'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, May 26th, 2011
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Guests: Chris Hayes, Ed Rendell
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. That was very nice of you to play my prediction from Chris‘ show this past weekend and made it look like I was right.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: You were—come on. When you‘re right, you‘re right. And we‘re going to be playing those tapes here all the time.
MADDOW: Well, thank you. It is sort of amazing to see Newt Gingrich pulling a full-on Sharron Angle this early on. But it‘s very exciting. Well done.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
“Oh, my God, it‘s coming.” That is a direct quote that appeared today in “The Hill” newspaper in Washington, D.C. “Oh, my God, it‘s coming.”
That quote comes from an anonymous source inside Congress explaining to “The Hill” how angry House Republicans are at John Boehner, and the Republican leadership right now, for letting this kill Medicare/Paul Ryan budget disaster unfold the way that it has.
Quote, “Members know that you don‘t—word that starts P—you don‘t
P off senior citizens and they know that this was handled badly, that there
was no messaging, that Ryan‘s not making his case and they‘re all looking
down the road thinking, ‘Oh my God, it‘s coming.‘”
I don‘t really know why this isn‘t getting more attention. My sense is actually that this is about to get more attention, although I could be wrong. But I think there is sort of an amazing very mainstream story unfolding right now in Republican politics, which is that in the last couple of weeks, ever since the Paul Ryan/kill Medicare plan has become so evidently politically horrible for Republicans, there has been a ton of Republicans talking smack about John Boehner and the Republican leadership to the Beltway press—so much for the unified front, so much for Ronald Reagan‘s 11th commandment about never speaking ill of a fellow Republican.
Look at what Republicans are saying about each other now to beltway reporters. This is all recent stuff. “Politico” reporting earlier this week, “staffers with the National Republican Congressional Committee warned the leadership, quote, ‘You might not want to go there‘ in a series of tense” meeting before the House even voted on the budget.
Another Republican source explaining to “Politico,” quote, “The voices who were saying, let‘s do this in a way that‘s politically survivable, they got drowned out by a kind of panic.”
“‘People in my district like Medicare,‘ one lawmaker, who is now having his own doubts about voting yes, tells Politico.”
Yet another Republican source telling them, quote, “The feeling among leadership was we have to be true you to the people who put us here. We don‘t know what to do, but it has to be bold.” Another GOP insider involved in the process was more morbid, “Yeas, jumping off a bridge is bold too.”
“The Hill” reporting last week, quote, “One GOP senator who spoke on the condition of anonymity expressed his belief that Ryan made a serious tactical mistake.”
The lawmaker who did not want to be quoted on the record criticizing a fellow Republican said that by laying out specific Medicare reforms, Paul Ryan gave Democrats political ammunition. Quote, “The only people talking about Medicare are Republicans and we‘re just arguing with ourselves,” said the lawmaker.
The revolt in the Republican Caucus is far enough along that in some cases, it is not just anonymous revolt. It is becoming open revolt. Republican members of Congress, even willing to use their own name when complaining about their leadership to the press.
Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan telling “The Hill” that he‘s heard of some bickering, quote, “at a higher level that the average member.” Rank-and-file lawmakers, he said, “just want to know what happened.”
I know what happened. What happened is that House Speaker John Boehner, for some reason, decided that at the start of a presidential election cycle, all of the Republicans should all vote to kill Medicare.
We have advanced this thesis before. And I want to reiterate that I do not mean this in a personal way. I do not mean to say that John Boehner is a bad person. I have no idea what kind of person he is. My sense is that he‘s probably nice.
I, for example, tend to like people who cry in public. I thinking about unabashedly emotive can sometimes be a sign of good character or at least of being an interesting person. But I have—honestly, I have no real sense of John Boehner as a man.
John Boehner as House Speaker, however, I do have a sense of. And I think that there is a good chance that he is not very good at his job. There were signs of this early on, when, for example, he botched even the swearing in of the members of Congress at the start of the new session in which he was in charge. Mr. Boehner left two Republicans out of the swearing in.
Also, under Mr. Boehner, the House‘s first act was the reading of the Constitution on the House floor. But they left out some parts of the Constitution. They say on purpose. And they left out other parts of the Constitution not on purpose, because some of the pages they were reading from got stuck together.
Then John Boehner made a big show about having all of these new rules for their legislation in the House under his leadership. But then the very first bill, he moved in the House under his big new rules, the bill to repeal health reform, he exempted it from his big new rules. Then there was Mr. Boehner‘s failed pledge to cut $100 billion this year out of the federal budget, even though he had put the figure in writing quite directly, the figure kept getting revised downward over and over again by tens of billions of dollars. Mr. Boehner explained that one as a complicated math issue.
