updated 6/15/2011 2:48:29 PM ET 2011-06-15T18:48:29

Guests: Fred Karger, Lena Taylor, Rep. Brad Sherman

           

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

up next.  Good evening, Rachel.

Hey, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Yes?

O‘DONNELL:  The thing I don‘t like about the new studio, and there‘s only one thing I don‘t like about it, is I cannot peek around the corner and yell at you over there.  And even see.  You‘re across the hallway.

MADDOW:  You can‘t see me tiptoe in during your last segment like I used to.  I always tried to be very quiet.  Now, I come in here and I‘m like throwing stuff and clattering.  I‘m a mess.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Well, you can do whatever you want now.

MADDOW:  I can.  I got to say, Lawrence, watching you on “The Rewrite” tonight, seeing you stand up and the camera able to move around you in the studio and everything, it looks so cool, I can barely stand it.

O‘DONNELL:  The magical things you can do in a real TV studio.

MADDOW:  Amazing.  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel.

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

This right here, this was Mitt Romney‘s house in Massachusetts.  Nice, right?  A $3 million estate and a really nice lovely town outside of Boston called Belmont, Massachusetts.

In April of 2009, Mitt Romney sold this estate in Belmont with the pool.  You can see it there and the tennis court.  This, I think, is one of Mitt Romney‘s son‘s houses.  This is just around the corner from the old Mitt Romney estate in the same town in Belmont.

After selling his $3 million home in Belmont, Massachusetts, Mitt Romney and his wife, who are millionaires, obviously, they say that they moved into a basement apartment in this house, in their son‘s house.  This house is just around the corner from their old house that they sold.

The basement of the son‘s house was Mitt Romney‘s official residence in Massachusetts.  That, for example, was the official address he gave for the purposes of voting.  Now, the rules of Massachusetts residency when it comes to voting purposes are pretty clear.  Your place of residency for voting must be where you dwell, must be where you live, and it must also be the center of your domestic, social and civil life.  Nice.

Was Mitt Romney‘s son‘s basement where he dwells?  Was it the center of his domestic social and civil life?

I have no idea.  What do I know?  What do you know?  What does anybody know about Mitt Romney‘s domestic life and where its center is?  Who knows?

But that was the claim that Mr. Romney was making when he proclaimed that to be his official address.  He told the commonwealth of Massachusetts that his son‘s basement was where he dwelled.

At the same time, Mr. Romney purported to dwell in his son‘s basement, though, at the same time he claimed that his son‘s basement was the center of his domestic, social and civil life, Mitt Romney also owned this house in California, a $12.5 million beach front abode just outside San Diego, in the coastal town of La Jolla.

The Romney‘s also own this $10 million, what they call cabin up in New Hampshire, scenically located on the shores of beautiful Lake Winnipesauke.

So, Mitt Romney has a $12 million house in California.  He has a $10 million in New Hampshire.  But come election time, he says he lives in his son‘s basement in Massachusetts, which would mean that he would be a Massachusetts resident.

It would imply that the center of his life is at the basement of his son‘s house.

As hard as that may be to believe—and here‘s where the problem comes in—Mitt Romney went on voting in Massachusetts as if he still lived there.  He reportedly voted in the Republican primary for the late Ted Kennedy‘s Senate seat, a primary won by Republican Scott Brown.  And then he mailed in a ballot in the general election race that made Scott Brown a senator from Massachusetts—all apparently while living in his son‘s basement, even though he had multimillion dollar homes in both California and New Hampshire at the time.

Does that sound feasible?

Now, that these questions are being raised about Mitt Romney as he runs for president, I frankly expect that his campaign is going to handle this very well.  They‘re going to come up with a very easy to remember explanatory story that makes this all go away.  I‘m guessing that‘s what they‘ll do.

Mr. Romney has the same campaign spokesman now that he had the last time this sort of controversy swirled around him.  That was when he was running for governor of Massachusetts in 2002.  The Massachusetts residency requirements for voting are again sort of poetic.  Your voting address must be where you dwell and it must be the center of your domestic, social and civil life.  That‘s for voting.

But the residency requirements if you want to run for governor in

Massachusetts, those requirements are different.  Those requirements are

that you must have lived in the state for seven consecutive years before

running.  Mitt Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002.  From ‘99

1999 to 2001, he lived in Utah.  His house in Park City, Utah, was taxed as his primary residence.

           

He lived in Utah.  He paid $54,000 less in property taxes than he

would have paid had he been a resident some place else—say Massachusetts

if he was just staying in Utah for a while.

           

I was living in Massachusetts at the time he was running for governor, and I remember that campaign, I remember how angry people were about the idea that this guy from Utah was going to be the next Massachusetts governor.  It was a real controversy, at least among Democrats that I heard talking about it.  It seemed at that time like it was going to affect his chances of becoming governor.

