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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/14/12

Guests: Bill Burton, Dan Rather

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. I`m so happy that you had her on. We`re going to be talking about that later on in this show, too. And that t-shirt is one for the Smithsonian. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: It certainly is. There`s no doubt. MADDOW: Thank you, Ed. Thanks, man. SCHULTZ: Thank you. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. In his first press conference after being re-elected to a second term as president, then President Ronald Reagan was asked if he had anything to say to the people in the country who did not vote for him and who did not feel that they were part of the Reagan revolution. He was also asked about Nancy Reagan falling down and bumping her head right before the election. He said that she had a tender lump on the side of her head, but that she would be fine. In President Clinton`s first press conference, after he was re-elected to a second term, the president started to answer a question about the role of First Lady Hillary Clinton in the second Clinton term -- before he sort of diverted himself into talking about just how damned tired he was. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, let me answer the question about Hillary. I think what first lady will do is something that I think it will be consistent with what she`s been doing, but we have not - - frankly, we`ve been too tired to talk about it. Yesterday, I`m embarrassed to tell the American people, I actually slept past noon. I was tired. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There`s no shame in that. In the first press conference that George W. Bush gave after he was re-elected in 2004, the president gave a very specific response to what I think has to be the world`s most general question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Do you feel more free, sir? GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In terms of feeling free, well, I don`t think you`ll let me be too free. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The "do you feel more free" question could have gone anywhere, right? But ultimately, I wound its way around to President George W. Bush explaining that he felt he would accumulated political capital in the election and what he intended to spend his political capital on was privatizing Social Security, which became an obsessive focus of the Bush second term, in which failed completely. As proposed policy and as politics, they really just never recovered. It was the first press conference after he was reelected where he launched the privatize Social Security plan, and it turned out very poorly, very quickly, and it never got better. Well, today President Obama stepped into that particular page of the history books, when he held his first press conference after being re- elected. He waited longer than any of his modern predecessors to hold the first post-re-election press conference, but he did follow the tradition when he convened the press corps today, and he did so in the midst of the controversy over the sudden resignation of his CIA chief, who`s also the former commander of the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war -- the highest profile military and intelligence figure in the country. So David Petraeus` old job of running the CIA is now suddenly an available job in this administration and the same scandal that created that vacancy at the CIA has also now touched the current top U.S. commanding general in Afghanistan, whose successor for that job is due to have his confirmation hearings in Washington tomorrow. Well, today at his first post-re-election press conference, the president largely deflected questions about who he would be appointing to all the top jobs in the administration for his second term. He deflected those questions today with one notable exception -- one notable exception that just about took the roof off that room today. Did you see this? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham both said today that they want to have Watergate-style hearings on the attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be secretary of state, they will do everything in their power to block her nomination. As Senator Graham said, he simply doesn`t trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi. I`d like your reaction to that and would those threats deter from making a nomination like that? BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, I`m not going to comment at this point on various nominations that I`ll put forward to fill out my cabinet for the second term. Those are things that are still being discussed. But let me say specifically about Susan Rice. She has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace. As I`ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her. If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I`m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous. And, you know, we`re after an election now. I think it is important for us to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi, and I`m happy to cooperate in any ways that Congress wants. We have provided every bit of information that we have and we will continue to provide information and we`ve got a full-blown investigation. And all that information will be disgorged to Congress. And I don`t think there`s any debate in this country that when you have four Americans killed, that`s a problem. And we`ve got to get to the bottom of it. And there needs to be accountability. We`ve got to bring those who carried it out to justice. They won`t get any debate from me on that. But when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she`s an easy target, then they`ve got a problem with me. And should I choose, if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity of the State Department, then I will nominate her. That`s not a determination that I`ve made yet. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Pin drop. If you are wondering where you have seen this kind of thing before, not just this argument, but that look on his face, the closest thing to temper that we see from this cool, calm, collected president, we saw this once before in a moment that would have been the most important moment in the presidential debates this year, were it not for what happened right immediately after that moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CANDY CROWLEY, MODERATOR: Governor, if you want to -- MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I -- I -- CROWLEY: -- quickly to this please. ROMNEY: I -- I think interesting the president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror. OBAMA: That`s what I said. ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you`re saying? OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor. ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror. OBAMA: Get the transcript. CROWLEY: It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So let me -- let me call it an act of terror -- OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We all remember that, because of what happened at the end there, Mr. Romney`s face-plant failed attempt at calling the president out for something that the conservative media said he had done, that he had not actually done. But what happened right before that at that debate was President Obama defending Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton directly, by their titles, and condemning as offensive Mitt Romney trying to say that that attack was being covered up or that the country was being misled about it. That is what we saw again today on full blast, at the president`s first press conference after being re-elected. The Beltway common wisdom on this is that President Obama is picking a fight with his secretary of state nomination if he does pick Susan Rice for that position. And when the Beltway accuses you of picking a fight, they always mean, oh, no, no, you shouldn`t do that. But seeing the president up there talking about this today with such fire in the belly and seeing as he did that as well in the debate when the same subject came up, I think this may be something more than just picking a fight. There`s plenty of reason to be angry, to be concerned about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. It is very much worth being angry about the people who carried out that attack, right? It is worth talking about. It`s worth even being angry about why American preparations for something like this happening at an American diplomatic facility were not enough to protect the lives of the four Americans who died, including the ambassador. Those are the questions the congressional committee`s looking at that attack are going to be asking tomorrow, when those hearings convene, including expected from David Petraeus himself, who is now the former head of the CIA. But what does not follow rationally, from the anger and concern over the attack in September is that John McCain and conservative media`s assaults on the American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who had nothing to do with the attack or with anything about preparing consular facilities for potential security problems -- but who John McCain has nevertheless been furiously denouncing as unqualified, and as a person who doesn`t understand things well enough, like he does. He went on CBS today and called her not very bright, which you will recall is the exact same thing that John Sununu said about President Obama and his role in the Mitt Romney campaign. He called him not very bright. The president`s response to John McCain`s attempted destruction of Susan Rice and his pledge to block her nomination, and McCain`s pledge to block her nomination as secretary of state, the president`s response to that has not been to say, I don`t want to talk about Benghazi, nothing to see here, his reaction has been to say, yes, we should talk about what happened in Libya. But the idea that Susan Rice is going to be your scapegoat here when she has done nothing wrong, that`s the part that is nonsense and I`m not going to go along with that. And you`re not using something made up about her to destroy a career that is still on its way up. I mean, picking a fight is what they`re calling this in the beltway media, right? Picking a fight would be installing Paul Krugman at Treasury. Picking a fight would be like picking Eliot Spitzer for attorney general, right? Picking a fight would be moving Camp David to Hawaii so the president could get in more beach time. Picking Susan Rice for secretary of state if the president decides he wants to do that would not be picking a fight. It would be more, drawing a line in the sand, saying, starting now -- starting day one of this second term, which I just won in a big national election that you lost, starting now, we will fight about policy, we will fight about differences of opinion, we will fight about priorities, but we will not have anymore fights based on nonsense that the right made up to entertain itself. If we have a real beef, we will fight it out. But if it`s made-up -- like the John McCain crusade against Susan Rice -- that made-up stuff will no longer be entertained at the level of national policy. Joining us now is Bill Burton, a senior strategist for Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC. He previously served as the deputy press secretary for this president and as national press secretary for Mr. Obama`s campaign in 