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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/31/13

Guests: Steve Clemons, Joe Cirincione, Nancy Northup

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you very much. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour. When Mitt Romney won the Republican presidential nomination this past year, it was not his first try at winning that nomination. Mitt Romney had also run in 2008. Remember? He lost to John McCain that year. But that year, 2008, also was not John McCain`s first effort at winning the Republican presidential nomination. He had run before as well. He had run in the year 2000, when he lost to George W. Bush. And while that John McCain campaign and his loss that year has mostly been remembered for the egregiously racist dirty tricks played against John McCain in the South Carolina primary that year. That`s mostly what we think of when we think of him losing to George W. Bush that year. Now, what is starting to become the more salient thing about that losing run, about that losing attempt at winning the Republican presidential nomination, what seems more salient now is who John McCain`s national co-chair was for that run. It was Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. There he is. You can see him in the little circle on the left there, with John McCain`s entourage as John McCain was getting ready to launch his presidential bid back in 2000. This is the same Chuck Hagel who is President Obama`s nominee for defense secretary now and who John McCain spent the day today vilifying and attacking as manifestly unqualified for that job. Back in the day, John McCain not only was kind of best buddies with Chuck Hagel, but he specifically said that he thought Chuck Hagel would make an awesome defense secretary someday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: As far as secretary of defense is concerned, there`s a lot of people that could do that. One of them I think is Senator Chuck Hagel. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: John McCain and Chuck Hagel were so close that in 2000, when John McCain realized that he was not going to get the presidential nomination, when John McCain decided he had to give up that bitterly fought nomination battle, the person his campaign put out to speak to the press the day he made his decision to withdraw was his dear friend, old Chuck. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Two aides tell NBC News that the Arizona senator will announce a suspension of his quest for the White House. Back in Arizona after his crushing defeat on Super Tuesday McCain called supporters to thank them. MCCAIN: We`re glad to be home. REPORTER: Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who spoke to McCain three times yesterday, believes McCain will stay in the Republican Party. SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: He understands the big picture here. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: As you can tell from looking at this footage, as you can tell specifically from the evolution of the eye bags and the hairdos over time, that whole thing between Chuck Hagel and John McCain was a long while ago. Chuck Hagel as John McCain`s campaign co-chair, as the top of his short list for defense secretary, that was more than 12 years ago now. But the thing that happened, the thing that turned John McCain from someone who wanted himself to nominate Chuck Hagel for defense into a guy who was angrily and with palpable disgust leading the opposition now to the nomination of Chuck Hagel for defense, the thing that happened between those two different John McCains is not just the passage of time. What happened between those two John McCains is the Iraq war. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Do you believe that the people of Iraq, or at least a large number of them, will treat us as liberators? MCCAIN: Absolutely. I believe we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time. I believe that the success will be fairly easy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Easy. John McCain was wrong about the Iraq war. He was factually wrong about why we needed to start the Iraq war. He was wrong about how the Iraq war would go. He was wrong about how the Iraq war would end. Early on, he was not just a yes vote for the Iraq war. He was an enthusiastic proponent of how good an idea it would be to start that war in Iraq. It was a bad idea to start that war in Iraq. We can say that now, right? Is it controversial to say that the Iraq war was a bad idea? Aren`t we sort of all on board with that now? At the outset of the Iraq war, John McCain, of course, was not alone. John McCain and Chuck Hagel both supported the Iraq war initially, as did people like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer and 24 other Democrats in the Senate and all but one of the Republicans in the Senate all voted yes. And yes, there were Democrats who were against the war from the beginning. And that one Republican, Lincoln Chaffee. But there were enough Democrats who said yes and went along with it. That`s part of the reason the war happened. The difference over time is that Republican Chuck Hagel and most of the Democrats who were wrong about Iraq, they figured out that they were wrong and they turned against the war and ultimately they tried to end the war because it had been a mistake. We can say mistake in the technical sense here, right? The war was started to go get weapons of mass destruction from Saddam and to stop Saddam from helping al Qaeda. Well, Saddam had no relationship with al Qaeda that we were stopping. And Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. It was wrong. The war was factually wrong, right? We have learned that. This is not a controversial assertion. John McCain led the Senate today in trying to not just stop Chuck Hagel from being confirmed as defense secretary. He tried to stop Chuck Hagel from being confirmed as defense secretary specifically by trying to force Chuck Hagel to admit, admit it, admit it, that he was the one who was wrong about Iraq, that Chuck Hagel had been wrong to turn against that war. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: As late as August 29th, 2011 you said, "I disagreed with President Obama`s decision to surge in Iraq as I did with President Bush on the surge in Iraq." Do you stand by that -- those comments, Senator Hagel? HAGEL: Well, Senator, I stand by them because I made them. And -- MCCAIN: Were you right? Were you correct in your assessment? HAGEL: Well, I would defer to the judgment of history to sort that out. But I`ll -- MCCAIN: I think the economy deserves your judgment as to whether you were right or wrong about the surge. HAGEL: I`ll explain why I made those comments -- MCCAIN: I want to know if you were right or wrong. That`s a direct question. I expect a direct answer. HAGEL: The surge assisted in the objective. But if we review the record a little bit -- MCCAIN: Will you please answer the question? Were you correct or incorrect when you said that the surge would be "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam"? Were you correct or incorrect? Yes or no? HAGEL: My reference to the surge -- MCCAIN: Are you answering the question, Senator Hagel? The question is were you right or wrong? That`s a pretty straightforward question. HAGEL: Well -- MCCAIN: I would like the answer whether you were right or wrong, and then you are free to elaborate. HAGEL: Well, I`m not going to give you a yes or no answer on a lot of things. MCCAIN: Well, let the record show you refused to answer that question. Now please go ahead. HAGEL: Well, if you would like me to explain why -- MCCAIN: I actually would like an answer. Yes or no? HAGEL: Well, I`m not going to give you a yes or no. I think it`s far more complicated than that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Senator McCain and a lot of Republican in Washington is banking on the lesson learned from the Iraq war, being that we should have started that war, we should have escalated that war, we should have kept that war going, and now, 10 years on, our only regret about the Iraq war should be that we`re not still there. And the only thing wrong with the whole Iraq war experience is that it had to end. I do not think that is what America thinks is the only thing that was wrong with the Iraq war. The country does not look back at the Iraq war and think, hmm, good move. The country does not wish we were still there. The country does not think the people who wanted to start the war and keep it going there were right. In the NBC poll at the end of the president`s first term, when Americans were asked, what is the single greatest accomplishment of President Obama`s first term in office, killing bin Laden came in second. What came in first was ending the Iraq war. Better than bin Laden. But the remaining diehard enthusiasts for the Iraq war, whose political careers survived even the end of that war, have an obvious self- referential reason to try to make the country believe that there is no real lesson learned from Iraq, that in fact it was an awesome idea and anyone against it has explaining to do about being against it. With bitter party of one John McCain taking point for the Republican Party on this, that weirdly revisionist agenda about Iraq today became the centerpiece of how they are trying to stop the defense secretary nomination of John McCain`s old friend Chuck Hagel. I do not think the country`s going to go along with him on this. But you can kind of see why they`d want to try to do it, right? Joining us now is Steve Clemons with the New America Foundation. Steve writes at "The Atlantic" magazine where he`s Washington editor at large. Steve, thank you so much for being here. STEVE CLEMONS, THE NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Good to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: In that face-off between John McCain and Chuck Hagel, we`re obviously seeing a great difference in temperament, a great difference in focus. But how do you -- A, how do you judge that face off? But how also do you compare the way these two men view the Bush-era wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? What`s the difference between them? CLEMONS: Well, a couple of things. First of all, Chuck Hagel probably deserves another Purple Heart after today`s hearing. And I think the other thing you saw, two great heroes, two titans of American senatorial politics really, John McCain and Chuck Hagel, who ripped apart over a very principal difference about deploying men and women in Iraq. And that is I think really the crux of it. I don`t think Hagel wanted to tell John McCain that oh, your policy may have appeared cosmetically to succeed in a really failed war that didn`t move the dial. And if you take a look at it, you know, Hagel snuck in some very important data points -- 1,200 Americans died during that time, thousands of others wounded. And by the way, if you take a look at the scene, much of the Sunni leadership in Iraq had been run out of the country by Maliki and the experiment looks fragile. So, you know, what did you get? And many people think it wasn`t the deployment of the U.S. forces, it was the essentially hiring or bribing, if you will, of young Sunnis that helped stabilize that. So, there`s a legitimate conversation that could be had. And John McCain didn`t want a conversation. He wanted to enforce an orthodoxy about his role and that