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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/10/13

Guests: Chris Murphy

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I like it where you left it, you just established peace in the land. HAYES: Yes. Exactly. MADDOW: This is how it`s going to be -- you don`t do it, you don`t do it. Whoo! I`m with you, man. HAYES: All in an hour`s work. MADDOW: All right. I`ll talk to you later. HAYES: See you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks to you at home, as well, for joining us this hour. Happy Wednesday -- a Wednesday in which I must give you fair warning. We`re trying tonight to put a ten-pound show into a five-pound bag. There`s a lot going on in the world. Big immigration protests in Washington today and in 18 other states. Really big coordinated marches and rallies calling for immigration reform as a bipartisan group of senators suggests that there, in fact, might be a path to start moving forward on immigration reform as early as next week. President Obama releasing his budget today. I`m not sure if it`s connected, but right now at the White House as we speak, the president is hosting a dinner with a dozen Republican senators. The Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus responded to the dinner tonight by saying he was outraged that the president is taking senators out to fancy dinners at restaurants. No one apparently told the chairman this dinner was not at a restaurant, it was at the White House -- but still, he`s outraged! Today in the states, it was a big day for Republican big government social conservatism. Alabama`s Republican governor has signed a new TRAP law. It`s modeled on Mississippi`s similar law. It`s designed to shut down all the abortion clinics in Alabama. Meanwhile in Virginia today, the attorney general there, Ken Cuccinelli, he has been shot down by a federal appeals court in his effort to keep the state`s sodomy law on the books. He was fighting to uphold his state`s mandate it be penovaginal intercourse only in Virginia, by order of the statement government. Nothing else. Montana Republicans repealed their sodomy law today. But in Virginia, it is apparently a fight to the death as long as Republican A.G. and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has anything to say about it. In the Exxon pipeline leak in Arkansas, today was the deadline for Exxon to respond to the subpoena from the state`s attorney general. He`s demanding Exxon`s answers and documents about what went wrong with that pipeline spill today. So, there`s a lot going on, a lot of moving parts in today`s news. But we start tonight in Louisiana. We start in the courtroom of this local district court judge. His courtroom a couple of weeks ago, a case arose that involved a convicted felon, a young man who was a convicted burglar. He was found riding in a car with a loaded .40 caliber Smith and West son handgun on the back seat. There was also an AK-47 with an extended capacity, 30-round magazine in the trunk of the car. This guy is in the car with those guns and he is a felon. Convicted felons are not supposed to have guns. But when this young man`s case came up in court last month, the young man, the burglar with the AK-47 and .40- caliber handgun, he was not contesting the facts of the case. He was not denying he was a convicted felon. He was not denying that he was in the car with those guns. What he was contesting in court last month was the very idea that it can be illegal for a convicted felon to have a gun. And he won his case. Louisiana, like every state in the Union, says, yes, we respect the Second Amendment, there is a right to keep and bear arms, but it`s not without any limits at all. Perhaps the lowest common denominator we can all agree on is that convicted violent felons are not allowed to have guns, right? Louisiana and every other state in the country all ban violent felons from having guns, but in Louisiana, that ban on felons getting guns was declared unconstitutional by that local trial court judge last month. That`s because of a new law that the NRA supported in Louisiana last year - - a new law that singles out gun laws and gun regulations for special scrutiny by the courts. Essentially, gun laws in Louisiana now are presumed to be unconstitutional unless proven otherwise, including the one about felons. When the law was first proposed, the Bureau of Governmental Research, which is kind of like the congressional research service at the state level, they do nonpartisan review of legislation and policy for the state of Louisiana, this nonpartisan analysts in this state said don`t do this thing the NRA wants us to do. They urged people to vote against this change in the law. They said, there`s no good reason to enter this uncharted territory. They said, changing the law like this, quote, would expose the public to unnecessary risks and hamper law enforcement. Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, though, supported it. He said he was proud to join with the National Rifle Association on this. He said it`s time we protected our freedom. Now that it turns out that what he was protecting was the ability of convicted felons to legally possess ak-47s, Governor Bobby Jindal is saying now that maybe this is a big misunderstanding. Put out a statement saying, quote, "We disagree with the judge`s ruling." See, he never thought that this law he was joining with the NRA to support would protect laws barring felons owning guns -- oh, but it does. And now thanks to the legislation that you let the NRA write for your state, the convicted felon who was in jail because he was found to be in possession with an AK-47 with a 30-round clip and .40 caliber handgun, he has been sprung from jail. And when the state Supreme Court hears the case soon, the people who warned against this NRA law in the first place are warning one of the possible outcomes at the Supreme Court would be the law banning felons from having guns won`t just be struck down permanently, it will be struck down retroactively, which would result in a mandatory springing from prison every convicted felon who`s in jail in Louisiana right now because he was a felon illegally in possession of a gun. That won`t be able to be illegal anymore, thanks to what the NRA tricked Bobby Jindal into supporting, even though he swears he didn`t understand it would work out like this. Louisiana is the first state to enact this thing what the NRA wrote for them. But they also convinced Republicans within the past year in seven other states, Minnesota, Missouri, Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. So, what do you think, Minnesota, you ready for the NRA to force you to let out of prison all of your felons who were caught with AK-47s? You sure you understand what you`re getting into here? Louisiana is a case study for what happens when you let the NRA write your gun laws. Turns out it`s not a great idea. I mean, it would be one thing if Bobby Jindal and the rest of them intended to give guns to all the convicts in the state of Louisiana, but they apparently did not intend to do that, and they are shocked to find out that`s what they got when they did what the NRA told them to do. Louisiana is a case study for what goes wrong when you let the NRA be in charge of this part of public policy. And at the federal level, we are now, today, deciding if we want to keep letting the NRA be in charge of this part of public policy. Under the NRA`s leadership, after all, we have built a national policy system in this area in which if you are on the terrorist watch list, you can`t fly on a plane, but you can buy an AR-15 assault rifle and 100-round drum magazine while you`re on the terrorist watch list. Our system now is a system in which if you are adjudicated mentally ill, if you try to buy a gun here in a store like this, they will run a background check on you that should show you have been adjudicated mentally ill and you will not be allowed to buy a gun in that store. But if you want to buy the same gun here at a gun show instead of a gun store, if you`ve been adjudicated mentally ill and you want to buy a gun at a gun show, feel free, go ahead, go nuts. Oh, right, you are already. In the very, very, very, very cautious baby steps consensus legislation unveiled today in Washington by senators from both parties, everybody fell all over themselves to try to say the NRA was OK with this, NRA A-rated, NRA lifetime member, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin announcing the NRA would be neutral on the background checks legislation that he put forth today with Republican Senator Pat Toomey. The offices of the senator even floating that the NRA was in the room watching over the negotiations on that legislation every step of the way. The other bipartisan legislation released on gun trafficking today from Senators Pat Leahy and Susan Collins also announced today as having been agreed upon with the NRA. And while the NRA itself is maintaining its same old publicly hostile stance, even to the measures they were said to be involved with, hopes for the passage of the very modest reforms, hope for those passing rests now on the hope that these guys have had their rings kissed enough in the development of this legislation, that even though they are publicly hostile, they might not rear up to their full height in fighting these bills, and, therefore, maybe something might be able to be passed. And that is one way to think about this, that`s one way to think about the power, right? The other way is to look up from the late `90s and look around and realize the NRA isn`t the only game in town anymore. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: And as I visited with the Pendleton family at Hadiya`s funeral, I couldn`t get over how familiar they felt to me, because what I realized was Hadiya`s family is just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her when I met with Hadiya Pendleton`s classmates on the day of her funeral. Dozens of them later spoke at the service, each referring to her as my best friend. And let me tell you, whoo, it is hard to know what to say to a room full of teenagers who are about to bury their best friend. But I started by telling them that Hadiya was clearly on her way to doing something truly worthy with her life. I told them that there is a reason that we`re here on this earth, that each of us has a mission in this world, and I urge them to use their lives to give meaning to Hadiya`s life. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Hadiya Pendleton was 15 years old when she was shot and killed in Chicago in January, just one week after she performed at the president`s inauguration in D.C. After that emotional speech today in Chicago, First Lady Michelle Obama then went to Harper High School in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, where just last year, in one year, 29 students at that high school were shot. Michelle Obama is a very popular first lady. But she has not made a habit of using that popularity to weigh in on a lot of contentious policy debates in Washington. She has her causes. She`s not frequently weighed in on stuff that is being debated before Congress, but today she did. Also today, the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America released this new ad. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DISPATCHER: 911, what`s your emergency? CALLER: There`s a man with a gun. (GUN SHOT) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bloodied children ran out of the school as shots were being fired. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shocked and saddened by the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech today. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does it take to see what is unfolding before our eyes? BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They had their entire life ahead of them. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My child is gone. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My little girl was so full of life, isn`t coming home. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That ad out today from a new gun reform group that was formed after Newtown that`s called Moms Demand Action. Also today, members of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Washington today read the names of the more than 3,300 Americans who have been killed by guns since the Newtown massacre in December. Family members of the victims of Sandy Hook were among those who stood up to read names. At one point, one woman reminded the crowd they had been reading names for more than 20 minutes and they were barely through one day`s worth of victims. Also today, Americans for responsible solutions, which is the gun reform group formed by Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, they released a statement of support for the bipartisan background check bill that Senators Manchin and Toomey put forth today. And it was a statement of support, but it ended with a warning that this group would communicate directly with the constituents of senators if they try to block debate on the bill. When Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly formed the group back in January, they did it with the expressed purpose of taking on the NRA. That was their reason, they said, for existing. And now they are issuing warnings to lawmakers who do the gun lobby`s bidding. The families of the kids and educators who died in the Newtown massacre were also back on Capitol Hill today in person for a second day meeting with lawmakers. When, after meeting with the families today, Senator Joe Manchin, who you see in this room, was asked by a reporter how the families have impacted this debate, Senator Manchin got very emotional, was unable to answer, all he could say was, "I`m a parent, I`m a grandparent." In the debate over gun laws in this country, the professional gun lobby is no longer the only side. Certainly, not the only side that has the energy and resolve to push hard and push relentlessly for what it wants. There is another big, strong side in this fight now, and they are organized and they want results, and they are pushing for those results, and, I think it matters they have an outspoken ally in this White House. They have been told all along that even getting a vote on these issues would be impossible. Well, the vote`s tomorrow. They said it couldn`t be done. Joining us now is U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator Murphy, thank you so much for your time tonight. I really appreciate it. SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: So, the big news yesterday was the Republicans` filibuster threat seems to have been defeated, that there will be a vote. Big news today was about the bill Senators Toomey and Manchin on expanding background checks. What do you think is the most important thing to know about that deal? MURPHY: Well, I think it`s important to note that Republicans and Democrats, like they did in Connecticut, are coming together. I mean, you know, Pat Toomey is not someone you`d necessarily expect to buck the NRA, but he has read the writing on the wall here, 90 percent of Americans, 90 percent of Pennsylvania voters, support universal background checks. And I think, frankly, thoughtful Republicans have figured out that aside from policy considerations, politically, they just cannot sit on the line and stop a piece of legislation that`s supported by 90 percent of Americans from becoming law. Now, the NRA has come out today and said not only are they going to oppose this, but they are going to score it. And, normally, that`s signaled the death knell for pieces of legislation on the floor of the House and Senate. But with 90 percent of Americans supporting what Manchin and Toomey came out with, frankly supporting something stronger than what they came up with, the question next week is going to be who runs the United States Senate, do the people really run this place or does the NRA run it? Because nine out of 10 people should probably be able to get something done here. The NRA is going to put their reputation, their mythology on the line, I think this time they are going to lose. MADDOW: What do you make of the effort and the forces lined up on the other side of the debate from the NRA here? Obviously, the families who are -- the family members of the victims of the Newtown massacre in your state are the most potent emotional core of the other side of the NRA in this debate, but there`s mayors against illegal guns and the group against gun violence and the new moms group that formed after Newtown and there`s the Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly group. And there`s all of this effort, the Brady Campaign, who`s been there for so long, this Connecticut congressional delegation, you guys have been galvanized by this like nothing I`ve ever seen before. How do you assess your own strength being on this side of the fight? MURPHY: You know, well -- I mean, it matters in two respects, one, these families who are down here this week, I mean, I`m just in awe of them. They are in the middle of grieving and they are coming down to lobby in Washington. And