updated 1/17/2012 12:14:31 PM ET 2012-01-17T17:14:31

Guests: Ezra Klein, Frank Phillips

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, "THE ED SHOW": Senator Sanders, thanks for being
with us tonight. Appreciate it so much.

That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. You can listen to me on Sirius
XM radio channel 127, Monday through Friday, 12:00 to 3:00. Follow me on
Twitter @EdShow and like the "THE ED SHOW" on Facebook.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Have a great weekend.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening. Happy Friday. Thank you for
being with us for the next hour.

Fridays are supposed to be slow, right? Fridays are supposed to be
nobody is paying attention days. Fridays are supposed to be the days you
do stuff or you release information that you don`t really want anybody to
notice because everybody knows that Friday is the weekend already, nothing
happens on a Friday, right?

Bullpuckey. In politics, at least, today was avalanche of news day.

First up, a federal judge in Virginia today, ruled on the legal
challenge brought by Texas Governor Rick Perry to try to force his way on
the Virginia Republican primary ballot. Virginia, of course, one of the
biggest plums, one of the biggest surprises on Super Tuesday, which is
March 6th.

The Republican Party of the commonwealth of Virginia controls the
rules of that primary, including who gets to be on the ballot there. And
under the Virginia Republican Party`s rules, the only people who qualify to
be on the ballot this year are Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. That`s it. They
are the only ones who qualified.

Rick Perry sued to try to force his way onto the ballot, Jon Huntsman,
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum joined the lawsuit.

But today, a federal judge in Virginia said to all of them, no. He
said, "They all knew the rules ahead of time. They should have complained
about the rules while there was still time to change them." And so,
effectively no dice. So, this is your choice on March 6th, Virginia. Mitt
Romney or Ron Paul. Full stop.

Also happening right now, in the great state of Texas, as we speak, at
some big ranch somewhere that they tell us between Houston and Austin,
which is kind of a big somewhere, 125 leaders of the religious right and
their spouses are gathering for what "TIME" magazine called "Operation what
to do about Mitt Romney." The sponsor of the event is the former head of
the American Family Association, Don Wildmon. He`s the guy who you may
remember financed Rick Perry stadium prayer rally right before he kicked
off his presidential campaign this summer.

Also, Gary Bauer, who used to be the head of the Family Research
Council, and who himself ran for president in 2000. Mr. Bauer becoming
most famous during the campaign for this, well, oh! Flipping pancakes in
New Hampshire and falling off the -- oh, Go, it was all Mr. Bauer -- oh.

Gary Bauer and Don Wildmon hosting this event in Texas tonight, which
has been wildly reported as basically a religious right conspiracy to find
someone to topple Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee. I mean, it sounds
like a crazy liberal conspiracy about the religious right.

But apparently, it`s true. These guys, by and large, are not denying
that that`s what they are trying to do. They admit it.

Now, while some of the people have endorsed some candidates, the
invitation asks they all be, quote, "willing to compromise and change your
choice to one that the body as a whole supports in order not to divide our
strength."

That meeting in Texas starts tonight. Then I think there is a
sleepover at the ranch, oh to be a fly on the wall, tomorrow they will
reportedly try to decide who they are going to support in the Republican
primary.

One very specific point of light in the religious right pantheon has
made his own endorsement today. Do you remember old Tim LaHaye? Tim
LaHaye, the author of all of those books about the rapture, Mr. Left
behind, the Obama is the anti-Christ guy who I got to interview once.

Tim LaHaye, Mr. Rapture, today endorsed Newt Gingrich for president.
He sent a letter to South Carolina religious leaders urging them to unite
behind Newt Gingrich`s candidacy. Mr. LaHaye describing Newt Gingrich as
having the best chance of beating President Barack Obama.

His letter said, quote, "If we do not change our leaders in the next
election, we will end up being like the godless socialist countries of
Europe that will so destroy our country in four years, that many experts
believe we will never be able to reclaim it for moral and physical sanity."

I don`t understand the last part, either, and I don`t know who the
experts are who say I agree with him. But, I should also note that Tim
LaHaye in his letter also says that Jerry Falwell is endorsing Newt
Gingrich from beyond the grave.

Jerry Falwell, of course, is dead. But Tim LaHaye says in this letter
that before Jerry Falwell died, he told Tim LaHaye that, quote, "Speaker
Newt Gingrich is the most qualified man in America to run as president of
the United States." Mr. Gingrich for his part said today that he was very
happy to receive the endorsement of Tim LaHaye. Mr. Gingrich did not
comment on whether or not he was happy to receive the endorsement of dead
Jerry Falwell.

