'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, May 7, 2012
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Guest Hosts: Chris Hayes
Guests: Evan Wolfson, Betsey Stevenson, Nan Aron
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks so much.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour -- as you can
tell, Rachel is off tonight.
All right. When you appear as a guest on a Sunday show, and that
includes my own, as a news maker, which is a term of art in the industry
for people like the Senate majority leader, the governor of New York, or
the vice president of the United States -- ironically, your job as a
newsmaker is to not make news. Making news is media jargon for saying
something you haven`t said before.
In other words, your mission is to go on those shows and only use
words in combinations identical to or similar to combinations you have
previously deployed. Otherwise, you commit the sin of making news.
In fact, one of the Obama administration`s favorite rhetorical
strategies for escaping a question is to get very meta and actually come
out and say, I`m not going to make news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Andrea, I`m not going to make news on the
president`s beliefs on gay marriage today.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m not going to make
news here, Wolf.
I`m not going to make news on that today. Good try, though.
ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have almost all
the confidence in the world that whatever I say is not going to make the
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: Vice President Joe Biden is the rare newsmaker who seems to
relish in making news. And so, here he was on "Meet the Press" yesterday
asked about his position on gay marriage, and here`s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: The president has said that his views on
gay marriage, same-sex marriage, have evolved but he`s opposed to it,
you`re opposed to it. Have your views evolved?
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just think that
the good news is, as more and more Americans come to understand what this
is all about is a simple proposition, who do you love? Who do you love?
And will you be loyal to the person you love?
And that`s what people are finding out is what all marriages at their
root are about, whether they`re marriages of lesbians or gay men or
GREGORY: Is that what you believe?
BIDEN: That`s what I believe.
GREGORY: You`re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?
BIDEN: I -- look, I am vice president of the United States of
America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with
the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual are
entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil
liberties, and quite frankly, I don`t see much of a distinction beyond
GREGORY: In a second term will this administration come out behind
same-sex marriage? The institution of marriage?
BIDEN: I can`t speak to that. I don`t know the answer to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You can sort of see in Vice President Biden`s response there
in the end to the question of theoretical second term policymaking that he
thinks he might have gone too far. Perhaps somewhat predictably, minutes
after the vice president`s remarks on Sunday, senior Obama campaign adviser
David Axelrod tweeted, "What V.P. said that all married couples should have
the same rights is precisely POTUS` position."
Which is not exactly true. Vice President Biden didn`t just say that
gay couples should have the same rights as straight couples. He said they
should be able to get married.
But the reason the Obama campaign was in a rush to assure everyone
that news was not made after all was because the president famously is not
a supporter of freedom to marry. Despite a 1996 candidate survey he
answered saying he did support gay marriage rights, the president`s
position in recent years has been to support civil unions only. Not actual
equality, not gay marriage rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should
be able to get married, my feelings with this are constantly evolving. I
struggle with this. My baseline is a strong civil union that provides them
the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I
think that`s the right thing to do.
But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I
think this is something we`re going to continue to debate and I personally
am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That position increasingly puts the president at odds not
just with the base of his party, not just with Democrats more broadly, but
with the American public. That blue line, the one that`s going up, up, up
-- it`s moving away from the president`s current stated position on this
So, it`s something of an awkward issue for the Obama administration.
And it explains why the walk back has not been a straightforward Joe Biden
misspoke kind of walk back, but rather an attempt at blurring the line
between what Joe Biden said Sunday and what the president has been saying
for years and years.
That strategy was undermined today when another member of the
administration, Education Secretary Arne Duncan set forth and made news on
gay marriage again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a little ice breaker, Mr. Secretary. We`re
going to go through the whole cabinet.
Do you believe that same sex men and women should be able to get
legally married in the United States?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, come on. You`re going to start there?
ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever said that publicly before?
DUNCAN: I don`t know if I`ve ever been asked publicly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was Sam Stein of "The Huffington Post" pointing out in
the end there saying we made news, because Same Stein knows when news is
made. In fact, that`s the job at "The Huffington Post."
But the real news isn`t the personal feelings of Joe Biden, or the
personal feelings of Arne Duncan, or even the personal feelings of the
president of the United States. The real news is the growing momentum
behind an effort to put a plank supporting marriage equality into the
Democratic Party platform this year.
If you were to poll the delegates of the Democratic convention, such
a plank would almost certainly win by a landslide. A group called Freedom
to Marry has penned an open letter and started a petition calling for such
a plank. Eleven state party chairs, including the state party chairs in
Texas and Kansas, have signed on to that petition.
