THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
April 8, 2013
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Jillian Soto, Allyson Schwartz, Bob Bauer
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Chris. Extra smart show this
evening, well done.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Late today, President Obama was at the University of Hartford, in
The president delivered a pointed and powerful speech. He was
speaking in a room that greeted him with some of the boisterousness of a
campaign rally, but it was a room that the president spoke to with some
seriousness. And at one point with an edge that bordered almost on angry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the wake of a
tragedy, you`d think this would not be a heavy lift. And yet some folks
back in Washington are already floating the idea that they may use
political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms. Think about
They`re -- they`re not just saying they`ll vote no on ideas that
almost all Americans support, they`re saying they`ll do everything they can
to even prevent any votes on these provisions. They`re saying your opinion
doesn`t matter. And that`s not right. That is not right.
AUDIENCE: We want a vote!
OBAMA: We need a vote.
AUDIENCE: We want a vote! We want a vote! We want a vote! We want
a vote! We want a vote! We want a vote!
OBAMA: We need a vote.
AUDIENCE: We want a vote. We want a vote. We want a vote. We want
OBAMA: Now, I`ve also heard some in the Washington press suggest that
what happens to gun violence legislation in Congress this week will either
be a political victory or defeat for me.
Connecticut, this is not about me. This is not about politics. This
is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have
been torn apart by gun violence.
It`s about them, and all the families going forward so we can prevent
this from happening again. That`s what it`s about.
It`s about the law enforcement officials putting their lives at risk.
That`s what this is about.
This is not about politics.
This is not about politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president today speaking in Hartford, Connecticut.
Now, among the people there to see that speech were families of the
victims of the Newtown elementary school massacre on December 14th. The
president applauded those family members, specifically singled out some of
them by name.
He talked about them using their grief, using their grief that is of a
level that most of us cannot comprehend, but using that grief with love and
logic. Those were his words, to try to right something that has gone wrong
in this country.
The president was introduced for his speech today by Nicole Hockley
who lost her 6-year-old son, Dylan, at Sandy Hook. Mrs. Hockley was one of
11 family members of the victims of Sandy Hook massacre who met with the
president today in Connecticut before his speech. But then this is
After the speech, they left Connecticut with the president as well.
They left with the president on board Air Force One to travel with him to
Washington, D.C. this group of family members is traveling with the
president on Air Force One and the White House says that they are going to
be meeting tomorrow with members of Congress.
Members of Congress are back in Washington now. The Senate back in
session as of today, the House back in session as of tomorrow. Members of
Congress are back in town in part to craft gun legislation and to decide
how and if they are going to vote on gun legislation over the next few
This effort with those family members flying back to Washington on Air
Force One with the president, this is part of a full-court press on this
issue this week.
Tomorrow, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder
are going to be speaking on the issue at the White House together, pushing
for gun reform legislation.
On Wednesday, the first lady, Michelle Obama, is going to be traveling
to Chicago with plans to address the issue of gun violence there. It is
rare for the first lady to give a policy speech like this, especially on a
contentious matter that is yet to come up before the Congress. So expect a
lot of attention to that event with the first lady in Chicago on Wednesday.
While the president was making his remarks in Connecticut today, the
top Republican in the Senate, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell
wasted for time. While the president was still speaking, Mitch McConnell
issued this statement, saying that he would join efforts to block a vote on
gun legislation in the Senate, no matter what`s in the legislation. He
will join a filibuster effort.
Mitch McConnell, that means will join 13 other Senate Republicans who
are pledging to block any gun legislation from even coming up for a vote.
These are the 14.
And these are not senators who are saying they will vote no. They
want there to be no vote at all for anybody, even on issues like universal
background checks. They are pledging to filibuster.
A group called the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence tells us today that
they are organizing a filibuster of the filibuster -- sort of a counter
filibuster -- that they plan to set in motion as soon as Republicans start
blocking a vote on gun legislation.
So, if Republican senators block there from being a vote in the
Senate, as soon as they start doing that, victims and survivors of gun
violence will start standing outside the U.S. Capitol reading the names of
the more than 3,300 Americans who have been lost to gun violence just since
Newtown. They will do that at the same time that the Republican senators
are filibustering the gun legislation. Quote, "We will go as long as they
We will go as long as they go.
The gun lobby is seen as so legendarily powerful in our politics.
