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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/11/13

Guests: Steve Schmidt

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. This is President George H.W. Bush, our 41st president -- a heroic former Navy pilot, a combat veteran. He celebrated his 89th birthday last month. George H.W. Bush. This is the USS George H.W. Bush, which is obviously an aircraft carrier. We do not name ships only after people who have died. Some of the honorees for grand warships like this are people who are still very much living when we name ships after them. The USS George H.W. Bush, as most aircraft carriers are, is enormous. It has a crew of 6,000 people. And while they are at sea, those 6,000 people work on all kinds of stuff including stuff you might be able to imagine even if you`ve never been on an aircraft carrier. They do things like standing watch and charting the ship`s course and making meals in the galley. They work on something they call micro-mini repair. Micro-mini repair. It basically means that if something goes wrong with an electrical something onboard, they make the means up to fix it themselves. And for the last couple of years some of the sailors have been working on a brand new thing that no one has ever done before. It is this thing -- the X-47B, which is an experimental unmanned flying drone that is the size of a full-sized fighter jet. A Navy team has been trying to invent essentially and perfect this aircraft that could take off and land at sea with no pilot using the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush. Two years ago this month, they tested the software that would run the drone. They used that software to land a fighter plane on one of their sister ships, even though that one wasn`t a drone. That was a real plane with a pilot onboard just in case something was wrong, even though they used the drone software. One of the sailors, the deputy manager of this experimental program, explained for reporters that it was all just computer instructions, that there was no remote control, there`s nobody sitting in the darkened room somewhere with a joy stick piloting that thing. It was just computer commands that made that possible. Then, the next year they moved on to the next step. They got the actual X-47B taxiing on another sistership. That same program manager went back to reporters and said that he and his crew were learning a lot about autonomous flight at this point in the development of this program. They`re trying to do something nobody has ever done before. By May of this year, the crew of the USS George H.W. Bush was launching the X-47b, the real thing, from the deck of their own ship for the first time. See them cheering as it takes off. They`re so psyched that it`s worked to take this thing off. As of May, they were able to make touch and go landings onboard the USS George H.W. Bush. That means the aircraft essentially tapping its wheels on the deck, not stopping, just lifting up again into flight. When that happened, that same guy, the same deputy program manager went back to reporters and told them, quote, "This landing rubber hitting the deck, it is extremely fulfilling for this team." But they were still only partly there, right? They still haven`t done the thing they are trying to do. That the whole program is about which is have this full- sized fighter jet drone take off and land on the deck of this aircraft carrier. Finally, yesterday, finally, 70 miles off the coast of Virginia after all of this work and all of these years, they did it. The USS George H.W. Bush fully landed the X-45B. They landed that unmanned aircraft, the size of a fighter jet, on the deck. They got it to hit the deck, they hooked it, they rolled it to a stop. Everything is in one piece. Total success. Where was that deputy program manager on that biggest of days who`s been explaining all this stuff to the press all along, every step of the way? Well, he was there, sort of. See? His team has been dealing with furloughs recently, ordered by the Pentagon. Some of them have been able to put the furloughs off, seeing how this week they were kind of busy. That deputy manager who`s been explaining these steps all along to the press could not get out of his personal furlough. So he`s not working. He`s furloughed. I mean, he is still on this ship, because it`s not exactly easy to get off a ship like this. Even though he`s not supposed to be working so he can not be paid, the way he was basically able to explain it to "Politico" this week was, "I am furloughing in place." I`m furloughing in place. This is our life now. We get the word "furlough" from the Dutch. If you break the word apart, it means sort of you completely have permission to go, which makes sense if you work, like, on a farm and the crops are in and the owner says, OK, you completely have permission to go home from the farm, you`re free to go. But when the place you work is on an aircraft carrier that`s out at sea, how are you free to go? What, are you free to jump overboard? Three to go bob along behind in a tube? Free to go to your bunk and hide? You`re somehow supposed to furlough in place onboard the aircraft carrier while the U.S. government tries to come up with a way to not pay you. Does that sound like nonsense? Yes, it is in fact nonsense. The governor of Florida is also calling nonsense on the situation in his state this week, where what has been tropical storm Chantal has been headed for the south Florida coast before it changed its mind. The governor of Florida this week called nonsense on the fact that the Florida National Guard was not flat-out preparing for the landfall of this expected storm. He angrily