'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, August 14, 2012
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Guests: Karen Finney, Steve Schmidt
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
You know the actor Ryan Gosling? A few years ago, I can`t believe it
was a few years ago, but it was a couple years ago, a fan site for Ryan
gosling popped up online and became an instant hit. It changed the world
The site had kind of a profane name that I will not repeat here, but
needless to say, it specialized in photos of Ryan gosling looking handsome,
and those photos were paired with sweet and funny tag lines superimposed
over the photo as if they were word bubbles, thinks he was saying.
So like this one, where Mr. Gosling says, "Hey girl, I was just
thinking about how awesome you are." Or this one, "Hey girl, I heard you
like saving the environment and gas money, so I got a hybrid." This one,
"Hey girl, I heard you like beards, so I grew one last night."
If you have not seen the original Ryan Gosling version that started it
all, you have probably seen some of the spin-offs. For example, there is
the feminist version of the Ryan Gosling hey girl meme, at the feminist
Ryan Gosling site, he still says, "Hey girl," but it comes out like this,
"Hey girl, the post-feminist fetishization of motherhood is deeply rooted
in classism, but I still think we`d make cute babies." Or, "Hey girl,
gender is a social construct, but every likes to cuddle." Or, "Hey girl,
you built a room of your own and a room in my heart."
The Ryan Gosling "hey girl" meme has even intersected with other
Internet memes over time. Remember the texts from Hillary thing from
earlier this year. See at the bottom there, Hillary Clinton text message
conversation. Her texting from the bad ass military plane. So, here text
conversations are imagineered onto a photo of her on that military plane.
And here is one with her and Ryan Gosling. Ryan Gosling texts here,
"Hey girl," and she responds, `It`s madam secretary."
There`s also a Ryan Gosling "Hey girl" meme for librarians. There`s
one for museums. There`s one where he specifically talks only about how
much he loves National Public Radio.
But the "hey girl" thing has spread even beyond Ryan Gosling.
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan has been the subject of a "hey girl"
fan site since roughly April. On the fan site, he is shown saying funny
things about the budget while looking cute.
But now that Paul Ryan is not just a congressman from Wisconsin, now
that he is the presumptive nominee for vice president, now, Paul Ryan`s
"Hey girl" meme has gone a whole new direction.
As in "Hey girl, you`re pretty fine, but fertilized eggs should have
more rights than you. XO, Paul Ryan." Or "Hey girl, got birth control?
Not for long. XO, Paul Ryan." Or "Hey girl, I`m the last choice you`ll
ever be allowed to make, XO, Paul Ryan."
Or this one, "Hey girl, I`m from the 1970s, but my ideas about your
body are from the 1950s. XOXO, Paul Ryan." "Hey girl, you`ll love my
choices for your body. XOXO, Paul Ryan."
The folks behind the new "Hey girl" Paul Ryan Web site made themselves
known at a campaign event for Congressman Ryan today in Colorado. They
made themselves known by way of an airplane trailing a banner behind it.
CNBC`s Eamon Javers noticed it during the event and tweeted a photo of
it. Hard to read at this distance, but the banner towed behind the
airplane says, "Hey girl, choose me, lose choice. P. Ryan."
But there`s even more to the Paul Ryan/Ryan Gosling mash up Internet
meme right now. There`s a Twitter account registered to Paul Ryan Gosling.
Paul Ryan Gosling`s recent tweets include, "Hey girl, you look so cute
when you`re losing your reproductive rights." And "Hey girl, I would have
voted for the Fair Pay Act, but Lilly Ledbetter, I hardly know her."
At this event today in Colorado, the same one with the airplane towing
the "Hey girl, choose me, lose choice" banner, the same one with the banner
flying past, the folks at Politico.com got word of a Paul Ryan themed prank
at the event. You had to submit your name in order to get an admission
ticket to the event -- an admission ticket for the event was issued to
somebody who said their name was fertilized egg. See, there it is on the
ticket. Name of attendee, fertilized egg.
And if you look at who ordered the ticket for fertilized egg, it said
the person who ordered the ticket was Furt Z. Eggers (ph).
What all this is about with Paul Ryan is this. The whole idea of Furt
Z. Eggers, the whole idea of a fertilized egg being declared a person for
political purposes really has special resonance in Colorado, where this
event was today. The personhood for fertilized eggs idea is the ragged,
radical edge of the anti-abortion movement in this country this year.
Declaring a fertilized egg to be a person is way to not just crack
down on abortion rights but to criminalize all abortion in every
circumstance with no exceptions and to criminalize everything else that
could conceivably affect an egg that has been fertilized. That doesn`t
just mean criminalizing all abortion. It goes beyond that.
