'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
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Guest: Tobias Wolff, Kristin Neuhaus
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And it is not—
MADDOW: -- for staying with us for the next hour. And if you haven‘t noticed, we‘re in a bar. We‘re live tonight from Lawrence, Kansas, because, you know, why not? Lawrence, Kansas, is beautiful. And so is this bar. We are broadcasting tonight from the Free State Brewing Company here in Lawrence.
Before we get to the subject of our show‘s little reporting trip to Kansas this week, something quite remarkable is happening just two states over and one state up from here, in the state of Wisconsin.
Republicans in Wisconsin threw the first punch this month in what they hoped would become a national fight. It looks like it is turning into a national fight, and it looks like it is a national fight the Republicans may be losing everywhere.
MADDOW: -- confirmation that the Republicans really, really wanted this thing they‘re doing in Wisconsin to happen all over the country. And not only do they want that, we have confirmation they had been planning on that. We have that confirmation because we now have heard them freely admit it while talking amongst themselves, or at least amongst people who they thought were themselves.
MADDOW: Here‘s Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker talking to a man he thinks is his billionaire corporate benefactor, David Koch. The governor talking about how he thinks that he has started a right wing revolution in state politics.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN: I talked to Kasich every day. John has got to stand firm in Ohio. I think we do the same with Rick Scott in Florida. I think Snyder if he got a little more support, probably could do that in Michigan. And you start going down the list, a lot of us, a lot of us new governors who got elected to do something big.
“DAVID KOCH”: You‘re the first domino.
WALKER: Yes. This is our moment.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is our moment. Oh, self esteem, not a problem for Governor Walker, even if he does have problem screening his phone calls.
Again, the man that Wisconsin governor Scott walker thinks he is speaking to there is David Koch, a billionaire conservative who made his money the old fashioned billionaire conservative way. He inherited an oil and chemical company from his dad, an oil and chemical company that happens to be based right here—or at least near here in Wichita, Kansas.
MADDOW: Interstate rivalry, I did not know.
The voice on the other end was however not David Koch. It was a prank call. We‘ll have more on that in just a moment.
But what‘s important here is what Scott Walker was saying to this guy he thought was a billionaire was how all the other states, all these other states are going to follow in his Scott Walker footsteps, because he‘s doing this big great thing in Wisconsin in taking on and taking apart the unions. Not only is that starting to not work out for Governor Walker in Wisconsin, it‘s also not working out in the other states that he mentioned so excitedly.
You heard him mention his good pal, Rick Snyder, governor of the great state of Michigan, right? Well, Governor Snyder is now facing hundreds of his own police officers and firefighters protesting against him at the state capitol in Lansing. Protests that promised to ramp up in the coming days and over the coming weekend. That‘s Michigan.
In Ohio, things are yet unresolved. But no matter how often Governor Walker says he is talking to Governor Kasich in Ohio, things aren‘t going the Republicans‘ way there either. Republicans there are already starting to cave on key portions of their union stripping bill and protests against it are still growing.
MADDOW: In Florida—
MADDOW: In Florida, also mentioned by Scott Walker as a place that would follow in his big Scott Walker footsteps, that is seeming more and more unlikely. The very, very Tea Party Republican governor there, Rick Scott, just came out in support of some union bargaining rights, even for public employees.
Republicans threw this punch. They started it. They really wanted this fight. They wanted it in all of these states across the country, and they‘re getting it. And it‘s really not working out all that well for them.
Republican legislators in Indiana were forced to withdraw their union-stripping bill today after pressure mounted from protesters and from Democratic legislators who fled the state.
The strategy in Wisconsin, Republican approach to the fight was essentially to hunker down and wait it out as long as possible, right? That is the type of strategy you employ not only if you think you‘re right, but if you think you have the public on your side. Let things drag out so people can see how wrong your opponents are. And the more they see that, the more they come around in your way of thinking, right?
That was essentially the Republican strategy for Wisconsin. They weren‘t going to budge. They were going to dig in. They were not going to compromise. They wanted to wait, wait, and wait, let things drag out as long as possible.
Here is the problem with that strategy—what we know from recent political experience is that sometimes when protests go on for a really long time, people start to associate the thing that is being protested with the chaos and division and disruption that comes from big sustained protests.
Por ejemplo, December of 2009, when the health reform battle was going on. Remember the summer of the death panels, screaming town halls?
