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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/21/12

Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Cory Booker, Ben Jealous

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Good evening, Rachel. I am looking forward to the Cory Booker interview. That is the interview in politics in the world right now. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you. That`s an incredible segue, Ed. I`m looking forward to it. SCHULTZ: And we missed you, I missed you. I`m glad you`re back. MADDOW: Thank you, man. I appreciate it. Thanks a lot. SCHULTZ: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. If you go to the homepage of Republican Party right now, if you type into your web browser, the front page of the National Republican Party`s Web site comes up. And today it looks like this: "I stand with Cory." I stand with Cory? With Cory Booker? I don`t think I need a spoiler alert here if I let you know that the Republican Party in reality is very unlikely to actually stand with Cory Booker. Mr. Booker is the Democratic progressive firebrand mayor of Newark, New Jersey, who supports President Obama`s re-election emphatically. The Republican Party is making a big show of saying they are standing with him because they say that Cory Booker is a victim, who needs people to stand up for him because he can`t stand up for himself. Because it`s the Republican Party, the person that is victimizing Cory Booker is Mothra, I mean Godzilla. I mean, I`m sorry, President Obama. Today, while President Obama was at the NATO summit in Chicago, the Republican Party chairman sent out these email to Republican Party supporters. It says, "Do you know what Obama does with people who stand up for job creators? He silences them. That`s right. By Sunday evening, the Obama campaign had pressured Booker into taking back support of the free market. This is how far President Obama has sunk running an all-out assault on job creators. And in his own Democratic Party, anyone who dares to defend them must be silenced. Don`t let the White House silence free enterprise. If you agree, then please sign our petition: I stand with Cory Booker." And if you do sign that petition, you will thereby give your e-mail address to the Republican Party, which will make infinite use of your e- mail address from here to spam-ternity. What all of this is about is a comment made by Cory Booker, excuse me, on "Meet the Press" yesterday, where he -- excuse me -- where he criticized negative campaigning on both sides of the presidential campaign this year. He said he found the negative campaigning nauseating. He said that event though the president`s reelection campaign which he supports has criticized Mitt Romney`s tenure at Bain Capital, he said he does not think that private equity per se is always bad. That`s the sort of thing that people in Washington call off-message, for someone who was functioning in that instance as an Obama campaign surrogate. It was off- message. Off-message like when Marco Rubio endorsed Mitt Romney for president and then promptly followed up that endorsement by saying, quote, "There are a lot of other people out there that some of us wish they had run for president, but they didn`t." Off-message like when former Congressman Tom Davis endorsed Mr. Romney this way. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM DAVIS (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: He may not be Mr. Personality. You know, this is the guy who gives the fire side chat and the fire goes out. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Off-message like when Jon Huntsman endorsed Mr. Romney with this love song to the Republican nominee. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON HUNTSMAN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Gone are the days when the Republican Party used to put forward big, bold visionary stuff. We`re going to have problems politically until we get some sort of third party movement or some alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, and by the way, please vote for Mitt Romney. Off message like when Nevada Congressman Joe Heck endorsed Mitt Romney by saying, quote, "Mitt Romney and I don`t agree on every issue and certainly housing is one of them." Off message like when Michigan Congressman Fred Upton said his candidate, Mitt Romney was wrong on the auto bailout. Off-message like when Chris Christie joined the Democrats in demanding that his candidate, Mitt Romney, release more years of his tax returns. Actually, it should be noted that the platonic form of off message surrogate this year came in the form of Chris Christie as well. Do you remember this one from him? