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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/13/13

Guests: Rick Hasen

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is starting right now. Good evening, Rachel. Great to have you -- great job last night, again. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Ed. I have to tell you, I`m having a little trouble with my audio right now. So we`ll see how my show goes tonight. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: If you can hear me, you can just give me gestures. SCHULTZ: OK. Well, I`ve been talking for 35 years. I can probably fill some audio for you if you need me to. MADDOW: I think I`m all right, as listening as I hold perfectly still. All right. SCHULTZ: You sound fantastic as always. MADDOW: Thank you, Ed. SCHULTZ: All systems go. No problem, Houston. MADDOW: All right, thank you, man. I appreciate it. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. It ought to be more exciting than usual. Let`s see. President Obama`s State of the Union address last night lasted almost exactly 60 minutes, with not quite 7,000 words. It was a little longer than average in terms of word count. The speech was interrupted 83 times for applause, according to a tally by "The National Journal". There was no notable disruption in the audience this year, no moment like a Republican congressman yelling "you lie!" the way Congressman Joe Wilson did during the joint address to Congress back in 2009. There was no moment like a Supreme Court justice muttering a rebuttal to the president from the rows up front, the way Justice Samuel Alito did in 2010. There was one moment of the speech, though, last night where you heard something from the room. You heard a gasp from the room in response to something that the president said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When Desiline arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. And hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her, because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read "I Voted." (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The room gasped at that reveal in the anecdote, right, where the president reveals how old Desiline Victor is. And then the crowd stood, Democrats and Republicans, everybody in the room, and they gave Desiline Victor, 102 years old, a standing ovation. They stood and they cheered her patriotism, the heroism that she showed by waiting all that time in line, by willing to be able to go back. Today, back home in Miami, look at this, Desiline Victor got another hero`s welcome. Her friends and her family turned out to meet her at Miami International Airport with hand-made signs and balloons and flowers, a little bit of dancing even when she flew home from Washington, D.C. from having gone to go see the speech. Welcome home, Desiline. Thank you what you have done, Ms. Victor. Very nice. The day that she waited so long in line to vote, Desiline Victor was trying to cast her ballot at the second most busy in all of Miami-Dade County. Throughout Miami, throughout Florida, Desiline Victor was not alone in wanting to vote, in trying to vote, but finding that that simple act of citizenship had in Florida become an endurance test. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TV ANCHOR: Now in campaign 2012, and one day left to cast your early vote. And so far the process has been plagued by very long lines. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was long, long wait. Very slow-moving day. CROWD: Let us vote, let us vote! Let us vote! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve been waiting here since 12:30 to pick up an absentee ballot, and now they`re telling us we`ve got to go home. That`s just ridiculous. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not leaving. This is democracy. Whoever you vote for, you should vote. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not Cuba. This is not China. We cannot allow this to happen. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not seen a line this long in a very long time. REPORTER: These voters arrived around 7:30 this morning. They`re nearly to the front of the line. They`ve waited two and a half hours. And down the line a bit, these folks arrived around 8:00. Their estimated wait time more than three hours. And around the corner, down this very long line, these folks arriving between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. Their estimated wait: up to four hours. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Voters in Florida waiting four hours. Some voters waiting twice that long. This is not how we expect elections to work in a country that is supposedly the beacon of light for the world, right? It`s not how we expect elections to work in this country. Not historically, not for regular folks. Certainly not for 102 retired ladies. And after he hosted Desiline Victor at the State of the Union last night and told her story about trying to vote in order to dramatize this problem in our country, President Obama then moved on later on in the speech to propose a solution to this problem. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental rights of a democracy, the right to vote. (APPLAUSE) When any American -- no matter where they live or what their party -- are denied that right because they can`t afford to wait for five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. So -- (APPLAUSE) So, tonight, I`m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And it definitely needs improvement. I`m asking two long-time experts in the field -- who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney`s campaign -- to lead it. We can fix this. And we will. The American people demand it, and so does our democracy. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The president calling on the State of the Union for a commission to improve the voting experience in America, to be led by what he called two long-time experts in the field. They are the top attorney for the president`s campaign, this man, Bob Bauer, general counsel for the Obama reelection effort. The other top attorney is this man, Ben Ginsberg, who served as national counsel for the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012. So, one chairman from the Democratic side, one chairman from the Republican side. Now in setting the commission up this way and announcing it this way, the president is clearly trying to turn fixing our national problem with voting into a bipartisan effort. He is trying to proceed here as if a story like Desiline Victor`s pulls on everybody`s heartstrings equally, Democrat and Republican. But what happened to Desiline Victor when she tried to vote this year was not an accident, it was on purpose. It was policy. Ahead of the election, Florida Republicans took overt steps to make voting lines longer in Florida and to make voting harder, to make registering to vote harder even. Governor Rick Scott signed into law new requirements that made voter registration drives so legally perilous, that even the hearty League of Women voters gave up trying. Rick Scott cut early voting in Florida almost in half. And when it became clear that Florida voters were facing eight-hour lines for early voting, Governor Rick Scott refused to put any of those lost days back. Get in line, Florida. Let`s see how long you can wait. Republican Governor Rick Scott refused to do anything to shorten the lines, even though not everybody could stand in the marathon lines that he and Florida Republicans created by policy. In the after-election studies of what happened this year, it is reported that at least 200,000 Florida voters ultimately gave up and walked away from the polls. They had to because of the lines. At least 200,000 voters who wanted to vote who did not make it through the epic journey from the end of the line to the voting booth, at least 200,000, maybe more. That did not happen by accident. Making voting harder was policy in Florida and in several other states as well. Republican-controlled states, because it was Republican policy. And since the election, Republicans in the states have seen that kind of effect that we saw in Florida this year. They have seen that -- 200,000 people didn`t vote who might have voted if voting was easier. They see that effect, and they see that as a feature, not a bug. Since the election, they have continued pushing laws to make voting harder. It`s underappreciated in the Beltway, but this kind of thing did not stop after the election. Republicans are proceeding apace in Missouri. Republicans there trying anew to require voters to show new documentation they have never had to show before, and they know some quarter of a million voters in that state do not have. Republicans in Montana in the legislature there, they`re now trying to take away the long-standing Montana right to register and vote on Election Day. Last week, Republicans in the Virginia legislature voted to eliminate several common forms of ID that you can show in order to be allowed to vote there now, things like a paycheck or a utility bill. Today, Virginia Republicans advanced a bill with even tighter restrictions under the new bill they advanced today, get this, the ID card that you got to allow you to vote, the ID card that you got already from the state board of elections, that would not be good enough to allow you to vote anymore. In the great state of Indiana, two Republican lawmakers there introduced a bill to ban any college student from voting if you paid out- of-state tuition in the state. Indiana Republicans proposed that, even though it is blatantly, patently almost laughably unconstitutional. There is a Supreme Court ruling specifically on this exact issue that says you cannot pass that kind of law. But Indiana Republicans want it anyway. They proposed it. They held a hearing on it. The lead sponsor of the bill only gave up on the specific provision involving college students today after fending off lots of questions on its obvious unconstitutionality. But the lead sponsor now says she wants a committee to study this question over the summer, and then maybe she`ll try again with it? I don`t know. Republicans in the state spent the years ahead of this last presidential election trying to make voting harder in order to try to help Mitt Romney win. In moments of candor, they said so. Like when that top Republican in the Pennsylvania legislature said voter ID laws would deliver the state of Pennsylvania for Mitt Romney. It did not work well enough to accomplish that this time. But after Mitt Romney lost, Republicans in the states started in again with renewed vigor. They are not giving this thing up. The Republican lawyer who will now co-chair the president`s bipartisan commission to, quote, "improve the voting experience," Ben Ginsberg, he spent last year advising the Romney campaign, including the Romney campaign in its role in the state-by-state fights over how hard Republicans in those states could make to it vote in this country. When the Obama campaign sued over Ohio Republicans cutting early voting, it was Mr. Ginsberg and the Romney campaign who condemned that challenge as despicable. In Wisconsin, when the Romney campaign recruited poll-watchers to challenge individual citizens` right to vote, the manual they gave those poll watchers contained wrong information, the kind of instructions that might lead people to challenge voters without real legal cause from blocking them. From "The Washington Post," quote, "The story prompted a letter from the Obama campaign attorney Bob Bauer to Wisconsin`s attorney general. These acts of willful misrepresentation to individuals sent to polling locations to enforce the law raise serious concerns under Wisconsin law," Mr. Bauer wrote. He added