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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Russ Feingold, Gail Collins

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  We feel like—we‘re very happy to have Russ Feingold.  Thanks a lot.

Thanks to you at home for sticking with us this hour.

           

If you are not a regular consumer of conservative media in this country, if you aren‘t watching the FOX News Channel or listening to right wing talk radio or reading right wing blogs all day—we are in a moment in American politics in which there are things happening, things being proposed and enacted by elected officials that may seem really out of the blue to you, that may seem like non sequiturs, that seem like they don‘t bear any relationship to the actual news in our actual country, the actual challenges that we actually face.

But, nevertheless, these things are being acted on with great urgency by conservative politicians.  For example, the state of Oklahoma voting to ban Sharia law—actually, 13 states moving to ban Sharia law.  Is there any threat of Sharia law taking over an American state?  No, not in any rational assessment of facts.  But it has become a matter of great urgency for conservatives in all these places.

It‘s the same dynamic we saw with supposed death panels in health reform, right?  If you consume fact-based information about health reform, you‘d know the death panels turned into something about having a living will—absolutely nothing to do with some board of bureaucrats deciding you should die.  But conservatives, informed not by fact-based information but instead by conservative media, not only believed in death panels, but believed that death panels were the main defining thrust of what health care reform was.

This is conceptually important in our country in 2011.  If you do not like watching conservative media, you nevertheless have to understand what it is they‘re doing over there in order to understand what Republicans are doing in politics.  It‘s like the secret decoder ring that makes otherwise totally non sequitur statements and political actions make some sense—at least make us understand what sense we think they‘re making.

To that end, we have a slight revision to make.  It is not a correction.  It is a revision to our lead story on yesterday‘s show.

It finally occurred to us today that we had not applied right wing media decoder technology to what‘s going on with the speaker of the House, the top Republican in Washington, John Boehner, in trying to understand his latest big political mistake.

As you know, John Boehner is not having an easy time as speaker.  Republicans are having a hard time getting even basic legislating done, having a hard time doing the basic things that need to be done to run the House, having a hard time picking a message, and sticking with it, getting members to act as a unit, and instead of like a bunch of 6-year-olds playing anarchist soccer—three teams, two goals.  You decide.

But even with the hard time they are having, what John Boehner did this week is so bad politically, so contrary to what his party says it wants to be doing that it has to have some explanation.  It‘s like if somebody was trying to parallel park, and instead of—oh, hey, wait a minute, you sort of messed up.  Your tire is on the curb here.  This is a guy parallel parking and, all of a sudden, the car is upside down, something else has to explain this.  You don‘t make an error this big without some explaining.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Over the last two years since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs.  And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it.  We‘re broke.  It‘s time for us to get serious about how we‘re spending the nation‘s money.

REPORTER:  Do you have an estimate on how many will and won‘t that impact—negatively impact the economy that‘s not ready to—

BOEHNER:  I do not.  I do not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Why would I even care?  Why bother counting?  Some people are going to lose their jobs.  What do I care?

That‘s going to have a bad affect on the economy?  The woman standing behind him going, “That‘s right, John.”

How can you be the top Republican in Washington and say you don‘t care if what you‘re doing is killing jobs?  The unemployment rate is like 9 percent.  We‘d be delighted to make it worse?  Our actions will put more people, more Americans out of work in this economy, awesome, we‘re all for it?

Come on.  I mean, you don‘t accidentally let something like that slip. 

Where is he coming from?  What is he talking about?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  The federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. 

And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  “A,” that‘s not true.  But “B,” I think we‘re getting at something here, with the emphasis he‘s putting on federal jobs—federal jobs, public jobs.  See?  Those are the jobs he‘s OK with killing.

Those aren‘t real jobs.  People that work for government don‘t have real jobs.  Public jobs are bad jobs.

Republicans are against those kinds of jobs.  They want those jobs to go away.

If you are not part of the conservative movement, if you‘re not in on the way they talk to each other in their media, this probably makes no sense.  Republicans declaring that teachers, cops, firefighters, toll takers, nurses, people who work at the Highway Department—if you‘re employed at any of those jobs, your job is not a real job.  In fact, your having that job is bad for the country and the country would be better off if you were unemployed.

Public employees are an enemy of America.  The only way America gets stronger is if public employees are broken.  That‘s the message.

If you work taking tolls on a bridge somewhere, you are the problem. 

If you teach school, you are the problem.

They have been talking amongst themselves this way in conservative media and conservative politics for a long time, but now, it is crossing over, and if you just take it at face value, it seems like a big political mistake, but there‘s a whole lot of Republicans standing behind John Boehner going “That‘s right, we hate those jobs.”

It has become mainstream centrist Republican policy, a mainstream centrist Republican point, even in punditry to congratulate any Republican politician who declares war on people who work in the public sector.  Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, was in Washington today essentially test-driving a presidential run.  The basis of his popularity among conservatives, among Republicans, is how hard a line he is taking against teachers and cops and anybody who works for any level of government.

Chris Christie‘s office has created a YouTube channel that largely features clips of him confronting and yelling at people who are evil enough to work for the state, or clips of him discussing ways he‘s going to take things that people that work in the public sector negotiated for, how he‘s going to take those things away.

One of the ways that Tim Pawlenty has tried to fuel his little engine that called president aspirations is by talking about people who work for the state as if they are murderous prisoners coming after you in the prison yard.  I‘m not kidding.

“Frankly,” said the Minnesota governor in November, quote, “the public employee unions would stick a shiv in all of us if they could.”  A shiv?  Those are the kinds of things that Republican politicians say now if they‘re ambitious, if they want to make themselves more popular.

That‘s how Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, is trying to make his national mark.  On Friday, Governor Walker announced suddenly that he was refusing to negotiate with anybody who worked for the state.  No negotiations.  Instead, he would direct the Republican-controlled legislature to pass by fiat this week his new budget that goes after the benefits and bargaining rights of people who work for the state.

So, not only would he not negotiate with people on this, he will never negotiate with them again.  He will remove their right to collectively bargain in essence.

While shocked by the radical-ness of his proposal and by how fast he‘s trying to jam it through, state workers in Wisconsin prove that they are going to take this laying down.  Look at this—an estimated 30,000 people protested in Madison today.  Thirty thousand people.  That‘s the double the number of people who turned out yesterday in Madison.

You know the protests we‘ve been covering in Bahrain and all these places today?  Their turnout in Wisconsin‘s capital today seemed to equal the turnout in Bahrain‘s capital city.  Everybody is wondering if that uprising is going to overthrow that government.  We‘ll have more on that later on the show, but we‘ve got 30,000 people, same number of people, in Madison, Wisconsin.  “The A.P.” describing the protest as larger and more sustained than any in Madison in decades.  The floor of the rotunda was filled with sleeping bags last night because demonstrators would not go home.

A public hearing to take public testimony on what the governor is trying to do in Wisconsin was in hour 17 when Republican lawmakers tried to end it.  They decided they had heard enough.  That was at 3:00 in the morning.  Democrats kept the hearing going, taking a short break only at 8:30 a.m. so they could move to another room, and then they started the hearing right back up again.

The state‘s second largest school district in Madison today had no school, because teachers and staff called in sick and went to the state capitol to protest.

Because of organizing by people who cash paychecks rather than sign paychecks, because of organizing by employees, by people who work for the company, not the people who own the company, that‘s how we got laws against child labor in this country.  That‘s how we got a minimum wage.  That‘s how we got the 40-hour work week, and weekends.  You like those?

That‘s why we have sick days.  That‘s why there is such a thing as overtime.  These things were all hard fought by the labor movement.  Their insistence over generations that working full time in America should earn you a living, should get you out of poverty.

That over time is what created the American middle class, and you can‘t understand today‘s modern politics.  Stuff seems like inexplicable mistakes by somebody like the speaker of the House who ought to know better.  You can‘t understand today‘s modern conservative politics without understanding that Republicans and the modern conservative movement are against the thing that made it possible for America to have a middle class.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  There is chaos all around the globe, pockets of instability.  It is caused by unions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Public employee unions are not going to be able to have the same ridiculous benefits that they have had in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Union and teachers battling cuts.  They say they‘re fighting for the kids.  But are they really fighting to help themselves?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS:  Maybe it‘s time they get out of the train business and find something else like paying off some of our debt as a solution here, instead of their teacher union, labor union friends all the time.

BECK:  Unionizing the TSA, while potentially disastrous for the country, is going to be great for the unions.  You see?  You pay the screener, they pay the union.  I wonder how much of that money will be spent in America and how much will be spent overseas organizing revolutions.

ERIC BOLLING, FBN:  Up next in our union watch, we give out our very first “Follow the Money” gipper award to the governor of Wisconsin.  (INAUDIBLE) call out the National Guard if the unions revolt against his latest plan.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  If you do not consume this stuff from right wing media regularly, it may be a surprise to hear it, but it is sort of the only way to understand why the newest crop of ambitious Republican leaders are trying to advance themselves—advance their own careers—by kicking teachers and toll takers and firefighters and cops, kicking them in the teeth, whenever they have the opportunity.

Wisconsin public employees are showing us that they are very capable of standing up for themselves.  That‘s why we‘ve seen incredible scenes in Madison these last few days.  But who‘s standing up for them?  Who stands up for them?

