'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 6, 2013
Guest: Ron Wyden
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I`ve never been more self-conscious about the
way I talk and flap my hands around than hearing you talk to the body
language expert. I feel like I can be a robot now.
MADDOW: I`m doing everything wrong. I`m showing my cards.
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: We are very normal. I feel good
about that tonight.
MADDOW: Yes, I`ve never tried to be normal before, but I`m going to
try really hard to be normal and will fail immediately, I`m sure.
Thank you, my friend. That was great.
SCHULTZ: Thank you, Rachel.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. I have to hold still.
We often end this show with something we called the best new thing in
the world. But tonight`s best new thing in the world deserves pride of
place, I think, right here at the top of the show instead of at the end of
the show, because something happened in American politics today that never
happens. At least that never happens anymore, something dramatic and
significant and full of meaning that used to happen in our politics, but
that recently had been banished.
Today, it came back. What you`re looking at here, of course, is not
an actual senator. This is the actor Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to
Washington." In this part of the movie, he is talking himself to
exhaustion on the Senate floor in order to block something from happening
in the Senate.
The United States Senate lets you do that. It is a rare and weird
part of our system of government. In the legislature, aside from a few
things that the Constitution says have to have a super majority, stuff like
impeaching someone or kicking somebody out of Congress or ratifying a
treaty, aside from those few reserved things in the Constitution, in our
legislature, it`s majority rules.
But in the Senate, by tradition, by the rules of that body, one
senator, or a minority of senators is vested with the power to stand up and
block something from happening, even if the majority wants it to happen.
It is a rare beast, or at least it ought to be a rare beast. A single
senator or a minority of seniors effectively throwing themselves on the
gears of democracy and saying, "I must be heard on this. You cannot go
forward with this until I say my piece."
And so a la "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", a single senator may take
it upon himself or herself to effectively play the hero, right, to bring
all business to a halt, to bring the spotlight upon himself or upon
herself, to hold the floor, speaking about whatever it is that`s so
important that it is worth this effort until the effort expires by
necessity, because the senator can physically go on no longer, or because a
supermajority of senators says enough and ends it.
It is a very dramatic thing, or at least it used to be a dramatic
In recent years, the Senate changed the rules so all it took to
filibuster something now was to say you wanted to filibuster it. No need
to take the Senate floor, no need to make your case, no need to turn on the
spotlight, let alone shine it on yourself for a long time, you and your
The filibuster when they changed the rules just became a quiet
everyday part of Senate life. Since the Democrats have been in charge in
the Senate, Republicans have used it to effectively make Democrats have to
get a 60-vote supermajority for everything. It`s become absolutely run-of-
But nobody has to take the floor and say why. Nobody has to expend
any effort at all. It`s permanently around.
In other words, they killed Mr. Smith, or at least they kidnapped Mr.
Smith. The only time he was seen in spirit in recent years was once in
December 2010 when the iconoclastic, contrarian liberal Senator Bernie
Sanders of Vermont brought Mr. Smith back without warning. December 10th,
2010, Senator Bernie Sanders took the floor of the Senate at 10:30 in the
morning, and he talked for eight and a half straight hours.
He talked on the collapse of the American middle class, the huge
escalation of income inequality in our country, and the policies that
either ignore those problems or that make them happen.
Despite being eight and a half hours long, the Bernie Sanders pseudo-
filibuster that date, December 2010, was actually sort of a cogent
beginning, middle, and end argument. When it was over, they were able to
publish it as a book. They just put a new introduction on it and published
his filibuster because it reads like a book.
If you want to get a sense of the kind of impact that dramatic action
by Bernie Sanders had, I want to show you a little piece of tape. This is
just 20 seconds long. It`s kind of a weird thing to show on cable news.
But this is only 20 seconds. Just watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: There is a war going on in this
country, and I`m not referring to the war in Iraq or the war in
Afghanistan. I`m talking about a war being waged by some of the wealthiest
and most powerful people in this country against the working families of
the United States of America, against the disappearing and shrinking middle
class of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is an installation art piece, piece 1, by Nora Ligarano
and Marshall Reese. The middle class is spelled out there as an ice
sculpture, and you`re watching a time laps video of it melting, with this
musical soundtrack and also words from Senator Bernie Sanders` filibuster.
