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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/20/12

Guests: Frank Rich, Thomas Ritchie, David Lieberman

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks, my friend. And thanks to you at home for being with us this hour. This is James Leon Holmes. He goes by Leon, not by James. But he was the president of the Arkansas Right to Life group. He headed up in Arkansas an effort to amend the state`s constitution to ban all abortion, even in instances where the pregnancy could hurt the mother or where it was caused by incest or where it was caused by rape. The idea that being a rape victim might be enough to excuse you from the state forcing you to carry a child to term, that idea really got under James Leon Holmes` skin. He wrote a letter once to the editor of the "Moline Daily Dispatch," explaining that people should stop worrying about rape victims in cases like this. He said, quote, "Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami." That`s James Leon Holmes. He wrote that in 1980. During the George W. Bush administration, President Bush gave him a lifetime appointment as a federal judge. James Leon Holmes is now the chief judge of the eastern district federal court in the state of Arkansas. This is Clayton Williams. In 1990, Clayton Williams was the Republican candidate for governor of Texas. He was running against Democrat Ann Richards. Ann Richards beat him pretty well in the general election, but not before Clayton Williams told reporters that rape was a little bit like the weather. As long as it was inevitable, women should just lay back and enjoy it. In June 2008, Clayton Williams was scheduled to headline a fund-raiser for then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain. He was scheduled to headline that fund-raiser until people started asking about whether John McCain agreed with Clayton Williams about when women should enjoy rape and then the McCain campaign canceled the fund-raiser. In 1988, a long time antiabortion leader in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives argued for criminalizing abortion even for rape victims by saying this, quote, "The odds are 1 in millions and millions and millions" that a woman would get pregnant from being raped. And why is that? He had an explanation. He said, "Rape obviously is a traumatic experience. When that traumatic experience is undergone, a woman secretes a certain secretion which has a tendency to kill sperm." In 1995, a Republican state representative in North Carolina, a man named Henry Aldridge made his case that rape victims should not be spared from a new crack down on abortion rights, he said because quote, "The fact show that people who are raped, who are truly raped, the juices don`t flow, the body functions don`t work and they don`t get pregnant." He said, quote, "To get pregnant, it takes a little cooperation." In 1998, in Arkansas again, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate running against Blanche Lincoln, a man named Fay Boozman was reported in a local Arkansas paper to have told a crowd at a political gathering that there was no need for a rape victims` exception to making abortion criminal because of something he described as God`s little shield. He later denied using the exact phrase "God`s little shield," but he did explain further that based on anecdotal information he had collected as an ophthalmologist, he knew that real rape victims could not get pregnant from a rape biologically speaking. In 1999, the former president of the National Right to Life Committee published an article that anti-abortion activists still link to online today. And says, the same thing the Republican men have been saying for all those years, that women don`t get pregnant when they`re raped. These guys in the anti-abortion movement and in the anti-abortion movement side of Republican politics keep arguing, they keep making this case in public because it has important policy consequences for them. See, if you can`t get pregnant by being raped, anybody who is pregnant by definition was not raped. It cannot have been a rape -- no matter what you say, you must have wanted it if you ended up pregnant. If you wanted it, there`s no reason to feel sorry for you and let you end this pregnancy. You should have thought about that before you lured your supposed rapist to do this thing that you obviously secretly wanted. What was the line there? To get pregnant takes a little cooperation. So we know you secretly wanted it, otherwise you wouldn`t be pregnant, and we would not be talking about what the government is going to force you to do with regard to your pregnancy. Exceptions to the government`s decisions based on you supposedly being raped, those, these guys say, are B.S. exceptions. Because any woman who says she wants an abortion because her pregnancy is a result of a rape, by definition, she`s lying about the rape thing. That`s the reasoning here, right? That`s why you need to come up with the cockamamie fake science theory if you want to talk about that as a policy. And so, quietly over the last few years as the Republican Party has slipped its moorings post-Bush and Cheney, as the party apparatus has fallen apart and the conservative movement has stepped in and taken over in the party`s place. As that has happened over the last few years, rape and incest exemptions start have fallen out of favor. I mean, there have always been people in Republican politics who thought that rape victims had it too easy and we should stop coddling these rape victims, these lying rape victims who seriously, secretly