MADDOW: The impression it had on most of the country, on people who weren‘t prone to go out and yell about anything, was that there must be something wrong with the health care reform bill. Because whenever I hear about it, it‘s always people screaming at each other. It seems like it‘s divisive. It‘s making people hate each other. Makes me have sort of a bad feeling, even if I don‘t really know why.
Totally aside from the policy merits of the debate, the screaming and the chaos that surrounded the health reform protest probably served to weaken support for health care reform. Because it went on for a long time, and became really divisive and loud.
Same idea here in the case of Wisconsin. Republicans are the ones dragging it out. You don‘t necessarily have to sympathize with the protesters. If people are protesting against something for a really long period of time and they‘re making a really big ruckus about it, then that thing itself is likely to become less popular and that thing is the governor of Wisconsin‘s attempt to strip union rights by any means necessary.
MADDOW: -- the loss of support for that proposal is what is starting to happen here.
This holding out as long as you can strategy by the Republicans is not working. Look at this—this is a new Gallup Poll that just came out yesterday. Americans were asked if they wanted their state to take up a bill similar to the one in Wisconsin. Sixty-one percent of Americans say no.
MADDOW: The Republicans thought they were going to win this one.
Look at this -- 61 percent.
And the numbers were even worse for them when you break it down.
Among Democrats, 78 percent oppose stripping state employees of rights. Among independents, 62 percent oppose what‘s happening in Wisconsin. Even among Republicans, they do have the majority on their side, but it is only a bare majority. What‘s happening in Wisconsin only supported by bare majority of 54 percent of Republicans.
So, sure, OK, Republicans mildly like this. But for everybody else in the country, it is dramatically unpopular.
Republicans have misjudged whether or not people are going to agree with them on this. People really don‘t agree with you guys on this. Maybe it works for your base, but overall as an issue, it‘s not working. All of the stretching out is doing is putting the spotlight on the fact that what you are doing is really unpopular thing, and it‘s giving yourself the opportunity it turns out, to make all sorts of embarrassing mistakes.
Exhibit A, falling for quite literally the oldest trick in the book, the oldest trick in the book since there have been phones. The prank phone call, really? Scott Walker heard here laying out his secret plan to trick Democrats into returning to the state to talk to him—laying out his secret plan to some guy somebody told him is a billionaire, laying out how he is going to trick Democrats into coming back to the state so he can allow Republicans to hold their votes.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
WALKER: Legally, we believe, once they‘ve gone into session, they don‘t physically have to be there. If they‘re actually in session for that day and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they would have a quorum because they started out that way.
My sense is that, well, I‘ll talk. If they want to yell at me for an hour, you know, I‘m used to that. I can deal with that, but I am not negotiating.
“DAVID KOCH”: Bring a baseball bat. That‘s what I do.
WALKER: I have one in my office. You will be happy with that. I got a slugger with my name on it.
“DAVID KOCH”: Beautiful.
(END AUDO CLIP)
MADDOW: I got—beautiful, says the fake billionaire. I got a slugger with my name on it. I guess you‘ll have to save that Louisville slugger for your next meeting, now that the Democrats know what your trick was.
Mr. Walker talked a lot about strategy with fake David Koch actually.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
“DAVID KOCH”: What we were thinking about the crowds was planting some troublemakers.
WALKER: You know, well, the only problem with—because we thought about that. The problem with—or my only gut reaction to that would be right now, the lawmakers I talked to just have completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, the only problem with that plan—it was obviously a big mistake to let this prank call happen in the first place, that‘s how prank calls work. But Governor Walker said some really damaging stuff in there that now he is going to be forced to answer for for as long as this thing stretches out. You were thinking about planting protesters as troublemakers, you say?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: I‘m not going to allow one prank phone call to be a distraction from the realities that we have a job to do here. And the job is to debate this bill.
Patrick, you had a question. I heard Patrick. What‘s—I didn‘t—
I actually for—
REPORTER: But you said that on the call! You said we thought about it.
WALKER: We thought—what I said is the question was asked. We thought about it in terms of all sorts of options out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All sorts of options out there.
This has been a very bad 24 hours for conservatives across the country who are intent on getting their political way by stripping unions.
