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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, Kent Jones, Bill Maher

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

           

Over the course of this hour, Kent Jones will wear a very important, very intrepid costume in the name of journalism.

We‘ve got a “Moment of Geek” tonight.

And we‘ll be joined by the one and only Bill Maher.

That is all coming up this hour.  All very cool.  Thank you.

But, first, early this morning, on the banks of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina shots rang out.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  Cannon fire exploded over the skies of Charleston Harbor, all

part of an elaborate re-enactment that was years in the making.  Hundreds

of people are turning out in Charleston today to witness a reenactment that

featured people dressed up as Confederate soldiers and as Union soldiers,

re-enacting one of the most famous battles in U.S. history which took place

on that same very plot of land 150 years ago today.

At 4:30 a.m. on the morning of April 12th, 1861, cannons were fired from the shores of the city of Charleston on to a tiny island fort in the middle of Charleston Harbor called Fort Sumter.  And in the hours that followed, this tiny fort came under heavy fire from dozens of artillery positions that surround it had, mortar shells raining down on it every two minutes.  The troops stationed at Fort Sumter endured 34 long hours of shelling and then a white handkerchief raised up the flag pole signifying their surrender.

The shots that were fired that morning 150 years ago today were the first shots fired in what would become a four-year-long Civil War in America.  The troops stationed at Fort Sumter were members of the United States Army serving under President Abraham Lincoln.  The troops firing upon them were citizens of the newly formed Confederate States of America serving under Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

At that point, in April of 1861, seven Southern states had already seceded from the Union.

And the fact that the first shots were fired in South Carolina specifically came as no surprise.  South Carolina, after all, had been the very first state to secede three months earlier.  The great pride of the South Carolina secessionist was this guy, this guy with the teen idol good looks, Senator John C. Calhoun, the beloved pro-slavery politician who was South Carolina‘s greatest political export at that time.  He had been vice president of the United States, secretary of state, secretary of war.

And as well as being rabid proponent of slavery, John Calhoun, to that end, championed the cause of nullification—nullification, the idea that states could and should refuse to follow federal laws they didn‘t like, that they thought went beyond the powers of the federal government.  John Calhoun was seen by the secessionist as a hero and guiding light in South Carolina, and his nullification cause inspired lots of anti-U.S. militancy there.  Anti-U.S. militancy that led to cannons firing on Fort Sumter on this day 150 years ago, the start of the Civil War.

Civil War, of course, led to the deaths of more than 600,000 Americans, ultimately, to the end of slavery in the United States, and to a lot of stuff that still kicks around in our culture and in our politics.  It‘s what we‘re reminded every time we fight over Confederate flags flying over state capitols, right, every time there is a proclamation about the Civil War that downplays that slavery had anything to do about it.

But it‘s not only fighting about what happened back then.  What is remarkable 150 years after the start of the Civil War is how right now—now, so many of the hallmarks of the Civil War and of the Confederacy are in political fashion again.  Nullification, which helped steer South Carolina into its militant anti-U.S. stance—nullification is now enjoying a remarkable renaissance.

Nullification is what Republican legislatures in states all across the country have been screaming in the face of the new health reform law passed by Democrats in Congress last year.  Just within the past two months, Republicans in Idaho and in Montana moved through their nullification legislation.  It‘s not just anti-federal health reform legislation, it‘s legislation that says that federal law doesn‘t apply here in our state.

But it‘s not just health care reform.  A conservative group called the 10th Amendment Center has been pushing a lot of the anti-health reform stuff.  But they put that in the context of nullification.  And they‘re pushing for other kinds of nullification, too.  They‘re also, for example, proposing nullification of things like food safety laws and gun laws.

In the state of Georgia, for example, Republicans are pushing the Georgia Food Freedom Act.  Food freedom?  Yes.  It would exempt the state of Georgia from federal regulations on the safety of the food supply.

In Arizona, the state Senate there approved a bill exempting products from interstate commerce laws if they are made and used within Arizona.

West Virginia attempting to do something similar—nullifying federal regulations on guns, as long as those guns are made and used within West Virginia.

Kentucky is trying to nullify federal laws regarding environmental safety.  They are trying to proclaim themselves a sanctuary from the Environmental Protection Agency.  Your federal laws don‘t apply here, Yankees.  United States, Schmunited States.  Nullification is back.

During the Civil War, one of the ways the Confederacy separate itself from the Union was by minting its own currency, right?  Confederate dollars, buy them today on eBay, or make new ones today.

