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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/28/13

Guests: Xavier Becerra, Robin Kelly

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. A programming note: tomorrow night, Nobel Prize-winning economist and "New York Times" columnist Paul Krugman will be our special guest. It`s an "ED SHOW" exclusive. You won`t want to miss it. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Very nice, Ed. I`m looking forward to that. That`s excellent. Good news. Thanks. SCHULTZ: Thank you. You bet. MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us this hour. Apparently, today was kind of an amazing day for some reason. At least it was on Wall Street. For most of the day today, the market had one of those days where you imagine maybe traders away from each other would run down the hall themselves screaming, throwing piles of dollar bills in the air and giggling maniacally. It was one of those crazy days. By late this afternoon, by 2:00 Eastern, the Dow brushed up against an all-time record high. It hit almost its highest point ever in the whole history of the Dow. It came within 15 points of the record. Now, the record was set in October 2007. Notably, before the financial crisis, before the American economy imploded and almost took the world down with it. The Dow today came within spitting distance of pre- financial crisis record highs, the highest of all time. Amazing. And, of course, the stock market on any given day is not an indicator of the general health of the economy as a whole. But that race to the top at the stock market today comes alongside a bunch of other good and surprising economic news. Today, we learned, for example, that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 22,000. So fewer people on unemployment. That`s a good thing. It is a good sign. It means the job market may be picking up. Also today, news that American businesses are placing more orders and revving up production because they think the economy is getting stronger. Another good sign. Also, the dollar gained strength today. Yay, uncle buck. And it turns out the economy did not shrink at the end of last year by 0.1 percent. That is what we heard before. When they revised the numbers, it turns out actually it was a negative. The economy did not shrink. The economy grew in the last quarter of last year. It grew by the smallest, teeniest bit possible. But still, growing is better than shrinking, which is what we thought it was before. All of these positive signs about the economy here at home, plus turns out there`s nice things to say today about the whole world and about how we fit into the whole world. Quote, "Sentiment was shored up by hopes over the global economic recovery following a run of upbeat economic data, particularly out of the U.S." Whoo! A global economic recovery, led by the U.S. -- whoo. Maybe there`s some way we could try to screw that up on purpose? Because of all that economic news today, all of that good economic financial news today, that all coincides with this as our political news today. Our political news today is that we are giving up. Tomorrow`s the deadline that everybody`s been talking about for months now, right? The crisis that we must avert. That Congress must take action to avoid. And if they don`t, crash, horrible consequences. Congress, save us. Tomorrow is the deadline. We are officially in the 11th hour. This is the last minute. This is the moment when everything is supposed to be getting fixed, when Congress is supposed to be up all night sweating it out. Actually, today Congress went home 2:07 p.m. and 13 seconds, the House stands adjourned until Monday. Six-thirty p.m. and 20 seconds, the Senate stands adjourned until Monday. They`re gone. The whole point was to make them fight with each other and fix this thing down to the wire. They left in the afternoon. To be clear, they did not go home because they fixed it or because they decided that we wouldn`t do this thing or because they decided actually this thing is no big deal. It is still the same looming thing that they all say we shouldn`t do, $85 billion. Boom. Austerity. All at once. The Pentagon is supposed to absorb half of those cuts. The Pentagon is big, but that`s a big cut to happen all at once. Federal workers are facing furloughs, forced days off. That would mean a 20 percent decrease in their take-home pay. There will be cuts to funding for everything from airports to preschools to wick, the nutrition program for low-income women, infants, and children. Lots of other government programs, too. Pretty much everybody agrees that what is set to go into effect at midnight tomorrow is lousy policy. Even if you want to cut that much all at once out of the economy by cutting it out of the government. You wouldn`t cut like this. That was the whole idea. It was bad policy on purpose. This was supposed to be a bad policy that would hurt the country and particularly hurt the economy. It was designed to suck on purpose so nobody would want to do it. So nobody would want to see it go into effect. So everybody in fact would work like crazy to stop it from going into effect. This is a self-imposed horrible idea that is horrible on purpose. And pretty much everybody agrees with that. Except apparently the financial markets, which at least judging by today don`t give a hoot about the sequester. Quoting from the "A.P." today, "Investors appear sanguine over the risks associated with planned spending cuts that are due to take effect at the start of March." The start of March would be tomorrow. Now, the planned sequester could hit U.S. growth if no deal is reached to avoid it. Previous experience, however, suggests a last-minute deal will be cobbled together. Well, previous experience does kind of suggest a last-minute deal will be cobbled