Guests: John Stanton, Heather Gerken
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now, to discuss why Republicans love the Constitution so much, they can‘t wait to change all of it—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. We‘ve had a big day civics work today, down at my end of the hall, going through all the amendments. I‘m sorry if any of the sort of nerd stuff wafted down your way.
OLBERMANN: Well, we‘re used to it by now.
MADDOW: I‘m sorry. You notice that we‘re all wearing calculator watches, too. I think the staff is going in the wrong direction.
OLBERMANN: Good luck with that.
MADDOW: Thank you. Appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. You thought I was kidding about the calculator watch, didn‘t you? We all wear them ever since Geek Week.
All right. This next hour, it‘s sort of news you don‘t expect.
Congress is in Washington at a time we never expect Congress to be in Washington.
A whole lot of police officers have detained at gun point someone you really never expect police to detain at gunpoint.
Someone no one expects to do an interview on this TV show seems to concede that maybe she‘ll do an interview on this TV show.
And that controversy about the really anti-gay Republican candidate getting money from Target and Best Buy—that controversy takes a whiplash completely unexpected turn into hair band territory—as in hair band.
Anyway, all that unexpectedly big news is coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with a programming note. Tomorrow in the great state of Arizona, the Maddow blog which is not me but it is the awesome blog of this show which is in fact better than this show. The Maddow blog is going on a field trip. Laura and Bill, from our staff, are going to the border town of Nogales, Arizona, to help us do some reporting on the Arizona immigration issue.
After they‘re done in Nogales, they‘re going to be hosting a Maddow blog watch party in Tucson tomorrow night. You can check out Maddowblog.MSNBC.com if you‘re interested in that, if you‘re going to be anywhere near Tucson.
Because of the Maddow blog, because Laura and Bill are headed to Nogales, we have been checking out local news there to see what‘s getting covered these days in Nogales, Arizona—and everybody else in the country has been talking about places like Nogales, essentially behind its back, because of the Arizona immigration scapegoating. But we wanted to find out what Nogales itself has been talking about. That‘s the idea behind the reporting trip and that‘s the idea behind why we‘ve been reading their local paper.
Here‘s the front page headline of the “Nogales International” newspaper from Friday. “County Cuts Service: 879 streetlights to turn off.”
To save $90,000, cash-strapped Santa Cruz County in Arizona has decided to turn out the lights, to let 879 streetlights go dark. Times are tough right, like they are everywhere in the country. And this is Santa Cruz County‘s effort to tighten its fiscal belt. They are shutting off the lights.
And, you know, it‘s not just Nogales, Arizona, that is experiencing darker than normal nights right now. Last year, the city of Santa Rosa, California, decided to do the same thing. They removed 6,000 streetlights and turned off another 3,000 more after midnight, an effort to save the city 400 grand.
Earlier this year, officials in Pittsburg, Massachusetts, shut off more than 3,000 of their streetlights.
Colorado Springs, Colorado, turned off about 8,000 of theirs. Colorado Springs has also dropped more than 40 of its police officers. And I kid you not—they have auctioned off their police helicopters. Not because crime of is over—wa-hoo—in Colorado Springs. It‘s because they‘re broke.
Philadelphia has decided to shut down three fire companies every day and three every night—rolling firefighting brownouts in order to try to save Philadelphia some cash.
“The Wall Street Journal” reported recently on the growing number of places across the country where local governments are unpaving the roads. They are turning paved roads into gravel roads because paved roads too expensive to maintain. It is not one little town‘s whacky Luddite solution. It‘s happening in North Dakota, more than 100 miles of road in South Dakota, in 38 counties in Michigan, and it‘s happening in Ohio, and it‘s happening in Alabama, and it‘s happening in Pennsylvania.
Which means that somewhere in China, it is entirely possible that a business person sat down for a ride on a 200-mile-an-hour state-of-the-art levitating bullet train and crack open “The Wall Street Journal” and read about how in America, we‘ve decided we can‘t afford paved roads anymore.
Consider also Clayton County, Georgia. Clayton County, Georgia, decided to solve its budget crisis by ending its public bus service. Not cutting back the number of buses, not suspending bus routes, but shutting down its bus service altogether. More than 8,000 people who rely on that bus service every single day to get to work or school, they are totally out of luck.
Speaking of school, that is where the state of Hawaii has decided to look to for an answer to its budget woes. Public schools in Hawaii have been implementing a four-day school week, just not opening schools on Fridays. Hawaii schools close there are doors on 17 Fridays over the past school year.