They`re seen as being so all powerful over this issue in Washington that
it`s become Beltway common wisdom that it would be a huge lift for
Republicans in Washington even to vote for a policy that is supported by 90
percent of Americans. A policy supported by most Republican voters. A
policy supported by most gun owners. A policy supported even by most NRA
members, but it`s still considered to be a huge heavy left because the NRA
leadership and lobbyists say no to it.
The common wisdom says if the NRA leadership and lobbyists say no to
it, then it can`t happen.
That is the common wisdom born of the way the NRA has flexed its
muscles over the years on gun issues in Washington. But this time, there
is a really big push on the other side of the issue too and the push on the
other side is starting to look powerful. In part, it is a push that`s
demanding that the focus not be just on the politics here, but the focus
stay on the problem that the politics refuses to address.
And so, yes, Republican senators may be filibustering legislation
inside the Capitol dome, but outside it will be people talking about the
consequences of there being no legislation to address gun violence in our
country, the names of victims. The most stunning example of this approach
to the issue, this part of the pressure has of course been the Newtown
families themselves -- mothers and fathers and siblings and other relatives
of the victims who died, parents who lost their 6 and 7-year-old kids,
brothers and siblings who lost siblings and wives and husbands.
Ever since this tragedy happened, the people who have found themselves
at the center of this tragedy have not only been dealing with their grief,
they have put themselves out there publicly again and again and again to
try to keep the focus on what happened at Newtown. To let it not be
forgotten, but also to try to inspire something in us as a country that is
more than just an emotional feeling about their loss. But it`s also a
concrete step toward making sure it doesn`t happen again.
The Newtown families have been willing to bring their grief into the
public to try to keep the rest of us to not forget why we`re having this
debate. They`re making real demands in terms of policy, doing it in a
rigorously bipartisan way and doing it with all the political capital that
they can bring to bear because of their public grief. They are making
their demands in a way that is hard to ignore, including physically putting
themselves in front of their legislators who are on their way to the floor
to vote as they did last week in Connecticut.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Several of the caucus members, when they
realized that we were people from Sandy Hook, the vast majority of them
spoke to us and apologized, many of them were crying with us.
UNIDENTIFFIED FEMALE: We really appreciate --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They weren`t being callous. They just didn`t
know who we were.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My heart goes out to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don`t want this to ever happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOEW: Parents from Sandy Hook Elementary School passing out
pictures of their kids who were killed in that massacre as Connecticut
state legislators went to the floor last week to vote on gun reform
legislation. This is footage from "60 minutes" last night.
Connecticut did pass that package of gun bills last week and Governor
Dan Malloy signed it into law.
The families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook are a potent part of
this process. They are willing to grieve publicly before millions of
people, including on CBS last night, including on Air Force One with the
president today, that they are resolving to turn that grief into action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do any of you fear that after only four months,
the impact of this on the congress is beginning to fade? And the memory of
how we felt on that day is beginning to fade?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, people do change, because the country goes
in different places. But we`re going to bring it right back, so that
America can see four months to them, it feels like it just happened a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And yet -- and yet it`s been years since I`ve
seen my son. Ok? So we`re just -- we`re not going anywhere. We`re here.
And we`re going to be here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t get to move on. We don`t have the
benefit of turning the page to another piece of legislation and having
another debate and then playing politics the same way we`ve been doing. We
don`t have that benefit. We`re going to live with this for the rest of our
lives. So our legislators need to hear us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Our legislators need to hear us.
Parents and family members of those killed at Newtown are among those
who flew tonight with the president to Washington. They will be making
their case directly to members of Congress on gun legislation tomorrow to
make sure that in fact they are heard.
Common wisdom in the Beltway says that nothing can happen on this
issue. These folks are working to destroy that common wisdom.
Joining us now is Jillian Soto. She`s a member of the Newtown Action
Alliance. She`s been on the show with us before. Jillian`s sister, Vicki,
was a first grade teacher who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary on
Jillian was in Hartford today for the president`s speech. She was
among the family members who flew to D.C. with the president and she joins
us from Washington where she very recently just got off Air Force One.
Jillian, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
JILLIAN SOTO, NEWTOWN ACTION ALLIANCE: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So I know it`s hard to hear people talk about this, even
though -- still today and the people who you`ve been doing all this work
with. Let me -- let me ask you what it means to you to have been with the
president today, to be traveling with the president today, to be part of
this effort that you`re in today in Washington?
