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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/19/12

Guests: Steve Kornacki

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. And thank you, my friend. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. In the past hour, President Obama has wrapped up a late in the day press conference in Mexico, before he got back onboard Air Force One to travel back from the two-day G-20 Summit in Los Cabos. You know, they have to really feel for the Mitt Romney campaign on a day like today. I mean, this is one of those days that it has to feel frustrating to be running against an incumbent president just in terms of the optics you can arrange for your candidate`s daily schedule. I mean, today, the guy who is not president but who wants to be president was in a pie shop, rolling out dough -- literally, dough, in front of reporters, being seen to be making a pie. His wife, Ann Romney, posing with a cookie in the shape of a mitten. Because -- we drop the bug. Mitten shaped. It`s funny, and this is helping for the optics because her husband`s name is Mitt, as in mitten. They were in Michigan -- Michigan kind of looks like a mitten. So, it was Mitt and his wife looking at a mitten that shaped by Michigan. It`s marvelous. Optics on one side. Optics on the other side, the man that Mr. Guy with the mitten is running against, holding a series of bilateral meetings with the leaders of the most powerful leaders on earth, announcing global economic agreements, working to come to terms on various ongoing wars, holding a nationally televised press availability with the White House press corps. This sort of day for President Obama is the day in the life of a sitting U.S. president. And in competitive terms for the campaign, it`s hard to compete with those optics if you`re the guy in the pie shop campaigning against the president. But that is the way these things go. Everybody who campaigns against an incumbent president has this particular challenge. Globally, of course, the context for President Obama`s speech today was not just the international economic turbulence that still has everybody on edge and about which the G-20 leaders make their joint declaration today. But the pressing immediate context today was also what`s going on in the Middle East. It was the wild rumors today over whether or not the ousted dictator of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, had died. We will have more on that. Richard Engel is live in Egypt for us. We`ll be talking with him. But it was also the news and negotiations over another Arab world revolution that is still under way. When President Obama sat down yesterday for a two-hour meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia, as often happens at these types of events, there was all this press-based, high-end nuance, scrutiny and speculation about things like their body language. What it meant that President Obama called the former president of Russia, Dmitry, but he didn`t call Vladimir Putin, Vladimir. Instead, he called him, Mr. President. What could that mean? International summits always have that high schooley, gossipy, human interesting soft focus on leaders as if they are celebrities or something. It`s just they are maybe dating or trying out for the same cheerleading squad. But in the case of this meeting with Russia, you didn`t have to just go to the body language and what they`re calling each other. In the case of this meeting with Russia, there`s something really important and really unsubtle and concrete to watch about what was going on here. Syria is the big domino in the whole Arab spring that nobody knows whether or not it`s going to fall yet, right? It`s been 16 months of internal warfare in Syria, with the strongman dictator in charge there using military force against his own people who have been rising up against him. Syria has almost no friends in the whole world who are left still supporting the strongman dictatorship there as it uses force against its own people. I mean, Syria has Iran, which is an international rogue state and which has no friends of its own, no credibility, and no pull on other countries. They`ve got China which as a matter of course refuses to take a stand on anybody else`s human rights or violence for fear of anyone taking a stands on theirs. And they also have Russia. Syria has Russia. And unlike Iran, Russia is sort of thought of as being an international grown-up maybe, a country that is in the community of nations. So, as Syria`s government using force against its own people, you don`t have to be subtle and read the body language here. I mean, there`s a big, concrete, specific, not subtle at all thing to watch for this particular meeting while President Obama and President Putin were sitting down yesterday at the G-20 Summit. The big important thing to watch was not their eye contact, not whether or not they used each other`s first names, rather it was this. This is a Russian ship that is reportedly right now full of Russian-made attack helicopters. A ship that was on its way from Russia to Syria, where again, the government is using military equipment to attack its own people. Seriously, Russia, now is the good time to send attack helicopters? As of yesterday, as President Obama and Vladimir Putin prepared to meet at the G-20, that exact ship was sitting 50 miles off the northwest coast of Scotland, wondering what to do, wondering whether to continue on to Syria. The U.S. has been loudly complaining about this. The U.S. and the whole West did not want this shipment of attack helicopters to go ahead. Russia had been planning to do it anyway. President Obama and President Putin are sitting down together in Mexico face-to-face in a two-hour meeting. The ship is own its ways to Syria. It is rounding the United Kingdom to come back around the bottom there and make its way toward the Middle East, and what happens? The ship turns back. Coincidence with the meeting between President Obama and President Putin and with a British company saying they were pulling the ship`s insurance coverage which have been provided by a British company. For whatever reason and however they explain, that Russian ship full of attack helicopters that was on its way to Syria is no longer going to Syria. It turned back to Russia hours after President Obama and President Putin`s one-on-one meeting. Also, Michigan is shaped pie a hand. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is this a race? Look at this. Slow down. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, he`s doing good. He`s really thorough there. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Kind of the highs and the lows of being president and campaigning to be president, right? I mean, there is a drama of what it means to be president and there are the daily responsibilities of being president and the kind of decision-making context it puts you in, and then there`s the way you have to compete with that as a guy who is not yet president but is trying to prove you can be. This is not an enviable position for anyone running against an incumbent president. It`s part of the virtue of incumbency, I guess. But that high/low context is the context in which President Obama convened this nationally televised press conference tonight in Mexico, and in which the United States press corps tried to bridge the high and low, tried to bridge that trip abroad for the president with what it means here for this campaign here at home. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JULIANNA GOLDMAN, BLOOMBERG: One of Mitt Romney`s economic advisers wrote in a German publication that your recommendations to Europe and Germany in particular reveal ignorance of the causes of the crisis and he said that they have the same flaws as your own economic policies. I wanted to get your response to that. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, with respect to Mr. Romney`s adviser, I suggest you go talk to Mr. Romney about his advisers. I would point out that we have one president at a time and one administration at a time. And I think traditionally, the notion has been that America`s political differences end at the water`s edge. I`d also suggest that he may not be familiar with what our suggestions to the Germans have been. And I think sometimes back home, there`s a desire to superimpose whatever ideological arguments are taking place back home onto a very complicated situation in Europe. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The president speaking this evening from Mexico. Joining us now, Steve Kornacki. He`s a senior political writer for He`s an MSNBC contributor. Steve, thanks for being here. Appreciate it. STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Happy to be here. MADDOW: This is one of those days in which we have showcased what it means to be an incumbent running against somebody who by definition is not an incumbent. In terms of the political impact of what`s going on in the international context, all these international pieces moving right now, President Obama addressing a bunch of them tonight at this live press conference -- is this a power of the presidency verses a challenger moment, as much as it is an Obama versus Romney moment? KORNACKI: Yes. No, I think it is. I think this shows you sort of the best you get out of being a president, especially in the situation like this. Because again, the entire Romney campaign is basically premised on the idea that the economy is down, economic anxiety is up, and because Obama is the incumbent president, people will want to vote against him because they need sort of -- they need somebody to blame, and they`re going to want to blame the guy who`s in charge. So, that`s the basic downside of being an incumbent. And this is a tough climate. But, yes, this is an example where sort of the optics as you point out are really favorable to Obama and it comes in a week, too, when I think Obama in a couple of other ways has demonstrated the other powers of the presidency. You think of the immigration announcement last Friday. You know, that`s something the president can do that has a clear and obvious, you know, political fallout. He can change the policy of his administration. He can set policy for the country and he can do it in a way that in the case of immigration accomplishes, you know, a political imperative and puts the opponent on the offensive. So, between the immigration thing last week and between, you know, accomplishing something actually significant internationally, and just being on the world stage like this while the Romneys are doing pastries, you know, that`s pretty significant, I think. MADDOW: They were doing pastries very, very well. They handled it perfectly. He was excellent with the rolling pin. In terms of the president`s argument in response to that specific question, saying, you know, traditionally our differences stop at the water`s edge, we have one administration at a time, bristling there, essentially, at the Romney campaign having gone to a foreign publication to attack the president on issues in terms of the way he negotiates with other countries on the eve of the G-20 Summit, the president essentially calling on the Romney campaign as a matter of decency and national interest to not attack him in that way while he`s abroad. Is that -- that sort of a Beltway argument? Do you think that has actually political weight? KORNACKI: I think it can. And again, a lot of it has to do with the setting. You know, for him to deliver a statement like that in this setting, with all of the flags behind him and surrounded by the world leaders, it can make Romney look small because the message you`re kind of delivering