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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 23, 2015
Guest: Todd Gillman, Eliza Jane Schaeffer, Rachel Belin



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us
this hour. Happy Monday.

In the great state of Massachusetts, there are 40 seats in the Senate,
40. And right now, the party division looks like this.

Do we have it? Ah, there it is. That`s the party division. Blue for
Democrat, red for Republican. Aww!

There are 34 Democrats in the Senate, six Republicans. But don`t feel
bad for the six Republicans because there may only be six of them but every
single one of them is a winner, by which I mean every one is a leader.

The great Frank Phillips of "The Boston Globe" today reports that even
though there are only six Republicans in the Senate, every one of them is a
leader of the Republicans in the Senate. They have given every Republican
in the Senate a leadership title, which by the way means they all get an
extra $15,000 in their salary. If you check under your seat right now, you
get a leadership job, you get a leadership job. Everyone gets a leadership
job.

If everybody is a leader, who follows the leaders, the other leaders.
The best one is this guy, the Tea Party guy from Worcester, Mass. His
leadership title is that he is the assistant minority whip, and that gets
him an extra $15,000 a year.

But what he is supposed to do for the extra $15,000 a year is he is
supposed to as the assistant minority whip, he is supposed to whip the
votes of all the Republican senators in the state who are not in the
leadership to make sure all of the other senators do what the leadership
tells them to do. The problem is, all of the Republican senators in the
state are in the leadership. They called themselves all leaders.

So, this guy literally has no work to do for the 15 grand, which is
nice work if you can get it, because it is at the legislative level, such a
one-party state.

Massachusetts is one of those states that almost never makes national
political news. Yes, occasionally something funny happens like when the
last six Republicans left in the Senate decide that in their leadership
race, they are all tied for first place, right? Sometimes it is something
funny like that. Sometimes it`s less funny ha-ha than funny strange like
when a Tea Party Republican won Ted Kennedy`s freaking U.S. Senate seat for
a half term. That was very strange. That`s over now.

So, Massachusetts does not usually make national political waves. And
when it does it is almost always because of something quirky or funny.
Right now, Massachusetts is trying its best to throw a really big rock into
the very still waters of national Democratic politics.

This is a column that just ran in the Sunday "Boston Globe" urging
Senator Elizabeth Warren that she should run for president. This is
another column, that just ran in the Sunday "Boston Globe" urging Senator
Elizabeth Warren to please run for president. This is another column that
just ran in the Sunday "Boston Globe" urging Elizabeth Warren to run for
president. And this is the editorial that just ran in the Sunday "Boston
Globe", alongside all of those other columns on the same day, all of the
same page, imploring Senator Elizabeth Warren to please run for president.

"Boston Globe", one of the best papers in the country, the dominant
paper in the whole northeastern corridor of the country, "Boston Globe"
just basically did a whole special section of the paper devoted to trying
to persuade Senator Elizabeth Warren that she really ought to run for
president this year, even though she clearly doesn`t want to.

We called the editorial page editor of "The Globe" today to ask about
this paper`s decision to go huge with this editorial push. "The Globe"
told us they haven`t done an official archival search or anything, but as
far as they know, this paper has never done anything like this before.
They said they asked themselves what would be the most provocative,
interesting way of getting the point across that they believe Elizabeth
Warren should run for president and they decided on this full-blast
approach with running all of these columns and this editorial all
simultaneously.

The editorial page editor told us that "The Globe" wants to, quote,
"urge a discussion of the ideas that Elizabeth Warren represents on a
national scale. We feel the best way to do that is for her to get into the
primary". And so, then, make the case.

They make the case over and over and over again, and again, what it
amounts to a special section of "The Boston Globe." Democrats would be
making as mistake if they let Hillary Clinton coast to the presidential
nomination without real opposition, and as a national leader, Massachusetts
Senator Elizabeth Warren can make sure that doesn`t happen.

While Warren has repeatedly vowed that she won`t run for president
herself, she ought to reconsider. She should not shrink from the chance to
set the course for the Democratic Party or cede that task to Hillary
Clinton without a fight. If Senator Warren put hers causes, and goals
front and center as Democrats gather for forces for the crucial 2016
campaign, Elizabeth Warren could enrich the political process for years to
come.

That`s all from "The Globe" editorial, the columns that "The Globe"
ran alongside that editorial makes the same case for a bunch of different
angles. Warren is the Democrat best positioned to draw out Hillary Clinton
in areas critical to the future of the Democratic Party. Elizabeth Warren
would be a strong candidate. She could win. This moment was made for
Elizabeth Warren.

