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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, June 13, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Rep. Chellie Pingree, Bob Herbert

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST:  THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is

up next.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Thanks very much.

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

Tonight is not the first Republican presidential candidate‘s debate.  That already happened.  It was in South Carolina last month.  This is what that looked like.  Do not worry if those people do not look familiar to you as candidates.  You are not alone in feeling that way.

For the record, at the first candidates‘ debate, there‘s Ron Paul.  Everybody knows Ron Paul.  He‘s the guy who was cheered at that debate for saying heroin should be legalized.  The others were Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, and Tim Pawlenty.  Hi, T-Paw.

So, that was the first Republican presidential debate.  That was last month.

Tonight, the second one, a totally different cast of characters.  Gary Johnson will not be there.  He wants to be there, but they would not let him in.  In his place will be Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich and the purported front-runner, Mitt Romney.

Having Mr. Romney in this debate is important for a few different reasons.  Number one, it puts him alongside candidates like Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, so you can really size up the whole field.  These guys are all really running.  This is what the debates are going to look like for the next year.  Holy mackerel, what did we do to deserve this?  This is going to be a great year, right?

But also, the debate is in New Hampshire.  Mitt Romney‘s presidential ambitions pretty much depend on him cleaning up in New Hampshire this year.  He‘s not participating in the Iowa straw poll this year, which despite its quaint-sounding name, is actually a huge deal in Iowa presidential politics.

Mr. Romney did the last time he ran.  He invested a lot in that straw poll.  It basically earned him nothing, so this year he is skipping that.  He is focusing all of his Mitt energy on New Hampshire instead.  He has spent so much time in New Hampshire since the last time he ran, you could be forgiven for thinking that is where he‘s from.

Technically, Mitt Romney is from Michigan.  That‘s where he was born. 

He lived in Utah.  He was, of course, the governor of Massachusetts.

But as far as New Hampshire goes, Mitt Romney just had one of his vacation homes there.  But in his effort to shed his Massachusetts reputation, Mitt Romney sold his home in Massachusetts in April 2009.  The Romneys sold the Massachusetts home for $3.5 million.

And then they registered to vote from their son‘s basement elsewhere in Massachusetts.  Yes, the following January—January 2010, Mitt Romney voted in Massachusetts using his son‘s basement address.  That was in the Scott Brown for Senate race.

And that vote, according to this guy, according to Fred Karger, amounts to voter fraud on Mitt Romney‘s part.  Fred Karger is also running for the Republican presidential nomination.  He filed a complaint today with Massachusetts state election officials alleging that after Mitt Romney sold his house in Massachusetts because he didn‘t want people to think of him as being from Massachusetts, he never lived in the state again.  But he voted there anyway.

As “Mother Jones” put it today, Fred Karger, quote, “found it dubious that a guy worth $500 million would really be living in his son‘s basement.”  Karger spent some time interviewing Belmont, Massachusetts, residents, including members of the Romneys‘ local Mormon temple, where they had been regulars, and asked people when they had last seen the former Massachusetts governor or his wife around town.

The local fishmonger told Mr. Karger, quote, “They flew the coop.  They moved to California.  I haven‘t seen Mrs. Romney in over two years and she used to coming here all the time.”

Likewise, churchgoers who used to worshipping with the Romneys told Mr. Karger they also had not seen the Romneys in a couple of years.

Whether or not the Fred Karger/Mitt Romney voter fraud allegations have merit, whether or not Mr. Romney really did still live in Massachusetts as of this past January when he voted there using his son‘s address, the fact is that Massachusetts is where Mitt Romney was governor, and that is how most people think of him.  That is the shorthand for introducing him—former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

And that is going to be an issue.  That‘s going to be no matter what else happens in the campaign.  Not just because Massachusetts is full of pinko, commie, gay married people who spell school without a “K,” but also because Mitt Romney really wants to base his whole presidential campaign this time around on jobs—on hitting President Obama for not creating enough jobs during his term, right?

The first time around, he ran as a social conservative.  Now, it‘s job creator Mitt Romney.

The new Mitt Romney ad that is out today hits President Obama on job creation.  That is going to be Mr. Romney‘s central theme for his campaign.

Here‘s the problem.  Here‘s the problem with everybody remembering

he‘s from Massachusetts.  Mitt Romney‘s own record on job creation in

Massachusetts when he was governor was atrocious, dismal, ridiculously bad

even if you grade him on a curve.  In his four years as governor, from 2003 to 2007, Massachusetts under Mitt Romney‘s stewardship ranked 47th out of 50, 47th out of 50, fourth worse in the nation.

