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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, February 17, 2012

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Fred Karger

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Have a great weekend, my friend.
Thank you.


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

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad couple of weeks for
Newt Gingrich. I mean, think about it -- Mr. Gingrich won the South
Carolina primary, right? Good news.

Then the next contest after South Carolina was, of course, Florida. And
everybody was sure that Mitt Romney was going to win Florida and Mitt
Romney did win Florida. But Newt Gingrich did pretty well. I mean, look
at the map from Florida, right?

These were the final results in Florida everything in green on this map are
places where Mitt Romney won but the whole top of Florida and even some of
the bottom -- and the top of Florida is like the rest of the South, that
went to Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich won more counties in Florida than
Mitt Romney did, even though Mitt Romney won overall.

And even though the Florida contest was supposedly winner-take-all in terms
of its delegates, that assertion by the state Republican Party was always
on shaky ground. Anyway, Newt Gingrich is now challenging the winner-take-
all thing. Mr. Gingrich may ultimately end up getting almost half of the
delegates out of Florida.

So, as of two-and-a-half weeks ago, things were looking good for Newt
Gingrich, right? But then things starting falling apart. After Florida,
the center ceased to hold for Mr. Gingrich.

You`ll recall that Mr. Gingrich received his first $5 million check from
his billionaire, from the casino guy Sheldon Adelson, just before the South
Carolina primary that he won. He got a second $5 million check from his
billionaire -- actually from his billionaire`s wife technically right after
the South Carolina primary.

After Newt Gingrich won South Carolina and after he did well in Florida,
everybody was wondering. Hey, is he going to get another $5 million check?
Is more money coming from the billionaire?

Everybody was expecting more money to come, but that money did not come.
There were reports at the time that Mr. Gingrich`s billionaire might be
cutting him off.

In the next contest in Nevada, Newt Gingrich came in a deep distant second
place to Mitt Romney. He lost to Mitt Romney by nearly 30 points in
Nevada. And then Newt Gingrich just kept right on losing. Remember the
Saturday caucus was on a Saturday night? We didn`t get the final results
until Monday after the caucuses in Nevada.

And then the very next day, there were three more contests -- Minnesota,
Colorado and Missouri. Not only did Newt Gingrich face plant in all three
of those states, he wasn`t even on the ballot in Missouri. And that night,
after getting wiped out in three states, Newt Gingrich was invisible.

All the other candidates at least gave speeches that night, but not Newt
Gingrich. At least after he lost in Nevada, he didn`t give a speech but
held a press conference in the state to announce his strategy going

But after he lost in Colorado and Minnesota and he wasn`t even on the
ballot in Minnesota, Mr. Gingrich just went to bed early, didn`t show up.
He also then disappeared from the campaign trail, ostensibly to raise more
money. And he disappeared from most of the media coverage of the campaign.

In what is almost a perfect metaphor for the Gingrich campaign at this
point -- this was the only thing Newt Gingrich could get any media
attention for this whole week. Did you see this? Newt Gingrich`s bus
broken down on the side of the road in West Hollywood. West Hollywood, not
exactly Newt Gingrich country, if you know what I mean, my brothers and

Over the last week or so, this race has sort of left Newt Gingrich broken
down on the side of the road. Nobody is bothering to attack Newt Gingrich
anymore, really. The vaunted Mitt Romney death star smear machine has
moved to put Rick Santorum in its tractor beam, they`re not even bothering
with Newt Gingrich anymore.

Rick Santorum now even has the badge of honor of being a possible target of
the Obama campaign. So far, the Obama campaign has exclusively trained
their fire on Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney alone, but they are now starting
to size up Rick Santorum as well. They never did that for Newt.

You look at the numbers right now, Newt Gingrich is back down in the dumps.
He`s managed to pull off the remarkable polling feat. He`s the one in
green there. Did you see that? The remarkable polling feat, if you look
at this line, of having a double hump -- forgive the phrase.

Mr. Gingrich, in other words, came out of nowhere and surged heading into
Iowa, and he fell off a clip. And he surged again coming out of South
Carolina and now, he`s back down off the cliff again down in Ron Paul

So, Newt Gingrich gave it a good run, but all things must come to an end,
right? Wrong.

After reportedly turning off the spigot, Newt`s Gingrich billionaire
benefactor is reportedly as of today, contemplating digging into his very
deep pockets for another $10 million for Newt! Happy days are here again!

And that news, that $10 million for Newt news is the best possible news for
Mitt Romney. Because Mitt Romney is the person who benefits the most here.

Mitt Romney is in a fight for his life in of all places his home state of
Michigan. Mr. Romney`s campaign is in such trouble right now that he`s in
danger of losing the state in which he grew up -- the state where his dad
was a very, very popular governor.

Here is how it looks in Michigan right now. Look, Mitt Romney trailing
Rick Santorum in practically every poll that has come out of Michigan over
the last week.

And listen to how Republicans are reacting to the possibility that Mr.
Romney does not win there.

