'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, June 14, 2012
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Guests: Nicole Wallace, Jonathan Gruber, Lisa Brown
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Michael. I`m looking forward
to seeing that interview.
DYSON: No doubt about it, my brother.
KLEIN: Have a good night.
DYSON: You as well.
KLEIN: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Rachel has a night off, we have a ton of news on the show tonight,
including the audacity of Karl Rove, the last seen of caddy shack actually
happening in real life and my run at doing something that has never been
attempted in the history of prime time television. I`m not kidding.
Well, we begin tonight with the best things I`ve learned since being
on twitter. That is the idea of the humble brag. It is where you brag
about yourself but wrap it in a complaint or a little bit of self-
deprecation, so it does not sound so much like your bragging. I`ll show
you what I mean.
Here is Adam Levine of the pop rock band Maroon 5. He writes or
tweets, "wow, we got mobbed at the airport, I thought we were Justin
See? We got mobbed at the airport, brag, we are so popular. I think
they thought we were Justin Bieber. Humble, they did not realize it was
Or here`s what radio personality John Moe, quote, "the fact that
Wikipedia list me as notable alumnus of my collage speaks ill of the
reliability of crown source information.
So, Wikipedia lists me at a notable alumnus, brag, that speaks ill with
Wikipedia, humble. The greatest of all humble braggers however, has got to
be reality TV person Tila Tequila. She tweets, "man, this is so unfair,
why did the Lambo dealership not tell me I`d get pulled over at least once
a week in the car. Time for a corolla lol!"
Lambo, by the way, means Lamborghini. She hates her Lamborghini
because it looks so fast and police are always pulling her over. Life is
tough in a Lambo.
Now, earlier today in Cleveland, Ohio, President Obama gave a speech.
Latest campaign, he said, was meant to reframe the election. And it began
with what I would call a humble job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the next five
months, this election will take many twists and many turns. Polls will go
up. And polls will go down. There will be no shortage of gaffes and
controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: So, reminder, a humble brag is a boast wrapped in a self-
deprecation, a humble jab is an attack wrapped in a the self-deprecation.
That was a kind of an attack on the media that the president feels it
becomes so gaffe obsessed, it is all side of what this campaign is really
about wrap in the joke about how he made a gaffe.
And you know what, jab well-taken, He is right. We, in the media had
gotten a bit gaffe obsessed.
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Mitt Romney was giving a speech trying
to reframe the president`s speech that was in turn trying to reframe the
campaign. It was all a little middle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You may have heard that
President Obama is on the other side of the state and he is going to be
delivering a speech on the economy. He is doing that because he has not
delivered a recovery for the economy. And he is going to be a person of
eloquence as he describes his plan, but don`t forget, he has been president
for three and a half years and talk is cheap.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: That was Romney`s line this afternoon. And it has been his
line throughout the entire campaign. Obama may be a good speaker, a person
of eloquent, and is not all that eloquent formulation. But the record
shows he is not a good leader. Look at the economy. Look at the
unemployment numbers. Look at the deficit. Do not listen to what
President Obama says, he is too good of a talker. He will trick you. Look
at what he has done.
Romney`s line follows the conventional wisdom that elections are a
referendum on the incumbent.
Now Obama`s speech, if you read it closely, was trying an effort to
suburb that dynamic, to change the conventional wisdom about who or what is
really the incumbent here. The president argued that while Mitt Romney
might be the challenger, the Republican policies of the kind that Mitt
Romney is proposing, are in a way the incumbent because they help us get in
to this mess and so there are partially responsible for the reality we are
living in today.
That`s not actually a crazy play. According to a just release Gallup
poll, 68 percent of Americans think that George Bush bares the
responsibility of the state of the economy, only 52 percent say the same
for Obama which proves to get more blame than Obama which is why Obama said
today we need to begin, quote, "with an understanding of where we are and
how we got here."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We were told that huge tax cuts, especially for the wealthiest
Americans would lead to faster job growth. We were told that fewer
regulations, especially for big financial institutions and corporations
would bring about wide-spread prosperity. We were told that it was OK to
put two wars on the nation`s credit card, that tax cuts would create enough
growth to pay for themselves. That is what we were told.
So how did this economy theory work out?
For if wealthiest Americans it worked out pretty well. Over the last
few decades the income of the top one percent grew by more than 275 percent
to an average of $1.3 million a year. Big financial institutions,
corporations, saw their profits source. But prosperity never trickled down
to the middle class.
From 2001, to 2008, we had the slowest job growth in half a century.