There was also that one week in February when Speaker Boehner scheduled three separate bills that he wanted the House to pass, and then none of them did.
In addition to just the logistics of getting politics done, there has also been the trouble that John Boehner has had just talking about politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When we say we‘re going to cut spending, read my lips: we‘re going to cut spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Read my lips. The only famous thing that George H.W. Bush ever said—the phrase famous, of course, for costing him the presidency.
After inexplicably saying the phrase himself, saying “read my lips,” even though nobody prompted him to say anything like that, John Boehner walked away from the podium and was close enough to reporters that they heard him when he said, as the next thing as he walked away from the microphone, quote, “I can‘t believe I just said that.”
But talking about politics thing has proven very difficult for Mr. Boehner. It was just a few weeks ago, Speaker Boehner made sure he was caught on tape saying, yes, sure, it would be fine to cut subsidies for oil and gas companies. And a few days later, his entire Republican Caucus, including him, moved to defend those oil and gas subsidies.
There was also, of course, the dueling State of the Union responses delivered by two different Republican members of the House—Mr. Boehner being in charge of the Republicans in the House. More recently, Mr. Boehner made a big show of announcing that he had hired a law firm to defend an anti-gay marriage law for House Republicans, making the announcement apparently before checking with the law firm to make sure it was OK—a move that not only reversed the decision but all but destroyed said law firm and caused one of its marquee partners to quit.
There‘s also that thing about the House not being allowed to commend the Navy SEALs team that killed Osama bin Laden. They were allowed to rename post offices in the week after that happened, but not to commend the SEALs team.
I‘m sure that John Boehner is a nice guy. Honestly, he seems like a pleasant person. People seem to enjoy his company. John Boehner as House speaker seems to have whatever you call the opposite of a Midas touch.
And this whole Paul Ryan/kill Medicare thing is really just the latest example in what‘s becoming a very long and hard to keep track of list of stuff that he has really screwed up in a way that has hurt Republicans and embarrassed his party.
Today, with his caucus all but bursting at the seams over the political damage that has been done by him making them take that kill Medicare vote, the latest example being the loss of the New York 26 special election, Speaker Boehner himself today acknowledged that Medicare maybe did have something to do with the New York 26 loss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Part of the—the small part of the reason we didn‘t win clearly had to do with Medicare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Very small part. You think?
This Paul Ryan thing has gotten so bad for John Boehner that now his Republican counterpart in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is starting to turn on him in a way that is being leaked to the press, and these guys don‘t tend to leak stuff except on purpose.
An anonymous source, of course, telling “Politico” that during a meeting of Senate Republicans this week, quote, “Mitch McConnell told his colleagues that he warned house speaker John Boehner of the political risks in proposing a major Medicare overhaul as part of the Ryan budget.”
McConnell dressing down John Boehner through the press like this?
Republicans behind the scenes and increasingly to the press are acknowledging that this Paul Ryan/kill Medicare vote that John Boehner arranged was a mistake. Republicans are not dumb. Republicans can read all the same polling as everybody else can on Medicare. They know how this is going. They should have known how it would go.
But think about what John Boehner just did to his party. The only power Republicans have in Washington is that they control the House, right? And their fearless leader, John Boehner, for reasons still not explained, made all of the House Republicans vote to kill Medicare -- 235 of 239 of them voted to kill Medicare.
Unwilling to get beaten over the head with that vote by not only Democrats but by Republicans every single day for the next 18 months until the next election, Republicans may have realized that vote was a mistake, but they seem to be trying to save the situation by protecting John Boehner, by protecting the House, by trying to keep their sides in line on this at least publicly.
Presidential candidates like Newt Gingrich are forced to reluctantly sign on to the Paul Ryan/kill Medicare budget or face the wrath of the rest of the party. Republicans who dare oppose the Ryan budget in public like Scott Brown of Massachusetts, they get berated in the press and threatened with the Republican primary challenge for doing so.
Republicans who try to ride the fence on the issue, like presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty, these guys are eventually being pressured into endorsing it, as Tim Pawlenty did today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Ryan should be applauded. I really like his courage and leadership of getting the plan out there. If that was the only bill that came to my desk and I wouldn‘t be able to pass my own, then I would sign his bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I would sign his bill. After days of dodging that question, today, Tim Pawlenty took the plunge. I would vote to kill Medicare.