war and that surge because that`s the dividing line for him about who`s a real patriot and who`s not. And that fundamentally was what much of the hearing was about today. Are you genuinely a patriot and see the world like we in the kind of national security hawk wing of the GOP do, or do -- but I think Hagel, you know, while he`s not going to be given credits for the most eloquent, you know, glad-handing senator or defense secretary? He seemed like a thoughtful sergeant who had been on the front line, who gave I think a very compelling set of reasons why this surge didn`t deserve a binary yes-no response. MADDOW: Steve, big picture, you`re talking about how John McCain made his role in the politics of this very central to today`s hearing, and I hear that`s absolutely what happened. And that`s absolutely one of the things that`s so important even beyond this nomination. I mean, looking at James Inhofe stumbling over trying to attack Chuck Hagel on nuclear issues and other things, looking at Kelly Ayotte not seeming to know very much about what she was talking about and we`ve been told to expect so much from her, seeing Ted Cruz come in there and try a sort of like cable news-style stunt -- CLEMONS: Yes. MADDOW: -- against Chuck Hagel that really fell flat. I mean, seeing John McCain amid his -- essentially his competition for the front-runner on foreign policy and national defense issues in the Republican Party, really it seems like he is still the guy who speaks for them with any level of credibility. And he is absolutely fixated on saying that the Iraq war was a good idea. And I wonder what you think that has as an impact in terms of broader Republican foreign policy politics. CLEMONS: Well, I think it keeps it a very narrow band. I found it very odd that in today`s hearing, you had so much discussion of Iraq and a war that has already happened and been shut down. Very little mention of Afghanistan, in which you still have 66,000 U.S. troops deployed, in which there are a lot of equities for the country to be sorted out. And you just didn`t seem to have an appetite or interest -- McCain did mention it very briefly, but that was about it today on Afghanistan, which is kind of a near and current concern for the country. And you`ve got U.S. servicemen and women. So we`re relitigating old conflicts in kind of a bizarre way. I do have to say that while Kelly Ayotte was tough, Kelly Ayotte, Jeff Sessions, Roy Blunt demonstrated that they could have differences with Hagel, they knew their stuff, and they demonstrated a civility in the way the Senate`s supposed to work, even if you don`t agree. I was shocked today by Inhofe who essentially asked Hagel if he was sort of a traitor to some degree in his comments and questions about the Iranian foreign ministry`s alleged support for Hagel, which they didn`t actually mention Hagel, but Drudge -- Matt Drudge said it was about Hagel and Inhofe took that in. It was a remarkable comment for someone that was a new steward, had stewardship responsibilities as the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. So I worry a little bit not only about the narrow band that John McCain casts over what we can discuss in national security issues. I also worry to some degree about a bizarre theater in one of the most important committees in the United States Senate. MADDOW: Yes. Seeing the blog world just spelled out -- I mean, I love blogs, but as a member of the senate on this committee with this point I would not be dragging that stuff into that hearing room. Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, Washington editor-at- large at "The Atlantic," thank you for being here, Steve. It`s always great to see you. CLEMONS: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got another packed show tonight, including the absolute best reason to watch the Super Bowl. With all due respect to the Ravens and the 49ers and Beyonce, we`ve got a better reason. Lots more to come. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: I would like for you as the committee is getting to know you, know something about your service in Vietnam and your combat experience. Were you wounded, Senator Hagel? HAGEL: I would respond this way. I -- I think my time is better served and maybe talk about more the specific things like Senator McCain asked me about. I had one fundamental question that I asked myself, on every vote I took, every decision I made. Was a policy worthy of the men and women that we were sending into battle and surely to their deaths? I did question a surge. It wasn`t an aberration to me ever. I always ask the question, is this worth being the sacrifice? Because there will be sacrifice. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Let`s bring into the conversation now, Joseph Cirincione. He`s president of the Ploughshares Fund, the global security corporation. He`s also a member of the council on foreign relations and he`s our go-to expert on nukes. Joe, thanks very much for being here. JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: My pleasure, Rachel. MADDOW: I specifically want to get your take on one issue that was broached today at the hearing over Senator Hagel where both sides did not seem to be talking about the same thing. Here`s a quick clip. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Senator Hagel has also been an outspoken supporter of the nuclear disarmament and the Global Zero Movement. Why would we want to unilaterally disarm ourselves of nuclear capability? HAGEL: The position of global zero, my position, some of the individuals, national security leaders, as Senator Nunn talked about, including himself, has never been unilateral disarmament, ever. Never. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joe, what are they fighting about here? CIRINCIONE: Yes. It`s -- Senator Hagel is exactly right. This is not about unilaterally taking apart our nuclear arsenal. Nobody is suggesting that. It`s about reducing it. It`s about adjusting our nuclear arsenal to the realities of the 21st century world. And the target of the conservative attacks on Senator Hagel was not actually Hagel himself today. It was President Obama, because Senator Hagel`s positions are identical to those of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, in fact, the vast majority of the security establishment in the United States. That we are stuck with an obsolete arsenal of nuclear weapons that have little relevance to the threats we face today of cyber security, of nuclear terrorism, of unrest in the Middle East. And every dollar that we`re spending on these nuclear weapons is taking money away from the troops, preventing us from giving the weapons that they really need. These senators are stuck in a position of defending a 20th century arsenal that has little relevance in today`s world. MADDOW: And hearing them read their talking points about this today, awkwardly read these talking points as if they do not come naturally to them and they have been told to read them made me feel like -- the reason I wanted you to hear Inhofe say it how awkwardly he said it is because it makes me wonder what constituencies these senators are speaking for, who believe that reducing the size of the nuclear weapons arsenal would be a bad thing, that thinks our 5,000th nuclear bomb is make us more safe than our 4,999th. Who are they speaking for? CIRINCIONE: That`s exactly right. There was a very awkwardness about the questioning. MADDOW: Yes. CIRINCIONE: And some of them clearly did not grasp the strategic situation they`re debating. I never thought I`d say this, but I miss Jon Kyl. Senator Kyl was a fierce defender of the weapons establishment, a fierce defender of every contract, every bomb. He wanted to build more nuclear weapons. But he knew what he was talking about and you didn`t get that sense seriously from anyone who was doing the questioning on a nuclear policy today. Some of these represent -- senators are representing defense contractors. They want to keep the bases in their state. They want to keep the contracts. Some of them are just trying to score a political point, to attack the president as weak and naive and dangerous and even treasonous, as you just suggested. But many of them are just stuck in this Cold War mentality and they can`t break out of it. It`s not just bayonets and battleships. It`s nuclear weapons have a decreasing relevance to the threats we face today. But here, you have these senators from the conservative wing of the party still clinging to this Cold War arsenal, this Cold War threat. So when they see somebody like Chuck Hagel, who`s willing to question assumptions, who`s thinking a new, who wants to state what exactly would we use a nuclear weapon for, how many do we need, can we do with 400, do we really need, as you say, 5,000 -- that`s very threatening to them and you saw that on display today. MADDOW: In terms of how they fit in to broader conservative politics on this, isn`t it true that more sort of establishment leading lights of Republican foreign policy are much closer to Chuck Hagel on this? I mean, they`ve tried to make Global Zero into some communist thing, but aren`t there a lot of big-name Republicans associated with that? CIRINCIONE: Absolutely. So, outside the Senate, when you go and you look at particularly former Republican officials on this, Colin Powell, completely with this agenda. George Shultz completely with this agenda. Henry Kissinger has joined Schultz and former Secretary Bill Perry and Sam Nunn, two Democrats, in leading the charge for a world free of nuclear weapons -- part of the inspiration for President Obama`s strategy. You see former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs siding with this, former leaders of the strategic command. They recognize we don`t need 5,000 nuclear weapons anymore. We can go to much lower numbers. The president of the United States is clearly on a path to doing that. And part of what you saw today was shots across the bow, trying to stop President Obama from continuing to modernize U.S. nuclear strategy, to reduce the cost and the expense and the saliency of this obsolete arsenal. MADDOW: Politically, it will be amazing if the Republican Party decides they want to go all Curtis LeMay on this issue. But I almost welcome it. Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund -- Joe, it is always great to have you here. CIRINCIONE: Thanks very much, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Republicans have gotten around recently to saying that they have a problem attracting women voters. What they are actually doing about that problem will not help with that problem. Details ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We love maps. Maps tell us important things like for example what parts of the country like which pro football teams according to Facebook? Hmm, people still like the Cowboys. Weird. We also love electoral maps. We just spent one solid year looking at them not change very much every single day. Thanks, Nate Silver. On the road, I still enjoy that old scrunched up road map all crumpled in the little side pocket thingy inside the driver`s door. Or maybe you`ve got a GPS, which can tell you exact where you need to go and how to get there each step of the way. That, of course, is cheating. But it is way accurate. Unless your GPS does not work, and you wind up here unexpectedly. Or hey, if things go really wrong, you wind up here, grounded in your 224-foot-long U.S. Navy minesweeper on an