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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Melissa Harris-Lacewell


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  It‘s just a theory.  Thank you very much, Keith. 

Appreciate it.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.


We begin tonight actually with a correction—an error on last night‘s show that I need to clear up.  Last night, we covered reaction to the landmark federal court ruling striking down the gay marriage ban in California.  After reading that ruling and not only absorbing that it overturned the gay marriage ban, but the way that it did it, the kind of language that the ruling used, I, on this program, sitting right here last night said this:


MADDOW:  Judge Walker, who‘s a George H.W. Bush appointee, Judge Walker not only struck down California‘s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional, he also probably set the stage for what will probably be the next big court fight and next big political fight.  The anti-gay marriage side that was defeated in this case has already filed paperwork expressing their intention to appeal the decision.  You should expect to hear lots of excerpts from Judge Walker‘s ruling not only in the legal discussion, but I think you will hear it in the political fight that is sure to come as well because I think many conservatives will see some of this language as explosive.


MADDOW:  The political fight that is sure to come as well.  Correction time.  That apparently is not happening, at least not yet.  I mean, the legal fight goes on.  The anti-marriage people are filing an appeal.

But the political fight over this does not seem to be happening.  Did you notice any big press conferences in Washington?  Anti-gay marriage Republicans envying against this marriage ban being overturned?  No.  Nothing.

And Congress is in session.  I mean, the Senate actually passed a big state aid deal today.  The House was called back into session after members had gone home so they could pass it, too.  Members of Congress are around right now.

But when this huge pro-gay marriage ruling came out, where were the outraged Republicans?  Where are you?  You guys used to be so good at this.


FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  Marriage is a special institution between a man and a woman.  And our Constitution and laws should reflect that.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK ®, KANSAS:  When you do these vast social experiments—and that‘s what this is when you redefine marriage—it‘s a vast social experiment.

FMR. SEN. FRED THOMPSON ®, TENNESSEE:  Marriage is between a man and a woman.  Nobody ever thought that that was contested until recently.

REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  Constitutional amendment is necessary.  If enacted, it would effectively ban these illegitimate marriages nationwide.

REP. TODD AKIN ®, MISSOURI:  There is no civilization which has condoned homosexual marriage widely and openly that has long survived.


MADDOW:  Isn‘t awful what happened to Scandinavia?  I mean, come on, where‘s that fighting spirit today?  I mean, not only was this a judge in San Francisco striking down a gay marriage ban, but with perfect timing now for the election in a few moments, he struck down that the ban in terms that I swear were designed to end up on anti-gay marriage Republican placards and bloody hand-printed campaign buses.

I mean, he wrote this: “The gay marriage exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage.  That time has passed.”

Come on, where is the Republican Party?  Karl Rove, where are you?  What happened to your gay marriage as your great wedge issue?  Where‘s the Republican Party making political hay out of this to run on in November?  This is a long slow curve ball right over the plate for Republicans.

If you want to be blunt about political opportunity here for Republicans, consider where President Obama is on this issue.

Watch David Axelrod trying to explain the president‘s position on MSNBC this morning.  Watch this man being turned into a human pretzel right before your very eyes.


DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR:  The president opposed Proposition 8 at the time.  He felt that it was divisive.  He felt that it was mean-spirited and he opposed it at the time.  So—we reiterated that position yesterday.  The president does oppose same-sex marriage but he supports quality for gay and lesbian couples and benefits and other issues.  And that has been effectuated in federal agencies under his control.  He supports civil unions and that‘s been his position throughout.  So, nothing has—nothing has changed.


MADDOW:  You got that?  So, the line from the administration is that Barack Obama does not want gay people to be allowed to be married.  But when gay people can be married and other people are trying to take away that right, like in California, he doesn‘t want the right to be taken away.  But he‘s not in favor of that right in the first place.  You got it?

The president is against gay marriage but he‘s also against constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, which means he‘d apparently prefer that gay marriage be banned through flimsier tactical means?

That‘s the president‘s position.  Clear as mud.  Ripe for criticism much?

But, now, not only are Republicans not running on their favorite wedge issue.  They‘re not even going after President Obama for what really counts as low-hanging fruit here.  They‘re not going after President Obama for his impossibly tortured logic on this issue.

I mean, it would be easy to do.  Mr. President, do you stand with the voters of California who hate gay marriage or do you stand with that liberal activist judge in San Francisco who says there‘s no such thing as gender?  Where do you stand, sir?

I mean, Republicans are just letting this opportunity go.  I mean, it‘s not that nobody on the right is responding to this.  The far reaches of the right have had some great responses so far.

The American Family Association called the judge who ruled on the case a black-robed tyrant.  Quote, “He has exceeded his constitutional authority and engaged in judicial tyranny.”

