updated 1/26/2011 1:44:02 PM ET 2011-01-26T18:44:02

Guests: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Doug Heye, Anthony Weiner

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  A little less two hours ago, President Obama wrapped up his second official State of the Union Address.  It was an address that looked different from State of the Union speeches of the modern era.  It looked different because of the way it was received.  A number of Democrats and Republicans chose to forego the tradition of segregating themselves by party.  They instead chose to sit together in the House chamber. 

Surely, some did still sit by party, but others sat organized by state.  The entire Colorado delegation, for instance, sitting together tonight.  Some other members of Congress grouped themselves by hobby.  The bipartisan Congressional Women‘s Softball Team said they would sit together tonight.  No, I am not kidding.  And no, before you speculate, I never played softball. 

Even before President Obama entered the chamber tonight, he had a bit of the thunder of his speech stolen.  A leaked draft of the entire text appeared on the website of “The National Journal” hours before the speech was delivered.  This may not be unprecedented, but I don‘t know of any other instance in which the entire speech was advanced leaked. 

Mr. Obama was seen whispering to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his way to the podium.  He whispered to her, “I don‘t need to deliver it now.  Everybody saw it.” 

The mood of tonight‘s speech was somewhat subdued right from the start.  That may have been because the president started by remarking upon the tragic events of the last few weeks.  The Arizona congressional delegation left this seat open tonight in honor of their colleague, Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  She, of course, is recovering tonight in a Houston hospital, after being shot in an apparent assassination attempt two weeks ago. 

As her colleagues honored her absence tonight by wearing special black and white ribbons, the congresswoman herself watched the speech from her hospital bed.  Look at this photo.  She watched from her hospital bed in Houston, alongside her husband, Astronaut Mark Kelly. 

President Obama‘s speech tonight lasted for more than an hour.  It was interrupted by applause 79 different times, by our poor, under paid applause counter.  It was a speech that was dominated by economic issues and by assertions that the differences between the parties are less important than the nation‘s competitive challenges from abroad. 

The president evoking a new Sputnik moment.  Sputnik, of course, the Soviet satellite that shocked America into creating our own U.S. space program, a program that within a decade had Americans walking on the Moon. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

           

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A half century ago when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the Moon.  The science wasn‘t even there yet.  NASA didn‘t exist. 

But after investing in better research and education, we didn‘t just surpass the Soviets.  We unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.  This is our generation‘s Sputnik moment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The president talking not just about the need to reduce unemployment, the need for more jobs, but the president talking in great, great detail about his vision of where jobs come from.  I said earlier—and I still think it‘s true—that this speech was essentially a prayer to the free market, to the nation building in our own nation that comes from invention and from entrepreneurship. 

Lots of presidents have done this in the past.  Tonight, the president linked it to the need to invest, to actually spend some government money in order to goose that sort of invention and entrepreneurship.  Mr. Obama tonight shouted out Google and Facebook as American economic inheritors of the legacy of Edison and the Wright Brothers. 

He stumped explicitly for infrastructure investment, and he did so at length.  He framed the issue in terms of the business environment and American industry competing in the world.  The president specifically shouting out expanded Internet access, roads, railways, high speed rail. 

President Obama coupled some hard truths about America falling behind in education—as many as a quarter of our students not getting a high school degree—he coupled some of those rather brutal truths with what ended up being the first big applause line of the night.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  To every young person listening tonight who is contemplating their career choice, if you want to make a difference in the life of our nation, if you want to make a difference in the life of a child, become a teacher.  Your country needs you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What appeared to be the first partisan standing ovation divide tonight was not over the mention about being a teacher.  That received a round and well rounded round of applause from both Democrats and Republicans. 

The partisan divide standing ovation came over the president‘s mention of health reform.  The president said he is eager to work with anyone to improve health reform legislation, but he said scrapping health reform all together is out of the question.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you.  What I‘m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition. 

Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let‘s fix what needs fixing and let‘s move forward. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You can hear the mixed response there.  That was one of the very few moments of stark partisan divide in tonight‘s entire address.  Here‘s another example I think that is sort of emblematic of the way the president kind of threaded the partisan needle tonight.  Republicans sat mostly silent tonight as Mr. Obama hailed the passage of a repeal of Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell.