together. Remember, it was just a few months after the Republicans took the house in 2011 that we were within an hour of a government shutdown. That was our first narrowly averted self-imposed disaster. Three months later, July 2011, there was the big fight over whether we were going to raise the debt ceiling, which we always do. That one was also narrowly averted by just a couple of days even though getting that close to it caused us harm. Just a couple of months later government shutdown averted again, narrowly of course within a couple of days. And then fast forward this most repetitive movie ever to the end of last year, December 2012. We were about to go off the fiscal cliff until -- dun, dun, dun -- we got an 11- hour deal, 11th hour deal. Actually, with the fiscal cliff we got kind of a 13th hour deal because technically they did go over the cliff and then after they fell they kind of reached back up and found a low-hanging branch that was hanging off the end of the cliff and they grabbed the branch and they were able to pull themselves back up over the cliff. They really do keep creating these cliffs and brinks and crises and then veering to safety right at the last minute, or right after the last minute in the case of the cliff. So understandably, we done panic as much anymore now when they tell us it is a new crisis. Everybody just counts on them fixing it at the last minute somehow. Can we count on them doing that again? The Senate today voted on both a Republican plan to not do this thing. That failed 38-62. Then the Senate voted on a Democratic plan to not do this thing. And that one actually got a majority. It got 51 votes. But the Republicans filibustered it. So that failed as well. In the House today, John Boehner reiterated his often stated claim that his side, the House, has passed something to not do this dumb thing. When pressed by the press today, though, he did have to admit that his Congress has not actually done something in this Congress. They passed something last year, in the old Congress. Anything passed in the old Congress doesn`t count for this one. It`s a new Congress. And in this Congress, John Boehner and his band of merry men, they have still done nothing. Still, though, they took the occasion to go home. Everybody is heading home. And even though everybody is heading home, President Obama has invited the top congressional leadership to not go home and instead go to the White House tomorrow to talk about these cuts. So, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid will meet with the president and vice president at the White House to talk about this current self-imposed disaster tomorrow. But the rest of Congress is done, adjourned, on their way home. Presumably, tomorrow`s meeting will be to try to come up with a last- minute way to avert it. But honestly, with both sides of Congress adjourned and the deadline upon us it kind of seems like this goose is cooked. Everybody is still assuming it`s going to be fixed somehow. The markets seem to be assuming that. But why are they assuming that? Do they know something that we don`t know? Joining us now is Congressman Xavier Becerra. He`s a Democrat of California and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Congressman Becerra, thank you so much for being with us. REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Rachel, great to be with you. MADDOW: So do the markets know something we don`t know? Is there any chance of this being averted now? Or is this done? BECERRA: I think they`ve been cooking in all of these shenanigans that we`ve been seeing in Congress principally driven in the House by the Republican majority for quite some time. And so they`ve become accustomed to this the way I think the American public has become accustomed to this. Unfortunately, I think this has become the new normal for Republicans to try to govern. It`s not business as usual for the average family in America, but I think Republicans have decided that in order to fulfill their agenda to make government smaller, they`re going to do it this way even though it may cost the American economy 750,000 American jobs. MADDOW: Well, let`s try to figure out the weight between those two different things. If you`re saying for the average American family, this is not going to be business as usual, we`re looking at 3/4 of a million jobs that are going to be cost by doing this, but in terms of sort of the media reaction to, it the general public`s reaction to it so far, and certainly the market`s reaction to it today, it`s cooked in, people have expected that nothing was going to happen and so this apparently is something that we all are going to try to roll with -- do you think that latter set of circumstances is inappropriate? Should people be more freaked out than they are? BECERRA: Well, if you`re the average American, you should be getting freaked out simply because this new normal is not good. It is not good for the economy to have a ratcheting up of job creation. We`ve had over 6 million jobs created in the last three years, which is great -- 166,000 new private sector jobs last month. But now, you`ve got Congress by its inaction, and you`re right, the House Republican leadership told us all go home today after 2:00. We`re going to now cost the economy 3/4 of a million jobs by not dealing with this so-called across-the-board cut, the sequester. And so while the economy wants to launch, here you`ve got this manufactured crisis where Republicans decided not to try to come up with a bill to deal with the sequester, and so we may lose 3/4 of a million jobs. That`s not the way to do business. That`s not the way to govern the largest economy in the world. MADDOW: As we blow through tomorrow, with no House in session and no Senate in session, is the harm that you`re saying is going to be done by