           

On an average, the country grew jobs at a rate of 5 percent annually.  Under Mitt Romney, it was 0.9 percent in Massachusetts.  Only three states did worse, and one of them was Louisiana, which you might recall in 2005, lost its major city.

Mitt Romney only stayed for one term.  What he did was 0.9 percent job growth over four years.

It makes sense that Mitt Romney wants to run as a politician who knows how to create jobs.  Goodness knows this country needs a lot more jobs.

Unfortunately, for Mr. Romney, though, this whole “I can create jobs if you elect me” thing is not a hypothetical scenario.  Mitt Romney tried this already.  It did not work out well.  His jobs-creating policies did not work well in Massachusetts.

What did work out well for Mitt Romney in the stay, though, was actually his whole health reform thing.  That, it turns out, is really popular.  One poll released last week shows that 63 percent of Massachusetts residents support the Mitt Romney health reform law.

Now, under normal circumstances, a governor with national political ambitions, but a huge legislative accomplishment like that, statewide health reform, something that‘s working that well, that is that popular, as it‘s being implemented, right, that‘s the sort of thing good sense would tell you to run on.  That‘s a big success in your record.  A big, bold move and it worked and people love you for it.

But because Republicans this year want to attack President Obama for his very similar health reform plan for the country, Mr. Romney cannot run on his Massachusetts health reform success.  He cannot run on it.  He is, instead, running from it.

And when you couple that with how atrociously bad Mitt Romney‘s record was in terms of the economy and job creation in Massachusetts—that combines to give him the prospective privilege—look at this—of losing in his home state by 20 points.

Now, Massachusetts is a very blue state.  Probably any Republican is going to lose to President Obama in Massachusetts and by a mile.  But there is this historical truism about presidential elections and candidates‘ home states.  In all of American history, 33 people running for president have not won the Electoral College votes in either their home states, where they were born, or the states in which they lived.  Of those 33 who didn‘t win their home state—of those 33 who didn‘t win their home state, only five went on to win the general election.

So, in the fantasy candidates team of dudes who lost their home state, that fantasy candidates team has a record of five in 28.  Five wins, 28 losses.  That‘s a bad team.

Given that there is one really weird with thing about all of the presidential contenders on the Republican side right now.  It is not just Mitt Romney.  All of them have huge trouble in their home states—the states where they were once popular, the states where they were elected, the states that once gave them a chance to govern.  Those states now do not want them to be president.  They really do not like them.

This is weird for this to be true of the whole field.  But look at, for example, Tim Pawlenty.  Almost half of Minnesotans do not want either Tim Pawlenty or Michele Bachmann to run for president.  Look at how they fair against Mr. Obama in their home state.  In Texas, 10 percent of Texas Republicans want Congressman Ron Paul to run and a measly 4 percent want Governor Rick Perry to run more for president.

One of the most dramatic examples among the Republican presidential contenders is Sarah Palin.  Sarah Palin was once really popular as a governor in Alaska.  At one point, she had an 86 point approval rating there.  Right now, her approval rating in Alaska is less than half of that, less—it‘s 36 percent.  It‘s gone down by 50 points.

All the smart people that I know who have sort of D.C. knowledge, all the people I know who have inside-the-beltway intelligence do not think that Sarah Palin is running this year.  I kind of think that she is.  But regardless, Sarah Palin will not be at the debate in New Hampshire tonight.

The only other person who will not be at that debate tonight, even though he really wants to be there is Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico.  Remember him?  He was in that first debate.  He‘s not going to be in the second one tonight.

The one salient thing you need to know about Gary Johnson among all these other Republican presidential contenders right now—Gary Johnson is the only prospective Republican candidate who has presidential ambitions, right, who is more popular than he is unpopular in his own home state of New Mexico.  He‘s the only candidate who is more liked that disliked in the state where people know him best.  Gary Johnson, the only one.

Joining us now is Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson.

Gene, thanks very much for being here.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Great to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  How bad is it for a candidate or a potential candidate to be so unpopular back home, where people know them best and have lived with what they were like when they were governing?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, back in the day, before women got into politics, I can think of two sayings that there used to be.  First of all, we used to talk about favorite son candidates, who could, obviously, count on the support of their home states.  That doesn‘t seem to be the case with the Republican candidates this year.

And the other thing is an old saying, it kind of sounds vaguely British.  You know, no man is a hero to his valet.  And the idea being, of course, that those who know them best, perhaps, are the ones who aren‘t that impressed.

MADDOW:  But there is this—it does put them on, as I said, this sort of candidate fantasy team.  It does put them on a very bad team, to not be able to win your home state, at least, historically, set you up in a really, really, really bad way for the general election, if you do become the nominee.