It likely means, according to the personhood people, it likely means
criminalizing emergency contraception, criminalizing the most popular forms
of birth control in the country, hormonal birth control. It would
certainly mean criminalizing the IUD, which trust me, someone you know is
using right now to keep themselves from getting pregnant, it would
criminalize most in vitro fertilization even, because that type of
fertility treatment involves fertilizing eggs, not all of which end up
And so, for example, three of Mitt Romney`s sons who have reportedly
had some of their children using in vitro fertilization, like lots of
people have, would be considered murderers if personhood passed, because
using in vitro fertilization could make them murderers of eggs, eggs that
were utilized for the fertility treatment and then did not become babies.
"Mother Jones" published a very challenging, sobering peace on that
today. Even for people who are super, super anti-abortion, the personhood
thing is seen as kind of nuts. Personhood is remembered as the thing that
was too radical even for the hugely anti-abortion conservative electorate
in Mississippi last year, right? I mean, Mississippi voted personhood down
by double digits when it was on the ballot there last fall.
Even the National Right to Life Committee said what they were trying
to do in Mississippi was too radical. The National Right to Life Committee
called it a waste of time. And not only did personhood lose in Mississippi
in 2011. It also lost in 2010 when it was in the ballot in Colorado. That
was after it lost in 2008 when it was on the ballot in Colorado.
And the reason it`s such a hot issue today at the Paul Ryan/Colorado
event attended by Furt Z. Eggers and friends, is because it looks like it`s
going to be on the ballot again this year in Colorado, even though it has
lost by 40-plus-point margins there twice already.
And personhood for fertilized eggs, banning contraception, banning all
abortion, banning in vitro fertilization, it may be too radical for
Mississippi, it may be too for Colorado, but the Republican vice
presidential nominee this year is the guy who sponsored personhood for the
Paul Ryan co-sponsored a national ban on all abortion and on in vitro
fertilization. When Paul Ryan was on "Meet the Press" back in February,
David Gregory asked whether the Republican Party was maybe focusing too
much on contraception, maybe that might him in November. Paul Ryan`s
answer to whether he was concerned about that was no.
These last couple years have seen a really big roll back of American
women`s reproductive rights. It`s been a departure from just the constant
fighting about abortion that has always been happening at some level on our
politics. Over the last couple years, Republicans have been fighting
issues that everybody thought were settled even as we kept arguing about
abortion. I mean, they have been taking for granted at this point.
It`s not just regulating abortion. It is banning abortion at certain
time periods, and allowing exceptions for rape victims and incest victims,
something that nine states have done over the last two years, going after
rape victims and incest victims.
It`s voting to get rid of the entire federal family planning
assistance program., Title X. It`s voting to defund Planned Parenthood, to
block women from getting cancer screenings and birth control.
It`s fighting access to contraception. It`s not just regulating
abortion here and there. It`s wholesale efforts to shut down access to
abortion altogether with targeted regulations. No exceptions for rape and
incest. It`s rolling back access to contraception.
These last couple of years, the Republicans have been more active,
more aggressive, and more radical on this issue than at any time since Roe
versus Wade was decided. And they have been successful at what they`ve
been trying to do.
Last year, Republicans passed a record number of new abortion records
in the United States. They enacted 131 new anti-abortion laws just since
the 2010 elections. It`s unprecedented in the history of legal abortion in
this country. And it has had a material effect on women`s lives.
There was a stomach churning article in the "Texas Tribune" this week
about abortion access now being so restricted in Texas that Texas women are
crossing the border into Mexico, visiting unregulated Mexican pharmacies
and then self medicating with drugs they hope might induce abortion, taking
these drugs without doctor`s prescriptions, without instructions on how to
use them, at risk to their lives and health.
For women living near the Mexican border, back alley abortions are
back and the new back alley is across the border in Mexico. But even as
Republicans have been able to go farther in restricting these rights now
than at any time in the last 40 years, there have been some things that are
still just a bridge too far. Like the personhood thing, for example,
The personhood thing came nowhere near passing, not even in
Mississippi. It was too far.
We talked on the show last night about how Republican candidates in
Colorado, even the ones who supported personhood last year, are sprinting
away from it as fast as they can this time around. They can read the
polls. They know personhood is a bridge too far.
The other thing that has been a bridge too far is the idea of forced
ultrasounds. Forced ultra sounds is something that Republicans did get
passed last year in Texas and this year in Louisiana and Arizona, and in
Virginia. But not until in Virginia there was a national furor over it.
And that gave Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell`s national profile a national
profile that scuttled any chances he had of being picked as Mitt Romney`s
A "Washington Post" column back in February talking about how he fell
off the short list for vice president because of the ultrasound fight he
got himself into in Virginia. "Assuming that the Republican presidential
candidate is Mitt Romney, it would be much harder for him now to tap
Governor Bob McDonnell as a running mate. They would have to devote time
to defending the ultrasound bill. `I think the moment in the sun is over,`
said Republican source."