2008. Mr. Burton, congratulations. BILL BURTON, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: Thank you very much. MADDOW: You had a big year. BURTON: It was a good election. One other presidential clip that you could have shown would have been from "The American President," when Andrew Shepherd says, "I am Andrew Shepherd and I am the president." That`s a little what it was like today. MADDOW: And not born in Kenya. I feel like there`s something going, sort of at slightly meta level over the policy fights, which is the president is saying, you know what, the birth certificate thing is not going the paradigm for the kinds of fights we have here. We`re not going to fight about, you know, whether the New Black Panther Party stole the election in Pennsylvania. We`re not going to fight about this stuff that so animated the right. We`re going to focus on, we`re going to put that stuff aside. He`s essentially challenging the Republican Party to have an adult debate. I see that dynamic at work, at large, and specifically on this Susan Rice issue. But you worked with him for a long time. Do you think that`s happening? BURTON: I think, absolutely. I think the president wants to have grown-up conversations about big issues that affect the country. And I think if you look at how he took this issue on, he said, let`s talk about the facts and let`s take a hard look at what happened here. But getting distracted by all this nonsense, which John McCain has gotten himself distracted on since the 2008 presidential election and before, is not something he`s going to engage in. And for John McCain to be the tip of the spear on this fight, the man who brought us Sarah Palin, and he`s going to talk about someone`s qualifications on national security, I don`t think any of us need to have that either. MADDOW: Well, what about the Beltway critique that nominating Susan Rice, and again, we don`t know that the president is going to, but nominating Susan Rice would be essentially to coin a phrase, expending political capital that might affect the president`s overall ability to get his agenda moved in the second term. Do you see it that way? Do you see it as something that would be a political advantage or a political cost? BURTON: You know, a lot of times presidents, President Obama included, get more political capital by winning political fights. And that`s not to say that Susan Rice would be a huge political fight. It seems obvious that there are some Republicans who have real political motivations, who are involved in it right now. But, you know, obviously John Kerry would be a great candidate. Susan Rice would be a great candidate. But what the president said today was, if I choose Susan Rice, it`s because I think she`s the most qualified person for the job, and I`m not going to let your B.S. stand in the way of that, stand in the way of me nominating her for that. MADDOW: In terms of the tone that we`re hearing from the president here -- I`m not one of those people who believes in like following body language as opposed to following policy fights -- but it is striking that we saw the president at that debate with Mitt Romney, where it quickly spiraled into the false fact check and the please proceed and everything, right? We saw the president at that debate and we saw the president again today sort of bring the room to a halt, stop everybody, and look really pissed. I have not seen that very much in covering him as president. Are there instances -- you`ve worked with and around him since going back to 2007 -- is there a pattern to when he gets mad about stuff? BURTON: Well, he has only a certain tolerance for some of the idiocy that the Beltway gets itself engorged in, to borrow a presidential term. And what you saw -- well, you`ve seen him at his strongest moments, and we also saw him at sort of his weakest. That first debate when he was up against Mitt Romney, and he wasn`t as certain of the points he was making. It wasn`t that he felt he was on the wrong side of the argument, but he definitely wasn`t as self-assured as we saw him today. And today was the exact opposite of that. It was like that second debate. And what the president saw was that this is a moment where I have faith in the American people that they`re going to see beyond the stupid politics of this. Another example of that was in the primary in 2008. Right before the Ohio and Texas primaries, when there was a debate over whether or not we should get rid of the federal gas tax, and it`s 2 cents per gallon or something like that, the polls all said we should do it, because they were spiking up to I think it was 3 bucks back then. And the president said, no, this is stupid. If we do that we with bankrupt all the money the federal government has to build roads, to build bridges, all the infrastructure in this country. And even though the polls are all saying that we should be for it, 2 cents per gallon isn`t something I`m going to engage in this stupidity for. And he engaged in the fight and won that fight and he went on to win the nomination. MADDOW: At a time when everybody was saying, this is a dumb fight to pick. BURTON: Exactly. MADDOW: Yes, there is a little bit of a pattern here. What happens to you next? I mean, after you`re an evil, dark money, corporate overlord guy, what happens next? BURTON: I`m going to try to be a dark overlord somewhere else. I don`t know. Pet stores, maybe. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: It could be a dark scene. Bill Burton, senior strategist for Priorities USA Action and a man with a bright but uncertain future at this point -- Bill, it`s good to have you here. Thanks. BURTON: Thanks, Rachel. Good to be here. MADDOW: All right. Dan rather is going to be joining us for a few minutes tonight -- just a few minutes tonight for the interview. That`s still coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The new Senate just got bluer today. The new senator from the great state of Maine, the independent Angus King, announced that he would caucus with the Democratic Party. Because Mr. King was elected to Senate has an independent, he got to choose the party he would associate himself with for committee assignments and policy and stuff. And like Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman before him, Angus King today chose the Democratic Party. And that means unless the Flake-Carmona race gets upended in Arizona, which is still counting ballots, unless that happens, we now know that the Senate split starting in January is going to be 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans. We also know that Democrats went from having 12 women in the Senate to having the 16 women in the Senate. That`s four more Democratic women in the U.S. Senate. Among the Republicans in the Senate, their number of women actually dropped. They went from five to four. In the House, it`s the same pattern. As best as we can tell thus far, there are still some things to be decided yet, but the Democratic caucus in the House added eight women. There used to be 52 Democratic women in the House. In January, there will be 60. On the Republican side, though, they went down again. They went from having only 24 women in the House on the Republican side to having only 20 women in the House starting in January. So even with there being more Republicans in the House than Democrats overall, even though Democrats are the smaller party overall in the House, Democrats now have triple the number of women that the Republicans have in that House. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House and the first woman to ever be speaker of that body, today she announced that although with every single woman member of her caucus, all 60 of them, that she would put her name in to stay the leader to have the Democrats in the House. As we tried to preview on this show last night, that was not a terrific surprise to anyone. What was a surprise, though, was the answer that Leader Pelosi gave to NBC`s Luke Russert when he asked today whether she and the rescue of the Democratic leadership should consider stepping aside, simply to make room for younger members. The first reaction to the question was that the women standing with her on that stage started booing the question, literally. But then she went on to answer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: Some of your top colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having a younger leadership and will be -- and hurts the party in the long-term. What`s your response? (BOOS) (INAUDIBLE) RUSSERT: Leader Pelosi? REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I guess -- you always ask that question, except to Mitch McConnell. (APPLAUSE) RUSSERT: Excuse me, you, Mr. Hoyer, Mr. Clyburn, you`re all over 70. Is it going to prohibit younger leadership from moving forward? PELOSI: So you`re suggesting that everybody step aside? RUSSERT: I`m simply saying, does this delay younger leadership -- PELOSI: I think that what you will see, and let`s, for a moment, honor it as a legitimate question, although it`s quite offensive. But you don`t realize that, I guess. The fact is -- the fact is, is that everything that I have done in my almost, I guess, decade of leadership is to elect younger and newer people to the Congress. In my own personal experience, it was very important for me to elect young women. I came to Congress when my youngest child, Alexandra, was a senior in high school, practically on her way to college. I knew that my male colleagues had come when they were 30. They had a jump on me, because they didn`t have to, children to stay home. Now, I did what I wanted to do. I was blessed to have that opportunity to sequentially raise my family and then come to Congress. But I wanted women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority would start to account much sooner. So I don`t have any concern about that. And as I`ve always said to you, you`ve got to take off that 14 years for me, because I was home raising a family, getting the best of experience of all in diplomacy, interpersonal skills. No, the answer is no. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And no. In case all of the booing and then the applauding for me and all of the rest of it didn`t make it clear -- no, the answer is no. So with an exclamation point on it today, the Democratic leadership in the House is intact. But the Republicans actually had a contested leadership fight this year. They weren`t fighting for the top jobs. That`s going to stay John Boehner. They`re actually fighting for the number four job in the House. The contest was Tom Price against one of the precious few Republican women in the House, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. And there were some interesting intra-Republican Party politics at work here. Ms. McMorris Rodgers had the support of Speaker John Boehner who was staying Speaker John Boehner. But Tom Price had the support of this guy, the Republican Party`s vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan. In the end, it was Cathy McMorris Rodgers who won. Paul Ryan`s guy lost. And so even as they lose the presidency, thanks to a devastating gender gap in the polls, and at the same time, they send even fewer Republican women to Congress than were there before, Republicans did today pick for this small, low-profile national Republican number four leadership role an actual woman. And that`s the best they`ve ever done. That`s the highest ranking GOP woman there has ever been in the House. Back over on the Senate side, Republicans are faced with a dilemma set up for them by John McCain, as I was