SOTO: It was a great feeling to be with him today on Air Force One
and even in Hartford today at the university, and have him support such an
amazing cause and stand with us and remind everyone we are not going to
forget what happened in Newtown. We are going to continue to fight for
change and demand something finally be done, that no one else has to feel
So, it was a good feeling to have him there but it was still an awful
feeling because what it`s for to ride on Air Force One, it`s for -- because
my sister died and I`m coming to Washington to fight for change in her name
and the other 25 victims of Sandy Hook.
MADDOW: Last time that I talked with you and your siblings, we talked
about how much a sacrifice really it is for you guys to be willing to be in
public while you are grieving so much, but how it is something, (a), that
you`re doing for her and also you said that it was essentially a nice
thing, a positive thing to have people on Capitol Hill, to have people in
the country listen to you and feel like they were open to what you were
saying because of what you have been through.
Does it still feel that way to you?
SOTO: At times it does, but I do feel a lot of people have forgotten
what happened in Connecticut to Sandy Hook. A lot of people have forgotten
all the things that we are going through. And, yes, it`s been almost four
months but it`s still very new to us. It`s still something we live with
every day, and it`s a pain that will never go away from us.
And it`s nice to have people rally with us, but there`s so many people
that are still against us that we need to reach out to and still demand
them to come with us and listen to what we`re saying and demand change from
MADDOW: I know that you`re planning on meeting with legislators.
You`ve done some of that in the past before, all of you who have been
involved with Newtown response. What do you look for in those meetings?
Obviously you talk about your sister, you talk about what you`ve been
through, but what`s the best case scenario for you when you sit down and
have those meetings? It must be so hard to do it.
SOTO: It`s very hard because you open up. You open up about that
day, about December 14th and what happened and what these families have
gone through, what my family has gone through. We open up about it.
All we look for is to have actual people listen, to listen to what we
say, and to hear it and to take it into consideration and not just brush us
off as people who are just talking and to actually listen and, you know,
think about it and think if they were in our situation, if they lost their
daughter or their son or their best friend or their wife, how they would
feel. That`s all we want.
We want them to listen and put themselves in our shoes and see what
they can do and what they`re willing to do if they were in our shoes.
MADDOW: Jillian Soto, the sister of Vicki Soto, a member of the
Newtown action alliance, I will talk to you about this stuff whenever you
want to talk about it. I realize that doing these kind of interviews is
part of what is difficult about this. So I`m very thankful to you,
Jillian. Good luck, thanks.
SOTO: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. The former White House counsel, Bob Bauer is here
tonight. He is right in the middle of another thing that people said could
never happen in Washington but looks like it is in fact happening. We`ve
got lots ahead, all of which defies the common wisdom. Please stick with
MADDOW: New radical pretty blatantly unconstitutional anti-abortion
laws have generated a bunch of headlines lately from the great states of
Arkansas and North Dakota, but don`t leave Kansas behind. In Kansas, the
Republican legislature just passed an anti-abortion personhood bill late on
Friday. The bill declares that life begins at fertilization.
And, yes, all three states are advancing abortion bans with
legislation like this. But Kansas goes an extra step. Kansas` law
mandates that doctors have to describe to their patients an unproven,
scientifically dubious made-up link between abortion and breast cancer.
There is no link between abortion and breast cancer, but the state of
Kansas wrote this script and will now mandate that doctors read this lie to
The bill now goes to Sam Brownback, the state`s Republican governor.
According to a spokesperson, he is almost certain to sign it even though he
hasn`t read it yet.
Governor Brownback said he will sign any anti-abortion bill and so
far, he has kept to his word. So that was Friday night in Kansas. This
was Saturday morning.
The very next day right after Kansas Republicans passed their sweeping
doctors have to lie to their patients bill, the national Republican Party
tapped Kansas Republican governor, Sam Brownback, to deliver the Republican
Party`s national weekly address. Tada! Putting the best foot forward.
Meanwhile in New Mexico, Republican Governor Susana Martinez in Mexico
is a real rising star in her party. She gave probably the best speech of
the Republican National Convention. She`s very charismatic. She`s
supposed to be a different kind of 21st century Republican.
On Friday, Governor Martinez had had a seemingly nonpartisan,
noncontroversial bill sitting on her bill. A bill designed to make it
easier for veterans and their spouses to get jobs.
So for military families, New Mexico would recognize professional
licenses issued in other states. The idea was to cut the red tape for
veterans and their spouses to make it easier for them to reintegrate after
coming home from deployments.
Governor Martinez vetoed that bill -- and then immediately signed a
bill that was identical except it singled out only straight soldiers`
families as being able to benefit from the provision.