In North Carolina, a Republican legislature is trying to move legislation to abolish federal currency in favor of North Carolina dollars.  He wants a state currency, a confederate currency rather than federal currency.  Your Yankee dollars are no good here.

Last year, a Republican state legislator in South Carolina introduced legislation mandating that gold and silver coins replaced federal currency in the state.

According to a recent report from the Web site, “Talking Points Memo,” at least 10 states have introduced gold coins as currency bills.

Just last month, an Idaho man was convicted of conspiring against the U.S. government by manufacturing and selling his own Confederate currency called liberty dollars.  Your Yankee money is no good here and your Yankee laws, they‘re no good here, either.

All that is old, all that is Civil War era is new again in today‘s politics.  It is also now in today‘s politics fashionable again for Republicans to flirt with even the ultimate Confederate idea, to flirt with seceding from the Union, the idea of breaking up the United States of America.

This is Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  Texas is a unique place.  When we came in the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.  If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Who knows what might come out of that?

Former Republican Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee was even more direct about it last year when he was asked about his opposition to the Obama presidency.  He answered, quote, “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government.”  Forced to.

Here‘s what it looks like to run for governor in the state of Texas these days.  These are two candidates for governor at a recent rally in Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I hate that flag up there.  That flag that‘s above the Texas flag, that‘s the United States flag.  I hate the United States government.  The U.S. flag is coming down from over Texas.  It will not be part of Texas anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war.  We are aware.  We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.

(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We want freedom, total and complete.  Freedom, secession!  Secession is the answer!

(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We hate the United States.  Get out of our lives. 

Get off our backs.  Move on!

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Running for governor in the state of Texas.

Secession is the answer, but it‘s not just Texas.  In the 2008 presidential race, it emerged that Sarah Palin‘s husband, Todd Palin, had been a member of something called the Alaska Independence Party.  Remember this?  A secessionist party.

Quoting the party‘s founder, quote, “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government.  And I won‘t be buried under their damn flag.”

I‘ve always thought that Civil War re-enactors are one of the great poetic mysteries of modern American life.  In a country that goes to war all the time now, that has in my lifetime had many more years when we‘ve been in war than years when we have not, in a country where real war is the norm and not the exception to the norm, why do we re-enact this one war?  Why do we re-enact this war?  Why do we literally act it out again?

If you‘ve never read Tony Horwitz‘s book, “Confederates in the Attic”

which is what the title of the segment refers, it is meant as a sort of homage to that book, you should read that book, you will love it.  But it is one thing to study a war.  It is another thing entirely to want to spend your weekends pretending you are fighting it, dressing up in period costume and acting it out.

           

But you know what?  It‘s a whole other thing all together, to not just want to study the war that nearly destroyed America, to not just re-enact it like a pageant, but to actually try it again, to live it out not in costume but in real life, once again taking up the cause of the side that lost.  The Confederacy and its politics are in fashion again, 150 years on.  Against that, who is standing for the Union side?

Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC contributor and associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.

Professor Harris-Perry, thank you for being with us.

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Absolutely.  I hope that that introduction meant I was the one standing for the Union.  I‘m all for that.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  Who will stand for the Union?  It‘s Melissa.

HARRIS-PERRY:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  So, we‘re safe.

Did you ever think that we would be talking about secession and states wanting their own currency at 2011, at 150th anniversary of the Civil War?

HARRIS-PERRY:  Sure.  You know, look, I‘m a Southern.  I grew up in Virginia.  I—you know, I went to school near the monument avenue where there are, in fact, you know, Confederate war heroes or who we celebrate there.  And I live now in Louisiana.

So, I have a lot of clarity about the fact that when the Union, right, won the Civil War, it didn‘t do the work of vanquishing the ideas of the Confederacy.  It moved out in 1877 from the project of reconstruction, and in doing so, it really left the entire legacy of the Confederacy to rewrite itself, to rebuild itself, to infiltrate into politics, into the culture, into the very fabric of the American story.

MADDOW:  Why are these confederate themes resonating so much today?  I hear you about the sort of unfinished history of the Confederacy.  But to see things that are really quite radical, the whole Tenth Amendment movement, the nullification stuff, people talking openly about secession, states in the south minting their own currency—that‘s the kind of stuff we‘ve not seen every year.  There seems to be an up surge that have now.

HARRIS-PERRY:  Well, I mean, I think we‘d be foolish to imagine that this is uncorrelated with having an African-American president.  Certainly the revival of notions of the Confederacy track pretty closely with any sort of visible gains in African-American civil rights in, African-American equality.  And even when—in a moment like this, we don‘t see huge gains in equality for African-Americans overall, the symbol of the black president and the first family is a very powerful one.  He literally embodies the American state now in a black body.