The ultrasound controversy was probably very unhelpful to the calculus
that Romney will make at the convention. Bob McDonnell in Virginia made
the mistake of becoming nationally famous for his stance on his state`s
ultrasound bill. That made him politically untouchable and toxic on the
Do you want to know who co-sponsored the national version of the Bob
McDonnell forced ultrasound bill? Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Republicans tried this forced ultrasound thing in a lot of states.
The only reason it didn`t end up going through in Pennsylvania, for
example, was because Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania got caught on
tape explaining in that way he has that there isn`t an avert your eyes
provision in that state`s version of the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Making them watch, and speaking to that, does that go too
far in your mind?
GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I don`t know how you can make
anybody watch, OK, because you just have to close your eyes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You just have to close your eyes. Governor Tom Corbett
explaining that is part of the reason that Pennsylvania, I think, did not
get the forced ultrasound bill.
Paul Ryan`s bill for a national forced ultrasound law, it has the
exact same avert your eyes clause. It has the ability to turn eyes away.
That`s who the Republicans picked for their vice presidential nominee.
I think they did it because they thought people would not notice these
things about his record. It was not what he was known for before. It is
what he is getting known for now, very quickly.
Karen Finney, former communications director for the DNC, joins us
MADDOW: When Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his vice presidential
running mate, he was probably hoping and thinking that everybody would only
think of Paul Ryan as being famous for that one thing he`s really famous
for, for being the Republican`s young budget wonk guy.
Well, it is day four of Paul Ryan`s vice presidential run, and that no
longer appears to be the only thing he`s famous for. Starting off with a
15-point deficit among women voters, the Romney campaign is now coming to
grips with the fact they`re about to nominate for vice president the man
who brought forth the national version of Virginia`s forced ultrasound bill
and the national version of the personhood bill that would ban most popular
forms of birth control in this country and that couldn`t even pass in
Joining us now is Karen Finney, MSNBC political analyst and columnist
for "The Hill." Karen is a former communications director for the
It`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you.
MADDOW: I`m resisting the urge to say "hey girl".
FINNEY: Go on, just do it. You know you want to.
MADDOW: It sounds like I`m reading a script, so I`m not going to.
But let me ask you if you think these quick out of the blocks efforts
to make Paul Ryan famous for this are going to stick or if you think this
just sort of reflects a certain spunkiness on the part of pro-choice
FINNEY: I think that pro-choice advocates and frankly Democrats ands
progressives have understood for a long time, certainly when it came to
Governor Romney, that one of the things we`ve seen in polling early on,
people think he`s more moderate than he is. And so, I think they saw that
And then with Paul Ryan, we know that similarly, people think he`s
more moderate on the social issues like a lot of frankly younger
Republicans actually are, who are more moderate on social issues, but who
are, you know, consider themselves more conservative on these fiscal
issues. And one of the things the Republican Party likes about Paul Ryan
as you were talking about, he de-emphasizes, that`s how they like to talk
about it, the social issues.
So, I think there was an understanding early on, you have to get out
of the box very quickly in the period where we know a majority of Americans
don`t even know who this person is, when we`re defining him, we cannot
reach election day with people understanding how severe his opinions on
these issues and his positions frankly on the issues really are.
MADDOW: Well, there has been a dry run for this already in this
campaign, which is that Mitt Romney has also de-emphasized social issue,
even during the primary, I`d the pseudo social issue which he was willing
to talk about a lot was being really anti-immigration. But beyond that, he
wasn`t willing to talk much about gay rights, abortion rights, some of the
The Democrats have tried very hard to fill in that blank in Mitt
Romney`s record. The Obama campaign, I think, has run a surprising number
of ads overtly about his record on choice.
MADDOW: Was that successful and is that the same template they follow
FINNEY: I think it`s absolutely been successful and it will be the
same template they follow for Ryan, because, you know, here is the
miscalculation that the Republicans have made on women that I think the
Democrats have actually understood.
Women see the issues, not just equal rights and talking to us like
we`re not equal human beings, which is totally offensive in the first
place, right, I don`t know and I have been rapes, come on.
But at the same time, though, there are economic issues. Every woman
where know who is on birth control knows how much it is and it`s money that
is not going to anything else. And, you know, particularly when you talk
with voters, I`ve done focus groups where mothers will say, OK, I can
either get my car fixed or my kid`s teeth fixed, but I need the car to go
to work to pay for the dentist in the first place.
You know, when people are living that close to the edge, when we talk
about Medicare where 56 percent of Medicare recipients are women and we
talk about voucherizing that program, or when we talk about Social
Security, any of the Ryan budget that will cut all of the programs that
frankly a lot of women rely on -- women understand it as an economic issue,
not just an equality issue.
MADDOW: Karen, you are an authority on how Democrats think and talk.
You are an official Democratic talker for a long part of your career. Put
yourself in the mindset of a Republican advising Romney and Ryan on this.
