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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Frank Rich, Eleanor Holmes Norton

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Michael. Thank you very much.

And thanks to you at home for joining us.

There is a celebrity in the world -- I don`t know if you`ve heard of
him or not, his name is Justin Bieber. He`s a celebrity that became famous
as a child, as a young teenager who looked young for his age even when he
was 13 or 14.

Well, now he is 18, and so he is going through the awkward phase where
someone known for being a charismatic and popular child star tries to alert
the world that they have, in fact, gone through puberty and they`d like to
be seen as an adult now. The child star becomes an adult thing is an
unsettling and difficult transition.

And even when it works, it still is sometimes weird. It`s always been
that way. I mean, when Shirley Temple reinvented herself after being the
highest profile child star ever, Shirley Temple rather unexpectedly came
back as Richard Nixon`s appointee to be the America`s ambassador to the
United Nations. Shirley Temple? Yes, Shirley Temple.

The rapper Lil` Bow Wow, Lil` as in little, when he wanted to address
his successful journey to the far side of puberty, he became just Bow Wow.
He dropped the Lil`, or Lil`. That works for Mr. Wow, kind of.

Ricky Schroder, remember him? Child star Ricky Schroder from "Silver
Spoons," he became Rick, not Ricky, and he became a very tough TV cop,
which is -- you know, sometimes these transitions work, sometimes they
don`t.

But Justin Bieber`s attempted transition from famous child to famous
man is being aided right now by a very important prop, a prop that is
turning out to be a potent symbol of failure and desperation in America`s
presidential election. The prop is this, Mr. Bieber`s $100,000 chromed
Fisker. A Fisker is a car, and no, they don not normally come in chrome,
which I think looks like a high-end kitchen implement. Looks like it
should have a granite dashboard and cold draft ice machine in the glove
compartment.

This Fisker car, I think, doesn`t usually come from the factory
chromed. But if you are Justin Bieber and you are 18 and you want
everybody to know you are old enough to drive now, you can have whatever
you want. And so, Justin Bieber has a chromed Fisker.

And earlier -- look at it. Earlier this month, Justin Bieber, the pop
star, was pulled over on 101 Freeway in Los Angeles for reportedly going
over 100 miles an hour in his very, very, very, very shiny Fisker. A
French tourist took this picture of him and said he was so blinded by the
shiniest of the car that he did not realize one of the most famous people
in the world was inside it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABRIEL LAFFAY, TOURIST: I was looking for the car first. That`s why
I took the picture, and then I heard it was Justin Bieber. I was like wow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: When responsible citizens called 911 in L.A. to report this
very, very, very speeding chrome Fisker, they had no idea what adjectives
to use to describe it.

Listen to the callers.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CALLER #1: It`s totally, totally silver. It`s got to be a $100,000
vehicle. I don`t know what it is.

CALLER #2: And the car being pursued is a silver metallic, maybe a
Corvette? Some kind of race car.

DISPATCHER: It`s a silver -- what type of car?

CALLER #2: Maybe a Corvette. It`s a metallic silver. You cannot
miss it. It`s a very unusual car.

CALLER #1: It looks like a spaceship.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: It`s true, kind of does look like a spaceship. Spaceship
kitchen implement.

But here`s the thing. Here`s why this has turned out to be an
important reference in the presidential race right now. The Fisker, even
Justin Bieber`s chromed Fisker, is an electric car. There are still rather
homely, slow, tiny-wheeled electric cars or partially electric cars out
there on the market, and that may be the way most people think of electric
cars.

But there are also these Fiskers, right? And there are also Teslas,
as well as these -- right, this is a Tesla. These very, very fancy super
car looking fast electric cars.

The idea, I think, is to up the transition from gas-burning cars to
electric cars. The idea is to make that transition go faster by building
very cool electric cars to attract interest and to attract buyers and
change the perception as pokey and homely into being rather something cool.

If the future of automotive manufacturing is electric vehicles, not
just for pollution reasons but also for automotive technology reasons,
then, frankly, there is a national economic interest in America developing
that as a manufacturing sector. I mean, if the future is electric, we
don`t want to be stuck behind as the country only with the ability to make
gas-powered cars, while Europe and China and Japan and South Korea and
whoever else supply the world with the next generation of plug-ins.

So under the Bush administration, under the George W. Bush
administration, a program was set up to bolster this sector as an American
manufacturing sector, to provide government-guaranteed loans to try to grow
businesses, like these electric car companies, to try to grow this sector
in our economy.

