updated 3/2/2012 11:52:14 AM ET 2012-03-02T16:52:14

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 1, 2012

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Dan Dicker


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. That is a 99 percent and 1
percent split that we can all understand.

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Absolutely.

MADDOW: Thanks, man.

SCHULTZ: You bet.

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

The Wyoming Republican caucuses closed yesterday. Mitt Romney won.

The Washington state Republican caucuses are on Saturday.

But the next big Republican contest, the big pile of delegates, that`s
coming up on Tuesday. Super Tuesday, March 6th. And in the lead up to
Tuesday, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney is meeting the Ohio media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The issue of birth control, contraception,
Blunt/Rubio is being debated, I believe, later this week, that deals with
or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception.

Have you taken a position on that?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not for the bill. But,
look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about
contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, a husband
and wife, I`m not going there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: "I`m not for the bill." "I`m not going there."

That was Mitt Romney in an interview with the Ohio News Network,
proclaiming that he is against something called the Blunt Amendment, or the
Blunt/Rubio amendment. The amendment would let employers pick and choose
what their employees get from health insurance.

Now, this, of course, sprung from a Republican desire that your boss
should be able to block you from getting contraception, specifically. But
the way the language of the amendment is written, it would apply to
anything in health care. Your boss decides whether or not you get it, from
health insurance.

So Mitt Romney in Ohio says he is against the Blunt amendment. Within
about an hour of Mitt Romney saying that, he changed his mind. Or at least
his campaign changed his mind. The campaign came out and say, actually, he
did not mean what he just said. Then they put the candidate himself back
out there to talk to another reporter, to try to explain.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I didn`t understand his question. Of course, I support the
Blunt Amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that
prevented people from getting contraception. So I was simply --
misunderstood the question, and, of course, I support the Blunt Amendment.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Oh, you kid! Of course, I support the Blunt amendment. I
always have, I always will. Can I go now?

What Mitt Romney first said that he was against and then said that he
was for is an amendment that was voted on in the U.S. Senate today -- an
amendment that would allow employers to opt out of providing anything in
their health insurance plans, as long as they said that their reason for
doing that was either a religious belief or a moral conviction. Mitt
Romney first said that he was against that, and then he said he was for it.

But it turns out that his first position, being against it, was his
position for way longer than just an hour. That was his position for his
whole previous life.

When Mitt Romney signed Massachusetts health reform, what they call
Romneycare, when they signed that into law in 2006, that law reaffirmed the
long-standing mandate in Massachusetts that health insurance plans have to
cover birth control. In doing that, in signing that law, Mr. Romney signed
Republicans like Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who also signed a law
requiring health insurance in his state to cover birth control.

Romney did this, Huckabee did this, a lot of Republican governors did
this. This was a Republican policy.

This Obama travesty of justice that would be overturned by the Blunt
Amendment, this was a Republican idea, for years.

So the problem is not that Mitt Romney flubbed the question, when he
said he didn`t think employers should be able to deny coverage for birth
control. The problem is that he was stating what the Republican position
was on this for years when he flubbed it. Republicans like Mitt Romney and
Mike Huckabee were for mandating birth control coverage before they were
against it.

And yet today, every single Republican in the United States Senate
except for one said that they, too, were against this. Republicans even
like Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who is trying really hard to appear
moderate, Scott Brown voted today to allow employers to deny birth control
coverage to their employees. Your boss gets to decide whether your health
insurance covers contraception.

But Scott Brown, as a state senator, voted for the exact opposite
thing. When he was a state senator in Massachusetts, Scott Brown voted for
the Mitt Romney law, mandating that employers have to cover birth control
for their employees. So this is an absolute mess for the Republicans.

Regardless of what you think about this issue, this is a mess. This
thing that used to be a Republican idea, this thing they`re all on record
as supporting is now something they want to be seen as 100 percent against.

And it`s more than just a hypocrisy problem for them. Democrats would
very much love Republicans to keep on talking about this, not just because
of hypocrisy, but because the public disagrees with Republicans on this.
The public is on the side of the Democrats on this issue.

The Obama campaign`s Tumblr page today posted this mock permission
slip. This is amazing. Showing what life would be like if Republicans got
their way on this issue. It`s a mock permission slip.

It says, "I have discussed the employee`s contraceptive options with
her and I verify that her use of these methods is /is not in agreement with
my personal beliefs. The employee does/does not have my permission to
access birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or any other type of
contraception. This decision is only valid until the next evaluation of
this the employee`s contraception plans."

Is that the permission slip you want to get from your boss? Democrats
think most people would say no.