When anonymous prominent Republican senator telling Jonathan Karl from ABC
News today, quote, "If Romney cannot win Michigan, we need a new
candidate." The senator believes Romney will ultimately win in Michigan
but says he will publicly call for the party to find a new candidate if he
does not. Quote, "We`d get killed," the senator says, if Romney wins the
nomination after failed to win the state in which he grew up.

In other words, if Mitt Romney can`t win Michigan and then he ends up the
Republican nominee, the Republicans have no chance in November. Also in
other words, if you`re Mitt Romney -- you really, really need to win
Michigan. Otherwise some senators will say publicly how they need to 86
you off the ticket.

So, Michigan is very important. If you`re Mitt Romney you really, really,
really need to win Michigan.

How do you do it? You bury Rick Santorum under a tidal wave of negative
ads, right? That`s how Mitt Romney does it. This week, the Romney
campaign and the PAC that supports him plan to spend $1.2 million on ads in
Michigan, $1.2 million.

Want to know how much Rick Santorum and his PAC plan to spend on ads in
Michigan this week? Forty-two thousand dollars. That`s it. Rick Santorum
leading Mitt Romney in all of the recent polls out of Michigan but being
outspent there this week by Mr. Romney by an astonishing 29-1.

But then news yesterday that the Santorum campaign and the PAC supporting
him are planning to dump hundreds of thousands of additional dollars into
Michigan ads. So, instead of Romney outspending Santorum there 29 to one,
it`s now more like three to one.

Now, Mr. Romney did successfully drown Newt Gingrich in negative ads before
Iowa and after South Carolina. But it is a different thing to try to do
that against Rick Santorum. I mean, when you`re attacking a guy with
negative ads as Mitt Romney is doing with Rick Santorum now in Michigan,
it`s one thing to look at the attacks themselves, look at the ads
themselves and see if they seem like strong enough attacks to achieve your
intended goal, to see if you`re really hurting a guy by saying these
negative things about him in your ads.

But even more important than the ad is the context -- the context in which
the ad is received and heard by the Republican electorate. When Mitt
Romney was tearing Newt Gingrich apart, Mr. Romney benefitted from the fact
that the entire Republican establishment, including most of the
conservative opinion leaders in the country, all hate Newt Gingrich. So,
anything Mitt Romney said against Newt Gingrich, the whole establishment
would say um-hmm, yep and go right along with it and reinforce it.

Mr. Romney was attacking -- as "The Washington Post" put it this week --
the most disliked politician in America. Talk about a soft target. That
phrase isn`t even ad hominem attack. It`s what the polling shows about
Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich enjoys a 16 percent favorability rating among
Americans -- 16.

Attacking Newt Gingrich is effective for Mitt Romney because Newt Gingrich
is really, really very deeply unpopular. That well of hatred for the
candidate does not exist when it comes to Rick Santorum -- at least not
among the conservative establishment.

I mean, to be clear, Mr. Santorum does not seem to have of a rooting
section or base, he did lose his own state by 18 points when he was last
running for office. But he does not appear to inspire the same kind of
loathing that Newt Gingrich does particularly among conservative opinion
leaders. Rick Santorum enjoys remarkably high favorability rating, that is
at least in part a result of the fact that nobody has ever taken him
seriously enough as a candidate to go after him in this race before this

So, Mitt Romney`s strategy in the all-important state of Michigan is kind
of shaky right now, right? I mean, he`s been incoherent at best on the
rescue of the auto industry in Michigan, famously argued that Detroit
should go bankrupt, his renewed attacks on the bailout of Detroit, are to
the point now where auto industry insiders are openly panning him all over
the press. The head of the largest auto dealer attacking Mitt Romney as
reckless and dishonest.

The ads that Romney is running against Rick Santorum in Michigan are not
that compelling for one. But more importantly, they don`t tap into any
previously existing well of hatred for Rick Santorum on the Republican
side, the way his attack ads did against Newt Gingrich.

And now, Rick Santorum and his billionaire, the aspirin breach between your
knees, that`s Rick Santorum`s billionaire. He`s beginning to cut down Mitt
Romney`s overwhelming financial advantage when it comes to ad spending.

So, Mitt Romney is in trouble. Mitt Romney is in trouble. This is a sort
of existential crisis moment for the Mitt Romney campaign.

The single best thing that could happen to Mitt Romney right now in
Michigan, and therefore, for his presidential campaign overall-- the single
best thing that could happen would be for something to come along to split
the vote against Mitt Romney. To split the anti-Mitt Romney vote, to split
the support that for these last couple weeks has been going all to Rick

The only thing that could save Mitt Romney right now is something like a
$10 million injection in the Newt Gingrich campaign.

Tah-dah! Thank you, Sheldon Adelson, casino guy. Thank you for keeping
alive the one guy that can split all the anti-Romney vote that is out

Newt Gingrich may have had a terrible, horrible no good, very bad couple of
weeks. But right now, at this stage of the race, Newt Gingrich is the
single best thing Mitt Romney has going for him.