nobody can make the case better than they can. Remember, five kids escaped. Five kids escaped while Adam Lanza switched cartridges, and the argument that they are making is that if Lanza had to switch cartridges 10 times or 15 times instead of just five or six times, their kids might have escaped as well. There`s nobody that can make that argument, it`s a real policy argument, better than those families. But, second are all these other groups that are spending money. I mean, the secret is out. The NRA actually hasn`t been doing well in elections. In 2012, they spent money in 16 U.S. Senate races and they lost 13 of them, and that`s even without Bloomberg and Giffords groups, and Moms Demand Action spending money in these races. So you add on top of the already bad record of the NRA recently in elections, this new wave of money to support people who take them on, and I just think this is a new day. I could be proven wrong. Twenty years has gone by since we passed serious gun legislation, but I think this is significant. MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut -- it`s been a real pleasure to talk to you over the course of this as we`ve seen it evolve. I think you`ve been astute in being able to explain what`s important about the ongoing debate. I hope you`ll stay in touch with us as it goes forward. Good luck. MURPHY: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks very much. All right. A lot still ahead tonight, including Elizabeth Warren letting loose today at a rather unexpected target. David Axelrod is here tonight. Plus, we`ve got important news about a French zoo. It`s all ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It`s only three weeks ago that the chairman of the Republican Party called a big press conference in D.C. to release his party`s autopsy of what went wrong for them in 2012. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I didn`t need the report to tell me that we have to do a lot better job and do a lot more to make up ground in minority communities. We`re launching a new national field program designed to engage minority groups and communities at the local level. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The day after party chairman Priebus` big "let`s reach out to minority" press conference, the very next day, a Republican took him up on it. Republican Senator Rand Paul from the great state of Kentucky put his money where Reince Priebus` mouth was, and he took a trip to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Senator Paul`s argument for why Hispanic should vote Republican hinged on an argument that Hispanics, obviously, agree with Republicans on social conservative issues. Everybody knows, he said, that Hispanics are wildly opposed to abortion rights and wildly opposed to same-sex marriage. That may be Senator Rand Paul`s view of what Hispanics belief, it is not, in fact, the truth of what Hispanics believe. He then transitioned from the stereotype part of the program to this part of the program. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: There`s a hilarious episode on "Seinfeld," any "Seinfeld" fans? Where Jerry, Jerry admits that he loves Asian women, but he frets and he worries. He said, is it racist to like a certain race? MADDOW: Don`t do it, don`t do it, just don`t. PAUL: So, it is with trepidation that I`d like to express my admiration today for the romance of the Latin culture. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Back to the drawing board, Reince Priebus! (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Reince Priebus could not have known that the day right after his "let`s reach out to minorities" press conference, Rand Paul would be the one Republican who`d really give it a go, right? But it turns off that was not a one-off thing. Today, Senator Rand Paul ventured to Howard University, the prestigious historically black college in Washington, D.C., and his pitch to the Howard University students there was, essentially, they would want to vote Republican if only they understood more about black history, if they only understood black history as well as he did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: I mean, how many of you would have -- if I would have said who do you think the founders of the NAACP are, do you think they are Republicans or Democrats, would everybody here know they are all Republicans? All right, all right, you know more than I know. OK. And that`s -- I don`t mean that to be insulting. I don`t know what you know. You know, I mean, I`m trying to find out what the connection is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It turns out quizzing the audience at Howard University about the history of black America worked better in the teleprompter than it did in the room. Who could have seen that coming? Awkwardness aside, though, there`s the nuts and bolts issue of Senator Rand Paul`s record on the issue of race and discrimination and civil rights, which the students at Howard today knew about before he got there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thank you for coming, despite the fact you have spoken out against the Civil Rights Act, against the Voting Rights Act, and you`ve done it as a champion of individual liberties and states rights. And so I wonder, aside from the moral reasons not to discriminate, of which there are many, when is it OK legally to discriminate, according to you? PAUL: Well, I think it`s a mischaracterization of my position, mischaracterization. I`ve never been against the Civil Rights Act, ever. I still continue to be for the Civil Rights Act, as well as enforcement of the 14th Amendment. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elaborate on that? I mean, this was on tape. PAUL: There was a long -- there was an interview that had a long extended conversation about the ramifications beyond race, and I have been concerned about the ramifications of certain portions of the Civil Rights Act beyond race as they are now being applied to smoking, menus, you know, listing calories and things on menus, and guns. And so, I do question some of the ramifications in the extensions, but I`ve never questioned the Civil Rights Act and never come out in opposition of the Civil Rights Act. MADDOW: I`ve never questioned the Civil Rights Act. I could be wrong here, but I think the interview he was referring to in that clip is the one he did with me back on this show in 2010. I remember it because it was the last time he ever spoke to me. During the interview, I tried for about 15 minutes to get Dr. Paul to state his position on the Civil Rights Act, whether he thinks it`s kosher for the federal government to end the discrimination in private businesses like bars and restaurants. It went on for 15 minutes because I wasn`t ever able to get a straight answer out of him on that question, even after 15 minutes of repeated asking. But the reason I asked him in the first place is because of what Rand Paul had told his hometown newspaper on that subject just a few weeks earlier. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964? PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I`m all in favor of that. REPORTER: But? (LAUGHTER) PAUL: You had to ask me the "but." I don`t like the idea of telling private business owners. I abhor racism. I think it`s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Rand Paul in 2010 questioning the Civil Rights Act, and this is Rand Paul today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: I never questioned the Civil Rights Act. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Rand Paul saying at Howard University today that he never questioned the Civil Rights Act is not true. And it`s not true on tape, as the moderator noted today at Howard. I mean, it`s one thing to have a sketchy record on racial discrimination and basic civil rights law that you don`t want to defend, it`s another thing to be condescending enough to think you can get away with just flat-out lying about it. If you`re a U.S. senator, you`re Googleable and people are going to Google you before they turn out to hear you so they will know it when you lie to their faces. We are now three weeks into the Republican outreach program to minority voters. Do you think they are going to stick with Rand Paul being their outreach director, or you think they maybe are going to change gears here? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Famously, upon winning a second term, President George W. Bush immediately made a huge political stumble. He decided the first thing he was going to do was the big national effort, a big national rollout was that he was going to privatize Social Security, and the whole country laughed in his face. The more he talked about it, the more unpopular the idea became. And it did not take all that long before everybody realized this was just a misfire, it was a huge political mistake, so they gave it up. And to recover, the second-term Bush administration decided they needed to change gears, they needed to do something totally different, they needed to hit the reset button and start over. They decided to start over with immigration reform. For people who wanted the immigration system reformed, President Bush promising to do that, starting with his State of the Union address in 2005, it stirred up great hope that something really would be done. Now, President Bush`s conservative base hated the idea. It was a big right wing backlash to it, and in the end, nothing got done. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: From border states like here in Arizona, to unlikely places like South Bend, Indiana, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, illegal immigrants, alongside their supporters, stepped from the shadows, marching out of the American flag, they demanded a place at the American table. Today in Atlanta, an estimated 50,000 demonstrated, met by some of their opponents along the way. In Tucson, Arizona, police were on alert for counter-protesters from the group Border Guardians, who over the weekend burned Mexican flags. Today in Dallas, a small plane carrying an anti-amnesty banner crashed. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Bush never did get immigration through Congress. He did spend three years trying. His other big domestic idea, his other big domestic fight that he picked was the Supreme Court. October 2005, he picked his own White House lawyer, Harriet Miers, to fill the Sandra Day O`Connor seat on the Supreme Court, and again, the president`s conservative base hated it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: Pat Buchanan, George W. Bush is a conservative. He nominated Harriet Miers, a conservative, to the Supreme Court. You`re a conservative. Why don`t you support her? PAT BUCHANAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tim, Ms. Miers` qualifications for the Supreme Court are utterly nonexistent. She`s not only not ruled or written on any of the great controversies of our time, on religion, or faith, morality, she has shown no interest in them in 40 years. We had an outstanding bench of conservatives, of traditionalists who had the right judicial philosophy and President Bush ducked a fight. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, Uncle Pat does not speak for all Republicans now and did not speak for all Republicans then, but he did have his finger in the wind on that one and Republican senators who met with Harriet Miers came back saying that they really did not want her to get the Supreme Court gig. And President Bush gave up on her. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Twenty-four days ago, President Bush said one person stood out to replace Justice Sandra Day O`Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. He said his own White House lawyer, Harriet Miers, was the most qualified choice. But many of his fellow Republicans weren`t having it. The votes weren`t there in the U.S. Senate. And so tonight, the Miers nomination has been withdrawn. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President George W. Bush vanquished the Democrats in his reelection effort in 2004. Maybe it was that that made limit take his hold over his own side for granted in his second term as president. But he did take his side for granted in his second term as president, and it cost him repeatedly. Today, President Obama released his proposed budget in Washington. He`s selling this budget as a pragmatic, tough-minded compromise. Predictably, Republicans hate it anyway. But this time so does a portion of the president`s liberal base. Liberals are calling it a betrayal, most particularly because it includes significant cuts to Social Security benefits. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is calling the president`s budget a bitter disappointment. Liberal groups are threatening to primary any Democrat in Congress who supports this budget. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said today she was shocked by the budget. She said it dismantles Social Security inch by inch, noting that two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for most of their income. Elizabeth Warren said today, quote, "They are hanging on by their fingernails to their place in the middle class." She said, "We cannot chip away at America`s middle class and break the promise to our seniors." Should the Obama White House see this as a George W. Bush second term moment, a president taking for granted the supporters he cannot afford to lose and the ones he cannot afford have disenchanted with him, or are the parties not the same and do Democrats always see their base differently? Do Democrats actually really like these punch the hippie moments where they think complaints on the left make them look strong and centrist? It`s one or the other. Somebody I am darn sure knows which way the White House sees us joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I don`t believe that all these ideas are optimal, but I`m willing to accept them as part of a compromise -- if, and only if, they contain protections for the most vulnerable Americans. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama today releasing what he describes as his compromise budget, compromising with Republicans on cuts to Social Security, especially, and in the process, enraging some of his own liberal base. Is this a president who thinks he has much to lose by angering the otherwise loyal left, or is this a president who sees having a big visible fight with the left as a way to see himself look centrist, and, therefore, stronger? Joining us now is a man who probably knows -- David Axelrod, former adviser to President Obama, director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, and now, a senior political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News. Mr. Axelrod, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here. DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here. Good to be here. MADDOW: So, when you hear the criticism of President Obama`s budget from somebody like Elizabeth Warren, somebody who he has been so closely aligned with, particularly on her signature, some economic populism issues, does that -- as somebody so close to the president -- does that sting or does that sound like good cover for him winning over some people in the middle and on the right? AXELROD: Look, I think that we ought to back up and look at this for what, as I think he looks at it. Really, we have a choice in this country. We`ve got a Republican vision about how we move forward that would not only turn Medicare into a voucher system, but would decimate investments in the future in education, in research, in social spending generally that would - - and would leave standing all the tax preferences that benefit oil companies and other special interests, allow millionaires to avoid paying a proportionate share of their income, versus a vision that the president offered. And I think his view is, we`ve got a fundamental economic challenge in this country, we have to make investments in education, research and development, in energy and infrastructure, he proposed a universal pre-K program. That`s a progressive vision of how we build the economy. And as part of that compromise, he has other elements in here that are controversial. But I heard your setup piece, Rachel, I don`t see the analogy, because those fights that Bush had were free-standing fights. They weren`t part of this larger struggle. And I think most Americans in this country, including those who consider themselves progressives, understand that that central economic challenge is the one we have to go after. And if we go down that Republican road, we`re going to exacerbate the problems that we`ve seen over the last many years. MADDOW: But in what the president has put forward, he`s not trading away cuts to Social Security, and I should say, cuts to Medicare for anything that he`s getting from the Republicans. The Republicans are rejecting this flat out anyway, saying, sure, we`ll take the cuts to Social Security and Medicare, but we`re not giving anything. I mean, those -- that funding for pre-K comes from a tobacco tax. That`s the sort of stand- alone measure. Being