"The Globe" told us today what they have just done with this -- again,
sort of editorial onslaught -- they told us it should not be mistaken as an
endorsement of Elizabeth Warren for president. This is not a presidential
endorsement. What they are endorsing is the primary process. They want
Democrats to have a primary, and they think Elizabeth Warren would give her
the best one.

In other words, they`re not saying they want Elizabeth Warren to run
for the presidency because they necessarily want her to win the presidency.
They want her to run because her running would itself be good for the
country and specifically good for the Democratic Party. Basically they are
saying that her being in the race would pull the Democratic party to the
least, or at least to the issues of middle-class economics and the
absolutely stupefying levels of income inequality that we have that have
been getting so much worse so fast even as the economy starts to get
better. Even if she couldn`t win, at least her issues would be in the
race.

So, it`s -- I mean, it`s got to be weird, like if you are Elizabeth
Warren, right? You open up the paper Sunday morning, good God, right,
there`s the editorial, and there is a column, and there`s another column,
and there`s another column -- the whole section of your hometown paper
persuading you to run which you do not want to do. That`s got to be kind
of a weird breakfast read, right?

But it`s also an interesting argument that`s happening right now in
Massachusetts. This argument about Elizabeth Warren, right? There`s this
interesting argument that whether or not you can win, there might be value,
there might be great value just in you running, just by running. If you
run well, if you run in the right race at the right time, even if you don`t
win, you can pretty radically change the direction and commitments of one
of the two major political parties in this country.

You can have a huge affect on national politics just by running --
which brings us to this guy, who today with great fanfare and a big speech
at Liberty University in Virginia, today, Texas Senator Ted Cruz launched
what I believe is his campaign for vice president of the United States.
Technically, what Ted Cruz said today is that he is running for president
of the United States, but -- ahh, at least nobody was handicapping the
presidential race at this point seems to think there is any credible threat
of that happening.

Honestly, I don`t bet. I`m terrible at gambling. It makes me shaky.
If I had to bet money on the 2016 presidential race, honestly, I think
Elizabeth Warren has more of a chance of being elected in 2016 than Ted
Cruz does, and that includes the fact he is running and she is not.

Ted Cruz could not be elected president of the United States of
America. Ted Cruz could be elected president of Texas. That may yet
happen in our lifetimes, but there`s no I think reason to believe that Ted
Cruz could win a national general election race.

Him getting into that race is potentially important for the future of
the Republican Party and the future of Ted Cruz, because if the Republican
Party does pick a more establishment centrist candidate -- hi, Jeb Bush --
and it turns out the candidate needs a fire brand, super white wing Tea
Party running mate, Ted Cruz may fit that bill, right?

His best hope is that he positions himself well as a vice presidential
pick for a more moderate Republican nominee. That does not seem out of the
realm of possibility. You only need to persuade one person, right, when it
comes to picking a vice presidential nominee. Stranger things have
happened -- Sarah Palin.

Even if Ted Cruz does not get picked for vice president, though, the
fact that he is in the race and he`s going to be at all the events, he`s
going to be at all the debates, that will likely have the effect of pushing
all of the other Republican candidates for president and, therefore,
Republican politics as a whole toward something that is closer to his
image, further to the right.

Ted Cruz is a good debater. His political strategy at the national
level has been to take stake out a position that is more conservative, more
uncompromising, more doctrinaire to the point of being impractical and
derive any Republicans who don`t go along with him.

At CPAC this year, all the other Republican candidates gave speeches
how terrible President Obama is and how terrible Hillary Clinton is and how
all the Democrats are. Ted Cruz gave a speech at CPAC about how terrible
the Republicans are.

So, he`s in now. He made the announcement today in a long speech he
delivered without notes and without using a teleprompter. The venue was
Liberty University, which is the very, very conservative school in
Virginia, that was founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell.

Kids at the Jerry Falwell university were actually required by the
school today to go to this Ted Cruz event. Any kid who did not show up at
this event today would face a fine of $10 that they would have to pay to
the school if they did not attend today`s speech. And that did ensure a
very full room for Senator Cruz today, but it also led to funny visuals
like these Liberty University kids who clearly did not want to be fined
$10, but also did not want anybody to think that their presence at the Tex
Cruz event indicated their support for Ted Cruz running for president.
Their t-shirts say "stand with Rand."

This whole announcement was sort of a mix of very well-planned and
very poorly planned. I mean, it`s nice to have a really big room filled
with thousands of people. It`s not nice when you can tell some people have
been conscripted to be there against their will.

It was nice for his campaign that Senator Cruz had a text message
number that he had ready and he reference in his speech where you could
right then and there take out your cell phone and text to that number and
sign up to support his campaign. That was nice to be well-prepared in that
front.