So, how do all of these candidates, except for Gary Johnson, have this problem now?  How does a candidate overcome this kind of home court disadvantage?  Do they just have to change the home court and say they‘re from somewhere else?

ROBINSON:  Well, Mitt Romney certainly can do that.  I mean, he‘s got

his choice of home states to be from.  So, if he doesn‘t like Massachusetts

Michigan, I don‘t think would work out too well for him, given about what he said about the auto industry bailout, that President Obama successfully engineered.  So, maybe Utah.  I think he‘s got to go with Utah.

           

The others who don‘t have alternate home states to claim, I think, are just going to have to—that‘s just going to be the way it is.  This is not the sort of thing I think they‘re going to be able to turn around, necessarily.

However, the big question is how national is the election?  And, indeed, if it‘s an election about 9.X percent employment, than that‘s what it‘s about, and it‘s not about whether we like this guy or we don‘t like her or whatever.

MADDOW:  Mitt Romney, of course, ran the last time around as a social conservative, which was, at times, very funny, because there‘s all that great tape of him saying how pro-choice he is and how much he hates Ronald Reagan and all the rest of it.  This time, as you say, he‘s making it about unemployment.  He‘s running as job creator, Mitt Romney.

So, is his record at Bain Capital and as his record in Massachusetts as governor, is that record set to dog him the way his flop floppy social issues record did in his last incarnation as a presidential candidate?

ROBINSON:  If his—if his Republican opponents for the nomination and President Obama in the general if he gets that far, if they don‘t dog him for this, then they‘re committing political malpractice, because he did not create jobs in Massachusetts—as you said, 47th out of 50.  That‘s not good.

And at Bain Capital, which he ran, what they did, the way they made all that money was, you know, taking over firms and laying off people and closing factories and shipping jobs overseas and huge thousands of layoffs.  So, he is an actual destroyer of jobs.  And that should be pointed out.

MADDOW:  Well, on that shall of Bain, though, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about this today, I‘ve been trying to feel like—

I‘ve been trying to figure out how the Bain thing resonates through the primaries campaign, right?  Because we‘ve got 17 months ahead of us if Mr.  Romney is the nominee.

And do you think voters look at his record at Bain and say, well, you know, the way that he made his money is by, as you say, buying companies at fire sale prices, stripping them of their assets that could be monetized, firing all of the Americans, and then letting the companies go bankrupt.  That‘s where he—that‘s how he made his money at Bain.  And he did make a ton of money.  I mean, he made hundreds of millions of dollars, by some reports, personally, from his work there.

Do people look at that and say, wow, that was bad for the country?  Or do people look at that and say, wow, I wish I made hundreds of millions of dollars, he‘s a successful guy, I‘d like to be that rich, I‘d like to be like him, I‘d vote for him?

ROBINSON:  Well, some people look at it either way.  But I think if you tell the story the way you just told it, and I assume his opponents will tell the story that way, I think we‘re at a moment where people are so concerned about jobs and so anguished about jobs that they will take a harder look, I think, at a guy whose private sector experience, who talks an after all, all the time about how the private sector is better at everything than the government.  So, his whole private sector experience is actually, you know, destroying American jobs.  And he would say, well, I created value, I created capital, whatever.  He destroyed American jobs.

And if that‘s his whole record, I think that will be pointed out.  I think people will see it in a different light.

MADDOW:  See, I think people think, yes, I destroyed American jobs, and I got really rich doing it.  And I think we like to imagine ourselves as the rich guy.  We‘ll have to see how it all plays out.

Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post,” MSNBC political analyst—Gene, it‘s always great to have you.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

It‘s a little after 9:00 here on the East Coast, 9:15, to be precise.  According to unimpeachable sources, David Vitter, the family values Republican with a confessed history with hookers, is still a United States senator in good standing.  Now it‘s 9:16, still true.

The David Vitter really, emphatically not going away for the Republican Party, the David Vitter problem not going away for the Republican Party as they continue to make partisan hay over the Anthony Weiner story.

Democrats, for some reason, still are delighted to try to help Republicans out with this one.  I still don‘t get it.  We‘ve got more details ahead, including the president of the United States weighing in on the issue today.  That‘s ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN:  It seemed to me that for the first 10 days in this circus, that the only job that Nancy Pelosi was interested in saving was Anthony Weiner‘s.  So, we‘ve got crushing unemployment in this country, we‘ve got a president that‘s whistling past the graveyard, we‘ve got families that are struggling, and instead, we‘ve got leadership and a Democratic Party that are defending a guy that deserves no defense.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS:  Is it a difficult—is it a difficult place for the party leadership to be that you call for resignation, he doesn‘t listen?  I mean, does it say something about the leadership?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DNC CHAIRMAN:  What Reince is saying doesn‘t past the straight face test.  From the chair of a party who—none of those leaders called for Senator Vitter, who actually broke the law, to resign, who is still serving in office—

GREGORY:  Hired prostituted.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  -- hired prostitutes and evaded the produce.  Chairman Priebus was chairman when Senator Ensign was also embroiled in unethical, unacceptable and probably illegal conduct and did not call for resignation.  So, it‘s a double standard.