In South Carolina, Newt Gingrich is actually doing pretty well right
now. In the three most recent polls, PPP, which tends to lean a little
Democratic, Rasmussen which tends to lean a little Republican, and Insider
Advantage, which I don`t think particularly leans, in all three of the
polls, the three most recent polls in South Carolina, Mitt Romney is still
ahead, but Newt Gingrich is close and gaining.

In the PPP poll, Mitt Romney is up over Mr. Gingrich by fifth. In the
Rasmussen, he`s up by seven. And Insider Advantage poll, he`s only up by
two.

But the movement in the polls right now in South Carolina broadly
speaking is that Mitt Romney is sort of holding steady or dropping. Newt
Gingrich is rising. Ron Paul is rising. And Rick Santorum is falling.

Now, there is still another week to go until South Carolina votes.
They vote next Saturday. But South Carolina does not seem to be a gimme
for anybody at this point. South Carolina seems to be in play.

Rick Santorum so far is not showing much momentum in South Carolina.
He had that disappointing fifth place finish in New Hampshire. Oddly, and
this is just an observation, who am to give Rick Santorum advice? I`m sure
he wouldn`t take it anyway. But I find it strange that when Rick Santorum
went to New Hampshire, just about every event in New Hampshire, he really
stressed all of his social conservative positions.

So in the least socially conservative of all the early Republican
states, Rick Santorum went hard core and full bore on his social
conservativism, on his anti-gay positions, on abortion, on his views on how
you should have sex and with whom.

And now that Rick Santorum is in South Carolina, which is probably the
most socially conservative state of all the early Republican states, maybe
contention with Iowa, but it`s right out there, now that he`s in South
Carolina where the social conservative stuff might really play, Rick
Santorum is talking about jobs and the blue collar economic populist side
of his conservative appeal -- which is not an unattractive part of Mr.
Santorum`s message, just kind of seems like his timing is a little
backwards. I`m just saying.

MADDOW: In any case, Mr. Santorum has now reprised a version of Mike
Huckabee`s old populist line against Mitt Romney from the 2008 campaign.
Do you remember this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People are looking
for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work
with rather than the guy that laid him off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Mr. Santorum`s version of that line came today as he was sort
of trying to say that he wasn`t going to go after Mitt Romney for his
record at Bain Capital but --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It doesn`t necessarily
mean that you want your boss to running for president, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: It should be noted, as Rick Santorum reprises that line of
Mike Huckabee`s against Mitt Romney from 2008, it should be noted that Mike
Huckabee has sort of now dropped his whole criticism of Mitt Romney. Now
that he`s a FOX News personality and not a candidate himself, Mike Huckabee
who`s joined the Republican establishment chorus telling other candidates
to not criticize Mitt Romney`s record at Bain.

He sent a message to his own e-mail list saying, quote, "It`s
surprising to see so many Republicans embrace that left wing argument
against capitalism."

Mr. Romney`s most high profile surrogate and new endorser John McCain
also said this week that people really should leave Bain alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: These attacks on Bain Capital is
really kind of an anathema of everything that we believe in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: OK. That`s John McCain now, taking what sounds like a
principled stand on Mitt Romney`s behalf. Here`s John McCain four years
ago, not so much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: As the head of his investment, quote, "company," he presided
over the acquisition of companies that immediately laid off thousands of
workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: John McCain, everybody, Mr. Principles. John McCain has
turned out to be a little bit of a mixed blessing for Mitt Romney. I mean,
yes, he was the nominee the last time around, so his endorsement sort of
represents the ultimate bygones be bygones stamp of approval in the
Republican Party, of course. But this Bain flip-flop thing is
embarrassing.

And then last week, Mr. McCain mistakenly endorsed Mr. Obama while he
was campaigning with Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Did you see when that
happened?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I am confident with the leadership and the backing of the
American people, President Obama will turn this country around. We believe
in America. We believe that our best days are ahead of us. President --
excuse, President Romney. President Romney.

President Romney. President Romney -- President Romney will turn this
around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Obviously an honest mistake and one he wishes he didn`t make,
but it was a high profile mistake with bad timing. My vote actually for
the most under appreciated political story of the week comes from John
McCain`s appearance on Sean Hannity`s radio show on Tuesday, when Mr.
McCain unprompted said this about his pick for vice president. Back in
2008, his pick, of course, was Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CAIN: I`d love Sarah. I think she is still the best decision that I
have ever made.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Best. John McCain is an older man. He has made a lot of
decisions in his life including joining the Navy, made decisions about who
to marry, decisions about having children, decisions about wars, decisions
about more wars, a whole lifetime of very important decision. He says the
single best decision he has ever made in his entire life was.

I realize that Mitt Romney wants John McCain`s endorsement. But this
week, John McCain`s endorsement came with a whiplash inducing reminder
about John McCain`s judgment.