We`ve got a link to the full thing at our Web site today if you want to
Senator Sanders, I should say, also has a link to it at his Web site
What he did that day when he took the floor for eight and a half
straight hours and made a single eight and a half hour-long argument on a
single point, it made an impact. I do not know if it changed the course of
the country in terms of policy, but an elected official going back to the
old rules and commandeering the floor of the United States Senate for hours
to stand alone, Mr. Smith-style, and make his point, to throw himself on
the gears, to hold things up as long as he holds up physically, this kind
of thing is designed to make a point. And it does.
And, of course, you can use this tactic that is unique to the United
States Senate. You can use it to make good points. Or you can use it to
make terrible points.
The heroic one man against the world filibuster back in the day was,
of course, a favored tool of the segregationist senators from the Deep
South to slow down civil rights legislation and to try to look like heroes
to the South for doing it. I mean, looking back at that as a cause is
But at least it was not some no fingerprints, no effort, anonymous
tactic, like how this thing is used today. You actually had to stand out
there and say your piece.
With the exception of Bernie Sanders, we do not do it like that
anymore. But then today, it happened again. At 11:47 a.m., the Republican
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul took the floor of the senate and announced that
he would not be leaving the floor of the Senate any time soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I yield the floor.
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: The senator from Kentucky.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I rise today to begin to filibuster
John Brennan`s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer
speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm has sounded from
coast-to-coast that our Constitution is important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That started at 11:47 a.m. today, and it went on all day
long. And it is still going on.
But it is not happening via some secret behind the rules -- behind-
the-scenes paper rules in which people said they were filibustering, but
they weren`t actually standing on the floor and talking and refusing to sit
down. In this case, they were actually standing on the floor of the Senate
and refusing to sit down.
For short periods of time, Senator Paul engaged with other senators,
or they sometimes took over for him for a while. Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry
Moran, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Pat Toomey, Saxby Chambliss, the
Democratic senator from Oregon, Ron Wyden.
But it was Senator Paul who did the lion`s share of the talking by
himself. He argued today, he is still arguing now, that there should be
more information disclosed about the government killing people with drones,
and the rules under which that happens should be made more available to the
Congress and to the American public.
Now, what Senator Paul did today I have to say will never be
publishable as a book. It was not the most coherent thing on two legs.
And honestly, because it is Rand Paul, we barely got a half hour into him
starting talking before he got to his gratuitous Hitler references.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Hitler was elected democratically. They elected him out of
this chaos. The point isn`t that anybody in our country is Hitler. I`m
not accusing anybody of being that evil. I think it`s an overplayed and a
But what I am saying is that in a democracy, you could some day elect
someone who is very evil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`m not saying anybody is like Hitler. I`m just saying think
of Hitler, think evil, and then close your eyes and think of people here in
Yes. Rand Paul, wildly imperfect messenger for any message, really,
but particularly for the nobility of the cause of talking a long time.
But there is something important about the United States Congress
finding its footing and wanting to assert its role, its oversight role in
where and why and how our country wages war. The president is the
commander-in-chief, absolutely, but it is the Congress in which the
founders vested the questions of war and peace.
And maybe those green shoots of responsibility only rose the way they
did today because Republicans can only be inspired to oversee such matters
when the president is of the opposing party, and they don`t care when it`s
a Republican president -- I think that`s the case.
But, still, despite its craven partisanship and its frequent lapse
into incoherence, and Rand Paul`s frequent and gratuitous Hitler
references, because Rand Paul cannot help himself, Congress demanding to
play its part in matters of war is in broad strokes the way Congress is
supposed to work. It`s the way our whole government is supposed to work.
And moreover, when Congress does want to use the almost miraculously
un-democratic power that is reserved specifically to the Senate, to block
majority rule, to hold up the operation of the whole legislature because of
one guy`s concern, or because of a minority concern for which regular
business and regular democracy must wait so that those concerns can be
heard, when that happens, it is supposed to be a giant pain. It`s supposed
to be exhausting, and showboaty and selfish and ostentatious test and an
ostentatious display of endurance, because this is not supposed to happen
every day. This is supposed to be weird and rare and extraordinary
circumstance in which it takes a supermajority vote, 60 votes before you
can move on.
Blocking or delaying a presidential nomination, or anything that is
supposed to be subject to a majority vote in the legislature, blocking or
delaying it until you can get 60 votes for it, that is a big hairy deal.
The best new thing in the world today is that it was not done today
like it was nothing, like it is done most days now. Today, it was made
exactly as big and as hairy a deal as it is always supposed to be.
