'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, March 4th, 2011
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Guests: Nick Milroy, Wayne Slater
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. That was stupendous.
Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us for the next hour.
It is Friday, March 4th. And that means that today is the 13th straight day in which the lead story in the country has been the great Republican overreach of 2011.
The Republican Party‘s disastrous decision to pick a fight in the Midwest that they cannot win and that has had the counterproductive Republican side effect for them of reminding the Democratic Party—reminding the Republican Party for the first time in maybe a generation that the Democratic Party actually has a base and that base might need some attention. It‘s a base that is numerically much larger than the corporate base of the Republican Party. It is a base that is made up of people that work for a living.
The Republicans‘ decision to attack that base in the Midwest has not only inspired Democrats in the states to stand up for people who work for a living, it has reminded the Democratic Party as a whole that the Democratic Party has peeps. That people have to work for a living are the reason the Democratic Party exists in the first place.
The Republican Party is not only losing this fight they picked, they have given the Democratic Party a jolt that no single election ever could.
The very first night we led with what‘s happening in Wisconsin, these were some of the images we showed of mass protests in the streets of Madison. The protests proved to not only be sustainable, they grew over time—that night we reported that around 30,000 people had descended on the state capitol to protest.
The following weekend, police estimated the crowd was up to 70,000 people protesting in Madison. The weekend after that, police said there were about 100,000 protesting in Madison.
Now, this is the scene at the state capitol.
What did Republicans finally have to do to essentially almost empty the capitol? As the whole state and then the whole country essentially sided with the protesters, as the Republican cause got less and less popular—what did they have to do to end the protests?
They essentially had to use force. They had to stop by whatever means necessary the physical manifestation of how much people hated what they were doing.
In the early days of the protests in Wisconsin against Scott Walker, when he took that prank call, remember, from somebody he thought was David Koch, the oil billionaire who‘s been such a generous donor to him—the governor said on that call the media would eventually get bored with those protests. It turns out not to have been true. The governor also said the protests were dwindling at that point—that also turned out not to be true. Mr. Walker was wrong about those things and eventually he determined that he had to stop those protests.
And now, the governor‘s crusade—that the Republican Party wanted so desperately to make the face of the Republican Party, now that governor‘s crusade looks like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. NICK MILROY (D), WISCONSIN: I‘m a legislator. I need to get my clothes in my office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a Democratic State Representative Nick Milroy. He‘ll be joining us live in just a moment. A state representative, a member of the state assembly trying to get to his office last night and having it end like that.
This is what Scott Walker‘s fight has done. This is what Scott Walker and the Republicans have done to the state of Wisconsin. They have declared that they are not willing to negotiate. They are not willing to talk. And so, they locked everything down to stop the opposition and the state capitol looks like this.
The next images Republicans are threatening we will all see from Wisconsin are images of Democratic senators being brought back to the capitol in handcuffs. The Republican leader in the Senate reportedly is raising the prospect yesterday that Republicans could hire private security, aka, bounty hunters, to arrest the state senators, to bodily force them to do what the governor wants.
Remember the whole Stand with Scott idea that the National Republican Governors Association rolled out a few weeks ago? Heading into a presidential election year, you know, Democrats should be so lucky. You have a choice, America. The Democratic Party as represented by a man you may be familiar with named President Obama, or the Republican Party—
Standing with Scott.
I think it continues to be the most underreported political aspect of this whole story, that the Republican Party just elected their Wisconsin party chairman as the man to lead Republicans nationally. Reince Priebus, right, a man whose greatest political claim to fame was getting Scott Walker elected in Wisconsin in the first place, he is the new chairman of the Republican Party, and this fight in Wisconsin is what the national Republican Party under this guy‘s leadership decided they wanted to be the new image for the Republican Party. It has been a disaster.
Even as the Republican Governors Association, as these institutions try to do the whole Stand with Scott thing, the actual individual human governors most associated with what Scott Walker are doing are backpedaling so fast they are cramming their own feet into their own mounds.
This week, Chris Christie of New Jersey—Chris Christie, the man credited with having the anti-union pugnacious attitude that Scott Walker is trying to embody Chris Christie, this week, said, “I love collective bargaining.” I‘m not paraphrasing, that was his actual phrase, “I love collective bargaining.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: In fact, I love collective bargaining.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. In Ohio, Republican Governor John Kasich is trying to pull his own Scott Walker. John Kasich has such huge Republican majorities in his legislature, you‘d think he had no problem doing whatever union-busting he wants.