But then he immediately pivoted—immediately, within the same sentence, pivoted to a related issue of ROTC on college campuses, a point that is not calculated to resonate with the president‘s base, like the Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell mention did.  IT was calculated to broaden appeal of the Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell repeal. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Our troops come from every corner of this country.  They are black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American.  They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim.  And yes, we know that some of them are gay.  Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. 

With that change, I call on all our college campuses to open doors to military recruiters and ROTC.  It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past.  It is time to move forward as one nation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The president‘s speech there—you saw the camera pivoting to show Salvador Jinta (ph), who is the Medal of Honor recipient, who was one of a number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were featured guests tonight.  Not only the Medal of Honor winner, Mr. Jinta, but also the surgeon who operated on Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, who himself is a Navy veteran and a very experienced battlefield surgeon, with experience both in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Also, a female veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, another one of the guests of vice—of First Lady Michelle Obama, sitting with her in that box tonight. 

In terms of other big policy issues tonight, Mr. Obama endorsed a five year domestic spending freeze.  If that sort of thing sounds familiar to you, it‘s probably because in last year‘s State of the Union Address, the president called for a three-year spending freeze.  Mr. Obama‘s proposal tonight, however, includes more areas of the budget, including the Defense Department. 

Ultimately, though, it‘s Congress that decides what the country spends, not the president.  So you should see this as one of those broad directives.  In terms of specific cuts, President Obama pointed to tens of billions of dollars of cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.  Now, Defense cuts proposed by Robert Gates may be an issue that splits Republicans in Congress, who cannot yet seem to decide if they want Defense to be part of their new found fervor for spending cuts. 

Mr. Obama also endorsed the Dream Act tonight, a bill that would grant legal status to immigrants who complete two years of college or who join the military.  However, he framed it in nonpartisan, pro-economic growth terms, rather than allowing it to be used as a wedge issue, as Republicans turn to do this year.

The president called for ending tax breaks for oil companies.  He called for an elimination of earmarks.  But notably absent from his speech was any mention at all of gun control.  No mention of extended capacity ammunition clips.  No mention of changes to gun laws or to their enforcement.  Nothing about that. 

The overarching theme of President Obama‘s speech tonight was win the future.  It was a point that he accentuated at the end of his speech with a call for all Americans to think big. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We do big things.  From the earliest days of our founding, America has been in the story of ordinary people who dare to dream.  That‘s how we win the future.  We do big things.  The idea of America endures.  Our destiny remains our choice.  And tonight, more than two centuries later, it‘s because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward and the state of our union is strong. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Joining us now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.  Senator Klobuchar, thank you so much for joining us tonight. 

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  It‘s great to be on.  My first midnight show, Rachel.  The bewitching hour. 

MADDOW:  We could do it El Vira style, but it would require a very dramatic wardrobe change. 

KLOBUCHAR:  Right.  And we don‘t make fun of witches anymore. 

MADDOW:  No, that‘s right.  That is over since the midterms.  What did you think of President Obama‘s speech tonight, compared to his last State of the Union and given what the country needs to hear right now? 

KLOBUCHAR:  I thought it was a very good speech for these times, a very serious speech.  And clearly the attitude and that atmosphere was more serious in House chamber.  I thought that was a good thing. 

Mixing it up, I think it was less of a partisan pep fest.  There weren‘t the groans.  There weren‘t quite the cheers.  But people were listening and he found many points of common ground where every single person stood in that chamber.  I think that was important. 

It was a very forward-looking speech, where he is talking about innovation, something near and dear to my heart from a state that gave the world everything from the Pacemaker to the Post-It Note.  The fact that he see this is as a way we can mobilize people and bring them together. 

The education part of it I thought was really important, where he is challenging not just high school students, but families, as well as our education system to actually start giving kids degrees that they can use to get jobs.  I have seen this all over our state.  I just visited a number of technical colleges, 96 percent placement rate, helping kids learn high level computer skills so they can run assembly lines. 

These are some of the jobs of the future in science and math and engineering.  That piece was good.  And just the culmination of it, where he told the story of that small company in Pennsylvania that made the drill that helped get through to get those miners out in Chile, and how he talked about how the owner—one of the employees of that Pennsylvania company said we may be a small company, but we do big things. 

