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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/15/12

Guests: Josh Rogin, Nancy Pelosi

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And if you keep it up, I have to come back Saturday and Sunday. So, ease up, big guy. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: I`m out of here. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Thanks, man. SCHULTZ: Thank you. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us for the next hour. President Obama was in New York City today surveying damage from hurricane Sandy. He was alongside New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, you might remember the president spent time in New Jersey alongside Governor Chris Christie. At that time, Mayor Bloomberg of New York had specifically asked the president to please not come to New York City, so the logistics and security arrangements around his visit wouldn`t get in the way of the immediate recovery effort. But now with two weeks or so gone by, the president today announced that he is putting a cabinet official, housing secretary, in charge of the federal level of the rebuilding efforts after the storm. And he made that announcement from hard-hit Staten Island. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: During difficult times like this, we`re reminded that we`re bound together. And we have to look out for each other. And a lot of the things that seem important, the petty differences melt away and we focus on what binds us together and that we as Americans are going to stand with each other in their hour of need. We`re going to have to put some of the turf battles aside. We`re going to have to make sure everybody is focused on doing the job as opposed to worrying about who`s getting the credit or who`s getting the contracts or all that sometime that sometimes goes into the rebuilding process. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was what happened today in presidential politics in storm damaged New York. But if the president`s message in New York was one of buckling down and cooperating and working together to get things done, what happened in Washington today was a study in contrast from that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president, himself, has intentionally misinformed -- read that, lied -- to the American people in the aftermath of this tragedy. This is not simply a cover-up of a third rate burglary. We have four of our diplomatic personnel dead. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This administration continues to put out things that are just not quite true. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to know who is responsible in this town, buy yourself a mirror. Our evil-doing, American citizen-hating administration requested a lot more money than we provided, a quarter of a billion dollars in security upgrades that you refuse to make in this committee. And then you have the audacity to come here and say, why wasn`t the protection of these people provided for? And the answer is, because you damn didn`t provide it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The election was over. The president won re- election. The voices of the public were heard. They want us to cooperate. If you want an honest investigation of this tragedy, we will join you. But if you want to persist in trying somehow to put this, lay this at the doorstep of the president or the secretary of state, or the United Nations ambassador, you will find us ready and willing to resist to the teeth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: To the teeth. That`s what it was like today at the House Foreign Affairs Committee`s hearing on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, back in September. There were also hearings on the same subject in both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. But those are both closed to the public. We learned today newly resigned CIA chief David Petraeus has agreed to testify at a closed intelligence committee hearing tomorrow and maybe a closed House hearing, too. In his first remarks to a reporter since he resigned, General Petraeus apparently told Kyra Phillips, an anchor from Headline News that his resignation had strictly about him having an extramarital affair and it was nothing to do -- anything related to classified information or to Benghazi. He told Kyra Phillips that he`s therefore eager to testify in Congress about the Benghazi relationship to clear that up. That`s related presumably to the conspiracy theories of General Petraeus` resignation that are populating the conservative media right now. Quote, "It`s obvious someone was out to silence Petraeus." Quote, "In the modern era, office-holders with forgiving spouses simply do not resign from powerful jobs because of a temporary, noncriminal, consensual adult sexual liaison" -- said Eliot Spitzer, I mean, Anthony Weiner, I mean, Jim McGreevey, I mean, Congressman Mark Souder, I mean, the Detroit police chief, I mean, sorry -- none of them. It was said by a man named Andrew Napolitano, who is a FOX News personality. David Petraeus` resignation to him could not possibly have just been about some dumb affair. Nobody resigns from office for having an affair. There must be a leftist government cover-up going on. The White House is trying to keep General Petraeus from spilling the beans about vague, imagined government conspiracy surrounding the Benghazi attacks. That`s what Napolitano is saying. The conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer is pushing the same sort of idea now, too. But, honestly, the engine that is and has been driving the crazy on this issue for the Republican Party and the conservative movement is still really Senator John McCain. Over the past week, Senator John McCain has