So she vetoed the one that included all families and then signed the
one that was just for straight people, same bill but 100 percent less gay.
The Republican Party says it does not want to be known for this kind
of fire and brimstone social conservative activism stuff but in states
where Republicans are in power like Kansas and New Mexico and states where
they have the governor`s mansion and majorities in the legislatures,
Republicans have never been this aggressive, never been this radical on
abortion in particular and on a lot of other social conservative issues.
No matter how many retired Republicans support gay marriage, the ones
still in power are still going out of their way to prevent gay people from
having access to the same benefits and rights as straight people, even when
you`re talking about gay people in the military.
They say they do not want to be known for this stuff anymore, but you
know what? As long as you`re actually doing this stuff, you will be known
for this stuff.
For example, the great state of Pennsylvania is not known nationally
as a bastion of social conservatism. Republican Tom Corbett is the
governor of Pennsylvania. But if his name rings a bell in terms of
national news attention, it may be because last year just about this time,
Governor Tom Corbett was asked what he thought of a proposed Republican
bill that would force Pennsylvania women seeking an abortion to undergo a
medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasound with the ultrasound screen
intentionally turned toward them.
About that, Governor Corbett offered this advice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I wouldn`t change it as long as
it`s not obtrusive, but we`re still waiting to see --
REPORTER: Not obtrusive? I mean, making them watch, does that go too
far in your mind?
CORBETT: I don`t know how you make anybody watch, OK, because you
just have to close your eyes. But as long as it`s on the exterior, not
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just close your eyes. Governor Tom Corbett did not go on to
do a whole lot of campaigning with Republican presidential ticket last
year, even with Pennsylvania being an important swing state. He wasn`t
exactly driven out of the party but he is one of the least popular
governors in the entire country, and he is up for re-election next year.
How do you run against that? How do you run against don`t worry, you
can just shut your eyes? What would a campaign against Tom Corbett look
Joining us now is somebody who`s about to show us. Democrat
Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz announced today that she is running for
governor in Pennsylvania.
Congresswoman Schwarz, it`s great to have you here.
REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Good to be here. Thank you,
MADDOW: Now, you are not the only Democrat who`s likely to try to get
into this race but I have to ask you, other than Tom Corbett`s approval
ratings being slightly south of toenail fungus, what was the appeal to you
SCHWARTZ: I think this is such an important race to Pennsylvanians
and middle class families. You point out one area. It`s just one of the
misguided priorities that this governor has had for the state. We`ve seen
higher unemployment than the national average.
We`ve seen this governor`s first action was to cut education funding,
proposed cut to education funding, higher, and particularly by 50 percent.
You know, that doesn`t match and the fact is that we can do a whole lot
better. I watched Pennsylvania not taking -- the governor not taking any
kind of leadership for the state, spending time on what you just mentioned,
you know, inappropriate offensive actions against women.
And the fact is that we are a great state and we deserve better
leadership and we need someone who can be governor who is going to have the
priorities of our people and work on those jobs and make sure people have
access to higher education, be competitive in this kind of global
marketplace that we`re in and get things done.
You know, really just find those solutions and then find that way to
get it done and that`s what I`ve been doing in Congress for almost 10 years
and I want to bring that leadership style to what is a pretty problematic
environment in Harrisburg.
MADDOW: Is there -- is there -- in terms of the problematic
environment, is there a distance, and how would you describe the distance,
if it`s there, between what the stated priorities are of the Corbett
administration and what they have actually focused on? What`s the distance
there between what they said they`d do and what they`re doing?
SCHWARTZ: Well, you know, sometimes Republicans say what they`re
going to do and we don`t quite believe them, or at least the voters don`t.
I mean, the Republican platform is pretty consistent with some of this
pretty sort of extreme right wing kind of agenda on some level. They said
they were going to cut government.
People don`t really think that meant their schools. They didn`t
really think that would mean their priorities, but, in fact, that is what
And it`s hurt Pennsylvania families. It`s -- you know, I go to
Scranton the other day and you see 10 percent unemployment. And they`re
saying we get no help at all from this governor.
And we`re making some great progress in some of our small towns and
cities across Pennsylvania. We have great biotech and life sciences. We
have amazing opportunities in natural gas to do it right and that`s what
Pennsylvanians say to me.
Let`s get our priorities right. Let`s find someone who has the skills
and experience and the know-how and the determination and the energy to
fight for us and to get to -- you know, get to Harrisburg and find those
solutions and find those results and make it happen.