Rand Paul started filibustering at 11:47 this morning Eastern Time.
This is a live image of the Senate floor right now at 9:11 Eastern as I
speak to you. That`s Senator Mike Lee of Utah, continuing Rand Paul`s work
right now. It is still going on.
Joining us right now is Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. He engaged
Senator Paul in debate during today`s filibuster. He is a member of the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Senator Wyden, thank you so much for being here tonight.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Thanks for having me again.
MADDOW: So the talking filibuster is not much used anymore. We still
have to show footage of fiction of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" in order
to give people the idea.
Did this debate about congressional oversight and transparency on
drones, did it get better today by use of this tactic?
WYDEN: I think the American people certainly know more about the
fundamental question, which is we have to strike a better balance, Rachel,
between protecting our security and protecting our liberty. I`ve just come
off a two-year effort, made seven separate requests to get the Obama
administration to release these previously secret legal analyses which
offer the justification for the drone strikes.
And this debate is just beginning. And the reason I went to the floor
today is, I thought it was an opportune time to try to show that there is a
new effort by both progressives and conservatives to try to show that in
our country, it`s possible both to protect our liberties and at the same
time ensure that we`re vigilant against the very real threats that are out
MADDOW: It seems like the occasion of John Brennan`s nomination has
brought about a bunch of stuff that we now know, or at least that you know
as a senator that we were not able to know before.
We saw, first, reported by NBC`s Michael Isikoff a summary of legal
reasoning by the administration on killing Americans abroad with the drone
program. We also then saw released to the Intelligence Committee a couple
Office of Legal Counsel memos on the same subject. Then more memos on the
same subject released to the Intelligence Committee.
It seems like things are going in the direction that you want.
But how much further do you think the administration should go in
terms of making information available? And do you think should it be
limited to these disclosures about killing Americans, or do you think it
should be about killing anybody using this program?
WYDEN: First of all, I think there does need to be more information
made available. I think it can be done consistent with national security
about drones. And I am going to make a concerted effort to declassify more
of that information in the days ahead.
This debate, Rachel, is just beginning. The fact is the very nature
of warfare is changing so dramatically, we have just begun the discussion,
and certainly now, it`s time to bring the public into this.
The members of the Intelligence Committee have just gotten access to
the documents. People have asked, am I satisfied with that? Of course
not. I`m going to have additional follow-up questions, probably next week
on some of the issues, and some of that will be public. Some of it will
have to be classified.
But this debate has really just begun.
MADDOW: I know that you engaged Senator Paul today in debate as he
held the floor. I was careful to say it that way, because as far as I
understand it, you are not participating in the filibuster of John
Brennan`s nomination. You do believe he should get an up or down vote.
You do not want it delayed.
Is that accurate?
WYDEN: I already voted for Mr. Brennan in the Intelligence Committee.
I have announced that I`m going to vote for him on the floor. There were
parts of his nomination hearing that I was quite encouraged by.
I liked the fact that he wanted to make clear that if mistakes were
made with respect to drones, that ought to be made public. At the same
time, I was concerned about the fact it was hard to get information from
him about countries where lethal force was used.
But we have made some progress. I think now we ought to be trying to
build on it.
MADDOW: When -- I should say if and when John Brennan is confirmed
for the CIA when he does get his full floor vote in the Senate, and it`s
expected that he will be confirm in order position, what do you think will
be the next point of leverage? Or what do you think will be the next
occasion for which to continue to press the administration for the kind of
transparency that you want?
Attorney General Eric Holder says we should expect to hear the
president himself discuss these matters.
Do you feel like the administration is in the mood to continue to
disclose further information, or do they need to be pushed with a
nomination like this on the line the way they have over the Brennan
WYDEN: The president has told me, Rachel, personally, and I`ve talked
to him twice on this, that he is committed to a more fulsome airing, let us
say, about these kinds of issues. And I think that is so important.
We have to protect what`s called the operations and methods in the
intelligence community. But the law itself should not be kept secret. And
it`s this fight against secret law that has been so important.
It shouldn`t have taken seven requests. That`s how many I made,
Rachel, over a two-year period to get this kind of information. Now, I
will tell you just in the last few days, the letter from Mr. Brennan was
quite forthright on the question of making sure that he didn`t believe the
CIA could use drones in the United States.
The letter from Mr. Holder, while moving in the right direction, he in
effect said he could only see using the military against what would amount
to a foreign attack in the United States like Pearl Harbor. There still
are some unanswered question there.
