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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: David Axelrod, Diana DeGette


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: You know, Ed, I`m up in Boston. I was at a
cable show over here today, and I signed copies of my new book.

And I got lots and lots of greetings to Ed Schultz from everybody up
here in Boston. You`re a hero up here, man.

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Thank you. I appreciate that.
That`s nice to hear.

MADDOW: Nice to hear. I thought it was nice, too. Thanks, Ed. I
appreciate it.

All right. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
hour. We have got David Axelrod this next hour, the president`s senior
strategist for his reelection campaign. David Axelrod is going to be
joining us in just a moment, live. I`m very much looking forward to that
conversation.

The U.S. Congress, as you know, has 435 members in the House and
another 100 members in the Senate. At any given, at least time one of
those duly elected 535 people is in trouble. I don`t just mean they`re
having a hard time getting re-elected kind of trouble. I don`t mean
they`re having a bad news cycle kind of trouble.

I mean real, actual trouble trouble -- like large bundles of cash from
bribes you took stashed in the freezer trouble. Like soliciting sex from
an undercover police officer in an airport bathroom trouble. Like
convicted on 11 different counts of ethics by your colleagues in Congress
trouble. Like unexplained $96,000 checks from your parents to your
mistress trouble.

Sometimes members of Congress get into trouble. It happens in both
parties and, frankly, it happens all the time. Sometimes depending on the
particular type of trouble and the particular member of Congress, it can
get a lot of national attention, but sometimes it doesn`t get very much
attention.

Frankly, somebody is always in trouble in congress. Right now, the
man who I guess would be Mr. April or maybe Mr. May in the calendar for
having trouble in Congress this year would be this guy. His name is
Congressman David Rivera.

Mr. Rivera is a conservative Republican freshman congressman from
Florida. And Congressman Rivera has been investigated by the FBI, the IRS,
by the Miami-Dade Police Department Public Corruptions Unit, by the Miami-
Dade state attorney`s office, by Florida Department of Law Enforcement --
all over corruption allegations that he used his position as a state
representative for personal financial gain, that he misused campaign
donations for his own personal use, that he lied repeatedly on financial
disclosure forms.

So far the only real national attention Congressman Rivera has had for
his trouble has been about his financial links to Senator Marco Rubio. The
two of them owned a house together, a house that`s now in foreclosure.
Marco Rubio has had his own trouble for using political money for personal
expenses.

So, there`s been a little bit of coverage about the connections
between this under investigation Florida congressman and the wannabe vice
president, Florida freshman senator.

But even without the Marco Rubio thing, regardless of how much
attention it has gotten him nationwide, Congressman David Rivera`s legal
troubles are real. That`s why he has become the latest astonishing
judgment call by this year`s Republican Party.

Today`s scheduled speaker on a conference call organized for reporters
by the Republican National Committee, the scheduled speaker was Florida
Congressman David Rivera, putting him up as the party spokesman today --
the man who has been under investigation by the FBI, IRS and multiple local
law enforcement agencies for public corruption. Ultimately, after many
raised eyebrow, national Republicans announced that on second thought,
David Rivera wouldn`t be on the call after all. They said they had brand
new scheduling difficulties with him.

It`s just amazing, right? Like you do not want to believe a national
party in the middle of an election would pick that guy to represent them to
the national press, but they picked that guy.

This really is what national Republicans under Reince Priebus and what
the Mitt Romney campaign have been like right now. They keep making errors
like this. Remember it was the Romney campaign this year that lined up two
Republicans who voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act as the speakers on
call that was supposed to reassure voters about Mitt Romney`s position in
favor of fair pay.

The national Republican Party set up a conference call to go after
President Obama on his American jobs record. That particular call they
outsourced to call center in the Philippines. Please press one for
English.

Remember, the Romney campaign set up a call for reporters to rebut the
charge that Mitt Romney would take us back to the old George W. Bush
foreign policy and two of the three surrogates they put on that call had
been George W. Bush policy people.

Republicans this year keep making this big, obvious, laugh out loud
political errors, these unforced errors, picking exactly the wrong person
to make whatever their political case of the day is. They keep making
these errors and they keep not having to pay for them.

Romney campaign did it again today maybe worse than ever. Today they
hosted another conference call for reporters. This one with Romney
surrogate John Sununu.

John Sununu, of course, the former New Hampshire governor, former
White House chief of staff for the first President Bush, John Sununu may be
Mitt Romney`s highest profile surrogate anywhere in the country.

