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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Howard Dean, Joe Cirincione

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “LAST WORD”:  You can have “THE LAST WORD” online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com.  You can follow my tweets @Lawrence.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is up next.

Good evening, Rachel.

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Lawrence, I hacked your teleprompter.  I‘m sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  I‘ve been working on it all day.  I‘m really bad at it. 

That‘s all I know how to do.  But whenever that happens, it‘s me.

O‘DONNELL:  Come on, I‘m an amateur.  I need this prompter.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence.  I appreciate it.

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you.

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

Over this past weekend, one of the most high-profile Republican governors in the entire country vanished.  It happened again.

He disappeared.  Gone.  Just out of the blue, nobody in his state knew exactly where he was.

This was the publicly available schedule for Republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida, every weekend he‘s been governor up to this past weekend, included some sort of event.  Even if it was just church services listed on Sunday.  But then this past weekend, that‘s it.  Nothing.  Nothing on the calendar for Saturday, nothing on the calendar for Sunday.  Not even church.

Given the very recent history of Republican governors just up and disappearing from their states, only to return with lots of explaining to do, political reporters in Florida started getting curious.  They started asking questions about where Rick Scott went.  And when they asked Rick Scott‘s office about the governor‘s whereabouts, they were told, frankly, that they should consult the official schedule—the official schedule, which, again, showed this, showed absolutely nothing.

So after days of wondering what the heck was going on with their disappearing governor, today, Florida residents and those Florida political reporters finally got some answers.  They finally got the truth about where their governor was this past weekend.  What he was doing that mysteriously was listed as blank on his public schedule.

It turns out Rick Scott, the new Republican governor of Florida, was at a secret invitation-only retreat outside of Vail, Colorado, put on by the billionaire Koch brothers.  Oh.

After declaring a state of emergency in Florida due to wildfires, Governor Rick Scott hopped on a plane, he went to Colorado.  He addressed this secret Koch brothers retreat and apparently hoped that nobody back home would notice.

Unfortunately for Governor Scott, they did notice.

At the same time that Rick Scott went missing in Florida, though, another Republican governor went missing, too.  Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas.  In order to figure out where Rick Perry had gone, the local press in Texas resorted to—I‘m not kidding, tracking the tail number of a private plane that Rick Perry was sometimes known to use, the private plane of one of Rick Perry‘s major campaign donors.

And it turns out that Rick Perry, too, had been meeting with the Koch brothers at their private retreat outside Vail, Colorado.

Rick Perry and Rick Scott were not the only Republican governors that were attending this super-secret Koch brothers‘ confab this past weekend.  Also on the list, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia.  In fact, Bob McDonnell is part of the reason that anybody knew this secret retreat was happening in the first place, because he, unlike Rick Scott, at least, put the meeting on his schedule.

Just as a refresher, the Koch brothers are the super rich, are super politically active heirs to the Koch Industries‘ fortune.  Koch Industries is an oil and chemical conglomerate that Charles and David Koch inherited from dear old dad.  Koch Industries is the second largest privately held company in the entire country.

Charles and David Koch have lobbied aggressively for years and years to kill regulations on the industry that has made them so rich, to kill regulations on the oil and chemical industry.  The way they have gotten politically active is by doing things like funding efforts to defeat climate science, and by bankrolling the opposition to clean energy in the United States.  Koch Industries has reportedly spent more than $48 million on that effort, just since 1997.

And it‘s not just funding opposition to clean energy and energy regulation.  It‘s also key—and this is key—that they have been putting the politicians in place that they want to push through their agenda.  Nearly all of the 31 Republicans on the House Energy Committee can cite Koch Industries as one of their top corporate donors.  Nine of the 12 new members of that panel signed a pledge by the Koch brothers‘ group Americans for Prosperity to oppose any efforts by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gases at all.

That is how the Koch brothers operate in our politics.  That‘s why the Koch brothers, frankly, have become this year‘s liberal bogeyman, right?  That‘s why even people who aren‘t liberals tend to think of guys like this as bogeyman.

People flexing this much political muscle for those types of political aims, for their own corporate self-interest is sort of hard to market to the public at large.  It is sort of a hard sell.

So even as individual Republican politicians want as much of that Koch brothers money as they can get their hands on and they‘re happy to fly to Vail, Colorado to meet with them and get their marching orders and try to lock up some of that money, frankly, even while you are doing that, you try to keep that private plane tail number out of the Austin American statesman.  You try to keep that sort of trip off your public schedule.

But as unpopular as associating with the Koch brothers might be for these individual politicians, as embarrassing as it may be to get outed secretly, traveling to a Koch brothers summit in Colorado for a weekend when you want everybody to just not wonder where you are, the Koch brothers have been making it worth these politicians‘ while and how.  Both through cold, hard cash, and through support for policy positions, certain policy positions once they are in office.