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: In terms of me, I`ll be much more ready four years from now than I am now. (END VIDEO CLIP)( MADDOW: In stomping for the guy who is running right now, you`re talking about how you`re going to be ready to run in four years? Why, because your guy is going to lose this year and so the Republicans will have another shot at it in four years? Or are you thinking that he will win and you`ll run against him after his first term? That`s off message. Off message happens. Off message happens a lot. It`s happened a whole heck of a lot with people acting as Mitt Romney`s surrogates this year -- which Democrats and the Beltway media have tended to react to by softly chuckling if they notice it at all. But when off message happens on the Democratic side, even when Mayor Cory Booker clarifies his remarks and says he does not think that Mitt Romney`s tenure at Bain shouldn`t be off limits, even when President Obama expresses the same basic idea that private equity per se is not bad, it`s just that in Mitt Romney`s case, it`s not a great, great qualification for running for president, no matter. When off-message happens on the Democratic side, there`s no mitigating factor that can distract from the feeding frenzy. Democrats join right in with the attack. Liberals join right in. The Beltway media joins in with the attack in way that they can almost not control. The Republicans not only attack but they caricature this Democrat in this case into a helpless victim who they supposedly want to rescue from being silenced since he obviously isn`t allowed to speak for himself. Let`s let him speak for himself. Joining us now for his first interview since his "Meet the Press" appearance caused all this hullaballoo is Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker. Mr. Mayor, thank you for being here. It`s nice to have you here. MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Rachel, thank you very much for having me on. I appreciate this because actually you and I talked earlier. I told you I was doing no interviews. It wasn`t until the GOP went across that line that I said forget it. I`ve had all I can stand, and I can`t stand no more. So, thank you for giving me a chance to be on tonight. MADDOW: What is the line that they crossed that made you feel that way? What is it about the way they have reacted to this that made you change your mind about talking about this issue again? BOOKER: Anybody who watched the entire "Meet the Press" saw not only was I defending Obama`s position on numerous issues, but I also talked about super PAC money and the negative campaigning, and my outrage and really my frustration was about the cynical, negative campaigning, the manipulating of the truth. And so, here they are plucking sound bites out of that interview to manipulate them in a cynical manner, to use them for their own purposes. That slogan is really what had me and basically my entire staff really fit to be tied. In the beginning, I think I used if metaphor my staff is going to have hold me back because -- to say "I stand with Cory Booker," I have not seen a Republican national candidate, with maybe the exemption of Jack Kemp a long time ago, be willing to stand with me in places like Newark, New Jersey, Camden, New York, Patterson, places they seem want to imagine doesn`t exist. And so, what I really feel strongly is anybody in the GOP who wants to stand with me, please stand with me. Stand with me for marriage equality, as Barack Obama stands up for. Stand with me for not turning the back, the clock on women in terms of medical issues and other things like Barack Obama is standing against. Stand with me on making health care more accessible to all. Stand with me for making college more affordable as President Obama is doing. If anybody listens to the entire "Meet the Press" and they want to stand with me, they`ll see I stand firmly with the president. What really, really unfortunately has me frustrated is not only does the GOP tend to overlook urban areas like the one I`ve been standing for and working in for my entire professional career, but the one time they seem to pay attention to it, they want to exploit a mayor who for my entire has been standing for something different. And I`ll tell you this -- I`ve been standing for Barack Obama before most people were standing with Barack Obama, as one of his earliest supporters in New Jersey, if not his first major political endorsement. This is a president that in my opinion rejects so many of the things, the tired rhetoric, the distractions, the kind of things that get America not focused on the problems that we need to solve. So, today to the GOP, I say -- I welcome you to stand with me. Stand with me for moving America forward. Don`t stand with me for the kind of things that Mitt Romney is advocating, they`re going to further bankrupt our city, close off opportunity, discriminate against gays and women, and do the kind of things that I think are sending America in the wrong direction. MADDOW: Cory, the Republican Party`s hook for saying they stand with you is that you have been a victim of the Obama campaign. You`re not being allowed to say what you really say, that you only issued that clarifying response after "Meet the Press" because of pressure from the Obama campaign. What is your response to that and are you being pressured by anybody to say something that you don`t believe or to take back something that you do believe? BOOKER: Well, for anybody that knows me and really knows my career, I`ve been an independent Democrat for a long time, standing up on issues. And actually, I`m comfortable to say I disagree with the president before marriage equality and now he stands for that issue. But the reality is that the Barack Obama team in the White House and their political team have been good to me for many, many years. I`ve worked with them early in the primaries in the last election. They have never pressured me to do anything. They have done nothing but encourage me. In this case in particular, I certainly did talk with campaign