This Republican call that Mr. Sununu was scheduled for today was
designed to complain about the Obama campaign taking on Governor Romney`s
time in the private sector. It was designed to get the world off of Mitt
Romney`s back when it comes to Bain capital. And on that call, John Sununu
told reporters, quote, "I think the Bain record is fair game."

Seriously, he actually said that. Listen, it`s on tape.

I think it was on tape. Did it just say I and it stopped? The magic
of technical difficulties.

I think the Bain record is fair game. The whole message, the single
unifying talking point in Republican presidential politics right now for
the party, for the Romney campaign, the entire deal comes down to do not
talk about Bain capital. You hate free enterprise and all business if you
talk about Bain Capital cued by the Romney campaign to say that, to say do
not talk about Bain Capital, and the Romney campaign`s highest profile
surrogate instead says the opposite.

He says, sure. Go after Bain. It`s fair game. Dig in.

And he says it to the reporters summoned by the campaign for the
purpose of hearing what he has to say. Just disaster, right, an epic
political gaffe. We`ll be hearing about that for three days. That will
occlude all other developments in domestic politics.

Of course not. Of course not. The nation will not be hearing about
John Sununu`s journey to the pantheon of off-message surrogates.

And yet this is exactly -- this is exactly the kind of off message
misadventuring that has caused three straight days of heartburn for the
Obama campaign and for Newark, New Jersey`s Democratic Mayor Cory Booker
after he criticized both sides of the race for negative campaigning. And
he went off message for the Democrats about Bain.

Cory Booker made the exact same kind of mistake that John Sununu made
today, and he made it on the exact same subject. The only difference is
that the Republican in this off message duo is a much more prominent guy.
They made the same face plant only John`s was bigger because John Sununu`s
role in this campaign is bigger.

But if you heard about John Sununu`s gaffe today at all,
congratulations. That means you read very obscure blogs because it was
nowhere else. There thought to be a merit badge for this sort of thing.

In politics, in the sport of politics, and trying to win by
campaigning, it`s not a matter of who makes gaffes and who doesn`t or who
makes bigger gaffes and who makes smaller ones. It`s matter of who
capitalizes on them better when they inevitably happen. Right now, that`s
very clear.

Here is the other edge of that sword. The biggest buy for a single ad
yet in this political season, bigger than anything you`ve seen by the Koch
brothers, bigger than anything that has run in all the state craziness
campaigns this year, bigger than anything from President Obama`s re-
election campaign, bigger than anything you`ve seen from the Romney
campaign, or from the big kahuna from Karl Rove, bigger than anything is
this new election season is this new ad from Karl Rove.

There was so much money behind this ad. It`s a $10 million ad buy.
It`s going to be playing in so many places that I don`t feel guilty giving
it free air time by playing it right now because you`re going to be seeing
it any way no matter how hard you try to get away from it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama started spending like our credit cards
have no limit. His health care law made health insurance even more
expensive. We`ve had stimulus and bailouts. Obama added almost $16,000 in
debt for every American. How will my kids pay that off when they can`t
find jobs?

Now, Obama wants more spending in taxes. That won`t fix things.

I had so many hopes. Cutting taxes and debt and creating jobs, that`s
the change we need. Tell President Obama to cut the job-killing debt and
support the new majority agenda at newmajorityagenda.org.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You can see at the end, at the bottom it says paid for by
Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies. Karl Rove and his three
billionaires. That`s supposed to be the grassroots.

This is the ad that is getting a $10 million roll out. The biggest ad
of the election season so far.

And the ad shows the random piece of paper with the word student loan
written on it. That`s to show you implicitly I guess that President Obama
has somehow been very bad for people who have student loans.

The ad tells you that president open started spending like our credit
cards have no limit.

The ad says we need to cut the debt and then it says in the next
sentence, we need to cut the debt.

If you agree with those sentiments, you are supposed to go to Karl
Rove`s new anti-Obama, pro-Romney Web site and hereby be persuaded to vote
for Mitt Romney.

If you agree with those sentiments on that ad, you are supposed to
vote for Mitt Romney -- even though on student loans, what`s Mitt Romney`s
advice. His advice on that is if some reason, you need help paying for
college, frankly, you should have shopped around for a cheaper school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope you shopped around
and find a school with the lowest possible tuition.

