'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
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Guests: Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Peter Barca
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks very much for that.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Newton Leroy Gingrich is officially, unofficially maybe about to take the big plunge. Mr. Gingrich has been announcing for days now that he is going to announce something tomorrow. I think the way it works is that he‘s announcing now that he‘s announcing tomorrow that he‘ll be tweeting tomorrow that he‘s running for president. And then he‘ll announce out loud that he has announced on Twitter that he‘s running for president during an appearance on FOX News Channel, which clears up a few things.
First, that Mr. Gingrich is really good at makes the most of the announcing part of life. And, second, if the Republicans try to be creative about it and new media-y about it, really, there is no substitute right now for good old FOX News Channel. I mean, Twitter be darned. FOX News is the uncontested gatekeeper for Republican politics and Republican politicians.
Mr. Gingrich himself was, until quite recently, a FOX News contributor
as was Rick Santorum another Republican presidential candidate this year. As is Mike Huckabee, another possible candidate. As is John Bolton, another possible candidate. As is Sarah Palin, another possible candidate.
All potential Republican candidates—all current or former employees of the FOX News Channel.
The first Republican presidential candidates debate this year which turned out to be a bit of a fiasco, that was hosted by the South Carolina Republican Party and the FOX News Channel. When FOX News contributor-turned-Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum announced he was, sort of, unofficially stepping into the race, where did he do that announcing? On the FOX News Channel, of course, with Greta Van Susteren.
Republican politicians cannot move forward in American politics today without FOX News Channel. If they do not have FOX News in their corner, there‘s no way forward for them through Republican politics.
FOX News is not just a gatekeeper of Republican legitimacy. FOX News is a kingmaker in Republican politics.
But, you know, FOX News hasn‘t been around forever. FOX News has only been around since 1996. Before 1996, there were kingmakers in Republican presidential politics, but they weren‘t necessarily media organization. They were conservative activist. They were conservative movement powerbrokers like this guy.
This was the cover of “Time” magazine 16 years ago this week—the typically understated magazine cover headline, “The Right Hand of God.” That angelic figure on the cover of “Time” magazine is a guy named Ralph Reed. At the time, Ralph Reed was the head of an organization called the Christian Coalition. And the Christian Coalition circa 1996 was that year‘s Republican Party kingmaker the way FOX News Channel is today. If you wanted the Republican nomination to run against Bill Clinton in 1996, really, you had to go through Ralph Reed to do it.
“Reed has emerged as the movement‘s fresh face, the choirboy to the rescue, a born-again Christian with the fine sense of the secular mechanics of American politics.”
Meet Ralph Reed. His Christian coalition is on a crusade to take over U.S. politics, and it‘s working.
But, you know, if anything happened on the way to Ralph Reed‘s takeover of U.S. politics, watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It‘s been a territory, a commonwealth of the United States of America since 1976, a place where the American flag goes up every morning. Even though most of the factories here are foreign-owned, using Chinese fabric and Chinese workers, the clothing made here can legally be labeled as made in the U.S.
As we found in a “20/20” investigation on Saipan when the long day of making t-shirts for America ends, workers are kept in crowded, often rat-infested labor barracks. Of course, some are better than others.
But at this one, the toilets didn‘t work. The showers barely worked and the water was contaminated.
Workers are forbidden to participate in any religious or political activity or to ask for a salary increase or even to fall in love or get married.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve seen people locked in barracks, locked behind barb wires.
REPORTER: So, American law stops at the barbed wire gates of this factory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In many instances, it does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That investigation in 1998 by ABC News caused I think what‘s technically known as a freak-out in the United States Congress. Hearings were convened about whether the United States should impose new laws on Saipan, on the Mariana Islands, if they wanted to keep using that “made in the USA” label.
And that‘s when Republican uber lobbyist for Saipan, a man named Jack Abramoff, called up his good friend, Ralph Reed. Ralph Reed, that angelic figure. Ralph Reed, the powerful Republican and Christian leader turned his new Christian themed marketing firm called Century Strategies to convince Christians on his mailing list to lobby for Saipan—to lobby for Saipan to be able to keep its “made in the USA” label privileges because those workers you just saw there in that “20/20” report, according to Ralph Reed, those workers weren‘t being mistreated. Those workers were being introduced to Jesus in those factories.
