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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, May 24, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Chris Hayes, Jon Erpenbach

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you. We`ve got much
more on Wisconsin, on our show, coming up this hour, too. That was a great
interview, man. Thanks.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this morning.

We`ve got more coming up on Wisconsin.

In addition, President Obama came out and said he was in favor of
marriage rights for same sex couples. Now, everybody knew when that
happened it was a watershed moment for the civil rights issue and President
Obama`s presidency. But nobody knew exactly what the practical political
impact of that announcement was going to be.

Coming up this hour on the show tonight, we`ve got some new, actually
quite shocking evidence what that announcement of President Obama has done
already. You do not get a 36-point polling swing in a two-month period on
very many issues in this country. But we just got that. The details on
that -- it`s pretty shocking -- are just ahead.

You know, one of the weird news cycle footnotes on the president`s
announcement to same sex marriage was that it caused the "Washington Post"
newspaper to hold their big scoop about the Mitt Romney gay-bullying
incident from when he was in high school. That piece was ready to go on
May 10th, but "The Washington Post" knew that that story was going to get a
ton of attention. Mitt Romney viciously bullies gay teen and they
apparently thought that it would be too provocative to have that, in the
paper, on the front page alongside historic step by Obama on gay marriage.

So, they posted the bullying story online the same day as the Obama
story. But they did not put it in the paper until the following day. And,
frankly, like the Obama announcement, the Romney bullying story is another
one of those things where we don`t know exactly what the practical impact
is going to be, if any.

I mean, it may have no political impact at all. But indelibly, it is
now one of the things that voters know about Mitt Romney as a person. It`s
a hard thing to forget once you learn something like this about someone,
and it is not a flatter thing.

According to "The Post" reporting, as an 18-year-old, Mitt Romney
objected to the appearance of a, quote, "soft-spoken new student one year
behind Romney who is perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed

This is how "The Post" reported it. "Now he was walking around the
all-boys school with bleached-blond hair draped over one eye. And Romney
wasn`t having it. `He can`t look like that. That`s wrong. Just look at
him` an incensed Romney told a friend in the Stevens Hall dorm.

A few days later, Romney`s friend entered the dorm to find Mr. Romney
marching out of his own room a head of a prep school posse shouting about
their plan to cut the student`s hair.

Romney`s friend followed the boys to a nearby room where they came
upon the younger student, tackled him ands pinned him to the ground. As
the student, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Mitt Romney
repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

After "The Washington Post" published that story, Mr. Romney campaign
initially denied that the incident had ever happened, then the candidate
stopped denying it but laughed it off, said he didn`t remember it. And
even though he didn`t remember it, he was sure he did not think that kid
was gay. He apologized if anybody was offended and he laughed and he said
it was a prank.

Character issues are the great unquantifiable in electoral politics,
right? Everybody thinks it`s very important, but it`s hard to define.
And, frankly, who knows if this is the sort of thing that is going to
determine how people vote in November.

But you have to admit, even if you think it`s not going to be
determinative, a story like this can`t help. If you`re running for
president, you can`t tell people to unlearn this about you, but you really
don`t want to remind them of it if you can avoid it.

It casts the same kind of political faux as the story of Mitt Romney
strapping the dog to the roof of the car. Mitt Romney once put the family
dog in a kennel on top of the family`s station wagon and then drove that
station wagon all the way from Boston to Ontario in Canada.

The dog got sick on top of the car. One of Mr. Romney`s sons once
told a reporter about how Mr. Romney pulled over, turned a hose on the sick
dog, and then put the sick dog back in the kennel on top of the car and got
back on the highway for more hours of highway speed driving.

The pinning down the crying screaming student and cutting off his hair
because you objected to it story and the scrapping the dog to the roof of
the car and heading on the highway story, these are not going to be what
the campaign for the presidency is about. But if you are the Mitt Romney
campaign, you know that those stories are out there and you really, really
do not want to remind people of these stories.

You want to see the get-to-know the human side of Mitt Romney video
his campaign put out a couple days ago? Nobody asked them to do this.
This was not in the response to a query of any kind. They just want to put
it out there so you know what`s on Mitt Romney`s mind.



Romney, Craig`s wife, this is their oldest son, Parker. And it was crazy
hair day at his school today. He`s 5 years old. She says in her note that
she used Borden`s, Elmer`s glue and egg white to get his hair to do that.

So, I sure hope it comes out. But it`s awful cute and my guess is he
won at crazy hair day at school today. Quite a kid and quite a mom.


MADDOW: I sure hope it comes out. If it doesn`t come out, you`re
going to cut it off for him, sir? Maybe you and some buddies? I mean,
this is unforced.