that this was not an isolated matter, citing the Wisconsin activities of True the Vote, an organization close to the Republican Party and the Romney campaign. That would be Mr. Bob Bauer making that complaint, the attorney on the left there, who is now co-chairing the president`s improved voting commission with the Romney lawyer on the right, whose campaign was trying to stop early voting in Ohio, and that gave its poll watchers wrong information about how to try to keep people from voting who should have been allowed to vote. Awkward match, right? Putting the guy whose party has tried and is still trying to make it hard to vote on the commission to fix voting, insisting that Republicans must be as bothered by this as Democrats. That`s what the president left on the table last night after that incredibly moving story about this 102-year-old woman pulling out all the stops to vote, even though all the odds were against her. That`s what the president put on the table. And the president is a smart political strategist. What kind of strategy is this? Is it hope? I mean, is it the same kind -- and I don`t say that dismissively -- it is the same kind of hope and optimism and persistent never give up-ism that is embodied by Desiline Victor? By her coming back for more after her first try, after standing for hours in line? Is it that kind of hope and persistence and optimism? Awesome. But also, is there a plan B if it turns out Republicans aren`t really going to come around on this and they still feel about this the way they have for years now? Joining us is Rick Hasen. He`s professor of law and political of science at the University of California-Irvine Law School, where he specializes in election law. He also writes the excellent election law blog. He is the author of "The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown." Professor Hasen, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here. RICK HASEN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-IRVINE: Great to be with you. MADDOW: So, you are the expert on these things. I`m a political observer on these things. What do you make of the strategy of President Obama choosing the top two lawyers from his campaign and Mr. Ginsberg from the Romney campaign to try to head up a commission like this? HASEN: Well, first of all, if you`re going to have a commission like this, you`ve got to have credible Democrats and Republicans. And there was a question whether there would be a credible Republican who would be interested in doing something like this. The fact that Ben Ginsberg, who is a well-respected Republican lawyer is willing to sit down with Bob Bauer and sit down with this commission and try and hash things out is an achievement. But they`ve set the bar really low. If you look at the press release that the White House put out about this, all they`re going to do is issue some guidelines for states and localities about best practices. It doesn`t look like federal election reform, which I think is something we really need, is on the agenda. So it may just be that it`s going to put out some ideas. Then they`re going to sit on the shelf, like the ideas of the Carter-Baker commission, the Carter-Ford commission, what the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission has done and it may get us nowhere. MADDOW: Well, in terms of the history right now, though, in terms of what has worked in the past, and in light of how partisan these fights have been over voting rights, particularly leading up to this last election and what has been going on in Republican-controlled states, it is possible that they should be aiming super, super low, aiming at doing very small reforms simply to show that something can be done, that there can be some nonpartisan technocratic approach to these measures, and that aiming any higher would simply assume that nothing happened? HASEN: Well, I think that, you know, even if this commission wanted to propose federal legislation, the House Republicans have already said Candice Miller, the former Republican Michigan secretary of state, who chairs the House Administration Committee, she is not interested. So, maybe aiming low is the best they can do in coming up with best practices. But I think, you know, the biggest way change is going to happen here in the short-term, at least, is through public pressure. So Rick Scott has now backed away from the bill that he signed and says we need to expand early voting. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, who was supporting at one point a bill to get rid of early Election Day registration wants to -- has changed his mind on that. So I think the attempt to make it harder to vote backfired on Republicans. And although we`re still having some of these hearing, and people are still trying to make it harder in some places, I think there was a public and judicial backlash, which has caused Republicans to maybe step back a little bit. And that may be what saves us a little bit in 2014 and 2016. MADDOW: I think that`s an incredibly smart point, especially on the specific issue of Florida. I mean, we saw after the election not just Florida becoming a laughingstock and becoming the butt of national jokes and sort of being singled out for shame on this issue. But we also saw an electoral challenge emerge to Rick Scott with former governor, new Democrat Charlie Crist, making this a tip of the spear issue for how he went after Rick Scott and how he might challenge him for governor. Is that then maybe a better way forward, that Democrats make this an issue, that they beat Republicans over the head with in an electoral cudgel sort of way? I mean, is there any historical precedent for that being the way to reform? HASEN: Well, I think what happened in this election, and it`s clear from watching your show, and watching the rest of the media, is that the issue of voting rights really broke through. You`ve been