The typical family saw their incomes fall. And in the fall of 2008, it all
came tumbling down with a financial crisis that plunged the world into the
worst economic crisis since the great recession.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: This history and Romney`s continue to spouse of what these
same policies that made up the core of Obama`s case against Romney today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe deeply in
the theory we tried in the last decade, the theory that the best way to
grow the economy is from the top down. So, they maintain that if we
eliminate most regulations, if we cut taxes by trillions of dollars, if we
strip down government to national security and a few other basic functions,
then the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be
unleashed and that will automatically benefit us all. That is what they
believe. This -- this is their economic plan. It has been placed before
congress, Governor Romney has given speeches about it and it`s on his Web
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: So that Obama argued is the real choice in the election.
Romney might say Obama`s policies have not delivered a recovery quickly
enough, but Romney`s policies, Obama says, delivered the cries is in the
Now, one speech doesn`t change an election. Partisan even reframe it
and this one won`t either. But the Obama`s campaign line of attack points
to a difficulty from the Romney campaign in the coming months, where can
they show a sharp break with the policies of the Bush administration.
Like the Bus administration, they support the permanent extension of
the Bush tax cuts and want more tax cuts on top of that.
Like the Bush administration, they emphasis a need for less
regulation, including in the financial sector which they think is overly
burdened by the Dodd-Frank reforms.
Like the Bush administration, they have taken a very hawkish stance on
foreign policy, with Romney relying on Bush advisors like John Bolton and
saying the hard line he would take on Iran is a central difference between
him and Obama.
Like the Bush administration, their claim is that the government needs
a CEO mind-set, that a candidate who spent his life in business understands
the economy far better than one that spent his time in public service.
This is a question that the Romney campaign is going to have to be
ready to answer. How are you not just a re-thread of the Bush years? How
is it not just back to the future.
So for, they have not quite come up with a good answer. Back in
April, Alexandra Franceschi, a spokeswoman for the Republican National
Committee, was asked this question on the "Fernando Espuelas Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FERNANDO ESPUELAS, RADIO HOST: How different is that concept from
what was, what were the policies of the Bush administration? And the
reason I ask that is because there`s some analysis now that is being
published talking about the Bush years being the slowest period of job
creation since those statistics were created. Is this a different program
or is this that program just updated?
ALEXANDER FRANCESCHI, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEDIA PRESS
SECRETARY: I think it`s that program just updated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: That program, just updated. Now, Franceschi does not speaking
for the Romney campaign, but the Romney campaign is going to need a much
better answer than that.
Joining us now is Nicole Wallace, former communications director for
the Bush administration and a senior adviser for the McCain-Palin campaign.
She is also the author of "it`s classified," which just came out in
Paperback, and a new mom.
Nicole, it is - great to see and congratulations on all these
NICOLE WALLACE, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: Thank
you, thank you for having me. I wish you were here in New York, you could
have endured the navigation of New York, not just too presidential visit
but the Bieber is due in Rockefeller plaza in the morning. And there are
hundreds of people, probably thousands came out. So, it is quite an
(INAUDIBLE) in rock center.
KLEIN: And that, me too, have missed that traffic.
So, Nicole, let`s start here. What is the Romney`s answer - campaigns
to this going to be? How is Romney going to separate his policy agenda
from George W. Bush`s?
WALLACE: You have tied my brain in a knot about six different time in
the last nine minutes, and luckily for me, I write make believe books, and
I don`t speak for the Romney campaign. But that is a fun and smart
question and I think on the left, it animates Barack Obama`s coalition, not
just the liberal base, but some of the people who have become a little dis-
effective with his record and his tone and his rhetoric.
And I think the speech, I`m not a fan of reframing. I think another
thing that they call it in Washington is changing the narrative. I think
in reality there are only a couple of opportunities in a presidential
campaign to do that and any given Wednesday, is not one of them. You can
do it in a convention speech. You can do it in any one of your nationally
televised debates, but you can`t do it on a Wednesday at 3:00 in Ohio.
So, it`s a good question and it is a good line, and you should keep
pushing it and see what the Romney campaign says. But the question before
the voters who will determine the outcome of the election in November, is
not going to have anything to do with George W. Bush. They could care
And frankly, the more Obama and his surrogates and the voices of them
who left talk about George W. Bush, the more turned off they are by Obama.
So, most Republicans are hopeful that this conversation goes on all the way
to November. But I promise you, I promise you, Obama will get the message
by October, November, and you will not hear him talking about Bush anymore.
He is laying the foundation now, upon which he will start to defend
and build out his vision for the future. Because presidential elections
are always, always about the future.
KLEIN: Absolutely. So I agree with almost all that. And I should
say, there`s nothing more I hate in politics than reframes.
