updated 1/22/2013 11:12:21 AM ET 2013-01-22T16:12:21

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
January 21, 2013

Guests: Dan Rather

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: The commander-in-chief ball in
Washington, D.C. on this Inauguration Day, the president and first lady
dancing.

And that is "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, my friend.

I am not going to interrupt their dancing. We`re going to go back to
this. I`ll talk to you in a minute.

(MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER: Joining the first couple are Staff Sergeant Bria Nelson
and Gunnery Sergeant Timothy Easterling.

(MUSIC)

MADDOW: You`re looking at live pictures of the commander-in-chief
ball tonight. President and Mrs. Obama dancing first together and then
with a member of the Air Force and a member of the Marines, with a chest
full of medals, to Al Green, as sung by Jennifer Hudson.

I`m duty-bound to inform you that the first lady`s gown is by Jason
Wu, and her shoes are by jimmy Choo. I know I sound ridiculous saying
that, but you know you wanted to know it.

This is a ball that happens specifically for members of the United
States military and their families. It`s a tradition that was started
under President George W. Bush. They have expanded it this year to be
larger than it has ever been. It`s essentially doubled in size.

There are two official inaugural balls, two only in Washington
tonight. One of them is the commander in chief ball. And the other of
them is the other official inaugural ball.

Thanks for being with us on what is kind of a big day in Washington.
You know the basics of what happened today, right? Church service at St.
John`s Church, right near the White House. The president goes from the
White House then to the Capitol, then he is sworn in at the Capitol on the
west front.

And that is the spot from which President Obama today delivered his
second inaugural address. Well will have much more on all of that coming
up this hour.

But -- but here is the moment from today, the moment that I want to
show you was not part of the official program. It was not on anybody`s
schedule. We did not know it was coming, and it was not spoken into any
microphone.

So I`m just going to play this for you for a second. But notice it`s
going to be a little weirder than usually expect on cable. There is no
official sound here. So it`s going to be quiet for just a second.

But just watch -- watch the president. This is after he had just
finished his inaugural address. There had been the poem and the
benediction and the national anthem. And he and everybody else in the
presidential inauguration platform are leaving to file back into the
Capitol.

And at that moment, the president stops and turns around to look at
this sight. He stops and turns around as people keep filing past him. He
stops and he looks for a long time, alone. He looks back at the people who
have come to Washington to seen him sworn in as president.

If you watch him closely on this tape I`m about to show you, you can
see what he says. He says, you can read his lips. I`m just going to take
a look just one more second. I`m not going to see this again. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m going to take a
look one more time. I`m not going to see this again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well done, Mr. Vice President. Great job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Senator, great job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The president alone looking one direction as everybody
walking toward him is looking past him. That is the moment today when you
see the man inside the trappings of the office, when you see the way that
any of us might be a little overwhelmed in human terms by the importance of
your office, the singular scale of the importance of that particular
office. That was a cool moment.

Days like this are special because of what is scripted and preordained
about them. The least suspenseful things on days like this are the most
important things on days like this. Days that display the ritual of how we
peaceably and agreeably move between presidencies in America.

Days of ritual are days of forgone conclusion. They are scripted,
which makes it all the more amazing when all of the sudden there is not a
script. Like that moment after the inaugural address when we saw the
president turn to be as amazed to see that crowd as that crowd was to see
their president. That was an unscripted moment.

As was this -- the president and the first lady and their two
beautiful daughters in the front row of the reviewing stand, watching the
inaugural parade, but they are just being themselves, being a normal
family, albeit one in very unusual circumstances.

But for whatever reason, this live shot of them watching the parade
caught them candidly for long time, teasing each other, laughing, Sasha,
the younger daughter taking pictures of her own parents, and them sort of
mugging for her. Her sister mugging for some friend who she saw nearby.
Mom helping the girls with coats and bottles of water and iPhones. Dad
getting caught checking his BlackBerry, and at one point teasing his girls.