That`s what we`re going to have to keep digging into. And I think you
saw today those efforts will be bipartisan.
MADDOW: Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, that distinction that you`re
making there, the difference between secret operations and secret law is
one that for all these different ways of resistance I believe is really
starting to sink in, and the way people talk that in a way that I think is
mostly attribute to you, sir.
WYDEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: So thank you for advances our discourse on that and thanks
for being here tonight.
WYDEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. One last thing: every time we cover the issue of
killing people in this way, every time we cover counterterrorism and
killing people with drones, we get rafts of hate mail on this show.
I`m here to tell you I love your hate mail. I do. The whole show
does. It`s often very informative.
But I want to make sure you send to it the right place. So it goes to
Rachel@MSNBC.com. We really do read your email. Hate mail and otherwise,
and that e-mail address really does work, Rachel@MSNBC.com.
So when you want to write to me to tell me to stop covering the story
and call me names and question my motives for covering it, really, tell me
more. I love to hear it.
MADDOW: Headline this week in the Newark, New Jersey "Star Ledger":
"Gun Control Poll: Nearly everyone in New Jersey`s Republican districts
supports universal background checks."
Headline in "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel": "New polls support
background checks for gun buyers." This one is about polling and two
Republican-controlled districts in Wisconsin.
Headline in "The Philadelphia Inquirer": "Poll: overwhelming local
support for background checks." That`s based on four Republican-controlled
districts getting polled in Pennsylvania.
Local media in wildly different parts of the country reporting on
their local politicians and their local voters based on new polling that is
geographically specific to each of those disparate places. It`s all
happening at the same time.
Do you sense that something is going on here? That`s because
something is going on here.
The group mayors against illegal guns have rolled this out slowly and
subtly in local media first, but it is about to go national. They very
quietly did a huge new polling effort. They asked people if they supported
background checks for all gun sales. They pulled in 21 states and 41
congressional districts. Huge effort.
But up until now, you would only know about this if you had been doing
a close reading of local newspapers from mostly Republican states in
congressional districts. Well, tomorrow, they are due to publish the
results all together in one place, in a full page ad in three major beltway
newspapers. We got it from them tonight when we asked them about what
seemed like this quiet round of polling they were doing and only
So, we are the first news outlet to break this. But here it is, so
you can see it ahead of time.
It says Americans overwhelmingly support background checks for all gun
sales. And then it lists the polling results from dozens of states and
congressional districts, along with who is the office holder there and what
their NRA rating is.
Since the NRA is opposed to background checks, right, that matters.
The majority of folks on this list have an A or A-plus rating from the NRA.
Again, the NRA opposes background checks.
But look what these people`s constituents think about background
checks. Look at those numbers. In every single case, come on, who cares
what the NRA says. The view of the residents in these dribs is just
overwhelming. Only three times on this entire list does the support dip
below 80 percent support for background checks. And in those three cases,
it`s still 79 percent wanting background checks.
Look in Arizona, for example, where Senators John McCain and Jeff
Flake have between them an A and a B-plus rating from the NRA, 90 percent
of their constituents in Arizona want background checks, even if the NRA is
opposed. So the senators are going to do what the NRA wants or are they
going to do what 90 percent of their constituents want?
In three different Michigan congressional districts, the congressmen
from those districts have A-ratings from the NRA. But the people who live
in those districts support background checks by 87 percent to 92 percent.
So what is it going to be Fred Upton and Tim Walberg and Mike Rogers?
Are you going to do with the NRA wants? You got an "A" rating from the
NRA. Are you going to do what the NRA wants or do the opposite of what the
NRA wants, which is what 87 percent to 92 percent of people in your
districts want you to do.
In Oklahoma, home of A-plus rated Senator Jim Inhofe and A-rated
Senator Tom Coburn, 87 percent of Oklahoma residents want universal
background checks -- Oklahoma, 87 percent. And that is a particularly
important part of Oklahoma, not just because Oklahoma is such a red state,
because one of the senators from Oklahoma, the NRA`s a rated Tom Coburn was
being aggressively courted to co-sponsor a bipartisan bill in the Senate
for universal background checks.