Just make do, moms and dads. How are you going to deal with the childcare issue?
Hawaii, of course, is the home state of President Obama, who made the case today that short-changing education, doing thing like say, cutting down the number of school days, is actually counterproductive to keeping the U.S. economy going.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The single most important thing we can do is to make sure we‘ve got a world class education system for everybody. That is a prerequisite for prosperity.
Education is an economic issue. Education is the economic issue of our time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If that‘s the case, if education is the economic issue of our time, then how exactly is our economy affected by just lopping a whole day of instruction off the school week? How exactly is our economy affected by 46,000 education jobs being lost over the past three months?
In order to prevent more of that, in order to prevent thing like cops and firefighters being laid off and street lights being shut off, something extraordinary is happening in politics this week. Members of the House of Representatives are returning to Washington during their August recess to vote emergency funding for states and local governments—a $26 billion state aid bill that will among other things prevent thousands of teachers from being laid off, which is—if you ask Tea Party activists—it‘s a horrible idea to try to stop teachers from being laid off. Tea Party activists have reportedly planned protests against the aid package in at least a dozen states.
“The Hill” newspaper says, quote, “The activists are upset over $10 billion in the package for a fund to stop teacher layoffs. They argue that states have hired far too many teachers in the last decade and they should be downsizing the pool of teachers rather than asking for a federal bailout.” See, it‘s a bailout now.
That‘s the argument. Class sizes are too small. We need to fire some more teachers, America.
Apparently agreeing with the tea partiers are House Republicans, the vast majority of whom are expected to vote against that state aid bill tomorrow. Earlier today, soon-to-be former Republican congressman, Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, tweeted this. Quote, “On the way to D.C., vote on more deficit/stimulus spending. Spending is destroying America. Time to stop. I‘ll vote no.”
The number three House Republicans, Mike Pence, stated his opposition to the bill this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: I have to tell you, I think the American people are tired of more spending, more bailouts, and I think they‘re going to be frustrated with Congress coming back from a recess when we should be listening to the American people to do more of the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For the record, Mike Pence, along with a number of other Republicans, are now railing against the state aid bill for teachers and cops and firefighters while simultaneously arguing to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans—against the state aid bill, which by the way is totally paid for and wouldn‘t be added to the deficit, they‘re against that. But they are for tax cuts, which are not paid for, and which would add about—roughly $700 billion to the deficit.
Republicans are essentially arguing that rich people can‘t go back to the tax rates they were paying during the Clinton years. In order to prevent rich people from having to go back to those tax rates, in order to prevent that horror movie, we‘re all going to have to take a kick in the teeth. We‘re going to have to just load $700 billion on to the deficit. Sure, it will hurt, it‘s awful, but do it for the rich people. They hurt so bad in the ‘90s, we can never ask them to go back to that.
Now, as for you people who have kids in public schools, you folks are going to have to suffer. We are cutting teachers, we are cutting cops, we‘re cutting firefighters, we‘re cutting streetlights, we‘re cutting buses, we are literally unpaving the roads for you—because spending for you is wrong and it‘s bad for America. Spending for the richest people in the country to have a giant $700 billion tax cut, that‘s right. That‘s good for America.
It‘s a hell of a choice heading into the fall.
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor.
Ezra, good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, the House is planning to vote on this state aid bill tomorrow at a time they‘re usually not even in Washington. How important is this bill?
KLEIN: It‘s something you‘ll be used to hearing about Congress—it‘s an important bill but it doesn‘t go far enough. This bill was originally wrapped in a much larger bill that the House passed out. I believe those run $200 billion. Not every penny was state aid but a lot more of it was. And so, we are going to get into some of the things that are politically defensible hear, popular to hear? Teachers is a big one, obviously and then Medicaid funding, because governors in different states have just been screaming for it. They need help with Medicaid.
But there are a lot of other things, as you noted, that won‘t get funded here. And it‘s because they‘ve not been able to pick up the votes for it. This bill has gotten whittled down and, as you would expect from that, these state budgets are going to get whittled down in sort of state job rolls.
MADDOW: Well, the argument against this state aid bill, the reason they‘re having to do with it this crazy last-minute jump back into session thing that they‘re having to do now is because Republicans resisted it by saying, “Listen, the economy is really bad. So therefore, we can‘t spend money on things like this.”
What would be the economic effect of spending a lot of money in the states right now?
KLEIN: People would be—people would be unemployed. We tend to talk about this in two ways, right?