Fisker, the Justin Bieber puberty has arrived helper prop, Fisker
applied for government-backed loans to help grow its business under the
George W. Bush administration program created for that purpose. That
funding got approved once the Obama administration took over.

Now, that wasn`t their only investment money, Fisker also got funding
from a big venture capital firm in California, a firm that is a pretty
high-profile firm, it has among its partners, people like Meg Whitman, who
was the Republican candidate for governor a couple of years ago in
California? She`s been a big high-profile supporter and fundraiser and
donor for John McCain last time around and for Mitt Romney.

The same firm also has as a partner a man named Al Gore, who you might
have heard of. He is not a Republican.

The main partner tied to the Fisker investment firm is this guy, who
is a John McCain donor and a Rudy Giuliani donor and a George W. Bush
donor, and who also sometimes supports Democrats, but he mostly supports
Republicans.

That`s the situation in the real world and in the economy.

But in politics, the Mitt Romney campaign is now trying to sell the
idea that the Fisker car company is an Obama donor scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m ashamed to say that
we`re seeing our president hand out money to the businesses of campaign
contributors when he gave money, $500 million in loans, to a company called
Fisker that makes high-end electric cars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I think Meg Whitman is going to get annoyed she`s being
called a Barack Obama donor and this firm, right, that she invested in,
this Fisker car company that her venture capital company invested in that
applied for a George W. Bush administration government loan is therefore
some kind of Obama communism great reveal.

This Fisker attack, with or without Justin Bieber, is just a mistake.
It is a -- it is a misfire by the Romney campaign, but they are misfiring
right now. They are trying really hard to come up with something to talk
about other than Mr. Romney not releasing his tax returns. They thought
this would be over by now, it is not over.

But the stuff they want to pivot to just is being served half-cooked.
This is political stuff when you`re talking about a presidential campaign
that should not be launched until they`ve got a better command of the
facts. This stuff is not ready for primetime.

I mean, the Fisker attack I think is just a flat-out flailing mistake.
They are trying, with the Fisker thing, with other things to generate
enthusiasm for what the Republicans are calling a crony capitalism attack
on President Obama. Now, that is awkward right off the bat because they
usually don`t like to call him a capitalist, they like to call him a
socialist, or communist, or Kenyan or whatever.

But they are trying to call him a crony capitalist right now and the
whole idea of this attack is that President Obama`s bundlers, his top
fundraisers, have benefited politically from being his bundlers. They have
had political benefits paid to them as a sort of payback for them bundling
fundraise donations for President Obama. That`s the allegation.

This is from the Romney campaign`s conference call just a couple of
days ago.

All right, I thought we had the sound of it. We don`t have the sound?
I can read it.

"I don`t think we`ve ever seen anything in the executive branch like
the kind of direct payoffs we`re seeing with President Obama with his
bundlers. You really need to elect someone who`s committed to weeding it
out and to not putting, making a political bundle in the top -- you know,
the top requirement for the job application. It`s not illegal for him to
pick bundlers to be in these top positions, the only way it`s going to stop
is for someone who has run on stopping it, and has committed to doing it in
his own administration and Governor Romney is that person."

"Governor Romney is that person," says Romney surrogate Ken
Cuccinelli. We`ll be talking about him more later in the program.

Governor Romney is that person. How exactly will Governor Romney
treat his bundlers different than President Obama treats his bundlers?
Well, Governor Romney promises not to tell us who his bundlers are. Oh, so
President Obama discloses the names of people who bundle big fundraising
donations to him. Mitt Romney is pledging to keep the names of his secret.

But his big attempted political pivot this week is to make President
Obama seem like he`s the one that`s a little shady about his donors, the
donors that President Obama discloses publicly and Mitt Romney keeps
secret. Oh, Republicans love Justin Bieber`s electric car, and somehow
that means communism, foreign, or whatnot.

This is a mess, and if that is not a big enough mess, there`s also
"BuzzFeed" reporting this week that of the 17 political appointees
announced by Governor Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts in
the year 2006, of the 17 political appointees he announced that year, 15
were campaign donors to him -- 15 of the 17.

And now he and his campaign are egging on the national press corps to
ask about campaign donors getting political favors, 15 of his 17.

Are you familiar with the flail whale? The flail whale is something
that turns up on Twitter when something internally goes wrong with the
site. And instead of getting a generic make you angry error message, they
were smart, and they came up with something cut. They gave you this guy,
cute flail whale, something`s wrong.

I do not think the Mitt Romney campaign is failing right now. I think
it`s almost impossible to fail in July. You fail in October. But it`s
July, and if they are not failing, I do think they are flailing.

