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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/29/13

Guests: Gary Samore, Julie Burkhart, Tammi Kromenaker

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Chris, when I came out, I went back and met with, after I already come out, met with my friends who I played club basketball with in high school to tell them and, like, see if they were OK with it. And my co-captain, her reaction to it was, well, did you ever like me? And I said, no, no, man, you`re not my type. And she said, oh, well, why not? (LAUGHTER) CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: I`m hoping that`s the reaction across NBA locker rooms everywhere this evening. MADDOW: I hope so too. Thanks a lot, man. Appreciate it. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday. All right. Here is Guam. Guam is an island as you can tell. Zoom out. You can see it is way, way out there in the Pacific Ocean. If you think about flying from California to Hawaii, if you do that, that gets you roughly half the way there. Just keep going that distance again and you`ll get to Guam. Guam is closer to the Philippines and China than it is to Hawaii. It is north of Australia. It`s north of Papua New Guinea. It is basically so far west, it is east. Technically, Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States. The island sends a nonvoting delegate to Congress. And Guamanians get to vote in a non-binding preference poll when it comes time to vote for president. Even if Guam doesn`t have a vote in the actual Electoral College, though, what Guam does have is a huge military presence. American military bases cover something like a third of the entire island. And those bases on Guam are a big part of the U.S. military presence in that whole part of the world, that whole region of the Pacific. Couple of years ago, the Pentagon considered building an even bigger military presence on the island of Guam. The plan would`ve increased the population of Guam by almost half. And when that plan was being considered in Congress, that`s when a little known congressman from Georgia named Hank Johnson spoke up in a hearing with this rather amazing comment on the giant U.S. military and its huge and maybe increasing presence on the tiny little island of Guam. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: I don`t know how many square miles that that is. Do you happen to know? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t have that figure with me, sir. I can certainly supply it to you if you`d like. JOHNSON: Yes. My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t anticipate that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I love the Navy admiral being there. I have to address the congressman`s concern. We don`t anticipate that, sir. A local Atlanta paper felt compelled to point out that Mr. Johnson, as far as they could tell, was not making an April Fool`s joke when he talked about the island of Guam capsizing from the weight of all the new people there. But he kind of was making a joke there. He did not really think that Guam was going to tip over. He was using metaphor as a commentary on the size of the U.S. military presence on the island and he was just being incredibly dead pan about it while he used that metaphor. It turns out that Congressman "Dead Pan" Hank Johnson is a very funny congressman. But he`s so dead pan about it, he does not betray that he`s making a joke that other members of Congress do not laugh when he`s making jokes. He`s too funny for Congress. His dead pan humor does not play in the room because the people with him do not get it. He`s actually setting them up in a way that`s just over their heads. Here`s the latest from Congressman Hank Johnson. It`s on the subject of helium. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHNSON: Imagine, Mr. Speaker, a world without balloons. How can we make sure that the injustice of there being no helium for comedians to get that high-pitched voice that we all hold near and dear to our hearts? Imagine a world without balloons. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The guy behind him going -- is anybody else listening to this? The high-pitched voice we all hold -- "Dead Pan" Hank Johnson. Again, they`re making a point that surely went over a lot of people`s heads. But it`s a good point he`s making there. Really, it`s our helium problem that`s in need of a fix, congress, out of all of the problems in this country, all the budget problems in our country, out of all of the things that are underfunded in our country. The helium thing is one we need congressional action to zoom in on, seriously? It`s kind of a good argument. Even if people didn`t get the way he was making it. It`s a good argument because it`s the same zeal for budget cuts that threaten the beloved helium supply, same zeal for budget cuts also means right now that elderly cancer patients in America are not getting their oncology drugs. Elderly people who depend on deliveries from Meals on Wheels are not getting those meals. This is an Indiana father reacting to the news in his town where they`re having a lottery for preschool. They`ve put all the names trying to get into preschool into a fish bowl and this man is listening to the results of that lottery in his town being called out hoping to hear his 4-year-old survived the cull because of budget cuts. The president in the State of the Union this year proposed upscaling our expectations for American education, specifically on the issue of preschool. The president said that universal preschool should now be the expectation and the reality in the United States. Preschool is so important for kids. Well, today a report on that says essentially that we have