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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/22/12

Guests: Craig Gilbert, Thanh Tan

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks, man. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Behold, a child`s treasury of politicians refusing to answer very simple questions -- very simple questions about their own records. We`re not like the other networks. We don`t have a magic wall in particular, we just have a wall, but you sort of get the idea. Are you ready? Behold, a child`s treasury. Ha, it works! All right. This is Mike Coffman. Mike Coffman is a Republican congressman from the great state of Colorado. He at one point was flirting with the whole birtherism thing. Mike Coffman told a group of donors in Colorado in May that he was not sure where Barack Obama was born, but that Mr. Obama, he said quote, "is just not an American." Now, a great reporter from the local NBC affiliate in Denver decided to ask Mike Coffman about that, right? The questions that the reporter asks were totally reasonable. Questions, they are question about Mike Coffman and something Mr. Coffman had done in public. But Mr. Coffman`s answers to those questions earned him a very proud place in our child`s treasury of politicians refusing to answer very simple questions about themselves. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: After your comments about the president, do you feel that voters are owed a better explanation than just I misspoke? REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: I think that as I stand by my statement. That I misspoke and I apologize. REPORTER: OK, and who are you apologizing to? COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize. REPORTER: I apologize -- we talk to you all the time. You`re a very forthcoming guy. Who`s telling you not to talk? COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that you have and I misspoke and I apologize. REPORTER: Was it that you thought it would go over well in Elbert County where folks are conservative and you would never say something like that in the suburbs? COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize. REPORTER: Is there anything that I can ask you that you would answer differently? COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize. REPORTER: Thank you, Congressman. COFFMAN: Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Republican Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado, obviously, he stands by his statement that he misspoke and he apologizes. Is that clear? Right around the same time period earlier this year -- yes, I love it -- a Republican candidate for Congress in Arizona, Jesse Kelly, he earned his place in the child`s treasury of politicians refusing to answer questions about himself and he did so in a way that was so amazing that it made onlookers at the time, his own supporters who were standing right next to him while he was doing it, it made his own supporters laugh along audibly as it was happening. A great local ABC reporter in Arizona was asking Jesse Kelly very reasonable questions about whether he intended to accept a controversial endorsement he got from an anti-immigrant group. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Do you plan on accepting that endorsement this time? JESSE KELLY (R), FORMER ARIZONA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Our campaign is going to stay focused on lower gas prices, using American energy, lower taxes, and creating jobs. REPORTER: Do you plan on accepting that endorsement? KELLY: Our campaign is going to stay focused on lower taxes, lowering gas prices using American energy and creating jobs. REPORTER: Is that a yes or no? KELLY: Our campaign is going to stay focused on lowering gas prices, creating jobs, and lowering gas prices using American energy. REPORTER: All right. So, no comment? KELLY: Our campaign is going to stay focused on lowering gas prices, creating jobs, and lowering taxes. REPORTER: All right. Thanks, Jesse. KELLY: Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Thank you. I don`t know if they`re laughing at you, but if you`re not laughing, by definition, they`re not laughing with you. Jesse Kelly, ladies and gentlemen. Can you believe he lost that election? Yes. Today, we`ve got a couple new entries. Yes. The gentleman that`s shown right here in the book, his name is Josh Mandel. Josh Mandel is a Republican running for United States Senate from Ohio. He`s the guy who`s running against Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. Now, Josh Mandel was pressed this week by a very sharp local NBC reporter in Dayton, Ohio, about whether Mr. Mandel would have supported the auto bailout -- very specific question. And Mr. Mandel`s amazing answer earns him a page in the child`s treasury. This is so great. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: He blasted those, including Senator Brown and Republicans who supported the Wall Street bailout. But refused to say what he would have done with General Motors. JOSH MANDEL (R), OHIO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have a vision for taking the Dayton area, taking some of the auto plants and former factories that used to be filled, filling them back up with Dayton area workers to make pipes and tubes and fittings for new manufacturing jobs here in Miami Valley. REPORTER: Josh Mandel, I appreciate what you`re saying, but would you have supported the G.M. bailout? MANDEL: Again, I will do everything I can as United States senator to protect auto jobs and grow auto jobs. And we`ve talked quite a bit throughout the state of Ohio about all the great plans we have for protecting auto jobs here. REPORTER: You`re not going to answer, are you? MANDEL: Great seeing you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Great seeing you. Here`s a very simple question about yourself -- would you have supported this policy? Yes, it is great seeing you. What happen -- And then there`s the ongoing