The only major Republican presidential candidate who has not signed on to this joint proverbial suicide pact in the Republican Party is Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney has so far managed to avoid signing on to the kill Medicare thing. Among the major presidential candidate, so far, I think he is the only one so far.
Republicans, like Karl Rove, are trying to do damage control on this now. In publications, friendly publications like “The Wall Street Journal,” Mr. Rove writing today that Republicans need a political war college that schools incumbents and challengers in the best way to explain the kill Medicare plan now that they have all signed onto it.
That‘s the kind of stuff the party has to deal with right now. People like Karl Rove is saying let‘s make the best of this. Let‘s try to turn this frown upside down now that we‘re all on record, let‘s come up with the way to defend it. Can we set up a college for this?
And then at least 15 Republican sources already, over the last couple of weeks, squawking to the political press about how this is not something they can put a shine on. This is a huge political error. This is an unforced Republican error for which they still do not have an explanation, let alone a solution.
That‘s what John Boehner has done.
For anybody who does not like the chosen policies of House Republicans, anybody hoping that the House Republicans therefore do not succeed at getting what they want—at this point, I think it is an open question as to whether or not you should be hoping that John Boehner remains as speaker of the House Republicans.
Joining us right now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine and MSNBC contributor.
Chris, it‘s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Great to see you, too.
MADDOW: So, what does it mean when Washington, politics, when everybody is running to the press to deride and mock their own party leadership, to deride and mock the speaker of the House of their own party?
HAYES: Well—I mean, they love metaphors in Washington politics, and that means people are starting to head for the hills as opposed to beating an orderly retreat. In some ways, actually, I am shocked that there isn‘t more of this. I mean, if you take a step back in some ways, the degree to which party discipline has and continues to be maintained is as surprising as how politically idiotic this enterprise was from the beginning.
I mean, I talked to a Republican consultant today who said, I said, “What do you think about 26 and Medicare?” He said, “I hope it‘s a wake-up call, because most of the members still think to themselves we‘re right about this and people are going to come around to it.”
And as much as it‘s sort of shocking to see that article on “The Hill” and to see the kind of leaked comments about McConnell, remember Democrats -- I mean, Democrats started running all over the place the day after Scott Brown—you had everyone, Barney Frank, saying on the record to “Politico” like, well, that‘s it for health care.
So, in some ways, it‘s a real study in the kind of difference between the level of sort of party unity in both parties. And in this case, it‘s proving to be—it‘s sort of this double-edged sword, because that party unity could be a powerful tool when wielded behind things popular. But in this case, it‘s looking like a mass suicide pact.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of understanding it—I feel like there is something to be said for the idea that now they have done it, they have to figure out how to survive it, that they‘re going to try to survive it together rather than—
HAYES: Right. Which is the same logic of health care, right? I mean, we were all saying after this, you can‘t undo, you can‘t un-ring that bell. You cannot walk away from that vote you‘ve taken. If you drop it now, have you the worst of both worlds.
But the big difference here, right, it‘s one thing to take a really difficult vote politically or one that‘s going to expose you to political risk in exchange for a substantive accomplishment.
HAYES: But that was never on the table here. I mean, it was just clear that basing on Medicare was not going to pass a Democratic Senate and get signed by Democratic president. That‘s what is so mind-boggling about this.
MADDOW: That‘s why the segment is “John Boehner is bad at his high hypothesis,” because it‘s not that he came up with idea to kill Medicare.
MADDOW: Republicans have been kicking around like - this around forever.
MADDOW: But he not only let Paul Ryan put that in his plan, but let Paul Ryan put forward that plan in a way that was adopted as the official Republican Party budget, and then he made everybody vote on it, which did not achieve it, which has nothing to brag on, and picks the fight. It‘s just—it‘s an astonishingly bad move. And I guess I feel like my new task is to convince John Boehner to explain to me the thinking because there‘s got to be something.
HAYES: No, here‘s the thinking. I think I can tell you the thinking, which is that I think they thought they had this kind of shock doctrine moment—to quote my colleague Naomi Klein, which is that there was kind of—there was this sort of a panic on Capitol Hill about deficits and debt. There was an intense conversation amongst Beltway pundit and the sorts about the entitlement crisis and the debt crisis. There was a tremendous amount of kind of backlash expressed through the mid-term elections.
And they thought they could kind of pull off this bait-and-switch, that they could basically run against Democrats for—and kill them for voting to, quote, “cut Medicare,” and then kind of sneak in this agenda because everyone in Washington was kind of behind this. And I think they just forgot, frankly, how much people like social insurance and like the welfare state. I mean, that‘s just a core fundamental fact of American politics. And they are fundamentally ideologically opposed to.
