'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, February 14, 2012
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Guests: Eugene Robinson, Doug Wead, Josh Rogin
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Happy Tuesday. Happy Valentine`s Day. And
thanks for being with us this hour.
Today is also the 100th birthday of the great state of Arizona. Happy
We start in Arizona tonight where the state legislature is grappling
with the pressing issue of foul-mouthed public school teachers.
This is Arizona State Senator Lori Klein. She`s a Republican.
Senator Klein introduced state legislation, a bill in Arizona, that would
punish teachers for using speech that violates the FCC standards for
network television shows.
So, Senator Klein wants to stop the scourge of teachers cursing.
As her bill is written, this would have the Arizona state government
regulating the language of teachers, not just while they are in the
classroom, but anywhere in their whole lives.
So, math teacher, you hit your thumb with a hammer, the state
government of Arizona will be listening in to make sure you only say dang.
Or they will unleash, you know, all heck on you, I guess. It`s sort of
hard to be angry at somebody if you barred the whole swearing thing.
Anyway, if that`s not big enough role for government for you, there is
a man in Virginia I`d also like you to meet. His name is Virginia Delegate
Bob Marshall. He`s also a Republican.
Delegate Bob Marshall once tried to outlaw swearing in e-mail. Not
just by teachers, not just by any one group of people, not just in a
particular kind of email, Bob Marshall proposed that Virginia state
government outlaw profanity by anyone in any e-mail sent from the
commonwealth of Virginia.
Now, it`s one thing to think swearing is bad. It`s another thing to
say that swearing is bad, or to ask other people not to do it. But to
dislike swearing so much that you would expand the role of government, you
would create a government so intrusive that the government would monitor
your speech and read your e-mails in order to prosecute you for swearing,
few people are that dedicated to stamping out curse words.
But that is what Arizona is considering today, for the teachers -- on
the state`s 100th birthday.
And that is how seriously Bob Marshall took the problem of Virginia`s
e-mail swearing epidemic back in the 1990s.
This year, Virginia Delegate "watch your mouth" Bob Marshall is
championing a really, really, really, really big government conservative
cause. It`s an anti-abortion, anti-birth control personhood bill that
would define a person under essentially the entire code of Virginia state
law as beginning at the moment of conception.
You might remember the whole personhood idea from its double digit
defeat on the Mississippi ballot last November, or its 46-point defeat in
Colorado in 2008, or its 42-point defeat in Colorado again in 2010. What
Bob Marshall is proposing in Virginia is essentially the same thing that
has been defeated by voters in Mississippi and in Colorado.
A key element to personhood`s big loss in those states was the
implication spelled out graphically on this billboard that went up during
the Mississippi campaign, is the implication the personhood thing had for
birth control. If you grant a fertilized egg the rights of a person, you
might just be banning not only all abortion in all circumstances, but also
hormonal birth control, which is the kind of birth control that most
American women used.
The personhood folks know they have been losing in part because they
seem to want to ban birth control. In Mississippi, for example, once they
seemed to be losing ground on the "birth control is murder" argument, they
changed their personhood campaigns language on their Web site about birth
control. Earlier in the campaign, they had listed on the Web site all the
kinds of birth control that they opposed. But after a couple weeks, that
language mysteriously disappeared and much softer language appeared in its
So, playing down the birth control issue, saying it`s not they were
opposed to birth control, they just didn`t necessarily advocate for the use
In Virginia, the Republicans backing the personhood measure in that
state had a chance to take the birth control argument off the table
A Democratic Delegate Vivian Watts tried to attach an amendment to the
Virginia bill that would declare nothing in that bill could be construed to
outlaw any form of legal contraception. Republicans in the Virginia House
of Delegates voted no on that by a huge margin. The vote was 64 to 34
against taking birth control out of the equation.
So, in Virginia, Republicans had a wide open opportunity to say this
personhood thing, this bill is only about banning abortion, we do not want
to ban birth control.
They had the opportunity to say that, and they rejected it, hugely.
Virginia Republicans have watched this personhood measure go down over
and over again across the country in large part because it`s seen as a way
to ban birth control. But they`re not contesting that idea. Ban birth
control, sure, sounds like a plan.
That is what passed the Virginia House of Delegates today, the anti-
abortion, anti-birth control personhood bill, and now it`s headed over to
the Virginia senate. In recent years, the senate in Virginia has been kind
of the brakes for this sort of legislation in the commonwealth of Virginia.
The Senate was under Democratic control had been a cooling off chamber for
Virginia conservatives` really intrusive big government proposals on social
issues like this.
