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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/06/13

Guests: Ron Wyden

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I`ve never been more self-conscious about the way I talk and flap my hands around than hearing you talk to the body language expert. I feel like I can be a robot now. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: I`m doing everything wrong. I`m showing my cards. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: We are very normal. I feel good about that tonight. MADDOW: Yes, I`ve never tried to be normal before, but I`m going to try really hard to be normal and will fail immediately, I`m sure. Thank you, my friend. That was great. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. I have to hold still. We often end this show with something we called the best new thing in the world. But tonight`s best new thing in the world deserves pride of place, I think, right here at the top of the show instead of at the end of the show, because something happened in American politics today that never happens. At least that never happens anymore, something dramatic and significant and full of meaning that used to happen in our politics, but that recently had been banished. Today, it came back. What you`re looking at here, of course, is not an actual senator. This is the actor Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." In this part of the movie, he is talking himself to exhaustion on the Senate floor in order to block something from happening in the Senate. The United States Senate lets you do that. It is a rare and weird part of our system of government. In the legislature, aside from a few things that the Constitution says have to have a super majority, stuff like impeaching someone or kicking somebody out of Congress or ratifying a treaty, aside from those few reserved things in the Constitution, in our legislature, it`s majority rules. But in the Senate, by tradition, by the rules of that body, one senator, or a minority of senators is vested with the power to stand up and block something from happening, even if the majority wants it to happen. It is a rare beast, or at least it ought to be a rare beast. A single senator or a minority of seniors effectively throwing themselves on the gears of democracy and saying, "I must be heard on this. You cannot go forward with this until I say my piece." And so a la "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", a single senator may take it upon himself or herself to effectively play the hero, right, to bring all business to a halt, to bring the spotlight upon himself or upon herself, to hold the floor, speaking about whatever it is that`s so important that it is worth this effort until the effort expires by necessity, because the senator can physically go on no longer, or because a supermajority of senators says enough and ends it. It is a very dramatic thing, or at least it used to be a dramatic thing. In recent years, the Senate changed the rules so all it took to filibuster something now was to say you wanted to filibuster it. No need to take the Senate floor, no need to make your case, no need to turn on the spotlight, let alone shine it on yourself for a long time, you and your extraordinary concern. The filibuster when they changed the rules just became a quiet everyday part of Senate life. Since the Democrats have been in charge in the Senate, Republicans have used it to effectively make Democrats have to get a 60-vote supermajority for everything. It`s become absolutely run-of- the-mill. But nobody has to take the floor and say why. Nobody has to expend any effort at all. It`s permanently around. In other words, they killed Mr. Smith, or at least they kidnapped Mr. Smith. The only time he was seen in spirit in recent years was once in December 2010 when the iconoclastic, contrarian liberal Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont brought Mr. Smith back without warning. December 10th, 2010, Senator Bernie Sanders took the floor of the Senate at 10:30 in the morning, and he talked for eight and a half straight hours. He talked on the collapse of the American middle class, the huge escalation of income inequality in our country, and the policies that either ignore those problems or that make them happen. Despite being eight and a half hours long, the Bernie Sanders pseudo- filibuster that date, December 2010, was actually sort of a cogent beginning, middle, and end argument. When it was over, they were able to publish it as a book. They just put a new introduction on it and published his filibuster because it reads like a book. If you want to get a sense of the kind of impact that dramatic action by Bernie Sanders had, I want to show you a little piece of tape. This is just 20 seconds long. It`s kind of a weird thing to show on cable news. But this is only 20 seconds. Just watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: There is a war going on in this country, and I`m not referring to the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan. I`m talking about a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country against the working families of the United States of America, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is an installation art piece, piece 1, by Nora Ligarano and Marshall Reese. The middle class is spelled out there as an ice sculpture, and you`re watching a time laps video of it melting, with this musical soundtrack and also words from Senator Bernie Sanders` filibuster. We`ve got a link to the full thing at our Web site today if you want to watch it. Senator Sanders, I should say, also has a link to it at his Web site