My best advice is find a great institution of higher learning, find
one that has the right price. Shop around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Even in the latest fight in Washington over student loans, it
was President Obama and Democrats saying the interest rates should not be
allowed to double this summer. Republicans in the Senate filibustered
that.

In terms of student loans, it was President Obama who doubled Pell
Grants. It was President Obama who cut out the middleman Sallie Mae,
right? Cut out the middleman organization so there wasn`t random profit in
the system that doesn`t serve students and put that money toward more
student loans.

Nobody`s done more on student loans to make the burden of student
loans less than this administration. Mitt Romney does not believe in
federal support for student loans and says find a cheaper school. Shop
around, you`re not going to get any help from me.

But Karl Rove`s assertion is that President Obama is making student
loans worse. If you`re worried about student loans it`s probably because
President Obama being so bad on the issue. In this ad, it is Karl Rove`s
assertion that under President Obama spending has gone through the roof,
unprecedented spending that started under President Obama.

Factually speaking, spending has leveled off under President Obama.
Spending is not skyrocketing under President Obama. Spending is flattening
out under President Obama.

If you do care about the national deficit, if Karl Rove`s ad is
working as he wants it to and you`re getting riled up about the national
deficit, then you should hear the news from the nonpartisan Tax Policy
Center. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the Romney budget plan would
increase the deficit by several trillion dollars over the next decade.

The Obama plan on the other hand would cut the deficit by trillions
the over the same period. Prepare for $10 million worth of this ad telling
you if you`re worried about student loans and spending and the deficit, you
ought to vote against the guy who has been comparatively pretty good on the
issues. And at least on the deficit, you ought to vote for the guy who
would make it worse by trillions and trillions of dollars.

You cannot shock anybody by telling them a Karl Rove ad tells a lie.
The issue here is that the assertions in this $10 million ad buy are just
blatantly at face value, shockingly dishonest to anybody who understands
anything about these issues that are in this ad.

We`re told that Republicans have focus group this ad down to the last
bristle on the air brush. They are confident that the assertions in this
ad, even though shocking false to anybody who knows the fact, they are
confident that the assertion in this ad will not actually be shocking to
anyone.

They are confident in that because they believe that people do not
know what the facts are. Are they right?

If so, the number one question for the Obama reelection is: why don`t
more people know the actual facts? And how do you run on your record when
the other side has crafted an entirely new record for you -- a record they
would rather run against instead of the record of what you have done.

The chief strategist for the Obama reelection campaign, David Axelrod,
joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The chief strategist for the president`s reelection campaign
is our guest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to show you
and I think you all got a copy of this graph before you came in. The red
job is Bush and the blue lines is us. You can see the jobs lost in the
first several months of our administration. That`s before any of our
policies were put in place. We signed the Recover Act. We saved the
automobile industry. We gave tax cuts to businesses and homeowners, and
things began to change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was Vice President Joe Biden this afternoon in New
Hampshire breaking out one of our all-time favorite graphs. What we used
to call the bikini graph.

The vice president using that job creation graph in an attempt to use
facts as a counter point to the Romney`s claim that things have gotten
worse during the president`s term. That`s not true, but that`s what they
are running on anyway.

How do you run against that?

Joining us now is David Axelrod, senior political strategist for the
Obama 2012 reelection campaign.

Mr. Axelrod, it`s nice to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So, the Romney campaign is running on the idea that President
Obama has made the job situation worse, which isn`t true.

That the Obama administration is spending at an unprecedentedly high
rate -- which isn`t true.

You can`t really run on those things if people know they are not true.
But people don`t seem to instinctively know that. Do you guys have a
problem with voter information about the president`s real record?

AXELROD: Well, I think, you know, the country`s gone through a
difficult time and people experienced that. It`s gone through a difficult
time for a longer period of time than in the last three years. And, you
know, I think they know that too which that graph reflects.

We are running advertising now in many states that fee which you are
that graph that you just showed and other information about the
administration about the auto bailout that Mitt Romney opposed that saved
more than a million jobs and put the auto industry back on its feet and
other features that we have done.

I think one of the reasons why Mr. Rove and his super PAC are on with
such ferocity now is they are concerned about people receiving that
information, and what impact that might have and they`re hoping to out-
shout us.

But I think ultimately, the truth will -- it`s not just the truth
about what we`ve done but the truth about what they would do and what they
want to do. Mitt Romney, as you referred to, has offered plan that is very
much like the plan that Karl Rove and others put into place in the last
decade. He wants to cut taxes, $250,000 for millionaires, while raising
taxes on 18 million working Americans.