The spokesman for the Mormon Church, the Church of Latter Day Saints, a huge financial backer of Proposition 8 in California, responded to the ruling with this statement, quote, “Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of society.”

That‘s verbatim.  I do think that he said man and a woman, singular, not women, plural, but we are checking on that.

And remember former Republican Senator Rick Santorum, the man on dog guy?  He tweeted, quote, “Prop 8 ruling another example of the left using the raw, detached, unaccountable force of the courts to impose their moral vision.”

Then there was former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, he called it “an outrageous disrespect for our Constitution and for the majority of people of the United States who believe marriage is the union of husband and wife.”

I‘m not sure if wife number three was standing at Mr. Gingrich‘s side when he was bravely defending the sanctity of marriage, or if he just made that statement as a husband standing alone.

But there has been some response on the right.  Some response on the right but it‘s been minimal as well as a lot of it being inadvertently funny.  As far as we can tell, there have only been a few conservative members of Congress weighing in on this.

A couple of minutes after the ruling was released yesterday, Republican Senator Jim DeMint decried it as “another attempt to impose a secular immorality on the American people.”

Other than Jim DeMint and maybe one or two others, reactions from Republicans have been muted, few and far between.

Down in Texas, the “Dallas Voice” newspaper noted today, “Republican Governor Rick Perry who champions Texas‘ marriage amendment hasn‘t said a word about the Prop 8 ruling.  Likewise, we ain‘t seen squat from Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott or Republican Ag Commissioner Todd Staples, who helped draft our Texas marriage amendment.”

Perhaps the most telling indicator of where Republicans are on this is that today, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the committee to get Republicans elected to the Senate in this year‘s election, they blasted out a mass e-mail ignoring the Prop 8 ruling and instead railing against Obamacare—ignoring yesterday‘s giant, favorite Republican wedge issue news in favor of old news that passed months ago.

A state ban on gay marriage has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court for the first time in American history.  And the crusading protectors of marriage in the Republican Party, who love to run on this issue, instead are hiding.

Come out.  Come out, wherever you are.

Joining us now is “Newsweek” senior editor and MSNBC contributor, Jonathan Alter, author of the new book, “The Promise: President Obama, Year One.”

Mr. Alter, good to see you.


MADDOW:  Where are the Republicans on this?

ALTER:  You know, I have to speculate here.  So, I got to introduce that caveat.


ALTER:  This is a real mystery.  And I‘m not sure that anybody has the full answer.  So, all I can do is answer some theories.


ALTER:  The first would be the conspiratorial theory, the stealth theory.  They‘re waiting to trap President Obama into endorsing gay marriage and then they‘ll pounce on him, right?


ALTER:  So, that—

MADDOW:  I like that one.  I like conspiracy theories.

ALTER:  So, that could be—that could be one option.  Another is, you know how the Obama team talks all the time about no distractions.  They considered—they considered gays in the military last year to be a distraction.  So, that‘s why they didn‘t bring it up.  I think they consider gay marriage right now to be a distraction from their agenda.

It‘s possible the Tea Party folks also see it as a distraction from what they consider to be their core mission of destroying President Obama.

MADDOW:  OK.  Well, in that—

ALTER:  So if they don‘t think that—

MADDOW:  OK.  Sorry.

ALTER:  -- if they don‘t think that this is their best bet, according to their, you know, their calculation of bringing him down, then they‘ll save their ammo.  They like that word “ammo,” for other—for other kinds of issues.

And you have to remember, if you look into the DNA of this Tea Party Movement, it was not started by social conservatives, but by libertarian economic conservatives.

If you look at the motivations and read the interviews with the organizers of the movement, the leaders of the various tea party organizations, they are not religious right, by and large.  They have quite a number of members who are, but that is not at the core of their movement.  And they are driving things in the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

So ever since Terry Schiavo, which was the high water mark for the religious right in this country, everything has been downhill for them since politically.

MADDOW:  Well, but on that issue, if—I mean, it‘s an interesting allegory between left and right.  I mean, on the left, gay people, of course, are repulsed at having our civil rights being seen as a distraction.  We long have been, right?

ALTER:  Right.

MADDOW:  But the allegory for that on the right is that the social

conservatives sort of repulsed by having their—the issues that are so

close to them being seen as a distraction.  The question is: if Republicans

sorry—if social conservatives see themselves being pushed out, that sort of more libertarian-minded Tea Party folks, why aren‘t they expressing any dissatisfaction and anger about that?  Why aren‘t we seeing more fighting between the social conservatives and the rest of the Republicans and conservative folks?