I mean, the right is unified against them.  Do we want to go back to the era where there were no child labor laws, no weekends?  Do we want to do that as a country?

Who stands with them?  Who stands with these folks when they are attacked like this?

Kids do, it turns out.  This is footage of students from Memorial High, who along with students from East Madison High School and West High School and Middleton High School, all took off from school today and went to the state capitol to support their teachers.

Here are the firefighters of Wisconsin, supporting the other public workers who are getting kicked in the teeth today in Wisconsin.  Why is it important that the firefighters are out there?  Because the only three unions that supported the Republican governor of Wisconsin in the last election were the firefighters and the cops and the state troopers, OK?

Miraculously, those are the only three unions that Governor Scott Walker is not stripping of their rights.

So, even as this governor tries to divide and conquer different types of employees who work in the public sector, they are standing together.

Well, what about the Democratic Party?  Is the Democratic Party taking the other side of this?

The Democratic Party last month decided they are doing next year‘s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, a city without union hotels.  Democrats campaigned in 2008 saying they‘d prioritize legislation—remember, card check—that would make it easier for people to join unions.  Democrats have essentially dropped that off the agenda in Washington.

If you go back to Eisenhower era Republican Party, they were not against unions.  From the Republican Party platform of 1956, quote, “The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower administration.”

The Republican Party was not always hostile to people who work for a living.  But over time, the conservative movement pushed the Republican Party into becoming really virulently anti-union.  That‘s why Ronald Reagan breaking the air traffic controllers union was the shot heard around the world, because that was the roar of conservative movement politics becoming Republican politics.

Since then, though, they‘ve got the Republicans 100 percent on board, waging self-righteous war on unions, self-righteous war on the rights of people who cash paychecks instead of those who sign them.  Where is the counter balance to that?  Where is the liberal movement in the United States that is pulling the Democrats to take the other side of this fight, now that the conservatives are unified against working people in this way?  Where is the liberal movement to take the other side of this and stand up for people that work for a living?

When you look at these people in Wisconsin today, who‘s got their back?

Russ Feingold was a Wisconsin senator for 18 years.  He just formed a new progressive organization to try to change the imbalance of corporate power in American politics.  He joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We‘ve been trying to book former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold as a guest on the show for years, literally years.  And tonight, with the capitol city of Wisconsin erupting in the biggest protests seen there in decades, Russ Feingold is here to join us for “The Interview.”  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Joining us now for “The Interview,” about which I‘m very excited, is former Democratic senator from Wisconsin, Russ Feingold.  Senator Feingold is today launching Progressives United, a grassroots political action committee.

Thank you for being here, sir.  We really appreciate it.

FMR. SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN:  Rachel, it‘s good to be on the show again.

MADDOW:  You‘re here to talk to about Progressives United, but I have to get your reaction first to what we—what we are seeing in Madison today with these dramatic protests.

FEINGOLD:  Well, let me just say how proud I am of the people of Wisconsin for reacting to this outrageous proposal from Governor Walker.  You know, Rachel, it is not like the people in Wisconsin are in a foul mood.  The Packers just won the Super Bowl.  The Badgers just beat the number one, Ohio State basketball team, and it is 50 or 60 degrees warmer than last week.  It‘s not like people are just looking for something to be upset about.

But when you stick it in the eye of a badger like this and you try to take away the rights of workers throughout the state, they react.  And this is a tremendous, inspiring reaction that shows that we are ready to take the fight against those who want to destroy the rights of working people in our state.

MADDOW:  The governor‘s line here is that this is about balancing the budget.  Some of what he‘s proposing, as far as I can tell, has no budget implication whatsoever.  It‘s explicitly about dismantling unions for people who work for the state.  Dismantling the idea that workers can negotiate.

Why is that?  And what explains the distance between what he wants to do and what he is actually proposing?

FEINGOLD:  Well, the argument of this is really about the budget process is phonier than a $3 bill.  There‘s a budget process in the state.  I served for 10 years in Wisconsin state senate, and it‘s a very methodical process that goes on for several months.  And they figure it out usually by July, and they have a budget.

What he did last week was say basically on Thursday or Friday, I want to take away all these rights of collective bargaining from people and I want it done in the next five or six days.

This is just a direct attack, driven by corporate interests and the state in this country that they been fantasizing about forever—which is to bust the unions, and that‘s what the agenda is.  It is really not about the state budget.  That‘s just simply phony.

MADDOW:  Is the other political party in this country—is the Democratic Party taking the other side in that fight?  Republican politics have become, really, very homogenous on this issue in the way that they weren‘t a generation ago.  They‘re all very anti-employee, very pro-business, very, very anti-union.  Are Democrats taking the other side of that fight?

FEINGOLD:  In our state we are.  The Democratic Party here and the unions, both public and private, are unified.  The folks that are in that capitol are students, teachers, public employees, but also private employees, firefighters came.  Even though as you pointed out, they are trying to somehow divide and conquer not only between private and public employees.  They‘re trying to divide people within the public employees.

It‘s not going to work, because we in Wisconsin are going to stand up for those rights that you talked about.  You listed things like child labor laws, minimum wage and other ideas that came through the labor movement—much of that, most of that, came from Wisconsin originally.  This is a proud tradition.  And we‘re not going to let Governor Walker acting as a shill basically for these corporations destroy the rights of working people.

MADDOW:  You just formed a grassroots political action committee called Progressives United.  I know that some of the inspiration for forming this group has to do with corporate power in politics.  What‘s the overall aim?  And why try to do—why try to do it through a PAC?  Why is that the right vehicle for you right now?

FEINGOLD:  Well, Progressives United obviously is a play on the fact that Citizens United, the decision that helped destroy our campaign finance laws in our condition, was not really something for citizens, it was for corporations.  The Citizens United decision of the United States Supreme Court basically turned on the spigot and said, let corporations take whatever money you spend for toothpaste, or gasoline, and spend it to destroy and control our political process.

So, Progressives United is actually people all over the state of Wisconsin and all over the country coming together to fight for the rights of individuals in the political process and to not allow corporations to have those exact same rights.

So, we‘re going to fight this decision.  We‘re going to try to overturn the decision.  We‘re going to try to support candidates that fight the implications of it—from the oil companies to the financial benefits that have been given to Wall Street.

But we‘re also going to fight the kind of things that Governor Walker is trying to do.  These corporations seem to believe that this last election was a ticket for them to go after the rights of working people all over this country, and they‘re trying to do it in Wisconsin as a model.  Our organization will fight all of these efforts, and it is going to be a grassroots organization.  ProgressivesUnited.org is already getting apparently 10,000 new signups today alone on our first day.

There‘s a hunger out there, Rachel, for opposition to what‘s going on, and we want to help be part of that effort.

MADDOW:  When you look at the effect of Citizens United, one of the ways that people shorthand the impact of that decision is by saying it undid the McCain-Feingold—much of the McCain-Feingold financing, campaign finance reform.  Clearly, it‘s law—it‘s law that is a dramatic reversal from what had previously been law of the land.

But do you think that it structurally changes American politics in a way that is irreversible and that will have a dramatic effect on politics if it‘s not overturned?  How do you see it changing the way we do politics in this country?

FEINGOLD:  That‘s right.  It is irreversible and it‘s really ironic.  The one thing that still stands is McCain-Feingold—the ban on soft money, in other words, of corporations and others giving huge contribution directly to political parties.  That law stands.

What the Supreme Court did was something far more devastating.  It took away the fundamental laws going back to Tillman Act from 1907 that banned certain corporate activities in politics, all the way through decisions for almost 100 years.  It gutted the laws that were the foundation for making sure that corporate treasuries couldn‘t dominate the political process.

So, you know, that was something that was done to counter the effects of what was known as the Gilded Age.  This decision creates a Gilded Age on steroids, and it is fundamentally changing our political process.  We have to reverse the decision.  We only need one vote on the Supreme Court to change to make that happen, and that‘s one of the things we hope happens in the next few years.

MADDOW:  Mr. Feingold, let me just ask one last question about Progressives United.  If people join the group, what should they expect?  Is this a membership organization?  Is this a meet up, Move On style, get out, meet your fellow progressives and get out there and demonstrate organization?  What exactly are you going to use in terms of tactics?

FEINGOLD:  All of the above.  Obviously, we‘re going to try to support candidates directly that are committed to these progressive principles.  We‘re going to try to urge people that are in office right now to do things like support the Disclose Act, to try to make sure that this information about these contributions come out.

But we‘re going to do far more than that.  We‘re going to make sure we use the Internet and all the mechanisms that are available now that didn‘t used to be available to make sure that people organize, sign petitions, do whatever people have been doing on other issues, but do it in a coordinated way.  With many other groups that are interested in this issue, we‘re already talking with them.  We need to be unified, regardless of your political views, regardless of your particular issue that you‘re most interested in.

This issue—the issue of corporate domination of politics is one that overrides everything, and we need to come together.  Our organization is going to help make that happen.

MADDOW:  Russ Feingold, thank you so much very much for joining us for “The Interview” tonight.  I really appreciate it.  I hope you‘ll come back and join us again.

