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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/11/13

Guests: Sherrod Brown, Victor Fehrenbach

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you very much. SCHULTZ: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining this hour. To those of you who are still snowed in on the East Coast, I salute you, and I empathize, barely escaped myself. A big thanks to Melissa Harris-Perry for filling in for me on Friday when I was snowed in. When Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he would resign as Pope, that he would abdicate the papacy, the move was greeted, frankly, with shock. That is something that has not happened in 600 years is happening right now. But it was also clear immediately that even though nothing like this has happened in 600 years, or 598 years to be exact, the Catholic Church nevertheless had a plan ready to go. Even though no Pope has resigned his seat since the year 1415, and this resignation announcement today from Pope Benedict was totally unexpected, despite all of that, there is apparently an agreed upon protocol for what happens in an instance like this. Once Pope Benedict leaves the Vatican on February 28th, the church says he will go live for a while in Castle Gandolfo, which is the Pope`s summer house in a small town outside of Rome. He will live at that castle while construction work is done on a cloistered monastery inside the Vatican complex. Then, when the construction is done, he will move back into the Vatican. And living in that cloistered monastery, provided that papal cloistering is like other kinds of cloistering, I think that means he will have no contact with the outside world while he lives there. He will be closed off. In any case, the cardinals will then meet, they say before the end of March, to choose Pope Benedict`s successor. And then we will have two living Popes, or one living Pope and an ex-Pope. But there is a plan. Before we goat the drama and the political and theological import of the choosing of the new Pope what is remarkable here just organizationally is that there is an agreed upon and accept wade forward in an instance like this. There is a plan for how this goes, this thing that last happened in the early 1400s. Is this like plan X, plan Y? This can`t possibly be any plans listed at the beginning of the alphabet. But they have a plan. We have only existed as a country since the late 1700s, which in world historical perspective is not long at all. Compared with the institutions and traditions of the Catholic Church, we as a nation are a spring chicken. But within our own timetable of American history, our national history, one of the most ancient rituals and traditions that we have as a nation is something that will happen tomorrow night, the State of the Union address. The State of the Union is one of those very specific things like the post office or the census that is called for explicitly in the United States Constitution. Article 1 in the Constitution is about the Congress, the legislative branch. Article 2 is about the presidency. Article 3 is the judicial branch. And the part of the Constitution that calls for the State of the Union message is in Article 2, Section 3. It says the presidential from time to time give to the congress information about the State of the Union. And since it is in the Constitution, we have been doing this from the very beginning. The first one was January 1790, George Washington. He delivered his State of the Union address to congress. He made his recommendations to them for action. George Washington was, of course, the first president. John Adams was the second president. By the time we got to the third president, Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson thought the whole speech to Congress thing was actually a little showy, made the president too king-like for his taste. So Jefferson decided to meet this particular constitutional obligation in writing, rather than by giving a speech. That tradition held sway for more than 100 years until 1913, when the speaking tradition of the State of the Union was revived in what was a controversial move at the time by President Woodrow Wilson. So, Wilson`s innovation was really I guess the major innovation in this ancient ritual that we have as a nation. The return to it being delivered in speech form, which happened in 1913. The only other major innovation that we have had over the centuries started in 1966. That`s when the party that is not the president`s party started giving, in effect, a rebut toll the State of the Union. The Republicans started it when LBJ was president. They started it in 1966. The top Republican in the House and the top Republican in the Senate, Everett Dirksen and Gerald Ford, they wanted to critique LBJ`s State of the Union. So they went on television right after his speech, and they gave a Republican response. They thought it was so successful that first year that the same two Republicans responded to LBJ`s speech again the following year. And then apparently drunk with their own success, the third year that they did it, they had 17 Republicans responding to LBJ -- 17. When Nixon became president the following year, Democrats had their first chance to do their own party`s rebuttal. And in their first response, they had seven Democrats respond to Nixon. Do you get the feeling that it was becoming a little bit of a circus, you are not alone. And the young tradition of the opposite party`s response to the State of the Union died after the first couple of years there. Apparently it died of its own top-heaviness. And it was dead for most of the next decade. Eventually, though, the president getting all that unanswered air time and attention proved too much for Washington`s partisans, and the State of the Union responses started up again after the 1970s. And now, it is