asked in a recent radio interview in Jacksonville, when is the National Guard going to get its act together preparing for this major storm? Quote, "Are they going to get their act together right after the hurricane hits?" In anger that the National Guard was not working at full speed, at full strength to fill sandbags or whatever it is he wanted them to do to get ready for the storm coming ashore, Governor Rick Scott of Florida joined with governors of nearby Mississippi and Louisiana to demand that the National Guard start working at full strength, at full speed, to prepare those states for storm season which after all is under way. We need our National Guard at full strength. We are not safe without them in storm season, in the coastal South. Weirdly, though, they addressed their angry letter to the president who totally agrees with them that the National Guard should be operating at full strength and that we need them. The reason they`re not operating at full strength is because like the sailor whose experimental program just had that breakthrough yesterday, the National Guard is also affected by the sequester and these mandatory furloughs -- which means people are not allowed to work so they cannot be paid, so that we can save the money we would have paid them. This policy has been in place since March. It has been quietly humming along in the background causing real harm to people -- kicking kids out of preschool, making it hard for cancer patients to get their treatments on time, slowing down the already slow court system so people have to wait longer for justice. The cuts keep humming along quietly while nobody in politics much cares about it until every once in a while a politician like Rick Scott suddenly realizes, hey, turns out we were paying for that thing because we need that thing. And now that we have stopped paying for it, a need is going met. And, of course, the reason we cannot pay for that thing anymore that we used to pay for is because Congress decided what is more important than meeting any of these needs that we are not meeting anymore is we need to have a big panic about the deficit. Because we have to panic about the deficit, we can`t do this stuff we otherwise need to do. Deficits, it`s terrible. See this headline today? Hey, turns out we do not actually have a deficit. Look at that. Surprise. Huge U.S. budget surplus shatters record. We do not have a deficit right now. We have the opposite of a deficit right now. As of June the U.S. government was taking in $117 billion more that month than it was putting out. We are not in the red, we are in the black. This is the largest June budget surplus ever recorded in the history of the United States of America. But still, a thousand Florida National Guardsmen are not filling sandbags one day a week every week indefinitely even through storm season because Congress panicked about that budget deficit that we do not have. And the deputy manager of the program to land this drone on the USS George H.W. Bush says he is furloughing in place on the aircraft carrier while the drone is finally completing its historic landing. This is basically how it goes in the nonsense hold that we call the American Congress right now. In that nonsense hole, House Republicans find themselves digging deeper and deeper and deeper with no real plans on how to get out. I, though, have an idea for how to help them. Do you remember the big deal in Washington right now is that the Senate did something remarkably functional recently? With every Democrat and 14 Republican senators, the Senate passed something. They passed a big, popular comprehensive long awaited immigration bill that lots of Republicans like, that all the Democrats like, that the Latino community likes, that the business community likes, that a clear majority of the country really likes. In the Senate, it passed with 68 votes. More than two-thirds of the Senate voted for it and now the Republicans in the House have to decide what they`re going to do with that. Late yesterday, they decided they`d meet amongst themselves in a Capitol Hill basement for 2 1/2 hours to try to figure out what they were going to do with the fact the Senate actually did something. The Senate passed something, something that the country needs, that most people want. Ah, what do we do? What a dilemma? They emerged from that basement after talking it over for hours with a clear sense of exactly how stuck they are, because they refuse to allow a vote on the senate bill. They say they cannot pass reform by doing it piecemeal or at least everybody else talking about that strategy knows they cannot do it that way. They do not have an alternative bill of their own. And very important, they do not want to do nothing. So, refuse to do a thing that can be done, do not have any idea how to do it any other way, and it is of utmost importance that something be done. This is like coming to a fork in the road and saying do you want to go left? No. Do up to go right? No. Go. You have to go. OK. Should I go left? No. Should I go right? No. You have to go. You have to pick one. If it`s really important to go, you have to go! There is actually a way out of this thing, though. I don`t think the House Republicans will take my advice for them, but I`m going to offer it, anyway. There is a way of doing things in the House that is legal to do that has been done before, that is specifically designed to get around leadership that has no idea what it`s doing. The big dirty secret here is that the Republican leadership in Congress that can`t figure out a way to get anything done. But if that Senate bill that got the giant bipartisan majority, that got all that Republican support and passed