Many of these Republican governors have the Koch brothers to thank in part for winning their races.  In 2010 alone, Koch Industries and its employees and subsidiaries spent $1.2 million getting Republican governors elected across the country.

Koch Industries was the single-largest source of corporate contributions for Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.  And he wasn‘t even the governor they gave the most to.  They gave more money to Rick Perry of Texas than they gave to Scott Walker.  They also supported—surprise, surprise—Republican Governor John Kasich in Ohio.

If you are Republican politician, associating yourself with the Koch brothers, going to their secret meetings in Vail, you know what helps, you get elected.  But it doesn‘t just buy you support for your campaign.  It also buys you support for your policies, as well—even policies that are likely to be really unpopular.

If you are Scott Walker in Wisconsin, for example, Koch affiliated groups will hold rallies at your state capital to support your pro-corporate union-stripping thing.  They will even ship Sarah Palin in from Alaska to speak at the event.

If you are John Kasich of Ohio, don‘t worry, they will bankroll your union-stripping thing, as well.  Governor Kasich‘s big union-stripping is facing the possibility of being overturned by voters in November.  Who has John Kasich‘s back in defending that bill, who‘s opting to finance the union-busting side of that fight?  The Koch brothers‘ Americans for Prosperity, of course.

Koch brothers have the backs of all of these Republican governors in all of these states who are taking up all of these unpopular fights.  And they are helping those governors succeed in the next election, not just by trying to persuade people of the rightness of their cause but by also simply just reducing the number of likely Democratic voters that might make it to the polls, and who are allowed to vote.

All over the country, in almost every red state, we are seeing these Koch Industries supported governors changing the voting rules.

There‘s no outcry in these states to change the voting rules.  But these Republican governors are doing it anyway.  They are making it harder to register to vote and harder to actually vote.

Scott Walker already signed his big voter ID bill into law in Wisconsin back in May.

Republican Governor Paul LePage in Maine is right now trying to eliminate his state‘s same-day voter registration law.  He signed a law into effect that would do that.  Voters in Maine have signaled that they will try to exercise their people‘s veto over that.  They will try to recall what Governor LePage just did.

Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio is now waiting on a tough new voter ID law that even the Republican secretary of state in Ohio has come out against, saying it will result in real legally cast ballots not being counted, and of real legally registered voters not being allowed to vote.

All of these Republican voters—all of these Republican governors, are pushing all of these laws that is will make it dramatically harder to register to vote and actually vote.  Dramatic changes to voter registration rolls and voting rolls that are expected to reduce the number of Democratic-leaning voters and constituencies like minorities and the poor and disabled people and young people.

In addition to changing the voting rules to decrease the number of Democrats who will be expected to vote, these Koch Industries-supported governors are also targeting the single biggest organizational asset that Democrats have in the states.

Today, New Jersey‘s Republican Governor Chris Christie signed into law his union stripping bill, which is the landmark achievement of his time in office so far.  Tomorrow, Scott Walker‘s big union-stripping law will officially go into effect in Wisconsin after months and months of legal struggles and struggles in the streets.  John Kasich in Ohio has already signed his new union-stripping law into effect.

In terms of winning elections, in terms of dismantling Democratic hopes of winning elections, killing the unions is really how you do it, the best organizational structure that Democrats have had.  Organizational structure in the way that they could turn on their get out the vote operation was once a huge advantage of the national Republican Party.  That advantage has now sort of disappeared.

We saw that firsthand in Nevada during the last election when we went there to cover the Harry Reid/Sharron Angle Senate race last year and spoke with political reporter Jon Ralston.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What‘s the Sharron Angle turnout?  If the Republican Party isn‘t all that, what is she—what is she relying on for turning out votes?

JON RALSTON, POLITICAL REPORTER:  Karl Rove.  American Crossroads announced a few weeks ago that they were going to dump a bunch of money into Nevada to help them with get out the vote.  And so, they have poured some money—my understanding, into the Nevada Republican Party, which essentially is a shell corporation.  There is nothing there, and that they are using that to mail to people negative read mailers and probably for phone banking.  And so, how much they have actually come through, we don‘t know on the reports yet.

MADDOW:  How—can you really fly in and get out the vote infrastructure?  Doesn‘t it have to be based here?  Doesn‘t it have to be organic?

RALSTON:  I think not only does it have to be organic to be effective, but it can‘t be done in just a few weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Because the Republican Party‘s get out the vote capacity has been allowed to atrophy in recent years, it is now being supplemented by these privately and secretly funded outside groups like the one run by Karl Rove.  Last year‘s elections were really the first elections where they tried to pull that off.