The Texas Democratic Party chair saying, quote, "In Texas, we love
all our families. We know to build a strong Democratic Party and a strong
Texas, we must honor the core principles of our party and champion the full
human rights of every citizen."
Four former heads of the DNC have also signed on to the effort and so
have more than 40 elected officials, including the House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Senator Mark
Udall of Colorado. And so has the man who is actually chairing the
Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,
which means there`s really only one thing that seems like it could block
official Democratic Party support for marriage equality.
In the modern era, party platforms are more or less unofficially
handed down by Fiat by the nominee. There are very few platform fights.
The context for Joe Biden`s and Arne Duncan`s comments is that with very
little notice and fanfare, the Democratic Party now appears to be on a
collision course toward a platform fight. The kind of platform fight you
rarely see anymore, the kind of platform fight that would be distracting
and possibly embarrassing for the president of the United States.
If the president wants to maintain his current position on this issue
and keep the party platform in line with him, he would essentially have to
go to the mat on this. We`d have to use precious political capital to tamp
down the civil rights aspirations of key constituency and fight against the
stated preferences of the House minority leader, 11 state chairs, four
former DNC chairs, the current chair of the convention, and, it appears,
his own vice president.
Joining us is Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry
Campaign. They`re the masterminds behind the petition I just mentioned.
It`s great to have you here, Evan.
EVAN WOLFSON, FREEDOM TO MARRY PRESIDENT: Great to be with you,
HAYES: I guess, first, I want to get your thoughts on the vice
president`s comments on Sunday and then Arne Duncan`s comments on Monday.
There was part of me when I heard about the comments on "Meet the Press"
before I actually saw it, that maybe this is a calculated approach in which
they will have people close to the president essentially endorse full
marriage equality, full freedom to marry, and that will seek to satiate the
thirst for justice in that community.
Then I watched the tape and thought, no, Joe Biden was just sort of
speaking what he meant.
What is your take on this?
WOLFSON: Yes. Well, I`ve known Joe Biden, Vice President Biden,
since I interned for him in the Senate in 1976. I saw him on TV like I
think viewer did, speaking from the heart, speaking in real passionate and
He told the story of going into a gay couple`s home and seeing the
love in their kids` eyes for their parents. And talking about the families
he`s met and how he`s thought about his own values of the Golden Rule and
treating others as he wants his family to be treated, and opening his heart
and changing his mind. That`s the very same journey that so many Americans
have been on, as you just described.
I think it was sincere and very much what believes and it is what a
majority of the Democrats believe. It`s what a majority of independents
believe. It`s what a majority of Catholics believe, and it`s what a
majority of Americans believe.
HAYES: Why now are you pursuing this strategic objective of getting
an official platform plank in the party? Why this year? Why now and what
do you think your prospects are for victory?
WOLFSON: Well, because it`s important that the party as it does
every four years put forward its vision for what the country ought to look
like, and the Democratic Party`s vision is much for fighting for families,
fighting for fairness, fighting for inclusion. Those are some of the
noblest moments in the party`s history. It`s where the party is. It`s
where the party wants to take the country.
And they should say so. It`s an opportunity to have this
HAYES: Let`s put aside any moral concerns and speak purely as if you
and I are paid political hacks and our job purely is to get someone elected
regardless of what the moral arguments are.
HAYES: I could see myself advising a politician in the president`s
position saying, look, there`s some downside risk if you enforce this and
not a lot of upside. The people that the Evan Wolfsons of the world are
probably going to vote for you, the people that care about this issue are
probably going to vote for you. You risk alienating people who are maybe
on the fence by coming out strongly in this.
And if I were advising him, I would say, let`s find a way to make
this go away.
Is that compelling? Are you creating a political problem for a
president that I think you would say that you broadly support?
WOLFSON: Yes. Well, first of all -- let`s be clear, as today
showed, the only way to make this two away is for the president to be
forthright in his support for the freedom of marry and the be able to
continue talking about the bigger, broader things that he wants to discuss
with the American people, the things we all care about, jobs and security
and education and so on. But until he does, there were always be the next
question and the next regaling, and the next wondering what about this,
what about that?
And I actually think the political analysis is exactly the opposite.
Happily for the president, doing the right thing is also doing the right
thing politically. The people who are going to vote for president based on
opposition to the freedom to marry are such a small number and will never
be for this president because he`s never going to be anti-gay enough to
satisfy that small slice.