Ralph Reed‘s marketing firm sent out mailers to American Christian conservatives that said quote, “The radical left, the big labor union bosses and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas Islands. But they‘re exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ while on the island. They‘re converted to the Christian faith and return to China with bibles in hand.
Ralph Reed got Christians unwittingly to help Jack Abramoff sweat shop clients by telling them that those Chinese workers were getting Jesus, when what they were actually getting were things like forced mandatory abortions.
Ralph Reed was implicated in similarly disgusting tactics on the issue of Indian casinos and also, weirdly, the disgraced energy firm Enron.
What Ralph Reed got really good at, what he perfected, was the cynical and manipulated art of using Christians across the country in order to benefit his own bottom line, as well as the interest of his corporate clients. Mobilizing Christians, getting them fired up on one issue or another for purportedly moral or religious reasons and then using their power to further the financial interests of whoever Ralph Reed was representing at the time, never mind religion, never mind the morals.
Ultimately, all of this came to light. Jack Abramoff, of course, went to jail. A disgraced Ralph Reed tried to make a political come back by calling in Republican favors and running for political office in Georgia. He failed spectacularly.
In just a little more than 10 years, Ralph Reed had gone from “right hand of God,” the man who single-handedly decided who could and not run for president, to a guy who couldn‘t secure a Republican primary win in a lieutenant governor‘s race. Eleven years after the “right hand of God” cover story in “Time” magazine, “Time” magazine ran another cover story on the rise and fall of Ralph Reed. The dude bottomed out.
You want to know what he‘s doing now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: From the same people who brought you Obamacare comes a controversy sequel, Dodd-Frank. Just like Obamacare, it, too, created a massive, unconstitutional regulatory bureaucracy.
Get involve now. Help us shine a light on Dodd-Frank and expose the unconstitutional takeover of the U.S. economy. Go to www.doddfrankexposed.com.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ralph Reed‘s marketing firm Century Strategies still exists.
And this is what the vice president of that lobbying firm is doing now.
The Web site Think Progress did the reporting to find out that Dodd-Frank Exposed is being run by one of Ralph Reed‘s top guys by this firm that still exists, Century Strategies—now leading the conservative drive to repeal the Wall Street reforms signed into law after the financial disaster that almost destroyed the entire American economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When things aren‘t going well in our economy, the impulse from Washington is usually to respond with something big, you know, something comprehensive. We saw this with the Dodd-Frank financial services bill. The financial meltdown was going across our country. Millions of Americans were hit hard. But Washington‘s response was all wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What you see in public is Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner on the dais with one of the Koch brothers shaking hands there, speaking to assembled Wall Street titans about repealing Wall Street reform, talking about red tape, the bureaucratic overreach of the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, for example.
What you see in public is Senate Republicans threatening that not only will they let consumer champion Elizabeth Warren be head of the new Consumer Protection Agency, they will not allow anybody to become head of that agency because of, you know, the red tape or whatever.
That‘s what happens in public. But what‘s churning underneath the surface in private, what is driving this stuff are the Ralph Reed machinations of Republican political tacticians who never really go away, who defy the idea of being disgraced out of American politics.
Another one of Ralph Reed‘s Century Strategies guys from the forced abortions-Mariana Islands day is this guy, Tim Phillips. He heads up Americans for Prosperity now, AFP. You can see them out there on every issue from union-busting, to energy, to health reform. Anywhere a corporate funder doesn‘t want to disclose their donors, but they do want the appearance of a grassroots movement on their side.
Not only is Ralph Reed‘s Century Strategies still around, not only are its executives and its alumni leading the fake grassroots side of the Tea Party movement and the crusade now to un-reform Wall Street and prevent Elizabeth Warren from ever taking a job in Washington, but Ralph Reed himself is rehabilitating himself yet again, through the sheer force of the fact that Republicans are just not too disgusted to be seen with him.
Ralph Reed has created another supposed moral values group, post-Christian coalition. This time, it‘s called the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Next month, they will hold a conference in Washington that‘s expected to attract the biggest names in Republican politics to stand alongside Ralph Reed.
Sarah Palin will be there. Mitt Romney will be there. Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy.
Naturally, presidential candidate-to-be Newt Gingrich, who will appear there after he declares his candidacy on this year‘s version of the Republican Party gatekeeper, the FOX News Channel.
Ralph Reed is on his way to becoming a kingmaker once again in Republican presidential politics, because, hey, why not, right?