It was not so nice that anybody who wanted to check out TedCruz.com or
TedCruzforpresident.com or any other reasonable thing you might look for on
the web about him running were instead greeted with these Web sites. Look
at, if you go -- OK. So if you go to TedCruz.com, it`s just a splash of
pages, support President Obama, immigration reform now. That is
TedCruz.com.

TedCruzforpresident.com right now is for sale. TedCruzforAmerica.com,
if you type that in, it redirects you immediately to, oh, look,
healthcare.gov where you can sign up for Obamacare. TedCruz2016.com, maybe
this is just me messing something up or I have a weird browser but this is
what it brings up for me on my brother, just a slide show of random stock
photos of inexplicable scenery with no words or anywhere to click.
TedCruz2016.com.

So, he`s the guy who`s first in. It`s this weird mix of well-prepared
and well-choreographed on the one hand and this is TedCruz.com. Seriously?
It`s going to go to a mix of, like, really well prepared and also.

We`re also learning interesting details about the timing, some
interesting questions about why now. Specifically why now?

As recently as Saturday afternoon, Liberty University was not
admitting that Ted Cruz was going to be speaking, though, this morning, let
alone announcing this morning that he was running for president. They had
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on their schedule as the speaker for this
event that the kids have to pay $10 if they don`t go to. Folks at the
University say they only got a call from Ted Cruz`s people last week asking
if he could come and make the presidential announcement at the university
today. So, however long they may have been planning it for, the Liberty
University part of it they have not been planning that long at all.

Reporter Todd Gillman at "The Dallas Morning News" also had an
interesting mini scoop about the timing and the planning behind what
happened today. While everybody else was just marveling that Ted Cruz had
just jumped right in and said, I`m running, while everybody was marveling
that he decide to skip the damn exploratory phase that everybody goes
through and instead just jumped right in, Todd Gillman at "The Dallas
Morning News" reported today that quietly, almost secretly, last week Ted
Cruz did form an official exploratory committee for president. He just
didn`t tell anyone that he was doing it. He did not make an announcement
about it. He gave it a title that nobody would associate with Ted Cruz
running for president at all.

So, for whatever reason, he apparently felt a need to set up an
exploratory fund last week in order to do some of the housekeeping and
organizational work you need to do to set up a run for president maybe. He
did set something up quietly, very quietly last week. He just kept it
completely out of the news.

So, today, would feel like, oh, my God, the Beyonce`s record just
showed up on iTunes. We didn`t know she was making one.

Kind of a genius move, right? It`s kind of a genius move. You are
prepping all of this time. Everybody else is prepping in public. You`re
prepping quietly and secretly behind the scenes. But now, we know he
really was prepping behind the scenes. Kind of a genius move and we would
not have known about it had Todd Gillman not reported it today in Dallas.

Joining us now is Todd Gillman, D.C. bureau chief for "The Dallas
Morning News". He was in Lynchburg today for Senator Cruz`s announcement.
And he`s followed Senator Cruz`s political career for years.

Mr. Gillman, thank you very much for being here.

TODD GILLMAN, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: It`s a pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW: I have to ask you about this exploratory committee. Before I
saw you report on this, I had not realized he might have had to do stuff
behind the scenes before making the big splashy announcement today. As far
as you can tell, was -- did he keep it quiet so today would land with a
bigger splash?

GILLMAN: Oh, I think that`s right. I don`t think it is a major
conspiracy. He clearly was going for the element of surprise and the
dramatic effect of going straight to a formal campaign.

I think the technicality of filing an exploratory committee was just
something they did, as I understand it, from in speaking to senior
strategist today, and I got to confess, I wasn`t the only reporter the
strategist told this to. They just needed to do it so they could sign some
contracts in the brief window between last week and this.

MADDOW: We are seeing sort of a mix of granular detail about in some
ways seeming very prepared, seeming very on the ball and in some ways
dropping the ball entirely. The Web site thing is a nightmare. It would
be one thing if it was TedCruz.com and somebody snaked you for it a long
time ago. But the fact it is TedCruz.com, TedCruzforpresident.com,
TedCruz2016.com. They don`t really seem to have done anything protective
in that regard.

GILLMAN: You know, 20 years ago, we used to ask these candidates
stupid questions like boxers or briefs, and I guess we need to ask them if
they are a dotcom or dot-org kind of guy. And Ted Cruz is a dot-org kind
of a guy.

It is kind of bad planning I guess that they didn`t squat on the
various names that might have been associated with Senator Cruz as somebody
out there in cyberspace obviously did to preempt him and kind of, you know
screw him up, I guess.