One is the macro economic effect. You keep people employed. They don‘t go to the unemployed rolls. They‘re able to spend money in their towns and their communities. That means, you know, the grocery store—the grocery store doesn‘t to have lay people off—and on and on and on and on and on.
This is not some sort of weird economic theory. If you fire a teacher, they don‘t have a job. They‘re unemployed. There‘s no disagreement about that among anyone.
On the other hand, too, we don‘t—and we don‘t, I think, talk about this enough. So, I was happy to hear it in your intro. There are actual services that we will lose here.
We will lose teachers—which means kids will have larger classes. We will lose firefighters and policemen. You will call 911 and the line will be busy. You will lose streetlights. You will lose infrastructure.
This is not good long run. I mean, the real dangerous thing and one of—in a recession like this or in a downturn like this, we‘re not in a recession anymore, is that you will destroy long term growth at the cost of short term. So, for short term politics, you will reduce the deficit. In doing so, you will cut down the thing we need in long term, like the University of California system or like your roads.
MADDOW: In the arguing over this, the other thing that‘s happening is sort of federal versus state. You‘ve got people like Mitch Daniels and others, out there saying, listen, the states are to blame for their budget problems. And any states that are doing OK are effectively being called on to subsidize states that were irresponsible. Republican Congressman Mike Pence is derisively referring to this bill as a state bailout bill.
How do you feel about that accusation?
KLEIN: It‘s is really baffling. Before the crisis hit, the states had record rainy day funds. So, a rainy day fund, they put away surplus money to be there for them if they need it in a recession. It was at an absolute record level. We‘ve never rainy day funds that large in American history.
But then, of course, we didn‘t just have a recession. We have other the largest recession since the Great Depression. It wasn‘t because Indiana or Nevada or any of these other states did a bad job regulating Wall Street or regulating global capital post (ph). This was a global economic crash.
And so, the rainy day funds weren‘t enough. The idea that, in fact, what we saw is that all 50 states in the Union simply were horribly economically mismanaged all at once simply doesn‘t pass a lab test. And now, this sort of “beggar thy neighbor” politicking you have from these who governors have an eye on 2012 is really going to be a problem.
I mean, Indiana took the stimulus funds. It needed those funds. It‘s doing a bit better than its neighbors. And so, now, that Indiana is a little out of its hole, it‘s going to turn and say, ha-ha, Nevada, this one is all your fault.
This is not good way to ham it because at the end of the day, we‘re still a country here. And if we as a country are not a good place to invest because our schools are terrible, because our roads are crap, you know, that money is going to go. It‘s going to go to China. It‘s going to go to Europe. It‘s going to go to places that have figured something else out.
Actually, maybe not Europe at the moment. They‘re not doing very well either.
MADDOW: Well, any place that actually has schools say, five days a week, or roads that are going to be more paved than less paved has one up us on at this point, which is absolutely amazing.
Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor—thanks for your time tonight, Ezra.
KLEIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, you know how we always talk about politics with the vague sports metaphor of keeping score, statements like points on the board, keeping score, who‘s up, who‘s down—well, there‘s one way, one very specific electrical way in which that is not a metaphor. There is a physical scoreboard in American politics. And we‘re getting a new one. That‘s next.
MADDOW: Hears how you keep score in Congress. Not metaphorically, not politically, but literally.
See those little screens up there at the top there? This is how you score how votes are going in Congress. It‘s like the basketball scoreboard at my high school. It‘s all little names and then you get red for no or green for yes. That‘s how you watch a vote unfold when it is taking place in the House of Representatives.
Here‘s how you know that Congress, all of a sudden, being back in session today in the middle of what‘s usually the August recess, really truly wasn‘t planned in advance. Here‘s how you know: there‘s no scoreboard in Congress right now. The architect of the Capitol took advantage of the August recess this year—the planned August recess this year—to replace the scoreboard, after 30 years, with a more energy efficient LED thingy.
But, now, unexpectedly, Congress has come back. Quick! Un-invite everyone from the party. Mom and dad are coming back from vacation early.
The old scoreboard is down. The new one is not ready. So, the interim fix is four 50-inch televisions that have been borrowed from the Capitol Visitor Center that have been pressed into service to display this session‘s surprise August recess-timed votes.