And so, for the sort of residual Confederate mindset, which exists, by the way, not just in the South, as you said, but the Confederate mindset that infiltrates throughout the U.S., that is a very anxiety-producing moment that brings up all of these unresolved sort of political, cultural issues.

MADDOW:  If you look at—if you look at the numbers and you look at sort of the map, many of these states flexing their 10th Amendment muscle, flexing their state sovereignty, even flirting with secession, states like Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Utah—one of these things about the states is that they all routinely get a lot more federal spending than they pay in taxes—and so then you think about secession.  It wouldn‘t necessarily be financially a good idea for them.  I mean, no more farm subsidies, no more Social Security, no more U.S. military to protect them.

To a certain extent, should these questions be taken seriously if only to call the question and sort of make folks game out what this secession idea would really mean?

HARRIS-PERRY:  Well, of course, we should take it seriously.  I mean, there‘s no moment when there‘s a secessionist rebuilding in a nation when we shouldn‘t take it seriously.  But I want to point out that even in the moment of the Civil War, I think we can see parallels here to what people‘s real interests were.  Remember that the planter class, the Southern elite that benefited from slave labor was quite distinct from, you know, poor and rural agrarian whites who didn‘t benefit from it.  And yet through the creation of kind of a racialized Confederate identity that cloaked itself in this notion of anxiety about big federal government, they were able to create a coalition where people‘s economic interests actually didn‘t cohere, but the racial interests did, and could you overlay on that, this kind of ideology about big government.

So, seeing that happen again in a moment where people‘s economic interests might actually be in having health care, for example, but where you can produce an anxiety that there are these others—African-Americans, new Latino immigrants—who are going to take something from them, you actually produce these weird coalitions where people work against their own interests.

MADDOW:  There has never been a moment in U.S. history where we would not have been better off if we had a better vocabulary for talking about class.  We have a big vocabulary for talking about race and like no words for talking about class at all.  And I—I absolutely hear you there.

Melissa Harris-Perry of Princeton University and MSNBC, thank you, as always, for your time.  It‘s really helpful to have you here.

HARRIS-PERRY:  Thanks.

MADDOW:  Still to come tonight—tonight‘s guest on “The Interview” is Bill Maher.  Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In the name of reducing the deficit, Congress just cut the workers whose job it is to reduce the deficit.  Make sense?  No.  Make you laugh?  Maybe.  Need help with that?  Bill Maher is coming up in just a moment.  Yay.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It is in the interest of the Republican Party as a political entity to get rid of unions.  Here‘s what I mean.  If you kill the unions, then out of the top 10 list of outside big-money contributors in the last elections, you would have killed the only three on that list who gave predominantly to lefty causes.  It is in the very, very, very sharp political interest of the Republican Party to kill unions because then, all the outside big money in politics will go to conservative causes and none of it will go to the left, and since that outside big money is totally unlimited now because of Citizens United, killing unions would make the Republican Party pretty much financially invincible.

When it comes to big money, Republicans would be running in every election basically unopposed.  It is in the partisan interest of the Republican Party to kill unions.

It is not, however, in the short-term interests of most Republican politicians to kill unions, because killing unions means using government to quash people‘s union rights.  And people generally do not like to have their rights quashed.  It‘s why the approval ratings of the Republican governors who have been pursuing this stuff are like the approval ratings for sleet in April right now, not good.

On the other hand, the outside groups that are funding and supporting the “destroy the union” campaigns tend to be ideological, privately funded groups who have their eye not on the immediate public opinion polls or even the next election, they have got their eye on the long term, on the political long term.

These Republican politicians though, they can only get to that long-term Republican nirvana if they survive the short term, and it is, therefore, a problem for those politicians that union-stripping is really unpopular.

Would you want to be the Republican on the same ballot as one of these union-stripping things?  History suggests that, no, you would not want that.  The 30-point surge against a shoo-in conservative Supreme Court justice in Wisconsin suggests, that no, you would not want that.  The 69-31 percent victory of the anti-Scott Walker candidate for Scott Walker‘s old job in Milwaukee suggests that, no, you would not want that.

You would not want to be the Republican on the ballot alongside a referendum to say repeal the union-stripping law in the great state of Ohio.

A group called We Are Ohio is collecting signatures to make that Ohio referendum happen.  The rally they are organized to kick off that campaign on Saturday was the largest rally in Ohio since this all started back in February.  An estimated 11,000 people showed up.