officials, but they didn`t force me to do anything. They had good conversations with me. And after having conversations with them especially after hearing the president`s remarks on this issue where he was not condemning all of private equity. He was not condemning any particular firms. He was focusing in on a guy who is bragging about his job creation record. To me, I think that`s fair game. All of those things made me say I need to go on and clarify, because obviously, I did things in the "Meet the Press" interview that did not land the points that I was trying to make, and in some ways, you know, frustratingly, I think I conflated the attacks that the Republicans were making with Jeremiah Wright with some of the attacks on the left. Those can`t even be equated. The noxious nature of the some of the attacks that we`ve seen going on our president, where you poll many people in the GOP who still believes he`s a secret Muslim, and these other things, it`s gotten so ridiculous. You can`t even equate the negativity on the right with what`s happening by some sectors in the left. And so, at this point, I`m grateful to the president who came out today and said very kind words to me. Some cynical folks in his camp probably wanted the president to go on attack on me, God bless him, because I think his team listen to the totality of what I was doing, heard me defend the president on "Meet the Press" on health care, heard me defend him on job creation, heard me defend him on doing tax reform that actually helped people in my community in Newark, New Jersey. It`s a partnership I`m going to continue to have no matter what role they want me to play. I play it proactively, not reactively to them. MADDOW: Cory, when you say you heard the president`s remarks today talking about the substantive matter, the substantive matter that started all of this, when you heard him talking about private equity and you say now that you wanted to be clear that talking about Mitt Romney`s record as a self-proclaimed job creator is on the table, what exactly are you saying ought to be part of the political discussion and what ought to be off the table? Where is the line for you and what do you think is appropriate? BOOKER: This is my independence. I`m not going to shy away from being one of those people that says, I`m tired of presidential campaigns, the primary we just watched with Republicans talking about all kinds of issues that don`t make sense for my community, who is struggling with foreclosures -- things that Obama -- excuse me, things that Romney`s against helping or not in favor of giving tax breaks to middle class families in my community. I`m not going to remain silent when people try to bring up issues and negativity that distract from the core issues, that in my community right now, there`s a high level of urgency that we`re talking about and doing something about. And so, I reject that negativity. I`m not going to come back from that point. But when it comes to what I think is appropriate questions, when Mitt Romney, himself, says "I was a job creator," not a successful guy in private equity, that I wasn`t -- hey, I didn`t return great investment for my people and my firm, but when he says "I was a job creator," I think that`s a characterization of his record that deserves inquiry. I think the way the president himself is talking about that is something I will defend. In fact, something I will echo. But let`s just be clear, in this election, and this is why I wish if Romney wanted to pull my remarks from "Meet the Press" where I went after super PACs and Citizens United, and the incredible flood of tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars that are going to flow into this campaign, one of the most extensive campaigns we`re going to see in terms of money spent, and the majority will be negative, cynical vicious attacks in distracting this country from dealing with the issues and substance that we want to do with. I`m sorry, I`m going to reject that every day. But I`m happy and I`m proud to have been a friend of the president before he started talking about running for president. I`m proud that we have a guy who`s got the Obama cool who`s focusing on the issues that matter. I`m hoping that both sides, my side of the aisle, which can sometimes go too far, and their side that`s bringing up to stuff to me that is in many ways the dirtiest aspect of politics, I`m going to call that for what it is. But in terms of me, I`m a mayor of a city. I have to deal with urgencies every single day. People looking for jobs, people looking for access to education, people looking for hope. And right now, from the cynical right and from even this Congress on the right, I see very little coming out that`s actually going to help people in urban issues. And this is why if Mitt Romney and his campaign want to say, "I stand with Booker," come stand with me in Newark, stand in Camden, stand in Detroit, and talk about issues that effect people, like the auto industry, substantive issues like Obama is talking about. That`s really what I want to continue to talk about in this campaign. I`m upset. This is why I`m on your show that I`ve been taken out of context, I`ve been used to support a -- if there`s any honor in what they were saying, Mitt Romney would have come out and said, you know what, like Obama did, Citizens United decision is going to hurt our democracy. He