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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, February 18th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Jon Erpenbach


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  That interview with the congresswoman from California was incredible.  That tape was incredible last night, but it‘s great that you were able to get here on the air.  That was awesome.


MADDOW:  Thanks.

Thanks to you at home as well for joining us for the next hour.


You know, the team that won the Super Bowl in professional football this year is a team that doesn‘t have an owner.  It is a team collectively owned by 112,000 people, people who are fans of the team and who own it together.  The team is a nonprofit.

That team, of course, is from Wisconsin, from Green Bay, Wisconsin. 

It is hard to imagine them being from anywhere else.

This is what Wisconsin looks like, right?  This right here is the town of Union, Wisconsin.  Yes, I should have specified which one I meant, because actually there are seven towns in the state of Wisconsin that are called Union.  It‘s not north union and west union and east union, no, they‘re all called Union, Wisconsin.

There‘s a Union, Wisconsin, in Pierce County.  There‘s a Union, Wisconsin, in Burnett County.  There‘s a Union, Wisconsin, in Door County, where they make Death‘s Door gin, which is delicious.  There are seven towns in Wisconsin called Union, and they are all over the state.

You know the whole concept of unemployment insurance, that while you‘re employed, you essentially pay a small part of your paycheck as kind of an insurance premium for unemployment insurance, and if you get laid off, that system pays you unemployment benefits?  You know where we got that from?  Wisconsin.  Wisconsin enacted the nation‘s first unemployment compensation law in 1932.

You know the whole worker‘s comp idea, worker‘s compensation—you know where we got that from?  Wisconsin.  In 1911, Wisconsin passed the nation‘s first statewide worker‘s compensation law.

It eventually made it so employers had to provide payment, compensation to their employees if the employee got hurt on the job.  It made it so that employers would provide compensation for any loss of life or limb that occurred on the job.  It doesn‘t seem like that crazy an idea.  You get killed on the job or you lose an arm on the job, you and your family get compensation for that.

Everything we think of now as worker‘s compensation—thank you, Wisconsin.

When most of us think of Wisconsin now, we think about the Packers, Cheeseheads, cheese curds, “Laverne & Shirley,” “Happy Days,” “The Fonz”—oh, God, how I love “The Fonz.”  Hello, Mr. Winkler.  That‘s what we think of when we think about Wisconsin, right?

But for most of American history before now, when Americans have thought about Wisconsin, about what Wisconsin means to the rest of America, we have had to think about the rights of people who work for a living.  You know how today is Friday?  Oh, how I love Friday.

Friday—today was a particularly beautiful Friday here in New York City.  But even the worst day in the world is a good day if it is a Friday.  And why is that?  Because after Friday is the weekend—and for most people working most kinds of jobs in America, weekends are days off.  The whole concept of the weekend—again, thank you, Wisconsin!

The eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek was a national movement.  But seven protesters died in 1886 in Wisconsin while marching for the eight-hour workday and ultimately what we all know as the weekend.  That happened in Wisconsin 124 years ago.

The governor of Wisconsin at the time ordered the state militia to shoot to kill any protester who entered the mill that they were marching for that right.  The militia did open fire.  Seven protesters were killed.  Those lives were lost to that cause, but that cause prevailed.  And in all likelihood, you get tomorrow off.

In 1954, about 35 percent of wage and salary employees in America were in unions, about 35 percent.  By the year 2000, that was down to 13 percent.  By 2010, it was down to less than 12 percent.

Here‘s one thing to understand about what‘s going on in Wisconsin right now.  The national figure right now for belonging to a union is 11.9 percent, right?  That is the percentage of people who have full-time jobs in America who are in a union, that‘s it.

But if you divide that, if you‘re willing to look closely at that, you divide that into private sector and public sector, among people who work in private sector—only about 7 percent are in unions.  But among people who are in the public sector—boing—that number still pretty healthy.  In fact, that‘s about the same proportion of the whole country that was in a union back in 1954.  Remember those days—commonly referred to as the “Happy Days”?

More than one in three Fonzies was in a union back in the mid-1950s. 

And that is still true today of the Fonzies who work in the public sector.  Thirty-six percent of public sector employees in this country are in a union.

The biggest public sector union in the country was founded where?  Ah, Wisconsin.  The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was founded in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1935.  And less than a generation later, Wisconsin became one of the first states to establish collective bargaining rights for public sector employees in a union.

This is where this stuff comes from.  This is why even as the Middle East is blowing up right now and Congress has been in session until after midnight three nights this week, and Russia has undertaken a fake mission to Mars, that they admit is fake—even while there‘s all of this amazing stuff going on elsewhere in the world and in our own country and even in our own politics, this is why the eyes of the country are firmly fixed on Wisconsin.

