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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/24/13

Guests: Bruce Hanes

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. OK. So, today is Wednesday. In San Diego, California, here is how the week has gone thus far. This was Monday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) IRENE MCCORMACK JACKSON, FORMER MAYOR FILNER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I saw him place his hands where they did not belong on numerous women. I was placed in the Filner head lock and moved around as a rag doll while he whispered sexual comments in my ear. Mayor Filner challenged me to give him one example of how his behavior toward me was improper. I pointed out that he had asked me to work without my underwear on. He had no comeback. He is not fit to be mayor of our great city. He is not fit to hold any public office. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So that was Monday. Then this was Tuesday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I walked up to him and I stood by him so that I could wait for the conversation to pause, and escort him to the next table. And during which one of the attendees at the party was giving me credit and saying I had done a wonderful job, and I had worked my tush off for him, and that he should appreciate my efforts. And I was standing. I`m 5`10", I was standing next to him. He turned to me and he said, turn around. And as a staffer -- you know, I know it sounds silly to just do it -- but you just do it. I turned around and he proceeded to take his hand and pat me on my posterior and laugh and say, no, it`s still there. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, Monday it was the come to work without your underpants on story. Tuesday was the butt grabbing story. Now today is Wednesday. And today was this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He came over and sat next to me, pinning me in to my side of the booth, and wanted to kiss me. And I started to ask him, what would your wife say if she was sitting here? And he just laughed this really odd laugh, as if that was the craziest thing he had ever heard. And then he tried to move my face toward his to kiss me on the mouth, and now listening to the stories of the other victims, it probably wouldn`t have been on my mouth, it would have been in my mouth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, that`s been Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in San Diego this week. Can`t wait to see what happens by the weekend, right? At this point, the San Diego City attorney has ordered the mayor of San Diego to never be alone with a woman on city property. The mayor`s lawyer has agreed to this, and apparently the order is being enforced by the mayor`s chief of staff. Now, on the one hand that sort of makes sense, given what`s happened allegedly between the mayor and women when he has been alone with them. And now, there`s a pending legal case and the city`s on the hook. So, OK, maybe it makes sense -- the prohibition on the mayor being alone with any woman on city property. But on the other hand, I mean, think about how this works. I mean, men who run things for the city of San Diego, who head up the department or something, they can still have one on one meetings with the mayor. But any woman who runs something for the city of San Diego is no longer allowed to meet one on one with the mayor. For those meetings, the mayor has to bring along his chief of staff as a chaperone. And even that`s a problem too, because the mayor`s chief of staff just quit after a grand total of 10 days on the job. He was Mayor Bob Filner`s second chief of staff to quit in the two weeks since this sexual harassment scandal broke. And the new chief of staff, who the mayor has just appointed is a woman. Now, we have a math problem, right? Because she`s a woman. So, she herself is not allowed to be alone with the mayor on city property. Multiples of women are legally allowed to be around San Diego Mayor Bob Filner when he is at work now. But no single women are allowed to be with him alone, and that`s supposed to be enforced by his chief of staff as chaperone, but the chief of staff is herself a woman and is therefore not allowed to be with him without someone else present. Yes, at this point, the city of San Diego is going to have to hire a man who just has the job of following Mayor Bob Filner around trying to make sure that he doesn`t have the urge to stick his tongue down someone` throat. I mean, at this point, that extra hire of somebody just to do that would actually not be all that weird, since the city has, anyway, had to hire somebody to actually run the city while the mayor is dealing with his sex scandal, instead of running the city. Mayor is having his sex scandal and refusing to resign from office. So the city is paying for someone else to be in charge instead of Bob Filner. That`s been Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, so far, this week. I`m really looking forward to seeing Thursday`s news, aren`t you, San Diego? Meanwhile, the governor of Virginia is also still not resigning. But Virginia does not have the benefit that San Diego does of someone being put in charge to run the place while the guy who refuses to resign works on his scandal. Editorials like this from local Virginia newspapers, "McDonnell distracted by scandal," Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia has basically been missing in action since the worst recent details broke in his corruption scandal. This from a columnist at "The Richmond Times Dispatch" today, quote, "In addition to hiding out from the press and