controversy this week of course over Republican Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri and his remarks in the past few days that rape cannot cause pregnancy. That has turned into a political nightmare for a whole bunch of conservative politicians who have cosponsored legislation with Todd Akin about rape and pregnancy. Or who at least share his political beliefs that if a woman does get pregnant when she`s raped, the government should force her to give birth against her will. So one of the politicians who is kind of in trouble over the Akin thing is the Republican candidate for Senate in Washington state. His name is Michael Baumgartner. And he earned his place in our child`s treasury of politicians refusing to answer very simple questions about themselves and their records when a local Seattle reporter interviewed him about whether he really did agree with Todd Akin that rape victims should be forced by the government to give birth against their will. Asked about that policy position, which is in fact his policy position, Washington Republican Senate candidate Mike Baumgartner`s response was this, and I quote, "Go F yourself." That`s what he said to the reporter except he did not say F. Mr. Baumgartner put it in print. He put it in an e-mail. My favorite part of this entry in our child`s treasury is the reporter`s response to getting that e-mail from the Senate candidate. The reporter`s response was, quote, "? Is this really Senator Baumgartner?" Yes, yes, it was. But he does not want to answer any questions about how much he is like Todd Akin on that policy. And of course, neither does the brand new star of our child`s treasury of politicians refusing to answer very simple questions about themselves and their records. And that, of course, would be the guy with the dog eared page, yes, the Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The Todd Akin controversy this week has earned Paul Ryan a special place in the child`s treasury because of a local interview that Paul Ryan just gave to a CBS reporter in Pittsburgh. Now, Paul Ryan as you know has the exact same position as Todd Akin when it comes to abortion, when it comes to pregnancy and rape and how much sway the government has over your decisions in those matters. Both men think that rape victims should be forced by the government to bear their rapist`s child against their will. But when Paul Ryan was asked about that position by this local reporter in Pittsburgh, he did everything he could to not answer for his own positions. It was amazing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His statements were outrageous. Over the pale, I don`t know anybody who would agree with that. Rape is rape, period, end of story. REPORTER: Ryan like Romney distanced himself from Akin`s remarks, but he joined Akin in opposing abortions even when a woman has been raped. Should abortions be available to women who are raped? RYAN: I`m proud of my pro-life record and I stand by my pro-life record in Congress. It`s something I`m proud of. But Mitt Romney is top of the ticket and he will be president and he will set the policy of the Romney administration. REPORTER: You sponsored legislation that has the language forcible rape. What is forcible rape? RYAN: Rape is rape. Rape is rape, period, end of story. REPORTER: So that forcible rape language meant nothing to you at the time? RYAN: Rape is rape. And there`s no splitting hairs. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOWE: Rape is rape, and there`s no splitting hairs. The problem for Paul Ryan is that he has been splitting hairs legally on what rape is. His entire career, he`s been doing that. Paul Ryan cosponsored a bill last year with Todd Akin to redefine rape in federal law. It was H.R. 3, the third bill introduced by the Republican majority when they took control of the House in 2010. That bill initially tried to redefine what rape is. It created a new category that they called forcible rape. Why do you need that new category? You need that new category to distinguish that kind of rape from other kinds of rape. To single out a subclass of rape that would allow you to still make a decision on your own pregnancy while victims of other subtypes of rape would not get that privilege in Paul Ryan`s America. Paul Ryan was an original cosponsor of the bill to redefine rape, to make it harder on rape victims who wanted to get an abortion. As our own Kelly O`Donnell reported today, Paul Ryan also attempted to redefine rape a year earlier, offering another piece of legislation that allowed for abortion in limited circumstances, quote, "Unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of forcible rape or incest" -- you know, the real kind of rape, not that fake kind of rape. That doesn`t qualify. But now, when Paul Ryan is asked about his own record on this, his own record to redefine what rape is -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: You sponsored legislation that has the language forcible rape. What is forcible rape? RYAN: Rape is rape. Rape is rape, period, end of story. REPORTER: So that forcible rape language meant nothing to you at the time? RYAN: Rape is rape. And there`s no splitting hairs. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s amazing. That -- that is amazing. It`s amazing if you`re some congressional special election candidate, but when you`re vice president, I mean, you sponsored legislation to do X. Well, I believe not X. But you sponsored legislation to do X? Yes, and I proudly believe not X. Also, I`m very proud of my record. There is a broader issue here. This is a test for the American media. This is a test for the press. Paul Ryan`s record on abortion is just about identical to Todd Akin`s record on abortion, but Paul Ryan not only does not want to talk about that, he`s trying to rewrite history about it and good on that local reporter in Pittsburgh for asking about this. I mean, Paul Ryan obviously needs to continue to be asked about this until he actually gives a straight answer about it. This is a test for the press. And some of the press, a lot of local press, actually, has turned out to be great in asking these questions and doing it in a dogged way. Doing it in a really hard-nosed way that shows they have done their homework before the interview. The conservative Beltway press, on the other hand, not so much. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: There`s been lot of attacks already against you. But you kind of experienced this beforehand. What is your relationship with President Obama? Explain how reforming the tax code would help people. Do you think Obama wants trillion-plus deficits every year? Tell us about your foreign policy experience? Your wife and kids having a good time? RYAN: They`re doing fine. They like it. HANNITY: Congressman, great to see you. Thank you so much for your time. RYAN: Great. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In the midst of the whole Todd Akin/Paul Ryan rape controversy, not even a question about Todd Akin or rape when you have Paul Ryan sitting right there? In that same hour, they dealt with the Paul Ryan/Todd Akin rape issue using correspondents and other discussants, but not the actual Paul Ryan. Why would you ask him about it? Not everybody in the press has to be that bad at this. Again, this is what Paul Ryan now says about the issue of rape and pregnancy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN: Rape is rape. And there`s no splitting hairs. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So we still need a straight answer from Paul Ryan on this. What about all of the times you personally tried to split hairs on what constitutes rape? Is there going to be an apology here? Did you not mean it when you did that in Congress more than once? Have you changed your mind about it? But while we`re working on what the appropriate follow-up questions here need to sound like with Paul Ryan, running for vice president now, don`t just stop with the splitting hairs about rape nonsense. Oh, there`s more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN: His statements were outrageous. Over the pale. I don`t know anybody who would agree with that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I don`t know anybody who would agree with that. Todd Akin said something that nobody has ever espoused. I never heard that. Nobody believes that. A crazy guy, let`s get rid of him and that will take care of our problem. You know, it`s not actually true to characterize Todd Akin in that way. Todd Akin himself has been citing somebody by name and explaining where he came up with this cockamamie theory that your body when you`re raped can distinguish that the sperm in question is from a rapist and should be rejected as opposed to other sperm. Todd Akin cited an anti- abortion doctor named John Willke in making this case. "Think Progress" posted audio from a conservative talk show interview with Todd Akin today in which he repeatedly references this Dr. Willke by name. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: You know, Dr. Willke has released a statement and part of his letter, I think he just really stated it clearly. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Who is Dr. Willke who he is citing as his source for the crazy theory that has captivated all of American politics? Who is Dr. Willke? It`s Dr. John Willke, a former Romney presidential campaign surrogate. A guy important enough to Romney that the 2008 Romney campaign put out a stand-alone solo press release headlining his endorsement. So Paul Ryan doesn`t know anybody who would agree with Todd Akin`s comments? He says? Have you talked to your running mate about it? London`s "Daily Telegraph" newspaper is reporting tonight that this Dr. Willke, the guy who convinced Todd Akin you can`t get pregnant if you`re raped -- "The Telegraph" is reporting he says he personally met with Mitt Romney as recently as this past October. So, not the last time Mitt Romney ran for president but this time. From "The Telegraph," quote, Dr. Willke told "The Daily Telegraph" that he did meet Mr. Romney in a presidential campaign stop in the doctor`s home town of Cincinnati, Ohio, in October of last year. Local news reports at the time noted that the candidate held private meetings in the visit. Here`s the quote from Dr. Willke, "He told me, thank you for your support. We agree on almost everything. If I`m elected president, I will make some major pro life pronouncements.," Dr. Willke said that to "The Daily Telegraph" on Tuesday. Now, caveats here, this is "The Telegraph,"| which is, (a), the British press, which is not what it used to be, and (b), it`s "The Telegraph", which even for the British press is not all that confidence inspiring. But it is supposedly not a paraphrased quote but a direct quote from this person who is very, very important in this national issue and it would be good to hear directly from the Romney campaign if this is true or if they`re denying if this took place. So far, the Romney campaign is refusing to answer any questions about this. We asked the Romney campaign yesterday whether Mitt Romney has met with Dr. John Willke to discuss these issues given how important Romney said he was to the campaign last time he ran. So far, the campaign has not responded to any of our questions. They have not said no. They have blanked us. These are questions that deserve answers. You`re throwing Todd Akin essentially out of the party for this, but he`s your guy, too? The Romney campaign has also refused to make Paul Ryan available for an interview with us, surprise. But for any of my colleagues in the press who do get an interview with Mr. Ryan, can I suggest asking him about the rape is rape comment? There`s no need to split hairs. Obviously, definitely, right? Ask him about that. There`s no explanation for that that makes sense. But also ask him about the whole Dr. Willke thing. Really, you have never heard anyone else espouse this that has no connection to your campaign? And while we`re at it, Paul Ryan also said, quoting from the same interview he did today, "Nobody is proposing trying to deny birth control to anybody." We`re going to be dealing with that walk later on in the show. But the broader issue here is this. This is a test for the American press. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are actively trying to rewrite and distort their own record on the issue of abortion and rape and pregnancy at a time when the country is focused like a laser on this issue and the Republican Party is trying to distance itself from its own members and their policy positions on this subject. This is just like the Medicare issue. Paul Ryan said he wants to turn Medicare into a coupon system. And even when some other people in the Republican primary had issues with that, at least for a second -- I`m talking to you, Newt Gingrich -- Mitt Romney said he would sign the Paul Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it, he said he would sign it into law. Voucherizing Medicare, yes, I`d sign it into law. And now, Mitt Romney and Paul are trying to run for the White House together by saying they`re the ones who are committed to protecting Medicare, the guys who committed on tape to ending Medicare. This is a test of the press. Do you just write down what they say? Do you report on what these candidates say their record is? Or do you report that but also compare it to what their actual record is? And then badger them when there`s a difference between those two accounts? It`s not what they say. It`s about what they have done. When what they say is some distance from what they have done, that distance is the story. This is what the press is for. This is the good stuff. Time to do our jobs, everybody. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: You sponsored legislation that has the language forcible rape. What is forcible rape? RYAN: Rape is rape. Rape is rape, period, end of story. REPORTER: So that forcible rape language meant nothing to you at the time? RYAN: Rape is rape. And there`s no splitting hairs. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s what happened today when Pittsburgh political editor John Delano (ph) asked vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan about Congressman Ryan`s own record, about his sponsoring a bill with Todd Akin that would in fact redefine rape, that would -- as it were -- split hairs about rape. Paul Ryan we now know had pushed that kind of language before. The Wisconsin congressman just never got nearly so much attention for it in the national press. Well, joining us now, I`m very happy to say, is Craig Gilbert. He`s the Washington bureau chief of "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" which has been covering Paul Ryan and his career for a very, very long time, right from the beginning, in fact. Mr. Gilbert, thank you very much for joining us. CRAIG GILBERT, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL: Nice to be with you. MADDOW: I know you have covered Congressman Ryan since he got into Ryan in 1998, and it`s not really what he likes to be known for. He`s obviously avoiding direct answers on it right now, but from his history, what can you tell us about his record and his stance on abortion rights? GILBERT: Yes. Well, he`s always been a social conservative. With a few exceptions here or there, but I think he`s -- he`s not known for it, for obvious reasons because of his role on the budget committee, his kind of preoccupation with budget and fiscal issues. He`d much rather talk about quantitative easing than about rape and incest exceptions on abortion. So, this is not how he defined himself political and not how he`s defined in the media, either. MADDOW: How has he -- I think we`re seeing that in action. The thing I`m trying to square, I guess, trying to get my head around is how he can so obviously want that, want that kind of reputation, and really have sort of earned that reputation in terms of what he has overtly done in talking about fiscal policy, but why then put yourself on the hard leading edge of all these antiabortion issues? I mean, you don`t -- he may have cosponsored the Todd Akin redefining rape bill with hundreds of other Republican cosponsors, but his other bill redefining rape, it was him and one other cosponsor. I mean, he`s really out there almost alone on the issues. So, why prioritize it when he hasn`t wanted to talk about it? GILBERT: Well, like he`s a strong social conservative. He`s -- if you look at, you know, he likes to talk about the three legs of the Reagan coalition being social conservatism, economic conservatism, and national security conservatism. He has positioned himself as pretty conservative in all three respects, but he`s also, I think he sees economic issues not only as his particular interest, but I think he also sees economic issues at the portal for the Republican Party to reach out to moderates as opposed to the other issues. And he`s talked to me about that, about kind of -- this is our way of broadening the coalition on economic and fiscal issues as opposed to social issues. At the same time, you know, he is with just a handful of exceptions, is among the most conservative members of Congress on social issues. MADDOW: Ad that, I think, was what makes his long-term history so interesting, and makes it so important to hear from people who have covered him for a long time because they`re very clearly, and him refusing to answer the questions, they actually can`t stay in that position for very long. He`s going to have to either repudiate his previous record or he`s going to have to come up with some other explanation for why he`s running on a ticket that he`s never supported in the past. Something is going to have to give if they want to try to appeal to moderates and not have this block it. Have you seen anything in his career to give you any sense of how amenable he will be to the idea of repudiating his previous position, giving up for example his opinions on rape