The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/20/14

Guests: Nicolle Wallace

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. All right. It was a hot day in June, the summer before the 2012 election and President Obama went to the Rose Garden to make an important statement about a policy change that he was instituting. And in the middle of the president standing there formally in a suit at the podium with the presidential seal on it and everything set up in the very formal Rose Garden, in the middle of all that, a guy who works at Tucker Carlson`s Web site started yelling at the president in the middle of his statement. And it was a weird thing to happen in any circumstance. But in the formal setting of the Rose Garden while the president is giving an official presidential statement, it was -- it was really weird and the president got really mad. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is the right thing to do. NEIL MUNRO, DAILY CALLER: Why`d you favor foreigners over Americans? OBAMA: Excuse me, sir. It`s not time for question, sir. MUNRO: No, you have to take questions. OBAMA: Not while I`m speaking. And the answer to your question, sir -- and the next time I prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question -- is this is the right thing to do for the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The guy who was yelling at the president as you can see there has -- see the red thing there? -- has a press credential around his neck. He was a credentialed member of the White House press corps for the Tucker Carlson Web site, and not once, not twice he yells out at the president during the president`s remarks that day. Not during that question and answer period, but while the president was still trying to make his statement. And, you know, this president like every president has been heckled before. We have seen him heckled a lot by immigration activists, for example. We have seen him quietly heckled by a conservative justice from the Supreme Court one time. We saw him sort of pitifully heckled by a Republican member of Congress. Remember the first time he addressed a joint session of Congress? "You lie!" But an accredited member of the press, of the press corps stopping a presidential announcement to heckle the president while he gave his statement -- I mean, that was just weird. It was not, you know, weird like the Iraqi guy showing -- throwing the shoe at President Bush, that was a member of the press corps too. It wasn`t that weird. That guy went to jail for three years for doing that. But still, that moment in the Rose Garden in the summer of 2012, it was an astonishing moment. The publication who that guy worked for put out a statement after the incident saying they were very proud of their reporter for his behavior during that presidential Rose Garden address and in fact the guy still works there. That was 2012 in the heat of President Obama`s re-election campaign about five months before the 2012 election. And what the president was announcing that day was for a specific group of people who conceivably could be deported he was going to offer them temporary relief from the fear of deportation. People who had been brought to this country as kids when they had no say in the matter and people who have grown up here in this country, who have known no other home as adults -- those young people, he didn`t give them citizenship, he didn`t give them, you know, legal permanent residency and green cards, but he did give them temporary relief from one thing, from the threat of being deported. And the Republicans lost their minds. They were very upset. Congressman Steve King said the Republicans should sue the president to stop this terrible thing he was doing. But they didn`t sue the president and the policy went into effect. When the policy went into effect, you may remember this was the scene all over the country when young people could turn up, make themselves known, fill out an application, find out if they qualified. That was two and a half years ago, and so far, between 500,000 and 600,000 young people across the country have qualified under that program to get temporary relief from the threat of being deported. And the sky did not fall, right? The economy did not collapse under the weight of this small-scale compassionate act that the president announced in 2012, unless you consider falling unemployment, accelerated economic growth, and the Dow approaching 18,000 to be a noble form of economic collapse. The president announced that policy change two years ago in the summer of 2012, the Republicans and conservative media, they couldn`t even wait until he had physically stopped announcing it before they started screaming at him about it. But, you know what, that policy change, it is kind of working out OK. The country is okay. And tonight`s announcement from the White House builds on both that policy that he announced in 2012. It essentially expands the idea of temporary relief from deportation, to include families, right, who have a legal resident or a U.S. citizen in them. So, families do not get physically divided by force because there are different immigration statuses among different members of the same family. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We`re going to offer the following deal. If you`ve been in America for more than five years, if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents, if you registered, pass a criminal background check and you`re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you`ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What President Obama announced tonight from the East Room just about an hour ago. Substantively, what he announced tonight, it builds on that idea that President Obama announced unilaterally in 2012 in the Rose Garden. It builds on what they call DACA. That was that program. But it also builds on a long track record from this president. I mean, frankly, a long list of warning signs from this president that he was going to do something like what he did tonight, and I don`t know whether or not consistency is a virtue in politics or in life. But in this case, on this issue, President Barack Obama and even just Barack Obama before he was president, has been consistent on this issue. In 2007, when he was a United States senator, the Bush administration wrote a big comprehensive immigration reform bill and even though it had been written by the Bush administration, Republicans in Congress still didn`t support it. Barack Obama voted for it, though, as a senator. When Barack Obama ran for president he campaigned on his support for the DREAM Act which would be a very specific form of immigration reform targeted at young people, particularly young people who made promising investments in themselves like going to college or joining the military. He campaigned on the DREAM Act when he ran for president. When he got elected president, he supported the DREAM Act. Democrats in the House introduced the DREAM Act. They got it passed in the House in the first half of his first term. Democrats in the Senate, most of them supported it as well but fell to a Republican filibuster. So, they tried on the DREAM Act but they couldn`t get it done. Then when he was running for re-election in the summer of 2012, he made that DACA announcement where the Tucker Carlson guy screamed at him while he was in the middle of his statement. That was in the lead-up to the 2012 election. Then, President Obama won that election and Democrats picked up seats in both the House and the Senate. And everybody`s diagnosis, even the Republican Party`s self-diagnosis in 2012 was part of the reason that Republicans had lost so badly in 2012 is that they didn`t support immigration reform. And so, after that 2012 election with the Republican Party`s official autopsy of what went wrong, recommending explicitly that the Republican Party embraced immigration reform and champion it, with even FOX News getting religion on the issue after that election -- (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: We`ve got -- we`ve got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether. It`s simple for me to fix it. I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here. You don`t say you got to go home. And that is a position that I`ve evolved on. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: He evolved. He has since un-evolved. Right after the 2012 election, the Republican Party, FOX News, House Speaker John Boehner, they were all saying the Republican Party would finally come around and support immigration reform. This was going to happen in 2012, right? Right after he was sworn in for his second term, President Obama took a trip out to Nevada. He gave a speech at a high school in Las Vegas where he was so happy, he was like vibrating three feet off the ground. He just had been re-elected and just been sworn in for a second term. Democrats did great in the election, all the way down the ticket all away around the country. Nevada had voted for him by a mile. He`s at the high school with the kids and crowd who were all psyched to see him. And then listen to what he says here about how he thinks it`s finally going to happen. It`s an emerging consensus. Republicans are finally coming around. He really believed it. Everybody did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Those of you who have a seat, feel free to take a seat. I don`t mind. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, Mr. President. OBAMA: I love you back. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) Last week, last week I had the honor of being sworn in for a second term as president of the United States. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) I know that some issues will be harder to lift than others. Some debates will be more contentious. That`s to be expected. But the reason I came here today is because of a challenge where the differences are dwindling, where a broad consensus that`s emerging and where a call for action can now be heard coming from all across America. I`m here today because the time has come for common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) The time is now. Now is the time. Now is the time. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You hear the crowd actually getting louder, swelling there. It`s because the crowd did go wild and gave them a standing ovation. The case that he`s making there is a remarkable moment in time. He says, "The differences are dwindling. A broad consensus is emerging." In other words, the Republicans have finally agreed to do it, you guys. This was right after the 2012 election and everybody said immigration reform would happen. Even FOX News thought immigration reform would happen. And it started to happen. Within six months of that speech the Senate had passed a bill, a big bipartisan, tough, comprehensive bill with enough votes to beat the Republican filibuster. They got 14 Republican senators to sign on to that thing. OK, so that`s step one, right? We got this emerging consensus, differences are dwindling, 14 Republican senators agreed with this and that`s enough to pass it even over the filibuster. OK, all right, done. Now, it`s time for the House. Go on, House. You take it from here, House. John Boehner had said that the House would pass immigration reform. But they got that bipartisan bill from the Senate and then it just, you know, it never came up. For awhile, it just sat there with no explanation. Then, finally, the House Republicans came up with a procedural objection. They said they didn`t want to pass a comprehensive bill. They wanted to pass a bill piecemeal. They just wanted to pass each individual piece of it bit by bit. And the Democrats responded and the president responded, OK, whatever you want. However you want to do it, we`ll do it that way if that`s the way you need to do it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: They`re suspicious of comprehensive bills, but you know what? If they want to chop it up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don`t care what it looks like as long as it`s actually delivering on those core values that we talk about. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You need to chop it up, jaw wired shut. Can only chew tiny thing, piecemeal is a weird way to do it but that`s what we`ll do it. They said that`s what they needed to be able to do it, but that apparently wasn`t what they needed. Because even after getting an agreement on that way, they still just never did it. And as much as everybody thought they were going to, as much as they said they were going to, as much as they promised they were going to, as much as they said it would be in their own interest to do so, and, of course, they would do it, they never did it. The House Republicans never did it. And that`s what happened and that was more than 500 days ago. And so now, tonight, the president like he did with DACA in 2012, the president tonight announced that he would act on his own. He can`t change the law, but he can change the enforcement priorities of his administration and the Homeland Security Department and all the rest of it. And now, Congress will not vote on these things that the president announced tonight, those changes will just go into effect starting January 1st, 2015. And, yes, the Republicans and the president`s critics say they feel blindsided by this action. But it`s not like nobody knew where he stood on this issue, and it`s not like he didn`t tell you over and over again that this was coming. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Enact comprehensive immigration reform once and for all. They need not -- we can`t wait 20 years from now to do it. We can`t wait 10 years from now to do it. We need it by the end of my first term as president of the United States of America. We want to move this process. We can`t continue with a broken immigration system. The time has come for common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. The time is now. Now is the time. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) Today, I`m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own. I`ve said before that if Congress failed to live up to its responsibilities to solve this problem, I would act to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own and I meant what I said. So, this is not a question of if, but when. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: See the timestamps on all those for the last, oh, five, six years. I mean, whether you like what President Obama announced tonight or not, it`s not like you didn`t know it was coming. And Republicans are losing their minds over this in some interesting ways. We will talk more about that this hour, including with some of our Republican friends. But you know what, what the president did tonight is something he said he was going to do for a long time. There`s no question that this is a big political fight and it`s going to be fascinating to watch what`s going to happen between the president and Congress, between Democrats and Republicans, this is an absolutely riveting part of how the game of politics is played. Big presidential announcement like this, Congress saying, no, we`re going to light our hair on fire and never let you do it. It`s amazing thing to watch. Fights like this in politics are really, really top of the ticket fights. But that is not actually what this story is about. This is not at all what tonight was about at its most important level. I mean this, is what this story is really about. All right, what the president announced tonight will have practical everyday effects on millions of people in this country -- millions of families. I mean, from the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they go to bed at night. This announcement will have an immediate effect on people`s lives and families, now and for generations to come. Five million families had their trajectory in life change dramatically. For all the politics, this is the real story here. Joining us now is Jose Diaz-Balart. He`s the host of "THE RUNDOWN" on MSNBC and he`s also news anchor on Telemundo. Jose, it`s great to see. What is your reaction to what the president did tonight? JOSE DIAZ-BALART, "THE RUNDOWN" HOST: Five million people, Rachel. Five million families. Five million people that tonight, tonight, see the opportunity of coming out from under the shadows of fear and that have been living here. Remember, this is going to be people that have been living here five years or more in the United States of America and have U.S.-born children or U.S. residents. Imagine what that means for 5 million people that for years have seen their children go to school and they fear maybe not being there when their children come home from school. Imagine going to work not knowing if you are going to come back from work because you don`t have the documents to do that work that many times other Americans don`t want to do. Talk about the American dream, Rachel -- this is 5 million people. You know, I was with the president in Las Vegas, that 29th of January in 2013, in the Del Sol High School in Las Vegas which, by the way, the president is going back to tomorrow. MADDOW: Exactly, that`s right. DIAZ-BALART: To that same high school. And then the day after that on the 30th of January of 2013 in the White House, I interviewed the president and I asked him about Leticia, a mother I met at that speech in Las Vegas, and she came to see me after she saw the president of the United States of America, and she told me, "I wish I could have told him this, I have U.S.