But Republicans—this is interesting—Republicans initially lost the union-stripping fight in their own Republican-controlled state Senate. The union-stripping bill was not going to pass out of committee, even with their big Republican majorities. In order to make it pass, they had to remove one of their own Republican members from that committee because he was voting no. They had to throw him off the committee and replace him with a Kasich loyalist who would vote yes.
The Republicans‘ own people are defecting. Why are their own people defecting?
Well, in Ohio, they tried this sort of thing before. They know how this works out in the end. The 1950s was the last time they mounted an attack like this on people who work for a living. Ohio Republicans tried back in the ‘50s, again just like they‘re doing now, to unilaterally strip union rights in that state.
What happened back in the ‘50s? Democrats put it up for referendum and when they did, what the Republicans had done there got overturned two to one. And then the Republicans lost the governorship. The state turned against them.
This is the great Republican overreach of 2011. Republicans picked this fight with Wisconsin, and Wisconsin won.
Wisconsin, you won.
When this is what it looks like for a Democratic assemblyman to try to enter the state capitol to go to his office. And that‘s what it looks like.
The political fight is over. The Republicans lost.
Joining us now is that Wisconsin assemblyman you have seen in that tape, Democrat Nick Milroy. He‘s at a rally in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, tonight, which is about five hours north of the capitol.
Representative Milroy, thanks for being here. Really appreciate it.
MILROY: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Are you able to go to work now? Are you and your staff able to get to your office and get work done there?
MILROY: Yes. I was able to get in this morning, no problem, walked right through the front door.
MADDOW: You can understand why people might be surprised that it wasn‘t a problem, given that we saw that tape. I mean, one of the things that is so powerful about that video of you essentially getting tackled last night is you can sense how emotional and upset and frustrated things were in that moment.
What‘s the atmosphere like in the building there?
MILROY: You know, it‘s tremendously emotional for all kinds of people. It‘s emotional even for the officers that are doing their best down there. I don‘t hold any animosity against the officer that put me on the ground.
You know, this is—this is Scott Walker‘s leadership in Wisconsin and it‘s reprehensible.
MADDOW: Tell me about the folks who you are with right now. I imagine you are in your constituency or with folks who are expressing some feelings, expressing their sense of this fight. What are people telling you up at Rice Lake and as you traveled around the state?
MILROY: Well, right now, I‘m in small town Wisconsin. This is Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Population: less than 10,000 people.
We just had the business owner of this fine restaurant here tell us how this affects everybody in the community and it‘s going to affect small businesses. We just can‘t have a governor that‘s going to strip the rights of working people and undermine their ability to live a decent quality of life. That‘s not the Wisconsin way.
MADDOW: I know you—
MADDOW: I know that you were one of the few Democrats that held office hours outside in the cold this week, so your constituents could get to you. How was that experience?
MILROY: Well, you know, the governor put the capitol on lockdown. It is like he has his palace guards there. And it‘s impossible for constituents to get in the capitol until after the court decision here. So, I was so fed up and I didn‘t feel like I wanted—I felt like I was enabling the governor by sitting inside the capitol without having constituents come in, so myself and a couple of my colleagues said, let‘s bring it outside. And it was a really great experience.
MADDOW: There has been some confusion. You mention that court decision. There has been some confusion over the judge‘s ruling in Wisconsin yesterday. People were cleared out of the capitol last night. They weren‘t allowed to stay overnight, but they apparently will be allowed in—allowed back in next week.
What do you understand about what sort of access people are going to have to the capitol from now on?
MILROY: My understanding is that they should have the same access that they‘ve had to their state capitol since before all of this started. Unfortunately, this—unfortunately, this morning, that‘s not what we saw. It is still like trying to get through TSA security and that to me is unconstitutional. I mean, if there‘s a public safety concern, fine, so be it.
But, right now, all I have seen is peaceful protests in the state capitol, and the people just want their voices to be heard.