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. He is the Frank of Dodd-Frank.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for being here.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Oh, this is an important time.
So, thank you.
MADDOW: Your financial regulatory legislation is under political attack from some very experienced hands. You‘ve been in this game for a lot of years now. Do you feel like Wall Street reform is really at risk?
FRANK: No. Well, yes, in one sense. The Republicans because of the control of the House are trying to use the deficit, which is a serious problem when you think about the hundreds of billions we allow the military to spend unnecessarily.
They‘re claiming that one way to deal with the deficit is to cut off $100 million for the Securities and Exchange Commission and $80 million for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. Those are two agencies that we gave new powers to in the law last year to deal with derivatives. They are trying to cut that funding. But even now, I don‘t think they‘re going to win.
They understand this is popular. So, that‘s why you‘re getting this kind of nonsense. Let me give you an example. We will be voting this week in the committee on financial services on a Republican bill, believe it or not, which would make it impossible to deal with speculation in the oil industry.
We have a rule pending as a result of the bill we passed that the Commodities Futures Trading Commission that would restrict the right of people who don‘t use oil, who don‘t burn it, who don‘t sell it, to buy it up and hold it off the market to drive up the price. Speculation.
They have a bill that would kill that. They are trying it as you noted to undo the Consumer Protection Agency. For years, consumer protection, for most of our history, was run by the bank regulators. From whom, it was second thought. Now, we put it to an independent agency. The point is, that even among some of the Tea Party people, those things aren‘t popular.
They can‘t make a frontal assault. So, no, I am not worried because, in this case, I welcome debate. I welcome openness about this.
I don‘t think the American people are ready to deregulate derivatives and tell AIG and Goldman Sachs to go back to playing the kind of ping-pong that helped crash the economy. I don‘t think they want to take away consumer protection away from independent agency and I don‘t think they want to make illegal for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to stop speculation in energy.
MADDOW: How much do you think that the cost of gas and the fluctuation in the cost of gas is driven by speculation?
FRANK: Well, let me quote something. A man named Wilbur Ross who is a very conservative value investor. He buys up companies that aren‘t doing well and turns them around. He‘s considered to be a very, very solid and sound investor and generally on the conservative side.
He was quoted in “The New York Times” over the weekend as saying that it cost between $10 and $20 a barrel. That speculation adds between $10 and $20 a barrel.
Now, we know that there has not be a real change in either supply or demand. What we have is people who are anticipating these kind of things.
So, I‘ll go with Wilbur Ross, $10 to $20 a barrel. That‘s 10 percent, to 20 percent of the cost.
In terms of the introduction to this interview and the point that I was trying to make there about Ralph Reed. It seems to me like that there‘s a real distance between the populist image of Republican sort of man on the street views of politics right now. It‘s described as sort of a populist uprising. But when you look at who‘s organizing a lot of what‘s organized on that side, it‘s guys like Tim Phillips, it‘s guys like Ralph Reed, ho are real corporate pros—guys who are used to getting paid by corporations to create the illusion of grassroots movements.
FRANK: No question. When these people talk about exposing the bill, it gives real meaning to the phrase “indecent exposure,” because that‘s what‘s you‘re getting from this people. But the point is they‘re very frustrated. If they honestly talk about this, they lose the fight. So, there were these—big bureaucracy.
Yes. We—consumer protection was in the hand of the bank regulators. We took it out of the bank regulator hands and gave it to an independent agency. We also said to that independent agency, you know what? Payday lenders and check cashers and people who sent remittances, they‘ve been unregulated.
Mortgage lending, we got into a problem because they were regulated banks and unregulated mortgage lenders. In fact, many of the smaller banks, by the way, have been supportive of this because they‘ve seen their unregulated competitors do unregulated things.
So, yes, it is true. We have added government roles here to regulate, for instance, mortgage lending that we didn‘t have before. I think that‘s overwhelming popular.
Yes, we have give given the Commodities Futures Trading Commission new powers to stop speculation in energy.
We also added a law that said when a corporation has its annual meeting, the shareholders get to vote on whether or not they think the compensation for the top five people is fair or not. Now, that‘s a government intervention. It‘s starting to work, by the way. We have companies now cutting back and they lost a couple of votes.
So, I will plead guilty, we have empowered the shareholders of America to try to hold down compensation at the companies they own that they think is excessive. Frankly, I‘m not afraid of being exposed for doing that.