-born children and I was deported from the United States. I left my children here and one of them was molested. So I have come back knowing that my fate is probably sealed, but a mother`s responsibility is far stronger than laws, when my children were born here. Ask the president if he can do for the DREAMer-- he can do for me what he did for the DREAMers." I kept thinking about Leticia tonight, Rachel. And, you know, all things are limited, and this is a short program. It`s for three years. And it`s going to be contested. But, Rachel, thank you for bringing up, it all boils down to human beings and what are we as a country? Do we not care about human beings? These are children born in the United States, families separated. And that, that is going to change for 5 million people in short order. MADDOW: Jose, when we have seen presidents take unilateral action not to change law but to change the way the law is enforced. In the past, the two big times that`s happened for big swaths of people have been in the administration of George H.W. Bush and President Reagan, both of them took action of a similar character to what President Obama did tonight to the extent that they were about keeping families together. They acknowledged that the legal policies that were being enforced had the effect of tearing families apart. They wanted to try to allow families to stay together while still maintaining the law. Should this be seen as in line with those previous examples? DIAZ-BALART: Yes, except to be very clear, Rachel, both George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan went towards amnesty. So, this is something that the president of the United States currently says is not possible and he doesn`t think that his -- his executive orders will be able to go towards anything that could be considered amnesty. This is a short period of time, three years and it doesn`t give you a green card. It doesn`t give you the possibility of being citizen of the United States of America. Now, clearly those folks that are critics of today`s action will tell you that both Bush and Reagan were acting as a response to legislation that was either in the pipeline or had already been passed by both houses of Congress. But the fact is, this is a very limited program. Sure, it`s 5 million people but it`s about 41 percent of the undocumented population in the United States which is -- about the same population percentage I should say that was affected by the decisions of both Bush and Reagan, 41 percent. Different numbers in totality but the same percentage. Look, the fact is, the folks that work behind me right there and you said it very clearly, had the opportunity to do something about it. Well, maybe they`ll look and see that maybe now is a time to deal with issues, it`s not going to go away just because you don`t want to deal with it. MADDOW: That`s right. And if they want to change something about what`s about to happen on January 1st, it`s because they have to act on their own terms and they`ve been unwilling to do that at all. Jose Diaz-Balart, Telemundo anchor, host of "THE RUNDOWN" here on MSNBC every morning from 9:00 to 11:00 Eastern. Jose, big night. Thanks for making time for us tonight. It`s great to have you here. DIAZ-BALART: Thank you, Rachel. A pleasure. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead on this historic night. Please do stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. Undocumented immigrants who want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows or risk their families being torn apart. It`s been this way for decades. And for decades we haven`t done much about it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Ahead of the president`s big speech tonight on immigration, the newspaper "USA Today" published a surprising interview with Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn. The paper`s bureau chief, Susan Page, asked Senator Coburn how he thinks Republicans were going to react to tonight`s speech. This, amazingly, was his answer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Oh, I don`t think it`s so much a Republican reaction here, the country is going to go nuts because they`re going to see it as a move outside of the authority of the president. And it`s going to be a very dangerous situation. You`re going to see -- hopefully not, but you could see instances of anarchy. SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: What do you mean? COBURN: You could see violence. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The country is going to go nuts. Instances of anarchy by which I mean violence. Really, Senator? Are you sure? Joining us now is Robert Gibbs, who knows a thing or two about this White House and about political conflict, both understandable and crazy. Mr. Gibbs was White House press secretary and also senior adviser to the president`s 2012 campaign. Robert, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here. ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: First of all, what is the White House -- how is the White House handling that core charge from Republicans that this is outside the president`s authority, that this is unprecedented. That is tyrannical. How are they dealing with that, that charge? GIBBS: Well, I think the president dealt with it head on in his speech tonight and addressed it very early by discussing how he actually did possess all the authority necessary to do that, legal scholars will back that up. I think what Senator Coburn was saying actually probably isn`t something that you`ll see the White House spend a ton of time responding to, because I think like many of the viewers who just watched that interview, they`re a bit taken aback by the idea that the president`s announcement will be met with lawlessness and violence. After all, the core policy of immigration reform that the president enunciated today is supported by probably 60 percent to 65 percent of the American people. There aren`t policy differences on this. There`s a difference on the will to get it done. MADDOW: So, on that point, there`s a lot of good political axioms about whether or not you`re fighting about the process or whether you`re fighting about the substance if you`re complaining about the process, usually people say that means you`re losing the fight. GIBBS: Yes. MADDOW: But on the issue of the process, we can`t get any Republican elected officials to come on the air tonight to talk about this, even before the president`s speech. No one would come on to talk about it. The Republican strategists, very reasonable guys, very nice guys, actually friends of mine in both cases, Doug Heye and Steve Schmidt, talking about this, were so exercised you could see them sweat, so upset about the president being so inappropriate and unconstitutional in this action -- I don`t think they`re faking it. I think they`ve really talked themselves into this idea that this is something, not just no other president has done, but this president has never done anything this radical. I feel like they`re -- that -- their sort of position of conflict toward the president right now is a sharper edge than it`s ever been. GIBBS: Well, you know, which is so hard to believe given the fact that, you know, you`ve -- I think Republicans, this town, most of America has known this has been coming for quite some time. In fact, if anything, Democrats got upset at the president for having delayed what they thought this announcement would be at the end of the summer. And now, it`s -- now it`s almost at the end of the year. So, none of it`s a surprise. I do think it puts Republicans in a tough political situation. You know, you talk to the beginning of the broadcast where two-thirds of the Senate voted for comprehensive immigration reform and, you know, if the bill got put up in the House today, a majority would support it. Republicans are in a very tough bind. They can`t shut down the government because, quite frankly, we`ve seen how that works. They don`t look like they have reasonable policies to defund this. They`ve talked about taking it to court. I don`t know that there is interestingly enough a genuine organized response to something that they knew largely was coming. I think the smarter voice in the Republican Party, I saw Senator Jeff Flake say earlier today our response ought to be to spas a bill. And, again, I think what`s remarkable about this is we know the outlines of what that reform and what that bill would be because it passed a year and a half ago in the Senate, and quite frankly, it`s not a lot different than what President Bush was talking about in 2005, 2006 and in 2007. MADDDOW: That`s right. GIBBS: It`s not a policy difference, it`s a will. MADDOW: Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary for the Obama administration -- thank you for your help on this tonight, Robert. It`s nice to see you. GIBBS: Thank you. MADDOW: It`s an interesting point that he`s making too about if -- about what they`re going to do. I mean, if you think about the temperament, the upset, you know, we`re going to impeach him. There`s going to be anarchy, there`s going to be violence, the statement from Rand Paul tonight, "I will stand in front of this by any means necessary." Sometimes a good sign about whether or not somebody has anything practical to offer against something is the number of exclamation points on to their statement about what they`re going to do in response. The more exclamation point, the more anger, the more all caps and crazy it is, the less functionally they actually think they can do. Maybe that`s what`s going on. Ironically, today`s announcement does fulfill some of the immigration reform dreams of some previous presidents. We`ll have some on that straight ahead. Stay with us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger. For we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The actions I`m taking are not only lawful, they`re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting when Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Pass a bill. We in no way support drinking games on this network or on this show, but every time any Republican says that what president did tonight means that now Republicans won`t pass an immigration bill -- drink. They were never going to pass an immigration bill before this, now that President Obama has taken this action, maybe they now will or maybe they won`t now. But a person who may know more about whether or not that`s going to happen or not is our next guest -- drink. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it`s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today. Millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That`s the real amnesty, leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I`m describing is accountability. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s President Obama a little over an hour ago addressing the nation about his plans for the kind of limited immigration reform that a president can do alone without Congress. For the record, I should tell you, this is what the big three broadcast networks were playing while the president made his address tonight. CBS did show the president`s remarks for their West Coast viewers only, but not for the rest of the country. But not the rest of CBS, nor NBC, nor ABC, ran it at all because there was this other stuff to show that was way too important to delay for 10 minutes for a presidential address on the biggest change in our nation`s immigration policy in 25 years. Ahem! In May 2006, I should mention, then-President George W. Bush gave his own primetime speech calling for immigration reform. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant, and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty. I disagree. It is neither wise nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border. There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a program of mass deportation. That middle ground recognizes there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently and someone who has worked here for many years and has a home, a family and an otherwise clean record. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In 2006, President George W. Bush`s pro-immigration reform speech, I should say it was twice as long as President Obama`s speech tonight, and all the broadcast networks happily carried that one. And they got a huge reward for it, they got a huge audience, more than 40 million people watched that 2006 speech on immigration. Basically the same number of people who watched the State of the Union that year. That was, you`ll remember that one, that was the one where he talked about switch grass and he whispered it. But after President Bush gave that pro-immigration reform speech in 2006, his administration basically wrote a bill for comprehensive immigration reform. It died. Republican opponents of the bill said they were elated when it died. Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who is a lead opponent of the bill, he said talk radio was a big factor in derailing the immigration bill. Jeff Sessions said supporters of the bill tried to ram the thing through, quote, "before Rush Limbaugh could tell the American people what was in it." So, not that long ago it was President Bush pushing for immigration reform, and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and Rush Limbaugh beating him so he would not get it. A Democratic senator by the name of Barack Obama voted for that Bush bill, by the way, but not enough Republicans did, even though the Bush White House wrote the bill. And so, it died. And interestingly after that bill died, President Bush move add head to implement some parts of what he had called for even though Congress wouldn`t approve it. He said in a statement in August 2007, quote, "Although the Congress has not addressed our broken immigration system by passing comprehensive reform legislation, my administration will continue to take every possible step to build upon the progress already made." That same day explaining what the Bush president -- what the Bush White House was doing without Congress, the press secretary at the time explained, quote, "We`re going as far as we possibly can without Congress acting." So, they did what they could by executive action after they couldn`t move, even Republicans, people in their own party, in Congress to support a bill to reform immigration. The Bush White House, the George W. Bush White House acted alone, just as the other Bush White House did as well on immigration, and just as the Reagan White House did as well on immigration, procedurally every recent president has acted on some element of immigration reform when Congress wouldn`t. But there remains this really interesting and still unanswered question, why didn`t President George W. Bush win that fight within his party in 2005, 2006, 2007? He called for immigration reform. He really went for it. He made the case, his administration wrote the bill. He was the leader of his party. His own party told him to stuff it. Why did George W. Bush lose on this? He really lost on this. I mean, this is what the latest incarnation of would-be presidential leadership sounded like on this. This is -- this is what the Republican Party became post-George W. Bush on this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question is, if I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I veto it? And the answer is yes. MODERATOR: Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them as Sheriff Arpaio advocates? ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona. We hired a lawn company to mow our lawn. They had illegal immigrants who were working there. And when that was pointed out to us, we let them go. We went to the company and we said, look, you can`t have any illegals working on our property. That`s -- I`m running for office, for Pete`s sake, I can`t have illegals. MODERATOR: You say you don`t want to go and round up people and deport them. But you`re also saying they would have to go back to their home countries and then apply for citizenship. So, if you don`t deport them, how do you send them home? ROMNEY: Well, the answer is self-deportation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Self-deportation. That`s the last iteration of what the Republican party was offering in terms of potential presidential leadership on this. Self-deportation, I`m running for office for Pete`s sake. I mean, that`s where the Republican Party is on this issue right now, is the party of like Tom Tancredo on this issue. That`s why President Obama acted alone instead of signing some bill tonight because Republicans really won`t pass anything on immigration through Congress. How did that happen? Why did George W. Bush lose this fight in his own party, to such impressive effect? Joining us now is Nicolle Wallace, former communications director for the George W. Bush administration, senior adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign. She`s now the co-host of "The View." Nicolle, it`s great to see. Thank you for being here. NICOLLE WALLACE, "THE VIEW" CO-HOST: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Do you dispute my premise? WALLACE: No, but let me tell you a couple of things that are different. President Obama controlled, obviously, the White House, the Senate and the House, and he could have done this with the Congress when his party controlled all