Squaring that circle is difficult, even in the best of times, right?
HAYES: So, I think they thought they could get away with it. It was one of those crisis moments when they could strike when the iron was hot, and they just were wrong.
MADDOW: They forgot about the humans with the thinking.
HAYES: Yes, right.
MADDOW: That would be reacting to them.
Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine, MSNBC contributor—Chris, thanks a lot. Appreciate it, man.
HAYES: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: It is a fine line that separates courage and shamelessness in all walks of life, but particularly in politics. Running for president takes courage. Running for president by trumpeting the success of Obama policies you once berated, that is pure definitive shamelessness. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are lousy with it today.
Former DNC chairman, Ed Rendell, will join us next to discuss campaign revisionism in full swing.
But, first, “One More Thing” about the political burden of voting for Paul Ryan‘s budget. One man in Congress has twice the burden of everyone else. Last month when 235 Republican members of Congress voted yes to pass the kill Medicare/Paul Ryan budget in the House, Congressman Dean Heller of Nevada was among those who voted yes.
But a few weeks later, the governor of Nevada appointed Dean Heller to go to the U.S. Senate for the seat created when John Ensign quit, when Mr. Put Your Pants On and Go Home stepped down. And that means that last night when the Senate finally voted on the Paul Ryan/kill Medicare budget—
Senator Dean Heller got the chance to vote on it. He voted yes again.
So, he voted to kill Medicare twice.
Harry Reid scheduled yesterday‘s vote because he wanted to force Republicans to put their votes on the record. Are they for or against—for or against killing Medicare, yes or no, got to decide yes or no. Dean Heller was the only guy on Capitol Hill given a do-over, given a chance to change his vote, on a provision that is proving wildly unpopular with American voters.
Instead of changing his mind, the new guy doubled down, the new guy said he wanted to kill Medicare last month and he wants to kill Medicare this month.
Dean Heller will be defending that vote in 2012 when he runs to hold onto the Senate seat to which he was appointed. If that election hinges on Medicare, Dean Heller will have sealed his fate fewer than three weeks into his term on what was only his 11th vote as a United States senator.
MADDOW: As of today, it has been 141 days since the Republican Party took control of the house. And today, on day 141, House Republicans finally released their jobs plan. It is 10 pages long.
But that includes this first page, which is just the title page. Also there‘s another full page illustration here, and another half page illustration here, and another half page illustration here. Another half page illustration here. And here another half page, and here another half page illustration. There is one, this one, nice big full page of text. It‘s large font.
So, it‘s a very easy read. Why did they not release this greeting-card length clip-art masterpiece before today? It‘s because they have been very busy. They have been very, very busy. They have been focused, focused like a laser on your uterus.
Even before yet another vote on new federal restrictions on access to abortion rights—an access to abortion this week, even before that, quoting from “The Associated Press,” “Since coming to power in January, the Republican majority in the House has acted to write permanently into law the ban on federal funds to perform abortions, to make it easier for hospitals to refuse abortion cases, and to make it more expensive for small businesses to choose insurance plans under the health care act that provide abortion coverage. The House also unsuccessfully tried to cut off federal money for Planned Parenthood as part of the battle over this year‘s budget.”
No wonder there was no time for a jobs plan until now, so much abortion to get to first. Not to be outdone by their laser-focused colleagues in the House, six Senate Republicans introduced a bill last week that sets 10-year prison terms for abortion doctors who violate these senators‘ new proposed parental consent waiting period for abortion.
So, to be clear here, it is day 141 before we get the Republicans‘ haiku-length boilerplate jobs plan, day 141. And that comes after four separate comprehensive abortion rights rollback bills.
But what Republicans are trying to do in the House is really nothing compared to what they are trying to do where they are in control in the states. The Louisiana House voted a bill out of committee this week that would ban abortion in that state. The House Health and Welfare Committee voted 10-2 in favor of criminalizing abortion in the state of Louisiana. The punishment for the crime of abortion under this new bill in Louisiana right now, in its original version, as it was first introduced, a woman who gets an abortion would be sent to prison in the state of Louisiana for five to 15 years.
The bill has since been amended. In its current state, women will not be sent to prison themselves. That five to 15-year state prison term will just be for doctors. It‘s not just Louisiana now. It‘s everywhere.