Today, we learned that that effort has failed. Tom Coburn will not be
signing on to the universal background check measure that is set to be
introduced in the Senate tomorrow, the one that 87 percent4 percent of his
constituents support. He is going to give the one-finger salute to 87
percent of his constituents in order to do what the NRA wants him to do
"The Washington Post" reporting tonight that negotiations for a broad,
bipartisan background check bill, including Tom Coburn, have stalled. Now
it will be left to Democrats Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin and lone
Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois to try to find Republican support
elsewhere. And yes, Senator Mark Kirk is himself a Republican, but his "F"
rating from the NRA may not make him the best pitchman for recruiting more
Republican support to this bill. And they will need that if they`re going
to pass this bill over an all but certain Republican filibuster.
Is it really possible that the congress is so far to the right of the
people of Oklahoma that this kind of thing is impossible now? This one
straight forward fix, background checks, is something that people in super
gun-friendly states and Republican congressional districts support by a low
of 79 percent and a maximum of 100 percent. Literally in one New Jersey
Republican district, support for background checks clocked in at 100
Is it possible that something with this much popular support can
attract the support in the Senate of only one Republican? One.
That`s how far the Republican Party is from public opinion right now?
This seems to be not sustainable.
MADDOW: In 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress studied 15,000
pages of evidence and held 21 hearings over ten months to debate whether
the Voting Rights Act should be renewed. Congress decided resoundingly
that the answer was yes. They voted in favor of it by a huge bipartisan
margin. You can see the House vote, 390-33. The vote in the Senate was
unanimous. It was 98-0.
Last week, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said he
did not believe that for a second.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT: This last enactment, not
a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the
Now, I don`t think that`s attributable to the fact that it is so much
clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributed -- very likely
attributable to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial
entitlement. It`s been written about.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Perpetuation of racial entitlement. It`s been written about.
A search by Saint Louis University law professor Chad Flanders reveals
one prominent piece of writing on the subject of the perpetuation of racial
entitlement. This permanent piece of writing was written by a young lawyer
in 1979, a fellow named Antonin Scalia.
Oh, I get it. You say racial entitlement has been written about? It
turns out it has been written about by you, very clever.
We posted Justice Scalia`s 1970s musings on racial entitlement at
MaddowBlog.com today in case you want to prove to yourself it exists. It`s
Was he right, though? Was he right that senators didn`t really mean
it when they voted to re-up the Voting Rights Act? Was he right when he
says they were brainwashed with racial entitlement, or whatever, and that
they didn`t really mean to cast those votes?
There is a way to answer that question, it turns out, which is so
creepy, you won`t believe it. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: In case you are not already acquainted with THE RACHEL MADDOW
SHOW white board, here it is. We use it to plan out the show every day.
We write our ideas for the shows from the day`s potential news stories up
And if it is humanely possible to ever read my handwriting, you would
be able to make out the notes on about the segments on tonight`s show.
So, this is how our planning board looks when we come up with what`s
going to be on the show and signed out all the segments and everything.
It`s covered with writing, as you can see.
This is what it looks like every day when we come into work for the
day. Terrifyingly blank. We erase it every day, all but one little tiny
part in the upper right. You see?
We keep one little part of it permanently that does not get erased.
It`s a little note in the top right corner. It is always there because
that is our one and only permanent rule about what kinds of stories we will
and will not cover on this show. It is a self-imposed rule. It is the
only rule that we have when it comes to story selection.
You can see it here. First you can see the date the rule went into
effect, November 27th, 2012. So, that`s a couple of weeks after the
presidential election. And it says 2016 ban. And then I`ve signed it, RM.
So that`s the rule. It`s a ban on stories about the next presidential
election. I refuse to cover those stories. It`s against our rule until
the rule is repealed. And there is no provision for repealing the rule.
And we needed to impose this rule for a reason. Remember the
presidential election, the one that felt like it lasted years and it ended
a very short time ago, and immediately after it was done, like the next
week, there were already all these stories in the news about who was going
run in the next presidential election four years later? It`s insane. It
can`t be the way we run the news.
And so, we got this ban. No stories about who may or may not run in
2016 -- no, no way, not yet. Not here, not for a while.
Except, I`m breaking the rule. I`m sorry. I`m sorry, but it`s for a
Look, all right, breaking the rule. Here you go.
"Jeb Bush Open to 2016 White House Bid." "Jeb Bush Quietly Lays
Campaign Groundwork Through Foundation." "Jeb Bush sounding more like a
presidential candidate." "Jeb Bush thinking about 2016." "Jeb Bush: the
2016 race is on."
Right. Conventional wisdom is that Jeb Bush will be running for
president in 2016, and so there. I submit myself for sentencing. I have
officially violated the ban.
