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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/21/12

Guests: Bob Herbert, Cristen Hemmins

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I think it has to come with a warning that you have to keep the puppy and the box of chocolates separate. Dogs and chocolate, right? KLEIN: A terrible idea. You don`t want the puppy inside the box of chocolates. That was not what Forrest Gump`s mom was saying you wanted to find in that box of chocolates. MADDOW: Thank you, Ezra. KLEIN: Thank you. MADDOW: Appreciate it, man. Well done. Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour. The Republican Party is finalizing its platform tonight. Their convention starts next week. That means that this is basically right now the formal end of the Republican primary process. And what has just been a wild presidential election year. I mean, we should have known it was going to be a wild year when it started off so strangely, right? You remember when Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses? Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses for a second. The Iowa Republican Party, that night of the Iowa caucuses announced Mitt Romney as the winner. But then a little while later, they tried to announce that actually it had been a tie between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. But then shortly after that, they eventually admitted, OK, yes, no, both of those were wrong. Turns out Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses. But ultimately, when it came down to allocating the delegates that are what you win when you win the Iowa caucuses, the delegates that go to the convention next week, in Iowa, it turned out the winner was neither Romney nor Rick Santorum. The winner was somebody else altogether. It was Ron Paul. Republican presidential nomination process this year started in chaos in Iowa and got weirder from there. I mean, just about the only guy who didn`t win Iowa was Rick Perry. Remember poor Rick Perry? He was almost the favorite at the start of the process. He got into the race late to tons of acclaim, tons of excitement, and to he tried very hard. It wasn`t like he was Fred Thompson or Rudy Giuliani in 2008. Rick Perry really tried. He just couldn`t win anything. So it sort of got lost in the shuffle, this campaign season, once Mr. Perry lost so badly. But there was one remarkable moment from Rick Perry in the campaign that has suddenly become newly relevant in where the campaign`s at now. Here`s how it happened. It was exactly one week before the Iowa caucuses. Rick Perry who had been a staunch antiabortion politician exactly a week before the Iowa caucuses, Rick Perry told a conservative Iowa minister in front of his parishioners that he had had a change of heart on the issue of abortion. Here`s how we reported it at the time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Another sign, I think, of Rick Perry banking hard for the evangelical social conservative vote, his announcement at a campaign event in Iowa last night sort of striking announcement, that he`s changed his mind on abortion. He said seeing Mike Huckabee`s DVD about abortion has caused him to change his stance on the issue. Even though Rick Perry is very, very antiabortion, he`s for criminalizing it. Mr. Perry used to believe that the government shouldn`t force rape victims or victims of incest to bear the child of their rapist or of their incestuous attacker. Now, though, after seeing Mike Huckabee`s movie, Mr. Perry has decided that the government should in fact force victims of rape and incest to bear the child of the rape or incest. He even teared up a little bit. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Mike Huckabee DVD that made Rick Perry change his mind on what he wants to force rape victims to do, the DVD that made him change his mind on that conveniently one week before the Iowa caucuses, it was the DVD called "The Gift of Life". It`s anti-abortion movie that Mr. Huckabee hosts and starred in it, Governor Huckabee`s antiabortion DVD also features an anti-abortion activist who specifically campaigns against abortion rights for rape victims, in addition to the DVD, Mr. Huckabee has also interviewed her on his TV show and in 2011, they both worked on the personhood campaign in Mississippi. You remember that, the ballot measure intended by its authors to ban some of the most popular forms of birth control, hormonal birth control and IUDs, also ban in vitro fertilization, not to mention all abortion -- all abortion. And the folks running the personhood campaign in Mississippi were not shy about the fact they wanted to ban all abortions, including an abortion sought by a victim of rape or incest. In fact, they campaigned on that aspect of the personhood measure. Mike Huckabee was a major spokesman and keynote speaker for the Mississippi measure. The activist he featured in his DVD, the one that changed Rick Perry and on Mr. Huckabee`s TV show, that activist headlined a tour supporting the personhood bill and the tour was called "The Conceived in Rape" tour. That was part of the campaign for the personhood measure, not against it. The Mississippi campaign prided itself on its mission to force rape victims and incest victims who became pregnant as a result of the crimes to bring the pregnancies to term against their will -- forced to child bearing against your will as a rape victim or an incest victim. The personhood campaign tried to turn the idea of forcing women in that circumstance to bear the child of their rapist. They tried to turn that into an asset for their campaign. But even in a place like Mississippi, even when the electorate is very conservative and very antiabortion, frankly, that idea still sounds crazy and/or repulsive, which is in part why the campaign against the personhood thing in Mississippi looked like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just a normal Mississippi girl going to college. And then I was abducted and raped. It changed everything. Initiative 26 doesn`t make any exceptions for rape or incest. It goes too far. It would be so bad for women and families. I don`t trust the government. I trust Mississippi families and women to make these important decisions. It`s perfectly acceptable to be pro-life and against initiative 26. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That message worked in Mississippi. Personhood lost in Mississippi by double digits last fall. In part because it turns out people do not like the idea of the government forcing rape victims to bear the child of their rapist. Even people who hold conservative antiabortion beliefs believe that. But you know what might make that decision seem more palatable? If pregnant rape victims were a myth, if they didn`t exist. (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: That position that Congressman Todd Akin took toward rape victims on Sunday that`s made him so famous now, it`s not just Todd Akin`s position. I mean, it`s not like equivalent to Scott Brown believing he confers with kings and queens when really he doesn`t, or remember when Christine O`Donnell assured the nation there are human/mice hybrids? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTINE O`DONNELL (R), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: American scientific companies are crossbreeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brain. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Todd Akin thing is not like that. It`s not just some weird thing that somebody in politics believes that nobody else can explain. Todd Akin is not alone in believing that lady parts have a specific magic that can tell the difference between rapist sperm and happy to have you here sperm. Todd Akin`s crazy theory is in fact something that a lot of people on the right and a lot of people in the antiabortion movement not only believe but they have been willing to talk about it for years. George W. Bush appointed a man who believed this to be the chief judge of the eastern district federal court in the state of Arkansas. Some people on the right, this week, like the American Family Association, have been saying that Todd Akin is absolutely correct on this subject. When you ask these folks to cite their sources, most often they cite a guy who is a former president of the National Right to Life committee. "The New York Times" interviewed him this week and he believes this, that you can`t get pregnant from a rape. Here is what he said to the "New York Times" today. He said, "This is a traumatic thing. She`s, shall we say, she`s up tight. She`s frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic." The tubes are who now? That guy, the spastic tubes guy was a Mitt Romney supporter in the last election, in 2008. At the time, the Romney campaign called Dr. Spastic tubes, quote, "an important surrogate for Governor Romney`s pro-life and pro-family agenda." "The New York Times" being "The New York Times" and interviewing the spastic tubes doctor today decided to fact check him, the guy from the Right to Life -- the Right to Life Committee who was the big Mitt Romney endorser in 2008. They fact checked him and it didn`t go well. They talked to a obstetrics and gynecology professor at the University of North Carolina. He said, quote, "To suggest that there`s some biological reason why women couldn`t get pregnant during a rape is absurd." My favorite, though, quote was from the Harvard Medical School professor of reproductive biology who responded at the time simply by saying, "There are no words, there are no words for this. It`s just nuts." Well put. But the thing that is missing from the whole political freak out, the whole Republican freak out and the broader political freak out over Todd Akin having said this whack-a-do theory from the spastic tubes right to life guy out loud while he`s running for Senate, the thing that is missing from the uproar here is that there`s a reason people keep talking about this crazy theory. There`s a reason the antiabortion right had to invent this easily disprovable lie about basic human biology in the first place. Every time it surfaces in the mainstream, it gets debunked, but even after debunking, it keeps circulating on the antiabortion right. It keeps coming back. Why do they keep bringing it back? Because if you believe that rape victims don`t get pregnant, you don`t have to feel bad about using the law against impregnated rape victims. After all, they don`t exist. Todd Akin still supports the same policy position he outlined on Sunday, the one the personhood folks campaigned on, the idea that the government should force victims of rape and incest to bring pregnancies resulting from those kinds to term. Todd Akin has apologized for saying that fake science antiabortion fairy tale thing about rape in the way that he said it on Sunday, but he`s not retracted his policy position that`s based on that idea. Now, that`s caused something of a firestorm, he`s apologizing for the wording of the rationale for the government forcing women who have been raped to give birth against their will. He`s apologizing for the way he described that rationale, saying at one that he got one word wrong in one sentence, but he`s not changing his policy. He still wants rape victims to be forced by the government to bear the child of the rapist against their will. That`s a very common position in Republican politics right now. It`s a position that is shared by the Republican Party officially which adopted it into their official party platform that will be ratified presumably on Monday. We`ll be talking about that a little bit later on the show tonight. It`s a position that is shared by the Republican`s soon to be vice presidential nominee. When he was running for Congress in 1998, here is how Paul Ryan was explaining his position on abortion. This is quoting from the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" in 1998. "Ryan, a 28-year-old first time candidate, said he has consistently opposed legal abortion and makes only one exception, cases in which a doctor deems an abortion necessary to save the mother`s life. He favors overturning the Supreme Court`s landmark Roe v. Wade decision that made most abortions legal. Ryan said and he would let the states decide what criminal penalties would be attached to abortions." This is a nice detail. "Ryan said he has never specifically advocated jailing women who have abortions or doctors who perform them, but he added, `If it`s illegal, it`s illegal.