as well. What he did that day when he took the floor for eight and a half straight hours and made a single eight and a half hour-long argument on a single point, it made an impact. I do not know if it changed the course of the country in terms of policy, but an elected official going back to the old rules and commandeering the floor of the United States Senate for hours to stand alone, Mr. Smith-style, and make his point, to throw himself on the gears, to hold things up as long as he holds up physically, this kind of thing is designed to make a point. And it does. And, of course, you can use this tactic that is unique to the United States Senate. You can use it to make good points. Or you can use it to make terrible points. The heroic one man against the world filibuster back in the day was, of course, a favored tool of the segregationist senators from the Deep South to slow down civil rights legislation and to try to look like heroes to the South for doing it. I mean, looking back at that as a cause is stomach-churning. But at least it was not some no fingerprints, no effort, anonymous tactic, like how this thing is used today. You actually had to stand out there and say your piece. With the exception of Bernie Sanders, we do not do it like that anymore. But then today, it happened again. At 11:47 a.m., the Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul took the floor of the senate and announced that he would not be leaving the floor of the Senate any time soon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I yield the floor. UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: The senator from Kentucky. SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan`s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm has sounded from coast-to-coast that our Constitution is important. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That started at 11:47 a.m. today, and it went on all day long. And it is still going on. But it is not happening via some secret behind the rules -- behind- the-scenes paper rules in which people said they were filibustering, but they weren`t actually standing on the floor and talking and refusing to sit down. In this case, they were actually standing on the floor of the Senate and refusing to sit down. For short periods of time, Senator Paul engaged with other senators, or they sometimes took over for him for a while. Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Pat Toomey, Saxby Chambliss, the Democratic senator from Oregon, Ron Wyden. But it was Senator Paul who did the lion`s share of the talking by himself. He argued today, he is still arguing now, that there should be more information disclosed about the government killing people with drones, and the rules under which that happens should be made more available to the Congress and to the American public. Now, what Senator Paul did today I have to say will never be publishable as a book. It was not the most coherent thing on two legs. And honestly, because it is Rand Paul, we barely got a half hour into him starting talking before he got to his gratuitous Hitler references. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: Hitler was elected democratically. They elected him out of this chaos. The point isn`t that anybody in our country is Hitler. I`m not accusing anybody of being that evil. I think it`s an overplayed and a misused analogy. But what I am saying is that in a democracy, you could some day elect someone who is very evil. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`m not saying anybody is like Hitler. I`m just saying think of Hitler, think evil, and then close your eyes and think of people here in America. Yes. Rand Paul, wildly imperfect messenger for any message, really, but particularly for the nobility of the cause of talking a long time. But there is something important about the United States Congress finding its footing and wanting to assert its role, its oversight role in where and why and how our country wages war. The president is the commander-in-chief, absolutely, but it is the Congress in which the founders vested the questions of war and peace. And maybe those green shoots of responsibility only rose the way they did today because Republicans can only be inspired to oversee such matters when the president is of the opposing party, and they don`t care when it`s a Republican president -- I think that`s the case. But, still, despite its craven partisanship and its frequent lapse into incoherence, and Rand Paul`s frequent and gratuitous Hitler references, because Rand Paul cannot help himself, Congress demanding to play its part in matters of war is in broad strokes the way Congress is supposed to work. It`s the way our whole government is supposed to work. And moreover, when Congress does want to use the almost miraculously un-democratic power that is reserved specifically to the Senate, to block majority rule, to hold up the operation of the whole legislature because of one guy`s concern, or because of a minority concern for which regular business and regular democracy must wait so that those concerns can be heard, when that happens, it is supposed to be a giant pain. It`s supposed to be exhausting, and showboaty and selfish and ostentatious test and an ostentatious display of endurance, because this is not supposed to happen every day. This is supposed to be weird and rare and extraordinary circumstance in which it takes a supermajority vote, 60 votes before you can move on. Blocking or delaying a presidential nomination, or anything that is supposed to be subject to a majority vote in the legislature, blocking or delaying it until you can get 60 votes for it, that is a big hairy deal. The