This is why if the Republicans win in Wisconsin, if they beat the unions and break the unions in Wisconsin, they run the table in the rest of the country.  This is why if you can bust public unions in Wisconsin, you can bust them anywhere.

Wisconsin is where it started in our country.  Wisconsin is the alpha and the omega of the rights of people who work for a living in this country.  Wisconsinites are the people who gave that to the rest of the country.  They are the ones who set the standard.  They are the ones who died for it in some cases.

Do you want to know why Wisconsinites are fighting?

And we discussed on last night‘s show, the Republican Party has every reason in the world to try to break up unions right now.  The Republican Party has corporate America on their side, and, of course, corporate America has always wanted to break up unions.  That‘s why it was so hard to get those rights in the first place.

All of those traditional incentives in terms of business versus labor,

those still apply.  But the corporate split in American politics right now

in American politics right now makes the incentives here so direct for the Republican Party.  We talked about this last night on the show, and from the reaction we got last night and today, we seem to have touched a nerve here.


This is what big money in American politics looks like.  In 2008, the groups that spent the most money on elections were Chamber of Commerce, Freedom‘s Watch and the NRA, all in the right, and on the left, two unions:

the Service Employees International Union—which you may have heard described on FOX News as, you know, the root of all evil in the world—and the Wisconsin-founded public sector union that we talked about earlier, AFSCME.

The only top five big spenders for Democrats in 2008, the only top five big spenders for Democrats were unions.

And then look what happened in the next election, look what happened in 2010.  Look what happened after the Citizen United ruling, the big money on the right skyrocketed.  Of the top 10 outside spending groups in last year‘s elections, seven of them were right wing groups, groups like the Chamber of Commerce, and Karl Rove‘s organizations, which are mostly funded by billionaires.  Conservative groups like the American Future Fund.

The only non-conservative groups that cracked the top 10 in the last election were the Public Employees Union and the SEIU, and the teachers union, that‘s it.  In terms of large scale money spent in elections, unions are the only competition that Republicans have.  The are the only institution of any side, on the liberal side of the—any size on the liberal side of the equation.

Corporate America—essentially all of corporate America is on the Republican side.  The only institutions of any size with any heft at all on the liberal side are the unions.

After the Citizens United ruling came out, this ruling that allows corporations to spend endlessly on elections, you know, the defensive explanation given by many on the right about why that ruling wasn‘t just stacking every election in the Republicans‘ favor, their defensive explanation for that was, hey, you know, unions can spend endlessly, too.  That‘s why it was supposedly a fair ruling for both sides.

But, OK, if you crush the unions, let‘s say you get those public sector unions down from 30 something percent employees down to like 7 percent where they are for the private sector, let‘s say you do that, then the only remaining institutions spending endlessly on elections will be corporations.  The only institutions that will benefit from Citizens United to be able to spend endlessly on elections, who can spend endlessly will be corporations—corporations who donate money disproportionately to right wing groups and spend on Republican candidates.

The Chamber of Commerce‘s donations in the last election cycle were 93 percent Republican, 93 percent.  And nobody spent more than they did.

In terms of substantial game-changing money players in politics, unions are it.  They are the only big players on the liberal side.  They are the only—only fish of any real size on the liberal side.  And so, they must be destroyed.

The Republican Party right now has the most direct incentive you can possible imagine to use public policy to destroy unions.  Thirty-six percent of public employees are unionized?  Oh, no, that cannot stand.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  Where the public unions all together, get rid of them.

ST. SEN. GLENN GROTHMAN ®, WISCONSIN:  Personally, I can‘t see this guy Walker would.  Personally, I would, yes.

MATTHEWS:  You‘d like to get rid of the unions.  So, you don‘t believe in collective bargaining for employees, period?

GROTHMAN:  No, I don‘t think public need collective bargaining. 

That‘s correct.


MADDOW:  That‘s correct.  Public employees should not be in unions, says the Republican state senator from Wisconsin.

Democrats do not tend to think like this.  But Republicans, influenced by conservative movement, they are pretty good at taking the long view, about using public policy for partisan purposes.  This is one thing they actually do really like government for—using public policy to dismantle the institutions that make it possible for Democrats to win elections.

So, what‘s happening right now in Wisconsin with this effort to dismantle, get rid of public sector unions—that‘s going to happen in Ohio.  It‘s going to happen in New Jersey.  It‘s going to happen in Indiana.  It‘s going to happen all over the country wherever there are Republican governors.  It‘s to make public sector unions go away.