would have come out and said the negativity on our side, I`m going to talk about us, has got to stop. If he wanted to come out and stand with me, he would say, you know what? I stand with Cory Booker. Let`s stop the super PAC money. Let`s stop the negative campaigning. Let`s talk about the issues. I`ll meet with President Obama to talk about those. And for him to use that slogan in a way that manipulates my record and my entire professional career working in the streets of my community with good people trying to make Newark better, I`m sorry. People knew (ph) Newark before, but to exploit it or its mayor, it`s something I`m not going to sit still for. MADDOW: Cory, as a practical matter, you are in -- it`s sort of weird because the idea of collateral damage is it`s unintentional. But in this case, I think you are intentional collateral damage, that the attack is directed at the president by using you as a weapon against the president. You as collateral damage are also supposed to be silenced in this debate. You were effectively supposed to be rendered inoperable as a campaign surrogate and a person who speaks on behalf on his own support for the president. Has that aspect of it do you think worked? Do you feel like you have to sit out national campaigning for now or for the long run because of this incident? Are you just going to keep doing what you`ve been doing? BOOKER: Well, one, I`m going to serve the president and what his team thinks is the best use for me. Two is every opportunity I have for within my city, wherever I go, as I`ve done consistently for a very long time for the White House, as well as for the president, as well as for his campaign, I`m going to continue every single day to pour my heart and soul into making sure that he gets re-elected because I`ve seen what happens under Republican president. I`ve seen what happened under George Bush within my city. I`ve seen the challenges of money pouring into a war we shouldn`t have been into and not into programs that could empower our community. I`ve seen this investment in education, I`ve seen this investment in middle class job creation. And that`s something I can`t sit still for. It hurts me. I feel disappointed if anyway that now I`m being used to undermine the president in this kind of cynical of being a way. I`m going to work harder. If anything they have turned me on, even to work harder the next six months, from fundraising to whatever need be, to ensure our president gets re-elected. I`m not going to be quiet on my disappointment with the nature of campaigns. I think we as a democracy really now, and especially after this election, need to start looking at the things that we can do to get all this money out of politics and to begin to start focusing on what we can do to ensure our democracy is advanced and ensure the voices of average people can be heard and not drown out in the way they are right now by super PACs. But as far as where my heart is right now, I`m very upset that I`m being used by the GOP this way. And it`s -- well, I thought today I was going to be quiet, being pushed so far that you`re going to hear a lot from me to the extent possible, and to the extent that President Obama and his campaign want to hear from me. MADDOW: Mayor Cory Booker of the great city of Newark, New Jersey -- my friend, I know it was a hard decision to talk publicly today as you just described. I appreciate that you`re willing to talk with me here, man. Good luck. BOOKER: As always, Rachel. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: -- over the next few days as this continues to unfold. Thanks. BOOKER: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Andrea Mitchell still to come. Ben Jealous with the NAACP still to come. We got a big show tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, I think Cory Booker is an outstanding mayor. He`s doing great work in Newark and helping to turn the city around. I think it`s important to recognize that this issue is not a, quote, "distraction". This is part of the debate that we`re going to be having in this election campaign about how do we create an economy where everybody from top to bottom, folks on Wall Street and folks on main street have a shot at success, and if they`re working hard and they`re acting responsibly, that they`re able to live out the American Dream. Now, I think my view of the private equity is that it is -- it is set up to maximize profits. That`s a healthy part of the free market. That`s part of the role of a lot of business people. That`s not unique to private equity. As I think my representatives have said repeatedly, and I will say today, I think there are folks who do good work in that area, and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries. But understand that their priority is to maximize profits. That`s not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers. And the reason this is relevant to the campaign is because my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He`s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He`s saying I`m a business guy, and I know how to fix it, and this is his business. When you`re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. And, so, if your main argument for how to grow the economy is, I knew how to make a lot of money for investors, then you`re missing what this job is about. It doesn`t -- it doesn`t mean you weren`t good at