`" So presumably the states would make it illegal and would prescribe jail terms for women and that would be OK with him. Paul Ryan, even in his first run for Congress, was running on criminalizing abortion with no exceptions for rape victims and incest victims. And he was running on sending women and doctors to jail, right? If it`s illegal it`s illegal. Paul Ryan has said to have called Todd Akin yesterday to talk to him about getting out of the Missouri Senate race. Mitt Romney himself directly called for Todd Akin to get out of the race today. The Romney campaign`s initial statement on Todd Akin`s comments on Sunday said that the campaign disagreed with Mr. Akin, quote, "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin`s statement. A Romney/Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape." That`s new. That`s new for Paul Ryan at least. And it`s sort of new for Mitt Romney, too. Since that initial statement was released, Paul Ryan has made no less than six public appearances. How has he avoided it appearances, being asked about the brand new policy position he`s advocating now that he wants to be vice president. It`s in total contradiction to every policy stance and vote and relevant sponsorship he has taken as a congressman. The only difference between Paul Ryan`s position and Todd Akin`s position is that Todd Akin in an interview is willing to use fake science to pretend like rape and incest pregnancies don`t exist. So, therefore, we don`t have to feel bad about banning them. Paul Ryan has not bothered to feed you the fake science. He by apparently this disagreement statement they put out, that presumably knows that rape victims and incest victims do sometimes get pregnant and he knows what he wants the government, force those women to do is to bear those pregnancies to term against their will. Think about the big picture here for a second, between those guys, between Akin and Ryan. Which one is worse? Saying you want to force a woman who has just conceived against her will to also give birth against her will by order of the government? Or telling yourself a fake science fairy tale so you can pretend the women don`t exist and you would never want the kind of government that would do something so barbaric to a woman for nine months after the barbarism that was done to her in the incident before (ph)? Which is worse, the person with the fairy tale or the person without one? Because they both want the same policy either way. It`s just that in the newfangled Republican Mike Huckabee way of justifying it, they drop the fake science fairy tale. They don`t bother trying to make it seem less barbaric. Joining us now is Cristen Hemmins. She`s a leading advocate who helped defeat ballot initiative 26, the personhood measure in last year`s election in Mississippi. Cristen, thanks for being here tonight. It`s nice to see you again. CRISTEN HEMMINS, OPPOSED MS PERSONHOOD AMENDMENT: Good to see you, too. Thanks for having me. MADDOW: After what you have been through in life and in politics in Mississippi, I have to ask you -- just generally, what was your reaction when you saw this firestorm happen about Congressman Akin`s comments this week? HEMMINS: I was completely offended and infuriated. It just -- it`s hard not to take it personally when a politician says something like this as a rape victim. Twenty years ago when I was abducted and raped and shot twice, obviously, if a personhood initiative or amendment or nationwide something had been in place, I would have been forced by the government to bear a child that could have killed me -- I was shot twice -- if not physically, then possibly emotionally. So to have this politician telling me that he doesn`t really care how I feel about it, that he thinks that he should be able to tell me what to do with my body, I find just it infuriating beyond words. MADDOW: It was Governor Mike Huckabee -- former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and a number of other people involved in the antiabortion movement who had really championed the personhood measure in Mississippi that you and others campaigned so skillfully against and defeated it. Now, the Republicans have put on the ticket, as their vice presidential nominee, a man who co sponsored that same legislation for the entire country. HEMMINS: Right. MADDOW: I wonder if you feel like there is part of the argument that was hashed out in Mississippi that hasn`t been hashed out nationally. I wonder if you feel there`s something people are missing. HEMMINS: Well, I do feel like we talked about it so much last year here in Mississippi that I feel like people in Mississippi are sort of on the cutting edge of this argument because we have been talking ability how dangerous a personhood initiative is and how it could affect things like birth control, ectopic pregnancies, you know, outside of obviously rape and incest. So people in Mississippi for a change are sort of more informed about the problems with personhood than people possibly nationwide are. You know, they haven`t had as much exposure to the issues as Mississippians have at this point. So you know, I`m glad really in a way that Todd Akin said what he said because he`s brought out this