So, Republicans, if you want to keep working on this, Democrats are
going to give you all the rope you need. Two days ago, Republicans in the
House of Representatives held a closed-door meeting to talk about what
their agenda should be for the New Year. And what they say they decided on
was jobs, jobs, jobs.

Quote, "Speaker Boehner presented six categories of legislation, all
of which came under the heading of jobs."

So after deciding that they were going to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs,
what did John Boehner decide that his Republican-controlled House should
actually do next? Look at the headline, "Boehner vows to continue
contraception fight."

What are you doing? You`re bad at your job.

There are all of these reasons why this is a bad fight for the
Republicans to pick right now -- the hypocrisy, the polling, the substance
of it, as a substantive matter, what people think about it. The
distraction from what`s supposed to be their main focus.

They know all these things. Why are they doing it anyway? I mean,
Republicans are not dumb. Republicans can read polls. They know how this
is going.

When they decided to push the Blunt Amendment in the Senate and lose
on it and then keep going on it, why are they doing that? What is it that
is more advantageous to them in pursuing all of this stuff than all of its
obvious downsides?

I think it`s framing. I think it`s the overall long-term conservative
goal of framing anything that Democrats are for as a government intrusion
into your life that you should resent.

Remember when conservative wordsmith Frank Luntz instructed
Republicans how to oppose health reform, which words they should use to
oppose it.

Frank Luntz told Republicans, quote, "If the dynamic becomes President
Obama is on the side of reform and Republicans are against it, then the
battle is lost. Don`t be against reform. Be against a government takeover
of health care. Be against government intrusion into your lives."

If it worked with health reform, it can work with birth control too,
right? Republicans want sort of a unified field theory of what`s wrong
with the Democrats.

Don`t say it`s about contraception. Don`t say it`s about women at
all. Say it`s about a big government takeover, say it`s about government
intrusion, say it`s about government pushing its way into your space.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R), COLORADO: A number of representatives from
around the country are very troubled by this unprecedented government
intrusion into the First Amendment right of freedom of religion.

REP. JEFF FORTENBERRY (R), NEBRASKA: This new mandate, which is an
intrusion of government into the faith life of many Americans.

SEN. MIKE JOHANNS (R), NEBRASKA: Today`s proposal continues to
involve needless government intrusion into the internal governance of
religious institutions.

REP. SCOTT RIGELL (R), VIRGINIA: Preventing government intrusion into
the faith and religious conviction of Americans is precisely why our
Founders embedded religious freedom into the First Amendment.

REP. CHIP CRAVAACK (R), MINNESOTA: Continually chipping away at our
basic constitutional freedoms that set the foundation of this the great
country sends us down a very slippery slope to further government overreach
and intrusion into our individual lives.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: "Further government overreach and intrusion into our
individual lives." Here`s the problem: while Republicans are going way out
on this problem limb, while they are taking the anti-birth control position
-- something they manifestly do not believe in, since it never bothered
them when it was their own policy before this year -- when they are going
out on this political limb, it`s because they think that they will reap
disproportionate rewards from doing it.

They think they will reap disproportionate rewards. They think they
will reap enough rewards to compensate from all the electoral losses that
are going to come from this be, because they want to be seen in the long
run, in the big picture, as standing up into government intrusion into your
life, government intruding into your health care decisions.

But while they are trying to seem like that, Republicans are also
simultaneously trying to require by force of law that you take off your
pants, put your legs in the stirrups, and greet your government that way.

What is happening in the states right now, where Republicans are
actually in charge, actually putting things into law, rather than just
trying to make political points, is that Republicans are having the
government mandate not just insurance companies` coverage for something
that you can then decide whether you want it or need it, they`re not just
affecting access to something that you might want or availability of
something that you might need. They are actually forcing you to have a
medical procedure by order of the government, a medical procedure you don`t
want, and that your doctor doesn`t think you need, the government`s going
to make you do it anyway.

But mandating that your health insurance cover birth control, if you
want to use it, and if you are prescribed it by your doctor --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAVAACK: Sends us down a very slippery slope to further government
overreach and intrusion into our individual lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Right, that`s the intrusion. Last night, we talked about the
long-term generational thinking of the conservative movement, that
conservatives are willing to have Republicans lose an election here or
there, they`re willing to lose in the short term in order to advance their
longer term goal, which is to move the country farther to the right, to
drag the center in this country to the right, to constantly have Democrats
chasing them incrementally to the right, to the point where all of our
politics move rightward.

The conservative movement is willing to sacrifice a politician or an
election cycle in the service of reframing the debate for the country, so
that it is in a position further right than it might otherwise be.