In terms of high level money, which is not a romantic idea, but decides who wins election by and large—in terms of high level money, unions are the only competition Republicans have, so they are under assault by public policy.  They are under assault by Republican governors.  It is the same reasoning that explains why Republicans in states all over the country this year, like they have for many years, are also trying to make it harder to register to vote.

Is there a voter fraud epidemic in this country?  No.  There‘s almost no serious evidence of voter fraud anywhere in the country.  But if you make it harder to register to vote, then you make it harder to register new voters—and that is something the Democratic Party has long relied on for its electoral strength.

First time voters, young voters, immigrant citizen voters, those people tend to vote Democratic.  And so, the process to get them signed up must be stopped.

The last time any legislators did what these Wisconsin senators have done, the last time any legislators fled their own state to try to block their legislature from doing something, it was over again Republicans using public policy for partisan purposes—using public policy to try to institutionally disadvantage the Democratic Party so Democrats can‘t win elections.  It was in the great state of Texas.  It actually relates to the thing that Tom DeLay is going to jail for.

Tom DeLay took corporate money.  He laundered it through the National Republican Party in order to engineer a restructuring of the Texas congressional delegation, so that four fewer Democrats and four more Republicans would go to the U.S. Congress from Texas.

To stop the legislature from doing that, Democrats in Texas fled the state.  They went to Oklahoma first, and then later, they went to New Mexico.

But you know how that one ended?  It ended when one of the Democrats who fled the state gave into the pressure from Republicans and came back—which is all that Republicans needed.  They only needed one.  They passed their plan.  Ultimately, the Texas congressional delegation lost four Democrats and gained four Republicans.

The institutional balance of power shifted.  When the Democrats fled the state to stop Republicans from using public policy to institutionally shift the balance of power in the state, to institutionalize Republican rule, Texas Republicans just need to peel off one of those Democrats to win the standoff.  Only needed one and they got it.

You know how many Democrats the Republicans need to peel off in Wisconsin to win the standoff there?  One.  All 14 state Democratic senators have left Wisconsin to deny Republicans the quorum they need to vote on that union-stripping bill.  They only need one to get a quorum.  Republicans get just one of them to come back, it is over.

If the Democrats do not hold together in Wisconsin, then the place that gave us the weekend, the place that gave us unemployment benefits and worker‘s compensation and the eight-hour workday and the 40-hour workweek, and the nation‘s biggest public workers union and one of the first collective bargaining agreements for those public workers, the state that has seven towns named Union, the state that gave us all of that, the state where the Super Bowl champs are collectively owned—it‘s going to be the start of the end of all of those rights for workers that Wisconsin earned for the country.  And it‘s going to be the start of the end of the Democratic Party‘s electoral chances in not just the next election but every election the rest of our life times.

It is all hinging on the Wisconsin 14 -- these 14 Democrats who for the moment have stopped this radical anti-union bill.

One of those Democrats joins us from somewhere outside Wisconsin, next.


MADDOW:  There were 40,000 people at the state capitol in Wisconsin today.  That‘s the estimate from the Madison Police Department -- 40,000 people.  Conservative groups say they want to start staging counter protests tomorrow.  We‘ll have more on that coming up later in the show.

But 14 people who are at the very heart of this fight were not at the state capitol today.  They are Wisconsin‘s 14 state senators who are Democrats.  They have left the state so Republicans cannot get a quorum to reconvene the Senate so they cannot vote to strip union rights.  Democrats are dug in for the standoff, say they will not be the first to flinch.

We will hear from one of those Senate Democrats, next.


MADDOW:  This is footage of officers from the Wisconsin State Patrol.  State troopers at the house of the Democratic leader of the Wisconsin state Senate today.  The minority leader, Senator Mark Miller, was not home when police arrived there.  Had he been, “The Wisconsin State-Constitution” says the state patrol could have compelled him to return to the Senate chamber, even if he did not want to go.

That‘s why Wisconsin Senate Democrats have all left the state.  If they don‘t go back into the state, the Senate cannot get a quorum.  It cannot reconvene, and the Republicans therefore cannot pass the governor‘s bill to break up the states‘ unions.

According to our next guest, the Democrats are prepared to stay away from the state for weeks, for as long as it takes.

Joining us again tonight from not Wisconsin is State Senator Jon Erpenbach.

Senator Erpenbach, thank you for coming back on the show, sir.  It‘s nice to see you.

ST. SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN:  Nice to see you, too.

MADDOW:  Any change in this standoff today?  Are you seeing any progress?