talking about this stuff for years. But it became a topic of regular conversation. You had the Sarah Silverman video. People were talking about voter ID laws. So it`s become part of the public consciousness. And to the extent that people think Republicans are trying to make it harder for people to vote, whether that`s true or not, that`s going to work against Republicans who are trying to get those swing voters, who are trying to attract Latino voters. It`s going to make it tough in Florida. So it might be that there will be a little bit of a political solution to this. Whether a commission is going to do things -- let me point out in the aftermath of Florida 2000, we set up the United States Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that is supposed to be doing this very thing. But that agency has essentially been without commissioners, no commissioners over the last year. We went through the election without it. We have a structure to try and deal with this. We just don`t have the political will. Republicans have blocked appointing people to the EAC. So, on the federal level, that doesn`t seem like right now it`s going to be a pathway to trying to get some major changes in our election system. It`s going to have to be fought state by state and locality by locality. MADDOW: Political science and law professor and election law blogger Rick Hasen from U.C.-Irvine. Thank you very much for your time tonight. Your perspective on this is very, very helpful. Thank you. HASEN: Thank you. MADDOW: I think one way to watch this is to look at this in parallel with climate change. Climate change is another issue on which the Democrats believe the Republicans will never do the right thing, that Republicans on climate change are too close to petro interests, essentially. And on voting, that they`re too close to their own electoral interests, and that they want to stop voting for their own electoral purposes, and the Republicans are never going to go along with doing the right thing. So you are seeing the president do something different, which is make these emotional public cases for what should be done on this issue, not expecting Republicans to come along and laying the groundwork, essentially, with this public education effort, with these emotional appeals directly to the people in speeches that Democrats and the White House in some cases are going to act on their own, without Republicans if they need to, and they will use it against Republicans in elections. They will not try to persuade them. They will beat them with it. This is a second term kind of thing. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I don`t believe in drinking water on television. I don`t believe that a person should -- if you`re on TV, I don`t think you should be drinking out of a water bottle. I think -- honestly, I just think it`s not appropriate. If a camera is on you, unless you are dying from a coughing fit or something, if you want to take a swig out of a bottle of water on TV, I just don`t -- I don`t know if it`s just the way I`m raised or the way I was taught to be on TV or something, but I`m not -- I just don`t -- I don`t think you should do it. I would never do it. What? I am not drinking water on TV. Like I just said, I would never do that. What I am doing is hydrating. It`s totally different. I would never drink water on TV. But I`m happy to hydrate. And that is the kind of distinction that Republicans in the Senate are using right now to try to stop Chuck Hagel from being confirmed as our nation`s next defense secretary. No cabinet nominee has ever been filibustered in the history of our country. It takes a majority vote to confirm someone the president wants in his cabinet, full stop. No senator has ever tried to mess with that principle before by filibustering a cabinet nominee. It has never happened. And even though a bunch of Republican senators do not want Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary, they have insisted they would never filibuster him, because of course that would be unprecedented. You don`t filibuster cabinet nominees. John McCain said that. Lindsey Graham said that. They said they don`t want him. They`re not going to vote for him in all likelihood, but they wouldn`t filibuster him. But now, they are filibustering him any way. Those two senators and James Inhofe from Oklahoma, they say they will force a 60-vote super majority threshold for confirming Chuck Hagel for the first time in America for any cabinet nominee. And that is a filibuster. But they are insisting that nobody call it a filibuster, because, of course, they said they wouldn`t do that. They are filibustering a cabinet nominee for the first time in American history after saying they wouldn`t, but they do not want anybody to report it that way. Because, see, they are not -- drinking water, they are hydrating. Write it down the way I said you should write it down, reporter. We`re going to call this hydrating. It`s a totally different thing than drinking water on television. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So there is a best new thing coming up on tonight`s show. It`s completely apolitical, but it lies at the intersection of the presidency and Valentine`s Day. And it is awesome and involves tape that lots of people on my staff today thought I made up, but is actually real historical tape. That is coming up right at the end of the show. The whole staff is somewhere between shock and excited about that. That`s the best new thing. That`s ahead. But also, still to come tonight, we have a programming note that I dare say you might want to tell somebody about on the Facebook machine or the Twitter machine or something, if I can be so bold as to suggest that. This is going to be the first announcement about this anywhere. It is about something that MSNBC is going to the as a network next week. I`m going to be hosting it. But it`s an MSNBC project. It premieres next week. And I think it is going to cause a bit of a political stir. I will tell you what it is in just a minute. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have the tape, we have the tape! Here is where it all went wrong, apparently. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey. OK. Are you looking at me? Can you -- Jillian, can you see me? UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I`m looking at the teleprompter. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. I speak to you tonight from Washington, D.C. Does it look like I`m even remotely looking in the camera? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was the setup for the Republican response to the Republican response to the State of the Union last night. I think that is a Rand Paul staffer trying to make sure that Rand Paul giving the Tea Party Republican response to the Republican response to the State of the Union this year did not end up looking like Michele Bachmann when she gave the same address a couple of years ago while look at something that really wasn`t the camera. It turns out the staffer did have reason to be worried. Rand Paul, as you can see, was not looking as far away from the camera as Michele Bachmann was, but he was not looking into the camera either. They did the same thing wrong again. Not only where we once again treated to not just a Republican response to the State of the Union, but also a Tea Party Republican response to the response that once again the response to the response ended up being unintentionally funny because of bad staging -- which is especially amazing considering that Senator Paul`s staff was acutely aware of this as a potential problem, and we can see them on camera trying to fix it ahead of time. And then there was the official Republican response to the State of the Union -- the Republican Party`s first major chance to try to rectify with voters whatever it was that the country disliked about them enough to give President Obama a resounding reelection victory over them in November. This is the first chance post election to change the country`s mind about the Republican Party after Mitt Romney, right? This is the first chance at de-Romneyification. It is the highest profile chance they will have for that for the entire year, if you think about it. I mean, there is no Republican convention there is no national elections. This is it for more than a year. This is their chance to re- impress the American people about what it means to be a Republican that isn`t about Mitt Romney. How do they rectify their image with a country where the women voted for Democrats in the last election by an 11-point margin? Well, the one thing that their State of the Union response giver did to make news yesterday other than his State of the Union response was that he voted no on the Violence Against Women Act. He and 21 other Republican men in the United States Senate voted no. Then, Marco Rubio got caught out once he started giving his speech in the easiest trap to get caught in when you have to give a response address. Just minutes after the thing that you are responding to has ended, he anticipated things that he thought President Obama would say in the State of the Union. He wrote complaints in his own speech about things he thought President Obama would say. But then when President Obama did not actually say those things, Mr. Rubio did not adjust his speech the take out the complaints. So, Senator Rubio in his response last night ended up complaining about things said by President Obama that President Obama actually did not say in the speech that everybody had just finished watching right before Marco Rubio got to take his turn. Mr. Rubio`s whole windup was about how President Obama had just spent his State of the Union address defending big government and demanding even bigger government. This president thinks the only solution to everything is bigger government. And that might be an effective response to a yay big government speech, but instead it seemed like a non sequitur, because this is the speech that Senator Rubio`s comments actually came after. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: It is not a bigger government we need. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Senator Rubio also complained with a sarcastic twist that the president needs to put out a Medicare plan already. Tonight would have been a good night to do that, huh, Mr. President? The problem is the president had just put out a Medicare plan, a plan he described in the actual State of the Union address that he delivered, even if it wasn`t the one that played out in Marco Rubio`s head when he wrote his own speech, and then didn`t adjust it to reflect reality. Mr. Rubio also made a big point about placing himself in the American middle class. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren`t millionaires. They`re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They`re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They`re immigrants who came here because they were stuck in poverty in the countries where the government dominated the economy. I want to protect my neighbors -- hard-working middle class Americans who don`t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`m just a middle class guy looking out for my middle class neighborhood and my working class neighborhood where I grew up in the middle class where I live now. That bit is transformed from political scene-setting into political punch line once everybody links to the pictures from the real estate listings showing Marco Rubio is in fact selling that middle class home in that middle class Miami neighborhood. It`s on the market for $657,000. So, you know, you may love your neighbors, but why would you brag about that love for your neighbors in your middle class neighborhood in the highest profile speech you will ever give in your life when you`re also on record trying to move away from those neighbors in that neighborhood, so you can go live in Washington, D.C.? The other screw-up with the Rubio speech, the Republican Party`s big effort to reset and deRomneyify themselves in the eyes of the nation is that somebody forgot to deRomneyify the speech itself. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) RUBIO: Our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity. But President Obama, he believes it`s the cause of our problems. MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know free enterprise is on trial, and we have a president who really doesn`t believe in the rights of people to do that. RUBIO: Of course, solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil, and natural gas. ROMNEY: I mean, he likes the wind and the solar, but he doesn`t like the stuff that`s under the ground, like coal and oil and natural gas. RUBIO: Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called clean energy companies like Solyndra, let`s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. ROMNEY: They should have done more studying on Solyndra and less studying on that drilling in Marcellus Shale. I`m going to open lands for exploration. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: De-Romneyification failed. The Republicans` official response to Barack Obama`s State of the Union was essentially a new version of the stump speech of the guy who just lost the presidential election to Barack Obama. And the house that is the emotional centerpiece of the speech turns out is a house for sale. And the criticism of the criticism of the speech is not actually based on the president`s speech at all. And they had him vote no on the Violence Against Women Act with 21 other Republican guys right before he gave this speech. And they ran a second Republican response again as well after they ran this one. It had the same eyeball problem as the other Republican speech had the previous time when they did it. And then, of course, there was this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUBIO: False choices like the one the president laid out tonight. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If anybody everybody asks you to give the Republican Party`s response to the State of the Union, just say no. Seriously. I care about you. Just say no. It`s not a good gig. Joining us now Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s "THE CYLE", and a senior writer for Steve, thank you for being here tonight. STEVE KORNACKI, SALON: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Is Marco Rubio the victim of high expectations here? Was anybody doomed to fail in setting or did he just screw it up worse than others might have? KORNACKI: No, I mean, I`ve come to the conclusion -- I actually think that it would be a good idea for the chair of the Democratic National Committee and the chair of the Republican National Committee to come together and to say, you know what, the State of the Union response, it`s just not going to work for anybody. It`s an impossible format. I mean, I think there were some specific things, especially from the substantive standpoint that were really troublesome about Rubio`s response last night. But in general, it`s an impossible setting. You`ve got the president coming into the chamber, joint session, all the lights, all the cameras, all the pomp, all the circumstance, and they have tried putting the responses in schools. They tried putting them in state legislatures. They`ve tried every different possible backdrop. They never work. They never help anyone. They never help any party that delivers them. MADDOW: And we end up -- I mean, we keep -- we have the bug up there of Marco Rubio with the lurch for the water bottle, mostly because it`s amazing, but also because there is inevitably a focus on just the physical staging of the response because of the contrast with the president`s speech. Is there -- has there ever been one where the opposite party`s response has either risen to the same level as the president`s speech or advanced the opposite party`s interest? KORNACKI: No, no. I can`t think of one. The evolution of these things is funny. It wasn`t always just one person giving the response. I think the low moment was 1985 when the Democrats just lost to Reagan and they had Bill Clinton host this 30-minute infomercial. And they literally packed in every Democratic politician in the country for like a 20-second speech. And they had a focus group. And they didn`t realize at the time that talking about the focus group was political suicide. They kept saying our focus group told us this. It was terrible. But they`ve tried all different formats. I`ve never seen one that actually pulls it off. MADDOW: I almost feel like while there are still I guess two or three more for Barack Obama, depending. The president doesn`t always give the State of the Union when he is on his way out the door. KORNACKI: Right. MADDOW: But if we`ve got more ahead for Barack Obama, this might be a time for them to opt out gracefully if they are going to. But then while we`ve still got it, there is also the political question of the Republican Party having chosen Marco Rubio as their guy. Of course, he is on the cover of "Time" magazine as the savior. And he has been talked up that way in the Republican Party since even before he was sworn in, once he got elected. Does he deserve it substantively? Is there anything that is different about him that lays out a more sustainable, more electorally likely to be effective path for Republicans than other politicians they`ve got now offer? KORNACKI: There are two differences with Rubio. I don`t think they add up to much, though. One is that his life story is relatable in a way that their last standard bearer wasn`t. Mitt Romney`s life story was the story of 1 percent from birth, you know, through