But even if you buy that, and even if you respect that as political
strategy, and I do, I got to say, they`re framing on this in particular is
a complete mess. Their problem here is not just, oh, they`re going to lose
some elections over this. Sorry, Scott Brown, good luck with your re-
election as the anti-contraception guy. Sorry governor vaginal probe, Bob
McDonnell, good luck getting picked for president. That`s the kind of
problem that we know that the conservative movement doesn`t mind too much.

Conservatives have always been willing to sacrifice a few politicians
here and there in the service of the longer term goals of the movement.
Their problem on this one, though, is that their broader framing on this
whole issue is incoherent.

You cannot be the "get government out of the doctor`s office" party
and simultaneously be the "kick the doctor out of the doctor`s office so
Bob McDonnell can get in there instead" party. I mean, you can try to be
both of those things, but as my friend Chris Matthews would say, ha! That
makes no sense at all.

Joining us now to try to make some sense of it is Eugene Robinson,
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC
political analyst. Mr. Robinson, it is a pleasure to have you here.
Thanks for being here.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Great to be here, Rachel.
But pardon the intrusion, but I refuse to make sense of this.

MADDOW: Give me the view from the beltway. I mean, Republicans are
not dumb, Republicans read polls. Republicans read the political tea
leaves as well as any Democrats do.

Why are they going to keep running with this? After losing today in
the Senate, now they`re vowing to take it up in the jobs, jobs, jobs House.
What works for -- what works for them on this issue?

ROBINSON: I don`t get it, frankly. I mean, maybe there`s some subtle
political jujitsu that they`re after here. I think you`re right that the
framing is supposed to be government intrusion. But it is incoherent, and
you can`t really claim government intrusion if you`re doing the intruding.
You`re making the intrusion and mandating this ridiculous new policy that
you never would have favored or even thought of in the past.

It seems crazy to me, and I`ve been expecting them to try to find some
way to back out of it. But if they`re going to press it, fine. Gee, we`re
the anti-contraception, anti-sex party? I just don`t get it.

MADDOW: The Beltway is D.C., right? But it`s also Maryland and
Virginia. And we had this sort of amazing, I don`t know, microcosm today
in the Beltway, where we had blue state Maryland today, the governor
signing same-sex marriage rights into law, and then in red state Virginia,
the governor is about to sign the forced ultrasound bill.

I mean, at this point, are the red states and the blue states even
waging culture war against each other? Or have we just become two
different countries and we don`t even have trade ties anymore?

ROBINSON: You know, it seems like we`re in two different dimensions
or parallel universes or something like that. I mean, you know, Maryland
is a reliably Democratic state, a very liberal state. And it does not
surprise me that Maryland has taken the step toward same-sex marriage.

You know, Virginia is an interesting place. As you know, it went
Democratic last time. It`s historically a red state that has been getting
certainly purple and, you know, went blue, and -- but perhaps not
permanently. So, it`s going to be very interesting to see what the
reaction is in Virginia, particularly in northern Virginia, which a lot
more like Maryland than it is like southern Virginia.

MADDOW: Where do you think this ends up in presidential politics?
The Obama campaign, that employers` permission slip thing that they posted
on the Tumblr today was amazing. And they are -- it`s not just that, they
are getting more and more vocal on the issue of protecting women`s rights,
protecting access to contraception.

Mitt Romney seems confused on this issue. This is Rick Santorum`s
reason for living, issues like this. Where do you think this ends up in
2012 politics, either just inside the Republican process, or for the
general?

ROBINSON: I think the attitude for the White House is, if they really
want to talk about this stuff, bring it on. Let`s talk about it.

They have seen the polling. They understand where public opinion is
on this issue. Regardless of long-term framing, public opinion now is
against the Republicans. And as long as the conversation is about
contraception and not about the economy, I think, you know, every day that
that`s the case is a pretty good day as far as the White House is
concerned.

MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize-
winning columnist for "The Washington Post" -- Gene, thank you very much
for helping us translate. I`m not sure we got there, but you helped me
understand more of the words.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: Yes, several steps are involved in this translation, but
we`ll try next time.

MADDOW: Thank you, Gene. Appreciate it.

All right. We`ve got lots still ahead this hour, including a special
news update from the axis of evil. Remember the axis of evil? That`s
ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The Virginia state legislator voted today on the revamped
vaginal probe ultrasound bill that`s received so much attention. The
debate included this speech from Democratic Delegate Jennifer McClellan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEL. JENNIER L. MCCLELLAN (D), VIRGINIA: We cannot legislate
medicine. We cannot legislate morality. We cannot legislate religion.