And it`s about a member of the Bush family, which makes it somehow
worse. I am sorry. It pains me to do this, but I`m doing it for a reason.
I`m doing it because this story, even though it`s about 2016 and is
therefore inherently stupid, this story does actually help answer a really
important current question that has nothing to do with 2016 and nothing to
do with the Bush family.
It has to do with the direction of the country right now and policy
and particularly the future of the Republican Party. On last night`s show,
we talked with Nicolle Wallace, who I always really enjoy having on the
show, and not only because she is one of the only Republicans in the
country who will speak to me with a camera around.
Nicolle is a former communications director for George W. Bush. She
was a senior adviser to John McCain`s the last presidential campaign. She
is very bright.
She is also one of more than 100 Republicans who signed a brief to the
Supreme Court in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples, ahead
of the court`s big cases on that subject at the end of this month.
In addition to Nicolle, 11 other high-ranking seasoned political
operatives have signed into this brief, many of whom have worked for very
anti-gay campaigns in the past.
As for Republican elected officials, seven former Republican
governors, including Tom Ridge and Christie Todd Whitman and Jon Huntsman.
Other signatures from 10 former Republican members of Congress, including
Chris Shays and Mary Bono Mack and Susan Molinari.
So, seven former Republican governors, 10 former Republican members of
Congress on the record in support of gay couples having a constitutional
right to get married.
But what about Republicans who are holding office right now? Not
former office holders, but current office holders? How many, for example,
sitting Republican governors are signed on to this brief? Zero.
How about sitting Republican senators? Zero.
Again, no Republican senator currently serving in the Senate signed
What about the House? Well, there are a lot of members of the House
from the Republican Party, right? There is 233 Republican members of the
House serving in this current Congress. I think we have a list of all of
their names. By necessity, it`s in a very, very tiny font, because there
are 233 of them.
Well, of the 233 Republican members of the House, how many of them
decided to go on the record in support of marriage equality?
Ding ding ding ding ding. Those two, jackpot -- two out of 233.
That`s less than 1 percent. They are New York Congressman Richard Hanna
and Florida Congressman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Two Republicans who have long
bucked their party`s line on gay marriage, as I said, less than 1 percent
of the Republican Party`s congressional membership.
Big picture we are led to believe that something is changing on this
issue in the Republican Party, leaders in the Republican Party evolving on
the issue of gay rights. And that is true of some people who could be
called leaders within the Republican Party by some measure.
But it is not true of the party`s elected officials. And why is that?
Why is the party changing for everybody except elected officials?
I asked Nicolle Wallace last night why virtually no sitting Republican
elected official signed that brief supporting marriage equality when so
many other big-name Republicans did. And as much as I love talking to
Nicolle, she did not answer any question.
But there is something about holding elected office that`s keeping
Republicans from evolving on the issue of gay rights either when other
Republicans who aren`t holding elected office can evolve.
And it`s not just the issue of gay rights, no. It is more interesting
than that. And that`s why this example from the Bush family is worth
violating the one rule that we have on the show about what not to talk
Former Florida governor, current 2016 presidential hopeful apparently,
brother to George W. Bush, Jeb Bush left office in 2007, all right. He was
Florida governor. He hasn`t been in office since `07. He has been out of
office in six years. In that time out of office, he has built a national
profile specifically on the issue of immigration by taking a relatively
progressive stance on immigration, supporting a pathway to citizenship for
During the presidential campaign, you may remember him staking out
that territory, right? I mean, there was Mitt Romney praising Arizona`s
"papers please law", saying he thought an appropriate immigration strategy
was to help for self-deportation by immigrants.
At the time, Jeb Bush criticized Mitt Romney. He said, Governor
Romney has used this as a means to connect with a group of voters that were
quite angry. But now, he is in this somewhat of a box. So I think the
broader message is how do you get out of that box?
Well, Jeb Bush`s advice to Mitt Romney, watching the presidential race
from the sidelines is stop pandering to the angry people, mitt. Don`t box
But now, now that Jeb Bush is going to be not just a former elected
official again, apparently he is going to try to run, be a candidate
himself again, now he has crawled into the box with Mitt Romney, announcing
in his new book that he is no longer for a pathway to citizenship. Now, he
believes a pathway to citizenship would be a reward for illegal
In other words, Jeb Bush, in simultaneously letting it be known that
he wants to run in 2016, also letting it be known this week that he sort of
now has Mitt Romney`s stance on illegal immigration, which really annoyed
some of the people who worked for Mitt Romney during the presidential
campaign. The revelations angered them. They felt that Bush went out of
his way to make statements during the campaign that undermined Romney`s
campaign by seeming to urge a softer approach to immigration.