But by contrast, the people the president needs to get elected, the
people who want to be with him want him to be where they are. That`s for
the freedom to marry.
And again it`s not just Democrats. It`s not just young people. It`s
HAYES: The president has used this term evolving. It`s been in some
sense as the talking point that`s used to describe his position on this
specific issue, talking broadly about rights for LBGT folks.
There is the 1996 candidate survey which his staff said he meant to
say civil unions or meant to talk about civil unions. Some people say it
looks as if he`s moved in opposite direction as public opinion. In 1996,
he was in favor of this then he was not.
How do you understood that word evolving? What do you hear when you
hear the president say that word?
WOLFSON: Well, what I hear on the one hand is a fair reflection of a
journey so many Americans have taken. People have wrestled with this as
the president said. People have taken in new information and learned about
gay families and why marriage matters and thought about what the vice
president said -- love and loyalty to the person you love and added that up
and said, you know what, it`s wrong to deny this to these couples. And so
many Americans like the vice president have evolved in the way he
But, you know, evolving is not evolved. And evolved is not evade.
WOLFSON: And so at some point, there comes a time where even people
who may not really care that much or may not be for the freedom to marry
don`t want to see in-authenticity. They don`t want to see a president that
seems to be on the advice of political operatives or otherwise holding back
or dancing. They want to see a president lead.
And this president has taken so many important pro-gay, pro-equality,
pro-marriage steps of really truly historic magnitude that he`s very little
to lose and a lot to gain by completing the journey and being authentic.
HAYES: Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry -- thanks so much
for your time tonight. Really appreciate it.
WOLFSON: Good to be with you.
HAYES: The Republicans are dedicated to bringing Europe`s misery to
our shores. Europe`s voters have a message for them. That`s next.
HAYES: David Vitter may be known as the gentleman from Louisiana
with the sex worker line item on his curriculum, go ahead. You can Google
it. The senator`s dangerous obstructionist games may prove to be the
difference in President Obama`s re-election chances.
The economy, the recovery and David Vitter -- still ahead.
HAYES: Check this out. This was the scene last night in Paris,
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HAYES: Tens of thousands of French citizens gathered into Bastille
Square last night. They belted out the French national anthem in unison to
celebrate this, the election of a new French president.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HAYES: That animation is so awesome.
The new president`s name is Francois Hollande. Mr. Hollande, who
defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in a runoff last night, ran on a platform of
reducing France`s reliance on nuclear power, getting French troops out of
Afghanistan by the end of the year, support for same-sex marriage and, most
importantly, ending France`s experiment with austerity.
As the dramatic budget cuts, huge cuts in government spending as a
means of boosting the economy.
Yesterday was a bad day for austerity around the world. In addition
to France ,voters in Greece also threw out a number of politicians who are
pushing for more austerity there.
In the four years since the Great Recession through threw the whole
world off its economic axis, there`s been a grand experiment under way. Do
you rescue your nation`s economy through austerity or do you respond by
actually increasing government spending, by injecting stimulus into your
In broad strokes, the United States and President Obama have chosen
stimulus while Europe has chosen austerity. And austerity has turned out
to be mighty unpopular. It`s not just the French and Greeks who are now
rebelling against austerity measures at the polls. Last month, the Dutch
government collapsed entirely over a backlash in the Netherlands over
This was the scene last week in Spain. Thousands of demonstrators
took to the street to protest against the Spanish`s government insistence
And British Prime Minister David Cameron who has been the poster boy
for austerity saw his party clobbered in local elections last week.
Austerity has proved to be massively unpopular across Europe. And it`s not
just because it brought with it predictably popular cuts in government
services. It`s because it hasn`t seemed to work to get the economy going
Two years after the election of David Cameron, the UK has slid back
into recession. It`s the U.K.`s first double dip recession since the
This is what`s happened to the U.S. economy and the economy of the
U.K since the Great Recession struck. As you can see there, both economies
cratered in 2008. Since then the U.K. instituted harsh austerity measures
and here`s what happened there. Their economy recovered initially, but it
has since taken a turn for the worse.
The United States rejected austerity measures and instead opted for a
government stimulus package and this was the result -- growth. Slow and at
times uneven growth, but growth nonetheless.