Republicans are in control of the legislature. It‘s happening everywhere. Lawmakers in all of these states you see here have proposed some sort of ban on abortion this session. Some like, Florida and Georgia have proposed total bans. Lots of others have proposed bans starting at 20 weeks.
Ohio‘s proposed ban could start as early as five weeks, so as soon as you notice your period is late, it‘s illegal to get an abortion.
In these 11 states, violating a proposed abortion ban would send your doctor to prison for anywhere from six months to eight years.
In these three states, violating that proposed ban could get your doctor as much as 10 years prison.
And in these two states, yes, Florida makes the list twice.
Republicans in Florida have been very, very focused on abortion this year. Under bans proposed in Florida and in Georgia this year, your doctor could get anywhere from 30 years in prison to life in prison for doing an abortion.
This is the state of the Republican Party and its politics on abortion right now. It has never been like this in my lifetime. Since the Roe v. Wade decision, getting rid of abortion rights has never been the focus of the Republican Party like it is right now. It is an obsession this year.
Do you think they are concerned about jobs? They say they are concerned about jobs. But this has really been what is taking up their time in government. This is what they have been working on.
And even if you do not give a hoot about abortion rights, even if this means nothing to you as far as a substantive matter, what it tells you about politics in our country more broadly right now is that anybody who you heard say this week that Rudy Giuliani could get back into the Republican presidential race this year or that George Pataki might get back into the presidential race this year, that any pro-choice Republican could ever be allowed anywhere near presidential politics by this Republican Party, anybody who tells that you anytime soon, has no idea what they are talking about.
MADDOW: Republican Tim Pawlenty is running for his party‘s presidential nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My name is Tim Pawlenty.
I‘m running for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tim Pawlenty is running for president in part by standing firm and opposing the stimulus. At least on television, he says he is opposing the stimulus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAWLENTY: The stimulus bill was outsourced by this president to the United States Congress. It came back in an incoherent fashion. We could have gotten much more bang for the buck for much less money.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Do you think it worked?
PAWLENTY: As measured by the administration‘s own goals and objectives—no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do you think it worked? No. No, I do not think the stimulus worked.
That was Tim Pawlenty speaking last year. Here is Tim Pawlenty today in Milford, New Hampshire, making a campaign appearance at an electronics firm—a campaign appearance at an electronics firm that might not exist were it not for, oh, the stimulus. Cirtronics is a privately held company.
Just around the time Mr. Pawlenty was on “Meet the Press” saying the stimulus did not work, Cirtronics got about 1 million bucks in federal stimulus money.
Tim Pawlenty‘s campaign stop at a company that benefited from a policy he tried so hard to be famously against, that embarrassment was not lost on reporters following him around today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: In your budget in Minnesota, you used federal stimulus money, and there are companies all over New Hampshire like this company that received stimulus money. Given that, how do you maintain your opposition to the federal stimulus money?
PAWLENTY: Well, the federal stimulus money was used by a lot of government entities, businesses and the like, and the real question is: did it work? And we have an economy that has not recovered substantially. We‘ve got people who have been experiencing unbearable levels of unemployment, and it hasn‘t really worked. So, it‘s maybe had a little temporary effect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Maybe had a little temporary—maybe had—maybe had a little temporary effect here at this company I am highlighting as a success story and making part of my campaign.
Yes. This guy not embarrassed.
Also, Mitt Romney. Like Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney is on the record as having been against something, famously, and is now trying to get credit for that thing being a success. The headline of this November 2008 op-ed makes Mitt Romney‘s opinion of saving the American auto industry crystal clear: Let Detroit go bankrupt. That his not some snarky headline that I put on top of it, that‘s what he op-ed that he wrote.
Let the American car manufacturers go away. Let them die. Let America become a country 23 that no longer makes cars.
The following year, he described the auto bailout in “The National Review,” a conservative magazine, in very dark science fiction-y terms, he said, quote, “What is proposed is even worse than bankruptcy. It would make G.M. the living dead.”
Luckily for the country, brains Romney did not get his way. Detroit was not allowed to go bankrupt. Carmakers like G.M. and Chrysler got loans from the government, and today, G.M. and Chrysler are doing pretty OK. They‘re doing better than OK. They are adding jobs and making profits.
Adding jobs and making profits. That sounds like a result any candidate would like to run on, right? And any candidate will, apparently, including the “let them go bankrupt” guy.
Speaking to “The New York Times” this week about the Obama administration‘s strategy for resurrecting the auto industry, a spokesman for Mr. Romney said, quote, “Mitt Romney had the idea first.”