But Mr. Romney‘s campaign handled it really deftly.  They paid all the difference in taxes that he would have paid had he not been a Utah resident.  They blamed Utah.  They said it was Utah‘s mistake.

They said Mitt Romney never wanted to move his residency.  It must have been a clerical error.  It took a long time, a lot of finagling.  I‘m sure it took a lot of legal fees, but they got the issue settled.  They made it seem that, legally, Mitt Romney had lived in the state where he wanted to be governor, even though it really seemed like he lived in Utah.

They settled that back in 2002.  And my guess is they will get it settled in this case as well.

In response to a complaint filed about whether or not Mitt Romney voted illegally when he voted in the Scott Brown election last year, Massachusetts state officials are trying already to brush this complaint off.  Massachusetts officials telling the conservative web site “The Daily Caller” today, quote, “This was adjudicated before in 2002 when he ran for governor.”  The same Massachusetts official said although the new allegations relate to changes of residency after 2002, quote, “The time to bring this up was when he voted.”

When he voted?  Once you vote illegally, you‘re good?  Once you get away with it, no big deal?

Sort of a lame response from a Massachusetts state official on this so far.  But I think it does show the disinclination that people may have, even in Massachusetts, to go after Mitt Romney on issues like this.

One man who does not have that disinclination to go after Mitt Romney on an issue like this or any other for that matter is the source of this Massachusetts voter fraud complaint that was filed yesterday.  His name is Fred Karger.  He‘s not only raising these questions about Mitt Romney, he says he has been investigating this issue about Mitt Romney in person, as well.

Mr. Karger interviewed residents of Belmont, he says and he says they told him they have not seen Mr. Romney in years.  Mr. Karger said he even asked Mr. Romney‘s wife about the couple‘s living arrangements earlier this year.  He claims she told them him were living in California.

We contacted the Romney campaign tonight to ask them questions about the allegations, they did not respond to our request for comment.

Again, the man who is pursuing this all is Fred Karger.  He is technically running for president, although you may not have heard that about him, recognizing that he‘s so unknown in the race at this point that he can really only aspire to being called a long shot.  Mr. Karger has been running a campaign, making fun of his own anonymity, sort of taking it all with good cheer.

As you can see here, his official campaign slogan.  See on the banner behind him?  His official slogan is “Fred Who?”

Campaigning for the Republican nomination with no real hope of getting that nomination isn‘t a very simple thing anymore.  There isn‘t one simple explanation, one single explanation that explains why people do it.

Some people to do it to sell books.  Hello, Thaddeus McCotter.  Some people do it to hype their TV show.  Hi, Mr. Trump.  Some people do it to get a national platform for their more or less quixotic beliefs.  Hello, Dr. Paul.  Some people are I‘m convinced are doing it for my amusement and to make Seattle sex columnist Dan Savage a very happy man.

Here‘s Dan Savage accepting his Webby Award last night, while wearing a very important T-shirt.

But Fred Karger‘s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination while admittedly not likely to result in him receiving the Republican Party‘s presidential nomination, although I‘m sure he would argue differently—it seems to be designed for a specific and potentially quite important thing in American politics right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Even with Romney‘s already favorable ratings, he‘s got a rival.  That rival being Fred Karger, who says he plans to run on a platform specifically designed to throw a wrench into Romney‘s run.

Why are you entering the contest with Mitt Romney in your sights?

FRED KARGER ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I just don‘t think Mitt Romney is well suited if for job right now.  He‘s got, you know, a great record of flip-flops.  I think we need some new, fresh ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It is Fred Karger waging a gadfly Republican presidential campaign with the stated aim of knocking Mitt Romney out of the race.  Fred Karger who has filed this first shot at Mitt Romney about whether or not Mr. Romney committed voter fraud in Massachusetts in the last election there.

We placed a call to the Massachusetts elections division today to see if they intend to follow up at all on these charges.  We‘ll let you know what we find out from them.

If proven—I mean, this allegation does have stiff penalties.  Up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

What happens on the substance of these allegations against Mr. Romney, though, may ultimately be less important than the fact that relatively anonymous Fred Karger campaigning after all under the slogan “Fred who?” is not alone in making it his mission that Mitt Romney does not get the Republican presidential nomination.  He has a lot of company in the Republican Party and in conservative politics.

The right-wing Tea Party group FreedomWorks had indicated it will help fund an effort to prevent Mr. Romney from getting the nomination.  Another Tea Party group, the Western Representation PAC has launched its own stop Romney campaign.

The influential conservative magazine, “The National Review,” has been editorializing against Mitt Romney for weeks.  The influential conservative organization Club for Growth has come out against Mr. Romney as a flip-flopper.