unfathomably far to go before we can start to think about universal preschool. Not only are we so far behind that goal like that, we were far behind that goal before we started this new policy we`re living through right now of across the board cuts. Right now, we`re really far behind and we`re getting worse. We`re not getting better. Tens of thousands of kids across the country are getting kicked off preschool, including in places like Indiana, where the remaining few slots are being allocated by lottery, by heartbreaking lottery. The cuts that we`re living through right now that are affecting everything from preschool slots to Meals on Wheels for elderly people, to cancer drugs, and when you can start taking your oncology treatment -- they are all part of the same policy. They are all part of the same across the board cuts in what the government does. It always gets reported as across the board cuts in what the government spends because that sounds nicer, right? Spending sounds like an awful thing, we ought to get rid of that, but government doing stuff? Well, it turns out, some of the stuff that government does, we like. It`s probably the reason that we do it. And some of the stuff that government does, which has now been cut turns out is even the kind of stuff that Congress notices. It`s the stuff that Congress likes, stuff that Congress wants to protect because it`s stuff that affects them. And so, last week, we saw Congress move with heretofore unseen lightning speed to protect one of the things that government does from these across the board cuts that were otherwise causing problems. Last week, with lightning speed, Congress moved to protect air traffic control, because it was causing flight delays and, hey, flight delays, it turns out, those are really annoying. They`re bad for the country, those should be stopped. So, Congress moved so fast to undo those cuts that they actually have to redo what they did tomorrow, because in their haste last week, they left a really important typo in the bill. That was how quickly they moved to stop these cuts that bothered them. These cuts that were affecting the one thing that government does that they were bothered by, making the planes run safely and on time. Coincidentally, they passed that legislation right before all going to the airport to get on planes themselves to go home at the end of Congress calling it a day. Cutting hundreds of billions of dollars at once out of what government does hurts us as a country. What we have learned, though, thus far by doing that is that only some people get relief from those cuts. Only people with political capital get relief from those cuts. So, Indiana dad -- sorry. But business traveler or congressman himself annoyed by more time on the tarmac, yes, Congress feels your pain - - we`ll get right on fixing that. The reason we are doing this, the reason we are inflicting all this harm on the country, all this harm specifically on people who do not have enough political capital to save themselves is the doctrine of austerity. That is the overall idea right now, right? It`s the overall conservative idea of about what to do for a nation that has gone through an economic shock that we went through at the end of the Bush presidency. Austerity is the solution according to the Beltway. They want the government to spend less, which sounds great if you see it only as government spending and not as stuff that the government does. Spending, that can`t be good for anything. But stuff the government does -- yes, sometimes that`s stuff we want. A week and a half ago, they tried to re-launch the magna carta of contemporary American austerity, the Simpson/Bowles plan. The conservative American austerity idea that has been around for a few years now, but they attempted to relaunch it on the morning that ended up being the day that Boston was locked down for 17 hours while the nation was transfixed by the manhunt for the second Boston bombing suspect. That was relaunch day for Simpson/Bowles this year. Bad timing, right? Both in terms of the optics of relaunching the vertex (ph) of government doesn`t do anything right, let`s cut government -- in the midst of a massive and ultimately successful government effort to find that bombing suspect. So, that`s bad optics, right? I mean, that was the day that the streets of Watertown, Massachusetts, ended up literally lined with Americans crying with joy and cheering their emergency services. Clapping their government workers on the back for a job well done, the nation is grateful. That is a bad day to launch the "let`s fire all the government workers" plan, right? Bad timing for the Simpson/Bowles relaunch that day. Well, yesterday they re-relaunched it in friendlier environments. They relaunched it on the op-ed page of "The Washington Post." Meanwhile, the bigger picture is that the whole doctrine that austerity is a good thing for economies, specifically for economies in trouble, that whole doctrine globally is falling apart. It`s falling apart here at home. It`s falling apart globally, as well. And joining us now for more perspective on that is our friend Ezra Klein, wrangler of "The Washington Post`s" "Wonkblog" and an MSNBC policy analyst. Ezra, thank you very much for being here. EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: Thank you for having me. And as wrangler "Wonkblog", my "Wonkblog" (INAUDIBLE) would kill me if I didn`t say, helium crisis sounds totally funny, totally a real thing, people should be totally worried. MADDOW: People should be totally worried and there`s Hank Johnson making the case. Really, we can address helium, but nothing else? KLEIN: Yes. MADDOW: That paradigm, that dynamic to me seems to be the underdog dynamic in Washington. Even liberals are