ERPENBACH:  Not at all, not really.  In fact, the governor has actually kind of upped the rhetoric with some harsh words towards us, and the labor movement in Wisconsin, which is kind of disappointing.  You know, he‘s the governor.  His job is to bring us together when there‘s disagreement and move us forward.

Like I told you last night, the state is ripped apart now, divided over this issue—really concerned about the outcome of this.  You know, as you said, Rachel, 40,000 people showed up in Madison today, more showing up tomorrow.  And we really need to come to consensus and we need to move on.

MADDOW: Why do you think the protests are getting bigger rather than smaller at this point?

ERPENBACH:  Because it‘s not just union people showing up any more. 

It‘s their friends.  It‘s their neighbors.  It‘s their family members.  It‘s people who are going to be directly or indirectly affected by anti-union legislation that the governor is trying to push.

People are very, very concerned, not only in Madison as we discussed last night, but all over the state of Wisconsin, people are protesting.

MADDOW:  This afternoon, I know the head of the largest state employees union in Wisconsin said that his union would be willing to pay more for health insurance benefits, would be willing to contribute more to their pensions, would be able to make actual financial concessions if Governor Walker would essentially stop trying to break up the union—if he would stop trying to take away collective bargaining rights.


MADDOW:  The governor rejected those terms.  Is there—does that mean there‘s just—there‘s no room to negotiate at all?

ERPENBACH:  Well, it means this isn‘t about the money for the governor.  This is all about busting the union.  That‘s all it has ever been for Governor Walker.

The public employees are saying the money isn‘t the issue.  And they‘re actually right.  The money is not the issue.  The governor is going to get his money.  He‘ll be able to balance the budget—the budget deficit.

But, at the same time this—the union movement, and a lot of us in Wisconsin don‘t want labor to have to give up the right to collectively bargain.  And the governor is dead set against that.  So, just the fact that Governor Walker said, “I don‘t care about the money, I‘m not giving this up,” what he‘s not giving up is his ability right now it seems to bust every single public union in Wisconsin—and that‘s just wrong.

MADDOW:  One of the things people across the country who are paying attention to the story are learning is about the history that Wisconsin has of pioneering—being a pioneer in labor rights.  So many things that we think of as a given in terms of things that workers deserve, things like weekends, things like an eight-hour day, things like a 40-hour week.  Those are things that we actually have Wisconsin to thank.

Help—the rest of us in the country are looking at Wisconsin from somewhere else understand what the political impact would be of busting unions in Wisconsin.  How important is it to the state‘s self conception and its politics?

ERPENBACH:  Well, there are some people who think and I tend to agree with them, if you can bust the public unions in Wisconsin, you can do it anywhere.  And we talked last night about the—some sort of playbook that the Republican governors had when they all got together.  And Scott Walker has pulled out a very, very tough play on the state of Wisconsin, as you can see, ripping the state apart, and he‘s trying to bust the public unions.

And, obviously, Ohio, California, New Jersey—they‘re all keeping an eye on what we‘re doing.  All legislators are and all governors are.

And, again, I want to make this really clear, Rachel: the governor obviously doesn‘t care about the money he‘s trying to capture.  He only cares about busting the unions.

Now, these are people that clear our streets.  These are people who police our streets, teach our kids, guard prisoners and so on and so forth.  These are our friends.  These are our neighbors.  In some cases, these are our family members.

These are people who buy houses that those in the private sector build.  And the governor, for whatever reason, sees unions as a threat.  If anything, he should see them as an ally because all the public workers in the state of Wisconsin actually make him look good.

MADDOW:  Because of those stakes, because of the stakes you just described, people around the country worrying that if these unions get broken in Wisconsin by this sort of brute political force, they can get broken across the country.  Because people are worried about that, people are very focused on how unified you 14 state Democratic senators are.

I mean, we talked about it last night.  If one—if one of you peels of and goes back, they get a quorum and this bill passes.  Is—how much contact do you have with each other?  Do you still have a sense of real unanimity and a real resolve that‘s unanimous?

ERPENBACH:  Yes, we do.  We talked quite a bit through the day, and we do feel very, very strong.  And we do still feel that we‘re right in what we‘re doing.  We‘re standing up for the people who haven‘t been heard yet.  That‘s our job.

And our job is to stand up for people who believe what the governor is doing is a wrong thing and that‘s a great majority of the people of the state of Wisconsin.  So, we still feel very strong about what we‘re doing.

MADDOW:  Wisconsin state senator, Democrat Jon Erpenbach, joining us tonight from not Wisconsin—once again, Senator Erpenbach, thank you for your time tonight.  Hang in there.