Smart money says this referendum in Ohio is a doable thing, repealing the Republicans‘ union-stripping bill will likely be on the ballot in Ohio this November.  And if it gets on the ballot and if the investigate on it follows the poll numbers on it now, the Ohio union-stripping bill will be repealed, and woe be to any Republican who finds him or herself on that ballot alongside that measure.

To try to protect their union-stripping thing from repeal, Ohio Republicans have now come up with a genius move.  “The Columbus Dispatch” reports that Republicans in Ohio are thinking of writing their union-stripping stuff into the state budget, as well as the bill they just passed.  If they wrote it into the budget, that would have the effect of putting the union-stripping thing not only on the ballot this November, it would also be on the ballot next November, too—thus providing a likely electoral kiss of death for any Ohio Republican on the ballot this year, and it would save up another Ohio electoral kiss of death for any Republicans running in Ohio next year, too.  And next year, if you check your watch, is a round-numbered year.  Next year is 2012, and that‘s why we titled this section—D‘oh!

Ohio Republicans have now forced themselves to decide between torpedoing the 2012 Republican presidential candidate in the swingiest swing state in the country by putting that Republican on the ballot alongside union-stripping or they can give up their union-stripping thing for dead by putting it on the ballot just this year and watching it go down in flames.  Those are the choices they have given themselves.  D‘oh!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  There are things that happen in the news for which you need a reporter, like—hey, the rebels in Benghazi are getting some international military help now.  How do those rebels feel about that?  Call Richard Engel.  He‘s in Benghazi.

There are also things that happen in the news for which you don‘t necessarily need a reporter.  You need an expert analyst, like—hey, it‘s not just the reactors, it‘s the spent fuel pools that aren‘t getting cooled anymore at Fukushima either.  How dangerous is that?  Call Professor Von Hippel at Princeton, he‘ll know.

But then there are things that happen in the news for which you do not need a reporter.  You understand the facts of what‘s happening.  You do not need an expert analysis.  The layman‘s base is enough to understand what it all means.

There are things that happen in the news for which you don‘t need a reporter.  You don‘t need an expert analyst to help you understand.  What you need is a comedian in order to understand their importance.

This is one of those things.  The “keep the government open” deal that the Republicans forced in D.C. on Friday night includes $39 billion in cuts below the president‘s budget, right?  The president will give a speech tomorrow that is expected to say “I‘m interested in cutting even more.”

The main thing driving the conversation in Washington now is concern for the deficit.  The Republicans came into power in the House screaming about the deficit.  The president is now echoing them on that—even as it makes economists squirm because you‘re kind of supposed to run deficits in a recession, but no matter.

This is what everybody in Washington is talking about.  The Republicans are demanding it.  The president is going along.  We must tackle the deficit.  We can‘t spend more than we take in.

What is it that we take in though?  We take in tax revenues.  How do we take them in?  The IRS.  For every dollar the IRS spends chasing money that tax evaders and tax cheats are trying to get away with not paying, for every dollar spent on that by the IRS, the government gets about $10.  That‘s the money we take in.

In the new “keep the government open” deal, the Republicans just killed all of President Obama‘s requests for new IRS enforcement spending.  Zeroed it out.

As of the end of last year, tax evaders and tax cheats had scammed the government out of $330 billion.  That‘s all outstanding, and it‘s almost 10 times as much money as the Republicans and the president just cut out of the budget.  Ten times that money almost is laying there for the taking, and this deal the Republicans just insisted on because they care about the deficit insist that that money be left there, that it not be pursued.

I would like some help in understanding this.  For the purposes of trying to obtain that help and for other things, we are joined now for “The Interview” by Bill Maher, the host of “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO.

Mr. Maher, it is nice to see you.  Thank you for being here.

BILL MAHER, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER” HOST:  Good to see you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  If we get rid of the IRS all together, then nobody will have to pay taxes, and then all of our problems will be solved—yes?

MAHER:  Well, that‘s their dream world of no taxes, because, as you know, the lower taxes are somehow magically the more revenue we have.  Isn‘t that really what Paul Ryan‘s plan is still based on, that fantasy that was discredited in the ‘80s?

But I think, even more, it shows that they are always trying to somehow screw—screw the present for the future.  You know, cutting nutrition for premature babies, for example, is going to cost us so much more down the road in health care costs.  Everything in their budget seems very short-sighted this way.