Using that as the overarching theme for what America has done and must do going forward—I thought it was a very good speech for our times and really set out a challenge, not only to Congress, but also to the people in this country. 

MADDOW:  Is there something that the president described tonight or prescribed tonight that you didn‘t know before this speech he would like to pursue?  Did he make any news in terms of policies that he would like Congress to adopt or things that he will do from the executive branch that you didn‘t know that he wanted to move forward on? 

KLOBUCHAR:  Just today, it came out with the five-year freeze.  I think I have supported caps in the past.  That‘s got to be part of this.  I was actually glad that he brought up tax reform, that he just didn‘t limit our work on the debt to spending caps, which is important, but he also talked about tax reform.  His recommitment to bringing back those tax rates to the Clinton levels for people making over 250,000 dollars a year, how important that is going to be as we look at both sides of the ledger, and how we are going to make up for this debt that we have. 

The oil subsidies, closing the oil subsidies—well, he said that before.  I thought that was a clear message on energy.  I don‘t think people expected him to focus on energy quite as much.  He did that.  There were a number of things in there, while they may be things he has talked about in the past, he framed them differently as part of a competitive agenda, which I think is a way you can Republican, Democrats and independents together. 

MADDOW:  I was here with Ed Schultz, my friend Ed Schultz, who was a football player at the University of Minnesota, and who is from your neck of the woods.  He said ahead of the speech, when we had seen excerpts, I can‘t believe the president is calling for corporate tax cuts. 

Then when we saw it in context, we saw the president calling for a reduction in the corporate tax rate, but pairing it with this idea that all the corporate tax loopholes have to be gotten rid of.  Is that a reasonable way forward?  Is that something where there could actually be common ground for tax reform, Republicans get what they want but Democrats do too? 

KLOBUCHAR:  It really is.  If you really want our country to be able to compete internationally, you have to look at the overall tax rate.  As the president pointed out, a bunch of accountants, lawyers can play the system.  Certain groups get tax exemptions.  Certainly, individual citizens in America, most of us aren‘t using some of the exemptions he‘s talking about that these corporations can use. 

So bringing down that overall tax rate so we can be competitive, while at the same time, with an eye on the deficit as—I thought it was very smart. And I think we all know now we have come to a point where we are going to have had to add private sector jobs.  We do that through education and export. 

We have to acknowledge—Democrats have to acknowledge that there are some rules and regulations out there that can be looked at.  One of my favorite moments—and he delivered it so well—was when he talked about the salmon, how the Interior Department regulates the fresh water salmon, Commerce Department regulates the salt water salmon.  Who knows what happens to the smoked salmon. 

Just this point that there are things we can do better with governments.  It brings back some of the ideas of Al Gore, with reinventing government and the duplication.  I think that‘s right to look at again. 

MADDOW:  Senator Klobuchar, I would be remiss if I did not ask you if you had a chance to see your fellow Minnesotan, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann‘s Tea Party Express response tonight, which CNN hyped to the point that they made it essentially equivalent to the official Republican party response.  Were you able to catch any of that? 

KLOBUCHAR:  No, but I read some reports about it.  I was still ending my date with Jeff Sessions, my paired couple for the event.  We walked out together and did some interviews.  When I think about this, having not seen the entire thing, is I was really quite actually somewhat surprised that there were two rebuttals to the president‘s address.  I think, you know, we are trying to bring people together here. 

I will have to look at what she said exactly.  But it was—that part of it interested me, that there were two rebuttals instead of one. 

MADDOW:  I‘m with you on that.  Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, it‘s always a real pleasure to have you on the show.  I‘m glad your date went well. 

KLOBUCHAR:  Yes, it was really—we went well.  We didn‘t agree on everything in the middle of the speech.  But at the end, we ended strong.  He was quite the southern gentlemen and everything went well. 

MADDOW:  Spectacular. 

KLOBUCHAR:  I‘m sure you are jealous. 

MADDOW:  Well, I have been waiting for a call, but it‘s all right. 

It‘s OK.  I‘m getting over it. 

KLOBUCHAR:  He was a good guy. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.  I should mention that Ed played for Minnesota State, for Moorehead.  And now there is—apparently a whole lot of football players in the hallway who are really mad at me. 