made six different television appearances just to talk about the Benghazi attack and what he sees a big Obama administration cover-up of the attack, making his case over and over and over and over and over again to any blinking red light within sight about how Benghazi should not be viewed as an attack on a U.S. consulate, but instead be viewed as a Democratic lie, an Obama scandal. The Senate needs more information about this blatant cover-up, says John McCain. John McCain needs more information. This, for example, is John McCain convening a press conference yesterday morning, denouncing the scandal that congress is not being given enough information about this horrible scandal that he can`t get any answers on. While John McCain was demanding answers at this press conference, that he convened yesterday morning, some of his colleagues, from a committee that he`s a member of, were getting answers on the subject that he was so mad about. John McCain was missing a three-hour high-level closed classified briefing on what exactly happened in Benghazi from representatives of the State Department, and the Defense Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Counterterrorism Center, and the FBI, John McCain did not get any of the classified briefing. He did not get any of that information. He didn`t get any of his questions answered by any of those people because he skipped the briefing and instead went and yelled at TV cameras about how he couldn`t get any information. And when a CNN producer had the good sense to ask Senator McCain about why he was yelling about not getting information instead of attending the briefing on his committee where the information was being given out, then he just yelled some more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANA BASH, CNN: Our Ted Barrett caught up with the senator earlier today and wanted to know why he didn`t go to that briefing. And to say the least, it did not go well. Listen to what happened. TED BARRETT, CNN: Why can`t you comment about that? SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment. And who the hell are you to tell me I can or not? I`m not giving you an answer for the tenth time. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Who the hell are you? This is all going on while John McCain continues to try to make a case that this scandal that he can`t get any information about, can`t be handled through the normal committee process, that he can`t get enough information that way. So instead John McCain says there needs to be a Watergate-style mega investigation. So far that idea has been shot down by the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, by John McCain`s own BFF in the Senate, Joe Lieberman. He also disagrees with Mr. McCain on this. Same goes for Susan Collins of Maine, who did go to the classified briefing yesterday and noted publicly that John McCain was not there, even though it was his committee. McCain`s special investigation idea was also shot down today by Republican Senator Richard Burr who said, quote, "I think you`ve got to allow the structure we have of oversight to function and I think the Intelligence Committee is more than capable of handling this." In other words, the Senate is getting information so maybe we should, you know, get information instead of continuing to scream on TV about not getting information. Here`s how you know when somebody is being disingenuous. It`s when they demand something and then you give them that thing that they just keep demanding about and they pretend that you`re not giving it to them and they just keep making the demand anyway as if it hasn`t been met. John McCain obviously sees some advantage somewhere in continuing to scream on TV about the fact he`s not getting information about this issue. When that screaming cannot be quieted by actually giving him information about this issue, that is a sign that something else is going on here. Joining us now is Josh Rogin, staff writer, "Foreign Policy" magazine, he writes the daily column "The Cable." Josh, thanks very much for being here. JOSH ROGIN, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: President Obama yesterday in his press conference basically accused John McCain of grandstanding, trying to gin up the tragedy into something that he and the Republicans can get political gain from. How did that play out today with John McCain and the way the rest of Congress is viewing him on this? ROGIN: Right. So you`ve been covering this well in the sense that Republicans are not used to the Obama administration pushing back. They`re not used to the Obama coming with a fire in the belly and really confronting them on accusations and insinuations that they`ve been launching for the last four years without a lot of resistance, without a lot of contradiction. Let`s remember that the politicization of the Benghazi issue started with the Mitt Romney campaign, on the night of the attack. He then harangued the entire Republican Caucus into joining him on that. And now, the Mitt Romney campaign is gone, leaving guys like John McCain holding the bag. So, he`s part committed to this strategy and he`s got to go forward. And now that President Obama called him out on public television during a press conference, he has no choice but to double down. And stories like these where he missed the hearing that he was calling for undermine his argument that the Obama administration is not giving him enough information, and pushes him back into the argument the Obama administration is lying, or misrepresenting or intentionally politicizing the tragedy. That`s a much tougher argument to make. And that`s the fight the Obama administration wants to have. So John McCain`s really on his heels. MADDOW: And that point, about which argument the Obama administration wants to have -- I mean, the