The day that Mitt Romney announced his candidacy in New Hampshire, his event was totally coincidentally stepped on by Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani, who both also chose that day to be in that same state talking smack about Mitt Romney as Romney announced.

And all these forces in the Republican world against Mitt Romney is not a new phenomenon.  The definitive book about the ‘08 presidential campaign, for better or worse, is this book, “Game Change.”  “Game Change” describes a scene in which all the other candidates gather around to talk about, quote, “how much they disliked Mitt Romney.”  It was the one thing that brought them all together.

I asked former Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele recently if that characterization about Mr. Romney was accurate.  Here‘s what he told me about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR:  think largely, yes.  He was, you know, not very well liked, or there wasn‘t a warm fuzzy from a lot of people from the ‘08 campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Common wisdom right now is that Mitt Romney is it, right?  Mitt Romney is the presumptive front-runner, and presumptive in this case means that if nothing goes wrong, he wins.

At last night‘s debate when nothing went overtly wrong for him, there was a consensus of frantic head nodding from the beltway media about how Mr. Romney has definitely got it all sewn up now.  And maybe that is true, right?

Tim Pawlenty is supposed to be the guy who is the next best shot after Mitt Romney.  Mr. Pawlenty‘s campaign is suffering so far from a severe failure to thrive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR:  A “National Journal” political insider poll last night and they chose Romney as the winner of the debate and they chose use as, quote, “the biggest loser.”  Why do you think that some of these Republicans are panning your performance?  Twenty-six percent say you were the biggest loser in the debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That‘s kind of how it‘s going for Tim Pawlenty right now.  So, if Mr. Pawlenty is not really making a great run of it, maybe the current common wisdom about Mitt Romney is right.

Republicans do tend to pick whoever lost the previous nominating process, right?  Bob Dole, John McCain, now maybe Mitt Romney.  You just sort of get in line, if you come in second this time, next time around, you‘ll come in first.  We‘ll arrange it.

That‘s kind of how Republicans do it.  And maybe this time, Mitt Romney‘s number is up.  Maybe he‘s just the next guy.

But I think it is underappreciated right now that there‘s a wide, motivated, animus-driven anti-Mitt Romney insurgency in the Republican Party right now that is real.  It is not just driven by rivalry.  It‘s not like these folks who are arrayed against him have picked somebody else who they were coalescing behind.  It‘s not that.  It‘s not driven by rivalry.

It is driven by a deep-seated dislike and discomfort with Mitt Romney as the potential nominee.  And so, yes, he‘s the presumptive front-runner.  Republicans like to pick the next guy in line.

But they do actually have to pick him.

Joining us now is somebody trying to make sure that does not happen, Republican Fred Karger, who is the first openly gay candidate for president of the United States.

Mr. Karger, thank you for your time.  It‘s nice to have you here.

KARGER:  Thanks, Rachel.  Great to be on your show.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you first if I explained your complaint correctly about Mr. Romney and his voting in Massachusetts.

KARGER:  Absolutely.  Yes, he clearly moved to California and was trying to, as he said, take temporary residence at his son‘s house in the basement.

MADDOW:  How serious do you think this is as a potential violation? 

Why are you going out of your way to bring these allegations to life?

KARGER:  I think it really points to Mitt Romney‘s character.  You know, he‘s changed his position so often from 1994 when he ran against Senator Edward Kennedy, to the 2008 primaries.  He‘s just completely flip-flops on everything.  And I think it just goes to his character.

And the other side of this is very similar to what you were pointing out in Utah.  You know, I questioned his residency.  He, at one point, said he was living in New Hampshire.  And New Hampshire where I‘m right now is a no income tax state.

So, I‘ve asked the Department of Revenue to also look into that charge.  Where was he paying his taxes from 2009 and 2010?  Massachusetts or New Hampshire?

MADDOW:  Have you heard anything back from Massachusetts state officials, from the election division?  Do you know if there are any efforts to pursue the voting issues specifically?

KARGER:  I do not know that, Rachel.  I sent these in yesterday.  I‘m waiting to hear back.  I put my contact information.

But I put together a 10-page complaint complete with newspaper articles that show all his contradictory statements over the last couple of years.

MADDOW:  What is motivating you here?  It sounds like—from what I know of your campaign, you‘ve been involved in different sides of Republican politics for a very long time.  But you‘ve made this decision this year that you are going to run for president, and I don‘t mean to cast dispersions on your likelihood of achieving the nomination, but if you don‘t get the nomination, what are you hoping to achieve with your candidacy?

KARGER:  Well, you know, I‘m making history.  I filed in Washington, D.C. at the Federal Election Commission on March 23rd.  I marched in there with some reporters in tow, and I filed as the first openly gay candidate in history to run for president of the United States.