FEINGOLD:  I will.  Thanks so much, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

All right. There is dramatic news that is breaking at this hour, which is an unlikely hour if you consider the time change.  But it‘s breaking this hour in the Middle East.  After Tunisia went, after Egypt went, we‘re getting in some dramatic scenes that are just happening right now, and these scenes of footage we are getting and descriptions we are getting out of one particular country in the Middle East is giving an idea what country might be next after Tunisia and Egypt.  Details on that are next.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  You may know this already about MSNBC, but if you don‘t, I want you to know.  They do not tell us what to say on the air here.  Don‘t give editorial restrictions beyond the company‘s news standards, and don‘t make us promote each other‘s hours and projects if we don‘t editorially want to.

So, this is from me and not because anybody told me to say it, all right?  If you have not been watching Ed Schultz‘s show, if you have not gotten used to him coming on after this show or whatever, you should watch Ed Schultz‘s show tonight on the insanity that is going on in Wisconsin right now.

There is nobody doing a better job covering that story, myself included with an exclamation point.  Ed is right at the heart of it and from me to you, I think you should watch it.  Thank you.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It is one thing to try and stop journalists from reporting what is going on.  That doesn‘t mean news doesn‘t spread, but reporters can be thwarted to some degree by authoritarian governments trying really hard to do it.  That‘s one thing.

It‘s quite another thing for governments to just makeup what‘s going on out of whole cloth.  Iran‘s government is claiming that a student killed during Monday‘s huge protests in their country was not a protester at all, he was working for the government, and he was therefore killed by those seditious, evil protesters.

Family and friends of the student who was killed tell numerous news sources that not only was this young man not part of government militia, as the government has been claiming, but the young man had actually worked to elect an opposition leader two years ago.

Today, “The Guardian” newspaper of Britain reports that government authorities staged the young man‘s funeral, and would not allow his family to attend.  Instead, according to witnesses, hundreds of Basiji militia men were bussed in to join the funeral where they, of course, clashed with students and opposition protesters who were there for their own reasons.

The Iranian regime is planning for its own pro-government and anti-opposition protest this Friday.  They are making it up.

In the Arab world today, a day ahead of planned day of rage protests, demonstrations erupted today in Libya, second largest city, 38 people were reportedly injured.  Authorities reportedly used tear gas and water canons against an estimated 6,000 Libyan protesters.

In Yemen, the president of Yemen today reportedly blamed people with, quote, “foreign agendas” for the ongoing and growing protest in his country.  He cancelled a planned trip to Washington.  He reportedly today sent 2,000 government loyalists into his capital city to quell protests there, by which, of course, he means beat people up.

And then there‘s Iraq, where John McCain assured Americans there would be no protests because we invaded or something.  Today, yet another day of intense protests in Iraq.  In the southern city of Kut, protesters reportedly peaceably gathered outside the provincial governor‘s office, but when guards opened fire on the protesters and killed three people, the remaining protesters decided—heck with this—and they stormed the governor‘s office, set the building on fire, and forced the governor to flee for his own safety out the back door.

Now, in Bahrain, this is the big news tonight: as thousands of people slept in Pearl Square in the capital city of Bahrain, preparing for a fourth day of protests there, hundreds of police swept in just hours ago, at about 3:00 in the morning local time.  Reports that we‘re getting thus far are sketchy but what we can tell that police using rubber bullets and tear gassing protesters who were trying to clear the square.  The opposition says at least one protester was killed tonight.  That would bring total death toll in Bahrain this week to three.

Just as in Egypt, the security forces are not only turning against the protesters.  They are turning against the media explicitly.  Here is some extraordinary audio that has surfaced of the moment within the last few hours when an ABC News reporter was beaten by Bahraini police while covering what is happening in Pearl Square.

Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, no, no.  Journalist, journalist.  I‘m going.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, ABC NEWS:  I just got beat, rather badly by a gang of thugs.  I am now in a marketplace near our hotel where people are cowering in buildings.  I mean, these people are not screwing around.  They are going to clear that square tonight ahead of any protests on Friday.  The government clearly doesn‘t want this to get any bigger.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Again, that is footage from Bahrain tonight within just the last couple hours.  Police moving in on protesters, among them, women and children, who were sleeping in the main square in the capital city.

This footage from Bahrain again, tonight.  This thing is still going on.  We will stay with it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Big oil, Big Bird.  Big oil, Big Bird.  Which would you fund? 

“The New York Times” columnist Gail Collins joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Does anybody else watching C-Span at about 11:30 Eastern this morning?  I was.  And I was richly rewarded for doing so.  Oh, yes.

That‘s not a new member of Congress.  This is not something we popped in and PhotoShopped.  This is Arthur the Aardvark, who you may know by his slogan, “The World‘s Most Famous Aardvark.”

A couple of things to note about this picture: first of all, I should just say that I love the bowtie as much as the next guy.  I was even sort of friends with Tucker Carlson when he still wore the bowtie on TV, I love the bowtie.

But a note to congressmen: if you are going to appear at a press conference alongside a cartoon aardvark, do not wear your bowtie to that press conference.  You may find yourself getting packed up with the props at the end of the day.  That is Congressman Earl Blumenauer right there, the good congressman from Oregon.

This right here is Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts.  As you can see, also standing alongside a better view of Mr. Aardvark.  You may notice that Mr. Markey is also holding a teeny, tiny, little version of Big Bird, which is weird because his name is big and yet there he is very small.

Even smaller than that, the teeny, tiny, tiny little Grover right there on the other side of the podium.  Also, a little further to the side of the screen there, getting cuddles from Congressman Betty McCollum of Minnesota, that‘s Elmo.

Why does it seem like this?  With the awkward juxtaposition of many members of Congress in suits holding characters from children‘s TV shows, why does this seem so familiar?  Because this is what Democrats do every time Republicans take over the House.  This looks familiar to you, it is because you remember this from 1995.  This is one of the all-time great clips from Congress ever on any subject ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK:  Don‘t kill Big Bird.  Don‘t kill Big Bird by voting for mean-spirited Republican budget cuts on public broadcasting.  Don‘t kill Big Bird because millions of American children, including my own three children, have grown up on Big Bird and “Sesame Street” and Mr. Rogers and public broadcasting.

Don‘t kill Big Bird because public broadcasting works.  Public broadcasting is good for the American taxpayer, and good for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York, with the little help from his friend.

The reason Democrats and children‘s television characters keep turning up together at political events is not because Republicans have found killing Big Bird to be an actual solution to the nation‘s fiscal problems.  It‘s because, come on, getting rid of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is something that the Republican Party likes the idea of intrinsically.  They do not want there to be public broadcasting, NPR, no.

“Sesame Street,” they hate it.  They do not want it to exist.  They think it is a secret plot to turn your child gay or something.  Getting rid of it is a message priority for Republicans, not a fiscal priority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  If public television didn‘t exist, we right now would be trying to invent it.  Republicans have tilted the fiscal scales in favor of big oil at the expense of Big Bird.  They don‘t want to cut out the $43 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry, but at the same time, they want to cut the budget for children‘s television programming in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Republicans choose tax breaks for big oil over Big Bird.

To be fair, though, there is some disagreement among Democrats on this big oil issue.  President Obama wants to cut $46 billion in taxpayer subsidies for the oil industry over 10 years.  House Democrats want to cut roughly that much over five years.

House Republicans, on the other hand, they want to keep all $40 billion of subsidies for the oil industry -- $40 billion taxpayer dollars to be paid to the oil industry.  Come on, they‘re a needy cause.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the world‘s most profitable companies of the year 2008.  Drum roll.

(DRUM ROLL)

MADDOW:  Number five: BP.  Number four: Chevron.  Number three: Shell. 

Number two: Gazprom, a Russian oil company.  And number one: ExxonMobil.

These were the most profitable companies on Earth in 2008.  Do you notice anything similar about them?

In 2009, the next year, oil companies had a hard year.  2009, Exxon only made $19 billion in profit that year.  Gazprom actually eked ahead.  Gazprom had $24 billion in profit in that one year.

But, you know what?  The American people need to take care of these people.  Cops and firefighters, I‘m sorry.  Exxon needs that taxpayer money.  I mean, look at poor BP.  Poor BP only made $16 thousand, million in profit in 2009.  It sounds better than $16 billion somehow.

Budget time is a fun time of year.  It is fun to divine what you can about people‘s priorities based on what they want to cut and what they want to protect.  You want to give taxpayer dollars to Exxon and not food inspectors or “Sesame Street”?  OK, good to know.

But here‘s something that nobody is really talking about that I find legitimately radical about what Republicans say they want to do this year.  Republicans say they‘re all concerned about the deficit, right?  The deficit is not an abstract concept.  It is specific thing—it‘s the difference between the money the government puts out and the money the government takes in.

How does the government take in money?  There‘s an up for that.  It‘s called taxes.  I know, horrible word.  But it is actually how the government takes in money.  That‘s part of the deficit calculation.

But Republicans have proposed crippling our ability to take in the money.  They‘re spending plan cuts $593 million from tax collection—you know, from keeping people from cheating on their taxes.  They want to make it $600 million worth of enforcement easier to cheat on your taxes.

This is not about what the tax rate should be.  This is not about whether or not—this is not about whether or not you should pay taxes on something or not.  This is about whether or not if you do owe taxes you really have to pay them.