MADDOW: Well, between that and Liberty University finding out about
this, what he wanted to do very late. If it was last week with forming the
mini exploratory committee in order to do those house cleanings, do you
have any sense about the decision and the timing and why Senator Cruz might
have seemingly rushed to get out there today? Why today? Why now? He
obviously wanted to be first, but why has it happened the way it has?

GILLMAN: Right, I don`t think it was rushed. Jerry Falwell Jr., the
current president and son of the founder of Liberty University explained to
his student body that he got a call from a Cruz aide about 10 days ago
asking for this for forum. It happened to be the time slot that Terry
McAuliffe occupied.

McAuliffe didn`t want to be -- have his message stepped on by this and
he stepped aside to give it up for Cruz. I think that Cruz decided to do
it now as a strategy. He is lagging in the polls. He is down at about 4
or 5 percent in national polls probably doing a little bit better in places
Iowa and South Carolina where the evangelical vote is more important within
the Republican votes, the electorate.

But strategically what he gets to do now is leapfrog in front of
everybody else. Can you imagine how much attention someone now gets for
forming an exploratory committee? How exciting is that going to be? We
have somebody who is actively running for president.

So, Cruz has kind of short-circuited that. He`s changed the rules of
the game a little bit and the fact is there`s not that much time left.
People are going to have to declare for president. The first debates if
five months away. They need to start to raise money. Most of them are
waiting until April 1st or later so they don`t have to worry about how much
money they raise in this filing period for the FEC reports that are going
to be due.

Cruz is setting himself an ambitious target of raising a million or
more in the next week before the end of the quarter so that he shows
credibility in that regard. He is clearly going to be lagging people like
Jeb Bush and some of the others in fund-raising. But being first out the
gate gets you more attention than fifth out of the gate.

MADDOW: Yes.

GILLMAN: And now he has done it and done it in front of 8,000 or
10,000 people, it sets a bar higher for the next few people.

MADDOW: That`s right. Everybody will have to have a trick or some
story-telling device when they do it.

Todd Gillman, D.C. bureau chief of the "Dallas Morning News" -- really
helpful to have you here, Todd. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

GILLMAN: Sure one thing.

MADDOW: I will say, one piece of the reaction to Ted Cruz declaring
has been he`s going to have a real problem. He is not potentially a viable
candidate because other senators hate him so much, but he is famously he
most hated member of Congress when you poll other members of Congress about
how they feel about each other.

I got to say, I have faith that Ted Cruz will turn that no an asset in
his political column. He`s going to run as the most hated man in
Washington and try to turn it to his advantage. I don`t see that as a
downside for him. I think he could run with that. We`ll see.

Lots more ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Every day, toward the end of the business day, the White
House Press Office sends out President Obama`s schedule for the next day.

So, last night, just before 7:00 p.m., they sent out this daily
guidance for what President Obama was going to do today. At 10:00 a.m.,
the president and the vice president had their daily intelligence briefing.
At 10:10, the president goes to see the science fair. And in the
afternoon, the president delivers remarks at a summit in Maryland. That
was pretty much a typical thing, and that`s what the president had on the
books for today officially.

But there was an addendum. Late tonight, we learned about something
that was not on the official schedule they hand out ahead of time. A few
hours ago the White House Press Office disclosed an off-schedule meeting
that took place today between President Obama and somebody named Hillary
Clinton. Apparently, they didn`t announce in advance but President Obama
met with Secretary Clinton this afternoon one-on-one at the White House.
The report says the two met for about an hour and they discussed, quote, "a
range of topics".

What they talked about we don`t know. But we know that Hillary
Clinton and President Obama met at the White House today in a meeting that
the president did not allow to be publicized in advance. This is the part
where we all say in unison, oh to be a fly on the wall.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Early this morning, at the start of the workweek, a woman
went to open her office in Jackson, Mississippi. She went to the back
door, as she usually does.

And when she got there, she noticed one of the security cameras lying
on the ground. It had been ripped off the usual spot on the roof. It was
just laying on the pavement. The wires from that camera were dangling
loose alongside the side of the building, and she saw a second security
camera had been pulled off of its housing, as well.

And it appeared that somebody had tried to cut the electrical wiring
in to the building to wreck an expensive generator that state law requires
that building to have on site. Inside she could hear the alarm going off
when she got there.

The business that is reporting this attack on their premises today is
the last remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. Supporters
and defenders of that clinic painted it bright pink a few years ago, as a
way of saying they were not budging, they were not hiding, they are not
ashamed of their work. They wouldn`t be chased away. Their motto was,
"This clinic stays open."

Today with the discovery of this physical attack on that property,
that motto becomes a watch word for the last clinic standing in
Mississippi, this clinic stays open.