ALTER:  Well, they don‘t have clear leaders now, although it would be interested to see what Governor Huckabee has to say about this.  He hasn‘t been heard from yet because he‘s about as close as they come to a leader of the social conservatives right now.  You might expect, given the Mormon Church‘s position, that Governor Romney would also be speaking out more on this and maybe he will in the days ahead.

But I think, you know, in answer to your question, the social conservatives, the religious right, they don‘t have the mojo right now on the right.  So, they‘re a little bit on the defensive.  There‘s not a sense that Karl Rove‘s strategies were very successful.  You know, the left is very afraid of Karl Rove always talking about how powerful he is.  But he wasn‘t getting it done in the second Bush administration.

MADDOW:  Right.

ALTER:  And they clearly miscalculated on the Schiavo case.  And there are a lot of Republicans who can talk to who say that was a terribly unpopular thing for them to do to call Congress to a halt and, you know, intervene in this one case of this brain-dead woman.  The other factor, which I think is quite important with more establishment Republicans, is the role of Ted Olson in this case.


ALTER:  He has great credibility within the Republican Party establishment.

MADDOW:  Last night, he told me in an interview right after the ruling, he said that he feels like conservatives are moving his way.  That he hasn‘t felt like he‘s had to pay a lot of conservative sort of price for having taken the stand that he took.

ALTER:  Right.  You know, because he was out front and because he has a lot of the facts on his side—this is the other thing—is that you do have a certain number of conservatives who recognize that the legal arguments for Prop 8 are weak and were dispensed with great dispatch in this opinion and are not likely to be resurrected successfully on appeal because their whole argument was that gay marriage was damaging to kids.  And that has just been slam-dunked.

And there are almost no experts—really, there are only, quote, “experts” who are social conservatives who argue anybody who studies it knows that‘s not true.  And it doesn‘t make your kids more likely to be gay.


MADDOW:  But saying they‘re not—they‘re going to drop this as a political strategy because the facts are not on their side.

ALTER:  No, I‘m not saying that.

MADDOW:  That would be novel.

ALTER:  I‘m not saying that.  I‘m saying it strengthens Ted Olson‘s credibility—

MADDOW:  Sure.

ALTER:  -- when he is making the argument (ph).

So, if you have a combination of establishment Republicans who don‘t really want to tackle this because they think it might be a political loser for them, they‘re not that interested, many have members of their family who are gay—a combination of that, the fact that it‘s not central to the Tea Party Movement, you‘re talking about a more sort of moribund part of the conservative movement that would be carrying the flag.

Then of course, you‘ve got the hypocritical caucus, right, with Newt Gingrich out there.  So, you‘ve got an awful lot of people who might otherwise be spokesmen but they can‘t talk about the sanctity of marriage because they don‘t believe in it themselves.  And they haven‘t—you know, they haven‘t walked the walk.  And so, those folks are all immediately discredited.

So, to have spokesmen on this when they have no facts on their side—and nowadays, even on FOX, they‘ll get hammered if they have no argument on their side.

So, you know, it‘s just a little bit tougher for them to go out there the way they used to.  And we should take it as a—you know, a kind of modest victory, unless it‘s the stealth plan (ph).


MADDOW:  Exactly.  “Newsweek” senior editor, MSNBC contributor and author of “The Promise: President Obama, Year One”—Jonathan, thank you so much for being here.  It‘s good to see you.

ALTER:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, one of our senior producers on the show, Tina Cone, spent today falling in professional love with the Nixon presidential archives.  The Obama administration is taking a really dramatic step to restore the honor of someone who got smeared by and lost his career because of Nixon.  We‘ve got tape that we think has never been broadcast before that shows this guy‘s life being ruined while the White House knew they were doing it.

The injustice is being fixed.  The details and the tape are amazing. 

That‘s next.


MADDOW:  President Obama has formally asked the United States Senate to restore the rank, to return the lost stars to a general—a general who was demoted and disgraced 38 years ago.  It began back in late 1971 and early 1972 when then-four-star general, General John Lavelle authorized the bombing of North Vietnamese targets.  He did so because he was acting on orders to do so.

What did he get for doing that job?  He was demoted, strips of one of his stars and forced to retire early at a lower rank.

It was the first time in modern military history that a four-star general or admiral was demoted on retirement.

Then Congress called hearings.  There were multiple investigations.  He was denounced as a rogue general authorizing bombings without orders and trying to cover them up.

The press excoriated him, accusing the general of waging a private war in, quote, “clear violation of the White House rules.”

Democratic Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin called for General Lavelle to be court-martialed.  And after all that, after dragging his name to the mud, Congress took away another one of his stars.