MADDOW: Do you think that this fight in Wisconsin is changing the politics of the state? I mean, it wasn‘t that long ago that Governor Walker was elected. We saw some new polling data today that showed that his approval ratings are just tanking far below what they would need to be for him to, for example, win re-election if he were back up for it today.
Do you think people are just changing in partisan terms or in ideological terms in the state because of this?
MILROY: You know, I don‘t think people are necessarily changing ideology, but, you know, people don‘t like when rights are taken away, people don‘t like leaders that aren‘t willing to compromise.
I‘ve heard from so many moderates and conservatives that say they can‘t believe that our governor won‘t sit down with people who have already said they are willing to make the concessions that he‘s asking for. There‘s no compromising with this guy and he‘s losing his base. He‘s losing his support.
MADDOW: The governor is still saying he‘s not going to compromise, not going to talk about, not going to negotiate on the main issue, which is, of course, union rights, about collective bargaining. He is getting a little wobbly on some of the other things. He said today that forcing annual re-certifications of unions, which is plainly a way to just make unions go away, he admits now that that won‘t actually help with the deficit, that that has no fiscal impact.
Seeing him change his mind or at least some make admissions on something like that, does it imply to you that maybe there might be some talking to be done here, that you guys might be close to negotiating something?
MILROY: Well, I think that would be good for Wisconsin. I think the governor needs to step up, show the leadership to help bring our state back together. We can‘t continue to tear each other apart.
MADDOW: Wisconsin Democratic Assemblyman Nick Milroy joining us from a very happy crowd in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Hi, guys. Thanks for being on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. Thanks to you, too, sir.
MILROY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: It is not every day that the politics of individual little towns like Rice Lake, Wisconsin, individual states like Wisconsin are truly national stories. The daily doings of the metropolitan sewer district in any town USA are important to any town USA, but not usually everybody else.
Tonight, it is not just Wisconsin. It is Texas where your gob will be smacked. It is South Dakota where supposedly small time conservatives are building the biggest government in American history. And yes, it‘s Wyoming, the most Republican government in the country where there has been an outbreak of principled conservativism that is surprising some of those Republicans. This is a pretty amazing Friday night in the news.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the sound of the governor of Ohio talking about Ohio police officers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH ®, OHIO: Have you ever been stopped by a policeman that was an idiot? I had this idiot pull me over on 315. He‘s an idiot!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The governor of Ohio, John Kasich, everybody. After apologizing for that—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASICH: He‘s an idiot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After apologizing for that as the worst apology ever for saying that about Ohio police, that governor is now stripping union rights from police in his state. Two states over in Wisconsin, the Republican governor there is stripping union rights, too. He did it once before with disastrous results that involves these men drinking vodka shooters out of each other‘s hind quarters. That‘s next.
MADDOW: Take one more look at this videotape. And this one where Wisconsin State Assemblyman Nick Milroy gets tackled on his way into the capitol yesterday, gets brought down to the floor by a uniformed officer.
This will not be obvious from the tape, and in a way a small part of the story, but the guy who was doing the tackling of Mr. Milroy is not a member of capitol police. He is not even from the police department in the city of Madison where the state capitol is. The guy who tackled that state rep is from the police department in the town of Two Rivers, which is about 150 miles away from the state capitol. He was on special duty in Madison this week.
Even as Governor Walker was prepping 1,500 layoff notices to state employees today, the governor has also been staging an extraordinary display of public sector manpower at the capitol, calling in police officers from across the state to quiet the capitol building, lock it down, hush it up, take your crock pots and go home, thank you for coming.
But it‘s in Milwaukee, 80 miles east of Madison, where they got the most over-the-top security of all right now. As of this week, Milwaukee county is paying two full-time security guards for every one full-time security job. For courthouse security, security at the other county buildings, Milwaukee is double paying right now.
Why is that? It‘s because of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Governor Walker‘s first draft of the union-busting he‘s tried to do at the state level now is what he did at his last job when he was county executive in Milwaukee. Mr. Walker‘s union-busting at the county level, which he is now trying to extend to the whole state, has just done the legal equivalent of blowing up.
In January, Wisconsin court ruled that Mr. Walker had essentially invented a fake financial emergency to justify him improperly firing the county‘s unionized security guards. He privatized their jobs, all of them. He handed those jobs over to a foreign private company called Wackenhut. When the county board tried to stop him, tried to save him from himself really, he overruled them, citing that fiscal emergency he had evidently cooked up.