KLEIN: It is actually in politics that reality is always going to be
messaged. But I think it`s a bit too quick to say that this -- the Bush
years will not be relevant here. Because I think they won`t be relevant if
Mitt Romney is sort of be able to say in a way, people find persuasive. I
have something new for you. I have something beyond just sort of tax cuts
and de-regulations, something you haven`t heard before.
But, I guess I have not seen from them all that much of what is new,
and to me, they have the Ryan plan, but they have yolk themselves as close
as they want to get to that. And so, you do have a bit of this kind of a
funny election. I mean, Barack Obama is in a tough spot because he has to
run on his record and the economy is rough and he has ways to defend it,
but they are difficult. But Romney also somehow has to say, I have
something that we have not tried before. Because in an election like this
one, where both sides are having a bit of trouble telling the people, this
is why you trust us for four more years, he has to have an answer too.
WALLACE: Yes. Look, I agree with you, and what we did not have in
`08 in any way shape of form, was a debate about economic policy, about
traditional right/left economic policy because both men were evaluated on
their ability to go flew a crisis. Our economy was in crisis. And so, the
voters were evaluating then senator Obama and senator McCain on their
ability to get through the crisis, and the voters saw Obama as more steady
in that economic crisis. But neither man, had to lay out a vision for the
future, you know, we did not have a normal economic policy debate the way
we haven`t in a presidential election that takes place not as the economy
is collapsing around us.
WALLACE: So, you mean remember, if you go back to `08, people were
afraid that they would go to the ATM and nothing would come out. So we
will have the first debate about economic policy in many elections because
in `04 that was an election and that was the first presidential election
after 9/11. So, we actually have not seen this probably since President
Clinton was running to democratic side.
So, we will have a debate in this country about whether certainty,
whether tax relief, whether government -- we are going debate all these
things and voters will decide and Obama just does not have a record. He
now has a record of statements. He has now passed a government stimulus
that he did in a partisan manner. He didn`t take in.
And it was his prerogative. He won the election. He won the
decisively and he chose to fast stimulus plan that was very heavy in
government spending. And that is one way to go about this. And a lot of
people think it`s the right way.
Republicans don`t and the fight will be about whether the middle of
the country thinks that it`s the right way.
KLEIN: We will have you back to talk more about the stimulus and
other things. I love to talk about other time.
But for now, Nicolle Wallace, former communications director for the
George Bush administration and a senior advisor of the McCain-Palin
campaign and the author of "it`s classified" now available on Paper Back.
Congratulations on all your wonderful news and thank you for being
WALLACE: Thanks so much, have a great night.
KLEIN: Vegas casino gazillion, Sheldon Adelson, famously gave Newt
Gingrich millions to run for president. Newt Gingrich.
Now apparently, Mr. Adelson, was just warming up for the main event.
That is next.
KLEIN: Love him or hate him and I bet for a lot of you it is the
under. Karl Rove has spent many years perfecting very specific and very
successful election tactics. Perhaps, none is a notable as Rove`s habit of
identifying his allies` most glaring faults and pinning them right on his
rival. It`s like major tend to call this projections. I prefer to think
of it as the most profound of all childhood cliches. I`m rubber, you are
glue, everything that you say bounces off of me and stick to you with a
billion dollars of advertising.
Now, to be fair, plenty of politicians regardless of party or ideology
use this trick as a matter of course. But Karl Rove tends to in a league
of his own with it. If there are hall of fames for this little rhetorical
game, the man George W. Bush affection called (INAUDIBLE) would be a first
ballot in deputy. They might name the hall of name after him, in fact.
In the Bush White House, for example, Rove had a habit of baring bad
news by releasing it late on Friday afternoon. But now, he has criticized
President Obama for trying to buried bad news by releasing it late on
Friday afternoons. Rove ran a west-wing that embraced a permanent campaign
mindset. So he has accused the Obama team of embracing a permanent
Rove won in 2004 by relying on an endless barrage of the PAC ads. So
now, he is accusing the president of trying to win by relying on an endless
barrage of attack ads.
This week, however, Rove out date himself. The Republican strategist
appeared on Sean Hannity`s radio show and predicted exactly what President
Obama and his allies would do to win or at least tried to do to win in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH SENIOR ADVISOR: Here`s how they are
going to do it. They are going to do it by trying to take their wallet and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: In fairness to Mr. Rove, if he were making this argument four
years ago, he may be able to present it with a straight face. In the 2008
cycle, then senator Obama bypass Republic financing system and became one
of the most prolific fundraiser anyone had ever seen. The McCain-Palin
ticket, were confident fund-raisers but, Obama buy and benefited from a
huge financial advantage.
