other words, this isn`t just run of mill politics and not a case of everybody does it. Things aren`t just bad, they are historically bad. There are consequences for that. Two of the confirmations were for district court seats, district courts being where the bulk of federal law takes place. Majority of federal cases are filed in district courts where they appear on the dockets of judges like John Z. Lee and Kristine G. Baker. Leave enough of those seats empty and that creates judicial emergencies where basically there aren`t enough judges to keep up with heavy workload. At the beginning of Obama`s presidency, there were 20 judicial emergencies. There are now 34. That`s an increase of 70 percent. Somewhat remarkably, the Republicans have through sheer implacable will and repetition converted extraordinary obstruction into something ordinary and routine. And so, a vicious cycle sets in which the press no longer covers what`s happening because no one think its news. Republicans block judicial nominees as much a dog bites man story as exists. My next guest is trying to frantically get the media to see this for what it is -- an unprecedented crisis. Joining me is now Nan Aron. She the president for the Alliance for Justice, as well as a lawyer, specializing in public interests law. Nan, thanks for being here. NAN ARON, ALLIANCE FOR JUSTICE: Thank you so much for having me. It`s a treat. HAYES: Nan, the report is, I will say, I will admit, myself, to finding myself thinking, well, this is run of the mill and we`ve had these oscillating periods in which one party is controlling a Senate and one party`s controlling the White House and they try to do what they can. What makes this period different? Why is it so much different than the first three years or first 3 1/2 years of Clinton and Bush? ARON: What makes it so different is that Republicans are engaging in an unprecedented level of obstructionism. It`s pure politics. Even nominees who they support, they`re actually blocking and preventing votes on. So, today, if you look at those 14 nominees who were confirmed over the pass several weeks, we see that all of those nominees were pending on the floor last year. That just tells you how far back this Senate is. There was a meeting today at the White House. I was gratified to see so many activists from around the country who were involved in judicial nominations essentially there to ask the White House to press for the confirmation of judges, as well as put names for all of these vacancies in the pipeline before the end of the year. HAYES: Well, what, how -- if it`s just a matter of the Republicans being unprecedented in the way they`ve gone about this, what does that mean? I mean, why -- what are the tools they are using and why would they do something like block nominees they support? ARON: Oh, they block nominees for the main reason of leaving as many vacancies on the bench with the hope that a future Republican Party will come in and fill them. We saw this with the -- at the end of the Clinton administration, there were 61 nominees who never got a vote. George W. Bush came into office and all those vacancies were filled. And on top of other vacancies that had recently been completed. So, this is a very well orchestrated strategy on the part of Republicans to play politics. HAYES: Why do -- why are the Republicans more effective at this than Democrats? Why is it the case they`re better at blocking judicial nominees and stonewalling and using all these tactics than Democrats seem to be? ARON: I think we`ve seen going back to 1954 with Brown versus Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade, a very organized right wing constituency of the Republican Party that cares passionately about the courts and they are joined in their passion by Republican senators. But I should say that today, I was really pleased to see so many activists and a White House pledging to press ahead despite Republican filibusters which of course we`ll see. Press ahead for the confirmation. I think it`s an awakening on the part of progressives, as well as the White House that this is really important. HAYES: What does that mean, though? That word press ahead sounds disconcertingly vague to me, because if they are using procedural obstacles that are not violations of the rules, they are in the rules, they`re just using them to their effect, what does press ahead look like? How to you force the issue? ARON: Press ahead means that in the wake of what Republicans will claim is a slowdown or what should be a slowdown in an election year of Senate confirmations. This White House is going to aggressively work for the confirmation of judicial nominees despite Republicans` best efforts to curtail these votes or simply eliminate these votes. And that was very good to hear, actually. HAYES: What does that mean? Work for? If they can block them, right? If it has now become the case you need to get above 60 percent to essentially put an end to whatever techniques they`re using, to stall and to obstruct, and you don`t have those 60 votes, what does pressing ahead, what do you do? Do you put just political pressure on them? Is it just a matter of the president taking the Rose Garden and for Democratic lawmakers to make this an issue that`s at the top of the priority? ARON: I think pressing ahead is a few things. One, it`s the president talking about judges and talking about why courts matter. It`s activists lobbying and pressuring home state senators to push for votes. It`s individuals pressing for Harry Reid to call up these votes. After all, we`ve got now 19 nominees pending on the Senate floor. We`re calling on the Majority Leader Reid, to immediately begin to schedule votes on each and every of these nominees as well as future nominees that are pending. HAYES: Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, with great new report out today. You can check it out at their Web site. Many thanks for your time tonight. ARON: Thanks so much, Chris. MADDOW: Right after this show on "THE LAST WORD," how Chris Christie`s vice presidential prospects compare to Joe DiMaggio. Lawrence O`Donnell solves that one, next. Don`t miss that. And here, a rocker who sticks it to the man. It`s the best new thing in the world. Watch and learn, Ted Nugent. That`s up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Amanda Palmer is a rock star. She fronted the excellent Dresden Dolls, has played sold out venues around the world and gave herself a bold middle name that you can Google but I cannot say. She`s also done something that`s the best new thing in the world today. She has turned the model of the music business upside down. To put out a record, it has always been a band or performer needed a record company which would front the money for the production of the record and would distribute the record and market it. Amanda Palmer is over that. A few days ago,, Amanda Palmer solicited money for her next project, a record, part book, and tour. In return, she offered C.D. downloads, sign books and art openings depending on what you donated. Her goal was $100,000. She beat that in seven hours. In less than a week, she`s raised almost $600,000 for her new project. At the same time, she has started the Loan Spark collective, another crowd funding apparatus. She say she will repay any loan within 18 months, but rather than pay interest, she will donate her skills to the charity of the donor`s choice on top of the repayment of capital. So, what does all this mean? Well, it means that Amanda Palmer has a lot of very devoted fans. It means she had the -- whatever you want to call it, to use the power she has earned in the exact way she wanted to. It means the bureaucracy and profiteering that used to live in between producers of stuff and consumers of that stuff has at least in Amanda Palmer`s world, been eliminated. In creating a new economically viable mode of cultural production is the best new thing in the world today. That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back tomorrow. You can catch my show "UP" weekend mornings at 8:00. And follow me on Twitter @ChrisLHayes. Right now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Thank you so much. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END