that the Romney campaign at large appears not to share? GILBERT: I think he understood when he got selected there would be issues where he`d have to conform to the position of Mitt Romney. So you know, the campaign is going to be full of these awkward moments where his historic position is not the same as Mitt Romney`s position. In some cases where Mitt Romney`s position obviously has changed over the years and Paul Ryan`s hasn`t. It`s awkward on a couple issues. One, this is not the set of issues he wants to be talking about. Two, his position may be different from Mitt Romney`s and three, it may be an issue where Mitt Romney himself has shifted his position over the years. MADDOW: I know this has come up in some general election campaigns that he`s been in in the past with his Democratic opponents trying to raise this. There`s lots more here to learn about Paul Ryan and to talk about. Craig Gilbert, Washington bureau chief from "The Milwaukee Sentinel" - - I hope you`ll come back and join us again for more of this discussion. I really appreciate your time. GILBERT: Thanks, anytime. MADDOW: Thank you. GILBERT: All right, if you think the day is coming when Americans will have to leave the country in order to get something they`re supposedly able to legally get here, if you think that is something that`s sort of far fetched, if you think that`s something we use as hyperbole but it doesn`t happen, it`s really happening. It`s happening in the American South, and that amazing story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There is one other element of what Congressman Paul Ryan is going through right now that has not gotten a ton of attention but it strikes me as strange. At first I thought he had misspoken, but he said it again almost verbatim on the Romney-Ryan campaign plane today. so, apparently, this was not a misstatement. This is part of a standard canned rehearsed argument. And if that is the case, it`s a very strange argument for somebody running for what he is running for. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Should abortions be available to women who are raped? RYAN: Well, look, I am proud of my pro-life record and I stand by my pro-life record in congress. It`s something I`m proud of, but Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket and Mitt Romney will be president and he will set the policy of the Romney administration. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mr. Ryan further clarified on the campaign plane when he reiterated the same point and further clarified while he would include rape victims among the American women he would force to give birth against their will, Mr. Romney would not include rape victims in that, but it is a weird answer, though, right? I mean, his answer is essentially, you know, he is running for president, not me. I mean, Paul Ryan`s argument there, as a candidate for vice president, is I realize my position sounds a little crazy, but don`t worry about that. I`m only trying to be vice president. And what are the chances that a vice president will ever be president? Don`t worry about my policies, I`m just some guy. See, this kind of thing is why this story is not going away. It`s not going away in politics and it`s not going away in the reel real world and in real people`s lives. That story is ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Big news from the vice presidential campaign trail today -- big, big policy news from congressman and presumptive vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN: Nobody is proposing to deny birth control to anybody. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is a new position for Congressman Ryan. And frankly, it`s a new position for the Republican Party. Until this week, until they got saddled with Mr. Legitimate Rape and have tried to make a big show of rejecting him, the Republican Party in general and Paul Ryan specifically had been quite open in their efforts to roll back access to birth control. They did not used to deny that this is what they were doing. Back in February, Paul Ryan was among the chorus of Republicans inveighing against the new health insurance rules that required insurance to cover contraception. Rules like that in state law had been a huge practical part of women`s contraception in 28 states. The new federal rule essentially made it national. When Mr. Ryan was asked at the time on "Meet the Press" if he thought his own party, Republicans, were maybe focusing too much on birth control and opposing this new rule to make birth control more accessible, his answer was no. Republicans in the Senate tried and failed to overturn the birth control insurance rule. House Republicans were also planning to do that until they got cold feet on the issue. House Republicans including Paul Ryan did of course vote to repeal the entire health reform law, birth control and all. They did that twice for good measure. Along with more than 30 separate votes to repeal, defund, or knock out portions of the law. Paul Ryan has also voted multiple times to defund Planned Parenthood, one of the largest providers of contraception services and it his budget would eliminate for all Title 10 family planning programs all together. Not just Planned Parenthood, everything. But Paul Ryan has not just spend spent his time in Congress trying to roll back access to birth control. He also sponsored a bill that would declare all first fertilized eggs in the United States to be people, which would have the effect of banning the most popular birth control that American women use. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN: Nobody is proposing to deny birth control to anybody. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Except you and almost all of the Republicans in Congress right now. Except all of the things, you have proposed and sponsored that would restrict access to birth control or just plain criminalize it, except for all of that, yes, nobody is proposing to deny birth control to anybody. I have a follow up question. Now that he`s trying to become vice president, Paul Ryan does not want you to remember his record on birth control or abortion. And honestly, I don`t think that either party wanted this to be the center of the fight this year, but Republicans put these issues at the center of their policy agenda in the states. And in Congress for the last two years, and then they picked a guy to be their vice presidential nominee who is one of the party`s true hard liners on these issues. So, I don`t think Democrats particularly wanted to run on abortion rights and defending access to contraception, I mean, I don`t think this administration is afraid of it. I think they`ve been better on it than most Democrats have been, but you can see when they`re out on the campaign trail, they would rather be talking about the economy. Same thing with the Republicans, they would rather be talking about the economy or welfare or whatever. But none of them expected to be campaigning on abortion and birth control the week before the conventions. But this is not going away. This is a political fight that now can`t be avoided because it is an actual thing that has been dragged right up to the top and right into the center of what is supposed to be mainstream politics. It`s not a theoretical thing. The Republican vice presidential nominee really did sponsor a bill designed to ban hormonal birth control and he did it just last year. And Republicans in the states really have in the last two years enacted more restrictions on abortion rights at any time since Roe v. Wade became law. And it`s having a real impact in people`s lives. It`s not just a talking point that they want to shut down the government rather than funding Planned Parenthood, that`s a thing that happened. And last year, Republicans in eight years moved to disqualify at least some family plans from the funding. Three states have done it this year. It`s not something to make points about. It`s really happening and having a real and in some cases devastating on the ground effect on real American lives. Earlier this month, the "Texas Tribune" published a stomach churning story about American women leaving the country. American women crossing the border to go to pharmacies in Mexico to buy a drug they hope will end their unwanted pregnancies. These pharmacies they visit are largely unregulated. You`re talking to the license pharmacists. You`re just talking to a guy who works at the counter. And so, without a doctor`s supervision and without qualified medical advice, women are often not getting proper instructions on how to use the drug they`re buying there, a drug that requires a prescription in the United States and that is not prescribed here on its own for abortions. One Texas clinic director telling the "Texas Tribune" that her clinic`s patients have often ingested the drug in varying amounts. Some would take an entire bottle within days. Based on what friends and family had told them. One Mexican pharmacist who is unlicensed and untrained and still allowed to sell the drug over the counter said he had heard of girls hemorrhaging after taking the pills. "I have tried my best to explain the consequences but there`s only so much I can do." Another person who works at the pharmacy saying, quote, "It sells, that`s the problem. I don`t tell them how to take it. I`d say, you might have problems later." You probably heard the term back-alley abortions. When abortion was legal in the United States -- excuse me, when abortion was illegal in the United States in the years before the Roe v. Wade decision, abortions were obviously still sought by American women, and they were still provided to American women. But by and large, they had to be performed secretly. It was illegal. Here`s a photo from that era. The caption provided by the "Associated Press" reads, "Still dazed, the client of an abortion doctor is being carried out of the raided apartment for the hospital. Detectives surprised the doctor in the midst of an illegal operation being performed on a kitchen table." This is what illegal abortion was in this country. If you were lucky, it was an actual doctor with real training and equipment operating on you even if it was, say, on a kitchen table before the police rescued you and dragged you to the hospital. But there`s a reason why the coat hanger is the symbol of the era of illegal abortion in this country, because a lot of abortions happening at that time were not even as safe as the kitchen table operation. In 1930, illegal abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 American women, seven women a day, about a fifth of the overall maternal death rate in this country in that year. And in the days of back alley coat hanger abortions, thousands of women died, thousands of American women died because they did not have access to safe abortion. It was illegal but that did not stop it. Now, the new coat hanger can be pharmaceutical. A drug you have to get in another country with no doctor`s advice, with rumor and good luck with your advice on dosage. The new back alley is across the border where Texas women are resorting to unregulated pharmacies in Mexico to do what Americans technically have the right to get here from a doctor. That`s what the climate is like in Texas right now -- a story about women crossing the border and risking their lives and health in unregulated pharmacies was reported in the "Texas Tribune" a week and a half ago. Texas deeply cut family planning programs last year for low income women and, of course, they instituted forced ultrasounds, where not only does the state government force ant woman who wants to have an abortion to have a medically unnecessarily ultrasound against her will. The government also forces her to do that a day in advance of when she`s allowed to get an abortion. If you can`t handle that, make Mexico? Take your chances. On top of those existing restrictions and what we already know about their impact in Texas. Just in the last 24 hours, a federal