best new thing in the world today is that it was not done today like it was nothing, like it is done most days now. Today, it was made exactly as big and as hairy a deal as it is always supposed to be. Rand Paul started filibustering at 11:47 this morning Eastern Time. This is a live image of the Senate floor right now at 9:11 Eastern as I speak to you. That`s Senator Mike Lee of Utah, continuing Rand Paul`s work right now. It is still going on. Joining us right now is Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. He engaged Senator Paul in debate during today`s filibuster. He is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Senator Wyden, thank you so much for being here tonight. SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Thanks for having me again. MADDOW: So the talking filibuster is not much used anymore. We still have to show footage of fiction of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" in order to give people the idea. Did this debate about congressional oversight and transparency on drones, did it get better today by use of this tactic? WYDEN: I think the American people certainly know more about the fundamental question, which is we have to strike a better balance, Rachel, between protecting our security and protecting our liberty. I`ve just come off a two-year effort, made seven separate requests to get the Obama administration to release these previously secret legal analyses which offer the justification for the drone strikes. And this debate is just beginning. And the reason I went to the floor today is, I thought it was an opportune time to try to show that there is a new effort by both progressives and conservatives to try to show that in our country, it`s possible both to protect our liberties and at the same time ensure that we`re vigilant against the very real threats that are out there. MADDOW: It seems like the occasion of John Brennan`s nomination has brought about a bunch of stuff that we now know, or at least that you know as a senator that we were not able to know before. We saw, first, reported by NBC`s Michael Isikoff a summary of legal reasoning by the administration on killing Americans abroad with the drone program. We also then saw released to the Intelligence Committee a couple Office of Legal Counsel memos on the same subject. Then more memos on the same subject released to the Intelligence Committee. It seems like things are going in the direction that you want. But how much further do you think the administration should go in terms of making information available? And do you think should it be limited to these disclosures about killing Americans, or do you think it should be about killing anybody using this program? WYDEN: First of all, I think there does need to be more information made available. I think it can be done consistent with national security about drones. And I am going to make a concerted effort to declassify more of that information in the days ahead. This debate, Rachel, is just beginning. The fact is the very nature of warfare is changing so dramatically, we have just begun the discussion, and certainly now, it`s time to bring the public into this. The members of the Intelligence Committee have just gotten access to the documents. People have asked, am I satisfied with that? Of course not. I`m going to have additional follow-up questions, probably next week on some of the issues, and some of that will be public. Some of it will have to be classified. But this debate has really just begun. MADDOW: I know that you engaged Senator Paul today in debate as he held the floor. I was careful to say it that way, because as far as I understand it, you are not participating in the filibuster of John Brennan`s nomination. You do believe he should get an up or down vote. You do not want it delayed. Is that accurate? WYDEN: I already voted for Mr. Brennan in the Intelligence Committee. I have announced that I`m going to vote for him on the floor. There were parts of his nomination hearing that I was quite encouraged by. I liked the fact that he wanted to make clear that if mistakes were made with respect to drones, that ought to be made public. At the same time, I was concerned about the fact it was hard to get information from him about countries where lethal force was used. But we have made some progress. I think now we ought to be trying to build on it. MADDOW: When -- I should say if and when John Brennan is confirmed for the CIA when he does get his full floor vote in the Senate, and it`s expected that he will be confirm in order position, what do you think will be the next point of leverage? Or what do you think will be the next occasion for which to continue to press the administration for the kind of transparency that you want? Attorney General Eric Holder says we should expect to hear the president himself discuss these matters. Do you feel like the administration is in the mood to continue to disclose further information, or do they need to be pushed with a nomination like this on the line the way they have over the Brennan situation? WYDEN: The president has told me, Rachel, personally, and I`ve talked to him twice on this, that he is committed to a more fulsome airing, let us say, about these kinds of issues. And I think that is so important. We have to protect what`s called the operations and methods in the intelligence community. But the law itself should not be kept secret. And it`s this fight against secret law that has been so important. It shouldn`t have taken seven requests. That`s how many I made, Rachel, over a two-year period to get this kind of information. Now, I will tell you just in the last few days, the letter from Mr. Brennan