wanted it. Those folks were always around in anti-abortion politics and Republican politics, but now, in this Republican Party, they have taken over. It was Sarah Palin`s take in 2008 as the Republicans` vice presidential nominee that there should be no exceptions for rape and incest victims when the party would criminalize abortion. In 2010, it was the position of a whole bunch of Republican Senate candidates. Sharron Angle as the Republican U.S. senate candidate in Nevada in 2010, she said the government forcing a rape victim to bear the rapist`s child should be thought of as a way of making lemons out of lemonade. Abolishing rape and incest exemptions was also championed that same year, 2010, by Christine O`Donnell in Delaware. She lost. By Joe Miller in Alaska, he lost. And by Rand Paul in Kentucky. He won. It was also championed, of course, by Ken Buck in Colorado. Ken Buck lost a Senate seat in 2010 in Colorado -- a seat that Republicans never otherwise should have had any business losing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KEN BUCK (R-CO), THEN-U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I am pro life and I`ll answer the next question. I don`t believe in the exceptions of rape or incest. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Ken Buck position is not an outlying position for the Republican Party anymore. It has become the new Republican normal. Yes, so called personhood amendments to ban all abortions including for rape and incest victims and to also ban hormonal birth control and many fertility treatments -- those personhood amendments got voted down by huge margins in 2008 in Colorado and in 2010 in Colorado, and 2011, even in Mississippi. But by the following year, by 2012, by February 2012 in the Republican presidential primary, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry and Rick Santorum had all signed on to personhood as their policy position. Rick Perry even went so far as to repent on the campaign trail this year for previously saying there should be rape and incest exemptions to criminalizing abortion. This year, Rick Perry said watching one of Mike Huckabee`s DVDs changed his mind and now he too believes that rape and incest victims should be forced by the state to give birth against their will. In New Hampshire, in Georgia, in Indiana, in Virginia, in Idaho, in South Carolina, in Iowa, Republicans in all of those states in the past couple years have moved to overtly go after rape victims and incest victims and anti-abortion laws, removing protections that they used to have in law. In the House of Representatives, federally, when Republicans voted on a new abortion ban for Washington, D.C. recently, it of course had no exceptions for rape victims or incest victims. HR-3, the third bill introduced by the Republican majority when they took over the House after the 2010 elections, HR-3 was not just a federal roll-back of abortion rights, it initially tried to redefine rape in federal law, creating a new category called forcible rape. What I guess you might think of as real rape, to, what? Distinguish it from non- forcible rape, the kind of rape women secretly want and like? Republicans upon taking control of the House in their third bill, sought to redefine rape because the old definition of rape apparently included too many things that women wanted to be protected from when we all know they were the kinds of rape that are really no big deal. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, was an original cosponsor of the bill to redefine rape. To make it harder on rape victims who wanted to get an abortion. The bill eventually dropped the redefining rape language, but Paul Ryan was a sponsor of the bill while the original language was still in there. He was also a sponsor of the federal version of the personhood thing that had failed in Colorado twice and in Mississippi. Because even in Mississippi, personhood language that would ban all abortions with no exceptions at all, including for rape and incest, and would also ban hormonal birth control and some fertility treatments was too extreme for Mississippi, but Paul Ryan sponsored it for the whole country. Paul Ryan also sponsored a federal version of Bob McDonnell`s ultra sound bill from Virginia, in which the government forces women to have a medically unnecessary producer against their will ands potentially against doctors` orders, because the government wants it. Paul Ryan`s bill for doing that at the federal level had no exemptions for rape or incest. The furor in Virginia over the forced ultrasounds bill is widely viewed as having derailed Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell`s chances of being this year`s Republican vice presidential nominee. He wasn`t famous for much else, now he`s governor ultrasound. Of course he can`t be the vice presidential pick. But in skipping governor ultrasound, in skipping Bob McDonnell, Mitt Romney honestly just picked someone else who had the exact same policy record as governor ultrasound. Why didn`t the same policy record also derail Paul Ryan`s chances at getting picked for the number two spot on the ticket? Now that Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin has become the latest Republican politician to articulate the pseudo-scientific thinking behind this long-standing strand of Republican politics, now that there`s a full scale freak-out about Todd Akin`s viability and his insanely out there offensive politics on this issue and how the Republican Party can afford to keep a guy like that on the ballot in that important race, once again, you have to ask why the freak-out about Todd Akin when the Republican Party has picked somebody with the exact same track record, with the exact same policy record, his co sponsor on all of the bills to be the party`s vice presidential nominee. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is a moment of instability in Republican politics. Todd Akin, Mr. Legitimate Rape there, he`s apologizing now for those remarks, but he`s not changing any of his policy positions that derive from that belief that he holds. And of course, for now at least, he`s staying in the race for that Missouri Senate seat. At least he`s trying to do. Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate said he would have supported a personhood constitutional amendment at the state level. He told Mike Huckabee when Mike Huckabee asked if he would support something like that, he told Mike Huckabee, absolutely. Mr. Romney then picked the national personhood guy for his vice president, a congressman who sponsored bills to redefine rape and force women to have medically unnecessary ultrasounds. He picked for his vice presidential nominee a politician who has never in his political career supported exemptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest when he has advocated criminalizing abortion. But now, today, out of the blue, with people disgusted by Todd Akin`s explanation of the thinking behind the policy position, we`re told by the Romney campaign to ignore Mr. Romney`s previous statements and to ignore Paul Ryan`s whole political career. We`re told that what has been their policy position is no longer the position of the campaign that is promoting these candidates. Even if they have not quite yet come up with a story yet for why Paul Ryan in particular might have changed his mind on this subject, for why he might think now that rape victims deserve more empathy from the government today than he thought they did two days ago. This is a moment of instability in Republican politics. They`re going to have to figure out which way to go on this. The Republican Party let this strand of strange politics grow within its midst. They let it become mainstream Republicanism. And now the Republican Party is witnessing the country recoiling from what the party has become. You know, governor ultrasound, Bob McDonnell, he may not have gotten the presidential nod this year, but you know what he got as a consolation prize? He got assigned to oversee the Republican Party platform for this year`s election. The national platform has supported criminalizing abortion since 1976 with no exceptions for rape or incest. Republican Party has always counted on that being kind of quietly ignored in national politics, noticed by the activists to whom they answer but not noticed by any of us. Do you think they`ll still take the Paul Ryan/Todd Akin position on rape victims in the national platform again this year or do you think now that`s going to have to change? Bob McDonnell is the one who decides. Joining us now is Frank Rich, writer at large for "New York Magazine" and former columnist for "The New York Times". Mr. Rich, it is great to see you. Thank you for being here. FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Great to be here, Rachel. MADDOW: It`s all in Bob McDonnell`s hands. RICH: As long as he`s not waving a wand. (LAUGHTER) RICH: (INAUDIBLE) anyone`s private parts. MADDOW: You have to excise all magic wand references when talking about Bob McDonnell, which is a crime against storytelling. RICH: Yes, indeed. MADDOW: The Romney/Ryan campaign spent the day trying to run, not walk, away from Todd Akin`s views and Paul Ryan`s policy positions where he has been a cosponsor of a lot of this really radical antiabortion legislation alongside Todd Akin. Do they keep running from it and pretend like that wasn`t Paul Ryan`s record or do they turn and start to defend his record? RICH: I think they`re going to have to defend his record because they can`t eradicate it, and what about the presidential candidate`s record? I mean, after all, Romney has called for defunding Planned Parenthood, defunding Title 10, which is not only gives contraception access to American women but cancer screening, even abstinence education. We also have to say that Mitt Romney belongs to a church where women have secondary positions. They do not have the full rights of men. MADDOW: Has he every spoken about whether he believes that portion of his church`s teachings? RICH: No, not to my knowledge. Instead, he says things like, I`m going to send Ann out to canvass women and see what they think and report back to everybody. I think we`re seeing a cycle that just keeps repeating itself. From the whole Sandra Fluke contraception Rush Limbaugh fracas happened, everyone was embarrassed in the Republican Party who wants to win because it blew the story. It told America what this party is about in terms of women`s issues. And my view, human issues, in much the way you describe them. At the time, people like Vin Weber and Whit Ayers (ph), Paul Stern, Peggy Noonan said this will all die down and people will forget. And particularly, if Rick Santorum, the hardest line guy on these issues in the primaries is gone, everyone will forget. But it keeps popping up because this is actually the policy of the party. So, now they`re hoping Akin will go away, just as they hoped Limbaugh would lower his slut language and the rest of this, but this is the party. If McDonnell tries to fool with the hard line language, it will put it more in the spotlight because the real base of the party that supports people like Akin will complain and scream and yell about