And when we try, we make mistakes. We need to be respectful of every
Virginian, whether we think they are centered or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Judge not lest ye be judged -- she told her colleagues in the
House, and then the House voted.

The latest from Virginia and how it`s changing politics all across the
country still today, that`s straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You know, this has been a bad week for would-be Republican
vice presidents. We just talked about the Blunt amendment, the
Republican`s anti-contraception amendment that failed today in the Senate.
And Democrats are really excited for Republicans to keep talking about.

Technically, it is not just called the Blunt amendment. It is called
the Blunt/Rubio amendment. So if somebody`s going to wake up in the
Republican Party and realize that being the anti anti-birth control party
maybe isn`t the best way to make a run for the presidency, the Blunt/Rubio
anti-birth control amendment probably is not going to help Marco Rubio`s
chances at being picked for vice president.

Similarly, this didn`t get much national notice, but at the end of the
last week, the ousted Republican secretary of state in Indiana was
sentenced for voter fraud. He had been convicted of six felonies,
including voter fraud, and he`s the guy who runs elections in the state of
Indiana.

Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor in Indiana, had refused to
appoint anybody permanently to replace this guy once he was convicted of
voter fraud, the governor saying that if the felony convictions could get
knocked down to misdemeanors, maybe, then he would be happy to reinstate
this guy to run Indiana`s elections.

Ultimately, late last week, the Republican secretary of state did not
get his felony convictions busted down to misdemeanors, so he can`t get
back into office. And now, Indiana might get a Democrat installed in the
secretary of state`s seat instead.

But Mitch Daniels saying he wanted to put a convicted voter fraud
felon in charge of the state`s elections, that probably does not help Mitch
Daniels` vice presidential chances either -- which brings, of course, to
the other great milquetoast hope for the Republican vice presidential
running mate. That would be the forced ultrasound guy from Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SEGRAVES, WTOP: You said, again, on this show that you thought
that TSA pat-downs were invasive and an infringement on people`s civil
liberties. How is a pat-down at an airport, which is clearly can be
defined as a public safety component more invasive than compelling, forcing
women to go through this medical procedure in order to have an abortion?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: It`s the manner, from what I
understood about this coverage, that the manner these various pat-downs
were beneath the dignity of the travelling passengers, and perhaps there
were other ways to accomplish the same kind of result for airport security.

SEGRAVES: You know, I can hear them screaming when you talking about
the dignity of the traveling public. What about the dignity of women?

MCDONNELL: I believe this is something that helps respect the dignity
of women by making sure that they`ve had all the information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Nothing respects a women`s dignity like forcing her into a
state-mandated medical procedure designed to show her pictures of the fact
that she`s pregnant, because the state government assumes that without
those forced pictures, a woman can`t understand that.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCDONNELL: But, Mark, it does not in any way affect what choice the
woman will make. It simply says ultrasounds will be given, provided to the
woman, and then she is fully free to decide what she should do.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: "What she should do."

She doesn`t have a choice, and neither does her doctor, over whether
or not that ultrasound is done to her. That decision will be made by
Governor Bob McDonnell, because he knows what that woman needs. Doesn`t
matter what the doctor says.

Bob McDonnell may not have a license to practice medicine, but this is
not practice for him, this is government. And in Bob McDonnell`s Virginia,
it is government that decides what medical procedures you get.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEGRAVES: On the HPV virus, the mandatory vaccination for the HPV,
you allowed parents to opt out. Why not add an opt-out provision for this?

MCDONNELL: Well, Mark, all I can say is that this measure is going
through the general assembly. I do think that in it`s current form, it is
a good policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: In other words, there will be no opt-out. You will have done
to you what Governor McDonnell wants done to you. That`s Governor Bob
McDonnell of Virginia, one-time vice presidential hopeful, talking with
Mark Segraves on WTOP Radio this week.

We actually played some Mark Segraves and Bob McDonnell audio speaking
on the same subject on last night`s show. And when we played that, we
thought that audio was from this week. It turns out, that was from an
earlier interview when it first became clear that this ultrasound thing was
going to pass in Virginia. And in fact, our mistake only serves as further
proof that what Bob McDonnell does as governor now is answer questions like
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEGRAVES: You talked and complained earlier in this show about the
White House and the federal government placing unfunded mandates on the
states.

MCDONNELL: Yes.

SEGRAVES: This is an unfunded mandate on women. Who is going to pay?
What do you support? The idea of having a woman have to take a sonogram
before getting an abortion? Is that something you would support?

When you were here last month, you were in favor of the transvaginal
ultrasound. A lot of people believe that this is a decision that should be
left to the patient and the doctor. Not to lawmakers.