The U.S. has so far managed to avoid the sort of double dip recession
the U.K. is experiencing now. It`s been the same story throughout much of
Europe as stimulus measures have jumped started the U.S. economy, eurozone
countries which have adopted austerity measures have seen their economies
recover at first and then drop off.
Here in the U.S., there`s even evidence now that less austerity could
have actually improved the economy even more. This graph was posted by
Justin Lahart of "the Wall Street Journal" today. It shows that if the
federal government had spent money to keep government workers rather than
lay them off, the unemployment rate would be somewhere around 7.2 percent
instead of 8.1 percent.
And yet, in the face of all of this evidence, we are now in the
precarious situation in this country where one of the two major political
parties is unwaveringly zealously committed to austerity -- massive cut,
massive cuts in government spending, a rejection of any government
administered stimulus for the economy, precisely the sort of policies that
have failed in Europe so far.
We have one major party in this country committed to bringing
Europe`s misery to our shores and ironically, it`s the party usually busy
demonizing everything about Europe.
There is, however, one last small glimmering hope to escape the
straitjacket of austerity in this country. And you`ll be shocked to learn
the not so secret story of how Republicans are cinching the belt on that
one, too. That`s next.
HAYES: Louisiana Republican David Vitter is a very -- how should I
put this -- he`s a very holdy kind of guy.
Under Senate rules, a single senator like David Vitter can hold back
the nomination indefinitely of almost anyone for almost any reason. It`s a
crazy rule, but there it is.
This is one main ways David Vitter makes headlines back home,
actually. In 2010, the Louisiana Republican blocked a string of nominees
by President Obama for positions in the criminal justice system.
In 2011, Senator Vitter put a hold on president`s pick for a position
in the Department of Interior. This year, in January, a nominee held by
Senator Vitter gave up. He waited more than a year to be considered as
chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Today, Senator Vitter is back in the news with a pair of new holds
for positions that are to the general public slightly obscure but are also
probably the two single most important, unfilled positions in the entire
country. I really mean that, nothing less than economic recovery and the
president`s election chances rest on that.
The two men, Jerome Powell and Jeremy Stein are nominated to serve on
the Federal Reserve board of governors and Vitter explained his rationale
for blocking them this way. "I refuse to provide Chairman Bernanke with
two more rubber stamps who approve of the Fed`s activist policies."
This quote is a breathtaking statement for a few reasons. One,
Vitter is not saying anything about the nominee`s qualifications but simply
where their policy preferences might lie. This is all the more remarkable
because one economist is a Republican.
Economist Justin Wolfer commented today on Twitter, quote, "I don`t
know a single economist left or right who thinks putting a hold on Stein
and Powell is a good idea. I bet you can`t find one."
He then followed up, quote, "Literally, every Republican economist
I`ve talked to thinks Stein would make a fantastic Fed governor. I agree."
Which brings us to the second remarkable thing about Vitter`s quote,
which is that he`s accusing Ben Bernanke, a former Bush White House
economic adviser, it registered Republican and a man originally appointed
to the Fed by W., himself, of being some kind of wild-eyed activist
And third, Vitter is saying though not quite in these words, he
opposes any effort to grow the economy. He opposes any effort to bring
down unemployment. He`s saying in that quote and showing in his actions
that he wants the economy to grind to a halt. He wants it to die.
Because there are two strategies basically the government -- the
federal government can use to help in times of economic collapse. The
first is for the government to step in and spend money to build roads and
bridges and so on.
During the Great Recession, President Obama asked Congress for almost
$800 billion in stimulus spending -- a large amount but an amount that was
probably too small.
Still, consider this chart. You can see the Obama stimulus kicks in
and then new claims for jobless benefits start falling. The government
starts spending and fewer people get laid off. The correlation is pretty
direct -- government spending props up the economy while the private sector
The other way government can help is the way conservatives have
tended to favor and that`s through the Federal Reserve.
Until his death a few years ago, conservative economist Milton
Friedman preached a gospel of monetary policy overall-ish. The idea was
that the Federal Reserve can help a floundering economy by making money
cheaper to borrow. If you can borrow money at a lower interest rate,
you`re more likely to buy a house, or buy a car or start a business.
Milton Friedman`s idea was that the Federal Reserve should take action
during crises to make sure the supply of money expands as much as the
economy needs to grow.
Friedman served as an adviser to President Reagan who considered him
a hero of free enterprise, and American prosperity and he was also a hero
to Ben Bernanke, whose academic work builds off of Friedman`s.