is, I`m the president of the United States. I`m conducting business of the United States over here. Some serious issues with consequential figures. This is not the time to be dealing with this. I can come back home, you can call me any name you want. Don`t be doing it this way when I`m here. And I think there is -- you know, there has been historically, I think the political culture has changed and is changing a little bit. It has coarsened obviously. But there has obviously been that tradition. That`s not an empty statement he`s making about the politics stopping at the water`s edge. So, you know, I do think -- again, you know, the Romney campaign, we`re going to criticize Obama for everything, we`re going to give him credit for nothing. But there have to be some limits. And I think this is one of the cases where they would have been wiser and sort of hold back. MADDOW: And the president certainly making -- I think it`s sort of a Beltway argument, I think he`s appealing to sort of bipartisanship-minded people in the Beltway who dominate so much of the beltway press corps to say, you know, you ought to be calling out Romney for having done this because nobody has criticized the Romney campaign for having that. One further point on the issue of Romney versus Obama on issues like this, I was really struck today, Steve, as soon as the Obama press conference was over, and he spent a lot of time talking about the dynamic with Russia and China towards Syria that I talked about the introduction. As soon as the press conference was over, we get a vituperative tweet from Senator John McCain, who is no longer running for president, who is the last Republican nominee for president, who has been the Republican Party`s tip of the spear in terms of attacking President Obama on wanting a U.S. war in Syria, wanting the U.S. to get involved militarily in Syria, including arming the resistance and beyond. What does it do to Mitt Romney`s position as an authority on foreign policy, as somebody who could credibly be commander-in-chief, to have John McCain, still the guy who`s essentially holding the Republican Party`s banner on this? KORNACKI: Yes, I don`t think it does much because Romney has really, the few things he said about foreign policy, the few positions he`s articulated, he`s basically going for the I`m going to be as hawkish as possible on all of this stuff. Now, he`s tried to duck the Syria questions. You have McCain being more proactive there. But what he said about Iran, Romney basically saying I want the military option on the table, I don`t want anybody holding me back on this. He says my Israel policy is go to be the opposite of Obamas, whatever exactly that means. So the theme here from Romney has really been to strike a very hawkish note, and I think what he`s trying to go for is this, the sort of caricature of Obama that emerged really the moment he came into office on the right. And that is he`s a weak president. He`s Jimmy Carter II, he`s going to be the mockery of the international stage. You know, the country is going to be ridiculed by foreign countries. That`s the image they wanted to believe in from the beginning. That`s the image McCain is sort of promoting here. That`s the image that Romney has been promoting when he talks about how Obama goes into his world apology tour. And, again, you talk about the visual impact of this. Look at where Obama is right now. Is anybody laughing at him there? You know, so, you can take that and contrast it with this and that does make a powerful statement. MADDOW: I do think, though, that Romney, if Romney`s implicit message is Obama is weak and I`m strong, for him to be proving how strong he is by letting John McCain do all of his talking for him -- KORNACKI: Right. MADDOW: -- is undercutting him. But we shall see. We shall see. Steve Kornacki, senior political writer for "Salon", MSNBC contributor -- thanks, Steve. I appreciate it. KORNACKI: You`re welcome. MADDOW: All right. Very, very much to get to on an unexpectedly busy night in the news. Richard Engel is going to be joining us live from Cairo with some important news on a story that has been confusing all day, but Richard is right in the middle of it -- and there`s nobody more qualified in the U.S. media to explain what is going on there. Also, Steve Schmidt is going to be joining us, to tell us what he makes of the Republican Party`s insurgency problem, and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown goes somewhere I didn`t think he would go and I think he should stop going to. Please stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`ve got Richard Engel coming up live from Cairo. But I also want to tell you, coming up later on the show, this is not the first time I have thought it or said it, but I`m going to have to say again tonight, what is Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown thinking? The latest cause for pause from perhaps the strangest senator in the United States Senate. It`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On a day of international drama, with President Obama in Mexico giving his big press conference, meeting with world leaders at the G-20, with Syria`s last friends on Earth being pushed to the edge at that summit, pushed to drop their support for the teetering regime in Syria, that is well over a year into using military force to crush a revolt by their own people, by a Russian ship of attack helicopters bound for the Syria government being turned back to Russia. On a day full of U.S. politics turning its eyes to the world, not just the world economy like we have been, but to what is going on in the world more broadly, on this day, this happened, too. This is Egypt. This is Tahrir Square. This is now. Tahrir Square, of course, the center of the revolt in the country of Egypt more than a year ago. The revolt that toppled the three decade