But now, Republicans are in control of the state senate and Virginia
politics watchers say this personhood bill has a pretty good chance in the
senate. If it passes the house and passes the senate, Virginia`s uber
conservative governor, Bob McDonnell, will say nothing more than that he
plans to take a look at it if it reaches his desk.
But wait, there`s more! Not only are Republicans of Virginia moving
to pass a bill that could ban birth control, that they explicitly
acknowledge could ban birth control -- Virginia Republicans have are
already passed in both chambers a bill that would have the state government
force Virginia women into having medically unnecessary, unwanted vaginal
ultrasounds. That is a physical penetration of the body, ultrasound, by
state order, without your consent. That would be forced on you as a
condition of your being allowed to have an abortion in the state of
I don`t mean to be unnecessarily graphic about this, but the
legislation is really specific about how detailed the ultrasound has to be.
And so, for the vast majority of women, seeking an abortion in the
commonwealth of Virginia, the state government will specifically require a
physical internal probe for which there is no medical reason and for which
neither you or your doctor has a choice.
The "A.P." reported on this today, you know how -- I`m a highlighter
base life form, I`m always reading with either a pencil or highlighter, you
know it`s incredible story when you`re reading like three paragraph news
story and you`re highlighting the important parts and you end up
highlighting the entire story.
From "The Associated Press" today, quoting from them directly,
"Legislation that has advanced on the strength of a GOP majority would
force women to under go a transvaginal ultrasound that produces fetal
An amendment by Delegate David Englin, Democrat of Alexandria, would
have allowed medical professionals to determine whether images can be
obtained without being penetrated by equipment used in the ultrasound,
women would have to give written consent to such a probe under the
amendments, but not to sonograms that aren`t invasive. The amendment
failed on a 64-34 vote setting up the bill for final House passage."
So, Republicans of Virginia seriously want a government so big it can
literally get inside individual citizen`s genitals by force and without
their consent. That bill, the "let the government inside your body" bill
passed the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates today. It has
already passed the Republican-controlled Virginia senate.
And Republican Governor Bob McDonnell says he will sign it.
Virginia`s governor is, of course, one of the leading candidates on the
presumed vice presidential short list for Republicans this year.
Sure, all of the Republican candidates for president have endorsed the
ban on birth control/personhood thing. But now, one of the men considered
most likely to be chosen as vice president has the chance and says he will
-- sign this forced ultrasound thing in law. He will have a chance to sign
it in into law a birth control ban.
Government mandated medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds
from the state of Virginia.
So, that`s going to be the choice for voters in November. All right?
Let`s say they pick Bob McDonnell, right? So, are you going to go with
it`s OK to outlaw birth control anti-family planning presidential ticket
that wants to force its way in your, right? Or are you going to go with
the pro-birth control, pro-family planning presidential ticket that would
like to leave your to you.
I would love the opportunity to ask Bob McDonnell about the ban birth
control personhood bill that might land on his desk. I would like to ask
him about his vice presidential hopefulness, I would like to ask him about
how his issues -- how his take on those issues fits in his vice
In fact, Bob McDonnell told a conservative radio host a few weeks ago
that he would love to come on this very show, he even asked the radio host,
Laura Ingraham, if she would help set up an interview for him on this show.
And she did. Laura Ingraham`s producer sent us over a clip of what Bob
McDonnell had said on his show about wanting to come and talk to me about
these issues on this show.
I have been super excited to have him, we called his office, we e-
mailed his office, Governor McDonnell still not returning our calls or e-
But, sir, I`m looking forward to some day you getting back to us.
Anytime, Governor, you know where to find me. You have my number. I know
you. We left it on your voice mail.
Joining us is MSNBC political analyst and Pulitzer Prize-winning
columnist for "The Washington Post," Eugene Robinson.
Gene, thank you for being here.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: One of the big campaign issues of 2012 is birth control it
ROBINSON: Yes. Who knew?
MADDOW: Are we -- do you think we`re heading toward a November
election that is the pro-birth control party against anti-birth control
ROBINSON: I can`t imagine, because that cannot be a good idea for the
Republicans to go into a November election as the anti-birth control party.
That just -- you know, I`ve tried to figure this out from every sort of
cynical smart politics angle I can figure it out from. And it doesn`t work
What`s the figure, something like 98 percent of American women use
some form of birth control at some point during their lives? How can you
be against that?
MADDOW: Well, why do you think we are seeing -- I mean, everybody
reads the same polls on this. Everybody knows what Americans believe and
practice about birth control. But yet we are seeing this big push for the
personhood legislation in Virginia. It failed in Mississippi. It failed
twice in Colorado.
In Mississippi, after they just got clobbered by the voters, they are
trying now, through the legislature, to do it again, even do it by
referendum again. We`re seeing it brought forth in Virginia, and in all
these other states.