We do not usually see them this way. We see them usually in the hyper
restrained dignity that is demanded of formal occasions and heads of state.
But for whatever reason -- and I really hope they did not mind us seeing
them this way -- for whatever reason, today, for a long stretch of time we
got to seem them while the parade was going by, just hanging out and having
a great time.

Being able to see the overlap between our regular humanity and the
ceremony and celebration of greatness, of great office, of great
achievement is always a moving thing. We`re reminded that -- reminded of
that in this city of monuments, monuments to human achievement that are
rendered, of course, super human in their scale.

We`re reminded of this on days that are full of pageantry and ceremony
and displays of national power when nevertheless they turn out to be
rendered in human scale, walking flesh and blood when the president and the
first lady get out of that car and walk the parade route themselves. We`re
reminded of that overlap of human scale achievement and towering
achievement on holidays like this.

The federal holiday honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr.

Today on that holiday swearing in the nation`s first African-American
president, not for the first time, but for the second time, it marks a
different kind of milestone. Because in winning his second term, let it be
known that this was not a fluke. Our country did not just pick our first
black president by luck because he was just the Democrat who happened to
benefit from a national recoil and backlash against what was widely viewed
as a rather disastrous Republican presidency that preceded him.

The country did not just choose Barack Hussein Obama to be president.
The country chose Barack Hussein Obama to be president twice. We picked
him again a second time after watching him in action for four years, and
then having a very good chance to pick a new guy instead.

This will never happen again. Barack Obama will never run for office
again. And we do not know who will succeed him as president in four years.
But the honoring of the office of presidency today, again, entrusted to
him, will forever be a day writ large, writ large by us by our generation,
our country in our time. We did this.

And days like this, it is worth turning around, and standing in a
stream of people going the other direction, and taking the long view,
taking it in, taking a look, just one more second. We are not going to see
this again.

Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, NBC`s chief foreign affairs
correspondent, host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" on MSNBC, and a person who
is very good at covering inaugurations.

Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Thank
you for that. I love it.

MADDOW: You have been my lodestar for all the time that you have done
this. But today, seeing you up there on the VIP platform, working and
interviewing people and taking it in, I felt like you were taking a long
view on what happened today. You were taking a historic view of this.

MITCHELL: The irony is for a variety of reasons, I was escorted out
through that door that the president takes, never done that before. So an
hour or two before he entered, I entered that way and saw the developing
crowd and said wow. I`ve never seen this from this vantage point on that
blue carpet with the red bunting overhead. That was a very cool moment.

And then -- so seeing him pausing, as you illustrated, and taking it
all in because he`ll never see it quite that way again, he`ll come as a
former president, but he`ll never be just having taken the oath of office,
the whole pageant, the panorama, the pageantry and the words, the words
really mattered today. I was so struck by that.

Some people felt that there was very important news on entitlements.
And I think that is true, that he was talking about middle class priorities
and about entitlements not being something that, you know, involves taking,
that it is something that helps us develop our economy and that people need
Medicaid and Medicare.

MADDOW: Actually, we have that clip while you`re referencing that.
Do we have that cued up, guys? Can we just play that brief clip there?
Roll that.

I think we`ve got it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and
Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative. They
strengthen us.

APPLAUSE)

They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the
risks that make this country great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I saw that as essentially sort of a bottom line on the
election that got him to this day.

MITCHELL: Yes.

MADDOW: Maybe a signal about what is to come in terms of the
governing fights in Washington.

MITCHELL: Absolutely. It is quite likely that there will be some
give and some compromise. But he is creating a bottom line here beyond
which he will not go. And that is a very strong signal for these budget
fights to come.

But writ more broadly, I was thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. and of
equal rights and of the refrain that, you know, our job is not done, what
he basically was saying is our journey is not complete, to use his words.

MADDOW: Yes, our journey is not complete. Those are the two repeated
phrases. Our journey is not complete, and you and I as citizens, you and
I.