to age 65. Nobody could really relate to that. Marco Rubio`s is sort of an immigrant story. It is the American dream in a lot of ways. So it is more relatable. And also the fact that he is Hispanic, and Republicans have this problem with Hispanics, and that goes hand in hand with Rubio is slowly you can see nudging the party away from the hard line on immigration. I`m not sure exactly where that`s going to lead. But that`s the one sort of substantive different that Rubio represents from where the Republican Party has been. In every other substantive way, though, not only was that speech sort of a rehash of what Romney offered last year, that was a rehash thematically of where the Republicans have been since the 1980 campaign. Because the theme of the Reagan campaign in 1980 was government is not the solution to your problems. Government is the problem. And that was a measure that was geared towards what at that time was the emerging working class, middle class, you know, sort of majority in the country. That was Southern whites. That was Northern white ethnics. In the north it was the outer borough Ed Koch types. You know, we talked in the last few weeks when he died. They had grievances against the government relating to bussing, relating to desegregation, relating to welfare programs proliferated in the Great Society. So, Reagan was really tapping into that and conservatism for the last three decades has really tapped into that. But the story right now in the story of the 2012 election is that today`s emerging majority, emerging working class, middle class majority is a lot more diverse. It`s nonwhite. It`s women. It`s professional women. It`s millennials. And their attitudes towards government are totally and completely different than the attitudes of those old -- I mean, you can say the Archie bunker voters of the `70s. I don`t want to be too dismissive. The attitudes are totally different. And Rubio looks different than Mitt Romney and his story is different than Mitt Romney, but he is delivering the same Romney/Reagan message into an audience that I don`t think is buying it anymore. MADDOW: I feel like we hear so often that demography is destiny. I feel like policy is destiny here. And I felt like actually the single most embarrassing thing about the Republican response was to say that this is the post-Romney Republican Party and we`re going to have him vote against the Violence Against Women Act as the one other thing he does on the day that he gives that response. In terms of appealing to women voters specifically and the gender gap was as definitive in this election as it was in any other. Do you see the Republican Party picking up any signs of all that it`s about policy and it`s not just about putting more female faces out there to represent the same policies that they`ve been presenting all along? KORNACKI: No. And the timing yesterday, the violence against women vote I think tells the story. The fact that person that they have sort of decided for the moment at least is the future of their party, Marco Rubio, voted against it. But it`s also -- think about the politics. He is a guy who is very interested in running for 2016 Republican presidential nomination. There was a calculation there on Marco Rubio`s part that voting against that yesterday was the, quote/unquote, "correct vote" in terms of political positioning for the 2016 nomination. MADDOW: Yes. KORNACKI: So that tells you not just where Marco Rubio is in this position, but where the Republican Party is or where he perceives it to be. Until somebody like that feels safe voting for the Violence Against Women Act, you`ve got a bigger problem there than you don`t have enough women on stage. MADDOW: I agree. And I think we should just offer this to the Republican Party now and the Democratic Party of the future, just don`t do State of the Union responses anymore. KORNACKI: Yes. Both chairs get together. Common ground. No labels. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: Bipartisanship. KORNACKI: That`s right. MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, the co-host of MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE", senior writer for "Salon" -- Steve, thanks a lot. KORNACKI: Thanks. MADDOW: I appreciate you being here. KORNACKI: Sure. MADDOW: All right. Best thing in the world, an improbably sweet LBJ Valentine`s edition, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the 1964 State of the Union address, just weeks after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the new president, Lyndon Johnson, declared an unconditional war on poverty in America. In 1941, as World War ii raged overseas, but for us Pearl Harbor was still months away, Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed in the State of the Union that year the four essential human freedoms -- freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. In 1996, after his party`s shellacking in the midterm elections, but before his landslide reelection victory, Bill Clinton proclaimed in the State of the Union that the era of big government was over. We`re too close in time now to know if any of the State of the Union addresses by our current presidents will be remembered as highlights in the history of that presidential obligation. But if we were to pick from all the modern State of the Union addresses, only one president, and only one speech, and only one line, if we were to pick the most important, the most remembered line in any modern State of the Union, history has already spoken as to what the most single important line is, and we have just hit that important moment in the State of the Union address by an American president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The most important line in any modern State of the Union was not remembered because it was inspiring or elegant or anything else positive, it was remembered and it is important