If you care about the deficit, don‘t you want to ensure that the money we get to pay for things that we‘re legally entitled to get we actually get?  Do we not all concede any more that people that owe taxes should actually have to pay the taxes that they owe?

Joining us now is “New York Times” columnist Gail Collins.

Gail, it is good to see you.  Thanks for being here.

GAIL COLLINS, NEW YORK TIMES:  Good to be here.

MADDOW:  Is cheating on your taxes considered patriotic now and I did not get the memo?

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  I mean, $600 million out of tax enforcement?  That‘s amazing.

COLLINS:  Well, they don‘t like taxes, but also, they don‘t like government rules.  So anything—I think that the FCC gets whacked, too, in this budget.  You know, the enforcement, and all the enforcement, the consumer protection lost anything—that‘s a rule.  They sort—unless it‘s firefighters.  They do seem to like firefighters.

MADDOW:  But not cops.  They are cutting the number of cops.

COLLINS:  Cops got back some money today.

MADDOW:  Oh, but after the initially whack.

COLLINS:  Right.

MADDOW:  Yes.

COLLINS:  So, not murder, not fires.  But other than that, they don‘t like rules.  So—

MADDOW:  Why Mr. Bird?

COLLINS:  Oh, poor bird.

MADDOW:  Why does the public broadcasting stuff—his feet are dirty. 

He‘s been actually walking around the studio, which is weird.

But why does public broadcasting get put first on the block?

COLLINS:  You know, because it‘s public and it‘s broadcasting, and they‘ve always thought it was a liberal thing, and plus it‘s wrong and it‘s public and it‘s broadcasting.  They never liked it and they always get rid of it.  But it usually comes back, that‘s the good news.

MADDOW:  You know, because of that, it did really look like 1995 today.  I mean, Eliot Engel the same mustache, but there‘s little difference.

COLLINS:  Eliot Engel—

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  But there was one silver lining on spending today in Washington.  The F35 alternate engine, which full disclosure is made in part by G.E., finally got unfunded in the House today, even though the House Republican leadership said they wanted it even if the military didn‘t.

How significant is that?

COLLINS:  It‘s nice.  I mean, right now, it is hard to have earmarks, and it really is difficult to get those little special things and to plead for them.  I‘d be interested to see what happens when the agriculture subsidies get really argued a little bit about more, stuff like that that‘s bigger and larger.

I think it‘s nice.  It‘s sort of pathetic to me that Barack Obama‘s efforts to cut back on the defense industry is completely down to those two as far as I can tell.  There was one jet plane about two years ago they finally got rid of that nobody wanted for 100 years, and now, it‘s the double engines for the one plane that‘s going to be gone.  That‘s it, though.  That‘s sort of the big cheese.

MADDOW:  And the engine that is being hard fought, I mean—

COLLINS:  Yes, it took forever, my Lord in heavens.  A plane with two engines and it took them forever to get that done.

MADDOW:  Is there any chance of an F35 style spending revolt on the $40 billion that we pay the most profitable industry on Earth?  Is there any chance of a spending revolt on the oil subsidies?

COLLINS:  Well, it would be nice to think so.

MADDOW:  You don‘t think so?

COLLINS:  I don‘t think so at all.

MADDOW:  Nobody ever accuses me of being too optimistic.  Really think it can‘t happen?

COLLINS:  Wow, that would be so nice, Rachel.  What a lovely thought.  It just—never occurred to me that might me that that might happen.  I mean, they want to have less taxes, not more taxes.  So, anything that gets a subsidy in taxes is good, to the Republicans, because it‘s less taxes.  Plus, it‘s the oil industry.

MADDOW:  It is—I mean, to be clear, though, this is the most profitable industry the Earth has ever known.  There have never been quarterly profits as high in recorded human history as there are for ExxonMobil.

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS:  -- the little bitty teeny-weeny companies that only make a quadrillion dollars who are always having to do special things for.  You know, they need help, they need friends like the bird.  You know, that they‘re all the same.

They‘re needy.  They work hard.  They drill things.  They extract.

MADDOW:  The mom and pop companies.

Do we—when you look at what‘s happening right now with the two parties stating their visions in terms of what we ought to spend money on, is there anything—is it just 1995 all over again?  Is there anything that is substantive and new and important in terms of what Republicans are putting on the chopping block?

COLLINS:  They‘re pushing—no, not right now.  I don‘t think.  They‘re pushing harder on the entitlements, I think.  And there‘s actually going to be a discussion of entitlements somewhere along the line, which we really didn‘t have before.  We had one in Social Security.  But this will be the first big kind of Medicare discussion, if we really have one.

MADDOW:  Yes.

COLLINS:  But the Republicans ruined the Medicare discussion during the health care debate when they kept getting up saying, you‘re trying to cut back on Medicare, you‘re ruining grandmother, you‘re killing or you‘re destroying us all.  And they poisoned the well on the one thing that they now say is the critical thing that we have to talk about above all things.

MADDOW:  Yes.  But see?  They just drill new wells.

COLLINS:  They just drill new wells.

MADDOW:  That‘s why the backyard is unsafe for toddlers.

COLLINS:  That‘s right, grandma is still with us.

MADDOW:  That‘s right.  “New York Times” columnist, Gail Collins, with whom I very much enjoy discussing these matters—thank you for being here.

COLLINS:  Thanks.

MADDOW:  An update: I will admit a rather vile update on why part of our show is decamping to Kansas next week.  Please stay tuned.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  I have for you now a follow-up for a story that we have been on this week.  It is a follow-up that I have to tell you I‘m not all that happy to have the opportunity to tell you about.

On Monday night‘s show, we broadcast the first national interview with the Kansas doctor who was trying to set up the first medical practice that would provide abortions in Wichita, Kansas, since Dr. George Tiller was murdered there by an anti-abortion extremist more than a year and a half ago.

The reason nobody is providing abortions in that city is because of murder and because of intimidation.  Dr. Tiller was murdered.  He used to provide that service.  And now, Dr. Mila Means, who would like to provide that service is being forced out of the building in which she practices medicine because of anti-abortion protests and because of the promise from the anti-abortion movement that they will physically blockade that office the way they did to Dr. Tiller‘s office day in and day out, up until the day that he was killed.

That threat has caused Dr. Mean‘s landlord to sue her, sending her out in search of somewhere, anywhere, that will not be intimidated enough to stop her from paying rent to practice medicine there.

After our interview with Dr. Means on Monday night, I‘m sorry to say that she last night had protesters show up at her house.  This is a form of intimidation that‘s been used over and over again by the radical edge of the anti-abortion movement.  Dr. Means‘ house is outside of Wichita.  No offense to suburban south central Kansas, but it is really out in the middle of nowhere.

These protesters who gathered at her house last night, they were not in a high traffic area.  They were in a very low traffic suburb, the whole suburb is only home to about 2,000 people.  So, it‘s not like they were out there to get a message out to passersby.  The protesters did not announce their plans to the media.  They didn‘t try to get cameras there or get people around that they could persuade to their point of view.

Because here‘s the thing: converging on the home of a doctor who is trying to become the first abortion provider in Wichita since the last one was murdered, it is not the sort of thing you do because you‘re trying to persuade people—persuade other people that you‘re right about abortion.  It is the sort of thing that you do if you are trying to intimidate one person, Dr. Means.  They did not do this to persuade anybody of the rightness of their cause, but to intimidate their audience of one.

Where did the protesters get Dr. Means‘ address?  Well, the address was listed in a comment on Operation Rescue‘s Web site.  After we called the president of Operation Rescue today, he told us he would take it right down.  He did do that.

That comment with the address of Dr. Means was removed from Operation Rescue‘s Web site today.  It had been up since the 3rd of February.

One of our producers also drew the short straw today and got one of the protest leaders who showed up at the doctor‘s house last night to talk to her on the phone today.  And he gave us this statement.  Quote, “Abortionist Mila Means‘ address is part of public record and is well known by pro-life organizations.  She is killing babies right now in Kansas City, and plans to kill in Wichita.  We will notify her neighbors and all who do business with her.”  And then he gave us his name.  Which I‘m happy to tell you, his name is Rob Rotola.

But his statement, as I should tell you, came from the e-mail address of the man who has been e-mailing out these posters about Dr. Means—these posters that call her an unspeakable, horrific murder, who takes blood money for being a mass murderer for killing children.

So, yes, that‘s whose e-mail address we got the statement from today about how he plans to stake out Dr. Means‘ house, and notify all of her neighbors that she is a murderer.

On paper, if you are an American woman, you have the right to get an abortion if you think you need one.  In reality, in many places, you do not really have that right.  And you really do not have that right because of violence and intimidation.  And that supposedly is not the way that you get your way in America.

The reason that as far as we know abortion services are not available in south central Kansas right now is because of the murder of the previous provider, and because of the intimidation of anybody who might dare to replace him.

Part of our show is decamping to Kansas early next week to stay on this story.  I continue to salute the people who not only want to take over this mantle from the provider who was killed, but who are willing to make known who they are publicly, given the risks they are taking by doing that.  It is a sign of bravery against a movement that is getting its way through force, and it‘s not supposed to work that way in America.

That does it for us tonight.  Now, it‘s time for THE ED SHOW.  Good night.