Don`t remind people about your school days, hi-jinx concerning hair
that you disapprove of. I mean, yes, this is a totally harmless video,
right? This is a totally harmless video unless you happen to be the guy
about whom the "Washington Post" two weeks ago put out a story -- totally
damning story about your character that has all the same touchstones.

Today, here was Mitt Romney at a campaign event photo-op at a school.
At one point, Mr. Romney was helping a group of students with their
assignment. What was their assignment? Make a sentence that uses
alliteration. What was Mr. Romney`s contribution with the sentence with
the alliteration challenge?


MADDOW: Can you see it? Dogs what? Dogs drive Douglas dizzy. Dogs
and driving, seriously?

I don`t know why Mitt Romney doesn`t get more credit for his gaffes,
for being gaffe-prone, right? The Republican Party right now is trying to
create the impression that Joe Biden is so gaffe prone that he`s a bad vice
president. Mitt Romney ought to get more credit for this.

I mean, bringing up the combination of dogs and driving and his
disapproval of non-normative student hairstyles, when these are the two
indelible character-related stories that voters might just have in their
minds about him -- these are not the most important things in the world,
but these are totally embarrassing, unforced errors from a candidate who
gets all of this credit for being super disciplined and on message and not
making unforced errors.

Sometimes I think that credit is not earned. This ought to be a
sleepy time on the campaign trail, heading into Memorial Day weekend, the
Republican primary essentially all wrapped up, but still going on in a way
that isn`t generating all that much attention, except when say Ron Paul
wins Minnesota and everybody has to pay a lot of attention to it, if only
to avoid reporting it.

Congress is sort of barely in session here and there when they
bothered to find the time. This ought to be a really sleepy time in
politics, but actually it has not been.

President Obama in particular has been ratcheting it up a new gear
everyday, really aggressively going after his opponent on the economy and
what he says are distortions of his record as president, on the newly
controversial but still totally central issue of Mitt Romney`s time in


president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60
years. This other side, I don`t know how they`ve been bamboozling folks
into thinking that they are the responsible, fiscally disciplined party.
They run up these wild debts and then when we take over, we`ve got to clean
it up. And they point and say, look how irresponsible they are. Look at
the facts and look at the numbers.

I`ve still got my day job and so I`m working hard solving problems,
but I`ve got to pay attention to what the other side is up to. And my
opponent in this election, Governor Romney, he`s a patriotic American.
He`s raised a wonderful family. He should be proud of the great personal
success he`s had.

No, I mean, he has been extraordinarily successful at the final firm
that he helped put together.

But I think he`s drawn the wrong lessons from these experiences. He
seems to believe that if CEOs and wealthy investors like him are getting
rich, the rest of us automatically do, too.

Governor Romney says that his 25 years in the private sector gives him
a special understanding of how the economy works. Now, if that`s true, I
got to ask -- why is he running around with the same bad ideas that have
brought our economy to collapse this last time out?


OBAMA: I mean, either he thinks that they`re going to lead to a
different result this time or he`s hoping you won`t remember what happened
the last time. I`m here to say, we were there. We remember. We`re not
going back. We`re moving forward.

That`s why I`m running for president again.



MADDOW: Now, the Romney strategy up to this point had been they
wanted to talk about the economy, the economy, the economy, the economy,
everybody the economy, that`s how they were going to stick it to President
Obama. They assumed that President Obama would not want to talk about the
economy, want to talk about other things.

President Obama now seems very comfortable talking about the economy.
And he is the one bringing it up. And because of that, Mr. Romney is now
going to plan B, trying to change the subject.

Over the last two days, Mitt Romney is trying to change the subject to
education. Now, before these last couple of day, he has had some trouble
communicating with voters on the stump on that issue.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just curious, if he elected, what you would
do with regards to college tuition, whether making it`s easier for me and
my classmates or -- you know, with regards to that.

ROMNEY: It would be popular for me to stands up and say I will give
you government money to make sure to pay for your college. But I`m not
going to promise that. What I`m going to tell you is shop around, get a
good price.

And I do feel this. I feel that if you`re willing to serve your
country in the military, for instance, that that`s place where we`re going
to say, yes, hey, we`ll give you help.


MADDOW: To be clear, neither Mr. Romney nor any of his five sons
served in the military. But that -- other than shopping around, looking
for a good price, hoping you can find something cheaper, that has been the
only concrete thing he has offered as a suggestion for somebody who can`t
afford college because they were irresponsible enough to not be born to
rich parents.

That was Mitt Romney talking about education back in March. He has
not had a good line on it so far, when he gets asked about it. But now, as
of this week, he`s got a whole new role on the issue, for the big speech
yesterday and the photo-op with alliteration sentence where he volunteered
something about driving and dogs today. That event was in Philly today.