important discussion that Americans need to have to understand how dangerous personhood is because -- I mean, now we have Paul Ryan on the ticket. Romney himself when asked by Huckabee if he would support a personhood initiative, said absolutely. So you know, it`s on their platform, next week at the RNC, they`re going to have a platform that says life begins at conception. And that`s what they want. And it`s not just Todd Akin. He just is the one who said it. And his semantics were bad and embarrassing, and it`s funny to see the GOP pushing against him and trying to push him out of the picture, but he`s just saying what they all believe already and advocate. So, it`s pretty disingenuous of the GOP to pretend like he`s not representing what their policy promotes. MADDOW: Cristen Hemmins, activist and advocate against personhood measures who has very solid track record as an advocate on these issues -- Cristen, thanks again for being here tonight. It`s nice to see you again. Thanks. HEMMINS: You`re welcome. Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thank you. All right, with Todd Akin and his legislative partner, Congressman Paul Ryan, already all over the front pages, the Republican Party decides to triple down in terms of their appeal to the lady type voters. The re- emergence of governor ultrasound on the national stage, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Once upon a time, a couple beloved viewers of the show, Allie Davis (ph) and Jess Edris (ph), they were so moved by a story we were reporting that they sent us unsolicited, some little photoshopped bundles of joy. Ultrasound wand customized for Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. If governor ultrasound was going to have the state government force women to have medically unnecessary ultrasounds against their will and against doctor`s orders, then, frankly, he should have to own the tools of that particular trade. So, in addition to the vaginal ultrasound probe with Bob McDonnell`s name on it, there was one that said this violation courtesy of the GOP. After those were emailed around, the whole thing went slightly viral. This one says, if you can read this, your government is too close. This one is ironic and intrusive, both kinds. Just says small government right on the end of the probe. And with specific reference to Bob McDonnell`s hopes for being vice president, this one says, I can see the White House from here. For a while, it seemed like the Republican Party had dodged a bullet when they decided to not put a guy nicknamed "governor ultrasound" on the ticket as vice president. For a while it seemed that way. It does not seem that way anymore. Hold on. That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, spare a thought if you will for this Republican Party staffer right here. This nice young -- see, that guy for, the blurry one. Nice gentleman on the left side of the screen, blue shirt. He`s got a red lanyard around this neck. Poor guy. What you`re looking at right here is the Republican National Convention`s platform committee meeting this morning in Tampa, Florida. Platform committee is where they assemble and vote on the Republican Party`s core beliefs. Keep an eye on that guy in this next clip. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: OK. Is there anything else? Is there any other discussion on that section? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Poor guy. Rolls his eyes. And then he struggles as hard as he can to stay interested before finally collapsing into his own hands. Poor guy. In modern times, putting together a political party`s official platform is essentially an exercise devoid of consequence. Party platforms do not generally matter all that much anymore. And watching the process of a party putting together that platform is enough to put you to sleep even if you`re part of it, even when C-Span broadcasts it and you`re in the shot. And God bless C-Span for broadcasting it today. Frankly, it is engrossing purely as deeply arcane for most of the time. It`s like a formal committee of 100 people organized under the queen`s parliamentary rules of order collectively trying to work out a very large Sudoku puzzle together. Can I get a second for six and block G-74. Is there any objection? Objection. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCDONNELL: On page 7, line 10, there appears to be a typographical error, the word "for" following the word "lethal", I believe it should be form. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You can`t turn away. Watching a political party put together their platform on C-Span is one of the things that can be so mind numbingly boring that it`s almost fascinating just because you`re so bored. But this year, this year, the Republican Party platform took on a whole new level of importance because of the context. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCDONNELL: I applaud the committee`s work in affirming our respect for human life. Well done. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Our respect for human life. That wasn`t about the death penalty. Obviously about abortion. The man you saw was Republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Bob McDonnell, I think it`s safe to say, did not want the role this week. He did not want his role at the Republican convention to be chairman of the platform committee. Bob McDonnell wanted his role at the convention to be vice presidential nominee. But he had a few things going against him in that pursuit. One problem that he had was his master`s thesis which he wrote as an adult, as a mid-career adult at the Pat Robertson university. This thesis surfaced during his run for governor and was problematic for him at the time because in his thesis he argued among other things that public policy at every level should be used to punish cohabitators, homosexuals and fornicators. That was going to