What about this issue seems to be a winning argument to Republicans?
Why do they like it if the polls aren`t with them?
ROBINSON: Well, the polls are not with them. The voters are not with
them. So, clearly, it`s not a winning issue. They can`t believe this is a
good idea politically.
So, the only thing I can figure out, Rachel, is that it`s based on a
wrong and frankly insane belief that a fertilized egg is a fully formed
person and has personhood and preventing, you know, preventing of
implantation of that egg is murder.
I don`t -- you know, it baffles me what other explanation there could
be, they can be sincerely mad on this subject, I think, and maybe they are.
MADDOW: Do you think that this factors possibility of Bob McDonnell
as a vice presidential pick? Obviously, he`s one -- he`s not only on the
short list. He`s the guy who makes no bones about the fact he would like to
He keeps showing up in campaign states where he`s not the governor,
he`s traveling around the country making himself evident on the campaign
trail. He`s been very friendly toward the idea of being asked to be vice
president. He can`t continue to be the governor of Virginia, they are term
He has tried to, I think, cast himself in a Mark Warner-esque pro-
business role as governor. But yet, his social conservative is to the
right of Rick Santorum. I don`t think Santorum ever talked about the state
forcing vaginal ultrasounds as punishments for seeking abortions.
Bob McDonnell says he`ll sign that.
Does that -- does that follow him into the political calculus of
choosing him for V.P.?
ROBINSON: Oh, you bet it does. I mean, look, the personhood thing
he`s been kind of coy on that, I`m not convinced that if it actually
passed, that he would sign it. He seems to understand that that`s a bad
idea politically if he wants to be vice president.
The voters of Mississippi rejected this. I mean, this is not a great
idea for him.
But the vaginal ultrasound bill which he says he will sign, I think is
equally problematic for him. This is a Republican Party in Virginia that
claims the government has no right to force anyone to buy health insurance,
yet the government has a right to insert a vaginal probe for no reason, for
no medical reason? And you have no choice about it, your doctor has no
choice about it? That is absolutely outrageous.
I don`t see how you can go into the November election if you`re the
Republican candidate, essentially endorsing that view.
MADDOW: I think so, too. And yet, this doesn`t seem to be front page
news around the country. I`ve been sort of amazed to see the way abortion
politics and reproductive rights politics only surface when Republicans
want to make them the issue like when they want to attack Democrats on it.
But as they had this bulldozer, a couple of years on this issue, even when
they are (INAUDIBLE) radical, it`s only liberals who squawk.
Anyway, Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize-
winning columnist for "The Washington Post" -- Gene, thank you again for
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. Still ahead, Ron Paul, the disaster in the Maine
Republican Party that has unfolded over the last few days.
Plus, visual evidence of Mitt Romney`s electability woes. After last
segment, I feel like to have warn you it`s a little bit graphic.
Plus, an unavoidable meta edition of "Debunktion Junction".
All that is coming up.
MADDOW: OK. I have been doing the show for three-and-a-half years
now. While it`s a challenge every single day, I sort of feel like after
three-and-a-half years of doing this, I do have the basic idea of how to
get the show on the air. The staff that works on the show is tremendous,
we have great support network-wide here at MSNBC, on most days on most
subjects, I feel like I`ve got all the support and all the help that I need
right here in this building in order to get this show done.
But there are certain days and today is one of them, where I come to
realize that I need a little outside help. In this case, I need help from
fourth graders in public school in the great state of Maine.
Let`s see. Does this still work? Oh, yes, that works. This is my
secret way, subtle, of signaling to the fourth graders at the great state
of Maine that I need your help. If you grow up in Maine and you go to
public school there, somewhere around fourth grade, you learn a song. You
learn to memorize all 16 counties in Maine by singing them to the tune of
"Yankee Doodle ".
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Tada. That is Maine`s 16 counties set to the tune of "Yankee
Doodle " and sung by Maine fourth graders. That clip courtesy of the Maine
Center for Public Health. So, Maine fourth graders, as we agreed before,
that I would do this, can I say I needed your help? I need your help.
Your state has 16 counties, right? For some reason, though, certain
residents in three of Maine`s counties are being treated right now as if
they do not exist. Right now, certain Maine residents in Washington
County, Waldo County and Kennebec County are being treated as if they are
not residents at all.
All right. Let me back up for a second. So far this year, as we
talked about on the show before, the Republican process of picking a
presidential nominee has been an absolute mess.
It started in Iowa where the Republican Party first declared Mitt
Romney won the state. Then they declared it was a tie in Iowa, and then
declared, belatedly and after some futzing around, that actually Rick
Santorum won. And then their chairman quit as a result of the whole mess.