private equity. But that`s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. Mr. Romney is responsible for the proposals he`s putting forward for how he says he`s going to fix the economy, and if the main basis for him suggesting he can do a better job is his track record as the head of a private equity firm, then both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was President Obama speaking in Chicago today after he was asked a question at the NATO summit there about domestic politics, about his campaign focusing on Mitt Romney`s tenure as a businessman working in private equity. He was asked about that because of criticism of that focus from his campaign which Republicans have made so much hay about. A criticism of that focus from Newark Mayor Cory Booker who we just spoke to exclusively on this show. Joining us now just back from the NATO summit in Chicago is NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" right here on MSNBC, the one and only Andrea Mitchell. Andrea, thanks very much for being with us. I really appreciate your time. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You are the one and only. Nobody else could have gotten Cory Booker to come in and speak, and that was an incredible interview. Well done. MADDOW: Thank you. Thank you for saying so. It`s high praise coming from you. But I want to -- I want to ask you about the point that I tried to make in the introduction to that interview, which I`m not sure has been made elsewhere, which is the idea of the wayward surrogate, the off-message surrogate, which is something that has happened a lot on the Mitt Romney side of the campaign to almost no political impact whatsoever. It`s happened, obviously, with Mayor Booker on the Democratic side of the campaign to massive political impact. Why has there been such a difference? MITCHELL: Well, the Romney people have been very adept at really jumping and they have a lot of Democratic allies in this who jump any time there`s a missed message. This was, with all due respect, to Mayor Booker, there was a missed message because as he did acknowledge to you, he did, in his answers, conflate the attacks on Bain and on private equity with the Jeremiah Wright issue, and that`s what so upset the Obama camp, because they do not see that at all as analogous. There is no comparability to the Jeremiah Wright question, which had been considered by one of the super PACs as a possible attack line, we believe will probably rear its ugly head at some point during this campaign by one of these surrogates or one of these super PACs. To use that and try to compare that in any way with the essential outlines of his campaign as the president and as Mayor Booker, in his interview with you, outlined it, which is that private equity has its role, but if your whole premise of running for president, as the Obama campaign claims, is that you`re a business person and you can fix what`s wrong and you will do this the way you did it at Bain Capital, if that experience defines your qualification to be president -- well, as President Obama said in his news conference, that just is not what a president is supposed to do. A president is supposed to represent all the people, not just the people who can benefit by being the investors who will do well if a company that Bain Capital has turned around does well or does not. Making money is not the business of the president of the United States. That is the way President Obama framed it. That is the message that they believe is resonating in the key battleground states across the Midwest, across what we used to call the Rust Belt, and that is what they believe was badly damaged by Cory Booker as their eventual endorsement of gay marriage was damaged by another even more prominent surrogate, Joe Biden, also I should point out on "Meet the Press". So, it`s surrogates sort of speaking honestly, speaking from the heart, and saying what they really believe, and that is the problem for this campaign. They were just sort of shaking their heads but they were deeply upset. MADDOW: I should say that I think we made news tonight with Cory Booker saying that conflation of the Jeremiah Wright tactic and the private equity tactic is something that he did not intend and that he regrets and isn`t something he believes. One of the things that`s so fascinating about this, Andrea, is that the issue of Mitt Romney`s tenure in the private sector, the years that he spent at Bain Capital, as opposed to, say, his time as governor of Massachusetts, have actually been made central by both the Republicans and the Democrats. The Republicans want to run on that, and the Democrats want them to run on that. I wonder if this whole kerfuffle, not just the incident, but the reaction to it, is going to be a inflection point on that. Are either of these campaigns going to change their focus on that issue because of what`s just happened here? MITCHELL: Not for the Obama campaign, I can tell you. They believe that their Bain Capital record is their best argument against Mitt Romney. And they point out very happily and willingly that he does not run on his record as Massachusetts governor, because, of course, he has had to pivot on so many issues from that record as Massachusetts governor. Now, look, you`re absolutely right. What you pointed out in your opening segment in the lead-in to the Cory Booker interview was that the media has