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  We feel like—we‘re very happy to have Russ Feingold.  Thanks a lot.

Thanks to you at home for sticking with us this hour.

If you are not a regular consumer of conservative media in this country, if you aren‘t watching the FOX News Channel or listening to right wing talk radio or reading right wing blogs all day—we are in a moment in American politics in which there are things happening, things being proposed and enacted by elected officials that may seem really out of the blue to you, that may seem like non sequiturs, that seem like they don‘t bear any relationship to the actual news in our actual country, the actual challenges that we actually face.

But, nevertheless, these things are being acted on with great urgency by conservative politicians.  For example, the state of Oklahoma voting to ban Sharia law—actually, 13 states moving to ban Sharia law.  Is there any threat of Sharia law taking over an American state?  No, not in any rational assessment of facts.  But it has become a matter of great urgency for conservatives in all these places.

It‘s the same dynamic we saw with supposed death panels in health reform, right?  If you consume fact-based information about health reform, you‘d know the death panels turned into something about having a living will—absolutely nothing to do with some board of bureaucrats deciding you should die.  But conservatives, informed not by fact-based information but instead by conservative media, not only believed in death panels, but believed that death panels were the main defining thrust of what health care reform was.

This is conceptually important in our country in 2011.  If you do not like watching conservative media, you nevertheless have to understand what it is they‘re doing over there in order to understand what Republicans are doing in politics.  It‘s like the secret decoder ring that makes otherwise totally non sequitur statements and political actions make some sense—at least make us understand what sense we think they‘re making.

To that end, we have a slight revision to make.  It is not a correction.  It is a revision to our lead story on yesterday‘s show.

It finally occurred to us today that we had not applied right wing media decoder technology to what‘s going on with the speaker of the House, the top Republican in Washington, John Boehner, in trying to understand his latest big political mistake.

As you know, John Boehner is not having an easy time as speaker.  Republicans are having a hard time getting even basic legislating done, having a hard time doing the basic things that need to be done to run the House, having a hard time picking a message, and sticking with it, getting members to act as a unit, and instead of like a bunch of 6-year-olds playing anarchist soccer—three teams, two goals.  You decide.

But even with the hard time they are having, what John Boehner did this week is so bad politically, so contrary to what his party says it wants to be doing that it has to have some explanation.  It‘s like if somebody was trying to parallel park, and instead of—oh, hey, wait a minute, you sort of messed up.  Your tire is on the curb here.  This is a guy parallel parking and, all of a sudden, the car is upside down, something else has to explain this.  You don‘t make an error this big without some explaining.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Over the last two years since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs.  And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it.  We‘re broke.  It‘s time for us to get serious about how we‘re spending the nation‘s money.

REPORTER:  Do you have an estimate on how many will and won‘t that impact—negatively impact the economy that‘s not ready to—

BOEHNER:  I do not.  I do not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Why would I even care?  Why bother counting?  Some people are going to lose their jobs.  What do I care?

That‘s going to have a bad affect on the economy?  The woman standing behind him going, “That‘s right, John.”

How can you be the top Republican in Washington and say you don‘t care if what you‘re doing is killing jobs?  The unemployment rate is like 9 percent.  We‘d be delighted to make it worse?  Our actions will put more people, more Americans out of work in this economy, awesome, we‘re all for it?

Come on.  I mean, you don‘t accidentally let something like that slip. 

Where is he coming from?  What is he talking about?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  The federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. 

And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  “A,” that‘s not true.  But “B,” I think we‘re getting at something here, with the emphasis he‘s putting on federal jobs—federal jobs, public jobs.  See?  Those are the jobs he‘s OK with killing.

Those aren‘t real jobs.  People that work for government don‘t have real jobs.  Public jobs are bad jobs.

Republicans are against those kinds of jobs.  They want those jobs to go away.

If you are not part of the conservative movement, if you‘re not in on the way they talk to each other in their media, this probably makes no sense.  Republicans declaring that teachers, cops, firefighters, toll takers, nurses, people who work at the Highway Department—if you‘re employed at any of those jobs, your job is not a real job.  In fact, your having that job is bad for the country and the country would be better off if you were unemployed.

Public employees are an enemy of America.  The only way America gets stronger is if public employees are broken.  That‘s the message.

If you work taking tolls on a bridge somewhere, you are the problem. 

If you teach school, you are the problem.

They have been talking amongst themselves this way in conservative media and conservative politics for a long time, but now, it is crossing over, and if you just take it at face value, it seems like a big political mistake, but there‘s a whole lot of Republicans standing behind John Boehner going “That‘s right, we hate those jobs.”

It has become mainstream centrist Republican policy, a mainstream centrist Republican point, even in punditry to congratulate any Republican politician who declares war on people who work in the public sector.  Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, was in Washington today essentially test-driving a presidential run.  The basis of his popularity among conservatives, among Republicans, is how hard a line he is taking against teachers and cops and anybody who works for any level of government.

Chris Christie‘s office has created a YouTube channel that largely features clips of him confronting and yelling at people who are evil enough to work for the state, or clips of him discussing ways he‘s going to take things that people that work in the public sector negotiated for, how he‘s going to take those things away.

One of the ways that Tim Pawlenty has tried to fuel his little engine that called president aspirations is by talking about people who work for the state as if they are murderous prisoners coming after you in the prison yard.  I‘m not kidding.

“Frankly,” said the Minnesota governor in November, quote, “the public employee unions would stick a shiv in all of us if they could.”  A shiv?  Those are the kinds of things that Republican politicians say now if they‘re ambitious, if they want to make themselves more popular.

That‘s how Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, is trying to make his national mark.  On Friday, Governor Walker announced suddenly that he was refusing to negotiate with anybody who worked for the state.  No negotiations.  Instead, he would direct the Republican-controlled legislature to pass by fiat this week his new budget that goes after the benefits and bargaining rights of people who work for the state.

So, not only would he not negotiate with people on this, he will never negotiate with them again.  He will remove their right to collectively bargain in essence.

While shocked by the radical-ness of his proposal and by how fast he‘s trying to jam it through, state workers in Wisconsin prove that they are going to take this laying down.  Look at this—an estimated 30,000 people protested in Madison today.  Thirty thousand people.  That‘s the double the number of people who turned out yesterday in Madison.

You know the protests we‘ve been covering in Bahrain and all these places today?  Their turnout in Wisconsin‘s capital today seemed to equal the turnout in Bahrain‘s capital city.  Everybody is wondering if that uprising is going to overthrow that government.  We‘ll have more on that later on the show, but we‘ve got 30,000 people, same number of people, in Madison, Wisconsin.  “The A.P.” describing the protest as larger and more sustained than any in Madison in decades.  The floor of the rotunda was filled with sleeping bags last night because demonstrators would not go home.

A public hearing to take public testimony on what the governor is trying to do in Wisconsin was in hour 17 when Republican lawmakers tried to end it.  They decided they had heard enough.  That was at 3:00 in the morning.  Democrats kept the hearing going, taking a short break only at 8:30 a.m. so they could move to another room, and then they started the hearing right back up again.

The state‘s second largest school district in Madison today had no school, because teachers and staff called in sick and went to the state capitol to protest.

Because of organizing by people who cash paychecks rather than sign paychecks, because of organizing by employees, by people who work for the company, not the people who own the company, that‘s how we got laws against child labor in this country.  That‘s how we got a minimum wage.  That‘s how we got the 40-hour work week, and weekends.  You like those?

That‘s why we have sick days.  That‘s why there is such a thing as overtime.  These things were all hard fought by the labor movement.  Their insistence over generations that working full time in America should earn you a living, should get you out of poverty.

That over time is what created the American middle class, and you can‘t understand today‘s modern politics.  Stuff seems like inexplicable mistakes by somebody like the speaker of the House who ought to know better.  You can‘t understand today‘s modern conservative politics without understanding that Republicans and the modern conservative movement are against the thing that made it possible for America to have a middle class.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  There is chaos all around the globe, pockets of instability.  It is caused by unions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Public employee unions are not going to be able to have the same ridiculous benefits that they have had in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Union and teachers battling cuts.  They say they‘re fighting for the kids.  But are they really fighting to help themselves?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS:  Maybe it‘s time they get out of the train business and find something else like paying off some of our debt as a solution here, instead of their teacher union, labor union friends all the time.

BECK:  Unionizing the TSA, while potentially disastrous for the country, is going to be great for the unions.  You see?  You pay the screener, they pay the union.  I wonder how much of that money will be spent in America and how much will be spent overseas organizing revolutions.

ERIC BOLLING, FBN:  Up next in our union watch, we give out our very first “Follow the Money” gipper award to the governor of Wisconsin.  (INAUDIBLE) call out the National Guard if the unions revolt against his latest plan.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  If you do not consume this stuff from right wing media regularly, it may be a surprise to hear it, but it is sort of the only way to understand why the newest crop of ambitious Republican leaders are trying to advance themselves—advance their own careers—by kicking teachers and toll takers and firefighters and cops, kicking them in the teeth, whenever they have the opportunity.

Wisconsin public employees are showing us that they are very capable of standing up for themselves.  That‘s why we‘ve seen incredible scenes in Madison these last few days.  But who‘s standing up for them?  Who stands up for them?