Four years later, however, Rove`s argument is literally unbelievable.
And under these circumstances more than a little ironic.
Politico`s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei reported just last month that
Republican super PACs and other outside groups shaped by a loose network of
prominent conservatives planned to spend roughly a billion dollars on
November`s elections, all of that billion dollars will benefit Mitt Romney
and other GOP candidates.
Now, this network includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Koch Brothers
and their Americans for prosperity, but also, wouldn`t you know it, Karl
Rove`s own crossroads operations.
Indeed, Rove`s operation just by itself, separate from all the other
outfits is on track to raise $300 million for this campaign cycle alone.
To put that in perspective, Rove and his very wealthy friends will
collect nearly as much as McCain-Palin raised in the last election and
McCain-Palin was the presidential ticket for one of the two major American
What`s more, these billion dollars from outside troops will come on
top of the money raised by Mitt Romney and Republican National Committee
which are expected to race an additional $800 million.
The combined total of $1.8 billion boosted in part by a post-citizens`
united landscape, is unlike anything that the nation has ever seen. And
Karl Rove, the one accusing Obama trying to buy the election is at the
heart of it.
The other problem with Rove`s claim is that he is spectacularly bad
timing in making it. On Tuesday afternoon, he claimed that Obama tends to
buy the election.
On Wednesday, just one day later, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, best
known as Newt Gingrich`s most generous backer, wrote a $10 million check to
Mitt Romney`s Restore Our Future super PAC. It`s the single largest
contribution Romney super PAC that he has received to date and Adelson may
not be done.
He handed over an eight figure contribution yesterday. But Forbes
magazine reports today, it may be the first of many. Quote, "a well placed
source in the Adelson camp with direct knowledge of the casino
billionaire`s thinking says that further donations will be limitless."
In other words whatever financial resources that Mitt Romney wants, he
will get. Thanks in part to the bottomless flow of cash Sheldon Adelson is
prepared to draw upon. And the nagging the top for Democrats remains the
same. Adelson is not alone.
My colleague at the "Washington Post," E.J. Dionne Jr. explained this
week, quote, "Journalists focus to world of rich liberals in places such as
Hollywood and Silicon Valley. But there are even more conservative
millionaire and billionaires donors who hail from less mediagenic places.
There is, for example, a lot of oil money in Texas. Then, there is Wall
Street. Once a bountiful source of Democratic as well as Republican cash,
it has shifted toward the party of Mitt Romney, John Boehner and Mitch
If Karl Rove wants to know who may take out their wall to turn out by
this election, he might just look in the mirror.
KLEIN: I, Ezra Klein, am about to attempt something death defying, or
at least ratings defying. But other way, I`m going to attempt something
that to my knowledge has never been done in primetime television. I`m
going the try to convince you in less than two minutes that you should
care, really truly care if whether Spanish bond yields are at five percents
or seven percent. Gutsy, right?
Are you ready?
All right, Bond yields, what are they? A bond is what governments
use to borrow money. You want money, you sell a bond. You are with me?
The yield on a bond is the annual interest rate the government gets
charge on that loan. I swear that it is as technical as we are going to
get here. The more confident the market is, a country be able to pay the
bond back, unless they have to pay it back.
So, here in America, everyone knows we are going to pay our debt, at
least the Congress has not decide to go on the bath salts again and let the
country on fire. So, we pay virtually nothing.
A country like Spain is considered less of a safe bet so they pay
more, a lot more.
But here is the thing, most countries print their own currency. So
even if they are irresponsible, and they do borrow too much, they go and
just print some more money and pay down debts. But that can lead to
inflation, but usually inflation, a bit of inflation is better than
defaulting all together.
But now, Spain is part of the euro. They do not control their own
currency anymore. And because investors are so worried about the future of
Europe, they are charging Spain higher and higher interest rates.
At seven percent, Spain cannot pay its debts. They can`t do it. They
will default and if they default, they will be out of the Euro. And if
they are out of the Euro, the Euro is likely to collapse. And then, the
global economy and our economy are going to take a huge hit.
That is why you hear bond yields mentioned in the news so much these
days. The Eurozone crisis is a crisis of bonds. What everyone in Europe
is trying to do is keep the yields done so countries can fund themselves
and stay in the Eurozone. If they fail, if the bonds go up too high, the
Euro goes can blew it.
There is, by the way, an easy way they could succeed. The European
essential bank can just print the necessary Euro and hand it over. But the
European essential bank is basically run Germany. Germany hates inflation
more than anything, so they are not doing that. And that is the core of
the crisis and that crisis is right now, the biggest threat to the global
economy. And the only way to know what is going on with, is to watch the
And that is why you should care about them, done, boom, nine seconds
to go. Bond yields, now you know.