Iowa was just a mess.
Florida also a mess -- not necessarily in terms of counting the vote
but Florida doesn`t know what their vote means yet. The Florida Republican
Party insisted loudly that their primary was winner-take-all in terms of
the state`s delegates, whoever came in first got all the delegates.
But that`s not actually clear under the rules and is now being
challenged. So, who knows won Florida`s delegates?
Nevada came after that, also a mess. It took Republican officials in
Nevada two days to release a final vote tally after they discovered they
had more ballots than voters and they don`t know why.
And then, of course, there was the Missouri mess -- Missouri
Republicans couldn`t get around to changing their previous plans from
earlier years, even though they tried. And so, they ended up holding a
primary last week which Rick Santorum won. But that primary, although it
was required by state law, was meaningless in the Republican contest.
So they are also holding a caucus next month after the primary. And
the caucus supposedly is the one that actually counts.
A mess? Yes. The Republican presidential primary has, so far,
essentially been one mess after another.
And now, we have Maine. And Maine may be turning out to be the
biggest mess of them all. Maine held a multi-week caucus, which culminated
with this announcement on Saturday night from the state`s Republican Party
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE WEBSTER, MAINE GOP CHAIRMAN: I`m now going to announce the
winner of the Maine GOP presidential poll. And that winner is Mitt Romney.
WEBSTER: Excuse me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Excuse me. Excuse me.
According to the Maine Republican Party, whose chairman you just saw
there, Mitt Romney won Maine`s caucus with 39 percent of the vote. Ron
Paul came in second with 36 percent of the vote. The margin of victory for
Mr. Romney was a razor thin 194 votes.
So, case closed, right? Ha, not by a long shot. Remember those three
Maine counties I mentioned earlier -- Washington County, Waldo County and
Kennebec County. It turns that lots and lots of Republicans living in
those three counties who voted in the presidential preference poll never
actually had their votes counted by the Maine Republican Party.
Republicans in Washington County postponed their caucuses on Saturday
because of a snow storm they expected to hit the area and even though they
are planning to vote instead this coming weekend, that`s when they
postponed the caucus to, the state Republican Party has already said,
Washington County, your votes won`t count. They said no additional votes
will be counted. So, sorry, Washington County, you don`t count.
Republicans in Waterville Main, which is in Kennebec County did vote
as they were supposed to last week. But their vote total, as you see here,
shows up -- look on the right there. It shows up as a zero in the
Republican Party`s official results. It`s not because nobody showed up in
Waterville. It`s apparently because a contact person in Waterville didn`t
phone in the results on time, even though the vote took place on time.
Even though the state party has the results for Waterville -- sorry, too
late, we`re not counting you, either.
And then there`s Waldo County. Even though nearly all Waldo County
towns held caucuses on February 4th, which was a full week before the Maine
party announced supposedly final results, here`s how most of Waldo votes.
Look, look in the official Republican Party`s results list, zero votes,
zero votes, zero votes.
Why is Waldo not being counted? Who knows?
We contacted the Maine Republican Party to find out what the heck
happened all of Waldo County`s votes. So far, we have not heard back.
Again, the margin of victory for Mitt Romney in Maine was 194 votes.
That`s called a hair. He beat Ron Paul by a hair.
And even though lots of Republicans in three of Maine`s 16 counties
did not have their votes counted at all, the Republican Party there is
somehow standing by Mitt Romney as the winner and saying nothing else is
going to be counted.
Since the Maine Republican Party will not answer any of our questions
about this mess, it`s sort of up to you Maine fourth graders. It`s up to
you to help us understand why of the 16 counties that you sing about, only
As we await the help from our fourth graders, let`s bring in someone
in the middle of the mess. Joining us now is Doug Wead, senior advisor to
the Ron Paul campaign.
Mr. Wead, thank you for coming back. Thanks for being here.
DOUG WEAD, RON PAUL CAMPAIGN: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Simple question: who won the Maine caucus?
WEAD: Well, we won as far as getting delegates are concerned, and
right now, until all the votes are cast, the networks are declaring or the
Republican Party is declaring Mitt Romney won.
However, it`s interesting. There`s a lot more than what you said.
Washington County was the only county Ron Paul carried four years ago. It
was his strongest county. And the man who cancelled it was a Mitt Romney
supporter -- that`s a little piece of evidence you probably need to add.
And the snowstorm he predicted didn`t happen.
But four years before when all the Ron Paul (ph) people came out and
made it his only victory, they had eight inches of snow, and the Girl
Scouts met fine in Washington County while they cancelled the caucus.