Nevada is one of the places where it seems like they didn‘t get it together fast enough to do it.  But it looks like they‘re not going to make that same mistake this time around.  “Roll Call” newspaper reporting today that another one of the groups, FreedomWorks, is now beginning to transition itself from an activist organization to a get-out-the-vote organization.  As it is, get out the vote is traditionally done by the political parties, but that, of course, involves abiding by those pesky federal restrictions on how much parties can take in from groups and individuals for those activities.

Take that responsibility out of the hands of the parties, and give it to someone like FreedomWorks, and—hey, there go all the restrictions.

As the Obama re-election campaign really gets into gear now, one of the things that I think Democrats are often sort of smug and satisfied about is the superiority of their own party structure, their own organizational structure, their own ability to reach their own voters and encourage them to go out and vote when it counts.

Well, Democrats have been building up that structural capacity, and the Obama administration was very good at it in 2008.  The Obama organization, I should say.  Republicans, in terms of the Republican Party, they have been letting their organizational efforts languish, as seen in Nevada, where the Democratic effort was very well-organized and the Republican effort was not.  And therefore, even though all of the polls showed Sharron Angle winning that race, when it came to Election Day, the Democrats actually came out on top.

But, we now know that Republicans have been letting that capacity atrophy within the party while instead planning on it being done by outside groups, by being done by Karl Rove‘s groups or FreedomWorks or the Koch brothers‘ Americans for Prosperity.

That stuff, that organizational capacity will now be handled through means that can be 100 percent corporate-funded to an unlimited degree.  If FreedomWorks is now going to be doing the get-out-the-vote efforts for Republican candidates, who are the donors to FreedomWorks?  Really?  Who are their donors?

You don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  They don‘t have to tell us.

If China or Brazil decides that they like one of the Republican presidential contenders this year and they would prefer that person to Barack Obama, what‘s to stop China or Brazil from giving $1 million to FreedomWorks to go get-out-the-vote, do organizational work for that candidate?  What‘s to stop them from giving a $1 million nation or a $10 million donation, or $10 billion donation?

Literally, what is to stop China from writing a $10 billion check to elect some favored Republican candidate in the next election, to elect some favored Republican candidate the next president of the United States?  What‘s to stop that now?

I will ask the man who invented the 50-state strategy for the Democratic Party, former DNC Party chairman, Howard Dean, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Joining us now for “The Interview” is former Vermont governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the last presidential election, Howard Dean.

Governor Dean, it‘s good to see you.  Thanks for being here.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Rachel, thanks for having me on.

MADDOW:  So, what we have learned today from “Roll Call” is that the group FreedomWorks is going to transition itself from an activist group to being a big, well-funded get-out-the-vote operation for the Republican Party.  Is that going to materially change strategic considerations for the next election?

DEAN:  I think it will.  The Supreme Court, the four radical right justices, plus the conservative, Anthony Kennedy, have teamed up to really make it possible to buy America.  What you see is the slow erosion of American democracy.  These people are doing these things, the Koch brothers -- they don‘t really fundamentally believe in democracy.  They really are stripping the votes.

The New Hampshire speaker, for example, said that college students shouldn‘t be allowed to vote in New Hampshire, because they‘re too liberal and don‘t understand what‘s going on.

Look, you can attack unions and we can argue about whether that‘s a good thing or not.  I obviously don‘t think it is.  But when you‘re talking away fundamentally people‘s right to vote, when you‘re investing enormous amounts from anonymous billionaires in getting your people to vote and keeping other people from voting by influencing politicians—these governors that went out there, they‘re bought and paid for by billionaires.

And this does not help the ordinary American working people.  It doesn‘t even help most party people in the Tea Party, in the real Tea Party, the grassroots people.  And I think this is going to—they‘re going to get paid back for this, in this election, which is why I think Obama is going to win by a lot.

MADDOW:  One of the things we have seen happen particularly in the Republican Party over the last couple is that the sort of functions, the organizational functions of the party have been allowed to sort of shrink, and atrophy, both in terms of fund raising, the parties themselves not keeping up with outside groups, but also some of the organizational functions.  The Republican Party, as recently as a couple election cycles ago, had sort of vaunted get-out-the-vote effort and even though they did very well in the 2010 elections, it wasn‘t because of a real evident organizational structure on the ground in most states, even in the battleground states.

As these things sort of become private and leave the parties—is there an accountability issue and a transparency issue about how those things are funded?

DEAN:  Sure, there is.  I mean, nobody knows where that money comes from.  Chevron, for example, and Prudential Insurance gave $2 million apiece to the Chamber of Commerce which ran these horrendous ads, most of which weren‘t true in the last election cycle.