KLEIN: Dear RACHEL MADDOW SHOW audience, prepare to be astonished.
Ready? OK. Thanks in no small part to Republicans` very effective
rhetoric, lots and lots of people hate President Obama`s health reform,
also known as the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The Republican alternative, however, was three mere words long.
Repeal and replace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our Republican priority and our pledge to America
is to repeal and replace Obama care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An instant effort to repeal and replace the bill.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Trying to repeal and replace this failed
health care bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Repeal it but to replace it.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Repealing and replacing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Repeal and replace. Repeal was and remains fairly
straightforward. Last year, quote, "The House voted to repeal the
Democrats` landmark health care overhaul marking what the new Republican
majority and the chamber held as a fulfillment of a campaign promise and
the start of an all-out effort to dismantle President Obama`s signature
domestic policy achievement."
Replace, however, is a harder verb than repeal. So what might a
Republican health care reform replacement look like? The available
evidence lies in the words of Republicans leaders. When you piece together
those individual tiles, however, the mosaic you`re left with, the
hypothetical Republican health reform plan, is kind of shocking.
So right now, if you are not getting health care through your
employer, there aren`t really good options for you to go to buy it. Health
care plans are expensive, coverage is shallow, the plans themselves are
confusing and confounding, the marketplace is quite broken.
Republicans` solution to this problem is a better market where
consumers can comparison shop like you do on Amazon.com. Congressman Paul
Ryan, a policy leader among Republicans, has a health care plan that
includes an idea for one of these Amazon.com health care markets. Quote,
"It will utilize state-driven exchanges to facilitate real competition
between private plans."
"State-driven exchanges." Like ones in the Affordable Care Act,
maybe. That part of the hypothetical Republican plan exists.
Today Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the Republican with the most
personal momentum at the moment, spoke to reporters about repealing health
reform and what he would like to see Republicans salvage from the existing
law. Walker would like to keep something called guaranteed issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Whether it`s done through the
Affordable Care Act or done separate with that, with the Congress and the
states, I think, you know, things that allow you to go over state lines, I
think, are important. I think things that -- you know, certain things in
term of guaranteed issue and things of that nature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: OK. If you don`t speak the beautiful language of health
policy, walk like I do, and it`s a classic, don`t worry. You`re probably
more fun at cocktail parties than I am. But let me translate. This thing
Walker wants to keep, guaranteed issue, it`s a fancy term for not letting
health insurance companies deny you coverage based on a pre-existing
condition. If you asked for coverage, they have to be willing to sell it
Here`s the catch, Aetna, for example, they can`t say you have diabetes
so we won`t ensure you. What they can say is you have diabetes so we will
sell you health insurance for $5 trillion, which pretty much amounts to the
Republicans, however, don`t want Aetna to be able to do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I think there are a couple of things
that stand on their own that people like, like a pre-existing condition
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: It`s a little bit in the shadows there, but that`s Florida
Senator Marco Rubio.
Now if you keep that pre-existing condition clause, if you tell
insurers they can`t price discriminate based on pre-existing conditions and
they have to do guaranteed issue, problem solved. Right? Everybody can be
sold health insurance at the same cost.
Problem not solved. What we`ve now got is a unique and powerful
phenomenon called the insurance death spiral. This is what happens when
insurance companies suddenly can`t turn anyone away and they can`t
discriminate against sick people either. People who need insurance, sick
people, than rushing to buy it. That raises the average cost of insurance
and so people who aren`t sick stop buying it because it`s too expensive and
they don`t need it right now.
That makes health insurance even more expensive, so the next group of
healthy people stop buying it. That leaves the pool even sicker on average
and so costs go up even more, driving up the next healthiest group of
people, and on it goes until the average cost is so prohibitively high that
you can`t make it work.
A few years ago, a certain Republican governor came up with a way of
preventing the insurance death spiral. He realized that if you`re going to
force insurance companies to cover sick people and you won`t let them price
discriminate, you need to keep healthy people in the market to keep the
average cost low. The way to solve that problem, this governor realized,
was a policy called an individual mandate, that made people pay a financial
penalty if they didn`t buy health insurance. And he spent years defending
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if a state chose a mandate, it wouldn`t bother
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s a terrific
idea. I think -- I think you`re going to find, when it`s all said and
done, after all these states that are the laboratories of democracy, get
their chance to try their own plans, that those who follow the path that we
pursued will find it`s the best path, and we`ll end up with a nation that`s
taken a mandate approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: All right. So Paul Ryan likes exchanges, which is reasonable,
and Scott Walker likes guaranteeing coverage for folks with pre-existing
conditions, and Marco Rubio likes not letting those people be priced out,
but to have these reasonable and popular policies, we need everyone to buy
insurance to make the whole thing actually work, thus a mandate. And so we
arrived at our shocking conclusion.