hitting this deadline, by hitting the sequester, is it reparable? Can something be done when Congress comes back on Monday to undo the fact that we`ve blown through the deadline? Can it retroactively been fixed? BECERRA: You know, you can deal with some of this. But the reality is that you`re now placing in the minds of our business leaders, in the minds of the average American family, this -- the sense that you can`t trust that the congressional leadership, the politicians will do this the right way. Even after the president put a balanced plan on the table to deal with the sequester cuts, even as you just showed in your earlier clip that the Senate passed a bill by 52, 51, 52 votes, but because of the shenanigans through the filibuster, Senate Republicans were able to defeat a majority-passed vote -- passed bill. That`s the kind of thing that makes you feel like -- well, I shouldn`t have confidence that even though the economy`s giving me signs that the markets are going to grow, job opportunities are going to grow, I can never trust that the politicians are going to make it -- let us continue that growth. And that`s the difficulty, is we`re almost setting into the mindset, cementing into the mind of the American public that Congress can`t do its job. MADDOW: You have a leadership role among congressional Democrats. When you see Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid go into that meeting tomorrow with Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, the president and the vice president, when they have that very top-tier level meeting tomorrow -- are you expecting that to just be talks about this in a general way or is that actually going to be a working meeting where some sort of plan for retroactively fixing this thing might be announced at the end of that meeting? BECERRA: I think, Rachel, that the president is going to try to have a huddle with congressional leaders and find out, can we get somewhere? You didn`t like my balanced approach. What can you come up with on the Republican side? The Republican bill in the Senate didn`t even get all Republicans to vote for it. And in the House, as I mentioned, the House Republicans didn`t even offer a bill for the last 56 days since the beginning of this calendar year. And so, I think the president probably is going to ask, what -- where can we go? Is there any room for negotiation? Or are we just going to go through this brinksmanship all over again? By the way, that`s why I voted against this so-called fiscal cliff deal back at the beginning of the year on January 1st, because I knew that what that deal would do was spawn three more fiscal cliffs -- the one we`re experiencing now. In the next few weeks, we`re going to have perhaps a government shutdown if the Republicans try to use that to try to extract more harmful cuts to very important programs. And then again, we`re going to deal with, guess what? The debt ceiling limit. MADDOW: The debt ceiling. Yes. You know, you probably shouldn`t be able to call it a crisis when you can plan them out in advance on your own calendar, months ahead of time. But that`s what we do now. Congressman Xavier Becerra, Democrat of California -- thank you for your time tonight. Appreciate having you here. BECERRA: Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Well, in a day of bewildering politics news there was also some really widely misunderstood news about a helicopter today. Plus, the intersection of convicted felons and Congress gets more intersectee (ph). That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One thing about being in the TV news business is that you are usually better off if Jon Stewart at "The Daily Show" is not mentioning your name. Usually, if you turn up on that show, it is not good for you. There was one time when "The Daily Show" dinged me, dinged the show, for something I said about the Obama administration`s response to an international crisis. Jon Stewart dinged me. I didn`t think I deserved it. And I dinged back. And then, then he won because Jon Stewart is better than me. Because he`s very, very, very, very funny always. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Listen, I love me some Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show." I`m a big fan. But no apologies for reporting on which agency is the lead of our national efforts to respond to Haiti. JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW: Now, when I saw and heard what she said right there, I thought it was completely fair. But when I read what she said, "Maddow retaliates against unlikely foe," oh! Oh! We`re foes, (EXPLETIVE DELETED)? Is that it? You don`t retaliate back at me, young lady. No, no, no! So now I`m mad! Until I realized how easy I had gotten off, judging by what Maddow had done to other people. "Maddow eviscerates." "Maddow eviscerates." "Maddow eviscerates." "Maddow eviscerates!" She`s an eviscerating machine. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I do love me some Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show." And I have learned to love even when he makes fun of me and of MSNBC in his extremely effective ways. He makes everybody in the media better at what we do by the way that he laughs at us so well. But tonight, I raise the white flag. I will put myself at the mercy of my comedic superior because tonight I will be on "The Daily Show" to talk in part about my book "Drift", which is out in paperwork as of Tuesday on March 5th. Also, I`m going to start doing some traveling around the country talking about "Drift." If you want to see if I`m coming to your town, we have posted the book tour dates at Book comes out Tuesday. "Daily Show" tonight. And tonight, right here, the interview is straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today at long last there was a breakthrough in congress on