MADDOW: If you were elected governor as a Democrat and you had still
a lot of Republicans in the legislature, what are the issues on which you
feel like you could move forward even with Republicans who are likely to be
opposed to you on a partisan basis but might be willing to work on
SCHWARTZ: Well, one advantage I have is I`ve been a legislator and I
know that you need to be respectful of legislators and you need to
understand where they`re coming from and what their agenda is and find that
Every bill -- I think it`s every bill that I`ve introduced in
Washington has had a Republican co-sponsor. That`s tough to do. It`s
taken me a bit of work to make sure that that happens, because I know I did
not going to get it done unless there`s bipartisan support for it. But
I`ve done that.
You know, I passed legislation. My first bill was signed into law
under George Bush. I mean, this is not easy to do in the environment that
But in Harrisburg, I`ve served in Harrisburg a number of years ago,
for 14 years. And what you need to say is, look, we know that you have
concerns, you have issues.
Take the issue of education. It was Republicans in the state Senate
who pushed back on Governor Corbett and said this is not acceptable.
People I represent in urban and rural and suburban Pennsylvania want to be
able to have their kids go to college without huge debt.
We have great universities. It`s one of our advantages in
Pennsylvania. And they pushed back and they only cut 20 percent. But
without that pushback, you know, we would have seen a cut of 50 percent.
So I believe that I can talk to people outside of Harrisburg, I mean,
talk to people across Pennsylvania and really bring them together too, but
work with the legislature to get things done.
MADDOW: If you were elected governor, you`d be the first female
governor that Pennsylvania ever had. And while that is an exciting
prospect of breaking that glass ceiling for the state, it also raises an
electability issue, which is obviously a question about sexism. Has
Pennsylvania ever elected a Republican governor before because -- excuse
me, a female governor before because the state is too sexist to do so?
MARTINEZ: Well, I certainly hope not but I certainly think not as
well. I have to say, you know, since I`ve been having this conversation
with lots of people across the state and not just in southeastern
Pennsylvania where I`m well known and people know how hard I work and how
smart I work I hope -- but really when I`ve been in Pittsburgh and
Harrisburg and Scranton and in parts in between, they really say maybe I`m
offering a different style and I think they`re right.
That`s the way you break up this log jam that we have in politics, to
bring someone who really does have my style, which I do things differently.
I come with a different perspective.
Look, I`m running to be the governor. I`m not running to be the first
woman governor. I`m running to be a great governor, hopefully. And I hear
men and women say maybe it`s time.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, Democrat of Pennsylvania,
announcing today that you`re in it to oust Tom Corbett from office. Thank
you for being here. Appreciate your time.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
SCHWARTZ: All right. You might remember way back in 2012 when
practically every state up for grabs in the election was doing everything
it could to make it harder for people to vote. Remember that? That was
yesterday. It seems like it was yesterday. It turns out it`s also
Hold on, we`ve got more on that coming up.
MADDOW: Today, the EPA released these photos. These photos of the
Exxon tar sands oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas. We`ve got a link to
these at "Maddow Blog" today if you want to get a closer look.
These are high resolution photos showing the ongoing damage caused by
the pipeline spill in Arkansas and in some cases showing the means by which
they`re trying to clean this mess up. And yes, these photos are gross
enough about what is going on down there in Arkansas.
But if you want to grasp the enormity of just how much of the spill is
being handled with paper towels, honestly that`s the technology they have
got for cleanup, for that you really have to check out the gorilla
unauthorized video reportedly shot by people sneaking onto the spill site.
It shows the marshy wetlands around the site of the spill and it shows
the way Exxon is dealing with cleaning up this toxic, heavy tar sands oil
out in the wetlands is what it looks like is to put a bunch of paper towels
on it. See how that goes.
This is the extent of the technology that the oil companies have come
up with for how to handle a tar sands oil spill, like the one from this
pipeline in Arkansas.
The Keystone tar sands pipeline, remember, would be a pipeline for tar
sands oil that would run the complete length of the country, from the
Canadian border down to the Gulf of Mexico. But don`t worry, if anything
goes wrong, they have paper towels ready to wipe it up, or to just leave
the paper towels sitting on the spilled oil. Maybe that will work.
It`s the most profitable company in the most profitable industry in
the history of the country, and this is what they have been able to invest
in cleanup technology. Brawny it isn`t.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Happy birthday to the 17th Amendment. And you thought it was
just Monday around here. No, no, on this day 100 years ago shall the 17th
Amendment crossed the threshold for ratification to become part of the
United States Constitution. And we thus changed how we elect U.S.