thing that tripped up Mitt Romney on this in that debate is that he believed what conservative media had been saying about this, right? He believed some conservative meme that President Obama never used the word "terror" when he described this attack, when, in fact, the president had. It led to that horrible fact checking moment -- live fact-checking in the debate. Is John McCain, and these guys, Dana Rohrabacher, Jean Schmidt, these other people who we had just played tape from, who are trying to make this into a political scandal, are they still making that same mistake, in that they are pursuing a narrative that is circulating on the right but isn`t based in fact? ROGIN: Yes, I would add Darrell Issa on that. He held the hearings on Benghazi a month before the election and he bungled them. He revealed names of sources, of Libyans working with the United States by releasing documents without even check with anyone. And the bottom line here is there are legitimate questions about the Benghazi attack and there`s a lot of information we haven`t gotten. But that`s all become secondary to the sort of political fight between the Republicans in Congress who want to assert that they still have the control of the foreign policy issue, and they want to assert that Obama`s weak on foreign policy even though the election is over, and the actual responsible lawmakers who want to actually just figure out what happened and what we can do to prevent it from happening again. MADDOW: The way this is going, are we likely to get a giant Watergate-style mega investigation on this, the way John McCain has been demanding? ROGIN: There`s no appetite for that. I mean, the bottom line is that congressional committees are set up based on seniority. People want to have control over what they have control over. Let`s put this in the context of the Republican Caucus which is fighting amongst itself on foreign policy. For a decade, John McCain and the hawks and neocons had control of GOP foreign policy. Over the last two years, that`s been contested. And Mitt Romney started out as a neocon, ended up as a moderate on foreign policy. And now the caucus is more on that side. So John McCain is fighting for relevance here. He`s fighting not to be marginalized in his own party. He`s about to lose his own committee chairmanship, he terms out, on Senate Armed Services. MADDOW: That`s right. ROGIN: So, his friends Jon Kyl, Joe Lieberman are both leaving. So, he`s seeing his relative power inside the caucus on foreign policy challenged for the first time in a very long time and he`s fighting for the survival of that power, and that plays into everything that we`re seeing. MADDOW: And the more he swears on camera, the more you can tell he`s feeling that. Josh, could you stay with us for just a moment? This afternoon, I sat down with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. And she had something very interesting to say about the connection of the David Petraeus scandal to some of these other issues. I`d love to get your response. Hold on? All right. Hold on. We`ll be right back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: What has triggered about informing the Congress in any event, just talking about Congress, is -- does it have an impact on our national security? MADDOW: And you think this did not rise to that level? (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: My exclusive interview with Nancy Pelosi -- her first interview since saying she`s staying on as the top Democrat in Congress is coming right up. Hold on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Ten years ago yesterday, our country for the first time ever put a woman in charge of up of the two major political parties in Congress. That was 10 years ago. And it is still the only time we have ever done it. Yesterday, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, the highest ranking woman in American politics ever, she announced that she would put her name forward to stay on as the top Democrat in the House. Because of the election results from last week, the new House that`s going to convene in January will be more Democratic than it is now, although the Republicans will still have the majority. It will be more diverse in terms of race and sexual orientation. And it will be considerably more female -- no thanks to the Republicans who are actually even more male than they used to be in the House before this election. But Democrats more than made up for it, with the number of women they added. A fact Ms. Pelosi highlighted in her announcement that she is staying on by bringing up all of the Democratic women in the caucus on stage with her. But as excited as everybody is for the next Congress to start in January, you can feel it in Washington, people are very excited, the old Congress is still in session now. This is the lame duck between now and January. And this lame duck: (a), has a lot of work to do, and, (b), is taking place in the midst of a really big scandal has engulfed the head of the CIA and now, the top commanding general in the war in Afghanistan -- a scandal that still seems to be getting bigger and not smaller. Here`s what Nancy Pelosi had to say today on this matter when I asked her about it in her first interview since she announced her intention to stay on as the top Democrat in Congress. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Let me ask you about something that arose unexpectedly right after the election, which was the sex scandal that has ended the career that the CIA chief, David Petraeus. As you know, this arose from the FBI starting an investigation into an unrelated matter and they came across evidence of his sexual misconduct. At this point, there does not seem to be any evidence of anything criminal or of the mishandling of classified information. At least that we know thus far. Given that, do you think that the FBI should tell Congress and tell the White House about evidence they uncover of personal sexual misconduct by political figures? Or should that be kept private? PELOSI: Well, I believe that the standard has to be, does this have an impact on our national security? So far, we haven`t seen anything that gives evidence of that. We have another balance that we have to strike, our Founders had to do it, the beginning of our country, and we still do, except now with communication the way it is in a different way. And that`s a balance between security and liberty. And so how do you make that balance? Should Congress and the president be informed of hearsay? I don`t think so. What is triggered about informing the Congress in any event, just talking about Congress, is -- does it have an impact on our national security? MADDOW: And you think this did not rise to that level? PELOSI: From what we know so far. But it`s really also important to note that our Founders had to do this, and that was at a time when a message could travel only as fast as a horse could gallop or ship could sail. That`s how fast or slow a message could travel. Now, with the blessing of telecommunication, we know in real time, true or false, about what somebody might be saying about somebody else and I think that we, in the interest of everyone in our country, have to respect privacy rights unless it falls into a realm of something of a person of that stature. I mean, that`s such a sad thing -- such a sad thing. And personal indiscretion is unfortunate. But to have a personal discretion e-mails is stupid. MADDOW: To have this scandal touch on General John Allen, who`s commanding general in Afghanistan, today was the confirmation hearing for the man who would be his successor, General Dunford, in Afghanistan. That sex scandal, personal behavior scandal is unrelated to the war. But the fact these things are all happening at once raises for me, once again, the strangeness of the fact that we have so little political debate about our ongoing war. In terms of the realm of political responsibility and what is doable after this election, I have to ask you -- why Congress shouldn`t be expected now to push for a faster end to the Afghanistan war than the end of two years from now? PELOSI: Well, it isn`t two years. It`s just one year from now. MADDOW: End of 2014, right? PELOSI: `14 -- well, I guess almost two years. Let`s hope it`s before then. Let`s hope it`s by then but let`s hope it is before then. What is our mission? How is it in our national security to stay a long time? What I think we have to be vigilant about is we`re not staying any longer. I know there have been some comments about -- well, we may keep a force. I don`t think there`s any appetite for that. MADDOW: General Dunford said he`d be willing to keep a force beyond 2014. PELOSI: I`m interested in what the president of the United States has said, is that we will be out by the end of 2014. But it is unpopular. The country is weary of war. They want our troops to come home, and they are coming home. But I don`t know if there`s a majority in the vote in Congress to bring the troops home in a faster schedule than the president has. And remember, the president said by 2014. So, hopefully, it will be sooner. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Nancy Pelosi in an exclusive interview with me today saying that "from what we know now, General Petraeus` affair does not seem to have risen to the kind of national security matter that might justify the FBI telling other people about that affair." Also saying the ultimate drawdown timeline in Afghanistan should be shortened to earlier than the end of 2014 which is what it is now. Joining us again is Josh Rogin, the staff writer at "Foreign Policy" magazine where he writes "The Cable." Josh, thanks for sticking around. When Nancy Pelosi said at the end I don`t know if there`s a majority in Congress that would vote to make the war end sooner, if such a vote was put to them -- do you think she`s right about that? Do we know? ROGIN: Yes. So, let`s remember here the president`s policy is to extend the troops past 2014, negotiations started in Kabul today to extend the troops past 2014. We can forgive Nancy Pelosi for not knowing that because the administration, according to Joe Biden during the debates said the opposite thing. MADDOW: What about the distinction between combat troops being gone by 2014 and some -- not vestigial -- but some residual force being left thereafter? You think it`s not a meaningful distinction? ROGIN: It`s a distinction without a difference. You have troops in harm`s way fighting, killing, dying. Those are combat troops no matter what you call them. And we`re going to have a big debate, what the roles and responsibilities should be. And that debate starts today. The bottom line is that there are dozens of Congress people led by Nancy Pelosi, call them liberals in the House, have been arguing against the long troop deployment ever since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started. They`ve never won the day. And President Obama has never in his four years favored the liberal national security policy of getting out of the war sooner. Not likely it`s about to start right now. MADDOW: In terms of the Republican side of this debate, I keep talking to people who have been around politics for a long time who say the Republicans don`t want this conversation, but when you ask them what they think of the Afghanistan war, almost nobody makes an argument we ought to be there a day longer, let alone two more years, let alone two more years plus an unending residual force. ROGIN: Right. MADDOW: So will anybody ever ask the Republicans on this? ROGIN: Yes. We`re going to have