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, ranking Democratic on the House Financial Services Committee, and always a big target for the right and somebody who seems to enjoy as much as they enjoy targeting you.
FRANK: Well, a smaller target. I‘m losing a little weight.
MADDOW: Very good, sir. Thank you very much for your time.
The new chairman woman of the Democratic Party is our guest on “The Interview” tonight. I‘ve been looking to this discussion for a long time. That is coming up.
MADDOW: One of the many, many things that is bad about being out of work is that it doesn‘t just destroy your personal economy, your personal economy. It isn‘t just financially disastrous for you as a person. Your reduced resources and your sudden lack of buying power once you‘re unemployed make it harder for the whole rest of the economy, too. It‘s a spiral, right?
The economy gets weak. People get laid off. Those laid off people buy less, which hurts the businesses they would otherwise be buying stuff from, which causes more layoffs. All of which creates a recessionary spiral. It is a bad deal.
It is part of the reason we have unemployment insurance in this country. It protects you as an unemployed person. It also protects the whole economy from the effects of there being a lot of unemployment and result in poverty all at once.
Republican state legislatures are doing their best to weaken that very important economic safety net right now. Along with their real abolished your local democracy emergency financial measure, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan Republicans also cut unemployment benefits by six weeks. So, they would be the least in the nation.
The Michigan Republicans were followed soon thereafter by the Missouri Republicans. And now the Missouri Republicans have been followed by the Florida Republicans. In Florida, the unemployment rate is 11.1 percent. It is worse even than Michigan.
And unemployment benefits already in Florida are among the worst in the nation. The weekly benefits in Florida are 47th lowest in the country. They‘re already about as—doing about as little as they can. As little as they can possibly do in Florida, to protect their economy as a state from the effect of having so many people there that are unemployed.
But, now, Florida has found a way to do even less, to make it even worse for unemployed people and for the state‘s economy. They are slashing the number of weeks for which you can get unemployment benefits in Florida.
What is this likely to do to Florida‘s already bad economy, their already horrific job situation?
Well, when Moody‘s looked at the effectiveness of different economic policies in terms of their likely impact on the economy as a whole, they found that for every dollar you spend on extending unemployment benefits, we get back $1.61 in economic growth.
So, now, slashing unemployment benefit—what‘s going to happen to economic growth in Florida? Maybe we should consult the economics department from one of Florida‘s fine public universities.
You must be careful where you tread there, though? Do you see in the “St. Petersburg Times” this week?
Apparently, conservative billionaire Charles Koch, brother of the guy seen shaking hands with John Boehner at the Manhattan economic club in the previous slide—yes, billionaire Charles Koch has purchased a faculty hiring rights at Florida State University‘s economics department. No, really.
Quoting now from “The Times,” “A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity, the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly-funded university.” “The Times” reports that in exchange for a $1.5 billion donation from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, quote, “an advisory committee appointed by Mr. Koch decides which candidates should be considered for teaching positions in the department. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it‘s not happy with the faculty‘s choice, or if the hires don‘t meet objectives set by Koch during annual evaluations.”
The deal was signed in 2008. And during the first round of hiring in 2009, Koch rejected nearly 60 percent of the faculties suggestions.
But no matter who is vetting and paying for this scholarship, there really isn‘t a sound economic basis on which to justify “the kick the poor” policy that is moving forward in Florida right now. I mean, economically, it will be bad for the state—particularly when there‘s not even a “we‘re broke, we can‘t afford to pay out your unemployment insurance benefits” argument to be made, right?
They‘re not using the money they‘ll no longer pay in unemployment benefits to plug some hole in the state deficit. They‘re not doing that. The money they will save from not paying unemployment will be given away in the form of corporate tax breaks.
So, it will not help the deficit. It is likely to slow economic growth. It will economically hurt the most economically hurting people in the state.
There is no economic argument for what they‘re doing. So, you‘re left with the ideological government, that the government should be small, that the government should do as little as possible. And if one of the things the government can do is pay out unemployment insurance benefits to people who are out of the job, then the government should just do less of that because the government should do as little as possible.
Economically, it might be a disaster, but at least it will be small government. Maybe that explains it. Except, at the same time that Florida is doing this, Florida Republicans have also decided to start mandatory drug testing of Florida residents receiving public benefits—not people who are suspected of drug abuse, but everybody forced drug testing by the government.