The clinic says whoever attacked them last night ended up getting
caught at least on video. Look at this, the clinic sent us the
surveillance video from the clinic`s cameras just before those cameras with
were knocked down. You see the figure in boots, maybe a hood some kind,
maybe a mask you can see from the angle. They are carrying what might be a
hatchet or some other sort of long-handled tool.

The surveillance images again were taken early this morning just after
midnight last night basically at the last open abortion clinic in the state
of Mississippi. These images are somebody who`s definitely lurking outside
the clinic, who seems to want to do damage to the clinic itself. We don`t
know. But right after these images were taken, the cameras that took these
images were destroyed.

We have been following the story of this clinic in Jackson for a few
years now. Republicans in Mississippi have come up with a few ways think
they could force the clinic to close. Most recently, they forced doctors
to get admitting privileges from local hospitals which Mississippi
officials expected and hoped would be impossible for the doctors and would
there by result in the clinic being shut down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GOV. PHIL BRYANT (R), MISSISSIPPI: We`re going to try to work to end
abortion in Mississippi. This is an historic day to begin that process.

TATE REEVES, MISSISSIPPI LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Our goal needs to be to
end all abortions in Mississippi. I believe the admitting privileges bill
gives us the best chance to do that.

STATE REP. BUBBA CARPENTER (R), MISSISSIPPI: We have literally
stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: You can`t stop a federally-protected right. But Mississippi
has been very determined to try.

This new way of attacking clinics through state laws, these new
requirements about admitting privileges, they have turned out to be pretty
unpopular with federal courts. Abortion is a federally protected right in
this country and federal judges have blocked those Mississippi-style laws
in some states.

On Friday, a federal judge blocked the same kind of law in Wisconsin,
just as judges have blocked those same kind of laws in Louisiana and
Alabama. Last month, officials in Mississippi announced that they would
keep fighting to get that admitting privileges law back in place to try to
close that last remaining clinic in their state. That is how the fight is
playing out on the courts.

On the sidewalks, though, this is a very different kind of fight.
Just like clinics around the country, this clinic in Mississippi has tried
to shield its patients and staff from local protesters who show up day
after day. The Jackson clinic has built up a day of defenders and escorts
who try to keep the peace, try to keep the doors open.

Over the past few days, a new a anti-abortion group has arrived in
Jackson, but the clinic says is not just protesting but really harassing
the clinic and people trying to use it. In kind of a signal flare, this
last clinic in the state posted something online about these new arrivals
that they describe as younger, more militant than usual haranguers out
front.

The clinic also posted pictures of the destruction when they opened
the clinic today, with what looks to be an attempt to shut them down by
pulling out wires and taking down the security cameras that monitor the
clinic.

We asked local police about the case. They did not get back to us. A
local FBI office says they cannot comment on calls for help. But people at
the clinic said they reached out to police and federal agents.

They say what is happening now at this last clinic in Mississippi
represents an unsettling change from the kind of challenges that they had
faced before. Clinic`s director told us tonight that the clinic`s staff
and its volunteer defenders from now are going to keep watch around the
clock, 24 hours a day, at least while new heightened protests continue in
Mississippi.

Director Shannon Brewer told us today this, quote, "We`re going to be
here. We`re not going anywhere. We are insisting that from this day to
the end of this, we are going to be here."

The clinic staff is, as I said, going to keep watch so they can stay
open safely. They are going to be keeping watch around the clock tonight
in Mississippi.

We`ll let you know more as we learn more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT UNITED STATES: Do you guys like inventing and
building things like this?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Uh-huh.

OBAMA: Huh?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Yes.

OBAMA: You guys are very good at this. I`m so impressed. You are
resetting it.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: That`s our special page.

OBAMA: That`s the page --

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: The magic page.

OBAMA: This is wonderful, guys. Can I take a picture with you?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Sure.

GIRLS: Which camera do we look at?

OBAMA: I know. It`s confusing, isn`t it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Today in Washington, D.C., it was the annual White House
science fair, a tradition now in the Obama presidency. Kids across the
country show off their science projects and inventions in an effort to
better the world. Or sometimes just to shoot a marshmallow really far
across the state dining room.

Today, President Obama set in a tricked out wheelchair that uses 3D
printed super practical modular accessories. He made waves in a mini hydro
electric power demonstration. He consulted with the super girls of Girl
Scout Troop 411 in Oklahoma. They created a page-turning machine out of
Legos.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Where are those super girls?