In Indiana, one of the state‘s deputy attorney generals was fired today after he said on Twitter that riot police in Wisconsin should, quote, “use live ammunition against protesters.”
MADDOW: When asked by a reporter from “Mother Jones” to please clarify that remark, this now former Indiana state official said, quote, “You‘re damn right I advocate deadly force.”
MADDOW: “The Atlanta-Journal Constitution” reporting today that the guns and ammo reference on the right may extend to protests in Georgia as well. Conservative activists appeared to call for an armed counter-protest against union rights in Atlanta.
Republican Governor Scott Walker got the national fight he wanted in Wisconsin. But it does not appear to be a fight that Republicans are winning. Mr. Walker‘s position has become so weakened in Wisconsin at this point that what he‘s resorted to is just frequently and increasingly, hysterically threatening to fire thousands of state employees if he doesn‘t get what he wants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: The missing Senate Democrats must know that their failure to come to work will lead to dire consequences very soon. Failure to act on this budget repair bill means at least 1,500 state employees will be laid off before the end of June. If there‘s no agreement by July 1st, another 5,000 to 6,000 state workers, as well as 5,000 to 6,000 local government employees would also be laid off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, this is the political calculus that Governor Walker has earned himself. He is now the guy who‘s telling Wisconsin he‘s going to get rid of thousands of jobs in order to do something that is super unpopular. Get that on a bumper sticker? Or more minutes?
And in case anybody needed to be reminded of what‘s happening in Wisconsin isn‘t actually just about Wisconsin, in case anybody needed to be reminded about whose agenda this really is, here is the reminder that Governor Walker has given the state—a $340,000 ad from the real billionaire oil and chemical industry brothers from Wichita.
MADDOW: -- Americans for Prosperity that is entitled “Stand with Scott Walker.” A nice reminder of whose interest this whole-union stripping thing really serves.
We have now reached the end of day nine of the massive protests in Madison, Wisconsin—protests that have now spread into a number of surrounding states. Republicans wanted this. Republicans had a plan here to hunker down and wait it out. It might be time for them to start thinking about plan B.
MADDOW: Essentially, no thank you, he‘s washing his hair, never on Wednesdays, whatever. He said no. Had the governor said yes, he and I would have had the chance tonight to discuss the big unexpected leap forward in gay rights today in Washington.
MADDOW: That would have been fun for us both, I bet. Wouldn‘t it? Governor Brownback, the offer still stands, I would love to talk to you. I love Kansas. I will come back.
MADDOW: I will meet you anywhere. Please say yes. It will be fun.
We can talk about gay stuff or anything. It doesn‘t matter.
We‘ll be back.
MADDOW: So, you know that old “arc of the universe bends toward justice” thing? What does it say about civil rights, that the great civil rights policy progress made by this Democratic president has been made by him overturning the discriminatory policies signed into law by the last Democratic president?
On the campaign trail in 1992, Bill Clinton said he wanted to overturn the ban on gay people serving in the military. Instead, Bill Clinton signed “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” which codified that ban for 17 more years. It is just now in the process of being repealed. Mr. Clinton also signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act which makes it illegal for the federal government to recognize same sex marriages, which defines marriages as opposite sex only, and which prevents same sex marriages from being recognized across state lines.
So, anybody in a same sex couple who‘s allowed to get married in one state, say Massachusetts or Iowa, cannot have that marriage recognized in any other state. If you‘re straight and you get married in New Jersey, you are also married, say, in Kansas. But if you‘re gay, your right (INAUDIBLE) roaming charges while you cross state line.
Thanks, President Clinton.
But, now, today, the Obama administration announced in a letter to the speaker of the House that it would no longer defend that law, no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
Now, DOMA is still law of the land. It keeps same sex couples from enjoying 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities that are enjoyed by opposite sex couples. But from now on, when that law is challenged in court, the government, the Justice Department will no longer defend it, will no longer argue that it is constitutional. This seems like --
MADDOW: Joining us now magic, whole satellite thing that gets us connected between Lawrence and where he is, is Tobias Wolff. He‘s law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He‘s legal adviser and LGBT policy chair of the Obama campaign in 2008.
Mr. Wolff, thanks very much for your time. I really appreciate it.
TOBIAS WOLFF, UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA LAW PROFESSOR: Thank you, Rachel.
It‘s a pleasure.