When he was in Philly actually, Mr. Romney was greeted with a bit of a
welcoming committee led why that city`s Democratic mayor, Michael Nutter,
and the local district attorney.


MAYOR MICHAEL NUTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: As governor, Romney balanced
the state budget as required by the state`s constitution, unfortunately, he
did it on the backs of the students. By his second year, Mitt Romney had
already forced Massachusetts schools to take the second largest cuts per
pupil in the country. Those cuts forced schools to lay off thousands of
teachers, along with librarians and even police officers. Not exactly a
job -- not exactly a record as a job creator.

morning, these people were booing me because they thought I invited Mitt

We know what we is!

UNIDENTIFIED EMALE: Let`s get it straight!

WILLIAMS: I did not invite Mitt Romney!


WILLIAMS: But you have a right to be mad (INAUDIBLE) Romney.


MADDOW: I used to live in west Philadelphia. I know exactly what
he`s talking about.

Inside that Philly school, Mr. Romney also faced some headwinds from
some of the people his campaign set him up to meet with while the cameras
were rolling. Watch.


ROMNEY: A number of folks said, well, we need smaller classroom
sizes. That will make the biggest difference. I said, let`s compare the
average classroom side from each school district, with the performance of
our students because we test our kids and we`ll see if there is a
relationship. There was not. So, just getting smaller classrooms didn`t
seem to be the key.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t think of any teacher in the whole time
I`ve been teaching over 10 years -- 13 years, who would say that they would
love -- more stuns would benefit.

ROMNEY: Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t think of a parent that would say, I would
like my teacher to be in a room with a lot of kids and only one teacher.
So, I`m kind of wondering where this research comes from.


MADDOW: It is hard to imagine that Mr. Romney is going to run for
president on the basis of saying that class size ought to be bigger. If
you can put 20 kids in the classroom, why not 30, why not 50? It`s frankly
more efficient. It`s marvelous.

I don`t think he`s going to run on that.

The Obama campaign went right after the Romney campaign on this today.
As he`s getting face to face confrontation from teachers he`s meeting when
he was he`s supposed to be rolling out his big education ideas as the Obama
campaign goes after him on this, it will be interesting to see whether or
not the Romney campaign sticks with education as something they`re going to
run on and sticks especially with his idea that bigger class sizes are

And if they really do want to change the subject on education, if they
want Mitt Romney to be running on this, and that`s what they tried to
change it to this week, there are other big, new, heretofore, untried idea
that they are putting forward -- the one that really does have a contrast
with what President Obama has done, their other proposals besides larger
class sizes is this from his education white paper, he wants to repeal the
change President Obama made to student loans. They want to get rid of

Mr. Romney will repeal what President Obama did. Do you want to know
what that was, what President Obama did to student loans?

This is one of those things that sounds like a finicky little change,
but it turns out to make a lot of sense and save a lot of money. And if
you`re a person who had a lot of federally supported student loans, this
will be very, very familiar to you, right?

For years, the government gave commercial banks guaranteed federal
subsidies to make college loans to students. So, I mean, you think about
the transaction of making a loan, right? You make a loan, when it gets
paid back with interest, the bank makes money, right?

So, they`d make -- with student loan, they`d make the money they`d
normally make off interest, plus they get that guaranteed subsidy. And on
top of that, the government assumed most of the risk for those loans so the
banks didn`t really have to deal with the possibility that the loan
wouldn`t get paid back. They were guaranteed. Sweet deal for the banks,

What are they there for? They`re essentially getting guaranteed
profits on these loans and no risk at all for the privilege of being the
middleman on all our college loans, providing us no service whatsoever
except being an extra layer of bureaucracy.

So, why not cut out the middleman and let the taxpayers make the
profit on these loans instead of the banks, since it`s we, the taxpayers,
who are assuming the risk on them anyway. That is the change that
President Obama signed into law, and the savings from us, from we the
taxpayers getting those profits instead of the banks getting them. That
savings of double grants for people who can`t afford go to college.

That`s what Mitt Romney wants to repeal, that`s his other big idea.
He wants us to take the money that`s going to college Pell Grants, take
away that savings that we`ve been making and get rid of the savings.
Instead, put that money back into guaranteed profits for the banks for
providing us an unnecessary service and no risk to do so. That is his new
idea and larger class sizes.

So, Mitt Romney`s old playbook is talk about the economy whenever
possible. Now that President Obama has shown himself to be really is eager
to talk about the economy, whenever possible, Mitt Romney`s new playbook as
of this week is change the subject to education. His big ideas on
education as ruled out this week include bigger class sizes and putting
inexplicable, for-profit, bureaucratic, providing those service, guaranteed
profit, Wall Street middlemen back in the middle of student loans for some

That`s what he`s trying to change the subject to. Maybe we would be
better off talking about dogs and driving.