And General Lavelle was retired as a major general.  He lost his job.  He lost his reputation, even though he maintained throughout—and as the Pentagon and current president acknowledged today—he was not ordering unauthorized bombings.  He was not only authorized to do what he did, he was ordered to do what he did by the then-president of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon.

Nixon not only authorized bombings, he then covered up the fact that he had authorized them, and kept quiet in public while this general, General Lavelle, was hung out to dry.  The incredible thing that we can show you, that we can play you tapes of, is that in private, President Nixon not only acknowledged that General Lavelle was being made a scapegoat, he lamented it.  Nixon knew what he was doing when he let this guy take the fall for what he, Richard Nixon, did.  What he did that he didn‘t want to admit to.

In one extraordinary conversation with national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, on June 14th, 1972, President Nixon keeps returning to the subject of General Lavelle and why the Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird demoted Lavelle and helped forced him into retirement.

Listen to this.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  Let me ask you about Lavelle.  I was, I had it on my list this morning.  I just don‘t want him to be made a goat, goddammit.


NIXON:  We all know what protective reaction is, this damn Laird is playing games.

KISSINGER:  What happened with Lavelle was he had a reason to believe that we wanted him to take aggressive steps.

NIXON:  Right, that‘s right.

KISSINGER:  Then he did.  And then suddenly, Laird came down on him like a ton of bricks.  And he had him already removed by the time I learned about it.  By that time, the damage was done.

NIXON:  Why did he even remove him?  You, you destroy a man‘s career.


MADDOW:  The president going on to rail not only about the scapegoating but about the way Congress found out about this, from an Air Force sergeant who wrote to his senator with his concerns about the bombing missions.


NIXON:  I don‘t want a man persecuted for doing what he thought was right.  I just don‘t want it done.  And this goddamn sergeant who wrote the letter to the senator, that sounds like another Ellsberg case to me.  You know, I don‘t like that worth a damn.

Now, what is this situation?  Is this—this sounds connected to the feelings with making the guy a goat now.  It‘s just not right.


MADDOW:  It‘s just not right, he says, let‘s do it anyway.

But here‘s Nixon again saying that he wanted to know if he could do anything to help General Lavelle—even though Lavelle had already been replaced by a general named John Vogt.


NIXON:  Come back to Lavelle now.  I just, can‘t somebody—can we do anything now to stop this damn thing, or—why he‘d even remove ‘em?

KISSINGER:  No.  If they hadn‘t removed, well.  They kept John Vogt instead who was probably better, but because he understands us better.  But Lavelle was actually removed before Vogt went out there.  Lavelle was removed at the end of March.

NIXON:  Because of this?


NIXON:  Why the hell did this happen?  A decision of that magnitude without—I should have known about it, Henry, because this is a—

KISSINGER:  Well, Mr. President, the point was—

NIXON:  -- because this is something we told.  You remember, we—we told Laird keep pressure on there in March.

KISSINGER:  By the time I knew about it, it had already been done. 

There was no point in—

NIXON:  I see.

KISSINGER:  -- involving you anymore.


MADDOW:  And then the conversation moved to what was most important to Nixon in 1972.  What spin to put on it, what spin to put on the man the Nixon White House was destroying in order to protect Nixon in a year he was running for re-election.


NIXON:  We‘ll come back to Lavelle.  How is it going to -- 

KISSINGER:  Let me talk to—

NIXON:  What I meant is, how do we handle it public relations-wise? 

Bill seemed to be very concerned about it.  What do you think?

KISSINGER:  I think this will go away.

NIXON:  It‘s just a hell of a damn.  And it‘s a bad rap for him, Henry.

KISSINGER:  It‘s a bad rap for him under his com.


MADDOW:  It‘s so amazing to me that we have these tapes.  Remember, this is 1972, Nixon tapes?  Right.

Nixon kept bringing this issue up of this guy he was throwing under the bus, kept bringing it up even weeks later.


NIXON:  Frankly, Henry, I don‘t feel right about our pushing him into this thing and then—and then giving him a bad rap.


MADDOW:  I don‘t feel right about it, Henry.

Of course, three days after saying that to Kissinger in private, here‘s what Nixon said in public when he just flat-out threw this general under the bus.  Watch.


NIXON:  It was unauthorized.  It was directed against only those military targets which were the areas you that were being used for firing on American planes.  But since it did exceed authorization, it was proper for him to be relieved and retired.


MADDOW:  Yes.  It exceeded authorization other than, you know, your orders that you know you gave.  He throws him right under the bus publicly.  Even though Nixon knows he authorized the thing, there he is in public saying it wasn‘t authorized.  He knew it.

Now, privately, Nixon continued to lament the bus under-throwing for months.  Here he is with national security aide Alexander Haig while General Lavelle is getting ripped on this issue by the press and by the Congress.