MADDOW: What‘s the decision by the Justice Department mean practically in terms of gay rights? I know the law doesn‘t change right now. But what do you expect this is going to mean?
WOLFF: Well, the Justice Department and the president have done two things. The first, as you described in your intro, is about the constitutional challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act itself, and they have said that they are no longer going to defend the constitutionality of this discriminatory statute. That by itself is a big deal.
But they‘ve done something else which is arguably even more important. The president and the attorney general concluded that in a general matter, anti-gay discrimination is presumptively unconstitutional, that when states or governments pass laws or adopt policies that disadvantage gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans, that that requires heighten or careful constitutional scrutiny but it is presumptively an unconstitutional form of discrimination.
It‘s the first time that the U.S. government has ever placed its credibility and its power behind that position. And I think it‘s going to have an impact not just on the DOMA litigation, but on civil rights litigation all around the country.
MADDOW: What does it mean that the Justice Department won‘t defend this law any more? But it‘s clear, even by the fact it is announced by a letter to Speaker Boehner, that it‘s clear that Congress has the opportunity to defend the law if it wants to. What does that mean?
WOLFF: Well—so the United States has made it clear that they‘re going to stay in this case as a party to the lawsuit. And there are provisions in the law already for Congress, the leadership in the House, for example, if they think it is a good idea, to get involved in the lawsuit perhaps to intervene as parties in the lawsuit and to mount their own defense to the lawsuit. The courts are the ones that are going to have to make a final determination about the constitutionality of this statute.
And it‘s actually, probably helpful to the courts to have arguments being made, even if they‘re bad arguments, so that the court can consider them carefully and reject them. But the practical impact of the U.S. government placing its prestige behind the proposition that gay people cannot be made second class citizens under our Constitution is difficult to overstate. I think it‘s really going to change the tenor and perhaps also the outcome of these pending lawsuits.
MADDOW: Professor Wolff, there have been a number of administrative policy changes on gay rights issues during the Obama administration. Of course, the huge issue over repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” Now, this has happened. As somebody who‘s really made his professional‘s life work and somebody who‘s worked on Mr. Obama‘s campaign on these issues, do you feel—I guess, do you feel satisfied with what he‘s done? Do you feel satisfied at the pace he is tackling the issues? Do you think he‘s doing all he can do?
WOLFF: Well, I got to tell you. I think there are two things to be said. The first is that Barack Obama has been president for a little over two years, two years, one month. And the amount he has gotten done in that period of time on gay rights and indeed on many issues is breathtaking. It has been a monumental series of achievements, including for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights in this country.
And the second thing to say is that there‘s more to do. Gay and transgendered people don‘t have unemployment protections in the workplace under federal law. Same sex couples are still treated unequally under federal immigration laws. There‘s more work to do.
And I think the president realizes that there‘s more work to do. But if you ask me, am I happy with the progress that we‘ve made so far? I‘m pretty darn happy.
MADDOW: Tobias Wolff, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, he‘s a legal adviser and LGBT policy chair for the ‘08 Obama campaign—Professor Wolff, thanks very much for joining me this evening. It‘s good to have you here.
WOLFF: Thank you, Rachel. It‘s great to be here.
MADDOW: We are live in Kansas. As you can see, the people are all beautiful.
And it turns out, there‘s more to the crazy politics in Kansas than meets the eye. We will be right back.
MADDOW: On our show the last couple nights, our producer, Rebekah Dryden, has done some excellent on-air reporting, first from Topeka, and last night from Wichita. Rebekah is a native Kansan. She‘s sliding her way in the corner of the bar tonight.
MADDOW: And she is among friends. Dryden has also made the case in our meetings that national news media‘s coverage of Kansas, and in particular, of culture war politics in Kansas, has not told the whole story here, not close, not even by a mile. What is not the matter with Kansas, when we come back.
LEE THOMPSON, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DR. TILLER: I don‘t know if it will, again, be the mainstream Republican view on abortion, but I do know that, historically, it was the Republic and women who were in planned parenthood, and that‘s why I am very offended as a former Republican candidate for Congress, if you will, and lifelong Republican in Kansas, that that image of the Republican party has been hijacked by some loud mouths who I truly don‘t think represent the majority of our party.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel afraid?
ANDREA HAMIL, DR. MEANS‘ CLINIC MANAGER: I feel that, you know, these people can be very intimidating. And, I mean, they are very—they attack you in a way that, you know, makes you wonder if you‘re driving home, are they following you?