What is this something that you feel that politicians know better than
the patient and the doctor?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: This is what Bob McDonnell`s life is like. This is what it`s
like this month. This is what it was like last month too, this is what
it`s likely to be like from here on out.

And that`s why Larry Sabato, the acknowledged dean of Virginia
politics, today told the Lynchburg, Virginia, paper that Bob McDonnell`s
vice presidential chances are over. Quote, "He`s been hurt by this. I`m
of the theory that most things don`t matter, but every now and then,
something happens that changes people`s perceptions for a lengthy period.
We just had it."

Quote, "He should have anticipated this. This is not rocket science.
Do you mean that his legislative staff and other people could not have
analyzed in advance that this avalanche of social legislation might blow up
in his face? It`s obvious."

"The Economist" magazine also writing on this week`s edition about Bob
McDonnell no longer be viable as a vice presidential choice. "The fact
that Mr. McDonnell" -- it`s a quote, "The fact that Mr. McDonnell had not
foreseen a public backlash to the vaginal ultrasound requirement seems to
some to illustrate his tone-deafness and inattention to detail." Quote --
his vice presidential ambitions are described by "The Economist" as quote,
"threatened by a seeming inability to control the excesses of his party."

And the local issues columnist of Virginia, local issues columnist of
"The Washington Post" this week says that in preparing to sign this
ultrasound bill, the second anti-abortion measure he will have signed in a
year, McDonnell has, quote, "probably sacrificed whatever chance he had of
being picked at the GOP vice presidential nominee."

"Assuming that the Republican presidential candidate is Mitt Romney,
it would be much harder for him now to tap McDonnell as a running mate.
The two of them would immediately have to devote time to defending the
ultrasound bill."

The columnist Robert McCartney quotes a Republican source saying,
quote, "I think the moment in the sun is over." "The ultrasound
controversy was probably very unhealthy to the calculus that Romney will
make at the convention."

Together with Bob McDonnell`s 1989 masters thesis, the from Pat
Robertson`s televangelist college, the one about the cohabitators and the
fornicators, "this creates a second object of ridicule."

Not wanting to be an object of ridicule, like Bob McDonnell now is,
may even be affecting the way that these bills, that bills like this are
progressing in other states, in Republican-led legislators around the
country.

Pennsylvania, you will recall, has another one of these bills that is
just like the original Virginia transvaginal ultrasound one, except in some
ways, Pennsylvania`s is even worse. Pennsylvania`s calls for a mandated
ultrasound of sufficient detail, that it is likely a forced vaginal
ultrasound in most cases. This is the one that requires that the
ultrasound has to be pointed at your face during the procedure, although
the government of the state of Pennsylvania will allow you to avert your
eyes. That`s the loophole -- you are allowed to move your eyes while the
state forces a medical procedure on you.

The Pennsylvania bill, though, has stalled. We`ve been trying to
track various reports on this since the controversy erupted in Virginia and
elsewhere, but it appears that this bill in Pennsylvania has lost at least
six of its co-sponsors now. And now, the sponsor of the Pennsylvania bill
is looking for a lifeline, telling "The New York Times" that she did not
have plans to revise her bill in light of what`s just happened in Virginia,
but she says, if Governor Tom Corbett, the Republican Governor Tom Corbett
were to ask for changes, just as the Virginia legislature heard from their
governor, that would be a consideration.

We called Governor Corbett`s office today in Pennsylvania to find out
if he`s going to wade into this the way that Bob McDonnell did, thus
changing his life forever -- Governor Corbett has not returned our call on
the subject, and we do not expect him too, frankly.

Although I`d love it if he would. What do you say, Gov, do you want
to nuke your vice presidential chances too? Come on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Besides trying to convince everybody that the president of
the United States is at war with religion, the other leading Republican
charge of the moment against President Obama has to do with algae. Green
slime is not just a metaphor in politics anymore. That`s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Newt Gingrich says that President Obama is a weirdo. He says
he`s weird.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And maybe what we ought to
do at Newt.org is we ought to get t-shirts that say "You choose." You have
Newt: drill here, drill now, pay less. Barack Obama: have algae, pay more,
be weird.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: For Newt Gingrich to call somebody else in politics weird is
like watching a python digest itself. It`s inside out. It`s not possible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: By the end of my second term --

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: -- we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it
will be American.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: But Mr. Moon base has now pivoted to make his presidential
campaign all about energy. And his line is that the president is a weirdo
on energy. This is kind of a Republican thing now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I think the American
people realize that a president who`s out there talking about algae, algae,
when we`re having to choose between whether to buy groceries or fill up the
tank is the one who is out of touch.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: This guy is so out of his league, just
throw out there, I`m looking at algae. It`s absurd! In the sane world,
this guy would be laughed out of office, not voted out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: But those Republicans and the talk show host there find so
hilarious is a speech last week where the president talked about how high
gas prices are and his overall energy approach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last week, the lead
story in one newspaper said, "Gasoline prices are on the rise and
Republicans are licking their chops." That`s a quote. That`s the lead --
licking their chops.