public, McDonnell is hunkering down, he is spending more time managing his personal crisis, one that could become more perilous. But is he managing the state?" All last week, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell basically totally off the grid. Last week was a vacation week for the governor, so he had precisely zero public events as governor all week long. Nothing over the weekend, nothing on Monday. His only event on his public schedule this week was one that was out of state, with an event in Maryland. Then, today, news that the governor has left the country. He`s taken a surprise trip to Afghanistan, which is an excellent place for any governor to visit what with the war on and all. But when you are embroiled in a massive and still basically unexplained corruption scandal and you have been hiding from the press and public about it, it turns out, even going to Afghanistan is not going far enough to avoid the questions when people are finally allowed to talk. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You apologized for embarrassment brought to Virginians by you and some members of your family. What wrongdoing or mistakes specifically were you apologizing for yesterday? GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: Well, I think that because there was several gifts and loans that all came from one donor. There was at least a view of the public, I think, an appearance of impropriety. And I have served the people of Virginia for 22 years now, and I am deeply sorry that those things that have been done either by me or my family have created a problem for Virginia government and have caused some embarrassment. So, I thought it was the right thing to do to make those loan payments back, and to begin to heal the trust that might have been broken between me and the people. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What consideration if any have you given to resignation? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The governor, of course, responded that he`s given no consideration to resignation. And yes, why would he? Eventually, Bob McDonnell will have to surface in Virginia, and he will have to explain himself for the first time about what all these gifts and loans were all about, he`ll have to explain himself either in public or maybe in court or both. And eventually Bob Filner will have to explain why the city of San Diego should pay for him to continue to be mayor, and the city should pay for an interim chief executive to actually run the city while he can`t. And the city should also pay for, I guess, somebody to chaperone all his meetings with women, since he`s no longer allowed to be near women alone on city property, including his new chief of staff, because two have left in two weeks? Eventually, these things will shake out. And maybe it will happen around the same time that Anthony Weiner is explaining the next round of pictures of his genitals that have surfaced from some other time after which he had assured us all that he was changed man, a family man now and we should all want him back in politics, because he`s a family man now and, because, frankly, you know, he bottomed out, he learned his lesson, and now, he`s ready to come back. Just let me send this last picture of my crotch and log off first. And, you know, all of these guys will hold on for another day, for another week, believing in themselves above all else, while every moment they stay in office will slightly recalibrate for us as a nation the depths of shame that we are supposed to accept from people in positions of public leadership. Every moment they`d stay will further reduce the value and the prestige of public office as a career in the United States of America, in a nation where job titles like congressman and governor and mayor are already something that convey less trust and respect than used car salesman or maybe parolee. What`s the next generation of public leaders are going to look like that`s inspired by these guys. These guys will hold on as long as they want to, they will hold on as long as they can because they think it is what is good for them. And, ultimately, we all pay by their reducing the job of politician, to the kind of thing that is done without shame by men like them. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A man named Joseph Bruschi (ph) the other day tweeted us this picture from the overpass light brigade in Wisconsin. The overpass light brigadiers spelling out "unlearn racism" in the night, on the overpass. We put that picture that he sent us up on our blog. This one, too, a protest -- look at this, a protest license plate from Virginia. The submission of which to our blog, I will be forever be thankful to the Delanos of Williamsburg. They put Vrgynya with a Y actual license plate on their actual car in protest of governor ultrasound`s policies affecting the lady people of Virginia and they sent us the photo to prove it. The point is that all you guys who watch the show occasionally send us great stuff and we actually read our mail and we are really thankful for it. A few weeks in our inbox, we found a letter and some pictures from California. This is from Rich Weaver in southern California. This is what he sent. "My husband was out of town when the Supreme Court decisions were handed out last Wednesday. He returned on Saturday and we went out to din per. We finally came out to the people in our community without fear of reprisal for the first time. We were surprised by the owners of the restaurant with a celebratory ice cream sundae. We have been together for 17 years. We were married in Ventura County, California, on October 27th, 2007." That means