it. MADDOW: And they`ll fight it. And that`s what I think is -- I mean, how we got here is interesting and where we`re going is interesting, because how we got here I think is the party falling apart and the conservative movement, which has always bolstered the Republican Party, has stepped in. They don`t have any governor or whatsoever when it comes to radical antiabortion politics. So, there`s nobody in the conservative movement who`s saying, no, don`t push on the rape and incest exemptions. That`s going to weird out independent voters. That`s going to weird out even Republican women. There isn`t anybody within the party who can speak with authority to the conservative movement in a way that can shut them down. So, I think that`s how we got here. But where we`re going to is a confrontation between the Romney campaign and the Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum conservative movement base of the party which will fight if they try to take a stance. RICH: They will, and frankly, since Romney has proved to back down at almost any confrontation throughout this campaign, going back to the primaries, whether it be about immigration -- it doesn`t matter what the issue is -- he backs down. He`s not going to fight these people. And furthermore, who would be his allies? Who are the people in that party who are going to stand up for women`s rights? This is a party where in the Senate, the entire Republican caucus voted for the fluke -- what was it called, the flake amendment? The Blunt Amendment, excuse me, the Blunt Amendment, which allowed employers to sort of basically stop any kind of health care coverage that dealt with women`s issues. It wasn`t framed that way. The only one to vote against it in the Senate in the Republican side was Olympia Snowe, of course, who is leaving the Senate. So there`s no there there for people who would stand with Romney/Ryan if they wanted to take the disingenuous position they that support exceptions on abortion. MADDOW: I`m just -- I`m just trying here. I don`t even know what happens tomorrow on this let alone in the long run because we do have them saying now with Romney/Ryan administration would allow abortion for rape victims, even though that`s plainly in contradiction from their previous stances. RICH: They don`t believe it. They would never enforce it. It`s the same thing as when Romney said, oh, Rush Limbaugh had a bad choice of words. MADDOW: I wouldn`t have said slut. RICH: I wouldn`t have said slut. It`s a fig leaf they hope will fool these mythical, I think largely, independents that are so easily fooled. I don`t think people are so easily fooled. I don`t think they`re fooling Republicans, Democrats, independents, or anybody. It`s a desperate attempt to put it back on the back in the eve of the Republican convention. MADDOW: Yes. Exactly, where the fight is going to happen. They haven`t finalized their platform. Bob McDonnell is in charge. They need to have that fight right now. Todd Akin has got to make his decision by tomorrow. We should stay on TV all night. RICH: I hope we will. Let`s do it. MADDOW: Frank Rich, writer at large for "New York Magazine" -- I should say your article in this week`s magazine, which is out today is about Nora Ephron and it`s just brilliant. So, thank you for writing about that. Thanks. Appreciate it. OK. So, Republicans, shorts of sending him back and getting a refund. What do you now do with Todd Akin? Time is short and the river is rising. That`s next. And later, two men might be fired for making it easier to vote. It`s a big story with big national implications and the people in the middle of this ongoing big deal are going to be joining us for the interview tonight. That`s an exclusive here and it`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the election in the year 2000, the ballot in the great state of Missouri was unique. Listed on the ballot in the Senate race that year was the incumbent, Republican, you recognized there in your screen on the left, John Ashcroft. Also listed on the ballot was his challenger, Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan. Now, Mel Carnahan by election day was no longer alive. He had been killed in a plane crash less than a month earlier. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) TV ANCHOR: Governor Mel Carnahan was on his way to a campaign rally in a small plane that went down in heavy fog and rain near St. Louis. The first word came last night from a spokesman for the governor. JERRY NACHTIGAL, GOVERNOR`S SPOKESMAN: It is with great sadness that we report that earlier this evening, a plane believed to be carrying Governor Mel Carnahan, his son Roger, and senior campaign adviser Chris Sifford went down in Jefferson County. TV ANCHOR: Carnahan died, along with his son who was piloting the campaign and his campaign aide, Christopher Sifford. Carnahan was running for a U.S. Senate seat against John Ashcroft. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Governor Carnahan died just a few weeks before the election in Missouri in 2000. And that meant that Democrats did not legally have time to replace him on the ballot for that senate race. State law didn`t allow it. So, in a pinch, the acting governor told the people of Missouri if they voted for Mel Carnahan on their ballot, the acting governor would appoint Mr. Carnahan`s widow to the Senate seat. So, on Election Day in the year 2000, John Ashcroft was in the uncomfortable position of technically running against a dead person. He ran against a dead person and he lost to that dead person. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: John Ashcroft, who was the incumbent, was faced then with the delicate and difficult proposition of running against a man who is dead. Here`s where it stands at this hour in Missouri -- two thirds of the vote have been counted. Mel Carnahan, who is now deceased, obviously, is within striking range of John Ashcroft. In Missouri, NBC News is projecting that Mel Carnahan who was killed in a plane crash, has been elected over John Ashcroft, the Republican incumbent. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Twelve years after the John Ashcroft versus a person who is no longer among us race, the good and great state of Missouri is once again facing a bit of a ballot problem. If you think it`s complicated when one of the candidates dies, look at what they`re dealing with this year. Congressman Todd Akin was just picked up by Republican voters in Missouri to be their Senate nominee, to challenge the sitting Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill. But then yesterday, Todd Akin doused his political career, lit a match, and you know the rest. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AKIN: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let`s assume maybe that didn`t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: All the Republican senators and Senate candidate this year are now calling on Todd Akin to step aside, to let another Republican run against Claire McCaskill for that senate seat. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, urged Todd Akin to quote take time with your family to consider whether the statement will prevent you from effectively representing our party in this critical election. John Cornyn, who is in charge of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, said, "Over the next 24 hours, Congressman Akin should consider what is best for him, the Republican Party, and the values he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service. Even less subtle was the national party pulling its million dollars of ad from Todd Akin`s campaign. So too did Karl Rove`s money machine, American Crossroads and Crossroads. They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Todd Akin`s campaign, but they pulled their ads for him today. And yet, and yet, Congressman Akin says, at least he says this right now, he says he is not resigning. Also he says please donate money to my campaign, OK, thanks, bye. So, for right now, Todd Akin says he`s not leaving. His son is running his campaign. His wife is said to be his top political adviser. They apparently are not pushing him out. But the Republicans who are pushing him out are pushing with some urgency. That`s because it appears that time is of the essence here. Remember, 12 years ago when Mel Carnahan died a few weeks before the general election, Missouri state law did not let Democrats replace his name on the ballot. This year, if the November election is going to be free of Todd Akin, there are not many ways to get his name off the ballot in this Missouri Senate race. The easiest is for him to voluntarily withdraw from the race. But the deadline for him to do that is tomorrow office 5:00 p.m. local time. It turns out tomorrow is the 11th Tuesday before the election, and that`s the deadline, according to state law. If he gets out before 5:00 local time tomorrow afternoon, a Republican committee in Missouri will get to pick his replacement to be on the ballot against Claire McCaskill. There`s one other sort of strange option for how he can get his name off the ballot which would give him a little more time to think about it. According to Missouri state law, quote, "A candidate who has filed or nominated for an office may withdraw as a candidate pursuant to a court order. And if he withdraws pursuant to a court order, then the deadline is no later than 5:00 p.m. on the sixth Tuesday before the election." The sixth, not the 11th. So if he does it that way, if he tries to get a court order to take his name off the ballot, he will buy himself five more weeks to make his decision. The sixth Tuesday before the election is September 25th. Between now and September 25th, could Todd Akin get a court order to get himself off the ballot? I don`t know. Could the Democratic secretary of state in Missouri or somebody else challenge that court order if he did get one? Theoretically, yes. How would the Republicans deal with that possibility? We don`t know. We called and wrote to the Missouri state Republican Party for comment on their rules and strategy for dealing with Mr. Akin`s predicament right now. We have yet to hear back from him, but we live in hope. Right now, those are the options. Step down by tomorrow, get a court order somehow by next month, deal with the possible objections to it, or of course, there`s always the third option, Todd Akin, Mr. Legitimate Rape, could stay in, in the Missouri Senate race. So he doesn`t step down, Republicans don`t force him out, but then the Republican Party will therefore be running a Senate candidate in an important swing state in a presidential election year who is a policy clone of the Republican vice presidential nominee and who has just been caught on tape explaining that if your body didn`t reject the rapist`s sperm, it wasn`t really a rape. Those are your three options, Republicans. Tick-tack, tick-tack, tick-tack. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Missouri Republican senate candidate, Congressman Todd Akin, has done something that is inconvenient for the Republican Party. He yelled "look over here!" to everyone who hadn`t noticed where the Republican Party is these days on women`s health and women`s rights. It`s a sensitive subject this year given, you know, Paul Ryan, et cetera. Yes, Todd Akin really stunk it up for many politicians today. But not all Republican politicians. There is a congressman who would be tonight`s big headline politics story if Todd Akin wasn`t occupying that position. So, this guy for one owed Todd Akin big time. His story is ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Want to see what 1.3 million signatures look like when you put them together in one place? (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Last June, volunteers in the great state of Ohio hand- delivered 1.3 million signatures. They hand-delivered 1,502 boxes in total to the Ohio secretary of state`s office, 1.3 million Ohioans signing petitions calling for repeal of the state`s new union stripping law. And the group called We are Ohio pulled up to the secretary of state`s front door, they dropped those signatures on the secretary of state`s doorstep. Just for context, 1.3 million signatures, that`s more signatures than the entire population of Wyoming or Vermont or North Dakota or South Dakota or Alaska or Delaware or Montana or Rhode Island. Those signatures getting dropped off there that day, 1.3 million of them, ultimately led to a people`s repeal of the Ohio Republicans` stripping of union rights in that state. It wasn`t even close. Republicans saw their anti-union law overturned in a huge blowout. Well, that location you just saw there, the doorstep of the Ohio secretary of state`s office, that was the scene of another small D democratic show of force. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give the people the right to vote. (APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s open the polls and let the people vote. Let them be heard. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was a rally at the Ohio secretary of state`s office today`s. It was in support of these two gentlemen you see framed here. That`s Tom Ritchie, Sr., see there on the left and Dennis Lieberman on the right. Why were all these people in Ohio rallying behind these two men today, at the secretary of state`s office? Because Ohio Republican secretary of state is threatening to fire them. Tom Richie and Dennis Lieberman may lose their jobs this week for the crime of voting to expand voting hours in their county. Tom Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman are the two Democratic members of the Montgomery County board of elections. Montgomery County is a traditionally blue county in a sea of red counties in southwestern Ohio. It`s where there city of Dayton is. Dayton is famous not just for the Dayton peace accords which ended the blood shed in Bosnia, it`s also where John McCain introduced Sarah Palin to the nation in 2008. Dayton, Ohio, and Montgomery County, more broadly, ultimately rejected Sarah Palin and John McCain in the election in 2008. That county went for Obama by six points in the presidential election. It did so on the strength of the residents there, frankly, having lots and lots of opportunity to cast their ballots. Montgomery County had early voting on nights. It had early voting on weekends. There were plenty of opportunities to vote in the lead-up to the 2008 election. Montgomery County residents took advantage of that. In particular, their African-American residents took advantage of that. More than half of the early votes cast in that county in 2008 were cast by black voters. Heading into this year, heading into the 2012 presidential election, Montgomery County elections officials wanted to repeat the success they had running a relatively hassle free, trouble free election back in 2008. Last December, the two Democrats that you saw earlier, Tom Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman were joined by the two Republicans on the board of elections in voting to expand early voting hours in Montgomery County The county voted to do that in 2008 and they voted to do it again in 2012. They wanted to offer early voting this year in nights and weekends and it was a bipartisan vote in favor of it in Montgomery County which runs counter to what has been happening across the rest of the state. As we have been reporting on the show, what is happening in Ohio this year is a mess. The county elections boards are equally divided, two Republicans and two Democrats in every county. The Republicans on these local boards have been voting to expand early voting hours in Republican- leaning counties but they have been voting against it in Democratic counties. And that led to a situation where voters in traditionally Republican counties like Butler County, for example, they would have had the opportunity to vote on nights while voters in traditionally blue counties like Cuyahoga County would not have that chance. In order to rectify that problem, in order to fix that blatantly biased set of rules, Ohio`s Republican secretary of state last week came out finally and decided to take away expanded early voting hours for everyone. At least it was sort of standardized. For every single county across the state, he directed every county elections board to adopt the same hours for early voting during the weeks leading up to election day. But this is important. This is important. He did not say what should happen on the weekends. The hours that he distributed only laid out the rules for early voting on week days. In Montgomery County which again had voted in a bipartisan manner to have early voting on weekends this year, the Democrats on the board when they saw this ruling from the secretary of state that was jut for week