was quite forthright on the question of making sure that he didn`t believe the CIA could use drones in the United States. The letter from Mr. Holder, while moving in the right direction, he in effect said he could only see using the military against what would amount to a foreign attack in the United States like Pearl Harbor. There still are some unanswered question there. That`s what we`re going to have to keep digging into. And I think you saw today those efforts will be bipartisan. MADDOW: Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, that distinction that you`re making there, the difference between secret operations and secret law is one that for all these different ways of resistance I believe is really starting to sink in, and the way people talk that in a way that I think is mostly attribute to you, sir. WYDEN: Thank you. MADDOW: So thank you for advances our discourse on that and thanks for being here tonight. WYDEN: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. One last thing: every time we cover the issue of killing people in this way, every time we cover counterterrorism and killing people with drones, we get rafts of hate mail on this show. I`m here to tell you I love your hate mail. I do. The whole show does. It`s often very informative. But I want to make sure you send to it the right place. So it goes to We really do read your email. Hate mail and otherwise, and that e-mail address really does work, So when you want to write to me to tell me to stop covering the story and call me names and question my motives for covering it, really, tell me more. I love to hear it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Headline this week in the Newark, New Jersey "Star Ledger": "Gun Control Poll: Nearly everyone in New Jersey`s Republican districts supports universal background checks." Headline in "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel": "New polls support background checks for gun buyers." This one is about polling and two Republican-controlled districts in Wisconsin. Headline in "The Philadelphia Inquirer": "Poll: overwhelming local support for background checks." That`s based on four Republican-controlled districts getting polled in Pennsylvania. Local media in wildly different parts of the country reporting on their local politicians and their local voters based on new polling that is geographically specific to each of those disparate places. It`s all happening at the same time. Do you sense that something is going on here? That`s because something is going on here. The group mayors against illegal guns have rolled this out slowly and subtly in local media first, but it is about to go national. They very quietly did a huge new polling effort. They asked people if they supported background checks for all gun sales. They pulled in 21 states and 41 congressional districts. Huge effort. But up until now, you would only know about this if you had been doing a close reading of local newspapers from mostly Republican states in congressional districts. Well, tomorrow, they are due to publish the results all together in one place, in a full page ad in three major beltway newspapers. We got it from them tonight when we asked them about what seemed like this quiet round of polling they were doing and only publicizing locally. So, we are the first news outlet to break this. But here it is, so you can see it ahead of time. It says Americans overwhelmingly support background checks for all gun sales. And then it lists the polling results from dozens of states and congressional districts, along with who is the office holder there and what their NRA rating is. Since the NRA is opposed to background checks, right, that matters. The majority of folks on this list have an A or A-plus rating from the NRA. Again, the NRA opposes background checks. But look what these people`s constituents think about background checks. Look at those numbers. In every single case, come on, who cares what the NRA says. The view of the residents in these dribs is just overwhelming. Only three times on this entire list does the support dip below 80 percent support for background checks. And in those three cases, it`s still 79 percent wanting background checks. Look in Arizona, for example, where Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have between them an A and a B-plus rating from the NRA, 90 percent of their constituents in Arizona want background checks, even if the NRA is opposed. So the senators are going to do what the NRA wants or are they going to do what 90 percent of their constituents want? In three different Michigan congressional districts, the congressmen from those districts have A-ratings from the NRA. But the people who live in those districts support background checks by 87 percent to 92 percent. So what is it going to be Fred Upton and Tim Walberg and Mike Rogers? Are you going to do with the NRA wants? You got an "A" rating from the NRA. Are you going to do what the NRA wants or do the opposite of what the NRA wants, which is what 87 percent to 92 percent of people in your districts want you to do. In Oklahoma, home of A-plus rated Senator Jim Inhofe and A-rated Senator Tom Coburn, 87 percent of Oklahoma residents want universal background checks -- Oklahoma, 87 percent. And that is a particularly important part of Oklahoma, not just because Oklahoma is such a red state, because one of the senators from Oklahoma, the NRA`s a rated Tom Coburn was being aggressively courted to co-sponsor a bipartisan bill in the Senate for universal background checks. Today, we learned that that effort has failed. Tom Coburn will not be signing on to the universal background check measure that is set to