I mean, the right is unified against them.  Do we want to go back to the era where there were no child labor laws, no weekends?  Do we want to do that as a country?

Who stands with them?  Who stands with these folks when they are attacked like this?

Kids do, it turns out.  This is footage of students from Memorial High, who along with students from East Madison High School and West High School and Middleton High School, all took off from school today and went to the state capitol to support their teachers.

Here are the firefighters of Wisconsin, supporting the other public workers who are getting kicked in the teeth today in Wisconsin.  Why is it important that the firefighters are out there?  Because the only three unions that supported the Republican governor of Wisconsin in the last election were the firefighters and the cops and the state troopers, OK?

Miraculously, those are the only three unions that Governor Scott Walker is not stripping of their rights.

So, even as this governor tries to divide and conquer different types of employees who work in the public sector, they are standing together.

Well, what about the Democratic Party?  Is the Democratic Party taking the other side of this?

The Democratic Party last month decided they are doing next year‘s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, a city without union hotels.  Democrats campaigned in 2008 saying they‘d prioritize legislation—remember, card check—that would make it easier for people to join unions.  Democrats have essentially dropped that off the agenda in Washington.

If you go back to Eisenhower era Republican Party, they were not against unions.  From the Republican Party platform of 1956, quote, “The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower administration.”

The Republican Party was not always hostile to people who work for a living.  But over time, the conservative movement pushed the Republican Party into becoming really virulently anti-union.  That‘s why Ronald Reagan breaking the air traffic controllers union was the shot heard around the world, because that was the roar of conservative movement politics becoming Republican politics.

Since then, though, they‘ve got the Republicans 100 percent on board, waging self-righteous war on unions, self-righteous war on the rights of people who cash paychecks instead of those who sign them.  Where is the counter balance to that?  Where is the liberal movement in the United States that is pulling the Democrats to take the other side of this fight, now that the conservatives are unified against working people in this way?  Where is the liberal movement to take the other side of this and stand up for people that work for a living?

When you look at these people in Wisconsin today, who‘s got their back?

Russ Feingold was a Wisconsin senator for 18 years.  He just formed a new progressive organization to try to change the imbalance of corporate power in American politics.  He joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We‘ve been trying to book former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold as a guest on the show for years, literally years.  And tonight, with the capitol city of Wisconsin erupting in the biggest protests seen there in decades, Russ Feingold is here to join us for “The Interview.”  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Joining us now for “The Interview,” about which I‘m very excited, is former Democratic senator from Wisconsin, Russ Feingold.  Senator Feingold is today launching Progressives United, a grassroots political action committee.

Thank you for being here, sir.  We really appreciate it.

FMR. SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN:  Rachel, it‘s good to be on the show again.

MADDOW:  You‘re here to talk to about Progressives United, but I have to get your reaction first to what we—what we are seeing in Madison today with these dramatic protests.

FEINGOLD:  Well, let me just say how proud I am of the people of Wisconsin for reacting to this outrageous proposal from Governor Walker.  You know, Rachel, it is not like the people in Wisconsin are in a foul mood.  The Packers just won the Super Bowl.  The Badgers just beat the number one, Ohio State basketball team, and it is 50 or 60 degrees warmer than last week.  It‘s not like people are just looking for something to be upset about.

But when you stick it in the eye of a badger like this and you try to take away the rights of workers throughout the state, they react.  And this is a tremendous, inspiring reaction that shows that we are ready to take the fight against those who want to destroy the rights of working people in our state.

MADDOW:  The governor‘s line here is that this is about balancing the budget.  Some of what he‘s proposing, as far as I can tell, has no budget implication whatsoever.  It‘s explicitly about dismantling unions for people who work for the state.  Dismantling the idea that workers can negotiate.

Why is that?  And what explains the distance between what he wants to do and what he is actually proposing?

FEINGOLD:  Well, the argument of this is really about the budget process is phonier than a $3 bill.  There‘s a budget process in the state.  I served for 10 years in Wisconsin state senate, and it‘s a very methodical process that goes on for several months.  And they figure it out usually by July, and they have a budget.

What he did last week was say basically on Thursday or Friday, I want to take away all these rights of collective bargaining from people and I want it done in the next five or six days.

This is just a direct attack, driven by corporate interests and the state in this country that they been fantasizing about forever—which is to bust the unions, and that‘s what the agenda is.  It is really not about the state budget.  That‘s just simply phony.

MADDOW:  Is the other political party in this country—is the Democratic Party taking the other side in that fight?  Republican politics have become, really, very homogenous on this issue in the way that they weren‘t a generation ago.  They‘re all very anti-employee, very pro-business, very, very anti-union.  Are Democrats taking the other side of that fight?

FEINGOLD:  In our state we are.  The Democratic Party here and the unions, both public and private, are unified.  The folks that are in that capitol are students, teachers, public employees, but also private employees, firefighters came.  Even though as you pointed out, they are trying to somehow divide and conquer not only between private and public employees.  They‘re trying to divide people within the public employees.

It‘s not going to work, because we in Wisconsin are going to stand up for those rights that you talked about.  You listed things like child labor laws, minimum wage and other ideas that came through the labor movement—much of that, most of that, came from Wisconsin originally.  This is a proud tradition.  And we‘re not going to let Governor Walker acting as a shill basically for these corporations destroy the rights of working people.

MADDOW:  You just formed a grassroots political action committee called Progressives United.  I know that some of the inspiration for forming this group has to do with corporate power in politics.  What‘s the overall aim?  And why try to do—why try to do it through a PAC?  Why is that the right vehicle for you right now?

FEINGOLD:  Well, Progressives United obviously is a play on the fact that Citizens United, the decision that helped destroy our campaign finance laws in our condition, was not really something for citizens, it was for corporations.  The Citizens United decision of the United States Supreme Court basically turned on the spigot and said, let corporations take whatever money you spend for toothpaste, or gasoline, and spend it to destroy and control our political process.

So, Progressives United is actually people all over the state of Wisconsin and all over the country coming together to fight for the rights of individuals in the political process and to not allow corporations to have those exact same rights.

So, we‘re going to fight this decision.  We‘re going to try to overturn the decision.  We‘re going to try to support candidates that fight the implications of it—from the oil companies to the financial benefits that have been given to Wall Street.

But we‘re also going to fight the kind of things that Governor Walker is trying to do.  These corporations seem to believe that this last election was a ticket for them to go after the rights of working people all over this country, and they‘re trying to do it in Wisconsin as a model.  Our organization will fight all of these efforts, and it is going to be a grassroots organization.  ProgressivesUnited.org is already getting apparently 10,000 new signups today alone on our first day.

There‘s a hunger out there, Rachel, for opposition to what‘s going on, and we want to help be part of that effort.

MADDOW:  When you look at the effect of Citizens United, one of the ways that people shorthand the impact of that decision is by saying it undid the McCain-Feingold—much of the McCain-Feingold financing, campaign finance reform.  Clearly, it‘s law—it‘s law that is a dramatic reversal from what had previously been law of the land.

But do you think that it structurally changes American politics in a way that is irreversible and that will have a dramatic effect on politics if it‘s not overturned?  How do you see it changing the way we do politics in this country?

FEINGOLD:  That‘s right.  It is irreversible and it‘s really ironic.  The one thing that still stands is McCain-Feingold—the ban on soft money, in other words, of corporations and others giving huge contribution directly to political parties.  That law stands.

What the Supreme Court did was something far more devastating.  It took away the fundamental laws going back to Tillman Act from 1907 that banned certain corporate activities in politics, all the way through decisions for almost 100 years.  It gutted the laws that were the foundation for making sure that corporate treasuries couldn‘t dominate the political process.

So, you know, that was something that was done to counter the effects of what was known as the Gilded Age.  This decision creates a Gilded Age on steroids, and it is fundamentally changing our political process.  We have to reverse the decision.  We only need one vote on the Supreme Court to change to make that happen, and that‘s one of the things we hope happens in the next few years.

MADDOW:  Mr. Feingold, let me just ask one last question about Progressives United.  If people join the group, what should they expect?  Is this a membership organization?  Is this a meet up, Move On style, get out, meet your fellow progressives and get out there and demonstrate organization?  What exactly are you going to use in terms of tactics?

FEINGOLD:  All of the above.  Obviously, we‘re going to try to support candidates directly that are committed to these progressive principles.  We‘re going to try to urge people that are in office right now to do things like support the Disclose Act, to try to make sure that this information about these contributions come out.

But we‘re going to do far more than that.  We‘re going to make sure we use the Internet and all the mechanisms that are available now that didn‘t used to be available to make sure that people organize, sign petitions, do whatever people have been doing on other issues, but do it in a coordinated way.  With many other groups that are interested in this issue, we‘re already talking with them.  We need to be unified, regardless of your political views, regardless of your particular issue that you‘re most interested in.

This issue—the issue of corporate domination of politics is one that overrides everything, and we need to come together.  Our organization is going to help make that happen.

MADDOW:  Russ Feingold, thank you so much very much for joining us for “The Interview” tonight.  I really appreciate it.  I hope you‘ll come back and join us again.