In terms of the other candidates in South Carolina, there is, of
course, Ron Paul, who as I mentioned before is doing pretty well in the
most recent polling. He was third in Iowa. He was second in New
Hampshire, and he`s polling third and rising in South Carolina right now.

Back home in Texas, a federal appeals court today cleared the way for
immediate enforcement of Texas` new rather radical anti-abortion law. This
is kind of amazing. Think about this for a second.

This is the new law. The new law says that any woman who wants to
have an abortion in the state of Texas will now be forced by the government
of the state of Texas to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound -- even
if she does not want the ultrasound and even if her doctor does not think
it`s in her interest. Doctors can be prosecuted and can lose their
licenses to practice medicine unless they force their patients to undergo
medically unnecessary ultrasounds against their own medical judgment in the
interests of their patients because the government of state wants them to
do it.

Ron Paul, of course, is running as the libertarian no-invasive
government guy. Asked about this new law, asked about the mandatory forced
ultrasound law that`s just been passed in his home state of Texas, Ron Paul
said today, quote, "It should always have been a Texas state position."

You want big, literally physically intrusive government dictating to
doctors how to practice medicine? Then Ron Paul is your guy, Mr. Liberty.
Wow.

That brings us back to the meeting of conservative religious right
types tonight in Texas. For all of Ron Paul`s anti-abortion libertarian
heresy, "Time" magazine reports that the only three non-Mitt Romney
candidates at the religious right people are considering tonight at that
ranch in Texas are Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum.

So, not only Jon Huntsman but also radical anti-abortion big
government interventionist Ron Paul, they somehow with the religious right
they don`t cut the mustard. They`re not being considered.

Republican politics are weird. And they are really internally
inconsistent and they are therefore, radically unpredictable -- which at
times like this on Fridays like this, in political seasons like this --
which is why I have the best job in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: For Republicans, there is nothing more infuriating, more
confrontational, more incendiary than a president who agrees with them, the
nerve. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: At my house tonight in western Massachusetts, I can
confidently tell you there is a 30 percent chance of snow, and expected low
of 21 degrees. Tomorrow, a high of 29, tomorrow night, a low of 4 degrees,
and first glance I looked at the weather forecast and got excited I thought
I could go fishing on Sunday, and I noticed yes, it will be sunny, but a
high of 19 degrees.

I did catch a rainbow trout in the snow last Sunday, which was very
exciting, but I`m not sure I could do 19 degrees standing in the river.
I`m not even sure the river would let me in at that temperature. After it
was 4 the night before. Maybe it would be iced over.

The reason I know all that data, and it`s already got me excited for
my weekend is because of my beloved NOAA. I have a crush on NOAA, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the
National Weather Service. It is embarrassing. I have a long had a crush
on NOAA.

NOAA provides a great, invaluable, and well used service in our
country. Even if the only thing you care about is hurricanes, we need
them. The National Weather Service is great. I love it as much as I love
the post office. I love it as much as I love Amtrak and the New York City
subway.

But the weird thing about NOAA, about my crush, is that NOAA is part
of the Commerce Department. The Commerce Department says the mission is to
help make American companies more innovative at home and more competitive
abroad so they can create jobs.

Now I`m sure accurate forecasting of the weather may be can help with
that, but it is kind of weird, right? It`s a weird match. President Obama
admitted today that it`s weird.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Interior Department
is in charge of salmon in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles
them in salt water. Now, if you`re wondering what the genesis of this was,
apparently it had something do with President Nixon being unhappy with his
interior secretary for criticizing him about the Vietnam War, and so, he
decided not to put NOAA in what would have been a more sensible place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: President Obama while he was announcing not only does he want
to take NOAA out of the inexplicable Commerce Department, and put it
somewhere more normal, like maybe the Interior Department, which is sort of
in charge of our country`s physical plant. Not only does he want to move
NOAA somewhere that makes more sense, he also maybe wants to get rid of the
Commerce Department altogether.

He wants to take six different major federal departments or agencies
that deal with business or trade, the Commerce Department, also the Small
Business Administration, U.S. Trade Representatives Office, the Export
Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and
Development Agency, all these agencies that have overlapping
responsibilities for different parts of business and trade, he wants to
take all of these six agencies and consolidate them.

The White House says that consolidation would not only simplify and
streamline government. It would save about $3 billion and it would cut
1,000 jobs off of the federal payroll over a period of 10 years. They
don`t plan on firing people in those jobs directly. They plan to lose the
jobs through attrition.

But overall, at the end of the game, a leaner federal government.

Now, I don`t know how the people at NOAA feel about potentially
moving. I don`t know how all those offices and their public servants feel
about being reorganized like this.