long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Hosni Mubarak ruled the Arab world`s most populous country with an iron fist for more than 30 years. Today and tonight in Egypt, these crowds filled Tahrir Square again to protest against the continued military rule in Egypt after the presidential elections there to replace Hosni Mubarak. And with those protests under way, then confused rumors by Egyptian state officials and state media and then from Western media that maybe Hosni Mubarak has died. Or no, that he is somehow clinically dead but not otherwise dead, whatever that means. Then, word from Hosni Mubarak`s lawyers that he`s neither dead nor clinically dead, but he`s on a respiratory, and he is unconscious. If you have heard anything definitive about this today, you have likely heard something that is single sourced or confirmed. But even a as we try to nail down the details, it is as of yet a chaotic situation in a situation that is still deeply and chaotically in flux in the most populous nation in the Middle East. Luckily for us, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is live in Cairo in the middle of all this. Richard has lived in Egypt in the past. He`s covered the Egyptian revolution since last year. He`s there now covering the election. Richard, let me ask you first what you can tell us about these swirling rumors today about the condition of Hosni Mubarak. RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s good to be with you, Rachel. He`s had a bad day according to the reports. He`s had a stroke, he has had a stroke in his heart, he`s had a heart attack. His heart has stopped. He has been dead. He`s been in a coma. These are all the different reports that have come out. The most specific one was from the official news agency that said that there were repeated attempts to revive him but that his heart had stopped and he was clinically dead or brain dead. We spoke to his lawyer who said that`s not true, who maintained that Mubarak is in critical condition, but he`s still alive. And we`re waiting now for a statement from the Egyptian military counsel which we expect is going to say that he`s in critical condition, that he is alive, but we don`t exactly know that for sure. And confirming he has been moved from the prison infirmary to a military hospital. And that`s a step when people are taken out of jail and sent to a normal hospital, even a military hospital, when they`re nearing death or about to die. MADDOW: And, Richard, is this the death of, the death of life of one man at this point with Hosni Mubarak out of power, with the presidential elections under way, and sort of resolved if not totally resolved in terms of who will be replacing him. Is this just one man`s fate or does it have intense symbolic importance, and even political importance in this country still trying to grapple with what it`s going to be in a post-Mubarak era? ENGEL: Well, I forgot to give you all of the conspiracy theories. The conspiracy theories which were swirling today in Tahrir are that Mubarak is perfectly fine, this is all a show in order to get him out of jail and put him with his friends in a military-run facility, so that he can be whisked out of the country and that the Mubarak chapter can be closed while the military takes over the rest of Egypt. There is an enormous power struggle right now between the military, which is represented by itself and represented by Ahmed Shafiq, the military`s favored candidate who today by the way, declared he won the presidential elections, lest this weekend. And on the other side, the Muslim Brotherhood which yesterday jumped the gun and said it won the presidential elections which was the same conclusion by numerous counts by Egyptian state media, which have also today proved to be quite unreliable. So, as this power struggle is taking place, both candidates claiming that they won -- absolutely no trust between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military -- you see Mubarak suddenly whisked out of a prison facility and taking to a military hospital. So his lawyer says he`s dying, in critical condition but still alive. And Egyptians are trying to figure out what this means in their larger struggle, which has very serious consequences not only for this country but could risk potential violence in the next couple days. MADDOW: And, Richard, you have been so articulate and so focused on trying to explain to American audiences the importance of Egypt in that part of the world, how important it is that Egypt -- what Egypt`s future is how determined it will be for that whole region, including for future of Israel. In terms of how this resolves between these two candidates who are both claiming victory here, what do you think the process will be that will decide it? Is the going to be people in the streets that decide it? Is it going to be the military counsel that decides it? How is this going to end? ENGEL: Well, it`s supposed to play out like this -- tomorrow, the electoral commission will enounce the results of its findings of complaints, and generally, before this whole brouhaha had begun, the expectation was that they would dismiss most of the complaints, which have been relatively minor at this stage, and then proceed on Thursday, the day after tomorrow here in Cairo, I guess everywhere in the world, after tomorrow, they would go and proceed and announce the final results. Now that this has become such an emotional deadlock, it could be, and this is just speculation, that the electoral commission will decide to slow down this process. That they`re going to say, we`re going to examine all of the complaints a little more, and we`re not going to announce as has been expected on Thursday the results, maybe we`ll push it back a few days to let some water pass under this bridge and to cool temperatures down. If that doesn`t