(APPLAUSE)

Yes. You can`t -- they are standing up, but you can`t really see `em
because they are in kindergarten and first grade. They realize some people
who might be paralyzed or arthritic might have trouble turning pages on a
book. So, they invented this page turner. It was awesome. It was working
so well, despite the fact as they pointed out, this is a quote, they say,
this is just a prototype. That`s what they said.

So, this is just a -- I said how did you come up with the idea? Well,
we had a brainstorming session. And then one of them asked, Mr. President,
have you had brainstorming sessions? I said, yeah. But I didn`t come up
with something as cool as this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Where are those super girls? President Obama interacting
with very earnest kids at the science fair is a nice illustration of what
can go right between kids and politicians.

The state of Kentucky today provided a nice illustration of the
opposite. That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It`s easy to feel cynical about politics. It is also
possible to have your faith restored in the most earnest possible way.

Like for example, the story of Olivia McConnell who loves fossils and
who knows how her state government works and who wrote to her state
legislator in South Carolina and explained that one of the first vertebra
fossils in the United States was discovered in her home state of South
Carolina and most states have a state fossil but South Carolina didn`t, and
South Carolina should have a state fossil and please would her state
legislator try to make that happen. Signed, your friend, Olivia.

And Olivia, age 8, thereby started the process of South Carolina
choosing the wooly mammoth as its state fossil. The story got national
attention and became, honestly, one of my favorite stories of the year last
year. When a state senator of South Carolina decided that the idea of a
fossil was just too much for his little brain and he decided to stop the
bill from passing by adding in whole sections from the Book of Genesis into
the bill`s language, stating that, yes, sure, South Carolina may have a
wooly mammoth fossil, but that wooly mammoth was created on the sixth day
with the beasts of the field and that must be in the law.

Olivia`s bill got waylaid for a long time with the Old Testament
diversion, but Olivia stuck with it, and she said she would stick with it
forever, until she was 23 maybe, or maybe even until she was 40, but she
did not have to stick with it until she was 40. South Carolina eventually
came around in part because of her perseverance and South Carolina got its
official state fossil, and Olivia says she wants to be a scientist -- but
now, I prefer her to be governor or at least legislator, since she can get
things done.

And now, more cynicism antidote. This is the giant salamander, cute.
It`s from Idaho.

In 2012, an Idaho fourth grader wrote to her state legislator to see
about getting the Idaho giant salamander designated as that state
amphibian. That was 2012. She was in fourth grade. She got as far as the
bill getting drafted. Couldn`t get a hearing.

2013, she tried again. Bill got printed. Couldn`t get a hearing.
2014, she tried again, got a hearing couldn`t get it passed.

This year, she went back at it again. This is actually her fifth
time, her fifth trip to the legislative session in her state trying to get
this passed, and when they brought it up in January, they voted it down.
They voted no.

Conservative legislators raised an objection. They said, well, if
Idaho officially professes its love for this giant salamander, maybe it
will be declared endangered or something or communism, or whatever.

The argument made absolutely no sense at all. There was no connection
between picking a state amphibian and endangered species.

But even though the argument made no sense, it still held the day.
The only other argument that legislators articulated against the freaking
salamander bill was that salamanders are gross and icky. Literally, that
was their argument look at this.

Look at this. Look -- memories of a childhood aversion to salamanders
led Representative Ken Andrus to oppose state legislation that would have
made the Idaho giant salamander the state amphibian. Quote, "When I grew
up, when I was a young boy in our swimming hole, there were salamanders.
And I learned to despise them. They were ugly, they were slimy, and they
were creepy. And I`ve not gotten over that." Somebody give that man a
noogie.

But the girl who started the campaign in the fourth grade in Idaho,
she did not give up. She said she would not give up and she hasn`t given
up. She is now 14. She started this when she was in fourth grade. She`s
now 14.

And today, today, she started to win today, today. Her bill got
through the Idaho house. Even though the guy who said he couldn`t vote for
it because salamanders are ugly, he still voted no for that reason. But
Ilah Hickman has stuck with in Idaho from 4th grade. She`s now 14.
Another couple of years, she could have driven herself to meet with the
state representatives blocking her bills, but she is now getting it done.

And that earnest perseverance is infectious, especially when it has to
survive in the face of so-called adult opposition that makes no sense or
that is incredibly immature.

And this doesn`t happen just around naming official state things.
This is the scene in Frankfurt, Kentucky, this morning. Hundreds -- look
at that, hundreds of students across the state along with parents, faculty
and Kentucky state politicians, holding signs, giving speeches, everybody
rallying at the state capital of Kentucky, trying to save something called
House Bill 236.

It`s a bill drafted by high school students. It would allow a student
to be part of the search committee process for picking a superintendent of
schools. Kentucky law currently blocks that. The high schoolers bill is
straightforward. It is not a particularly controversial or ideologically
polarizing thing.