Many people think Bernanke privately wants the Fed to be more
aggressive about putting more money into the economy, especially as
unemployment remains so stubbornly high. But he needs allies on the Fed to
make that happen. It is one glimmer of hope that someone, anyone, will
join him and do something to hurry up with job creation rather than watch
the labor market slowly burn.
And it is that glimmer of hope that David Vitter wants to stamp out.
Joining is Betsey Stevenson, an economist and professor with the
Wharton School and Princeton, a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve
Bank of San Francisco and the National Bureau of Economic research, and
former chief economist for the Department of Labor -- I think I have gotten
your full C.V. into that intro.
Dr. Stevenson, great to have you here tonight.
BETSEY STEVENSON, PRINCETON ECONOMICS PROFESSOR: Great to be here.
HAYES: What is the effect of these vacancies on the Federal Reserve
STEVENSON: Well, let`s think about how the FOMC works. There are
supposed to be 12 voting members. Seven of them should be governors. And
that actually means democratically-appointed through Congress approval
members. And then five of them represent the 12 Federal Reserve banks, and
those bank presidents actually get chosen by the individual bank boards.
And so, what we have right now is instead of situation of five
governors and five bank presidents and two empty slots. So, first of all,
what we have is just, we still have the same amount of work that has to get
done. And now, it`s falling on the shoulders of 10 people instead of 12.
HAYES: And also, what you`re saying the center of gravity is tipped
in an anti-democratic direction by the vacancies basically.
STEVENSON: Yes, it`s absolutely right.
HAYES: That it`s local bank presidents essentially who are helping
drive the policy. And when Ben Bernanke goes to this committee, of the
FOMC, the Open Market Committee, they`re the ones, together with the
chairman, Ben Bernanke, who say, basically -- to oversimplify it: we`re
going to put more money into the economy. We`re going to keep thing where
they are. We`re going to take things out of the economy.
And there`s been kind of a battle, right, on this committee brewing
over what`s the best path forward?
STEVENSON: There`s definitely been a battle over thinking about,
first of all, I think there`s two issues. One is how much of our current
downturn is still due to a shortfall in aggregate demand and therefore very
easily impacted by accommodated monetary policy.
And then second of all, you know, we really have a hard time
forecasting where the economy is going in the future. So, when they`re
trying to think about -- well, how much accommodation do we need? They
need to say what do we think GDP is going to be next year, or what do we
think unemployment is going to be next year?
And the question is, how much are we willing to risk overshooting on
inflation in order to balance that risk with, you know, not overshooting on
STEVENSON: And I think people have different tolerance levels. How
much inflation risk will you tolerate? And there are folks out there who
want to tolerate zero.
And those are folks who want to get rid of the dual mandate. They do
not want the Federal Reserve board to care about unemployment. They want
the board to only care about inflation.
HAYES: Yes, let me briefly translate that a little bit because this
stuff can get sort of jargony.
Basically, the Fed has two jobs which is the dual mandate, right?
They`re supposed to reduce unemployment and they`re supposed to also make
sure we don`t get a ton of inflation. And there`s a tension between those
two because you have to trade off between the two of them. Right now,
they`re sitting there as unemployment is very high and inflation is very
And so, the obvious thing, as an amateur, not an economist, myself,
but people who are watching this happen, say, look, we have very high
unemployment. It`s higher than it`s been in a generation. We have long
term unemployment that has tons of people sitting on the sideline on the
labor force, the Fed should be doing so much more to get that unemployment
down. And there are still people on the Federal Reserve board who are
saying, nope, nope, sorry, we`ve done all we can do, this is basically it,
That is essentially the status quo right now?
STEVENSON: I think, yes, that`s exactly right. But I do want to
emphasize, you know, I have no idea what Jeremy Stein or J. Powell, what
these guys would do. Are they going to be hawkish or dovish? Are they
going to vote for more accommodative monetary policy? I don`t know.
What I do know is they`re incredibly skilled and that they know the
financial system in and out. And they`re going to bring good decision
making and strong analytic skills to the board of governors. And that`s
what we`re crowding out.
You know, Peter Diamond in his complaints about not being appointed
said we were drowning out skilled analytic thinking in favor of partisan
politics instead. And that`s a mistake for running our monetary policy.
HAYES: Yes, Peter Diamond was a Nobel Prize winning economist who
was blocked by Republicans and did not make the cut for reasons one
imagines similar to the reasons these economists are being blocked.