I want to send a message to younger kids out there who happened to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, you can do anything you want.  You can even run for president.

I received thousands of e-mails and Facebook messages, commending me and thanking me and saying, how it‘s making their lives better.  So, that‘s one of the my principal reasons.

But, secondly, I want to make a Republican Party that‘s much more inclusive, that‘s not so far right.  I want to have the Republican Party I grew up with, the Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and people who are inclusive and caring, and I want to bring younger people into this party and make it a real force, but reflecting independence of this party and the independence of this country where most people are moving.

MADDOW:  What‘s the relationship of that latter goal and your stated desire to throw a wrench in the works of the Romney campaign?  If you are essentially going to try to make life hard for Mitt Romney as a candidate, in the best ways that you can, what‘s the relationship between that goal and what you just described there about trying to change the Republican Party?

KARGER:  Well, it‘s the last three years it‘s kind of wearing my other hat as a gay activist.  I got his faith.  A Mormon church investigated in the state of California for election fraud there.  And they were found guilty.  They were prosecuted, fined, found guilty on 13 counts after an 18-month investigation of a complaint I filed with our ethics commission.

And so, you know, I‘m one of the truth and transparency guys.  I‘ve worked in politics for 30 years as a behind the scenes consultant.  I‘ve stepped up to the plate this time.  I‘m very concerned about the direction of our country.  I‘m concerned about, you know, morale here.  I want to bring back the American spirit of optimism and getting along.

And so, I‘m concerned that Mitt Romney is just not a good fit.  You know, I think he‘s yesterday‘s news.  I think we need some new fresh outsider blood to really take this country forward.

MADDOW:  To be clear, though, about what you just said about the Mormon faith, is this—is this sort of revenge against the Mormon Church for having supported Proposition 8 in California, the anti-gay marriage situation there?

KARGER:  No, no, not at all.  I mean, I have—I leaned on Governor Romney—I took out a series of newspaper ads all over the country when he was on his book tour last year.  We even held at a Mormon bookstore in San Diego just a little over a year ago when he was doing a book signing there, asking him as the most prominent Mormon in the country to use his influence to get the Mormon Church off the gay marriage fight they‘ve been on.  Let them go off and, you know, help the hurricane victims and earthquake victims and do the good things that faith does.

But, you know, they have led the fight in 31 states to take away marriage from a small group of people.  Let‘s them do other things.

And, you know, I‘m just hopeful that he‘ll use his influence to get the church president and leadership to just stop the gay bashing they‘ve been doing for actually over 15 years now.

MADDOW:  Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger, thank you for your time tonight, sir.  I really appreciate it.

KARGER:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  There‘s no sign anywhere on any horizon that President Obama is going to be primaried in the Democratic Party this year.  The whole primary process will be among Republicans, and so the whole next year until Republicans come up with their nominee is going to be Republicans sniping at each other.  But most of all competing with each other over who can come up with the best insults against President Obama.  It‘s going to be a year of Republican competition for the nastiest possible thing to say about President Obama.

And in a candidate field this Wild Westy, that means you‘ve got Republican presidential candidates who are already saying that President Obama was raised in Kenya.  Candidates who are saying the president is anti-American.  Candidates saying that the president is running a gangster government.

Whatever you think about President Obama, buckle your seat belts because it‘s going to be a year of people on TV essentially saying that President Obama drinks the blood of babies or whatever.  Every once in a while though, I have to say, it‘s kind of like, would that he had done some of the stuff they were accusing him of.  I mean, as a liberal, would that he had done some of the terribly, terribly unbridled liberal things that they are saying he has done, which he definitely has not done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He did what he wanted to do:

card check, cap and trade.

Instead of focusing all his energy and passion on getting people back to work and fixing the economy, he focused on cap and trade and card check unionization.

If he went after the things he really cared about which is Obamacare and cap and trade and card check, the liberal agenda he had been pining for for years he put in place.  And it had an impact that could have been predicted.  It just put the economy on the skids.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Mitt Romney says the reason the economy is on the skids is because president Obama, and I quote, put in place cap and trade.  And put in place card check.  And it had the impact that could have been predicted.

Mitt Romney says the economy is in bad shape because President Obama focused all his energy and passion on card check.  What‘s card check?  Card check is federal legislation to protect union rights, the rights to form a union in your workplace.  President Obama did campaign saying he would pursue that—once elected, never lifted a finger for it, never pushed for it, never really mentioned it again.  No legislation brought forward.  No real energy put into it.  It did not happen.

But according to Mitt Romney, the economy is on the skids right now because of the impact of that thing that did not happen.