be a problem for Bob McDonnell running as a potential vice presidential nominee in the century that`s usually labeled 21. But then once in office, Governor Bob McDonnell made himself into governor ultrasound. He backed the Republicans in his state who wanted the state government to force women to have medically unnecessary ultrasounds against their will and even potentially against doctor`s orders. Governor McDonnell`s support for that was totally consistent with his previous record as an anti-abortion activist who just happened to go into public service. I mean, as a state legislator, Bob McDonnell sponsored or co-sponsored 35 different bills relating to abortion restrictions. And he was totally doctrinaire about it. He was as doctrinaire as he was devoted to the issue. He was one of the no exceptions for rape and incest guys. No exceptions. Look, here`s a questionnaire that he filled out in 1999. We have it. Do we have it? We don`t have it. We don`t have it. We have it, we`ll put it on We just couldn`t put it on TV. In 1999, he filled out a questionnaire saying no exceptions for rape and incest. And by the time Bob McDonnell wanted to make his national debut, by the time he wanted to be vice president, that sort of position was inconvenient for him. You know, I mean, given that people were already calling him governor ultrasound behind his back, that was inconvenient. And so Bob McDonnell decided to make that part of his record disappear. A spokesman for the governor told the "Washington Post" back in April that Bob McDonnell would now, would now -- look at that. He would now allow for abortion in cases of rape or incest. What? Why the sudden change of heart after a lifetime of advocating something totally different? A spokesman said that there was actual no change of heart. It`s just that Bob McDonnell`s position on rape and incest exceptions had been misunderstood for the past two decades. So after decades of being a no-exceptions for rape and incest guy, Bob McDonnell overnight abandoned that position, right? Having been through that personal journey, right? Abandoned that position and tried to pretend it never happened before. He`d been misreported for two decades, and he`d never complained. But he wanted to be vice president. Having been through that not very believable white-washing of his own record on abortion, then we got Bob McDonnell`s job today. Bob McDonnell, the guy who`s put in place to oversee in the middle of the Todd Akin controversy about rape and incest. Bob McDonnell is the guy put in place to oversee the Republican Party platform, which adopts as its official policy no exceptions for rape and incest. So that has to be awkward in a very sort of front of the mind way for governor ultrasound. He is the guy who just recently flip-flopped on that issue and said that his -- his position on that issue had been misreported for two decades and he never thought to complain about it until he wanted to be vice president. He just did that to try to make himself more appealing as a potential vice presidential running mate, and there he is overseeing the Republican Party`s national platform with no rape and incest exceptions. Who said party platform meetings are boring? Say what you will about Bob McDonnell, but when he wasn`t willing to defend that position anymore, when he wasn`t willing to defend making rape victims bear their rapist`s baby, Bob McDonnell abandoned that position. He did it messily. He abandoned the position, but he didn`t want to be held accountable for that position anymore, and so he abandoned it. He stopped defending the position. He tried to pretend it had never been his position. The same cannot be said right now for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan who are right now trying to have that position but not be held accountable for it. Again, today, the Republican Party`s platform committee approved as official party policy no abortion exceptions for rape or incest. The government will force you to bear the rapist`s baby. And even though that is the position of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, and even though multiple Romney campaign advisers were reportedly present in drafting the Republican Party platform this week, and even though, as of next week, that will be official Republican Party orthodoxy, here`s how the Republican Party is defending it when it comes to their nominee, Mitt Romney. Look at this. Look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: As far as our platform is concerned, I mean, this is the platform of the Republican Party. It`s not the platform of Mitt Romney. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, it`s not the platform of Mitt Romney. Tah-dah. You know, if this is your policy position, you either have to explain and defend that policy position or it can`t be your policy position. You can`t both have that as your position and never have to be held accountable for it. It is the position of your vice presidential nominee and it is his voting record, and it is his policy record, and it is about to be the official party platform that you are running on, and your people were there shaping that platform when it wound up in there. But that`s not you? What`s you then? Bob Herbert joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: I applaud the committee`s work in affirming our respect for human life. Well done. PRIEBUS: As far as our platform is concern, I mean this is the platform of the Republican Party. It`s not the platform of Mitt Romney. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Why would Mitt Romney have anything to do with the platform of the Republican Party? It`s just the platform which we`re, you know, agreeing at the convention where we`ll name him the nominee of the party. It`s not like it`s an actual platform he has to stand on when we -- that`s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, Governor Ultrasound, and the chairman of the Republican Party. Mr. Ultrasound applauding the Republican Party`s platform committee for their decision to make official Republican Party policy forcing women against their will to bear their rapist`s babies. Reince Priebus, as Republican Party chairman, then helpfully explaining that that`s not at all what Mitt Romney is running for president on. Joining us now is Bob Herbert, he`s a distinguished senior fellow at Demos progressive policy think tank and advocacy group. Bob, it is great to see you. Thanks for being here. BOB HERBERT, DEMOS DISTINGUISHED SR. FELLOW: You too, Rachel. MADDOW: So as far as our platform is concerned, I mean, this is the platform the Republican Party, it`s not the platform of Mitt Romney? HERBERT: It`s not Mitt Romney`s platform. You know, Mitt Romney picks Paul Ryan to be his vice presidential candidate, and now he`s got to spend the rest of the campaign running away from Ryan`s policies. It`s a -- it`s a problem. MADDOW: On this issue specifically, the Republican Party has not had a rape or incest exemption from its doctrine or antiabortion position in its party platform since 1976. HERBERT: Right. MADDOW: That`s as far back as I have gone on the subject. This year, of course, it has more resonance because Paul Ryan is on the platform, because of the Todd Akin comments, and because the Romney and Ryan campaign are already trying to say that what they will do in office has nothing to do with Paul Ryan`s record. HERBERT: Zero. MADDOW: Is there precedent for that or the -- running away from the record as well as running away from the platform? Is this -- is this new? Is this a double flip? HERBERT: They`re just going to throw everything over board. MADDOW: Yes. HERBERT: You know, it`s really weird. Ordinarily what happens is, you know, the Republican Party has these extreme things in the platform. And what the candidates usually do is they go wink, wink, you know, and everybody is supposed to understand that this is not going to happen in the real world if they win the election. They can`t do that this time because Paul Ryan is right there on the ticket and Todd Akin has stirred about this controversy, and people are now worried that, you know, this may have some reality if Mitt Romney becomes president. And I think there`s reason to worry about it. Whether or not they even change the -- made an effort to change the abortion laws in the way that Paul Ryan would like them to do, it still gives us a pretty good indication of the approach that a Romney administration would have to women`s health issues. And there`s nothing that I can see that`s good about that approach. MADDOW: It makes me think about judicial nominations because what`s going on right now at the Republican Party platform writing thing which I spent a lot of time watching on C-SPAN today is that you see all these people who are delegates to the RNC, who are recognizable Republican activists. HERBERT: Yes. MADDOW: Both public officials and also, you know, people from the Family Research Council, and the Eagle Forum and all of these places, and they`re shaping party policy. And that kind of negotiation between the activists and the known elected officials is the sort of thing that happens behind the scenes when a president floats potential Supreme Court nominees. HERBERT: No question about that. And the other thing that happens is when a president is developing policies, and is trying to get his party on board, you know, in a legislative fight, we have seen what the right- wingers will do in terms of bringing pressure. And they will bring that kind of pressure on a President Romney to get these extreme policies, whether it has to do with abortion, whether it has to do with other women`s issues or even other issues, to get policies that are much closer to a Vice President Ryan`s desires than they are maybe to a President Romney`s desires. MADDOW: Bob, one of the things that you`re really good at on all sorts of issues is finding the distance between sort of the sound bite and the substance. And on this issue of Todd Akin specifically, the 5:00 p.m. deadline came and went today and he didn`t pull out of the race, but we`ve got this huge cascade of Republican officials and powerful people in the Republican politics calling for him to get out. I don`t know if he`ll be able to resist it ultimately, but they`re obviously trying to push him out. And it seems kind of genius to me because obviously he`s a weak -- even before this. HERBERT: Right. The -- MADDOW: He seems a weak candidate in Missouri. HERBERT: Not their guy. MADDOW: So they prefer to have a hand-picked candidate -- HERBERT: Yes. MADDOW: -- designed for electability, rather than who the primary voters chose to go against Claire McCaskill. They`d love to get him out of there. But also, it lets them sort of have a scapegoat, right? Or throw the bad apple out of the -- out of the barrel. Oh, you know what? We`re dealing with our extremist on abortion problem because we`re getting ready -- we`re getting rid of the one extremist we`ve got. HERBERT: Exactly right. Yes. MADDOW: Who is Todd Akin. HERBERT: Yes. You know -- MADDOW: Because he said this thing. HERBERT: I do think that they`re handling it from their perspective in a brilliant way. I agree with you. The problem is that the extremist is right there on the national ticket. There is -- there is no distance between Todd Akin`s position on abortion and Paul Ryan`s position on abortion. And again, it`s not just abortion. Ryan and Akin and so many others in that party are extreme on an entire range of issues. And that`s what you`re going to get if this party takes any kind of additional control in November. MADDOW: The Obama administration, the Obama campaign specifically has been more willing than I would have expected to campaign on reproductive rights issues. Not in a particularly culture war sort of way but in a "we will