And the way that is manifesting, the way you can check whether or not
you agree with my opinion on that, is to check and see whether or not they
are accomplishing what they are trying to accomplish. Even though they are
striking out with all these poorly aimed, half-cooked counterattacks, what
they are trying to make go away is the question about Mr. Romney`s tax
returns, and frankly, the question is getting worse and getting louder for
them. It is not getting better, it is not getting quieter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MODERATOR: Back in 1967, your father set a groundbreaking -- what was
then a groundbreaking standard in American politics. He released his tax
returns. He released them for not one year, but for 12 years, and when he
did that, he said this, "One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show."

When you release yours, will you follow your father`s example?

ROMNEY: Maybe. You know, I don`t know how many years I`ll release.
I`ll take a look what our documents are --

(BOOS)

ROMNEY: And I`ll release multiple years. I don`t know how many
years, but I`ll be happy to do that.

MODERATOR: Governor, you will plan, then, to release your income tax
records around April?

ROMNEY: I think I`ve heard enough from folks saying, look, you know,
let`s see your tax records, I have nothing in them but to suggest there`s
problem, and I`m happy to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He has not turned out to be happy to do so. Despite calls
back them, both of those pieces of tape are from January. Despite calls
back then and again now in July, not just from Democrats, but Republicans,
conservatives, even his own campaign surrogates, that he should release his
tax returns, he will not. He has released one year and an estimate of
another year and that`s it. And he`s saying he`s staying steadfast with
that position.

And so the story lives, and the campaign is handling it worse and
worse every day. And today, the campaign`s handling of the issue hit rock
bottom.

Unfortunately, it was the candidate`s spouse who the campaign took out
to take their worst political step on this subject yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There seem to be so many different distractions,
one being your husband and the tax returns. Both Bushes gave multiple
years, 10 and 12 years. President Obama gave seven years of tax returns.
Your husband has been adamant about only the two years that will be
released.

Why will he not follow the example of others on both sides of the
aisle?

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY`S WIFE: You know, I think there`s reason for
all of these things. You know, you should really look at where Mitt has
led his life and where he`s been financially.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Yes, we would really like to look at where mitt has led his
life and where he has been financially. That`s the point. That`s why
people want to see his tax returns, like all the other people that got to
be president. The "he shouldn`t release his tax returns" defense is you
should see his finances?

This is not -- this is not a good political move.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A. ROMNEY: You know, you should really look at where mitt has led his
life and where he`s been financially. He`s a very generous person. We
give 10 percent of our income to our church every year.

Do you think that is the kind of person that`s trying to hide things
or do things? No. He is so good about it.

Then when he was governor of Massachusetts, didn`t take a salary in
the four years. You know, he is a person --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not show that then? It`s a moot point and
people can move on.

A. ROMNEY: There`s so many things that will be open again for more
attack and you just want to get more material for more attack and that`s
really -- that`s just the answer, and we`ve given all you people need to
know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our
life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Can`t release the tax returns because they would show more
things to attack Mr. Romney for, but I want to tell you what you would see
in those tax returns, if we did release them, they would show that Mr.
Romney is very charitable and very good, but you can`t see them. I wish
you could, because he looks great in his tax returns, except for the parts
that would look bad, so trust me when I say they are good.

This is not the way to make people stop wanting to see the tax
returns. And it is not just the campaign putting the candidate`s spouse
out there to make this very bad political argument, they are also making
this very bad political argument directly through the campaign
spokespeople.

The spokesperson for the campaign today assured Politico.com that it
is not true that Mitt Romney`s tax returns would show that he paid zero
taxes in 2009. He definitely paid some amount of tax that year. We won`t
say how much, but they will assert, on the record, that he paid more than
zero in taxes, and they refuse to prove it.

This is flailing. This is a campaign not just in disarray, but in
distress. I did not expect it to be this bad at this time of year, and I
do not know what happens next.

Frank Rich joins us in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: "New York" magazine`s Frank Rich is here next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BRESAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A. ROMNEY: You know, you should really look at where Mitt has led his
life and where he`s been financially. He`s a very generous person. We
give 10 percent of our income to our church every year. Do you think that
is the kind of person that is trying to hide things or do things? No. He
is so good about it.

Then when he was governor of Massachusetts, didn`t take a salary in
the four years. You know, he is a person --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not show that then? Why not release them,
because it`s a moot point and people can move on.

A. ROMNEY: Because there`s so many things that will be open again for
more attack and you just want to give more material for more attack and
that`s really -- that`s just the answer. And we`ve given all you people
need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we
live our life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Joining us now is Frank Rich, "New York" magazine writer at
large and executive producer of HBO`s comedy series "Veep," which was
nominated for an Emmy today -- congratulations on that, Frank.

FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Thank you very much.

MADDOW: My feeling is something has happened in presidential
politics, that is, it`s the end of July, this is not a time anything
decisive is supposed to be happening in the campaign, but I feel that the
Romney campaign has collapsed around this issue about not releasing the
candidate`s taxes, this is getting worse and not better for them.

Do you think that`s true?

RICH: I think it`s absolutely true, and one of the most interesting
things about it is they could have seen it coming. I mean, you`ve showed
the clips of the previous debates in January. It`s like the Bain story,
which he was first attacked on Bain in 1994 in the race with Ted Kennedy,
didn`t have the answers then, still doesn`t have them.

The Ann Romney thing is fascinating. First of all, it`s a step up, at
least he`s putting Ann Romney out in front. He was earlier in the week
hiding behind Teresa Heinz Kerry. Mitt Romney complained that he was not
being held to the same standard she was when she was not running for
president in 2004.

But also, just what she said now, she said he`s a good man, he gives
10 percent of his income or whatever -- we don`t what -- zero, maybe of
zero, but whatever to the church. She didn`t mention the name of the
church, which is the Mormon Church. The Mormon Church was one the single
bankrollers on some of the most homophobic stuff that went on on
Proposition 8 in California. So, did any of that money go there? Is there
a way of knowing it? That`s just in one snippet.

They keep making it worst. They have no answers, and they look bad.
And it`s also a metaphor, I think, or become a proxy for all the secrecy
about Romney, about Bain, about his governorship of Massachusetts where the
hard drives were erased, as his staff was leaving.

MADDOW: They bought them and took them with them.

RICH: Right, they could afford to buy them.

All those sort of language they use, like in 2009 he didn`t pay -- we
can say he didn`t pay zero in taxes. First of all, he could have gotten a
refund for all we know.

MADDOW: Right.

RICH: And 2009 is just one year, and a relatively recent year.

MADDOW: In terms of the biggest possible picture in the campaign, the
Romney folks want this election to be about Obama. The Obama folks want
this election to be about Romney.

I mean, Republicans want it to be a thumbs up or thumbs down
referendum on the president, with particular reference to the economy. If
the Obama side succeeds at sort of filling in Mr. Romney`s otherwise sort
of mysterious silhouette so the president`s visible here, and it`s not just
about Obama or some undefined other choice, but about two defined,
recognizable, visible people, is that the whole ball game for the Obama
folks? Is that the essential thing they need to do?

RICH: I think it`s the best path they have. Well, anything can
happen. Things can happen in foreign affairs too. We don`t know what`s
going to happen between now and November.

But look, the economy is a weak hand for Obama. For all the
improvements he`s made in it, it`s not what people think it should be, no
one thinks that.

And by filling in Romney, who is sort of a blank to many Americans,
still is. You know, people -- a lot of people have no opinion about him,
they are turning it into a horse race, and Romney, incredibly, or his
campaign, is obliging the Obama forces, because they don`t fill in his
personality at all. He`s a good guy, gives to charity, but people don`t
need to know what`s really going on.

You`ve heard enough. Well, that`s not going to fly.

MADDOW: How long -- how do we know whether or not it`s going to fly?
Presumably, they are just going to stick with this line as long as they
possibly can. In January, they broke.

In January, they did eventually break under the pressure. And that`s
how we got the one year and one estimate that we have now. They have been
standing up against this pressure for a long time now. It`s been a few
weeks now.

RICH: It`s going to keep coming up. First of all, he has promised
another return. When that happens, whatever it is, it may be completely,
you know, benign, but it`s going to create another flurry. When he
appoints a vice president, people are going to ask about the other half of
the ticket`s tax returns and how many tax returns of that person we`re
going to see. It`s going to be something that keeps on happening.

If Romney had great political skills, you know, if he had the charm of
a Bill Clinton or even of a George W. Bush, for those who went for it, he
might be able to finesse it, but you add his poor political skills, his
robotic personality, his sticking to sound bytes that don`t add up with the
continued questions, he can`t improvise and answer. He doesn`t seem to
have any way out of it.

MADDOW: You made me think about something I`ve never thought about
before with the vice president then, because Romney gave 23 years of his
tax returns to John McCain when he wanted to be president. He`s only
released one year and an estimate for wanting to be president.