GREGORY:  But here‘s the question.  This is unseemly to a lot of people, but there‘s a question of where is the line.

WASSERMAN:  So, you only call for Democrat‘s resignation but not the Republican‘s resignation.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The David Vitter problem gets defined and diagnosed on a live specimen on live television on Sunday morning.  And today, and by rights, what ought to have been the first Anthony Weiner-free news day in a couple of weeks—today, the president got involved in this.  Have you seen this?  It‘s ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In the 2010 elections, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.  They significantly narrowed the Democratic majority in the Senate, and they won 11 governorships that had previously been held by Democrats.

But where Republicans really cleaned up was in the state legislatures.  Republicans in the last elections won more legislative seats in the states than they have had since 1928.  Republicans controlled both houses of the legislature and the governorship in all of these states.

What are they doing with all of this unilateral power that they have?  What are they doing in these states where they have one-party rule.  Some of it is precisely what you think they would do.  Generally speaking, in almost all of these stays, they are trying to make abortion illegal or impossible to get, that kind of stuff.

There are some generalities at work here, going after abortion rights, slashing education, cutting health care.

But in two of these states, two seemingly unrelated states, they are pursuing twin and rather unique agendas.  Check this out.

The embattled Republicans of the great state of Wisconsin are now pushing to scale back child labor laws.  The proposal was pushed by the Wisconsin Grocers Association.  It‘s being folded in to the state‘s budget with help from Senator Alberta Darling, who‘s one of six Republican senators in the state facing recall for her role in helping Governor Scott Walker passed his union-stripping bill earlier in the session.

The child labor law‘s rollback would allow 16 and 17-year-old Wisconsinites to work unlimited hours per day, except when they‘re supposed to be in school.  If it sounds like you have heard this story before, it‘s because you have.  Only you are remembering the child labor laws rollback in Maine, where the Republican-led legislature just last month loosened child labor laws so that teens can work longer hours during the school year.

Maine is also poised to make it harder to vote, much harder to vote, than it already is in Maine.  Maine‘s a state where you can register to vote on the same day you cast your ballot.  That has been true for nearly 40 years.  But it won‘t be true for much longer.  The Republican-held House and Senate voted late last week to get rid of same-day voter registration in Maine.

If that sounds familiar, it‘s because it was just last month that the

Republican-held House and Senate in Wisconsin were doing their part to make

it harder to vote in that state, making it harder to vote Wisconsin-style -

means requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, and current student IDs don‘t qualify.  Sorry, kids.

           

Of course, nothing says Wisconsin like stripping away union rights this year, which the Republicans in Wisconsin have been trying to do amid very vocal protests for months now.  Right now, Republicans in Wisconsin are waiting for a Supreme Court ruling—a state Supreme Court ruling on that union-stripping measure that they passed, after a judge said the way with they passed it was illegal.

Republicans in the state, though, have a backup plan.  Wisconsin Republicans are ready to put their union-stripping measure into the state‘s budget in a special extraordinary session tomorrow, which they say will give them the power to force the budget with the union-stripping measure attached to it, through the Senate, through to the Senate under emergency measures.

They have not done an extraordinary session like this, I think, in almost 20 years in Wisconsin.  But they‘re going to do one tomorrow in order to loosen the rules on themselves so they can ram through the union-stripping thing again by other means.

Maine Republicans actually tried their own anti-union stuff this year as well.  There were two so-called right-to-work bills in the Maine legislature at different points this year.  Neither of them went over very well.

But stripping union rights and making it harder to vote and rolling back those dastardly child labor laws is not enough to define a weird with evil twin relationship between these two states, between Maine and Wisconsin.  And how about this—remember the Paul LePage mural controversy?

There was a mural commissioned by the Maine Arts Commission that was on display in the lobby of the state Department of Labor building, and then the governor, Paul LePage, had this mural removed, because it was too pro-labor.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker also has an artwork controversy of his own now.  This painting, which is very realistic and looks like a photograph, but is a painting of three children playing with bubbles on a Milwaukee street, this was made by David Lenz.  It was on display above the fire place mantel in the drawing room in the governor‘s mansion as of November.  But the governor has taken it down, replaced wit painting of a Civil War era bald eagle from Wisconsin, which, I‘m sure, is much less upsetting that than a poor child.