It`s a budget busting plan that the independent analysts would say
would as much a $5 trillion to our deficits. So, for them to reason ads
suggesting that the problem is debt and they`re the answer is absurd.

And that case will be prosecuted over the course of this campaign.
You can`t hide the impacts of what you`re trying to do or who you are or
what you`re record was, either in business or in state government.

All of those things are going to be part of this debate. And people
will make a choice in November. Now, I`m confident about the choice
they`re going to make.

MADDOW: You mentioned Karl Rove`s role. In the previous
administration, Karl Rove`s rule in shaping policy and politics over the
last decade. One of the things we learned this week is that Mitt Romney is
going to be doing a fund-raiser with former Vice President Dick Cheney.
He`s described him as the kind of vice president he would like to have.

I wonder, as you are shaping as the Obama re-election campaign`s
narrative about Mitt Romney, do you think there are important differences
between what Romney would offer and what the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney
years offered, or is it a continuation of the same idea that we saw with
the previous administration?

AXELROD: I think clearly it is. I`m not interested in relitigating
the past, but I don`t think we want to relive it. That`s what Romney is
suggesting.

His big economic idea is to go back to the same theory. If we cut
taxes for people at the very top heavily and cut Wall Street loose to write
its own rules, that somehow the entire economy will roar and everyone will
prosper. We know that`s not the case.

Listen, Mitt Romney has the foreign policy of the 1980s, the social
policy of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s, which we re-
visited a decade ago.

We don`t want to go backward. We want to go forward and build an
economy that is durable, in which the middle class is growing and not
shrinking and people who work hard can have a chance. That`s not clearly
the policy that Mitt Romney`s offering.

MADDOW: In terms of your ability to compete with the counter-
narrative that`s being presented not just been the Romney campaign but by
Karl Rove super PAC and by these other super PACs that seem to all be
pushing similar messages, is the arms race actually ramping up faster than
you thought it would. Did you expect there to be a $10 million super PAC,
anti-Obama ad buy at this stage? And is your fund raising on pace?

AXELROD: Well, look, this is a big concern. It`s not just a concern
for our campaign, but it`s a concern moving forward for our democracy.
Karl Rove, for example, the IRS reports, got a $10 million anonymous
donation for this group, probably paid for this whole buy. One donor wrote
a check. We won`t ever know who that donor is.

Our average contribution here is about $51 or something like that. It
will take 181,000 of those contributions to match that one anonymous donor.
You can multiply that. We expect them to spend as much as a billion
dollars in this race.

So, is that a concern for us? Yes. We have to redouble our efforts
at grassroots fund raising and other kinds of fundraising. I don`t see any
comparable effort mounting on the Democratic side, in part because a lot of
these donors who give to the Republican super PACs are doing it as an
investment.

They can write a $10 million check and if their particular special
interest is taking care of, they`ll get a return on their investment.
That`s not the way Democratic donors, you know, some of the large domestic
donors have approached policy. And so, you know, it is a difficult
situation but it`s one that we have to fight our way through.

I ultimately believe that at the end of the day that we will have the
resources to get our message across. We`ll push to get the resources.
We`ll have them and I think the truth will out ands the facts will out.
People take a look at these two people, these two candidates, what they`ve
done, who they are, where they want to go, and they`ll say, you know, what
is the best path for me.

And I think we`re going to win that fight.

MADDOW: I`ll tell you the Democratic dystopian perspective on that is
that Wisconsin is parallel for what`s happening at the national level. Two
weeks from today they will vote on whether to recall Scott Walker. On the
Democratic side, it`s essentially been a traditional, mostly low dollar,
mostly grassroots fundraising effort. There`s been union support
certainly. But it`s really been a people power thing.

On the Scott Walker side, it has been massive, massive national money
particularly from conservative zillionaires who have supported him.

Governor Walker, a few months ago, I don`t think anybody would have
thought he would be this far ahead in the polls heading into that race as
he is now. Do you see parallels there to the national race and
specifically in Wisconsin -- is there more that the Democratic Party could
be doing to help the recall effort against Walker?

AXELROD: Well, Rachel, first of all, there was a loophole in the law
that allows Governor Walker there to spend raise and spend unlimited
amounts of money until there were nominees. He spent $20 million and much
it came from people like the Koch brothers who have poured millions of
dollars into his campaign and he made good use of that. He`s been on
television for months. That`s obviously given him an advantage.