KARI ANN RINKER, KANSAS STATE COORDINATOR: They thought they won when Dr. Tiller was assassinated, they thought they won. And I hope they haven‘t won, because that‘s an awful way—That‘s an awful way to win a fight, at the hands of a murder.
MADDOW: Welcome back to THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. We are coming to you live from a bar in Lawrence, Kansas, the Free State Brewery. And right outside the front door, there‘s a plaque that tells the proud, proud history of this very town, so as to avoid the fire hazard of all of you in the bar trying to go outside all at once. We‘ll look at it, right now. We will show you that plaque on the screen. The plaque tells the story of abolitionist John Brown and the fight to free the slaves.
They even went twenty-five hundred marauding pro-slavery extremists came from Missouri to ransack Lawrence, Kansas, in 1856. The plaque says Mr. Brown, gentlemen, it is said there are twenty-five hundred Missourians down at Franklins and that they will be here in two hours. You can see for yourselves the smoke they are making by setting fire to the houses in that town. And that was probably the last opportunity you will have of seeing a fight, so you had better do your best. Now, that is a culture war.
This town was made for fighting, by fighters. Lawrence—
(INAUDIBLE.) Lawrence was founded by anti-slavery abolitionists from Massachusetts. They rushed here to populate this state, in the 1850s, so Kansas would enter this United States of America thing as a free state. That slavery would be illegal. That‘s why we are in the Free State Brewery. And that‘s why this bar is on a street that is called Massachusetts, even though we are in the state of Kansas. And that‘s why this very cool building, down the street, is called Liberty Hall. [INAUDIBLE.] And all of that is part of why being in Lawrence, Kansas, is awesome. It is as incredible as the people are beautiful. [INAUDIBLE.]
Pro-slavery extremists, yahoos like this guys, known as a bush whacker. Seriously, that‘s what they called themselves, bush whackers. The bush whackers took such serious offense to Lawrence and its Kansas abolitionist ethic, that, in 1863, they crossed back over, from Missouri, again, and they burned this town down. They burned Lawrence, Kansas, to ashes. They set fire to its homes and its stores and it killed untold hundreds of people. They call it Quantrill‘s Raid, The Lawrence Massacre, 1863.
Do you know what the forward thinking—what the forward thinking people of Lawrence, Kansas, did in response to that violence and devastation? They buried their dead and built Lawrence, Kansas, all over again. [INAUDIBLE.]
Lawrence is amazing. Kansas is amazing. Kansas is amazing, especially for girls. Our country‘s first woman mayor. The first woman mayor in the country, in 1887. The next year—Oskaloosa, thank you very much. Filled with [INAUDIBLE] and the entire council with women. Women got the vote, here in Kansas, eight years before the 19th amendment—in Kansas [cheers.] Kansas has a lot to be proud of, and Kansas has a lot to be on guard about.
The precipitating event for this reporting trip to Kansas, this week, happened over a year and a half ago when a Kansas doctor was murdered in Wichita. He was assassinated because he provided abortions in his Wichita clinic. Name is Dr. George Tiller, and he was shot and killed inside his church.
Here is the thing. Since then, nobody has been able to replace him.
There are doctors that would like to, but the same forces that made Dr. Tiller‘s life, here, almost impossible, until they made it actually impossible, those same forces that threatened, and bombed, and shot, and harassed, and stalked, and derided, and persecuted him, for years, before someone finally killed him, are now after his murder making it impossible for any other doctor to take up his practice in south central Kansas.
One of those doctors, Dr. Mila Means, has been harassed at her clinic and her home since she decided she would expand her family practice to cover abortions.
Last month, an anti-abortion extremist, she‘s done work with the group Kansans for Life. She sent Dr. Means this note, it‘s a signed note, that says, in part, thousands of people are already looking into your background, not just in Wichita but from all over the U.S. They will know your habits and routines. They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live. You will be checking under your car every day, because maybe today is the day somebody places an explosive under it.
That note was sent last month, in January 2011. Abortion is legal. That has been the law of this land since 1973. When Congress asked the Supreme Court nominees about abortion, even the really anti-abortion ones say it is settled law.