days, they decided they would give the weekends question another shot. So Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman voted on Friday to go forward with weekend early voting there. And for those efforts, they were suspended from the elections board by the secretary of state for the crime of voting to offer the residents of their county more opportunity to vote. The Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has now threatened to remove them from office. Think about this, though. He didn`t just say no to the proposal for weekend voting. He didn`t threaten to take away the jobs of the Republicans who also participated in that vote and voted the other way. He didn`t just fix his directive about early voting hours to close the loophole about weekends so it would also apply to weekends and be standardized across the state. Instead, he just told these Democrats and I`m quoting here, "You leave me no choice but to begin to process necessary to remove you as member of the Montgomery County board of elections." Remove? Today, Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman were hauled before a state hearing that will ultimately decide their fate or help to decide their fate. They were grilled by an attorney for the secretary of state`s office. Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman were put in the weird position of having to defend themselves against the charge that they used their power on the country board of elections to a vote to allow people more time to vote. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do as a board member take an oath to follow the laws of the state of Ohio. DENNIS LIEBERMAN (D), MONTGOMERY CO., OH ELECTIONS BOARD: The United States Constitution and the Ohio constitution. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And part of that is to follow the directives issued by the secretary of state, correct? LIBERMAN: Correct, which I believe I did. And still to this day believe I followed that directive. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That directive which did not have instructions about weekends. Thanks to the Ohio Capitol blog for providing the tape from the hearing today. Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman, both Democrats, who between them have more than 27 years of experience on their county elections board, they could be fired by the end of this week for voting to expand voting hours for the residents of their county. They`re going to be joining us live for the interview next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THOMAS RITCHIE, SR., MONTGOMERY CO., OH ELECTIONS BOARD: All I want to do is make sure that we have done what we have done in 2008, and that is give the people the right to vote. (APPLAUSE) RITCHIE: There is a lot more that I would like to say but I`m going to have to use a friend of mine`s line. Under advice from counsel, I am just going to say let`s open the polls and let the people vote. Let them be heard. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Thomas Ritchie, Sr., a Democratic member of the Montgomery County, Ohio board of elections. Today, Mr. Richie along with the other Democrat on that elections board, Dennis Lieberman, were hauled before a state hearing and forced to argue that they should not be fired by Ohio`s Republican secretary of state who is threatening to fire them. They potentially fireable offense is that they voted to expand early voting hours in their county in Ohio. Joining us now for the interview are the two Democratic members of the Montgomery County Ohio Board of Elections: Dennis Lieberman and Thomas Ritchie Sr. Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Ritchie, thank you both for being here. I really appreciate your time, gentlemen. LIEBERMAN: Thank you. RITCHIE: Thank you. MADDOW: Mr. Lieberman, let me start with you. How important was early voting on weekends in your county, in Montgomery County, the last time around in the 2008 presidential race? LIEBERMAN: It was exceptionally important. You know, I can give you some numbers, we had 28,000 people that voted early. Of those, one third of them voted them voted on weekends. In fact, there was the weekend beforehand, in which we had almost 8,000 people, the weekend before the election. I remember standing out on the lawn, and because there was so many people that they actually were lining up on the lawn, and we -- there was a college student that had a guitar and he was playing songs, and my Republican counterpart on the board at the time looked at me with tears in his eyes and he said, this is what America is about. And he was right. It is. Early voting in Montgomery County is critical. MADDOW: Let me ask about working with your Republican colleagues here. Obviously, all the elections boards have two Democrats and two Republicans, and Mr. Ritchie, I`ll ask you. Under some other -- unlike some other Democratic-leaning counties across the state, the Republicans on your county board originally joined with you in wanting to expand early voting hours in the county. Why do you think they originally went along with that, when Republicans and a lot of other Democratic counties were voting no on that? RITCHIE: Well, I think that they knew it was the right thing to do at the time they cast that vote, to let the people of the county vote. We had made that commitment to them in two previous board meetings, where they had appeared. And the Republican board members voted to allow weekend voting. MADDOW: Let me ask you -- this is to either of you -- in terms of the technical matter here at hand, the secretary of state issued some guidelines