Joining us now is Steve Schmidt, senior strategist for the McCain campaign,
political analyst and MSNBC contributor, Steve, thanks for being here.
It`s nice to see you.

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: I am an observer of all this, but you, of course, have played this
game from the inside. You have run a campaign that won the nomination,
what am I getting wrong or what am I missing about the three-way dynamics
between these guys right now?

SCHMIDT: Well, I`m not sure at the end of the day, Rachel, that $10
million is going to help Newt Gingrich very much, no matter where he spends
it. At the end of the day, Newt Gingrich came from nowhere, to the top of
the polls, he crashed, he came back up again, he won South Carolina, and
then went over the cliff again. I think two looks is about all you get in
this race.

And it`s totally unclear to me where that money is going to be spent. Is
it going to be spent in Michigan, or is it going to be spent for example in
Newt Gingrich`s home state of Georgia, that he could potentially win and
exit the race with some degree of grace on an up note.

But I`m not sure that this donation is going to have much effect in
Michigan where tonight, you have Mitt Romney really fighting for his life
up there.

MADDOW: But if you put yourself in the shoes not of the campaign
strategist, which you have been, but if you put yourself in the shoes of
the eccentric billionaire who wants to run the world by proxy, let`s say
Sheldon Adelson, we know he does not like Rick Santorum. We think that he
doesn`t like Rick Santorum, we think that he doesn`t like his policy
positions and that he doesn`t think he could beat President Obama. We know
he likes Newt Gingrich historically liked him and that he likes Mitt
Romney. He said he would be perfectly happy to support and give money to
Mitt Romney.

If you were Sheldon Adelson and you believe those things, and you wanted
Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich to be president but definitely not Rick
Santorum, where would you spend the $10 million?

SCHMIDT: Well, you would spend it in Michigan. But, you know, look, at
the end of the day, I`m not sure -- Sheldon Adelson makes $3.7 million an
hour. This isn`t a huge amount of money for him, even if he goes to the 25
million dollars which he pledged would be potentially his maximum.

I just think that increasingly now, Mitt Romney`s in a race, Rachel, that
was the one thing he couldn`t have happen in this contest was to get in an
ideological fight with someone who was a plausible commander-in-chief
candidate which Rick Santorum is.

Newt Gingrich never was, on the basis of the fact that he`s got roughly a
65 percent disapproval rate in the country. He was never going to be the
Republican nominee.

I`m not sure you can say the same for Rick Santorum. And I think that`s a
problem for Mitt Romney.

MADDOW: Do you think that -- one thing that I`ve been noticing, and this
is sort of impressionistic, but I feel still nobody is really all that
interested in what Rick Santorum thinks, like he was in the Congress and
the Senate, for a very long time and you read Philadelphia and Pennsylvania
journalists, who covered him for a long time sort of raising their hands
and jumping out and down saying there is a lot of scandal, there is a lot
of oppo here on Rick Santorum, doesn`t anybody want to cover this stuff?
Nobody is really jumping for it. I mean, I`m sure the Romney campaign has
it all lock and loaded and ready to go.

But the country does not seem all that interested m what might be the
weaknesses in Rick Santorum as a potential commander-in-chief. That makes
me feel like it`s still sort of generic not Mitt Romney vote.

SCHMIDT: Absolutely. Santorum`s strength is more of a function of
Romney`s weakness than it`s a function of Rick Santorum`s compelling
message. And here is the really interesting thing in the race right now.
If you look at the comments that Rick Santorum made about contraception
where he committed himself to be a president who talks about the dangers of
contraception, talks about the fact that sex should be for procreative
purposes and not for pleasure purposes and peering into the bedroom of the
American people, I think it disqualifies him in the general election.

And I think that one thing that Republican voters are going to have to give
serious consideration to is that somebody with those views is not really
electable in a general election contest. The problem for Mitt Romney,
though, is he can`t call Rick Santorum out on that because there`s no
appetite from conservatives to hear Mitt Romney attacking Rick Santorum on
these social issues.

So, it`s a really inflection point in the Republican primary, where I think
you have a very, very weak front runner in Mitt Romney. But after those
Santorum comments, he`s the only possibly elected Republican -- electable
Republican who`s in the race right now, but Republican voters may not have
focused on that yet.

MADDOW: Aare you available to be drafted if they ask, Steve?

SCHMIDT: No, absolutely not.

MADDOW: All right. I had to ask.

Steve Schmidt, Republican strategist and MSNBC contributor -- thanks for
joining us tonight, Steve. It`s good to see you.

SCHMIDT: You bet, Rachel.

MADDOW: I have to say, I started thinking that when I walked past like one
story tall poster for the "Game Change" movie that`s coming out. Somebody
put a one story tall poster by my house, there is Woody Harrelson as Steve
Schmidt -- I thought, yes, why didn`t they ask Steve?

Anyway, today is the most predictable and also a very unlikely day in the
recent history of the Cheney family, that`s coming up.