Would you tell them to run from Ryan`s record on these issues?
With Romney, he, for example, said he was absolutely in favor of
personhood, this Mississippi bill that has all of these implications. They
have run from his record on this, I don`t think very successfully, but they
Do you think will they do that on Ryan and should they?
FINNEY: Absolutely. I mean, he`s an extreme conservative that
Governor Romney --
FINNEY: Yes, absolutely. They`re going to -- but I think what
they`ll do, which is very smart, I think they`ll micro-target this issue,
meaning which voters do we need to communicate that message to, because
remember when Mitt Romney was asked, for example, about Sandra Fluke, he
said, I wouldn`t use that language. So, he knows sometimes you have to
cool it, and then other times, you`ve got to make sure that you`re
communicating to your base with those dog whistles.
MADDOW: Yes. And if they are successful in micro-targeting it and
not making it a national story when they choose to address the story, that
would mean that the Internet and social media have failed.
FINNEY: That`s right.
MADDOW: I don`t think that will happen.
FINNEY: That can`t happen.
MADDOW: Hey girl, Karen Finney, thank you very much for being here.
I really appreciate it.
FINNEY: Good to be with you.
All right. There is something that is being widely reported about
Congressman Ryan which is absolutely inaccurate. He`s been characterized
all wrong all the time. Tonight, some information that will disprove the
common wisdom on Congressman Ryan and allow you to righteously wag your
finger indignantly at the TV several times a day for the next 84 days.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: The classic disco song "La Freak" was written about mean
bouncers at New York`s legendary disco Studio 54. The song was famous for
the refrain which started off having the F-word in it followed by off. It
used to go ah, f off.
Since it could not be sung on the radio, it became, oh freak out, you
Well, tonight, the Republican Party is doing a spectacular cover of
"La Freak" with vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan playing the role of
the mean bouncer at Studio 54.
Sadly, there was no awesome base line on the Republican version, but
there was a lot of ah, freak out going on, on the record.
Please stay tuned.
MADDOW: An incumbent member of Congress from the great state of
Florida is as of tonight out of a job.
Republican Congressman John Mica of Florida had to face off against
another member of Congress, another Republican incumbent named Sandy Adams.
John Mica is pretty famous. He`s a 10-term congressman. He`s chairman of
the House Transportation Committee. He`s been on this show with me to talk
He was facing off against Sandy Adams who was a freshman member of
Congress, a Tea Party Republican. She has the backing of Sarah Palin, as
well as Allen West. Well, thanks to the magic of redistricting, John Mica
and Sandy Adams had to run against each other because their two house seats
have been combined into one House seat.
Within the last hour, we got a winner in the race. John Mica declared
the winner in that race, meaning Sandy Adams` short-lived Tea Party
congressional career is now over.
In the big Senate race in Florida tonight, Republican Congressman
Connie Mack has just been declared the winner. That means that Connie Mack
will be taking on sitting Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in the general
election in November.
Today is Election Day in Florida. It has been very exciting, these
races and more.
But look at how all the politics news played on the front pages of
Florida newspapers today. Look. These were the front pages. "Romney
campaigns in Florida." "|How would Ryan Medicare plan affect Florida?"
With full tickets on the trail, two sides spar over Medicare. In
Florida, Medicare is unavoidable topic. "Ryan will address Medicare in
Florida." "Medicare shadows Romney in Florida."
There are state-wide elections across the state of Florida today, but
the headlines there are dominated by something else entirely. And therein
lies the big problem with what Mitt Romney for president -- the Mitt Romney
for president campaign has just done with their vice presidential
selection. By picking Paul Ryan for V.P., the Romney campaign obviously
wanted to change the conversation. Boy, did they?
Rather than the conversation in Florida today being about, I wonder
who Republicans will pick tonight to run against Bill Nelson, or I wonder
if a ten-term congressman will get voted out of office tonight, the
conversation in Florida tonight instead is -- I wonder if Mitt Romney and
Paul Ryan are seriously going to kill Medicare if they win the White House
If you are the Mitt Romney for president campaign, Medicare and Paul
Ryan`s controversial plans for it, being the discussion in Florida now,
that is a problem for your campaign. You now somehow have to convince the
country, you have to somehow convince senior citizens in Florida that you
don`t really want to kill Medicare even though you just put the kill
Medicare guy on the ticket.
Understandably, this has tied the Romney campaign into knots for if
first few days of having Paul Ryan to answer for. Dating back to last
year, Mitt Romney has gone back and forth and forth and back about whether
he was for the Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget or whether he was against it.
So much has happened since then that I actually think his incoherence on
the issue was lost to history for a while.
But now that Mr. Romney has picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, that
incoherence is not just history anymore. It is policy for now. And it is
maybe their biggest problem with putting Mr. Ryan on the ticket. Mr.
Romney, his campaign, and his surrogates cannot seem to decide if Mr.