Joining us now is the host of MSNBC`s weekend morning show, "UP WITH
CHRIS." He`s the author of the soon-to-be-published book, "Twilight of the
Elites: America after Meritocracy."

Mr. Chris Hayes, thank you for being here.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: It`s good to be here. I have a sufficient
normative haircut for you?

MADDOW: If you don`t --

HAYES: I know. I know you crack down on that big time.

MADDOW: Well, this is not the main point of our discussion here.

HAYES: I know.

MADDOW: The Republicans this week launched the sort of mini campaign.
They sort of floated it, I think, to see how much Beltway pickup they get,
that Joe Biden is a bad vice president because he`s unpredictable and he`s
gaffe-prone. They didn`t say he had done anything wrong. We were just
talking about his reputation for saying things that sound unscripted. Mitt
Romney with the crazy hair video and dogs and driving thing and --

HAYES: I know. And what`s interesting because I was watching and I`m
thinking, God, I haven`t seen either of those two things and I`m sitting
doing prep for my show weekend. So, that`s the case in point, right? I
mean, the gaffe is in the eye of the beholder. I mean, the gaffe is the
thing that gets blown up.

MADDOW: And you don`t look for it if there isn`t already a narrative
about the guy being gaffe prone. And so, the narrative about Mitt Romney
is that he`s this uber efficient, sort of robotic guy who would never say
anything off message. He says off-message stuff all the time.

HAYES: He said -- we`re getting totally off message, but let me just
say -- he said in his interview with Mark Halperin, when Mark Halperin was
talking to him about his budget plans, he said, well, God, no, we`re not
going to take $1 trillion out of the budget in the first year, that would
be massively contractionary, it`d probably throw us into depression. He
conceded the entire theoretical framework of Keynesian stimulus in once
sentence as a throwaway line in the Mark Halperin interview and no one said
anything. That`s it. It completely invalidates everything about all of
this --

MADDOW: I support the Paul Ryan budget to absolutely extract tens of
billions of dollar dollars -- I mean, to take $1 trillion out of the
economy and if I do that, it will destroy the economy.

HAYES: Yes. And he conceded the fundamental premise that has been
argued by everyone who`s watching this unfold about austerity and stimulus
and he conceded in a one-line, throw away line with Mark Halperin. It was
just like --

MADDOW: Yes. And it goes nowhere because we`re not looking for

HAYES: Yes, agreed.

MADDOW: You know, it`s the same thing with unemployment, right? So,
earlier this month, Mitt Romney said that having the unemployment rate to
8.1 percent was not something he was happy about. There`d be no cause for
celebration until it was down to 4 percent. He also said with Mark
Halperin that by the end of his first term, he`d like to have it by 6
percent, which is where the CBO projects it`s going to go anyway if we keep
just doing what our current policies.

So, it would be a failure for President Obama to not hit 4 percent,
but Romney --

HAYES: He`s going to do it at 6 percent.

MADDOW: Huge gaffe.

HAYES: And keep in mind that several quarters in the last 15 years or
something we`ve been at 4 percent unemployment?


HAYES: That`s full employment, that`s like historically breaking
every trend.

MADDOW: It was in the year 2000.

HAYES: Yes, and breaking every trend.

MADDOW: Well, on this education policy, here we go -- the election is
not going to be decided on the education policy, we all know that. Is it
important that putting Wall Street profit back into the middle of student
loans is the Republican proposal on this?

HAYES: It is. There`s a few things that I think are interesting
about this term. One, I think it`s really important for people to
understand, the progressive victory that was won on that getting rid of the
middleman was the really big one that kind of -- it happened at the same
time as the Affordable Care Act was buried because the Affordable Care Act
that just passed and everyone as talking about this.

But this was the fight that we`ve been waiting since 1990s. Bill
Clinton tried numerous times to do the same thing and failed. It was very
hard thing to do to get rid of those middlemen because they`re sitting
extracting rents by passing money between each other. And as you laid out
there, this is the opposite of the free market, right? This entire thing
is based on a subsidy of risk and debt the government is taking on, right?

So, there`s like no principled ideological conservative argument to
have a Wall Street bank in the middle of this constructive market. There
is no -- it`s simply is paying off --

MADDOW: They`re there for the purpose of collecting our money.

HAYES: Exactly. There`s no reason, and it was good policy and it was
a big victory. Ands I think the fact that they thought they could sneak
this past and not get rapped for it is indicative of what they think people
are paying and not paying attention to.