with 68 votes, if that same Senate bill magically came up for a vote somehow in the House right now, it would probably pass. And if somebody wants to free John Boehner and the Republican congressional leadership from the burden of constantly punching themselves in the face all day long while doing nothing, insisting that they just cannot do nothing, the way to save them, the way to save them and to save immigration reform is something that is called a discharge petition. Boring phrase, I know, but it will help them. Generally speaking, something comes up to a vote in the House because the speaker says, hey, let`s have a vote. But there is another way to bring something up on the House floor if the speaker can`t get it together, and that is to get a majority of the House to sign a discharge petition that says, we would like to vote on this matter. That`s all you need. You just need a majority. You just need 218 people to say we want to vote on it and it doesn`t matter if the speaker can`t stop punching himself in the face long enough to say, OK, it just happens. You need 218. If you got every Democrat to sign that thing which is not inconceivable, that would be 201 of the 218. You`d only need 17 Republicans to go along, 17 out of the more than 230 House Republicans in a Republican Party that is absolutely convinced it must find a way to say yes to immigration reform. All you need is 17 Republicans. That`s 7 percent of the House Republican Caucus. That`s all you`d need. There are definitely 17 Republicans who would vote yes if this thing got to the floor. Probably many more than that. If somebody organized an effort, that really would be all you would need to get it to the floor for a vote where it would pass then it would go to the president for his signature and he would sign it. This sort of thing has happened before. It happened on a gun bill in 1986 in an effort organized by the National Rifle Association. It happened on a campaign finance issue in 2002 organized by the pro-campaign finance folks. It`s not the most frequently used thing in the world, but it is the trap door that Congress could jump through right now that would save everybody`s bacon. It`s a win, win, win, win. The conservatives could get to complain all they want. Oh, this is a terrible bill. We hate it. We voted no. We didn`t want it -- we voted -- we hate it. John Boehner and all the congressional leadership could say to the conservatives, who, me, we didn`t do it. Only people who would want to vote for bill would have to vote for the bill and, oh by way, one of the stupidest policy quagmires affecting millions of people in this country for decades now would finally get partially fixed by a big bipartisan thing that everybody could feel kind of kumbaya about including the people who hate it. Tada! Here to tell me now why this is never going to happen is Kasie Hunt, NBC News political reporter and producer. Kasie, thank you very much for being with us. KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: Disabuse me of the notion that this is possible since it seems to make so much sense. HUNT: Well, as you`ve laid it out, it sounds like it does, but where the rubber meets the road you have to remember those 17 Republicans you were talking about, people who might be inclined to vote for this, are the kinds of Republicans supporting John Boehner. You have to remember what a delicate line John Boehner is walking here. You know, he behind the scenes a lot of the people that you talk to who are with the national party, who recognize that the donors really want this to happen, who think that it`s critical for the future GOP, Boehner`s people, Boehner, himself, recognizes the validity of that argument, but he`s got to balance the needs of his caucus. And he has this right wing that just isn`t going to go along with that. And the kinds of Republicans who would vote for an immigration bill or who want to or who are in tickets that say, you know what, hey, politically this is what I need to be doing, or those who buy the argument that says, hey, the party needs to be doing this, are people who don`t want to see John Boehner`s speakership taken down because they also recognize that wouldn`t with good for the national party. MADDOW: Is John Boehner one of the people who believes that the Republican Party as a whole should kind of get behind at least some version of immigration reform for the political interests or the policy -- political interests of the party or the policy interests of the nation? HUNT: Well, Boehner and his office are certainly saying that, listen, we absolutely need to do something about this. I mean, they recognize that the optics of this -- we have members who came out of that basement meeting last night who said this, straight out. You know, look, we recognize the optics of this. We realize if we`re seen as doing nothing, then it looks bad for us. And Boehner certainly understands that. There are other leaders in his party who are making that argument behind the scenes. But you also have to recognize that even Democrats think that in this case, it`s almost better for them, as far as controlling the House, for Republicans to be viewed as obstructionists, and Democrats know that. And that gives them an incentive to not really go along with what the Republicans are doing if they don`t really legitimately like it. And so, you have these sort of countervailing forces that really could, together, bring the whole thing down. MADDOW: Is it your assessment, big picture, that immigration reform is dead? HUNT: I think at this point, that`s a pretty dramatic way to put it, but it seems at this point to be on life support and that what came out of the Senate is