they got their marriage done right before Prop 8 passed a few days later. And Prop 8, of course, banned their marriage for years until this Supreme Court ruling which led to the celebratory dinner, which led to their coming out in their hometown, which led to the celebratory surprise ice cream sundae from the nice folks who run that restaurant where they were having their coming out dinner. The letter continues, "We celebrate our marriage, our equal marriage, not just some second class same sex marriage, same lame skim milk marriage." This is Rich Weaver who wrote us the letter. This is his husband, Michael Reagan. Mr. Weaver writes, quote, "We have found support even in this heart of Republican Ronald Reagan country. We look forward to these changes in the rest of the country." And then he signs it, "In the name of fairness, love and family. Rich Weaver, Ventura County, California." That is part of life in California now, in a fairly conservative red state part of California. You could say that couples like them were the luckiest in the country last month when the Supreme Court ruled that not only could gay couples get married in California again, but this time, it would could at the federal level, too, right? So that means no more skim milk marriages, right? In California and other states that have marriage equality, it`s not skim milk any more, it is whole milk, ice cream sundae real marriages now. Congratulations on the Prop 8 case. So, that`s California and another dozen or so states where there is marriage equality. But what about everybody else, what about people in places where the whole state is red, right, where nothing`s going to change any time soon, where the bans on those states on marriage equality are really popular. Like for what example happens in Mississippi. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: LGBT folks live in every town across the south. The solution to the discrimination we face is not for us to move. I don`t know about you all, but I guess all the time, why don`t you just move to New York or Iowa or Washington state? Because it`s cold, I don`t want to move there. What happens when real people say, enough, I`m not leaving, but I am standing up? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What happens when real people stand up? That video comes from the Campaign for Southern Equality, which has spent the last month asking that question in bright red Mississippi. Kristen Welch and Jenna Lockwood went to their own local county clerk`s office in Poplarville, Mississippi, population, not nearly 3,000. Ms. Lockwood is in the Air Force Reserve. Ms. Lockwood thanked the clerk who turned them down for their marriage license. She and Ms. Welch can be married in the eyes of the U.S. military but not in the eyes of the state of Mississippi. But still they tried. A few days later after this, they tried again in Mississippi, this time in the capital city of Jackson. They got told no again. And then, look what happened, reporter Dustin Barnes of the "Clarion Ledger" newspaper tweeted that after the couple was denied their license, quote, "sounds of laughter could heard in the clerk`s office." If you just look at the couple, you consider they`re two men asking for a marriage license in Mississippi where every single county in the state supported the ban on their marriage, right, when it was last voted on, you might think that laughter would have been directed at them, right? People laughing at them for even trying. But that does not appear to be what happened. The clerk in Jackson said in response, absolutely not. She said, she was there and she is sure that no one in that office was laughing at that couple or at any of the gay couples in the clerk`s office that day. She said that one of the men asking for marriage license started crying upon being turned down, staff in the clerk`s office cried along with him, too. So that is one thing that happens when real people stand up. Other people surprised you by caring about what you are doing. And they make sure the world knows they are not laughing. By asking for a right that they cannot have in Mississippi, these couples are changing in some way every clerk`s office that they walk into. They are making themselves known to their neighborhoods and to their state as Mississippians, they are making this all as clear and as heartrending as could possibly be. And while we are talking about settings, you might think are unlikely for this sort of thing, consider also the great state of Arkansas. In Arkansas, they have not one, but two red state gay rights campaigns, thinking about asking voters directly for same sex marriage rights in Arkansas. After the Supreme Court ruling last month in Windsor where the court said the federal government could not single out gay couples for stigma and disadvantage. After the ruling, two Arkansas couples went to their clerk`s office in Little Rock, Arkansas, and they asked for a marriage license and they made sure they got turned down. Rita Jurnagen (ph), she is the taller one. She retired from the Little Rock schools after teaching math for almost 30 years. She`s facing the very concrete nuts and bolts reality, that because she lives in Arkansas, and because Arkansas laws are what they are, she cannot leave her retirement pay to her partner, Pam Jurnagen. We talked to Pam Jurnagen today. She told us that in the clerks office that day when they went to apply for the marriage license, she said the clerk`s office let them fill out the form. They couldn`t have been any nicer. She said people in the department cheered them on even as they turned them down. This month in Ohio, which is another state that