Before the 17th Amendment, you didn`t get to vote for your senator.
The legislature in your state just picked your senator. The 17th Amendment
changed that and said actually you get to decide on your senator. You just
get to vote on it by direct democracy.
Along with the amendments guaranteeing freed slaves and women the
right to vote and suffrage for everybody starting at age 18, the 17th
Amendment is one of the changes we made to the constitution to enlarge the
reach of democracy and it was 100 years ago today. Happy birthday.
In Tennessee last week, the legislature spent the 100th anniversary of
that state ratifying that amendment by debating whether or not to undo it,
whether to cut voters out of the nominating process for U.S. Senate seats.
Under this Tennessee Republican bill, you, the average voter in
Tennessee, would no longer get to vote in party primaries for Senate
candidates. Instead, the legislature would do it. The legislature would
just pick each party`s nominees for Senate and you would only get to vote
in the general election.
It`s kind of a papa knows best thing. It`s as far as you can go
toward getting around the 17th Amendment without actually repealing it.
Now, the bill got through a Senate committee in Tennessee. The vote
was 7-1 in favor of it. The Republican senate speaker said that the bill`s
chances looked like at least 50-50 to him. After some national attention,
though, and a bit of a freak-out caused by that committee vote, Tennessee
Republicans appear now to have taken the bill off the calendar for now.
The Senate sponsor saying he`s just going to wait a while on this.
But it`s not just some Republicans in Tennessee who are going there,
who think that people should stop electing our senators. Across the state
line in Georgia, Republicans also have a bill calling for voters to lose
that particular voting right. The Georgia measure has not gone much of
anywhere yet but it is still kicking around.
And it may seem like a weird idea, but ending democracy for Senate
elections turns out to be a really popular thing among certain Republicans.
Our own Steve Benen has been tracking this as kind of a hobby for a few
The list of people who want to get rid of the 17th Amendment includes
guys like Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert, who`s often out there on the
fringe, but he`s out there along with his own state`s governor, Rick Perry.
Also, Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra when he was running for Senate,
Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador, Utah Senator Mike Lee, Arizona Senator
Jeff Flake, all saying we should get rid of voting for senators. We should
get rid of the odious 17th Amendment as if what`s wrong with democracy is
that there`s too much of it, too much voting.
In this last election, the national story of the functionality of our
democracy, the way our election system works was long lines, right? Our
long lines for voting were a national scandal. What`s wrong with our
democracy was how much extreme time and effort people had to put in in
order to participate in it. Seven-hour lines?
In the weeks after that November debacle, the nation demanded to know
why our voting system in practice looked like something out of the third
world. It turns out that kind of thinking was so December, because since
January, Republicans in the states have kept on keeping on with making
voting harder, working diligently wherever they are in control to make
voting still harder than it was even in November, 55 bills in 30 states and
counting, all to put down more barriers to voter registration and to voting
itself. New bills have passed already and been signed into law in Virginia
and Arkansas -- just in the weeks since the stay in line election in
In North Carolina now, Republicans are proposing to cut early voting
nearly in half and to cut the places for early voting and to require new
forms of ID you never had to show before in order to vote. And this is
amazing, North Carolina Republicans want to raise your parents` taxes if
you register to vote at your college, which is something the Supreme Court
says you have the right to do.
North Carolina Republicans say, OK, maybe we can`t take away that
right but at least we`ll institute a tax hike to punish college students
voting. With one party pushing as hard as ever in the states to make
voting yet harder and yet more painful and even more expensive in the case
of North Carolina, how do we make national progress toward making our
elections work better and not worse?
It turns out I know exactly the guy to ask, and he is here tonight for
the interview. He was the top lawyer for President Obama`s re-election
campaign. He was White House counsel for President Obama and he is here
next for the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So, tonight I`m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve
the voting experience in America, and it definitely needs improvement. I`m
asking two long-time experts in the field who, by the way, recently served
as the top attorneys for my campaign and for governor Romney`s campaign, to
lead it. We can fix this. And we will.
The American people demand it and so does our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama in his state of the union address this year
announcing the kind of thing that sounds good, but you think will be one of
those things in the State of the Union that never actually happens. Turns
out it`s happening.
And joining us now for his first interview about the new presidential
voting commission is one of the two men tapped by President Obama to lead
it -- the president`s top campaign lawyer, former White House counsel, Bob
Mr. Bauer, thank you for being here.