Only in politics do people root for bad news, do they greet bad news
so enthusiastically. You pay more, they`re licking their chops.

And you can bet that since it`s an election year, they`re already
dusting off their three-point plan for $2 gas. And I`ll save you the
suspense. Step one is to drill, and step two is to drill, and then step
three is to keep drilling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Drill, baby, drill. Nothing brings back the 2008 campaign
like drill, baby, drill, right? Republicans totally thought they were
going to win the presidency in 2008, with drill, baby, drill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Drill, baby, drill!

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NYC MAYOR: Drill, baby, drill. Drill,
baby, drill!

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Because energy produced in
America is security for America. And it is jobs for American workers, jobs
that can`t be outsourced. Let`s drill, baby, drill, not stall, baby,
stall.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Let me make it very clear:
drill, baby, drill, and drill now.

PALIN: We will safely drill for the billions of barrels of oil that
we have underground, including safely developing offshore resources. We`ll
drill here and we`ll drill now. Now you can chant. Drill, baby, drill!

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: Republicans definitely thought that John McCain and Sarah
Palin would beat Barack Obama and Joe Biden with the drill, baby, drill
message four years ago.

And this year, they think they can win that message too. So you`ve
got Rick Santorum, brandishing an oil write rock during his concession
speech after losing Michigan and Arizona. You`ve got Mitt Romney today
saying the president, President Obama, is doing all he can to stop oil
production in this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a president who`s
not been helping the situation. And then he takes his EPA and uses them to
try and stifle the development of oil and gas in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: In a classic case of Mitt Romney`s bad timing, he tried out
that allegation today on a day when the news headlines on this subject all
look like this: "U.S. was net oil-product exporter for the first time since
1949."

We are exporting oil now. We are exporting more than we import.

Also, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" provided this handy chart this past
weekend about U.S. oil production under Presidents Bush and Obama so far.

Remember, the Republican line here is that President Obama won`t let
there be any oil production in the U.S. That`s the line.

They also find all this algae business hysterical, that any
administration policy would involve anything other than oil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If we`re going to avoid high gas prices every single year,
with a lot of politicians talking every single year, but nothing happening,
if we`re going to avoid that, then we`ve got to have an "all of the above"
strategy that develops every single source of American energy. Not just
oil and gas, but also wind and solar and biofuels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Biofuels. That`s what the Republicans say is hysterical!
That`s what Newt Gingrich says is weird, and that means something coming
from Newt Gingrich.

Algae, right? Biofuels. Biomass. This stuff is just crazy! No
Republican would ever support anything so dumb.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: John and I will adopt the "all of the above" approach to meet
America`s great energy challenges. Those hundreds of billions of dollars
being re-circulated here in America, that means harnessing alternative
sources like the wind and the solar and the biomass and the geothermal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The Sarah Palin/John McCain energy policy, the algae as fuel
idea, that has had Republicans like Mike Pence and Darrell Issa and Senator
Mike Johanns requesting Department of Energy grants to research algae as
fuel -- in an election year, that`s got to be all crazy Democratic
nonsense. Drill, baby, drill. Drill, baby, drill.

In a year when gas prices really are high, and that really could have
an impact on the election, it might be time to ask somebody who actually
knows about this stuff whether or not we have any chance at all of the
politics around energy getting even marginally less stupid anytime soon.

Joining us now is Dan Dicker. He is a CNBC contributor. He`s the
author of the book "Oil`s Endless Bid." He`s an energy analyst with more
than 25 years oil trading experience.

Mr. Dicker, thank you for being here.

DAN DICKER, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: Is there any substantive reason why biofuels, alternative
energy, algae -- why these things would be more hilarious as a Democratic
idea in 2012 than as a Republican idea in 2008?

DICKER: No, absolutely not

Look, the peak oil guys, I think, have gotten the timing of this
incredibly wrong, but their basic thesis is right. This is a limited
resource. At some point, we have to develop something other than fossil
fuels, at some point. Sooner would be better than later, but at some point
we have to do that.

And when we talk about our biomass, biofuels, or we talk about
geothermal or talk about solar, these are not things that are ready for
prime-time yet. Everyone will admit to that. The algae fuel runs at about
an equivalent of $8.50 to $9 a gallon right now.