After more than two years driving public opinion heavily against the
policy derisively known as Obamacare, Republican lawmakers, to the extent
they have described their own plans, want their police that is basically
Joining me now is Jonathan Gruber, an MIT health economist who helped
Mitt Romney designed his program and helped the Obama administration design
theirs. He`s also, to my knowledge, the author of the only comic book --
I`m sorry, the graphic novel about a health care bill. "Health Care
Reform: What It Is, Why It Is Necessary, and How It Works."
John, it is good to see you.
JONATHAN GRUBER, MIT ECONOMICS PROFESSOR: Good to see you, too, Ezra.
KLEIN: So you were in the room with Mitt Romney. Is this basically
how the conversation went when you`re designing the Massachusetts health
care plan? You want to solve one of these problems and you`re led into
these other solutions and other problems in turn?
GRUBER: Mitt Romney felt very strongly that there was a free rider
problem in health insurance in Massachusetts. That healthy people who
could afford insurance weren`t buying it, they`re waiting until they got
sick and then buying it, and that`s what led to the broken market as you
described. He said the mandate was necessary to solve that pre-rider
problem, and he was right. We put the mandate in and the premiums in our
non-group market fell by more than half.
KLEIN: So what happened if you try to remove one of these options?
What if you just do guaranteed issue like Scott Walker wants, but you don`t
stop insurers from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions and you
don`t add a mandate?
GRUBER: It`s exactly what you says. Basically insurers are smart,
they have smart people working there, and if you leave them an opening
they`ll take it. If you say guaranteed issue, that`s it, as you said,
they`ll say fine, you can have the insurance, it`s $1 million. If you say
guaranteed issue, you can`t exclude pre-existing conditions, they`ll say
fine, we`ll cover the conditions but will charge you $1 million for that.
If you -- so basically to make this work you have to have what we call
community rating. That means you have to regulate their ability to not
charge a sick many multiples of the healthy, or ideally they charge the
same price. The problem is seven states tried that in the 1990s, seven
well-meaning states tried that, and in every case it failed.
In some cases so badly the states repealed it. In other cases like
Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey, they kept those laws in place and
destroyed their insurance markets. This does not work.
KLEIN: So what do you think? What`s -- about the Massachusetts plan
is, as I understand it, it`s popular, Mitt Romney still supports it. Scott
Brown supports it. Do you think the Affordable Care Act, if it gets up and
running, is going to become popular in America the way Romney-care has
become well entrenched even among Republicans in the Bay State?
GRUBER: You know, I think it will. I have -- as you know, I was
quoted in your blog as saying, that, you know, I have this vision, I think
if the Affordable Care Act takes place, I have a vision that 20 years from
now, in a town hall, someone will rise and say keep the government`s hands
off my Affordable Care Act.
GRUBER: Because I think they will -- it will be -- it will be as
popular and not -- maybe not quite as popular as Medicare, but the same
level of public support just like we have in Massachusetts where about two-
thirds of the public support Romney-care.
KLEIN: Keep their hands off my Obamacare.
Jonathan Gruber, MIT health economist, helped designed Romney`s health
care plan in Massachusetts and the Affordable Health Care Act, and a
graphic novel writer.
Professor Gruber, thank you for your time.
GRUBER: Great to be here, Ezra.
KLEIN: Forty-two-year-olds don`t have many chances to make their
sports dreams come true, much less a chance to compete head-to-head with
their idols. Until today. A truly great underdog story is the best new
thing in the world today. Stick around.
KLEIN: There is a magic word that will apparently get you in big
trouble when you debate public policy in the great state of Michigan. It
is a word that will get you censored and put in the debate penalty box and
it is not a word you`d think it would be. The whole episode which is
caught on tape next.
KLEIN: The Michigan House yesterday passed a new set of regulations
for abortions in that state. The deal would make it more difficult to
offer this constitutionally protected medical care to women in Michigan.
It expands the state`s existing regulations to include far more clinics.
It also -- and this is going to get a little bit tough for a second, so
bear with me. It also requires that in some cases doctors would need to
file a fetal death report.
People who track bills like this one say the provision is common in
anti-abortion legislation. What`s really strange in this bill, they say,
is the requirement that if the woman has been pregnant for 10 or more weeks
the doctor would have to make what amounts to funeral arrangements for the,
quote, "fetal remains."
