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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/15/12

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Glenn Greenwald

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening and thanks, man. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. It`s happening again. We are embarking on another one of those national experiments in which everybody who watches conservative media, everybody who gets their TV news from the FOX News Channel, everybody who lives only on the right side of the dial, is about to start talking about things in our country in a way that makes no sense to anybody who does not watch FOX News. It`s happening again. Just like they did with ACORN, just like they did with the New Black Panther Party. Just like they did with the fake Sting videos about that guy who didn`t actually wear a pimp suit into Planned Parenthood. Just like they did with the Van Jones panic and the Shirley Sherrod panic and all these other stories that were not actual news but which FOX News hyped for its audience until they became the most important stories in the country for their own audience even as nobody else watching any other source of non-right wing news had any idea what they were talking about. That is happening again. What they`re doing this time is that they are trying to take us on a new national trip like they`ve done before, but the new one involves accusing President Obama of terrorism. The president is a terrorist. They say he is a political terrorist, and not just -- they`re not just saying this on sometimes wacky FOX News Web site, but they are saying this on their primetime programming. This is their wacky Web site reporting on what`s been happening on their primetime programming. This is Frank Van Der Sloot. He`s the national finance co-chair for the Mitt Romney for President campaign. He`s one of Mitt Romney`s gazillionaire campaign donors. Mr. Van Der Sloot is the CEO of an Idaho based company. He has been politically active particularly on issues surrounding gay rights in Idaho over the years. And he has not been on the pro-gay rights side of those matters. We`ve reported on Mr. Van Der Sloot and his political activities on this show twice. Once in February and once again earlier this month. Mr. Van Der Sloot is now the star of the new FOX News hyped alternate reality conservative media scandal that makes sense to nobody outside the conservative media sphere. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: CEO of a health related company says his business being attacked after he donated money to the Romney campaign. NEIL CAVUTO, FBN ANCHOR: He gave $1 million to a Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney and soon after found himself listed on an Obama campaign Web site. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The campaign posted a Web site with the names of private citizens who gave big money to support Mitt Romney and described those donors in less than flattering terms. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Flashing red sirens. FOX News -- alert. Private citizens, if you donate to the Mitt Romney campaign, the president of the United States is coming after you. To be clear, what FOX News is talking about here is a blog item posted on April 20th at a Web site called, which is part of the Obama campaign. The item profiles a number of the gazillionaires who are bankrolling Mitt Romney`s effort to become president. In this post- Citizens United world that we are all living in where donors can give infinitely. Frankly getting to know your presidential candidate means getting to know their gazillionaire donors. And in Mitt Romney`s case, among those donors is Frank Van Der Sloot, and he is not just a campaign donor, he is a campaign official. He`s the national finance co-chair of Mitt Romney`s presidential campaign. So he`s not a random private citizen being dragged into the public arena. He`s already in the public arena. He put himself there. He is a campaign official. And so his politics are totally germane to understanding the politics of the campaign. The campaign of which he is an official. Still, though, it is palpable. FOX News is so excited to have a possible new Barack Obama scandal to talk about that in some cases it seems like they have just rushed to get the story on to the air before even they totally understand it. Before even they have figured out the basic facts of their supposed scandal. Case in point. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O`REILLY: So I want to -- I want the folks to know how intense this became for you. You`re a big Obama fundraiser out in Idaho, correct? FRANK VAN DER SLOOT, CEO OF MELALEUCA: Romney. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Right, right. You`re a Romney supporter. It`s Obama who`s the bad guy. Right, got it, OK. Frank Van Der Sloot, as you just saw there, appearing with FOX News`s Bill O`Reilly last night. This is one of five segments Mr. Van Der Sloot has done on FOX in this little flurry of attention so far, just in the past few days. But last night with Mr. O`Reilly he explained how this one blog post about him as a Romney campaign official, he explained to Mr. O`Reilly how this has essentially ruined his life and his business. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O`REILLY: Did it impact your business directly? VAN DER SLOOT: Well, it did right away. The first day phone calls started coming in, we had customers who said they wanted to cancel and people -- (CROSSTALK) O`REILLY: Because you were a mean guy, you`re a rat, they wanted to cancel because you`re just a lousy guy, they read that on the Net. VAN DER SLOOT: Well, they hit me first with -- they said that I hated gay people and I was anti-gay which -- O`REILLY: You`re anti-guy. So anybody who was buying your products that were gay said I`m not going to buy products from this guy. VAN DER SLOOT: We have a lot of people we work with and deal within the business -- O`REILLY: Right. So they basically slimed you. They smeared you. VAN DER SLOOT: They did. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: They slimed you, as if you were anti-gay. They made that up out of whole cloth. Why would they say this untrue thing about you? It`s not really a rhetorical question. That is a question with an answer which Mr. O`Reilly had up his fingertips, in the form of transcripts from his own "Bill O`Reilly" TV show. As the Web site Media Matters first reported today, Mr. Van Der Sloot actually appeared on the "O`Reilly Factor" in August of 1999 to talk about his public campaign against the gay. Mr. Van Der Sloot had just helped finance these billboards to go up all across the state of Idaho warning about a public television documentary there that promoted the, quote, "homosexual lifestyle to Idaho kids." After helping to put up those billboards, Mr. Van Der Sloot appeared as a guest on the "O`Reilly Factor" to envoy against efforts in Idaho to, quote, "bring the homosexual lifestyle into the classroom and introduce it to our children as being normal, right, acceptable and good." Mr. Van Der Sloot said of the documentary, quote, "It`s propaganda. Any child watching this film will conclude at least that this homosexual lifestyle is correct." He described homosexuality as, quote, "contrary to the moral standards of our community and nation." All of that happened on Bill O`Reilly`s TV show. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O`REILLY: So anybody who is buying your products who were gay said I`m not going to buy products from this guy. VAN DER SLOOT: We have a lot of people we work with. O`REILLY: Right. VAN DER SLOOT: And deal within the business world -- O`REILLY: So they basically slimed you? They smeared you? VAN DER SLOOT: They did. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Dude, you have interviewed the guy before about what he thinks is so bad about being gay. It can`t be a smear if it is a factual part of his record, which you put on the Record. We asked Mr. Van Der Sloot about his involvement in that anti-gay billboard campaign in Idaho, and he just this year gave us this statement. He said, quote, "I am a strong supporter of the argument that gay and lesbian people should have the same rights as all other Americans. My arguments against `Its Elementary`," the documentary, "was not against the film itself but with its intended audience. I don`t believe that sexual concepts either homosexual or heterosexual should be introduced in our schools to first, second and third graders. I would endorse `Its Elementary` for adults, but most Americans would agree it should not be shown to little kids." But again, FOX News has bothered to let the details around this thing get in the way of the good story here, right? A good scandal about the president having some kind of enemies list. After a "Wall Street Journal" columnist named Kimberly Strassel wrote about Mr. Van Der Sloot being a victim of this enemy`s list, FOX News was so excited to put the new conservative media scandal on the air that they couldn`t even figure out that Mr. Van Der Sloot was the supposed victim here and Kimberly Strassel was the columnist writing about him. OK, so, Kimberly Strassel is the person writing about Mr. Van Der Sloot. Mr. Van Der Sloot is supposed to be the Obama victim here. Writer, victim. Watch how they handle this on FOX. They`re so excited they screw the whole thing up. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: It`s also something about some Romney supporters that I think is significant. This Kimberly Strassel is coming forward saying that she`s been smeared in her life because of her support for Mitt Romney`s campaign. Her name down as a donor finds out the Super PAC`s going around in her background to find out what she does and what she does want to do. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: No, no, no, no. That`s not even -- not even close to what you want to be able to say. Kimberly Strassel isn`t the donor. She`s the person at Rupert Murdoch`s "Wall Street Journal" who`s been writing about the donor and the donor is actually a campaign official, not just a donor, and his name is Frank. Kimberly`s -- it`s a totally -- never mind. FOX News is very excited about this scandal that they have uncovered. This scandal that as exciting as it may be, you should know is not true. It is in fact false. But the way it`s unspooling is telling about our politics right now and about how the conservative media is working in our politics. Again the claim from FOX News and from Mr. Van Der Sloot, the basic allegation here, the scandal that FOX News has discovered that you will soon see in an e-mail from your crazy conservative uncle is that for the crime of being a Mitt Romney donor, Frank Van Der Sloot is now the victim of terrorism. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O`REILLY: Some believe this is economic terrorism. Not economic, political terrorism. That targeting a businessman like you, running an honest business, because of your freedom to donate who you want to donate to, but try to ruin you personally and professionally, that`s terrorism, political terrorism. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Terrorism. President Obama, of course in the case, is the -- in this case is the terrorist. Because of what President Obama has done, because of what Frank Van Der Sloot has done to support Mitt Romney, the allegation is that Frank Van Der is being singled out. It`s hurting his business. People are asking all sorts of questions about his past, people are saying that he`s anti-gay when he totally isn`t. Barack Obama put Frank Van Der Sloot on an enemy`s list. He was targeted for retribution. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O`REILLY: You say look, I`m just an honest businessman. All right? Now what happened to your business in lieu of that? What happened? VAN DER SLOOT: Well, when first saw the list, I thought, this is scary. And within hours of that then all kinds of things started to appear on the Internet suggesting all kinds of accusations against me, rewriting history as it were about all kinds of things I was supposedly guilty of. And -- O`REILLY: Did it impact your business directly? VAN DER SLOOT: Well, it did right away. The first day phone calls started coming in. We had customers who said they wanted to cancel. We lost a couple hundred customers so far and then we started getting that turned around. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So according to Frank Van Der Sloot, as soon as President Obama put him on this enemies list his business suffered. That`s the scandal here. The president targets a private citizen and then that private citizen`s entire livelihood is threatened. Flashing red lights. Somebody call Drudge. That whole line, that a private citizen targeted, that private citizen`s livelihood is threatened, his business is being affected, his private life is being pried into, that`s also what he told us, too, months ago. Months before President Obama was even conceivably involved, before that blog post even appeared on the Internets. We heard from Mr. Van Der Sloot and his lawyer soon after we covered him on this program back in February. We reported on Mr. Van Der Sloot back then in his capacity as Mitt Romney`s national finance co-chair. We discussed his history and political causes in Idaho, that billboard that we showed you earlier as well as his efforts to discredit a gay journalist in Idaho whose reporting Mr. Van Der Sloot disagreed with. Mr. Van Der Sloot and his lawyers attacked our reporting. They asked us to pull it down off the Web. They claim specifically that our reporting on him had hurt his business. That customers of his had called up and cancelled based on our reporting that we were to blame for his business suffering. That was in March. Now Mr. Van Der Sloot says none of that started happening until after President Obama`s campaign blog mentioned him in late April. Mr. Van Der Sloot is changing his story. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VAN DER SLOOT: Well, when this came out, when this -- yes, there were only eight people on it. I was one of them. And so when I first learned that I was on his enemies list that really worried me at first, I`ll tell you. And my first anticipation was that yes, I`ve got a target strapped on my back and sure enough, then the attacks started coming. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Then the attacks started coming. Not when we reported on him back in February and when other news outlets like Glenn Greenwald at and Mother Jones reported on him back then, but rather in late April. Right after President Obama`s campaign re-election team posted that blog item on him, that`s when it all started. Van Der Sloot has re-invented his story and he is taking FOX News along for the ride. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CAVUTO: Well, he gave a million dollars to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney and soon after found himself listed on an Obama campaign Web site. O`REILLY: CEO of a health related company says his business being attacked after he donated money to the Romney campaign. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Romney campaign finance co-chair has reinvented the story now to say all of these repercussions for him and his private life and his business, started months after he used to say they started. He`s now saying that the stuff he started complaining about back in March actually didn`t start until late April until after the president got involved and now the president is coming after him and every American should be afraid of the president. Frank Van Der Sloot is not just a CEO of a health related company in Idaho. He is not just a Mitt Romney supporter. He is not just some private citizen who has been targeted randomly by the Obama campaign because they are thugs. He is the national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign. He`s been given a leadership position in the Mitt Romney campaign. He is an official in the Mitt Romney campaign. And whether he likes it or not, that makes him a public figure. That means that his record is up for public discussion. Particularly given that he has chosen to involve himself in such political causes over the years. And Frank Van Der Sloot`s role in this year`s presidential campaign is that he will now be the star of the new FOX News scandal about Barack Obama. Five segments and counting so far on FOX News about how President Obama is a terrorist and the target of his terrorism is Frank Van Der Sloot. There have been five segments so far. Mr. Van Der Sloot has appeared in three of them. A private citizen who has nothing at all to do with politics other than being the national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign. Five segments and counting later. Now FOX News has their brand new Barack Obama scandal. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O`REILLY: Some believe this is economic terrorism -- not economic, political terrorism. That targeting a businessman like you running an honest business because of your freedom to donate who you want to donate to, but try to ruin you personally and professionally, that`s terrorism. Political terrorism. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Frank Van Der Sloot a victim of terrorism. Now how do we wage counterterrorism in this case? Very specific answer to that. Mr. Van Der Sloot, after all, is the national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney for President campaign. That means his job is to raise money and that is exactly what he has been doing with his story on FOX News. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O`REILLY: Here`s your check to Restore Our Future, right? VAN DER SLOOT: I think the only response to this -- O`REILLY: Hold it up there. VAN DER SLOOT: I think the only response is to make another donation. O`REILLY: All right. VAN DER SLOOT: Another $100,000. And I would like to invite everybody -- I mean if they want to attack me, I don`t suppose this is going to, like, reduce the attacks. O`REILLY: No, it will probably accelerate them but you`re a standup guy. Look, if Romney wins you`d be in what they call tall cut. I got to run. VAN DER SLOOT: But perhaps everybody else can donate in peace. We thought we were done with our donations. We thought we had done our part. But clearly, we`re going to stand up and get more involved in this campaign. And we hope that other people will join us in that. Everybody should get out their checkbooks. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Everybody should get out your checkbooks. That`s how this ends. That`s where this goes. Giving Mitt Romney money is what Frank Van Der Sloot and FOX News say is the cure for this victimization tale that he appears to have reinvented out of thin air. Get ready for that e-mail from your crazy uncle about this. It is coming. Joining us now is Salon contributing writer Glenn Greenwald, who`s also reported on Mr. Van Der Sloot`s political positions and activities. Dan, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here. GLENN GREENWALD, SALON.COM: Good to be here, Rachel. MADDOW: Frank Van Der Sloot appears to be saying now that he is being victimized by the Obama campaign. They say that the Obama campaign is targeting him to keep him and other private citizens from donating any money to the Romney Super PAC. Does that comport at all with your understanding of the timeline of Mr. Van Der Sloot`s political activities and his aggrieved sense of them? GREENWALD: It`s really hard to believe that even people who sit in front of the television watching FOX News all day can be moved by this story. I mean here`s somebody who has over the last decade used his vast fortune to dictate the outcomes of some of the most controversial political debates in Idaho, in elections in Idaho. And now he`s insinuating himself into our national election in a really extraordinary ways, spending an excess of $1 million and counting to install somebody into the oval office. So the question of whether this is a person who`s a legitimate subject of media scrutiny in terms of his beliefs, his prior actions, his ideology, his agenda, whether that`s a legitimate subject for scrutiny is so absurd. I mean to ask the question is to answer it. I mean he has the right under our campaign finance laws and under the constitution as the Supreme Court is interpreted it to donate unlimited sums of money to help elect Mitt Romney. But he doesn`t have the right to do that while hiding in the dark. And I think it`s not just the right but the duty of media outlets and even opposing campaigns, both for Obama funders and Romney funders, to shed as much light as possible on who these people are and what their interest is in funding these campaigns and who the people are taking these politicians will be beholden if they win the election. MADDOW: When you Google the name Frank Van Der Sloot as of today, the top results are about Frank Van Der Sloot speaking out about being targeted. Might that be how this FOX News hype scandal benefits him? I mean it does -- he is trying to affect and actually, I think, create a narrative around himself as a victim rather than as somebody who is using resources to affect political change? GREENWALD: Well, he`s clearly very concerned about the damage to his reputation. This is somebody who has lived in a cocoon that comes from being one of the richest people in Idaho who`s never challenged, who throws his weight around. We got the same kind of threatening lawyer`s letter as you did once we reported on him back in February. And you know I think there`s a couple of amazing ironies here. I mean one is that if you look at what happened in the 2008 presidential election, almost every single one of the people even remotely associated with then candidate Obama was put under all kinds of microscopes. Not people just who are closely associated with him like Jeremiah Wright but even remotely related to him in some way. People like Rashid -- Khalid Rashidi and Bill Ayers and all kinds of people. FOX News led the way in those kind of investigations of private citizens. Bill O`Reilly has done all kind of, quote, "exposes" on George Soros on the grounds that he`s trying to fund our democracy and buy our democracy. And yet here they are, the minute that happens to a conservative funder and they act as though the McCarthy Commission has been rejuvenated. And the other irony is that Frank Van Der Sloot is somebody who has spent a decade really engaged in campaigns of intimidation and bullying against people who are defenseless in Idaho. Journalists and bloggers and just ordinary citizens who say anything negative about him routinely get threatening -- got lawyer letters threatening to be sued and people in Idaho, if you go there as I did in January, are petrified in even writing about him, and yet the minute somebody turns around and not threatens to sue him, but simply says we want to look at what your beliefs are, what your interests are, what your agenda is, he`s suddenly turns himself into this very petulant, entitled victim and it`s really amazing to watch. MADDOW: contributing writer Glenn Greenwald. Glenn, thank you for your reporting on this. I know you and I have talked about what it`s like to get the lawyer backsplash whenever you mention this guy`s name but I appreciate your sticking with it and being willing to talk to us about (INAUDIBLE). Thanks a lot. GREENWALD: Same to you, Rachel. Thanks. MADDOW: Thanks. I should mention that when we asked Mr. Van Der Sloot to be on the show today, we initially got a letter saying, "Mr. Van Der Sloot will not appear on tonight`s show. The MADDOW SHOW has knowingly presented false information regarding Mr. Van Der Sloot in both of its prior segments." I deny that we have said anything false about Mr. Van Der Sloot and I would look forward to being disproven by him. Maybe I`m about to get the chance because late tonight the hour -- in the hour before the show is live, Mr. Van Der Sloot did offer to come on the show tonight by telephone. I would like you to be on the show properly, Mr. Van Der Sloot. As soon as we can arrange for you to be in front of camera for a proper amount of time for us to discuss these matters as fully as you would like to, I sincerely look forward to that opportunity. Tell me where I`m wrong, sir. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Very late last night at 1:00 a.m. in the Virginia state legislature, this man, a Virginia prosecutor, a father, a former Top Gun Navy fighter pilot, has his nomination to become a judge to be a low-level Virginia state judge rejected by the Virginia legislature. He had bipartisan sponsorship. His nomination have passed committees in the House and committees in the Senate. But when it came down to the final vote he needed 51 votes to pass and he got nowhere near that, he only got 33 votes. His nomination just got clobbered. His boss in the prosecutor`s office, the Richmond state attorney, responded to the vote by saying, "It`s hard to think about what happened in the general assembly and not conclude that it`s a form of bigotry." The prosecutor called it an embarrassment for the state of Virginia. All 31 votes against the judicial nomination for this prosecutor, Tracy Thorne-Begland, came from Virginia state Republicans. And the only objection raised to this judicial nomination was the fact that the nominee is gay. Thirty-one no votes, all from Republicans, and now he will not be a judge. Virginia Democrats say they are livid. Quote, "The blatant prejudice that Republicans displayed last night should have no place in our government. The GOP took Virginia back to the bigotry and mean-spirited prejudice of the 1960s. I thought we had made more progress toward a just society than this. Mr. Thorne-Begland`s qualifications for appointment to the bench were unimpeachable but Republicans cynically voted against his appointment just because he was gay." Statements from Virginia Democrats. That happened last night. That vote happened last night at 1:00 in the morning in Virginia. In Lincoln, Nebraska last night, the city council there voted for gay rights. They voted to pass a city wide nondiscrimination measure for Lincoln that includes sexual orientation. But when I say they voted for it, what I mean by they is the non-Republicans on the Lincoln, Nebraska, city council. The only Republicans on the city council did not vote, citing conflicts of interest while everybody else voted for it. In Colorado last night, for the second time, the Republican speaker of the State House did some amazing gymnastic legislative maneuvering to avoid the threat that not marriage rights but civil unions would be approved by the Colorado state legislature. Civil unions actually have majority support not only in the state as a whole but in the legislature. But the Republican House speaker took matters into his own hand to block it from coming up for a vote, thereby killing it last night. Even as public opinion and even Republican public opinion changes in the United States to become more friendly toward gay rights, Republican policy, what Republican elected officials do in office is still really, really anti-gay. Colorado Republicans` position, which is also Mitt Romney`s position, which is not only should there be no marriage rights for gay people but no civil unions either, that is a position that`s now only held by 33 percent of the public. No civil unions and no marriage rights. But Republicans in office do not seem to care. This has been their agenda for ever and they are sticking to it. There is a -- there is weird trend, though, that is worth watching among Republican officials who have national aspirations. Republican officials who are speaking to the whole country are still technically espousing all of the same anti-gay positions. The positions are staying the same but they`ve started talking about themselves as if they don`t hold these positions. This is all -- also sometimes called lying when you talk about yourself as not holding a position you actually hold. Right now, for example, in the case of governor ultrasound, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, it sort of feels like the guy is just losing the thread. He`s losing his own thread. Listen to this. This is how he reacted to the unfolding drama of that judge in Virginia that would be judge in Virginia being voted down in the legislature with all those votes against him coming from Republicans specifically because he`s gay. Governor McDonnell`s office put out a statement responding to that saying, "The governor has long made clear that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not acceptable in state government." That`s not true. He`s made no such thing clear. Back in the real world of his real record before he decided to whitewash it like this, do you want to know what Bob McDonnell did? One of the very first things he did when he became governor of the great Commonwealth of Virginia is that he rescinded the anti-discrimination executive order that had been put into place by the previous governor, by the Democrat, Tim Kaine. Bob McDonnell rescinded the anti-discrimination policy of the previous governor and put into place a new one. The only difference between the old one and the new one was that he took sexual orientation out of it. So one of his first acts as governor was to make it OK to fire somebody in Virginia because they are gay. He didn`t make it through a full month in office before he felt the need to do that. Less than a month later, after a little bit of an uproar, he did half backtrack on the issue, saying that even though he was taking sexual orientation off the list of prohibited discrimination on the state of Virginia. He thought that under federal law that kind of discrimination might not be seen as rational? He didn`t put the protections for gay people back in his state that he took away. He just said federally maybe they`ll take care of it. When Bob McDonnell was in the state legislature, when he was chair of the justice committee and house, he actually said, he wasn`t so sure if people shouldn`t be allowed to be a judge if they are gay. If a person might engage in quote "certain homosexual conduct," Bob McDonnell told the Virginia newspaper that that would quote, "certainly raise some questions about the qualifications to serve as a judge. Bob McDonnell has been super anti-gay in terms of policy and his public position the whole time he has been public figure. But now, he wants you to believe he`s long made clear that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is acceptable. That`s absolute bull. It is absolutely 100 percent bull (INAUDIBLE). But it is amazing to see it, right? And it`s politically interesting that he feels like he has to say that because he now has national vice presidential aspirations. The same thing is happening right now with the Republican party as a whole. It`s fascinating. It might just be that Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican party, is not that good at his job and sometimes gets confused when near microphone. But if you give him the benefit of the doubt, and you assumed that he knows what he is doing, the chairman of the Republican party said something this weekend that`s mind bending. It`s bull. It`s totally untrue. But, it is interesting that he feels like he has to tell this particular lie. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE HOST: Do you believe that gays and lesbians in America deserve equal rights? REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think they deserve equal rights in regards to say, discrimination in the workplace. Issues, such as Mitt Romney has pointed out numerous times, hospital visitations. I mean I think for the sake of dignity and respect, sure. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Except that`s not actually your position and that`s not Mitt Romney`s position. The employment nondiscrimination act which has been around and not getting passed by Congress for almost 20 years would ban discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. It says you can`t get fired because you`re gay. Most Republicans are against it. The Republican party is against it. Mitt Romney is not for it. He`s against it. Quote, "I don`t see the need for new or special legislation." We reached out to the Republican party today to ask whether the party through its chairman was unveiling some surprise new position on this issue. Either for the Republican party itself or for Mitt Romney as well. We have not heard back from them and frankly, I don`t expect to hear back from them because they don`t want to change their policy on any of these issues. They just want you to think maybe they have changed their policies. They do not want to change their position. They are just now. In America today, they are just now embarrassed about what their position is. So, they want to keep doing what they are doing, but they don`t want you notice and they don`t want you to ask about it and they don`t want you to think about it when you vote. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We got a best new thing in the world coming up right at the end of the show tonight. It`s on tape. It`s foreign and it is very, very manly. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: About a year after President Obama was inaugurated. In February 2010, this billboard went up alongside a highway in Minnesota. Its George W. Bush with the big grin on his face waving, miss me yet? Was that a rhetorical question? Was that an ironic rhetorical questions designed to remind people to be grateful and no matter what you think about the current president, the last guy is at least gone. For time, the machine settled on the idea that that billboard was fake and they photo shop a hoax. That`s why you can find pictures of that billboard catalogue now places like and enlist of online urban pledges. That billboard was not a photo shop hoax. It was real. But, if the desire the fact of that billboard was to elicit and of course, we George W. Bush`s reaction in the country, I would say it missed its mark. The question of what to do with the last Republican president, what to do with the legacy of George W. Bush has been an awkward issue for the Mitt Romney campaign from the start. Mr. Romney`s first instinct seems to have been to skip over George W. Bush and instead seek the blessing of the Republican president before him, George Bush senior. Mr. Romney, however, even that over chair to George Bush Senior came with some awkward political baggage. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look. I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I`m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes. That might explain some of the physical awkwardness when Mr. Romney met with for mentioned Bush of Reagan-Bush to receive his endorsement for president. But, that was nowhere near as awkward as what the former president asked Mr. Romney at the end of that meeting right in front of the reporters. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Governor, have you met with George W. Bush while you`ve been here and have you sought his endorsement? ROMNEY: You know, I haven`t met with President George W. Bush. We speak from time to time. (CROSSTALK) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have he endorsed you? ROMNEY: No, no. BARBARA BUSH, GEORGE W. BUSH`S WIFE: We will talk about that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Has he? Has he? We`ll talk about that later. We`ll talk about that behind closed doors maybe, less said in public, the better. It`s a dilemma though, right? Miss me yet? Does Mitt Romney want a George W. Bush endorsement? In his last year as president, George W. Bush had the highest disapproval numbers of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup poll asking Americans that question about their president. If you were Mitt Romney, would you want that guy`s endorsement? My colleague Steve Schmidt, the senior strategist for the McCain-Palin campaign tried to convince me last month that Mitt Romney would want that endorsement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE SCHMIDT, SENIOR STRATEGIST FOR MCCAIN-PALIN CAMPAIGN: I suspect as Mitt Romney gets to the next stage of closeness to wrapping this up, you`ll see President George W. Bush weigh in as well. MADDOW: You really think so? SCHMIDT: That would be a good day for Mitt Romney. MADDOW: Steve, you can talk me into a lot of things about the Republican way of looking at politics, I have learned a lot from you. But the idea it`s going to be a good day when George W. Bush endorses Mitt Romney that I finally found the thing you and I are living in totally opposite universes and can`t see the same facts the same way. Will you come back the day that happen happens? SCHMIDT: Absolutely. And it will happen and it will be a good day for Mitt Romney in this election. MADDOW: And it will be one of those days when we realize there are two different Americas or two different ways of seeing these things. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was at the end of March. Today the endorsement finally happened. I`m going to quote verbatim from the ABC News story about this. All right? The new story - the ABC News story breaking this news today, here is how it went down. I`m quoting verbatim from the lead. Here is the first line of the story. Quote, "Mitt Romney has the support of George W. Bush." Here is the second line. Quote, "I`m for Mitt Romney. Bush told ABC news this morning as the doors on an elevator closed on him." And that was it. No tape. No press conference. No join appearance. No press lease. Just hop into the elevator say, I`m for Mitt Romney and let the elevator doors close and up, up and away you go. So, was this a good day from Mitt Romney? Endorsement from behind the closing elevator doors day. I`ll ask my friend, Steve Schmidt, in just a moment. But before I do, I just want to add one more piece of data here as I`m trying to understand the distance between the Republican mind and the liberal TV news host`s mind. The Republican party today, it`s rapid response unit today, released what they obviously think is a gotcha video that hurts President Obama. They saved this up, I guess, for the day that George W. Bush gave his endorsement to Mitt Romney, I`m guessing. This is the gotcha tape that they released to slam President Obama today. Are you ready? It`s tape that they dug up from 2004 when Barack Obama was running for Senate. The Republican party thinks this make Republicans look good and President Obama look bad. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Senator Obama. OBAMA: I think it`s an enormous problem. UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What will you do specifically to cut it or raised into the stop spending or to raise revenues? OBAMA: I think it`s an enormous problem. This has been the most fiscally irresponsible administration in sort in my memory. We have gone from trillion dollar surpluses to trillion dollar deficits in a blink of an eye, not all of those costs are not the fault of administration, obviously. 9/11 occurred and the decline in the economy. But, what is also true is that it was aided and abetted by a set of fiscal policies that I think were on the wrong course. We can take a look at example of yesterday`s vote. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And that`s where it cuts off. Cuts off all roughly like that. That`s where this Republican video released by the RNC today ends. There`s nothing else happens that gets to the gotcha. I`m, surely we do live in two different political universes if that is supposed to be a Republican attack ad. Barack Obama saying that George W. Bush left very large deficits and that he had bad fiscal policies. That he turns surpluses into deficits. Right and your point is? I mean, this is a Republican attack ad. Do Republicans think that didn`t happen or it`s not embarrassing that that happen? Or they like that George Bush did those things? Is George W. Bush endorsing Mitt Romney from behind a closing elevator door day, that day, is that a good day for Republicans? Steve Schmidt joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have the best new thing in the world coming up on tonight`s show. It is the special extra manly manliness edition. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCHMIDT: I suspect as Mitt Romney gets to the next stage of closeness to wrapping this up. You will ultimately see President George W. Bush weigh in as well. That will be a good day for Mitt Romney. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That would be a good day for Mitt Romney? Joining us now is Steve Schmidt, former senior strategist for the McCain- Palin campaign, current MSNBC political analyst who said it would be a good day for Mitt Romney when President George W. Bush endorsed him? Do you still feel that way now that it happens? SCHMIDT: Well, it is a good day because the endorsement means Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee. And at the end of March, this was still a lot contest. He hadn`t put away Rick Santorum. He hadn`t put away Newt Gingrich. And the Bush endorsement would have meant that Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee because that`s the threshold by which President Bush would have entered the race. MADDOW: But, once he wrapped it up, it wasn`t - it -- he didn`t have to get the George W. Bush endorsement. SCHMIDT: No. Look, I think it`s a pro forma endorsement. George W. Bush is the Republican president. Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee. So, he`s going to endorse him. I don`t think you`ll see him actively campaigning for him. There`s a terrific new book out there called "the President`s Club" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy and it charged the relationship between all of the former presidents going back from Truman and Hoover, who Truman rehabilitated into public life and it`s a fascinating look at the dynamics between this really small club. And, I mean, George W. Bush has a traditionalist approach to this. He has really retired from political life. He has focused on his a library and, you know -- MADDOW: Well, He`s not giving political speeches now -- SCHMIDT: He is giving paid speeches, but he`s not on the campaign speech. MADDOW: Well, he`s doing policy stuff. He was doing his Paul Ryan budget stuff. MADDOW: What I would say is nonpartisan stuff. He`s education reform, for example, where you know, there`s a number of people on the left who have been involved with President Bush`s activities on that front who have, you know, who have praised him. But, you know, out -- he is out of the combat and conflict of day to day politics. You know, someone who worked in the administration, worked on the campaign, you know, the Bush alumni network. You know, we all enjoy getting the facebook pictures of him with wounded warriors out on bike rides, running with him. So, I think he`s a former president through eight tumultuous years. You know, I think that he`s confident in history`s judgment. Notice that history`s verdict will be a long way off. I think that, you know, over the long horizon of the next 20 years, I think that President Bush`s estimation will rise in the estimation of a lot of people. That this tumultuous years. He was a controversial president. He left office