certainly dead for the next several months. Now, you also have to remember, we talk a lot in Washington about how, you know, we don`t want to focus too much on the process, but in this case the process is going to matter a lot. You know, what comes out of the House is going to be very dependent on exactly what steps the leadership decides to take, what order they decide to do it -- something like a discharge position. Who knows? It could marinate for months and suddenly there be enough pressure and Republicans realize that they are in enough trouble that they absolutely have to do something along those lines, but I think that at this point, we can`t answer that question definitively. MADDOW: Going -- I realize that the discharge petition idea is seen as a crazy pipe dream. But I will say we keep hearing from the Republicans that there`s a group of about three dozen Republicans among those 230 whatever, who actually won`t call themselves moderates but are at least thinking in practical terms. On this issue, it would seem they`re really aligned with the big money sort of big wigs with the Republican Party who are saying immigration reform is the kind of thing the Republican Party has to do in order to survive electorally. Couldn`t John Boehner just fake it? And essentially quietly allow a coup of those relatively safe seat Republicans, get a lot of outside support, outside a lot of money from these party big wigs who think this is a big idea, make it look like it`s against John Boehner`s will and let the party big wigs get what they want, let the conservatives take it, but it let go forward. HUNT: It`s a big risk for him to take. I mean, could he do it in theory? Absolutely. He`d have to keep it extremely quiet. You also have to remember the way that would look if it were to go through. Maybe he decides this is what he wants in the long term or in the bigger picture. That really makes him as a speaker look not particularly powerful if he says on the one hand, I really don`t want this to happen, but hey, guys, it`s happening anyway. That doesn`t really set him up in a strong position to hang on to his seat. And he`s already had some trouble. He had some opposition in becoming speaker. There`s been a not small amount of chatter how strong he is as far as being able to hold on to the role he has. MADDOW: Kasie Hunt, NBC News political reporter and producer -- Kasie, thank you for your time tonight. I really appreciate this. HUNT: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: You know, I`ve got say -- if John Boehner is thinking that he might look weak, if he lets something like this happen, to sort of save his party, John Boehner sitting in a field four inches tall next to a dandelion in full bloom would make the dandelion look strong. Go on, John Boehner, you can do it. It can`t get any worse. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Politics question of the day. Why are these women wearing helmets? Specifically, why are they wearing motorcycle helmets? They`re wearing motorcycle helmets for the same reason that everybody on your Facebook wall today has been posting you this image of a motorcycle next to what shaped kind of like a motorcycle but, oh, yes, yes it is. Yes. This image and those women in the motorcycle helmets are germane to today`s news because of what`s happening in the North Carolina legislature right now. Republicans in the North Carolina legislature last week took a bill about Sharia law and tacked on to that Sharia law bill some sweeping new abortion restrictions, as a surprise to everyone. They used an unrelated bill to get new antiabortion laws snuck into the legislative calendar without anybody having any notice. That was in the Senate last week. Then, in the House, this week, Republicans did the same thing. But this time, it wasn`t a Sharia law bill, it was a motorcycle safety bill. They moved the whole motorcycle-ly part down to the bottom and stuck the bill full of new abortion restriction language -- again, to get it on the docket at the last minute without anybody having any public notice. Literally, they moved the pesky motorcycle stuff down physically in the bill, in the bill`s descriptive title now, there are 123 words in the bill`s title that are about abortion, and 17 words that are about motorcycles. And all the motorcycle stuff is now at the end. So, this is a bill about two-wheeled vehicles with internal combustion engines and also regulations to probably shut down 15 of the 16 abortion clinics left in the state. Sure, why not? Republican Governor Pat McCrory in North Carolina said yesterday that he would veto that original Sharia law-plus abortion bill if his concerns about it were not met. Those concerns probably included the fact that last year, when he was running for governor, he said that he would not sign any new abortion restrictions into law. It was the restrictions part that was a problem for Governor McCrory. So, how about we call those restrictions, something else? A couple of hours after that veto threat from the North Carolina governor, the Republican legislators in the House got their new abortion language ready to go. They said the new language would address his concerns. The bill would basically have the same effect in North Carolina, it would still conceivably close down all but one clinic in the state but now, the bill had the word "safety" in the title, from motorcycle safety. According to the legislators who wrote the bill, they worked with the governor`s office on the substitute language that they stuffed into the motorcycle bill and he has apparently signed off on the new language, so they think he will not veto it any more. Naturally, Democrats are fuming. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Last week, senate leaders tacked a package of abortion changes on to an unrelated bill with no public notice. They approved it 18 hours later. Now, it`s the House`s turn. They tacked abortion changes on to a motorcycle safety bill, again, with no public notice. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hypocritical at best. Disingenuous at worst. REPORTER: Democrat Rick Glacier (ph) is on the panel where the new bill popped up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a major policy shift, a major constitutional issue. Probably the most divisive issue on the social agenda in the state of North Carolina. It has the process up to this point has been ludicrously not transparent. REPORTER: The new version still requires stricter regulations for abortion clinics but says state health officials should make those rules, quote, "while not unduly restricting access." Sponsor Ruth Samuelson didn`t define that language today, but she says McCrory has signed off on it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And that is why North Carolina Republicans are racing things through as fast as they can. And that is why you have the protesters, as you see there today, out in the motorcycle helmets on what was already kind of a hot day. The Republican-controlled House debated the motorcycle safety/close the abortion clinics bill for three hours today. They approved it basically on party lines. It will now go to the state Senate where everybody expects the same outcome and motorcycles will forever be double entendre, thanks to what North Carolina Republicans are doing with their days at work now. So, now you know. If somebody walks up to you in a bar tonight and says something otherwise inexplicable about your motorcycle -- nudge, nudge, wink, wink -- now, you can make a better informed decision about whether or not to slap them. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Henry Hyde was a socially conservative Illinois Republican congressman who made a big mark on Congress in his time there. And who made a big mark on the laws of the United States. For example, the part of the law that makes it illegal for any federal money to help women pay for an abortion. It`s called the Hyde Amendment, named for Henry Hyde. It was stuffed in on an appropriations bill back in 1976. It has been renewed every year since then. It is now a routine part of the way that we penalize poor women for having an abortion in a way that richer women never have to deal with. If you`ve got private insurance, you`re covered, ma`am. But you on Medicaid, you`re paying full freight and you`re paying cash. It serves you right for being poor. Thanks, Congressman Henry Hyde. Congressman Henry Hyde was also really enthusiastic as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee about impeaching President Clinton because of his affair, because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FORMER REP. HENRY HYDE (R), ILLINOIS: There is a visibility factor in the president`s public acts. And those which betray a trust or reveal contempt for the law are hard to sweep under the rug or under the bed for that matter. They reverberate, they ricochet all over the land and provide the worst possibly example for our young people. As that third grader from Chicago wrote to me, if you can`t believe the president, who can you believe? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: But you know, right then something awkward happened. In the middle of all the self-righteous sweep it under the bed, Henry Hyde, self- righteous, impeachment, self-righteous, self-righteous fervor, right? In the middle of all of that, in September of 1998, "Salon" reported that Congressman Henry Hyde had his own extramarital affair. The former husband of the woman with whom Henry had that affair, got in touch with "Salon" to tell them about it, and to call Congressman Henry Hyde a self-righteous hypocrite. Henry Hyde responded not by denying the allegations but saying, essentially, whatever, who cares? That was a long ago. The specific quote he gave in response was, "The statute of limitations has long passed on my youthful indiscretions." Henry Hyde was 41 when he had that extramarital affair. How could I possibly have known better? I was only 41. My brain wasn`t even fully formed. It was a youthful indiscretion, 41. Youthful indiscretion -- you know, that same excuse is being used again right now today in American politics, with almost the same level of ick factor. And that story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Do you have any plan this weekend? Any chance going to be in the Las Vegas area? Any interest in attending a gala, gala, how do you say that, gala? I don`t know. Anyway, this Saturday, the Republican Women`s Southern Nevada PAC is hosting its first annual red, white and blue gala, gala thing in Las Vegas. The Republican Women Southern Nevada PAC exists, they say, to elect Republican candidates in Nevada. And if you are willing to pay somewhere between $125 and $5,000, you could go to their very fancy Vegas thing this weekend. With a keynote speaker will be one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress, the Republican House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. Congressman McCarthy is the third in line in the Republican leadership in Congress right after John Boehner and Eric Cantor -- John Boehner, then Eric Cantor, then Kevin McCarthy. He`s right up there. Kevin McCarthy is not from Nevada. This is not a hometown thing for him. He`s from California. So, getting him to come to this thing, getting him to come to your state as the number three Republican in Congress, that`s kind of a