I‘ll give you an example.  There was a program to get rid of—to pay to get rid of the tattoos that gang members sometimes have on their face—you know this, Rachel.  You were you in a gang.  You had you a tattoo, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  You couldn‘t have that job—you couldn‘t have this job if you had a tattoo on your face.  It‘s very hard to get a job with a tattoo on your face.

So, of course, you can hear the right wingers say why should we pay to help a bunch of gang bangers?  Because if you do, they can become productive members of society.  See?  This is the difference between just spending and investment.

They think all of spending—all of investment, you know, you say investment, I hear spending.  Well, sometimes, it is investment, and sometimes, you have to invest for the future.  You know, if you buy a nice suit to get a job and you get a job, that suit pays for itself.

MADDOW:  You know, and that—that I think is exactly right, that that‘s sort of the discussion we ought to be having about investment versus austerity.  About whether or not it is possible to sort of build our way out of the economic mess that we‘re in, or whether we have to hunker down and save our way out of the mess that we‘re in.

And in the State of the Union address, the president took the investment line.  We do big things.  He‘s expected to make another big speech tomorrow on the economy.

I don‘t expect him to say we do big things anymore, do you?

MAHER:  No, because once again—you know, the Republicans do their trick, and he falls into it.  And their trick, of course, is to stake out a position so far on the right that when you come back to the middle, it‘s not really the middle anymore.  And that‘s what they did with this Paul Ryan budget plan which, of course, all over the idiot media talking about how brave he is.

You know, I hear commentators, yes, well, you know, he was the first one to put everything on the table.  No.  He didn‘t put everything on the table.  He didn‘t put defense on the table.  That‘s not touched.  Social Security, where‘s the courage in this plan of his?

OK.  Anyway, that‘s a different discussion, and maybe we‘ll have it later.  But to your point, I mean, this is where the discussion starts.  His fantasy budget which funnels more money to rich people, taking away from the elderly and the poor and everybody else who can least afford it.

So, now, when we have Obama‘s response to this, you know it‘s going to be a center right.  There‘s nothing for progressives—truly progressive people to latch on to.

You know, I want to propose what I consider a budget on my show Friday

night, and it would include cutting the defense budget in half.  If we did

I mean, it‘s been almost doubled since 2001.  If we just went back to what it was under Clinton and also went back to the tax rates under Clinton for the rich and for everybody else, we would save $7.5 trillion over the next 10 years without taking money out of the mouths of starving children.

           

How about that, Captain Courageous?

MADDOW:  But he‘s so handsome and boyish.  Have you heard about the workout that he does every day?

The Paul Ryan response has been—I realize it‘s sort of a sideshow, but it has been really, really strange and personal.  You‘re right there calling him brave and they are saying he‘s done this incredibly courageous thing by putting these cuts out there, but so much is focused on what a nice guy he seems like he.  He‘s not even running for anything.  He‘s their budget guy.  I just - I haven‘t really been able to understand why—why the media is so man crushed on him.

MAHER:  Yes, and that is the word for it.  I guess it‘s the dreamy eyes.

I don‘t know either, but this is, again, an old Republican trick.  I mean, we saw it with Ronald Reagan.  Smile, be genial, act like somebody you‘d like to have dinner with or a beer with, and then do horrible things to people.

You know, somehow this budget which I guess they signed the deal was for $38.35 billion in cuts, right?  OK.  When it was two months ago at $32 billion in cuts that they were asking in cuts.  Harry Reid said that was draconian and unworkable, and then somehow they get up to $38.5 billion in cuts and Obama calls it historic.  I don‘t think they are winning.

MADDOW:  Yes.  And I have to ask you, if you don‘t mind if we take a break and I‘ll ask you to come back in a second.  But there is one instance in the last decade in which Democrats were in this exact same position with the Republicans, and they—and they won, where president Bush after he was re-elected in 2004 suggested privatizing Social Security and the Democrats totally won on that one.

Do you mind if—if you stick around for a send and we‘ll come back and talk about how they won on that and whether they can use the same playbook.

MAHER:  Sure.

MADDOW:  All right.  Bill Maher joining us here.  We will be right back.  I‘m very excited.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Joining us again for part two of “The Interview” tonight is Bill Maher, the host of HBO‘s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

Mr. Maher, thank you for your time.  Much appreciate it.

MAHER:  Sure.

MADDOW:  The Republicans right now with opposing—are proposing abolishing Medicare by privatizing it.  That is the Paul Ryan plan.  George W. Bush did that after he got re-elected on the issue of Social Security.  He said that he wanted to privatize Social Security.  That‘s how he wanted to spend his political capital after getting re-elected.