Well, I mean—we at least know from the 10ks that Chevron and Prudential did that.  So, obviously, I wouldn‘t use Chevron gas or wouldn‘t buy anything from Prudential as a result.  But these donors of these things, they really could—you couldn‘t tell if the Chinese gave them a lot of money.

We know that foreign corporations—money was given to the Chamber of Commerce in the last election cycle.  We can‘t prove it was used in the elections.  It was all mingled together, though.  They could be.

But I think there‘s a greater danger than whether the Chinese is giving money to FreedomWorks.  I think the Koch brothers are a danger to America.

What they put together enough money in the Tea Party, so they won the Raleigh School District in North Carolina, and they got rid of the desegregation policy.

This is not a group of people that are in favor of America.  This is a group of people who want who take over America so they can get richer and they‘re a fundamentally mean people that hate working people in this country.  And I think we‘re going to have to make some changes.  And I think the American people are going to make changes.

MADDOW:  Do Democrats at this point see their challenge as finding their own billionaires who they like better?  Or do Democrats have a qualitatively different challenge here?  I mean, is there a way to compete with this, other than fire with fire?

DEAN:  There‘s going to be some of that.  But I think the real way to compete with it is what the president is doing and what he did in the last election, which is have a terrific grass roots organization.

Ordinary people can fight back.  The fact of the matter, ordinary people who believe in themselves can always beat back those handful of greedy, rich people that are doing this.

And most rich people aren‘t like this.  There are just a few far-right people like the Koch brothers who believe that their wealth entitles them to more than anybody else has in this country.

I don‘t think that‘s part of the American Dream.  I don‘t think the average person, Republican, independent, or Democrat believes that‘s how America should be run.  And I think the more this comes to light, the fewer and fewer people are going to be impressed with the Tea Party and the Koch brothers and the Republican Party.

MADDOW:  To the extent that political institutions matter, that it is not just the preferences of the people sort of magically or directly translated into policy, to the extent that the way things run affects the outcomes, we just had the ruling from the Supreme Court this week that Arizona‘s publicly-financed election system is unconstitutional, that the state—that the state of Arizona, according to the Supreme Court, is not allowed to give people public financing in a way that levels the playing field between publicly-financed candidates and self-financed rich guy candidates.

Are we now—are we now looking at a position, though, in which not only we‘ve got a Citizens United sort of corporate funded atmosphere, but the ability for public policy to sort of remedy that is being hampered, that there isn‘t going to be a possibility for publicly financed elections as a way around this problem.

DEAN:  Well, you know, this is a very political Supreme Court.  They are bought and paid for essentially by the same people that elected George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan who basically put the majority of the Supreme Court on.

What do you expect them to do?  They are basically selling America to corporations.  But that can be fixed too, over time.  Barack Obama has appointed two very solid middle-of-the-road justices, and hopefully, he‘ll get a chance to appoint a couple more and we‘ll have a Supreme Court that‘s more in keeping with where America really wants to go.

I don‘t believe that this Supreme Court represents anything like what the average American believes.  I do not believe that most Americans think that a corporation ought to have the same rights as a person.  But that‘s what this Supreme Court has given them.

So, this is a court which is very much in the business of equating money with rights, and, of course, they are giving our rights away to the big corporations, which are, after all, a creation of our own state.  So, that has to be fixed.

Look, the Republicans have been 30 years doing this.  And it‘s going to take some time to fix the damage.  But I think we can do it.  If we all stick together and we all work hard, I really do think we can do it.

MADDOW:  Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic Party, thanks for your time, Governor.

DEAN:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  We are expecting some news from the White House tomorrow. 

Details ahead on that, an update.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Here‘s something worth knowing about the news day tomorrow.  Late in the day today, at about 7:00 p.m. Eastern, we got news from the White House that President Obama is due to give a press conference tomorrow, 11:30 a.m. Eastern, in the East Room of the White House.

Now, President Obama has not done a full formal news conference with the White House press corps since March.  It is now almost July.

So, expect some significant presidential news tomorrow.  As well as, frankly, a reminder that as the president negotiates with Republicans and even with his own party on everything from a vote on the debt ceiling to authorization for the war in Libya, there really is nothing in American politics like the bully pulpit of the presidency.  There is nothing like that that anybody else has access to in politics.

So, tomorrow morning, 11:30 a.m. Eastern, we will hear what is on the president‘s mind.  And what the press feels like pressing him on.