saying, you know, we shouldn`t fight back against the sequester by fixing the stuff that bothers people the most, the sequester itself has to go because the idea of budget cutting our way to success has got to go. Do you feel like there is an overall austerity thesis that`s driving what`s going on in politics right now? KLEIN: I don`t think so in this way. I think two things have gone conflated that shouldn`t be conflated. One the one end, you have this idea called austerity. And austerity, I think, in its simplest thing, most people will describe it, the idea is that if you reduce the deficit quickly, you`ll have some kind -- what Paul Krugman called confidence very (ph) effect where businesses and consumers become so excited that you finally reduce a deficit that they`ll run out and they spend and they`ll invest and they`ll hire people. So, however you need to do it, get the deficit down. That is how you grow the economy. That I think is what people mean when they say austerity. This has gotten kind of conflated with the Republican Party`s position, which is that you should reduce the deficit but not by cutting defense and absolutely not in any way by raising taxes. If it requires raising taxes even a dollar, then better not to reduce the deficit at all. Better possibly even to default on the debt which brings all the terrible consequences of a debt crisis all at once artificially. And simultaneously, something the austerity people don`t typically believe that further government action to help out the economy probably isn`t merited. So, if you think of these academics Reinhart and Rogoff who have become very, very associated with austerity, rightly or wrongly in their view, they`ve argued for principal write-downs in which the government would make mortgages cheaper for people. They`ve argued for a lot of debt forgiveness for higher inflation. The Republican Party wants none of that. So, I think the Republican Party, I`m not an austerity believer, but I think what the Republican Party is actually advocating is quite a bit less coherent even than austerity. MADDOW: Well, what is it? If it`s not austerity, then what do you think they want? Even if you think it`s incoherent, can you discern the incoherent message for us? KLEIN: Yes, at this point, it boils down to lower taxes, particularly on rich people. Remember, they were OK with the payroll tax cut expiring and also cutting social services. Those are the things that seem to be the North Stars. But, you know, if on my more cynical days and I have a lot of them lately, it is whatever the Obama administration doesn`t want. In 2008, I also think it`s important for people to remember, George W. Bush proposed and pushed and signed into law the Economic Stimulus of 2008 Act. That was also the case of his `03 tax cuts, the idea that the deficit financed stimulus is not something Republicans do. It only dates back to the beginning of the Obama administration. And this concern with deficits similarly was not in evidence in the Bush years. So I think a lot of what we`ve been seeing quite sadly is simply counter positioning vis-a-vis President Obama. So, whether the Obama administration goes, in most cases, Republicans very, very quickly go to the opposite side of that issue, even if only a few years before, they were on the same side that the Obama administration now occupies. MADDOW: Do you think that the way the current sequester and budget cutting debates are going to work out is that we will keep all of the cuts that hurt people who don`t have political capital and the ones that bother members of Congress themselves or people with political capital, those ones will get fixed? KLEIN: That is what we`ve done so far. I think this is a really appalling period in Washington, D.C. I mean, in the next month or two, everybody who is on unemployment benefits who has been out of work for more than 24 weeks, their benefits are not coming from the state, they`re coming federally. They`re going to get their benefits cut. These folks, the long-term unemployed, the people hurting the most, they will see their benefits cut by 10 percent, or 11 percent, or even in in some cases, 12 percent. And we`re not fixing that, but we`re fixing business travel. The moment Democrats agreed to that, the moment they said we will undo what the FAA cuts but leave the rest of the stimulus untouched, they lost all of their leverage on it because what they said is that they will not put the pain of the sequester on the politically powerful in order to move the whole thing. They will just undo it for the politically powerful. And if that`s going to be their position going forward, if they don`t reverse it the next time this comes up very aggressively, then this is just going to be with us forever. But it`s going to become even more unbalanced than it is now because we`re going to take away things that politically hurt in Congress and that`s going to be more cuts to the people who actually can`t have a voice or don`t have a loud voice in Washington. MADDOW: Right. Because people -- if the sort of haves won`t sustain any of the pain themselves, then more just gets shoveled on to the have- nots. KLEIN: Right. MADDOW: Ezra Klein, "Washington Post" "Wonkblog" columnist, MSNBC policy analyst -- Ezra, thank you very much. It`s good to have you here. KLEIN: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Lots more to come, including the ghost of prematurely initiated wars past. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Five days before the Boston marathon bombing -- the marathon bombing was April 15th -- on April 10th, one of the armed rebel groups that is waging war against the government in Syria pledged allegiance to this guy. Remember him? Ayman al-Zawahiri. He was the number two guy in al Qaeda under bin Laden until bin Laden became dead and then he moved up. Zawahiri moved up to replace bin Laden and now, he`s the head of al Qaeda central. One of the groups of fighters among the rebels in Syria pledged its allegiance to Ayman Zawahiri specifically and to al Qaeda more generally on April 10th. Two weeks later, "The New York Times" ran this article saying essentially, hey, for the past two weeks or so, the government of Syria has done a 180 and they are letting our journalists in, specifically they are letting our journalists in so the government of Syria can parade rebel prisoners in front of us to tell us that these prisoners are all religious extremists. Essentially, the idea is they want the U.S. to switch sides and support the Syrian government`s side in this fight rather than these al Qaeda-ish rebels on the other side. Syrian government effectively with this lobbying campaign is saying, hey, we`re the good guys here. With one group of the rebels pledging allegiance to al Qaeda two weeks earlier, that`s a pretty powerful lobbying case especially for an American audience reading about it in "The New York Times." If the other side is going to compete with that kind of P.R., you can see they would have to step up their game, right? Well, one day after that "New York Times" article, bingo. The Syrian government can`t be the good guy here. Look, they`re using chemical weapons. Chemical weapons, are you sure? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are preliminary assessments based on our intelligence gathering. We had varying degrees of confidence about the actual use. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Preliminary assessments, varying degrees of confidence, some degree of varying confidence. There have been claims by the Syrian opposition for months now that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons. We have Richard Engel on this show way back in January to talk about how the rebels were making these claims for obvious reasons. I mean, they want the international community, they want the U.S. specifically to get involved in the war in Syria on their side of it. So they`re saying the Syrian government`s using chemical weapons, you have to get involved. But claiming that and proving that are two different things. And they ought to be two different things. If it`s the difference between war and peace, right? Right? We have all learned that right? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, you`ve also, of course, looked at a lot of this evidence. Is it conclusive enough for you? REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: It is. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I hope that this new revelation of chemical weapons will move the president to do what he should`ve done two years ago. DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Aren`t there lessons from Iraq that need to be taken into mind here? MCCAIN: Well, one of the lessons obviously, and we hear this a lot from the administration, is that we had false information about weapons of mass destruction with Iraq. In this case, there is significant evidence that the -- physical evidence -- of the use of chemical weapons. Our actions should not be dictated by whether Bashar Assad used these chemical weapons or not. First of all, sooner or later he most likely would in order to maintain his hold on power. SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, we now know he`s used chemical weapons. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we really know that, Senator? CHAMBLISS: We do. MICHAEL CHERTOFF: You appear to be temperizing or looking for a level of proof that`s not realistic, people are going to read that as an equivocation and that would be a serious problem. BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: This is not a president who wants to start another war. That`s the way he sees it. I think it`s totally irresponsible for an American to have that. No one wants to start wars, but you`ve got to do what you want to do. MCCAIN: Be prepared with an international force to go in and secure these stocks of chemical and perhaps biological weapons. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The chemical weapons enough to kill millions of people are going to be compromised and fall in the wrong hands and the next bomb that goes off in America may not have nails and glass in it. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: You see the smoking gun could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. The voices from the American right in this debate pretty much all the same guys, right? Pretty much all the same voices who were so desperately wrong 10 years ago. They are not embarrassed about that, by the way. What is different now is who is in the White House now. And what`s different now is that we are not this time being pressured to start a huge mess in the Middle East. We are being asked to get involved in somebody else`s existing huge mess that is already in progress for the last two years. Joining us now is Gary Samore. He`s former coordinator for weapons of mass destruction, counterterrorism and arms control in the Obama administration. He`s now executive director for Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Mr. Samore, thank you so much for being with us tonight. GARY SAMORE, BELFER CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Hi, Rachel. MADDOW: So here in the U.S., the word is that some agencies have low or moderate confidence in the intelligence on this. Can you describe what that means? For a layman audience, what exactly does that mean? SAMORE: Well, reading between the lines, I believe that all of the intelligence agencies think that there`s very