environmentally significant coral reef in the Philippines. It turns out there`s something way geekier and amazing about that story beyond just how that Navy minesweeper got stuck on that reef in the first place. That is straight ahead. Actually, if you keep left at the commercial and then you take the cloverleaf at the E block -- then it`s straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. After an election year in which Republican nominees serving in the United States Senate introduced America to the concept of legitimate rape and the idea that sometimes God wants rapists to impregnate their victims, after an election like that and its attendant inevitable electoral defeats, Republican strategists are now coaching their party to not do that anymore. They`re holding training programs and seminars with pollsters, all dispensing friendly advice to Republicans about how to stop talking in public about abortion and rape in ways that creep everybody out. Quote, "This is actually pretty simple. If you`re about to talk about rape as anything other than a brutal and horrible crime, stop." Stop yourself, congressman. Deep breath. Try some gum or maybe a lozenge. So that`s what`s happening at the national level. Republicans pleading with other Republicans to please for God`s sake stop talking the way you talk about women and rape and abortion. That`s the conversation in D.C. where outside the House of Representatives Republicans are out of power, and part of the reason they are out of power is their public embrace of hard-line fringe anti-abortion politics. But if you look outside D.C., to where Republicans really are in power, this year, in this legislative session in 2013, the hard-line fringe anti-abortion politics story is playing out totally differently than it`s playing out in Washington. In states where Republicans actually control government, there is not less emphasis right now on this stuff. Like there is in D.C. There`s more emphasis on it. 2013, so far, shows a whole new Republican offensive opening on abortion rights. Mississippi, as you know, is poised to become the first state where Republicans might successfully use state government to shut down the last abortion clinic left in that state. There is a handful of states that have only one clinic left. Mississippi is one of them. And Republicans there say they want to put that one remaining clinic out of business using regulations that are targeted to do just that. As they are getting closer and closer to maybe achieving that goal, that beleaguered last Mississippi clinic in recent days, look what they have done. They have painted themselves bright pink, fluorescent pink, Pepto pink. The clinic`s owner telling a local newspaper, quote, "It`s a woman`s color. It says we`re right here and we`re not going anywhere." They are clearly not going without a fight. But the clinic did get their notice today that the state Health Department intends to revoke their license. Meanwhile, outside of Mississippi, in another of the states that is down to just one clinic, Republicans in North Dakota are now deciding to pursue the same Mississippi strategy. They are trying to end access to abortion in their state altogether, by issuing new regulations that specifically target their one last clinic. They`re doing it exactly the same way as Mississippi. North Dakota Republicans started moving the legislation at the state level this week. Its new regulations targeting specifically the state`s one last clinic with new rules, same rules as Mississippi, that are designed to be impossible to comply with. So then they can shut that clinic down. They have almost completed this process in Mississippi, at least they think they have, and they are starting this process now in North Dakota. They are targeting first the states where women are down to one last clinic as their last remaining connection to something that is supposedly a constitutionally protected right for them. They`re only one clinic away from effectively outlawing abortion in some American states. In a country where constitutionally speaking that`s not supposed to happen. But it`s not only Mississippi and North Dakota. The Republican war on abortion rights that the Beltway press keeps saying is over is anything but over outside that Beltway. It is actually ramped up so far this year. Before this year, a handful of states had gotten away with passing bans on abortion at roughly 20 weeks. I say they got away with that because under Roe versus Wade, it`s widely agreed that those laws are not constitutional, but after getting away with it in a few states now the idea is spreading this year -- so far to Arkansas and Iowa and North Dakota and Virginia. Republicans in Ohio tried and failed to pass a ban on abortion effectively at about six weeks, which is often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. So, it`s effectively a total ban on most abortions. Ohio Republicans tried for that and failed last year. But this year they are trying it in Arkansas and Kentucky and Mississippi and North Dakota. Today, in fact, that measure passed the Arkansas Senate by a vote of 26-8. There are also fertilized egg is a person abortion bans that have been put forward this year already in North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia. This is the kind of ban that is likely to not just completely ban all abortion but to also affect birth control and even fertility treatment. It`s the kind of abortion and birth control ban that has failed every time it`s been put to a vote, a popular vote, including in 2011 by the voters of Mississippi. But it is being pushed right now in four states. There are new restrictions on how women are allowed to access medication abortions, the abortion