No matter who the president is, I think the presidential news conferences are always awesome TV.  If you want to watch it work, but you can‘t really watch TV at work, bring headphones tomorrow.  We will be streaming the whole thing live at MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Here‘s a picture of something that shouldn‘t usually be all that scary, but right now it is.  The Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant located roughly 20 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska, where for weeks now, the flooded Missouri River has been racing up to and past this nuclear plant at an estimated 15 miles an hour.  Footage you see here was taken from a boat.

This past weekend, first and second lines of flood defense at Ft.  Calhoun failed and the plant decided to unplug itself from the power grid and start cooling its nuclear fuel with backup diesel power for 12 hours.  Then they plugged back into the grid and they say everything is fine now.  But this 40-year-old reactor is still facing the worst flooding test of any nuclear power plant in the United States ever and it is expected to go on for weeks.  So, yes, this—what you‘re looking at here, these are scary scenes.

However, you may be relieved to know the worst rumors the Internet has coughed up about Ft. Calhoun during this little heartland drama, the worst rumors are really, really, really not true.  A Pakistani newspaper, for example, reported that the Ft. Calhoun plant had suffered a near meltdown and is now under an Obama-imposed media blackout.  That is emphatically not true.

Nor is it true that Ft. Calhoun has become a no-fly zone because it is leaking radiation.  Ft. Calhoun is not leaking radiation and as with all U.S. nuclear plants, its air space has been in a no-fly zone since 9/11.

But the Missouri River turning it into a giant, rather dramatic photo-op, plant officials asked the Feds to remind pilots of the existing no-fly zone, so news helicopters would stop violating that no-fly zone.  But that no-fly zone is nothing new, despite what you may have heard.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the part of our government in charge of assuring the safety of the nuclear industry, the NRC has been doing its best to dispel the rumors about the Ft. Calhoun flooding.  They have been doing so on their blog.

Quote, “Behind the scenes, there is lots of activity designed to ensure the safety of the plant.”

As with most things, but particularly with nuclear things, it is important to not panic, not be will to go believe the scariest things you hear just because it is scary, to try to understand more emote.

And the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, they are the people who are supposed to make sure any worries are well-founded, frankly, and that we keep our worries in context.  That is what the NRC is trying to do with their rumor control effort.

The problem, honestly, is their credibility, their history.  “The Associated Press” today continued their recent cracker jack reporting on the nuclear industry with a report on the NRC attempting to rewrite very important history.

When the United States licensed its first generation of power plants, nearly 40 years ago, the NRC said those nuclear plants would have a life span of 40 years.  They were very emphatic about that.  You‘re going to license these plants.  They are due to last for 40 years.  You‘ve got a 40-year life span.

It‘s now 40 years later.  So, time is up, right?

Not if you‘re the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or the owners of these very expensive to build power plants that are finally turning a profit.

From “The Associated Press” report, quote, “Regulators in industry now contend the 40-year limit was chosen for economic reasons, not for safety issues.  They contend a nuclear plant has no technical limit on its life.”

One nuclear engineer who helped design reactors for General Electric tells “The Associated Press,” quote, “What they‘re saying is really a fabrication.”  In less polite parlance, a fabrication, of course, is a lie.

And if the NRC wants to dispel rumors about the almost 40-year-old Ft.  Calhoun plant and its flooding problem, if it wants us to feel better about this unprecedented challenge, this unprecedented threat, because they‘re telling us to feel better about it, we, frankly, need a reason to believe them when they talk to us.

We need to know more about their relationship with the truth.

Joining us now is Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund and an expert on nuclear matters large and small.

Joe, it‘s good to have you here.  Thanks for being here.

JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND:  My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW:  The utility that runs the Ft. Calhoun plant says there is no possibility of a meltdown.  NRC chairman says the risk is very low at this point.

When you hear those things, are you—do you feel reassured or do you feel skeptical?

CIRINCIONE:  I feel skeptical.  And the reason is, just last year, the NRC looked at this plant and said that if the floodwaters rose to 1,010 feet, that is about four feet from where they currently are, if they rose to 110 feet, there would be a 100 percent chance of a meltdown at this plant.

And it ordered the operators to take certain procedures, which apparently they have since, and maybe helping ameliorate some of the damage.  But you don‘t hear any of that from the NRC now.  You don‘t hear the NRC laying out what the scenarios could look like if the waters, in fact, did rise to 110 feet -- 1,010 feet or 1,014 feet.

I‘d feel much more assured if they would lay out the various scenarios for us and not just trying to reassure us there is nothing going on here, move along.

MADDOW:  When the NRC says, as you say, the river levels are going to be at a place where the plant should be able to deal with it, that‘s what we‘re hearing from the NRC chairman, what do you think they really are most concerned about?  What do you think is the most pressing worry for Ft.  Calhoun?