Quote, "Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?" said
one Romney adviser.
Well, not where was he, but where did he go? What is it about running
for office that makes a person less evolved in Republican policy than being
a former official? That is the more interesting question.
Later in the week, Governor Bush went on to say that maybe he could be
for a path to citizenship again under certain circumstances, it depends.
But regardless, his story is instructive. We can see it happening
from people leaving office and suddenly becoming more enlightened, and we
can see it in reverse with him, having been enlightened and now, suddenly,
devolving where people have to vote for him again.
What is happening in the Republican Party right now is strange and
fascinating. Why can you be a Republican who supports gay rights, but not
if you`re currently in office? Why can you support a pathway for
citizenship for undocumented immigrants up until the moment that you start
being taken resolution as a potential candidate?
What is it about elected office that precludes Republican evolution on
social issues? How does this work if you are a candidate? What`s the
right advice to you if you have to decide what you believe right now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: When it comes to a path to citizenship, all
right, you fall short of that. That`s not -- you want legal residency.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Yes. Our proposal is a
proposal that looks forward. And if we want to create an immigration
policy that`s going to work, we can`t continue to make illegal immigration
an easier path than legal immigration.
So going forward, we broke this last year, going forward, if there is
a difference, if you can craft that in law where you can have a path to
citizenship, where there is an incentive for people to come illegally, I`m
So I have supported both, both a path to legalization, or a path to
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Got that straight? Former governor and apparently a
potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, Jeb Bush and his
varying positions on immigration, evolving fast over the course of this
That was Governor Bush just over the course of two days.
Joining us is Steve Schmidt, Republican political strategist, senior
strategist for McCain/Palin ` and a MSNBC contributor -- Steve, thank you
for being here.
STEVE SCHIMDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you were among the Republicans who signed on to the brief
to the Supreme Court supporting marriage equality.
SCHMIDT: I did.
MADDOW: Only two elected officials were on that list of 130
Republicans signed on their. Now, we`re seeing Jeb Bush going from former
elected official with very progressive position on illegal immigration to
potential candidate having a much more conservative position on this issue.
What is it about elected office that makes Republicans take more
SCHMIDT: First off, I think there are two very different issues. But
let`s look at the immigration first. And let`s evaluate Jeb Bush through
the prism of a potential candidacy for president. There is no question
that he has stumbled over this issue, that he has been inconsistent over
the last couple of days.
But we should remember with regard to Jeb Bush that he has been a
voice of reason on this issue. He has been a voice for solutions on this
issue. He has been a great friend to the Hispanic community in this
Jeb Bush is an important voice in forging a consensus around this
issue. Now, I was sitting next to him when he was on "MORNING JOE" and he
clarified his answer. And what he said there was he would be open to a
path for citizenship. I think, in fact, if we are to solve the immigration
crisis in this country, and it is a crisis. You had a great chart a couple
weeks ago that showed the insanity of our immigration system.
If we are going to solve the problem, we`re going to have to have a
permanent fix for the security of the border. For a sovereign country, we
have to know who is in the country. We have to be able to secure the
border, but we also have to deal in a compassionate way to the people that
are here and that means offering a path of citizenship after some process,
and that`s the contours of how we get to a solution on that debate.
MADDOW: And that has been the line from Jeb Bush consistently for the
last seven years and even before that when he was Florida governor. And
that is the thing he started to take back at the same time he flirted the
story that he wants to run for president in 2016. Why are those two things
happened at once?
SCHMIDT: I don`t think those two things are necessarily linked
together. I think that if he runs for president, he is going to be an
advocate for comprehensive immigration reform --
MADDOW: Why didn`t he just write a book that took it back?
SCHMIDT: Well, because I think he was offering solutions to the
problem that are navigable, in his view, Republican Congress. Now, the
politics of the situation has changed. There`s been a very small number of
us who have been outspoken and vocal, talking about the need for
comprehensive immigration reform. That became a flood after the last
The book was written before the election, and I don`t think the book
is caught up to where the party is right now. But we should remember with
Jeb Bush that he has been a consistent supporter of immigration reform, and
I think that within -- and I think that despite what`s in the book, I think
that you`ve seen him trying to clarify his position now and get back to
where he originally was.