So, if Mitt Romney is pressured by that, which you`re anticipating, so
he only asks his vice presidential possibilities, who he`s vetting, for a
year of their tax returns, a year and an estimate, say, so he can`t be held
to a problematic double standard there, we might get a vice presidential
nominee where nobody has seen more than one year of their tax returns?

RICH: I think there`s another scenario, they did ask for eight, ten,
or 23, and people are going to say why can`t we see those and people are
going to say, why can`t we see those? And also, why can`t we see yours?

MADDOW: I don`t think they can bear that double standard. I think
they`re going to have to say, no, we didn`t bother seeing the tax returns,
it`s private.

RICH: If they did that, they are fools, it means they haven`t vetted
the candidate properly.

MADDOW: And with Marco Rubio`s financial history, which is like a
horror movie --

RICH: Yes.

MADDOW: Wow, that just got way more interesting in my head.

RICH: Glad to oblige.

MADDOW: Thank you, you have a way of doing this.

Frank Rich, "New York" magazine writer at large and again, Emmy
nominated comedy series, "Veep," Frank is the executive producer of that
congratulations, Frank.

RICH: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: All right, it was jobs, jobs, jobs day again in Republican
politics again, and you know what that means.

Also, we got a best new thing in the world coming up. One that you
will thank me for, I swear. That`s all coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: There is, as we speak, something in existence called Cooch
Watch 2012. It is on the internet machine, involves a young woman in an
obvious blond wig. And it is not what it sounds like it must be.

Cooch Watch 2012 is I have to say, rather excellent, rather unexpected
and partially explains who may be the next vice presidential nominee.
That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The try anything to avoid the subject of not releasing your
tax return adventure that is the Mitt Romney campaign now, this week
included the campaign leaking a list of what might be the three most boring
names in American politics. And I do not mean that in an insulting way.
It`s actually a great political asset.

Reportedly, these people are on this list, in part, because they are
boring, so they meet one of the main qualifications for being Mitt Romney`s
pick for vice president. As leaked this week, the main Mitt Romney short
list for vice president includes Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ohio
Senator Rob Portman, and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

The dark horse candidate is reportedly Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. But
presumably, he`s considered a dark horse because he`s too exciting.

That news of the big three of boring, plus Paul Ryan, the news that
the Romney campaign has narrowed the field of vice president to those
folks, left this guy, poor old Virginia governor bob McDonald way out in
the lonely this week. He had, at one point, been a leading contender for
the vice presidential spot and he had made no secret of the fact that he
wanted the job, and badly.

Bob McDonnell ran ads for himself a couple of months ago in Virginia,
even though he`s not running for reelection. What are the ads for, what
are you campaigning for, Gov?

Governor McDonnell was seen as a top contender for the V.P. nod until
the Virginia legislature passed a bill that mandated medically unnecessary
vaginally probed ultrasounds for any woman seeking an abortion in his
state. Now, eventually, they took out the part saying the ultrasound had
to be a specifically vaginally probe, but you still did have to have a
medically unnecessary ultrasound at the direction of the state government
and Virginia still required you to pay for it. This thing that you don`t
want and you don`t need. And that`s how Governor McDonnell became governor
ultrasound.

In the same election that Virginia elected governor ultrasound, they
also picked an anti-abortion activist to be attorney general, too. Just
like governor ultrasound, Ken Cuccinelli began his political career
sponsoring bills to make it harder to get an abortion in Virginia. Like we
have seen in other Republican-controlled states this year, Republicans of
Virginia this year, even after the ultrasound thing, have been moving
forward with new regulations that are specifically targeted at abortion
clinics.

They seem designed to try to close abortion clinics through targeted
regulation. Now, interestingly, the board of health in Virginia is not
going along with this quietly. The board of health in Virginia ruled this
month that these new rules could not be used to shut down Virginia`s
existing abortion clinics.

Enter Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is intervening now to try
to overrule, in effect, the board of health. He is refusing, as attorney
general, to certify the board of health`s actions. An oh, no, what`s going
to happen next year? Ken Cuccinelli is sending this issue over to governor
ultrasound for his consideration. Won`t you please get involved here, sir?

Governor ultrasound hasn`t even begun to recover from the thing that
got him named governor ultrasound, and now he`s getting saddled with
another one of these? Oh, governor ultrasound, this is a tough spot for
you.

But, you know, if you insist on laws to intentionally over-regulate
the lady parts in your state and if your state is already governed by a guy
named governor ultrasound and if your name is Ken Cuccinelli and your
nickname in Virginia politics is already the Cooch, that`s already what
people call you, then you know what? Sooner or later somebody is going to
start something called Cooch Watch.