defend the status quo" and defend women`s rights from the Republicans who have been so aggressive on them kind of way. HERBERT: Yes. MADDOW: I wonder if you have advice for the Democrats in trying to make the Akin -- the Akin issue a problem for them that they do not end once they finally get rid of Todd Akin, that they don`t end with all these condemnations of Todd Akin, but one that makes them own the policy that Akin and all these other people stand for. HERBERT: You know, the first thing that I would tell them is to -- just like they were trying to define Mitt Romney and did a pretty good job talking about taxes and that sort of thing, identify Paul Ryan with Todd Akin`s positions. And you know, show that there`s, like -- there`s no light between the two of them. They`re as close as two coats of paint on legislative issues. Show that it`s on abortion, that it`s on women`s issues, but also show that it has to do with things like safety net programs, they would -- they would shred the safety net and harm the poor, show that they would do policies that would be harmful to the middle class. Just keep pounding that home. Make that connection between Todd Akin and Paul Ryan. MADDOW: And you don`t have to reach when all you have to do is list all the bills on which they are co-sponsors. HERBERT: It`s all on record. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos. Bob, it`s always really good to have you here. Thanks a lot. HERBERT: Thank you. MADDOW: Appreciate it. HERBERT: All right. MADDOW: All right. In corporate speak, it would be said that the Republican Party has a challenge ahead with women voters. I wonder why. It goes nicely with the party`s challenge with minority voters except for that challenge, the Republican Party has synergistic policy. And that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll that`s out tonight, there`s two interesting things. Two things that at least leap off the page. One is the percentage of voters who are African-Americans who say they`re supporting Mitt Romney. That percentage is zero percent, 94 percent of African-American voters saying they support President Obama. Zero percent saying their support Mitt Romney. Also, though, on Paul Ryan, the percent of voters who say picking Paul Ryan made them more likely to vote for Mitt Romney, that percentage is 22 points. The percentage of voters who say picking Paul Ryan made them less likely to vote for Paul Ryan is not 22 points, it`s 23 points. Which is upside down, and if you`re the Romney folks and you`re hoping Paul Ryan was going to propel you to victory. Good thing the voting in Ohio and Florida this year looks like it`s going to be a nightmare, huh? That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Last night on this show for the interview, we hosted two elections board members from Dayton, Ohio. These two elections board members are Democrats and the Ohio Republican secretary of state is threatening this week to fire them because they voted that their county in Ohio should have early voting on weekends. That issue is still unsettled. The Republican secretary of state in Ohio, John Husted, is still considering whether or not to fire these local elections officials. But now this issue is spreading. The County Commissioners in Mahoning County, Ohio, where the city of Youngstown is located, their county commissioners voted unanimously just this afternoon that their county also should allow weekend hours for early voting. The County Commissioners said they have the money to do it, they have the space to do it, and the County Board of Elections is able to make early voting on the weekends happen. Ohio, of course, had early voting on the weekends in `08. They had early voting on the weekends in 2010. They had early voting on the weekends even for the presidential primaries this year. And now these Democratic-leaning counties are in revolt over the Republican secretary of state getting rid of early voting on weekends, just in time for the general election. I realize this is not getting a lot of national attention yet. But this voting rights chaos and open conflict and attempted firings and this local resistance to the state making voting harder, this is happening in Ohio. I mean what if the election comes down to Ohio, again? What if the election comes down to Florida, again? Because Florida broke wide open on this today, too, did you hear the story out of Florida? It is nuts. And it`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the idea was to offer federal protection for the right to vote. Voting Rights Act said you cannot have the right to vote infringed upon in any way by a poll tax or a literacy test or by intimidation of any kind. Voting was important, it was constitutionally protected, and so Congress ordered federal protection for it. Even if states wanted to infringe that right, the federal government would not let them do it. The Voting Rights Act passed both chambers of Congress by wide margins. Republicans, incidentally, supported it by wider margins than Democrats did. Democrats at the time, of course, were still infested with their Dixie-crats. When it came time to re-up the Voting Rights Act, to extend key sections of it in 2006, the vote -- the Senate voted to do that by a vote of 98-0. Now in parts of the country that have historically had trouble with voting rights or voter turnout, the Voting Rights Act requires extra federal scrutiny of state actions, whenever they want to change their voting rules. They`re subject to extra scrutiny, that they have earned, to make sure they`re not changing their laws in ways that infringe on the constitutional right to vote. That`s why you`ve got this extra hurdle of federal approval that a lot of these Republican-controlled jurisdictions have had to go through this year when they`ve been trying to change their state laws to make it harder to vote. So in South Carolina, Republican Governor