Mr. Walker overruled the country board, he fired all the union guards, and he replaced them with new ones from Wackenhut—a private, nonunion foreign company that was sort of already a household name—at least in certain households, because they are the same company that became famous for this thing I‘m about to show you—sorry, mom—parents, it is time to put your hand over your child‘s eyes if you are the sort of parent who puts your hand over your child‘s eyes. OK, ready? Yes. Remember? Yes.
These are the Wackenhut guys who we, the American taxpayers, paid to guard the U.S. embassy in Kabul. These guys found a really, really novel way to spend their down time dancing around naked, some of them—some of them in coconut brassieres to celebrate the challenge of drinking vodka out of really hard to reach places in the rear facing portion of one another‘s naked bodies.
As my grandmother might have put it, if she were still watching from this point, they drank spirits from each other‘s nethers.
Thanks to Scott Walker, Wackenhut became Wisconsin‘s problem, too. Scott Walker improperly fired the union security guys, brought Wackenhut in instead, took $5 an hour off the wages, slashed the benefits. Wackenhut in turn hired a man with a criminal record who had done jail time and put him in charge of security at Milwaukee‘s courthouses and other city buildings.
Now, because the courts have ruled that Mr. Walker did all of that improperly under the very transparent cover of a ginned up financial emergency—sound familiar? -- Milwaukee is locked into paying double right now for a service it already has. The old union security guards are back, and they still got the booty-hind vodka Wackenhut on the job as well.
The local “Journal Sentinel” newspaper noting this week that, and I quote, “None of the annual savings Mr. Walker promised from his union-busting in Milwaukee County, none are expected to materialize.”
So that‘s how Scott Walker‘s union-busting dream worked out the first time around. That‘s what he wants to do to the whole state now—in case you‘re wondering why folks there are up in arms.
MADDOW: I‘ve always wanted to do one of those text polls on TV. They do them on other shows here on MSNBC. But for a long time, I didn‘t really understand how to do them. And then once we figured out how you do them, it took us a long time as staff to figure out a question that would be an appropriate one to use for text polling—a question that requires instant answers from the viewing audience.
And at today‘s meeting, we realized finally—finally, we have exactly the sort of day for which you need that texty poll question instant response thingy because for us, the question is: what‘s more embarrassing today? So, get your cell phones ready.
While doing talk radio interviews lately, former Arkansas governor, former weight loss guru, former pastor and current FOX News celebrity Mike Huckabee has been making Herculean efforts to say things that are quotable, say things that will generate headlines, presumably because headlines mean attention and attention means name recognition and name recognition, when you got a new book name recognition—means book sales, and book sales mean income.
So, Mr. Huckabee has been reaching further and further into outrage-ville with every new interview to try to convert this media around he‘s doing into as much income for himself as possible. Mike Huckabee‘s desperate grab for controversy this week has had him trying to sound presidential—like he might seriously be running for president—while also saying things like President Obama was raised in Kenya.
After he got a little buzz for that, he then started criticizing Best Actress Oscar winner Natalie Portman for being publicly pregnant. Mr. Huckabee disapproves of her being pregnant because Miss Portman is not married.
True to form, when Mr. Huckabee‘s comments started causing the intended fracas, Mr. Huckabee responded by telling “Us” magazine that his comments had been distorted by leftwing partisans, and that anyone concerned by what he‘d said, quote, “These people should read my book and they would know what I said.”
To be clear, Mr. Huckabee doesn‘t say anything about Miss Portman, pregnant or otherwise, in his book—God help me, we had to check. But he has now convinced—he has convinced “Us” magazine to essentially tell its readers that his book is where they should look for more controversial Natalie Portman pregnancy information.
This Huckabee media round, all under the guise of him maybe running for president by the book and see, this media round is being criticized by a prominent conservative columnist expressing concern for the circus-like atmosphere around the Republican presidential nominating practice so far. “The Washington Post‘s” George Will gave a preview of his column on the subject to Politico.com today.
Here it is. He writes, “Sensible Americans must be detecting vibrations of weirdness emanating from people associated with the party. The most recent”—I don‘t think I can say that out loud. I will just let you read it off your screen. The most recent—OK?