NIXON:  We‘ve got to be able to do something on this, Lavelle.


I‘ve been watching it.

NIXON:  We told Laird that, if your guy Moorer isn‘t sure if it is protective reaction, that to protect ourselves, we would back you to the hilt.


MADDOW:  We‘d back you to the hilt.  Oops.

Even two weeks after the Senate stripped General Lavelle of another star, leaving him demoted and retired and disgraced, Nixon was still talking about it, still privately acknowledging that he did wrong.


NIXON:  All of this goddamn crap about Lavelle.  And I feel sorry for the fellow because you and I know we did tell him about protective reaction being, very generally—

HAIG:  Very liberal.

NIXON:  Yes, very liberally, very liberally.  Remember, I said it was, if they, if they hit there, go back and hit it again.  Go back and do it right.  You don‘t have to wait until they fire before you fire back.  Remember I told Laird that.  And I mean it.  Now, Lavelle apparently knew that.


MADDOW:  Lavelle knew that I‘d given that order.  That‘s why he did it.  I feel sorry for the guy.

All of that regret, all of that self consciousness about ruining this man, destroying this man‘s career for something that Nixon did—for all of that, Nixon never ever spoke up about it publicly.  After all, he had an election to win.  Nothing can get in the way of that.  And, apparently for that, still having a soul of any status is optional.

Now, though, it has taken 38 years, but General Lavelle is on his way to being fully exonerated, to having his four-star status restored.

General Lavelle died 31 years ago.  His widow is 91.  She has been fighting for decades to clear his name.  His name is now being cleared.

One more note on this, we, here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW owe a big thank you to Sahr Conway-Lanz, who is the supervisor archivist of Nixon tapes projects at the National Archives Nixon Presidential Library, who not only found all of those Nixon tapes for us, but stayed very, very late at work to do it.

Many, many thanks, Sahr.  You have a very cool job—and for us, at least, you did it very well.  Thank you.


MADDOW:  So here‘s a sleeper of an issue.  At the top of the show today, we talked about how Republicans are so far giving up the opportunity to run on gay marriage, the traditional beloved wedge issue. 

But their other traditional beloved wedge issue is, of course, abortion rights.  We, here, at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, have been looking into this issue for this year‘s midterms for a couple of weeks now. 

And although it is not getting a lot of coverage, I think we can say that in a kind of quiet, sleepy way, the Republican Party is, without actually talking about it, this year, nominating a group of candidates for top of the ticket races that are more extreme on the issue of abortion than any other slate of top-of-the-ticket candidates in any year. 

Now, that assertion is the product of our review of these candidates‘ positions.  It is open to debate.  I would be happy to debate it with somebody, but so far nobody is debating this.  The reason that we‘re covering is because I think maybe we ought to be. 

Even if you just look at the United States Senate, even if you just look at Republican nominees and frontrunners for the Senate this year, the slate is amazing. 

Take, for example, Sharron Angle, the candidate Republicans chose to take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.  Here‘s what Ms. Angle had to say back in January about abortion rights for the victims of rape and incest. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is there any reason at all for an abortion?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something? 

ANGLE:  You know, I‘m a Christian. 


ANGLE:  And I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations.  And we need to have a little faith in many things. 


MADDOW:  That was in January.  In June, Sharron Angle shared the advice she would give to girls and women who she thinks should be forced to carry their rapist‘s babies to term. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When, you know, a young girl is raped by her father, let‘s say, and she is pregnant.  I mean, how do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby? 

ANGLE:  I think that two wrongs don‘t make a right.  I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13, but 15, who have had very at-risk, difficult pregnancies.  And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did.  And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade. 


MADDOW:  Sharron Angle - again, this is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Harry Reid.  She not only thinks a pregnant teenage rape and incest victim should be forced to carry her pregnancy to term. 

Sharron Angle thinks of being a pregnant raped teenager as a lemon situation that can be turned into a rape-and-incest lemonade situation.  So that‘s Sharron Angle. 

Then there‘s Kentucky Republican Senate nominee and good friend to THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, Rand Paul.  Dr. Paul gave an interview to a local Kentucky newspaper back in January. 

He confirmed to the “Middlesboro Daily News” that he is, in fact, pro-life, saying that the only time abortion should be legal is, quote, “in the case of the mortality of the mother.” 

Then the paper asked the inevitable follow-up question, quote, “What about instances of rape or incest?  Do you think that in these cases, the decision should be left to the government rather than the families?” 

Rand Paul replied, quote, “In cases of rape, trying to prevent pregnancies is obviously the best thing.  The morning-after pill works successfully most of the time.  Ultimately, we do better if we do have better education about family planning.” 