coup, right, a big deal for the Republican women southern Nevada PAC, especially since this is their very first gala, gala, gala, whatever. Here`s the interesting thing, though. Kevin McCarthy was supposed to be headlining this Republican ladies` gala in Nevada this weekend, alongside a whole bunch of bigwig Republicans, Nevada`s governor, Brian Sandoval, two Republican members of Congress, Nevada`s lieutenant governor, a United States senator, all prominent elected Republicans. That was lineup for the event alongside this man -- Wayne Allyn Root - - who is not an elected Republican. Also not fancy pants enough to get his picture on the invitation to the gala. But still a big enough part of the program to at least have his name on it. Wayne Allyn Root is a draw in conservative politics because he says he has proof, he has proof, he has firsthand knowledge that President Obama is secretly foreign. The president is secretly not an American. And, therefore, secretly unbeknownst to a duped nation, he is a foreign imposter usurper president, who`s only pretending to actually be president. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) WAYNE ALLYN ROOT: I`ve got standing as a classmate and a former vice presidential candidate to make a guess about Barack Obama. So I made my guess. This guy got into college as a foreign exchange student with an Indonesian citizenship and passport. It explains everything, Sean. If, in fact, he did go to Columbia and Occidental as a foreign exchange student and accepted loans and such, either he was a fraud then in which case he can`t be president of the United States, or he was a foreign national in which case he can`t be president of the United States. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s Wayne Allyn Root. He knows. He has stake (ph). The president is secretly foreign and the whole presidency of Barack Obama is a hoax because he faked the birth certificate, America, wake up, sheeple. He`s one of these guys. So, here`s Kevin McCarthy`s problem. Again, remember, he`s the number three Republican in Congress and a very ambitious one. Early this week, the other Republicans who the Nevada lady gala PAC had put on the invite for their shindig with the birther guy -- earlier this week, those Republicans started dropping out of the event. The Republican governor dropped out and Republican lieutenant governor dropped out and Republican Congressman Mark Amodei dropped out. But that leaves the third top Republican in congress and a birther guy who says President Obama is secretly foreign. Now that all the other Republicans have started dropping off the invite, the birther guy has actually been promoted on the new version of the invite so now he gets his picture on there, too. Now, it`s him and Kevin McCarthy of the national Republican congressional leadership co-headlining this Vegas event like they`re Siegfried and Roy or something. Did I mention the event was in Las Vegas? On a side note, the guy who says he has proof, he knows President Obama is secretly foreign, is also now threatening Nevada political reporter John Ralston, who has been reporting on this event, because apparently Mr. Root really does not appreciate being called a birther. The sad news for him, of course, is that he is a birther. The word "birther" is not an attractive name but it`s the name exasperated America has given to the tireless brigade that insists that President Obama is secretly foreign and that his presidency is secretly illegitimate. I know why a guy would not want to be called a birther, but if you think the president is secretly foreign, you are why we had to make up that word in the first place. And that word is what people are going to call you. Also, eventually, people are probably going to stop calling you altogether. Or at least you would think they would. If you weren`t watching how conservative and Republican politics actually work right now. Anyway, that is happening in Las Vegas this weekend. And if that particular blend of Republican congressional leadership and the President Obama secretly feign conspiracy theory, if that particular blend of that combination is not your thing in Las Vegas this weekend, you do have other options. All you have to do is leave the Venetian where the Republican ladies are hosting their Kevin McCarthy/birther guy gala, leave the Venetian, take a left on the Las Vegas Boulevard, also known as the Strip, five minutes down the road you`ll find yourself at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, where you will find you have another Republican politics combined with birtherism option on the same weekend. Because the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino this weekend is hosting something called freedom fest. It`s going on right now. It will keep going into this weekend. This year`s highlights include the author of a book called "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis." It`s also the obligatory, "Is the United Nations becoming our master?" confab. Our pal from down the block, the President Obama is secretly foreign guy will be doing his shtick again. Add in a keynote speech by the guy so handsome he makes you remember there`s a an "O" in the word mustachioed. Joseph Farah from World Net Daily, your home for the most trusted reference material on how President Obama is a gay Muslim murderer, and obviously foreign, publisher of all the birther books, author of the forward to the book, "Where`s the Birth Certificate", he will be the keynote speaker at this libertarian/Republican conference this weekend and he will be doing that keynote speech alongside Senator Rand Paul. Senator Rand Paul with the birther guy, both keynoting freedom fest in