STEVENSON: But actually, you know, Peter Diamond didn`t make the cut
because he showed in his research that he cared an thought about
unemployment. And so, that was a big no-no.
You know, these guys they are blocking now, they`re financial market
STEVENSON: They are not guys who have shown they care or think about
unemployment. I`m not criticizing them. I`m just saying that, you know,
we understood -- the constraints were understood. And what the -- you
know, the administration chose people to nominate that really you shouldn`t
be able to protest against.
And that`s what Justin Wolfer`s tweet was all about. These guys are
just straight up thinkers. They served under both -- Jeremy Stein served
under both administrations. J. Powell`s a Republican.
STEVENSON: I mean, they`re technocrats who know the financial
system. To put a hold on them is absurd.
HAYES: Yes, we have seen an evolution similar to what we`ve seen in
judicial nominees, which is that the boundary of what is the threshold of
acceptability. That first if, you know, you show you`re a liberal, then
you`re out. Now, you can`t just be a moderate, you have to show you have
conservative bona fides. And so, we`re ending up in this position similar
to what we`re seeing in judicial nominees where we have this dysfunction
born of reckless holds left and right.
Betty Stevenson, economist and professor at Princeton and Wharton --
thank you so much in sharing your considerable smarts with us tonight.
It`s a treat.
STEVENSON: It`s great to talk with you.
HAYES: So, as I said, if you like the run out the clock game of
obstruction Republicans are playing with the Fed, then you`ll love what
they are pulling in our court system. It`s officially empirically worse
than it`s been in a very long time. That`s coming up.
HAYES: The Mitt Romney campaign had to put out this statement today
which is pretty strange considering Romney is the presumptive nominee.
Quote, "Governor Romney has a lot of respect for Dr. Paul," that`s Ron
Paul, of course, "and the energy his supporters bring to the process. We
look forward to working together to help Mitt Romney defeat President Obama
this fall. As for individual state conventions, make no mistake the Tampa
convention will nominate Mitt Romney and it will be his convention."
Think about this -- Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee, the guy who
racked up those primary wins, thinks we need to be reminded he will in fact
be nominated at his party`s convention. The reason is headlines like
these. Ron Paul wins majority of Nevada delegates with Romney all but the
nominee, Ron Paul snags delegate majority at Maine`s GOP convention.
If this sounds like news, you`re not wrong because Mitt Romney
already "won", in quotation marks, those contests earlier this year. Back
in February, he won the Nevada caucus and Maine straw poll. In Nevada,
Romney got 50 percent of the vote, Ron Paul got 19 percent. But when
Nevada sends 28 delegates to the party convention this summer, at least 22
supporters, because this weekend, Ron Paul supporters took over the Nevada
County Republican conventions.
Now, the Nevada delegates are bound to the results from the February
caucus which means they have to vote for Romney even though they are Paul
supporters. That holds for the first round of voting. If Mitt Romney
doesn`t secure the nomination on the first ballot, those delegates are then
free to vote for whoever they darn well please. And we already know that
at least 22 of them darn well please Ron Paul.
In Maine`s February straw poll, Romney got 39 percent to Ron Paul`s
35 percent. When Maine sends its 24 delegates to the convention, 21 will
be Ron Paul supporters. Because Maine`s February vote will be nonbinding,
those 21 delegates get to vote for Ron Paul in Tampa.
In other words, Ron Paul just won Maine. He won Maine using the
delegate strategy our own Anthony Terrell said he`d use on the night of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY TERRELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The real race is in
delegates. That`s where the Ron Paul camp thinks they`re going to win,
with the delegates. And so, some of the volunteers at the couple other
places I was at today were handing out sheets of paper explaining to
supporters how they could become a delegate.
So, it`s not just about the initial vote for the candidate. It`s
about sticking around and becoming a delegate to go on further and to vote
for Ron Paul at the county convention and at the state convention as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: These victories in Nevada and Maine are not unique. Last
month Ron Paul supporters took over the Louisiana caucuses, netting Paul
almost as many delegates as Romney won in the state`s primary the month
before. In Massachusetts, Ron Paul delegates were overwhelmingly elected
over Mitt Romney`s. Ron Paul supporters got a Ron Paul supporter elected
as state party chair in Alaska.
Paul supporters have also secured him half the delegates in Iowa.
And more than half the delegates in Minnesota and Washington state.
All told, Ron Paul and his supporters have had victories in Nevada,
Maine, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Washington.