Better education about family planning for rapists?  He‘s being asked about rapists there and people committing incest.  He says they just need to plan better for these families that they‘re making. 

We‘ve been trying for two days now to get a clarification from the Rand Paul campaign about his position on abortion about whether if there is an instance of rape or incest resulting in pregnancy he definitely thinks it should be illegal for a woman to get an abortion. 

So far he will not tell us.  Neither Rand Paul nor anyone from his campaign will call us back.  We did, however, find this on his Web site - a questionnaire from the Kentucky Right to Life Association.  For the question, “Do you oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest?” Rand Paul checked yes.  But he still won‘t return our phone calls. 

In the great state of Colorado, that state‘s primaries are not until next week.  But the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination for Senate in that states is a man named Ken Buck.  Watch how quickly Ken Buck signs himself up for the rape victim pregnancy monitoring caucus. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How do you feel about abortion?  Are you for abortion or against it?  If you‘re for it, in what instances would you allow for abortion? 


am pro life.  And I‘ll answer the next question.  I don‘t believe in the exceptions of rape or incest. 


MADDOW:  Colorado‘s Ken Buck getting right to the point, jumping right in line with Sharron Angle and, apparently, with Rand Paul.  All three candidates campaigning for the United States Senate as small government conservatives, all maintaining that government should be big enough that it should monitor every single pregnancy in the country to ensure that every single woman who becomes pregnant is forced by the government to carry that pregnancy to term. 

Women who are raped or who are the victims of incest should have their pregnancies monitored by the federal government so that the government can ensure they are forced to give birth to the child that is the product of rape or incest. 

This is a position that was beyond the pale even in fringe anti-abortion politics not very many years ago.  The idea of exceptions for rape, incest and the life and health of the mother has been the bright line for even strongly anti-abortion candidates for a very long time. 

But apparently, those days are over.  Nobody‘s really talking about it.  But this year‘s crop of Republicans believe that women should be forced to bear rapists‘ children.  When I called this a sleeper issue, what I meant was that they‘re not apparently trying to make this a national issue. 

They‘re not trying to run on this as a national issue.  I can understand why.  But maybe Democrats should be making this a national issue.


MADDOW:  It is not unusual to see Republican Senate candidates oppose abortion rights.  In the review of the abortion positions of this year‘s crop of new Republican Senate candidates though, the radical-ness of these candidates‘ anti-abortion positions does stand out. 

It stands out, we think, based on our review to a historic extent.  I don‘t know of a slate of top-of-the-ticket candidates all fielded in any one year in American politics that has been this radical on abortion issues. 

So why have we heard so little about it?  Why have we heard so little about it from these Republicans who have such strong views on abortion or from their Democratic opponents?

Joining us now is Princeton professor, columnist for “The Nation” and MSNBC contributor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell.  Melissa, thanks for coming back and joining us. 



MADDOW:  So what would be the consequences of having a whole bunch of new sitting senators elected to the U.S. Senate who were opposed to abortion, not just in all regular cases, but also cases in which the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest? 

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, I mean, I think we‘ve already seen the consequences of having a significant portion of even one party, even the party out of power, with a very strong anti-reproductive choice agenda. 

We saw it, for example, in the health care fight, where somehow abortion became the central issue in a comprehensive health care reform bill.  The central issue became controlling women‘s right to choose, controlling women‘s fertility, not giving women the ability to have their open, but having the government do it. 

So I think clearly every time we move more aggressively against women‘s reproductive rights, the more that we will see the consequences show up in everything from health care policy to, you know, potentially actually moving towards reducing the opportunities for women to, you know, actually find healthy, safe termination services. 

MADDOW:  Why is it that - why do you think that abortion politics that used to be confined only to the real fringe of the anti-abortion movement are now mainstream enough for Republican Senate candidates to be adopting them, not just one or two but a whole slew of them?  How did even anti-abortion politics in mainstream electoral politics get so fringy? 

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, you know, you‘ve been doing a lot of history tonight.  And so I just want to pause and maybe do a quick history lesson here and remind your viewers that what‘s happening is we‘re in a period of deep economic anxiety. 

And often, when America is in a period of economic anxiety, it starts looking around for individuals to blame.  And sometimes, the very best place to start asserting control is right in the middle of a woman, in her uterus. 

The fact is there‘s been a lot of discourse about women‘s reproduction.  On the one hand, there‘s this anxiety about the derogatory anchor babies, right?  The idea that there‘s a population that is over-reproducing.  And these women should be shunted out of the country.  They should be, you know, criminalized and their children should not be given citizenship rights. 