One note to the architect of the Capitol: if you‘re not going to use the old one that you took down, may we please have it? I will pick it up myself. I have a pickup. I will pay the shipping. Please, we may, please.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uh-oh! It sounds like somebody‘s got a case of the Mondays.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, in August, every Monday, everybody has a case of
How you feel today? It‘s normal. That normal lousy August Monday feeling that you‘re having would, in fact, probably be worse today if you were a member of Congress—because this time of year, they are never supposed to be working. This is August recess time. They are never in D.C.
But the House of Representatives right now in D.C. is in session—called back to vote on that money for the states bill that we talk about with Ezra Klein at the top of the show.
But they‘re back to do one other hard-to-believe thing. They‘re back to close Congress. They‘re back to shut Congress down from the elections, all the way through to the start January. Republicans have employed a rarely used tactic, a privilege resolution to force a vote on their very urgent desire to close Congress between November 2nd and January 3rd. Perhaps jealous of the Senate where the minority has figured out how the stop the body from working even if they haven‘t technically shut it down, House Republicans think they might have figured out how to grind their side of Congress to a halt as well.
If Congress meets after an election but before the people elected get sworn in, it‘s called a lame-duck session. Republicans are trying to raise fears that a lame-duck session of Congress this year would be some kind of liberal conspiracy—a liberal conspiracy that must be stopped. Only Democrats would ever want Congress to meet and do stuff after an election!
Even the Republicans have used lame-duck sessions in the past to do everything from impeaching President Clinton for lying about a thing you can‘t say on television, to the Republican-led largest expansion of the federal government since World War II, aka, the Department of Homeland Security. Not to mention making the biggest changes to U.S. intelligence gathering since the founding of the CIA, when they created the Directorate of National Intelligence. All of that has been done in lame-duck sessions before.
But not this year—not this year. This year, Republicans want the months of November and December reserved strictly for not working, as a matter of urgency.
Joining us now, John Stanton, reporter for “Roll Call” newspaper.
John, it‘s good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
JOHN STANTON, ROLL CALL: Sure.
MADDOW: When I heard that Republicans wanted to try to shut down Congress for November and December, I was not very surprised, but I was surprised that this big idea of theirs is actually going to come up for a vote. What is this privileged resolution idea they‘ve used to get it to come up?
STANTON: Well, it‘s one of the few ways that the minority party in the House has to sort of make their voice heard, I guess, on the House floor. Although ironically, they‘re not actually going to be voting on the resolution, it doesn‘t look like. They‘re going to actually vote on a vote as to whether or not they should vote on the resolution—which is pretty classic Congress, frankly.
And it will likely fail. Democrats—it sort of gives some Democrats who don‘t want to get caught voting against it, you know, some cover to say, well, I didn‘t actually vote against it, I just thought it was inappropriate to vote on it. So—but it‘s is largely a political tool. That‘s it.
MADDOW: It is a strange thing for them to be grappling over given how frequently we have Congress in session after elections. I mean, if there were a lame duck session this year, would it that be weird? Is it something that doesn‘t usually happen or something?
STANTON: Before sort of the actual Clinton impeachment, it was fairly rare. It would happen every once in a while, mostly to do spending bills. But starting in sort of 1994 when the Republican revolution happened and the partisanship in the House and Senate got pretty bad, they started to become more common. Ironically, sort of the first of the string of them was, in fact, the impeachment.
And I believe, every year since, they‘ve had some sort of a lame-duck session—most of the time going until pretty much Christmas.
MADDOW: What is the very, very, very scary liberal conspiracy thing that is likely to get passed during this year‘s lame-duck session? I mean, Republicans have been really trying to get their base very scared about what might happen this year.
STANTON: Well, the thing that they throw out there is the climate change bill obviously. But that has no chance of passing. In the Senate, they don‘t to have votes for it now. They didn‘t have frankly the votes last year to do it. And with the sort of new dynamics, there‘s just no way.
The one thing that I think could pass, which some Republicans probably think is scary, is the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” That will be part of Defense Authorization Bill and it‘s sort of a weird vote for Republicans, frankly, because they always vote for the Defense Authorization Bill because they like to be strong on defense. But in this case, with the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal in it, some of them really don‘t want to deal with it.
MADDOW: So, the prospect of voting against all the funding for the Pentagon just because you don‘t want people who have the gay to be in the military is sort of awkward for them.
MADDOW: Yes, gotcha.
STANTON: Very much.
MADDOW: John Stanton, reporter for “Roll Call” newspaper—thanks for helping us understand this tonight. John, appreciate it.
STANTON: No problem.