And the state will have to pay for those forced drug tests for the folks who aren‘t, you know, on drugs. Or they will reimburse those forced drug tests. The bill also says you actually have to front the money for your forced drug test. You have to front the money for your forced drug test.
Just paying for those forced drug tests could cost the state of Florida $1 million to nearly $8 million. If you—you have to front the money to pay for your forced drug test. And then if you turn up clean, they‘ll reimburse you the money. So, the state is then paying for it. If you don‘t turn up clean, then you‘re the one who has paid for the test. That‘s their new small government system.
So, Florida is slowing down their own economy in a way that doesn‘t help the deficit, in a way that hurts the worse-off people among them, in a way that spends a bunch of money in order to expand the government to a never-before-seen size. So, the government in Florida, it will now be big enough that it can seize your bodily fluids even if you are not suspected of anything amiss with those fluids.
This is the world according to the Republican Party in the state of Florida, which is now as always the great Petri dish of American politics.
The brand new chair of the Democratic Party comes from this Petri dish, Florida Congresswoman and newly-elected chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will join us next for “The Interview.”
MADDOW: Joining us tonight for “The Interview” is the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for joining us.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Congratulations on your new gig. How‘s it going so far?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It‘s going well. You know, we‘re up and running, and we‘ve got a lot of excitement being generated around the country. People are getting fired up to re-elect President Obama.
MADDOW: We‘ve been talking a lot about Republicans in control in the states. I just did a segment about what Republican governance looks like in Florida these days, in your homestate.
Do you expect that the Democratic Party this year, in this election season, will run in part by highlighting the way that Republicans are governing in the states where they have control. Both in the House of Representatives, which they control and in some of the states?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think if you look at states like mine in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, that are being led by Republican governors, I think the voters there are becoming very disturbed about the extreme radical policies that are coming out of these state legislatures and out of these governors.
This is not what the voters signed up for. And there is such a dramatic contrast being set up between the direction that the Republicans would take us really right off the deep end, essentially waging war on the unemployed, as if somehow them being out of the job is their fault and rewarding businesses.
Really, it‘s like reverse Robin Hood-ism. It‘s really shocking.
And I think voters are really taken aback and they‘re going to push back hard when it comes to Election Day next year.
MADDOW: On the issue of—on social issues, in your home state of Florida and the legislature there, Republicans have proposed 18 different anti-abortion bills this session. Plus, they proposed and passed a variety of state-mandated drug testing programs—drug testing for people who are not suspected of drug use.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Including for state employees.
MADDOW: Yes, state employees, that‘s right. And people on public assistance.
No, you don‘t have to be suspected of—what are you hearing from your constituents in response to this year of big government conservativism in Florida?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, again—I mean, Republicans like to say how they want to end the concept of big government. Yet, they propose the most big government invasive proposals of all. I mean, to suggest that because you get paid a salary by the state, that somehow that gives the state the right to randomly drug test you, whether or not there‘s any suspicion at all that you have taken drugs.
And the Supreme Court has ruled on that.
And so, I‘m sure that that is going to end up going right to court. And Governor Scott‘s extreme, radical proposal will be struck down. But instead of focusing on job creation, instead of trying to turn the economy around, instead of trying to make sure that during this very difficult time that we actually strike a balance like President Obama has called for, and make sure that everybody absorbs a little bit of the pain so we can get through this crisis, now, they blame everything on people who are the most vulnerable.
And I think it‘s outrageous and I think the voters are finding it outrage as well.
MADDOW: One of the flash points in the states this year has been the issue of union rights; Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin getting attention. But a lot of states are pursuing this now—stripping union rights.
And the response from the unions themselves has been interesting. They certainly feel supported by the Democratic base, by people out in the streets and at the state capital lobbying against and arguing and cheering against these things. But groups like, I mean, Richard Trumka, the International Association of Firefighters—these groups are starting to say that they do not feel supported by the Democratic Party at the federal level, even as Republicans mount what‘s starting to look like a coast to coast assault on union rights.
If the Democratic Party loses big labor support, it‘s going to be in trouble moneywise in the next election cycle. What‘s your view of that?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think that across the country, you‘ve had widespread grassroots and particularly Democratic support pushing back against these radical proposals that are anti-union and anti-worker. I‘m concerned if the perception is, by labor, that the Democrats aren‘t supportive.