But from the outside looking in, this sort of reorganization does seem
rational. At least the idea is, right? Shrinking and streamlining
government to make it make more sense to the people who need to use to it
get stuff done.

Republicans naturally have no idea what to do with this development.
Republicans have been so busy screaming that President Obama must shrink
government, so busy alleging that he`s manically devoted to growing
government whenever he can, but now that he is trying to shrink government,
they`ve reacted by being sort of suspicious and not happy but not sure why
they`re not happy.

House Speaker John Boehner`s spokesman released a statement today
saying, quote, "Given the president`s record of growing government" -- not
sure what he means, they just use this as an epithet, he said, "We`re
interested to learn whether this proposal represents actual relief for
American businesses or just the appearance of it."

Mitch McConnell`s spokesman put out a statement calling this
development interesting, but still accusing President Obama of growing
government -- while he`s proposing shrinking it.

What the White House is doing here is a political move that is called
the flabbergast. Actually, nobody calls it the flabbergast. But it should
be called the flabbergast, because of the effect it has on the other side,
or at least that it ought to if they had shame.

It`s a default talking point to accuse all Democrats of wanting to
grow government and to say that instead government should be shrunk.
Despite that Republican talking point, government did grow more than at any
time since World War II under their Republican president, under George W.
Bush and a Republican Congress.

And this Democratic president is proposing shrinking government. But
that will not interrupt the talking point which alleges the opposite of
what`s really happening.

The same thing on taxes and regulation. It is a default Republican
epithet that Democrats want to increase taxes and they want to increase
regulations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our taxes are too high, and
our Democrats friends want us to just keep raising taxes just a little
more.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to lower the
regulations and the taxes.

ROMNEY: This president has enacted job killing regulations.

SANTORUM: It`s a government issue. It`s high taxes. It`s high
regulation.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: So, they say that not only does President Obama want to
increase taxes and regulations, but he already has. And while that talking
point is a tried and true talking point, it`s an applause line, right?
What the Obama administration has actually done, bears no resemblance to
the talking point and is therefore a bit of a flabbergast for the
Republicans on this.

In January of last year, it has gone down the memory hole for
Republicans. But President Obama issued an executive order and wrote an
op-ed on the rabidly right wing "Wall Street Journal" editorial page,
calling for government-wide pruning of unnecessary or overly burdensome
regulations.

In February of 2009, President Obama implementing either the largest
or one of the largest middle class tax cuts in American history. That was
part of the stimulus actually that you`d never know it from the way the
Republicans talk about it.

The administration also brags on having passed 17 tax cuts
specifically for small businesses. And so, naturally Republicans keep
denouncing him as raising taxes and piling on the regulations, and growing
the government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ROMNEY: Government is already too big. We have to rein in the scale
of the federal government. And so, we do need to have our employer tax
rates brought down.

PAUL: Government is too big in Washington, D.C. It`s runaway.

SANTORUM: This administration has blown the lid off high cost
regulations.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: This is a real theme and a real challenge for Republican
politics concerning Democrat administrations, because the talking points,
the epithet, the hurled invectives remain the same. They stay the same no
matter what the administration does.

You know, these guys, they know what Republicans like to hear. They
know what they think the country likes to hear about what`s wrong with
Democrats. And when that is not true of the actual Democrats who are being
criticized, we are faced with the question of whether or not we demand our
politics make sense, whether the talking points start to sound off point.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: When we get people who are
more concerned about the -- let me think carefully how I describe this --
more concerned reading the rights to an al Qaeda terrorist than they are
with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely
committed to do everything they can to kill Americans, then I worry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s the line from the Republicans, right? The Obama
administration soft on terror. They coddle terrorists.

And then there is the Obama administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REPORTER: U.S. and Yemeni officials tell CNN it was a U.S. drone
strike that killed radical Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki on
Friday.

REPORTER: A top al Qaeda leader and potential successor to Osama bin
Laden is reportedly among nine people killed in a U.S. drone strike in
northwest Pakistan.

TV ANCHOR: U.S. drone strikes killed at least seven al Qaeda linked
militants in Yemen overnight. One of those killed was Ibrahim al Bana
(ph), one of the most dangerous militants in Yemen.

OBAMA: Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world
that the United States has conducted and operation that killed Osama bin
Laden, the leader of al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: This is almost an existential challenge for our political
process right now. Politics are fighting about governing, right? About
policy, about what the government does.

But the invective and the epithets that people use to campaign, to
make politics have become disconnected from what`s actually happening in
governing. And so, when the Republican candidates have talked about
immigration, it`s about how this administration is soft on illegal
immigration and won`t enforce the laws, in any just world the talking point
ought to be flabbergasted by the fact that the Obama administration has
deported a record number of illegal immigrants three years in row.