BOB BAUER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: There have been a million things over the years that I wanted
to ask you. Tonight, I am going to ask you things about voting.
Were the long lines at the polling places the worst problem of the
last election? The problem that is most in need of fixing, or do you know
BAUER: The commission will look at that. It will focus very much on
the lines issue to be sure, as the president said in his State of the Union
Address. As reiterated again in the executive order that he executed just
recently. So we`re going to be focused on that.
We`re going to be focused on other obstacles to voting. Obstacles for
the military, obstacles for limited English proficiency voters, obstacles
for disability voters. But lines certainly obstacles for many people
represent an election system that isn`t functioning the way it does and
something needs to be done on a bipartisan basis.
MADDOW: On the bipartisan cases being the key point, you are co-
chairing this with your counterpart from the Mitt Romney for president
campaign, Mr. Ginsberg. The reason I thought this might not happen is
because of the bipartisan nature of it.
There has long been a belief among Republican activists that lower
turnout equals better Republican outcomes in elections. And so anything
that makes it difficult for anything who`s not pretty explicitly a
Republican voter to vote is going to redound to their advantage and that I
at least have suspected has been behind some of the Republican partisan
efforts to just make it harder to vote in general. They think that helps
If that is the Republican mindset, what is the likelihood of a
BAUER: As you know, I`m co-chairing the commission with Ben Ginsberg,
who was Governor Romney`s national counsel. I`ve known him for a long
We disagree about virtually everything. We`ve never been on the same
side of most political disputes. We`ve been on the other side of the table
from each other as counsel.
But I believe and I think Ben would agree with this that there is a
space where apart from other contests that are going to have to be fought
out in other ways, as they were fought out during the election campaign,
there is a space where there are some of these questions that can be
resolved on a bipartisan basis.
No Republican, no Democrat, no independent is going to say that it`s
acceptable for Americans to stand in line for six, seven, eight, nine hours
to vote, or to face other completely unmanageable restrictions on voting.
No Republican is going to acknowledge that that`s acceptable.
I honestly believe that there is room here within the confines of the
commission`s mandate as set out by the president to address these issues on
behalf of the voters. And on these particular issues, not on all issues,
but on these particular issues we ought to be able to set aside partisan
MADDOW: I believed that was true too when I saw Florida Republicans
sort of repent about the long lines for which they were nationally ashamed
in this last election. The other state that had very -- one other state
that had very, very long lines was Virginia. Virginia Republicans have
responded by putting yet further barriers to voting in place since the
So I hear your optimism there. I do not share it.
Do you see other areas of policy, election-related or not, in which
both sides have been able to come together and agree that there ought to be
a technocratic solution that`s not biased, that is explicitly designed to
be sort of behind the veil of ignorance. Is there a model for that sort of
policy where it worked?
BAUER: Well, I would have to think about that a bit. I mean, I think
that`s a good question. We are trying to take a technocratic approach.
We want to view these as fundamental questions about administration.
How the polling place is administered, how election officials prepare for
elections, resources available to them, the techniques, tools they can use
to process voters and to accommodate voters who have special requirements,
which as I said includes the military, limited English proficiency voters,
disability, voters that are disabled.
And it seems to me and I think others that looked at this in the
election law community agree that there are ways to study it, to identify
good data, on the basis of that, good data, to arrive at good solutions
people would agree are strong, sensible management solutions for the
benefit of voters that there`s no reason to have partisan shouting or
And I understand your -- as you know, I represented the campaign
during the Obama for America campaign last time and also the time before
that and the first election of the president. I`m general counsel to
Democratic National Committee. I yield to no one in my concerns about some
of the very issues that you just talked about a few minutes ago, some of
state legislative restrictions, some traveling during -- misleading under
the name of ID.
But I do think we defined an area that is possible.
MADDOW: Hearing you say that, knowing what you know in terms of your
background makes me optimistic about your optimism, at least. But I`m
still not there. Will you come back and talk about this again?
BAUER: Well, of course. Absolutely, we will.
MADDOW: Bob Bauer, co-chair of the Presidential Commission on
Election Administration, former White House counsel, general counsel to
Obama campaign and to the DNC -- thank you so much for being here.
BAUER: Thank you very much for having. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Behold, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This is
one of D.C.`s two major airports. It used to be called Washington National
Airport. But now it`s Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
This is the Ronald Reagan turn turnpike in Florida. Used to be the
Florida turnpike, but now it`s Ronald Reagan Florida Turnpike.