just discussing with Bill Burton. John McCain is suggesting that the party`s big, first high-profile political stand of the Obama second term should be Republicans blocking this person`s promotions to potentially be secretary of state. The president may nominate U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. And already, Republicans in the Senate led by John McCain are threatening to block her nomination. He called her today "not too bright" and said she`s unqualified for the position. Yes, the Republicans have a demographics problem in the House and the Senate and nationwide. But it is not just a demographics problem. It`s never just a demographics problem, right? And there is a decision to make now for the Republicans, about whether the whiter, ever-more-male party who just lost the election badly, particularly in the Senate, is now going to work its butt off in the Senate to block the nomination of this African- American women secretary of state nominee, because their crazy uncles who watch FOX News told them the attack in Benghazi wasn`t an attack, it was a conspiracy. The person I most want to ask about that dynamic in Washington right now is probably Nancy Pelosi herself. And guess what, Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House, will be our guest tomorrow for her first interview since her big announcement about staying in charge today. We obviously have lots to discuss. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NINA TURNER (D), OHIO STATE SENATOR: This is the message to the GOP. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And for those of you in the back of the room that can`t read this, Senator, would you like to say what it says? TURNER: Yes, GOP stands for "get out of our panties," and that is exactly what we want the GOP to do. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Ohio State Senator Nina Turner earlier today, making quite a show of it. What prompted that remarkable thing in Ohio is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: President George W. Bush got re-elected in `04, right? But in the midterm election that happened after that in `06, the Republicans lost really badly. Republicans lost control of the House and control of the Senate. And then in the next election, 2008, Barack Obama got elected and the Republicans lost even more seats in the House and in the Senate. And with George W. Bush long gone and John McCain beaten really badly and with the Republicans reduced to minorities this small in Congress, there was a really pressing question. After the `08 election, after the last presidential election, of how and whether the Republican Party would be able to rebuild itself. And obviously, they did, right? They did great in the 2010 elections, even after doing pretty badly in this current election, they still hold on to the House. But starting to feel like those segments that we did on this show after the `08 presidential election, those segments, GOP in exile, I`m starting to feel like they are maybe still relevant to understanding what the Republican Party is now going through. My favorite part about those was that we did these animations to try to make visual metaphors out of the Republican Party`s sad loss-ness. Those were kind of great. (VIDEO CLIPS PLAY) MADDOW: I don`t know why we don`t do stuff like that anymore. We ought to. I hereby resolve. But the basic idea was it matters to the country how one of our two major parties rebuilds itself. Not just in terms of who they pick as their new leaders and their new candidates, but the way they rebuild themselves is an important part of how we`re going to define the acceptable range of policy that gets debated in America. And also, how substantive the policy debate is, versus how crazy and nonsensical it might be. I mean, in a two-party state, the health of both parties is an important thing. And even though the Republican Party is not as bad a position now as it was in `08, we still don`t know who their leader is, we still don`t know who they stand for, we still don`t know how they`re handling their party`s particular issue with craziness -- with the appeal of conspiracy theories and nonsense among their our own most enthusiastic adherence. We`re going to have Dan Rather here in just a moment to weigh in on the Republican Party`s challenge in historical context, previous experience with the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, building themselves back up after existentially challenging losses. But today`s data on how the Republicans are dealing with the challenge right now, sort of a good news/bad news thing. I`ll give you a bad news first, end on a high note, right? The bad news is related to the state of Wisconsin. President Obama won the state of Wisconsin. He won the state by seven points, more than 200,000 votes. And when Wisconsin State Senator Alberta Darling, who is a Republican and a co-chair of the Romney campaign in Wisconsin, when she was asked just after the election whether a photo ID law in that state might have affected the results of the election, this is how she responded. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think photo ID would have made any difference to the outcome of this election? ALBERTA DARLING, WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR: Yes, I think so. We`re looking at all sorts of different precincts and all sorts of same-day registrations. I know people will go, oh, we don`t have fraud and abuse in our election, but why can`t we have voter ID when the majority of people in Wisconsin wanted, we passed it, the governor signed it. Why should one judge in Dane County be able to hold it up? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The absence of a voter ID law, the Romney campaign co-chair in Wisconsin says is why Mitt Romney lost the election in that state. Do you think the photo ID would have made any difference in the outcome? Absolutely. Really? Of this election? Yes, I think so. She`s saying one of two things here -- she`s either saying the only reason why President Obama was elected in Wisconsin this year was because of voter fraud, from these people who were showing up and registering and voting, and they shouldn`t have been allowed to vote, more than 200,000 of them in Wisconsin, and this voter ID bill would have stopped that from happening and thereby giving the state to Mitt Romney. She`s either saying that, or that this voter ID would have kept enough legal voters from voting, that Republicans could win the election just by keeping who have a legal right to vote from exercising that right to vote. I mean, either way, it`s a remarkable assertion by a Republican state senator and by the Romney campaign chair in Wisconsin. All right? That`s the bad news. Obama only won Wisconsin because of voter fraud, for sure of it. That`s the bad news in terms of how conspiratorial and nonsensical America`s conservative major political party may be staying, even in the light of this defeat. But on the other hand, there is some good news. Ever heard of the blog "RedState"? "RedState" is a well-known, well-read conservative blog, one of the more influential ones. I tried to read it pretty regularly. Yesterday, the editor in chief of "RedState" wrote this: "Is it time to roll up the welcome mat here?" Quote, "Barack Obama won. He won by turning out the most people in a well run campaign. In other words, he won fair and square. We here at RedState are American citizens. We have no plans to secede from the union. If you do, good luck with that, but this is not the place for you. Too many people have spent the last four years obsessed with birth certificates. Now, they`re obsessed with voter fraud conspiracies, talk of secession and supposed election changing news stories if only we have known. So let`s add dabblers in this latest nuttiness to birthers as a category of people that we do not welcome at RedState. Even here at RedState, while we may not much care for him, President Obama is still our president and we are still quite happily citizen of the United States." So, on the one hand, the Romney campaign chair in Wisconsin says it was massive voter fraud that swung the state of Wisconsin to President Obama -- if it weren`t for that, Wisconsin would be Romney territory this year. But the right is also starting to self-police itself, against nonsense like that, in a publicly shaming way. And that is good news for the Republican Party and therefore, for the country that needs both parties to function if we are to be a two-party state. Dan Rather joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Dan Rather is here for the interview. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I do think that the spirit of cooperation that you`ve seen over the last week, for myself and my team, from Democrats across the aisle, from the president, have created an atmosphere are where I think that I`ll remain optimistic. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I, too, want to remain optimistic. But I don`t know if that means I`m just being naive. Joining us now with some much-welcome perspective for the interview tonight is Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on AXS TV. Mr. Rather, thank you for being here. DAN RATHER, AXS TV`S "DAN RATHER REPORTS": Always a pleasure. MADDOW: Am I being naive to be optimistic that the rebuilding process in the Republican Party might result in a change in their idea about obstruction and cooperation? RATHER: Well, hope is father to the belief. I`m an optimist by experience and by nature. But I do think there`s odds against -- I hope I`m wrong about that. I`ve been wrong about a lot the last few years and may be wrong about that. But the Republicans, their number one need is to get in touch with a fact-based world, that they are now in the position of being pictured like a man who wears spats to the office or something. So far out of touch that it is unrealistic. And they did run four years, straight out, Dr. No Obstructionism. And with the candidate Mitt Romney`s comments today, saying, well, you know, it`s because Obama gave things to all kinds of people, in denial. And we should have some compassion. It`s tough to lose. Loser`s locker rooms are always tough. And I`d like to believe that Governor Romney once he reviews those remarks will have regret having said them. He doesn`t want to become vice president in charge of excuses. MADDOW: Right. RATHER: And that`s what the Republicans. But until and unless Republicans get in touch with the fact-based world, in particular with science, global warming comes to mind, evolution comes to mind, until they get in touch with this, it`s very hard to see how your optimism and my hopes are going to be fulfilled. But hope springs eternal, and with Mitch McConnell, who I think is the key for the Republicans, their leader in the Senate, that, you know, he was ungracious in the first hours after the election results were known. He has been the lead preacher of the gospel of obstructionism. And if he continues to that, not only will the Republican Party, I think, find the capital dome sort of, they`ll be in a temple of doom if they continue to do this. You just can`t do it. With the election itself, this election is going to be studied for a very long time. This is now the 21st century and what President Obama did, he hired math wizards and so called stat geeks, and they dealt with data, facts, science, went into the census return. The Republicans didn`t learn that lesson. Until they learn that lesson, they`re going to have a hard time winning in the future. Now, in terms