Nikki Haley is saying she wants her state`s new barrier to voting approved in time for the November election. In Virginia, Governor McDonnell took a break from chairing the Republican National Platform Committee yesterday to celebrate his state`s new law getting federal clearance, along with the promise of a free I.D. card to be mailed to every Virginia voter. In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott signed a law this year that cuts the days from early voting from 14 days to eight days. But Rick Scott`s state has five counties that get this special scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act. And a few days ago, a federal court ruled that Florida may not cut early voting in those five special counties. But check this out. If you look at the specifics here, you will understand what the giant drama is going on now in Florida. The court ruled that if those five counties under special supervision agreed to hold longer voting hours on weekdays then maybe, maybe the state could get away with cutting out the weekend voting that has been so popular, in particular with African-American voters. Rick Scott considered that idea, thought maybe he could work with it a little. Maybe he could get what he wanted after all in time for the November election. Rick Scott`s Republican administration in Florida began approaching the elections clerks in these five counties. They asked the clerks to please, please, please go along. Please tell the courts that they like Rick Scott`s ideas for cutting out weekend voting and for just making the weekday voting longer instead. And as of yesterday, of the five election supervisors, four of them said, sure, we`ll do what Rick Scott is asking. Fewer voting days, OK, we`ll take fewer voting days. But the fifth supervisor says, you know what, early voting works great, as it is in his county. It`s the Florida Keys. He says letting people vote on the weekend there makes a difference in that district. It`s not just a matter of staying open later on the weeknights. He told Governor Scott, nope, he is not budging. And so, standoff. You might remember a similar standoff we`ve been reporting on in Ohio. In that state, it`s two county election commissioners who want to continue weekend voting over the Republican secretary of state`s strenuous objections. Ohio secretary of state, as we`ve reported, is threatening to fire those local commissioners. Ohio doesn`t receive special scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act, although maybe it should, given that state officials there are so determined to make voting harder. But regardless, these five counties in Florida do get that extra scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act, which Republicans used to like. In all but one of the counties, the election supervisors have signed on for Rick Scott`s plan to cut the number of early voting days. But guess what happened to the guy who`s the holdout? Guess what happened to the one supervisor who said no to this plan? Today Rick Scott suggested, he hinted that maybe he`s going to fire that guy. Governor Scott released a statement saying, quote, "Moving forward, I will continue to take all necessary and appropriate action to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed." Whatever it takes to get what Rick Scott wants. Mr. Sawyer, Sawyer here, is the resisting local elections official. He happens to be a Republican. He told "The Miami Herald" that it is clear that Rick Scott is trying to intimidate him. But he said that the attempt is not working. He is not scared. That lone Republican supervisor in South Florida stands out, not just in Florida, but in Republican politics at large. I mean, the standard used to be that Republicans supported the Voting Rights Act. Now Texas Republicans are openly calling for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act in their state platform. This weekend, in the same interview where he offered his theory about rape and pregnancy, Congressman Todd Akin suggested that the states should be allowed to do whatever they want with elections. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: Elections have historically always been a state thing. And I didn`t realize how important or how good that was until we had that very close race, a second race with George Bush, and you had something that goes wrong in Florida, and I`m thinking, boy, it sure is good that the states manage this, and not the federal government. Otherwise, you`d have to try and re-hold the whole election process. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, historically, before the Voting Rights Act. Mr. Akin`s office later clarified that he does believe that voting is a fundamental right. Trying to make him sound not too fringy on that issue either. Todd Akin is not out on some fringe. His views on abortion happen to be shared by the very top of the Republican national presidential ticket, and his view that voting rights should be left to the states. Whatever they want to do with them, that view found a home today in the Republican Party platform. The Platform Committee chaired by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell voted to support states that are trying to make voting harder, by making you show new kinds of I.D. you didn`t used to have to show in order to vote. New kinds of documentation that millions of Americans do not have. Then the Republicans added a plank requiring that you newly prove your citizenship in order to vote. The voice vote on that one was unanimous. It is the new Republican consensus. Half a century ago, the consensus in the Republican Party and in this country was that we should make it easier to vote. As a nation, we liked voting, or at least we were embarrassed to admit otherwise. That was the consensus. But that was then, now in 2012, that consensus is falling apart. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END