not really dwelled on how many of these Republicans are not endorsing Mitt Romney in a very -- how would describe the way they`ve been endorsing Mitt Romney -- an elevator closing? MADDOW: They haven`t been unequivocal? MITCHELL: To say the least. So that has been sort of a light motif but not hammer. That really mixed metaphor, but you know what I`m trying to say after all these hours traveling today, that the Republicans have gotten pretty much a free ride on that, and Mitt Romney has managed to pull the party together. And I think that`s partly because for all of the bitterness of that campaign and for all of the more conservative Republican and social conservative who has longstanding doubts about Mitt Romney and his authenticity, they still, I think, dislike Barack Obama more than they dislike Mitt Romney. MADDOW: NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, the host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS," weekdays at 1:00 here on MSNBC -- Andrea, I know you`ve had an incredible day, including covering everything in Chicago and traveling and being with us tonight and all the reporting from both the campaigns -- thank you so much -- MITCHELL: But you had the interview, madam. Well done. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP, speaking interviews, is coming up to talk about the major shift in politics around a great, big civil rights issue in this country right now. Mr. Jealous is making very big news and he will be here in just a couple minutes. I told you it`s a big show. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you have grown up laughing to the jokes of particular comedian, if they have a distinctive voice, it can be hard to hear that voice, to hear that comedian saying something and not automatically subconsciously register in your brain that something is about to be funny. So when the great Chris Rock was asked recently about President Obama endorsing equal marriage rights for same sex couples, hearing Chris Rock answer that question was to experience the expectation of laughter -- even though Chris Rock didn`t say anything actually funny in his answer. From watching this happen, I -- from watching this happen, learned that frankly, Chris Rock could read me the phone book and subconsciously, I would believe it was funny. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: I just think, you know, when you have kids you can`t lie to your kids. He said, I read today, his kids have friends that have, you know, same-sex parents. I just took my daughter to a party the other day, two guys, same sex parents. And he couldn`t sit there as the most powerful man in the world and say that these people deserve to be discriminated against to his little girls. You know what I mean? So, I thank -- you know, I thank the children more than anything. The children will make you find who you truly are and make you honest. I think that`s what happened. This shows you how screwed up the world is, though, that a man goes, hey, I think gay people should be treated like everyone else. Controversy! What kind of world is this? It`s so horrible. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was a few days ago. Chris Rock on the Graham Norton show talking about same-sex marriage rights. A couple of days after that, the great Jay-Z, the leading renaissance man and entrepreneur of the rap world, expressed much the same sentiments. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY-Z, RAPPER: What people do in their own homes is their business and who you choose to love whoever you love. That`s their business. It`s no different than discriminating against blacks. It`s discrimination, plain and simple. I think it`s the right thing to do so whether it costs him votes or not, you know, again, it`s really not about votes. It`s about people. So, whether it costs him votes or not, I think it`s the right thing to do as a human being. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is no different than discriminating against blacks. It`s discrimination plain and simple. Jay-Z overtly equating same-sex marriage rights to the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans in this country. That is an assessment that the oldest civil rights organization has just weighed in on. The head of the NAACP joins us live for the interview tonight. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The NAACP is 103 years old, the nation`s oldest civil rights organization. Today, they announced they are endorsing equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Now, in some way, this parallels the decision on this issue by President Obama. Like President Obama, the NAACP has recently taken the position in favor of same-sex marriage rights in some specific states and in some specific local contentious issues. But before this vote by their board, before this 62-2 vote by their national board, they had not taken a national position on this issue in general. It`s a big deal for a few reasons. First, because support for same- sex marriage has been softer among African-Americans than among white people and Latinos in this country. There`s been talk on the anti-gay right to use the issue to turn gay people and black people against each other in this country for political purposes. And then I guess gay, black people get divided personally. Left leg one, one way, right way in the other, or something. There`s