That`s eight states. No. He is not going to secure the Republican
But he and his supporters now have a foot securely in the door of the
Republican convention. The question is: will Mitt Romney trip over it?
HAYES: Tonight, the United States senate voted three new judges to
the federal bench. Testimony votes weren`t close.
By a final vote of 91-3. Jacqueline Nguyen will be the first
Vietnamese-American federal appeal court judge. She`ll be on the ninth
circuit court of appeals out west.
John Z. Lee will preside in a district court seat in Illinois. He
was approved tonight by a voice vote.
And Kristine G. Baker was confirmed also by a voice vote for district
court seat in Arkansas.
There was no controversy in getting these nominations out of the
Senate Judiciary Committee either, which voted unanimously on all three
So, unanimous votes in the judiciary committee and overwhelming vote
before the full Senate tonight. Easy, right?
Well, no, not at all. This undeniably uncontroversial thing the
senators did tonight, confirming highly qualified nominees to the federal
bench is perhaps the most difficult thing to get done in the current United
States Senate. In fact, tonight`s vote only came about as the result of a
deal Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid struck back in march. He agreed to
hold a debate on a Republican bill to cut business regulations in order to
get Republicans to agree in turn to vote on at least two judicial
nominations a week. That deal runs out today.
Which means we`ll be back to the broken status quo, a status quo
rendered in shocking detail in a new report released today. This morning,
"The alliance your justice" released their findings of how dysfunctional
the Senate has become on judicial appoints. Judicial vacancies are nearly
double what they were at this point in the George W. Bush administration.
Nearly one out of ten federal judgeships are empty.
And that is simply not supposed to be the case this far into a
president`s first term.
In President Clinton`s first term, vacancies on the federal bench
declined by more than half, by 57 percent. In President Bush`s first term,
they decline by even more than that. They were down by 60 percent.
But at this point in the Obama presidency, current vacancies on the
bench have gone up, not down. And they`ve risen by an astonishing 43
I think this bears repeating. At this point in Clinton`s presidency,
judicial vacancies had declined 57 percent. At this point in Bush`s
presidency, they`ve declined 60 percent. At this point in the Obama
administration, vacancies have increased by 43 percent.
In other words, this isn`t just run of mill politics and not a case
of everybody does it. Things aren`t just bad, they are historically bad.
There are consequences for that.
Two of the confirmations were for district court seats, district
courts being where the bulk of federal law takes place. Majority of
federal cases are filed in district courts where they appear on the dockets
of judges like John Z. Lee and Kristine G. Baker.
Leave enough of those seats empty and that creates judicial
emergencies where basically there aren`t enough judges to keep up with
heavy workload. At the beginning of Obama`s presidency, there were 20
judicial emergencies. There are now 34. That`s an increase of 70 percent.
Somewhat remarkably, the Republicans have through sheer implacable
will and repetition converted extraordinary obstruction into something
ordinary and routine. And so, a vicious cycle sets in which the press no
longer covers what`s happening because no one think its news. Republicans
block judicial nominees as much a dog bites man story as exists.
My next guest is trying to frantically get the media to see this for
what it is -- an unprecedented crisis.
Joining me is now Nan Aron. She the president for the Alliance for
Justice, as well as a lawyer, specializing in public interests law.
Nan, thanks for being here.
NAN ARON, ALLIANCE FOR JUSTICE: Thank you so much for having me.
It`s a treat.
HAYES: Nan, the report is, I will say, I will admit, myself, to
finding myself thinking, well, this is run of the mill and we`ve had these
oscillating periods in which one party is controlling a Senate and one
party`s controlling the White House and they try to do what they can. What
makes this period different? Why is it so much different than the first
three years or first 3 1/2 years of Clinton and Bush?
ARON: What makes it so different is that Republicans are engaging in
an unprecedented level of obstructionism. It`s pure politics. Even
nominees who they support, they`re actually blocking and preventing votes
So, today, if you look at those 14 nominees who were confirmed over
the pass several weeks, we see that all of those nominees were pending on
the floor last year. That just tells you how far back this Senate is.
There was a meeting today at the White House. I was gratified to see
so many activists from around the country who were involved in judicial
nominations essentially there to ask the White House to press for the
confirmation of judges, as well as put names for all of these vacancies in
the pipeline before the end of the year.
HAYES: Well, what, how -- if it`s just a matter of the Republicans
being unprecedented in the way they`ve gone about this, what does that
mean? I mean, why -- what are the tools they are using and why would they
do something like block nominees they support?