because it was a lie -- a very consequential lie that made it into the State of the Union in 2003, 10 years ago. We are now at the 10-year anniversary of what the last presidential administration did to get our country to go to war on false pretenses. And it is starting to feel like that 10-year period of time is just enough time to finally start to appreciate how remarkable that is, that we went through that as a country. I mean, if it happened to another country we would find it impossible to believe. But it happened to us. We were tricked by our own government -- not into passing some piece of legislation or letting some corrupt politician off the hook who should not have gotten off the hook. We were tricked into starting a full-blown war. How did they pull that off? And do we understand how that happened to us well enough that we are in a position to stop it from happening again if anybody else ever tries to do that to us again? We have just completed a brand-new blockbuster of a documentary here at MSNBC on exactly this question. It will premiere Monday night here on MSNBC. And I think it is possible that it is going to cause quite a bit of upset. We`re going to have the first preview clip of it here, exclusively tomorrow night. I`m hoping they`re going to give us another preview clip on Friday, although I`m not sure. But the whole thing premieres with me hosting it on Monday at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC. And then everybody will start to lose their minds soon there after. So mark your datebook, Monday night, at 9:00. I`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world. OK? Tomorrow is Valentine`s Day. If you are in a relationship, do not forget, do something nice. If you are not in a relationship I hope that Valentine`s Day does not bum you out and you have a really good day, however you want it to go. But on the occasion of Valentine`s Day this year, one of the presidential libraries is going to make that president`s love letters, to the woman who would become his first lady available for public viewing. Now, some of those letters were made public before. A few of them, in fact, were even performed out loud back in the `70s by actors Kirk Douglas and Helen Hayes. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KIRK DOUGLAS, ACTOR: My dear Bird, this morning, I`m ambitious, proud, energetic, and very madly in love with you. I want to see people. I want to walk through the throngs, I want to do things with the drive. If I had a box I would almost make a speech this minute -- plans, ideas, hopes, I`m bubbling over with them. HELEN HAYES, ACTRESS: Lyndon, please tell me as soon as you can what the deal is. I`m afraid it is politics. Oh, I know I haven`t any business, not any proprietary interest, but I would hate for you to go into politics. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Isn`t that awesome? After they first met it took the passage of nearly two months and nearly 100 letters between them, before Ms. Claudia Taylor known as Lady Bird agreed to marry Mr. Lyndon Baines Johnson. It`s amazing, right? I mean, we don`t think of our presidents as young men in love, even sometimes think of them as celebrities, but we don`t think of them as young men in love. Particularly, we don`t think of this president that way. We think of LBJ as a kind of president who was deliberately crass as a tactic. I mean, he made famously people talk to him while he sat on a toilet. We think of LBJ as a kind of person whose most famous presidential recording of him was making an incredible phone call from the White House to order himself from pants from a man in Texas. You have heard the recording of LBJ ordering his pants over the phone, haven`t you? Oh please tell me you have heard this recording. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I want a couple of -- maybe three of the light brown, kind of an almost powder color, like the powder on a lady`s face. And then there was some green, and then maybe some other light pair, if you had a blue on that, or black, one blue and one black. I need about six pairs to wear around in the evening when I come in from work. And I need about a half an inch, too tight in the waist. JH: Do you recall the exact size? I just want to be able to get them right for you. JOHNSON: No, I don`t know -- y`all just guessed at `em, I think, some -- but wouldn`t you have the measurements there? JH: We`ll find them for you. JOHNSON: Now, the pockets when you sit down in the chair, the knife and money comes out so I need at least another inch in the pockets. Yes. Now, another thing -- the crotch, down where your nuts hang is always a little too tight, so when you make them up, give me an inch so I can let it out there because they cut me. It`s just like riding a wire fence. These are almost -- these are the best that I`ve had anywhere in the United States. But when I gain a little weight, they cut me under there. So leave me -- you never do have much margin there. Let`s see if you can`t leave me about an inch from where the zipper (BURPS) ends, around, back to my bunghole. JH: All right, sir. JOHNSON: So I can let it out there if I need to. (END AUDIO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: I have heard it before, I have never, ever seen it laid out with the pictures of him. And to the subtitler who had to actually add in there the burps -- I`m sorry. We may be getting LBJS`s love letters released in time for Valentine`s Day this year, but for Valentine`s Day eve, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW gives you President Lyndon Baines Johnson ordering pants in all of its glory. Happy Valentine`s Day eve, America, this is how you know I love you. The best new thing in the world. Oh my God! Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Have a great ride in the wire fence kind of night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END