In Wisconsin, they have started building Walkervilles.  Walkervilles -

protest tent cities modeled after the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression.  These two states following these weird, twin, parallel paths.

           

Now, that we‘ve got Walkerville, should we be looking for LePagevilles, LePage towns?  I guess it would be LePageburgs?  I don‘t know.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine, who previously served eight years as a state senator in Maine.

Congresswoman Pingree, thanks very much for your time today.

REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D), MAINE:  Thank you.  Nice to be with you.

MADDOW:  So, same-day voter registration has been around for 37, 38 years in Maine.  Have there been any problems with it that led to its repeal?

PINGREE:  Absolutely not.  I think there have been two cases of voter fraud in our state, only one of which had anything to do with same-day registration.  This is clearly, in my opinion, a way to suppress the vote, to discourage voters.

Frankly, it‘s an attack on working people.  I mean, many people don‘t have two separate days to get to the polls.  It seems to me in these difficult times what we want is voters, engaged citizens, people who get out to vote.

Maine has one of the highest engagements in elections—I think we‘re third highest in the country.  I‘m proud of that in my state.  And I know that taking away same-day registration is going to limit that.

MADDOW:  From your experience, and I know—I know you have followed this issue for some time, do you think that limiting access this way, in effect, limiting the size of the electorate, has a partisan effect?  Do Republicans benefit more from fewer voters than Democrats do?

PINGREE:  Well, they seem to feel they will.  They‘re the ones really behind this.

This was a very partisan vote.  I think only two Democrats voted with the Republicans to keep this right for voters.

But the Republicans claim, oh, people get bused to the polls.  I think what they really don‘t like is student engagement, student voting.  It‘s my opinion that we want young people to vote and to engage to vote.  But the fact is, Governor LePage was elected under same-day registration.  A tremendous number of people registered to vote on the same day.  I think it was something like 60,000 people in the election last year.

So, he benefits from it.  Democrats benefit from it.  Frankly, I think we all benefit from it.

You know, I was kind of thinking about it today and I thought, OK, many of the people who are pushing this, who want to take away your right to vote and register on the same day, are the very same people who don‘t want to have a waiting period before you buy your gun.  So, you should have a waiting period before you vote, but not before you buy a gun.

MADDOW:  What do you think about the rollback of the child labor laws in Maine?

Governor LePage didn‘t get everything he wanted in the child labor law rollback, but he did make a big public showing about it.  He liked to brag about this as one of his policy positions and he did succeed in getting work hours expanded for teenagers who are in high school.

Who do you think that ultimately benefits?

PINGREE:  You know, again, this doesn‘t make any sense.  We want students to be engaged.  We want them to have family time.  We want them to may on their school teams.  And we want them to do their homework.

Staying up even later hours, more work, there‘s no logic behind it, if you really want to encourage, you know, good behavior on the part of young people.  The fact is, it‘s a way to drive down wages, to pay young people less wages, which doesn‘t make any sense in a time when we have relatively high unemployment, so we have plenty of people who aren‘t students, who want to work in those jobs, so it‘s not as if we‘re desperate to find more workers.

But I think it benefits employers who want to pay lower wages, and so, they want to increase the number of young people in the marketplace so they don‘t have to pay adults a somewhat better wage.

MADDOW:  Big picture, in terms of your state, you‘ve been in public service for a long time in the state of Maine.  And do you feel like the reaction in the state is that people knew what they were getting when they elected this governor and this legislature?  Or do you feel like people feel surprised by the turn that things have taken since this—since the folks that they elected have been governing?

PINGREE:  Oh, I think people are very angry.  I hear about it every weekend when I‘m home.  In fact, I think I hear more about state politics right now sometimes than I do at the federal level.  I think people are very upset about the attack on the environment, the attack on labor laws, the taking down the murals.

You know, this legislature attempted to put toxic chemicals back into sippy cups.  I mean, it‘s just one thing after another.

I think people are very proud of our state.  We‘re not a liberal state.  We‘re not a conservative state.  We‘re a common sense state.

And many of these things don‘t make any sense to people.  And it feels a little bit like this is an agenda that came from the outside.  This is a very conservative agenda.

You know, in Maine, we say, like a lot of people, if it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it.  So, there‘s nothing wrong our election laws.  In fact, we think they‘ve been good for civic engagement.