ERPENBACH:  OK.  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

All right.  Well, it may appear that the political standoff in Wisconsin pits an anti-union conservative governor against the rights of the states‘ employees.  It turns out that is all an illusion.  Actually, what‘s happening is it‘s the end of the world, and it has to do with Egypt and Jesus, and I know because I saw it on the TV machine.  Have you noticed a run on can openers recently?


MADDOW:  In 2009, one of the deeper, more fecund cesspools of conspiracy theory on the internet published this column: What Obama and the antichrist have in common.  It was not satire.  It was written by a young man named Joel Richardson.

The column claimed that Barack Obama was not necessarily the antichrist, but, hey, just saying, the antichrist is a “satanically empowered man who will emerge as a powerful world leader.  He will first emerge as a man of peace with a populist message and large and popular following”—before he is revealed as the antichrist.  Ahh, one whose might rhyme with shmarak shmobama.

The man who wrote “What Obama and the antichrist have in common,” the author who of that is now being booked by FOX News as an expert to explain to their viewers what is happening in Wisconsin and how it connects to Egypt, because the Muslim Brotherhood is organizing the Madison protest in order to turn Wisconsin into part of a caliphate so labor unions will destroy Israel, so you should store food and buy gold or something.

Honestly, after a full week of broadcasts on their hour that is hosted by Glenn Beck, after a full week of coverage of the Egypt protests in which Mr. Beck explained to the viewers of FOX News that protests in Egypt meant that China was going to take over New Zealand and we should all start storing food because of a conspiracy to turn America into an Islamic state, after FOX News explained to its viewers for a solid week that that‘s how they should understand what‘s happening in Egypt, now—now, especially if you do not watch FOX News, just so you are inoculated as to what you are likely to hear the next time a fervent FOX News viewer tells you what‘s going on in Wisconsin—now, it is important to know what it is that FOX is telling its viewers about how to understand the protests in Wisconsin, because what FOX News is telling their viewers involves the antichrist.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  This is really to see how the people like Ahmadinejad and the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood view the end of times or the way the world is—where it‘s headed.  It‘s kind of spooky.  The story that everybody should be focused on today is not the Kardashians or anything else.

The one that should be on everybody‘s mind is happening today in Wisconsin.  The unions claim that the cuts will affect teachers, but it‘s not the every day teacher that this story is really all about.  It‘s about the people looking to create chaos on the backs of the worker, when the world‘s focus is on Egypt.

The financial pressure that is coming is going to mean that demonstrations, protests, God forbid riots, and maybe worse, are coming.

Motivation.  That is vital to understand when you‘re dealing with people who thrive on chaos or want a new world order.  How do you know when you‘re entering the last days?  Well, it‘s—quite honestly, it‘s almost like how do you know when Jesus is coming back?  It‘s seven years of nightmare and it‘s just growing problems.  It‘s chaos.  It‘s war.

I want to introduce you to Joel Richardson.  He is the author of “The Islamic Antichrist.”

How are you, sir?


BECK:  America, it will blow your mind.  It will blow your mind.

Tonight is big boy time.  Tonight is not an episode that you casually watch and take out of context.  Tonight, you must consider the unthinkable.

This is the Jesus side.  This is what‘s in the Book of Revelation of the antichrist.  This is a general story, in case you don‘t know anything about Christianity.  End of the world, Jesus comes back.  But this is the story leading up.

I did this story about five years ago, about wet my pants when I finished the research on it.

We have to take a break.  We‘re going to come back, and wait until you get to the mark of the beast, next.

Back with Joel Richardson, and we‘re going through the end of times. 

Who‘s the beast, the antichrist?


MADDOW:  That, I have to in terms of pure show—I mean, wait until you get to the mark of the beast, next.  I just—I mean, anyway, antichrist.  They called in an antichrist expert to explain protests in Wisconsin over union rights.

Just to be clear: what are this young man‘s qualifications, the antichrist expert to be FOX News‘ consultative expert on this subject?


RICHARDSON:  Just before my wife and I met, there was a prophet that prayed over my wife.  And one of the things she said—what she said, your husband, you will marry someone that has significant insight into the end times and he‘ll release new prophetic understanding concerning the end times to the church and to the world.


MADDOW:  He will release his new prophetic understanding about the end times.  See?  He is a prophet.  He is a self proclaimed end times prophet who FOX News is calling onto explain the Wisconsin protests to America‘s conservatives.

I say this not just to point and shriek, but because what happens on FOX News and in conservative media really influences how American conservatives think.  Even when it‘s so unbelievably out there you can‘t really believe it, anybody would believe it.