about essentially standardizing some of the early voting hours. And it seemed from the -- most people`s reading of those guidelines, that he was saying that there would be no early voting on weekends and there would be some minimal expanded early votings on -- expanded early voting hours on weekend nights. Is it your contention, when you took this vote last week, that he didn`t actually instruct you, that you couldn`t have early voting on weekends? Do you think you have the right to do that? LIEBERMAN: Yes, I do. It was my motion, and the reason I made the motion is because we had already, in December -- on December 28th of 2011, we had already decided that we were going to have early voting in Montgomery County on weekends as well as during the week. And it`s authority that we have under the Ohio revised code, I believe, to make those decisions. When I got his directive Friday morning, and when Tom got it, we looked at it, and I looked at the directive, and it talked about regular business hours, Monday through Friday. Now, the secretary of state knew that we had already voted in early voting on weekends and had been using it in Montgomery County since 2008 and had actually used it in the primary, the presidential primary, this year, just a couple months earlier. So he knew we had it, and my thought was that if he knew we had it and he didn`t address it, then we were free to fill in those blanks. And that`s what we did. And my motion was to accept the directive that he had for weekdays and simply keep the weekends that we had decided. And we got a letter telling us to rescind the motion or be fired and I refused to rescind the motion. MADDOW: Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Ritchie, Democratic members of the Montgomery County Ohio Board of Elections, I know that this is as of yet unresolved. This is still a pending matter, and I know it, therefore, takes some guts to talk about it publicly in terms of what`s going on, but thank you for being willing to explain it to us and good luck this week. Please keep us posted. The whole country`s paying a lot of attention to Ohio for good reason. LIEBERMAN: Thank you. RITCHIE: Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thanks, gentleman. OK. Do you want to know who won the news lottery today? The Republican congressman whose own scandal was squeezed out of the headlines by the Mr. Legitimate Rape Todd Akin scandal today. The guy who got squeezed out of the headlines and who is very thankful to Mr. Akin, we`ve got his story next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: And now a brand-new and possibly ill-advised new RACHEL MADDOW SHOW franchise -- the best timing in the world today. In the best timing in the award goes to Republican congressman from Kansas, Kevin Yoder. Congressman Yoder featured today in headlines like this that did appear in a few of today`s papers. "Congressman Kevin Yoder`s nude swim yields an apology." "Representative Yoder apologizes for skinny dipping in Sea of Galilee." "GOP colleagues: Yoder`s nude swim breaches trust." "Politico" had the story first, posting this banner headline that`s, "Exclusive: FBI probed GOP trip with drinking, nudity in Israel." It apparently happened during a congressional delegation to Israel last summer. A group of Republican congressmen brought to Israel by a foundation connected to a pro-Israel lobbying group. And one night, some members of the delegation went to this restaurant that is right on the Sea of Galilee -- you know, the one you read about in the Bible. Not the restaurant, but the sea. The restaurant is called Decks. And you can apparently jump right off one of the decks into the water, into the sea. And reportedly about 20 members of this delegation did just that. And all of the swimmers can kept at least some of their clothes on. Except for one. Quote, "Congressman Yoder removed all his clothes, the only person to do so, according to multiple sources." Some of those present took photographs of the group right after the late-night swim, sources said. Dude, everybody threw you under the bus for being naked. Today, Congressman Yoder went on a local radio show to explain the naked in the Sea of Galilee thing. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REP. KEVIN YODER (R), KANSAS: Members decided at the Sea of Galilee, they wanted to take a spontaneous dive into the sea and at some point, I decided to join them and made the real mistake of going in without clothing, and it`s a regrettable incident. We were, you know, having wine with dinner, but alcohol really played no role in the decision to go in. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Judgment was unimpaired when you took all of your clothes off and jumped into a body water that is closely associated with not one, but two miracles of Jesus. For what it`s worth, despite the "Politico" headline, the FBI is denying to NBC News today that it is involved in any sort of investigation of the skinny dipping congressman. International naked swimming in the Sea of Galilee is apparently not a federal crime. In any case, today could have been so much worse for Congressman Kevin Yoder, because, of course, Congressman Kevin Yoder is not Republican Todd Akin, his Republican colleague in the House. Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas, you are the inaugural beneficiary of the best timing in the world today. Mazel tov. May all of your sober, public skinny dipping adventures find their way to "Politico" in the wake of much bigger stories, which is what you benefited from today. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END