And in every other instance -- you mentioned Waldo County, in each of
the cities, in Belfast, in New Portland, in Portland, in Waterville, on
every occasion, the votes that were lost were Paul votes and the person
responsible for reporting them were Mitt Romney supporters.
For example, in one case, the votes were actually transferred from
paper to electronics and through the computer. And the lady doing the
transfer was a Mitt Romney person.
It could be the costliest victory Mitt Romney ever had because the
Romulans are not happy.
MADDOW: When you say the Romulans are not happy, does that mean that
they are contesting this in Maine and they`re going to force Maine to
revisit its declaration of a winner here or they`re going to channel that
outrage in something else they think will help Mr. Paul?
WEAD: I don`t know, maybe a little bit of both. As I said, you know,
we feel OK about delegate selection. I saw one of the networks giving Mitt
Romney eight, giving us seven delegates. Thankfully, that network doesn`t
get that privilege and our numbers show that we`re going to capture the
majority of the delegates in Maine. But nevertheless, it`s not that the
victory is so important, it`s just losing it that way is kind of tough.
MADDOW: When you were here last week, we talked about the delegate
strategy of the Ron Paul campaign. And while it seems arcane to a lot of
people who have been playing close attention, the basic idea is that in the
caucus states, delegates are not allocated directly on the basis of how
people vote in the caucuses, the delegates are allocated by a whole
separate process and you essentially think you -- figure a phrase -- have
gamed the process so all of the delegates are going to be Ron Paul
delegates in a lot of these states, even if the caucus voters themselves
didn`t choose Ron Paul.
That`s the impression we left a lot of people with last week. I want
to just have you reiterate if that is in fact what you`re doing.
WEAD: Well, it`s different in each state. For example, in Nevada,
actually on the first ballot, the delegation that selected to go to the RNC
from Nevada will have to vote for the winner of the beauty contest in
Nevada on the first ballot, there after, they can vote as they wish. But
unless the candidate that won releases them, which is conceivable the way
the contest is going.
But in most states, yes, it`s decided the rules are that the state
convention will decide who the delegation is and the beauty contest is
totally irrelevant and those were the rules. It`s not a new thing. It`s
actually how Barack Obama won the Democrat nomination four years before.
Hillary Clinton carried California, she carried New York, she carried
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, I don`t know if she carried Ohio, I can`t
remember Ohio. But she carried a lot of the biggest states, but Barack
Obama won the nomination because he worked hard in the caucus states in
their organization --
MADDOW: But the difference is that in the caucus states, where he won
by large margins and thereby got the delegates that way, you`re claiming
the delegates from contests where you didn`t win the vote in the caucus,
when you were here last week, you talked about thinking you won Minnesota,
won Colorado, won Nevada, that you may have won from reading the campaign
stuff today, that you may have won all 24 delegates in Maine. In most of
those cases, Dr. Paul was not first or is not in contention to be first in
terms of the way the votes were counted at the caucus.
So, that`s a real difference between how Obama racked up his
delegates, isn`t it?
WEAD: No, it isn`t. No, it isn`t. The beauty contest in each of
those is a non-binding beauty contest that doesn`t matter. If we knew it
mattered -- in some states, it does -- in some states like New Hampshire,
the delegates were awarded proportionately based how they ended in the
vote. So what we campaigned in New Hampshire, came in second, we contested
And the vote in Minnesota was based proportionally on how you appeared
in the beauty contest, we`d have gotten this and fought. But to say that
we`re stealing the delegates is not true. Santorum knows the process.
Gingrich and Mitt Romney know the process. In fact, it was devised for
And the way the process is, is any candidate can have people go, vote
in the beauty contest and stay and elect their own delegates to, in some
cases, the district convention. In some cases, the county convention.
It`s not a big secret, that`s been around for a long time.
And then if they are patient, they go on to the county convention or
district convention, and they elect again new delegates to go to the state
convention where they then elect the delegates that will go to the
Republican National Convention.
We`re the people`s movement. We don`t have big money. Mitt Romney
can literally create money because Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, and
JPMorgan, they are getting trillions of dollars of electronically created
money from the Federal Reserve, and then the biggest donors that Romney
has. We`re challenging a very elite system.
So, we`re a people`s movement and we don`t have their kind of money
and we have to, as long as we play by their rules and win at it, we can
MADDOW: Doug Wead, senior adviser to the Ron Paul campaign --
everybody is still treating this like a big secret. But if you and I keep
talking about it, I think people are going to figure out. Thanks for being
WEAD: Eventually, they will.
MADDOW: I appreciate it, sir. Thank you very much.
All right. Debunking, debunking, it`s not pretty, but they`re a place
for it. It`s called "Debunktion Junction" and that is coming up.
MADDOW: It`s time to have another talk with PolitiFact. What`s the
opposite of a Valentine? That`s coming up.