We have committed a million dollars or more of resources our entire
organization, there are 60 paid staffers, thousands of volunteers.
Hundreds of lawyers on the ground to help in this effort.

We`re also going to be sending out an e-mail from the Democratic
National Committee to help raise money for Tom Barrett, our candidate in
Wisconsin.

But there`s no doubt that Governor Walker got a big head start, thanks
to a loophole in the law. You`re quite right to shine a light on this.

There is real concern, I think, not just about this election or our
election but about the sort of durability of our democracy if you have a
situation where people can write enormous checks and do it anonymously so
no one ever knows where the money came from to try and buy the government
and influence public policies in there direction.

You can see when you look at the Romney policies, why they`d be
attracted to his candidacy. But that`s not good for country. It`s
certainly not good for the middle class, where a vision of an economy in
which people -- everybody who works hard has a chance to get ahead and
everybody plays by the same rules.

MADDOW: David Axelrod, senior political strategist for the Obama
reelection campaign -- David, thank you very much for your time. Hope you
come back soon.

AXELROD: Thank you. Like to. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. This just in: Some Republicans in Congress are
women. Why the Republican leadership of Congress really, really thinks
it`s important that you understand that. That`s just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUBBA CARPENTER: Ands, of course, there you have the other side.
They`re like, well, the poor, pitiful women that can`t afford to go out of
state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.
That`s what we heard over and over and over. But, hey, you have to have
more values. You have to start somewhere. That`s what we decided to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s where the discussion of moral values is in Mississippi
Republican politics right now. Hey, got to start somewhere. That`s a
Republican state representative named Bubba Carpenter.

The Republican Party`s self-imposed makeover on these issues, that`s
ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARPENTER: We have literally stopped abortion in the state of
Mississippi.

(APPLAUSE)

CARPENTER: Three blocks from the capitol sits the only abortion
clinic in state of Mississippi. A bill was drafted that said if you would
perform an abortion in the state of Mississippi, you must be a certified
OB/GYN and you must have admitting privileges to a hospital. Anybody here
in the medical field knows how hard it is to get admitting privileges to a
hospital. It`s going to be a challenge, of course, in the Supreme Court
and all -- but literally, we stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi
legally without having Roe versus Wade.

So we`ve done that. I was proud of it. The governor signed it into
law.

Ands, of course, there you have the other side. They`re like, well,
the poor, pitiful women that can`t afford to go out of state are just going
to start doing them at home with a coat hanger. That`s what we heard over
and over and over. But, hey, you have to have more values. You have to
start somewhere. That`s what we decided to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You have to have moral values. You have to start somewhere.

The was Bubba Carpenter, a Mississippi state representative, a
Republican, bragging about what he considers to be the successful
Republican effort in Mississippi to effectively ban legal abortion in that
state.

Technically, abortion is still legal. That`s guaranteed by the U.S.
Constitution, but the Republican plan in Mississippi is that, in practical
terms, you will soon not be able to get a legal abortion anywhere in the
state of Mississippi and if that leads to women killing themselves with
coat hangers, well, you have to start somewhere. You have to have moral
values.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama and Joe Biden beat
John McCain and Sarah Palin, and they beat them really badly. This was the
Electoral College vote. I was not close.

This was the percentage vote for the popular vote. Popular vote was
not close either. Part of the reasons the Democrats were able to get a big
overall margin of victory is that even though Republicans did have a female
vice presidential nominee, the Democrat won among women hugely. The
Democrats won among women voters by 13 points.

Well, today, the new NBC "Walk Street Journal" poll is out and it
shows the Democrats are no longer ahead in this election by 13 points like
they were last time. Now, instead of being ahead by 13 points, they are
ahead by 15 points.

Now, it`s early yet and the election is a long way off. We don`t know
who the vice presidential nominee will be this year. But that gender gap,
that 15-point gender gap in the vote this year is real. It is big. Right
now, it is big enough that it`s potentially determinative for the election.

And the Republicans know it. The most high profile campaign committee
in the Republican control House of Representatives is something called
young guns, which is associated with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. A
few weeks ago they unveiled a Young Guns for Gals. They`re calling it YG
Woman Up.

It`s supposed to be like man up but for woman. The kind of pink-is
logo.