CIRINCIONE:  There are two worries.  And one is that there could be damage to the dams upstream, the Ft. Peck dam, for example, is—certain concerns that could break.  If that broke, you would have substantially higher water damage.

And we don‘t know what would happen to the plant.  We have never had a situation like this, as you said.  We have never had a U.S. nuclear plant flooded the way this one is.  We don‘t know what would happen if the water came over the barriers and flooded the entire plant.

Number two is, the water levels are expected to stay at this height for at least another month.  What is that doing to the underground structures?  How is that weakening this foundation, the structures at the plant?

Already, you have at the plant site, heavy machinery has been told not to run on the paved roads, because they‘re afraid the floodwaters have weakened the underlying earth structure.

MADDOW:  Joe, the thing that is fresh in everybody‘s mind, whether or not they ever paid attention to nuclear safety issues before is, of course, the ongoing crisis at Fukushima.  We spent a long time covering Fukushima disaster as it was starting to unfold here.  I know you have been doing a lot more media, even unusual for you, trying to explain that.  That is still not over.

For people who have paid a little attention to what has happened in Japan, can you contrast or compare what‘s been happening in Fukushima with what we‘re facing right now at the Missouri River?

CIRINCIONE:  Sure.  This is not Fukushima.  It‘s not a catastrophe that‘s happening al at once.  The reactor here at Ft. Calhoun is not operating.  It is in what they call cold stand-down.

There were three operating reactor at Fukushima that were hit while they were operating.

This is a slow-motion Fukushima.  This is a disaster we see unfolding.  That means that the operators, the authorities, have time to take action, have time to prepare, have time to plan, for example, evacuations for Omaha, just some 20 miles away, should the worst-case happen.

The danger, however, is not ameliorated just because the plant is shut down.  Look at reactor number four at Fukushima.  That was also in cold shutdown.  The roof blew off that plant.  The fuel pools—had caused a hydrogen explosions in the fuel pools.

The cold shutdown reactor number four, the cold, shutdown reactor at Fukushima.  That‘s the model we should be looking at when you start looking at worst-case scenarios for Ft. Calhoun.

MADDOW:  Joe, as we get these reassurances from both the utility company and particularly from the feds, from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is there something they could do that would help establish better credibility and authority for themselves in terms of people believing their reassurances?  They are obviously very concerned about the rumors, but people are concerned about the fact that their history has not always been the best in terms of being straight and on the side of safety.

CIRINCIONE:  Right.  While they‘re reassuring people, they should also lay out the problems.  They should disclose, for example, that last year, they issued two yellow citations, two yellow incident reports in the whole country.  This is right before the worst level, right before the red level.  One of those was issued to Ft. Calhoun.

They should talk about the problems this plant has had, and how they have corrected them.  Lay out the whole truth.  The American people aren‘t stupid.  We can take the truth, lay it all out for us so we can see what the risks are, and then we as a public can plan accordingly.

MADDOW:  Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund—Joe, it‘s good to see you.  Thanks for your insight tonight.

CIRINCIONE:  My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right.  I am told that I‘m supposed to warn you “The Best Thing in the World Tonight” involves a lot of loud grunting.  Fair warning.  That is still ahead.

Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  1975, the movie “Jaws” came out that year, and now we have summer scary blockbuster movies forever more.  “Saturday Night Live” started in 1975.  In 1975, Microsoft was becoming a company for the first time.

1975 was also the year that BIC rolled out disposable razors.

Also 1975, International Women‘s Year.  That‘s right, ladies of the world, it was a year just for you.  I was 2 years old at the time, so I couldn‘t really appreciate it then.  But feminists in 1975 were psyched.  And they had big ambitious goals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALD FORD, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  Women‘s liberation is truly the liberation of all people.  Let 1975 International Women‘s Year be the year that ERA is ratified.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That, of course, was noted women‘s libber Republican President Gerald Ford, talking up one of his goals for International Women‘s Year, the passage of the acronym that sometimes signifies the earned run average, but this time the Equal Rights Amendment, the ERA.

And it‘s pretty straight forward as these things go.  It‘s pretty cut and dry.  Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.  That‘s it.  That‘s the whole amendment.  It would amend the Constitution to say, in America, the law cannot discriminate against people because of their sex.

Despite lots of people working very hard on it, the ERA did not happen in 1975, despite President Ford‘s hopes, International Women‘s Year was not the year ERA would be ratified.

But last week, last week, it started to feel like 1975 all over again, and not just because the Camarro is back.  Last week, the Supreme Court rejected the biggest sex discrimination class action lawsuit in U.S.  history, one technical part of the case on what kind of relief people are allowed to sue for in that kind of case.  That was decided unanimously.