MITCHELL: Exactly. This is an exclusive moment. Our journey is not
complete until our gay brothers and sisters are recognized as equal under
the law.

He is talking about DOMA. He is talking about the Supreme Court
argument to come. He is surrounded, of course, by the Supreme Court right
this. And he talked about Stonewall.

You know, talking about Stonewall in an inaugural address, I was
really profoundly moved by that. This is not just saying, OK, these people
helped elect me. This was saying this is a commitment.

We`re expanding the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and we`re
talking about equal rights for all of us. He is talking about Seneca
Falls. He is talking about women`s rights and equal pay.

And this was a very forward-looking, progressive, inclusive speech.

MADDOW: I will say as a gay person that I am used to gay people being
name checked in speeches, put in a list of demographic groups that you want
to shout out to, to show that you recognize that we exist, which is always
nice. But to have the president articulate why the fight, the continuing
struggle, the not at all settled struggle for equal rights is an American
project, and to have that delivered from the inaugural lectern was I think
-- felt personally was moving to me personally. But I also felt like it
was a landmark moment in a president who was trying to take those things
and make them not outsider fights, but make them central to how we think of
ourselves as Americans.

MITCHELL: That`s the way I took it. And it just seemed to me that he
has been reelected. He doesn`t have a mandate for a lot of the things he
now needs to do -- gun laws, for instance, because he did not run on that.
But whatever his staff says to the contrary, it isn`t only the things that
he ran on that he now has to face.

MADDOW: Yes.

MITCHELL: And many of them will be foreign challenges, but some will
be Newtown and the domestic challenges.

But he made equal right a central part of this message today and it
was significant because it was on Dr. Martin Luther King`s Day.

MADDOW: And not doing it in an adversarial way, but saying this is
who we are. This is how we got to be here. This is how you got to have a
president like me and this is what it means and it says about us as a
country. I thought it was a big-minded speech and I thought it was very
nonpartisan and really interesting.

Andrea Mitchell, I love being able to talk to you on big days.

MITCHELL: It`s great to be here with you.

MADDOW: Thank you. You`ve had a long day. Thanks for being here
late. I appreciate it.

All right. We`re going to be right back with Dan Rather. Stay tuned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths
-- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still,
just as it guided our forbearers through Seneca Falls and Selma and
Stonewall; just as it guided all of the men and women, sung and unsung, who
left footprints along this great mall to hear a preacher say that we cannot
walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is
inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You need to stay with us during this hour in part because we
are awaiting president and Mrs. Obama and the further dancing. They have
danced so far and the president made remarks at the commander-in-chief
ball. The other official inaugural ball today is due for a visit from the
president and the first lady.

We`re also expecting further remarks tonight from vice President Biden
at the commander in chief`s ball.

That is all due to happen roughly this hour. So you should stick with
us.

Also, Dan Rather coming up. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That is our generation`s task, to make these words, these
rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real
for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require
us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define
liberty exactly the same way. Or follow the same precise path to
happiness.

Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the
role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.

You and I as citizens have the power to set this country`s course.
You and I as citizens have the obligation to shape the debates of our time,
not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of
our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You and I as citizens have the obligation to shape the
debates of our time not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we
lift in defense of our ancient values and ideals.

You and I as citizens -- President Obama giving his second inaugural
address today. That speech happened just before noon Eastern Time today.
And then after that, this afternoon, while the president was having lunch
with members of Congress after that address, this e-mail was sent out from
info@BarackObama.com. It is signed at the bottom there by Barack. You
know, your friend, Barack, who are in your first name basis with.

The email says, "I just renewed my oath of office to serve as your
president four more years. Thank you for making this possible. It is an
honor to be your president. Now, it`s time to finish what we started,
let`s get going."

And then like all good political letters, it has a postscript. It
says "P.S.: Organizing for Action is the next step in our grassroots
movement, and will be crucial to finishing what we started. If you have
not already, say you will be part of it."