Publishing an editorial under your own name, right, in “The New York Times.” It‘s a big deal. When you are running for something, when you are a politician, you do not do that sort of thing for kicks. You do it so that you will be known as the guy who said, XY and Z, the guy who said, let Detroit go bankrupt.
Whatever it is you write about, that‘s what you want to be known for.
Mitt Romney in 2008 wanted to be known as the “let them go bankrupt” guy. Mitt Romney in 2011 wants to be the “I saved the auto industry” guy. It was my idea.
It‘s not just awkward, it is embarrassing—if they were capable of embarrassment.
Joining us now is former Pennsylvania governor and former chairman of the Democratic Party, Ed Rendell, who‘s now an NBC News political analyst.
Governor Rendell, it‘s nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: My pleasure. Hypocrisy reigns.
MADDOW: Is this—is this sort of a backwards compliment to Obama administration policies to have Tim Pawlenty appearing at stimulus-aided businesses, and Mitt Romney trying to take credit for the auto bailout?
RENDELL: A lot of the things that President Obama did early on that got brutally criticized by people like Governors Pawlenty and Romney have turned out to be successful. The recovery isn‘t finished yet, but the recovery is certainly underway. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month when President Obama took over. We are now gaining a quarter of a million jobs almost on average per month.
Pennsylvania is the third highest state in job growth over the past year. And we‘re doing very well because we used our stimulus dollars very effectively.
And they can‘t get around it. So they‘re trying to sort of reinvent history.
The auto bailout, Rachel, one thing you didn‘t mention is that the American taxpayers are getting their money back with interest. And the auto bailout is a tremendous success by any measuring stick.
So, you‘ve got to run from your prior statements. That‘s the problem with being a hypocrite politically. It‘s like all of those Republican congressmen who voted no on stimulus and then showed up at the ribbon cuttings for the waste water treatment plants.
MADDOW: Tell me about places like western Pennsylvania, I‘m thinking of like Michigan, like Ohio, like Indiana, parts of this country where the Democratic primaries in 2008 were so hard-fought between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. You look at the Obama re-election campaign strategy, thinking about trying to run on the bailout, trying to run on manufacturing, trying to run on what this administration did for blue collar jobs, what‘s the Republican rejoinder to that going to be?
RENDELL: Well, they are going to obfuscate and little bit and they‘re going to talk about loss of jobs overseas, and, of course, they‘re responsible for keeping those loopholes for companies to offshore jobs. And they are going to talk about the fact that unemployment is still above where all of us would like it to be, although I‘m happy to say and proud to say, Rachel, unemployment in Pennsylvania last month was down to 7.5 percent.
So, it‘s going to be very hard for them to make the argument. And they are going to try to obscure everything and talk about the deficit and talk about the fact that the deficit‘s increased, and of course, most of that increase came in the Bush administration.
MADDOW: Do you think looking ahead at what the primary process is that the Republicans are going to have to go through this year and next, do you think that a Tim Pawlenty, a Mitt Romney, a Jon Huntsman, can survive that primary process? Can survive the Iowa caucuses, can survive South Carolina, can survive the sort of social conservatism demands that the Republican primary voters are going to have to put on these candidates?
RENDELL: They can survive, but at what cost? I think the only way those three candidates, and I believe they are all Republican moderate candidates, and relatively intelligent people, they could survive, but they‘ll have to take positions which will make it very hard for them to get elected in the general election. It is really a problem.
And each of them has a problem. Huntsman and Pawlenty were for cap-and-trade. Romney, of course, was for health care mandate. How are they going to deal with that? It depends on Republican voters.
And the analogy I would give, Rachel, is 2004, when Governor Dean was sort of—at the heart of the Democratic base, and yet the Democratic base was so anxious to defeat President Bush that they voted for John Kerry because they thought his war record, ironically, would make him the stronger candidate in the fall. If the Republican base does that, then someone like Governor Romney has a chance.
But I don‘t believe they will. I believe the drive for purity, this drive for litmus tests, is going to destroy any chance the Republicans are going to have to win in 2012.
MADDOW: Former Pennsylvania governor and now NBC News political analyst, Ed Rendell—Governor, it‘s always good to see you. Thanks for being here.
RENDELL: My pleasure.
MADDOW: So, news has broken tonight—actually just in the last few minutes since we have been on the air—of a plot to kill an abortion provider in Wisconsin. There has been an arrest. We‘re just getting in the details right now. I will have those for you right after this break. Please stay with us. We‘ll be right back with that.