The idea here is that the Republicans can`t be anti-woman because they
started this young guns group for ladies, so that they can work to elect
all of these women to Congress. Of course, the list of candidates the
Young Guns have endorsed is actually proportionately even less female than
the House of Representatives already is right now.

So, if you don`t think there are enough women in congress now, then
woman up and we`ll make that even worse.

Now, today, House Republicans are doing the same thing that the Young
Guns did, but they`re doing it writ large for the whole Republican caucus.
They have announced the formation of something called a Women`s Policy
Committee in the House.

Women`s Policy Committee, is that a committee for members of Congress
who are interested in policies that affect women`s issues. Do not be
fooled. It`s just a committee for members of the House of Representatives
who are themselves female and who are Republican.

In publicizing this new committee of theirs, House Republicans have
also perhaps inadvertently shown a light on the fact that of their 242
House Republican members, only two dozen of them are women.

But just as Republicans seem bewildered that putting Sarah Palin on
the ticket in 2008 did not help them do better with women voters that year,
they still seem baffled by the fact that their problem with women voters
isn`t necessarily an image problem. It`s not about whether or not
Republicans look female enough. It`s a policy problem.

They may have unveiled something called a Women`s Policy Committee but
it has nothing to do with policy. They are keeping the same policy. They
are keeping the Republican policy positions that earn the party the war on
women title this year.

They just want to show you some of the Republicans who espoused are
themselves female. Feel better?

So, yes, it is a guy named Bubba in Mississippi who is bragging about
how women might soon be using coat hangers to give themselves abortion in
that state and maybe killing themselves in the process.

But of the 24 members of the Women`s Policy Committee in the House of
Representatives, according to Planned Parenthood, their collective rating
on those member of Congress reporting reproductive rights average together
is below 6 percent.

As pointed by Think Progress today, every single one of these women
who was in Congress at the time voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay
Act, for women to be paid equally to men.

Twenty-two of these 24 of these people in this caucus voted for the
Republican roll back of the Violence Against Women Act.

This is where the whole war on women idea came from. This is where
that 15-point gender gap came from. It is policy. It isn`t just that
women voters just think that Republicans are all men. It isn`t that people
think President Obama is a woman.

It`s policy. It`s policy. It`s policy. It`s not about the
chromosomes of who is in power. It is about what people are using their
power for.

This week, 43 Catholics organizations filed lawsuit in federal states
across eight different states to give employers the right to ban women from
receiving contraception through their health insurance. Republicans took
up that side of the argument in the Senate with the Blunt-Rubio amendment
earlier this year, and they quickly concluded that had been a political
mistake. remember, the Blunt-Rubio amendment to roll back access to birth
control could have easily passed in the House, which is controlled by
Republicans. But after Republicans realized the political effect of having
that debate in the Senate, John Boehner and the Republicans in the House
decided they were not interested in bringing it up for a vote.

Now that all these lawsuits have been filed on the exact same subject,
is this issue back? Is the contraception issue and the Republicans
position on it politically back on the table at a national level?

Joining us now is Congresswoman Diana DeGette. She is the co-chair of
the Pro-Choice Caucus. She`s a Democrat for the great state of Colorado.

Congresswoman DeGette, thanks very much for your time. It`s nice to
have you here.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: It`s great to be back, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me ask you to respond to that last question. Do you
think these lawsuits around access to birth control for women, do you think
that that puts the birth control debate back on the table in a national
way?

DEGETTE: Well, I don`t think the birth control debate has left the
national debate. I`ve been in congress 16 years now. We`ve been debating
birth control, federal employees access to birth control, different state
Medicaid access to birth control, all kinds of things for the entire 16
years I`ve been in Congress.

This lawsuit just shows that the Catholic Church is tone deaf to the
fact that 98 percent of their female members have used birth control at
some point in their lives and really that the president`s policy does
nothing to infringe on religion.

So, I think that birth control is going to be an issue all the way up
to the November election.

MADDOW: On the issue of Republican policy on this issue, writ large,
the Republicans in the House today unveiled their women`s policy committee,
which actually doesn`t have anything to do with policy. It does show that
there are roughly two dozen Republican women in the House caucus.

Do you think that the formation of a women`s group for Republican
female members of the Congress could potentially in the future have an
affect on policy, or is this just about showing personnel rather than what
those personnel like to work on?

