IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/01/12

Guests: James Roosevelt, Jr., Barney Frank

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Rachel, do you love good fried chicken as well? RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: What I was going to tell you is you have to remind me at some point to tell you the story of the first time I took my girlfriend Susan to a Popeye`s and she thought it was called Pope yes. (LAUGHTER) DYSON: That`s because the Pope digs the stuff, too. And like Beyonce, he wants to put a ring on it. MADDOW: Well done. Thank you. Good to see you guys. We`re just that Catholic. It overrides everything else. All right. President Obama spent the full day today campaigning in the great state of Ohio. The great swing state of Ohio, not incidentally. While he was there today, Mr. Obama unveiled what looks to be a new phase - - a new really pointed attack on his opponent this November, Mitt Romney. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The centerpiece of my opponent`s entire economic plan is not only to extend the Bush tax cuts, but then to add a new $5 trillion tax cut on top of it. (BOOS) OBAMA: The bulk of this would go to the wealthiest Americans. What this means is the average, middle-class family with children would be hit with a tax increase of more than $2,000. Let me make sure people understand this. They`re asking you to pay an extra $2,000, not to pay down the deficit, not to invest in our kids` education. Mr. Romney is asking you to pay more so that people like him get a tax cut. (BOOS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: He`s asking you to pay an extra 2 grand so people like him can get a tax cut. He`s doing it for himself. This is a pointed new development in the campaign. It hits on two important things. Everybody keeps saying the Republicans want to run on the economy and the Democrats want to run on something else. I think the Democrats want to run on the economy, too. The two things they`re hitting on is this, one is the economic plan that Mr. Romney is proposing. Brand new analysis out that does echo consistent analysis all along shows that what Mr. Romney is offering, which is what congressional Republicans are offering as well, is in effect a package of huge economic benefits for the wealthiest Americans, one that would make things harder economically for the vast majority of people, for the middle class. That sort of tax plan. That sort of an anti-populist economic plan that is bad for most people but good for the rich people -- I mean, that could be a political liability even in the best of times, but in the worst of times where the only people doing well are the wealthy, being able to describe a candidate`s tax plan like that is essentially a political sieve you can use against them. The twist to that knife right now is the personal part of it. This is to new development in this part of the campaign. Beyond the question of whether Mr. Romney`s proposals will help wealthy people like him essentially as a class. There is also now the specific personal question of how much his economic plan would help him -- him, Mitt Romney as an individual, someone who lives, we all know now, in a sort of different tax universe than most of the rest of us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: We know that there was one year when you paid about a 13.9 percent tax rate. Can we clear this up by asking you a simple yes or no question? Was there ever any year when you paid lower than the 13.9 percent? MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I haven`t calculated that. I`m happy to go back and look. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Happy to go back and look. That was this past Sunday on ABC. There has will been no word from Mr. Romney on whether he went back and looked. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: ABC News reached out to the campaign today after Romney`s answer. A spokesperson would only reiterate, "Mitt Romney has paid his taxes in full compliance with U.S. law and has paid 100 percent of what he has owed." (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, still no answer. That was Monday on ABC. Two days later on Wednesday, Mr. Romney still apparently has not given them the information that he said he was going to give them. Remember, when he said he was happy to go back and look, the question he was asked was whether he ever paid less than the 13.9 percent tax rate we know he paid in the one year for which he has released tax returns. Here`s the weird thing, though. This -- I`ll go back and look, and then not actually going back and looking -- this exact same thing happened to Mitt Romney a decade ago, 10 years ago. Asked by "The Boston Globe" when he was running for governor of Massachusetts about why he listed himself as a Utah resident and not a Massachusetts resident on his taxes, Mr. Romney told "The Globe" 10 years ago, just like he told ABC this week, that he would look into it, he would find out what is in his taxes and he would get back to them on it. Quoting from "The Globe", "Asked whether he received any advantages in Utah by filing as a full-time resident there in 1999 and 2000, `Mr. Romney said he was not sure but would respond to specific questions in writing. If you want to say was there any tax benefit anywhere, you ought to help me understand what that would mean and I would be happy to look at it,` Mr. Romney said. `I will get precisely the answer that you`d like and but have to tell me exactly what you want and I`ll make sure I get that for you.