strong evidence that people were exposed to sarin, and that`s based primarily on blood samples, which is very reliable. What`s much less clear are the conditions of use. Who used it on whose orders, what were the circumstances? And the administration would like to get a better idea of that in the first instance by hoping that the U.N. will be able to carry out an investigation. However, I think it`s very unlikely that the Syrian government would allow such an investigation. So unless the U.S. government or other governments have very sensitive information that get at the question of who ordered the use or what the purpose of it was, we may never know precisely the answers. MADDOW: I played that long montage of SOT of various figures, of sound on tape for various figures making the connection between this reported intelligence and whether or not we should go to war in Syria, just to make clear how bright those lines are in the arguments of a lot of people participating in this political debate. But it sounds to me those chain of custody concerns with evidence of chemical weapons being used but we don`t know how seems to me that`s pretty important to understanding whether or not the Syrian conflict has passed the kind of red line that the president has described. Is that how you see it? SAMORE: Yes, and especially because the military options are so awful. For us to try to destroy or seize all of the chemical weapons in Syria would require a tremendous amount of force. It would be very dangerous. It`s quite likely such an attack could actually trigger chemical use, as well. So, it`s not as though the president faces an easy decision to use military force. And I think understandably, he wants to be quite sure and to have available to him practical and effective options. My fear is that as this war goes on, the tide starts to shift against the Assad government, I think it`s likely we`ll see indiscriminate wide scale use of chemical weapons. If not by the government, then maybe by individual commanders who are facing a desperate situation. And we may very get drawn into this war. So, the military properly should be thinking of contingencies, we should be talking to our allies because I fear one day we may have to use some kind of military force. MADDOW: With something like 200 states, 200 governments around the world having signed on to the chemical weapons convention, which effectively is supposed to ban these weapons from use by anybody under any circumstances, do you expect that there would be broad based international cooperation in responding to further use of chemical weapons, to better documented use of chemical weapons, or in fact, as you`re describing here indiscriminate use of those kind of weapons? SAMORE: Well, I think the Russians and the Chinese have a very strong self-interest in trying to prevent any U.S. or Western military intervention. So their standard of proof is going to be extraordinarily high. And they will try to find a way to explain away any use. For example, they`ll say that it was actually the rebels that used it for the purpose of drawing the U.S. into the conflict. So I don`t think you`ll have action that`s blessed by the U.N. because the Russians and the Chinese can block such action. I do think the Western countries -- U.S. and Europe -- and most of the Arab countries would be sympathetic if we found it necessary at some point in the future to use military force in the event of large scale use of chemical weapons. MADDOW: And in the event that military force made sense as an appropriate response, which at this point the arguments are really at best as I see it. Gary Samore, former Obama administration coordinator for weapons of mass destruction counterterrorism and arms control, now at the Belfer Center at Harvard -- Mr. Samore, thank you very much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate it. SAMORE: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got lots more ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Couple of months ago, this show made a crazy, busy, multi- state trip far away from our home base in New York here. We went to the American states where running clinics that provide abortions has become extremely close to impossible. It was powerful work done by our producers Rebekah Dryden and Anthony Terrell, talking with the folks who are doing front line`s work with every pressure in the world bearing down on them trying to force them to stop doing something that is supposedly protected by the United States Constitution. Well, tonight for the interview, we have two of those people live and here in studio. They`ll probably be embarrassed if they say they are a big deal. But that is too bad for them because they are, in fact, a big deal and that interview is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In December 1994, at the Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk, Virginia, a man named John Salvi was arrested by police for shooting at the clinic. Although he did not hit anyone at the clinic, just a day earlier, he stormed into two different clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts, and killed two women, one who worked at each place. But he was arrested in Norfolk when he shot at Hillcrest. Other anti-abortion zealots had already attacked Hillcrest. In 1983, a man broke in, poured kerosene all over the office and set it on fire. The following year, somebody attacked the clinic with a bomb. The bomb blast broke the plate glass window of the bank branch next door. But through the shooting attack from John Salvi and the bombing attack and the arson attack, plus the daily intimidation of aggressive protesters including some who physically forced their way inside to terrorize the staff and patients