Plus, best new thing in the world. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Tomorrow, Republicans in the great state of Maine are going to try
to finish what has been a disaster of a nominating contest there this year.
Last weekend, the state party in Maine said Mitt Romney won the main
caucuses even though he had a tiny margin of victory over Ron Paul and they
still hadn`t counted whole swaths of the state.

After a week of chaos over this in Maine, the state Republican Party did a
sort of recount and released some new vote totals, but they are still not
final results. The margin between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul is still tiny.
It was slightly less than 200 votes before. It`s slightly more than 200
votes now.

But Washington County, Maine, is still due to vote tomorrow. And even
though the state partly last weekend said Washington County`s votes would
not count towards the state total, now they say they will, probably, maybe,
what? Depending on the result you`re going to decide?

Washington County, Maine, tomorrow -- all eyes on you as the nation waits
to see whether even after Iowa, yet another state is going to be taken out
of the Mitt Romney win column this year.

We will be right back.


MADDOW: Big news here at MSNBC. Melissa Harris-Perry is debuting her
brand new TV show this weekend. Yay! It starts tomorrow. It`s Saturdays
and Sundays at 10:00 a.m. Eastern here on MSNBC. That time slot, if you
are astute, you should know, it means it is right after "UP WITH CHRIS

These new shows from Chris and Melissa, I got to say, I could not be more
excited about. I have long been proud to work alongside but of those
people, but to know that these two -- I mean, two of the smartest people I
have ever known in any context in my whole life, these two folks are now
going to be hosting cable news shows at this company, it -- I got to say,
it also just makes me very happy about this field that I work in. Makes me
happy about this part of our national media, really hopeful about the
direction and future of cable news and what cable news has to offer America
and our understanding of who we are as a country.

So, not to be too sappy, but Chris Hayes, 8:00 to 10:00, Saturday and
Sunday mornings, followed immediately as of tomorrow by Melissa Harris-
Perry, debut tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m., right here on MSNBC. It`s
really exciting. It`s going to be really awesome.

Melissa, break a leg.


MADDOW: This has been a bad week for trying to get Republicans to be
guests on the show. Yesterday, we renewed our on-going pleas to my senator
from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, to be a guest on the show, as usual, not
even a no from Senator Brown`s office. We can`t get a response. We can
even get the courtesy of a no.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, vice presidential hopeful -- we have been
talking about him all week. Mr. McDonnell told a conservative radio host
recently that he wanted to come on my show. He asked Laura Ingraham if
she, in fact, would help book him on this program. I was so excited I
totally thought that meant we would get Bob McDonnell. He said he wanted
to do it.

Apparently, he did not mean it. Bob McDonnell will not return our calls!

This week is also the anniversary of me trying in person to get a Cheney to
come on the show. Remember when I chased down Liz Cheney at CPAC?


MADDOW: This is as close as I ever get to interviewing Liz and Dick

Hi. I`m Rachel Maddow.



MADDOW: I think that was it.

I don`t know what she said. She smiled at me.


MADDOW: At CPAC that year. That was 2010 -- after giving me that very
nice smile and shaking my hand and never ever returning my calls, Liz
Cheney went on at that conference to give a speech about how horribly
dangerous and wrong it was for the Obama administration to try the
Underwear Bomber -- that kid who tried to blow up a U.S.-bound plane on
Christmas Day in 2009 -- how dangerous it would be to try him in a civilian


CHENEY: He wants to give terrorists constitutional rights, including the
right to remain silent.


MADDOW: Liz Cheney sort of made a little cottage industry for a while
there after -- out of telling everybody what a disaster and a danger it
would be to what she described as essentially setting the Underwear Bomber
free by trying him in civilian court -- because she implied that is what
civilian courts do. They look at people and just set them free.



CHENEY: Not effective tool for fighting terror.

Telling the world we are going to try terrorists in the civilian court
system. If you want to talk about a recruiting tool, Donna, the recruiting
tool is saying to terrorist around the world, you attack America and the
Americans catch you -- the worst you can imagine is they`re going to give
you a lawyer, they`re going to give you a trial in civilian court.

That is exactly the wrong way to win the war.

You`re going to be given a trial in civilian court and you`ve now got a
situation with the Christmas bomber where instead of questioning him, we
are now in a position as a government where he`s got a lawyer.


MADDOW: Liz Cheney professionally setting her hair on fire over and over
again in multiple venues over the prospect of a civilian trial for the
Underwear Bomber. And she has been doing that since 2010.

Yesterday, that same Underwear Bomber guy was sentenced in civilian court
to life in prison, which is not at all like being set free. After yelling
danger, danger, danger, Will Robinson, and pounding the table for a year
about civilian trials for terrorists, it`s about how this guy was going to
get off scot-free because of the civilian system, the reaction so far from
Liz Cheney to him getting a life sentence, the reaction so far from Liz
Cheney has been -- nothing.