But the point is that private companies will not invest money into
this, because it`s not profitable yet. Governments have to do this. If
governments don`t do this, it won`t get done.

Look at the Chinese. They have poured billions of dollars into the
solar industry over the last three or four years, and basically they
haven`t gotten any profit out of it.

Why do they continue to pour money into this? They know that they
won`t get any profit out of it for several years. Is it because they`re
great humanitarians?

No. The reason they do it, because they know when the technology hits
and it becomes profitable, they will own the iPad of energy. They will
have solar. They will have it exclusively.

This is not only good for humanity to invest money into
infrastructure, into R&D, in new technologies for energy, this is good for
economies. You have to do this in order to stay ahead of the game.

MADDOW: We are drilling more oil at home now than at any other time
in recent years. The argument, the political argument, which sounds to me
just like a stupid argument, is that drilling here now would lower gas
prices here today, or at least anytime soon. Is that true?

DICKER: Well, we know that`s not true. You hit it mostly in the
introduction.

We know that domestic production is up, even in the Gulf of Mexico
where BP, as we know, famously tried to poison the Gulf. We had a slowdown
of permitting in the first three months of 2011, but by the end of the
year, we had the largest production number for the Gulf of Mexico than
we`ve ever had before. The Bakken is yielding tremendous amounts of oil
through fracturing, through new technologies. There are plenty of other
plays around the country.

So, we are up 3.5 million barrels, as you pointed out, since Obama
took office, in terms of domestic production. We are also down in terms of
the amount of oil that we import. We`re down 5 million barrels since 2007.
Our cars are more efficient than they`ve ever been in our history. We are,
as you said, an exporter.

So, again, everything fundamentally circles around the fact that
drill, baby, drill, is not going to be the solution to this.

MADDOW: But that all makes it sound like supply and demand doesn`t
determine what our oil prices are.

DICKER: Well, that`s what I wrote the book about and that`s the
absolute truth. What we have is we have an oil market that`s accessible to
everybody who wants to invest in oil as they invest in stocks and bonds.
And nothing makes oil a prettier investment right now than a lot of saber-
rattling in Iran and the Sudan and Libya and the Arab spring in Egypt and
what`s going on in Syria, and on and on and on and on.

And that makes oil the most wonderful asset to own right now. And
that`s what drives the prices up. And the president`s pretty much said
this. He`s pretty much got it right.

MADDOW: Does the -- as a guy who thinks about oil prices and
commodity prices like this as a living and has for a long time -- does all
of the fact-free politicking on this subject ever do anything constructive,
or is it all just no nonsense and a distraction?

DICKER: It`s nonsense, but people will listen to this, because gas
prices hit everybody pretty much equally. I think the president has a
serious political problem here. Whether it has basis in fact or not,
people are going to be looking for relief and they`re going to be looking
for a scapegoat.

And that`s why the Republicans have made a political issue out of this
nonsense. And it is nonsense.

MADDOW: But the truth should prevail. And if you are making truth,
that should work.

DICKER: Let`s hope.

MADDOW: That should work. That`s what I live for, man.

Dan Dicker, CNBC contributor, the book is called "Oil`s Endless Bid" -
- Dan, thank you for being here. Will you come back sometime?

DICKER: I will certainly come back.

MADDOW: Nice to have you here. Thank you very much.

All right. Right after this show on "THE LAST WORD," Lawrence
O`Donnell has his guest my two favorite weekend hosts on MSNBC, Chris Hayes
and Melissa Harris-Perry, score and score. Don`t miss that.

And here, remember the axis of evil? It`s back. Ah, at least here
it`s back. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: States like these and their
terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of
the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Meanwhile, in the axis of evil, yes, it turns out the world
does not stop spinning on its axis, evil or otherwise, while we obsess over
whether or not Mitt Romney agrees with Mitt Romney on the issue of
contraception.

This week, we had an announcement in which might be a huge deal in
whether or not there`s going to be a nuclear war on our earth. During the
George W. Bush administration, North Korea became a nuclear power, testing
the first nuclear weapon in the fall of 2006. Now, we`ve got on the first
big news out of that country, since North Korean leader Kim Jong Il killed
over in December.

"The Associated Press" reporting today that a senior North Korean
nuclear negotiator will be traveling to the United States next week. Now,
the State Department says there are no plans at the moment for official
government meetings with the North Korean official. He`s just attending a
conference, they say.

But it is a big deal that he`s coming because yesterday, we learned
that Kim Jong Il`s successor, his son Kim Jong Un, who you see here, has
agreed to stop the country`s nuclear program in exchange for food -- in
exchange for food aid from the West.