in the clinic -- through all of it, the Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk, Virginia, stayed open. They stayed open for four decades. But now, they have finally succeeded in shutting it down. Bombings, arson and a .22 caliber semiautomatic Sturmgewehr loaded with hollow point bullets could not do it, but the Republicans of the Virginia state legislature now have done it. The anti-abortion TRAP law designed to shut down the state`s clinics signed by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and championed by the Republican candidate for governor, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, that TRAP law has claimed its first victim in Virginia. Quoting from "The Washington Post," "Even after years of protests, arson, a pipe bombing and an attack by a man wielding a semiautomatic weapon, the principal reason it closed its door was that complying with these new regulations would have saddled the clinic with a half million dollars in renovations, an affordable expense. The editorial calls Ken Cuccinelli the most political attorney general in Virginia`s history. It says, quote, "There`s no evidence that unsanitary conditions or slapdash procedures are common at abortion clinics in Virginia nor that women who seek services from them are at risk. The state`s assault on women`s reproductive rights is an ideological crusade masquerading as concern for public health." There are 20 clinics that provide abortion services in the state of Virginia. A state survey shows that only one clinic meets the requirement of Virginia Republicans` new anti-abortion law. So, this one that closed, Hillcrest closing after four decades, that`s the first one to close but most of the others expected to go, too. The same types of laws trying to shut down clinics have been passed by Republicans, are expected to pass soon in Virginia and Alabama and Indiana and North Carolina and Texas and Mississippi and in North Dakota. In Mississippi and North Dakota, the regulations are targeting the last remaining clinic in the state. Abortion is being effectively banned in states all across the country, in states where Republicans have governing power. In every state, there`s a fight on to try to protect this right that American women are supposed to have to access abortion services. But through all of the means that they have tried over the years, nothing has ever been as effective for the radical anti-abortion movement in this country as the election of veto proof Republican majorities in the legislatures in multiple U.S. states in 2010. Since then, since 2010 and since the 2012 election in particular when they picked up the pace, the Republican Party is now doing the work for them. Joining us now for the interview tonight is Tammi Kromenaker. She`s the director of the Red River Women`s Clinic of Fargo, North Dakota. And Julie Burkhart is administrator of the South Wind Women`s Center of Wichita, Kansas. Tammy and Julie, I`ve talked to both of you over the years, over the months and years. It`s great to have you here in person. JULIE BURKHART, TRUST WOMEN FOUNDATION: Thank you so much for having us. TAMMI KROMENAKER, RED RIVER WOMEN`S CLINIC: Thank you. MADDOW: Julie, let me ask you first, opening up in Wichita, obviously, the site of your clinic is where Dr. Tiller had his clinic for years until he was killed. You worked with Dr. Tiller and ended up opening your clinic in the same site. Since you`ve been open now, what`s it been like? BURKHART: Well, we`ve had our battles. We were issued a subpoena by the Board of Healing Arts in out state, four days after opening, which we`ve had to answer. They wanted to look at some of our business records. MADDOW: After being open for four days? BURKHART: Yes, correct. Both of our physicians have now been outed by the extremist group Operation Rescue. And one of our physicians has been harassed in her private office in another state by anti-choice extremists, as well. MADDOW: Is this going the way you expected it to go? I mean, obviously there`s this sort of these twin forces, right? There`s the anti- abortion extremist groups and activist groups which have always operated the way we`ve seen, but they have allies in state government who are effectively using different tactics to try to accomplish the same end. Is it going the way you thought it would? BURKHART: I would say pretty much. We have definitely had hurdles placed in front of us we`ve been able to navigate over. I`m still anticipating to meet some challenges down the road. MADDOW: Yes. BURKHART: I would say it`s going the way we predicted it would go. MADDOW: Tammi, in North Dakota, your state legislature and your governor are waging all out assault using state government to try to make your clinic not exist anymore. What is happening now both in the legal fight and in your practical day-to-day operations? KROMENAKER: Well, I think last weekend was the first weekend I actually didn`t go into work since the end of January. It`s taken up all of my time, you know, tons of resources, but we won a battle last week. In 2011, the legislature passed a medication abortion bill trying to restrict medication abortions and in district court last week with the help of the Center of Reproductive Rights, a judge said those restrictions are unconstitutional and, in fact, stand in the way of women`s health. So, that was a victory. We have more battles coming up and the center has vowed to help us continue to be able to offer the services that the women in North Dakota need. And we plan on filing more lawsuits. MADDOW: How are your patients coping with these pressures? Obviously women who are there for cancer screenings, for STI screenings, treatment of different kinds, abortion services, for any sort of