Remember the whole what Obama and the antichrist have in common guy?  Crazy, right?  Yes, that‘s crazy.  But you cannot understand right wing politics in America without understanding that the Obama and the antichrist guy is being booked this week as an expert on FOX News.  And without understanding that when even the craziest reaches of right wing media talk about this stuff, conservatives listen to it.

In 2009, a polling firm asks self identified conservatives in New Jersey, do you think Barack Obama is the antichrist?  Thirty-five percent of conservatives in New Jersey said either yes or they were not sure, and they were willing to consider the possibility -- 35 percent.  And that was before FOX News opened their eyes as to how the antichrist was the key link between Hosni Mubarak and collective bargaining rights for dentists in Wisconsin.

I am not just pointing this out because it is amazing, that what you used to be only able to hear on predawn A.M.. radio shows about UFO visitations, you can get at 5 p.m. daily on what effectively is Republican state television.  I am pointing this out because one of your more gullible, conservative friends or relations sometimes soon is going to come to you and tell you that the antichrist is why Hosni Mubarak was a good guy and the antichrist is why firefighters in your town should not have Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  It is going to happen and you should know why when it does.


MADDOW:  This was Egypt today.


MADDOW:  A million people gathered in Tahrir Square, not to protest anything, but to sing and dance and celebrate seven days free of former President Hosni Mubarak.  Very stark contrast to what is happening in the dozen or so countries that are trying to follow Egypt‘s lead.

In the tiny Gulf nation of Bahrain, thousands rallying at funerals for protesters killed by the government the day before.  Then hundreds of mourners headed back to the scene of the killings, Pearl Square, which is now circled by the Bahraini military.

When the protesters arrive, they are met by open fire.  The military opened fire, shooting anti-aircraft weapons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and reportedly machines into and above the crowd.  There were also reports of snipers opening fire from nearby buildings.

“The Times of London” reporting from the scene that it was essentially an ambush by the military against the unarmed protesters.  Quote, “It was a trap.  The security forces fell back, waiting until they turned on to the boulevard towards the square.  There was a huge volume of gunfire.”



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They shoot us.  Bullets, not tear gas, no way. 

Bullets, live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We had volley after volley of shots.  At first, we thought the army was firing over the protesters‘ heads.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But it is now clear they were shooting into people.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) still coming in here.  Now, almost every bed is full.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A gunshot here, one in the chest.  One here.

ENGEL:  This was live bullets as far as you know.


MADDOW:  The government of Bahrain is continuing to crackdown violently clearing dozens of protesters from outside the city‘s main hospital.  Even though the crown prince of Bahrain today said it was time for dialogue and not for violence.

In Egypt‘s neighbor, Libya, at least 50 people have reportedly died over the past two days of demonstrations.  While thousands continue to protest in the country‘s second city, others were caught on camera destroying a statue of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi‘s green book, which is a book that sums up his political philosophy.  Gadhafi himself today held his own pro-me, pro-Gadhafi rally to counter the demonstrations, even as he kept a news blackout in place, and shut down the Internet and electricity in protest areas.

In Yemen today, on the eighth consecutive day of protests there, at least four people were killed as the government continued its crackdown on protesters.  There were pro-government rallies today as well, though some of those supporters admitted to Britain‘s “Guardian” newspaper that they been paid by the government to show up.

In Jordan, for the seventh week in a row, about 2,000 protesters took to the streets of the capital, Amman.  They were attacked there by supporters of Jordan‘s king.  This is the first reported violence in Jordan.  Eight people were reportedly injured.

Next door in Syria, hundreds reportedly, spontaneously started protesting in the streets of Damascus.  Opposition groups say the Syrian interior minister showed up in person to talk to them.

In Iraq, more protests across the country, from Basra in the south where Iraqis demanded better jobs and resignation of regional governor to the Kurdish region in the north where two were killed yesterday and looters attacked a government building today.

Further south in the nation of Kuwait, more than 1,000 Bedouns, kind of like Bedouins but different, they‘re an Arab group that doesn‘t have citizenship in Kuwait, Bedouns took to the streets demanding more rights.  Police used smoke bombs and water canons to clear the crowd, and arrested dozens of protesters.

They were even protests today in a very small nation of Djibouti, where a reported 6,000 people rallied to demand that the president there step down.  Security forces used batons and tear gas on them.  Opposition groups there now reportedly deciding whether to rally again tomorrow.

Protests are also planned this weekend also in Bahrain, in Morocco and in Algeria.