Where did this idea come from and why did they push so hard to make it happen?  It seems to me it‘s part of a bigger agenda to keep people from voting, to take away our rights as citizens, and to undermine the very fundamentals of democracy.  These voting laws and the suppression of voting worries me about as much as anything that‘s going on in the states right now and this is only going to spread.

MADDOW:  Well, that—what you—those questions that you‘re raising right now is what made us realize and want to comment on the sort of strange intersection of what‘s going on in Wisconsin and Maine, two states that do not adjoin, that are not next to each other, that don‘t necessarily have anything in common here, that are following a very similar and somewhat strange path.  I think there are forces at work here from outside the states that deserve more scrutiny.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine, it‘s been a real pleasure to have you here.  Thanks very much.

PINGREE:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Do you know Roger Ebert, the great film critic?  He won a Pulitzer for film criticism, just a great talent, all-around amazing wit and intellect.

Republicans in the great state of Tennessee, of all places, have just done something.  They just passed a law that may have made the great film critic Roger Ebert a criminal for posting this photo online.

Are you upset by this photo?  Do you find it emotional distressing? 

Should the great Roger Ebert go to jail for posting this photo on his blog?

That story‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS:  Should Congressman Anthony Weiner resign?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, obviously, what he did was with highly inappropriate.  I think he‘s embarrassed himself, he‘s acknowledged that.  He‘s embarrassed his wife and his family.  Ultimately, there‘s going to be a decision for him and his constituents.

I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign, because public service is exactly that.  It‘s a service to the public.  And when you get to the point where because of various personal distractions, you can‘t serve as effectively as you need to, at a time when people are worried about jobs and their mortgages and paying the bills, then you should probably step back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You know, today, Greece had its credit rating dropped to the lowest in the world.  So, Greece could be about to default, which could mean another international financial crisis.

Today, Germany recognized the rebels in Libya as the legitimate government of Libya.

Today, King Abdullah was pelted with bottles and rocks in southern Jordan, as everyone wonders if the “Arab Spring” will bloom in his country, too.

Today, we learned that a U.S. navy destroyer stalked a ship thought to be carrying missile parts towards Burma, stalked it for days before it turned back and went back to North Korea.

Today, the Missouri River breached two levees in Iowa and Missouri, prompting evacuations of a whole with bunch of farm towns.

Today, one of President Obama‘s major economic advisers, Larry Summers, said the economy needs more stimulus spending.

Today, President Obama himself talked about dozens of jobs creation ideas from his jobs council.  He warned about how—essentially, how whack it is that the only feasible ideas now are ones that don‘t have to go through Congress.

And there‘s a presidential candidates debate.

And LeBron James just proved the existence of karma.

And the al Qaeda guy who planned the Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings got killed.

And the FBI‘s taking new search and seizure powers.

And photos of Gabby Giffords.

And the New York state legislature moves on gay marriage.

And, and, and—there is a lot going on.  There is a lot going on. 

It may be a sleepy June Monday, but there is a ton going on.

And did you hear there were absolutely no new developments in the Anthony Weiner sex scandal today?  OMG!  OMG!

The latest argument from Democrats why Congressman Anthony Weiner must resign is he is a distraction from other much more important stuff that Democrats would rather be talking about, which would make sense if Democrats were only now being deprived of the great news coverage they are used to because they‘re always so disciplined about their message.

If Anthony Weiner resigning would help Democrats keep their message

focused on Republicans trying to kill Medicare, if Anthony Weiner resigning

would get the Democrats to come up with a political message on repealing

the Bush tax cuts for zillionaires, which the polls say is more popular

than free beer, if Anthony Weiner resigning would restore honor to Congress

Mr. Vitter—or if Anthony Weiner resigning would do anything else to substantively improve—substantively improve Congress or the Democratic Party‘s politics, then every partisan liberal in the country probably would want Anthony Weiner to resign—or at least they should.

           

If Anthony Weiner would do anything to improve the seriousness of news coverage in our great nation, or its evenhandedness, everyone in the country would want Anthony Weiner to resign, or at least they should.  But Anthony Weiner resigning would not do any of those things.  Anthony Weiner does not have a magic wand, and the pun is partially intended.

So, while David Vitter gets to stay in the United States Senate as the hooker guy from the family values party, what is it about Democrats that has them now lining up to call on Anthony Weiner to resign, to cement that double standard?

Joining us now with his magic decoder powers is Bob Herbert, who just recently left “The New York Times” to work on a new book.  He‘s also become a distinguished senior fellow at Demos and a contributor to “The American Prospect.”

Bob, thank you for being here.

BOB HERBERT, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT:  Thanks, Rachel.  It‘s great to be here.

My goodness, there are some things going on.

MADDOW:  There are some things going on in the world.