Romney is for Paul Ryan`s kill Medicare plan or if they`re against it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: A spokesperson for Mr. Romney told us Mr. Romney is on the
same page as Paul Ryan in terms of reducing the budget, but the
spokesperson told us that Mr. Romney will be proposing his own changes
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With regards to Medicare, I
would lay out the plan that -- well, actually I did a couple months ago
that said, again, for higher income recipients, lower benefit, a premium
support program which allows people to buy either current standard Medicare
or a private plan. And this is the proposal which Congressman Paul Ryan
has adopted. It`s a proposal which I believe is absolutely right on.
REPORTER: You said during a debate earlier this year that Paul Ryan`s
latest Medicare proposal is absolutely right on. So I`m curious, is there
anything about it that you disagree with?
ROMNEY: Well, the items we agree on, I think outweigh any differences
there may be.
REPORTER: Are there specific policies in your budget that you
ROMNEY: There may be. We`ll take a look at the differences.
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: First of all, he did embrace the Ryan
budget. He embraced it.
ROMNEY: I have my budget plan, as you know y have put out. That`s
the budget plan we`re going to run on.
My plan for Medicare is very similar to his plan for Medicare.
SOLEDAD O`BRIEN, CNN: But isn`t the Ryan plan the Romney plan --
JOHN SUNUNU, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: No, it isn`t. >
O`BRIEN: Let me just read you a quote. Hang on.
SUNUNU: But it isn`t.
ROMNEY: I applaud it. It`s an excellent piece of work ands very much
O`BRIEN: It sounds awfully like the Paul Ryan Medicare plan.
SUNUNU: But it`s very different.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
Honestly, you would think this would be the one thing they would have
prepped for when deciding to pick Paul Ryan to be V.P., but they`re totally
lost on this. It`s a great plan. Actually, I`m going to be running on my
own plan. My plan is very similar to Paul Ryan`s plan. You know, I`m sure
there are lots of differences between my plan and Paul Ryan`s plan.
Paul Ryan is absolutely right on. Our budgets are very different.
The Romney campaign is now trying to deflect interest in this issue by
saying, ask Obama. He`s the one who wants to kill Medicare.
But when they are asked how Romney`s plan differs from Paul Ryan`s
plan for Medicare, they really don`t have an answer or they`ve got every
answer or they`ve got, what answer to you want to hear right now?
Romney is going to have to sort out whether they`re for or against
Paul Ryan on the presidential level, but it is all sorted out, the
Republicans down ballot, the Republicans running down the ticket for House
and Senate. Down ballot, there`s no such ambiguity about the Paul Ryan
"Roll Call," and "The Hill," and "Politico" all featuring articles
about Republicans freaking out about what Paul Ryan`s addition to the
ballot means for every other Republican on the ballot in November. Quote,
"In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and
campaign operatives, old hands and rising next generation conservatives
alike, the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension
to hair on fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election."
Quote, "Very not helpful down ballot -- very," said one top Republican
consultant. "This is the day the music died," one Republican operative
said after the roll out. The operative said every House candidate is
trying to race to get ahead of the issue.
Yet, another operative tells "Politico," "A week ago, we were talking
about jobs. This week, we`re talking about entitlement reform. Everybody
loves Ryan, everybody supported the Ryan plan," the strategist said, "but
nobody thinks Paul Ryan should be the tip of the spear."
Perhaps Mitt Romney is going to figure out a way to put this fire out
within his own campaign, for his own campaign. But whether they like it or
not, every other Republican in the country is now running with Paul Ryan as
his or her running mate.
Here is how one Republican strategist working on issues and
congressional races put it to "The Hill," said, quote, "There are a lot of
races that are close to the line that we`re not going to win now. It could
put the senate out of reach. In the House, it puts a bunch of races in
play that would have otherwise been safe. It remains to be seen how much
damage this causes, but my first blush is this is not good.
Steve Schmidt, senior strategist for the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008
joins us next.
MADDOW: Some primary election results tonight.
In Connecticut, pro wrestling magnate Linda McMahon has defeated
former Congressman Chris Shays. She will face Democrat Chris Murphy for
the U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut in November.
And in Wisconsin, there`s only 3 percent reporting, but former
Governor Tommy Thompson with 3 percent reporting, is trailing one of his
anti-establishment opponents for the right to face Tammy Baldwin for the
Wisconsin Senate seat in November. Obviously, 3 percent, still very early
tonight. We`ll be keeping an eye on that.
The general election is 84 days away, and one of the most interesting
questions in all of politics is how the Paul Ryan pick is going to affect
not just Romney`s chances against Barack Obama in November, but how the
Paul Ryan pick will affect the down ticket races, too.
Joining us now is Steve Schmidt, Republican political strategist,
senior strategist for the McCain/Palin ticket in `08 and an MSNBC
Steve, thank you for being here. It`s nice to see you.