MADDOW: So, if the question is when would we as a show like to have Sharron Angle join us for an interview? The answer is: any time. Seriously, I would make it work. I have an optometrist appointment that was really hard to get, I would totally drop that—anything.
The prospect of being a guest on this show was raised yesterday to the famously, selectively media shy Nevada Republican Senate candidate, Ms. Angle. And I got to tell you, she did not say no. She did say some other things, but she didn‘t say no. So, we live and hope.
That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: Check this out. Watch this video. This is video shot over the week by a Mexican TV station called TV Azteca, and we got some other video from “Reuters.”
If it looks like what you‘re seeing here is police officers fighting other police officers, police officers punching each other out and shoving each other around, cop on cop, that‘s because that‘s what it is. These are federal police officers assigned to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. It‘s right over the border from El Paso, Texas.
To fight drug cartels in Juarez four years ago, Mexico sent in the army to help local police. Juarez stayed pretty disastrous and dangerous. So, the send the army strategy ended four months ago and the government instead sent in the federal police. They sent in a 5,000 strong federal police force to assist the locals there.
Now, it‘s been reported that at least 20 of those federal police officers have been killed since they took over in Juarez—which is part of what led to this incredible situation on Saturday. On Saturday, a group of about 200 federal police officers, some of them, you can see in some of this tape, they‘re wearing masks. They stormed a hotel where one of their own commanders was living.
After pushing past about 100 fellow federal police officers who were trying to protect their own commander, the mutineer police broke into the commander‘s hotel room. They say they found weapons and drugs. They were accusing him of helping the drug cartels participating in kidnappings and killings, and they‘re accusing him of planning drug on officers who wouldn‘t cooperate with him so he could then blackmail them into doing what he wanted.
The officers held their own commander at gunpoint and demanded that his superior officer in Mexico City suspend him and investigate him for corruption. The mutineer police officers got what they wanted. The commander and three others were suspended. They were transferred to Mexico City where now authorities say they will be investigated.
I don‘t know if you‘re allowed to call it vigilante justice when the vigilantes are themselves police officers. We will keep you posted on this, as will a lot of the U.S. media, particularly if the mutineer vigilante police officers keep letting camera crews show them doing stuff that is this nuts.
MADDOW: The last time our political leaders voted to change our country‘s Constitution, the last time they passed an amendment to one of our founding documents was almost 20 years ago, in 1992. It was the 27th Amendment and it prevents Congress from giving itself a raise.
Salary changes cannot go into effect until the next Congressional session. Not exactly an issue that recalibrated society, but still, an achievement when you consider that that amendment was first proposed 202 years earlier.
Changing the Constitution is really hard to do. The last Constitutional Amendment to pass before the 27th, before the salary rule, was 20 years before that. It was the 26th Amendment that established the natural voting age at 18 years old.
Constitutional amendments are very difficult to get through. Take the - take the Equal Rights Amendment, for example. It affirms that men and women have equal rights under the law. Simple enough, right?
Au contraire, mon frere. The ERA was first introduced in 1923 just a few years after women won the right to vote, you know, like actual citizens. And then, for the next, say, 50-ish years, the amendment was introduced in every single Congressional session, everyone, without ever passing by the necessary two-thirds in both houses of Congress and the required ratification in 38 states.
In 1970, a Senate subcommittee began hearings. Oh, yes, that‘s right - a subcommittee, hearings, progress. And the next two years, the ERA was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate, 84 to eight. It also passed in the House. It had seven years then to be ratified by the states.
Seven years later - yes, nothing. Still no Equal Rights Amendment - still no Constitutional amendment saying men and women are equal. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, it was the same story - failure.
Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to actually oppose the ERA. The National Organization for Women launched campaign after campaign, demonstration after demonstration.
At one point, it just falls three states short of ratification. The ERA came really, really close. Over a span of decades, they were fighting for it, but it still failed. And while its 85-plus year history is a neat civics lesson, it is also illustrative of today‘s conservative and Republican party politics and the limits thereof.
If you were proposing a constitutional amendment to declare kittens undeniably fluffy and attractive, you would still be wise to have a plan B, because even the most uncontroversial constitutional amendment is hard to pass. Structurally, it is one of those things that was set up to be hard to pass.
That means that right now, if somebody‘s big policy idea about why they want to you send them to Congress is because they‘re planning on amending the Constitution, if that‘s someone‘s platform as a politician, that politician is either very ambitious or knows something that we don‘t know, or that person is sort of blowing smoke.