Mitt Romney, for better or for worse, is considered the front-runner right now.  And this is part of his main attack on Obama, that Obama has so expanded union rights in America that that has destroyed the economy.  And that is why President Obama is a bad president.

Would that President Obama had expanded union rights if you support union right, but he did not.  So that‘s a weird thing for Mitt Romney to be saying is responsible for the bad economy.

Politically, though, I think it is illuminating, because it shows that Mr. Romney is going to backbend quite acrobatically over the facts here in order to make union rights an issue in the presidential campaign.  President Obama has not expanded union rights, but Mitt Romney is going to try to make it seem like he has so he can crusade against union rights as the Republican nominee.

If you‘re a supporter of unions, if you are a supporter of Democrats, the proper response to that is yippee, because what you‘re looking at right here is Madison, Wisconsin, today.  It was four months ago that Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans in Wisconsin awakened a huge anti-Republican up rising in their state when they decided to go after union rights.

The protests in Madison and across Wisconsin were massive and sustained through February and March in the thick of this fight.  Within days of Governor Walker suggesting that‘s what he wanted to do, there were 30,000 people protesting at the state capitol.  Two weeks after he proposed it, there were more than 70,000 protesters packing the streets of Madison.  Ultimately, in the midst of that drama, even in the midst of the entire Democratic Senate state caucus, fleeing the state to keep them from doing it.  Republicans rammed that union stripping thing through the legislature.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  The means by which Republicans got the union-stripping bill through the Wisconsin legislature was considered dubious enough that a lawsuit was filed and a judge stopped it from being implemented.  To get around that while the measure was tied up in court, Republicans had planned to pass it all over again to convene in an extraordinary session to ram it through again—this time by adding it to the state‘s budget.  But today, the Wisconsin state Supreme Court overturned the lower court decision and reinstated the union-stripping law.

Still, other lawsuits are out there and even more are expected.  This one is not over.

The furor caused by union-stripping in Wisconsin has led to recall elections for a substantial portion of the state Senate, which could flip control of the state Senate to Democrats mid-session.  But through this disaster for the Republican Party, that has befallen the Republican Party in Wisconsin through this fight.

In partisan terms, things have actually worked out pretty well for the guy who is credited with picking this fight.  Governor Scott Walker could very well be recalled from office himself because of what he has done.  Broadly speaking in Wisconsin, he is not popular.  People are angry.

But right now, until he‘s eligible for recall, picking this fight may have made the state as a whole not like him very much.  But it‘s given him an 87 percent approval rating specifically among Republicans in Wisconsin.  So, the state as a whole does not love him.  The state‘s Republicans, however, love him very, very much.  And that is exactly the kind of sentiment someone might be after if they were chasing the Republican Party‘s nomination for some high ranking office.

Joining us now is Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor.

Senator Taylor, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  It‘s nice to have you here.

STATE SEN. LENA TAYLOR (D), WISCONSIN:  Rachel, it‘s great to be with you.

MADDOW:  Now that the Supreme Court in the state has reinstated the union-stripping bill, what does this mean for the fight on that issue?

TAYLOR:  Well, first of all, I don‘t know if anyone is going to appeal that decision, but it definitely shows that Justice Prosser did what he said he would do, which was support the administration.  He even went as far as to write an extra opinion to say he really, really supports what the GOP did and to support the administration.

And in the end, it really means people will have to take their fight to the ballot box and to make sure their voice is heard there.

MADDOW:  What is happening with the ballot box at this point?  What‘s happening with the recall elections?  There are recalls ahead for more Republican state senators than Democrats.  But there are some Democrats there, too.  What‘s the strategy?

TAYLOR:  That‘s correct.  There are three Democrats who will have individuals running against them who are being recalled.  However, there are six Republicans who have individuals running against them.  And for every Democrat, they have ran a fake Democrat against them, so that—the Republicans have, so they‘re resorting to cheating and lying to the people and saying that they‘re Democrats when they aren‘t in order to cheat and win because I think they‘re nervous about these recalls.

There were thousands of signatures, Rachel, that were collected in order to be able to do the recalls.  And those elections will happen in July and early August.  And so, at that time, we‘ll see what happens, but I‘ll say that the doors are looking good.

MADDOW:  When you look at that—when you look at that strategy that the Republicans have chosen, they are running, as you say, fake Democrats.  They admit they are fake Democratic candidates specifically to force there to be primary elections before those recalls can happen.  That makes the recalls go later.  The Republicans think that will be to their advantage.

Do you think that strategy of theirs—forcing those primaries, pushing the recall elections later—do you think it‘s going to make it harder for Democrats to take over control of the Senate?

TAYLOR:  I don‘t necessarily think it will make it harder for us, Rachel.  I think what it does is it shows that Republicans will overreach, by them cheating, by them running fake Democrats.  It shows that they have no concern for democracy and to make sure that literally, that there‘s a voice on each side.