If you click on that say you will be part of it link, it takes you
here to Obama Biden at the top there. This is a page at Organizing for
Action. The headline there is "You In?", and then there is a video from
the first lady and the president, asking you to join not a campaign, but
this new thing, this Organizing for Action thing. Post campaign -- a thing
that looks a lot like a continuing campaign.

What you`re looking at right now is a live shot of President Obama and
Mrs. Obama at the official inaugural ball. We saw them earlier at the
commander-in-chief ball. This will be our second chance tonight to see
them dance together, possibly our last chance together tonight to see them
dance, which means that I should probably shut up and get out of the way.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

ANNOUNCER: And now, please welcome Grammy and Academy Award winner,
Jennifer Hudson.

(MUSIC)

MADDOW: President Obama and Mrs. Obama dancing at the official
inaugural ball tonight, being serenaded by Jennifer Hudson for the second
time. She also serenaded them at the commander-in-chief ball.

"Let`s Stay Together", of course, is: (a), Al Green, so always great;
(b), a nice metaphor for picking me again to be your president for four
more years. And also (c), a nice reminder of the president`s turn at a
microphone at a fundraiser I believe it was last year singing a little Al
Green himself -- a nice reminder of that tonight.

But the president and the first lady, I do believe that is the last
time we`ll see them dancing tonight.

But the night is young, and these inaugural balls are still ongoing.
Is there going to be one more dance? Oh, right. OK.

Here is how it goes there is two official inaugural balls, the
commander-in-chief ball, which the president and first lady have already
appear at, and the official inaugural ball, which you just saw them dance
at right here. But the official inaugural ball is so enormous at the
Washington Convention Center, that it takes place on two different floors.

And as they move into the next room, so the other people in the other
room can see them. Also at that part of the inaugural ball, there will be
another president and first lady dance. So there.

This is a weird thing to emcee. Who knew? I barely even went to
prom. But the things we do on inauguration night. In 2009, he had 10
official inaugural balls.

For his second inaugural ball, Bill Clinton had 14 official inaugural
balls. So I should be excited that there are only two, enough to get me
confused.

But we`ll have that for you live as it happens. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Looking at a live shot right now of Vice President Joe Biden
and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, dancing at the official inaugural ball at the
Washington Convention Center. They`re being serenaded I believe by Jamie
Foxx.

(MUSIC)

MADDOW: Vice President and Mrs. Biden wrapping up their inaugural
dance. This is in one of the two rooms in which the official inaugural
ball is being held. This is the room in which President Obama and First
Lady Michelle Obama have not yet appeared to dance. But they are expected
momentarily.

Yesterday, around -- right around the time that President Obama was
being officially but privately sworn in at the White House for his second
term, the Sunday swearing in, and in keeping with the constitution, has to
happen on the 20th, while that was happening, there was a meeting taking
place in Washington a few blocks away in the ballroom of the Washington
Hilton.

It was a meeting called the Obama Legacy Conference. Thousands of
Obama campaign staffers and volunteers gathering on inauguration weekend to
essentially map out what comes next. What comes next for this enormous
organization that they built over the last few years to win the president`s
reelection, and which now having done that is looking to keep working on
something else.

Organizing for Action is what they officially rolled out at that
conference yesterday. It`s the new iteration of the president`s campaign
operation. It is a tax-exempt group. It can accept unlimited donations.
It does not have to disclose its donors, although the president`s new
organization says it will.

They say their main purpose is to mobilize support for the president`s
second term policy goals.

This is something new. After President George W. Bush won reelection
in 2004, he did not have an entire campaign structure at the ready,
millions of supporters strong mobilizing behind him and raising money for
him to achieve his second term goals. President Clinton didn`t have
anything like that when he was elected to a second term. No president has
had an independent group do that.

But Barack Obama now has that. His election campaign has been turned
into an independent group.