MADDOW: We`ve got a trip to "Debunktion Junction" coming up, the land
of factual statements.
But meanwhile, one story that has not necessarily been reported
wrongly, but I think has been misunderstood is about something that
happened off the coast of Iran today. Today, a U.S. aircraft carrier was
training through the Strait of Hormuz, an international waterway that Iran
has been threatening to close off. The American ship, the USS Abraham
Lincoln, was going from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea. It`s not
unusual for American military ships to move through the Strait of Hormuz.
But this trip was the first since another U.S. carrier left the area
back in December. And Iran`s military warned at the time warned them never
to return. American aircraft carriers never go anywhere on their own.
This one today was being escorted by two other ships, one in front and one
When seven small Iranian boats sped up toward the American ships,
NBC`s Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube were traveling with the U.S. fleet
when this happened. They say the seven fast boats approached the Navy war
ships, six of them buzzing the American ships, cutting right in front of
the American ships. A U.S. military helicopter then fired flares down in
the water, which caused the seventh boat to turn away.
Now, this story is getting reported as a confrontation with Iranian
patrol boats. While that is sort of true, there is a crucial detail here
further down in the reporting. These boats, the so-called patrol boats,
were not from Iran`s military, or from Iran`s Revolutionary Guard.
Miklaszewski and Kube are reporting for NBC and they were. That those
seven boats screaming toward these U.S. warships were not, in fact,
official uniformed Iranian military, nor were they Revolutionary Guard.
They were smugglers.
Revolutionary Guard boats can apparently look a lot like smugglers
boats in that part of the world. So, it would be easy to confuse them.
But these were apparently smugglers.
Why would smugglers choose to pester an American carrier group? I do
not know. But apparently, these boats were more (INAUDIBLE) crate
contraband rather than this is war.
Part of what makes it unsettling is its context. Its context against
all of these other seemingly unconnected but maybe connected things that
are happening in the news all at once.
Yesterday, for example, somebody riding a motorcycle in New Delhi in
India planted a bomb on an Israeli diplomat`s car. The passenger, a
diplomat`s wife survived the blast. Israel then blamed Iran and Hezbollah,
which is based in Lebanon and gets support from Iran. India says it has no
evidence that Iran was involved in this bombing. And Iran is denying being
involved in it.
Also yesterday, somebody tried to bomb an Israeli diplomatic vehicle
in the Republic of Georgia, in the capital city there. That attempt
failed. Israel again blamed Iran and Hezbollah, then Iran blamed Israel,
saying Israel was attacking its own diplomats as a kind of psychological
warfare on Iran.
Then, today, Bangkok, Thailand, a bomb exploded in a house believed to
be rented by Iranian nationals. The police in Thailand say one of the men
threw a grenade at them, but it bounced at the Iranian guy who threw it and
it caused him his legs. The wounded man was arrested. Israel again
blaming Iran and Hezbollah for this attack, Iran continuing to deny any
And talking about this today at the State Department, a spokeswoman
mentioned a plot in Azerbaijan that was thwarted last month. Azerbaijan
takes credit for foiling the planned the assassination of the Israeli
The State Department today said that plot was sponsored by Iran, and
that the Obama administration is concerned about the uptick in violence and
any links to Iran in the other bombings.
Any one of these incidents on its own probably doesn`t amount to a
front page story, but all of them happening together all at once, it is
starting to feel like a front page story.
Joining us is Josh Rogin, senior writer for "Foreign Policy" magazine
and keeper of the excellent blog, "The Cable."
Josh, very busy week for you. Thank very much for talking to us.
JOSH ROGIN, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Always glad to be on.
MADDOW: Is it right -- do you think it`s correct to draw even dotted
lines between those various incidents that I just mentioned? Is it
appropriate to think of them as a string of incidents rather than isolated
ROGIN: Sure. And these are the latest dots in a very long line of
dots that have been going for years. And what this is, is this is the
covert war that`s been going on between Israel and Iran, erupting into the
public eye in a very serious way and for a few different reasons.
I mean, the bottom line is that Israel, with tacit or American
approval or at least with the U.S. government looking the other way, has
been attacking Iranian scientists, has been blowing up Iranian missile
factories. And this is all part of the effort to delay Iran`s achievement
of building a nuclear weapon and this is something that I guess the U.S.
government is for, supporting in some way.
But the Iranians are now fighting back and this is -- this is what
happens when you raise the stakes of these kind of confrontations. And as
we get toward an Iran that has, closer to achieving a nuclear weapon, the
stakes get even higher and the risks get even higher. And the risks of
miscalculation, including miscalculating whether or not it`s a patrol boat
or a smuggler, or an Iranian government boat become much, much more
MADDOW: In what you describe as the covert war between Israel and
Iran that`s already underway, how does that proceed? Where does that go?