As Richard Engel told us on this show last night from Bahrain—remember, nothing like this has ever happened in the Middle East before.  Nobody knows where this ends, and it is not ending any time soon.


MADDOW:  Do not be alarmed by what I am about to show you.  The House today voted to end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  So, in your town and every town across America, say goodbye to birth control for poor people and a whole lot more besides.

The House also voted to take away the funding needed to implement health reform in four separate amendments that one.  They also voted to block reviews of air pollution permits for drilling in the Arctic.  Who cares, it‘s way up there.

And also to end funding for EPA enforcement of a raft of nasty chemicals that lead to smog and global warming which of course is not real, so why bother.

Brave viewer, fear not.  These are not laws yet.  Nor will they ever become laws.

What is happening in the House is not law-making, it is poetry.  This is an interpretive dance performed by the Republican Party for the benefits of its base voters.  None of this is real because down to the last over-caffeinated, homesick, office-bunking Tea Party freshman, the Republican Party knows the Democratic-controlled Senate will never, ever, ever agree to make these things into law, let alone President Obama.

But what Republicans are setting themselves up to do really—that is a story that requires more close attention, because that‘s actually going to come true.  And that‘s next.


MADDOW:  Word of the day, or I guess it should be word of today, since we haven‘t done this on any other day.  Word of today is “paralepsis.”

VOICE:  Paralepsis.

MADDOW:  Paralepsis spelled like paralepsis, like this.  Except for when it is spelled with an “I” where the “E” is, which I guess would make it paralipsis.  I‘m going to go with paralepsis though.

VOICE:  Paralepsis.

MADDOW:  Special lady who lives in my computer who pronounces things at  It is paralepsis.

Paralepsis is a term from rhetoric that means you make a point about something by explicitly saying that you are not going to talk about that thing.  So I don‘t want to talk about David Vitter and all the hookers, I want to talk about whether he is a good family values candidate.

VOICE:  Paralepsis.

MADDOW:  Yes, thank you, nice lady in my computer and now in my mind, very nice of you.

That is paralepsis.  That is paralepsis.  And this is also paralepsis.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The only people cheering for government shutdown around here are Democrats led by Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.  There‘s been—no talk about shutting the government down on our side.  Our goal here is to reduce spending.  It isn‘t to shut down the government.


MADDOW:  No talk about a no budget, no government o our side.  Who us talking about government shutdown, us?  Who is talking about government shutdown?  We‘re not talking about a government shutdown, shutdown.

Yes, you are talking about it all the time, while always saying how much you are not talking about government shutdown.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS:  Nobody is talking about a government shutdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are not talking about shutting down the government.

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  We don‘t want to see a shutdown.

SEN. RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY:  I don‘t think any of the Republicans want a government shutdown.


MADDOW:  Not only have Republicans been talking day and night and day and night about the government running out of money and shutting down, not only have they‘ve been all but salivating over that prospect for months, but they do now seem to have devised a process to achieve that.

Here it is: keep insisting on budget amendments like defunding Planned Parenthood and defunding health reform and other things you know Democrats in the Senate will reject, make the process of approving ongoing funding for the government take as long as possible until the current funding runs out, that starts happening on March 4th, and refuse to budge on things that you say you want that you know you will never get.  And then bingo, you‘ve got your government shutdown, not that you want to talk about that. Why, we‘ve been bringing it up.

Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post.”

Mr. Robinson, great to see you.  Thanks for being here.


MADDOW:  What is the likelihood of a n actual government shutdown not that anybody is talking about it?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, if you‘d ask me a week ago I would have said unlikely and I‘m starting to think it could happen actually.  The House keeps passing these frankly extreme amendments and that aren‘t going to get through the Senate—and as you said it‘s going to draw out-and-out and March 4th comes faster than anybody thinks.  I think faster than a lot of people would like.  So, it could happen.

MADDOW:  What is the political appeal of this for Republicans?  This is something that they talked about in the campaign season long before it was ever clear that this continuing resolution was going to go like this, long before it was clear that they were even going to have any specific fights to shut down the government over.

ROBINSON:  Well, I‘m not exactly sure.  Now, you know that disclaimer on investment ads: past results do not guarantee future performance.  So, we can‘t say that the result would be exactly like the 1995, but we know what happened in 1995.  And, in fact, it was awful for the Republicans who shut down the government and it was very good for the White House and the Clinton administration.

So, you know, I‘m not sure that it is such a great idea for the Republicans to take it to that point and indeed, I am not sure the Republican leadership is convinced that they want to go that far.  However, there are a lot of Republican rank-and-file who are just going to say, charge, and just head right for that press miss and see what happens.