All of this brings us to our question. Now, it is time for the cell phone. Are you ready? I‘ve never done this before. I hope you do it right, ready?
Today‘s question: What‘s more embarrassing? “A,” Huckabee saying stuff like the president grew up in Kenya, the Natalie Portman ought to be ashamed for being pregnant. Or “B,” Mike Huckabee vaguely not apologizing for saying stuff like that but telling anyone offended to buy his book. Or, “C,” George Will calling Mike Huckabee a something I‘m not going to say. Which is more embarrassing?
We‘re doing this for real. Text A, B or C to the number 622639. I‘m supposed to say message say, message and data rates may apply -- 622639. Text A, B, or C.
They tell me that we were supposedly going to have the results a little later on this hour, which I sort of can‘t believe, but that‘s what they say. So, if they‘re right, that will be true in just a minute.
MADDOW: This is the week that satire died. This is the week that American political news got so weird that it caught up to and surpassed any attempt to satirize it. After uncommonsources.com ran a satire more than a week ago saying Republicans in Wisconsin would resort—would resort to hiring Dog the Bounty Hunter to go after Democrats in order to get their way, the Republican Senate majority leader in Wisconsin actually raised the idea of hiring private security to get those Democrats.
Satire is mort (ph). When the satire is surpassed by the truth, the joke becomes null and void.
This afternoon in the middle of our news meeting, a roar arose from the staff as a statement from Speaker of the House John Boehner crossed the wires. John Boehner in his statement announced—this kills me—in his statement announcing that House Republicans are going to take legal action in support of a federal gay marriage ban.
In the statement announcing that, the speaker‘s statement said, quote, “Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs.” And that‘s why we‘re focusing on banning gay marriage instead.
Mr. Speaker, you are killing jobs. You are taking away the ability of people like me to make fun of you. At this point, you are making better fun of yourself. You have downsized the shaming you industry.
But then, even beyond that, the “Associated Press” today profiled a piece of state legislation that just cannot be true—a bill that is such a caricature of what you might suspect that it must be a joke. This is Debbie Riddle. You may remember her from the whole terror babies thing, remember?
But regardless, Debbie riddle is a member of state legislature in Texas. She is a Republican. She has introduced a law that would call for two years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines for anyone who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly hires an undocumented immigrant. Debbie Riddle‘s bill carves out one specific exemption, though—you don‘t get put in jail, you don‘t get the $10,000 in fines, you‘re OK, you‘re exempted from this draconian, anti-hire undocumented immigrants law, you are exempted if the undocumented immigrant you hire is for, quote, “work to be performed exclusively or primarily at a single family residence.”
This can‘t be true. You will go to jail for hiring an undocumented immigrant unless it‘s your nanny or your gardener or your handyman. Huh! It‘s a hard line, but you can keep your servants, you can keep the help.
This cannot be true.
Joining us now is Wayne Slater, senior political writer from the “Dallas Morning News.”
Mr. Slater, it is great to see you again. Thank you for being here.
WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Are we being punked here. Is there any reason to believe that Debbie Riddle is performance art and not an actual legislator?
SLATER: Well, you would think so if you lived somewhere other than Texas. But in the birther, Bircher, and secessionist wing of the Republican Party, this is what passes for Aristotelian debate and reasonable discussion.
She‘s serious about this. Like you mentioned, she was behind warning about terror babies, Middle Eastern women coming here, getting pregnant, having babies on U.S. soil and raising them as terrorists for the future. So, this is normal conversation in Texas.
MADDOW: Texas does have giant Republican super majorities in the state legislature right now. What other than this sort of thing—I mean, what are they working on, given that they can really pass anything they want to?
SLATER: Well, the state faces a $27 billion, B as in billion, dollar shortfall. So, there‘s enormous budget problems. So, what they‘re working on so far is a bill to force women who are going to have an abortion to look at a sonogram, a resolution that empowers the legislature to demand that the U.S. Congress pass the budget, some other bills dealing with sanctuary cities and nothing to do with anything that‘s really important.
MADDOW: Well, you know, I‘m fascinated by this—by the distance between the branding of the Republican Party, which is still really all about fiscal conservatism and budgets and small government, and then looking at what they do. Even just looking at Debbie Riddle‘s bill, I‘m guessing she calls herself a fiscal conservative.