The measure passed largely on party lines, all the Republicans voted
for it, along with six Democrats, and the debate yesterday got a little
heated, perhaps as you`d expect, and it went like this. Here`s Republican
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. RAY FRANZ (R), MICHIGAN: While listening to testimony I
was taken aback by one of the speakers for the opposition. I think it was
a doctor that positive at the early stages of pregnancy were merely
tadpole-like creations or creatures. Really? Tadpole-like creatures?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Opponents of the bill, all of them Democrats, also spoke up.
Representative Rashida Tlaib made headlines everywhere with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: I am disappointed, Mr.
Speaker, that we are launching a war on women today while doing nothing to
launch a war on poverty, in that case, stop having sex with us, gentlemen,
find somebody else to do it with. Seriously, I ask women to call Michigan
to boycott men until these bills stop moving out of the House. Oppose this
bill for the love of your wives, for the love of your daughters and for the
love of mothers. Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: The Michigan press called this next argument feisty. This is
Democrat Lisa Brown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. LISA BROWN (D), MICHIGAN: I have not asked you to adopt
and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?
And finally, Mr. Speaker, I`m flattered that you`re all so interested
in my vagina but no means no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members, I do ask that you respect the decorum of
the House. This is an emotional issue for all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Don`t talk that way around here, the speaker was saying. In
addition to their testimony Democrats also introduced a series of
amendments designed to make the point that the state would be claiming a
role on governing women`s medical decisions in a way that it does not claim
a role in governing men`s medical decisions.
One amendment would require a full exam before a man could get a
prescription for a drug like a Viagra, for instance. Another would stop
doctors from performing a vasectomy unless a patient is in the throes of a
medical emergency or his life is at risk.
For the most part, the Republican speaker gaveled away the amendments
(INAUDIBLE) Democrats control the chamber. When the speaker gaveled away
that particular vasectomy amendment, this is what it looked like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Representative Byrum offers one amendment
identified as Amendment 2-I.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question before the House is on the adoption
of Amendment 2-I? The clerk will open the --
STATE REP. BARB BYRUM (D), MICHIGAN: I`d like to speak, Mr. Speaker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members may vote at their desk.
BYRUM: I`d like to speak. I`d like to speak, Mr. Speaker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amendment is not adopted. Are there further
amendments? Are there -- Representative, you are out of order.
BYRUM: You should recognize me, Mr. Speaker. I represent the same
number of people as you do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the clerk please read in the next amendment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: It`s a little hard to tell from that tape exactly what is
happening. And Miss Byrum never had a microphone. But it`s clear today
how Republicans responded. They told two of those three Democratic women
you just watched, Republicans told two of them they would not be allowed to
speak today on the House floor.
Mlive.com published this statement from the speaker`s office, quote,
"It is the responsibility of the Majority Floor Leader, the presiding
officer, and every representative, to maintain the decorum of the House.
The Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas has informed Minority Floor Leader
Segal that Representatives Brown and Byrum will not be recognized to speak
on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and
actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of
When we asked the speaker`s office for more details, they told us
Representative Byrum, the Democrat with that vasectomy amendment, was,
quote, "gaveled down yesterday for marching through the chamber and
shouting like a small child throwing a temper tantrum."
Representative Brown was gaveled down yesterday not for words she used
in her comments but the context in which she used them. Like in abortion
debate you mean or heatedly or bringing up sex in a discussion of women`s
reproductive rights? Because that just makes people uncomfortable?
Republicans told us the women were censored because of their actions.
It had nothing to do with the gender or religion or even the topic before
the chamber. The speaker`s office also told us the Democrats almost never
let them talk when the Democrats were in control. They said it was a
matter of professional courtesy for the Republican floor leader to
proactively tell the Democrats that the two women would have to be quiet
One of these silenced lawmakers, Mrs. Byrum, told us that she could
possibly have marched through chamber because she hurt her knee in a race
last week. But that she did raise her voice to be heard which is hardly
unheard of in legislative chambers.
As for the lawmaker who thanked the chamber for the interest in her
nethers, but no means no, she joins us now so we can ask her ourselves.
Joining me now, Lisa Brown, Michigan state representative.
Representative Brown, thank you so much for being here tonight.
BROWN: Thank you for having me, Ezra.
KLEIN: Republicans say you were censured today not for your words but
for the context in which you said them. Have they elaborated on that?
What exactly does that mean?
BROWN: You know, I wish I could tell you. I did not have one member
of Republican leadership come up and speak to me today. I heard from my
own leadership that I was being banned from speaking on the floor. I
wasn`t told why. I wasn`t told for how long. I wish I could tell you more
but I just frankly don`t know.