bans gay couples from marrying, two Ohio men left their home state of Ohio and went to get married in Maryland. And they were in a hurry, because one of the men is dying. John Arthur is suffering from a terminal illness. He has Lou Gehrig`s disease. He and his partner Jim made their trip to the altar in a plane that had to be outfitted specially to take care of Mr. Arthur because he was so ill. They flew from Cincinnati where they live, to the airport in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. And once they were on the ground in Maryland, where it was legal, they got married in the plane. And they flew home and back home they asked a federal court to recognize their marriage. Despite the Ohio state ban against marriage equality. And the amazing thing is, that the court said yes. The federal court ordered the state of Ohio to recognize John and Jim`s marriage from Maryland, the same as the state would recognize any other Ohio couple`s marriage if they had got married in any other state. The judge cited the DOMA decision for the reasoning in the case, saying, quote, "This is not a complicated case. Throughout Ohio`s history, Ohio law`s been clear, a marriage solemnized outside of Ohio is valid in Ohio if it is valid where it was solemnized. How then can Ohio single out same sex marriages as ones it will not recognize? The short answer is, Ohio cannot." This one is really very simple. The two men asked, the court said yes. Because of the Supreme Court decision last month, you have the right to be considered married in Ohio. And Ohio no longer has the right to divorce you at the border. We are living right now tough a sea change moment that is not one big sea change all happening at once. It`s made up of lots of teeny tiny little drops that are making this change happen in the whole country based on a lot of very tiny points of pressure. All these pioneers in all these places across the country, people you never heard of. People doing what they can with their regular people lives, changing the places where they live. And sometimes it is public officials who are doing it too in ways large and small. This week in Montgomery County, northwest of Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, the elected official in charge of marriage licenses in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, announced that he had decided that no matter the state law in Pennsylvania, he believed that he was right to start giving marriage licenses to gay couples. A same sex couple said they intended to apply in Montgomery County, and he said he would grant their wish. Now, to be clear, this particular official, this register of wills in one Pennsylvania county is just one elected official doing what he believes is the legally correct thing to do for his job. He is just one guy. But so was the mayor of San Francisco and Gavin Newsom, when he threw open the doors of city hall in San Francisco in February of 2004. Thousands of people got married in the span of a month, although the state technically did not allow that. The same month, back in 2004, it was little New Paltz, New York, remember the young mayor there, Jason West? Who announced that his city, too, would start offering marriage licenses to same sex couples -- not because it was state law, which it wasn`t but because he thought it was right. Well, today, it happened in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. This was the first couple in line, two women with a couple of kids who have been together for 17 years and they said they never intended to be first, but they got their license, they got married and they left on a nice vacation. Bruce Hanes, the register of wills in Montgomery County told reporters today he did not know what to expect, he didn`t know what would happen after he announced his intentions yesterday. Mr. Hanes, quote, "I was driving into work this morning and thought, we could have a line around the block, or maybe nobody would show up at all." We can tell you tonight that Mr. Hanes issued five marriage licenses to same sex couples in Pennsylvania and he made a lot of history in doing so. Joining us now is Bruce Hanes. He`s the Montgomery County register of wills who started issuing marriage to same sex couples in the great state of Pennsylvania, and is the first person to have done. Mr. Hanes, thank you very much for joining us tonight on your big day. BRUCE HANES, MONTGOMERY COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS Hi. How are you? MADDOW: I`m good. How did you come to the decision to do this? HANES: Well, if you -- I have to go back about a week. I was contacted by two women who were interested in inquiring about how to get a same sex marriage. And I discussed it, reviewed it with my solicitor, I have a solicitor, Michael Clark. I reviewed it with the county solicitor. And some of the things we looked at was the Windsor case that you were discussing, the U.S. Supreme Court case, Pennsylvania constitution, and a decision by the current attorney general in Pennsylvania, and her decision not to defend DOMA in court. Going back to the Pennsylvania constitution, three things really sort of stuck out. Article 1, Section 1, a general statement on -- hey, we`re all free and equal individuals and entitled to certain rights and happiness. And Section 26 of the same article gets a little more narrow. It says, you know, if it`s a civil right, nobody can discriminate against that person from exercising that civil right. And then Section 28, the final section which sort of puts the -- crosses the T, dots the I, as far as I`m concerned. And that was -- nobody can be discriminated against on the basis of sex. So, right