In fact, we were able to actually, in Florida, kill a really anti-labor proposal and prevent the Republicans from being able to push it through—even though Rick Scott strongly supported it, because this was something that was you been acceptable. We have collective bargaining rights embedded in Florida‘s constitution. It was just a bridge too far.
So, I think that Democrats have been very supportive. Democratic elected leaders and Democratic activists have been very supportive of workers‘ rights and pro-labor, the natural home for labor‘s members is the Democratic Party, there‘s no question.
MADDOW: Because I was hoping to get to talk to you now that you‘re the new chair of the party, I asked that somebody who‘s maybe my new friend, Michael Steele, (INAUDIBLE) of the Republican Party, whether he had any advice for you on starting this new job.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Good.
MADDOW: He told me three things to tell you. He said, one, have someone watch your back and then have someone watch them. Two: remember you can‘t—two, you can‘t please everyone, but you can certainly tick them all off at the same time. And three: have fun.
Do you accept his advice? Do you think that sounds appropriate for your new gig?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I do. I‘m going to start off with advice number three. And definitely have fun, because there is nothing more exciting for me than working hard to elect Democrats up and down the ballot, particularly because I believe in President Obama‘s agenda so strongly and the constituents that I represent in south Florida do as well.
It‘s absolutely critical that we make sure that Americans know that we are focused like a laser beam on creating jobs, getting the economy turned around, making sure that we can fully implement health care reform so patients are in the driver‘s seat and not insurance companies. And that‘s what I look forward to talking about with voters across the country over the next 18 months.
It‘s going to be incredibly important that we demonstrate the stark contrast between the two parties‘ visions for the direction America should go. And I‘m going to have fun doing it.
MADDOW: Democratic party chair—and remember, have somebody watch your back and then have somebody watch that person, sort of ominous, right?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I‘ll make sure.
MADDOW: All right. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for joining us.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: The first congressional race since every Republican in the House voted with Paul Ryan to kill Medicare is on. It is in a very red congressional Republican district where this guy resigned from Congress basically the second the whole world saw his shirtless personal ad on the Internet.
But the race to replace him so far has not got much to do with shirtlessness or the admirable musclessness (ph) on the part of members of Congress who are not named Aaron Schock.
No, this race has been turned on its just averaged muscle-leveled head by John Boehner and John Boehner‘s big, big political mistake this year.
MADDOW: On last night‘s show, we talked about this election. The special election in Upstate New York to replace Congressman Christopher Lee who showed up shirtless and flexy, flexly on Gawker.com and who resigned from office before you could an finish losing the article with his picture at the top. That was three months ago, the fastest political scandal on earth.
The special election to replace Mr. Lee ought to be a gimme for the Republican Party. His district was designed less than a decade ago to be a sure beat, no chance for the Democrats, redder than red Republican district.
Remember when crazy Carl Paladino was the Republican nominee for governor, with his racist, bestiality porn scandals and the screaming and swearing at people? Carl Paladino actually won in New York 26, in Christopher Lee‘s old district. That‘s how Republican New York 26 is. They even voted for Carl Paladino.
When Barack Obama beat McCain by 25 points in New York state, in New York 26, McCain won.
But as we reported last night, the uber Republican politics of New York 26 are no match for how much people all over the country hate the Paul Ryan Republican plan to kill Medicare. In a district where majority of voters are older than 45, the Republican candidate Jane Corwin‘s pledge to vote with her party to kill Medicare has been driven home by the Democrat in the race, Kathy Hochul—driven to the point where the latest polling shows the two candidates to be in a dead heat, a dead heat in a district that red.
Since our report on that last night, there‘s new news of new conservative money pouring into that race to try to save it for the Republicans. Karl Rove secret donor American Crossroads group starting today is spending 650,000 grand on TV ads to benefit the Republican candidate. That‘s the call.
Is there a response? Maybe. A liberal group called House Majority PAC says it may now get involved as well. Their spokesman saying they are keeping very close tabs on this race.
Now, woe be to anyone who tries to weigh (ph) too much about national politics from one special election and one obscure, but I‘m sure lovely congressional district. But special elections can sometimes be seen as bellwethers, as predictors of things to come in the next election.
Take for example Wisconsin. In a special election for one state assembly seat there a week ago today, a Democrat took that seat for the first time in 16 years. You know who got that particular political micro-message? This guy, Republican Wisconsin State Senator Dan Kapanke, whose territory includes that assembly district. Mr. Kapanke is one of six Republicans who have been put up for recall by voters because of his support of Wisconsin‘s Republican governor‘s big union-stripping bill.