`" Still quoting from "The Globe" here, "But after a reporter submitted written questions to a campaign aide, Mr. Romney spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom said Mr. Romney would not be responding because, quote, `he values his privacy and his wife`s privacy.`" What "The Boston Globe was trying to get to there 10 years ago was whether or not Mitt Romney was qualified to be the governor of Massachusetts. Not in some abstract political sense but literally qualified. Whether he met the written qualifications that you have to meet in order to be allowed to run for governor of Massachusetts. Massachusetts has the oldest functioning written constitution in the entire world. And dating back to the colonial era, the law in Massachusetts says that you have to be a continuous inhabitant of Massachusetts for the seven years immediately prior to you running for governor or you cannot run for governor. In 2002, when Mitt Romney moved back to Massachusetts from Utah, to run for governor in Massachusetts, that residency requirement was a big problem for him. He maintained publicly until June of that year when he was running he had always paid taxes as a Massachusetts resident. So, this residency requirement was going to be no problem. Clearly he met the residency requirement. He`d been paying Massachusetts resident taxes. That`s what he said all along. But that June, that year he was running, June 2002, under pressure from the Democrats in the state and under scrutiny from the Boston press, that story fell apart because it turns out he had not been paying taxes as a Massachusetts resident like he said he did. He had not been paying taxes as a Massachusetts resident. He had been paying taxes as a Utah resident. Mr. Romney had said that wasn`t the case, but high got caught. After he got caught, he admitted, yes, OK, he`d been filing as a Utah resident, but he was retroactively, now that he was running for governor, now going back a few years and he was going to change that. Retroactively, but it was a huge mess. I mean, Mr. Romney had told a local newspaper reporter in Utah that he had declared Utah his primary residence for tax purposes. He had claimed a giant permanent resident of Utah tax credit on his big Utah house out there. He saved $54,000 in taxes by doing that. He had signed multiple years of tax returns as a part-time only or nonresident of Massachusetts. But all of that, he said, how are you going to explain doing that? He said it was all other people`s mistakes. The reporter he talked to in 2000 who noted that Mr. Romney had declared his Utah home his primary residence -- well, Mr. Romney said that must have been a mistake on the reporter`s part. Mr. Romney told the Massachusetts state ballot commission, quote, "I have met with that reporter at least 100 times over the last three years and I do not recall a specific conversation about my residence in Utah." That reporter got a subpoena to appear in Massachusetts and testify as to whether or not Mr. Romney told her that, and the paper resisted that subpoena. In terms of the tax break that Mr. Romney got on his Utah house for being a full-time resident of Utah, he blamed a clerk in the tax assessor`s office in Utah saying he had never asked for that tax break. Somebody accidentally gave it to him and accidentally saved him $54,000. The county assessor ended up taking the heat for it, although she said at the time such an error had never before occurred in her 12 years in office. What about all those tax returns for those multiple years that Mr. Romney signed, saying he wasn`t a Massachusetts resident? Can`t blame that on this reporter, can`t blame that on the clerk in the tax assessor`s office. I mean, he signed these tax returns. What`s his explanation for that one? His explanation was that he never bothered to read that stuff he signed. Listen to this. "Mr. Romney said he had always trusted his accountants and signed and dated the returns. He said he did not notice that a line asking for his domicile was left blank on his returns." Quote, "I do not read those or review those before I sign them nor their attached schedules." As you`re probably aware, your tax return is one of those things that you submit. You sign and submit under the penalty of perjury. This is something that was pointed out to Mr. Romney when he testified before the Massachusetts state ballot commission to try to be allowed to run for governor. Quote, "If I were to hand you an affidavit, Mr. Romney, and at the end of it I typed in your signature and above your signature, I put signed under the pains and penalties of perjury and said sign it, you would read it first, wouldn`t you? Romney: `If you were to put it in front of me, yes.` `So you would sign documents under the pains and penalties of perjury without necessarily reading them, is that your testimony?` Romney: `I have not read the entire Massachusetts tax form nor the federal tax form, nor the Utah tax form, and all them have me sign under pains of penalty to the best of my knowledge and belief. And I do not read the entire form.