Also, a Ronald Reagan Elementary School in Nampa, Idaho. Ronald
Reagan Fundamental School in Yuma, Arizona, home of Ronald Reagan
Fundamental Patriots. And Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway Texas.
Ronald Reagan Peace Garden in Eureka, Illinois. Peace garden, really?
Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site in Cooperstown, North Dakota. The
Ronald Reagan Sports Park in Temecula, California.
All of these are the work of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, created
by American conservatives in 1997 with the express goal of creating a
statue, park or road named after Ronald Reagan in all 3,000 counties in the
United States. So, if your county does not yet have a Ronald Reagan
Elementary School, or Ronald Reagan Parkway, the Ronald Reagan Legacy
Project is not going to rest until that changes in your county.
While Mr. Reagan was in office, he was one of the most divisive
political figures. Divisiveness is not necessarily a bad thing, it`s just
true his supporters liked him a lot, and his detractors really disliked him
a lot. That`s divisiveness.
But Ronald Reagan had a lot of detractors. You wouldn`t necessarily
know that now, but that`s in part because the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project
for a generation has been part of a concerted, conservative effort to make
him into a hero, to gloss over what was unpopular about him, how much
resistance there was to him in his time.
Ronald Reagan was almost impeached over the Iran Contra scandal, 14
Reagan officials were not just implicated in the scandal, they were
indicted, including the defense secretary and head of the CIA and two
national security advisers. And that`s just one thing among many.
He tripled the deficit to run up an arms race with the Soviet Union.
His economic policies led to the biggest gap between the rich and poor in a
generation. He couldn`t bring himself to say the word AIDS while tens of
thousands of Americans were dying from a brand new, terrifying disease.
Ronald Reagan was the war on drugs, arming Saddam Hussein, invading
Ronald Reagan`s legacy is beloved among some American conservatives
but it is not beloved by everyone.
It is one thing to make the case about why your side sees heroism in
one of your political figures. It is another to try to make it seem like
that perception is unanimous and that opposition to that same politician is
just not real. It didn`t happen. It is just not as much a part of his
legacy as his fan club is.
Since we learned of the death of former British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher today at the age of 87, the way her death was noted in
our country I think has reflected a bit of the Reagan Legacy Project by
proxy. The close relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher
during their times in office led her to be treated in American history as
an offshoot of the Reagan presidency. And so, adoring photos like these
adorn her obituaries today.
In Britain, though, which couldn`t contain any of the 3,140 counties
targeted by the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher is viewed with less of a soft focus. From a "Guardian" newspaper
obituary today, quote, "The Iron Lady was more admired abroad than at home
where even many conservative voters recoiled from her apparent lack of
compassion for those whose lives and careers were disrupted by her
And, yes, "The Guardian" is a liberal paper in England, so maybe you
would expect that criticism. But even the take of the "Guardian" more
broadly today, and the overall mainstream reaction in Britain today to her
death is to remember Margaret Thatcher as an important and transformational
figure in British politics. But her means of transforming that country are
both still debated today and are not being whitewashed today as something
that her country all accepted with delight.
This is some footage of some of the riots against Margaret trying to
impose a poll tax on the country right at the end her time in office.
Earlier, some massive and sometimes violent crushing of strikes and
demonstrations as she busted the British unions. There were riots in
Brixton, and riots in Liverpool. There were huge strikes in support of
coal miners whose industries she dismantled as a means of dismantling their
Manufacturing ion Britain was decimated under Thatcher. Her economic
policies included big tax cuts for the richest people in the country. And
under her leadership, the rate of poverty and economic inequality in
Britain rose to rates not seen since the Great Depression which angered
But what is most interesting about that legacy and the Falklands War
and her role in the troubles, and the hunger strikes of Irish prisoners,
all of that, what`s most interesting about that legacy is that you can
glean all those facts from her legacy today from the British press,
covering her passing on the day it happened, without the soft focused
effect that we reach for so much in our own treatment of political figures.
We`re not doing that in a way of speaking ill of the dead
gratuitously, they`re not being willfully ignorant of the real legacy that
she had, the full legacy, the real range of impact and feelings she
inspired in a country that she changed so much.
In life, Margaret Thatcher never shied from controversy or criticism.
She reveled in outrage of her opponents. She was polarizing on purpose.
It was Margaret Thatcher who said, "I`m not a consensus politician, I
am a conviction politician." And she was, for good and for real. Let the
record show it in all honesty.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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