But is there any debate about the fiscal impact of something like the “you go to jail but I get to keep my nanny” bill?
SLATER: It would have enormous impact. I mean, basically, if we turn policeman under this bill, which would—although you have the exemption for your maid under the “don‘t tread on me or my maid” position, what you would have is filling the jails with small business people, with contractors and others who have hired illegal immigrants who are really very much a part of the economic fabric in a place like Texas. So, it‘s enormous problem. I think in the end, that‘s going to be its downfall.
MADDOW: Is there any chance of this thing passing?
SLATER: Not much. On the other hand, look, Texas was part of the enormous Tea Party wave last November. There‘s a supermajority in the Texas House of conservative Republicans, I mean really conservative Republicans. But in the end, I think its downfall will be the business interests, including some of Governor Rick Perry‘s biggest campaign contributors who are interested not so much in these social issues as they are in taxes, and certainly don‘t want to shut off the tap when it comes to an expensive labor forces here in Texas.
MADDOW: Wayne, you‘re talking about $27 billion shortfall. That is a shortfall that you cannot close by taking on liberal-sounding line items in the budget. That is something where if they‘re going to try to do it all without raising taxes, they are going to have to cut so deeply into their own economic future that those business interests you‘re talking about I can‘t imagine are going to stand for it. They‘ve sworn themselves blood oaths to never raise taxes.
But what‘s going to happen when they‘ve really got to make the deep budget decisions they‘re going to have to make?
SLATER: That‘s a question that we hear every day here in Austin, Texas, because the governor, the lieutenant governor and others who have their own agenda, and the Tea Party supporters say we‘re not going to raise taxes. We‘re not going to do it. We‘re going to cut $27 billion. Basically a third of state spending.
In the end, school districts right now all across Texas are having meetings in which they are saying, they‘re talking about laying off hundreds of thousands of teachers. Tuition is going to go up. You‘re going to see your mother no longer in that nursing home because Medicaid payments—it‘s going to be potentially a real collision. We just aren‘t there yet.
MADDOW: Wayne Slater, senior political writer for the “Dallas Morning News”—Wayne, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
SLATER: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up: something that will make liberals—are there any liberals watching? -- will make liberals stand up and cheer and applaud. Something that will make liberals stand up and cheer and applaud, even though what we are going to play is something from some of the most conservative Republicans in the most Republican state government in the country.
Liberals will be cheering for those Republicans not against them. You won‘t believe it, but I will prove it to you. That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: OK. Now for the moment we‘ve been waiting for, results of the first ever RACHEL MADDOW SHOW text us stuff with your cell phone poll. Today‘s question: What‘s more embarrassing? “A,” Mike Huckabee saying stuff like the president grew up in Kenya and Natalie Portman ought to be ashamed for being pregnant. Or “B,” Mike Huckabee vaguely not apologizing for saying stuff like that, but telling anyone offended they should buy his book. Or “C,” George Will calling Mike Huckabee a something that I‘m not going to say out loud, but which you can see on your television screen. Which of those things is more embarrassing?
Drum roll, please? Well, 34 percent of you chose A. Mike Huckabee saying stuff like the president grew up in Kenya and Natalie Portman ought to be ashamed for being pregnant, 41 percent of you chose B, Huckabee telling anyone offended that they should buy his book, and just 25 percent of you chose “C,” George Will calling Huckabee something I still won‘t say, but that has three syllables and starts with the.
That concludes the first and perhaps last ever RACHEL MADDOW SHOW text poll. I will say, a lot of you texted us. We had—the first four minutes of voting, which is what we counted, we got something like 9,000 responses!
So, thank you. I guess we‘ll have to do it again sometime maybe.
We‘ll be right back. Nine thousand.
MADDOW: Are conservatives for big government or are conservatives for small government?
If you listen to conservatives, they always tell you they‘re for small government, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: I‘d like to share with you the principles that guide us that have to do with the importance of limited government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it‘s sort of a small government type of state, you‘re going to have—they‘re going to elect small government type leaders that aren‘t going to be spending as much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you ever think government is doing too much? This is what built the country. This is the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, it‘s pretty thin, limited government.