I think a lot of the Romney strategy is we can propose policies that
are absolutely going to be very good for the 1 percent while talking about
how terrible it is that there`s amounts of unemployment and sound
sympathetic to the plight of people and put out web videos that show people
unemployed, and we can pull off this fundamental bait and switch.

And the second thing I think it`s interesting about this turn to
education is, it is strategically a choice by them to make their pivot to
the middle after the primary. This is the issue -- remember George W. Bush
did this very effectively in 2000. It was education, the issue that made
him a compassionate conservative, education that made him part, that was
bipartisan and centrist and he worked with Ted Kennedy when he got into
office with No Child Left Behind Act.

It`s clear that they think this is an issue that signals to people,
I`m not a scary right winger. And yet when you look at the substance of
what they`re proposing, it`s scary right wing stuff.

MADDOW: Right. Let`s make sure we get back to a guaranteed taxpayer
subsidized payday for Wall Street in the middle of trying to do education.

Chris Hayes, the host of "MSNBC`s" weekend morning show, "UP WITH
CHRIS HAYES," new book, "Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy"
comes out on June 12th.

Chris, it is even more fun having you here on the set tonight than it
was getting drunk with you in that bar last night.

HAYES: That was super fun.

MADDOW: I`m sorry you couldn`t get a blazer.

HAYES: I couldn`t quite get to a blazer.

MADDOW: From the jail. Yes, it was a big night , epic, actually.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: The thing about rights, you`re not supposed to vote on them.
That`s why they`re called rights. When you do put rights up for a vote,
when you put minority rights up for a vote, the majority tends to vote
against them.

On the issue of marriage equality, those rights have been put up to a
statewide vote 34 times in the last 15 years and they have lost 33 out of
34 times. The one time gay rights didn`t lose at the ballot box was one
year in Arizona, Arizona voted on it again two years later and it lost.
The state banned same sex marriage in the second vote.

So, there is no state in the Union, none, liberal, conservative, in
between, no state in which marriage rights have been upheld in a vote.
Minority rights do not fare well at the ballot box.

Something kind of amazing. It just happened in the great state of
Maryland. In Maryland, the state legislature there passed same sex
marriage rights, giving gay couples the legal right to get married starting
January 1st of next year. But before that can happen, opponents to the new
law are expected to gather enough signatures to get a referendum on the law
put on the ballot in November.

And remember, that`s not good news if you support marriage equality
because no state has ever said yes to same sex marriage at the ballot box.
Well, shortly after Maryland`s governor signed this law in early March, PPP
did a poll on the state to see whether people would vote for or against the
marriage law if it does go to a referendum.

And the results were actually pretty good for marriage equality
supporters. A majority of people in Maryland supported the law. Same sex
marriage rights were ahead by eight points. That was in March.

They just redid that same poll a few days ago, all of a sudden in
Maryland, wow, something has happened. Now, same sex marriage rights are
winning not by eight points in Maryland, but by 20 points. That is a 12
point swing. What happened?

Here`s what happened. One large and very influential voting bloc in
the state of Maryland, the bloc that makes up nearly 30 percent of the
population in that state over the course of the last two months went
through a massive transformation on this issue. African-American voters in
Maryland just a couple months ago in that first poll in March were against
same sex marriage rights in their state by 17 points.

Now, they are for same sex marriage rights by 19 points, same poll.
That is a 36 point swing in two months.

Nothing swings 36 points in two months in American public opinion.
Nothing. This just does not happen.


is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples
should be able to get married.


MADDOW: When the president came out for marriage equality, everybody
knew it was important and historic but nobody really knew what it`s
practical effect was going to be. That is part of what made it important,
that he made this pronouncement without any political certainty what would
happen as a result. That is part of why it was a big deal.

Now, we are starting to find out what the results was of that
pronouncement. It`s not counting up who agreed with him already and who
disagreed with him already and how this is going to change their opinion
and their likelihood to vote. He is changing people`s minds. What this
means for the country yet we do not know. But in the state of Maryland, we
can count overtly how much of a quantitative difference that decision by
the president has just made.



MADDOW: OK. So, this doesn`t always happen in New York, Gene Kelly
and Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin do not frequently get off a warship
floating in the Hudson and they`re dressed white and sing excitedly about
what a wonderful town this is. They did it once in 1949 and frankly, in
New York, we are still smitten but it hasn`t happened since.

However, once a year, something kind of like it does happen in New
York City. It is hard not to be smitten every time. This year, it is
happening right now. It is even better than it usually is, because this
year, we have added something to the mix. We added something to the mix we
stole from the Nazis.

And if stealing stuff from Nazis doesn`t make you happy, you need a
vacation. What we stole from the Nazis and why it is so awesome, coming up
on the best new thing in the world today. Stay with us.