Abortion is legal in America. So, why have anti-abortion protesters been clogging the streets of this great state for years now? Why have they been so aggressively harassing anyone in Kansas who provides abortions, and anybody in Kansas who needs it? Part of the answer is that those protesters aren‘t from here. They‘re not. An underappreciated fact. Operation Rescue, the people clogging the Kansas streets, they are from California. They started out by clogging the streets as Operation Rescue of San Diego, and Operation Rescue of Los Angeles.
In 2002, according to their own self-hag geography, on their own Web site, they moved their national headquarters to Wichita, Kansas, so they could target Dr. Tiller. They moved here from someplace else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMPSON: I don‘t think the climate in Wichita has, virtually, anything to do with the provision of abortion services. It was our experience and trials of Dr. Tiller that studies we did indicated that it was the abortion protesters who had the highest negatives, not Dr. Tiller.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The next time somebody asks you, what‘s the matter with Kansas? I am here to tell you that nothing is the matter with Kansas. There‘s nothing the matter with Kansas.
The man you just saw speaking, a moment ago, is Lee Thompson, life-long conservative, life-long Kansan, life-long Republican, and the man who was the attorney for both Dr. Tiller, before his death, and for Dr. Means, now.
The anti-abortion harassment—The anti-abortion harassment and the anti-abortion violence that has taken place in this state is not an ambient problem in the atmosphere, here. It‘s not something that is wrong with Kansas, as a whole. It is a crime problem. It is about a specific small radical social movement that has chosen intimidation and violence as a means of getting what it wants, and they are winning by doing it.
How do we know that the anti-abortion extremists think they are winning? We know because they are proud to say so. Proud to say so themselves. They‘ve been bragging around the country about the new abortion free Wichita, Kansas, since Dr. Tiller was murdered, in 2009. Take this press release. This press release from last week. Victory. Victory. Operation Rescue successfully thwarts abortions‘ return to Wichita, Kansas.
Two things, again, abortion is legal, and there‘s nothing the matter with Kansas. This is not a Kansas problem. But that‘s what anti-abortion extremists killed the only abortion provider in southeastern Kansas, and they‘re doing everything they can to hold onto that victory.
That is an extremism problem. That is a national problem. That is not supposed to be the way it works in America. Not since we gave up on war as a means of settling our differences. Not since one side won that war. And you know what? It was Kansas‘ side that won. Not just the doctors and clinic workers that the extremists have been going after, it is the patients, too, the women.
This week, we have been covering the disciplinary hearing of former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. Mr. Klein -- [booing.] Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, damn it, no, no, no. There shall be no peanut gallery, here. Mr. Klein has been accused of matching hotel records with redacted medical records subpoenaed from the late Dr. Tiller‘s offices so he could learn the names of Dr. Tiller‘s patients by cross referencing the them with those hotel records. Dr. Klein did this as the state‘s chief law enforcement officer.
For women, then. For women, then. The message, from the government of the state, was that if you sought an abortion, you could expect your private medical records to end up getting photocopied at a local Kinko‘s. Getting toted around the state in a Rubber Maid tub. Stored, first, in an assistant attorney general‘s garage, and, then, in a government staffer‘s apartment. Your medical records. This is the message the government of the state of Kansas had for women, here.
If you speak of abortion, your private medical records may very well end up, not only end up in the attorney general‘s hands, but when he is no longer attorney general, he will try to mail your medical records to himself when he moves to Virginia. We found out about that not—we only found out about that because Phill Kline improperly addressed the big tub of records and they got returned to sender, back to Kansas.
If you are a woman who seeks an abortion in Kansas, you can, even, expect your private medical records to end up being discussed on Bill O‘Reilly‘s cable television show. Bill O‘Reilly hosting Phill Kline on his “Fox News” TV show on November 3, 2006. Mr. O‘Reilly saying during that appearance that he had, in his words, an inside source—an inside source who had provided him with detailed medical information on individual patients who had received abortions at Dr. Tiller‘s clinic. Citing specific medical information from specific records on the air, on cable television.