Where does that end up? Does it stay at this level?
Does it escalate? Do we know what it escalates toward? Do we know
what would be the cost of that escalating if it did?
ROGIN: Right. So, this is the $64,000 question. And this was
actually a big topic of discussion this week in the U.S. government because
Leon Panetta, our defense secretary, was reported to say that he believes
that Israel will attack Iran in an overt way, with planes, dropping bombs,
in the April, May, to June time frame, which is coming up quick.
He was asked today to deny that and he didn`t deny it. He didn`t
confirm it either.
But the bottom line is that people around Washington are getting
worried Israel is about to take this to the next level. And at the same
time, there`s been some really new reporting in "Newsweek" this week that
the U.S. and Israeli governments are no longer on the exact same page, and
they`re no longer sharing information as well they used to, and no longer
have confidence in each other to warn each other if and when this covert
war becomes a hot war.
And at the same time, Iranians are suffering under brutal U.S. led
sanctions. And the economy is going in the toilet. This is causing them to
do all sort of things, to try to make up ground on their side. So, it
really is spiraling out of control, and this is really the nightmare
scenario for the Obama White House which doesn`t want an economic crisis,
much less a war right in the middle of their election season.
MADDOW: Josh Rogin, senior writer for "Foreign Policy" -- this is
something that obviously everybody is reading about every day and trying to
keep in context. The context is almost unimaginable. But thank you --
thank you for helping us understand it, Josh. It`s always great to have
ROGIN: Any time.
MADDOW: All right. Right after this show, on "THE LAST WORD,"
Lawrence O`Donnell and Washington state`s decision to legalize same sex
marriage makes some beautiful music together.
And here, what I think is worth obsessing about more than Rick
Santorum. That`s next.
MADDOW: Last time I had an on-air chat with PolitiFact, I lost my
ability to use words. I just reverted to grunting and guttural gestures.
Tonight, I will try to be slightly less Neanderthal.
MADDOW: Chart imitates life. Take this as a thank you to the great
Ezra Klein who guest-hosted while I was out of town last night. We all
love Ezra here and Ezra loves chart. And by the transitive property,
therefore this is a chart-laden Valentine for understanding what`s going on
in the news of politics right now.
This is the chart of what the Beltway media is obsessed with for 2012
politics in this current news cycle. This is the "oh my holy smokes, is
Rick Santorum going to beat Mitt Romney" story.
This chart shows Mitt Romney in black there, his polling over time.
And in red there, that`s Rick Santorum. His polling over time. Mr.
Santorum coming out of nowhere and with that steep climb, now challenging
if not beating Mr. Romney nationwide.
This is the story the Beltway media cannot get enough of right now.
Here`s why I don`t think that is the most important political dynamic
in the world. Yes, Mr. Santorum has come from nowhere to meet or exceed
Mr. Romney this week. But before this week, Mr. Romney weathered the exact
same storm from Rick Perry, see him there, that was Rick Perry in
September, right? Then Mr. Perry went away.
After Mr. Perry, Mr. Romney weathered the exact same storm from Herman
Cain, and then Herman Cain went away.
And then after Herman Cain, Mr. Romney weathered the exact same storm
from Newt Gingrich. And, Mr. Gingrich, and Mr. Gingrich came back and then
Mr. Gingrich went away again.
So, although it is exciting in the moment, a rival Republican
candidate coming from nowhere to surge and pose a challenge to Mr. Romney,
it is not the most novel story in the world. I mean, yes, the later the
timing gets in the race, the more interesting it is. But still, if in all
the breathless Rick Santorum coverage today you feel like you have seen
this movie before, it is because you have seen this movie before. And it
might end up being a big deal, but it might not.
If chart really does imitate life, here`s what I think is a more
important thing to keep an eye on. And it`s not getting nearly as much
We don`t vote nationally. We vote state by state, right? I mean,
it`s too bad, but the presidential preferences of Republican voters in a
state like Utah just don`t matter all that much. Their primary`s at the
end of June. It comes pretty much too late in the process to likely have
any impact on who the Republicans pick for their nominees.
But Utah Republicans` preferences are reflected as much in these
national polls that we obsess about -- Utah Republicans are there as much
as anyone else, even Utah Republicans don`t really get a say in the outcome
of that contest.