Oh, wait, actually, there was something in the inbox today from Liz Cheney,
what`s that? Liz Cheney signed to a letter demanding that America bomb
Syria -- literally calling for an American war on Syria. It`s her and Bill
Kristol and Karl Rove and the Dan Senor -- remember him, the paid Bush
administration, good news only spokesman from the Iraq war -- they got the
whole gang back together, even Michael Ledeen is signed on.

You remember Michael Ledeen? He`s the guy who said if we invaded Iraq, our
children will sing great songs about us years from now.

Do these people still have jobs? I mean, are all these members of the
starting the Iraq war alumni association, do they think people are looking
to them for leadership and advise what to do with foreign policy? Does
somebody like Karl Rove or Dan Senor or Liz Cheney think, you know, if I
put the Rove or Senor or Cheney name on this, then surely America will be
persuaded to start this next war that I suggest.

Honestly? I mean, it`s like Donald Trump opening a hair salon. It`s like
Rick Perry deciding his next career is going to be debate coach. Oops!

America may want advice on the subject of foreign policy, but not from you
guys. Not ever again. You had your chance. Ixnay on the (INAUDIBLE).
No. We`re done. You tried it.

But speaking of (INAUDIBLE), speaking of the Cheney family, did you see
what Dick Cheney was in the news for today? Dick Cheney has reportedly
been lobbying for passage of a bill in Maryland to legalize same sex
marriage. A Republican legislator who voted against the bill in committee
telling the "Baltimore Sun" that he had received a voice mail with an offer
to talk it over with former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The same sex marriage bill passed in the Maryland House of Delegates, an
outcome that was not all certain. The same House had voted against the
measure last year but it passed tonight, 71-67. That sends it to the
Maryland Senate which did pass a similar measure last year, and no senators
are expected to change their votes this time. Also, Maryland`s governor,
Democrat Martin O`Malley, has promised to sign it.

So, Maryland is poised to legalize gay marriage. On the strength of a
bipartisan vote and after reported pro-gay marriage lobbying from Dick

The New Jersey legislature also passed the gay marriage bill this week. It
also a state that has tried and failed to pass gay marriage in previous
years. But this week, both assembly chambers approved the measure
legalizing same sex marriage in New Jersey. By today, it had landed on
Republican Governor Chris Christie`s desk, and tonight widely at least
speculated because of his hopes to be a vice presidential selection, Mr.
Christie vetoed it.

So, in this election year, on this issue they have thought of as a major
unifying strength in recent years, right, on foreign policy, we have
essentially seen a complete collapse in credibility if not ambition among
Republicans. Really, the guys that started the Iraq calling for a war on
Syria? Anybody who thought a war on Syria was a good idea is going to have
to pause and reconsidering giving your endorsement of the idea now.

But also, on their sort of standby platform of electoral strength on social
issues, on domestic social issues, the Republicans are becoming split.
Time has passed. The river has risen, and today, not all Republicans, not
even all really, really, really conservative Republicans are on board with
the whole God, guns and gays agenda.

If you are a Republican in 2012, yes, you can use gay rights as a cudgel to
hit Democrats, but you have to know that when do you that, you are also
hitting Dick Cheney.

Joining us now for the interview is Republican candidate Fred Karger. He`s
the first openly gay candidate for president of the United States. He`s
been somebody who`s been trying to run in part on the gay rights platform
in the Republican Party this year. He`s had a tough time with his
candidacy, but he but stuck it out thus far.

Fred Karger ,thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to see you

FRED KARGER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Rachel. Great to be
on your show.

MADDOW: You know, I as a liberal will never look at Dick Cheney and not
think Iraq war, Iran Contra, torture -- all this other stuff.

But do you think his advocacy on gay rights on which he has been more vocal
recently, even though he`s long held these views, do you think that that
changes his legacy in a meaningful way when you think about him as a

KARGER: Absolutely. You know, there are two words why he is supporting so
great -- been such a great supporter to gay marriage. That`s Mary Cheney,
his daughter, whom he loves, who happens to be a lesbian and has partnered
and has two children.

And, you know, Dick Cheney stood up to George W. Bush in 2004 and opposed
that federal marriage amendment. So, he`s also been a hero in the
movement, and it`s because he has a family member that he loves and cares
about, and he`s now taking it up another notch and doing some lobbying, it
sounds like -- and I applaud him for that.

MADDOW: Do you think, though, that there is a real split among
conservative Republicans on social issues like this? Or do you think that
there`s just a few Dick Cheneys out there, who for personal reasons, for
family reasons are sort of outliers on this? That the vast majority of
conservative Republicans all are super anti-gay, and there`s just a few
people who stand out from the crowd? How do you see it?

KARGER: Well, you know, I see it as good news. As you said there is a
split, there wasn`t even a split not that many years ago.

You know, we`re seeing -- Gerald Ford, he came out for gay marriage in 2001
at 88 years old, the first former president to do so. So, within the
Republican Party, we`re starting to get some numbers like Laura Bush and
Barbara Bush, their daughter, and Cindy McCain, and, you know, the list
goes. And even Governor Schwarzenegger in my home state. You know, he
reversed his position.