RYAN: We believe government‘s role is both vital and limited.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the American people expect us to work together to deal with the issue of reforming our health care system. But they‘ve got some real big doubts about this big government-run plan.
RYAN: Trusting government is at an all time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Conservatives like to say they are for small government.
It‘s good branding. And some of them actually are for small government.
But the ideological loveliness at the heart of Republican Party politics is that that party encompasses people who really do want small government and people who want government so big, it goes to the doctor with you. Into the exam room even. A government so big, it federally overrides any decisions made by local and state governments about stuff like your personal relationships.
The Beltway press treats this—this wobbliness at the heart of Republican politics—in such a shallow and cursory way I really it‘s a shame. It should not be a mystery and a shock and a wacky turn of events every time Mike Huckabee has another Mike Huckabee moment, right? And all of a sudden, the party of supposed individual liberty is also the party of “I judge you for your decision on when to have a baby.”
This should not keep surprising us. It is the big government, small government split that goes right down the heart of the Republican Party and makes them take stands that seem nonsensical all the time. Republicans simultaneously right now are saying they want as much power as possible devolve to the states. They want the states making policy, not the federal government. They want the federal government to stay out of it.
They‘re simultaneously saying that, and the House Republicans have just announced they are going to have Congress defend a law that sets marriage policy for the whole country, regardless of what the states want. Ta-da!
In South Dakota, Republicans introduced legislation this year decrying
health reform as intrusion on personal liberty, and then they passed a bill
that would force you to go to an anti-abortion counseling center and tell
them if you want to get an abortion. And then the government would force
you to sit and listen to an anti-abortion lecture before you are allowed to
three days later—seek an abortion, because, you know, small government, forcing you to sit through lectures and to wait three days before you can make a decision with your doctor?
The fight between big government conservatives within the Republican Party is a surprise every time to the Beltway press. But it is a huge, unsustainable, mutually exclusive divide in the Republican Party supposed principles. Usually, honestly, the big government guys win. Speaker of the House John Boehner really is going to lead the House in defending a federal law that dictates to states whether or not they are allowed to recognize specific marriages.
The South Dakota governor has said he‘s inclined to sign this bill that mandates you sitting through an anti-abortion lecture before you‘re allowed to talk to your doctor.
In Republican politics, the big government guys usually win. But not all conservatives are lying when they say they are for small government. Real small government people are not just liberals and libertarians. Real small government people are principled conservatives, too.
And in the most Republican state legislature in the country, the small government conservatives have just done something that would make no sense to the Beltway press. It would blow everybody‘s minds if it happened in Washington. And so, of course, nobody is covering it.
Models for the country about what actual principled conservativism looks like and just how small-L liberal that would feel. That‘s next.
MADDOW: This is what the most Republican place in the country looks like. This is the most Republican state legislature in the country. It is 86 percent Republican. This government is the most Republican government in America.
And in this legislature, they just voted down an anti-gay marriage bill. Democrats are pretty much out of the picture here. I mean, I‘m sorry, but there are almost no Democrats here as you can see.
But some big government Republicans put forth an anti-gay marriage bill in this legislature that‘s almost entirely red, almost entirely Republican—a bill that would have nullified, voided marriages or civil unions of people coming to Wyoming from other places. And the small government conservatives, the small government Republicans—they stopped it.
If you are a fan of the show, you probably already recognize this state legislature as Wyoming, as the most Republican place in the country. Earlier this week, we reported on the defeat of an intrusive big government anti-abortion measure, again, by the same elements, almost totally Republican body. Again, it was small government conservatives telling the big government conservatives, frankly, where to go.
But, now, on another culture war issue—again, we have seen another remarkable outbreak of small-C conservativism. This is the kind of thing that national Republicans get all sorts of credit for saying they will do but they really never actually do it. You would never hear this in Washington, but you could hear it in the debate over an anti-gay marriage bill in the most Republican government in the country, in the great state of Wyoming. This is what conservatism could be, America.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIPS)
STATE SEN. CALE CASE ®, WYOMING: You, right now, have to vote on this, in light of Article 1, Section 3 that says, “Since equality and enjoyment of natural and civil rights is only made sure through political equality, the laws of this state affecting the political rights and privileges of its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color, sex or any circumstance or condition whatsoever. It doesn‘t say “except for a marriage or civil union from another state.” It doesn‘t say that.