The Democratic response to that was essentially: no.  Go away.  Never.  We‘re never going to give you even an inch on this.  And Bush lost that catastrophically.

Could Democrats conceivably take the same line on defending Medicare now, or do you think they will take some sort of different, more horrible, creative approach?

MAHER:  Yes.  I mean, it‘s not hard for the Democrats to win these battles.  You know, it‘s a very popular program.  It‘s not hard to stand up to some of these things.  I mean, they could win harder ones than this.

You know, they could legalize pot out here if one Democrat would stand up for something that they supposedly believe in.  But, you know, this is a real easy one.  Old people do not like change.

You know, this idea that Paul Ryan has that, you know, we give you $15,000.  Yes, I‘ve got a great way to save a lot of money.  I‘m going to give the old folks $15,000.  We used to have the government pay them directly.  Now, they are going to take that 15 grand and give it to an insurance company.  You see how that‘s freedom instead of socialism?

And by the way, here‘s the sticky part though.  If you need more than $15,000 worth of health care—“tough” would be the Republican response to that.  And, of course, you know, assisted living facilities cost way more than $15,000 a year.

Also, older people, you know, this idea that they are going to shop around for a new plan, they do not want to shop around.  I see them in the market staring at a can of peas for half an hour.  The last thing they want to do is get into some sort of a shopping situation with shark-like insurance companies.

MADDOW:  They‘ll come up with some complicated spreadsheet based on a Web site that you can click through for the PDF and Excel files and they‘ll all the seniors to just do their comparison shopping that way.  Don‘t worry you, guys.  Have you a coupon.

MAHER:  Yes.

MADDOW:  It‘s amazing.

I have one strange question for you—one strange question for you about this sort of resurgence about the culture wars.  One of the things that I just noticed today about that deal that the Republicans and president came up with on Friday night is that among these sort of policy riders that are in there, the Republicans have cut off D.C.‘s ability to spend its own local D.C. city funds on abortions for poor women.  But they didn‘t insist on killing D.C.‘s gay marriage law, which the Republicans had also threatened to do at the same time.

So, the abortion thing they are pressing ahead with, but the gay marriage thing they let slide.  Do you think there‘s any sort of proposals for the new contours of the culture war there, or do you think it was just an oversight?

MAHER:  I would guess oversight.  If you‘re saying they are mellowing on the gay issue.

MADDOW:  Maybe, maybe.

MAHER:  I wouldn‘t count on that.  Maybe.

Yes, well, it‘s true.  I mean, there‘s a Bush, a McCain and a Cheney now who are all for gay marriage, you know?  What‘s Obama waiting for, Alabama?

MADDOW:  Yes.

MAHER:  Excuse me, someone is knocking.

But—but the abortion thing, you know, that‘s really interesting because as you recall the health care debate also at the end of the day, remember, came down to abortion.  You know, this Tea Party supposed to be about only money.  It‘s all about the deficit and the debt.  It‘s really the same old people who used to be the Christian conservatives when they supposedly took over the Republican Party.

The Republican Party doesn‘t change.  It rebrands itself from time to time, but it‘s still the same people, and they are still obsessed with abortion.

And it‘s especially cruel when you think about what they are doing.  First, they want to stop mostly poor people.  That‘s who can‘t get an abortion.  Mostly poor people who don‘t want to have a child because they probably can‘t take care of it.  So, they force them to have that child, and then they cut the funding for things like pre-natal care and nutrition and Head Start.  So, they make this human being come into the world and give it no chance to succeed.

MADDOW:  The attack on Planned Parenthood specifically has been also very enlightening because: (a), it shows that they are really willing to be known for shutting down the entire federal government over something that they think is about abortion.  They are in the ashamed of this at all.

But, Planned Parenthood about, 3 percent of what they do is provide abortions.  Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl said 90 percent of what they do is providing abortions.  At “FOX & Friends” the other day, they were talking about Planned Parenthood.  They said that you can get your pap smears and breast exams at Walgreens.  And Glenn Beck in his radio show this week aid the only people who can conceivably depend on Planned Parenthood for anything are hookers.

So, they are waging this sort of media and conservative and Republican war on Planned Parenthood while plainly having absolutely no idea what it is.

How do you—how do you try to win a big national fight without bothering to figuring out what it is that you are crusading against?

MAHER:  Well, this is the bigger question that we run into with almost every issue.  How do you get information into people‘s heads when so many people, you know, live in that FOX News bubble?