there, totally unambiguous. Now, I`m confronted with a definition of marriage act in Pennsylvania defines marriage as a civil union or a civil contract between a man and a woman. But on the other hand, I have three fairly obvious and important sections of the Pennsylvania constitution that sort of disagree with that. I was sworn in in 2008 and again when I was re-elected in 2011, I was sworn in just last year, 2012. And I swore to uphold the constitution of the commonwealth. And I take the position. I took the position and I take the position currently that when a statute is in opposition to the constitution, I`m going to follow the constitution. MADDOW: Do you think that these -- HANES: I did that. MADDOW: Sorry to interrupt, sir. Do you think these five couples who you married today, to whom you issued these licenses. Do you think they will end up being test cases as this gets litigated and fought over in Pennsylvania? Or do you think these cases sort of stand alone? HANES: Rachel, I truly don`t know. You even mentioned the fact that I have been speculating as to the number of people, who were going to show up today. And it was going to be zero or a line around the block, it turned out to be 5. So, clearly, I`m not very good at this. But I would like to point out, that I issue a marriage license. I don`t marry people. So, it`s a little different than the San Francisco situation. I issue marriage licenses to five people. And they have 60 days within which to have an official marry them. The official then sends -- sort of like a receipt back to my office and then it is registered in our database. So, and even before I issued a marriage license to same sex couples, there`s a small percentage of licenses that never get used. So I -- and I really truly don`t know what`s going to happen, vis-a-vis these individuals. I truly -- I truly wish them well. I met each and every one of them. And they were just great people. MADDOW: Well, you certainly made their day. It has to be said in a serious way. HANES: Well, Rachel, I hope I made more than their day. It`s one thing to talk about this academically, from a lawyer`s standpoint. You have two folks come in and ask for this recognition of their union. That puts it in an entirely different framework. It`s not academic anymore. It`s not a theory (ph). It`s -- did you say nuts and bolts? Did I hear you say nuts and bolts before? MADDOW: Yes. HANES: That`s what it is. MADDOW: Yes. Bruce Hanes, Montgomery County register of wills in the state of Pennsylvania, a man who made history today, thank you for helping us understand this tonight, sir. Please stay in touch. I`d love to hear how this turns out. Thank you for being with us. HANES: Absolutely. Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Lots to come tonight, including a really dramatic blowout of which we`ve got some amazing new footage. And that`s coming up next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There was a time not that long ago, February of this year, when the Web site "The Huffington Post" had to create a new category for news on their site -- a new clickable tag for people who wanted to follow a new thing that was going on in politics. A new tag they had to create was this one: felony nipple exposure -- making the exposure of the human nipple a felony. Had to happen sooner or later, right? It`s like the monkeys and typewriters thing. Put enough Republican legislators in office and, eventually, some poor coding drone at "The Huffington Post" is going to have to create a whole online news category for the felonious nature of naked nipples. How that kind of small government conservativism actually works is a story that`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We just got in some dramatic footage. Yesterday morning at about 8:45 a.m. local time, residents a long the Gulf Coast in Louisiana got the sort of news alert that tends to wrinkle in that part of the country, rig explosion just offshore, just before 9:00 a.m. Look at this -- this drilling rig owned by a company called Walter Oil and Gas experienced a major emergency, a serious well blowout. All 44 crew members abandoned the rig. Everybody evacuated. The crew members boarded two life boats that were rescued to a nearby supply ship that brought of them safely to shore. What was already a bad situation on that rig with that blown out natural gas well, hours later then got a whole lot worse -- that stranded blown out evacuated rig which was uncontrollably leaking natural gas then ignited. At about 10:45 last night, the rig suddenly burst into flames and then it just kept on burning. This huge, out of control natural gas fed fire in that blown out well. That fire began late last night. The reason this picture looks like daylight is because it has continued to burn throughout today. Officials in Louisiana have spent the day not only trying to figure out how to put that fire out as the rig increasingly collapses. They`re also trying to regain control of the runaway well, something that so far they have been unable to do. The latest plan is to try to set up something alongside it, drill a relief well, so the well that`s blown would shut itself down eventually and stop spewing natural gas into those flames and into the Gulf. This latest rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico happened not far from where the Deepwater Horizon rig blew out back in 2010, which, of course, caused the worst environmental disaster in American history. In terms of the environmental toll from this current accident, it remains unclear at this point and frankly it`s still on going. Officials reported seeing a mile long sheen on the surface of