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Nice to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, there`s all this hand wringing by anonymous Republicans
in all of these different Beltway media sources, about how they`re worried
that Paul Ryan`s Medicare baggage and other things that are known about him
are going to hurt down ticket races.
Do you think that is just whining or do you think there`s any
SCHMIDT: Well, look, if you`re in charge of running House Republican
campaigns, you`re worried about this issue because if you look at the
special elections that have taken place over the last couple years, you
have had any one of a number of different Republicans lose after being
beaten about the head on the Medicare issue.
And one of the lessons of it is that when you`re attacked on Medicare,
a lot of these Republicans didn`t go out and explain the position, didn`t
talk honestly about the solvency issues around Medicare. They got into the
So, when you see Mitt Romney today equivocating on it`s not my plan,
it`s his plan. My plan is going to be the one we`re going to run on, as
opposed to defining as a value proposition why it`s necessary to reform
Medicare, a lot of Republicans are nervous about the Romney campaign`s
ability to communicate this.
And if you look at, for example, Bain Capital, Mitt Romney had 18
years to prepare for the Bain questions and was fundamentally unready over
the course of this campaign for it. With the pick of Paul Ryan, you know,
it was very predictable that the line of attack was going to be what it is
from Democrats. And they have been pretty inarticulate on it over the
first 48 hours.
Now, they`re going to have a great opportunity at the national
conventions in two speeches with audiences that will approach 40 million
people to communicate on these issues directly. But you know, if you`re
running House Republican campaigns or Senate races, you know, Medicare is a
scary issue historically for Republicans.
MADDOW: If the Romney campaign makes the calculation that they
essentially don`t want to be as brave as you are suggesting, that they
don`t want to make the case for what Paul Ryan has suggested doing on
Medicare and what Mr. Romney has sometimes said he`s in favor of and
sometimes equivocates on. If they decided they don`t want to do that, they
can`t defend it -- is there any way for the Romney/Ryan campaign to shed
itself of the Ryan plan? Will they ever be able to distance themselves
from what Paul Ryan so famously proposed if they decide that`s what they
want to do?
SCHMIDT: No, of course not. They`re going to have to go out and
they`re going to have to explain some of the serious issues facing the
country. Particularly with entitlement issues, the insolvency of them, but
it`s all part of a package.
Mitt Romney as he hits the convention, Rachel, is going to have to
explain why he`s running for president, what he wants to accomplish as
president, what his mission is, really who Mitt Romney is. And they`re
going to have to talk honestly about: how do we grow the economy? How do
we fix the entitlement programs? How do we get the nation`s debt under
And so these are big challenges, big issues, and I think with the pick
of Paul Ryan, they have absolutely no choice but to have an adult
conversation with the American people on this. And of course, the American
people are going to decide because I think there`s two very different
visions out there.
But the Romney campaign is going to have to go out and articulate a
serious vision. They`re not going to be able to fudge around on it like
you showed on your video earlier.
MADDOW: You know, Steve, I was thinking about you today and the way
that you have talked about strategic decisions being made inside the
McCain/Palin campaign when we learned that Dan Senor is the guy inside the
Romney campaign who has really been assigned to Paul Ryan. That they have
given him a guy and Dan Senor is supposed to be essentially his top
Paul Ryan, I think frankly -- although I disagree with him strongly
about Medicare, I think he`s pretty good at articulating why it is he wants
to do the thing he wants to do. It`s a very unpopular decision, but he`s
good at making the case for it than anybody else. Mr. Romney has not been
good about talking about Medicare and not being good about talking about
Paul Ryan and Medicare.
Is there a chance that they would free up Paul Ryan to talking the way
that he usually does about it, or did the Palin experience scare
Republicans so much about what it means to go rogue that you can`t let this
guy out on his own anymore?
SCHMIDT: No. Listen, I don`t think there`s any comparison between
Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan, and I have seen people try to make it over the
last day or two, but you know, it`s just totally off.
MADDOW: I don`t mean between them personally, but in terms of the
staffing decisions about them. Are people scared of letting the V.P.
nominee out on their own now?
SCHMIDT: Well, what`s unusual about the Ryan selection is that it`s
occurred two weeks, a full two weeks, more than two weeks actually, before
he`s going to be speaking at the Republican convention, two weeks from
tomorrow, Wednesday night, in front of an audience of tens of millions of
You know, so he`s out there, and the race is on to define it. So,
it`s very important for Paul Ryan to be able to go out there, for the
campaign to be able to explain these positions. You know, and to be in an
offensive posture, not a defensive posture on them.
MADDOW: Steve Schmidt, former McCain/Palin senior strategist and
MSNBC contributor, and a guy who is very, very nice to have my book sitting
behind him when he talks on television.
SCHMIDT: It`s a good book.