well-established that every year, the party out of power, the party who does not hold the White House will offer a response. After more than a generation of doing it this way, it feels like almost as much as a tradition as the State of the Union itself. The rebuttal address or response address from the other party is carried by all of the networks that carry the State of the Union itself. It`s treated with essentially the same gravitas. And to be named as the respondent to the State of the Union for your party, that is considered a real elevation within your party. I mean, you essentially bookend the president`s remarks. You alone are responsible for embodying and articulating your own party`s coherent unified alternative to what the country has just heard from the president. Or at least you used to be. Because now, Republicans have come up with yet another innovation for this most ancient American political ritual. They were the first ones who came up with the rebuttal address in 1966. And now since Barack Obama has been president, they have come up with a new idea -- the idea of doing not just a rebuttal to the president`s State of the Union address, but also a rebuttal to their own rebuttal. What? Yes. For the third year in a row now, Republicans are rebutting themselves as well as rebutting the president. What could possibly go wrong? The first year was 2011 when Minnesota congresswoman and eventual presidential candidate Michele Bachmann gave not the Republican Party response, but the Tea Party Republican response to the Republican response to President Obama`s State of the Union while making meaningful eye contact with something other than the camera that was pointed at her. That was the first one. The year after that, the Tea Party Republican response to the Republican response to the State of the Union was given by pizza company executive Herman Cain. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And so I say in response on behalf of the Tea Party and citizens, people across this country, with all due respect, Mr. President, some of us are not stupid. The State of the Union is not good. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Hermanator making his mark on the Republican Party`s new attempted tradition of self-rebutting schismatic State of the the response responses. Less you think the 2012 election changed anything in Republican Party politics, in case all the anti-abortion legislation in the states has not been persuasive enough, in case the reelection of party chairman Reince Priebus by acclimation is not persuasive enough, in case the persistent efforts at the state level to make voting harder even now in case those efforts have not been persuasive enough -- let it be known that nothing at all has changed in Republican Party politics, even after the 2012 election. And they are sticking with the idea this year of having not just a Republican Party response to the State of the Union, but a Tea Party Republican response to the Republican response to the State of the Union again. This year the inheritor of the Michele Bachmann/Herman Cain legacy will be United States Senator Rand Paul. The official Republican Party response will be delivered by another guy who we are told is a Tea Party senator, Marco Rubio. But Marco Rubio is giving the Republican response and Rand Paul is giving the Tea Party Republican response to the Republican response. Capisce? It is hard to tell at this point whether or not the Republican Party still has the wherewithal to be annoyed at its own members being this self- serving, whether or not they care. This throws kind of a wrench in the works, right, in terms of the Republican Party`s efforts to portray itself as having a coherent, unified alternate vision to what President Obama is offering. I mean, if you like an alternative vision that is presented after the State of the Union this year, which one do you pick? If you`re in the market for a Republican message, which one is being offered? And then how do you demonstrate that you like that message? How do you vote? What do you do? On the other side of the aisle, Democrats and the White House are trying to make the most this year of the attention surrounding the president`s speech. They are doing everything they can to use the speech for maximum political effect. The White House has already announced that after the State of the Union, the president will get on the road to push for the policies he unveils in the speech tomorrow night. He will head to Asheville, North Carolina, on Wednesday. He will travel to Atlanta on Thursday. He will travel to Chicago on Friday. That`s the sort of thing that presidents have done in years past. But this year in addition, Organizing for Action, which is the group formed out of the Obama campaign, they`re organizing watch parties in neighborhoods all around the country to get the president`s supporters to watch the speech together. The president himself immediately after he is finished delivering the State of the Union, he will get on a conference call that night with supporters and with members of Organizing for Action. The president will also participate in what Google is calling a Fireside Hangout, kind of a riff on the Fireside chat. On Thursday afternoon, somewhere between North Carolina and Georgia, he is going to be taking questions on Google Plus. In terms of invited guests at the State of the Union this year, traditionally the first lady invites a number of outside guests to sit with her during the speech. It`s both an honor in itself, and it is to symbolize some of the proposals the president will discuss in the speech. This year, the first lady`s guests will include Army Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor in one of the deadliest battles in the war in Afghanistan. After attending the funeral this weekend of Hadiya Pendleton, the young Chicago honor student who was shot dead in Chicago just a week after she performed as a majorette in the president`s inauguration parade in Washington, D.C., just after attending the young woman`s funeral this weekend, the first lady, Michelle, will be hosting her mother, Hadiya Pendleton`s mother as one of the guests for the president`s speech. Interestingly, a number of the Democratic members of the House, Democratic members of Congress, I should say, both Houses, have also announced that they have given tickets to the speech to relatives and friends of people who have been killed by gun violence. Including relatives and friends of victims of the Aurora mass shooting, Aurora, Colorado, and the Newtown mass shooting from December, and the Tucson mass shooting. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband will be attending as guests of her replacement in Congress Ron Barber, who was Gabby Giffords` staffer and who was himself wounded in the Tucson shooting. They`ll also be guests of Senator John McCain. Gabby Giffords` political action group, the group she formed with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly asks -- Americans for Responsible Solutions. Americans for Responsible Solutions cut this ad, which is going to be running after the State of the Union apparently on FOX and MSNBC and CNN. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FORMER REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: We have a problem, where we shop, where we pray, where our children go to school. But there are solutions we can agree on. Even gun owners like us. Take it from me. Congress must act. Let`s get this done. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In addition to running after the State of the Union tomorrow night on cable networks, that ad is scheduled to air on local broadcast TV in Washington, D.C. According to the group that produced the ad, they`re also planning on running this in local media markets, reaching the constituents of all four top congressional leaders from both Houses and both parties. So that`s Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner. In response I think to the number of Democrats and the first lady bringing victims of gun violence with them as guests to the State of the Union this year, to highlight that issue, one Republican member of Congress this year has decided to do his part to advance the serious consideration of gun violence and lawful gun ownership in America by inviting as his guest for the State of the Union this gentleman. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: Hey, Obama, you might want to suck on one of these, you punk! Obama, he`s a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and I told him to suck on my machine gun. Let`s hear it for him. And then I was in New York, I said, I said, hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless (EXPLETIVE DELETED). (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mr. Ted Nugent is a musician. I believe he is still mostly known for "Cat Scratch Fever", but I could be wrong. He was investigated by the Secret Service last year after telling an NRA convention in April of 2012, quote, "If Barack Obama is elected, I`ll either be dead or in jail this time next year." Texas Congressman Steve Stockman has invited Ted Nugent to be his guest for the State of the Union. But if you think about what he got in trouble for with the Secret Service last year, "If Barack Obama`s elected I`ll either be dead or in jail this time next year," if you think about that, given that it`s February, that means we only have two months left of Ted Nugent, by his own account. Maybe one of those nights tomorrow will be in Washington at the State of the Union, courtesy of a Republican congressman who thought it was good to invite him. State of the Union is always an amazing and historic night in American politics. It is one of our oldest and I think best civil rituals as a nation. But this year, it`s going to be even more of a hoot than usual. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought and several thousand gave their lives. We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. (APPLAUSE) For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was President Obama`s last State of the Union address January 24th of last year, just weeks after the last U.S. troops had left Iraq for the last time. In the run-up to this year`s State of the Union address, just this weekend, the weekend before the first State of the Union of President Obama`s second term, this is what happened in Afghanistan. This is the change of command ceremony in Afghanistan, General John Allen handing over command of U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan to a new commander, to General Joseph Dunford. This is the 14th time that command has transferred in the Afghanistan war, because that war has been going on for that long. General John Allen is on his way out as commander. He is handing over the leadership. If all goes as planned, if everything goes as expected, General Dunford is going to be the last person to have this job. He will be the 15th of 15 U.S. commanding generals for this war in Afghanistan. As such, a substantial portion of what he`ll be responsible for as commander will be leaving, the huge logistical feat of getting us after fighting there for 12 years. Is that going to be a focal point of tomorrow`s State of the Union address? We do not know. We are now in the managing expectations and strategic leaking and even strategic disinformation part of the process. We`re told, for example, to expect a message of economic populism in tomorrow night`s speech, picking up themes offered in the president`s inaugural address just three weeks ago. That said, we were also told by a front page above the fold story in "The New York Times" today to expect the president to talk tomorrow night about reducing the number of nuclear weapons that we have. And that then that was flat-out denied this afternoon by the White House. They said no, that`s not in the speech. So really, we do not know what is going to be in the president`s speech tomorrow. There`s no reason to not just wait to hear it. Our coverage, by the way, starts at 8:00 Eastern tomorrow night. But in terms of what we know the president wants to get done in his second term, what his priorities are, what the priorities are of the Democratic Party, what are the issues that would be best served by having the president hit them explicitly in this speech? And are there issues that the president wants to make progress on in this term for which it actually makes more sense to leave them out of the speech all together? Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Senator Brown, it`s great to see you again. Thanks for being here. SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be back. Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: What do you think about this idea that the president himself has talked about sometimes, which is that sometimes there are things that Republicans say they want, and then once President Obama comes out and says, "Yes, I want that too," they change their mind and they run from them. I`m thinking about things like cap-and-trade and individual mandate and health reform, even some elements of immigration reform that Democrats and the president now support, the Republicans used to support and they have run from. Are there issues like that that the president has on his plate right now that would be better for him to not put his imprimatur on by putting it in this speech? BROWN: No, I think the president is -- I think the inauguration showed that. The election showed that the president needs to step forward, and it`s his agenda we should be talking about and debating. It doesn`t mean the House and the Senate obviously adopt everything that he wants to do. I think you go back, Rachel, to the December 31st tax deal. It really was ultimately -- it wasn`t everything we wanted, but it was an affirmation that trickle-down economics doesn`t work. It hasn`t worked for our lifetimes, and you grow the economy from the middle class out. I think that`s what that vote on December 31st at the end of the year on the tax issues showed. I think that`s the way -- I think that`s what the elections said. That`s what polling shows. And that`s what voters and citizens of this country want to hear the president talk about. It means it`s a manufacturing agenda. It`s a jobs agenda. It needs to be all about that. MADDOW: You have really made a centerpiece of your time in office a lot of different economic populist issues, manufacturing you were just talking about, trade, other issues about jobs effectively for your Ohio constituents. Are there issues where you felt like you and the president had different agendas in the first term? Are there issues where you would like to see the president move where he hasn`t been there yet and you`re expecting him -- you`re expecting that he may move more toward your way of seeing things in the second term? BROWN: Yes, sure. Tomorrow night my guest for the State of the Union will be a steelworker from Cleveland from a company called ArcelorMittal in downtown Cleveland. She has been a steelworker at that company for a number of years. That plant, that mill in Cleveland is the first time in world history where one person hour of labor produced one ton of steel. That had never happened before. So we have the most productive. We have some of the most productive workers in the world. It means we need to do something like the president`s and my national network of the manufacturing innovation. The first one of those was located in Youngstown a few months ago. We expect the president I hope tomorrow night to announce a series of them around the country. It`s not the only part of a jobs agenda. It`s infrastructure, it`s better job training. It`s working to in-source, if you will, some of the jobs that have gone offshore. Senator Levin from Michigan has been a real leader in pointing out all the kind of tax breaks that the tax code has put -- included in the tax code over the years that give far too many incentives for companies to move offshore, not bring jobs back. And there is real potential there. And I hope the president where he has not gone far enough. He has been more aggressive than his predecessors in enforcing of trade laws. But he has still not really been where we ought to be on a trade policy that works for workers, works for American companies, American manufacturers, and ultimately strengthens our community. We`ve gained back manufacturing jobs in the last three years. But we lost far too many in the decade before that. And that`s not the solution to everything, but it really is a ticket to the middle class for millions of working class Americans. MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, thank you so much for being here tonight. I really appreciate it, sir. BROWN: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. We got lots more ahead, including something of a backwards milestone in civil rights. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service posted this map of the predicted snowfall expected to arrive the following day in the Northeast. That very, very pale pink section covering nearly the entire area of this map, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode island, that signified 18 to 24 inches of predicted snow. By 5:00 on Friday, the Weather Service had to go so far down the color key that they had to break out the white. Look, they had to go colorless for a big swath of the map. And indeed, Mother Nature brought it -- over two feet in the Boston area and other areas getting as much as 30 inches or more, if you ask my mother-in-law. It was a full-on blizzard, and it is still a huge mess in much of New England. But you know what else is turning into a real mess in New England, in Massachusetts specifically? The Republican Party. And this weekend`s big beyond the color code blizzard did absolutely nothing to help that very specific situation. And that story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Republicans still do not have the votes to stop President Obama`s nominee to be the new secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel. Whether or not they filibuster him, they don`t have the votes, although at least one Republican senator is threatening to try a filibuster anyway. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is also now threatening to put a hold on the Hagel nomination, even though there is no precedent for that ever. No cabinet nomination has ever been filibustered or held by a senator. While Lindsey Graham is making the decision as to whether or not he wants to be famous forever for doing something nobody else has ever done in the history of the Senate in order to block Chuck Hagel, the current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is on his way out. They gave Mr. Panetta his ceremonial sendoff on Saturday, though it looks like he`ll probably be in charge of the Pentagon for another week or so. Leon Panetta`s time at the Pentagon has been a period of lasting change for the U.S. military. After the end of the Iraq war, he has overseen the beginning of the end of America`s longest war ever in Afghanistan. The Clinton era policy of "don`t ask, don`t tell" ended under Leon Panetta`s watch, at his recommendation that the nation allow openly gay people to be a part of the military. Last year, Secretary Panetta took steps to reform the way the military deals with sexual assault in its ranks, going as far in those reforms as he could without help from Congress. He also opened new assignments in the military, new roles for female soldiers. Last month, with the end of his term near, he proclaimed an end to the ban on women in combat, full stop. Well, today in a new memo, the outgoing defense secretary, Leon Panetta, made another historic change, saying that discrimination based on sexual orientation no longer has a place in the military. Secretary Panetta ordered that gay service members and their families be eligible for as many of the benefits that other families get as is possible under the law -- benefits like being able to shop at stores on a military base, benefits like getting assigned to the same place if your spouse is also in the military. Things like visiting your spouse in the hospital or being notified in the case of the very worst news. Those steps are as far as Leon Panetta can go under current law. And this is remarkable. Look at this. This is from the memo today. He writes, quote, "In the event that the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer applicable to the Department of Defense, it will be the policy of the department to construe the words `spouse` and `marriage` without regard to sexual orientation. And married couples, irrespective of sexual orientation and their dependents will be granted full military benefits." It`s remarkable, right? It`s Leon Panetta saying that today`s list of 40 or so new benefits for equal treatment for gay soldiers and their families is as far as the military can take this equality thing right now. But that the military would like to go the rest of the way right now. They would like to equalize all benefits. The reason they can`t go further is a law called the Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by President Clinton, and President Clinton now disavows it. To some extent, the question of whether or not the military is going to be as equal as it wants to be depends on the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is going to hear challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act next month. The question also depends on Congress. And that`s because the Obama administration has decided to not defend that law. The Obama administration says they believe that DOMA is unconstitutional. They will not defend it. It is House Republicans specifically who are defending that law in court at the direction of Republican Speaker John Boehner, using your tax dollars. This is Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, member of the New Hampshire National Guard. After serving for the better part of two decades, after deploying overseas, after leaving behind her partner and their young daughter for a year while she served in Kuwait, Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan asked for a meeting with Speaker John Boehner. She told the speaker that she had stage 4 breast cancer, inoperable. She told him that her own father had served in the Army and was killed in a car wreck in an accident as he was getting ready for deployment in Vietnam, when she was just a little kid. Officer Morgan writing, quote, "My mom and I received V.A. and Social Security benefits as a result of his death. Those benefits put a roof over our head, food in our bellies, and clothes on our backs." She wanted to make the case to John Boehner that her family now, as she faced death, should qualify for the same treatment honoring her service. Speaker Boehner did not meet with Charlie Morgan. He sent a staffer instead. Officer Morgan told the "Advocate" magazine afterward that the staffer was, quote, "very empathetic". But he told her that -- excuse me, the staffer told her that John Boehner would continue to defend DOMA. And he did continue to defend DOMA, That was February 2012, a year ago almost to the day. Charlie Morgan was able to be out. She was able to ask Congress to consider her situation because the ban on gay people in the military was ended. This video was made by a project called Legal Stranger, because that is how the law still views troops like Charlie Morgan and specifically, her family, her wife. That was the story Ms. Morgan was trying to tell Congress. In this next clip, you can tell how the cancer she was fighting was affecting her voice. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER CHARLIE MORGAN: What I wanted to tell you personally and with Karen here was that she has given me a part of a blessing of six months. SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I had actually heard that. MORGAN: With that being said, I just want to talk to you and ask you this -- I love Karen, and I just want the make sure she is taken care of. I`m asking you personally to do everything you can to make sure if I don`t make this, that somehow she will be taken care of with those benefits that we`re not able to have right now. I hope that Casey grows up in an environment where they`ll look back at this and say, wow, you know, this is crazy that they had to go through that. But I hope that sees that her parents are proud enough to step up and fight for her equality as well. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Around Thanksgiving, Charlie Morgan told "The Washington Post" that she was praying that the Supreme Court would hear the challenge to DOMA quickly. She said, quote, "I really need to be alive when they actually do overturn DOMA. Otherwise Karen is not guaranteed anything." Charlie Morgan did not make it that far. She died on Sunday morning. She was 48 years old. "The Washington Post" reports that her widow Karen will not receive survivor benefits. The paper also notes that in ordinary times, Charlie and Karen would have been glad for the new executive order allowing the family to shop on military bases. We asked today whether Officer Charlie Morgan had heard about the changes that Secretary Panetta was preparing to announce today. The answer is that it appears she had not. She apparently had not heard about it. It`s a very sad story. For many people, it is an enraging story. But it is not a finished story. Hold on, there is more. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Check out this picture. This picture was taken December 21st, 2010. That`s then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signing a bill that was passed by the House so it can be officially sent to the president`s desk to become law. Did you know that speaker of the House has to sign every bill passed by Congress before the president does? That usually does not happen in a big public ceremony, but this time it did. Because what Nancy Pelosi is signing there is the official repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell." On the far right of the picture you can see Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California. She was one of the chief proponents of repeal in the U.S. Senate. On the far left of the picture, let`s see, there is Major Mike Almy from the air force, and who is the hairless guy? Ah, the gentleman smiling from ear to ear, that would be Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach. He has been a guest on this show. Colonel Fehrenbach came out nationally on this show in May 2009, a year before the "don`t ask, don`t tell" repeal was signed into law. At that time, Colonel Fehrenbach was just being informed he was being discharged from the military for being gay. He was a highly decorative Air Force fighter pilot with extensive combat experience. He was just two years short of his retirement, but the U.S. military launched an investigation into his personal life. They determined he was gay and then they went about kicking him out. Victor Fehrenbach fought that discharge. He filed a lawsuit contending that "don`t ask, don`t tell" was unconstitutional. And the moral urgency of stories like his ultimately resulted in "don`t ask, don`t tell" being repealed. More than a year after appearing on this program, Victor stood alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she sent that repeal on to President Obama. And then nine months later, after a year`s long struggle, Victor Fehrenbach officially retired from the U.S. Air Force with the full military benefits that he earned. Since his retirement, Victor has started grad school, and just very recently, very recently, he has started a new job at the U.S. State Department. He is also now the author of a brand-new book about his journey, which is called "Out of the Blue". We`ve got a link to it posted of at our Web site today. And it was from Victor yesterday morning that I first learned that his friend and his fellow combatant in the fight for equality in the military, Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, had died yesterday from the breast cancer that she had fought for so long. She lived long enough to see the end of "don`t ask, don`t tell," but not long enough to see the end of the Defense of Marriage Act. And that law bans her wife, now her widow from receiving the same benefits that other military families would receive in such a sad circumstance. Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach joins us tonight for the interview. Victor, thank you for being here. LT. COL. VICTOR FEHRENBACH (RET), U.S. AIR FORCE: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: I know you were good friends with Charlie, who died yesterday. How would you describe her role, what she was fighting for alongside you? FEHRENBACH: Well, we met just over a year ago, right about the time that you talked about where she met with John Boehner`s staff and frankly enough, she told me a story that while she was deployed in Kuwait, she sat and she watched you and I at this table telling my story. And she told me that thank you, by the way, for letting me tell my story, because she said it inspired her. She said when "don`t ask, don`t tell" is repealed, she`ll come out and she`ll tell her story about her family and her fight and her struggles. And I think she made a huge difference. MADDOW: She did come