pregnancy-related services, they`re there with their health on the mind. Is this intruding into the way you`re able to serve your patients? The political pressures? KROMENAKER: Go ahead. BURKHART: Well, well, it is, because if you were to look at the mounds of paperwork that we have to do in order to comply with these punitive laws, you know, that gets in the way of our patient care, the fact that patients have to come through security and be screened because we are afraid of people who would wish to do violence to us. You know, that is not the way we wish to or would choose to provide health care to our patients. MADDOW: Right. How about you, Tammi? KROMENAKER: Well, women come in and the first week, the day the governor signed the bill, they were calling and saying, is my appointment next week? Can I still have it? You know, can I still be there? Or they`re coming in and saying this is illegal? Our clinic is located on a very busy street, right in downtown Fargo, and it`s shocking to me they think that we`re operating right there with the sign on the front of our building and protesters and escorts, but they think it`s illegal. MADDOW: They think you`re on like the underground railroad at this point? KROMENAKER: Yes. But when a woman doesn`t want to be pregnant, she`ll go through hell, high water, in North Dakota, blizzards, floods. She`ll hit a deer on the way and have a flat tire and say, can I still come? When a woman doesn`t want to be pregnant, she`ll do whatever she needs to do and, unfortunately, it just adds to the stigma that women feel when they hear all of these things about heartbeat, sex selection, genetic abnormality, you know, abortion is very common. And the stigma is disgusting. MADDOW: In terms of your health providers, in terms of the doctors that are working the clinic -- obviously, Julie, you`re dealing with them being attacked and targeted directly for harassment by these outside groups. One of the things that I`ve talked to medical students in the past is whether or not there are enough people who are coming up through the medical training system to know how to do abortions, to know how to provide this kind of care and who are brave enough to do it. It`s asking a lot of providers who could be doing anything. But doing this is -- has got to be tough. BURKHART: We`re so nice. MADDOW: So nice, she`s (INAUDIBLE) -- BURKHART: One of the things that I was told after Dr. Tiller was assassinated was a lot of the medical students were coming forward saying I want to be trained in abortion care which seemed -- did not seem logical to me, because of the fear factor. And there are a lot of good programs around the country that are really working to train OB-GYNs in residency and family practice residents and abortion care for women. MADDOW: It`s got to take a toll. I mean, I was struck talking to you guys how much credit you give to your staff for being involved and being unafraid and being willing to be there and go through it every day. I imagine, I mean, I`ve been covering reproductive rights politics for a very long time. I`ve never seen this kind of crucible we`re seeing now. It`s never been this aggressive. The rights have never been this aggressively rolled back. I`m wondering if it must forge some kind of solidarity or sense of at least being all for one and one for all in fighting this stuff. It must. KROMENAKER: It absolutely does. And it does with providers across the country. With our staff, they feel -- they feel the love. And what these laws have done and what this scrutiny has done has created more allies in our communities. We, the day the governor signed the bills, we cleared off the staff bulletin board. It is full, it is triple packed, it`s on the bulletin board, it`s on the wall, it`s on another wall. And so, we see that and read those -- MADDOW: In terms of messages of support. KROMENAKER: Of support. And we read those and it lets you know. And somebody said specifically, I represent thousands behind you. And so, those kind of messages are important for us. And it does increase your dedication, believe it or not, just like Julie, you know? The assassination of Dr. Tiller only strengthened our resolve. It did not make us back down. MADDOW: Let me ask you one more question about the national attention to this issue. I see this as one of the most important things in Republican Party politics nationally. They`re not talking about it at the national level. They never talk about it on the Beltway or very rarely. But whatever they have control, this is how they`re governing in the states. And so, it seems to me it`s a pretty key part to understanding what the party is doing. I see it as a national story. But in terms of the impact on you guys, so many of these regulations, so many of the ways they are governing is to try to make it impossibly expensive to run a clinic, to put you out of business simply by requiring you to spend money that you otherwise would never have to spend if you were running any different kind of different clinic. Does national support translate into financial support for local clinics in a way that can help them bear the cost of these new regulations? I mean, they said the reason they shut down after four decades, they didn`t have a half million spare to do these things that Republicans in Virginia are now requiring them to do? Does it translate that way? Does that work that way? BURKHART: Well, I guess I would say in some circumstances. And I think that`s the worry. You know, are they going to bury us in lawsuits and coming after us for zoning issues and these frivolous expectations. I think that`s the real worry. Will there be enough money in our community of providers? So, that`s the big $10 million question. MADDOW: What do you think about