`" This was 10 years ago. Ultimately, the residency challenge failed to keep Mr. Romney off the ballot in Massachusetts. Democrats tried it, but it did not work. But they were able to uncover about his tax history in trying to prove he wasn`t really a Massachusetts resident, showed that what he said was in his tax returns was not actually what was in his tax returns. Mr. Romney maintained publicly for months that he was a Massachusetts resident and he could prove it because he filed his taxes as a Massachusetts resident all those years. That`s what he said was in his taxes. That was not what was in his taxes. And he seems to have known it at the time even as he was making public claims to the contrary. When he finally got caught out in June of that year, he admitted a few months earlier when he decided to run for governor, earlier that spring, he had started the process of retroactively going back and changing those returns. Mr. Romney had not filed as a resident of Massachusetts. He said he did, but he didn`t. He misled the public about it the whole time, and he misled reporters who were trying to get to the truth about it. Quote, "Earlier in the week, Mr. Romney rejected a request by `The Boston Globe` for copies of his tax returns with financial information redacted but his residential status visible. A Romney spokesman insisted at the time the GOP candidate had filed his returns as a Massachusetts resident but told `The Globe` reporter, `You`re going to have to take my word for it.`" "You`re going to have to take my word for it." It`s really important what is in the tax returns but I`m not going to show you. Trust me what`s in them. After the truth starting coming out, Mr. Romney said then to "The Globe" -- just like he`s saying to ABC now, he`ll get them the information they wanted. Sure, sure, I`ll get you what you need. Even though he said that to the reporter, he shut them down, just like he`s shutting down ABC 10 years later. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: ABC News reached out to the campaign after Romney`s answer. A spokesperson would only reiterate, "Mitt Romney has paid his taxes in full compliance with U.S. law and he has paid 100 percent of what he has owed." (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Trust me, you`re going to have to take my word for it, just like trust me when I have always filed taxes as a Massachusetts resident except for the years where you caught me not doing that, then I have to retroactively go back and change them. This is becoming a bigger issue, not a smaller issue in the campaign. The new "New York Times" poll that came out of all of the swing states got lots of attention because of the overall numbers showing President Obama ahead of Mr. Romney in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Florida, these hotly contested swing states right now. And, honestly, that`s fine as far as August polling goes for a November election, which is not very far. But look at this other thing that was in the polls. Look at the responses to this question. Asked if candidates should release multiple years of their tax returns, the majority of voters in Florida, in Ohio, and in Pennsylvania, all say presidential candidates should release several years of their tax returns. Given the history here in Massachusetts, maybe especially Mitt Romney should. Joining us now is James Roosevelt, Jr. He`s the top lawyer for the Massachusetts Democratic Party when Mr. Romney`s tax returns were part of their challenge about whether or not Mr. Romney was a Massachusetts resident or not. Mr. Roosevelt, thank you for your time tonight. Thanks for being here. JAMES ROOSEVELT, ATTORNEY: Glad to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: This is not a very complicated story, but sort of a deep story. A deep dive into what we know about Mr. Romney and his history both as a citizen and in terms of his financial life. In terms of the way I explained that history in Massachusetts, did I get any of that wrong as far as you know? ROOSEVELT: I think you got it right. And in trying to present this case to the ballot law commission, we were trying to show exactly what he had said under oath, signing as you point out under the pains and penalties of perjury, not by the way as he characterized it, to the best of his knowledge and belief, but under the pains and penalty of perjury. And we had the tax assessor statements in Utah, we had the Utah resident tax returns, the Massachusetts non-resident tax returns, and then we had his attempt to retroactively rewrite his personal history. MADDOW: He was trying to retroactively -- essentially refile his taxes so his Massachusetts taxes would be filed as if he were a resident of the state. He was making that retroactive attempt while he was publicly maintaining up until June of that year that he had filed as a Massachusetts resident? ROOSEVELT: That is true. MADDOW: Wow. That seems to me to be the heart of the problem. What is happening right now with the demands to see Mr. Romney`s tax returns, both from the Democratic opposition but also from the press, is that his answer has been to characterize what`s in them, and then say essentially trust me. This is what`s in them. There`s nothing wrong in them. They show everything to be perfectly legal, trust me on them. As far as you`re concerned, and you still have a stake in this matter. You`re still a Democratic Party activist in Massachusetts. Do you feel like there`s an allegory between the trustworthiness and the questions now? ROOSEVELT: Well, I think it fits with the pattern of trying to rewrite what his beliefs are, what his positions on issues are, and with trying to retroactively rewrite his personal history. And the interesting thing was that in the ballot law commission hearing, we were trying to show what we believed to be true, that he had changed his residence to Utah. He was trying to show that he had maintained continuous ties with Massachusetts while he was in Utah working on the Olympics. And that`s why he testified about his continuing business interests in Massachusetts, his continuing return to Massachusetts for board meetings that grew out of his employment at Bain. MADDOW: Looking through the transcripts today of his testimony before the ballot law commission, which were voluminous