When the president of the NRA got up at CPAC last year and said the
way you can tell the Obama -- the way you can tell that Obama was coming
for your guns was that Obama had not yet come for your guns. And the whole
reason there had been no encroachment on gun rights under the Obama
administration is because they were lulling us into a sense of complacency
so they could come for your guns some other time.

When that happened, I sort of felt like, all right. We`re now all on
the same page, right? I sort of felt we had the ultimate flabbergast, that
the question had been called. The shark had been jumped. The moon had
been shot on whether or not the right`s case about Obama was connected at
all to how Obama has governed as president.

But now, today, with Obama saying he wants to get rid of the Commerce
Department, and the response on the right being -- we`ll see government
grower, now, I feel like there is no moon to shoot, there is no shark to
jump. This is just the way it goes and the way it will keep going.

Joining us now Ezra Klein, MSNBC policy analyst, and a columnist for
the "Washington Post" and "Bloomberg Views."

Ezra, thanks for being here on a Friday night.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: Good evening.

MADDOW: If President Obama were a Republican president, would
Republicans be super psyched about what he announced today about
consolidating these agencies?

KLEIN: They would be psyched about it. And to be fair, probably
Democrats would be a little more suspicious that they`re being. This
happens a lot, though.

In some ways, this is one of the tinier examples we have had. The
individual mandate is one that always stands up to me as the signal example
of this, a policy that Bob Dole supported, that the Heritage Foundation
supported, that Newt Gingrich supported, that Mitt Romney actually passed
into law and began to implement.

That was a conservative idea. Barack Obama opposed it in his 2008
primary. He eventually embraced it as part of a way to get a deal.

Republicans turned on it and said it was unconstitutional assault on
power.

The other one I always think about -- cap and trade, obviously for
carbon -- nowadays, cap and trade was proposed and passed into law by
George H.W. Bush. It was done for acid rain in 1991. Then Newt Gingrich
and a lot of other Republicans supported it. John McCain had it in his
2008 platform.

It`s a huge problem. We let these political parties decide what is
going to be left and right and we don`t hold their feet to the fire when on
completely on the fly and for clearly partisan reasons, they decide to take
the thing they were supporting yesterday and say today it`s a horrible idea
that nobody should ever be allowed to support.

MADDOW: There is the sort of dynamic that is not an exact mirror
image. And I`m not -- it`s not to say that one side is better than the
other. But on some of those issues that I just pointed out where Obama
actually does something that Republicans criticize him for not doing, on
the issue, for example, of enforcing immigration laws and deporting people,
or the drone strikes and some of the national security stuff and his
approach to fighting terrorism around the world, liberals are not happy
about those issues. But Republicans never say they are happy about those
issues.

And so, we end up in this situation where the left is criticizing, the
right is not criticizing and we`re never able to sense even on an issue
where he comes down on the middle or right that he`s doing something that
is actually a partisan-style compromise.

KLEIN: Right, this is not only true I think it ends up being somewhat
brilliant in this following way. The old theory of American politics, was
that the way you got your ideas into law, particularly if you weren`t in
power, was you compromised with the other party, right? You went in and
you said, in exchange for my vote, you have to put this in the bill.

And what Mitch McConnell and what the Republicans have figured out is
that, actually, you don`t have to. That if you simply withhold all of your
votes, what you do is you move the necessary votes to pass any deal all the
way to the right of the Democratic Party. So, your health care bill can`t
be further left than Senator Ben Nelson, the embattled Nebraskan senator
who`s not even going to run for reelection because he would too unlikely to
win it. It can`t be any further left than you allow it to be.

So, in fact, you end up with a health care bill that is almost exactly
what you would have thought you would end up with if the Democrats and
Republicans had come to a compromise. But not only do you not have to vote
for it, but you actually get to attack the other side and make them look
partisan, make them do all the work of passing it into law. The unpopular
parts of your idea, too.

It turns out to be brilliant, but it`s probably not a good thing in
the long run for American democracy that we have figured out that the
political parties have figured out a way to get what they want without
compromising given how much our system ends up being reliant in the long
run on compromise.

MADDOW: Is part of the problem that the media tends to find the
partisan or even left-right contours of a policy based on who from which
party is squawking about it? I mean, is there a way the media should be
covering policy issues like this, that sort of separate from how partisans
are fighting about it?

KLEIN: Who us? No. We do a wonderful job.

Look, I do think we have a problem. We don`t want to take a side.
And so, what we do is allow the Republicans and Democrats to decide at any
given time what the sides in American politics are.