something that`s almost impossible to believe there was ever a fight over in the first place. After more than a year-long political battle, reauthorization of the violence against women act passed the house today. It had already passed the senate. So now it`s passed the House and it means it`s headed to the White House for President Obama to sign it. Now, substantively, for victims of violence who depend on this policy for help, for law enforcement agencies who depend on this policy to help combat domestic violence, it is substantively big and important news that this has finally happened. It is unalloyed good news. Substantively. But politically, what happened today is harder to understand. The Violence Against Women Act was first passed with bipartisan support as part of a great big omnibus crime bill in 1994. And ever since then, it has been routinely reauthorized with approximately zero contention. It has really become the very picture of bipartisan, non-controversial almost feel-good legislation. There were no big outstanding complaints about the horrible, non-violence against women act which we`ve had for nearly 20 years. The last time it was reauthorized was 2005. Look at the votes, 415-4. In other words, that`s the flat earth caucus. Only the fringiest of the fringe from either side of the aisle was voting against this for any reason. In the Senate that year, it passed by unanimous consent. There was not even a single token wing-nut voting against it. They didn`t even have to hold a full roll call vote. They all just agreed to go ahead and pass it, because it`s the Violence Against Women Act. Who`s going to be against that? Well, that was the last time the Violence Against Women Act came up for reauthorization. That was 2005. Only four people in all of Congress were living far enough off the kook end to have any reason to vote against it. But it expired again in 2011 and it was time again to re-up this totally non-controversial, bipartisan thing, the Violence Against Women Act. And this time, turns out times have changed. This time, Republicans decided they are against it. They spent most of last year blocking it from being reauthorized. And now this week, perhaps most inexplicably of all, after all of that time waiting, after it being allowed to expire, after not being reauthorized, after Republicans fighting it tooth and nail, House Republicans decided they are still against it but they let it move forward anyway. So it passed. It passed despite the opposition of the majority of Republicans in Congress. Think about the end result here politically. What did the Republicans get out of this whole experience? Well, like all Americans, they get the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. But they get it along with their own record of being against it, which includes viral Internet memes like this, which is the 22 Republican men who voted against the Violence Against Women Act. If nothing else, this visual brought to the attention of the American public the amazing headshot of the one guy who they put on the last line by himself there. Look at the headshot. That`s amazing, right? Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri is not that weird-looking a guy. But that is an incredible picture of you, sir. That`s his official headshot. What the Republicans got out of this whole experience is that roughly half the Republicans in the Senate, well over half the Republicans in the House, are on record voting no on the Violence Against Women Act and it passed anyway despite their opposition. So they willingly inflicted what is probably going to be political harm on themselves by taking a losing position that also happens to be super unpopular but America gets the policy. What`s the strategy here? I mean, as a person, I will tell you personally I think this is good legislation. I`m glad that it passed. Why did John Boehner let it pass? But let everybody get stuck with the record of being against it anyway. I mean, Republican primary politics are weird. But why let all these Republicans go on record voting against this thing? I mean, to protect them from an electorate that would be mad about them supporting the Violence Against Women Act? Does it insulate you from a Tea Party Republican primary challenge for you to vote no on domestic violence prevention and enforcement? Domestic violence? Really? It seems like even in the wackiest Republican Tea Party primary, this is the kind of thing you`re going to have a difficult time lording over some Republican. How do you make somebody look bad for voting for the Violence Against Women Act? For one thing, the parts of the bill they were particularly opposed to, protections for Native Americans and for gay victims of domestic violence, those don`t exactly make for awesome rallying cries in the context of domestic violence. What, are you going to run an attack ad saying, "Indians prosecuting white people, that`s crazy, and I stood up against it"? I mean, it`s going to be really hard to make attack politics out of this. But nevertheless, they let them all go on the record as if they`re all expecting primary challenges on the basis of their evil vote to prevent domestic violence. It`s weird. They have inflicted this pain on themselves, and anything they might gain politically by having voted against it is marginal. They`ve essentially earned nothing to outweigh the pain they have caused themselves in the process. John Boehner has let this happen, and the Republican Party has kept its brand of being the party that has kind of sketchy ideas about women. Now, to be clear, this is kind of strategery fail in legislating. It`s not only a Republican thing. You do see this kind of thing from Democrats. Remember during the health reform debate a handful of Democrats early on voted in favor of some versions of health reform