and sort of mind-bending by the end of the day, one of the things that becomes quite clear is when he says he spent lots of time in Massachusetts, it`s on -- a lot of it is on business-related matters, serving on the board of the Staples Corporation, which was involved in his time at Bain, serving on the board of another corporation called the Lifelike Corporation, and some other business interests that did not seem to be associated with Bain. When there was this more recent controversy about whether or not he should be seen as having been involved with Bain after he left to go run the Olympics, did you see that evidence that he presented a decade ago as being relevant to his case there? ROOSEVELT: He was trying to show that he had family and social ties back to Massachusetts. And really nobody was disputing that. The fact is that he had been very clearly stating one thing about his life and he started stating something else. And that he did this, these statements that he then tried to change later in a way -- oddly enough, it was always in a way that saved him taxes, whether it was property taxes where he declared himself to have a principle residence in Utah, and in Massachusetts which got him a tax benefit in both places, or income taxes. MADDOW: James Roosevelt Jr., former top lawyer for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, a current legal volunteer for the party in the state -- thank you very much for joining us tonight, sir. I really appreciate your time on this. ROOSEVELT: Nice to be with you. MADDOW: Thank you. As always, Mr. Romney, if you would like to talk with me about any of this stuff, me casa es su casa. Anytime, we would love to have you. Seriously. Okay, more to come here. Including the Obama campaign officially making an argument, President Obama approving a message that I think may never have been made by a Democratic candidate running against a Republican candidate in modern times. Common wisdom says what the Obama started doing is risky, but Congressman Barney Frank will join us here to assess the risks. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hey, some legit big news in a story that we have been covering in an ongoing way for months now. When the Iraq war ended in December, some regular Joe civilians in St. Louis, Missouri, decided to throw a parade for Iraq veterans to say welcome home. We missed you. Thank you. St. Louis`s parade to mark the end of the Iraq war was a huge success -- 100,000 people, universal acclaim. And frankly, it called the question of whether we would as a country do what we did at the end of previous wars, which is to welcome our veterans home with a parade at Broadway in New York City. Like we did for wars from the Spanish-American War, through the world wars, through Korea to the First Gulf War through the presidency of the first George Bush. Well, we did not do a parade in the 1970s to welcome home to troops who fought in Vietnam as the Vietnam War ended. As a country, frankly, we righted that wrong and honored Vietnam veterans years later in 1985. The predominant sentiment at the time, then, as is now, that it was the right thing to do to honor those Vietnam veterans with a parade at Broadway in New York City. It`s just a shame it took so long to do it. St. Louis in January of this year really called the question, are we going to treat Iraq war veterans the way Vietnam veterans were initially treated in this country? Why wouldn`t there be a welcome home and thank you for them in New York which is frankly what we do as a country to mark the end of the Iraq war? The Pentagon somewhat inexplicably said they were against there being a New York City ticker tape parade to mark the end of the Iraq war. I say it was inexplicable because we had on the show a Pentagon spokesman here to try to explain that point of view. And at the end of the interview, the decision remained inexplicable to me. That spokesman, I should say, has since retired from the Pentagon. But the funny thing was, the Pentagon did not say that they object to all parades to mark the end of the Iraq war and welcome home Iraq veterans. In fact, the Pentagon says it likes the idea of doing that across the country for Iraq veterans, except they just don`t want it in New York. And in fact, cities across the country have kept doing it. Since the St. Louis parade, there have been parades to mark the end of the Iraq war, say welcome home, thank you to Iraq veterans in Houston, in Tucson, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in Melbourne, Florida, in Richmond, Virginia, in Kansas, Missouri, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in Austin, Texas, and then this weekend, there was another in the twin cities -- Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERICKA PALMER, PARADE ORGANIZER: And as an adult, I now have the ability to stand up and do something for our community and for our military members actually stop and say thank you and why not? Why not do that? JAMES THOMPSON, VIETNAM VETERAN: I think that`s important right now. People are finally recognizing that you need to welcome these veterans home. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The parade in the Twin Cities this past weekend to mark the end of the Iraq war and welcome home Iraq war veterans seems to have been a big success. The governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, issued a proclamation declaring this past weekend in Minnesota to be heroes weekend. Senator Amy Klobuchar was on the hand for the parade. Here she is left with one of the event`s organizers, Ericka Palmer. To the left of the senator, actually, the mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak. We should mention that a couple vintage T-6 Thunders flew overhead at the parade. What we have just learned today and this is the big news, that the biggest city yet to do this kind of thing has just made their plans to do it. Chicago. The third largest city in the country after New York and L.A., Chicago has just issued the permit for that city`s parade to mark the end of the Iraq war, to say welcome home to the Americans who fought the Iraq war, to say welcome home and thank you. The Chicago parade permit is for December 15th. It`s designed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the end of the Iraq war. So, mark your calendar, December 15th, 2012, Chicago, biggest one yet. Honestly, that ought to be a national event if you ask me. It`s on the one year anniversary of the end of the war. The Pentagon won`t give their blessing to a parade in New York for some reason. And doing these things longer than a year from the end of the war is starting to seem like making the same mistakes as we made at the end of the Vietnam War again starting to seem a little bit weird. So, my personal opinion, but Chicago, December 15th, maybe the whole country should go. Now look at this. This is interesting and political terms. The Obama campaign a few days ago posted online this web ad, this web video about Iraq veterans coming home and about the parades. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: As your commander in chief, on behalf of a grateful nation, I`m proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree -- welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back. TOM APPELBAUM, PARADE CO-ORGANIZER: The welcome home parade was a parade to celebrate the end of the Iraq war and to welcome hope the veterans who had been serving the country since 9/11. President Obama kept his promise, brought the troops home from Iraq, and this was something that needed to be celebrated. RICK ROSSOMANNO, VIETNAM WAR VETERAN: Being a veteran and being part of a generation of veterans that wasn`t shown quite this kind of recognition, it just absolutely touched my heart. I don`t know if I have the words to describe it. It was incredible. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As these wars come to an end, we have an absolute responsibility to cake care of our veterans. OBAMA: At this time, I would ask all our Vietnam -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The president`s campaign in this campaign video citing specifically welcoming home the veterans a reason to vote for the president`s re-election, and of course, also the president ending the war in Iraq, campaigning on that. Maybe that means the president will be there in Chicago in December. Maybe it`s time to talk to the Pentagon about finally getting a parade in New York. But beyond specifically the parades which I admit I`m a little hung up on, beyond specifically the issue of the welcome home plans for veterans, there is something even bigger going on in these politics and specifically in what the Obama campaign is doing. You can see it even more clearly in another brand new Obama campaign ad that`s just out. This one isn`t one of these ones that ends up on the web, either. This is a big, made for TV, expensive ad buy that is airing in a bunch of swing states. This one, I actually think, is doing something historic. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: You watched and worried. Two wars, tax cuts for millionaires, debt piled up. And now we face a choice. Mitt Romney`s plan, a new $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, increase military spending, adding trillions to the deficit. Or President Obama`s plan, a balanced approach, $4 trillion in deficit reduction, millionaires pay a little more. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Increase military spending, adding trillions to the deficit. That`s on the little short list of things to feel bad about Mitt Romney, right? If you want to follow the way this ad makes you want to feel. This ad is taking on not just the legacy of the George W. Bush years, but also Mitt Romney bragging, which he does on the stump regularly, that he will increase defense spending, and hanging that on him about the deficit. In my lifetime, I have never seen a Democratic president play political offense on the issue of military spending so aggressively. I have never seen it. And that`s because the common wisdom for decades is that kind of message is impossible. It cannot work. Democrats can not criticize Republicans for wanting to spend too much on the military. It can`t work. That`s the common wisdom and it has been since Reagan. It`s changing now apparently -- at least the Obama campaign thinks it is. If they are right, that`s a historic change for us as a country and our politics. Barney Frank joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: Now, we face a choice. Mitt Romney`s plan, a new $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, increase military spending, adding trillions to the deficit. OBAMA: As your commander in chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I`m proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree -- welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us tonight now for the interview is Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who has been a very vocal proponent of at least being able to discuss the military budget as a thing that operates on the same kinds of dollars that other things in our budget operates on. Congressman Frank, thank you very much for being with us. It`s nice to see you. REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Great