For the first time, there were two Republican responses to the president‘s address this evening, at least if you were watching CNN.  It seems CNN made the decision to elevate to the level of the official Republican party response a random one from the Tea Party Express.  Guess which of the Republican responses this one was. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we brought a bureaucracy that now tells us which light bulbs to buy, and which may put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama‘s health care bill. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Who she is talking to, I don‘t know, but it clearly wasn‘t you.  How CNN decided not just to cover the news tonight, but to intervene in the news, and make news themselves by elevating that speech to the level of the official Republican party response. 

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann gets a promotion in Republican politics not from Republicans, but from CNN.  Amazing.  Former RNC communications director Doug Heye joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN:  My name is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  The Tea Party is a dynamic force -- 700 billion dollar bailout -- 3.1 trillion dollars—a trillion dollar stimulus—Obama-care—Obama-care—fully repeal Obama-care—job destroying cap and trade system—Obama-care—God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Never say—never say never, but I would venture a guess that the Republican party would never choose Michele Bachmann to be its national spokesperson.  Again, never say never.  Anything could happen.  but seriously, right now Michele Bachmann is still the member of Congress best known for saying things like the census might be a pretense for putting people in internment camps.  Michele Bachmann is not the national spokesperson for the Republican party.  And she is unlikely any time soon to be chosen to be the national spokesperson for her party.

But tonight, inexplicably, a national news network decided that they would give Michele Bachmann a job that her own party never did.  On State of the Union night, the news network CNN decided to air the president‘s speech to Congress, followed by the official republican party response, followed by another Republican party response from Michele Bachmann, a member of Congress who was not ordained to give that address by her party, but who simply made an arrangement with one Tea Party group to talk vaguely towards a camera for a post on their website. 

But CNN ran it live on their network.  They aired it on national TV, a remarkable act of journalistic intervention to elevate a group, in effect, with which they are cosponsoring a presidential debate, to elevate that group to the level of the major parties in this country. 

Lots of people have responses to the State of the Union.  Senator Rand Paul made a video himself and posted it online as his response.  Congressman Paul Brown of Georgia made his response in this Tweet.  He said “Mr. President, you don‘t believe in the Constitution.  You believe in socialism.” 

Paul F. Tompkins had a really response to Michele Bachmann looking weirdly off camera for her whole response.  He said on Twitter, quote, “I hope they turn around to reveal Bachmann is talking to a quizzical golden lab.” 

Lots of people have lots of responses to things that happened on State of the Union night.  But CNN decided tonight not to just cover the news about tonight‘s State of the Union; they decided to make their own by deciding that what was going to be simply the Tea Party Express webcast of Michele Bachmann—CNN decided that that deserved equal billing with the official Republican response. 

Depending on which angle you are looking at this from, this decision by CNN could serve to highlight the disarray of the Republican party, mixing their messages in response to the president.  Or viewed from the other side, CNN‘s editorial intervention here could have had the effect of positioning Paul Ryan as  the reasonable center between the president and the crazy looking off into space Tea Party. 

Nobody know quite knows what CNN was thinking in making this journalistic decision tonight to make themselves part of the story.  I am desperate to know what big Republican cheeses think about this. 

Joining us now is the immediate former communications director for the Republican National Committee, my friend Doug Heye.  Doug, thank you so much for joining us. 

DOUG HEYE, FMR. RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIR.:  Thank you, Rachel.  If you want to talk to a big Republican cheese, you have to find somebody else.  I‘m sorry.  I appreciate the compliment though. 

MADDOW:  You are the biggest cheese who returns my phone calls and who will agree with me to go on TV. 

HEYE:  My friends think I‘m cheesy.  I appreciate that.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  So tell me about this, two Republican responses to the State of the Union on CNN tonight.  What happened? 

HEYE:  First, I thought you had a good pun when you said depending on what angle you looked at it.  I actually watched it at the Tea Party Express webpage.  She was looking at that camera.  Apparently, the pool camera was a bit off center and was what most people saw, whether they watched it on CNN or on other networks that streamed it on their webpage. 

There are two constants that we see, anybody who worked on Capitol Hill can tell you on State of the Union day.  One is that Sheila Jackson-Lee, congressman from Houston, is going to be in a seat by probably 9:00 a.m., camped out to get a front row seat. 