HERBERT:  I‘m staying away from the magic wand.

MADDOW:  Sorry.  I got a little worked up about it.

So, I have a feeling that we may not agree on this.  I feel like, no national Republicans called for John Ensign to resign.  It took him years to resign.  No elected Republicans that I know of has ever called for David Vitter to resign.  He‘s still there.

HERBERT:  Right.

MADDOW:  Why are Democrats turning on Anthony Weiner like this?

HERBERT:  Well, I‘m not sure why Democrats are turning on Anthony Weiner.  But I do think it‘s time for Weiner to go.  I also don‘t think he‘s going to survive.

But I think that there‘s a lot of reasons he should leave.  First and foremost, I don‘t think Democrats should be behaving like Republicans.  I expect Republicans to be hypocrite—I expect politicians to be hypocritical, and I expect Republicans to be at a heightened state of hypocrisy than most politicians.

But, you know, I think we should have, we should want higher standards in government from our office holders, Republicans and Democrats alike.  And I do believe that Weiner‘s behavior has been egregious.  In the first place, it‘s profoundly disrespectful to women.

And if the photos that he sent, if they were uncensored, he‘d be gone now.  I mean, he sent some hideous stuff.

Also—and I think this is an important issue, too—he can in longer be effective as a representative of the people of his district.  And part of that is because the Democrats in Congress have turned on him and because the party itself has turned on him and the president also thinks that he should resign.

So, no one will cosponsor legislation with him, he won‘t get any significant assignments from the party.  No one even wants their picture taken with him.  So, I think that that‘s another reason.

MADDOW:  But isn‘t that just rewarding the disproportionate coverage of him?  For example, John Ensign, the John Ensign case was -- 

HERBERT:  I don‘t think it‘s about the disproportionate coverage of Weiner, I think it‘s about what Weiner did.

I mean, I look at people like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and I look at Nancy Pelosi, I have a great deal of respect for both of them, and they think that he should—he should be gone.

You know, the coverage is disproportionate.  There‘s a lot of reasons for that.  And the media, we do go overboard on all of these things.

MADDOW:  Well, or underboard on some of them.  I mean, the John Ensign scandal, it was marginal coverage, a day or two, even “The Times,” deep, entrenched reporting on it, and we had incredible detail to go on, and there was this blistering special council report—it‘s gone.  It‘s gone and in the ether.

HERBERT:  It‘s—you know, it‘s a different story.  This is—this is such a—what the tabloids would say, I used to work with “The Daily News”—a great tabloid story, but this is—this is a story with pictures.  This is a story of a guy with, you know, at a level of narcissism and whatever other problems he has that is really, you know, off the charts.

And the fact of his name—I mean, you know, my goodness.  This is a story made for what the media have become in this day and age.

MADDOW:  Yes.

HERBERT:  Now, is it fair?  No.  I mean, we have disproportionate coverage of all kinds of things.  But if the issue is whether Weiner should be in the House of Representatives or whether he should take a walk, then I think you have to put sort of the other stuff aside, look at what it is that he‘s done, and look at whether he can be an effective representative of his constituents.

MADDOW:  Judging it on its merits as a stand-alone decision, I think it‘s something that Anthony Weiner and the people who advise him directly have to do.  But for Democrats broadly, for somebody like the president, for the chair of the Democratic Party, for Leader Pelosi, to be stepping in and saying, this is what—this is the standard that Democrats are held to, while that is manifestly untrue for the other side, to me, seems like a form of unilateral disarmament.

HERBERT:  I don‘t think it‘s unilateral disarmament.  I think you make a stand and you say, there are certain standards that we want the folks in our party to maintain.  And he hasn‘t done that.  And therefore, we would like him to leave.

I mean, they haven‘t thrown him out, but I think that that‘s a perfectly reasonable stance to take.  If the other party is doing whatever it is they‘re doing, I would say, so what?

I mean, you know, as a person who is really four square for progressive values, I mean, I would—I would very much like to see Democrats have a higher standard of behavior than the Republicans.  They don‘t always, but I wish that they did.

MADDOW:  I guess I feel like it would make sense to me—I feel like it‘s a totally sound argument.  It would make sense to me if Democrats were invested in making Republicans pay for what they‘ve done on things like Vitter and Ensign, and letting that stuff skate.  And while it did come up on “Meet the Press,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz sort of gamely tried, it was notable and we played that exchange, just because that never happens.  They‘ve been—they have let the Republicans skate on this for so long.

And it wouldn‘t even have political impact were the Republicans were not crusading as the family values party while letting this happen in their own party, among their own members.

HERBERT:  But—you know, but should what the Republicans do in any way justify what Weiner has done or mitigate potential sanctions against Weiner?