On the other hand, there is an anxiety about wanting, particularly middle class white women, to produce more babies, because, see, what middle class white women have done has gone off and get careers and become equal in their marriages. 

And so marriage equality is not just those scary same-sex people but also about these assertive women who are equal in their marriages and therefore not producing enough white children to counter back all of these bad anchor babies. 

So there is a whole set of very deep racial and economic anxieties that always emerge whenever we start looking at politicians wanting to talk about controlling the fertility and particularly the reproductive choices of women. 

MADDOW:  Why do you think the Democrats have been gun-shy so far about making an issue of this?  I mean, these are really extreme anti-abortion positions.  And I know that Democrats have sort of lost the taste for fighting on the abortion issue.  But in this case, it sort of seems like you‘d expect them to be crowing about this. 

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  You know, I think there are probably two reasons.  One, I think it‘s very important to take those who have a religious and moral objection to abortion very seriously when they say that they believe that a pregnancy termination is murder. 

And the fact is that if you believe that, right, you simply can‘t really have a conversation around when is it OK to commit murder and when it isn‘t, right?  So part of it is there is a very strong sort of position for those who are against it on this kind moral or ethical grounds. 

And by the way, I respect that position.  I just don‘t think it should be a matter of law.  I think individuals have a right to hold that opinion. 

But I think that precisely the kind of government we have is that those positions should be protected as well as the right to choose for those who don‘t believe that the termination of a pregnancy constitutes murder.  So part of it is, it‘s hard to have the conversation because there‘s not a lot of common ground. 

But the other piece of it is, Democrats just haven‘t done a very good job about redefining ethical questions and normative questions from a progressive agenda perspective, right?  So they continue to kind of cede this ground to conservatives.  It‘s still more of the same work we‘ve been needing to do for a decade. 

MADDOW:  Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Princeton professor, columnist for “The Nation,” MSNBC contributor and somebody who is very, very smart who I always enjoy talking to.  Thanks, Melissa.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  I really appreciate it.  All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith‘s exclusive interview with Sharron Angle, an interview so exclusive Sharron Angle doesn‘t even know about it. 

Coming up on this show, we bid adieu to the politician we have all lovingly known as the “human sieve.”  That‘s ahead. 


MADDOW:  It was going to be the fight of the century.  And then it wasn‘t at all the fight of the century.  And today, it ended with a majority decision.  The U.S. Senate confirmed Elena Kagan to a lifetime appointment on the United States Supreme Court. 

Ms. Kagan will be the 112th justice in the court‘s history, the fourth woman ever.  She‘ll also be the umpteenth potential Republican talking point to go kaput in this political season.  Remember Republicans talking about filibustering her nomination?  Oh, me, neither. 

Today‘s 63 votes for Elena Kagan included five Republicans, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Dick Luger of Indiana.

It was enough that Democrats could afford to write off Nebraska‘s Ben Nelson who voted against her, the lone Democrat to do so. 

So Elena Kagan is in replacing John Paul Stevens, which means the Supreme Court, even with a Democratic president making the appointments, continues to shift to the right.  And so Republicans don‘t have the Supreme Court to campaign on.  Then again, liberals don‘t either.


MADDOW:  Two relatively unequivocal successes in our country‘s relations with the Muslim world were when we helped out in 2004 after the tsunami that devastated Indonesia.  It‘s the world‘s most populous Muslim nation.  And also, when we helped out in 2005 after the earthquake in Pakistan.  That‘s the world‘s second most populous Muslim nation. 

Well, now Pakistan‘s in trouble again, facing the worst flooding in at least 80 years - 1,500 people already thought to be killed by those floods, three million people homeless or in need of help.  Like we did after the earthquake five years ago, the U.S. is helping out.  We have sent Chinook helicopters to distribute relief and rescue people. 

But also like the earthquake five years ago, a big proportion of the aid that‘s actually getting to people is being provided, not by the Pakistani government, not by us or by any other foreign countries, but by militant Islamist groups, including a group that‘s widely believed to be the front group for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorists who attacked Mumbai, India in 2008. 

The front group has been operating relief and medical camps in the flood zone since at least Monday.  Hearts and minds.  Hearts and minds.  Hearts and minds and hospitals and hot meals and help.


MADDOW:  A nine-term incumbent Congressman named Pete Hoekstra gave up the prospect of running for a 10th term in Congress this year because he wanted to try to move up in the world. 

He gave up his seat in Congress after 18 years with all that seniority in order to try to become the Republican candidate for governor in his home state of Michigan instead. 

How did he do?  Well, let‘s go to “” and see.  Here we go - “” - and there‘s the top entry.  We did it.  Oh, so he - oh, hold on.  Wait a second.  It says congratulations to Rick Snyder who has won the GOP nomination for governor. 