KLEIN: What was the broad point you were -- you were making yesterday
on the House floor?
BROWN: Well, I was trying to make a few points. The bill covered a
lot of issues. And I -- you know, I think that the government has no
business being in my private business. And, you know, frankly, using the
word vagina, that`s what this legislation is regulating. It is the
medically, anatomically correct word to use. In fact it`s in our Michigan
statute on three different occasions.
KLEIN: What have you heard from your constituents about this matter?
What do they think about the legislation broadly and about the -- how
you`ve been banned for speaking out on the floor?
BROWN: I have had support not just from my constituents but really
from across the country. And I`ve had people go to Act Blue and give money
to support me on my Act Blue page. We`ve heard from people from
California, to Chicago, all across the country, cheering me on and thanking
me for being a voice for women.
KLEIN: So do you know how long the punishment, so to speak, is
intended to last? Can you talk on the floor tomorrow, a week from now?
When does the timeout end?
BROWN: Well, today was actually our last day for summer break. We
meet again in another month. I don`t know what will happen when we come
back in July. Because today was the last day before break, we took up a
great number of bills. Many of which I wanted to speak to, in fact that
was how I found out in the first place. The first bill that we took up
this morning at 10:00 a.m., I was planning on speaking out on. And it had
to do with teacher retirement. And that`s when I found out from Democratic
floor leader that I had been banned from speaking on the floor.
KLEIN: And so the Republicans in your state say this is to some
degree tit-for-tat. The Democrats did not let Republicans talk when you
were in the majority. Is that correct? Is this just relations that`s
simply broken down there?
BROWN: No, that`s not correct. And, you know, everything I did was -
- or yesterday, rather, was according to the rules. I was called on by the
speaker of the House, I was speaking to the bill, and I -- you know,
followed the House rules. So being punished today, I -- really I had no
idea why. I still have no idea why.
KLEIN: The bill goes into effect in September as I understand it. Is
there anything more than House Democrats are going to be able to do or
going to try to do to stop it?
BROWN: Well, the bill still needs to go to the Senate. And they said
that they`re going to be taking it up in September. So there`s still time
to fight this bill, to request that this bill go away, and never show its
ugly head again. So the fight is not over.
KLEIN: Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown, thank you so much
for joining us tonight.
BROWN: Thank you for having me.
KLEIN: Cinderella meet "Caddyshack," the best new thing in the world
KLEIN: The best new thing in the world today is the totally unlikely
underdog achievements of Dennis Miller. No, not that Dennis Miller. I`m
talking about this Dennis Miller. He is a golf pro, which means he teaches
golf in a course in Ohio. Last week, this Dennis Miller tried to qualify
to play in the U.S. Open. To get into the U.S. Open, you have to play well
enough in a particular local tournament to get into a sectional qualifier.
Then you have to play well enough to get there into the Open.
It is, for golf pros, a dream to play in the U.S. Open. You play with
the very best golfers in the world and very few ever get to do it. Last
week on his 12th try over his career, he had tried to get to the U.S. Open
12 times, after playing all day against equally determined guys who want
exactly the same thing, the only thing standing between 43-year-old Dennis
Miller and his dreams of playing in the U.S. Open was one small putt.
So close. That poor guy. I mean to come that close. And I know what
you`re thinking now. This doesn`t feel very best new thing-ish. It feels
almost worst new thing-ish. But wait, watch the end of that.
It`s good. Although I know that`s not the motion you make in golf,
but that is awesome. An ordinary Joe getting right to the lip of glory
only to have his hopes hang there helplessly before dropping into total
As I said, this happened to Dennis Miller last week. So why is it the
best new thing in the world today? Because today Dennis Miller who just
wanted to get there arrived. The 42-year-old golf pro who`s failed 11
times to get into the U.S. Open played his first round in the U.S. Open.
His score after the first 18 holes? Ten over par. In other words, way out
of the running. He`s not going to win this thing.
Dennis Miller has no illusions that he will come in number one in the
U.S. Open. He told his local paper, quote, "Hey, in two weeks, this will
all be over. I`ll go back to being a club pro in Ohio and my wife will go
back to being a nurse, but we`re going to enjoy every minute of it. That,
I can promise you."
And so in the words of Carl Spackler of Bushwood County Club -- of
Bushwood Country Club, he`s got that going for him. Which is nice. And
the best new thing in the world today.
That does it for us tonight. Don`t forget you can check out my work
at Wonkblog.com at the "Washington Post." You can follow me on Twitter at
twitter.com/ezraklein and on Facebook, facebook.com/ezraklein.
Now it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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