of what can be accomplished for the country, you know, the good book says, let us come reason together. And if President Obama takes that attitude, which it seems to me he has, and I agree with what you said on the program earlier, you saw a really renewed confidence in President Obama. His body language is there, his statements are there -- this is the Obama the people thought they were getting in the 2008 election, but didn`t see until, frankly, after the election was over. Two things set out in my mind recently as to what we can expect from the president. That is when he addressed his young workers and he teared up -- MADDOW: Yes. RATHER: -- spoke from the heart, no teleprompter, and a very attractive Obama. And then, today at his news conference, confident, tough, in effect, to use a basketball term, he was saying, I`m perfectly prepared to come reason together. But in basketball terms, I also will take it hard to the hoop if you try this obstructionist thing. On the Republican side, they have openings to be what we desperately need in the country, and that is a responsibility and loyal opposition. For example: prison and sentencing reform. Some Republicans have talked about that. There`s an opening, how to save our public schools. What we can learn from Finland and Singapore. These are openings for the Republicans. Will they take them? We`ll see. MADDOW: You know, I wanted to ask whether you see some of that same dynamic at work, with the president`s, I thought, very, very stern performance today on the issue of Susan Rice as a potential anytime for secretary of state and the Benghazi attacks. Obviously, she`s been attacked from the right, John McCain leading the way. And what they`ve attacked her for is a bunch of stuff she did not do. When he paraphrases what she said that makes him so upset, he said that she never said it was a terrorist attack, she said -- all of the stuff that did not happen. And the president today taking that stern line wasn`t just saying, "I want to have this fight with you", he was saying, "This is not the right fight to have. You are picking the wrong fight at a wrong time, with the wrong guy. The election is over." Was that a call to put the nonsense stuff, the fact-free stuff behind us? RATHER: Absolutely. And it`s an example of how the Republicans have to get in touch with the fact-based world. And by the way with John McCain, it`s been said before, but can`t be said too much. I admire John McCain. I have not forgotten the years he spent in a North Vietnamese prison camp. When he talks about Susan Rice and these things, this is a man who picked Sarah Palin to be possibly one heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States. You can`t have it both ways, even if you`re John McCain. MADDOW: Yes, Dan Rather, it`s always such a pleasure to have you here. I don`t know why you honor us with your presence, but I`m glad you`re here, sir. RATHER: I`m always glad to be here. Thanks a lot. Take care. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. You know the expression, vote with your wallet? This election, some donors got back more on their investment than others -- way more. You`ve heard a lot about the people who wasted their money? What`s next is the people who really did not. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: All right. We are in that part of the political cycle when it`s time to try to figure out what is now in the realm of possibility, that might not have been any realm of possibility before the election. We are not at the part where we figure whether the boundaries of political possibility change in this election. Whether there was a policy that was politically impossible eight days ago that is now politically possible because of the way the election shook out. Por ejemplo, the common wisdom has long been that any reform of gun laws, even just a restoration of the slightly more moderate gun policy we used to have in this country -- the common wisdom is that that is completely impossible because of the political power of the National Rifle Association. The NRA doesn`t want any gun laws and so we can`t have any gun law, they`re too powerful, they control it. Does that common wisdom change at all once you know that this is the truth about the NRA right now? The Sunlight Foundation crunched the numbers on the money spent trying to influence this year`s election. And it turns out the NRA`s political action committee got as return on their investment in the 2012 election a 0.82 percent return. They spent almost $11.8 million and less than 1 percent of that money went to races that went their way, less than 1 percent. Now to be fair, the NRA`s lobbying arm, they got just over a 10 percent return on their investment. So, instead of wasting 99 percent of their money, this other NRA spending group only wasted 90 percent of their money on races they didn`t win. And that`s their good news year. Now, to be fair, what we`re seeing might be an indication of the fact that the NRA is mostly just a Republican interest group at this point. The NRA does not seem to be making particularly principled decisions about their endorsement these days, right? And most groups on the right, most groups supporting Republicans this year just did really poorly because Republicans did really poorly. We`ve talked about a few of them on this show before. The Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads super PAC, one of his groups, they got a 1 percent return on their investment of over $100 million in this race. The Chamber of Commerce got a 6.9 percent return on their investment of 32 million bucks. Even the Republican Party`s own House and Senate campaign groups didn`t great good return on investments. They spent a ton of money on these races and they lost. But you know who did good this