out. The day of repeal -- FEHRENBACH: Absolutely. MADDOW: -- she herself got on television for the first time ever. FEHRENBACH: I think her story, you know, made a big difference in changing hearts and minds. I know people, no matter what their religious affiliation or their political affiliation were, when I told Charlie`s story to them, they just said that`s not right. MADDOW: Right. FEHRENBACH: And it changed their minds. And so, she made a huge impact. I know I was heartbroken yesterday. Not just because she died. We all knew she was dying. But we wanted her to live to see March, to see the Supreme Court take up DOMA, to live until June to see DOMA finally overturned by the Supreme Court. That wasn`t meant to be. And now, you know, you saw in the video one of her greatest fears was she would die and then her wife Karen and her daughter Casey Elena would not be cared for. So I think some of the steps that we saw Secretary Panetta take today, those are going to help thousand of people. They`ll be enacted in the summertime. But it wasn`t in time to help Charlie`s family. MADDOW: And they`ve gone as far as they can, but the main benefits, things like, you know, on-base housing and the kinds of benefits that would make a lifetime of difference to Charlie`s child and to her wife -- FEHRENBACH: Right. MADDOW: -- those benefits, the Pentagon no matter how much they want to, they can`t do those things -- FEHRENBACH: Right. MADDOW: -- because they are precluded by law because of DOMA. FEHRENBACH: And Secretary Panetta and the president, they did all they could under the law. And that`s what a lot of people don`t understand. Here is another story Charlie told me. She said when she was doing her lobbying, she went to see Senator Shaheen. We saw that on the video. She also went to see her then congressman from New Hampshire. And she told her story. And the congressman said oh, but you`re OK. You live in New Hampshire. You`re legally married in New Hampshire. That`s legal. So you`re taken care of. So her congressman didn`t even know that her wife was treated as a second class citizen and didn`t enjoy the benefits that other military families enjoyed. So if the congressman didn`t know, you know, the American public has no idea. So we need to continue telling Charlie`s story. MADDOW: The reason that I wanted to play that particular clip of her lobbying Jeanne Shaheen there, Jeanne Shaheen obviously somebody who has been very supportive of her. But you see when she tells Jeanne Shaheen her diagnosis, and the senator responds by saying, "I`m so sorry, I`m so sorry to hear about this." And you can see Charlie essentially being like, yes, I know you`re sorry. I don`t need you to be sorry. I need you to go fast. FEHRENBACH: Do something. MADDOW: There is some urgency here there. FEHRENBACH: There is. MADDOW: Looking ahead to the State of the Union is tomorrow. This is the president who repealed "don`t ask, don`t tell." The outgoing secretary ended the end of women in combat, oversaw the implementation of the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell," took all these actions on previously taboo subjects like sexual assault in the military, there is this sense that things are moving fast. What do you think given your experience both in the military and as an advocate is the way to make the motion go faster? FEHRENBACH: Just what I did, just what your other guests did, just what Charlie did, is tell our stories. You know, I wrote an op-ed in "The Huffington Post" today as well, because I said, you know, the clock is ticking. We see change accelerate. I think the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell" started that. We see the vote in the British parliament, an overwhelming vote. We saw the Supreme Court decision in New Mexico. We have seen the changes that were announced today -- the changes are happening faster. But we could all sit idly back and watch the clock tick away, or we can do something about it. We can become more active. We can stand up. We can tell our stories and we can vote, things like that. You know, one of the things that are standing in our right now, as you mentioned, Speaker John Boehner is defending DOMA, is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. As we speak, we can vote, we can make changes in the House and make the law if the Supreme Court doesn`t overturn it. I think it will. But I don`t think we see these changes happening faster unless more of us come forward and tell stories, because that`s the way to change hearts and minds. MADDOW: Didn`t you grow up right near his district? FEHRENBACH: Yes, he is my congressman. MADDOW: He doesn`t want to talk with you about this either. FEHRENBACH: No, no. That`s why -- maybe, I would love to see the president mention Charlie Morgan`s name with the speaker over his shoulder, because you know, he sent the staff to speak with Charlie but didn`t do it himself. And maybe if the president mentions her story, maybe that will change his mind, as well. MADDOW: Speaker Boehner, if you would like to get in touch with retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, I have their numbers. Even though I`m not supposed to give them out, in this case, I will. FEHRENBACH: Please do. MADDOW: Victor Fehrenbach, thank you so much. It`s great to see you, man. FEHRENBACH: Thanks again, Rachel. Good to see you. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: No matter where you live, you have surely seen and heard what happened in New England over the weekend. Here is a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW specific related sample. This is the childhood home of proud Massachusetts native and show producer, Mike Yarvitz. His folks still live there. As you can see there, that`s the top of the mail box. And oh, my stars, that is a stop sign, not a child-sized hip-length stop sign, a real life stop sign and the snow goes almost all the way to the top. That`s just outside of Boston yesterday. Now, this is Summerville, Massachusetts, on Saturday, Saturday morning, before the roads have been properly plowed, before the sidewalks have been shoveled, while there was still a driving ban in effect for the whole state. But these hearty souls were out with their card table, in the snow, canvassing, collecting signatures. It takes more than two feet of snow to stop politics in Massachusetts right now and there is a reason for that. When John Kerry became secretary of state, he had to resign his seat in the U.S. Senate. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick then appointed a man named Mo Cowan to hold that seat until the special election to be held June 25th to fill the seat permanently. As a condition of being picked for the place holder job, Mo Cowan says he will not run in the special election. So that means that both parties have to pick their candidates and fast. The deadline is roughly two weeks from now for any candidates in the special election to turn in 10,000 signatures to get their names on the Massachusetts ballot. That`s a long way to go and a short time to get there. On the Democratic side, there are two guys in for a while now. The more conservative Democratic Congressman Steven Lynch, and the more liberal Democratic congressman, Ed Markey. On the Republican side, though, that has been more complicated. The frontrunner, of course, was this guy, former Senator Scott Brown, who just months ago lost his seat in the Senate to Democrat Elizabeth Warren. He lost by eight points. It turns out he is not running, we know that because he said that in this text message, because that`s what he`s like. Also, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld is not running, possibly because of the memories of his own previous run for Senate in the state, which he also lost by eight points. That was followed by Bill Weld running for governor again, but in a different state. He ran for governor in New York after he lost the Massachusetts Senate race and he lost the New York governor`s race, as well. Bill Weld, also not running this time, and Scott Brown, not running this time. Also not running, this man, Tagg Romney, one of the Romney sons. "The Boston Herald" floated the Tagg Romney for Senate idea just a few months after his dad lost the state of Massachusetts by 23 points. But, now, despite "The Boston Herald" wanting him to run, Tagg will not be running. And neither will be a gay Republican former state legislator who lost to state race this year, and neither will be Mitt Romney`s lieutenant governor who lost the role for governor herself, after Mitt Romney left office to go start running for president for a decade. Also, a man from FOX News, who writes books with Glenn Beck, he said that he was going to run, but now he is not, even though that might have been amazing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: Psychic twins. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We wrote everything in detail that would transpire with 9/11. NARRATOR: Predicted the unthinkable. DR. KEITH ABLOW, FOX NEWS: What did you do when you`re possessed of the knowledge that people would perish? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were terrified. NARRATOR: Now, they shared their gift with Dr. Keith. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Psychic twins! Dr. Keith will not be the next Republican senator from Massachusetts. He had said that he would run if the state party promised that he could just have the nomination without having to win it. But when nobody agreed, that he should just get the nomination without having to compete for it, he backed out. Pity. So who is running then? Who is willing to be it had every famous Republican in the whole state is running as fast as they can from this race, yelling not it, not it. And we`ve now started to go through a whole lot of Republicans we never heard from and never heard of, they`re all saying not it, as well. Who is left? Remember, two weeks left to go now to get 10,000 signatures. And the process of getting signatures in Massachusetts looks something like that right now. Well, so far there is one Republican state representative who says he will run. He has never run for statewide office before and has zero name recognition. Also, there is a second Republican candidate today who picked up the nomination papers to start his run, as well. He also has zero name recognition, has never run for office and is only known political history is he said he voted for Barack Obama, and is listed publicly as a donor to several different Democratic Party candidates as recently as last year. So, that`s what the Republicans have got for the John Kerry seat, for the statewide election in the country after the presidential election. They`ve got a state rep who nobody has heard of and another guy who has never run for anything, who nobody has heard of. That`s it. That said, consider who they have to work with. This is the Facebook page for the state Senate Republican caucus in Massachusetts. That`s not like a sub-group of them. That`s all of them. There are precisely four Republicans in the Massachusetts state Senate and more than four times as Democrats. In the House, same deal, look, about four times as many Democrats as Republicans in the statehouse. The Massachusetts Republican Party does not have what you would call a deep bench. Their two totally unknown would-be candidates for U.S. Senate now have two weeks to get 10,000 signatures amid historic piles of snow and nobody going anywhere. What are the odds? That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern, which is when the special coverage of the State of the Union begins. Again, it all starts tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern. Now, it is 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