The chairman of the new group will be a man named Jim Messina. He is
not exactly a political lightweight. His last job was in fact running
President Obama`s 2012 reelection campaign.

To have Jim Messina in charge of this thing means this is not a place
where emeritus your friends to keep them on the payroll. This is something
that is going to be an active political operation with some of the biggest
guns in Democratic politics at the helm of it.

Democrats are turning their brightest lights from the two successful
campaigns of this president into a political operation that will operate
throughout President Obama`s second term.

Nobody has any idea what that is going to be like or how that is going
to work, because nobody has ever done this before in American politics.

Joining us now to talk about the inauguration and this development in
our politics is Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather
Reports" on AXS TV.

Mr. Rather, happy Inauguration Day. Thank you for joining us.

DAN RATHER, DAN RATHER REPORTS: Well, happy Inauguration Day to you,
and what a job you have done, Rachel, and what a day for the country.

MADDOW: Yes.

RATHER: One can be blase about a lot. But we can`t be blase about a
day like this where a reelected person of color becomes president of the
United States for another four years.

Listen, I don`t care whether you`re Republican, Democrat, Mugwump,
whatever, it`s a day where you have to say, what a country.

MADDOW: Dan, I have said that there`s no precedent for exactly the
way the president is planning on spending his second term. Obviously every
presidency is different. Political strategy evolves over time as
presidents evolve over time.

Is this president planning something that is materially different than
anybody else has done in terms of cementing his legacy and accomplishing
his goals for his second term in office?

RATHER: Well, no president that -- I tried to do some research on
this afternoon. I don`t find any precedent for this at all. And it`s a
very smart move.

What he is trying to do is take what he learned, what he and those
around him learned during the election and put it into an effect to not
just for his legacy, but for his agenda and his -- what he hopes to
accomplish in the second term. And he made it clear today in his second
inaugural address that he is playing for the long-term. He is playing for
history.

We have talked before he has a chance in the second term to dare to be
great. And what he wants to do, and I think this organization, if it
actually materializes and is effective as it possibly will be, if it`s half
as effective as his presidential campaign, it will be of tremendous help to
him on such things, and he mentioned all of these today in his inaugural
address -- immigration, climate change, gay rights, the first president in
an inaugural address to mention gay rights. He spent some time on climate
change, immigration. These are the builders for his historic record.
Also, for the good of the country as he sees it.

Now, to accomplish those things in the face of what has been and
continues to be at this moment basically an obstructionist opposition
party, the Republican Party, he is going to need all the organization he
can muster. And to get that organization, of course, he has to have money.
So to get the money, they established this nonprofit.

The closest thing I think we`ve had, Rachel, in terms of a precedent
for this was the Ronald Reagan operation, the Ronald Reagan campaign and
the ongoing echoes of that campaign. They didn`t have one organization,
but they had a series of organizations to make certain that they played for
the long pull. They played for history. And they were in many ways
effective in doing that.

Now, we`re in the 21st century. And what President Obama did during
the campaign, he took the most creative thinkers that he could find, people
to use the cliche who think out of the box. He married them up, if you
will, wedded them, molded them into the information era high technology
whiz people who knew how to leverage the information age to his electoral
advantage.

Now that`s what they want to do with this organize for action. And
frankly, I wouldn`t bet against them. This could be very, very effective
as he tries to get his agenda going and maintain it.

But make no mistake, we are dealing here and the country is dealing
with and the Republicans are dealing with a somewhat different Barack
Obama. You could feel it today. It`s been coming for some days, I think,
that in the first term, he was -- yes, sometimes timid, trying to be
conciliatory.

Now, in the way he has turned today and said give me a moment, I want
to take in this view again, because I`ll never see this again, he now sees
this four years is going to decide what history says about what he did as
president. He is already a historical figure, the first person of color to
become a president and then be reelected as president, obviously. But now,
he is talking about what the history is going to say of what he actually
accomplished in his eight years in office.