MADDOW: Some breaking news this evening out of Wisconsin. “The Wisconsin State Journal” reporting that a man was arrested last night after he allegedly told police he was in Madison to kill an abortion doctor. The suspect is named Ralph Lang, 63-year-old man from Marshfield, Wisconsin. He told a police officer at a Motel 6 in Madison that he had a gun to, quote, “lay out abortionists because they are killing babies.”
Quoting from “The Wisconsin State Journal” now, “Mr. Lang said he planned on shooting the clinic‘s doctor right in the head. According to a complaint filed today in U.S. district court, asked if he planned to shoot the doctors or nurses, too—just the doctors or nurses, too, Lang replied he wished he could line them all up in a row, get a machine gun and mow them all down.”
Again, that‘s according to this complaint filed in district court.
Police were called to the motel last night because Mr. Lang accidentally fired his gun. Apparently, he shot the door of the motel accidentally. When police arrived, police started talking to the suspect. He told one officer, according to this complaint, that he planned to go to a nearby Planned Parenthood in the morning, this morning.
He said he had been in Madison the previous week again with a gun. According to the court documents, Lang has a history of targeting Planned Parenthood clinics.
In 2007, he was arrested outside a Planned Parenthood Madison branch telling officers at the time that everyone in the building deserved to be executed and police were failing in their jobs by not carrying out the executions. He got a disorderly conduct citation. He told police that thereafter, he bought a .38 caliber gun.
One police officer looked around the motel room during the arrest, saw a box that contained several documents, including a map of the U.S. with dots in each state and the handwritten words, some abortion centers also written on the map was Blessed Virgin Mary says hell awaits any woman having an abortion.
Again, this arrest took place today. We‘re just finding out about it in Madison, Wisconsin. A complaint has been filed today in federal district court in Wisconsin. He is due to be appearing in court tomorrow. We will keep you posted.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: These are images of one of the most wanted war criminals in the whole world in hiding. This is how he lived in a country that said they had no idea how to find him, that nobody had any idea where he was, that nobody had seen him. While he was the subject of a supposedly massive dogged manhunt, Ratko Mladic was also seen out and about in his nation‘s capital, going to parties, going to soccer matches, attending his son‘s wedding, crying at funerals.
These images were obtained by Bosnian TV a couple of years ago. They were posted today at the lead blog at “The New York Times” Web site, after this man who really did not seem like much of a fugitive was arrested today, after 16 years of Serbia supposedly looking really hard for him.
He is wanted for killing 8,000 people among other crimes -- 8,000 men and boys rounded up by an army under his direct in person command. Eight thousand Muslim men and boys killed in 1995 at a place called Srebrenica.
Mr. Mladic reportedly still has supporters and loyalists in Serbia. Right wing nationalist groups today they would protest his arrest. They called him a hero. Serbian police said they‘d ban all gatherings in Serbia today, or in Belgrade, to prevent that.
When they finally arrested Ratko Mladic, he was living under this name, Milorad Komadic, which is a little like if Osama bin Laden had been living in Pakistan essentially in plain sight under the name Oladin bin Sama. His name is Ratko Mladic and that is the anagram of his own name that he was using as his pseudonym as he hid in plain sight and made lots of public appearances in Serbia for 16 years, even though he had a multimillion dollar bounty on his head for massacring 8,000 people.
Serbia wants to be part of Europe. Serbia wants to join the E.U. Serbia was not even allowed to start talks to negotiate to try to do that because Ratko Mladic was still at large.
His supporters in the Serbian military thought to maybe be the reason for what the U.N. just days ago called Serbia‘s not sufficient efforts to arrest him. Well, now, they have arrested him. He is on his way to The Hague, and Serbia would please like to join the E.U. now -- 16 years after Mladic‘s massacre.
MADDOW: At the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, Congress had a never again kind of moment. About not just how that war was waged, but how there was no real way in American politics to translate the American public‘s desire to end that war into real power to actually do that, to stop waging it.
And Congress had a huge brawl about what they were going to do about that. But, ultimately, they passed the War Powers Resolution, which reasserts what the Constitution already very clearly says, that the authority to declare war is vested in Congress, not in the presidency.
It also says that if a president does start—the War Powers Resolution says that if a president does start a U.S. military operation without a prior OK from Congress, Congress has to give authorization for that operation within 60 days.
And if they don‘t, then that operation ends, that military operation must cease—so says the War Powers Resolution which is technically the law, even though presidents really don‘t follow it. And Congress doesn‘t make too much of a stink about it anymore either.