FEINGOLD:  I will.  Thanks so much, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

All right. There is dramatic news that is breaking at this hour, which is an unlikely hour if you consider the time change.  But it‘s breaking this hour in the Middle East.  After Tunisia went, after Egypt went, we‘re getting in some dramatic scenes that are just happening right now, and these scenes of footage we are getting and descriptions we are getting out of one particular country in the Middle East is giving an idea what country might be next after Tunisia and Egypt.  Details on that are next.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  You may know this already about MSNBC, but if you don‘t, I want you to know.  They do not tell us what to say on the air here.  Don‘t give editorial restrictions beyond the company‘s news standards, and don‘t make us promote each other‘s hours and projects if we don‘t editorially want to.

So, this is from me and not because anybody told me to say it, all right?  If you have not been watching Ed Schultz‘s show, if you have not gotten used to him coming on after this show or whatever, you should watch Ed Schultz‘s show tonight on the insanity that is going on in Wisconsin right now.

There is nobody doing a better job covering that story, myself included with an exclamation point.  Ed is right at the heart of it and from me to you, I think you should watch it.  Thank you.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It is one thing to try and stop journalists from reporting what is going on.  That doesn‘t mean news doesn‘t spread, but reporters can be thwarted to some degree by authoritarian governments trying really hard to do it.  That‘s one thing.

It‘s quite another thing for governments to just makeup what‘s going on out of whole cloth.  Iran‘s government is claiming that a student killed during Monday‘s huge protests in their country was not a protester at all, he was working for the government, and he was therefore killed by those seditious, evil protesters.

Family and friends of the student who was killed tell numerous news sources that not only was this young man not part of government militia, as the government has been claiming, but the young man had actually worked to elect an opposition leader two years ago.

Today, “The Guardian” newspaper of Britain reports that government authorities staged the young man‘s funeral, and would not allow his family to attend.  Instead, according to witnesses, hundreds of Basiji militia men were bussed in to join the funeral where they, of course, clashed with students and opposition protesters who were there for their own reasons.

The Iranian regime is planning for its own pro-government and anti-opposition protest this Friday.  They are making it up.

In the Arab world today, a day ahead of planned day of rage protests, demonstrations erupted today in Libya, second largest city, 38 people were reportedly injured.  Authorities reportedly used tear gas and water canons against an estimated 6,000 Libyan protesters.

In Yemen, the president of Yemen today reportedly blamed people with, quote, “foreign agendas” for the ongoing and growing protest in his country.  He cancelled a planned trip to Washington.  He reportedly today sent 2,000 government loyalists into his capital city to quell protests there, by which, of course, he means beat people up.

And then there‘s Iraq, where John McCain assured Americans there would be no protests because we invaded or something.  Today, yet another day of intense protests in Iraq.  In the southern city of Kut, protesters reportedly peaceably gathered outside the provincial governor‘s office, but when guards opened fire on the protesters and killed three people, the remaining protesters decided—heck with this—and they stormed the governor‘s office, set the building on fire, and forced the governor to flee for his own safety out the back door.

Now, in Bahrain, this is the big news tonight: as thousands of people slept in Pearl Square in the capital city of Bahrain, preparing for a fourth day of protests there, hundreds of police swept in just hours ago, at about 3:00 in the morning local time.  Reports that we‘re getting thus far are sketchy but what we can tell that police using rubber bullets and tear gassing protesters who were trying to clear the square.  The opposition says at least one protester was killed tonight.  That would bring total death toll in Bahrain this week to three.

Just as in Egypt, the security forces are not only turning against the protesters.  They are turning against the media explicitly.  Here is some extraordinary audio that has surfaced of the moment within the last few hours when an ABC News reporter was beaten by Bahraini police while covering what is happening in Pearl Square.

Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, no, no.  Journalist, journalist.  I‘m going.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, ABC NEWS:  I just got beat, rather badly by a gang of thugs.  I am now in a marketplace near our hotel where people are cowering in buildings.  I mean, these people are not screwing around.  They are going to clear that square tonight ahead of any protests on Friday.  The government clearly doesn‘t want this to get any bigger.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Again, that is footage from Bahrain tonight within just the last couple hours.  Police moving in on protesters, among them, women and children, who were sleeping in the main square in the capital city.

This footage from Bahrain again, tonight.  This thing is still going on.  We will stay with it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Big oil, Big Bird.  Big oil, Big Bird.  Which would you fund? 

“The New York Times” columnist Gail Collins joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Does anybody else watching C-Span at about 11:30 Eastern this morning?  I was.  And I was richly rewarded for doing so.  Oh, yes.

That‘s not a new member of Congress.  This is not something we popped in and PhotoShopped.  This is Arthur the Aardvark, who you may know by his slogan, “The World‘s Most Famous Aardvark.”

A couple of things to note about this picture: first of all, I should just say that I love the bowtie as much as the next guy.  I was even sort of friends with Tucker Carlson when he still wore the bowtie on TV, I love the bowtie.

But a note to congressmen: if you are going to appear at a press conference alongside a cartoon aardvark, do not wear your bowtie to that press conference.  You may find yourself getting packed up with the props at the end of the day.  That is Congressman Earl Blumenauer right there, the good congressman from Oregon.

This right here is Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts.  As you can see, also standing alongside a better view of Mr. Aardvark.  You may notice that Mr. Markey is also holding a teeny, tiny, little version of Big Bird, which is weird because his name is big and yet there he is very small.

Even smaller than that, the teeny, tiny, tiny little Grover right there on the other side of the podium.  Also, a little further to the side of the screen there, getting cuddles from Congressman Betty McCollum of Minnesota, that‘s Elmo.

Why does it seem like this?  With the awkward juxtaposition of many members of Congress in suits holding characters from children‘s TV shows, why does this seem so familiar?  Because this is what Democrats do every time Republicans take over the House.  This looks familiar to you, it is because you remember this from 1995.  This is one of the all-time great clips from Congress ever on any subject ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK:  Don‘t kill Big Bird.  Don‘t kill Big Bird by voting for mean-spirited Republican budget cuts on public broadcasting.  Don‘t kill Big Bird because millions of American children, including my own three children, have grown up on Big Bird and “Sesame Street” and Mr. Rogers and public broadcasting.

Don‘t kill Big Bird because public broadcasting works.  Public broadcasting is good for the American taxpayer, and good for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York, with the little help from his friend.

The reason Democrats and children‘s television characters keep turning up together at political events is not because Republicans have found killing Big Bird to be an actual solution to the nation‘s fiscal problems.  It‘s because, come on, getting rid of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is something that the Republican Party likes the idea of intrinsically.  They do not want there to be public broadcasting, NPR, no.

“Sesame Street,” they hate it.  They do not want it to exist.  They think it is a secret plot to turn your child gay or something.  Getting rid of it is a message priority for Republicans, not a fiscal priority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  If public television didn‘t exist, we right now would be trying to invent it.  Republicans have tilted the fiscal scales in favor of big oil at the expense of Big Bird.  They don‘t want to cut out the $43 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry, but at the same time, they want to cut the budget for children‘s television programming in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Republicans choose tax breaks for big oil over Big Bird.

To be fair, though, there is some disagreement among Democrats on this big oil issue.  President Obama wants to cut $46 billion in taxpayer subsidies for the oil industry over 10 years.  House Democrats want to cut roughly that much over five years.

House Republicans, on the other hand, they want to keep all $40 billion of subsidies for the oil industry -- $40 billion taxpayer dollars to be paid to the oil industry.  Come on, they‘re a needy cause.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the world‘s most profitable companies of the year 2008.  Drum roll.

(DRUM ROLL)

MADDOW:  Number five: BP.  Number four: Chevron.  Number three: Shell. 

Number two: Gazprom, a Russian oil company.  And number one: ExxonMobil.

These were the most profitable companies on Earth in 2008.  Do you notice anything similar about them?

In 2009, the next year, oil companies had a hard year.  2009, Exxon only made $19 billion in profit that year.  Gazprom actually eked ahead.  Gazprom had $24 billion in profit in that one year.

But, you know what?  The American people need to take care of these people.  Cops and firefighters, I‘m sorry.  Exxon needs that taxpayer money.  I mean, look at poor BP.  Poor BP only made $16 thousand, million in profit in 2009.  It sounds better than $16 billion somehow.

Budget time is a fun time of year.  It is fun to divine what you can about people‘s priorities based on what they want to cut and what they want to protect.  You want to give taxpayer dollars to Exxon and not food inspectors or “Sesame Street”?  OK, good to know.

But here‘s something that nobody is really talking about that I find legitimately radical about what Republicans say they want to do this year.  Republicans say they‘re all concerned about the deficit, right?  The deficit is not an abstract concept.  It is specific thing—it‘s the difference between the money the government puts out and the money the government takes in.

How does the government take in money?  There‘s an up for that.  It‘s called taxes.  I know, horrible word.  But it is actually how the government takes in money.  That‘s part of the deficit calculation.

But Republicans have proposed crippling our ability to take in the money.  They‘re spending plan cuts $593 million from tax collection—you know, from keeping people from cheating on their taxes.  They want to make it $600 million worth of enforcement easier to cheat on your taxes.

This is not about what the tax rate should be.  This is not about whether or not—this is not about whether or not you should pay taxes on something or not.  This is about whether or not if you do owe taxes you really have to pay them.