to see you, and on this topic which you have done such important work. MADDOW: Thank you. Since the presidency -- maybe not the presidency, but the rise of Ronald Reagan, the common political wisdom is Democrats can`t go after Republicans for being profligate on defense spending, but that`s exactly what the Obama campaign is now doing. I guess assuming times have changed enough to make this less risky. Do you think times have changed enough? FRANK: I do, and you`re exactly right. It is historic, and frankly, the timeline is beyond that. Remember, John Kennedy, whom I generally admired, ran against Richard Nixon on the grounds that the Republicans hadn`t spent enough on defense, there had been a missile gap. And for years, I know this, I have been involved in this, Democratic candidates for president were told, your one vulnerability is if you`re weak on defense. That`s why a really superb public servant, Michael Dukakis, with great record, made the mistake of being in the tank, he was a veteran, had a right to do it, but it didn`t look good. And he was told, gee, you better show you`re tough. I think what`s happened is this, Rachel. For 60 years, the American public was focused on -- 50 years, from 1940 to 1990, there were very bad people who were heavily armed, first Hitler and then Stalin and his successors, and they meant (INAUDIBLE). Now, I believe we did not see an evolution in the Soviet Union early enough and we over-prepared for it, but there was this fear that we were going to be attacked by somebody powerful. That led to military spending that I think in some cases was excessive. The Soviet Union collapses in 1990, and first, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton begin to reduce the military because there was no longer this existential threat to our citizens. And then what happens is 2001, the mass murders of Americans, and Dick Cheney and the other neocons persuade George Bush that they can use the threat of terrorism as the functional political equivalent of communism. Now, in fact, the terrorists are terrible people and I am very pleased against them. But they`re not Hitler and they`re not Stalin. They don`t threaten our existence as a country. They are threatening our lives. We have to fight them back. But that threat was blown up beyond the reality. So we got back into excessive military spending, including the two wars. I think what has happened is the American people understand there is no power in the world that comes remotely close to threatening our existence. They see how the Iraq war backfired. And accomplished almost none of what it was supposed to except it did get rid of Saddam Hussein, but the destabilization in the country we have created in Iraq, Iran`s closest ally. They see the frustration in Afghanistan. See, the American people -- and then, finally we have the concern about the deficit, and people I believe now in the majority understand, yes, we must reduce the deficit. Yes, we have to include the military, otherwise we devastate all of the programs that affect the quality of life at home, and given the nature of the world, we can afford to do it. We are significantly overspending. And let just say one last thing, I know this is a little too long, but one of the things that gave me hope, too, this is the first ad by a Democratic president saying you`re spending too much on the military. Two weeks ago, I teamed up with a Tea Party Republican, Mick Mulvaney from South Carolina, and we offered an amendment in which the House voted by a large majority to reduce the amount of money the appropriations committee was going to give the military. That was only $1.3 billion. In Pentagon, it wasn`t much, but it was still important. And so I think, yes, the president sees this right. The people are tired of this excess. They`re tired of getting sent into all parts of the world where we do no good as much as we may be trying. They understand the importance of trying to have a balanced approach. So, I`m glad he`s doing that. It will be helpful politically and it`s accurate substantively. MADDOW: You know, that point about working with Congressman Mulvaney on the Republican side I think is really important and interesting. I was thinking about it last night watching the Texas primary results. Watching Texas Republicans pick someone to replace Ron Paul -- he`s leaving Congress, he`s stepping down from Congress. And I was thinking about whether or not this thing, this dynamic you and I have talked about a lot is ever going to materialize, this idea of fiscal resistance on the Republican side to such increased military spending. Mitt Romney is still campaigning on spending more. FRANK: And Romney I think is the outlier on this. A year ago, I offered an amendment to cut the military and so did Mulvaney. What we noticed was we both lost, but a lot of Democrats voted for my amendment against his, he`s a Tea Party Republican, a lot of Republicans voted for his and against mine. So, we talked about it. I talked to him, and said, look, let`s get together. So, we offered it jointly. The Democrats voted overwhelmingly, better than 80 percent for the $1.3 billion cut. The interesting thing with John McCain and Romney saying you`ve cut too much, you`ve got to spend more, 89 of the 240 Republicans voted with us. That`s a very big chunk, more than a third. And the answer, yes, the American republic understands that. First, they recognize that we are not threatened in our existence as a country. Let me say three things. Secondly, they recognize that a lot of these international adventures, even if they`re well-intentioned, don`t work well. You know, the