We`re hoping President Obama will come around someday, too. He`s evolving
on the issue.

I`m the only full equality candidate running for president of the United
States and I`m very proud of that fact.

MADDOW: On the Democratic side, I`m glad you raised that point. Nancy
Pelosi said this week that marriage equality for same sex couples should be
part of the Democratic Party`s national platform. As you point out,
President Obama has still not said that he favors same sex marriage rights.

But the Justice Department is not defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
Today, they said they will not defend DOMA for same sex married couples in
the military. The Justice Department saying today they won`t fight same
sex marriage couples getting all the rights that opposite sex married
couples have in the military.

Do you think the president`s treatment of gay rights issue is an asset to
his reelection campaign? Do you think it`s something against the eventual
Republican nominee?

KARGER: Absolutely. We`re seeing the poll numbers that have changed so
dramatically in the last five years where a majority of Americans now
support gay marriage, not just, you know, repealing don`t ask, don`t tell.

So, yes, he`s been -- I would give him about C-plus now particularly with
the move today. He`s done a lot. He could have worked a little harder on
the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell," where you have to rely on Susan
Collins of Maine and Joe Lieberman, but it got done. We`re making

We`re taking the offense this time which is so nice. You know, Washington
state just passed marriage. Maryland is poised, had a little set back in
New Jersey today.

But we are back on the ballot in Maine, we won in New York. And so, this
is the way it should be. The state legislature should be making these
decisions. It should not be left to the will of the people. This is a
civil rights issue.

MADDOW: Well, I don`t know if you buy the sort of wide speculation that
Chris Christie vetoed this in New Jersey because to have signed a gay
marriage bill would have essentially ixnayed his chances on being a vice
presidential choice for your party.

Do you think that may have been what motivated him and do you think that
was a proper calculation on his part if it was what motivated him?

KARGER: Well, you know, I`m one of the six Republicans still standing in
the race. I just got on the California ballot, as one of the six. I
poised to get on the New York ballot. I`m only one of four it looks like
maybe in the New York primary.

And so, you know, this will discourage me from picking Chris Christie. So,
you know, as far as the other candidates, I don`t know, it might help him.
I think he`s very content as governor of New Jersey. He made a bad
decision, he said he was going to do this. So, you know, he is a man of
his word, the veto override looks difficult.

But I`m optimistic that, you know, we`ve got the opponents on the run.
This national organization, they`re running out of money to threaten these
Republicans to vote for marriage, starting to get Republican votes. It`s
becoming a bipartisan issue and I couldn`t be more excited.

MADDOW: Republican Fred Karger, you, sir, are a good cheer and you are a
good sport, and it is always a pleasure to talk about this stuff. Thank
you for being here. Thank you.

KARGER: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW : I will say, you know, today is one of those days when the Beltway
media take the economy is getting better, which is horrible news for
Republicans. And now, they`re going to have to run on God, guns and gays
-- and maybe that`s why they`re going to pick Rick Santorum because that`s
a reliable electoral strategy for 2012. Just run on hating gay people in

It`s not even the path the Republican nomination, let alone a path to a
general election victory. Beltway is totally, totally wrong about this.

All right. We have the best new thing in the world coming up still. Stay
with us.


MADDOW: A judge in Wisconsin today told the Republican Governor Scott
Walker there, time`s up. Under Wisconsin law, elected officials who are
facing a recall can raise unlimited money while the petitions to recall
them are circulating and being validated. So, since this time last month
when Wisconsinites turned in a million signatures to recall Scott Walker,
the governor has been trying stretch this thing out. He got the initial
10-day review period, turned into 20 days, and then in 30 days.

But today, a judge finally said no mas. The review of the signatures will
be wrapped up by February 27th as will Scott Walker`s time for raising
unlimited money.

Then, since so many more signatures were turned in than the number that was
needed for the recall, it`s likely that the recall signatures will be
certified and the governor`s name will go on the ballot, so Wisconsin can
decide whether to turf him out in the middle of his first term as governor.

But this delay so far has given Governor Scott Walker time to raise
unlimited gobs and gobs of money to fight the recall. About a dozen
million dollars raised so far and still counting. And that`s on top of the
largesse he`s enjoyed from his billionaire Tea Party benefactors, the Koch

But Governor Walker also has grassroots support. Earlier this week, we
told you about a call from pro-Scott Walker activists in Wisconsin, a call
for a march today. The pro-Scott Walker crowd said they were going to take
their outrage to the Government Accountability Board. That`s where they
are verifying all the signatures on the recall petitions.

I think their idea was to emulate the Republican Brooks brother riot at the
county clerk`s office in Dade County, Florida, after the 2000 presidential
election. The idea was to use physical show of force to scare the bejezus
out of the people downing the counting.

The Wisconsin march started with this Facebook page for a group that real
Republicans in Wisconsin assured us was a real group. It turns out they
are a real group, they are just not real big. I don`t know if this picture
captures everything but I think there are seven people here in evidence at
the Government Accountability Board standing up for Scott Walker.