DEGETTE: Well, you know, you hit the nail on the head. It`s 2012.
These two dozen Republican women, they don`t have any different views.
They apparently don`t support equal pay for equal work. Most of them voted
against the reauthorization of the violence -- the good Violence Against
Women Act bill, the progressive one last week.

And, really, in this day and age, do we really need a ladies auxiliary
in Congress? Because that`s what it feels like to me. What it feels like
to me is the Republican leadership is saying, OK, we`ve got these gals in
here and look, here are they are, and they`re going to vote for the same
anti-women policies that we`re putting forward.

That certainly is not going to make women in my state or women across
the country think that just because there are women in Congress, that`s
going to make the policies that they support any better for women and
families.

MADDOW: We have seen a dynamic in the Senate in a small way, but I
think it`s real when some female members of the Senate -- women Republican
senators have spoken out on issues affecting women`s policy. Lisa
Murkowski voted with her male Republican colleagues on the Blunt-Rubio
amendment, went home and changed her mind and was very spoken, said she
regretted her vote and talked openly, including in the media, about why
that was wrong and how Republicans were screwing that up.

And I felt like maybe Republican women in the Senate are going to make
a difference. Is there any dynamic like that in the House at all?

DEGETTE: There are a few Republican women in the House. I`ve worked
closely with them over the years who do believe in birth control.

But many of the newer members, the newer Republican female members in
the House, they adhere to the Tea Party position. They believe a lot of
the same extreme views that the rest of the Tea Party members in the House
believe.

That`s why you saw, for example, 22 of the 24 of them voting for a
very restrictive reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that
would have taken us backwards.

So, there are some in fact House but unfortunately not enough.

MADDOW: Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado co-chair of
the Pro-Choice Caucus -- thank you very much for joining us tonight. It`s
nice to have you here, ma`am.

DEGETTE: It`s great to be with you, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. There was some history made this week that you
might not have heard about because it made no headlines. It was history
but it didn`t make news. That under-covered and important story is our
final story tonight. That`s ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you guys having any fun yet? OK, good. I
wanted you to know even though we don`t have a lot of money, we can still
throw a pretty good party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Good news at least for Republicans in the great state of
Minnesota. Quite a few state Republican parties have been keeping the
national party leadership awake at night with their financial troubles.
Minnesota has been the brokest state Republican Party at all.

They entered the presidential election season a million dollars in
debt. Things in fact got so bad for Minnesota Republicans that they were
nearly evicted from their headquarters last month. The party had not paid
the rent in months. They owed $96,000 to their landlord.

This month they reached some sort of confidential deal with that
landlord so they would not get kicked out. The attorney did say the deal
comes with an or/else clause, as in the Republicans have to make the rent
for change every month now or else.

But money has not been the only headache the Minnesota Republicans
have been causing their party elders in Washington this year. At their
caucuses in February, Minnesota Republicans rejected Mitt Romney and picked
Rick Santorum instead. Mr. Romney didn`t get second place in the Minnesota
caucuses. That went to Ron Paul. Mitt Romney came in third.

But, you know, that was back in February. That`s all over now. Now,
Rick Santorum is out and Mitt Romney is the de facto nominee. Even Ron
Paul says he is no longer competing in the various primaries, like the ones
tonight in Arkansas in Kentucky.

Now the party is coming together. Now, the Republican Party is one
for all and one for Mitt Romney, right?

Not in Minnesota. Minnesota Republicans had their convention this
weekend with 13 delegates at stake. They gave 12 of the 13 to Ron Paul.
They would have of their delegates, except that one Ron Paul supporter
stepped aside so a delegate for Michele Bachmann could have that spot,
which was nice.

The Minnesota Republicans this weekend, 13 delegates up for grabs, 12
to Ron Paul, one to Michele Bachmann. Zero to Mitt Romney.

Imagine what the conversations are like between the Minnesota
Republicans and the Romney campaign, between the state and the national
Republican Party. Yes, we`re still going with Ron Paul here. While I got
you on the phone, can you possibly help us out with the rent money?

But I did say there is some good news for Minnesota Republicans here,
and that is the that the state Republicans with their $96,000 due in back
rent and their million dollar debt, the state Republican Party found a way
to turn the popularity of Ron Paul into something more than just something
that gets them in trouble with the guys at national. They turned Ron
Paul`s triumphant visit to their convention this weekend into a fund-raiser
for the state Republican Party.

Lemons into lemonade. If you can`t beat them, join them.