But the fact of the matter is they change those sides quite a bit, and
response in to their own electoral interest. And when they do that, we
don`t sort of jump in front of them and say wait, two months ago, three
years ago, or four years ago you saying this?

Now, some could argue it`s not the media`s job to decide what the
Republican Party believes, what is right in the country, but there has to
be somewhere in between here and there we could be.

I mean, the other side is too that, you know, you got to be watching
the policy closely to catch on to the shifts. And so, to some degree, when
you`re covering politics and this is not political party`s fault, they`re
just covering a different thing that partisans are covering, when you`re
covering politics, and you are just moving with the politicians, and to
some degree we sometimes misses the real distinction between the place of
politics of driving people and place you would have assumed their
ideologies would have driven them.

MADDOW: Ezra Klein, MSNBC policy analyst, and columnist for "The
Washington Post" and "Bloomberg News" -- as always, invaluable insight,
Ezra. Thanks a lot.

KLEIN: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. If your weekend plans include floating around the
Indian Ocean, I have a recommendation for you. You are going to need an
umbrella but it will need to be made of Teflon or maybe armor. The reason
for that warning is on our "Moment of Geek," coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The president`s State of the Union Address this year is
scheduled for a week from Tuesday, scheduled for the 24th of January. We
do not yet know who will give the Republican response this year.

For the president`s first official State of the Union address, the
response was given by Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, what the
Republican Party desperately wants to be a rising star. That`s why he got
the speech gig that night.

Tomorrow, Governor McDonnell will be going to South Carolina, just
ahead of the South Carolina Republican primary. Now, Bob McDonnell is not
running for president. So, what is he going to be doing in South Carolina?

Everybody thinks he`s there essentially running for vice president.
Pick me, pick me. Why no matter what you hear, why Bob McDonnell is not
going to be anyone`s vice presidential pick is year turns out is an easy
story to tell and it has dirty words in it. And that`s coming up, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: They packed up the New Hampshire primary this year in a
hurry. Hand Mitt Romney the trophy, put the teleprompter back on the bus
and get to South Carolina. The last one turn out the lights.

Now that the national circus has gone, New Hampshire Republicans are
left with their own politics, their own agenda. Notably, they are working
on rolling back rights for gay people. New Hampshire Republicans want to
take away the existing right of same sex couples there to get married,
freedom to marry they do not see as part of the whole: live free or die
thing, not for gay people.

And Republicans who prioritize taking existing rights away from gay
people, they did have a perfect choice for a candidate in the presidential
primary. They have Rick Santorum. Senator man on dog, right? The man who
has suggested that as president, he would intervene to annul the marriages
of same sex couples nationwide.

Rick Santorum nearly won in Iowa. But when he showed up in New
Hampshire, he kept talking about gay rights and he kept getting booed off
the stage.

When it came time to vote, the rank and file of the anti-gay party in
New Hampshire put Mr. Santorum in fifth place. The only candidates who got
close to Mitt Romney were Ron Paul who`s mostly libertarian on gay issues,
and Jon Huntsman who supports civil unions.

And yet, New Hampshire Republican lawmakers in that state are still
talking about repealing same sex marriage. They may vote on that as early
as next week. Even though just 27 percent of New Hampshire voters say they
want that to happen.

In fact, the Republican legislature is offering a bill not just to do
away with gay marriage in New Hampshire, but to allow anybody to just
ignore the rights you are entitled to if you`re in a civil union. So, if
you have visitation rights to see your partner in the hospital because you
are a civil union with your partner, New Hampshire bill would change the
law to make that right optional for anybody who doesn`t want to respect it
or enforce it.

The bill would also for the first time let close family members like
brothers and sisters enter into civil unions. Why is that? I don`t know.
Next up, men and their dogs -- as I say, I don`t know.

What`s happening in New Hampshire makes me wonder, though, if
Republican leaders in general are maybe outstripping their own voters when
it comes to being anti-gay. This presents a quandary for politicians like
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, one of the choices for the Republican
vice presidential nominee. Governor Christie is facing a push in his own
state legislature to legalize same sex marriage in New Jersey. Democrats
with some Republican support say they want to pass a marriage equality bill
for New Jersey, and if they do so, they`ll be putting it on his desk.

What`s Chris Christie going to do with that? He wants to be known as
somewhat moderate on social issues, at least somebody who is not a crusader
on those issues. He doesn`t want to be seen as a dinosaur.

But Chris Christie is also ambitious. Will Republican Party politics
this year make Chris Christie veto that marriage bill in his state? What
does this guy going to do to his standing in New Jersey in exchange for
raising his standing in national Republican politics?

Another contender for vice president, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
Bob McDonnell has worked so hard to reinvent himself as a sort of
milquetoast pro-business guy. He`s worked so hard to get away from his
days as a religious right anti-gay activist, when he wrote a masters thesis
at televangelist Pat Robertson`s college that said public policy should be
used to punish co-habitators, homosexuals and fornicators.