but then they started freaking out about the politics of it and they voted against the final bill? The result, of course, was that they had not a friend in the world. No Republican opponent would ever let them forget their yes votes. And the Democrats, of course, would never let them forget their no votes. It was a lose-lose strategy. Vote both ways on health reform. That was inexplicable. But that was just these folks. That was a handful of Democrats, all of whom you have since forgotten about. What happened this week with Republicans and the Violence Against Women Act is the majority of the party. The majority of the party took that lose-lose strategy that was so obscure and that affected that very small group of Democrats who didn`t get it back in health reform days. The majority of the Republican Party took that weird strategy and made it their own. And what we have learned from all of this is that what was uber fringe in Republican Party politics in 2005 is now the majority of the Republican Party`s politics. They don`t have an argument for it that they can sell to the people. They lost the policy fight. And they`re all on record as being on the losing side. I think that John Boehner is bad at his job. Where will the combination of his flailing leadership and the combination of fringe and confused politics with that leadership lead them next? I can`t imagine. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: After an election cycle in which he raised hundreds of millions of dollars from rich conservatives, hundreds of millions of dollars, after he spent those conservative zillionaires` hundreds of millions of dollars on an elaborate expensive nationwide campaign in which he backed precisely zero candidates who actually won their race, after going through that crucible, Karl Rove went to Dallas, Texas yesterday with an explanation. It wasn`t him, he said. It wasn`t his fault. He did nothing wrong. It was those crappy candidates. He said sure, his donors were mad at him because of this last election, but they were only mad at him because Karl could not find better people to whom he should give their money. Quote, "My posterior was shredded a little bit by donors wondering why we were writing checks for people who then turned around and ran such lousy campaigns." Quote, "We`ve given away at least five seats in the last two election cycles, maybe more, because of poor candidates." Quote, "Our donors said we`re happy to write big checks, but we`re sick and tired of writing checks for campaigns that can`t win." Well, naturally, the self-assessment of a guy who just spent $320 million with nothing to show for it includes the sentence "our donors said we`re still happy to write big checks." Sure, they are. Keep saying that. But the "what went wrong" post-2012 diagnosis for the Republican Party establishment that lost the election so badly has not been that they did anything much wrong. They don`t think they did anything wrong. They think the problem is these lousy candidates. Like, for example, Steve King in Iowa. When Karl Rove unveiled his new how to spend rich people`s money effort for after the election, his group singled out Congressman Steve King of Iowa as the problem, as the kind of Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Christine O`Donnell, Sharon Angle nut job who might cost the Republican Party what would otherwise be a shot at winning a senate seat. Quote, "There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected. Representative Steve King, a six-term Iowa Republican, could be among the earlier targets of the Conservative Victory Project. He has said he has not decided whether he would run for the Senate but the leaders of the project in Washington are not waiting to try to steer him away from the race. " Quote, "We`re concerned about Steve King`s Todd Akin problem." But you know what? They are not getting rid of Steve King. This effort to stop the process of picking ever more right-wing purists in Republican politics is not working -- because Republicans. I mean, in Iowa where the Senate seat is opening up this next year, Iowa Republicans have been looking at a possible primary between relatively centrist Republican Congressman Tom Latham and the absolutely extreme Republican Congressman Steve King, the guy who Karl Rove is so desperate to stop. When you poll all Iowa voters, the more moderate Mr. Latham beats the Democrat in the race. While the policy from mars Steve King guy does not. He loses. Steve King loses in the general, in the polling right now. So, OK, Iowa Republicans, it`s a pop quiz. Which Republican do you want? Do you want the one who wins the Senate seat, or do you want the one who loses the Senate seat? Ding, ding, ding. Iowa Republicans will please take the wing nut who loses. Despite Tom Latham having a far better chance of winning when it really matters, he was polling behind with Republicans for the nomination. And now, Tom Latham has dropped out, citing his responsibilities as a congressman, Mr. Latham says he will not even try to run for that Senate seat. Steve King, meanwhile, is not officially in the race yet, but he`s not out of it either. And with Karl Rove`s record with zero percent success, 100 percent failure, frankly being the candidate that Karl Rove is trying to stop might work out for Steve King. He really might end up being their guy in that race. The Republican Party is not yet done purging itself, purging itself of electable moderates. They don`t want the one who can win. They want purity. They demand it still. The prevailing winds in Republican politics are still blowing in that direction. Just yesterday the far right club for growth launched Primary My Congressman, exclamation point, dotcom -- trying to gin up primary challengers against serving Republican congressmen, who are deemed not far right