MADDOW: Nice of you, Steve. Thanks, man. I appreciate it.
All right. Paul Ryan is a lot of things, but he is not the thing he
is most often described as in short hand by the national media. That story
is coming up.
MADDOW: The lamestream media is not going to have Sarah Palin to kick
around anymore. Despite turning up unexpectedly in Republican primary
races around the country this year, endorsing candidate here and there, and
thereby sort of keeping her hand in national Republican politics, we now
know that Sarah Palin has not been giving a role of any kind at the
Republican National Convention this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: You know, they say the
difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull, lipstick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: She was the vice presidential nominee at the last convention.
She was the star, but this year, bupkis. They did not give her anything.
She has been kicked to the same curb as the last Republican who was elected
vice president, Dick Cheney, and the last Republican president. He served
two terms and not long ago.
But George W. Bush, as well as Dick Cheney, they will be hidden away
from view when the Republicans have their convention this year.
Now, the Republicans did spare a thought for old John McCain, who got
the party`s presidential nomination last time around. They`re at least
letting him in this year. But he doesn`t have a significant thing to do.
He`s not keynoting. We found out today that will be Chris Christie. He`s
not introducing this year`s nominee. That`s going to be Marco Rubio doing
No, the Republican`s last presidential nominee doesn`t actually have a
specific thing to do at the Republican convention this year. They just
announced he would be there, speaking in some capacity. They announced him
at the same time they announced that Nikki Haley would be there and Susanna
Martinez. Oh, yes, and John McCain too.
If you didn`t have information that the last person that the
Republicans put up to run against Barack Obama was a guy named John McCain,
would you be able to discern any sign of that in the universe right now?
It`s like it never happened. After McCain and Palin lost the last
presidential election, John McCain just sort of dissolved back into the
Senate. It`s like he never ran.
After the election, Sarah Palin quit her job as governor of Alaska.
She said she was going to work full-time on national Republican politics,
and she did that mama grizzly thing and she does make endorsements
sometimes, but she did not run again. Nobody thought she`d have a thought
if she did run again, and mostly, she and her family are just doing reality
shows now. She had a reality show, her daughter had a reality show, plus
the dancing thing, and now her husband has a new reality show as well.
Nobody in current Republican politics calls themselves a Sarah Palin
Republican. Nobody calls themselves a John McCain Republican.
What is the Republican Party after Bush and Cheney? Who is the new
face of the Republican Party? What does that party stand for?
If Romney and Ryan lose this year, I`m not saying they`re going to,
but if they do lose, are these guys to have anymore of a chance than McCain
and Palin did of defining the new Republican Party? Of becoming the face
of what it means to be a Republican, after Bush and Cheney.
I think some of the excitement on the right about Paul Ryan is not
that he necessarily is going to help Mitt Romney win in November. We
talked just a moment ago with Steve Schmidt about Republicans saying having
Mr. Ryan on the ticket may make it more likely they will lose in November.
But I think the excitement about Mr. Ryan, nonetheless, is among party
activists and hard-core partisan folks and conservative movement folk who
is look at this guy, Paul Ryan and say, yes, he may not help us win, but
that is the face on the future of the party. He is who we want to define
what it means to be a Republican, post-Bush, post-Cheney. We didn`t
actually want that in the end from McCain or Palin.
And if Mitt Romney doesn`t win in this election, I don`t think any
Republican will be looking to Mitt Romney for that definition of their
future party either.
But win, lose, or draw, they like Paul Ryan as the guy who means
Republican in America from here on out. If that is what`s going on, with
all the enthusiasm for Paul Ryan on the right, even as the rest of the
country appears to be rather repulsed by him, going by the polls, if we are
going to be talking about Paul Ryan as Mr. Republican from here on out, I
would like to request that we please define our terms.
Paul Ryan is most often described in the mainstream media as a fiscal
conservative, right? Romney picks fiscal conservative Paul Ryan as running
Here`s ABC explaining the morning of the announcement who this Paul
Ryan is. Quote, "Ryan, 42, a seven-term congressman from Janesville,
Wisconsin, is known as a fiscal conservative."
Slate.com, "A wonderful thing has happened for this country. Paul
Ryan will be the Republican nominee for vice president. Ryan is a real
This is just the shorthand for describing what Paul Ryan is. He`s a
My favorite definition of what it means to be a conservative, period,
is from the mission statement from the "National Review" magazine, which
William F. Buckley wrote in 1955. He said the national review would,
quote, stand athwart history yelling, stop! Well, if being conservative
means you`re standing athwart history yelling stop, if they`re stop with
the progress, keep things as they are, conserve what exists and fight
efforts to change things, if that`s what a conservative is, what`s a fiscal
The way we use fiscal conservative, it`s supposed to mean, not
somebody opposed to progress whole-scale, but somebody opposed to
profligacy. In government, it`s somebody who doesn`t want the government
to spend more than it takes in. That`s the label that everybody is
affixing to Paul Ryan. Saying his fiscal conservatism is why he was chosen
for vice president and why we should expect him to be around for a long
If we really are going to be stuck with Paul Ryan as the face of
Republicanism for a long time, and if the term "fiscal conservative" is
supposed to mean anything, we should get clear there may be a lot of great
stuff to say about this guy.