MADDOW:  Eliot Engel, too, him and his mustache, right there, locked and load, ready to go.  Yes.

HEYE:  Exactly.  The other is that you have about 435 members of Congress and 100 senators really rush into Statuary Hall to grab as much media attention with local and national media as they can.  This was obviously something a little different.

But I watched Congressman Ryan‘s remarks.  I thought they were fantastic.  And I watched Congresswoman Bachmann‘s as well.  I thought she was pretty well on point.  We welcome more voices. 

MADDOW:  Isn‘t it a little bit weird, though, to have two responses run on a national news network as if they are equivalent?  Even if they weren‘t particularly divergent responses, I think there is—this does call into question whether or not the Tea Party response is the authentic conservative sponsor, or whether the Republican party really does have control over its own members and a unified message to sell to the party, doesn‘t it? 

HEYE:  I think what‘s weird is any time a political journalist hears the word Tea Party, they tend to over-compensate for everything.  We still talk about Sharron Angle.  We still talk about Christine O‘Donnell.  But we don‘t talk about, say, Arlen Specter or Joe Sestak or Democrat candidates who lost. 

But when you attach the word Tea Party, that really brings things up.  I remember you and I had a conversation when I asked you back I think in June or July what the media‘s obsession with Michele Bachmann is.  It‘s really not about Michele Bachmann.  The media has an obsession with anything labeled Tea Party. 

I think we certainly saw that in the O‘Donnell campaign. 

MADDOW:  Do you think it was—do you think that CNN did the Republican party a disservice by elevating this other responses, as if it was equivalent to Mr. Ryan‘s? 

HEYE:  I certainly don‘t want to ascribe motives to my friends over at CNN.  But I don‘t think it hurt us.  I think the remarks that the congresswoman gave were fine and proper.  I watched them with interest. 

As an old press guy, when you watch somebody doing an interview, you are furiously scribbling notes, looking for anything wrong.  I think certainly over the last year, you and I have talked about that I‘ve done that a time or two. 

I don‘t think there was a problem with it.  Again, whenever the word Tea Party is attached, that really levels things.  And we know that the media really likes to drive this.  I can tell you, having talked to so many people on the Hill, Republicans on the Hill, over the past couple of days, there is no divide between our party.  Our party is growing. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about Paul Ryan‘s response.  We were warned tonight to expect a rosy, sunny Reagan-esque statement from him.  I thought, while he was very good at delivering the speech, that it was a rather—sort of an apocalyptic vision, a dark vision of America as a failure, with more failure to come. 

I saw it as sort of the opposite of what was advertised, the opposite of what was expected.  And I saw it as a negative statement from the Republican party for its official response.  What happened there? 

HEYE:  I don‘t think it was negative.  I think we were talking about the real challenges this country faces, some of which the president touched on.  But we know that if this country does not grapple with the debt we face, 14 trillion dollars, that we have real problems. 

And we know what they are.  It starts with China.  The president talked about China and India, what they have done with education.  I would actually applaud a lot of the president‘s comments on education. 

If we don‘t fix these problems, they only get larger.  I think it was proper for Congressman Ryan to do that.  That he does so in an engaging fashion is only a good thing for the party. 

MADDOW:  Doug Heye, former communications director for the RNC and still doing a very admirable, sunny, spinny job of talking about Republican politics.  Doug, it is always great to see you. 

HEYE:  Thank you so much. 

MADDOW:  The official response, as you know, was given by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, right? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  Americans are skeptical of both political parties. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You know what?  Yes, we are.  Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York will joins us to respond to the responder, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, ® WISCONSIN:  We are in a moment where if government‘s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America‘s best century will be considered our past century. 

This is a future in which we will transform our safety net into a hammock which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.  Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked and it won‘t work now.  We need to chart a new course. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Congressman Paul Ryan has a sad about America.  It‘s kind of a downer of a speech, right?  One of the mysteries about why the Republican chose Debbie Downer, aka Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to give their response to the State of the Union tonight is not just because of the darkness of his vision of America.  It‘s because what Paul Ryan was known for before this speech. 

What Paul Ryan is known for is his road map, his Republican spending blueprint introduced last year to absolutely no acclaim on either the Democratic side or the Republican side.  Republicans were even fearful of what Mr. Ryan proposed, and broadly speaking, Republicans did not sign up for it. 