enough and therefore in need of being purged from the party. The Virginia Republican congressman who was referred to positively by President Obama at a home district rally the other day, he was immediately rewarded in his district by talk of a Tea Party challenge from the right. They`re still doing this. The nomination of Mitt Romney notwithstanding, this is still the defining feature of -- defining kinetic activity within the Republican Party in the post-Bush-Cheney era. Republicans are still purging their ranks of any moderates who attempt anything like bipartisanship, still purifying the party, getting rid of all traces of centrism. They`re still punishing dissent from the conservative line. This week we saw that happen for the first time in forever on the other side. This week we saw that happen on the Democratic side. A little purge in the Democratic Party. This almost never happens. In the special election for an Illinois congressional seat, former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, Democrat, she entered the Democratic primary as a front-runner, but a well-funded, outside money, ideological effort to make her pay for being too cozy with the NRA worked in that primary. Debbie Halvorson went from being the presumed front-runner to being a distant second in the final standings. The winner in the Democratic primary is the proud owner of an F rating from the NRA, and that`s a big part of why she won. This kind of not progressive enough purge is rare in modern Democratic politics, and it is not a mirror image of what happened and continues to happen on the right. At the same time, Democrats do appear to have found something over which they are willing to cleanse the party ranks. And I think it`s important to understand as a matter of politics exactly what that something is. Democrats haven`t done this for a long time. If we`re going to start doing this on the left, if liberals and progressives are going to start looking at Democrats and saying not enough, what`s it going to look like? I mean, you could shorthand what`s going on right now, what just happened in Illinois in particular, as being about guns, but that`s not exactly it. I mean, the House Democrat who`s leading his party`s effort on gun reform in the House is a former Army staff sergeant who carried an assault weapon in Vietnam, who still owns guns, who hunts, who talks about it all the time. He has led the pro gun rights congressional sportsman`s caucus. Democrats aren`t purging Congressman Mike Thompson. Democrats are elevating Congressman Mike Thompson. They are counting on him on this issue. Now, he`s calling for another new law about guns, another new law the NRA does not want. When Mike Thompson campaigned for Senate in -- excuse me, when Joe Manchin campaigned for senate in 2010, he showed himself shooting a copy of legislation that he doesn`t like. Democrats are not purging Senator Joe Manchin from their ranks. They`re counting on Joe Manchin. They`re counting on him as a key player toward bipartisan reform, a key player who just happens to love his guns, and the Democrats value that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I want to be very clear and tell you, I`m a proud gun owner. Nobody`s going to take my guns. And I`m sure as hell not going to let them take your guns. This is a bunch of crap with people talking about things they don`t know what they`re talking about. The only bill that I have worked on and am working on is one that will keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people mentally deranged. And that`s a fact. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Democrats are not purging gun-owning Democrats and pro-gun rights Democrats from their ranks. They are counting on them to do the work of gun reform. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, proud gun owner, proud supporter of the Second Amendment. Democrats are not purging her either, and not just because she`s a victim herself of gun violence. She and her husband Mark Kelly are touting their status as gun owners every single time they make their case that Congress must take action to reform our gun laws. What`s happening now in Democratic politics is fascinating because it is a Republican-style purge. Debbie Halvorson just got purged in Illinois. But this is not a purge of pro-gun Democrats. Debbie Halvorson did not get purged because she supports the right to own a gun or because she owns a gun if she does. She got purged because before guns became such a big issue, she used to position her as a candidate allied with the National Rifle Association specifically. She tried to move away from that position this year and it was too late. This fascinating Democratic purge is not about guns in general. It is about the NRA specifically. It is about breaking the link between the NRA and gun owners. And thus breaking the link between the NRA and politicians. Democrats decided this year that NRA politics have now finally gotten too weird to be the official politics of gun owners in this country, and they are stepping up to supplant that. Once that happens, if that happens, Democrats will break that link between the NRA and what is politically possible in this country. It is a fascinating effort. We`re going to meet the new Democratic nominee for congress who just beat Debbie Halvorson, straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBIN KELLY (D-IL), HOUSE CANDIDATE: Today you did more than cast a vote. You did more than choose a Democratic candidate for Congress. You did more than I ever could have imagined. You sent a message that was heard around our state and across the nation. (APPLAUSE) A message that tells the NRA that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end. And their days of scaring Congress into submission on gun control are coming to a close. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Every state has two U.S. senators. But in terms of House members per state, that depends on population. Every 600,000 or 700,000 Americans get a member of the House to represent them. Small population states like Wyoming and Vermont get the minimum one member of the House, whereas the biggest population state, California, has 53 representatives in the House. All in all, your average congressional district has 600,000 or 700,000 people. And that is roughly the number of people in the district in Illinois that`s going to hold the first congressional election since the presidential election. On the Republican side of that race the candidate who appears to have won the Republican primary won it by 23 votes -- 23 votes. It sounds like nothing, right? Until you realize that that`s actually something like 2 percent of the total number of votes that he got, because this district is so Democratic that if you run in the Republican primary you can come in first place in that Republican primary even if you get less than 1,000 votes in total. Six hundred thousand people live in this district. And you can win the Republican congressional primary with 900 something total votes. The guy who achieved that, who appears to have won Republican nomination according to the "Chicago Tribune," is a convicted felon who served nearly 20 years in state prison for burglaries, armed robberies, and aggravated battery. The state Republican Party is refusing to even comment on his victory. Anonymous Republicans admit that they will expend no national or state financial help to even try to elect him. The man who lost to him in the primary says, "I`ve gotten to know Paul and I like him. But Paul is a convicted felon." And Paul being the competition in this district and the fact that this is this district is why everybody expects that the nation`s newest member of Congress is about to be the woman who just won the Democratic primary in this race against very long odds of her own. Joining us now for the interview, for her first national interview, is Robin Kelly, the Democratic candidate for Congress, running in Illinois`s now very famous 2nd congressional district. Thank you very much for being with us tonight. It`s nice you have to here. KELLY: Thank you for having me. It`s an honor. MADDOW: I played your -- those introductory remarks from you at your victory celebration, because of the way that you talked about the NRA there. Do you think that the election you just won this primary is a sign that being for or against the NRA is a more potent political issue now? KELLY: I think because it was the only race going on across the country that a lot of people paid attention to it and then what`s been going on in Chicago as far as murders of really our next generation and then what`s happened across the country, I think that many people did pay attention to it and it is a message to the NRA that people are paying attention and they`re sick of their influence. MADDOW: Being from Chicago and the Chicago area, do you think that gun politics play differently in your district than they do nationally? And I ask because people are looking at your race and trying to extrapolate from your experience winning this race to national politics. Is there a difference people should understand about how issues like this resonate specifically in your district that might not be true elsewhere in the country? KELLY: Well, I think in the Chicagoland area this has been happening for a while and it`s the nightly news. I mean, it`s really ridiculous, and enough is enough. And I think that you hear more about the mass murders across the country, but I don`t really think it`s so different, it`s just that it`s a nightly event in the city and the surrounding area and, you know, the country hears more about the mass murders, they don`t hear about the nightly events. And I just -- but now people are much more aware, especially since Hadiya lost her life. MADDOW: Did you know that Mayor Bloomberg`s PAC was going to come into the race in such a big way against Debbie Halvorson, your main opponent, and eventually on your behalf? Did you know that was going to happen? KELLY: I had no idea. But I look at it that he didn`t really do it on my behalf. I look that he did it on behalf of families around the country, on behalf of mothers and fathers that have lost their children. MADDOW: Do you think that if you go to Congress and it is likely -- and nothing is foregone -- but it`s likely that you will, given the makeup of your district, and who your competition looks to be on the Republican side. What do you want to accomplish in Congress as a junior -- as the newest member of Congress at this time in our country, what do you think you can do there to make a difference on behalf of those families we just talked about? KELLY: Well, definitely be an ally to the president and what he wants to accomplish. Also, work across the aisle. I used to be state representative and I worked across the aisle. I`m interested in what is holding Republicans and Democrats back from voting for a sensible gun control bills. And also re- contacting the public that not only put me in office to make sure that their voices are heard. MADDOW: Robin Kelly, Democratic candidate for Congress running in Illinois second congressional district, after winning that long odds primary this week -- thank you so much for joining us tonight. Stay in touch KELLY: Thank you. MADDOW: You know, this district in particular is ready for somebody new, right? It`s in the sense that this district is long suffering. The last three people this district sent to Congress have left in scandal and disgrace. Before Jesse Jackson, Jr., the congressman before him, and the congressman before him both got a major criminal trouble while they were in