MADDOW:  That should be decided—no, I think he has to be—he has to make his own decision on its own merits, I think.  But in terms of the strategy of the parties, I think -- 

HERBERT:  I don‘t have any problem with the parties, actually, making the decision for him.  And I think that‘s, with in fact, what‘s happening.  The reason I think that he‘s going to have to leave—

MADDOW:  Yes.

HERBERT:  -- is because the party has refused to close ranks around him and, in fact, have, you know, they‘ve got the hatchets out, you know, and saying, my man has to go.

MADDOW:  And that‘s the part that so flummoxes me.  And you make the best argument for it that I have yet heard, but I‘m still absolutely flummoxed that Democrats are throwing him under the bus on this and not just screaming, double standard, double standard.  But you‘re better at talking about this than anybody else, who‘s making me so mad!

Bob, thank you so much.

HERBERT:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos now and a contributor to “The American Prospect.”

All right.  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  A little bit of breaking political news for you.  Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has been hinting that she would announce a presidential run some time soon, sometime late in the month.  She had scheduled a speech from her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa.  But, tonight, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from Minnesota has jumped her own gun and has sent out a letter to supporters announcing that she has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to create a new committee Bachmann for President.

In tonight‘s debate in New Hampshire, she talked about this, as well.  But she has sent out a letter to her supporters, “Dear fellow conservative,” saying, “We will plan on making a more formal announcement in entrance into the race later this month from my hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, but I feel so strong about what is happening to our country that I couldn‘t wait even one more day to begin this campaign!!”  Exclamation point, exclamation point, two exclamation points together implies double the enthusiasm.

So, Michele Bachmann, in case there was any doubt, is running—I guess it‘s official, as two exclamation points can make it as of tonight.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The Republican-dominated legislature of the great state of Tennessee passed and last week, the Republican governor of Tennessee signed a new law that makes it a crime to transmit or display an image online that could “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress” to anyone that views it.  Seriously, this is a new law.

Thou shalt not put pictures on line that distress anyone.  Anyone.

So, let‘s say you e-mail this image to a person who isn‘t that all distressed by it.  It does not matter.  Distress, of course, is subjected.  If a judge takes a look at that very same kitchen in the pot and declares instead of being cute to be frightening or intimidating or emotional distressing, thanks to Tennessee‘s supposedly small government conservativism, you could be looking up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines for the kitty picture.  For violating that “I‘m afraid of that picture” law.

This is commentary on Tennessee‘s new big idea here.  “Chicago Sun-Times” film critic and genius, Robert—Roger Ebert posted a few images on his blog, I guess, to tempt the faith of Tennessee‘s new law.

Remember, the criteria here is frightening, intimidating or causing emotional distress to someone who sees it.

So, here‘s Steve Buscemi potentially frightening you with the trick where you make it look like you only got half a thumb.  Very frightening.  Also, he looks very tired which could be distressing if you love Steve Buscemi, the way most red blooded Americans do.

He also posted this couple in matching hula prints, again, posted by Roger Ebert.  Who would not find this vaguely intimidating?  Really?  Come on!

Of course, what‘s frightening, intimidating or emotionally distressing to one person is irony or art or patriotism to someone else.  Roger Ebert today also posted a Confederate flag on his blog, which is, of course, the traditional test case for protesting speech and talking about it in legal terms.

Intimidating and distressing to many, but, of course, not to all.  Informal polling of our staff today found some seriously subjected interpretations of what they would jail people for in Tennessee.

For instance, my friend Kent Jones has a real serious Doug Henning problem.  I can see that Kent Jones as he would put you in jail in Tennessee for posting a Doug Henning picture.

For executive producer Bill Wolff, this image of Alex Rodriguez hoisting the World Series trophy for the Yankees is deeply distressing.  Roger that, boss.

Personally, I really hate mermaids.  Hate them.  Stupid mermaids.

So, who‘s to say?

Just this weekend I got my face painted at a barbecue and the very sight of me with the dragon on my face made a baby cry.   You want emotionally distress, that little lizard on my cheek drove a baby to instantaneous screaming tears.

Now, if I e-mailed that photo to a friend or I posted it online and it made your baby cry because I did that, should I go to a jail for a year and pay $2,500?

Between this and “don‘t say gay” law trying to make it illegal to say the word “gay” in their state schools, Tennessee Republicans are having a banner year.  First, it‘s the Steve Buscemi photo with the scary half thumb trick.  Next up, it will be destroying the giant, ancient Buddha statues in the cliffs.

Thanks very much for being with us tonight.  Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.”  Have a good one.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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