happen and Thursday comes around and the electoral commission, which is the plan of now, comes out and says either Shafiq or Morsi has bon and will be the new president, somebody is going to be very upset. One of these camps is going to be claiming fraud, claiming that the election was stolen. If Shafiq`s group wins, the Muslim Brotherhood and all of the people in the square today, who will be very riled up, they are already promising a new revolution, and there could be quite violent clashes and they`ll take the clashes up with the army. MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent live in Cairo tonight -- as always, Richard right in the center of everything and staying up into the middle of the night in order to explain it to us. Richard, thank you, I look forward to talking to you about this in the next few days. ENGEL: Sounds good. MADDOW: All right. Still to come, Senator Scott Brown has an unhealthy obsession, which we`ll try to shake off like trying to shuck mud off the end of a stick. And we`ve got the best new thing in the world today -- all coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We do something on the show called the best new thing in the world today, and it turns out when a person has to miss a week of the show because they have laryngitis, there`s something ridiculous like that, it turns out a person really misses having a brand new thing to look forward to each day. I was gone for a whole week with this stupid voice thing, but now I am back and we have the best, best new thing in the world on tonight`s show -- unqualified, great, totally apolitical news, something we thought was going to turn out badly, but it turned out great. It is awesome. It will make you happy. I`m so looking forward to it. I need a new best thing in the world and we have one. Yay! (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The great state of Nevada is one of the loneliest places in all of America. Nevada is a seriously empty state, the kind of place a tumbleweed might roll for a long time before finding so much as a great lost horn sheep to cuddle up to. Here`s the thing, though, it`s all about distribution. It`s about the overall size of the state and the number of people in it. If you spread around equally all of the 2.7 million hearty souls who live in Nevada, you would have about 24 people in each square mile, enough to say, hey there, hi there, hello there. But the people are not spread around evenly in Nevada. They`re bunched up in huge swaths of the state, there`s basically nobody. Look at this map. You see all of the dark green? Dark green stands for around square mile that has an average population of less than one. Tumbleweed territory. If you want to find people in Nevada, you have to avoid the dark green part, which means, look, you have to go to the corner. You have to go to the southeast corner of the state, to Clark County, roughly 3 of 4 people who live in the state live in that corner county. And, frankly, even a lot of Clark County is empty too, but the county is centered on Las Vegas where the lights are bright enough to see so you don`t bump around in the dark while looking for a tumbleweed or sheep to cuddle up to. So, in terms of acreage, Nevada has plenty of it, right? In terms of people, though, in terms of politics which are associated with people, Nevada really mostly just has this one place, it has Clark County down in the corner of the state. And in terms of a Republican Party, that little corner of the state, Clark County, Nevada, has this -- a billboard proclaiming the new Clark County Republican Party, where George Bush begat Mitt Romney, question mark, and Ronald Reagan gave the world the Ron Paul exclamation point. When this freedom of expression from Republicans in the populated part of swing state Nevada made national headlines this month, the official Clark County Republican Party decided to try to distance itself from the anti-Mitt Romney billboard, saying the billboard was not the party`s per se, it belongs to a member off the party`s executive board. In their own defense, they said they`re not even that concerned with federal elections, even if they don`t like Mitt Romney much. Presumably, federal elections include the presidential one this fall that the national Republican Party is trying to win in part using Nevada`s electoral votes. The question is whether or not Clark County Republicans in Nevada have been taken over by the Ron Paul movement, the answer is yes. Does that matter to national Republicans who really sorely, truly would like to elect Mitt Romney and who would like Nevada`s help in doing that? Well, you could ask that question about Iowa, too. Ron Paul just won the majority of Iowa`s delegates at the convention there this weekend. There will be 25 delegates plus super delegates sent to the national Republican convention from the great of state of Iowa, and of those 25, 21 are Ron Paul delegates. So, who won Iowa in the Republican presidential nominating race in 2012? Ron Paul won Iowa, and Ron Paul also won Iowa going forward beyond this year. In addition to the convention delegates, the new executive director of the Iowa Republican Party is a Ron Paul guy, deep ties to Ron Paul. Also, the party`s new organizational director, the person in charge of Iowa Republicans` presence in the countries in this election year, also a Ron Paul guy, a backer of Ron Paul. And, hey, what`s going on up there in Alaska? Look, in April, Ron Paul backers elected one of their own as the new party chairman in Alaska. In May, following month, faced with a full-on Ron Paul revolution in the making up in Alaska, the outgoing chair of the party who had been ousted by the Ron Paul guy, he urged Alaska Republicans to boycott the state Republican Party convention so they could deny Ron Paul folks a quorum, so they couldn`t replace the chairman right now before November, so the new Ron Paul Alaska party couldn`t take away Mitt Romney`s delegates for Alaska and send Ron Paul delegates to the national convention instead. In an effort to avoid that, the outgoing chairman in Alaska urged the state`s Republicans to not show up at their own convention, to go fishing instead. Literally, he told them to go fishing instead. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFEID MALE: I would encourage all of you to make that day useful because I understand that many people are not planning to be there. I would encourage you to work on things that are family related or go fishing. Thank you very much. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Avoid the state convention, go fishing. That`s what the Alaska Republican chairman told the Alaska Republican Party, and it worked. This month, Alaska Republicans largely stayed away from their convention so the Ron Paul revolution never got the quorum they needed, and in this presidential election year, the new Ron Paul dominated Alaska Republican Party can`t take over early. They couldn`t hold this convention they had planned on holding. The Ron Paul crowd went away mad in Alaska, some saying they had spent hundreds of dollars traveling to the event. Beyond Clark County, Nevada, and Iowa, and Alaska, it should also be noted that Ron Paul won a majority of the delegates for the whole state in the state of Nevada and in the state of Iowa, and in the state of Maine, and in the state of Minnesota, and maybe in Louisiana. We don`t have a final result yet for Louisiana. So even as Mitt Romney seeks to consolidate the Republican Party faithful and steam toward the November election, the Ron Paul movement has been seizing the Republican Party apparatus at the state level. As of today, Ron Paul supporters are not only not falling in line on Mitt Romney, they are suing in federal court, more than 100 delegates for the Republican National Convention are suing the Republican National Committee chairman and the state Republican parties, all of them, suing in that court`s jurisdiction, and the chair of the parties, suing all of them. The delegates allege that the Republican establishment improperly helped Romney in his fight to win the nomination. They`re asking a judge whether they as delegates will be, quote, free to vote their conscience at the national convention, which I think they mean, will they be free to vote for Ron Paul? Today, Dr. Paul told CNN that he has neither encouraged that lawsuit nor will he tell his supporters to knock it up. He says he`s in no way ready to indorse Mitt Romney because he says more debate is good. Now, oddly, the Republican National Committee has responded to this lawsuit both by saying that it`s frivolous and by saying it needs a serious response, which is a weird pair of answers. At this stage of the campaign, even in states that Mitt Romney didn`t win, Republicans are supposed to be standing up for the nominee, right? Not suing for the right to support somebody else. Does the Republican Party, particularly as a collection of state parties, does the Republican Party matter? Does the institution matter? Does it matter if a bunch of the state Republican parties are emphatically not for Mitt Romney and there are instead for Ron Paul? Now, in 2012, in this election year, does the actual machine that is the Republican Party function in a way that`s going to make a difference in the presidential election? I will tell you that from inside National Republican Party headquarters, we are told tonight that top Republican Party officials are in fact worried about the way this is playing out and will play out. A top Republican official telling us tonight the worries are about the ramification for the 2012 elections, but also for beyond. Joining us now is Steve Schmidt, Republican strategist, notably with the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008 and also now an MSNBC contributor. Steve, thank you for taking one on -- taking this on. Thanks for being here. STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You bet. Good to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: Does the party itself matter for an election? In terms of having strong state parties to turn out the vote and fundraise for the nominee and deal with publicity and stuff, do the parties matter at the state level or do you get around that with outside groups? SCHMIDT: It`s a complicated question, and to a large degree, the outside groups have destabilized some of the chief functions of the parties, on the get-out-the-vote stuff, a lot of this will take place through the third party groups. Now, when you`re running a presidential campaign or you`re in the midterm elections and you`re working from Washington, you want to be able to work with functional state parties. The fact that there are dysfunctional and uncooperative state parties is nothing new to the people who run both parties. And so, this is an issue that the Romney campaign and the Republican national committee will have to work around. But of course, the part y has ruled and the rules are designed as you move into the national convention to make it very, very difficult for insurgent state parties to go in there and cause to lot of mischief and disrupt the flow of the convention. So, at the end of the day, it`s probably not a big deal, but it`s a hassle we`ll have to deal with. MADDOW: If you were an insurgent in the Republican Party, if you had a sort of long-term ideological view the way I think the Ron Paul folks do, I don`t mean that in a critical way, just the way I think they`re oriented -- and if you were advising them and could choose between winning a state party chairmanship and winning some sort of platform plank at the national convention, which would you pick? Which would actually have more influence on the direction of the