We did it?  Oh, I see.  “” is an anti-Pete Hoekstra Web site.  Look at the tag line across the top, “Dangerous, Polarizing and Bad for Michigan.”  And there‘s, quote, “Shameful.”  “One of Congress‘ more offensive buffoons.”  “The human sieve.” 

Pete Hoekstra is not a nationally famous Republican, nor is he somebody who remembered to register his own domain name.  But he is a very powerful member of Congress.  He‘s the Republican‘s top guy on intelligence. 

Were Republicans a majority in the House again, he would be running the Intelligence Committee right now.  And however boring the idea of Congressional committees is, the Intelligence Committee is a really big deal. 

Intelligence Committee members get access to a ton of super-secret, super-important information.  They are entrusted with all sorts of stuff that even other members of Congress don‘t get to know about. 

And frankly, Pete Hoekstra as the top Republican on intelligence proved himself to be such a disaster over and over and over again that it is worth saying good-bye to him now as his political career comes to a spectacular crashing, burning end. 

If there‘s one thing that Pete Hoekstra is nationally remembered for, it‘s what he declared alongside then-senator man-on-dog, Rick Santorum, that they had found the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Remember that press conference? 


FMR. SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA):  Congressman Hoekstra and I are here today to say that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R-MI):  This says weapons have been discovered. 

More weapons exist.  And they state that Iraq was not a WMD-free zone. 


MADDOW:  Spoken with conviction.  Totally made up.  Again, it would be one thing if this were just coming from some random kook member of Congress.  But this guy‘s the top Republican on intelligence in Congress and he thinks he found the weapons of mass destruction. 

When Pete Hoekstra was not declaring that he had found imaginary weapons in Iraq, Mr. Hoekstra also found time to use attempted terrorist attacks on this country as fundraising opportunities.  Precisely three classy days after the failed Christmas Day bombing aboard a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner, Pete Hoekstra sent out a fundraising letter about the terrorist attack begging for money. 

Quote, “If you‘ll agree that we need a governor who will stand up to the Obama-Pelosi efforts to weaken our security, please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign.” 

When criticized for his decision to use terrorist attacks to raise money for himself, this was Pete Hoekstra‘s defense. 


HOEKSTRA:  I‘ve been leading on national security for the last nine years that I‘ve been on the Intelligence Committee. 


MADDOW:  Wait - you‘ve been what on national security? 


HOEKSTRA:  I‘ve been leading on national security. 


MADDOW:  Oh, I thought he said leaking.  I thought he said he had been leaking on national security because that is true.  He has been doing that. 

It was my friend Steve Benen at “Washington Monthly” who coined the term “the human sieve” to describe Congressman Pete Hoekstra, because Hoekstra is pathologically unable to keep classified information to himself.  He is incapable of not leaking. 

In 2007, Mr. Hoekstra wrote an op-ed for “The New York Post” in which he complained about intelligence leaks.  Quote, “Leaks to the news media have seriously undermined anti-terrorist intelligence programs.” 

Then, two paragraphs down, he leaked the up-until-then classified information that the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Bill had cut human intelligence programs.  Pete Hoekstra‘s complaint about leaks and his own leak were separated by 43 words. 

Then, there was his trip to Iraq last year.  Usually when members of Congress take trips to war zones, we get to see pictures of what they did and where they went only after they get home safely.  Usually, they like to keep the details of these trips on the down-low while they‘re actually there in order to protect those American officials.

But when Pete Hoekstra went to Iraq in February of last year, he incessantly tweeted his whereabouts in real time.  So anyone with Internet access would know the exact location of him and his Congressional delegation full of high-value insurgent targets at any moment. 

At 1:41 a.m. on February 6th, quote, “Just landed in Baghdad.”  Then, helpfully if you lost track of him and you wanted to know exactly where he was and where he was heading next, at 3:56 a.m., he tweeted, quote, “Moved into green zone by helicopter.  Iraqi flag now over palace.  Headed to new U.S. Embassy.  Still time to meet me there.” 


Then, there was the time in ‘06 when Pete Hoekstra pushed the Bush administration to post box loads of documents from the fallen Iraqi government online.  Documents that included, it turned out, nuclear bomb-making instructions. 

They put on the Internet a basic guide to building an atom bomb, real actual nuclear bomb-making instructions in Arabic posted on the interwebs.  National security leadership from Congressman Pete Hoekstra who will be a Congressman no more, nor will he be a Michigan governor. 

So farewell to Pete Hoekstra.  Honestly, I wish you good luck in whatever your future holds.  And for all our sake, I hope that whatever your future holds does not involve any sensitive information. 




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