And good luck winning Minnesota in November, Mr. Romney. If you need
any help at the state level, perhaps hire your own.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This is one of those news cycles where the thing that is
going on likely to make history is not a thing making headlines now as it
is happening. This is President Obama in Chicago yesterday. He gave a
wide ranging press conference.

At the conclusion of the press conference, the headlines were almost
all about domestic politics. They were all about the president`s answer to
a question about his Republican opponent`s business record, and whether
that record is the proper focus for campaign ads in the season. That`s
what got the headlines.

Frankly, in terms of the momentum in the news cycle, it makes sense
that that`s what got the headlines.

But the whole reason the president was in Chicago in the first place
is because he was hosting a NATO meeting there -- a NATO meeting about how
America`s longest war ever ends. On the heels of an announcement from the
new French president that France will be pulling out of the Afghanistan war
this year, President Obama in Chicago reiterated the U.S. commitment to
leaving Afghanistan, too -- but not as quickly as the French.

The U.S. plan is to end the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan next
year and to leave Afghanistan by the year thereafter. Still unsaid,
though, is exactly how we will be leaving when we leave, logistically.

The major supply route is east through Pakistan. But it`s been closed
to us since last November. When Pakistan made some noise this week about
potentially reopening that route to us for a price to speed the movement of
U.S. equipment out of Afghanistan for the end of a war, Pakistan`s
president got himself invited to the NATO meeting of Chicago, in hopes that
that might seal the deal for opening the routes. It turns out that did not
seal the deal and the routes are still no open.

And so Pakistan`s president was in Chicago, even though he didn`t get
any official meetings with President Obama. President Obama did meet
officially with the president of Afghanistan, but not with the president of
Pakistan. And that is what you call a snub, whether or not you operate in
diplomatic circles.

That was the drama inside the NATO conference.

This is the drama outside the NATO conference. Thousands of
protesters were in Chicago to protest the NATO summit. Dozens of people
were arrested, there were injuries.

This weekend on the afternoon that the summit opened, veterans of the
9/11 wars marched to the site of the summit and some returned their service
medal to NATO. Now, it`s not hundreds of veterans like it was in Vietnam
in 1971, but it was dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

No matter how many we`re talking about, it`s a powerful form of
protest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAR VETERAN: I was in Iraq in military, trust me, I don`t want to
suffer this again and I don`t want our children to suffer this again. So,
I`m giving this back.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Against the backdrop of that protest, against the release of
names of four more Americans killed in Afghanistan on Friday and on Sunday
and the news that another international soldiers, statistically, likely to
be an American, was killed yesterday in the eastern part of Afghanistan --
amid the news of still fighting and planning for two more years and trying
to get out, President Obama at the news conference in Chicago said
something important. I`m not sure that it got a single headline anywhere
in the country. But he put the nail in the coffin of the once fashionable
doctrine of nation-building, of counter-insurgency, that frankly is what
was used to justify stretching this Afghanistan war out into a decade long
engagement in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think one of the
things that we`ve learned from the Afghanistan experience is for us to stay
focused on the counterterrorism issue, to work with the government, to not
overextend ourselves, to operate smartly in dealing with these issues.

The large footprint that we have in Afghanistan over time can be
counter-productive. We`ve been there 10 years. And I think, you know, no
matter how much good we`re doing and how outstanding the troops and
diplomats are doing on the ground, 10 years in a country that`s very
different, that`s a strain, not only on our folks, but also on that country
which will begin to be sensitive about its sovereignty.

We can achieve a stable Afghanistan that won`t be perfect. We can
pull back our troops in a responsible way. And we can start rebuilding
America and making some of the investments we`ve been making in Afghanistan
here back home

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Nation-building at home, not through war abroad. Not said by
a candidate for office. Said by the president explaining what he is doing
as president.

However long it takes to get home from Afghanistan now, the nation
building idea as a justification for keeping a war going on indefinitely,
that is over in America. Mitt Romney is doing a fundraiser with Dick
Cheney, he`s trying to reinstall the whole George W. Bush foreign policy
team. If you look at the foreign policy advisors on his campaign, and so,
maybe they will try to bring it back. But honestly it`s over.

What made our post-9/11 wars two of the longest wars in American
history is over. It was tried, it`s been rejected. It`s done.

This NATO summit and this proclaimed end to the Afghan warm didn`t
necessarily make headlines this week. But we will look back at these
things as having made history, even if this week they didn`t make much
news.

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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