And someone just did. This week, a small group of pro-choice
activists in Virginia launched coochwatch.com, a Web site dedicated to all
things Cooch, by which they mean all things Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia
attorney general.

You can have fun with this, right? Their first caption contest
resulted in this caption winner. And then poof, we control all the
vaginas.

Cooch Watch also sent a fake real reporter to fake real report on the
Cooch`s every move on the state, like when he spoke recently for a local
Virginia Tea Party group.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: And what are you doing personally to protect your cooch
from the Cooch?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I`m not letting him anywhere near mine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: And so it goes in Republican-controlled states where
Republicans have made a full-time crusade since the 2010 elections of
passing anti-abortion bills and where women, and men who trust women, are
making a new and wonderful art form of fending them off and making fun of
them and resisting them. But it`s not just in the states.

Even though this is mostly happening in the states, it should be noted
that at the federal level in Congress, where Republicans are promised to be
laser-focused on jobs, jobs, jobs, they have somehow found time on also
being laser-focused on taking away abortion rights, particularly in one
city, in Washington, D.C., which Congress does have some dominion over.
Republicans this year in Congress have taken action on three stand alone
federal bills to take away access to abortion in D.C.

Their latest goes so far that it may not be constitutional, but
Republicans are rolling it forward anyway, passing it on a party line vote
through a House committee this week. In Congress, when Republicans control
the House, the congresswoman who represents Washington, D.C. is not allowed
to vote. A Democratic majority allows her to vote, but a Republican
majority in the House does not.

It`s not that they are not interested in D.C., they are just not
interested in having D.C. vote on things affecting D.C.

Yesterday, though she cannot vote, Eleanor Holmes Norton ask her
statement be included in the record. Congresswoman Norton said, quote,
"Republicans do dare not take on the women of this country who have voting
members of the House and Senate with a post-20-week ban on abortions.
Instead, the majority has chosen a cheap and cynical way to make an
ideological point during an election year."

Joining us now is Eleanor Holmes Norton, the congresswoman from the
District of Columbia. Congresswoman Norton, nobody gets to vote on this
show, it`s a dictatorship. But if there were, you`d have full voting
rights here.

It`s great to have you here.

DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: You make the argument Republicans would dare not try an
abortion ban like this nationwide where people had voting representatives.
Why do you think that is and why do you think they`ve singled out D.C.?

NORTON: Very important, Rachel. If you think they are coming after
District of Columbia, sure, because that`s the easiest thing to do, but
their interest is really not in the District of Columbia.

This 20-week abortion ban, in defiance of Roe v. Wade, they`ve marched
through nine conservative states. And then it occurred to the anti-choice
folk forces, we need a federal and primary tool, what`s the easiest way to
get it? They didn`t dare get in the face of American women. They`ve
already been there for contraceptives, health care plans, defunding Planned
Parenthood, the Komen for the Cure, they got their -- their you know what
handed to them.

So you come in the face of the American women today with -- and by the
way, the final destination is your abortion rights, and you really get
their attention. Tell you what, Rachel, we got their attention, because
pro-choice forces have been all over the country saying this ain`t about
the District of Columbia. They are using the District of Columbia to get
you there on a national campaign against Roe v. Wade. And, by the way,
they have already been caught up.

This is a bill brought by an Arizona member of the House named Trent
Franks. I called him out because his own state didn`t have a 20-week
abortion ban, so he quick got some people to introduce one there. That now
is going to court.

Look, this is against -- this is unconstitutional, when it comes to
the District of Columbia, it deprives us of our 14th Amendment rights, why
here and not women else -- well, that`s not the point. They are using
women in my district as puppets, as pawns, to get at Roe v. Wade and
American women nationwide.

Watch out, they are coming after you.

MADDOW: So you think that they are specifically pursuing this in
D.C., not just part of a broader anti-abortion interest pushing their
advantage where they can, where they`ve got control, you think this is
specifically to set up a federal case to challenge Roe v. Wade by taking
this 20-week ban issue that they`ve pushed in other states?

NORTON: No, no, they can do that, and they`ve already done that in
the states. This is to get up ahead of seam throughout the country where
you get as many states as possible to defy Roe v. Wade. You can do it
easily in nine conservative states where it`s hard to get an abortion in
the first place.

But if you really want to bring this attention, some national
attention on this, what you want to do as part of this national campaign is
somehow get the federal government involved. Rachel, if this was a
principle matter, if you thought there was pain at 20 weeks, bogus science,
to be sure, but if that`s what you thought, you wouldn`t be interested in
fetuses in the District of Columbia, you`d have to deal with fetuses all
across the United States of America.