But the sex discrimination part of the case against Walmart—that was decided on familiar ideological lines.  The court‘s five conservatives siding with Walmart, the court‘s non-conservatives siding with the women who said they were discriminated against.

Two days after that ruling, two days after the Supreme Court decided for Walmart and against about 1 million women, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey decided to reintroduce the old ERA.  And why not?

Upon it, reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment, Congresswoman Maloney said the Walmart case decided by the Supreme Court is a classic example of how far attitudes must still come.  The facts of the case support the view that over 1 million women were systematically denied equal pay by the world‘s largest employer.

You know, the Equal Rights Amendment is one of those things that gets introduced in every Congress, but nobody ever really pays that much attention to it anymore.  And it goes way further back than even 1975.  An early version was written in 1923.  But it was 1972, before it finally got around to passing overwhelmingly through both the House and the Senate.  A constitutional amendment, though, also has to go not just through Congress, but through the states.  It had to be ratified by 38 states within a decade of it passing Congress.

So, it passed Congress in ‘72.  By ‘82, at the end of 10 years, the ERA had had made it through 35 states, not the 38 states it needed to get through, and so, it ran out of time three states short.

Now, here we are in 2011, with nothing in the Constitution that says you cannot discriminate on the basis of sex.  And more than 1 million women saying they were paid less by Walmart because they are women, and the Supreme Court telling those million women, tough luck.

And Carolyn Maloney, who just so happens to have a copy of the Equal Rights Amendment that you might very much like to read.  It‘s quite short and to the point.  It won‘t take long.

So, who knows?  The Camarro is back.  People are using ‘70s fonts again.  Maybe this could be the year for the ERA.

I mean, we haven‘t really truly debated it in almost 30 years.  How did the argument stand up from the last time we fought about this?

The main voice against it at the time was a woman named Phyllis Schlafly.  She is still around.  She would likely still make the old arguments.  So, how does old Phyllis Schlafly hold up over time?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY:  It would be a direct attack on our families, on our morals, on our culture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  When the equal rights amendment was defeated in Florida, one of the arguments of the Phyllis Schlaflys of the world against it was that they said it would legalize unisex bathrooms.  And that, of course, would bring down the republic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now, let us get on to what I am crazy about what they call the potty problem.  It has been said that if we‘re all equal, we‘re all going to have to use the same bathroom facilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Another really effective argument against the ERA.  Last time we fought about this as a country as that making women equal to men in the eyes of the law would be the same thing as making men and women the same thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARLIN MCDANIEL, STATE SENATOR:  The fact is that the noted advocates of the so-called ERA, who are misleading thousands of fine women across this land, do not want to raise a family as we have cherished over the years, nor to have any sexual, physical or social differences between a man and woman in modern America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So, if you vote for the ERA, you will transform the entire human race into a sub class of asexual pod people without families.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WENDELL ASHTON, MORMON CHURCH SPOKESMAN, 1977:  For the good of the women, as well as the families and the total fabric of our society in America, it would be a deterrent to progress in America, particularly in the strengths of the family.  The most important activity that a woman can engage in is that in the home, rearing children or citizens for tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  We can‘t go having the people rearing our children, our citizens for tomorrow.  We can‘t go having them having equal rights.

But it was not just about destroying families and men and women peeing too near each other.  Its opponents also argued that the Equal Rights Amendment would have unintended consequences.  Like it might just not give rights to ladies—if you know what I mean.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

CHARLES PICKERING, MISSISSIPPI:  I would caution the members of this platform committee that there are things that could happen from the passage of an ERA amendment that none of us would like to see happen.

MONRAD PAULSEN, YESHIVA UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL DEAN, 1976:  With the Equal Rights Amendment be a unisex amendment which would require states to permit homosexuals to be married.

SCHLAFLY:  The Equal Rights Amendment says you cannot discrimination on the accounts of sex.  If you want to deny a marriage license to a man and a man, or deny a homosexual the right to teach in the schools or to adopt children, it is on account of sex that you would deny it, and that would be unconstitutional under ERA.

BARBARA SMITH, MORMON CHURCH RELIEF SOCIETY, 1977:  I think families would, generation after generation, would deteriorate.  I think that there would be homosexuals that expect preferential treatment, and I think our society would decay.  I think we would find ourselves in the same situation as ancient Greece, the Romans.  I think we can see that civilizations have declined when those kinds of things were taking place and I‘m afraid that Equal Rights Amendment might lead to that.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Remember the ancient Greeks, right?  First, it was equal rights for women, and it was preferential treatment for the gays, and then the end, no more Greece.