Also, there`s other two people, see there, by themselves? They look to be
from some other movement, like for example the one to get Governor Walker
out of office. The "Recall Walker" sign being a tell-tale giveaway there.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: There`s snow on the ground in Benton Harbor, Michigan, now --
mucky mid-February gunk. We called the new golf course in Benton Harbor
today. They told us nobody could play there now.

But come spring, Benton Harbor will host the Senior PGA Championship, a
major tournament for pro golfers over 50 years old, held at exclusive
Harbor Shores Golf and Residential Development. The course backs up to the
beaches of Lake Michigan. It was designed by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus.

The manager of Harbor Shores sounds amazed that such a miracle could
happen, telling, quote, "To this day, I will not forget the first
time we toured Jack through the land that was going to be used for the
course. He looked at me and said, `Where did you find this place?`."

Where did they find this place? This waterfront paradise with rolling
dunes and tall grasses and a giant sky, and a lake that goes on and on.
Where did they find it?

They found it, part of it, in the one publicly owned civic jewel of the
very tiny, very poor, very African American city of Benton Harbor,
Michigan. They found it in the city`s publicly-owned park, a place where
for generations, Benton Harbor families went for baptisms, or to pass
summer`s night, or to teach the kids to swim.

Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor was a gift to the town in 1917 from John
Klock, who founded the local newspaper and served as mayor in Benton. The
Klock family named the park after their daughter, Jean, who died as an

They told the town when they gave the park over, quote, "The beach is
yours. The drive is yours. The dunes are yours, all yours. It is not so
much a gift from my wife and myself, it`s a gift from a little child. See
to it that the park is the children`s."

And the people of Benton Harbor did for nearly a century, in a town without
much, they at least had this one thing, didn`t matter how much money you
had, it wasn`t a private thing, it was a public thing. You just walk out
on the beach and the natural beauty was yours to love.

Now, what used to be the park looks like this. Harbor Shores golf course,
carving out a 22-acre slice of it. A family pass to play golf at the
private course costs $5,000 -- which is about half the average per capita
yearly income for people who live in Benton Harbor.

Even as the Klock family of Jean Klock Park fame was leading the way in
Benton Harbor way back when, another family was beginning to make its name
in Benton Harbor. That was the Upton family. The Upton family founded the
company that would become Whirlpool Appliances in 1911.

People in Benton Harbor say they don`t get much work from Whirlpool
anymore, but the town is still home to the Whirlpool`s corporate
headquarters. Benton Harbor is still Whirlpool`s company town, with an
Upton for a congressman, Republican Fred Upton. Also, a former Upton
congressional staffer, for their state legislator. He also used to serve
on the board called the Cornerstone Alliance.

Now, the Cornerstone Alliance is a non-profit supported by Whirlpool and
it`s one of the largest players in town. The way they built the golf
course is they started a public-private partnership and the public part of
that was Cornerstone, right? Cornerstone anchored the public part of it
and they used that partnership to take over that sweet 20-acre slice of the
town`s park.

They put that together with some of the old industrial land that Whirlpool
wanted to get rid of and -- tah-dah -- fancy golf course.

Great deal for Whirlpool, not so much for the people in town who thought
Jean Klock Park was for them.

They Cornerstone Alliance gets things done in Benton Harbor, big things,
and that`s the big picture in Benton Harbor.

Day-to-day life in Benton Harbor, how the town makes day-to-day decisions,
that would be the work of its aforementioned state rep. In his first
months in office, it was that rookie Republican, that Upton staffer, the
guy in the Cornerstone board, who sponsored and pushed through Michigan`s
new emergency manager law.

Under the old version of that law in Michigan, Benton Harbor had already
had a manager. But this new souped up version signed by Republican
Governor Rick Snyder, this new version gave unprecedented control, nearly
unilateral authority to the emergency manager.

Under the new law signed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, an emergency
manager in Michigan has unilateral authority, not like unilateral
authority, but actual unilateral authority. They are the government. That
one person can tear up contracts, fire the local officials elected by that
town. They can even move unilaterally on their own say so to dissolve an
entire town, to just take the town off the map, eliminate it. One person`s
say so.

After Rick Snyder`s new law passed, Benton Harbor`s emergency manager
stripped the city`s elected mayor and elected commissioners of all of their
power. They can`t even do anything symbolic.

When the commission then tried to declare a Constitution Week, the
emergency manager cancelled it because under the emergency manager law, he
is in charge. And he`ll say whether there`s a Constitution Week.

The law also gives him the power to sell off public property, to sell off
the town`s assets. Nobody else gets a say. These are the town`s assets --
they can just be sold off with nobody in the town getting a vote.

Last week, as we reported the emergency manager put the city`s low-power
radio station up for sale -- microphones, CD players, the license,
everything -- all for $5,000, cords included. It`s WBHC, BH for Benton
Harbor. WBHC 96.5 FM, formerly broadcasts from the basement of Benton
Harbor city hall with music and local news and talk from Benton Harbor
elected officials. They had been stripped of all of their power as elected
officials, but at least they still had this one voice, right?