MADDOW: I think he should blame the co-author. He should be like,
dude, ghost writer stole my ideas.
SCHMIDT: Always best to blame someone in these circumstances.
MADDOW: He`s going to need to at this point.
MADDOW: Anyway, I see --
SCHMIDT: He`s not the first politics to flip-flop on an issue.
MADDOW: No, but having been so principled on it for seven years, you
want to see him believing it and so, therefore, leading his party on this.
SCHMIDT: And, by the way, I`m not convinced he`s going to be a
candidate for president. But maybe he will, maybe he won`t. But I think
you`ve seen him trying to get back to where his original position was this
MADDOW: On the gay rights issue, I was surprised there weren`t more
elected officials who signed on. Given how bold-faced the names were who
did sign on, and also it seems like so many Republicans are talking about
the party needing to move on this issue, particularly younger Republicans.
MADDOW: But we don`t see any younger, more moderate members of
congress or even ranking state officials signing on for this. What is it
about elected office that`s stopping them?
SCHMIDT: I think this is an issue where people`s attitudes are
changing very, very quickly. President Obama is an example of that. When
you look at Republicans, look, for example, at the legislators in the New
Hampshire state legislature where you had many Republican members vote in
favor of marriage equality at the state level.
Now, at the congressional level, I know many members of Congress who
were totally untroubled by the notion of gay marriage, who are supportive
of gay marriage but aren`t publicly vocal.
MADDOW: How come?
SCHMIDT: And the reason is because in politics, politicians of both
parties have a finely attuned instinct for self preservation. And
Republicans believe that there`s a price to pay potentially in primaries
even though I believe that organizations like the National Organization of
Marriage, with a few exceptions, are all bark, no bite. And, in fact,
can`t determine the outcome of the race.
But the day will come when you begin to see -- and it will come sooner
than people think it will -- where members of Congress in the Northeast and
the West, in the Mountain West begin to depart from what has been
orthodoxy, and you will see more and more Republicans demanding that the
Republican Party embrace its traditional values of freedom and equality and
that no American should be disenfranchised from the fundamental right of
MADDOW: I believe that you want that to be true. I think that we
would see it happening already in a more overt way if it was going to
happen. And I`m still dying to know -- one of those Republican members of
Congress who is not closeted as a gay person but closeted as a pro-gay
person, will you ask them if they`ll do a silhouette with me and I`ll
disguise their voice and we`ll do that whole thing and they can speak
SCHMIDT: People will ultimately come around on this issue. And when
you look at some of the future leaders of the party that will be around
potentially for a long time, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, the cast of elected
officials in their early 40s, some in they`re late 30s, who will be the
first of them to break and to say we should not define conservatism along
this issue? And, in fact, we support marriage, equality, not in spite of
our conservatism, but because of it.
I think that day will come.
I gave a speech talking about the conservative case for gay marriage
four years ago. There wasn`t but a handful of Republicans. Now, there are
hundreds of Republicans.
This issue is evolving quickly. Attitudes are changing rapidly. And
what is clear to me is that as we look ahead to 2016, people that are
disrespectful to the gay community, people that treat their fellow
Americans will less than respect are going to be penalized by voters across
And the intolerance that has been out of the mouths of so many of our
Republican elected officials is going to be something that they pay a
political price for. And when that happens, you begin to see people break
from the old standards and drop some of the conformity on some of these
issues, because at the end of the day, this notion that you`re going to pay
a political price, that you`re going to lose your seat, that there are
powerful organizations, that there are people who will come out in primary
and take your seat away, most of it in most places is totally illusory.
Steve Schmidt, MSNBC contributor, former McCain-Palin senior
strategist and a guy who`s not afraid to annoy people in his own party on a
regular basis -- thank you, Steve. I appreciate it.
SCHMIDT: Thank you, Rachel.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Two things. The old school Mr. Smith-style talking
filibuster that Rand Paul started this morning at 11:47 a.m., demanding
more information about drones, that is still going on right now in the
Senate. I believe that is Senator John Barrosso, and if I correctly
identified him right, I deserve a medal.
Also, I went on too long with Steve Schmidt, but I have to bring you
another story about whether senators really meant it when they voted for
the Voting Rights Act. I have to bring you that story tomorrow -- which is
my bad. I got carried away.
But we will see you then.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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