willing to be the party that wants to cut Medicare and Social Security -- AXELROD: Well -- MADDOW: -- erases the biggest advantage that the Democratic Party has over the Republican Party on economic issues. AXELROD: I hear that, you`re talking like a political strategist and member of Congress. I hear that, and understand it. There are people in Congress who say let`s not do anything about Medicare. Let`s certainly not do anything about Social Security because this is a great issue for us. We can win on this issue. We can win in 2014. We can win in 2016. We can return ourselves to Congress. The fact of the matter is, we do have to do some things about Medicare. We have a situation now where we have baby boomers turning 65 every eight seconds. It`s putting pressure on the system. We`re paying out $3 for every $1 we take in in Medicare. Now, I think a lot of that can be dealt with through the reforms the president has been promoting to reduce the cost of health care and get all of the -- you know, some of the waste out of the system. But, you know, we have to do other things, as well. He`s proposed means-testing, for example, as part of his proposal. But I think it`s unrealistic to say, let`s not touch those things, because we`ll give up a good issue. And we need that issue to win elections. I think at some point you got to stand up and say, let`s take a look at the total picture what we need to do for the country moving forward and deal with them. MADDOW: You -- I feel like the argument, you`re answering my question implicitly by willing -- by wanting to argue this on policy rather than talking about its political impact. I feel like what the White House must want is a fight with the left, because if it really was about the sustainability of Social Security, you can get there without benefit cuts. You know that these people stop paying the payroll tax contribution on Social Security at $110,000 or $113,000. You put that -- you raise that by $100,000, you`re only affecting people who are making that much money and you put Social Security on a path towards solvency. It makes more sense than cutting old people`s benefits right now. I think this is a fight they want on the politics. AXELROD: I agree with you, and I think that has great appeal. And I think some combination of those things would be great. Probably not salable, but good. And obviously -- we should mention that my understanding is the president`s budget builds into it protections for older seniors, for people who are vulnerable, for people on the lower end. But, you know, this is -- I know that I`m a political guy. I spent my whole life working on elections. Two years in the White House, but you asked me what is the president thinking. And I don`t think that he`s sitting there thinking, how can I get some advantage by picking a fight with the left or picking a fight with this constituency or that? I honestly think what he`s trying to do is pass a budget that keeps us from decimating our economy as the Republican budget would, that restores the sequester cuts that need to be restored, that makes investments that need to be made in things like education and in research. The things we know -- infrastructure, $50 billion more in infrastructure. These are things that would help our economy in the short run, you know, expanding the earned income tax credit would help deal with inequality. So, I think he`s looking at this. You say I`m talking policy you`re talking politics, I think he`s thinking policy. I think he`s thinking -- this is something I can get done. It is -- it is a reasonable people in the Senate and the House could vote for it, and it would preserve the things and enhance the things that we need to do as a country. MADDOW: I believe you that he believes in what`s in his budget, but I think that if really what he believes in is Social Security benefit cuts, but I think that really what he believes in is Social Security benefit cuts, he`s going to feel the ground beneath his feet give way. And I think this is a start of a fight that ends badly for the Democratic Party and this president. AXELROD: I think he`s going to have to make the case, Rachel, as to why a progressive view of social insurance programs is that you have to do things to preserve them in the long run and it`s not an honest position to say we can do nothing and these things will take care of themselves. MADDOW: Nobody`s saying -- that`s not fair. Nobody`s saying -- AXELROD: No. MADDOW: Nobody`s saying do nothing. First of all, Social Security isn`t the problem with the deficit. Second of all, there is a way to fix it that has nothing to do with starving old people now or in the immediate future. You have people pay more and the system is solved. If you wanted to approach just towards solvency, that would be one of the things that`s on the table. For the Democrats to not put that on the table and say it`s all about solvency and not the politics, I just don`t buy it. AXELROD: Look, you chose to talk about Social Security, I think we should talk about both Social Security and Medicare. There`s no doubt that in the long run, there are going to have to be adjustments made to Social Security, and there`s no doubt that there are other ways to approach that. He said today he didn`t think this was the ideal solution, and the reason he built in, I think, those -- those preferences for the most vulnerable, for older seniors and so on, was because of his concerns, some of the concerns that you -- that you share here. But, again, I think the thrust of this is how you construct a budget that is passable, that is reasonable, and that can -- that preserves and enhances those things that are going to make our economy grow and grow in a way that is progressive, that