STATE SEN. PHIL NICHOLAS ®, WYOMING: Let me read you two things that are just compelling. Article 1, Section 7: “Absolute arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of free men exists nowhere in the republic, not even the largest majority.” These people are our neighbors, they‘re our friends, they‘re our brothers, sisters. And to suggest that they don‘t have the rights at least to access the courts—
CASE: When you go home after this vote you can look people in the eye
your doctor, your lawyers, your friends, your neighbors—and you‘re going to tell them that you made them into second class citizens by this vote today if you pass this. You can‘t do that. We are the Equality State. This Senate and the people of Wyoming are better than that. They are better than House Bill 74. They are so much better than that. And you know what? You are, too.
STATE SEN. CHRIS ROTHFUS (D), WYOMING: Now, I know this group believes in small government. And I know this group believes in individual rights and freedom. But I‘m not seeing that on this issue. I am not seeing that sense and that will because what I‘m seeing here is the heavy hand of government once again saying this minority group is not equal.
Our role as legislators is not to legislate morality; it is not to bring our religion into politics. Mr. President, our role is to have a good system of education, fix the roads. That‘s why people send us. This is not our authority, Mr. President. And I don‘t think we belong here.
I urge the body to vote against House Bill 74 and I can assure you every “no” vote on House Bill 74 is going to feel good.
(END AUDIO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Now, that last guy speaking was a Democrat, one of the four in the Wyoming Senate, doing his best to appeal to the small government conservative values of his colleagues. All the other tape we played there, all those other statements were Republicans—Republicans making the argument that this anti-gay marriage bill is anti-individual liberty, making a small-C, small government argument against their big government, big intrusive government Republican colleagues.
For those of you keeping track at home, both of those two Republicans at the top are using the Wyoming State Constitution to make their point. One of them, this guy, Senator Cale Case, a Republican, a conservative, a PhD economist, went so far in his arguments against this anti-gay marriage bill to propose what appears to have been a sarcastic amendment to it—a sarcastic amendment warning potential visitors to the state that now that they‘ve entered Wyoming, their rights were in jeopardy.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CASE: Mr. President, this amendment is brought forward in the hopes that we can perhaps warn folks that might be inadvertently caught up in our laws when they enter into the state of Wyoming. This is really addressing folks that may not be aware of our new proposed law and the consequences of it. And this would perhaps satisfy an obligation that we would have to inform them.
So, the gist of the amendment, Mr. President, is an appropriation for $200,000 to the Wyoming Department of Transportation to establish signs along all the major entrances to Wyoming and the airports, and the signs would inform visitors to Wyoming that “Warning: your marriage or civil union may be void or voidable in Wyoming. Proceed with extreme caution.”
I feel that we probably have a bit of a moral obligation to do that, Mr. President, you know, so that people would not come into Wyoming believing that a solemnize civil union or marriage that they have obtained legally in another jurisdiction and brought forward to Wyoming would somehow concur any benefit whatsoever as they proceed to view the great grandeur and beauty of this wonderful state.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I love sarcastic amendments. Senator Case, again, he is the Wyoming Senate‘s conservative Republican PhD economist. He also made the case against the anti-gay bill on fiscal grounds. He made the economic case against the bill.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CASE: Now look, we bend over backwards to try to encourage the development of alternative economic activities in Wyoming. We want high-tech companies, we want educated people to bring their business here. And we‘re willing to do almost anything to get that, except we kind of want to do that and have a big red badge on us that says, “We want you here, we want to give you a tax break, but your employees and your executives and the people and families that work for your company aren‘t going to be treated the same as you were back home.”
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The case against an anti-gay marriage bill on economic development grounds being made by a conservative small government Republican economist from the most Republican state legislature in the country—an argument designed to appeal to small government conservativism, to convince conservatives to vote down an anti-gay bill even if they really only care about economic issues.
And whether it was that argument or the ones about individual freedom and equality, it worked. The anti-gay marriage bill failed in the Wyoming Senate this week. It failed in this Senate, in a Senate that is made up of 26 Republicans and four—four Democrats.
The anti-gay marriage bill failed in Wyoming this week because small government conservativism lives, if only in Wyoming. Where else is that happening in America?
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