Honestly, Bucko, you‘re not going to amend the Constitution. You‘re really not going to do what you say you‘re going to do. It is amazing when you look at that history about how hard it is to amend the Constitution.
And then, you look at the fact that constitutional amendments right now are sort of the bread and butter of what many conservative politicians running for office right now are running for office on.
This is what they‘re proposing. There has, of course, been all this controversy recently about the 14 Amendment. The fact that Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, Jon Kyl and Mitch McConnell and Minnesota Government Tim Pawlenty, not to mention the New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate all support repealing it, or at least looking into the idea of repealing it.
But it is not just the 14th Amendment. Conservatives and Republicans - if you go back through the George W. Bush administration, they have supported and proposed constitutional amendments for everything.
They want to outlaw flag burning, bolster victims‘ rights in criminal proceeding, outlaw abortions, mandate a balanced budget, outlaw gay marriage, codify the right to school prayer, make some vague gesture toward the already legally-established notion of parental rights, require a super-majority to raise taxes, grant the District of Columbia a representative in Congress, but only one, set term limits in Congress, and of course, repeal the aforementioned the 14th and the 17th Amendments.
The Citizenship Amendment, of course, the Equal Protection Amendment, and the 17th is the one that says you get to vote for who your senator is. Conservatives hate idea now, apparently.
So when you go to a town hall meeting or you attend a debate between candidates this summer or fall, or say, someone running for office pops by your hotdog stand looking for your vote. If that candidate starts saying to you that the reason they want to go to Washington is because they‘re planning on amending the Constitution, it is OK to laugh at them.
It‘s like asking your kid how he‘s going to get his grades up in math and he tells you that he‘s not planning on studying anymore. He‘s planning on buying a math superhero costume and letting that take care of the problem.
Politicians promising to amend the Constitution are really probably not really going to amend the Constitution. They are trying to win votes and raise money and get attention from their promise of amending the Constitution. If you want to get to reality, ask them what they plan to do in the meantime while they‘re waiting for their Constitutional amendment to come through. And remember, it is OK to laugh at them while you say it.
Joining us is Heather Gerken. She is a law professor at Yale University. Professor Gerken, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us.
HEATHER GERKEN, LAW PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Let me start with the premise that I just outlined there, that it‘s gosh darn difficult to amend the Constitution. Do you think that‘s a fair assessment?
GERKEN: I think that‘s a quite fair assessment. I mean, in 220 years, we‘ve only done it 17 times. So the first 10 went through pretty quickly. But after that, it has taken a while. And it usually requires something pretty huge to get a constitutional amendment through.
MADDOW: Well, are there certain types of constitutional amendments that historically have been easier to pass than others?
GERKEN: Well, the sort of “oops” amendments when they realized they wrote something in the Constitution or failed to write something in the Constitution that really ought to be there.
So in 1800, when the country nearly fell apart over the presidential race, they amended the Constitution and gave us the 12th Amendment and the Electoral College. Or after FDR, they realized they really need to think about how many terms a president could serve. Or after Kennedy‘s assassination, they realized they had needed to think about presidential succession.
So these are kind of “oops” amendments. There are things that would have been nice to have there in the first place. But once you realized they need to be there, it‘s quite easy to pass because they‘re perfectly sensible and easy to figure out.
And the other half of the amendments are the ones that are hard to get. Sometimes they involve huge amounts of time and years and years of work. At one point, three of them involved a Civil War. So those are the ones where we are trying to catch up to our Democratic credentials when we sort of remember that this really isn‘t a country that‘s supposed to be controlled by white male property holders. And those are the things that are tough to get through as a general matter and they really took a fight.
MADDOW: When politicians say to Americans that they promised to amend the Constitution - I feel like in every election, there has always been somebody saying something about how they were going to amend the Constitution. It just seems notable now that it is happening for - so many different politicians saying they want to repeal multiple amendments and there are so many that have been proposed in the past decade and so many of them are on the conservative side.
I just - it makes me wonder if this is a dog whistle thing, if it means something politically, other than what it means literally. Because these - as literal promises, these seem rather meaningless.
GERKEN: Right. I mean, every time you hear a politician, anyone with political experiences says - you sort of want to say, “Have you cracked open your history book lately?” This takes a lot of work to get an amendment through.
Even though, in some ways, they‘re appealing to this deep intuition that Americans have which is, I think, one of the best intuitions, which is that the Constitution belongs to us and we have a right to change it when we want to change it.