The students have a good case to make, right, that they want to be
involved in decisions that affect them as students. As such, that bill
quickly picked up sponsors and it sailed through the Kentucky House of
Representatives. It passed by a vote of 88-5.

But while that was going on, in what should have been completely
unrelated news, at the same time a Republican state senator named C.B.
Embry was working on something else. He was pushing a totally unrelated,
very controversial bill that would mandate the use of specific bathrooms by
students who are transgender. Also a Republican state senator named Albert
Robinson, he at the time was pushing a bill about religious objections to
things and freedom of speech.

Both of those bills stalled out in the Kentucky house, the
Democratically controlled Kentucky house. Neither of them have anything, I
mean, absolutely to do with the high schoolers` bill. But those senators
saw the high school kids` bill sailing through the house easily, and they
thought, hmm, they attached their own super controversial going nowhere
bills to the high schoolers` bill, essentially torpedoing it, not because
they disagree with the high school kids` bill. In fact, one said he likes
the bill, but he says he wanted to send a message to the Democrats by
killing the high school kids` dreams with his idea he couldn`t get passed
any way.

Government is historically unpopular right now, historically
unpopular. Last week, Gallup poll asked Americans what they think the
biggest problem is facing our country right now, the largest number of
respondents said that our number one problem is the government, our
terrible government is the thing we feel worst and worry most about in the
country in terms of our biggest problems.

As the indelibly earnest, fossil loving, salamander promoting and good
governance and sustain kids of America keep proving, that American cynicism
of government, that nihilism about our government is not universal.
Ignorant and craven state legislators all over the country are doing their
best to make these kids lose their love of government and their belief that
government can work for a constructive purpose. But those terrible
legislators are up against perseverance and good cheer from kids that know
we can do better and who are insisting that we do.

Joining us are Eliza Jane Schaeffer. She`s a 16-year-old junior and a
high school student, who has been one of the students pushing for HB 236 in
Kentucky, and her adviser, Rachel Belin.

Thanks to you both for being with us this evening. It`s ice to have
you here.

RACHEL BELIN, TEACHER AT HENRY CLAY HIGH SCHOOL: Thank you. Nice to
be here.

ELIZA JANE SCHAEFFER, STUDENT AT HENRY CLAY HIGH SCHOOL: Thanks for
having us.

MADDOW: Eliza Jane, I will start with you. As I understand it, in
Kentucky, the legislative session ends tomorrow, which means we are sort of
down to the wire. Where do you understand your bills chances are at this
point? Do you think you`ve got any hope?

SCHAEFFER: I would say it is 50/50. We are very hopeful. We are
hoping maybe a compromise on the Senate leadership has been looking in to
it. Like I said, we are hopeful that we will be able to pass but there`s
always a chance that it`s not going to happen. If that is the case, then
we will be back next year.

MADDOW: Nice.

Ms. Belin, let me ask today about that big rally today. A lot of your
students, lots of supporters, a big, pretty diverse group out there. Are
you surprised by the support that you`re getting and the attention that
you`re getting as you guys keep pushing and pushing for this?

BELIN: I am so blown away by the level of organization and the
ability these students have had to mobilize, not only other students, but
the adult community, as well. They have taken it upon themselves to do
everything a high-level lobbying firm would do.

And they are just doing this between their classes and school and
their extracurricular activities and everything else they are supposed to
do as volunteers. It was incredible today. Over 300 students turned out
and many adult allies standing with us in support. It was a show of force
for the desire of a lot of Kentucky youth to be civically engaged. That`s
all they want is to be civically engaged and this bill is really a modest
request to allow that to happen at the school level, a superintendent
screening committee.

MADDOW: Well, Eliza Jane, let me ask about the substance of that.
Why do you think that this bill is so important? Why do you -- how do you
think this would make things better? And what`s it been like for you to
see it get banged around the way it has in the legislative process?

SCHAEFFER: Well, in my opinion, education is the single most
important service that a government can provide for its people. So, it`s
really important that we get it right.

And this education policy decisions are made by administrators,
government officials, parents, teachers, but surprisingly not students who
are the people who are in the system and living out the effects of the
decisions every single day.

So, I think we have a really important perspective to offer. And so,
that`s why I think that it is important there be a student member on the
screening committees. We are 100 percent of the superintendent
constituents, yet we have zero representation on this committee. And it`s
definitely been a wake up call to see what democracy really looks like in
the real world. It is not exactly what I expected. There`s been a bit of
a learning curve.