also been concern in the Democratic Party that if elements of the African-American community disagree with the president`s position in favor of gay rights, maybe that could soften his rock solid support among African-American voters. Well, the NAACP, the world`s oldest and largest African-American association, taking this stand is therefore a big deal. But the other reason this is a big deal is emotional. It`s personal. Something kind of remarkable happened when the group`s national president, Ben Jealous, made this announcement about his organization today. Watch what happened. You`ll see in this clip. He just made the announcement about the NAACP national endorsement of the same sex marriage rights, and he has been asked a question about whether he`s worried about a backlash against the decision from NAACP members who dissent from that position for religious reasons. This was Ben`s response. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: I would like to point out that many of us are religiously based. The bishop, the chairman who`s an ordained reverend, myself who was an altar boy. We do this work because of our faith, not in spite of it. With that said, our calling as an organization is to defend the U.S. Constitution. We are here to speak to, again, matters of civil law and matters of civil rights. I`ve spoken to many clergies who feel differently, different thoughts, different theologies, different doctrines. All of are very clear that if this is a difference, it is a difference not a division. If this a contrast, it is a contrast, not a conflict. They understand that there are well -- excuse me. To one -- I`m a bit moved. My parents` own marriage was against the law at the time, and they had to return here to Baltimore after getting married in Washington, D.C., and the procession was mistaken for a funeral procession because it was so quixotic for people to see these cars with these headlights on, having to go from one city all the way to the next just so they could have a party after they got married in their own home. This is an important day. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is an important day. Joining us now for the interview is the president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous. Ben, thank you so much for being here tonight. It`s good to see you. Thank you. JEALOUS: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: I have to ask you -- go ahead. JEALOUS: No, you got me choked up there. One of the reasons why this issue is so important, so important that we as a country just get it right. This is an issue of civil law. It is a civil rights issue. This thing called civil marriage, you know, what our government does, is because when we get it wrong, it gives permission for people to bully kids, you know, to make their parents outcasts, and that`s why I`m so proud of what our board did, that they really discerned, they debated and they came down. As you said, just too dissenting, came down very firmly that this is an issue of our Constitution, it`s a matter of our law, it`s a question of how our government treats its citizens, and how we will let states codify discrimination into their state constitution, and therefore make it that law of their law. I`m just proud of the NAACP and the stand that we have taken. MADDOW: The NAACP has taken a stand on this issue with some state chapters and some local chapters on some local issues. But in terms of the decision to take this vote at the national level, and it was an overwhelming vote, 62-2, I think I read was the vote of your national board. Do you think the timing here was driven by the kinds of personal issues that you raised, that you say that drove that emotion and that announcement today? People personally coming to this issue for -- because of personal reasons, or is this a political decision by the group or some sort of melding of the two? JEALOUS: You know, what happened was that we saw this great battle in North Carolina, and realized as that was going on that it was no longer sufficient to decide this state-by-state. We had fought it in California, I signed off joining a lawsuit to invalidate prop 8. We fought it in North Carolina most recently. But in the mix of that, it became clear we might be fighting a tidal wave in the states seeking to codify discrimination into their constitution, into those state laws, and we just thought it was important - - the board in their deliberation just thought it was important to come out clearly for the entire country, to make it clear that we will fight these efforts wherever they pop up. Simply cannot stand by and watch one group be targeted for de jure discrimination. We have opposed du jure discrimination from our founding, and this is no different. The reality is the right wing in this country is seeking to really sow hatred in the state constitutions, and we simply can`t stand by, no matter who the group is. And again, we had taken I think a noble stand in several states, but it was time to take it for the country as a whole. MADDOW: Ben, in terms of the right wing, particularly the anti-gay activist right wing having strategized to try to divide gay Americans and black Americans, first of all, as if there`s no overlap between the two groups, but obviously for the strategic purpose of getting done what they want to get done at the ballot box and beyond, do you feel like their strategy