That`s not the point here. They`ve not been able to get a choice the
way they`ve wanted to get it. Now on a national campaign, it`s an election
year, this is the last thing, by the way, that I think our Republican
colleagues wanted to do, but they sat there with their heads down and voted
party line vote without, I must say, saying a lot about the bill. They
left that to Trent Franks, the sponsor, because they are supposed to be
about jobs.

Since they haven`t been about jobs, other Republicans are coming in to
fill the space. Not the way to fill it.

MADDOW: Eleanor Holmes Norton, congresswoman from the great District
of Columbia, thank you for your time tonight, ma`am. It`s a pleasure to
have you here.

NORTON: Always a pleasure.

MADDOW: Thank you.

You know, it`s true what she`s saying about the focus in Washington
right now. They keep saying jobs, jobs, jobs, but this week, back-bench
members of Congress went back to an abortion ban. They went back to a ban
on contraceptive access through health insurance. They keep going back to
these issues because John Boehner can`t control his caucus and they hope
they don`t get any attention for it.

Anyway -- the best new thing in the world today is something that is
impossible not to repeat over and over and over again to yourself just to
hear you say it once you learn what it is.

It`s really good.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It isn`t often a speech from a politician goes viral. I
mean, usually, it`s a video of a daredevil bull dog cruising down the
street on a skateboard or some amazing trick basketball shot that may or
may not be a result of some fancy editing, yes, bang. Or a 32-year-old guy
that somehow manages to interview the 12-year-old version of himself.

That`s what`s usually the stuff of viral videos. It isn`t often a
speech from a politician becomes a viral thing, but it did happen last
September with this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), SENATE CANDIDATE: There is nobody in this
country who got rich on his own, nobody. You built a factory out there --
good for you. But I want to be clear, you moved your goods to market on
the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid
to educate.

You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces
that the rest of us paid for. You didn`t have to worry that marauding
bands would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to
protect against us because of the work the rest of us did.

Now, look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific
or a great idea, God bless, keep a big hunk of it. But part of the
underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for
the next kid who comes along.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That clip from Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren
from Massachusetts lit up the Internet machine last fall, racked up about a
million views on YouTube, it got passed around in e-mail form, teeny, tiny
little lettering. It got posted on people`s Facebook pages.

It became so popular and so well known as a political message that the
president of the United States eventually decided to help himself to it.
He sort of stole it in a friendly way. Elizabeth Warren made those remarks
in someone`s living room in Andover, Massachusetts.

But the basic kernel of what she said soon found its way into
President Obama`s stump speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re successful
because somebody invested in our education, somebody built schools,
somebody created incredible universities. I went to school on scholarship.

We benefited from somebody somewhere making an investment in us, and I
don`t care who you are, that`s true of all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That has now become sort of a standard part of President
Obama`s stump speech, including just the other day in Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If you`ve been successful, you didn`t get there on your own.
You didn`t get there on your own.

I`m always struck by people who think, wow, it must be because I was
just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be
because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something,
there are a whole bunch of hard-working people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.
There was a great teacher along your life. Somebody helped to create this
unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.
Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you`ve got a business, that --
you didn`t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

The Internet didn`t get invented on its own. Government research
created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the
Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our
individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: We succeed because of individual initiative but also because
we do things together. Businesses cannot succeed unless we all chip in to
pay for things like roads and bridges and police and firefighters that make
it possible to do business.

The beautiful thing here about this sentiment is that it turns out to
be a really bipartisan thing. In an era where nothing is bipartisan,
right?

I mean, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been out there
pushing this same idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: With the people who began a business or leading a business in
this room please stand up. Wow, thank you. Thank you.

I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business.
Perhaps the banks, the investors, there`s no question your mom and dad,
your schoolteachers. The people that provide roads, the fire, the police,
a lot of people help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The roads, the fire, the police, the teachers, right? Right?
We`re all in agreement.

So Elizabeth Warren says it, President Obama kind of cribs it in a
friendly way from Elizabeth Warren, Mitt Romney then cribs it from Barack
Obama and Elizabeth Warren. They`re all making the same point.

But because it`s Mitt Romney we`re talking about, he`s now also
vehemently against that point that he has been making. The Romney campaign
has now extracted from President Obama`s speech that you just saw there,
just the part where the president says if you`ve got a business, you didn`t
build that. Somebody else made that happen.

He`s very clearly at that point in his speech talking about the
American system that allows all of us to thrive, the roads and bridges and
the infrastructure that all businesses count on, the things that we do as a
country that allows businesses to take place. He`s saying we don`t do that
alone. Your business, which you may very well do alone benefits from this,
but your business doesn`t itself build the roads and the bridges that the
trucks from your business drive across to then sell your widgets at a
market.