He proposed a lot of things that will be hard to sell.  He proposed privatizing parts of Social Security.  His roadmap will replace Medicare with coupons so seniors and disabled people would buy themselves insurance on the open market.  But they would have a coupon for a discount.  That‘s what you get instead of Medicare.  Shop around elderly or disabled person and buy private insurance.  Good luck. 

Republicans were not enthusiastic about Mr. Ryan‘s roadmap when he unveiled it last year.  And even though they didn‘t sign on to his ideas, they did vote in the House debate to give him unilateral power to impose his own ideas about spending without anybody else being able to vote on them. 

A remarkable resolution was passed on a near party line vote today to give Paul Ryan sole authority as an individual to set government spending levels for the rest of the year.  Think about that.  This means that Republicans, having decided that Mr. Ryan‘s ideas were unpopular, they decided at the same time they would give him unilateral authority to impose his ideas on the country. 

Joining us now is New York congressman Anthony Weiner, thanks for staying up late with us. 

REP. ANTHONY WEINER, (D) NEW YORK:  Thank you very much.  Am I getting time and a half? 

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  You absolutely are.  When Paul Ryan introduced the roadmap, Republicans ran from it, and tonight he gives the State of the Union response.  What changed there? 

WEINER:  There is no way to characterize Paul Ryan as a fringe element of his party.  He is the spokesperson for the party.  He will be making decisions on the budget.  They empowered him to do that.  He is now the leader and he believes in privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher system. 

It‘s only so far they can run away from a guy whose manifesto was the foundation for a lot of the issues that the Republicans ran on.  Here‘s a look at the contrast.  The president with his uplifting, unifying speech after a campaign where he was pummeled from every corner in the most partisan, visceral ways, he still took the podium and lifted up the country and rallied us together. 

He was then followed by a guy who was bumming us out.  I felt like I just needed a drink when I was done with Paul Ryan.  And then Michele Bachmann who clearly was not in touch with the mother ship.  That is the contrast we heard.  I think it was a good night for President Obama. 

MADDOW:  Is there a precedent for the vote that happens in the house today, this resolution supporting the idea that Paul Ryan would unilaterally set spending levels for the government for the rest of the year with nobody else getting a vote on it? 

WEINER:  It‘s very unusual for this thing to happen.  We do have provisions if the whole budget falls apart.  They haven‘t done in office for a month here and already they are going to these draconian things. 

The real problem is going to be that Paul Ryan has limits and they will have to explain how to do it.  It‘s kind of like the health care debate.  First we will repeal the health care bill, they say, and we will tell you at a later date what we will replace it with.  It really is a party that is devoid of any real affirmative agenda, which is why you have to take Paul Ryan at his word that they‘re going to try to privatize Social Security. 

That‘s why I think if I have a qualm with the president‘s speech, I would pre-butted what Mr. Ryan was going to say with a more full-throated advocacy for Social Security. 

MADDOW:  When the president did talk about Social Security today, he said it needs to be shored up and there can be no cuts in the process of doing that.  It was like threading the needle between Democratic and Republican issues that I think stunted a lot of the applause lines and created a very centrist speech. 

He called for a corporate tax reduction coupled with a closing of all tax loopholes.  Where on balance do you think the president came down in terms of having a progressive agenda? 

WEINER:  I think clearly the president set out knowing to have a speech as much as possible that brought us together and to and find common ground.  I think he is to be honored for that.  A lot of things I wish he would have said.  I wish he would say we are not going to cut Social Security and Medicare is not a program to be cut, but a safety net and a successful system and public option program.  I would like him to do those things.

But I really can‘t complain too much tonight because what he really did do was perfect for the moment we have.  You look at my Republican friends.  They came here to Washington just with venom spilling out of their pours at this man.  And what does he do.  The president gives a speech to look past that and raises us up and appeals to our angels, and I really think it was a stellar speech by the president. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about the change in tone and the change in format, members of Congress sitting in groups other than those defined by party.  Congressman Jason Chaffetz in Utah singling out that he did not want to end up sitting with tonight.  What do you think about how this went, this different means by which people sat themselves in the chamber? 