is naive? Do you feel like even though you disagree with it, it could succeed? Or do you feel they`re barking up the wrong tree in trying to pursue that means toward their ends? JEALOUS: You know, they`re truly barking up the wrong tree. I mean, of course, they`re going to be able to find, you know, some black person who wants to make this their issue. But the reality is that folks know when they`re being played, they know when there is a group, the anti-civil rights to their core that is trying to dupe them to go down the wrong road. And the reality is, that again, yes, people may have a difference on this issue, but we`re not going to be divided on so many other things. The core civil rights agenda. NAACP is not going to lose significant membership, for instance, for taking this stand. We may even gain membership. The reality is that people expect to see the NAACP stand up for the Constitution, stand up for equality, stand up for continuing the tradition of our country, and one that we`ve always found, really, in recent decades, but stand up for the tradition of using Constitutions to expand rates rather than contract them. I mean, that`s something that`s gone on in this country consistently, probably, since the 1950s, sporadically before, but now we`re going back to these dark days where folks want to use Constitutions to restrict rights. And that`s something we will stand against each and every time, just like we stood up to help defeat the personhood referendum in Mississippi. The whole purpose of a Constitution in this country, sacred course, to expand rights, not restrict them. MADDOW: Ben Jealous, the president and CEO of the NAACP, that has made this momentous that they, as a national organization, support equality in marriage rights for same-sex couples. Ben, congratulations on this big stuff. I know it was a big deal for you to be able to announce this. It`s been a big goal for your organization. Thank you, Ben. Thanks for being here tonight. JEALOUS: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. And get their new claim satisfaction guarantee. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In case you missed it tonight, we broadcast the first exclusive interview tonight with Newark Mayor Cory Booker after his appearance on "Meet the Press" yesterday which set the political world on fire all day yesterday and all day today. Bipartisan reaction to Cory`s remarks on "Meet the Press" have range from interesting to frankly idiotic. Cory Booker made some real news here tonight about what he said on "Meet the Press," about what he meant when he said those things that he said on "Meet on Press," and he is responding now to the way he sees himself being used by the Republican Party. The news that Cory Booker made on our show recapped in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So the big news tonight was made on this show. On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Newark Mayor Cory Booker criticized campaigning on both sides of the presidential campaign this year. He said he found it nauseating. He also said that even though the president`s reelection, which he supports, had criticized Mitt Romney`s tenure at Bain Capital, the mayor said he does not think private equity per se is always bad. The Republican Party pounced on that. They responded with a new ad from the Romney campaign and with a new slogan, that`s up in the front page of the Republican Party Web site. Their new slogan is "We stand by Cory." The Republican Party now claiming that Mayor Booker is a victim, that he`s being silenced by the Obama campaign, that he`s not being allowed to say what he actually believes. Mayor Booker was here tonight to say what he actually believes. He said it was that Republican Party response which he called exploitive which made him break his own on-air silence over his comments. He joined us exclusively earlier this hour. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOOKER: I wasn`t doing any interviews. It wasn`t until the GOP went across that line that I said, forget it. I`ve had all I can stand and I can`t stand no more. So thank you for giving me a chance to be on tonight. MADDOW: What is the line they crossed that made you feel that way? What is it about the way they have reacted to this that made you change your mind about talking about this issue again? BOOKER: Anybody who watched the entire "Meet the Press" saw not only was I defending Obama`s positions on numerous issues, but also talked about super PAC money and the negative campaigning, and my outrage and really frustration was really about the cynical, negative campaigning, the manipulating of the truth. And so, here they are plucking sound bites out of that interview to be -- to manipulate them in a cynical matter, to use them for their own -- for their own purposes. And that slogan is really what had me and basically my entire staff really fit to be tied. As far as where my heart is right now, I`m very upset that I`m being used by the GOP this way, and it`s -- I thought today I was going to be quiet, but I`ve been pushed so far that you`re going to hear a lot from me to the extent possible and to the extent that President Obama and his campaign want to hear from me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Stay tuned. More to surely, surely come. Now, it is time for `THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END