So, they‘ll go to any measure and change the rules, cheat, say that they‘re something that they‘re not—and waste taxpayers‘ dollars because these primaries will cost us, I think it‘s about $400,000 that it will cost us -- $428,000 or something like that, that it will cost us to run these primary elections and these recalls.

And so, in the end, I don‘t think it will hurt us.  It will help us in the end because it continues to show people in Wisconsin that the GOP, they‘re the gift that keeps giving.  They keep showing us that they will overreach, that they will cheat, that they will change the rules and they will defy the new rules that they make.

MADDOW:  National Republican politicians looking at Wisconsin and saying I think I might pull a Scott Walker.  I think I might try to bring those politics nationally.

Do you have any advice for them from Wisconsin?

TAYLOR:  Well, in the end, they‘re going to see in these recall elections that it doesn‘t work.  And in January 3rd, 2012, they‘re going to see us start the efforts for our governor and the recall effort against him.

I think really the thing that I hope people will see across America and really across the world is that the Republicans may have been able to get away with this at this moment, but the Wisconsinites refuse to sit down.  They‘re standing up for their rights.  They‘re standing up to say they don‘t like this cheating and this lying.  And they‘re going to push back and they‘re going to push back in the ballot boxes.

And I think that that‘s the piece that I want individuals to see.  That Wisconsinites, we‘re fighters, and we‘re going to fight for what we believe is right.

MADDOW:  Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor, I really enjoyed talking to you about this tonight.  Thank you so much for your time.

TAYLOR:  Thank you so much, Rachel.

MADDOW:  “The Best New Thing in the World” involves my friend Richard Engel, NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent.  It is a really uncynically, unsnarkily, straight up happy, great new thing.  And it is coming up at the end of the show tonight.  Very excited about that.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  There are some Republican politicians who are not yet technically in the race, who are still expected to join the race for the Republican presidential nomination.  Before last night, the most prominent among the probably could be candidates were Sarah Palin—I still think she‘s running—Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman.

As of today, still, no official word from Governor Palin, but something about last night‘s debate did shake loose announcements from both Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman.  Congresswoman Bachmann sending out a letter and making an “I‘m running” announcement at the debate itself, an announcement that re-empted her planned announcement for later this month in Iowa.

Similarly, Jon Huntsman put out a preempting himself statement this morning, saying that he‘ll be announcing he‘s running before he‘s actually announcing that he‘s running.

And here comes the confusion about geography in connection with that story.  Governor Huntsman‘s announcement today that he is announcing he is running coincided with an appearance he made alongside Henry Kissinger, an event focusing on foreign policy, thus front-paging Mr. Huntsman‘s own most recent job as the Obama administration‘s ambassador to China.

Mr. Huntsman first started the rumors that he would be running for president when he quit the job in China and bought a house in Washington, D.C.  So, there‘s Jon Huntsman moving back from China to Washington, D.C., to a very nice house in Washington, D.C. where they used to film one of those reality shows about chefs.

Now, today, Mr. Huntsman‘s campaign said he will make his campaign announcement later this month, but he will not make it in Washington, D.C.  He will make it in New Jersey.

The exact announcement spot was chosen because it apparently affords a very nice view of New York harbor, as in New York City.  Just to keep you on your toes, Mr. Huntsman previously let leak that his campaign will be headquartered in none of these places.  It will be headquartered in Florida.

Is he from Florida?  Has he ever live there had?  No.

But his wife‘s family is from there.  So, reason enough, his presidential campaign headquarters will be in Orlando.

If this is geographically disorienting to you, do not feel bad.  To be clear, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman most recently lived in China.  He now lives in Washington, D.C.  He‘s headquartering his campaign in Florida.  And he‘s announcing his campaign in New Jersey while all the cameras will be pointed at New York.

Also to be clear, dude is from Utah.  In case that got lost in the shuffle somehow, Jon Huntsman is from Utah.  Though geographically speaking, his campaign will be blindfolding you and spinning around to disorient you so you do not remember the Utah thing about him.

I do not know why Jon Huntsman‘s presidential campaign is avoiding his home state as if he owes them money, but he is avoiding it, quite emphatically.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Today is Flag Day, because on this day in 1777, the year after the Declaration of Independence, the second continental Congress proclaimed officially what our flag should look like.  So the flag flies today, every June 14th.

Today, President Obama made the first official presidential visit to Puerto Rico in 50 years.  The last time a president officially visited Puerto Rico was when John F. Kennedy visited in 1961.

Today, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted on whether to approve President Obama‘s nominee for defense secretary, CIA Secretary Leon Panetta.  They voted unanimously in favor of Mr. Panetta‘s nomination.