WEINER:  Chaffetz has a strange way of flirting with me. 

(LAUGHTER)

I sat with Peter King.  We have not gotten along and I still don‘t like the guy that much, to be honest with you.

(LAUGHTER)

But I can tell you this.  It was a symbolic thing and it was jarring when you are used to seeing one side stand and sit.  I think it was a nice thing to do.

But it doesn‘t change one thing.  We go to Washington because we are supposed to be forceful in advocating the things we believe in.  My constituents don‘t want me to go there and compromise on Social Security and Medicare.  To fight for the things we believe in.  Frankly, I think the symbolic thing was a nice thing and did reflect a necessary moment in our American civic life. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, thank you for your time and a half tonight, sir.  Appreciate it. 

WEINER:  You got it, thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  I should mention the cofounder of the House civility caucus, Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, she had a perfectly Anthony Weiner-esque response to the whole sitting on both sides of the aisle thing tonight. 

The cofounder of the House civility caucus said “Really, for the average citizen, they don‘t give a rip where we sit.” Civility caucus.  We‘ll be right back.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  And yet as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn‘t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on earth. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  President Obama fulfilling his constitutional obligation to “from time to time give to Congress information from the State of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” 

But just how the president fulfills that constitutional obligation is forever shifting over time.  in 1790 George Washington gave the first State of the Union, which was then called an “annual message” in person.  John Adams followed suit. 

But in 1801, Thomas Jefferson felt a speech was too kingly and wrote his annual message instead.  It was not until 1913 that the address was once more delivered verbally, this time by Woodrow Wilson. 

In 1923 the nation got to hear the message for the first time as Calvin Coolidge‘s was first broadcast over the message.  In 1947 it was Harry Truman‘s State of the Union address that became the first to be broadcast on television. 

It was not until 1966 that the address was given in primetime on television by Lyndon Johnson.  In 2002 it was George W. Bush‘s address that year that was the first to be broadcast live on the Internet.  Then tonight came this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Most of the cuts and savings I proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Hey, what‘s that?  President Obama‘s White House website not only simulcast his speech, they added charts and graphics and photos to enhance the arguments he was making as he was making them, live.  Seriously, this was really cool.  Congratulations to the WhiteHouse.gov people for making technological State of the Union history tonight while also making really funny graphs of which government agency controls a salmon depending on if the salmon is spawning or not. 

The only problem now is that half the “Rachel Maddow Show” staff wants to go leave the show to go work on the next fish graph. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN:  I assure you that we want to work with the president to restrain federal spending.  And just today the House voted to restore the spending that Washington sorely needs. 

A few years ago reducing spending was important.  Today it‘s imperative. 

Americans are skeptical of both political parties that, and that skepticism is justified, especially when it comes to spending. 

Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you to show you how we would do things differently, how we will cut spending.  Spending cuts have to come first. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Spending, cutting spending, slashing spending, that‘s what Republicans would like the country to think is their organizing principal right now.  And in platitudinous terms, that is their organizing principle.

But in practical terms, here‘s how this falls apart, almost in real time.  Here‘s Republican Mike Lee, the new senator from Utah.  He ran in the Republican primary against incumbent Republican Senator Bob Bennett.  Mr. Lee won largely on his Tea Party inspired no-more-spending message.  Senator Lee is supposed to be a purist on the issue of spending.  He‘s not only against it, he thinks it‘s illegal.  You can hear that argument in this radio interview last week in which he questioned the constitutionality even of federal flood relief. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE, ® UTAH:  The listener identifies an issue with flood and disaster relief, should that be a federal prerogative or a state power?  I think a compelling point can be made that that‘s one thing states historically focused on and an area where we ought to focus, one of many areas where we ought to focus on getting that power back to the states, keeping that money back to the states in the states to begin with. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Senator Mike Lee speaking last Tuesday—no federal funding flooding relief, right? 

Here‘s the problem with being one of the senators from the great state of Utah and being the “no federal flooding relief” guy.  Southern Utah was hit with some pretty dramatic, pretty destructive, pretty expensive flooding late last year.  Literally three days after saying thanks but no thanks to that federal flood relief to nowhere, Senator Mike Lee had to backtrack say this about flood relief. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE:  Those funds have been appropriated for disaster relief, and I see no reason why Utah should not be entitled to receive such federal funds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Those federal funds are unconstitutional and shouldn‘t be there, and please can I have some?  Being against something generally is simple, it‘s easy.  Being against in practice especially when it affects your state, that is harder.  But it makes it easier for the rest of us to see the difference between a real policy position and pure political puffery. 

