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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/29/12

Guests: John Harwood, Michael Waldman, P.J. Crowley

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. Good evening, Rachel. I never thought I`d see deer hunting be a factor in an election. But I guess that`s what it`s going to be. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Not in this way. This is not the way that anybody saw it coming in this one, Ed. Thank you. I appreciate it, man. Thanks to you at home for staying with us. At this hour, polls are closed in the great state of Texas where the presidential primaries on the Republican and Democratic sides provide about as much suspense as the question whether or not the sun will rise tomorrow. But with Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison retiring from the Senate, there is actually an interesting scramble in the primary today for a candidate to replace her. In terms of endorsements on the Republican side, it has been a battle of the Republican also-runs. Ex-presidential candidate and still Texas Governor Rick Perry has endorsed his lieutenant governor in the Senate race in Texas today. By virtue of that endorsement, the lieutenant governor is essentially the Republican establishment candidate for Kay Bailey Hutchison`s Senate seat. But it does have an insurgent challenger on the right, a former state solicitor general, who has been endorsed by the artist formally known as the Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. If neither the Perry-endorsed lieutenant governor nor the Palin- endorsed ex-solicitor general gets 50 percent of the vote in the Senate race in Texas tonight, those two candidates will be in a run off at the end of July. At this hour, here are the latest results that we have in that race. In the Texas Senate race with 32 percent in, David Dewhurst, who is the lieutenant governor endorsed by Governor Perry, is at 47 percent. Ted Cruz, who is the Palin-endorsed closest challenger, at 29 percent. Again, one of these candidates has to go above 50 percent to avoid a runoff. We`ll be watching that tonight. This is the race to watch tonight in Texas, although there`s some other down ballot action there. At the tip top of the ticket, though, there`s some news even though there`s not been much suspense. NBC News is now projecting that Mitt Romney is the winner in Texas and importantly, that he will win enough delegates in Texas tonight to clinch the Republican nomination for president. Texas has ended up having a really important role to play in the presidential race. We will no longer after tonight have to call Mitt Romney the de facto nominee, or the presumptive nominee. Thanks to Texas tonight, Mitt Romney will be the Republican Party`s presidential projected nominee full stop. Now, as I said, this is not a surprise. Once everybody else was effectively out of the race and, frankly, before everybody was out of race, you can do the math pretty easily. You can figure out Mitt Romney was going to be clinching the nomination and that it was likely to happen tonight. You can figure out in advance, well in advance, that Mitt Romney was going to clinch in Texas. John McCain clinched the Republican nomination in 2008 Texas as well. This is the sort of readily evident milestone you can see coming from a long way off. And so, given they knew this was going to happen, how did the Romney campaign plan for it. How did they plan to mark this big day? How did they plan to claim this historic win that locked up the nomination for their candidate? They arranged for him to be in Las Vegas for some reason. Romney was in Las Vegas today, meeting with Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul, the world`s 14th richest man and the person who has given more money this campaign cycle than anybody else in American politics. You may remember, Mr. Adelson was the one who almost single-handedly funded the quixotic Newt Gingrich campaign. On that and other anti-Obama causes, Sheldon Adelson has already spent 25 million bucks this year. And he has said he`s happy to spend 100 million bucks this year. But importantly, Sheldon Adelson has been lukewarm so far on whether he`s going to spend that sort of money on Mitt Romney specifically. When conservatives were trying to decide on Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum as the alternative to Mr. Romney, when conservatives were wondering if one should be pressured to drop out in order to give conservatives a better shot at displacing Mr. Romney as the nominee, Sheldon Adelson made it clear that not only was Newt Gingrich his first choice, but he did not like Rick Santorum at all. He made clear he would not support Rick Santorum became the nominee. But he said he could ultimately support Mitt Romney. When it later started to become clear that Mitt Romney was definitely going to be the nominee, Mr. Adelson however started publicly criticizing him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHELDON ADELSON, CASINO MOGUL: The problem with Romney is -- and I`ve talked to Romney many, many, many times -- he`s not the bold decision maker like Newt Gingrich is. He doesn`t want to -- every time I talk to him, he says, well, let me think about it. Everything I`ve said to Mitt, let me look into it. So, he`s like Obama. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: He`s like Obama. Mitt Romney, according to Sheldon Adelson, is like Obama and he doesn`t mean it in a good way. Sheldon Adelson who`s given more money than anybody else this campaign season, he says he`s got at least another $75 million that he would like to donate. But he has been lukewarm on Mitt Romney today. So, today, even before clinching the nomination, today was a big deal for Mitt Romney. His one-on-one meeting with Sheldon Adelson. If he could be sufficiently charming in this Vegas meeting today with the biggest campaign donor of all, it could result in a very large Mitt Romney payday. But that very important meeting, that very important prospect was overshadowed by other Mitt Romney news. The other rich guy that Romney met with in Las Vegas today. Picture is worth a thousands words, right? The second major Las Vegas event that Mitt Romney is doing today, on the day that he clinches the Republican nomination is this fund-raiser with a man named Donald Trump. Donald Trump who Mitt Romney has made a centerpiece of his campaign. Less than a year ago, Donald Trump was considering a run for president. He was campaigning for the job largely by intimating or outright alleging that the president of the United States was not really the president of the United States. Mr. Trump intimating that President Obama is secretly foreign. That was the basis of the Donald Trump flash in the pan presidential candidacy a year ago. That`s the reason he wanted to run. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Why doesn`t he show his birth certificate? And you know what? I wish he should because I think it`s a terrible pall that`s hanging over him. He should show his birth certificate. Three weeks ago when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country and now I really have a much bigger doubt than I did before. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But based on what? TRUMP: And you know what? His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya and she was there and witnessed the birth, OK? He doesn`t have a birth certificate or he hasn`t shown it. If you are going to be the president of the United States you have to be born in this country and there`s a doubt as to whether or not he is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That little brain, curdling, wallow, nihilistic, nativistic celebrity-driven verbal up chuck came to an abrupt end just about one year ago when on a Wednesday afternoon, the president of the United States held a press conference at the White House to release his freaking birth certificate, to put that nonsense to rest. That was on a Wednesday afternoon. Three days later on Saturday, it was the White House Correspondents` dinner where the president devoted a significant portion of his remarks to making fun of Donald Trump for the birth certificate nonsense. It was not until the following day on Sunday that we learned while the president was holding that birth certificate press concerns and delivering the jokes at Donald Trump`s expense, the other thing that was going on on the presidential schedule at that moment was that he was overseeing the operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which made the whole birth certificate thing seemed a little crazy in retrospect. And so, no, Donald Trump would not be running for president and Donald Trump`s little birther moment was not only a humiliation for him but for anybody who wasted a single fire of neuron listening to him about that issue. Donald Trump as a Republican political figure was over. But quietly and very soon thereafter, it was Mitt Romney who brought him back. We got the announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed on May 1st. By September, Mitt Romney was meeting in Manhattan with Donald Trump, seeking what? Advice, endorsement? You would want an endorsement from Donald Trump? Yes, in turns out you would. In February, Mitt Romney flies out to one of Donald Trump`s hotels in Las Vegas to accept in person an official endorsement from Mr. Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some things that you just can`t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them -- being in Donald Trump`s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. So, I want to say thank you to Donald Trump for his endorsement. It means a great deal to me to have the endorsement of Mr. Trump. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was February of this year. And two months after that, in April, Donald Trump threw a 63rd birthday for Ann Romney, for Mrs. Romney, at Trump Tower. A birthday bash complete with this edible, sugar- coated depiction of Mrs. Romney atop a horse. That was the cake that Mr. Trump prepared for the birthday event. Donald Trump was such a big part of the Romney that by then, ABC News was able to report at the time, quote, "All told, the Donald has recorded more than 30 robocalls for the campaign and participated in more than 50 radio interviews in every state holding primaries over the past two months." You got the September meeting. You got the February endorsement. You got the April birthday party. You`ve got dozens of calls, dozens of surrogate interviews. And now, today, the day he clinches the nomination, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump jointly hosting a Romney campaign fund-raiser in Las Vegas. Mr. Trump is not a random support of the Romney campaign. He is a center piece of the Romney campaign. And with the credibility and platform and Republican Party`s presidential nominee seal of approval that that gives him, Donald Trump is busy advancing his main and, dare I say, only political message. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Is it is most important thing? In a way it is because, you know, you`re not allowed to be president if you`re not born in the country. But let`s see what happens. A lot of people are questioning his birth certificate. They are questioning the authenticity of his birth certificate. There are some major questions here and that press doesn`t want to cover it. The press refuses to cover it. A lot of people do not think it was authentic certificate. WOLF BLITZER, CNN: How can you say that -- TRUMP: Now, you won`t report it, Wolf. But many people do not think it was authentic. His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out. You tell me really, you analyzed the birth certificate. There are many people that don`t agree with that birth certificate. They don`t think it`s authentic, Wolf. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was not stuff from last year when Donald Trump was fake running for president in order to get himself some attention. That`s what`s happening now, while Mitt Romney is holding this fund-raiser with him. Asked how he can stomach raising money with and campaign with and co- hosting events with somebody who`s promoting that kind of nonsense about the president, Mr. Romney last night displayed this profile in courage. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I don`t agree with all the people who support me. And my guess is they don`t all agree with everything I believe in. And I need to get 50.1 percent or more and I`m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I need to get 50.1 percent or more, whatever it takes. This fund-raiser tonight with Mitt Romney and Donald Trump is expected to raise $2 million for the Romney campaign -- $2 million is $2 million. Mr. Romney is in the business of chasing campaign money around the country right now. His two stops in Las Vegas, after all, are with a casino billionaire and with Donald Trump, this fund-raiser. He`s chasing money right now. But even though $2 million is a lot of money, $2 million for somebody like Mitt Romney is actually not all that much money. He dropped more than $40 million of his own money on his failed campaign back in 2008. This time around, he`s only spent about $150,000 of his own money so far. Two million dollars is nothing to Mitt Romney. Two million dollars is the kind of money Mitt Romney might conceivably have in his wallet at any one moment or maybe in his wallet and under the mattress at the La Hoya mansion, right? Is the $2 million that he is raising at the fund-raiser really worth for his campaign and for the Republican Party and the country for him to be endorsing this nonsense? Because Mitt Romney has punted this to us now by taking Donald Trump`s side, now, we have to figure out about ourselves, whether we are the kind of country where you gain more votes than you lose by associating yourself with an insane conspiracy theory like this. If you are Mitt Romney, apparently, you really think you`re the kind of country where this is going to earn you votes. Earn you more than you lose. So, you do the Donald Trump fund-raiser, you in fact play right into it by releasing your own birth certificate on the day of your Donald Trump birther fund-raiser which Mitt Romney did today? And you come up with some way to look in the mirror and hope that history forgives you. Joining us now is John Harwood, CNBC`s chief Washington correspondent and the author of "The Political Memo," political column for "The New York Times". John, it is great to see you. Thank you for being here. JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Great to be here. MADDOW: There were no cameras at the -- there`s no tape of Mitt Romney and Donald Trump together at this fundraiser tonight. Do we know anything about whether or not Mr. Romney commented on the birth certificate thing at the event? HARWOOD: Well, we know that this evening, Mitt Romney has joked about the birth place requirement in the Constitution, the age requirement by -- in the service of saying, well, I think there ought to be a business experiment requirement. What that tells me, the fact that he`s willing to joke about that, the fact that he releases a birth certificate today, while the campaign says that was in response to a reporter`s question from last week, released yesterday, tells me that they are not scared about the backlash here, and that they have decided to adopt a posture of we`re not going to knuckle under to Rachel and to MSNBC and to other people who might be associated with the left or the Obama campaign who want us to apologize and run away from Donald Trump. So, I think that appears to be a calculation that they have made. And I have to say, in one sense I think it may be justified. Donald Trump is such a well-known clown on his own, right? People don`t take him seriously for reasons that preceded Mitt Romney that had to do with Donald Trump`s persona and what he did when he`s exploring a race for the nomination. I think it`s possible that voters out there who might be casually absorbing this aren`t really going to associate it with Romney as with Trump himself. MADDOW: Don`t -- do they see they are mainstreaming him and his one stated political view by doing this? HARWOOD: I think they -- to some degree, they are generating blowback for themselves. But I think the universe in which that blowback associated with the mainstreaming that you mentioned is fairly small and may not be determinative in the places they most care about and with the voters they most want to animate. MADDOW: In Republican circles and in the Romney campaign and the way that I guess Beltway politico`s talk about what happened in 2008, is it becoming the retrospective history of the John McCain campaign he would have done better against Obama and Biden had he gone more with the Muslim stuff, with the birther stuff, with this conspiracy theory stuff that Romney seems more comfortable with now? HARWOOD: It would appear to be some consultants who make that argument. I think they`re wrong. I think John McCain had a very bad hand in 2008. That hand might had been worse had he gone to Jeremiah Wright and gone to the birther stuff. The one other thing I would say, Rachel, is in terms of the mainstreams of this, I`m not sure that Donald Trump has the capacity to mainstream anything, because as I mentioned, the guy is a clown. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: But the question of whether he can be mainstreamed? I mean, when you`re doing a named, you`re not just a supporter. You`re doing a named fund-raiser, making robocalls. The campaign is saying for $3 chance, you can have dinner and x clown -- aren`t you raising that clown to much more seriousness than they otherwise be given? HARWOOD: I guess but how serious can Donald Trump become? People have seen the bluster, the baloney, the silly television show. All of that stuff I think doesn`t lend itself to people considering Donald Trump as a serious political figure. He is somebody who -- he has a business profile. There may be some tiny sliver of voters who assign some credibility to that. But I think Donald Trump is about money. Today is about money. Mitt Romney is raising money. He met with Sheldon Adelson. He might get more money from Sheldon Adelson, who as you mentioned, has given $25 million this year. So, to me that`s what the central purpose of Romney campaign is about today. MADDOW: Wow. This is the sort of development in a presidential race that having lived with Mitt Romney as my governor, feeling that I know him pretty well, I never would have seen this coming, never would have seen it. Thank you, John. It`s nice to have you here. HARWOOD: You bet. Good to see you. MADDOW: John Harwood, of course, is CNBC`s chief Washington correspondent and his political column for the "New York Times` is called "The Political Memo." OK, the odds are getting sharply better that we will watch election returns in November when something really funky like change the results of whole thing funky happens in the great state of Florida. Florida shenanigans, this year`s version. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Memo to all candidates who have both English and Spanish language Web sites, some of your constituents will be able to read both. Warning, warning, warning. That`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the year 2000, in the run up to the presidential election year, that year, 2000, the state of Florida undertook a massive purge of the state`s voter rolls. It was led by candidate George W. Bush`s brother, Florida`s Republican governor that year, and by Florida`s Republican secretary of state, Katherine Harris. The stated goal of the Florida voter purge was to make sure that felons who lost their right to vote in Florida would not be permitted to vote by mistake in that year`s election. The goal is to remove the ineligible names from the voter registration list. Here`s how that went. The private company that Florida contracted to purge its voter registration rolls gave state officials a list supposedly of 8,000 ex-felons to remove from the voter rolls. Not a single one of those 8,000 voters had actually been convicted of felonies, only misdemeanors. So, legally, they were people who could still vote. But lists based on that, list like that were nevertheless used all over Florida, as part of how they came up with the big purge list. So, in Duval County, Florida, for example, more than half of the voters on a list of probable felons to be purged from the voter rolls were not, in fact, felons. In Clay County, Florida, 71 percent of the voters on a list of ineligible felons should not have been on that list. In Leon County, the only county in the state to independently research every name on its purge list, they were only able to verify that 5 percent of the voters they were told to scrub off their registration sheets actually had criminal records. In all, under the leadership of George W. Bush`s brother, the governor, Florida officials targeted 173,000 names for removal from the state`s voter rolls ahead of the 2000 election. Democrats argued at that time that the list disproportionately affected African-American voters who were voting for Al Gore in that election at rate of about 90 percent. George W. Bush won the state of Florida in the final vote count by 537 votes. That is what gave us as a country, President George W. Bush. A 537 vote margin in a state that had just implemented a really sketchy purge of more than 170,000 people off its voter rolls. Now, here we are in another election year and, hey, right on time, Florida Republicans are purging voter rolls in the state again. Florida`s Republican Governor Rick Scott has started a push this election cycle to remove potential noncitizens from Florida`s voter registration rolls. Over the last several weeks, the state sent local election supervisors a list of more than 2.600 registered voters who they said are not U.S. citizens and therefore are not eligible to vote. The "Associated Press" reports that local elections supervisors have responded wearily to the list and have already pointed out inaccuracies. One county election supervisor, a Republican, tweeted this photo of himself with a real live U.S. citizen and registered Florida voter who was incorrectly targeted by the state of Florida as a noncitizen. So, the voter is the guy on the left there holding up his passport. That`s his U.S. passport. He is a citizen. He was purged from the rolls. The folks at Think Progress have been writing up the stories of other U.S. citizens wrongly targeted by this year`s voter roll purge in Florida, like Maureen Russo who was born in Akron, Ohio, who`s operated a dog boarding ands grooming business in Florida for the last four decades. Nonetheless, Mr. Russo got this letter in the mail telling her, quote, "The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office has received information from the state of Florida that you`re not a United States citizen. If you believe this information is false, you may request a hearing with the supervisor of elections for the purpose of providing proof that you are, in fact, a United States citizen." So, the state of Florida is essentially saying to this woman, Ms. Russo, papers please. If she doesn`t prove that she`s a citizen, the state is going to take away her right to vote. Why? Who knows? There`s also this gentleman. His name is Bill Internicola. He is a 91-year-old World War II veteran. He was born in Brooklyn. He earned a Bronze Star for bravery in the Battle of the Bulge. He`s lived in Florida for 14 years. He`s never had trouble voting. But now, this year, the state of Florida is demanding he prove his citizenship in order to maintain his right to vote. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL INTERNICOLA, TARGETED BY FL VOTER PURGE: I have voted her for the last almost 15 years. I voted in Brooklyn when I lived in Brooklyn. I really don`t understand it. To me, it`s like an insult. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: As it happens, there`s pattern emerging among the Florida voters. The state is trying to remove from the voters rolls this election year. "The Miami Herald" has been studying the purge list. They have found, quote, "Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted by the state`s purge. Only 13 percent of the potential non-citizen list is white, even though 68 percent of Florida voters is white. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the big voter purge going on in Florida right now in addition to being just riddled with flat out errors is disproportionately targeting at least two groups that are shaping up to be key constituencies for President Obama in this year`s presidential race, Democrats, obviously, and Latinos among whom President Obama holds a 34- point nationwide lead. That`s who is being purged from Florida`s voter rolls right now. From the state that gave us a 537-margin vote victory in the year 2000 and is now trying to revoke voting rights from thousands of mostly Latinos, Democrats and independents ahead of this year`s election. What could possibly go wrong? Joining us now is Michael Waldman. He`s president of the Brennan Center for Justice in NYU School of Law. Mr. Waldman, thanks very much for your time. It`s nice to have you here. MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Great to be with you. MADDOW: Having studied voting rights cases all around the country and over time, what do you think is the motivation for what`s going on in Florida right now, and what do you think is its mostly outcome? WALDMAN: Well, you know, it is true that for election fiasco buffs, the question always is, what`s going to be the next Florida? And the answer turns out to be, what do you know, Florida. This comes on top of many other problems with the way we run elections and things that have sought to kick people off the rolls or make it harder for people to vote. The problem with this kind of massive purge -- and as you said it`s 180,000 people -- when you do something like this, this close to the election and do it in secret and do it without double checking, there is no choice but to have errors, to have legitimate people kicked off the rolls. And, you know, it`s kind of a microcosm of the many problems with the way we elect people. Look, nobody wants people to be voting who shouldn`t be able to vote. But this is not a way to run a real -- this is a not way to make our elections secure and safe. MADDOW: I think you note that important point about the timing on this. It`s so close to the election. And it`s by a process where the problems don`t seem to be able to be headed off before they`re effectuated, before people are actually told you`re not going to be able to vote or they`re at least intimidated from trying. Given that, given the way this is essentially running up toward the election, is there way to stop this sort of thing. Is there way to fix it? WALDMAN: Well, I mean, there`s one way, which is that the Justice Department which has the obligation to pre-clear things under section five of the Voting Rights Act could look at this and say that this affects the voting rights of minorities. But it`s public opinion, public attention and the reaction of local officials, some of whom you showed who are not in this really to make partisan points but try to do a difficult job of running elections. Those kinds of push backs can make a difference. And already, the state of Florida just recently said, you know, maybe we ought to double check this before we start purging people. So, the more people yell, maybe the more impact it will have. But, Rachel, the real answer is, once we`re done with the partisan shenanigans which we`re seeing in Florida so much this year and elsewhere, we really ought to modernize our voter registration system. If we put aside these fights and said, you know, let`s make sure that everybody who is eligible to vote, that the government has an obligation to put them on the roll and keep them there and use computer records, instead of this paper record, that`s the kind of thing that could add tens of millions of people to the rolls nationwide and curb fraud for people who are worried about fraud, because, you know, Mickey Mouse doesn`t have a Social Security number even in Orlando where he lives. So, you know, we could get past this easily. But this does look like little more than -- it raises a lot of questions of the very least about whether it`s politically motivated. MADDOW: That type of reform would imply that people both want people to vote and don`t want to be able to gain the system by selectively purging people who might vote against their chosen candidates, and that is something that I`m nowhere near getting over, in terms of not being an assumption here. Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice, we consult your work a lot in trying to understand the context for the voting changes that have come up so frequently in the last couple of years -- thanks for your work at the Brennan Center and thanks for joining us here tonight. WALDMAN: Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. When something happens in the world that puts Russia on the same side of matters as the United States, that is often genuine news and that is some genuine news coming up tonight. Plus, the United States senator has crossed an important line between your standard political pandering and flat out lying about himself. The good news is he`s been caught. I can explain. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A particularly vulnerable U.S. senator has made a bet. The bet is that all the voters in his state speak only English or only Spanish. He`s betting that there`s no single person in his state who speaks both languages. That was a bet by a sitting U.S. senator. That obviously was a bad bet in English and in Spanish. Details ahead. Stay tuned por solo un momento. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Three years ago, Iranians protesting a rather obviously rigged presidential election in their country were met in the streets by these guys. Obviously, some kind of coordinated force, the unmark motorcycle, one of their hallmarks. But they are not wearing uniforms. They are the Basij, the kind of militia operating at the behest of the government. They are equipped and obviously directed to be beating and going after and in some cases killing protesters. Because they are out of uniform the government doesn`t have to answer for their actions. They are deniable. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: With clubs, tear gas and axes, witnesses say Iran today crushed demonstrators who dared to take on the streets. Multiple witnesses claiming to be at the scene consistently described a savage crackdown on a few hundred protesters, outnumbered by several thousands security forces, included the feared Basij militia, the militia often in plain clothing and loyal to Iran`s supreme leader has used crude weapons, including sticks, axes, chains and machetes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: One year ago, after that in Iran three years ago, one year ago, we got the same deal in a different country. Same deal, different country, same idea. The protesters in Egypt, in Cairo, in Tahrir Square, were chased and beaten in one of the more surreal sites of that revolution. Cairo`s big, modern cosmopolitan city, people do not generally ride around on camels in a city of 7 million people. But one of the ways Basij-style militiamen attacked opposition forces in Cairo was been riding horses and camels into the crowd in Tahrir Square to terrify, trample and beat people. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Egypt ordered crackdown against anti-government demonstrators but not with troops, tanks or uniformed police. Instead, it sent in goon squads disguised as supporters of President Mubarak. It was immediately clear these were not demonstrators. Thousands of Mubarak supporters charge into Cairo`s Tahrir Square. The protesters unarmed were caught off guard by the surprise attack. The pro-Mubarak demonstrators rushed the protesters on horse back and with camels. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: As in Iran two years before Tahrir Square, these militias were an important part of the way the government was using force against its own people. They try to use the military in these cases. They definitely use police and other uniform forces. But to be able to use out of uniform force s way to employ violence against your own people in ways you do not want to have to defend or explain. As a despot fighting your own citizen, you can direct these militias to do anything you want and you can deny responsibility for everything they do. That is what the U.S. government says is happening now in yet another country, in Syria, where a 15-month uprising is blamed for between 9,000 and 12,000 deaths already. More than 100 of those deaths occurred at once on Friday, in a town called Houla, 108 people killed, 83 of them women and children. A U.N. investigation of the massacre says many of the deaths appear to have just been summary executions. Whole families shot inside their houses, just wiped out. The U.N. report doesn`t say who committed the killings. But witnesses to the massacre, including at least one survivor who was wounded, and only survived, thanks to being left for dead, said that most of the killings were committed by militias, by pro-government militiamen acting for the government but while not wearing uniforms. True to type, the Syrian government says it is not responsibility for what happened in Houla this weekend. They are blaming the massacre there on terrorists. The U.S. government says it was the Syrian militia and that the Syrian militia is being aided and abetted by, frankly, Syria`s last stone ally in the world, the Iranians. Russia had been something close to an ally for Syria, for all of this time. But the Houla massacre appears to be even too much for Russia. Russia joined the rest of the U.N. Security Council in condemning them. And then today, a dramatic coordinated action, France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Bulgaria, and us, the government of the United States, all announcing simultaneously that they are kicking out Syria`s top diplomats as a protest. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEP. SPOKESPERSON: This morning, we called in Syrian charge d`affaires, Zuheir Jabbour, and informed him that he`s no longer welcome in the United States and gave him 72 hours to depart. We took this action in response to the massacre in the village of Houla -- absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre against innocent children, women, shot at point-blank range by regime thugs, the Shabiha, that should be aided and abetted by the Iranians who were actually bragging about it over the weekend. And again the fact that Assad has to call in these Shabiha thugs, has to hire thugs to go do his dirty bidding and has to get outside aid from his only friend left, the Iranians, speaks to his desperation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us is P.J. Crowley. He`s a former assistant secretary and spokesman at the State Department, who`s currently Omar Bradley chair on strategic leadership at Penn State, Dickenson College and the Army of War College. Mr. Crowley is also a retired colonel who served 26 years in the Air Force. P.J. Crowley, thank you for being here. P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: A pleasure, Rachel. MADDOW: The details of the Houla massacre are awful enough without knowing who did it. The State Department very strongly emphasizing today, not just that it was just militia, but that it was Syrian militia aided by Iran. Is that the thing that is in exclamation point should be on here? Is that most important part of this? CROWLEY: It`s one of two. And the report highlighted the other which is where does Russia go since Syria is its most significant remaining client state in the Middle East. It`s entry into influence in the region. If Russia shifts, a lot of things that have not been possible over the past year become possible. MADDOW: In terms of the Iranian involvement and the fact this may have been, we can`t say for sure but signs and witnesses say it may have been carried out by government supported militia -- does that change the accountability for the Syrian government, in terms of whether or not they feel like they have to answer for this sort of thing? Why they bothered to deny responsibility for it? What are they sensitive to at this point? CROWLEY: Well, it allows them to hide the ball. Ostensibly, Syria has agreed to a six-point plan promoted by Kofi Annan, former U.N. secretary general and an envoy for the U.N. and the Arab League. So, by shifting from the military, which has carried much of the burden of firing on its own people in the past year, now to this non-uniformed personnel, he`s able to listen to Kofi Annan say that Syria`s reached a sipping point and not admit he`s the one that`s actually brought Syria to this tipping point where you could see very significant sectarian violence develop. MADDOW: Does it apply that Assad has worries about the loyalty of his own military? I mean, if you are -- he has been using the military to attack his own people, to devastating affect for all of this time. Doesn`t seem like that`s stopping although there`s some impetus to make it at least look like it is stopping. The turn to non-uniform forces, could that indicate that there might be some sort of rift there? CROWLEY: Not necessarily. And, unfortunately, you know, what is true of Syria is also true of Iran. Iran has for the moment, on its own suppression of its own people, held onto the loyalty of the Iranian security forces. And so far, notwithstanding some defections to the Free Syrian Army, Assad has held on for now. The other group that`s pivotal here are the elites, the business elites that have developed in Syria over the past 10 to 20 years. And that`s one of challenges of the national community to pull these elites away from the regime. Some minorities that are hedging their bet and still backing Assad. If you se that political front splinter, then the Syrian security forces might recalculate, much as the Egyptian military did, that their interest lies separate from Bashar al-Assad. MADDOW: How do you feel that the U.S. and the international community at large is doing at trying to drive those wedges? At trying to turn some of the Syrian elite against Assad and that maybe trying to exploit any fissures between the regime and the military? CROWLEY: That`s Russia becomes pivotal. They have provided political protection for Assad. There`s been no Security Council resolution in Syria, as there was in Libya. And they provided economic and military support. Syria remains one of Russia`s primary, if not most significant markets for arms in the Middle East. So, if Russia, now recalculates based on Houla, and I use an analogy to Bosnia, several -- you know, at last -- you know, in the `90s, where unfortunately you had the tragedy of Srebrenica to be a catalyzing moment, maybe Houla will. But I think this is perhaps the beginning of a process where Russia will recalculate and make more clear while it supports the Syria regime, it may or may not continue to support Bashar al Assad. MADDOW: The fact that Russia took this one step is very important. But the thing to watch is what Russia does next, do they revert to their old position, or do they stick with this new one. P.J. Crowley, thank you so much. It`s really great to have you here to help understand this. CROWLEY: A pleasure. MADDOW: Thank you. P.J. Crowley is a former assistant secretary for public affairs at the State Department. OK. When trying to get a message across the voters, there`s English, there`s Spanish and then there`s lying. A United States senator gets caught today trying numero tres. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Those pesky Internets are making it harder and harder and harder to completely mislead the voting public. Darn you Internet machine. A telltale story of bilingual obfuscation and pre-verification coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Nevada`s U.S. Senator Dean Heller got his seat the easy way. Mr. Heller is a Republican. He was already serving in Congress when Nevada`s U.S. senator at the time, John Ensign, called it quits rather than sticking around to deal with the aftermath of his affair with his staffer and a $96,000 check written to that staffer from his parents. In the midst of an ethics inquiry over his affair and his handling of it, Senator John Ensign of Nevada left the Senate a year ago. And so, Nevada`s Republican governor got to make an appointment to replace Senator Ensign. The governor appointed Senator Heller to the seat. And that`s how Dean Heller got to be a senator. However easily he got the seat here, Senator Heller now does have to compete to keep it. That means getting people to vote for him in November. And that is not sure thing. President Obama beat John McCain in Nevada by 13 points in 2008. In 2010, Democratic Senator Harry Reid`s poll numbers were so awful everybody thought anyone Republican with a pulse could beat him in Nevada. But Harry Reid held on to his state. It may have been a cake walk for Dean Heller to become a senator. It is not going to be a cake walk for him to stay one this fall. On this campaign Web site, Mr. Heller has listed the issues the thinks are important for Nevada voters. Growing the economy, he says cut the deficit, cut regulations, also creating jobs, this he lists as a separate category and he says for this he wants to cuts energy spending. He`s got energy independence, health care reform and foreclosures. He`s got independence up there and Israel, and also in the I-section, he`s got immigration reform. Now, Nevada`s electorate is 15 percent Latino. That`s enough to make a huge difference in any general election. "The Las Vegas Sun" wrote about how Dean Heller`s record as a U.S. senator is going to make him a real hard sell to the state`s Latino voters. Quote, "Heller has consistently supported limiting or eliminating the ability to conduct government business in any language other than English. Heller has sponsored to limit election ballots to English only, to mandate that the free application for federal student aid only be filled out in English, and to make English the official national language. Dean Heller has also supported a bill to end birth right citizenship." So no matter how he tries to craft his appeal to Nevada`s Latino voters back home, it`s going to be hard to escape the fact that Dean Heller has spent his time in Washington trying to make it harder for Spanish- speaking families to vote, to get drivers licenses, to send their kids to college. And even tried to erase the constitutionality guarantee that if you are born in America, you are an American. It`s going to be hard to get away from that record to try win over Latino voters in Nevada. You want to see how he`s trying to do it? This is amazing. If you look at the bottom of Dean Heller`s campaign Web site, you will see there`s this tiny little tile, see there? Juntos con Heller, basically together with Heller. Click there and you get Dean Heller on Espanol. Remember the list of issues back there on his Web site when it was just the main Dean Heller Web site, not Dean Heller in Espanol like you see here. Dean Heller in English had all those positions, right? Foreclosure, Israel, creating jobs, immigration. Here`s Dean Heller in the English section of his campaign Web site on immigration. He says businesses who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should be held accountable. Dean also believes border patrol must also have the resources necessary to end the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States. He opposes amnesty for those who enter America illegally. Fearless hold the line conservatism, right? How does that translate for the special Dean Heller on Espanol section of his Web site? It`s going to look great on Espanol, see? In Spanish language part of his Web site, there is none of that stuff, none of that I oppose amnesty crackdown on anybody who hires an illegal immigrant stuff. No. Dean Heller decided that that stuff that`s on his English language Web site, did not translate to the Spanish language part of his Web site. Instead, Dean Heller in Spanish talks about his compassion for Nevada students. Nevada students trying to learn English along with their regular studies. Dean Heller in Spanish writes, quote, "Nevada is a state of opportunity. We are proudly a state and a nation of immigrants." That`s what he says in Spanish. In English, not so much. With the record like that, I am not sure that Latino voters are ever going to get behind Dean Heller for Senate. But now, Dean Heller for Senate has managed to insult every Spanish-speaking person in the state of Nevada, and every English-speaking person in the state of Nevada by assuming that there`s no overlap whatsoever among you. And not a single one of you is capable of clicking the Google translate button that automatically populates when you visit Dean Heller`s two-faced bilingual campaign. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This hour, NBC News can project that Mitt Romney has won the presidential primary in Texas and that he has thereby clinched the delegates he needs to secure the Republican nomination for president. And on a day he clinched the nomination, history will show forever that he spent the evening with Donald Trump, amid Mr. Trump`s deepening and very commitment to a conspiracy theory about the president of the United States being secretly foreign. That is history now forever, Mitt Romney. It is your history forever. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END