office. And if they are going to be getting a clean slate either way, it looks they`re likely to get Robin Kelly as their member of Congress. But the second district of Illinois has been through a lot. And they`re ready for something new wherever it comes from and despite the -- with or without the weird political process they had to go through to get to where they are today. It`s fascinating to watch. All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I have something that needs to be cleared up about the papal helicopter. And today was kind of an amazing spectacle, right? Live footage all day today of something that has not happened in 600 years. And when it happens 600 years ago, well, I know very little about the 1400s or 1500s, whichever it was, but I know there were no helicopters to play the role that the pope`s helicopter played in today`s amazing scenes from Rome. Because the pope has decided to resign the office instead of serving for his natural life, because that has not happened for hundreds of years, there is no normal process for handling this. Everything has to be I guess a little improvised. So, I guess this is how we do it now. Today, before he stepped down. The now ex-pope, he said a final farewell to the church`s cardinals. The cardinals will pick his successor soon. But today, there was the new ritual of the out going pope getting to say good-bye because he is outgoing but still extant. That`s a new thing. Later on the day, Benedict appeared on the balcony of the Castle Gandolfo, which is one of the pope`s summer homes south of Rome. From there, he thanked the assembled crowd outside and told them that from now on, he`s just a humble pilgrim. It was the Swiss Guard, the world`s most harlequin military force, that ended up signaling to the world the final moments of the Pope Benedict`s reign when this member of the Swiss Guard shut the papal gate at Castle Gandolfo. The closing of those big wooden doors is apparently the market of the exact moment that Benedict gave up the papacy today. That said, nobody really knows what it means to give up the papacy. There is no template for how to do this. And the way the ex-pope has decided to do this is what makes using the helicopter thing today something that needs explaining, because even though the papal gate was shut and he said that thing about just a humble pilgrim now, he has decided to keep the name Benedict XVI, instead of going back to his pre-pope, which was Joseph Ratzinger. He`s also given himself a new title that never existed before. He wishes to be called pope emeritus. He also decided to keep the papal white robe, instead of going back to dressing as a priest, or even as a cardinal. He`s also decided he wants to still be addressed as "Your Holiness". The ex-pope has also decided to keep one of the best papal perks of all, he is keeping his secretary. His secretary will be responsible for tending to the new pope as well when the new pope is elect. But that secretary will also simultaneously have to serve as secretary to the pope emeritus, from whom he has been inseparable during this past eight years. The secretary that the ex-pope has decided to keep is this man, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who last month was the first clergyman ever to make the cover of Italian "Vanity Fair". The caption says, "It is not a sin to be beautiful." And it calls him the George Clooney of St. Peter`s. The remarkable Archbishop Clooney will apparently keep this day job running the next pope`s household. But the plan is that he will go home at night to his other gig with the old pope, the pope emeritus -- which brings us back to the papal helicopter. While it`s just sort of facially amazing to see the pope flying away to end his reign and his glittering white air chariot into the beautiful Roman sunset he goes -- watching this as an American audience necessarily brings up a sense memory of what it means to see a leader leaving on a helicopter and saying goodbye. When we Americans see leaders leave on a helicopter at the end of our reign, in America, that means presidents leaving the White House at the end of their term, right? Because they served their two terms in office and it was time to hand over to a successor like George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, or maybe they served just one term and then lost like Poppy Bush or Jimmy Carter or most famously a president once had to leave the presidency because he resigned under duress in the face of scandal, Richard Nixon. We are used to seeing leaders take off on that bill deluxe chopper and never come back. But today, watching the pope do the same thing, dressed in white, seeing him take off in that dramatic fashion and exit stage up like a president, there is one really important difference in what that trip on the papal helicopter meant today, because unlike presidents who really are leaving the White House forever and not coming back. Today, the pope took off and left the Vatican but he is going to go on vacation for a while. He`s going to stay at this summer place for a while and then he`s going to come back to the Vatican where he will live dressed in white being called "Your Holiness" sharing this man as a secretary he gets him nights, the new pope gets him days. He`ll be there indefinitely for the rest of his life. And the ex-pope`s brother, Benedict`s brother, says that Benedict will be happy to advise his successor while he is hanging around the Vatican not being pope. So, just to be clear, the pope`s helicopter took him away today, but it is not a one-way trip. It is going to take him back, too. I never thought I would say this but oh to be a fly on the wall at the Vatican when he gets back. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". And have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END