Four of those recall petitions got a preliminary go-ahead from state officials today, satisfied that the campaigns had collected enough valid signatures.
Now, three Democratic state senators have always been put up for recall by conservative groups because they left Wisconsin to try to stop the union-stripping thing. You will notice there are half as many Democrats forced to defend their seats. And so far, not one of the attempted Democratic recalls has yet been given a green light by the state.
To retake the Wisconsin state Senate, Democrats need to oust three Republicans. They are going for six. We don‘t know how many they will have to defend as well. But we do know they need a net gain of three. And that is not very many.
One way you can tell it is not seen as very many in Wisconsin is that Republicans have started to jam through their legislative agenda now as fast as they can. Stuff they might have waited years to do is now suddenly on the calendar, stuff like legalizing concealed weapons, deregulating the telephone industry, expanding Wisconsin‘s troubled school voucher program, ending early release from prison. These are not emergency items unless you don‘t have much time left, because you‘re about to lose control of the state Senate or you fear you might.
One other item Wisconsin Republicans have decided they can‘t wait on, they must push through right away, they‘ve decided they cannot wait to pass a vote that would make it harder to vote in Wisconsin. And they cannot wait for that bill to take effect when they pass it.
When they first proposed a law to require you to show a photo ID at the polls, it was to take effect in the 2012 primary. So, next spring. Now, the harder to vote rule would take effect immediately, right away, as in before the six Republican state senators have to defend their seats in recall elections that will be scheduled for some time this summer.
Remember what happened last time Wisconsin Republicans tried to jam something through as fast as possible? That was in March when Republicans decided to pass their union-stripping deal through a hastily rewritten bill, passed without a quorum, through a special committee meeting called with very little notice and a procedure the courts are still mulling over to decide if it was legal. At that committee hearing, one Democrat, House Minority leader Peter Barca made a last stand to try to stop what they were doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. PETER BARCA (D), WISCONSIN: No. No. Listen! It says if there‘s any doubt as to whether good cause exists, the governmental body should provide 24 hours notice. This is clearly a violation of open meetings law. Know if you‘ve shutting people down, it is improper to move forward while this is a violation in the open meetings law.
You‘re not allowing an amendment and that is wrong. No. Mr.
Chairman, this is a violation of the open meetings law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is that man who stood in front of that tank, Democratic State Representative Peter Barca of Wisconsin, who serves as the assembly minority leader in that state‘s legislature.
Representative Barca, thanks very much for your time.
BARCA: Rachel, great to be on your show. And we appreciate all the great coverage you‘ve had of Wisconsin. Just by shedding some light on this radical agenda that they‘ve been pushing over the last couple months has helped enormously.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that national spotlight. I mean, the reason Wisconsin has had so much national attention for me and other people this year is not just because of how surprising and aggressive the Republican agenda has been in Wisconsin, but because the backlash in Wisconsin against it has been so strong. You are right in the middle of it.
Do you feel like Wisconsin has a lesson for the country in terms of Republican overreach and the reaction you‘ve had there?
BARCA: Well, there‘s no question, Rachel. I mean, we have had 30 budget hearings around the state. And people have come out droves. They are extremely upset at this radical agency.
Of course, poll after poll, even by right wing organizations, show 2/3 of the people are against having their rights to collective bargaining removed. But now, you‘ve got radical proposals and in each case, they come up with the most extreme laws.
Today alone, we had on the bill on the docket to pass the most extreme bill to basically end wind energy in Wisconsin, a state that has a heritage for clean environmental practices. They had another bill to no longer require municipalities to have clean water. Then they had a bill which you mentioned earlier in your segment regarding the school voucher program.
And once again, they take the most extreme measures to take off the lid completely and allow the taxpayers to pay for wealthy people, to send their children to private schools not even in the same community they live in.
It‘s just been remarkable to see their overreach and people are reacting strongly. You mentioned the 94th assembly district which has been held by 16 years by the governor‘s top aide that we won by a significant margin, 54-46. Three county executive races, and the governor home county, Milwaukee County, went big for the Democrat against one of the governor‘s top allies in the legislature. Republican Outagamie County elected a Democrat as county executive for the first time ever.
And then you have the Supreme Court race that we still don‘t fully know the outcome with JoAnne Kloppenburg 30 points behind with four weeks to go, that it comes within a whisker of a vote.