If you care about the deficit, don‘t you want to ensure that the money we get to pay for things that we‘re legally entitled to get we actually get?  Do we not all concede any more that people that owe taxes should actually have to pay the taxes that they owe?

Joining us now is “New York Times” columnist Gail Collins.

Gail, it is good to see you.  Thanks for being here.

GAIL COLLINS, NEW YORK TIMES:  Good to be here.

MADDOW:  Is cheating on your taxes considered patriotic now and I did not get the memo?

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  I mean, $600 million out of tax enforcement?  That‘s amazing.

COLLINS:  Well, they don‘t like taxes, but also, they don‘t like government rules.  So anything—I think that the FCC gets whacked, too, in this budget.  You know, the enforcement, and all the enforcement, the consumer protection lost anything—that‘s a rule.  They sort—unless it‘s firefighters.  They do seem to like firefighters.

MADDOW:  But not cops.  They are cutting the number of cops.

COLLINS:  Cops got back some money today.

MADDOW:  Oh, but after the initially whack.

COLLINS:  Right.

MADDOW:  Yes.

COLLINS:  So, not murder, not fires.  But other than that, they don‘t like rules.  So—

MADDOW:  Why Mr. Bird?

COLLINS:  Oh, poor bird.

MADDOW:  Why does the public broadcasting stuff—his feet are dirty. 

He‘s been actually walking around the studio, which is weird.

But why does public broadcasting get put first on the block?

COLLINS:  You know, because it‘s public and it‘s broadcasting, and they‘ve always thought it was a liberal thing, and plus it‘s wrong and it‘s public and it‘s broadcasting.  They never liked it and they always get rid of it.  But it usually comes back, that‘s the good news.

MADDOW:  You know, because of that, it did really look like 1995 today.  I mean, Eliot Engel the same mustache, but there‘s little difference.

COLLINS:  Eliot Engel—

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  But there was one silver lining on spending today in Washington.  The F35 alternate engine, which full disclosure is made in part by G.E., finally got unfunded in the House today, even though the House Republican leadership said they wanted it even if the military didn‘t.

How significant is that?

COLLINS:  It‘s nice.  I mean, right now, it is hard to have earmarks, and it really is difficult to get those little special things and to plead for them.  I‘d be interested to see what happens when the agriculture subsidies get really argued a little bit about more, stuff like that that‘s bigger and larger.

I think it‘s nice.  It‘s sort of pathetic to me that Barack Obama‘s efforts to cut back on the defense industry is completely down to those two as far as I can tell.  There was one jet plane about two years ago they finally got rid of that nobody wanted for 100 years, and now, it‘s the double engines for the one plane that‘s going to be gone.  That‘s it, though.  That‘s sort of the big cheese.

MADDOW:  And the engine that is being hard fought, I mean—

COLLINS:  Yes, it took forever, my Lord in heavens.  A plane with two engines and it took them forever to get that done.

MADDOW:  Is there any chance of an F35 style spending revolt on the $40 billion that we pay the most profitable industry on Earth?  Is there any chance of a spending revolt on the oil subsidies?

COLLINS:  Well, it would be nice to think so.

MADDOW:  You don‘t think so?

COLLINS:  I don‘t think so at all.

MADDOW:  Nobody ever accuses me of being too optimistic.  Really think it can‘t happen?

COLLINS:  Wow, that would be so nice, Rachel.  What a lovely thought.  It just—never occurred to me that might me that that might happen.  I mean, they want to have less taxes, not more taxes.  So, anything that gets a subsidy in taxes is good, to the Republicans, because it‘s less taxes.  Plus, it‘s the oil industry.

MADDOW:  It is—I mean, to be clear, though, this is the most profitable industry the Earth has ever known.  There have never been quarterly profits as high in recorded human history as there are for ExxonMobil.

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS:  -- the little bitty teeny-weeny companies that only make a quadrillion dollars who are always having to do special things for.  You know, they need help, they need friends like the bird.  You know, that they‘re all the same.

They‘re needy.  They work hard.  They drill things.  They extract.

MADDOW:  The mom and pop companies.

Do we—when you look at what‘s happening right now with the two parties stating their visions in terms of what we ought to spend money on, is there anything—is it just 1995 all over again?  Is there anything that is substantive and new and important in terms of what Republicans are putting on the chopping block?

COLLINS:  They‘re pushing—no, not right now.  I don‘t think.  They‘re pushing harder on the entitlements, I think.  And there‘s actually going to be a discussion of entitlements somewhere along the line, which we really didn‘t have before.  We had one in Social Security.  But this will be the first big kind of Medicare discussion, if we really have one.

MADDOW:  Yes.

COLLINS:  But the Republicans ruined the Medicare discussion during the health care debate when they kept getting up saying, you‘re trying to cut back on Medicare, you‘re ruining grandmother, you‘re killing or you‘re destroying us all.  And they poisoned the well on the one thing that they now say is the critical thing that we have to talk about above all things.

MADDOW:  Yes.  But see?  They just drill new wells.

COLLINS:  They just drill new wells.

MADDOW:  That‘s why the backyard is unsafe for toddlers.

COLLINS:  That‘s right, grandma is still with us.

MADDOW:  That‘s right.  “New York Times” columnist, Gail Collins, with whom I very much enjoy discussing these matters—thank you for being here.

COLLINS:  Thanks.

MADDOW:  An update: I will admit a rather vile update on why part of our show is decamping to Kansas next week.  Please stay tuned.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  I have for you now a follow-up for a story that we have been on this week.  It is a follow-up that I have to tell you I‘m not all that happy to have the opportunity to tell you about.

On Monday night‘s show, we broadcast the first national interview with the Kansas doctor who was trying to set up the first medical practice that would provide abortions in Wichita, Kansas, since Dr. George Tiller was murdered there by an anti-abortion extremist more than a year and a half ago.

The reason nobody is providing abortions in that city is because of murder and because of intimidation.  Dr. Tiller was murdered.  He used to provide that service.  And now, Dr. Mila Means, who would like to provide that service is being forced out of the building in which she practices medicine because of anti-abortion protests and because of the promise from the anti-abortion movement that they will physically blockade that office the way they did to Dr. Tiller‘s office day in and day out, up until the day that he was killed.

That threat has caused Dr. Mean‘s landlord to sue her, sending her out in search of somewhere, anywhere, that will not be intimidated enough to stop her from paying rent to practice medicine there.

After our interview with Dr. Means on Monday night, I‘m sorry to say that she last night had protesters show up at her house.  This is a form of intimidation that‘s been used over and over again by the radical edge of the anti-abortion movement.  Dr. Means‘ house is outside of Wichita.  No offense to suburban south central Kansas, but it is really out in the middle of nowhere.

These protesters who gathered at her house last night, they were not in a high traffic area.  They were in a very low traffic suburb, the whole suburb is only home to about 2,000 people.  So, it‘s not like they were out there to get a message out to passersby.  The protesters did not announce their plans to the media.  They didn‘t try to get cameras there or get people around that they could persuade to their point of view.

Because here‘s the thing: converging on the home of a doctor who is trying to become the first abortion provider in Wichita since the last one was murdered, it is not the sort of thing you do because you‘re trying to persuade people—persuade other people that you‘re right about abortion.  It is the sort of thing that you do if you are trying to intimidate one person, Dr. Means.  They did not do this to persuade anybody of the rightness of their cause, but to intimidate their audience of one.

Where did the protesters get Dr. Means‘ address?  Well, the address was listed in a comment on Operation Rescue‘s Web site.  After we called the president of Operation Rescue today, he told us he would take it right down.  He did do that.

That comment with the address of Dr. Means was removed from Operation Rescue‘s Web site today.  It had been up since the 3rd of February.

One of our producers also drew the short straw today and got one of the protest leaders who showed up at the doctor‘s house last night to talk to her on the phone today.  And he gave us this statement.  Quote, “Abortionist Mila Means‘ address is part of public record and is well known by pro-life organizations.  She is killing babies right now in Kansas City, and plans to kill in Wichita.  We will notify her neighbors and all who do business with her.”  And then he gave us his name.  Which I‘m happy to tell you, his name is Rob Rotola.

But his statement, as I should tell you, came from the e-mail address of the man who has been e-mailing out these posters about Dr. Means—these posters that call her an unspeakable, horrific murder, who takes blood money for being a mass murderer for killing children.

So, yes, that‘s whose e-mail address we got the statement from today about how he plans to stake out Dr. Means‘ house, and notify all of her neighbors that she is a murderer.

On paper, if you are an American woman, you have the right to get an abortion if you think you need one.  In reality, in many places, you do not really have that right.  And you really do not have that right because of violence and intimidation.  And that supposedly is not the way that you get your way in America.

The reason that as far as we know abortion services are not available in south central Kansas right now is because of the murder of the previous provider, and because of the intimidation of anybody who might dare to replace him.

Part of our show is decamping to Kansas early next week to stay on this story.  I continue to salute the people who not only want to take over this mantle from the provider who was killed, but who are willing to make known who they are publicly, given the risks they are taking by doing that.  It is a sign of bravery against a movement that is getting its way through force, and it‘s not supposed to work that way in America.

That does it for us tonight.  Now, it‘s time for THE ED SHOW.  Good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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