We just hit the 60-day time limit for U.S. involvement in the NATO operation in Libya. We hit that timeline on Friday. Is our involvement there being cut off because there‘s been no OK from Congress on the War Powers Authorization is the law of the land? No. As I said it is the law of the land but not one anyone really follows.
There are plans to have Congress do some sort of additional vote on the Libya operation, but they‘re not in any big rush about it. I asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid how Congress justifies that in our interview yesterday.
This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: War Powers Act says that the president has to seek authorization from Congress after 60 days. That was on Friday. I believe that you‘ve said that you don‘t expect a vote in the Senate on that until sometime after June 5th.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: He sent a letter to us, the president, indicating the War Powers Act was in existence and what he thought of it and what he thought the parameters of that would be. I‘ve had conversations with the chairman of the foreign relations committee, Kerry, and John McCain. They‘ve agreed on what they think should be done. And now, I‘m working out some time when we get back from the Memorial Day recess so we can sit down and have a debate. I think it‘s important and we need to have one.
MADDOW: Do you think that the overall concept of the War Powers Act, Wars Power Resolution, is obsolete? Do presidents in effect have the ability to wage war without deep consultation with Congress? Has that eroded over time?
REID: The answer is yes. But times have changed also. I‘ve never
been a great big fan of the War Powers Act because I think it‘s very, very
difficult to understand. So, I think in the solemnity of some of the
things we do here, and there aren‘t many that I‘m pointing that frame of
reference, but when we‘re talking about men and women being sent into
battle, it is pretty solemn, and I think we have to have another discussion about—can we improve the War Powers Act, because I think it certainly needs some improvement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, the discussion about war powers, about how much we use war and why, about how it is even though the Constitution gives the power to wage war to Congress on purpose and not the executive branch because the Founding Fathers thought presidents would use that power too much, but that power has all ended up in the executive branch anyway despite the Constitution.
If what Senator Reid says is right, and we really do get to have that discussion to revisit our war powers as a country, finally, then, boy, howdy, that would be a really big deal for us and for who we have become as a country in this past generation.
Today, the U.S. military announced that in southern Afghanistan, in the Surabak (ph) district, about 12 miles from the border with Pakistan, eight American troops were killed by a pair of bombs for which the Taliban claimed responsibility. Two Afghan police officers were also killed, yet another American was killed in a separate helicopter crash in Afghanistan today.
In January, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told me she thought Congress would be ready this year for a hard discussion about ending the war in Afghanistan. She said it would be a discussion that would be largely disconnected from partisan lines. Nancy Pelosi predicted that party affiliation would cease to be the best predictor of a member of Congress‘s position on whether or not it is time to end the Afghan war.
That prediction has largely come true. And Osama bin Laden has been killed and those bipartisan politics and the best real prospects ever of actually winding down our decade of war in Afghanistan are the subject of the final portion of my interview with Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader which we will be airing on tomorrow night‘s show.
Today, there was a vote in the House on requiring an accelerated draw down of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It only lost by 11 votes, 215-204 --
26 Republicans voted for that.
If politicians other than presidents are allowed to end wars in America, America‘s politicians in Congress are starting to align to at least try to do that right now. We‘ll have more on tomorrow‘s show. In the meantime, we‘ll be right back with “The Best New Thing in the World.”
MADDOW: All right. A lot of downward news on the show tonight, a lot of bummers. I recognize it.
But “The Best New Thing in the World Today” is awesome. It stars Army chief of staff, General Martin Dempsey.
Yesterday, the White House leaked that General Dempsey is to be the president‘s choice for the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, our nation‘s highest ranking military officer. General Dempsey has only been running the Army for six weeks. He is not terribly famous. But thanks to the Internet today—he got the most awesome new chairman of the Joint Chiefs rollout you can possibly imagine. Watch.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: I love how much he loves this. Our new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, everyone. Maybe.
2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell put on a hard hat at an international diplomatic event and danced around on stage to YMCA. I think high ranking officials stopped doing stuff like that overseas not long after the Powell thing went an early version of viral. I understand the whole dignity of the office argument for not doing stuff like this, but there is another side to it, too. For all of the loss of dignity that moments like this may entail, they also have the corresponding benefit of letting us see these guys‘ humanity. Big, important guys cutting loose and having fun and that requires a certain kind of bravery from them that isn‘t always the same kind of bravery from these guys that get so celebrated.
So, probably the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs singing Sinatra on YouTube singing his heart out with no cynicism and no holding back, “Best New Thing in the World Today.” Love it.
Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Have a good night.
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