But you do something - really, what they‘re talking about is a deep unease that Americans have in some parts of the country with what‘s going on now. And the way you tap into that unease is to talk about our Constitution that it is our Constitution.
So whether or not in the end of the day, it is really just a cynical rhetorical claim, they‘re speaking to people in a language that Americans understand.
MADDOW: Does threatening to change the Constitution, even if you can‘t pull it off, even if you can‘t actually amend it - historically, has that had an effect on our laws or even constitutional interpretation even if the amendment itself hasn‘t actually worked?
GERKEN: Well, this is what is so interesting. They said sometimes, you can amend the Constitution without amending the Constitution. So you just talk about the ERA. It‘s a great example as my colleague, Reeva Segal(ph), has pointed out. The people who worked for the ERA actually got everything they wanted by moving for the ERA.
They never actually got it into the texts of the Constitution. But everything that was embodied in that amendment was eventually given to them by the Supreme Court. So why did that happen?
Well, they used the ERA as an organizing tool. They changed people‘s minds about the place of women in society. And nine of the people whose minds were changed were sitting on the Supreme Court.
And those justices eventually began to read the broad part of the Constitution in a way that was perfectly consistent with the ERA. So they got the constitutional amendment. It just isn‘t in the text.
MADDOW: And it just took 85 years, roughly.
GERKEN: It did take a little while.
MADDOW: Heather Gerken, law professor at Yale University. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. It‘s really a pleasure to have you on the show.
GERKEN: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” part of Greenland fell off. But global warming is a liberal myth, so don‘t worry. Coming up on this show, I give Sharron Angle my E-mail address. We have so much to talk about. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: The ongoing controversy about Target and Best Buy supporting a really anti-gay cause takes a strange, strange turn into hair band territory. That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: Over the weekend, San Diego, California played host to a three-hour National Doctors‘ Tea Party Rally in the name of freedom, freedom specifically from health reform. Among the festivities, a special musical appearance by Ricky Lee Jackson, M.D. a.k.a. Rick, the doctor, whose song, “We‘re Going to Have A Par-tea - get it, P-A-R-T-E-A - partea. Our own Kent Jones breaking on through to the other side, so to speak.
That‘s never going to get old. As rocking as the entertainment was, this National Doctors‘ Tea Party Rally was sponsored by the rather mainstream-sounding Association of Physicians and Surgeons, members of whom - members of which showed up in white coats to protest health care reform, having already endeared themselves to America by E-mailing out racist images of Barack Obama as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose.
They‘ve also spread the really freaking disgusting conspiracy theory that HIV doesn‘t cause AIDS. That‘s the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons designed specifically to not sound crazy.
Those are the people who sponsored the doctors‘ tea party this weekend. Despite the strong whiff of kook wafting off of that event, a U.S. Senate candidate from a neighboring state, Republican Sharron Angle of Nevada, was apparently happy to serve as their keynote speaker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE (R-NV), SENATE CANDIDATE: Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for standing up for freedom and liberty. We understand our Constitution and that our Founding Fathers had it right.
They knew that the answer to the problem, the solution to the problem, was not the government. The government is not the solution. The government is the problem. It is we the people that are the solution.
We need to take back our economy. And we can do that through passing some laws like the repeal of Obama-care. That will be a take-back. Remember, that we have the right angle to defeat Harry Reid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The right angle. Angle - Sharron Angle - you‘re awesome. You might have thought that was sort of it for this story. But after the event, a man who was most decidedly not acting on behalf of this show - I just want to say that and be very clear about it - approached Sharron Angle in person, approached her and her staff, and asked her quite pointedly, “Why won‘t you go on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW?” Sharron Angle‘s answer to the question surprised us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGLE: I‘m not sure that that was ever a question. Does she want to talk about Obama-care?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she does. And she wants to - she‘s -
ANGLE: Let‘s talk about - let‘s talk about Obama care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I‘m not sure if that was ever a question. Our staff has continually reached out to Ms. Angle with repeated interview requests to no avail. In case, for some reason the messages have been lost, here it goes again. Ms. Angle, I would love to have you on the show - love to, love to, love to, love to.
You would have a fair, very uninterrupted chance to make your case. And you would reach a whole lot of people who have only had the chance to hear what I think of you. And those people would very much love to hear what you think of you.
That said, given the lack of response to our repeated requests and the propensity for Ms. Angle to run from media questions even at her own press conference at one point, I am discouraged at my prospects for actually getting an interview.