So, people are catching on. And as you indicated, Rachel, they hear the foot steps so they are rushing through this legislation with little public notice, with sloppily putting together amendments, changing it from day to day. People don‘t even know what bills we‘re considering they change them so rapidly.
MADDOW: What do you think is going to happen in terms of recall elections in your state? When do you think those will be and what do you think the results will be?
BARCA: Well, it looks pretty clearly like they‘ll be in mid-July and we feel very confident based on the last couple election cycles, we‘ve been through, including the special election. People are upset. They are—feel as though the middle class is under attack, and they‘re standing up strongly. They‘re coming out in droves.
We hear constantly from people who have never been involved in politics before that they‘re now fully engaged. It‘s been remarkable to watch.
MADDOW: Democratic State Representative Peter Barca of Wisconsin, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. I really appreciate it.
BARCA: Well, Rachel, we appreciate your coverage.
MADDOW: Thank you.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: This picture was taken today in Uganda. This has not been PhotoShopped or edited or color-altered in any way. We didn‘t add this pink color in. This is just a photo from “Reuters” news agency.
It was a protest which the government had banned, and when people turned up to protest anyway in Constitutional Square in Uganda‘s capital city, police hemmed in the protesters with dogs and then they shot pink dye at the protesters from trucks.
The government has not said what the liquid was or whether it is toxic or why they doused people with what appears to be indelible dye, but these were the surreal scenes in the capital city of Uganda today.
The opposition leader who came in third against the long-time dictator of Uganda and what are widely considered to be rigged elections in February, he was one of those hit with dye and then arrested today. As far as we know, he is still in custody.
The man who came in second in the election was beaten so severely at another protest last month that he is still out of the country now receiving medical treatment. The swearing in ceremony for Uganda‘s dictator, for Yoweri Museveni, is scheduled for Thursday, amid the protests and the pink dye and the beating and arrests of the opposition figures.
Reporting from Uganda‘s parliament today suggests the way President Museveni will spend tomorrow, the day before he is sworn in, is signing into law his country‘s so-called “kill the gays” bill, the bill which may still be amended would establish penalties up to and including execution for the crime of being gay. It would make it a crime punishable by imprisonment to know someone was gay and not turn them into police. It would make it a crime punishable by imprisonment to hire someone who was gay or to be their landlord.
President Museveni himself and the members of parliament—excuse me, the member of parliament who introduced the kill the gays bill are both linked to C Street, to the Capitol Hill boarding house for members of Congress that‘s run by the secretive religious group The Family.
You may remember that C Street and The Family got national attention when they played starring roles in efforts to keep secret or resolve extramarital affairs by Republican politicians Mark Sanford and John Ensign.
C Street also got a new round of national attention when it emerged that David Bahati, the author of the “kill the gays” bill, was considered to be The Family‘s key man in Uganda. His rise to power there is inextricable from his powerful friends in The Family in the U.S. Jeff Sharlet‘s book “C Street” is the definitive account of the relationship.
As the “kill the gays” bill was internationally condemned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama, and by countries around the world, The Family and C Street were stung by the exposure and by revelations of their links to these characters in Ugandan politics. A representative of The Family took the unprecedented step of appearing on television, on this show, to defend The Family and to describe how The Family was using its influence over the main players in Uganda to try to stop the “kill the gays” bill, not to promote it.
Since, then, The Family has tried to calm worries about the “kill the gays” bill by saying that they had inside information from the President Museveni‘s inner circle that the bill would never go anywhere, that it had gone as far as it was going to get, that it would never get as far as—well, as it did today.
After months of stalling, the bill is expected to be out of committee and to get a second reading in parliament tomorrow. Observers familiar with Uganda‘s parliamentary processes says that means the “kill the gays” bill could easily be made law tomorrow—unless President Museveni vetoes it.
The Family has been saying that Mr. Museveni had his mind changed on this. He would never sign it. But, again, The Family also said it wouldn‘t make it this far through parliament, and now, it has.
I don‘t know if Uganda‘s dictator is worried about international condemnation on human rights issues on this week of his inauguration. My sense is no. But we will keep as close a watch as we can on the “kill the gays” proceedings tonight and tomorrow. And we will have an update for you about it on tomorrow night‘s show.
Thanks very much for being with us tonight. Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Have a good one.
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