pill. In Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Mississippi, and Texas 37 there are new forced ultrasound bills in Indiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Wyoming. There`s also that bill in New Mexico that seeks to ban abortions for rape victims specifically based on the assertion that the pregnancy is evidence of the rape and so a doctor can be sent to prison for tampering with that evidence. That one`s still truck right along. And in South Dakota, which already passed the longest in the nation 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortion, there`s a new bill this year to specify that 72 hours of waiting does not include weekends and holidays. You aren`t waiting when you`re waiting over those days. That is just a sampling of what has already been introduced in this session. Since the 2012 election in D.C., everybody`s focused on Republicans getting the message about trying not to be the radical fringe hard-line anti-abortion party anymore. But in the states this is not just Republicans not getting that message. This is a newly radical, newly aggressive push in the states that may have the rather immediate effect of effectively banning abortion into American states, maybe this year. Who cares if you learn to talk about it less if you are doing it this much everywhere that you are in charge? Joining us now is Nancy Northup. She`s president and CEO of Center for Reproductive Rights, which among other things helps embattled clinics in states like Mississippi and North Dakota fight against the laws that are meant to shut them down. Nancy, thanks for your time. NANCY NORTHUP, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS PRESIDENT: Thank you. MADDOW: Did I get anything wrong there? NORTHUP: No. And I was going to say thank you for covering this. Because as you point out, what`s going on in the states tends to sort of sail under the radar screen and we need to pay attention because as you pointed out, we`re having states that are on the battle of losing their last clinic. MADDOW: Well, let`s start with Mississippi there. Your organization is representing the clinic in a lawsuit against the state to try to block this new law that would shut down the clinic. What do you think your odds are? What do you think is the likelihood this clinic is going to actually get shut? NORTHUP: Well, that`s going to be up to the decision by the district court and eventually the higher courts. We feel we`re really strong in the facts of law. There`s no question that the state of Mississippi, the sponsor of the bill, the governor want to make Mississippi an abortion-free state, as they say. And so, this law was trumped up. They knew that doctors couldn`t meet the requirements, although Dr. Parker is a board-certified OBY-GYN everywhere he`s practiced in his long career. Mississippi knew he wouldn`t be able to get that status in that state. So, it`s trumped up, and I think the courts are going to take a look at it and see it for what it is, which is a backhanded way to try to take away the rights that Roe versus Wade protected and which saw the 40th anniversary of last week. MADDOW: I am struck by the fact that North Dakota, which also only has one clinic, is moving forward not just with the same type of law but with the exact same rule. Seeing how far it`s gone in Mississippi toward shutting down the last clinic in Mississippi, how tough that fight is and how far along we are there, they`re now doing the exact same thing in North Dakota. Do you think they saw this starting to succeed in Mississippi? Is that why we`re seeing it now pop up in this other state? NORTHUP: Well, I`d like to say it`s not succeeded yet in Mississippi because it`s blocked by the court. But yes, we see these copycat laws all over the country, because it is a coordinated effort throughout the states to stop the American women from being able to access their constitutional rights. So you`ll see it in the personhood laws are copycat laws, the -- you know, bans on medication abortion are copycat laws. And we`ve got to get them stopped. And it`s important that people pay attention even if they don`t live in Mississippi or South Dakota or North Dakota because it`s coming to a state near you. MADDOW: Well, how do you run a national campaign about individual states` efforts? I can see the argument for how those individual states end up not only copycats but also end up setting precedent in ways that embolden people in other states. But how do you convince people that want to defend abortion rights that national attention is still being focused on this, say, North Dakota TRAP law? NORTHUP: Because it`s the base I can notion that constitutional rights should be the same whether you live in Mississippi or you live in New York or California. MADDOW: Yes. NORTHUP: And think that people are beginning to say, we need to draw the line at what`s happening, we`re not going to let our sisters in Mississippi be deprived of something that is their constitutional right. And so, it`s paying attention wherever you live to say that we can`t have this anymore, we have basically a full assault on women`s constitutional rights and we can`t let, again, some of our sisters in some states not have the rights that others enjoy. MADDOW: Why do you think that we are seeing right now at the start of this new legislative session this big surge of some of the most extreme anti-abortion proposals? I mean, we always see a raft of legislation introduced. But I am struck that in so many states we`re seeing the most aggressive anti- abortion measures right at the beginning of the session. Why is that? NORTHUP: Well, because I think they`re seeing that the doors may be closed for a while in Washington. And so, they want to take it once again under