be introduced in the Senate tomorrow, the one that 87 percent4 percent of his constituents support. He is going to give the one-finger salute to 87 percent of his constituents in order to do what the NRA wants him to do instead. "The Washington Post" reporting tonight that negotiations for a broad, bipartisan background check bill, including Tom Coburn, have stalled. Now it will be left to Democrats Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin and lone Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois to try to find Republican support elsewhere. And yes, Senator Mark Kirk is himself a Republican, but his "F" rating from the NRA may not make him the best pitchman for recruiting more Republican support to this bill. And they will need that if they`re going to pass this bill over an all but certain Republican filibuster. Is it really possible that the congress is so far to the right of the people of Oklahoma that this kind of thing is impossible now? This one straight forward fix, background checks, is something that people in super gun-friendly states and Republican congressional districts support by a low of 79 percent and a maximum of 100 percent. Literally in one New Jersey Republican district, support for background checks clocked in at 100 percent. Is it possible that something with this much popular support can attract the support in the Senate of only one Republican? One. That`s how far the Republican Party is from public opinion right now? This seems to be not sustainable. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress studied 15,000 pages of evidence and held 21 hearings over ten months to debate whether the Voting Rights Act should be renewed. Congress decided resoundingly that the answer was yes. They voted in favor of it by a huge bipartisan margin. You can see the House vote, 390-33. The vote in the Senate was unanimous. It was 98-0. Last week, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said he did not believe that for a second. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT: This last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don`t think that`s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributed -- very likely attributable to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It`s been written about. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Perpetuation of racial entitlement. It`s been written about. A search by Saint Louis University law professor Chad Flanders reveals one prominent piece of writing on the subject of the perpetuation of racial entitlement. This permanent piece of writing was written by a young lawyer in 1979, a fellow named Antonin Scalia. Oh, I get it. You say racial entitlement has been written about? It turns out it has been written about by you, very clever. We posted Justice Scalia`s 1970s musings on racial entitlement at today in case you want to prove to yourself it exists. It`s amazing. Was he right, though? Was he right that senators didn`t really mean it when they voted to re-up the Voting Rights Act? Was he right when he says they were brainwashed with racial entitlement, or whatever, and that they didn`t really mean to cast those votes? There is a way to answer that question, it turns out, which is so creepy, you won`t believe it. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In case you are not already acquainted with THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW white board, here it is. We use it to plan out the show every day. We write our ideas for the shows from the day`s potential news stories up there. And if it is humanely possible to ever read my handwriting, you would be able to make out the notes on about the segments on tonight`s show. So, this is how our planning board looks when we come up with what`s going to be on the show and signed out all the segments and everything. It`s covered with writing, as you can see. This is what it looks like every day when we come into work for the day. Terrifyingly blank. We erase it every day, all but one little tiny part in the upper right. You see? We keep one little part of it permanently that does not get erased. It`s a little note in the top right corner. It is always there because that is our one and only permanent rule about what kinds of stories we will and will not cover on this show. It is a self-imposed rule. It is the only rule that we have when it comes to story selection. You can see it here. First you can see the date the rule went into effect, November 27th, 2012. So, that`s a couple of weeks after the presidential election. And it says 2016 ban. And then I`ve signed it, RM. So that`s the rule. It`s a ban on stories about the next presidential election. I refuse to cover those stories. It`s against our rule until the rule is repealed. And there is no provision for repealing the rule. And we needed to impose this rule for a reason. Remember the presidential election, the one that felt like it lasted years and it ended a very short time ago, and immediately after it was done, like the next week, there were already all these stories in the news about who was going run in the next presidential election four years later? It`s insane. It can`t be the way we run the news. And so, we got this ban. No stories about who may or may not run in 2016 -- no, no way, not yet. Not here, not for a while. Except, I`m breaking the rule. I`m sorry. I`m sorry, but it`s for a reason. Look, all right, breaking the rule. Here you go. "Jeb Bush Open to 2016 White House Bid." "Jeb Bush Quietly Lays Campaign Groundwork Through Foundation." "Jeb Bush sounding more like a presidential candidate." "Jeb Bush thinking about 2016." "Jeb Bush: the 2016 race is