ARON: Oh, they block nominees for the main reason of leaving as many
vacancies on the bench with the hope that a future Republican Party will
come in and fill them. We saw this with the -- at the end of the Clinton
administration, there were 61 nominees who never got a vote. George W.
Bush came into office and all those vacancies were filled. And on top of
other vacancies that had recently been completed.
So, this is a very well orchestrated strategy on the part of
Republicans to play politics.
HAYES: Why do -- why are the Republicans more effective at this than
Democrats? Why is it the case they`re better at blocking judicial nominees
and stonewalling and using all these tactics than Democrats seem to be?
ARON: I think we`ve seen going back to 1954 with Brown versus Board
of Education, and Roe v. Wade, a very organized right wing constituency of
the Republican Party that cares passionately about the courts and they are
joined in their passion by Republican senators.
But I should say that today, I was really pleased to see so many
activists and a White House pledging to press ahead despite Republican
filibusters which of course we`ll see. Press ahead for the confirmation.
I think it`s an awakening on the part of progressives, as well as the
White House that this is really important.
HAYES: What does that mean, though? That word press ahead sounds
disconcertingly vague to me, because if they are using procedural obstacles
that are not violations of the rules, they are in the rules, they`re just
using them to their effect, what does press ahead look like? How to you
force the issue?
ARON: Press ahead means that in the wake of what Republicans will
claim is a slowdown or what should be a slowdown in an election year of
Senate confirmations. This White House is going to aggressively work for
the confirmation of judicial nominees despite Republicans` best efforts to
curtail these votes or simply eliminate these votes. And that was very
good to hear, actually.
HAYES: What does that mean? Work for?
If they can block them, right? If it has now become the case you
need to get above 60 percent to essentially put an end to whatever
techniques they`re using, to stall and to obstruct, and you don`t have
those 60 votes, what does pressing ahead, what do you do? Do you put just
political pressure on them? Is it just a matter of the president taking
the Rose Garden and for Democratic lawmakers to make this an issue that`s
at the top of the priority?
ARON: I think pressing ahead is a few things. One, it`s the
president talking about judges and talking about why courts matter. It`s
activists lobbying and pressuring home state senators to push for votes.
It`s individuals pressing for Harry Reid to call up these votes.
After all, we`ve got now 19 nominees pending on the Senate floor.
We`re calling on the Majority Leader Reid, to immediately begin to schedule
votes on each and every of these nominees as well as future nominees that
HAYES: Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, with great
new report out today. You can check it out at their Web site. Many thanks
for your time tonight.
ARON: Thanks so much, Chris.
MADDOW: Right after this show on "THE LAST WORD," how Chris
Christie`s vice presidential prospects compare to Joe DiMaggio. Lawrence
O`Donnell solves that one, next. Don`t miss that.
And here, a rocker who sticks it to the man. It`s the best new thing
in the world. Watch and learn, Ted Nugent. That`s up next.
HAYES: Amanda Palmer is a rock star. She fronted the excellent
Dresden Dolls, has played sold out venues around the world and gave herself
a bold middle name that you can Google but I cannot say.
She`s also done something that`s the best new thing in the world
today. She has turned the model of the music business upside down. To put
out a record, it has always been a band or performer needed a record
company which would front the money for the production of the record and
would distribute the record and market it.
Amanda Palmer is over that. A few days ago, Kickstarter.com, Amanda
Palmer solicited money for her next project, a record, part book, and tour.
In return, she offered C.D. downloads, sign books and art openings
depending on what you donated.
Her goal was $100,000. She beat that in seven hours. In less than a
week, she`s raised almost $600,000 for her new project.
At the same time, she has started the Loan Spark collective, another
crowd funding apparatus. She say she will repay any loan within 18 months,
but rather than pay interest, she will donate her skills to the charity of
the donor`s choice on top of the repayment of capital.
So, what does all this mean? Well, it means that Amanda Palmer has a
lot of very devoted fans. It means she had the -- whatever you want to
call it, to use the power she has earned in the exact way she wanted to.
It means the bureaucracy and profiteering that used to live in between
producers of stuff and consumers of that stuff has at least in Amanda
Palmer`s world, been eliminated.
In creating a new economically viable mode of cultural production is
the best new thing in the world today.
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back tomorrow. You can
catch my show "UP" weekend mornings at 8:00. And follow me on Twitter
Right now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.
Thank you so much. Have a great night.
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