the radar screen and get where they can. And again, it also exposes, and we saw this last year during the election season, that there is a very radical agenda of those who want to reverse Roe versus Wade, and they want to push that radical agenda because they think they have an advantage in certain states, because they control those state legislatures, and they want to go for it. You know, people often think, you know, it`s not really about reversing Roe. Well, it is. And these extreme bills show that it is. MADDOW: Seeing the national polling that a clear majority of Americans does not want Roe overturned, how does that affect your work? NORTHUP: Well, it`s really critical because it shows that despite the fact -- I mean, there`s a lot of reasons -- the decision to have an abortion, which one in three American women makes that decision, is a very personal one. So it`s not the kind of thing that people are talking about every day when they go out in public, but it shows that in fact, there is an enormous majority in this country that do not want to see these protections go away, that want to see this remaining a decision that women make with their families, their loved ones, their doctors. And so, that`s critically important because for years there`s been a story out there because the opposition is so aggressive and loud and extreme that that is in the ascendancy, but that`s is not the case. MADDOW: Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who fights these legal fights. Thanks for joining us tonight and helping us understand it. I appreciate it. NORTHUP: Thank you very much. MADDOW: All right. We have a moment of geek tonight what is not just pointless geekiness. It`s about a big news story, big deal news story that is happening on the Sulu Sea. Yes, I said Sulu. As if you need another reason to watch. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEYONCE: (SINGING NATIONAL ANTHEM) Thank you guys so much. Any questions? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Beyonce, who will perform at the super bowl halftime show this coming Sunday, and thus today had a press conference which turned into a press conference not just about the Super Bowl but about the inauguration last week, where Beyonce lip-synced the national anthem, because she had not rehearsed or sound-checked enough to want to sing live. And that, of course, turned into a controversy among people who have a very, very loose definition of the word "controversy." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEYONCE: Well, I am a perfectionist. And one thing about me, I practice until my feet bleed. And I did not have time to rehearse with the orchestra. It was a live television show and a very, very important, emotional show for me, one of my proudest moments. And due to the weather, due to the delay, due to no proper sound check, I did not feel comfortable taking a risk. It was about the president and the inauguration, and I wanted to make him and my country proud. So, I decided to sing along with my prerecorded track, which is very common in the music industry. And I`m very proud of my performance. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And so, yes, if you were wondering why she sang the national anthem at the press conference, it was both to prove that she can sing it live and boy howdy, can she sing it live. But also to say she will not be lip-syncing at the Super Bowl this upcoming weekend and so, the nation`s worst fears were allayed, or something. But here`s a bigger deal that is also pegged to the Super Bowl. But instead, it is about Newtown, Connecticut and about the families and kids who survived when a gunman armed with a Bushmaster assault rifle and multiple extended-capacity magazines killed 20 first-graders and six grown- ups at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. And he killed his mother and he killed himself. The families of Newtown last night testified for a bipartisan task force at the Connecticut State Assembly on gun violence. They held it in Newtown at a school gym. The hearing lasted for six hours. On Sunday at the Super Bowl -- yes, Beyonce will sing at halftime. But before that and before the singer Alicia Keys performs the national anthem at the start of the Super Bowl, 26 kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School are going to sing "America the Beautiful." at the Super Bowl. So watch the halftime show or, whatever suits you, but do not miss the pregame. Go, Sandy Hook. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHARACTER: Very interesting. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Very interesting. In the "Moment of Geek", it`s been too long, I have missed you. OK, if you are driving a car and you break down on the side of the road, you call a tow truck, right? And the two truck, which is tough pick up truck with rig with a fancy back end on it comes in and rescues you on the side of the road. If, however, you are a big right truck driver or a bus driver and your semi truck or your bus breaks down on the side of the road, you can`t just call a normal tow truck, right? Instead, you have to call one of these guys. You have to call the mega tow truck. You have to call the bigger stronger tow truck to deal with your bigger vehicle needing help. Who do you call if what you are driving when you break down on the side of the road is Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser? Nearly two football fields long and weighing 10,000 tons? If you break down in that, if you break down and need rescuing in a vehicle that looks like this? The tow truck that you call to rescue you is this guy. A U.S. Navy Safeguard class salvage ship. It is the coolest thing in the Navy. It is shorter than that missile cruiser. It