I think this is why Jon Kyl thinks he is free to take a little license with the facts, you know, 3 percent, 90 percent.  You know, if he got it off by five and he said 8 percent.  I can understand that.  You know, sometimes you get a little difference.

You know, remember when Dick Armey called Barney Frank, Barney Fag. 

Well, it‘s Frank, very close.

Three percent—but 90 percent?  And his statement after that or the one his office put out, he didn‘t intend it as a factual statement, wow.

You know, in a world full of political liars, one man, one man now has taken the crown.  This guy stepped up to the plate and hit an eight-run homer with that run.  He didn‘t intend a statement that includes a percentage—you know, a numbered fact as a factual statement.

Yes, because Jon Kyl is a hippie.  He‘s an artist.  He was speaking in a very loosey goosey.  He was painting a picture for you.

So, don‘t take it factually.  I don‘t know what to say about these people, Rachel.  I hate them as much as you do.

MADDOW:  I think you‘ve identified the true brave man in Washington. 

Paul Ryan may be very pretty, but Jon Kyl is very, very brave.

Bill Maher, the host of HBO‘s “Real Time with Bill Maher”—thank you so much for being on with us, Bill.  It‘s really nice to see you.  Thank you.

MAHER:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  You can see Bill do standup on April 17th at the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend, Indiana, and on April 21st at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Details on the show on our Web site, in case you missed them, which is MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.

We‘ll right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  There are journalistic grounds relating to the federal budget that moved Kent Jones to wear what he is currently wearing in the studio right now.  You think Paul Ryan and abolishing Medicare is brave?  This is brave, America.  This is brave.

The brave, brave explanation in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VOICE:  Very interesting.

MADDOW:  Today is the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War.  We will be commemorating the sesquicentennial of that war for the next four years.  Hundred and fifty years is neat.  It‘s a big deal.

But what about 100?  What was America doing 50 years ago today on what was the 100th anniversary of the Civil War?

We were flipping off Russia because Russia beat us into space.  Fifty years ago today, April 12th, 1961 on 100th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War, the first earthling was rocketed into space.  He was Yuri Gagarin, a 27-year-old Soviet cosmonaut.

I remember just enough about what I was doing when I was 27 to know that it did not involve riding on top of 150 tons of explosives going so fast and so far that I broke free of earth‘s gravity and then came back.  At 27, I was lawn care professional.

At 27, Yuri Gagarin moved the boundary between heaven and earth.  The crude plan for getting him back to Earth after his 188 -- excuse me -- 108 minutes outside the boundaries was for him to get out of his Vostok I spacecraft mid-flight, for him to leave the spacecraft while it dropped like a stone back to earth and for him to parachute to safety.  That he did.

And yes, maybe the Soviet Union did not care that much about the importance of our Civil War anniversary when they chose the date on which they would fling Yuri Gagarin into space but they‘re probably a little miffed that after the Soviet Union achieved that secular version of a sacred national accomplishment in providing Earth‘s first round-trip emissary to not Earth, tonight on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the Sotheby‘s Auction House sold an actual Vostok spacecraft, the real deal, to the highest bidder, $2.9 million.  Happy World Cosmonautics Day.

It was on World Cosmonautics Day on this date 30 years ago that our own space agency, NASA, launched the first space shuttle.  Basically, the point of that first launch was to see if it could really be done, to see if the craft could make it back to Earth again, which Columbia did a little 54 hours after it took off.  Thirty years on, NASA used today to do a big Oprah style giveaway of the retired or retiring space shuttle fleet, announcing which lucky museums get to add real, actual space shuttles to their attractions.

Look under your seat, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  You get a shuttle.  And you get a shuttle California Science Center and you Kennedy Space Center.  OK, New York‘s Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, yours is just a prototype.  But still you get sort of a shuttle that I think people will see from the west side highway as they drive past.

Also, today, the six astronauts living aboard the International Space Station sent congratulations from zero gravity, indulging in a few space loop-loops when they were done talking because, hey.  Wouldn‘t you?

And even the fake Marsonauts still cooped up in their fake space trailer thing which is fake flying home right now from fake mars—they celebrated World Cosmonautics Day for real.

But here‘s my submission to you for the single most geeky/awesome commemoration of this biggest day in the art of leaving the Earth and then coming back.  It starts with a floating flute followed by its player.  Hello.  Cady Coleman and all her hair.