on." Right. Conventional wisdom is that Jeb Bush will be running for president in 2016, and so there. I submit myself for sentencing. I have officially violated the ban. And it`s about a member of the Bush family, which makes it somehow worse. I am sorry. It pains me to do this, but I`m doing it for a reason. I`m doing it because this story, even though it`s about 2016 and is therefore inherently stupid, this story does actually help answer a really important current question that has nothing to do with 2016 and nothing to do with the Bush family. It has to do with the direction of the country right now and policy and particularly the future of the Republican Party. On last night`s show, we talked with Nicolle Wallace, who I always really enjoy having on the show, and not only because she is one of the only Republicans in the country who will speak to me with a camera around. Nicolle is a former communications director for George W. Bush. She was a senior adviser to John McCain`s the last presidential campaign. She is very bright. She is also one of more than 100 Republicans who signed a brief to the Supreme Court in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples, ahead of the court`s big cases on that subject at the end of this month. In addition to Nicolle, 11 other high-ranking seasoned political operatives have signed into this brief, many of whom have worked for very anti-gay campaigns in the past. As for Republican elected officials, seven former Republican governors, including Tom Ridge and Christie Todd Whitman and Jon Huntsman. Other signatures from 10 former Republican members of Congress, including Chris Shays and Mary Bono Mack and Susan Molinari. So, seven former Republican governors, 10 former Republican members of Congress on the record in support of gay couples having a constitutional right to get married. But what about Republicans who are holding office right now? Not former office holders, but current office holders? How many, for example, sitting Republican governors are signed on to this brief? Zero. How about sitting Republican senators? Zero. Again, no Republican senator currently serving in the Senate signed that brief. What about the House? Well, there are a lot of members of the House from the Republican Party, right? There is 233 Republican members of the House serving in this current Congress. I think we have a list of all of their names. By necessity, it`s in a very, very tiny font, because there are 233 of them. Well, of the 233 Republican members of the House, how many of them decided to go on the record in support of marriage equality? Ding ding ding ding ding. Those two, jackpot -- two out of 233. That`s less than 1 percent. They are New York Congressman Richard Hanna and Florida Congressman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Two Republicans who have long bucked their party`s line on gay marriage, as I said, less than 1 percent of the Republican Party`s congressional membership. Big picture we are led to believe that something is changing on this issue in the Republican Party, leaders in the Republican Party evolving on the issue of gay rights. And that is true of some people who could be called leaders within the Republican Party by some measure. But it is not true of the party`s elected officials. And why is that? Why is the party changing for everybody except elected officials? I asked Nicolle Wallace last night why virtually no sitting Republican elected official signed that brief supporting marriage equality when so many other big-name Republicans did. And as much as I love talking to Nicolle, she did not answer any question. But there is something about holding elected office that`s keeping Republicans from evolving on the issue of gay rights either when other Republicans who aren`t holding elected office can evolve. And it`s not just the issue of gay rights, no. It is more interesting than that. And that`s why this example from the Bush family is worth violating the one rule that we have on the show about what not to talk about. Former Florida governor, current 2016 presidential hopeful apparently, brother to George W. Bush, Jeb Bush left office in 2007, all right. He was Florida governor. He hasn`t been in office since `07. He has been out of office in six years. In that time out of office, he has built a national profile specifically on the issue of immigration by taking a relatively progressive stance on immigration, supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. During the presidential campaign, you may remember him staking out that territory, right? I mean, there was Mitt Romney praising Arizona`s "papers please law", saying he thought an appropriate immigration strategy was to help for self-deportation by immigrants. At the time, Jeb Bush criticized Mitt Romney. He said, Governor Romney has used this as a means to connect with a group of voters that were quite angry. But now, he is in this somewhat of a box. So I think the broader message is how do you get out of that box? Well, Jeb Bush`s advice to Mitt Romney, watching the presidential race from the sidelines is stop pandering to the angry people, mitt. Don`t box yourself in. But now, now that Jeb Bush is going to be not just a former elected official again, apparently he is going to try to run, be a candidate himself again, now he has crawled into the box with Mitt Romney, announcing in his new book that he is no longer for a pathway to citizenship. Now, he believes a pathway to citizenship would be a reward for illegal immigration. In other words, Jeb Bush, in simultaneously letting it be known that he wants to run in 2016, also letting it be known this week that he sort of now has Mitt Romney`s stance