Bob McDonnell who`s tried so hard to bury that part of his image. But
look what he`s done as Virginia governor. Virginia Republicans have just
passed new rules for adoptions that say it`s acceptable to block you from
adopting a child in Virginia on the basis of your sexual orientation. But
in the McDonnell administration zeal to go hard core anti-gay on this
adoption rules, they also changed the rules in Virginia not just on the
basis of your sexual orientation, but on the basis of your family status or
your age or your gender or your disability or your religion or even your
political believes. Seriously.

Under Bob McDonnell, Virginia has changed its rules to say you can be
blocked from adopting a child in Virginia if you are a registered Democrat,
or a registered Republican, or if you`re gay, or if you`re a Jew.

Who wants bob McDonnell to be on their ticket as vice president?
Anyone?

While all this percolates in the states, at the national level, Mitt
Romney has been calmly consolidating his support for the Republican
presidential nomination. And while Mitt Romney has been consolidating that
support, his own uncomfortably gay friendly past keeps rearing its head.
Buzzfeed.com has made a sport recently of posting pro-gay Romney ephemera
from his past.

Here he is smiling on the cover of Boston`s gay newspaper, "Bay
Windows." This is from 1994. Mitt Romney was running for Senate that
year, promising that he`d be a better advocate for gay rights than liberal
U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

That same year, Mr. Romney told the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay
Republicans, quote, "If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make
equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern." This is also posted
by buzz feed. Along with this, a gay pride flyer. "Mitt and Kerry, his
running mate, Mitt and Kerry wish you a great pride weekend. All citizens
deserve equal rights.

Down there at the bottom in teeny tiny type that says paid for by the
Romney for governor committee.

The current Romney campaign denies knowing anything about these bright
pink flyers, but a former intern back then says the Romney for governor
campaign told him to hand out. He says they were campaign literature.

Now, of course, Mitt Romney says that equal rights for same sex
couples are a threat to the nation, that must be stopped. Mitt Romney`s
gay-friendly past puts an exclamation point right after this question mark,
in Republican politics today. This question mark about how anti-gay
national Republicans want to be. How anti-gay do national Republicans want
to be? How antigay do they need to be? How antigay can they be right now?

The conservative movement made being antigay a litmus test for
Republican politicians. But has that litmus test become a liability in
general election campaigns? Are Republican politicians now more anti-gay
than voters at large? Or even than Republican voters?

Joining us now is Frank Phillips. He`s statehouse bureau chief for
the "Boston Globe."

Mr. Phillips, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It`s nice
to have you here.

FRANK PHILLIPS, BOSTON GLOBE: Good evening.

MADDOW: We`ve seen some discomfort in the Mitt Romney for president
campaign this when confronted with the pro-gay rights over statements of
Mitt Romney the Massachusetts candidate in the past. How would you
characterize Mitt Romney`s legacy on gay rights in Massachusetts?

PHILLIPS: Well, I was there in 1994, and he was out there on the
edge. He was pushing Ted Kennedy, saying he was going to be as you just
said, he would be better than Ted on gay rights. He thought that "don`t
ask, don`t tell" -- that was going eventually -- he wanted to go beyond
that. And that was just put in place by the Clinton administration.

He was -- he was out there, and when he came back and ran for
governor, he continued to be domestic partnerships, and there was in
Massachusetts, he was a moderate socially progressive person in a lot of
social issues. And one of them was gay rights.

MADDOW: Of course, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized
same sex marriage in the state, in 2005 was it? No, earlier.

PHILLIPS: 2003. November of 2003. He was in office for about a
year. Yes.

MADDOW: And his reaction to that, of course, is that he was very much
against it and he got involved with the Republicans in the legislature to
try to block it.

Was that -- was that a characteristic move for him, was he acting the
way he had previously or did the gay marriage issue seemed to change him at
all as governor?

PHILLIPS: I think it did change him and it also made me for the first
time think that he had national ambitions. And confirmed a lot of what we
were suspecting. He went in overdrive on that, and he never really
interacted much with the legislature.

But even with the Republicans in the legislature, who are the small
minority, but he was actually going down to their offices, and trying to
rally votes to vote for a constitutional amendment to put before the voters
to ban same sex marriages.

So, he was in overdrive, and it was clear to us that something was
going on here. He was playing to the more national audience, and from then
on I think we saw a different Mitt Romney.

MADDOW: Do you think that the gay marriage issue in Massachusetts had
anything to do with his decision not to run for reelection or by the time
that happened, do you think he already knew he wasn`t going to try to get
reelected?