election cycle? Look at this. Look at Planned Parenthood`s record this election cycle. Planned Parenthood super PAC had an 88 percent return on their investment this election cycle. Planned Parenthood`s political arm had a more than 97 percent return on their investment. They spent over $1 million helping get President Obama reelected. They also spent money to help incumbents who support abortion rights and women`s health rights like Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Jon Tester in Montana and Claire McCaskill in Missouri. They spent money to help Tammy Baldwin and Tim Kaine win close races for U.S. Senate seats. And they spent money campaigning against anti- abortion candidates like Mitt Romney at the top of the Republican ticket. They also campaigned against Linda McMahon in Connecticut and Todd Akin in Missouri, and Josh Mandel in Ohio, and Danny Rehberg in Montana and Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin and George Allen in Virginia, and All of those places where Planned Parenthood took sides, their side won. Planned Parenthood also led the opposition to an anti-abortion ballot question in Florida. That would have amended the state`s constitution in an effort to restrict access to abortion. That opposition succeeded in Florida. Florida voted that anti-abortion thing down by a 10-point margin. Planned Parenthood won pretty much everything they touched, over 97 percent, over 98 percent? It was a very winning year for Planned Parenthood. But the story of why Planned Parenthood had such a successful election season is not just the story of an individual senator in Ohio or Virginia or a ballot question somewhere. Planned Parenthood did so well this year because of something fundamental to this year`s campaign overall. This election ended up turning in a big way on the issue of women`s rights and that happened because the Republican Party put abortion policy and policy about rape and contraception access at the front of their governing agenda in the states and at the federal level, because they moved on those issues wholesale nationwide as a party. Because some of this year`s most famous Republican candidates are guys who got famous for saying really astonishing things about why the government should force rape victims against their will their rapist`s child. Republicans did this to themselves, right, and then Democrats wouldn`t let them get away with it. Republicans tied themselves so tightly to women`s rights issues that ideas like cutting of funding for Planned Parenthood, or women`s health programs, banning abortion, singling out rape victims with the anti-abortion policies, rolling back access to contraception -- all of those things became identified in voters` minds as what it get -- what you get if you vote Republican, what it means to vote Republican this year is all of that policy. And we saw that manifest in really specific ways, like, for example, Planned Parenthood`s 98 percent return on their investment and everything they spent on this election cycle. And you can also see it manifest in the broadest possible results, right? In the gender gaps in the states that mattered most for the presidency. Look at the gender gap in the swing states. This is how much Mitt Romney lost just the women`s vote by. In Virginia, Mitt Romney lost the race by three points overall, he lost women by nine points. In Florida, Romney only lost the race by a point but lost women by seven points. In Ohio, Mitt Romney lost by two points overall by lost by 11 points for women. If you are the Republican Party, you need to fix it problem -- or not. Let`s go to the epicenter of this problem. The Republican Party in Ohio, the state that put President Obama over the top this year on the strength of an 11-point Republican deficit with women voters. After that, what are the Republicans in Ohio working on now, in their first days back at work in the state legislatures since the election, since their guy lost the election based on his weakness among Ohio women voters? Ohio Republicans are moving on a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Republican-led House committee approved the defund Planned Parenthood bill today in a party line. Only the Republicans voted for it, all the Democrats voted against it. And they are working on reviving a previously stalled bill that would ban abortion in Ohio as early as six weeks into pregnancy. So, by the time you realize you`ve missed a period, your abortion would be illegal in Ohio. Now, to be fair, we cannot disprove the hypothesis that the Ohio Republican Party has just woken up from a long hibernation and they are totally unaware of last week`s election results. An Ohio public radio reporter named Jo Ingles tweeted this photo of a packed committee room for today`s Ohio Republicans defund Planned Parenthood hearing. She said two additional overflow rooms were also totally full of people. Here`s the photo from the hallway outside the hearing room where lawmakers emerged to find chanting protesters had gathered to great them. The Republican Party`s problem with women is a problem that cost them the presidency this year and a good portion of the Senate, right? I mean, just think about the presidency. If women had voted the way men did this year, it would be President Romney. But women did not vote that way at all. And so, honestly, we`re never going to hear from Mitt Romney again. But this is apparently not a problem the Republican Party is planning on addressing just yet. Based on what happened in Ohio today, this might not be a problem that the Republican Party recognizes is a problem just yet. How long can they continue like this? That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks for being with us tonight. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END