appeals court has now okayed the state of Texas`s plan to cut all state funding from Planned Parenthood clinics. This had been blocked by an injunction. It`s been cleared. Clinics that provide health and family planning services to nearly half of the 130,000 patients enrolled in a program to provide health and family planning services to low income women. This is a state where access to reproductive health care is already so dire that women are seeking abortions from off-label drugs they are getting from unlicensed, unregulated pharmacies in Mexico. And now tens of thousands of women who still did have access to birth control and family planning services are getting cut off from those services in the last 24 hours. Joining us now for the interview is Thanh Tan. She`s a reporter for "The Texas Tribune". She has been reporting on women going to Mexico to purchase medicine for medical abortions. Thanh, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I have been following your reporting closely. It`s great to have you here. THANH TAN, THE TEXAS TRIBUNE: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Let me ask you if I got anything wrong in trying to summarize your reporting correctly there. Did I get any major factual things wrong? TAN: Well, I`m not sure if I want to correct you. I don`t think there`s need for that. I will clarify, though, that right now, Planned Parenthood clinics that are part of the women`s health program are still in the program. The state is trying to figure out a way with the attorney general to figure out a date for when they can cut off Planned Parenthood. So there are tens of thousands of women who may be confused right now, but Planned Parenthood is still officially part of the program until the state excludes them officially. And we`re waiting to find out more information about that. MADDOW: Thank you for clarifying that. And in terms of the legal fight over that, obviously, the state has its own process for what`s going to happen with the funding and how it`s going to go to the clinics and the clinic`s patients. But do you know what may happen next in the legal fight over this? This happened at a relatively high level court today. Do we know if there`s going to be further appeals? TAN: Well, we know that there are two cases that were going on. Planned Parenthood had filed a lawsuit last spring after Governor Perry announced that the state was going to go it alone, was going to forego federal funding in order to enforce the state`s rules which have long excluded abortion providers and abortion affiliates. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit last spring to try to stay in the program, and they were audible to get an injunction from a district judge here. The state went to the federal court and was able to get another injunctions which was lifting basically the lower court`s order, and that has been in place and Planned Parenthood has been able to stay in this program over the last couple months. Now, a lot of people were wondering when the appeals court was going to weigh in on this, and yesterday they did. And they have told the state that, you know, you can legally ban Planned Parenthood from this program while we wait for a district court to provide or to hold a hearing on this matter some time in the fall, probably October. MADDOW: When you did the reporting that led to the story that I summarized in detail here about women crossing the border from Texas to Mexico and accessing these unregulated pharmacies, when you talk to health care providers in south Texas about seeing women who have done that, seeing them in aftermath of them having essentially self medicated, to try to give themselves abortions, were health care providers describing that as something there`s an uptick in, is it something they have always seen? TAN: Well, it`s hard to track the numbers on this just because not everybody reports when they have tried to use these pills. The health providers I talked to said that anecdotally, they have noticed in the last year or so, that more women seem to be using alternate means of trying to have an abortion, whether that is taking herbal pills, or whether that is in one case a doctor told me last week that a woman chugged a six-pack of hot beer thinking it would make her throw up. Or as I reported in the story, there are women who are either crossing the border or having their friends or their family members get this Cytotec or this misoprostol for them so that they can try it at home and try to self induce an abortion in the privacy of their own home. And the thing is that we only her about the reports, the public reports here because the abortion providers have told us that they`re seeing this in their clinics. We don`t know how much this may be happening out there in the real world, but we do know that there has been extensive research that has been done on the issue of misoprostol use and a few studies have shown that it`s very common, it`s commonly used in countries where abortions is not legal or is not widely available, and it`s used in Latin America often as well. Because of that proximity to Mexico, you have a lot of people here in Texas, especially in the border area, who are perhaps resorting to this method. MADDOW: Thanh Tan, reporter for "The Texas Tribune," thank you so much for joining us tonight and for your reporting on this. I have not seen other reporting on this phenomena in the country, but I have a feeling what you have done is going to spark people into looking into if this is happening in other places. So, congratulations on the work and thanks for joining us. TAN: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. So if contesting a tough election is just too hard, why not try to get your opponent thrown off the ballot? It`s happening all over, and there are surprising culprits. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hey, programming note -- actually, a couple of them. First, I want to tell you that on tomorrow`s show, we have a special report on what the voting rights people say may be the sleeper issue that has them the most worried this year about whether or not people are actually going to be able to vote on Election Day. It is a technique of voter intimidation that is associated, historically, with one specific area of the country, but we`ve got a report tomorrow on it spreading in a way that could be very important in November. It`s an exclusive on tomorrow night`s show that we are already working on. That`s ahead. Oh, and also, I will be on David Letterman tonight. But we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. One of the sideshows this year and really amped up anti- Obama hysteria in right-wing politics has been this raft of efforts to try to keep President Obama off the ballot in some American states this November, even though he is the president of the United States. There was the Arizona Republican secretary of state who threatened to keep President Obama off the ballot unless the state of Hawaii sent proof - - and no, I mean real proof -- that the president`s supposed birth certificate was authentic. There was also the lawsuit earlier this year in Alabama. The guy that was suing who asked the judge in his case to postpone proceedings until he could get some further legal assistance from -- yes, the birther celebrity lawyer/dentist, Orly Taitz. Shockingly, the judge refused to wait for Miss Taitz and threw the case out. Dr. Taitz, Esquire is embroiled herself right now in another effort to get President Obama off the ballot in Indiana. That effort is apparently not going all that well, but I`m sure she will keep trying. So the birther stuff has mostly, I think, now been channeled into Donald Trump`s hair and into more or less palpably insane efforts to keep the president`s name off the ballot in November. But there has been a new development in this particular filed of crazy. Now, there is an effort to keep Mitt Romney off the ballot in the state of Washington. And lest you think this is a case of the left going after the right the way the right has been going after the left, it`s not. It`s not the left. It`s not Democrats who are trying to keep Mitt Romney off the ballot. The challenge to Mr. Romney in Washington state is actually coming from the right. And here`s why. Or at least, here`s how -- in 2010, when Democratic U.S. Senator Patty Murray won re-election in Washington, her Republican opponent was a guy who looks like Rick Lazio there, but isn`t. Dino Rossi. Technically, though, the Republican Party of Washington never actually nominated Dino Rossi to be their nominee. Republicans didn`t actually nominate anyone for the senate race that year. And that`s because, essentially, the Republican Party in Washington decided they were going to stay neutral in a primary fight between that guy, Dino Rossi, and this guy, a Sarah Palin-endorsed Tea Party guy. Dino Rossi, ultimately, beat the Tea Party guy in a statewide primary. That is how Dino Rossi earned his way on to the ballot to earn the right to lose to Patty Murray in the general election. But the Republican Party never technically nominated him for the seat. The Republican Party never technically nominated anyone. And it turns out that`s really important. Because the rules in Washington state say, if you want to be considered an official major party in the state, and thereby earn the right to have your candidates on the ballot, just by asking, because after all, you`re a major party, in order to qualify for that, you`ve got to have your party`s official candidates running and winning at least 5 percent of the vote, in a whole bunch of statewide contests, including the one for U.S. senator. Technically, the Republicans did not have a candidate for U.S. senator in 2010. They never technically nominated Dino Rossi. And so, technically, the Republican Party is no longer a major party in Washington state, which means, technically, they are not allowed to have their presidential nominee on the ballot in November, just by asking. The Republicans, because they aren`t a major party, will have to do what all the other minor parties have to do, which means they have to hold a minor party convention. They have to collect a thousand signatures, and most importantly, they have to have done all that, they have to have done the convention and collecting all the signatures weeks ago. The deadline is long past, and they did not do any of that. So the libertarian party in the state of Washington filed a lawsuit last week, saying the Republicans blew it, by chickening out of a fight between Dino Rossi and the guy endorsed by Sarah Palin, the Republicans messed up the requirement that they as a party have an official candidate on the ballot in that Senate race. And by messing that up that requirement, the lawsuit says the Republicans messed this up too. They messed up their status as a major party. They thereby messed up getting Mitt Romney on the Washington state ballot for president. If the lawsuit succeeds, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan might have to run as written-in candidates in Washington state. And look, nobody expects Mitt Romney and pall Ryan to have any chance in heck at winning Washington state. So it probably, in the long run, does not matter whether Romney is on the ballot or not. And at or after tomorrow morning`s superior court hearing on this case, some judge in Washington state, I`m sure, will find a way to put Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan on the ballot, despite the Republicans really seeming to screw this thing up, according to the rules. But for every Republican who delighted in Orly Taitz and Arizona secretary of state and all these birthers, trying to kick President Obama off the ballot, you can file this one under medicine, comma, taste of your own. And for the libertarians, as always, you can file this one neener- neener. It`s complicated, though. They file everything under neener- neener. 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