on illegal immigration, which really annoyed some of the people who worked for Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign. The revelations angered them. They felt that Bush went out of his way to make statements during the campaign that undermined Romney`s campaign by seeming to urge a softer approach to immigration. Quote, "Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?" said one Romney adviser. Well, not where was he, but where did he go? What is it about running for office that makes a person less evolved in Republican policy than being a former official? That is the more interesting question. Later in the week, Governor Bush went on to say that maybe he could be for a path to citizenship again under certain circumstances, it depends. But regardless, his story is instructive. We can see it happening from people leaving office and suddenly becoming more enlightened, and we can see it in reverse with him, having been enlightened and now, suddenly, devolving where people have to vote for him again. What is happening in the Republican Party right now is strange and fascinating. Why can you be a Republican who supports gay rights, but not if you`re currently in office? Why can you support a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants up until the moment that you start being taken resolution as a potential candidate? What is it about elected office that precludes Republican evolution on social issues? How does this work if you are a candidate? What`s the right advice to you if you have to decide what you believe right now? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: When it comes to a path to citizenship, all right, you fall short of that. That`s not -- you want legal residency. JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Yes. Our proposal is a proposal that looks forward. And if we want to create an immigration policy that`s going to work, we can`t continue to make illegal immigration an easier path than legal immigration. So going forward, we broke this last year, going forward, if there is a difference, if you can craft that in law where you can have a path to citizenship, where there is an incentive for people to come illegally, I`m for it. So I have supported both, both a path to legalization, or a path to citizenship. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Got that straight? Former governor and apparently a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, Jeb Bush and his varying positions on immigration, evolving fast over the course of this week. That was Governor Bush just over the course of two days. Joining us is Steve Schmidt, Republican political strategist, senior strategist for McCain/Palin ` and a MSNBC contributor -- Steve, thank you for being here. STEVE SCHIMDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, you were among the Republicans who signed on to the brief to the Supreme Court supporting marriage equality. SCHMIDT: I did. MADDOW: Only two elected officials were on that list of 130 Republicans signed on their. Now, we`re seeing Jeb Bush going from former elected official with very progressive position on illegal immigration to potential candidate having a much more conservative position on this issue. What is it about elected office that makes Republicans take more conservative stances? SCHMIDT: First off, I think there are two very different issues. But let`s look at the immigration first. And let`s evaluate Jeb Bush through the prism of a potential candidacy for president. There is no question that he has stumbled over this issue, that he has been inconsistent over the last couple of days. But we should remember with regard to Jeb Bush that he has been a voice of reason on this issue. He has been a voice for solutions on this issue. He has been a great friend to the Hispanic community in this country. Jeb Bush is an important voice in forging a consensus around this issue. Now, I was sitting next to him when he was on "MORNING JOE" and he clarified his answer. And what he said there was he would be open to a path for citizenship. I think, in fact, if we are to solve the immigration crisis in this country, and it is a crisis. You had a great chart a couple weeks ago that showed the insanity of our immigration system. If we are going to solve the problem, we`re going to have to have a permanent fix for the security of the border. For a sovereign country, we have to know who is in the country. We have to be able to secure the border, but we also have to deal in a compassionate way to the people that are here and that means offering a path of citizenship after some process, and that`s the contours of how we get to a solution on that debate. MADDOW: And that has been the line from Jeb Bush consistently for the last seven years and even before that when he was Florida governor. And that is the thing he started to take back at the same time he flirted the story that he wants to run for president in 2016. Why are those two things happened at once? SCHMIDT: I don`t think those two things are necessarily linked together. I think that if he runs for president, he is going to be an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform -- MADDOW: Why didn`t he just write a book that took it back? SCHMIDT: Well, because I think he was offering solutions to the problem that are navigable, in his view, Republican Congress. Now, the politics of the situation has changed. There`s been a very small number of us who have been outspoken and vocal, talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. That became a flood after the last election. The book was written before the election, and I don`t think the book is caught up to where the