That‘s how Kansas is crusading anti-abortion attorney general decided to weigh in, after the rest of the anti-abortion movement had done everything they could to shut down access to something that is supposed to be constitutionally protected, here, and everywhere in the country. That was the protection afforded by the state. The power of the state being used to accomplish what the anti-abortion movement itself could not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMPSON: It‘s just a plan, virtually, of terrorism, and the federal government wouldn‘t stand for that, when it was intimidating people not to vote. And, I think, we should see what is decent federal cooperation, now, accelerated into more aggressive federal action to protect the rights of women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Clinic workers, on the ground in Wichita, mostly, tell us they do get help from the local police as much as they can expect. And an ethics proceeding, that started this week, the crusading former Attorney General Phill Kline faces disbarment. Facing [INAUDIBLE] to practice law for the way he treated private medical records, and the power—the way he treated the power of his office and in state government—making state government, here, an extension of this movement. Extension of this movement that has claimed victory by means of violence.
Kansas is the free state. We are free because we all live under the law, unless and until the law bends before force. Kansas, the free state, America owes you better than this. We will be right back.
MADDOW: We are live in an awesome bar in Lawrence, Kansas, tonight.
MADDOW: We are live in beautiful Lawrence, Kansas, tonight. Before we reach Kansas City, we headed for Topeka, but we thought (ph) before we got there. Had we gone there and gone left, we would be in Wichita. Wichita is where, more than a year and a half ago, a doctor that performed abortions was murdered by an anti-abortion relic (ph).
I came to Kansas, today, because a doctor, who used to work with Dr. Tiller and who used to provide abortions in this state but who no longer does, agreed to tell her side of the story, on camera for the first time ever, to explain what it was like to be targeted by the radical anti-abortion movement and the radical anti-abortion politicians who have used the power of the state, here, to do whatever the protesters could want. The Dr.‘s name is Kristin Neuhaus. I spoke with her, today, somewhere in Kansas.
MADDOW: Let‘s start with trying to get people an understanding about what it was like to be a doctor in Kansas providing abortions. Can you just explain, sort of, what your daily life is like when you are doing that, what sort of security measures, for example, you had to take to protect yourself and protect your patients?
DR. KRISTIN NEUHAUS, FORMER ABORTION PROVIDER: Well, for one thing, I had a totally underground address, telephone numbers. Nobody knew where I actually lived. We had to use rental cars, elaborate security measures, I wore a bulletproof vest a lot of the time. I learned to shoot a firearm and kept myself armed at work, most of the time.
MADDOW: While you were actually at the office.
MADDOW: And why? Why did you have to go to those measures?
NEUHAUS: Well, because we didn‘t really get very good enforcement of faith laws. So that we knew that there was the option of Scott Roeder, or some other person like that, just showing up and it would be up to us to protect the patients. And I felt that that would be the last line of defense in the event of someone breaking into a clinic, which happened regularly in Wichita during the period of the Summer Of Mercy.
I think, maybe, there is something interesting that this is a phenomenon that happens when you work in these, kind of, high risk environments is, for me, for one thing, I knew what I was getting into and I took precautions in the first place, so I didn‘t have people at my house. And, I think, I did enough interviews with the newspaper and television to inform people that I supported the second amendment, and I was prepared to deal with incursions. And, so, I don‘t feel that I, personally, was at risk a lot of the time.
You know, I think I got to the point where I was actually, even, in denial about it. One time I actually had to race the bomb squad in before they cordoned off the clinic.
MADDOW: You‘re working at a clinic, bomb threat was called in—
NEUHAUS: And I had to get there before the bomb squad.
MADDOW: Why did you have to get there before them?
NEUHAUS: So I could see the patients.
MADDOW: The patients were in there while the threat was called in.
Did you beat the bomb squad? Or did the bomb squad beat you?
NEUHAUS: Yes, I got there, and we hung out all day and watched them with their dogs and bomb—the little bell thing that they use and stuff.
MADDOW: There wasn‘t a bomb though?
NEUHAUS: No. It was a false alarm.
MADDOW: Yes. How did you—when you say you knew what you were getting into, how did you—what do you mean you knew what you were getting into?
NEUHAUS: Well, you know, I‘ve been in this since the ‘80s. So, you know, I knew the foe, and I watched that evolve from just, primarily, arson to being more overt violence. So, I think, I just got (INAUDIBLE) to the whole idea of being personally taken out, I guess. Or—you know, I mean, I saw it in terms—I guess, in terms of a war. I mean, and I was willing to fight in that war, and I did for a long time, so.
MADDOW: And you knew that when you made the decision that you were going to do it? Why did you make the decision to do it?