And let`s pray to God he does have the eight years in office.

A recent columnist "The New York Times" said -- asked the question are
we now looking at the Democratic Party`s equivalent of Ronald Reagan and
what Ronald Reagan did for the conservatives and for the Republican Party
in the 1980s.

I think the answer is -- we may well be.

MADDOW: It certainly seems like that is what he is aiming at. And I
had read that hypothesis before today. And then hearing that speech today,
I thought that is what he is trying to do.

Dan Rather, witness, anchor, reporter for more than 50 years of
inaugurations now -- Dan Rather now reporting on AXS TV. Dan, it`s quite
wonderful to have you here. Thank you so much for your insight tonight.
It`s great to see you.

RATHER: Thanks so much, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Thank you.

All right. Lots more ahead. We`re expecting to see the president and
Mrs. Obama dancing again shortly. Plus, I`ll repeat the thing about who
made the shoes, which makes me blush for some reason.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just
the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends. And we must
carry those lessons into this time as well. We will defend our people and
uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Last week, on the occasion of the end of President Obama`s
first term in office, NBC News did a big comprehensive national poll on how
Americans viewed this president right now. They asked specifically, what
was the best thing that President Obama got done in the last four years?

Coming in at number three on the list was preventing middle class tax
hikes while raising taxes on the highest levels of income. That was the
third greatest accomplishment of the president`s first term, according to
the latest NBC poll.

Number two, killing bin Laden. Killing Osama bin Laden is what
President Obama himself refers to as the single most important day of his
presidency. For Americans at large, that was number two.

What ranked higher than that? What does Americans think was the
single best accomplishment of his first term, even better than killing bin
Laden?

It was ending the war in Iraq. President Obama campaigned on ending
the war in Iraq in 2008. He was against that war right from the very
start, and in December 2011, after eight and a half years of war, the
president, as he promised, did bring the Iraq war to a close.

When President Obama took the office -- took the oath of office four
years ago, there were 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Today, it is about 200.
That right there is what Americans consider about the single greatest
accomplishment of his first term.

Heading into his second term, the president has just come off a
campaign in which he promised to bring America`s other war, our longest war
ever to a close, the war in Afghanistan. Here is the president tonight at
the commander in chief ball with members of the military and their
families.

The president announced two weeks ago with Hamid Karzai, the president
of Afghanistan, that American troops will transition out of a combat role
in that country in this spring. He says all American troops will come home
by the end of next year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that
steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now
ending.

(APPLAUSE)

We the people still believe that enduring security and lasting peace
do not require perpetual war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential
scholar and historian.

Mr. Beschloss, thanks for being here.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLAR AND HISTORIAN: Thank
you, Rachel.

MADDOW: The big arc of presidential history tells us that modern
presidents and their second terms end up focusing on foreign policy, maybe
more than they intend to, certainly maybe more than their first terms. Why
is that?

BESCHLOSS: The main reason probably is, is that when a president
comes in for a second term, he usually has about six to eight months to get
things through Congress. It may seem small, but even LBJ in `65, with 61
percent presidential landslide, more Democrats in Congress than any other
time in the 20th century, except for Roosevelt, he knew enough about the
Senate and the House, he said I`ve got six months because I`m going to be
asking Democrats and some Republicans to cast some risky votes.

After a while, they`re going to start rebelling because they`re going
to look to the election next year. No reason that won`t happen this year.
Foreign policy is something you can do without running to Congress for
permission ever day.

MADDOW: Ah. It`s because you can when you can`t do other things.

BESCHLOSS: Indeed.

MADDOW: I understand. The prosaic answers are always the most direct
ones, and they`re always from history.

In terms of the president looking ahead at six to eight months, what
they`re telegraphing right now from the White House is that the heavy lift
they`re going to ask for is a variety of measures related to gun violence.
Because it is a variety of measures, I think they mean it to be treated as
a grab bag and not a comprehensive process, but then, a comprehensive
package of immigration reform that cannot be broken into its component
parts.