hearings. Eventually, General Allen is going to surface, he`s going to testify. There will be a bunch of Republicans led by John McCain and Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham who are going to argue for longer troop deployments, waiting to see what the conditions are on the ground, having more troops there than the administration wants and a big segment of the Republican caucus that will not support that. And that, again, is the divide inside the Republican caucus. Ultimately, the president is going to have to balance the risk of withdrawing troops faster against the goal of leaving Afghanistan as stable and secure as possible. And whatever his decision is going to be, that`s going to be his legacy. So that`s going to be his responsibility. MADDOW: Is there anybody else who`s stepping up on the John McCain side of this? I mean, at this point, John McCain is a noun and verb and don`t cut and run, right? He`s really -- I feel like his credibility on foreign policy issues is getting pretty wispy at this point. Is there anybody else who`s taken the place of him as he becomes less and less relevant? ROGIN: So they`re training a new crop of new senators like Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, Marco Rubio, and they are prepared to carry this water on the Republican side. The question is whether or not the generals are going to back them up. I mean, when the generals come to testify, if the generals are to the left of John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, then they`re going to be left twisting in the wind. If the generals -- the Obama administration and give an honest assessment that matches McCain, then they`ll have a stronger argument. In the end, the president is going to do what the president is going to do. MADDOW: I think the politics are in flux. Six months from now this is going to be a different discussion. But we shall see. Josh Rogin, staff writer "Foreign Policy" magazine, who writes "The Cable" -- Josh, it`s great to have you here. Thanks, man. Appreciate it. All right. Still ahead, a lot of Republicans get mad at Mitt Romney, now, today, and not just for losing last week. We`ll also have more from my interview with Nancy Pelosi when she weighs in on why all the Republicans are so mad at Mitt Romney now. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I said something on this show last night I would please like to take back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If you 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. So, honestly, we`re never going to hear from Mitt Romney again. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The part there at the end about never hearing from Mitt Romney again -- not true. And it turns out people do still care what Mitt Romney says when he says stuff, because unless and until the Republican Party can find a new national face for their party, Mitt Romney remains the national face and, therefore, the national leader of the Republican Party. Even if the Republicans don`t want him to be. And it appears the Republicans do not want him to be. The thing that has landed Mr. Romney back in the national spotlight is a post-election conference call he did with donors in which Mr. Romney said the reason he lost and President Obama won is that President Obama bribed minority voters and young voters and women with gifts. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the president`s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote and that strategy worked. He gave them a big gift on immigration with the DREAM Act amnesty program, which was obviously very, very popular with Hispanic voters. And then number two, was Obamacare. And so, for any lower income Hispanic family, Obamacare was massive. Let me tell you, what I would do if I were a Democrat running four years from now, I`d say, you know what, dental care ought to be included in Obamacare. Immigration, we can solve. But the giving away free stuff is a hard thing to compete with. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: On that call, portions of which were edited and posted online by ABC News, on that call Mr. Romney also praised his campaign team for being no drama and highly effective. Yes, everything went perfectly. According to ABC News, Mr. Romney`s campaign manager then listed other gifts President Obama used to win the election like free contraceptives for 18 to 29-year-old women, DREAM Act waivers, and student loan interest rate cuts for college students. The Romney campaign, what remains of it, released a statement authenticating the tape saying, quote, "Governor Romney was elaborating on what Obama senior strategist David Axelrod said about the Obama campaign`s effort to target key demographics, most specifically women." For the record, David Axelrod said nothing like that. For their part, Republicans seemed very mad on his way out the door Mr. Romney has left them with this mess to clean up. Iowa`s Republican Governor Terry Branstad said this, quote, "I don`t think it`s helpful." Florida Senator Marco Rubio said, quote -- well, Senator Marco Rubio according to journalists, quote, "distanced himself from the remarks on Thursday, calling them just `an analysis to donors.`" New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte weighed in on "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS " today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I listened to the comments. I don`t know what the context fully was. I don`t agree with the comments. We`ve got big challenges that need to be resolved as you know. ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: So you`re not comfortable with what you heard him say? AYOTTE: No, I don`t know the full context of them, but I don`t agree with the comments. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: But, you know, nobody sounded quite as annoyed with Mitt Romney in these comments as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who was asked about the Romney comments yesterday at the Republican Governors Association conference. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: No, look, I think that`s absolutely wrong. Two points on that. One, we have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. So, I absolutely reject that notion, that description. I think that`s absolutely wrong. That is not -- I don`t think that represents where we are as a party and where we`re going as a party. And I think that -- that has not got to be the most fundamental takeaways from this election. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Republicans are obviously furious with Mitt Romney for this latest comment, for continuing to spotlight the most alienating, most elitist, most resentment-driven weaponized Thurston Howell ideological edge to what Republicans are offering the country, right? So you could see why they`d be so angry at him. But the country as a whole maybe owes Mitt Romney a debt of gratitude for continuing to exist in the public eye and continuing to insist that there was nothing wrong with his campaign and that the Democrats` victory should be ascribed only to a vast bribery conspiracy involving, like, green cards and condoms. What is good about that for the country, maybe, is that Republicans who are now jockeying among themselves to replace Mitt Romney as the de facto head of the Republican Party, they are having to articulate what is wrong with that way of thinking. And that seems constructive. That seems like maybe what the country needs them to do. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JINDAL: This is just something that`s fundamentally important for the future of our party, as a Republican Party. It`s also important for the country. The country needs two competitive parties fighting for every single vote out there and proudly standing up for their principles. And let`s have a real contest of ideas and that`s what this country deserves. We didn`t get that in this past election. That`s what this country deserves going forward. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yay. I agree with Bobby Jindal on almost nothing when it comes to policy and almost nothing when it comes to politics. But what he just said there is the kind of conversation the whole country is counting on Republicans having with each other right now. Today, the top Democrat in the House gave us exclusively her reaction to those comments from Mitt Romney, and she told us how she thinks they`re going to affect the ability of Republicans and Democrats to work together now and in this next upcoming Congress. It`s fascinating. That`s next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PELOSI: When you watch that tape, that videotape -- you see passion, you see commitment. That`s the -- that is the most sincere, with no competition for that honor, most sincere moment in his campaign and that`s what he believed and that`s what he continues to believe and that`s what he said yesterday. But that`s quite sad. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to stay on as leader of the Democrats in the House. In her first interview since that announcement, I asked her today for her reaction to the tape that emerged last night of Mitt Romney explaining to his donors that he only lost the election essentially because of bribery by the Democrats, in the form of policy. Watch her response. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: There was a bit of a firestorm in the last 24 hours when number of news organizations reported on Mitt Romney`s comments to donors in a call yesterday explaining why it is that he thought he lost. And he attributed his lost to Democratic policies that he described as gifts to specific populations -- to young people, to students, to Latino voters. He described as a gift the way he put it, amnesty for the children of illegals and that was a gift to Latinos and that was essentially a Democratic bribe to earn those votes. That`s Mr. Romney`s assessment of why he lost. PELOSI: Well, that`s sad. That`s really quite sad. It doesn`t sound very professional about who he was as a candidate and what his organization might have been in spite of all the money they had. But it was completely consistent with his message when he didn`t know he was being recorded about the 47 percent. I have said for a long time, since we saw that tape, that`s the most authentic Romney we have seen. Every other instance, before for this, and then against it, and now, you know, different. What does he really believe in? But that he really believed in. When you watch that tape, that videotape -- you see passion, you see commitment. That`s the -- that is the most sincere, with no competition for that honor, most sincere moment in his campaign. That`s what he believed and that`s what he continues to believe and that`s what he said yesterday. But that`s quite sad. MADDOW: If that is, we are seeing some Republican dissent, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, criticized him. Kelly Ayotte, the senator from New Hampshire, criticized those remarks. It`s not been greeted warmly, these remarks from him, just as the 47 percent remarks weren`t. But if that ends up being the conservative assessment of what went wrong, and it is absolutely the take in conservative media and in conservative talk radio -- what does that say about what`s politically possible next? I just think about the prospect of John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi working together. I think about you sitting down with Vice President Biden and President Obama and John Boehner and talking about what`s possible. What do you expect about the Republican world view and goals to change because of this election? PELOSI: Well, the president was very clear in the campaign, on where he stood. There was no ambiguity about where he was on many of the issues. And so, his election, I think, strengthens our hand at the table. But the public still has to continue to be engaged. Public sentiment is everything. And in the past, for example, the Republicans in the House were the odd people out on the -- on some of the tax bill. One of the tax -- you know, deduction, and then also on the transportation bill. And so when the president went public on those, then they finally came around. But they`re not going to come around just by persuasion sitting across the table, I do not believe. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: They are not going to come around just by persuasion in Washington -- Nancy Pelosi essentially calling for an extension of the spirit that drove the campaign. More ahead. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Why did all of the Democratic women on stage with you boo that question and why did you call it an offensive question? (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (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 hurt -- and hurts the party in the long term. What`s your response? (BOOS) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Discrimination. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoa! PELOSI: Next! Next. RUSSERT: Leader Pelosi -- PELOSI: I guess -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoa! PELOSI: You always ask that question except to Mitch McConnell. (APPLAUSE) RUSSERT: The same thing about Mr. Hoyer -- but no, excuse me, Mister -- you, Mr. Hoyer, Mr. Clyburn, you`re all over 70. Is they`re deciding to stay on prohibit younger leadership from moving forward? PELOSI: So you`re suggesting that everybody step aside? RUSSERT: No, I`m simply saying -- does this delay younger leadership from moving forward? PELOSI: I think 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 decade -- I guess decade now 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. But I wanted women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority would start to account much sooner. (END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: At your leadership announcement yesterday, you were asked -- well, there was a strong reaction and a very strong response from you to a question about age, about the prospect of stepping aside so younger leadership could take over in the Democratic Party. Why did all of the Democratic women on stage with you boo that question? And why did you call it an offensive question? PELOSI: Well, I don`t -- the point is that I was surprised at the reaction of my colleagues because I hear these questions all the time from the press. Not that one, but questions that they might consider inappropriate. But here`s the thing -- I didn`t say it was inappropriate. I said it`s only appropriate if you`re asking everybody else. Senator McConnell hasn`t won an election in a while, and nobody`s asking him to step aside. And I said, do you want the whole leadership to step aside? But it`s interesting because when something like that happens, remind them that President Reagan was elected at 69 and left at 77 from the White House. Sam Rayburn was like 79 years old when he ended being speaker. We, on the strength of the success we had in the election, we won 25 seats. We didn`t net 25 seats, and so -- but we elected -- 25 percent of our caucus is new, younger, women and minorities, 50 percent of our caucus, women and minorities and LGBT community folks. So, you know, we thought it was a great night -- the election of the president to protect health care and the rest, increase our numbers in the Senate, increase our numbers in the House. So I didn`t really know what the point was unless it -- was it about winning? Was it about not winning enough seats or was it just about age? And that -- MADDOW: And a combination of age and gender. You`re saying. That it`s a different -- PELOSI: No, that was the point. Right. It was -- and I -- you know, we all live with each other around here, no offense taken except the women took great offense. And I made the point that one of my goals was to bring women in younger so they could start getting seniority sooner. Not to wait as I did until my children were practically in college, all in college. One, Alexandra just in high school. That was my choice, that is my love, that was my happiness, the most important thing I`ll ever do. But if women have an opportunity earlier, they do get the seniority sooner. So, I think I should be granted about a dozen to 14 years for raising my family and having not great (ph) qualification to bring to the table. MADDOW: You talked about the diversity of this Democratic Caucus. PELOSI: Oh, let me just say -- MADDOW: Sure. PELOSI: Ronald Reagan said, as he said to Walter Mondale, I will not hold your youth and inexperience against you. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: I will pass that onto Luke. You are talking about the diversity about the Democratic Caucus in which you lead in the House. It is a new thing at least that there is not a straight, white male majority in this caucus. That has never been true before in this country. And I wonder, you know, the Republican Party, the Republican candidate for president won a majority of the white vote, a larger proportion of the white vote than John McCain did in 2008, which the Republican Party were sort of bragging about in their internal assessment today about what went right for them in this election that they lost. The Republicans lost all minority groups by very, very large margins. When you look at the diversity of your group, and that momentous change reflected in that diversity, what do you say to people who are unsettled by that, who look at that change and think I`m not sure I`m happy about the fact that there isn`t a straight, white male majority in the Democratic Caucus anymore? What do you say to them? PELOSI: I haven`t met anybody like that yet. But let`s say that there is somebody who has some unease about women and minorities and LGBT people, I would say, everybody is talking about how we can appeal to these people to vote for us and we are saying, no, we want to go beyond that. We want them to represent us. So, it`s not about we need your vote. This is an Election Day alliance. We want you to have a seat at the table, because it`s really important to have the diversity of opinion. It`s not that we want to displace the white males in our caucus. It`s that we want to have a mix. There is something important about having other thinking, whether it`s gender, whether it`s ethnic, whether it`s regional, whether it`s generational to have a mixture of thinking at the table. It makes the product better, but it gives people hope outside to say, there is something there who understands my aspirations, my challenge. And, again, I reiterate -- we have diversity of opinion one in our caucus too and we respect that and we rejoice in that at well, across the spectrum. And I say to my male friends, your views are enhanced because you can convince many more people who can reach out to other people about your position. MADDOW: In the sense, you`re not just talking to people who are inclined from the get-go to get -- to agree with you. You have to persuade others who come from a different perspective. PELOSI: Come in with perspective. And when you bring that caucus together and they build consensus -- I mean, I`ve never lost a vote when I was speaker and that was because we built consensus. We percolated up. We didn`t write something and say this is what we are going to vote for, percolated up. So, I would not want to be a head of a caucus that was a rubber stamp for anything. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in her first interview since announcing that she intends to stay on in that position. All right. Best new thing in the world is coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. If you are a liberal, you`d like to believe that government can be a force for good. That, yes, nobody likes bureaucracy for bureaucracy`s sake. And everybody likes free enterprise. But government is capable of good and important work. Like Medicare, for example. And the fact, Medicare is the government insurance company for 50 million Americans. And people are happier with Medicare and Medicare is much cheaper to administer than all of the private insurance plans that everyone else has to use. Medicare works well. It`s a part of government that works well. Another example the mayor`s office in Newark, New Jersey. If there is a tree down on the wires in front of your house, did you see homeless people suffering through the storm under a Newark overpass and they need help, are you stranded with a baby and the power has been off too long -- tell the mayor`s office in Newark, New Jersey, tell the Newark Mayor Cory Booker and he will come sort it out for you personally. Honestly, he will be there in about five minutes. He will bring your bored baby a toy. Sometimes government works well, in very big ways and very small ways. But government rarely works very well in ways that are also very funny. All right. Here`s the situation: right now, nobody knows if it is legal or illegal to smoke pot or possess pots in the states of Colorado or Washington. And that`s because on election night, measures to legalize pot for personal use in both of those states passed by 10 points and 12 points respectively. So in state law it`s legal. But federal law, which applies to the whole country, including those two states, federal law still says pot is illegal. So, which is it in Colorado and Washington? We don`t know. Enter the Seattle Police Department. On the Seattle Police Department`s blog, they have posted this new, I guess, official police document. It`s called, "Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use in Seattle." And it`s clear answers to simple questions to what everyone is asking. Questions like, where can you smoke pot now in Seattle? The answer -- you can certainly use marijuana in the privacy of your own home. How about this one? What if the Seattle police had seized a bunch of your marijuana before the law changed? Can you get that seized marijuana back from the police? One word answer to that one is no. How about this one? Will Seattle`s finest help federal agents with criminal cases that involve small amounts of pot. Here`s a longer answer and more legalese that this one, but here again the answer is no. This my friends is a public service and it`s "Marijwhatnow"? It`s everything you wanted to know about the complicated laws about pot now in Seattle as presented by an alternative newspaper guy who now blogs for the Seattle Police Department, along with this guy who is himself an actual cop. They did this together. And they close their online "Marijwahtnow" posed for their post with this video clip from the "Lord of the Rings". Seriously. Seattle Police Department, this is a needed service. Nobody has been able to figure out what the law is. And what you have done to help people figure out what the laws is makes sense and it is funny, and it has Gandalf in it for no good reason other than you are being good humored about this whole thing while you are providing a needed services. Seattle P.D., this one thing about you is the best new thing in the world today. And that does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night from New York. Now it`s time for, "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END