But perhaps most directly, the opponents of the ERA argued that giving women equal rights would kill you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JERRY FALWELL, MORAL MAJORITY:  If the Equal Rights Amendment were ratified, these girls could be forced to go to combat.  God didn‘t intend women for NFL football or combat.

SCHLAFLY:  Women are exempt from the draft.  Selective service says only young men of age 18 have to register.  But the Equal Rights Amendment will positively make women subject to the draft and on an equal basis with men.  Nor could you have a system whereby the women would get all the nice, easy desk jobs and the men get all the fighting jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, it was Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell who are there to protect American women from war and the NFL.

But that argument, the part about women‘s role in the military, was probably the one with the most crossover appeal at the time.  Anecdotally, at least people who were otherwise for the Equal Rights Amendment thought twice about it when people started talking about women in the military, and how women are de facto in combat now, which makes you wonder how Phyllis Schlafly is coping.

Even without the ERA, these ladies did not get their desk jobs.  What‘s next?  Women on submarines or something?  Hey, look, women on submarines.  It turns out we‘ve gotten over that one, too.

So, yes, the ERA has been kicking around forever.  But why couldn‘t it become law now?  Do the arguments from the 1970s still stand up now?  Really?

I know that the House is full of Republicans and so are the state legislatures now, but one under-appreciated thing is how much Republicans wants to change the Constitution.  Republicans want to change the Constitution for everything.

In recent years, Republicans have proposed what they call a repeal amendment, changing the Constitution so states can repeal any federal law they don‘t like.  They propose dropping the 14th Amendment so you‘re not necessarily a citizen because you‘re born here.  They proposed a constitutional amendment to ban the U.S. government from buying stock in a company.

Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann proposed a constitutional amendment to ban the president from entering into a treaty that would change the U.S. currency to some sort of global currency, because that‘s an urgent concern.

Republicans have pushed to repeal the 17th Amendment, that‘s the one that says we get to elect U.S. senators.

Republicans have also backed in recent years a Parental Rights Amendment to the Constitution to make sure the U.N. doesn‘t come in and take away American parents‘ rights.

Republicans have proposed amending the Constitution, of course, to ban gay marriage.  Republicans have proposed amending the Constitution to ban abortion.  Republicans have proposed repealing the 16th Amendment, which would ban the income tax.

They have wanted to amend the Constitution to make English the official language of the United States.  They have wanted to amend the Constitution to ban desecration of the flag, to ban deficits.

Republicans proposed 42 different amendments to the United States Constitution in the last Congress alone.

So, Equal Rights Amendment?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN CATANIA, ILLINOIS STATE LEGISLATOR:  Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Equal Rights Amendment is that simple.  Given all the other ways Republicans say they want to amend the Constitution, does that one just go too far?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  “The Best New Thing in the World Today”—Wimbledon is going on.  Five years ago, you may recall that the chairman of Wimbledon defended vigorously the tournament‘s decision to give female players less prize money than male players.  This year, the CEO of Wimbledon says that female players should grunt less when they play.

At Wimbledon, at least, world class and extreme physical exertion is best done quietly when it is done by women.

So, “The Best New Thing in the World Today” is an interactive quiz put together by Slate.com that challenges you to match the grunt to the tennis player.  We have put a link to the quiz on the Maddowblog today but here‘s kind of how it works.  Ready?

Who is this?

(AUDIO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  Who did that grunt?

This would be Michelle Larcher de Brito, is that how you say it, of Portugal?

How about this one?

(AUDIO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  Who is responsible for that noise?  That will be 1970s Wimbledon champion Jimmy Connors, often credited with pioneering the tennis grunt.

OK.  Who is this one?

(AUDIO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  That impressive snort belongs to the number one player in the world, Rafael Nadal from Spain.  For the record, there have been no complaints about Mr. Nadal‘s grunts from the hoity-toity in the Wimbledon CEO‘s office.

Time for another one?

(AUDIO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  Who was that one?

That was grand slam champion Monica Seles, who reportedly once registered a grunt that was 93.2 decibels, because now, apparently, we are counting these things.

Nearly there.  Who is this one?

(AUDIO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  That sounds familiar.  That‘s because that was the executive producer of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, Bill Wolff, who emitted that noise while approving an expense report today.

Do we have time for one more?  All right.  One more.

(AUDIO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  Was that Federer?  Was that John McEnroe?  Was that Andre Agassi?

Actually that was the cowardly lion from “The Wizard of Oz” putting the ape in apricot.

Slate.com‘s inspired decision to create an online anthology of grunting, that‘s on our blog today “Best New Thing in the World.”

Now, it is time for “THE ED SHOW.”  Thanks very much for being with us tonight.  Have a great night.

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

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