party is right now. But we should remember with Jeb Bush that he has been a consistent supporter of immigration reform, and I think that within -- and I think that despite what`s in the book, I think that you`ve seen him trying to clarify his position now and get back to where he originally was. MADDOW: I think he should blame the co-author. He should be like, dude, ghost writer stole my ideas. SCHMIDT: Always best to blame someone in these circumstances. MADDOW: He`s going to need to at this point. SCHMIDT: Right. MADDOW: Anyway, I see -- (CROSSTALK) SCHMIDT: He`s not the first politics to flip-flop on an issue. MADDOW: No, but having been so principled on it for seven years, you want to see him believing it and so, therefore, leading his party on this. SCHMIDT: And, by the way, I`m not convinced he`s going to be a candidate for president. But maybe he will, maybe he won`t. But I think you`ve seen him trying to get back to where his original position was this week. MADDOW: On the gay rights issue, I was surprised there weren`t more elected officials who signed on. Given how bold-faced the names were who did sign on, and also it seems like so many Republicans are talking about the party needing to move on this issue, particularly younger Republicans. SCHMIDT: Right. MADDOW: But we don`t see any younger, more moderate members of congress or even ranking state officials signing on for this. What is it about elected office that`s stopping them? SCHMIDT: I think this is an issue where people`s attitudes are changing very, very quickly. President Obama is an example of that. When you look at Republicans, look, for example, at the legislators in the New Hampshire state legislature where you had many Republican members vote in favor of marriage equality at the state level. Now, at the congressional level, I know many members of Congress who were totally untroubled by the notion of gay marriage, who are supportive of gay marriage but aren`t publicly vocal. MADDOW: How come? SCHMIDT: And the reason is because in politics, politicians of both parties have a finely attuned instinct for self preservation. And Republicans believe that there`s a price to pay potentially in primaries even though I believe that organizations like the National Organization of Marriage, with a few exceptions, are all bark, no bite. And, in fact, can`t determine the outcome of the race. But the day will come when you begin to see -- and it will come sooner than people think it will -- where members of Congress in the Northeast and the West, in the Mountain West begin to depart from what has been orthodoxy, and you will see more and more Republicans demanding that the Republican Party embrace its traditional values of freedom and equality and that no American should be disenfranchised from the fundamental right of marriage. MADDOW: I believe that you want that to be true. I think that we would see it happening already in a more overt way if it was going to happen. And I`m still dying to know -- one of those Republican members of Congress who is not closeted as a gay person but closeted as a pro-gay person, will you ask them if they`ll do a silhouette with me and I`ll disguise their voice and we`ll do that whole thing and they can speak beyond -- SCHMIDT: People will ultimately come around on this issue. And when you look at some of the future leaders of the party that will be around potentially for a long time, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, the cast of elected officials in their early 40s, some in they`re late 30s, who will be the first of them to break and to say we should not define conservatism along this issue? And, in fact, we support marriage, equality, not in spite of our conservatism, but because of it. I think that day will come. I gave a speech talking about the conservative case for gay marriage four years ago. There wasn`t but a handful of Republicans. Now, there are hundreds of Republicans. This issue is evolving quickly. Attitudes are changing rapidly. And what is clear to me is that as we look ahead to 2016, people that are disrespectful to the gay community, people that treat their fellow Americans will less than respect are going to be penalized by voters across the spectrum. And the intolerance that has been out of the mouths of so many of our Republican elected officials is going to be something that they pay a political price for. And when that happens, you begin to see people break from the old standards and drop some of the conformity on some of these issues, because at the end of the day, this notion that you`re going to pay a political price, that you`re going to lose your seat, that there are powerful organizations, that there are people who will come out in primary and take your seat away, most of it in most places is totally illusory. MADDOW: Fascinating. Steve Schmidt, MSNBC contributor, former McCain-Palin senior strategist and a guy who`s not afraid to annoy people in his own party on a regular basis -- thank you, Steve. I appreciate it. SCHMIDT: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Two things. The old school Mr. Smith-style talking filibuster that Rand Paul started this morning at 11:47 a.m., demanding more information about drones, that is still going on right now in the Senate. I believe that is Senator John Barrosso, and if I correctly identified him right, I deserve a medal. Also, I went on too long with Steve Schmidt, but I have to bring you another story about whether senators really meant it when they voted for the Voting Rights Act. I have to bring you that story tomorrow -- which is my bad. I got carried away. But we will see you then. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END