Now, it has been shut down, too. Emergency manager put it up on eBay,
exercising absolute, personal, unelected control.

Over the weekend on eBay, there were three bids for WBHC. The initial
asking price was $5,000. There was that, and then there was a bid for
$5,100 and a bid from $5,200 and then the listing disappeared. It turns
out that federal law says you can`t sell a radio station licensed the way
that Benton Harbor state appointed overseer was trying to sell it.

So, this listing on eBay is against the law. The FCC has to approve any
sale of a radio license, even a tiny station like Benton Harbor`s.

Now, we know from talking to the emergency manager over the last few days,
he still thinks he`s selling the town`s radio station. Under federal
rules, it can only go to a nonprofit or to a local government. Local
government and the emergency manager guy is, himself, a one-man local
government now. So, that`s pretty much out.

Who else can it go to? After reporting on this story last week, we heard
from a nonprofit group called Public Radio Capital, which said they want to
find a Benton Harbor nonprofit and then help that nonprofit to buy the
station. That group`s mission is to keep local stations alive for the
benefit of local communities. They tell us they have tried for days to get
through to the emergency manager.

Meanwhile, the emergency manager wrote to us to say that he had a, quote,
"bona fide buyer" and that it might take a couple of weeks to go through
the legal steps. He also told the town newspaper that he hadn`t heard of
this Public Radio Capital group, this nonprofit that wants to give Benton
Harbor its radio station back, so it can be used by the town again.

So who is the emergency manager guy talking to about buying Benton Harbor`s
town asset, it`s town radio station. It does not seem to be the Public
Radio Capital people who want to give it back to the town. They`re only
now just getting their calls returned. So it`s not them.

Is it the other big nonprofit in town? Is it the Cornerstone Alliance?
The Whirlpool nonprofit that`s so dominant in town with the former
executive who wrote the emergency manager law and the fancy golf resort
where most of Benton Harbor can`t afford to play or live?

Is it another group entirely? We do not know because the emergency manager
will not say. Nor do we know what the people of Benton Harbor want done
with the station because -- and this is the point -- they have no say.

Sometimes in politics and civil rights, we talk about losing a voice or
having a say. We used to use those terms as a metaphor. This picture of
Benton Harbor`s radio station up for sale illegally is not a metaphor for
the people of that town having their voice taken away from them. This is
the real deal.

They had their vote taken away, their elected officials taken away, their
democratic means of decision-making as Americans taken away, and now the
means by at least which they could broadcast their voice to speak to one
another, that, too.

One more thing, the guy in charge of Benton Harbor says that when the sale
is over, he will issue a press release or hold a press conference or do
something that lets the public know what he has decided to do with the
public`s property. He will talk and they will listen. State`s orders.


MADDOW: Best new thing in the world. One fine Thursday about eight months
ago, the best thing in the world was a project by the sheriff`s department
of Jefferson County, Colorado, a project to educate dog owners that there
is no poop fairy. That there is no winged antennaed creature ready to
swoop out of the sky and magic away these steaming piles of dog feces left
behind by inconsiderate dog walkers who don`t pick up, as depicted by the
graphics department of the Jefferson County Sheriff`s Office that you see

Now, the campaign involved more than just drawing a poop fairy. There were
these blue-t-shirted volunteers who greeted dog walkers in the parks,
handing them poop bags and letting them know in case they didn`t that if
there ever had been a poop fairy in the past, there isn`t one in Jefferson
County anymore.

Judging by the Facebook page, created for the campaign, after getting a lot
of publicity, the campaign ended successfully. Mission accomplished.
Awareness raised.

Jefferson County park walkways, seemingly cleaner than usual. End of
story. Or was it?

We have just received word that the simultaneously disillusioning and
instructive "don`t believe in the poop fairy campaign" is expending now to
Boise, Idaho.

We`d like to think they heard about it from us, they are planning to unveil
their own poop fairy campaign this spring. However they came up with it,
Jefferson County commissioned their own artist`s rendition of the poop
fairy. The Boise folks are reportedly still working on their version.

But as long as our coverage, we at least hope may have been helpful in
spreading the word here. I feel honor-bound to point out that the poop
fairy did not just get invented in Colorado. Way back in 2004, an early
iteration of the poop fairy was unveiled in a PSA that ran on local TV
including on MSNBC. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED KID: Do your part and scoop the poop, because guess what?
There`s no such thing as the poop fairy.


MADDOW: So good move, Boise, Idaho, in adopting the poop fairy as your
own. It worked great, apparently, in Colorado. And both Colorado and
Boise, if you want to thank the original poop fairy, we now know that she
was from Virginia. She was an overheated, adorably slightly overweight
chocolate Lab, the mother of all poop fairies -- best new thing in the
world today. Go, Boise, go.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday.

But first, say it with me now, say it with me at home. Are you ready?
Three, two, one -- prison!


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