But fiscally conservative is not one of the things you really can say
During the Bush/Cheney area, Mr. Ryan as a member of Congress voted
for all of the things in the George W. Bush era that cost a lot of money
and that were not paid for at all. Two massive tax breaks, two wars, the
Medicare Part D expansion, which cost hundreds of billions of dollars, the
Wall Street bailout. None of those things were paid for. Every penny of
their costs were added to the national charge card, asking future
generations to pick up the tab.
A fiscal conservative would not have made those votes during the
Bush/Cheney area, but Mr. Ryan did.
In the Obama area, Mr. Ryan is now pushing a button that keeps the
Bush tax cuts, again, whether or not you like the bush tax cuts, they are
not a fiscally conservative thing. They were not paid for, they were just
larded on to the deficit. He keeps those budget-busting Bush tax cuts
whole, and then he adds on to them, more than $4 trillion more in tax cuts
that hugely, disproportionately, go to the richest people in this country -
- hundreds of thousands of dollars going to every millionaire in the
country. That`s expensive.
How does he pay for it? He does not say. He says, that`s not his
call to make.
You may agree with that or you may disagree with that. But the point
is, it should not be called fiscally conservative. It is something else.
In fact, it is something else very specific. That Congressman Paul Ryan,
until recently, was very, very happy to talk about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason I got
involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker,
one person, it would be Ayn Rand. It`s so important that we go back to our
roots to look at Ayn Rand`s vision, her writings to see what our girding,
undergrounding principles are.
Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the
morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. And this, to me, is
what matters most.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s what matters most. The reason I got involved in
public service, Ayn Rand.
Whether you are delighted or terrified by the prospect that Paul Ryan
is the new face of the Republican Party, it is important to get straight
that he is not a fiscal conservative. If he was, he wouldn`t be proposing
$4 trillion to be given to people who are already rich without specifying
any means of paying for it in the budget.
What Paul Ryan is, is not a fiscal conservative. What Paul Ryan is,
is a follower of this person, Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand is a novelist who most
famously wrote the book "Atlas Shrugged."
Over the course of his political career, Mr. Ryan has cited that book
and Ayn Rand as the defining influences on his thinking.
He told "The Weekly Standard" several years ago, I give out "Atlas
Shrugged" as Christmas presents and I make all my interns read it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: It doesn`t surprise me that the sales of "The Fountainhead" and
"Atlas Shrugged" has surged lately with the Obama administration coming in
because it`s that kind of thinking, that kind of writing that is sorely
needed right now. And I think a lot of people would observe that we are
right now living in an Ayn Rand novel, metaphorically speaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Paul Ryan has since said that it is an urban legend about him
that he was ever a follower of Ayn Rand. Dude, it`s not an urban legend if
that`s you on tape saying it about yourself repeatedly for years and with
In Ayn Rand`s novel, she leads her readers to see the very wealthiest
people as heroes, heroes who must be protected, from taxes, from the
government, from regulation, from bureaucracy, from anything that rich
people might find restrictive in any way toward them becoming more rich.
The rich are heroes, and everybody else is a taker! And the more the
rich have, the better, the better for everyone. That is not fiscal
conservatism either. It is something else.
When the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a respected
nonpartisan budget think tank looked at Paul Ryan`s plan for the country
back in March, this is what they concluded. They said "The new Ryan budget
is a remarkable document, one that for most of the past half century would
have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme
In essence, this budget is Robin Hood on reverse, on steroids. It
would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom
to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and
inequality more than any other budget in recent times and possibly in the
Mitt Romney has been vague on the specifics of what he would do for
the country, policy wise. Paul Ryan has not been vague. He has been
And despite the hype, what he would do doesn`t have much to do with
the deficit. It`s this Ayn Rand stuff from "Atlas Shrugged" and from "The
Fountainhead" about how important it is to have very, very, very rich
people. How important it is to take care of the rich.
This is a real philosophy. It is a fringe one, but it is a real
philosophy, and it has nothing at all to do with fiscal conservatism. It
is something else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: I think a lot of people would observe that we are right now
living in an Ayn Rand novel, metaphorically speaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Paul Ryan, since he has been chosen as vice president, has
been shorthanded throughout the media as a fiscal conservative. If you are
going to call him that, please define your terms and please express to me
what happens to that $4.6 trillion that he shifts towards the rich, how it
is, exactly, that we pay for that. And if that counts as fiscal
conservative for you, you don`t speak English.
That is it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great
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