three. MADDOW: Yes, but the Republicans did filibuster it in the Senate. WALLACE: But the Republicans also did vote for a Senate bill. There is a Senate bill with bipartisan support, and the House should have taken it up. The House Republicans should have taken it up and -- they supported a more piecemeal approach, which I`m not a fan of, but -- MADDOW: He said, he said he would be happy to do the piecemeal approach, then they never brought up -- WALLACE: And they should have. MADDOW: Yes. WALLACE: Listen, I`m out of step with the current Republican Party. I still stand with the president. I work for. I worked on that speech. That address to the nation on immigration and we actually -- I remember we had a hard time getting network time too. I think we moved it around a little bit to work with some football games. So, I want to say -- MADDOW: They always do. WALLACE: -- we were probably a little more flexible and that`s why we got the air time. But what we pushed, had the support of Senator Ted Kennedy and at the time, Senator McCain so there was bipartisan support for what President Bush was doing. There`s also public support for it. I think we had over 60 percent of the public behind comprehensive immigration reform, which is the only immigration reform that works. You cannot ignore the fact that there are -- we use the number 11.2 million people. There are some estimates that put it about at 17 million people who are either here illegally or vast number of people here with expired visas. MADDOW: Sure. WALLACE: So, they`re just working illegally. And anyone in our party that suggests, oh, we got to lock up the border first, it`s illogical. It`s illogical. It`s nonsense. MADDOW: Why didn`t he win that fight? I mean, I -- WALLACE: He didn`t win the fight for which you just aired. MADDOW: Was it talk radio? Was it the Heritage Action? WALLACE: Talk radio`s power isn`t derived in a booth. Talk radio`s power is because the millions of people that listen are convinced of the argument. So, there are a lot of people who are still either unconvinced that this is -- that this problem -- I mean, 17 million people is a lot of people. That`s not like Texas` problem or California`s problem. That is coast to coast. MADDOW: Yes. WALLACE: Illegal immigration is everywhere. And after 9/11, I believe there was a moment where you could combine the fact that this is -- we basically have an unrepresented class of people living in our country going to our schools, you know, working in our neighborhoods. George W. Bush, as a former Texas governor, understood that these were illegal immigration wasn`t someone else`s problem. These were our neighbors. And Jeb Bush has a very interesting approach and philosophy on this because he`s trying to exist and survive in this modern Republican Party -- MADDOW: One step forward, two steps back. WALLACE: But he understands that illegal immigration, he called it an act of love and he got a world of you-know-what for saying that. MADDOW: And then he wrote a book saying, no, we need to be hard line on the issue. And his book tour about how -- (CROSSTALK) WALLACE: Listen, if you can`t survive the politics of your party, you can`t lead and govern. So -- MADDOW: But you can`t be allowed as a Republican right now who`s going to run for president to be a squish on this issue. The Republican House had every opportunity to do this anyway they wanted, including working on even just parts of the bill that got 14 Republican senators to do it. They never brought it up. They never got close to it. They never were going to bring it up. People who were saying, oh, this ruins the chance for John Boehner to move ahead like John Boehner was going to move ahead. Please, it was never going to happen. WALLACE: Well, listen, I mean, President Obama is the one that said for six years he didn`t have the authority to do exactly what he did tonight. MADDOW: You don`t think -- (CROSSTALK) WALLACE: Listen, don`t pit me against Obama. I`m pitting Obama against Obama. And what he no longer gets to be is our constitutional law professor -- (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: Hold on. No, what he was saying, people would say change the law. He said I can`t change the law. And so, he gave the speech tonight, and he said it clear, this is not citizenship. I`m not doing amnesty. Reagan did amnesty. I`m not doing it. It`s not -- (CROSSTALK) WALLACE: And nothing he did tonight -- I`m not offended and the Republican Party shouldn`t be offended by an attempt to keep families together. MADDOW: Yes. WALLACE: The Republican Party cannot be against -- these are nuclear family. These are moms and dads of American born kids. We can`t stake out a position that we`re against keeping nuclear families together. No one is for that. But I think a majority of Americans oppose what he did tonight. A majority of Americans opposed using executive action to change immigration laws, and Democrats -- (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: The reason is because the Republicans are telling him this is some unprecedented thing. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and to a lesser extent, George W. Bush, all took executive action on the way you enforce existing immigration law. The Republicans have made people against it, because they told them this is tyranny. This is -- (CROSSTALK) WALLACE: Suddenly powerful -- Obama said this is tyranny, I`m not an emperor. MADDOW: No, he said it would be if he`d change the law, then he did. He took action, but didn`t change the law. WALLACE: Well, listen, the bottom line is he didn`t do anything. I think these people are deserving of legislation, I think these are moms and dads of kids that go to our schools, and live in our towns. And I think that they are deserving of legislation, and I hope the Republicans call his bluff and pass comprehensive immigration reform. And I`m, you know, call me another class of DREAMers, I hope they someday will. But George W. Bush won 44 percent of the humanitarian vote in 2004. McCain won about 26, and that time, he was for comprehensive. He think has evolved on the issue. MADDOW: Yes, he said he`d vote against his own. WALLACE: The Republican Party is on the wrong track on this. And Mercy Schlapp who was one of President Bush`s adviser on this, one of them, I talked to her on my way over, I said, where do we go from here? She said Republicans really need to govern and legislate and get this done and lead on this issue. I think she`s absolutely right, and I hope we see a robust debate in the presidential contest. I hope Jeb Bush doubles down, as someone who understands the act of illegal immigration, while illegal, is motivated by love, is motivated by this long-held America dream for a better life. And until we get our heads around why people come here and why they want to stay here, I think we are in a very tough spot politically with a very important part of the country. MADDOW: And the fact that the Republican Party can`t evolve on that despite that argument, I think, is an unexplained thing in American politics, which is -- I think -- I think it`s unexplained for -- (CROSSTALK) WALLACE: Listen, I think if President Obama thought the politics were clear-cut, he would have done it three weeks ago. MADDOW: No, I think he knew what he was going to do. I think Democrats -- vulnerable Democrats said don`t do it. WALLACE: Why he didn`t do it three weeks ago? MADDOW: Because he was afraid, because they were like, oh, it might save Mark Pryor, because they`re always worried about their bottom line and never about what they might achieve if they do something that inspires people. That`s a Democratic -- WALLACE: (INAUDIBLE) MADDOW: Democrats are wrong on strategy. Republicans are wrong on substance. I know which one I`d rather take to the gates of St. Peter. WALLACE: Well, listen, I worked for the guy that was right on both. I mean, I think George W. Bush was right on policy -- MADDOW: And he failed. WALLACE: -- and he was right on the politics and he failed. So, I think we have to get back to the place where we have leaders are strong enough to stand up to the loudest voices in their own party which on our side is talk radio. Who will never be where our party needs to go on this issue ever. MADDOW: Nicolle Wallace, I like talking with you about everything. Thank you very much for being here. Congratulations on "The View" thing. I thought it was super weird but you`re sort of making it work. (LAUGHTER) WALLACE: It`s super funny and we love having your Bill Wolff. MADDOW: Oh, well, now I`m angry. We`ll be right back. Nicolle Wallace, former communications for Gorge W. Bush -- I`m angry and crying tears of pain. Thank you. Thank you. Go away. Stop. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The last time we did get comprehensive immigration reform, Ronald Reagan was president. It used to be a Republican thing. But here at 30 Rock, the Reagan amnesty news in 1987 ended up being a shock inside this building for a totally unexpected reason. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: And one of those happy to see this day come is NBC News correspondent James Makawa who works out of our Chicago office. Much to our surprise, James today was online applying for amnesty. None of us knew that he has been an illegal alien since his student visa ran out. Makawa came here in 1977 to attend high school and to escape the war at home, which was then called Rhodesia now Zimbabwe. After graduation from college in this country, Makawa began a promising broadcast journalism career, never lying about his status but never really telling anyone either. He has been paying taxes and Social Security all this time and worrying that someday he would be caught. Now, he says he`s relieved to be able to begin the process of getting amnesty to becoming a legal American. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Worrying that someday he would be caught. Nobody at NBC had any clue until that happened. And that young man has had a remarkable life since that happened. And brief programming note: he`s going to be on our show tomorrow night. All right. We`ve got much more ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I have a seen the courage of students who except for the circumstances of their birth are as American as Malia or Sasha, students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in the country they love. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Across the country tonight, groups that support immigration reform held watch parties for the president`s speech. Maybe the networks didn`t show it, but people wanted to watch it. For people who are directly affected by the outcome, who have pushed politicians from both parties for months, tonight was a huge deal. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) CROWD: Right here. Right now. Right now. I am. I am. Somebody. Somebody. And I deserve. And I deserve. Full equality. Full equality. Right here. Right here. Right now. Right now. (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After the president`s announcement tonight will come more fighting in Congress. This is going to be fireworks in Washington for a very long time over this. But tonight, right now, for these folks, this moment is about all sorts of things. It`s about celebration. It`s about joy, it`s worry that this will not go far enough to help everybody in their families. Maybe there`s some relief that finally immigration policy can change, at least in a small way. This announcement tonight will transform the lives of millions of people across this country. And that is truly a very big deal. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END