PHILLIPS: I don`t think it had anything to do with that. I mean,
even early on, although it`s very popular now, it was 40-40 in favor and
against, the rest undecided, I think there were other factors.

I don`t think he ever intended to run for reelection. His whole idea
was try to get on the national stage. Try to make a run in `08, a lot
depended what happened with John Kerry in `04, and once Kerry lost, he was
off and running.

His unfavorability was in the high 50s, 50 or so above, but -- you
know, he could have come back. I think he could have gotten reelected, not
a certainty, but he`s a strong candidate. He was -- he did a decent job in
a lot of ways as governor, nothing overwhelming. But he was very competent
governor here in Massachusetts.

MADDOW: Frank Phillips, state house bureau chief for the "Boston
Globe" -- always enjoy the chance to talk with you sir. Thanks very much
for being with us.

PHILLIPS: It`s a pleasure. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. So, Russian space debris might fall on your head
this weekend, I`m sorry. Also sorry to say if Russian space debris falls
on your head, Russia thinks it`s your fault.

A moment of geek with the blame game inside it, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: All right. Good news/bad news on the moment of geek tonight.
Are you ready?

Bad news is that a disabled Russian spacecraft that has been falling
to the earth sense November is about to crash back down to earth. The good
news: pieces of the 30,000 pond spacecraft loaded with toxic rocket fuel
are not all that likely to fall on you specifically, depending on where
you. The spacecraft called the Phobos-Grunt. Phobos because it was
supposed to fly to the Martian moon called Phobos and Grunt because that`s
the Russian word for ground or dirt. This thing was supposed to take a
soil sample from that moon and fly it back home.

But although the first stage of its life went pretty smoothly and made
it into earth`s orbit, the second stage of the launch never happened. The
engine that were supposed to send Phobos-Grunt out of earth`s orbit never
fired, and all that fuel that was supposed to be burnt up when the engines
fired never burnt up because they never fired and that has been circling
over our heads ever since.

Two months after this thing failed to get out of earth`s orbit, the
laws of physics appeared to have started doing their job. Phobos-Grunt
steadily decaying orbit is finally bringing this piece of scary space junk
and all of its fuel back into our atmosphere. Reentry experts are
expecting Phobos-Grunt to hit sometime this weekend, probably Sunday, maybe
early Monday. Mostly it`s going to burn up upon reentry into the
atmosphere.

And that includes the fuel, which should kaboom once its tanks heat up
during the reentry fall. They estimate that 430 pounds of solid junk from
the breaking up spacecraft will make it all the way down to where we humans
are, to -- you know, where we are but also where the oceans are and there`s
more of the surface area of the earth covered by oceans than by land. They
will not know exactly where this is coming down until right before it
happens.

The whole world cursing the lousy Russian space program and worrying
about getting hit by their defective space junk is not a prideful thing for
Russia. And so, the head of the Russian space program has done what comes
naturally to people who are embarrassed. He`s turned it into an excuse to
kick someone else.

The head of the Russian program said in an interview with Russia
newspaper, "Izvestia" this week that Phobos-Grunt being a disaster might
not be Russia`s fault. He said some other country might have sabotaged it.
He said, according to a translation by "The New York Times," quote, "We
don`t want to accuse anybody, but there are very powerful devices that can
influence spacecraft now. The possibility they were used cannot be ruled
out."

He did not name names of course, America. But he spoke about the
frequent failure of our space launches which occurred at a time they are
flying over a part of the earth not visible from Russia, where we`re do not
see the spacecraft and do not receive telemetric information are not clear
to us.

Sarah Palin`s apocryphal view of Russia from her house
notwithstanding, "The New York Times" assumes that is a reference to us.
So the guy who heads the Russian space agency, the agency that we now pay
to transport our astronauts to the International Space Station is alleging
that somebody, possibly us, might be sabotaging Russian rockets from space
when we`ve got them over on our side of the earth so Russia can`t see us
doing it.

You know, if I were them, I would want to blame somebody else, too.
But remember that if space junk does hit somebody this weekend, Russia`s
going to blame America.

Is Romney unstoppable in the South Carolina primary?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: OK. So "Sports Illustrated" put Tom Brady on the cover ahead
of tomorrow`s playoff game between the Patriots and the Broncos, which, of
course, is a curse in American sports. So, a group of self-proclaimed
witches in Massachusetts responded by putting a curse on "Sports
Illustrated" to even out the juju or something. All I`m saying is I`m
rooting for the Patriots and there`s the curse versus curse thing and the
window in my office kept flying open on its own with nobody touching it.
It happened twice, and it`s Friday the 13th.

So there. I`m scared. Have a good night.

Here`s prison.

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

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