Las Vegas, down the block from the other big Republican event in Las Vegas this weekend, which also includes prominent Republican members of Congress including the third ranking Republican in all of congress and a sitting United States senator. At least Senator Dean Heller, though, doesn`t drag with him to this birther event in Vegas this weekend the baggage that Senator Rand Paul drags to his birther event in Las Vegas this weekend. Senator Rand Paul has spent the last 48 hours explaining to the press he is not dropping his Senate staffer who likes to be known as the Southern Avenger, who made himself famous as the southern avenger by wearing a Confederate flag wrestling mask and by writing commentaries about how Americans aren`t wrong to deplore the millions of Mexicans coming here. A nonwhite majority America would simply cease to be America for reasons that are as numerous as they are obvious. He also says, quote, "It`s a shame that just because we have fair skin, we are always denied fair treatment." Senator Rand Paul told Howard Fineman at the "Huffington Post" today that his Southern Avenger staffer`s earlier work was just a form of youthful showmanship. The senator asks rhetorically, quote, "Are we at a point where nobody could have had a youth? Can a guy not have a youth and stuff?" Youth and stuff. For the record, the Southern Avenger guy who Rand Paul hired to write his book for him in 2010 and then to become part of his Senate office thereafter, the southern avenger is 39 years old. In 2009, he was 35 years old. Still going by the title the Southern Avenger and still writing about how the Confederacy needed to rise again, and secede from the nation. And then within a year of that, Rand Paul had him on staff on the payroll writing Rand Paul`s book. And now that Rand Paul is getting asked about it, Senator Paul says the whole secessionist neocon confederacy thing, that was a youthful indiscretion which this 39-year-old put down months before Rand Paul hired him. That`s apparently all you have to say. That`s how Rand Paul is explaining that he`s keeping this guy on with him -- salary paid by the taxpayers -- as he heads to purple state Nevada this weekend to attend one of two conservative movement and Republican Party Vegas events this weekend spotlighting the most ambitious Republican federal officeholders in the nation, alongside the nation`s leading proponents of the theory that our country`s first black president could not possibly be American, he must be secretly foreign, his presidency is illegitimate and it`s a giant conspiracy. When Republicans talk to each other about how to spend their time, especially in states like Nevada where elections have been pretty close, where Republicans conceivably could have a shot at being competitive in a national race if they could figure out a way to broaden their appeal, when Republicans talk about these things, do they ever talk about how stuff like they`re doing this weekend in Las Vegas might interfere with the whole broadening the party`s appeal thing? Do you guys ever talk about Joseph Farah being at your events? Does that ever come up? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) ROOT: If, in fact, he did go to Columbia and Occidental as a foreign exchange student and accepted loans and scholarships as such, either he was a fraud then, in which case he can`t be president of the United States or he was a foreign national then, in which case he can`t be president of the United States. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: That is birther Wayne Allyn Root, who is a person, who is headlining a Republican gala in Las Vegas this weekend alongside the number three Republican in the House, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, and Nevada`s U.S. Senator Dean Heller. Who tells these guys to do things like this? And do they think it helps them somehow in the great state of Nevada? Joining us for the interview is Nevada Republican Steve Schmidt, political strategist, former senior strategist to the `08 McCain/Palin campaign. Steve, thank you very much for being here. STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Great to be here. MADDOW: Do you think it is a scheduling error? People just don`t understand? SCHMIDT: Look, Dean -- MADDOW: Or is there a magical upside that I don`t see? SCHMIDT: Look, Dean Heller should know who this nut is and therefore, he shouldn`t be attending. I think Kevin McCarthy probably had no idea who he was. He is not from the state. And Kevin McCarthy should cancel the appearance. Look, there`s a case study in Nevada. Nevada is one of the states where Republicans have given up five U.S. Senate seats over the last two cycles. In Nevada, it was Sharron Angle. We nominate these kooky people, and we lose general elections. It`s extraordinary when you consider the five U.S. Senate seats the Republicans have given up. And clearly, the lessons have not been learned. There should be a total disassociation with the nuts that are associated with the party here. MADDOW: I had a discussion with our mutual friend, Nicolle Wallace, earlier this week about the Rand Paul thing and about how this -- I mean, legitimately, literally neo-confederates presence -- SCHMIDT: Absolutely. MADDOW: -- in the Senate staff of Rand Paul is a complication for Republican politics, particularly as he gets to be a more and more high profile figure. SCHMIDT: Yes. MADDOW: What is the self -- how does the self policing work on the ground? Or how ought it to work, to keep the neo-birtherism and neo- confederates and all of these other fringe figures away from people to those who want to see themselves have a future Republican -- SCHMIDT: Look, I think Rand Paul