MADDOW: In the 2010 elections, the elections that gave us Republican
House Speaker John Boehner instead of Democratic House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi, there was one chart more than any other that pretty much summed up
what happened on election day and why.

These were the heavyweights when it came to outside spending that
election cycle. These were the 10 groups that spent the most money on that
election that year. Six of the 10 groups spent big-time on the right. And
they were led by the corporate-funded U.S. Chamber of Commerce, far and
away the biggest spender that year. Almost all the groups spending on
behalf of Republicans in 2010 were corporate-funded groups like that,
business groups.

The only major spenders on be half of Democrats that year were union,
that was it. And they only made up 30 of the top 10 spenders.

So, yes, one by one individual campaign donations by normal humans are
nice things. But when you`re talking big money in politics, the stuff that
adds up really fast and makes a determinative difference, you either have
to be a politically motivated billionaire or you need to be an
organization. Big money in politics comes from corporations who
disproportionately support Republicans and from unions who
disproportionately support Democrats, from organizations.

Republican-supporting corporations are totally dominant, right? Their
only competition supporting Democrats are unions. And that means
strategically, if you are somehow able to get rid of unions, to take them
out of the mix, then you are able to get rid of the Democratic Party`s
ability to compete in the big money part of elections. The only thing you
have left is that corporations spending hand over fist for Republicans and
they`ll win every election every time.

Over the last half a century, union membership has plummeted across
the country. It`s gone from about 39 percent of salaried employees in the
`50s, to less than 12 percent now. But even as union membership has waned,
there is one place where it`s still going strong. Most of the people who
are in unions these days are public sector unions. The unions that
represent people work for things like state and local governments.

Private sector unions have taken a beating over the last few decades
but public sector ones are still doing okay.

And so, Republican legislatures all across the country have all gotten
religion, all at the same time about the importance of killing off public
sector unions. The most high profile among them, of course, is Republican
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, with a stroke of a pen wiped out 50
years of union rights in the state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin was the first state of the country to recognize union rights
for employees where they were born, but Scott Walker got rid of them.
Scott Walker did not campaign on getting rid of those rights but once he
got elected, he said he had to, he said he had to kill union rights in
Wisconsin to save the state`s budgets.

When the unions said yes to all the financial concessions that he
asked for and he still wanted to kill them off, it became clear that it
wasn`t about money, it was not about the budget. He wanted to get rid of
union rights in order to get rid of unions all together. If you get rid of
unions all together there is no one funding the other side. There will be
no one funding Democrats when business funds Republicans.

You get rid of union rights, you thereby get rid of unions, you
thereby and game the whole state, so Democrats cannot compete in the big
money part of elections ever again. Pull that off and Wisconsin didn`t
just go all red in 2010, Wisconsin will be all Republican, all red from
here on out permanently. Democrats will never recover.

Don`t take my word for it, take his.


DIANE HENDRIKS: Any chance we`ll ever get to be a completely red
state and work on these unions?


HENDRIKS: And become a right to work? What can we do to help you?

WALKER: We`re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget
adjustment bill. The first step is we`re going to deal with collective
bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and


MADDOW: How did we become a completely red state? The first step is
public employee unions, and divide and conquer. That`s what Scott Walker
calls it, divide and conquer.

Killing the union is the strategy for turning Wisconsin red not just
for now but for generations to come in an irreparable way. This is about
partisan politics. It is about destroying Democrats` chances of competing
with Republicans. It`s about eliminating the only source of support for
Democrats that can compete with the Republicans corporate support.

It`s not about some year`s budget, it`s not even about jobs. Since he
wiped away union rights in Wisconsin, Scott Walker has wrapped up the worst
jobs record in the entire country. It is not about jobs. It is not about
the budget. It is about making Wisconsin permanently Republican. That is
what this is about.

And Republicans are trying this everywhere. I mean, in Ohio, they
were able to do a recall not of the governor but of the law stripping union
rights that the Republicans passed. That law when it got put up for a
recall got recalled by more than 20 points in November.

In Wisconsin, they`re not recalling the law. They`re going to recall
the governor, a recall that happens in less than two weeks. And because
this is about money and politics and how badly the corporate-funded
Republican side wants the chance to run unopposed from here on out forever,
it will not surprise you to hear that the Scott Walker side is out-raising
the Democratic side more than 25-1 -- 25-1 against the Democrats, in this
recall election that will essentially decide if Democrats ever get to
really compete with Republicans in elections again.

If I were the Republicans, I`d spend 100-1. I`d spent 1,000-1 for a
chance at that. Are you kidding? That`s the brass ring.