best trained and best armed young Americans can`t get people in Iraq to like each other when they have been hating each other for a long time. They can`t end corruption in Afghanistan. Our military is wonderful at doing what a military can do, stopping bad things from happening. But they can`t make good things happen, particularly in a culture that`s foreign to us. And then they finally understand it`s a choice. If you expand the military the way Mitt Romney wants to, then Medicare is going to take big cuts. And then you can forget about local police officers. And I think most of the people I represent are more worried about fire and police and local threats than they are about some very far off ones. And I would be morally conflicted if I thought we could accomplish some of what we do when we intervene, generally, it ends badly for us because you can`t send military force into these complex cultures and remake them. MADDOW: The dynamic you`re talking about and that you have consistently identified is one that really still doesn`t get much attention. I almost feel like we should only have these conversations in private because if we don`t point out they`re happening, maybe this dynamic will actually spread further before people get too alarmed by it. Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts talking about the nonpartisanship of critical thinking on this issue -- thank you so much. It`s really good to see you. FRANK: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. We got a report coming up from NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel who was in the middle of an incredibly hairy scene and captured incredible footage. That`s still to come, plus lots more. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today, August 1st, 2012, was a really, really good day for millions, for tens of millions of people in this country. Today, for those tens of millions of Americans, life got a little easier, a little bit less expensive, maybe a little healthier. Things got a little bit better for lots of people in America because of one thing that happened in policy, today. Today also for the very same reason, that today was such a good reason for so many people, for certain members of a certain political party in a certain chamber of the United States Congress, today was a very, very bad day. August 1st, 2012, a day we will remember in America as the end of America as we knew it and loved it. August 1st, a day of somber reflection for future generations and children and grandchildren, August 1st, 2012, when the end began. Still to come: the incredible true story of the conservative reaction to what honestly was a really good day for millions of the rest of us and even for millions of them. That`s coming up. Assuming the country doesn`t implode before the end of this hour because of how scary August 1st, 2012, was. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: NBC`s chief foreign correspondent is Richard Engel. He is in Syria, in a safe place in Syria. He`s fine. But today, he was caught in the middle of major fighting about 40 miles outside of the city of Aleppo. Aleppo is at the center of the fighting in the war in Syria now. Watch this report from Richard today. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 11:00 a.m., attack helicopters circle the sky over the city of Ariha. From a roof top, we hear their assault begin. It sounds like artillery from the helicopters. We move down to the alleys to try to find out why Syrian forces are attacking this city of 70,000 south of Aleppo. We see civilians fleeing from open areas, searching for cover, and rebels on motorcycles in the main square. (on camera): It appears that a large military convoy was passing by this town on the way to join the attack on Aleppo. And as the troops were moving past here, the rebels in this town opened fire on them. (voice-over): In a makeshift rebel media center, activists tried to upload videos of the attack they`ve taken with small cameras. They show me Syrian tanks are now firing into Ariha. The rebels attack the convoy to prevent reinforcements from reaching Aleppo, but now, this city is paying for it. Back in the alleys, men on a motorcycle tell us there are bodies up the street, many. In a mosque, we find them, along with their distraught relatives. Witnesses say the victims were civilians standing outside a mosque and attacked by a helicopter. (on camera): There seem to be many casualties here. Eight bodies have been brought. They can`t even bring them to the hospital, so they`re putting ice on top of the bodies. They can`t move them around the city yet, because there`s still too much helicopter fire, still too much mortar fire coming in. Men embrace the deceased. "Oh, uncle, oh, uncle," this man cries. The rebels in Ariha seem desperately outgunned, and may have taken on a battle they can`t win. Each fighter says he only has about 60 bullets, and homemade grenades. How are you going to defend yourselves against a tank assault? (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) ENGEL: "God is with us," he says. Back in the media center, bad news has just arrived. One of the rebel`s media activists has just been killed -- one of more than a dozen killed in Ariha today, and the rebels never stop the Syrian convoy headed to Aleppo. Richard Engel, NBC News, in northern Syria. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: To repeat, Richard and his team he was shooting with were able to leave Ariha, they are safe tonight. I should also tell you that NBC News confirmed tonight something that was initially reported by "Reuters", which is that President Obama has reportedly signed a presidential finding, authorization unspecified support, apparently not weapons, but other kinds of support to the Libyan rebels, specifically to help them oust the Assad regime. In terms of what we are actually doing to help the rebels, it reportedly involves U.S. personnel helping at a secret command center, operated by Turkey, along with some other countries. The Syrian war seems to be on almost an infinite escalation track right now, but it`s as hard to cover as ever. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I know in your mind, you can think of the times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that`s Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that`s the day the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is the day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates. The question is, if not us, who? If not now, when? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Congressman Mike Kelly, Republican, obviously, of Pennsylvania, speaking about a catastrophic deadly attack on the sovereignty of our nation, which he says took place today. But which you might not have heard about, even if you were paying super-close attention to the news. If you did not, in fact, hear about this the grave national crisis, on par with Pearl Harbor and 9/11, you are probably living in the regular world here along with the rest of us and your family, I hope. Congressman Mike Kelly, on the other hand, is living in a Republican Party that increasingly consists only of its own far-right fringe. And today, in that alternative Republican reality, there was an act of war, of carnage, of unspeakable violence committed against this great country by birth control. Now, I will admit that I find the Bollywood dance video featuring this Planned Parenthood life-sized birth control pill mascot kind of creepy. But I would not say it rises to the level of Pearl Harbor or 9/11. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KELLY: A date that will live in infamy, along with those other dates. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The reason Congressman Mike Kelly is ranking today a along with Pearl Harbor and 9/11 is because today is the day that, thanks to the new health reform rule, women with health insurance will get free birth control access as part of their health coverage. Access to birth control is what Congressman Mike Kelly says is raining terror down on America. And they say Rick Santorum didn`t win something in the Republican primary this year. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is, I think, the dangers of contraception in this country and the whole sexual libertine idea, and many of the Christian faith have said, "Well, that`s OK. I mean, contraception is OK." It`s not OK. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Contraception is not OK. When Rick Santorum pledged to use the office of the presidency to crack down on birth control last fall, Rick Santorum was in exactly no danger of ever getting that opportunity, right? But, of course, in a year when Republicans were excited about none of their choices, everybody did get a turn to be on top of the polls, even Rick "birth control is not OK" Santorum got his turn. Rick Santorum`s political capital briefly rose among Republicans this past year, and so did his early 20th century-era opposition to birth control. When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in January that insurance plans would be required to cover preventative services for women, including birth control, as of today, suddenly in the year 2012, virtually the whole Republican Party started fighting against access to birth control like they were defending Hickam Field in hindsight. The Republicans spent about a month in February inveighing against access to birth control, which must have felt great to them, until they noticed stuff like the polling showing 40 percent of voters being less likely to vote for the Republican presidential nominee because of his pledge to eliminate the new birth control benefit. Maybe that was it. Maybe it was whatever. But whatever it was, Republicans had their sort of month of anti-birth control, Rick Santorum candidacy, memorial excitement months ago. But then they had kind of laid off the birth control fight for a while, until today. Today, as the new birth control access rule goes into effect, as women are seeing the benefits of greater access to contraception, Republicans are back -- back to talking about birth control access as a threat to democracy, as an act of war against America. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) KELLY: One is December 7th. That`s Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that`s the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a date that will live in infamy along with those other dates. REP. CHRIS SMITH (R), NEW JERSEY: The Obama coercion starts today. REP. ANN MARIE BUERKLE (R), NEW YORK: As Mike said, August the 1st is a day that we, as Americans will look at it as the largest assault on our First Amendment rights. REP. BILLY LONG (R), MISSOURI: Goodness gracious. The land of the free, home of the brave -- we`re no longer free in this country. REP. STEVE PEARCE (R), NEW YORK: So, in New Mexico, we`re proud to stand arm in arm with the Catholics and say, we`ll fight with you to the death. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Jobs, jobs, jobs. Behold the Republican agenda for 2012, a fight to the death rebellion, against birth control access! Also, jobs, jobs, jobs, job-ortion. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" 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