Now, the dark cloud here is that the North Koreans have made promises
like this before, and it`s not like they`re giving up their nuclear
weapons. They`re just saying they will stop moving the nuclear weapons
program forward.

But the silver lining around that dark cloud is that they`re going to
allow in U.N. inspectors to verify that they are stopping their weapons
program.

Also, it is a good thing for the Korean people that they are going to
be getting food aid. Also, this is a new North Korean leader. So, who
knows? Maybe he`s going to try to be less of an international pariah than
his dad.

Also, this new North Korea news has driven Republican Senator Jon Kyl
apoplectic, which is usually a good sign for the world, and also just fun
on its face. Senator Kyl is expressing outrage at the U.S. getting this
agreement from North Korea to stop their nuclear weapons program.

Senator Kyl saying, quote, "This is just par for the course for an
administration that has a demonstrated record of disregarding U.S. national
security."

It`s unclear if Senator Kyl said that thing about President Obama
disregarding national security to the ghost of dead Osama bin Laden or if
he just said it under the spectral glow of the ghost. But if we get
clarification on that from Senator Kyl`s office, we will let you know.

Oh, wow. Did you see that? It was like it has a magnet on it. Let`s
try that again. Much better. Score.

All right. Further down the axis of evil, for the first time, an
Iranian movie won an Oscar this weekend. Director Asghar Farhadi won best
foreign language film for his movie "A Separation." It`s a courtroom
thriller about a couple trying to get a divorce in Iran, navigating the
country`s judicial system.

The Oscars work sort of boring, but this Iranian director`s acceptance
speech was my favorite speech of the whole night. He said Iranians were
happy watching this film win this cultural award because the people of Iran
have such a rich and ancient proud culture, even if it has been hidden
recently, he said, under the heavy dust of politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASGHAR FARHADI, IRANIAN FILM DIRECTOR: I proudly offer this award to
the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and
civilizations and despise hostility and resentment. Thank you so much.
Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That is what he actually said. But according to the Fars
News Agency, which is controlled by the powers that be in Iran, that was
not what he said at all. The Fars News Agency edited his speech. What he
said is what you heard. "I proudly offer this award to the people of my
country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise
hostility and resentment. "

They translated that as this. "I proudly offer this award to the
people of my countries who despite all the tensions and hostility of recent
months between the Iran and the West over Iran`s nuclear program, respect
all cultures and civilizations."

Yes, wow. They just added that in there. They just added a shout-out
to the nuclear program, even though he never mentioned that or anything
like that in his speech, and even though the speech is on tape, and even
though there are people in the world who speak both languages.

The Fars News Agency has taken down the false story, reportedly
because bloggers and Iranian journalists outside the country raised an
uproar over the rather ham-handed way that Iran tried to rewrite this guy`s
speech for him.

And honestly, that makes me not just happy for him, but happy for the
facts. Let`s try this again. There we go.

But as long as we are doing the whole axis of evil, if we`re talking
North Korea and we`re talking Iran, w also have to talk Iraq. We reported
last night on the formal dinner that President Obama and the first lady
held at the White House for veterans of the Iraq war.

One of the people who was at the dinner last night was retired Army
Sergeant Alice Peacock. She helped organize the St. Louis parade. The
parade in St. Louis, Missouri, to mark the end of Iraq war.

Sgt. Peacock is part of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. And
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is still calling on President
Obama to meet with mayors around the country to designate a national day of
action to mark the end of the war, and to honor Iraq war veterans.

And even as the Pentagon still bizarrely insists that other cities
having parades to mark the end of the war is a good thing, but New York
City doing that would be a bad thing, I can report very interesting news
today. There is going to be a New York parade. It`s not going to be a
Canyon of Heroes downtown Manhattan ticker tape parade. It is going to be
a Staten Island parade.

Get this -- on March 10th, the borough of Staten Island, which you see
there, is going to hold a parade specifically for 23 members of the Army
reserves, members of the 961st Transportation Detachment from Staten
Island. They just got back from Iraq after a year-long deployment.

Two New York City Council members from Staten Island are the ones who
first asked Mayor Bloomberg to plan a citywide parade down the Canyon of
Heroes for all Iraq war voters. Mayor Bloomberg still says no because the
Pentagon still says no to that.

But on March 10th, Staten Island is going to do it itself. Staten
Island is going to hold its own little welcome home from Iraq parade for 23
of Staten Island`s best, which is very cool for Staten Island. And it is
also very cool about Staten Island.

But the Pentagon is still telling Manhattan no. If I live to be 300
years old, I will never understand why they are doing that.

That does it for us tonight. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with
Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night.

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

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