The roads and the bridges thing, that`s something the government has
to do. Mr. Obama was talking about the role of government in laying the
ground work so that businesses can then succeed. That`s something that
Barack Obama has talked about. It`s something that Mitt Romney has talked
about. It`s something that Elizabeth Warren has talked about it. They
have all talked about it in almost the exact same terms positively.

But Mr. Romney has edited that idea, that he has supported into being
a nefarious communist attack on business or something.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Let me tell you something, if you`ve got a business, you
didn`t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My father`s hands didn`t build this company? My
hands didn`t build this company? My son`s hands aren`t building this
company?

Through hard work and a little bit of luck, we built this business.
Why are you demonizing us for it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Did you build the road that goes to your business? That`s
what he was talking about.

Misleading attack ad politics are among the most boring of all
politics, but there are two interesting things going on here right now.
The first interesting thing is -- when the great Ezra Klein of "The
Washington Post" wrote about this today, he tagged his post, elections
don`t have to be stupid.

Ezra is making the point there`s a substantive and somewhat
quantitative debate to be had here about the optimum level of public
investment that we should be making in the resources that we and all
businesses share. Things like roads and bridges, which businesses use in
order to make money privately. That`s an interesting conversation to have.
It`s a policy conversation.

There`s also an interesting conversation to be had about how much you
can get away with and still be considered a viable candidate for president,
because what`s in this ad was not what Barack Obama said. He did not say
somebody else built your business for you. You didn`t build it. He said
we built the roads and the bridges that your business uses. You didn`t
have to build the roads and bridges yourself.

But Mitt Romney has been doing this kind of thing the entire campaign.
The Romney campaign is still running with the totally made-up allegation
that the Energy Department inspector general concluded that President Obama
steered government contracts to friends and family. That is an empirical
statement that is checkable and is not true. It is false.

And there it is in a Mitt Romney ad. It`s been up for a long time.
We have called them on it, others have too. They`re just letting it go.

Mr. Romney`s first ad against President Obama, the very first one took
the president`s words completely out of context. And not only did Mr.
Romney not take that ad down, but he bragged about it when he was called
out for it. President Obama was talking about something he disagreed with
from another politician. Mitt Romney ran it as if it was his own words.

This is not a typical political practice. There`s a lot to debate in
terms of the substance, but there`s also what do we expect of somebody
who`s running for president?

There`s a certain shamelessness threshold that we expect our
candidates to meet. These ads should be corrected and taken down but
they`re still up. And, yes, attack ads have spin and nuance and they are
often contested.

But brazenly, empirically false ads, one right after the other, that
seems like something new. Does that sort of thing hurt you as a candidate
in America? Are were so inured to the idea of everybody calling each other
a liar, that when somebody actually really does blatantly it doesn`t matter
anymore?

Ultimately, that is not a question about these guys fighting it. That
is a question about us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today is imminent. But here`s
where it starts. The band The Who was set for a show in Rhode Island in
1979. The Providence Civic Center, December 1979, that show was canceled
by the city`s mayor because of safety concerns shows by The Who after a
show of theirs in Cincinnati went very, very wrong. It was not an out of
the blue thing that the mayor cancelled this concert by the Who in
Providence, Rhode Island, December 1979. But he did cancel.

And you know what? The Who have not been back to Providence since
then. But they`re about to. The Who is still a band, they`re still going
and their new tour for the first time since the `70s is going to take them
to Providence to what used to be called the Providence Civic Center.

Well, today, the manager of that arena, which is now called the Dunkin
Donut Center announced that if you had a ticket for the canceled Who
concert in 1979 and you still have that physical ticket, that will get you
into The Who`s concert in February. You have to spend your 33-year-old
historic souvenir, but you get to see The Who 33 years after you intended
to, which is awesome. But it`s not the best new thing in the world today.

See, the mayor of Providence in 1979 was named Buddy Cianci. And
among many things about Buddy Cianci which you should totally Google at
your earliest convenience, you should know that he at one point was married
to a woman named Nancy Ann -- which means that this story gives me the
opportunity and a totally reasonable excuse to tell you that at one point,
the first lady or the first couple of Providence, Rhode island, were called
Buddy and Nancy Ann Cianci.

Nancy Ann Cianci was her name. Nancy Ann Cianci. Seriously, a new
and totally legitimate reason to say Nancy Ann Cianci over and over and
over again -- best new thing in a world every time.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
great night.

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

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