is a very interesting figure and I think he`s going to be a major influence, and I said so for a long time in the next nomination fight. And he`s clearly running for president. Self-awareness, though, is an under-appreciated virtue in a presidential campaign. And when you look at Rand Paul here, you see a lack of judgment, you see a lack of ruthlessness to run for president, to toss that weight overboard. And you see a lack of discernment. I mean, with this guy, would a prospective Rand Paul office be down the hall from the Oval Office? The views are deplorable. It`s not a youthful indiscretion. And what Rand Paul has to understand is that his chief strategic imperative in the race is to de-kookify himself from his dad`s shadow, and he is not doing that. He is going in the wrong direction. And so, when you associate with these kooks, you will take on the patina of the kooks, and Rand Paul, if he goes down the kooky road, as opposed to trying to moderate himself, he is not going to be a credible candidate for president in the Republican nomination process. He just won`t. MADDOW: Even independent of any of the prospects, the de- kookification process -- SCHMIDT: Yes. MADDOW: -- is one that`s really important to the country, right? SCHMIDT: Absolutely. MADDOW: The Republicans need to de-kookify when the race comes up there, the Republicans need to de-kookify frequently, but it seems the process is broken. SCHMIDT: This is one of the great services that William F. Buckley provided to the conservative movement in the country, which is historically separating the whackos from the serious, intellectually serious conservatives. Conservatism is the serious governing philosophy. You and I have our disagreements in politics. So I would make the argument that in our country, two-party system, we need this tension, we need two intellectually serious political philosophies that compete against each other. MADDOW: I agree wholeheartedly. SCHMIDT: We disagree on a policy perspective, but what everybody should agree on is that there is no place for the kooks at the table. And this is nutty stuff. This birther nut, who has been for years been trying de-legitimatize the president of the United States, sowing that poison into the body politic, no serious Republican presidential candidate should be comfortable getting up on the stage with them. MADDOW: And yet it happens over and over and over and over again, even years after the last election. SCHMIDT: And the Republican Party has paid a heavy price for it over the last two years. MADDOW: Steve Schmidt, Republican political strategist, certified Nevadan, it`s great to have you here, Steve. Thanks a lot. SCHMIDT: Good to be here. Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Stay with us. I have to tell you the thing you have to know about tomorrow`s news. And so, get your little calendar thing out. And that`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you have not been paying close attention to the George Zimmerman murder trial in Florida, which concerns the death of the teenager, Trayvon Martin, even if you have not been paying close attention to the trial, you have probably been aware that it has been going on, and a lot of people have been finding the trial absolutely riveting for weeks now. You should also know it is coming to an end, and no matter how it ends, it is going to be a very big deal. So, here`s the deal to understand, in terms of the time frame here: the prosecution made its closing arguments today. The defense, which represents Mr. Zimmerman, the defense rested its case yesterday, after calling four days of witnesses. But they will start their closing arguments tomorrow. There will be time for rebuttal after that closing argument, but then the judge will instruct the jury and then the jury will get the case. The jury will start to deliberate. Today, the judge presiding in the case ruled that the jury will be allowed to consider two different charges, second degree murder or manslaughter, which is a lesser charge, when they deliberate. If convicted of the greater of the two charges, second degree murder, the maximum penalty for Mr. Zimmerman would be life in prison. If he is convicted of manslaughter, the maximum is 30 years in prison. And, of course, if Mr. Zimmerman is found not guilty on either charge he will be free to go. But again, in terms of the timing of this trial, that has been focused on so much attention and so much debate, it looks like the jury is going to get the case possibly tomorrow afternoon. Now, interestingly, it is not a jury of 12 people. It is a jury of six. And all six members of the jury are women. Since they were picked, the jury has been sequestered. In court, they have remained completely anonymous. They`ve been only referred to by numbers. We know some things about them from jury selection but not a lot. In terms of specific timing, as to when to expect a verdict, the truth is that nobody really knows. The jury can deliberate for a very short time or for a long time, we wouldn`t know until it happens. And, of course, more importantly, nobody knows what to expect the verdict to be. But in the case where every minute of the trial has been televised, occasionally by all the actual news networks, live, nobody taking commercial breaks, everybody watching this thing has an opinion on how this thing should turn out. And no matter what the verdict is, it is going to be a big deal. And the earliest it could possibly happen is late tomorrow, once the jury is handed the case tomorrow afternoon. So keep that timing in mind. And watch this space. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Now, it is 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