gives people a better shot. Universal pre-K gives people a better shot, some of the higher education things he`s doing gives people a better shot. Research and development creates middle class jobs that are important for this country. Medical research will save lives. All those are in jeopardy if there`s not a path that can be embraced by the Congress. And so I know what the Republican position is today. Let`s see what the Republican position is in the ensuing weeks and months when they have to defend what is an indefensible budget on their part. MADDOW: David Axelrod, former senior adviser for President Obama, now a senior political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News -- I think the Republicans are going to be exactly where they are months from now, now. But we`ll have you back in the meantime. AXELROD: I will be here to talk about that at that time. MADDOW: You`re a good sport, David. Thank you. AXELROD: Thanks for having me, bye. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It was 10 years ago this week, 10 years ago yesterday or today, depending on the time zone, that U.S. Marines pulled town a big metal statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. That wasn`t how it was reported here at home. A couple of years ago, I went to Baghdad with NBC`s Richard Engel who was in Baghdad at the famous Palestine Hotel when that all happened and we saw how it really went down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Marines come in. RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS: Marines come in. A group of Iraqis look at them tentatively then start to go after the statue. MADDOW: How did -- the statue is like that height, it is tall. ENGEL: There was a guy with a big sledgehammer, wailing at the base of it. They started yanking on it, and it wasn`t going anywhere. MADDOW: Right. If I wanted to take that down with 100 of my closest friends, it is not going to happen. ENGEL: So, they start yanking on it, then the Americans said we`ll give you a hand, you want to do it, otherwise this is going to take all day. MADDOW: Yes, you know, it would not have made local morning radio on western Massachusetts. A bunch of people yanked on a statue, it didn`t fall down. ENGEL: Exactly. MADDOW: So, if you want to help, you want to make the symbolic impact, you help them bring it. ENGEL: Or the Americans, they`re watching it as the Iraqis yank down a statue and it collapses on top them and kills 10 people. MADDOW: Yes. ENGEL: So, the Americans help them pull it down. It was a very awkward moment, one person put an American flag. MADDOW: That`s right. I remember that -- over the face of the statue. ENGEL: American head that was tied to 9/11, a flag that had been in New York. And then it quickly erected this statue which is -- MADDOW: Which is -- ENGEL: Not great. It is odd. And the people in that square at the time, I was listening to them cheer. They weren`t cheering the end of America, end of Saddam, this is freedom, freedom. They were yelling and sharing, Sadr, Sadr. MADDOW: Sadr? ENGEL: They`re cheering for Muqtada al-Sadr. MADDOW: Sadr is father. ENGEL: So they were cheering for -- MADDOW: They are giving a Shiite sectarian chant. ENGEL: As the statue is being pulled down. That`s what they`re yelling. MADDOW: Yes, see -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The toppling of that Saddam statue in Baghdad was 10 years ago this week. You know, the date on which the George W. Bush Presidential Library is going to be open to the public next month will be the 10-year anniversary to the day of Bush declaring mission accomplished in Iraq just weeks into the start of that eight-yearlong war. On the 10 year anniversary of that, his presidential library opens. On the ten-year anniversary of the Saddam statue being pulled down, House Republicans celebrated this week by inviting former Vice President Dick Cheney to a closed door meeting, for him to share with them his Dick Cheney wisdom on foreign policy. Former vice president reportedly told congressional Republicans at the meeting that we are in, quote, "deep doo doo when it comes to North Korea." Now, how does Dick Cheney know this technical information about our exact situation with regard to North Korea? He explained to congressional Republicans that he was basing that assessment on, quote, "his own experience dealing with former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein." For the record, Dick Cheney`s record of dealing with Saddam Hussein consist of things like him telling us that Saddam had a nuclear weapons program that he did not have. While at the same time ignoring the actual nuclear weapons program that North Korea really did have. North Korea became a nuclear weapons state on the Bush administration`s watch while they were preoccupied starting a war for fun in Iraq. And that`s who the congressional Republicans are inviting to give advice on dealing with dictators, and the particular depth of our doo doo when it comes to understanding other country`s dangerousness. That`s who they`re going to for advice. To be clear, Dick Cheney did not show up uninvited and they felt bad and let him in, they invited him to talk to them. He is their chosen expert. Still. Heaven help us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. This is the part of the show where I tell you about the French zoo. Do you remember at the top of the show, I said we were trying to fit a 10-pound show into a 5-pound bag? The French zoo didn`t fit into the bag. But if you come back tomorrow, I swear I will tell you and it`s totally worth waiting for. I`ve been doing this five years, still can`t figure out how long the show is. Sorry. 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