the water in that part of the gulf, as well as that ominous natural gas cloud that`s been spreading from the rig ever since it exploded yesterday morning. The situation remains fluid tonight. Again, that explosion took place on board a blown-out natural gas drilling rig just off the coast of Louisiana, about 50 miles off coast. Now, this is the scene. This is an underground blowout, an underground blowout of sticky, toxic tar sands oil bubbling up from underneath the ground in Alberta, Canada. Alberta is the home of Canadian tar sands oil, which is the stuff that would flow through the Keystone pipeline if it`s approved. And this week, we learned about an underground oil blowout that caused this tar sands mess up there. We learned about that spill this week. But as the "Toronto Star" and "Mother Jones" have been reporting, it seems like this tar sands leak has been going on actually for nine weeks now. It`s been going on out of control for more than two months. And nobody in the public seems to have known about it until now. "The Toronto Star" broke the story open after talking to a government scientist who had been on scene at the spill site, who thought the response was utter chaos, and who is now essentially blowing the whistle on both the spill and the company responsible. The scientist says the company is not disclosing the scope of the spills and that it`s not just one of them. They`re taking place in four separate sites in eastern Alberta. The scientist told "The Toronto Star", everybody in the company and the government is freaking out about this, we do not understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do, they have not put the measures into place." That spill in Alberta is not to be confused with the other spill in Alberta that you might remember us reporting from a few weeks ago. That one took place in northern Alberta, near a place called Zama City. That was the spill that officials chose not to disclose to the public until 11 days after it happened. That spilled in northern Alberta which is seen here is different from the new spill in eastern Alberta, which you see here. You can see how you might get them confused. What`s happening now is this sort of constant slow motion environmental disaster when it comes to energy production, particularly, when it comes to the fossil industry. Out of control natural gas explosions off the Gulf Coast, almost daily tar sands oil spills to our north in Canada, sometimes in our own backyard in places like suburban Arkansas. What caused that pipeline rupture down there anyway? These recurring disasters serve as the political backdrop to the political fights we`re having on the issue of energy. And today, that political fight was put into stark relief when president delivered his high profile economic address that the White House had been hyping for days. The president said today that this is the first in a series of speeches on economic issues that the president is going to be traveling the country to deliver over the next few weeks. In today`s speech, the president touted the fact that during his presidency, we have doubled our investments as a nation in wind power and in solar power. The president said our priority as a country must be to cut down on carbon emissions and invest in renewable energies that do not add to the carbon problem. Clean up the environment and move to new cleaner sources of energy. Republicans -- congressional Republicans decided they were going to prebut the president`s big speech today by announcing ahead of the speech that their plan on energy in the environment is to cut the budget of the EPA by a third. Oh, yes, environmental protection, who needs it, especially now. House Republicans, ahead of President Obama`s big speech today, moved to cut funding to the EPA by 34 percent. And while the president is insisting that Americans reduce carbon emissions, Republicans included provisions in their bill today to block the EPA from controlling carbon emissions. House Republicans while they were at it, also voted to slash the president`s funding request for renewable energy. And I know everybody says slash whenever they`re talking about 2 percent cuts or whatever, look at this, it`s a 72 percent cut for renewable energy. That`s slashed. The top Republican in the House Appropriations Committee laughed about it to reporters, saying, quote, "His priorities are going nowhere." We are in the midst of a slow motion environmental disaster when it comes to energy right now. And the two sides that are fighting it out in the political arena on that issue could not be any further apart even if they wanted to be. And so what happens next? Hold on, Steve Kornacki is here. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not allow gridlock or inaction or willful indifference to get in our way. (APPLAUSE) That means whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I`ll use it. (APPLAUSE) Where I can`t act on my own, and Congress isn`t cooperating, I`ll pick up the phone, I`ll call CEOs, I`ll call philanthropists, I`ll call college presidents, I`ll call labor leaders, I`ll call anybody who can help and enlist them in our efforts. (APPLAUSE) Because the choices that we, the people make right now will determine whether or not every American has a fighting chance in the 21st century. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was President Obama today in Galesburg, Illinois, delivering the first in what he says will be a series of major addresses on the economy. The president there saying that he will use whatever executive authority he has to help the middle class. Because implicitly he`s assuming Congress will give him nothing. Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s weekend morning show, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI". Steve also is a senior writer at "Salon". Steve, thank you so much for being here. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Happy to be here. MADDOW: So, what do you make of the president`s overall decision to go back on the campaign trail and start giving campaign style middle class bread and butter economy speeches. Again, he`s going to do it all over the country as a way to try to refocus Washington. KORNACKI: Trying to refocus Washington, I think it`s sort of preemptive, anticipating potentially two ugly fights this fall, one over funding the government. That`s sort of at the end of September at the end of the fiscal year. The second one, just funding the government and keeping it open is about the debt ceiling, the idea of Republicans again maybe -- maybe at this point maybe latching on to the hostage taking they did a couple years ago. I think he`s trying to head that off right now, you know, one thing he mentioned in his speech, he singled out Senate Republicans who`ve been a lot more sort of willing to work cooperative in the last few weeks, there are signs there was a transportation funding bill that a group of Republicans, I think, 19 of them in the Senate actually voted yesterday to bring to the floor. So a lot of the fights right now are about these individual funding bills for departments and for agencies, and it`s about House Republicans being absolutist in the administration, in hoping that they can get Senate Republicans on board to not go that way, some Senate Republicans on board, to really isolate the House Republicans and to make them think twice before going down the route of shutdown and that sort of thing. MADDOW: Does it work in the Obama era, and has it worked historically for presidents to try to isolate their opponents in that way, or at least try to split opponents in that way? I mean, when a president of an opposing party praises you in a speech, is it good, right? KORNACKI: No, exactly. At this point, but I think we have that poll that came out today. The NBC poll that was really interesting, when people asked about their attitudes toward President Obama and towards Republicans in Congress in general. And are they -- trying to think of the exact terminology, are Republicans reaching out too much or too little. And overwhelmingly, people are saying, too inflexible, that`s the term I was blanking on there. The label in the same poll was not applied to President Obama, I think there`s a hope on the president`s part that the incentive system might be a little different when you look on the Senate side for Republicans there. And then it becomes sort of -- you look back to what happened likely with Bill Clinton and the government shutdown in 1995, everyone looks back, where you had these absolutists in the House that were warned to force, these absolutist Republicans. And when the shutdown occurred and the polls went south on them, there was enough wobbliness there to sort of pull them back. The hope is that can you replicate something like that. MADDOW: In terms of policy, we know as soon as the second inaugural address got rolling, that climate change, environment, energy were going to be big areas of focus for the president. I am struck -- we just kind of made it a practice on the show to follow energy production disasters. It`s like this new giant blowout in the Gulf. There`s these repeated disasters in Canada, with the tar sands oil. There`s the question about whether or not tar sands oil going to be trucked across the entire width of our nation using Keystone. When you look at that stuff going on in the real world of energy, you know the president wants to do something about it, and then you see the Republicans gleefully being as anti-environment as anti-renewable energy as they can, almost in the sort of chest pounding way, as their messaging thing they were doing ahead of today`s speech to prebut the president, it`s hard for me to imagine where that ends. It`s not even like the discussion is happening, it`s one side having the discussion and the other side ridiculing for even thinking about it. KORNACKI: Well, it`s almost like a whack-a-mole thing. The whole fight over the last few months was to get a vote in the Senate on the confirmation for EPA director, to get Gina McCarthy, we talk about these Republicans who are suddenly being more cooperative on the Senate side. Well, that happened, there was a breakthrough, a deal on the filibuster. Gina McCarthy got her both, and Gina McCarthy got confirmed and EPA now has a director. OK, EPA has a director, it can start regulating carbon, you know, problem solved. No, now it pops up over here on the Republican side -- where the Republicans are passing absolutely draconian cuts. So, again, the question is what`s going to happen on the Senate side. Will these dozen or two Republicans in the Senate maybe when it comes to funding the EPA, comes to funding the environment, will they go sort of -- will it be a transportation -- will it be funding for transportation. Will it go far away from where the House is and give Obama and the administration an opportunity to get a little bit money there? MADDOW: Fascinating, seeing the president try to work the Republican Party, which has been the theme of his presidency first and second term is always fascinating. But today, I feel like it all happened in capital letters. Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s weekend morning show "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" -- Steve, thank you so much. KORNACKI: You`re welcome. Thank you. MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Let`s say you want to ban nipples. You want to make it a crime for which a woman would serve 30 days in jail if anybody saw her nipple in public for any reason. Let`s say you wanted to do that. Let`s say also you wanted counties and cities in the United States of America to be able to establish an official state religion, here, in this country. Let`s say you want to make seventh grade teachers in your state teach seventh graders about abortion. And you want to mandate that the teacher specifically have to tell seventh graders that if you have an abortion, you`re not going to be able to have a baby ever again. Abortion causes preterm birth. Abortion does not actually cause preterm birth, but you want to mandate that the state`s seventh grade teachers have to say that any to the seventh grader. Let`s say you want all those things, plus you want to throw 70,000 people off their unemployment benefits immediately. You want to close down 15 of 16 abortion clinics in the state. You want to take $90 million out of the public schools and give that money to private schools and you want to completely reorganize the entire fiscal structure of the state in order to give millionaires in the state a check for $10,000 each. Oh, and also you want there to be loaded guns in playgrounds. What could possibly go wrong with loaded guns in playgrounds? So, say that`s what you have to offer. If that is what you have to offer, congratulations. You are a North Carolina Republican state legislator in the year 2013, and you are in charge there now. You have a Republican governor there, a veto-proof Republican super majority in the House and Senate. Should your Republican governor ever want to veto any of your ideas, but why would he? Your ideas are all so good, especially the nipple one. If this is the kind of agenda you are working on, then the single most important thing you`re working on is what the North Carolina legislature worked on today and into tonight. A version of this is already passed the House. Tonight, it started to get through the Senate where Republicans are also in control. Democrats are fighting tooth and nail with everything they`ve got, trying to stall this bill as much as they can, but they are in the minority and this thing is expected to pass the North Carolina senate by tomorrow and it will soon be on its way to the governor`s office. And out of everything North Carolina Republicans have been doing this year, this is the most important thing. Because if your agenda is nipple banning and the establishment of state religion and giving millionaires $10,000 checks, then the one thing you are probably worried about with that agenda is what people are going to think of you once you start trying all this stuff, right? The bill that is moving through the North Carolina legislature right now, tonight, negates any reason for Republicans to worry about what people think of them. It is the insulation for everything else they want to do. When the Supreme Court last month gutted the Voting Rights Act, that meant for North Carolina the state no longer need the go-ahead from the federal Justice Department if they wanted to change the state`s voting laws. The federal government previously could block the state from changing the law in ways that would make it harder for minorities to vote. Now, though, after that Supreme Court decision, North Carolina Republicans are unconstrained. And so today, the single most important thing they`re doing, this bill that North Carolina Republicans are ramming ahead at top speed, is being called the most draconian voter suppression effort in the country, at a time when we have had a lot of draconian voter suppression efforts by Republicans in a lot of states, this one is kind of the big kahuna. They`re going after early voting. They`re going after voter registration drives. For college students, not only will you not be able to use your college ID to allow you to vote, but if you vote where you go to college, the state wants to tax your parents as a penalty for you voting in your college town. The voter ID part specifically is called the most draconian voter ID law in the country. If your ID is from public assistance, you can`t use that to vote. If you`re ID is because you`re a public worker, because you work for a city or a county in North Carolina, you cannot even use that ID to vote, your ID from the county. If your ID is from the college, of course, you can`t use that. Essentially the idea is your ID has to say, I`m a Republican and then you can use it to vote. Not really, but close. And of everything North Carolina Republicans have rushed through since they took over in November, this part is really the keystone to all of it. I don`t mean the Keystone pipeline. I mean in an arch, there`s a keystone where any of the other stones will fall out and the arch will stay up. But if you take out the keystone, the whole thing will come crashing down. The keystone of what they`re doing is attacking the ability of people to vote, because the only way to get away with aggressively unpopular measures that are radically out of step with everything that has happened in your state in modern times, radically out of step with public opinion, the only way to get away with that is to make sure that public opinion in your state can never be used against you, that nobody can vote you out of office. And that is exactly what Republicans in the North Carolina Senate are expected to finish doing tomorrow, and then send to that governor. Watch this space. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. 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