MADDOW:  Because of that history, it seems like all of the benefit to a government shutdown would ring down to the Democrats.  But is it possible, as Republicans really do seem to be steaming inexorably toward this—I mean, even guys as senior as Eric Cantor, as of last November were saying I don‘t want to rule out this government shutdown—is it possible that they have figured out some way to turn this in terms of political advantage on its head, that there are some other way to approach this that means they come out on top?

ROBINSON:  Well, I‘m sure they‘re trying to come up with a way to spin this.

Look, you know, the political pressures here are interesting.  The Democrats have a whole lot more maneuvering room because after all, they can give in to some budget cuts here, some budget cuts there and the Democratic base is going to grumble and is going to be annoyed but it‘s not really going to freak out.

However, the Republicans are under a lot of pressure to be inflexible from their base and so, they actually, even though they‘re in charge, in a way, they have less room to maneuver.  And so, they may be on the set of train tracks without a way to veer the train at the last minute.

MADDOW:  When we look right now at the House right—currently, right now, the House is in session and they are planning on working through the night.  They have not—they have been open past midnight three days already this week, working on these amendments to the spending bill.  None of them are going to become law.

I mean, is there anything—is it poetry?  Is this interpretive dance?  Is there any law-making reason to do this?

ROBINSON:  Well, some of these are items that Republican members promised to their constituents.  We‘re going to vote to do this, we‘re going to vote to do that.  And so, they‘re voting to do this and that.

I frankly believe at this point, John Boehner may rue the day he ever said, we‘ll have a much more open process and allow all these amendments, and I‘m not sure how much of this open democracy he is going to be able to stand for his caucus.  They‘re just going to drop.

MADDOW:  He will never rue it more than he rued saying “Read my lips” this week.


ROBINSON:  Read my lips is never a good thing to say.  That we know.

MADDOW:  Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post”—thank you, Gene.  It‘s great to see you.

ROBINSON:  Good to see you, Rachel.  Have a great weekend.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

Normally on Friday about this time, our network‘s live news coverage is winding down for the night but not tonight.  The center of American politics tonight is Madison, Wisconsin.  That‘s where Ed Schultz is as we speak right in the middle of it.  His incredible coverage of the protest there continues with a live hour as soon as our show is done.

We will back out that way when we come back.


MADDOW:  OK.  This was what Monday looked like in Madison, Wisconsin.

This was Tuesday in Madison, Wisconsin.

This was Wednesday in Madison, Wisconsin.

This was yesterday in Madison, Wisconsin.

And this was today in Madison, Wisconsin, in the state capitol building.  This is getting bigger not smaller.  Madison police say 40,000 people at the state capitol today.

The ongoing protests in Wisconsin against the governor‘s effort to strip union rights from public workers is a story that is growing and that is not going away.

Usually at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on a Friday night here on MSNBC after me, there is stuff about prisons.  Hey, no judgment.  But tonight after me, 10:00 Eastern, there will instead be a live edition of “THE ED SHOW” direct from the heart of these protests in Wisconsin.

The so-called Wisconsin 14 -- the 14 Democratic state senators, including our guest earlier tonight, Senator Jon Erpenbach, who have fled the state to deny the Republicans a quorum, thereby preventing them from passing the union-stripping bill—those senators are out of the state and out of the reach of state law enforcement which could compel them to return to the capitol if they were in the state.

Union leaders for public employees say, as they have been all along, frankly, that they are willing to negotiate about wages and benefits and all sorts of financial concessions if the state needs them to balance the budget, but what they are not willing to do is to stop being a union, to give up the right to be organized collectively as employees, as a group, to negotiate the conditions under which they work.

In conservative media, protesters in Wisconsin are being described as rioters and thugs, which is kind of hard to square with like the kids holding signs saying things like “hands off our teachers.”  But there you go.

One of the conservative groups that organized the really raucous town hall meetings against health reform in 2009 and early 2010, that same group is calling for conservative counter-protesters to come to Madison tomorrow.

And you know who else is going to be showing up according to his latest tweet?  The man who I think is still pseudo-professionally known as Joe the plumber.  Just what Madison needs.

Right in the thick of it in Madison right now is my friend Ed Schultz, who continues the best coverage anyone has had on this story in any network and in any medium.  On most February Fridays throughout history, there are a lot of people out meaning in somewhere having a good time.  Tonight, they are out meaning out in support of people who work for a living and their right to have unions if they want to, strong unions even if they want to, even if Republicans in government don‘t want that.

Here comes “THE ED SHOW.”  Have a great weekend.



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