And so far, their spending appears to be working, even though the
polls are very, very close. The latest polling, I think this is important,
shows that all the Republican ad spending has had an effect. Ninety-one
percent of Republican voters in Wisconsin say they are absolutely certain
to vote on June 5th. Only 83 percent of Democrats and independents say the
same thing. That`s what advertising. That`s what that kind of money does.

This race in Wisconsin is the most important race before the
presidential election, June 5th. Republicans think they`ve got it in the
bag. And if they do, they are on their way to a permanent structural
advantage over the Democratic Party for which there is no repair. There is
no way to undo it.

And that will affect every race, in every partisan election, on every
ballot from the race for do dogcatcher on up to the race for president.

Republicans think they have it in the bag. It is less than two weeks
to the vote in Wisconsin. And at this point, the Democrats should be
fighting for this like the existence of their party depends on it because
it does.

Joining us now is Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach.

Senator Erpenbach, it`s nice to see you again. Thank you for being

STATE SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN: Thank you, Rachel. How are

MADDOW: I`m good. I`m fired up. We are less than two weeks away
from the recall election in Wisconsin. What can -- what can you tell us
about what it looks like on the ground there in terms from organization?
From a distance, all we can see is 25-1, the Republicans outspending
Democrats. What`s it look like from up close?

ERPENBACH: Well, let me tell you what that 25-1 gets you. About two
months ago, Scott Walker was 50 percent in the polls. Thirty million
dollar or $40 million later, Scott Walker is about 50 percent in the
polling. So, the money isn`t really doing a lot, aside from what you
pointed out that`s exciting the Republican base.

What`s going on in the ground of Wisconsin right now is Obama for
America campaign, the national -- the DNC has come in with money.
Everybody is coordinating together, working really hard to get out the
vote. We know as Democrats the only way to beat the governor is to get out
the vote. We feel very good about what we have in place.

And there`s no doubt, I have been to rallies all over the state. I
was in one in Madison the other day. I`ve been all over the state --
north, south, east, west, all Democrats are really getting fired up. They
know what`s at stake here.

MADDOW: In terms of the Democratic Party and how seriously they`re
taking this race. Obviously, you`ve been right at the heart of this from
the very beginning, Tom Barrett, who is the Democratic candidate right now,
right in it this right from the beginning. Everybody who`s talking about
this on TV is fully invested in this.

Are Democrats around the country taking Wisconsin as seriously as you
can tell I think they should? Are you -- do you feel supported in a way --
I mean, Scott Walker on the right is a cause celebre for Republicans coast-

ERPENBACH: Well, it`s more-or-less Scott Walker incorporated. That`s
where all the money is coming for him. Obviously, if you take a look at
the amount of money that the governor has raised compared to, let`s say,
the state of Wisconsin, where he`s the governor, as opposed to the rest of
the country, a lot of his money is coming from out of the state.

As far as Democrats are concerned, the DNC has come in, they`ve given
the party about $1.4 million. And again, although -- about 60 Obama for
American offices, along with another 30 or 40 offices in the state of

So, we`re getting up to about 100 offices throughout the state who are
going to coordinate and get the vote out and do all sorts of things like
that. So, I feel really good about that. If people, Democrats around the
country really want to help out, they can go to,
they can chip in.

But right, Rachel, a lot of what`s going on in here in Wisconsin bodes
either good or bad for the country depending what happens here on June 5th.

MADDOW: Jon, in any normal campaign, not too blunt about it, but
anybody outspent 25-1 in a normal campaign loses the election. And you
guys -- I mean, I hear what you`re saying about getting out the vote effort
and ramping up that`s happened on this tight time frame you had after the
primary. Do you feel like your side has a Hail Mary? Do you have a
patented underdog plan to try to pull this out or is it just sticking to
fundamentals this point and counting on your ground game?

ERPENBACH: Well, it`s sticking to the fundamentals. But we`re
honestly not that far behind, as I said. Governor Walker is at 50 percent
in just about every poll that you take look at. And keep in mind, that`s
$30 million to $40 million ago he was at 50 percent. He hasn`t moved. I
got to believe that Governor Walker has probably reached as high as he can
and has nowhere but to fall.

At the same time, Tom Barrett, in the latest polls, is at 48 percent.
So, again, it gets down to the ground game, it gets down to every single
Democrat who doesn`t like what Governor Walker is doing here in state of
Wisconsin to get out and vote on June 5th. And, again, we have plans in
place to do that.

You can`t go anywhere, in fact, you can`t even have a thought to
yourself without it being some sort of a campaign message, June 5th, June
5th, get out and vote. So, the Democrats again are going to rally around

Keep in mind, we understand what Governor Walker has done to Wisconsin
and we understand what Governor Walker intends to do to Wisconsin if he
gets to finish out his term. So, this race is that important.