party and the goals of your movement? SCHMIDT: I`m not sure that either have a particularly big influence on the direction of the party. So for example, when you have a state chairman who takes over a state party and the state party`s dysfunctional, it`s no longer relevant to the political goals of electing a majority, whether that`s on the Democratic side or Republican side, you know, typically you see something that is taking place in California, for example, where you know the Republican parties become a small ideological clubhouse, totally faded to irrelevance where they factions gather twice every year to pas resolutions, denouncing the other faction, and it`s a small clubhouse where people are relevant in the sphere of that small clubhouse, but no longer relevant in terms of being able to shape the outcome of an election -- to recruit candidates, to raise money, to register voters. And that`s the direction these dysfunctional parties will go. And of course, the money will flow to places where it`s productively put to use, whether that`s outside groups or whether that`s cooperative county parties, and the people on a presidential campaign, they have to deal with it, they have to work around with it. Sometimes there are legal issues involved with it. They get lawyers involved, sometimes suits are filed. At the end of the day, all of this stuff is usually able to be worked around. MADDOW: I got to say, I don`t disagree -- you know this stuff better than I do having worked through it, but I`ve got to say it has to be humbling to political pros that yes, actually, the party doesn`t matter at all. The party matters if it`s going to work well, and you want to use it as a place to work from. But if you don`t function at all, other people will get the work done. It`s got to be kind of a humbling thing for the pros in the field. SCHMIDT: Look, capital goes to where it`s welcome. People in neither party want to donate money where it`s going to be wasted, whether it`s not going to have any productive function. So, the state parties who become dysfunctional, that get out of the business of trying to support the nominee, trying to elect them, they usually wind up starved for funds and there`s a new chairman in the next year or two. MADDOW: Steve Schmidt, Republican political and public affairs strategist and an MSNBC contributor, and a guy who lives in Nevada who is neither a tumbleweed nor a big horned sheep -- Steve, thank you very much, man. I appreciate it. SCHMIDT: Good to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown gets weird again in the exact same way that he got weird before. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`ve got the best new thing in the world tonight, straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Something weird is going on with Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Just in case anybody who is watching across the country, yes, they`re both available. No, no. Only kidding. Only kidding. Only kidding, only kidding. Arianna definitely is not available, but Ayla is. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop! BROWN: This is Arianna. And this is Ayla. I can see I`m going to get in trouble when I get home. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And that was his acceptance speech for winning a U.S. Senate seat. When this previously unknown Republican Scott Brown won the special election in January 2010 to fill out the reminder of the term for the Senate seat that had been held by the late Democrat Ted Kennedy, the Republican Party knew then that 2010 was going to be a good year for them. They knew they were going to have a good midterm election that fall if a Republican like Scott Brown could win that year in a blue state like Massachusetts. Scott Brown, as senator, has continued to be a cause celebre for the Republicans and for their donors. He`s been a top beneficiary of funding from hedge funds and Wall Street banks for example. And maybe it`s because of all that national attention, maybe it`s because he has a different kind of spotlight on him, as compared to other Republicans. But Scott Brown has also been a really strange U.S. senator in terms of his political tactics. If that sounds like an oddly personal way for me to characterize the behavior of a public official, it`s because I mean it that way. I mean it personally, because he apparently means it personally. Just a couple of months after he became a U.S. senator, Scott Brown sent out a national fund-raising letter saying that I was running against him for his Senate seat. "Dear friends, it`s only been a couple of months before I`ve been in office, and before I`ve even settled into my new job, the political machine in Massachusetts is looking for someone to run against me. And you`re not going to believe who they are supposedly trying to recruit, liberal MSNBC anchor, Rachel Maddow. I relish being an independent voice in Washington. The Democratic Party bosses in Massachusetts disagree. They want a rubber stamp who will vote for their plans to expand government, and raise taxes, someone like Rachel Maddow. I just don`t think American can afford her liberal politics. Rachel Maddow has a nightly platform to push her far-left agenda. What about you? I`m grateful you are with me. Thanks again for whatever support you can provide me, and I look forward in joining with you in victories down the line. Sincerely, Scott Brown, United States senator." In other words, hello national conservative mailing list. Don`t you hate Rachel Maddow on MSNBC? She`s running against me. Send money! Now, of course, I`ve never run for anything and I never will. I was never running against Scott Brown for anything ever, but he did not care. He just made that up, he raised money off of it, and he never took it back. Even after I ran a full-page ad in the Boston paper saying he was lying and I was not running against him, he still kept saying it. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) BROWN: I`m going to continue to fight and do my job and work hard to do just that. And, you know, bring her on. I don`t care. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: "Bring her on." Bring on Rachel Maddow who is not running against me. I want to say I`m running against her anyway, even if I`m not. So, yes, when I say Scott Brown has been kind of weird as a U.S. senator, that`s the kind of thing that I mean. And now, he is doing it again. Seriously, it is hard not to take this personally. The person who really is running against Scott Brown for Senate is Elizabeth Warren, the middle class economics expert and so-called sheriff of Wall Street, who founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and thereby did not endear herself to the hedge funds and Wall Street investment banks who have been Scott Brown`s top supporters. Elizabeth Warren is running against Scott Brown, but Senator Brown has been very reluctant to agree to a debate schedule with her. "The Boston Globe" reporting that the senator and his staff have refused to meet with Elizabeth Warren or her campaign to discuss debate invitations or dates or terms for debating. This week, though, Scott Brown says he would agree to a televised debate with Elizabeth Warren, but he had conditions. And he said if his conditions weren`t met, he wouldn`t do it. His conditions are, first, that the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy not make an endorsement in the Senate race. Seriously, that was one of his demands. And two, his second demand, Scott Brown also demands that MSNBC not be the host of the debate. MSNBC is not the host of the debate. MSNBC was never going to be the host of the debate. MSNBC never even got asked about hosting the debate. But Scott Brown demands that MSNBC be removed as the host of this debate. And please send him money for him to run against his Senate opponent, MSNBC TV host Rachel Maddow. What is going on with Senator Scott Brown? Are other senators like this? Is anybody else besides us at MSNBC having to deal with a sitting U.S. senator constantly making stuff up about their hosts running campaigns against him and saying we`re hosting debates that we`re not hosting? Does this happen to other people? Incidentally, the Ted Kennedy`s widow, Vicki Kennedy, says she`s not agreeing to Scott Brown`s demand that she not make an endorsement in the Senate race, so that particular debate is off. Scott Brown will not do it. But honestly, regardless of that, what is going on with Scott Brown? What is wrong with Scott Brown? Senator Brown, you are welcome to explain yourself here on the show any time, particularly because you keep making stuff up about me and this network. You are welcome here any time on this show. You`re welcome even just to return one of our calls, ever. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a great best new thing in the world today. This is a high school graduation, typical sight this time of the year. But these young women are graduates of a school set up specifically for girls who are pregnant or who have already had young kids. It`s a school that supports its young moms with day care and with parenting classes, along with the traditional fall academic load. It is not an easy school to run, enrollment is never predictable, the student body obviously needs more support than any traditional school. But at this school, the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, it is very much needed. And that is a fact that the Detroit school board recognized when they kept it open when it would have been cheaper to shut down Catherine Ferguson. This time last year, the very existence of this school was in doubt, and an emergency financial manager in charge of the Detroit schools decided that Catherine Ferguson Academy was going to be closed. At the time, the young women of the Catherine Ferguson Academy decided they were not having it. They started protesting, including in some cases getting arrested. We started reporting on their plight, on their fight to keep this very ambitious school open. And in June of last year, those girls and their founding principal, Asenath Andrews, they won their fight. They kept Catherine Ferguson Academy`s doors open. They won. And them winning that fight last year means that this is possible this year. Yesterday, 24 young women suited up in white robes, they put on their mortar boards, they got their diplomas handed to them by Ms. Andrews. Ms. Andrews tells us that all of today`s graduates, all of the graduates this week have applied for college, including this young woman, Ikea Dozier. She came to Catherine Ferguson Academy 2 1/2 years ago. She`s now the mother of a 2 1/2-year-old son. She was the valedictorian of the class of 2012 at Catherine Ferguson. She`s going to be attending the University of Detroit on a full scholarship. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) IKEA DOZIER, CFA CLASS 2012: Remember that our success is not ours alone. It is tied into our children. By getting our diplomas here today, we are giving our children a better chance at making it in this world. A lot of us are only here today because of our children. So they deserve our very best. I`m not going to sugar-coat it. This journey we are all about to embark on will be rough. We will want to quit and to take the easy way out. But we need to promise ourselves today that we won`t. We are all too smart, too strong, and too beautiful to quit. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Congratulations, Catherine Ferguson Academy, class of 2012, you would not be here had you not fought for it. And by fighting for it, you won. Best new thing in the world today -- many happy returns. 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