Then again, when I listen again to what she said when she was asked about it, I sort of feel like there might be hope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGLE: I‘m not sure that that was ever a question. Does she want to talk about Obama care?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. She does, and she wants to. She is -
ANGLE: Let‘s talk about - let‘s talk about Obama care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I will talk to you about Obama anything. I will talk to you about anything care. If I had only known that talking about Obama-care was the key to landing an interview with Sharron Angle, I would have agreed to an Obama-care only interview, if that‘s what it took.
I would be happy, thrilled, geeked out even to talk about that with you, Ms. Angle. Later in the video, I know that one of your representatives asked the man for a business card so they could follow up on the interview request. As he does not work for this show - he was on his own- he obviously did not have one.
This, as an official request to you to come on this show, is from me, Rachel Maddow. It‘s me. I work for me - firstname.lastname@example.org. Please. Please. Come on. Let‘s talk. It would be fun. It would be more fun than you think it would. Come on. Come on.
MADDOW: Tomorrow, Minnesota voters will take the first step in finding a replacement for their current governor and presidential hopeful, Tim - I‘m sorry. Tim Pawlenty who morphed from a seemingly moderate Republican into one who is for changing the 14th Amendment, for extending the Bush tax cuts without paying for them. And he is now against a mosque near Ground Zero, because it‘s his business.
So who could replace Mr. Charisma himself? Well, there are the major Democratic contenders - Fmr. Sen. Mark Dayton, Former State Representative Matt Intenza who, between them, have spent more than $7 million of their own money on the race, and the official party-endorsed candidate, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who has raised significantly less this year.
There are the independent candidates like Tom Horner and Rob Hahn, the latter producing this astounding campaign ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB HAHN (I-MN), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Rob Hahn. Tuesday‘s election is about leadership and honesty. I‘ve been up front about the fact my now ex-wife got a restraining order against me last year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And finally, there‘s Republican Minnesota state representative and gubernatorial candidate, Tom Emmer, the presumptive nominee on the Republican side, a man so polarizing that there is a nationwide boycott currently against retail giants, Target and Best Buy, for donating to a business PAC that is supporting Mr. Emmer.
Mr. Emmer‘s political dance card is filled up with pretty standard run-of-the-mill anti-gay conservative policy positions. He would like, for example, to amend the Constitution to keep gay people from marrying. That‘s sort of Republican orthodoxy at this point, nothing to write home or talk on TV about.
The fuel being added to the boycott fire with Target and Best Buy is not what Mr. Emmer has said as a state representative or in his campaign to be governor. It‘s actually more about his extracurricular activities.
Back in 2008, Mr. Emmer‘s campaign donated money to the You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministry, which was founded by this handsome fellow.
MADDOW: Turns out that‘s the real tape. We didn‘t mess that up. This really is the ministry‘s official band. It‘s called Junkyard Prophets. And according to the band‘s Web site, they were voted second best unsigned band in America. By whom?
The founder and the magnificent drummer in the ankle socks there is Bradlee Dean. That‘s Bradlee with two E‘s for those of you Googling at home. Mr. Dean doesn‘t only use the skins for his evangelical message. He uses his radio show as well.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BRADLEE DEAN, FOUNDER, YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CANNOT HIDE MINISTRY:
Muslims are calling for the execution of homosexuals in America. They themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality‘s an abomination.
If America won‘t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that. That‘s what you‘re seeing today in America.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Bradlee, with two E‘s, later clarified that he didn‘t really mean to sanction murder of gay people. He said quote, “We have never and will never call for the - we have never and will never call for the execution of homosexuals” which is nice.
But of course, he does still consider the gay to be an abomination and he has some other stuff that he said about the homosexuals which maybe is a little problematic given that he has been given money by a candidate for Republican governor.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BRADLEE: Here‘s the bottom line. They play the victim when in fact they‘re the predator. On average, they molest 117 people. On average, they molest 117 people before they‘re found out. How many kids have been destroyed? How many adults today have been destroyed because of crimes against nature? How many people have been violated because of that?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: 117 precisely. He counted. Now, it‘s no surprise that a conservative anti-gay candidate for office in a conservative anti-gay ministry have ties. Conservative anti-gay politics are nothing new. What‘s new, however, is that the politicians are giving money to the bands, homophobic bands, but bands nonetheless.
So why would a candidate for office, any office, make such a donation? Isn‘t it meant to be the other way around? Don‘t bands raise money for candidates not vice versa? Mr. Emmer‘s explanation is quote, “These are nice people.”
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