You may remember a few weeks ago, Colonel Coleman showed off the collection of flutes she brought onto the International Space Station with her, including one given to her by Jethro Tull‘s flutist Ian Anderson.  For World Cosmonautics Day, the astronaut and rock flutist managed to record an earth-to-space duet in honor of Yuri Gagarin.

I know what you‘re thinking.  How was it possible to play a duet given the time lag in communicating with the space station?  Pro tools baby.  It‘s not magic.  It‘s editing software.

But less the floatist/flutists have all the fun, here‘s one last thing you should see from another astronaut onboard the International Space Station.  His name is Pablo Nespoli, and he collaborated with a British filmmaker using archival audio and new footage shot from the space station now.  They came up with a pretty amazing film that recreates exactly what first man in space Yuri Gagarin saw out of the port hole of Vostok 1 50 years ago today.

This is what he saw.  So cool.  Civil War commemoration or not on World Cosmonautics Day—earthlings unite.

(COMEMRCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Just a moment ago with Bill Maher, he and I talked about how a lot of figures on the right who are fighting this big, multi-facetted conservative fight against Planned Parenthood now—they seem to have no idea what that organization actually does.  Not just that they‘re misconstruing it for political purposes or distorting it.  They really seem to have no clue.

Case in point, the future former FOX News TV host Glenn Beck who may have watched too many fake right wing activist sting videos on the Internet machine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  I know little beyond that pie chart about what Planned Parenthood does, but I have friends who depend on Planned Parenthood.

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS TV HOST:  Stop just a second.  Hookers?  Who? 

Who depends on Planned Parenthood?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Who could possibly need a breast exam or an abortion who isn‘t a hooker?  Very strange.

Perhaps not as strange though as Arizona Senator Jon Kyl who said on the floor of the Senate that, quote, “Well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion.  When told that it‘s actually only 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does, Senator Kyl‘s office responded that what the senator said on the floor of the U.S. Senate, quote, “was not intended to be a factual statement.”  Ta-da!

But perhaps the strangest of all came from two of the co-hosts of the morning show program on the FOX News Channel.  Out of serious due respect, I shall let Comedy Central Stephen Colbert tell you the details of this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDY CENTRAL:  Speaking of never intending to give factual statements, “FOX & Friends.”  This weekend they explained why there is no need for Planned Parenthood.  Even if 97 percent of those services are contraception, breast cancer screening, STD testing, and other services like pap smears.  Because as the brown haired guy who‘s not Steve Doocy told the blonde haired guy who is Steve Doocy and the blond haired girl who‘s not Gretchen Carlson, America already has a trusted place for those services—Jim.

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS:  He was talking about Planned Parenthood being this great provider where women can get blood pressure checks and pap smears and breast exams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Which you can get at Walgreens.

DOOCY:  Exactly right.

COLBERT:  Exactly.  You can get a pap smear or breast exam at Walgreens.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT:  I‘m pretty sure—I‘m pretty sure they‘re between the Swiffer refills and the cat food.  Ladies, just look for the stirrups.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Intrigued by this prospect, we had our own investigative plan for this day.  We were all set to send our own come back with the unburnished truth correspondent, Kent Jones, on an undercover sting operation, to try to get that purportedly available pap smear and breast exam at one of our local Walgreens, to catch Walgreens on tape, you know, providing women‘s health care services, catch them in the act like FOX says we could.

There was however a problem with our plan.  The problem was not Kent‘s inability physiological eligibility for certain medical exams.  We had a work-around for that.  I‘ll tell you over drink sometime.

The problem with our plan was this—see we work for NBC News and NBC News has a policies and guidelines book to which we are professionally and contractually bound because of yea, oldie ethics in journalism and stuff.  We were obligated to do this the right way.

So, we called up Walgreens and we asked them if it would be OK if Kent went to one of their stores and asked them some questions on camera and the very cordial people at Walgreens got right back to us via e-mail.

Kent, what did Walgreens say?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  “At this time, we need to decline your filming request.”

MADDOW:  Darn it.  That does not -- 

JONES:  Yes.  Hang on.  There‘s more here.

MADDOW:  OK.

JONES:  Quoting without editing, “I can tell you that through our take care clinics, we provide treatment for respiratory illnesses, allergies, and minor injuries.  Services such as vaccines, physicals, and health evaluations and screenings for health risk assessments.  We don‘t offer breast exams or pap smears.  Thanks.”

So, if you‘re at Walgreens, keep your clothes on.

MADDOW:  News you can use on more than one level.  You look terrifying.  Thank you, Kent.

JONES:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Good to have you here.  It‘s terrifying.

Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.”  Have a great night.

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