Today, the Army decided to change its official headgear.  They will be switching from black berets that were said to be itchy and to take two hands to put on properly.  They will switch from those to vaguely baseball-styled patrol caps.  Also, they will be allowed to sew their names and other badges on instead of using Velcro.

Today, we learned from “The Wall Street Journal” that the CIA is planning to launch drone strikes in Yemen.  Yemen, of course, which is in chaos.

Previous drone strikes the U.S. has admitted in that country had been U.S. military drones.  Now, they will be CIA, which means our government will likely deny knowing anything about them.

Today, the House Appropriations Committee raised the Defense Department‘s budget for next year.  Spending on the wars went down while the rest of the Pentagon‘s budget went up.  Even as Republicans are promising to cut everything, they are increasing defense spending.

That said, today, the House voted to defund the war in Libya.  What?  That‘s what it says.  Defund the war in Libya -- 248 in favor to 163 against.

That seems like a big deal.  On a day of news that‘s kind of a big deal, even if it‘s not getting a ton of attention, this seems like a big deal.  The House of Representatives voted for an amendment to the military appropriations bill that forbids the United States from spending money that is not in compliance with the War Powers Act.

The War Powers Act says the president has to get congressional approval within 60 days of the start of a military operation.  That 60-day window in Libya ended on May 20th.  This amendment passed today.

Joining us now is the congressman who authored, California Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman.

Congressman Sherman, congratulations on your success today and thanks for joining us.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA:  Good to be with you.

It was an interesting vote.  We had 60 percent of the Democrats, 60 percent of the Republicans, and zero percent of the top leadership of either party voting with us.

MADDOW:  Were you surprised by the partisan equality on this one? 

Were you surprised this was the opposite of a party line vote?

SHERMAN:  Not really.  It—it‘s a matter of not what should our foreign policy be.  There‘s the whole range of views from doing nothing to doing everything the president‘s doing.  But rather, it‘s a matter of democracy and the rule of law here in the United States.

And the War Powers Act is the law.  And it ought to be followed.  This is not a vote against being involved in Libya.  This is a vote against being involved in Libya in violation of the War Powers Act.

MADDOW:  If the Senate approved this same language that was in your amendment and this became law, which is a lot of ifs, I understand.  It‘s a tall order in terms of the way things work in Washington right now.  But as you understand it, would this language force the president‘s hand and make the U.S. stop participating in the Libya operation?

SHERMAN:  Well, long before this becomes law, I think the president would come to Congress and ask for authorization to conduct activities in Libya.  And I think that we would give him that authorization, but it would be subject to some conditions, subject to some limits.

Right now, you know, there‘s a group of lawyers in the State Department that no matter who the president is, they take the position that any president by himself or herself, can deploy American forces, unlimited power for unlimited duration, for whatever worthy purpose they want to deploy them.

And it‘s now time to say, hey, wait a minute.  When Thomas Jefferson deployed American forces to the shores of Tripoli, literally to the same country where we‘re acting now, he got congressional authorization in 1802.  If it‘s good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it ought to be good enough for any president.

MADDOW:  I interviewed the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a few weeks ago, and I raised this issue of the War Powers Act.  I asked him if he believes that it‘s outdated.  If it doesn‘t fit our current national security needs.

He said the War Powers Act needs revision.  That it is unclear.

What‘s your reaction of that?

SHERMAN:  I think it‘s clear.  The only thing that‘s not clear is whether the president will follow it.  And the way to make sure that it‘s followed is for Congress to put on every relevant spending bill, whether you agree with the constitutionality of the War Powers Act or not, the money we‘re giving you in this bill cannot be spent in violation of that act.

And it‘s important that we put it on this bill.  There‘s also a second appropriations bill that we‘ve got to put the same amendment on.  That‘s coming up in a couple of weeks.

And, of course, what happens in the Senate is hard to judge.

MADDOW:  Sorry for interrupting there.  Have you heard anything from the White House or from anyone in the executive branch about this amendment?  After all, I mean, this would, as you say potentially have the effect of defunding the war in Libya, or at least forcing the president‘s hand on getting an authorization.

Have you heard anything from them?

No, I haven‘t.  And it‘s not my purpose to defund the war in Libya so much as it is to get Congress to play its role.  We shouldn‘t have an aggrandizing executive or a derelict Congress.  We‘re supposed to be playing a role.

And it‘s comfortable for a while to just sit on the sidelines and let the president make the decisions, especially on an issue like this where there are Democratic and Republican districts on both sides of this Libya debate.

But Congress ought to be playing a role, and there are some tough questions for us to ask.  Most significantly, you know, we‘ve seized $33 billion of Gadhafi money.  And he was stupid enough to invest it in the United States in a way that we could find.  And yet, we‘re not using that money to carry on operations in Libya.  Instead, we‘re using taxpayer money.