Joining us now is Governor Ed Rendell, former governor of the great state of Pennsylvania, and a newly minted NBC political analyst.  Governor, congratulations and thank you for joining us here tonight. 

ED RENDELL, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Rachel.  You know how much I love doing your show, but if I have to do it at ten of 1:00, it‘s nice to get paid for it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  Well, I‘m sorry. 

RENDELL:  Now that I‘m on the payroll, anything you want -- 3:00 a.m., 4:30.  We‘re ready.

MADDOW:  You must be getting paid very well.  Better than me. 

Let me start by getting your reaction to the pox on all spending message from the Republicans.  The president certainly said we need to take the debt and the deficit seriously, but the Republicans were saying spending needs to be ratcheted down dramatically.  Are the states going to be looking at the Republican calls and calling them out and saying the states need federal spending? 

RENDELL:  I think some of the governors and legislators will, but some won‘t.  The truth of the matter is, this all falls apart, and I thought the president did a great job of boxing the Republicans in.  It all falls apart when you have to specify what the cuts are. 

Everyone is for spending cuts.  Don‘t spend any money and reduce the budget, until you get into specifics.  And when you get into specifics, there is hell to pay. 

Look, it has to be done.  We need to reduce the deficit and I think the president‘s formula is a good start.  He indicated that that‘s only 12 percent of the federal budget and we need to do more, and he‘s right about that.  It‘s going to be hard and you can‘t do it in a partisan way. 

But the thing that was brilliant about what the president did tonight, Rachel, was said as we are cutting spending, we can‘t stop investing in our future.  We can‘t stop investing in our growth.  There‘s not one American company out there that became successful that didn‘t do it by investing in its own growth. 

And the roadmap that he put forward today, innovation, clean energy, education, and infrastructure, that‘s a roadmap that I thought he did a great job in tying the investments into job creation, you know, what they can do to boost the economy in the short and the long run. 

MADDOW:  He was an argument he made that I didn‘t think made sense even though I concede those points you make did, and that was singling out of issue of earmarks and vetoing anything that had earmarks.  Republicans have used earmarks to obfuscate the real effects of federal spending, the character of federal spending for a generation now.  They‘ve convinced the country that it‘s foreign aided and earmarks that explain why we‘ve got a deficit. 

Isn‘t the president sort of bolstering that fake, false point by singling that out in the State of the Union for a veto threat? 

RENDELL:  He actually singled out a lot of things that Republicans were talking about, reviewing government regulations and eliminating those that don‘t make sense.

But earmarks, for example, the president‘s support to make those decisions, every poll shows the American people don‘t want transportation dollars or infrastructure given out by the same old system of who is the most powerful appropriator.  They want some cost-benefit analysis.  I think that‘s what the president was speaking about. 

You are right.  He bought into the Republican tribe on that, but still I think when it comes to the polls, the polls clearly show that the public wants a cost-benefit analysis.  They don‘t want bridges to nowhere and programs decided by who is the strongest congressman and senator.  That‘s what he was driving at.  It may have had the unintended consequences.

But he was very strong when he said, Rachel, we have to cut spending but we‘re not going to do it on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans. 

MADDOW:  We need to cut spending in a way that is not going to hurt the Americans and our ability to compete.  Governor Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania and newly minted NBC political analyst and a man who will be back in a more sane hour very soon. 

RENDELL:  Any time you want me. 

MADDOW:  Thanks a lot, governor.  We will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  This year we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead.  And this July we will begin to bring our troops home. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The president tonight not deciding to bring the wars and foreign policy back into the center of an American political debate that has been basically ignoring them for about a year now.  But the president also reiterating his commitment, which many have challenged, to start the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan next summer.  There‘s lots more to say about what was in the president‘s message tonight, the Republicans‘ response to it, not to mention CNN‘s efforts to make the news tonight instead of just reporting on it.  Please stay with us here on MSNBC as our coverage continues, because now it‘s time for “The Last Word” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.

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