unpopular. But, elections are about the future. They are not about the past. And I think it`s an indictment of the weakness of the president`s political and he wants to look backwards as supposed to argue with forwards. MADDOW: Well. SCHMIDT: I think that`s structurally good news for Mitt Romney. MADDOW: You and I though, don`t obviously disagree about how history is going to judged George W. Bush. I think it started off bad when he left office and it is going to get worse. And that we are going to -- we still have a lot of reckoning to do with I think the damage that was done by the Bush presidency and we totally disagree on that. But, in terms of the impact on the current race of him endorsing, you have to read something to the fact that they made this endorsement from an elevator while the walls are closing and then presumably the elevator took him to a different floor from people asking. SCHMIDT: I think that`s a - I think that`s photo app when someone who is retired from politics and doesn`t care about that stuff anymore. MADDOW: That`s - please don`t link me beyond -- (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: Please, I know I can hurt this guy. Does he know or do you -- is it reasonable to surmise that he knows that the George W. Bush record is going to be a bad thing for Mitt Romney rather than a good thing for Mitt Romney? SCHMIDT: Look. I think he`s a very smart guy. He`s very sophisticated politically. He knows exactly where his standing is in the polls and how his tenure would be used in the campaign. But the reality also is, as we just talked about, all elections, no matter how you look at them, no matter what side they are on, they are about the future, not the past. This will not be an election where the debate is about the Bush presidency. MADDOW: The reason it`s going to be, I think actually more than the connection between Romney policies and Bush policies, although that is there on both some economic and foreign policy issues is that Romney took on so many Bush advisers. I mean, it`s 1like was it 17 of this 24 foreign policy advisers are Bush guys. If you do that, if you`ve got 17 of your 24 guys associated with a very, very, very, very controversial unpopular American president, you will just put him at the center of the debate about your candidacy. Romney embraced the George W. Bush alumni association, so he is going to have to answer for the George W. Bush record. SCHMIDT: Look. One of the criticisms that was made with the president is that his administration was still the too many Clinton advisors. I think that one of the realities is that, when you have a two-term president, whether it`s a Republican president even a controversial president like George W. Bush, or controversial democratic president, the next administration a lot of parties is going to be stocked with alumni from that previous parties administration. MADDOW: But, Clinton`s - Clinton is not controversial in the same as George W Bush is. SCHMIDT: Well, I think that Bill Clinton when he left office, you know certainly left office in a pretty controversial way. His numbers were low. He has have been up. He has been down. He has been back up, that`s, you know, part of the charm of the Bill Clinton. And I`m not trying to analogize them completely. Because I think that, you know obviously, at the end of eight years of Bill Clinton, the country is in a different place. We haven`t been attack. We haven`t, you know, been to war twice. There was a very different, you know, dynamic involved in that. But the point is, s that the images of the former presidents are dynamic. They evolve over time. I think Jimmy Carter is an example of that in the eyes of a lot of Americans. So, I don`t think at the end of the day that when you look at the president`s endorsement of Mitt Romney. I mean, this isn`t any injurious thing in any way to Mitt Romney. MADDOW: All right. Not a good day but not an injurious thing. We can come - we can agree on that. Maybe. I will have to think about it. SCHMIDT: Good to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: Steve, it`s great to see you. Thank you, man. I appreciate it. I like talking to you even more than when we disagree than when we agree. All right. Best new thing in the world. Coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world is Russian, whether it`s helping to tag a tranquilize polar bear in the wild or tranquilizing a tiger at a reserve or shooting a gray whale with a cross bow to collect gray whale skin samples or discovering two ancient Greek urns in the black sea or whether it is riding a motor bike or whether it is putting out wildfires from a plane. Whether it is showing of his judo moves, whether it`s swimming in Siberian Lake topless, or fishing topless, or riding a horse topless. It is inarguable that Russia`s primal president Vladimir Putin is the master of manly photo op. And his newest manly photo op persona is hockey star. Just hours after the latest inauguration while protesters were being beaten in the streets in Moscow, Mr. Putin took to the rink to play an exhibition game. And although he was on a team of amateurs and the amateurs were playing a team of Russian hockey legends, President Putin`s team won. But it is how his team won and his role in the glory that is important. Can your American president score a hockey goal? Look at that. Oh, yes. Putin can. Seriously, can we look at that for a second? Here`s the first pass, alright? And there`s president Putin missing it. And while here far, far away in hockey terms, it`s the defender, way out there. The defender from the team of the country`s best players. All of the other defenders are covering their men, but their men are not president of Russia. President Putin`s defender keeps a very safe distance from him. And after another pass, President Putin left completely alone scores the goal to level the score. No defender in sight. Yes, it`s good to be king. Oh, and then later, President Putin scored this penalty shot, also helping win the game. Definitely not the best hockey game in the world, but for pure, pure authoritarian hubris, it is definitely the best new thing in the world today. Now it`s time for The Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END