And I think if Congress gets involved, we‘ll first look at those seized funds as a way to fund this operation, which after all is designed to help the people of Libya, who are the same people that Gadhafi stole the $33 billion from in order to invest in the United States.

MADDOW:  California Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman, the way you are making the arguments tonight I think shows exactly why this is a totally nonpartisan issue in Congress right now.  It‘s fascinating to watch.  Thank you for joining us this evening to explain what you‘re doing.  Really appreciate it.

SHERMAN:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, the beltway media can be annoying, even on a good day.  The beltway can be aggravating or predictable.  They can occasionally be interesting and illuminating.  But, today, I convinced myself that the beltway media has fallen in love.  Eww!

That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  About a year and a half ago in 2009, Politico.com did a story called “TV Workout Pumps Up Hill.”  It was about a hardcore blasting exercise regimen that members like Paul Ryan and Heath Shuler were using to get dreamy abs.  It is something called P90X and apparently it looks something like this.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  So, you get the idea.

So, feature article October 2009 in Politico.com about congressmen doing, yes.  Five months after that first story in March 2010, “Politico” does another story on P90X.  The headline: “Paul Ryan leads P90X Class for Politicians.”  Eight days after the Paul Ryan P90X story, “Politico” runs another story called “Congressman as Strongman,” highlighting again the workout regimens of members of Congress and again discussing P90X.

Three weeks after that, in April 2010, Politico finds another angle on this story, “Horton Attends Pols‘ P90X Class.” Horton is the man who invented P90X.  So, another P90X story.

Three months after that, in July 2010, breaking news in “Politico,” “Hill Gym Pumped for P90X.”  Three months after that, October 2010, another “Politico” story, this one about Congressman Dave Reichert describes the congressman‘s, quote, “workout routine, the intense core workout called P90X that‘s popular among some House members.”

Four months after that, in February of this year, “Politico” runs this, “Freshmen feel weight of office.”  Quote, “As a preemptive strike this year, a group of Republicans meet every day at 6:30 in the House gym for an extreme workout called P90X, which switches up street on key muscle groups.”

Just a month later, “Politico” runs another story on this compelling subject.  “Eric Cantor Grilled on P90X.”

Two months after that, in May 2011, a feature on Paul Ryan‘s political future which, of course, at Politico.com would not be complete without a thorough discussion of Paul Ryan‘s devotion to the P90X regimen.  It‘s caught fire in the House and he‘s as likely to be heard talking about body-fat ratios as debt-to-GDP ratios these days.

Then three weeks later, today, stop the pressers (ph), Politico.com has a scoop, “P90x: the congressional workout.”  Another feature, front page feature on the workout, this one including a 10-minute video interview with the P90X inventor, over a 20-month period—arguably the most influence day-to-day news source in the beltway, the apex of insiderdom, the arbiter of all that is mainstream and serious and adult and worthy of discussion in Washington, the veritable buckle of the beltway media.

“Politico” has not run not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but skip a bunch, but 10 separate stories on one particular workout routine.  Nothing against having rock hard abs, I plan to get those after I learn Spanish.  I‘m happy for everybody to get lots of exercise.  It‘s very good for you.

But 10 P90X features, “Politico”?  Ten?  Including two long dedicated video interviews by your marquee talent reporters, interviews solely dedicated to praising the rock-hard results a man can get with P90X.  Ten, “Politico”?  Seriously, 10?

Is it true love?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Last August, we broadcast this show from Baghdad and as the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq.  Fifty thousand Americans have remained this year in Iraq after the combat troops left.  It‘s still been a dangerous year in Iraq.  Eight Americans killed there just this month.

The complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq is not scheduled until the end of the year, December 31st.  But when the combat troops left in August, when the combat mission in Iraq ended, Richard Engel was in the last convoy of Stryker vehicles driving under cover of darkness and across the desert into Kuwait, broadcasting under conditions as remote and off the grid as they were secret.  No one knew in advance that this would happen when it did.

These guys put together what was amazing for me to see live from Baghdad to know all the prep, and planning and work that had gone into it.  But was doubly amazing to see unfold live on “Nightly News.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Right now, we are with the last American combat troops and they are in the process of leaving this country right now.  We are with the 42 Striker Brigade.  I‘m broadcasting live from the top of a Stryker fighting vehicle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  “Best New Thing in the World Today,” at least for me, is learning today that for that work, NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, senior producer Madeleine Haeringer, their crew, their team on this just won an Edward R. Murrow Award for that coverage.

I could not be more proud to work anywhere near these folks.  It‘s “Best New Thing in the World Today.”  All of us here, we could not be prouder of you, guys.

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

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