that, Tammi? KROMENACKER: I do think money comes in and the extra scrutiny on states like North Dakota, Mississippi, that money comes in. I heard from another provider, though, in Tennessee, when I told her this money was coming in to help us with this lawsuit. She said if I just had that amount, I could have stayed open. So it`s great that we`re getting it, but we represent many, many providers who are struggling every day to make the hallways the right size that the regulations have or higher architects. And so that`s the real story, it`s all those other providers. We might be in the spotlight, but we represent thousands, as well. MADDOW: Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women`s Clinic in North Dakota. Julie Burkhart is administrator of the South Wind Women`s Center of Wichita, Kansas, thank you both so much for being here tonight. I fee lucky to have you here. KROMENAKER: Thank you. BURKHART: Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks very much. All right. Something happened today that made 67 different U.S. senators agree with each other, seriously. If that sounds like it means something weird is going on, it`s true. Something weird`s going on. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Here is something to keep an eye on. Something weird is going on in Washington that I do not yet understand. All right. Here is the back story. On this show, we have done a lot of reporting on the V.A. having this big, immense backlog of disability claims, for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in particular, but also for veterans of earlier wars. In response to the persistence of the backlog and it getting better and not worse in recent years, the group Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America few weeks ago submitted tens of thousands of signatures to the White House asking for President Obama to get directly involved personally to fix the problem. Well, now, as of today a huge majority of the Senate, 67 senators, have written to the president, calling for the same thing. They`re asking for the president to take, quote, "direct action and involvement to end the V.A. backlog," saying, quote, "our joy at their return must be reflected in commitment to helping all who served. We respectfully ask you to find a solution that ensures that no veterans are stuck in the V.A. backlog." Sixty-seven senators, 67! Everybody from Dick Durbin to Tammi Baldwin to John Cornyn and Orrin Hatch, it is the full ideological spectrum of the Senate. Sixty-seven senators asking for the president to wade into this problem at the V.A. This is one to watch in terms of the White House response to this especially, and it is especially one to watch because at the same time this is happening up on Capitol Hill, yet more top people at the V.A. are, all of a sudden, out of a job. The chief technology officer left last month, then chief of staff at the agency left as well. The chief information officer also left last month. And now, today, the deputy secretary described by Federal News Radio and "Stars and Stripes" as the guy who runs the V.A. on a day-to-day basis is out. They`ve all quit since the beginning of March. This is the executive branch. This is part of the Obama administration and something is going on here. We are waiting now on the White House to hear their take on exactly what is going on, but something is going on here. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Pop quiz, who is the junior senator from Massachusetts. Elizabeth Warren is the senior one. Who`s the junior one? This guy, Mo Cowan, shown here being sworn in as his wife and their two rather adorable sons looked on. When Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed Mr. Cowan to fill John Kerry`s Senate seat, he did so with the expressed knowledge and agreed to beforehand plan that Mr. Cowan would not himself run for the seat. He`d only serve as placeholder until an election could be held in late June. Well, the primary to pick the Democratic candidate and Republican candidate for that June election, those primaries will be held tomorrow. On the Democratic side, Congressman Steven Lynch is the more conservative candidate. He, for example, voted against health reform. Congressman Ed Markey is the more liberal candidate. He`s been a real bulldog particularly on environmental and energy issues in Congress. The most recent PPP poll commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters shows Mr. Lynch trailing Ed Markey by 14 points. Not helping matters for Mr. Lynch is the fact that he cancelled almost all his events today, the day before the primary, due to an unspecified illness. On the other side, three Republican names on the ticket. Former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, former U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan, and State Rep. Dan Winslow. Gabriel Gomez raised the most money and he`s only one of the three candidates who have advertised on TV, but he`s also pretty widely viewed as being out of his depth and opposite of impressive in debates that happened on the Republican side. On that Republican side, though, I should say that polling offers no little guidance. As "The New York Times" put it rather delicately today, quote, "The Republican primary is a three-way competition with relatively little known candidates in a race that analysts said was difficult to poll because so few Republicans are likely to vote." Obviously, Massachusetts had a lot to contend with in recent days, politics may not be number one on people`s minds, but tomorrow is primary day for a U.S. Senate seat. Polls open at 7:00. The will stay open until 8:00. We promise to let you know what happens. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END