If you want to get a sense of what`s going in the race nationally, if
you don`t want to go state by state, you just want a big picture, national
snapshot of how the candidate is doing, how the campaign is affecting their
overall prospects, look not just at national "who would you vote for"
polling, look at voters` feelings. How the fight is -- if you`re looking
at how the fight in the individual states is affecting a candidate`s
chances overall. If you want to know big picture how that fight is
affecting a candidate`s chances, ask people their feelings about the
candidates. Ask them if they like them. Poll on whether people are
favorably or unfavorably inclined towards that specific candidate.
This is what I think matters for big picture 2012 politics right now.
And I think it`s amazing, and really nobody is talking about it. Are you
ready? OK, you ready?
Hey, America, are your feelings about Mitt Romney favorable or
unfavorable? OK. The navy blue line is "I don`t like him." The green
like is, "I like him." This is Mitt Romney through the end of 2011. Mitt
Romney through New Year`s Eve.
Now, watch what`s happened this year since people started voting.
Again, the navy blue line is unfavorable, the green line is favorable.
You can watch all the rival candidacies swinging up and down relative
to Mitt Romney, you can watch all the caucus and primary results and the
delegate race. I find it as much fun as anyone to obsess on Rick Santorum.
But can we just zoom in on 2012 here? Can we just zoom in on the 2012
part of this? Are we capable of doing that?
It`s highlighted? Oh, I see. It`s slightly brighter.
This is the story of 2012 politics, writ large. This is what`s going
on in the Republican rate for president. The more happens in the race, the
more voting, the more campaigning this year, the more voters have decided
nationally that they cannot stand Mitt Romney.
If there`s polling in politics that might be worth blanket coverage
from the Beltway media, I would think that this would be it.
Chart imitates life. Happy Valentine`s Day.
MADDOW: "Debunktion Junction" -- what`s my function?
Now, we do this every once in a while on the show when an outright lie
or an incorrect perception is circulating in the news, and we think we can
clear it up by showing that something that`s being described as true is, in
fact, false. Alternatively, sometimes, someone tries to cast aspersions on
a true fact, trying to undermine people`s confidence in a true thing. In
that case, sometimes we think we can clear it by affirming the truth of
We do the "Debunktion Junction" segment here on this show for those
reasons from time to time.
People at an organization called PolitiFact try to do that sort of
thing every day. And they are shockingly, shockingly bad at it. I`ve lost
my mind more than once recently about how bad PolitiFact is, and how
anybody who values the meaning of the word "facts" needs to stop citing
them as an authority on the subject of facts.
But PolitiFact has just done it up again. They are so bewilderingly
bad that I just need to put them on the record here one more time.
Here`s the statement that they put to their patented PolitiFact truth-
o-meter test today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: So the majority of Americans are
conservatives. They believe in things like the Constitution. I know
that`s weird to some people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Florida Senator Marco Rubio, leading contender for the vice
presidential nomination, alongside Bob McDonnell, Marco Rubio fact-checked
by PolitiFact on his claim that the majority of Americans are conservative.
PolitiFact tests the truthfulness of that statement by consulting the
Gallup poll, which they note has been regularly asking Americans about
their political ideology since 1992. PolitiFact goes on to cite the most
recent Gallup ideology poll results from last year, which show that 21
percent of Americans identify as liberal, 35 percent identify as moderates,
and 40 percent identify as conservatives.
So, Marco Rubio says a majority of Americans are conservative,
PolitiFact looks into it and finds that, actually, only 40 percent of
Americans say they`re conservative, and that obviously isn`t a majority.
So quoting PolitiFact, "He said a majority of Americans are conservatives,
in Gallup`s poll, the number has never crossed the 50 percent threshold."
Oh, but wait, there`s more. PolitiFact goes on to point out that even
if you split up the independent vote, people who say they are in the
middle, even if you split them up into leans Republican or leans Democrat,
still, there`s no majority for the more conservative of the two parties,
for the Republican Party. Quote, "The independent split up so that the
country is almost evenly divided."
So, to sum up, Marco Rubio says the majority of Americans are
conservative. PolitiFact looks into that and finds that a majority of
Americans do not identify as conservative. And even if you want to
extrapolate to parties, even if you want to give Marco Rubio the benefit of
the doubt and say that Republican leaning instead of conservative, that
still doesn`t get you to a majority either.
So, according to PolitiFact, Marco Rubio`s literal claim is false,
extrapolating generously from his literal claim, also false. Therefore,
PolitiFact`s rating of Marco Rubio`s statement -- mostly true!
Seriously?! Claim A, false. Claim B, false. Overall PolitiFact
rating, mostly true!
PolitiFact, please leave the building. Do not bother turning off the
lights when you leave, we will need them on to clean up the mess you have
left behind you as you are leaving. PolitiFact, you are a disaster.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.
I didn`t expect to end the Valentine`s Day show on that note, but oh,
my God! Have a great night.
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