Is that the kind of heavy lift that you might expect might be feasible
at the start of a second term?

BESCHLOSS: Very much so. I think he tried to build up his capital
today. He did win the election. And I think the LBJ example is not bad
one, because during those first six months of 1965, Medicare, education,
voting rights, all the things that we think of really as the Great Society
didn`t happen across four years, really just in that first half of one
year. The fact that Johnson was asking for all those big things together
really helped.

MADDOW: The end of the Iraq war was not marked as a massive occasion
in this country when it happened. There was some primetime news programs
that didn`t cover it the day that it happened, the day that was the end of
the war.

But people, when you ask them broadly in the country, end up ranking
ending the war as President Obama`s greatest single accomplishment in his
first four years. What explains the primacy of that in memory, even as it
was buried in the news as we went through it?

BESCHLOSS: Well, go back to the Democratic primaries of 2008. What
was the biggest issue? Barack Obama probably became the nominee largely
because he was against the war at the beginning. Hillary Clinton was for
it.

So people obviously noticed the absence of that. But even more than
that, I`m sure you`re wiser than I was. But four years ago, I could not
imagine that anyone who was president could not only have gotten us
completely out of this war, but also do so without that government in Iraq
collapsing, and more so, without an angry domestic backlash against
whatever president did that as somehow soft on terrorism.

One way Barack Obama did this is by not going and saying I deserve all
sorts of credit. He did it rather quietly, but very competently.

MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, you have
been deeply, deeply in demand today. And I know we had to fight for your
time. Thank you letting us have --

BESCHLOSS: My pleasure as always.

MADDOW: Appreciate it.

BESCHLOSS: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you.

The day in fashion is coming up, yes, because I`m your fashion
correspondent with a lot of credibility. Some of it worked out great.
Some of it -- well, I need to do an apology.

Please stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You want to see the tape we found of President Eisenhower
allowing himself to be lassoed by a cowboy at the inaugural parade in 1953?

There. All right, you`re ready? There you have it. Rodeo cowboy
Montie Montana lassoing the 34th president of the United States at the
inaugural parade. And yes, that kind of thing does not happen anymore.

Now, while you marvel at the fact that this happened and that this
footage of it exists, let me put something else on your radar. Tomorrow,
in Washington, on Capitol Hill, the Senate has one chance, one day, on
which they can change the rules to stop letting the Republicans forced an
automatic 60 votes super majority on everything. It would be a huge deal
toward returning the Senate toward normalcy.

Republicans think that Democrats will never do it. Harry Reid has
said multiple times that he wants to do it. Tomorrow is his only chance to
do it, but nobody knows if he will do it.

That said, nobody knew that Montie Montana would really lasso
President Eisenhower at the inaugural parade 60 years, and that happened.
Improbable is not the same as impossible.

Tomorrow is a big day on Capitol Hill. You will want to keep the news
on it.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Happy Inauguration Day, everybody. Inauguration Day night
means the president and the first lady dance together at the inaugural
balls. As you can hear, we`re having a little trouble with the audio, but
this is the president and first lady dancing, as Jennifer Hudson serenades
them for the last tonight at the official inaugural ball.

(MUSIC)

MADDOW: Jennifer Hudson serenading President Obama and First Lady
Michelle Obama as they danced tonight at the official inaugural ball, and
the first lady wearing a custom Jason Wu ruby colored chiffon and velvet
gown with the handmade diamond embellished drink -- embellished ring,
excuse me, by jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald. She`s wearing shoes
designed by Jimmy Choo.

At the end of the inaugural festivities, the outfit and the
accompanying accessories will go to the National Archives. But you are
going to stay here all night because our MSNBC live coverage of the second
inauguration of President Barack Obama continues live into the night.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Thank you for being with us. Thank you for staying with us.

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

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