NEUHAUS: I don‘t know. Maybe I‘m crazy. But, no, I feel—it was really important to me. I had a very, very close friend who nearly died from an unintended pregnancy when we were in—just barely out of junior high. I was 14, and she was 15. And, I guess, that molded the way I saw the issue. It was in personal terms.
MADDOW: Did you grow up in Kansas?
MADDOW: Are you happy you still live in Kansas?
NEUHAUS: Yes. Why not? [INAUDIBLE] to do it.
MADDOW: Everybody‘s nice. Not the people screaming at us. But other than the people screaming, everybody‘s nice. I guess that‘s the thing to say anywhere.
NEUHAUS: Yes, we are. We‘re pretty friendly out here.
MADDOW: Describing that, though. I mean, given what you just explained, that you knew, as you said, that it was almost a war, you were, sort of, inured to that. You were armed at , when you need to be, and you were very aware of the threats that you faced, and you knew it was going to be like that from when you started. Why did you stop? Why did you decide to stop?
NEUHAUS: Well, I‘d been in it a long time and I was financially devastated. I had a lot of, just—I mean, I have to say, at that point, at that point I had a little bit of post-traumatic stress going on, and some other issues. And I felt like I needed a break.
MADDOW: The former attorney general of the state, Phill Kline, is, right now, this week, facing state ethics charges for allegedly abusing the powers of his office in his targeted anti-abortion investigations and prosecutions. As a consulting physician, who provided second opinions for some of Dr. Tiller‘s patients, you were one of the people who Phill Kline targeted. What was your experience like of that investigation? Did you have medical records subpoenaed? What was your experience with that?
NEUHAUS: My involvement with that started in December of 2006 when—
I believe it was a Friday evening when—after dark, I received a knock on my door out in the country. Shortly after I had changed my address to an open address. And an agent who identified himself, I believe as a member of the KBI—
MADDOW: Kansas Bureau of Investigation, right?
NEUHAUS: Yes, right. Kansas Bureau of Investigation. He appeared at the door, it was dark. I didn‘t see a car, so I assumed it was, you know, some religious person showing up at my door. And I let him in and he handed me a subpoena to show up to an inquisition regarding Dr. Tiller and Phill Kline, and which I did attend the next week and went through about six hours of interrogation. And there was no judge present, but I was informed that I had no choice but to provide testimony.
MADDOW: After having been targeted by anti-abortion protesters, and having been targeted by crusading anti-abortion politicians using the power of the law, the power of the state, I wonder if you think those two things are related, if you think that the protesters are sort of, I guess, emboldened by it.
NEUHAUS: Oh, absolutely. Of course.
NEUHAUS: Well, because they feel like they have an ally, and, then, they feel that they can act with impunity, which they have been able to do, to a large extent.
MADDOW: Do you think that Kansas could do more to protect providers who have been threatened and intimidated by the movement?
NEUHAUS: Well, by Kansas—you mean the government?
MADDOW: Law enforcement, the government.
NEUHAUS: Well, I think, you know, it suffers from the fact that we have a tendency to elect people that don‘t consider that an important issue, here.
MADDOW: Would you ever go back to providing abortions?
NEUHAUS: I‘d love to say that there would be some day that I would be comfortable in the state of Kansas, but I don‘t think we‘re anywhere near that, at this point. I would, certainly, do it in other states, or other countries, but, at the moment, I have no intention of resuming practice, here in Kansas.
MADDOW: Dr. Neuhaus, I know it was not an easy decision to decide to talk to me about this. And I‘m really thankful for your trust and for your time. Thank you.
NEUHAUS: Thank you.
MADDOW: Dr. Kristen Neuhaus has never before talked about her decision to stop practicing medicine on camera. (INAUDIBLE) in Lawrence, Kansas. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: When violence and threats of violence supersede the law, when local and state and federal law enforcement agencies allow that, when state governments use legislation or the power of the attorney general‘s office to make constitutionally guaranteed rights less available, those are national stories, no matter where in this country they happen. They are all happening here, in Kansas, over the past few years, which is why we came here, and why it‘s been awesome to meet so many people who are trying to change that.
We want to thank all the great people who helped us out and showed us such kindness while we were here. Particularly, our host, here, at the Free State Brewery, in Lawrence. We shall skip saying good-bye in favor of (INAUDIBLE.)
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