MADDOW: Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach -- thanks very much for
talking with us tonight, sir. Good luck next week. I appreciate your

ERPENBACH: All right. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Senator Erpenbach mentioned there the Web site that you can
visit. Can we go back for a second? The senator mentioned the Web site
there that you can visit to donate to the Tom Barrett side of the election.
I should mention also that if you would like to donate to the Governor
Walker side of the election, it`s, in the interest of
giving you both Web sites.

Now, you have them both.

All right. Best new thing in the world is coming up, now with 100
percent more stuff stolen from Nazis.


MADDOW: Waterloo, New York -- as the city will tell you on its home
page on the Internet machine -- is the birthplace of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. It dates back to the Civil
War, the idea of Decoration Day was to decorate the graves of those killed
in the war with wreathes and flags and flowers.

After World War I, Memorial Day was expanded to honor all American
veterans, which is what we will be doing this Memorial Day this upcoming

But just as men and women needed the way to mourn the dead and honor
the surviving veterans after the Civil War and after World War I, American
civilians now are finding that we, too, need some public way to honor the
veterans of our post-9/11 wars, now that veterans have returned from the
war in Iraq and are just barely now starting the process of winding down
the war in Afghanistan.

To mark the end of the Iraq War, a growing handful of American cities
have been hosting welcome home parades. This was the first one in St.
Louis in January. Since then, there have been welcome home parades
organized by civilians in Houston, in Tucson, in Fayetteville, North
Carolina, in Melbourne, Florida.

This past Saturday, two more cities threw parades to welcome home and
thank their veterans. In Richmond, Virginia, the parade snaked along a
mile-long route to the city`s World War I memorial. Organizers report,
there were tens of thousands of people in attendance. The parade ended at
a resource village of state agencies and organizations offering vets things
like legal advice and career services.

The grand marshal of the parade was retired Colonel Wesley Fox, who
received the Medal of Honor for his service during Vietnam. House Majority
Leader Eric Cantor was there. His district includes part of Richmond. So
was the mayor of Richmond, Dwight Jones.

And on same day, on Saturday, in Kansas City, Missouri, people turned
out for that city`s welcome home parade. The mayor in the city council
were among those on hand, to celebrate and thank the post-9/11 veterans.
The mayor declared welcome home heroes day in Kansas City.

Like Richmond, the Kansas City veterans parade ended at a resource
village that connected veterans to outreach and support organizations.

Richmond, Virginia, Kansas City, Missouri, just the latest example of
civilians figuring out how they and their cities want to mark the end of
the Iraq war, to say thank you and welcome home to those who served.

This upcoming Monday is not just a day off, it`s the first Memorial
Day since the end of the war. On tomorrow`s show, we`re going to have more
on exactly what that means this year, in Washington and around the country.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Best new thing in the world. This is the U.S. Coast Guard
Cutter Eagle. It`s what they call tall ships. Tall ships is just a name
that they gave to big, traditionally rigged ships that are powered by the
evil, communist, green energy source known as wind. Ginormous sailing

The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle normally lives at the Coast Guard Academy
in Connecticut. But his week, it is in New York as part of Fleet Week.
Fleet Week is when the Navy, and the Marines, and the Coast Guard, all come
to New York City. They parade their ships up through the Verrazano Narrows
and up the Hudson River.

And all week-long, if you happen to find yourself in a New York City
bar, there`s a pretty good chance you are going to end up buying a beer for
a stranger who`s wearing some really nice white pants.

This year, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812, do
the math, Fleet Week includes not just all the modern warships, but also 17
massive restored tall ships, these giant sailing vessels, including the
Eagle which led the parade of warships into New York Harbor this year. The
Eagle gets to do this because it`s known as America`s tall ship. It`s the
largest tall ship that flies the stars and stripes.

But here`s the thing -- even though it is America`s tall ship, the
Eagle has not always been all that American. The ship used to be called
the Segelschulschiff Horst Wessel. Say that three times fast. The SS
Horst Wessel was originally commissioned in Nazi Germany and named after a
storm trooper who died in a street brawl. Adolf Hitler was present for her
original launch in 1936. She was used to train cadets in the German navy.

The reason we`ve got this ship now is because after World War II, we
took her, as a war prize, renamed her the Eagle and now she serves as an
international goodwill ambassador for the United States, as a training too
for the Coast Guard Academy cadets, and as a giant mizzenmasted square
rigged, neener-neener to the Nazis.

Nice. The best new thing in the world today. She is -- by the way,
if you`re driving to New York City or you`re there already, that ship is
docked at Pier 90 on 47 Street, if you want to go see her. You could just
walk right up and take a look.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Thanks for
being with us tonight. Have a good one.


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