MADDOW: I`ve got to say, though, I have to say, forgive the phrase,
but has it been a bummer? I mean, did you think you would be taken more
seriously on the merits? Were you bummed out to see it diverted in to all
of the stuff that had nothing to do with your bill?

SCHAEFFER: I would say bummed out would be a good description of how
I felt.

MADDOW: But now, perseverance, and we will find out whether Kentucky
will do right by you guys tomorrow. But to hear you say you will be back
no matter what, it is an impressive fight you are waging and it`s
inspirational, especially for those who of us who are sometimes tempted to
feel cynicism. You guys are the antidote to that. Good luck to you both.

BELIN: Thank you.

SCHAEFFER: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thank you so much.

All right. Rachel Belin, the adviser there, and Eliza Jane Schaeffer,
from Kentucky, pushing for a bill that makes total sense that no one has
come up with a substantive argument against. But they still can`t get it
through. Come on Kentucky legislators, you`ve got one more day to get it
through for these kids.

All right. Still to come: nuns, really, really excited nuns,
overexcited nuns you might say.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUBTITLE: Today at the TRMS production meeting --

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: They`re grabbing him. (INAUDIBLE) video.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: It`s like right at the top of that video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re saying, please don`t hurt me.

MADDOW: They`re going to eat -- oh! Okay. It`s really good. It`s
really good. He`s like -

(LAUGHTER)

SUBTITLE: That really good thing is coming up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We have a little bit of developing news tonight from the
state of Utah, sort of unbelievable news. We were warned that this might
happen. Now that it has happened, it still seems hard to believe, but it`s
happened.

Earlier this month, the Utah legislators voted to bring back the
firing squad, as the preferred method of execution in Utah, if the state
can`t get ahold of the drugs they would normally like to use to kill
people. Utah currently has none of the drugs that they would like to use
to put their prisoners to death. Like a lot of other states, Utah can`t
get these drugs from suppliers anymore. Suppliers are increasingly
refusing to sell lethal injection drugs to prisons.

Because of that, a few weeks ago, Utah lawmakers said, well, OK, let`s
just start shooting people then. The state`s governor, Gary Herbert, has
been considering ever since whether or not he was going to sign that bill.
He said publicly that he found the whole idea, quote, "a little bit
gruesome."

But tonight he decided to sign it. Utah Governor Gary Herbert has
just signed the bill that will bring back the firing squad as a method of
execution in Utah.

Happy 2015.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: If it`s the pope versus the mafia, my money`s on the pope.
Last year, Pope Francis basically declared war against organized crime. He
excommunicated members of the mafia. He said they were condemned to hell
unless they repent and quit.

And then this weekend, the pope went to the mafia`s home territory.
He went to a notorious mafia stronghold called Scampia in Italy. It`s a
neighborhood in Naples. Pope Francis drove around in the pope mobile.

While he was in mafia-controlled Scampia, he railed against organized
crime and corruption, he said a corrupt society stinks. He celebrated mass
in the main square in Naples. He urged people to resist the easy earnings
and dishonest income that can come from organized crime.

We do something on the show called now here`s a thing sometimes, where
we present an amazing that has happened that you should just witness. The
pope`s trip to Naples this weekend created a now here`s a thing moment that
you probably seen today. Everybody`s been posting this all over Facebook
and Twitter.

It shows the pope in his pope mobile. Everybody`s yelling "Papa,
Papa", and a man approaches and hands the pope a whole pizza. And watch,
and the pope takes it, he takes the whole pizza, everybody cheers!

A week ago, the pope told an interviewer the one thing he missed most
about his pre-pope life is being able to go get a pizza without people
bugging him. So, here you, here`s your pizza. That`s a thing that
happened. That`s amazing.

But you know what? There was actually an even better now here`s a
thing moment from the same trip, from a meeting that the pope had with
priests and religious leaders and nuns in Naples. The pope probably should
have known something was going to happen when the nuns started clapping and
waving at him like this.

These are cloistered nuns. They don`t get out in the world ever. On
Saturday, they got permission to come out just to see the pope. You can
see how excited they are. How very excited they are to see them.

When pope -- look, when Pope Francis sat down, they basically released
the nuns, and bam, they just swarmed him. Where did he go? At this point,
the cardinal got onto a microphone and urged the nuns to calm down. He
said over the microphone, they are going to eat him!

Level of excitement that they exhibited just from being able to wave
to him should have been a warning about what would happen when they were
allowed to touch him.

Pope Francis, you know, he`s out there making decisions about how to
spend his papacy, and what issues to work on, but occasionally amazing
things happen all around him. He smiles through it all. Whoo!

That is a thing that happened. That does it for us tonight. We will
see you again tomorrow.

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

Good evening, Lawrence. Great to have you back.

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

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