is stouter. It is massively overpowered both for going forward and for going in reverse. Its haul is reinforced to be like one of those ice breaking ships. And when a U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser runs aground on a coral reef a half mile off the end of the runway at Honolulu airport, where all of the planes flying in and out of the airport get a perfect view of that humiliatingly, embarrassingly, totally stuck ship, when that is your particular roadside assistance need for your vehicle, if you are the U.S. Navy, what you call in is the baddest tow truck in the world. You call in something like the Salvor, the salvage ship to please help. When that U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser got stuck off the end of the Honolulu airport runway in February 2009, also embarrassing, it took three and a half long days to that get thing unstuck. They tried everything. They offloaded hundreds of tons of water, hundreds of tons of water, tons of equipment, they even unloaded all the sewage. They took the crew off. They took everything. But they couldn`t get it move. The salvage ship alone tried again and again and again to tow that ship off the reef without success. In the end, what did it is it took the salvage ship plus additional tug boats all pulling at once, all full throttling those huge engines all at once to get that ship yanked off the reef so everybody at the airport would stop pointing and laughing at the Navy and the Navy could get on with the business of firing that ship`s commanding officer. Giant ships do not run fast aground very often, particularly giant U.S. Navy ships do not do that very often. But when they do, salvage ships are the world`s most amazing tow trucks. They can do anything. They can fight fires on other ships. They can repair stuff that no one else can repair. They have dive teams on board that fix other ship`s broken propellers. They find lost bombs at the bottom of the sea. They retrieve downed aircraft that have sunk to the bottom of the sea. Who do you think does that? It`s salvage ships. Who knew? They also have the job of yanking ships off reefs when ships occasionally get stuck on reefs. And right now, that same salvage ship that yanked the guided missile cruiser off the reef a Honolulu aircraft, with help from seven tug boat friends, that same salvage ship is now in the Philippines where another U.S. Navy ship, a minesweeper this time has been stuck for two weeks now on a reef that is not just another coral reef, it is, in fact, a UNESCO world heritage site coral reef. Nobody really knows why the ship got stuck there. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency apparently maintained at least one navigational chart for that area that had the reef charted eight miles from where it actually was? Oops. But not all of their charts said that, and we`re not sure that this ship was using that chart. So, maybe that was the problem, but maybe not. The Navy is still investigating that part of it. It should be noted that another big ship, a Greenpeace ship, grounded on the same reef seven years ago and they blamed a bad map at the time as well, but we will see in terms of that investigation. This minesweeper though, meanwhile, is so incredibly stuck that the Navy is about to go to really extreme measures to fix the problem. The ship started off at first just stuck on the bow with the rest of the ship off the reef, just the front of it was stuck. They tried offloading everything heavy, offloading the crew, offloading water fuel, everything. They tried to tow it off at high tide once they unloaded everything. Nothing from the tugs, nothing from the bad ass from tow truck salvage ship, nothing from that ship and the tugs combined -- nothing worked. And eventually, the ship swung around and sheered into the reef. So not just the bow but the whole ship was stuck broadside and they cannot figure out how to get it unstuck. And so, now, they are doing something they never do. They are doing something that specifically they have done since 1971, when Typhoon Rose slammed in to Hong Kong Harbor and got a U.S. Navy supply ship so stuck that they could do nothing else. What the navy is about to do in the Philippines, the thing that is literally the last resort, the last thing they can do, the thing they never want to do, the thing they are about to do, if you were back in your car broke down on the side of the road, what they are about to do is the equivalent of deciding not to use the tow truck at all, but instead to call in the jaws of life for your car. They can`t tow this ship. They cannot fix this ship. So they are going to tear it apart. They haven`t done this in 40 years. But the new plan for dealing with the stuck U.S. Navy minesweeper on UNESCO world heritage coral reef in the Philippines is to have the salvage ship give up it`s recovery efforts for the ship and instead have these ships take offs take over, giant, giant, heavy lift crane ships. These two -- these two specifics -- these two specific ships are right now steaming toward the minesweeper stuck on the reef. The Navy told us today that that the first ones are probably going to be there on Saturday, and once it gets there, they are going to cut the minesweeper into pieces to get it out of there. It could take more than a month to cut it up. And when it is done, the U.S. Navy will no longer have 14 avenger class minesweepers. We won`t have 14, we will have 13. And we could owe the Philippines $300 per square meter of coral that we damage. And if this did happen because someone put the reef on the map eight miles wrong, then somebody in mapville is going to be in big, big trouble. We`ll keep you posted. 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