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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Steve Clemons, Connie Schultz


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  I can‘t hear how

reassuring it is to hear the end of the world hasn‘t happened yet.  It just

it makes me just feel satisfied and happy.


LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST:  We might just make it through the weekend.

MADDOW:  That‘s right.  We‘ll try at least.  Thank you, Lawrence.

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


We are coming to you from Washington, D.C., tonight.  I do not come here all that often.  But it is very nice.

And I have to say all of the people that work here at the D.C. bureau make it really easy for us to be in D.C. and do the show from here.  So, I‘m grateful to all of the D.C. crew here.  Thank you, guys.  You guys make it very nice here.

This is the studio from which Chris Matthews does “HARDBALL.”  This is the studio in which he does his show.

And when I saw Chris earlier this afternoon, because we‘re in D.C., you can just hang out, right—Chris and I were talking about the art of retail politics in times like this, about how presidential candidates at this point in the year in the primary season, they have to really be good at the physical art of retail politics, which means shaking a ton of hands.  And it‘s not necessarily an easy thing to do.

People like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the really successful politicians, the people who really mastered the primary process, at times of the year like this, in states like Iowa—they would not let people leave a room they had been in without shaking every single person‘s hand.  They would shake every single hand in the room before they‘d leave the room.  That is what candidates need to do to win.  That is what candidates are taught to do at this time of year when they go to Iowa and when they go to New Hampshire.  When they go to these early primary states.

There is a physical art to running for president.  And at this time of year, it is about touching people.

And so, what do you do if you are Newt Gingrich going to Iowa today?

The single hottest piece of tape in all of politics for the last week has been the tragic scene in Iowa on Monday when Newt Gingrich was doing what he ought to be doing, touching someone, shaking hands with a potential Republican caucus-goer in Iowa, when it all went horribly wrong.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What you just did with Paul Ryan is unforgivable.

GINGRICH:  I didn‘t do anything to Paul Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, you did.  You undercut him and his allies in the House.  You are an embarrassment to our party.

GINGRICH:  I‘m sorry you feel that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don‘t you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself?


MADDOW:  OK.  If you are Newt Gingrich and that tape has been playing on a constant loop this entire week, how do you as a person still have the human enthusiasm to shake everybody‘s hand?  Don‘t you kind of flashback to that experience?  Doesn‘t that make it harder to refuse to leave any room in which you have not shaken every hand, particularly in Iowa?

I don‘t really understand it, but I guess that‘s why these guys get paid the big bucks.  Newt Gingrich was, in fact, back in Iowa today—there he is touching people.  But the stars are still not aligning for him.  At a time when he, for example, is trying to sound humbled by what he now says was a grave mistake in criticizing the Republican Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan, Mr. Gingrich once again proved that however humble he wants to sound, he does not have the humble thing in his oratorical arsenal.


GINGRICH:  It‘s going to take a little while for the news media to sort of realize, you‘re getting a chance to cover something that happens once or twice in a century.  A genuinely grassroots campaign, of very bold ideas.  I expect it to take a little while to sink in.


MADDOW:  Newt Gingrich‘s campaign according to him is the kind of campaign that only happens once or twice in a century—and the media is just going to have to come to grips with that.

Despite Mr. Gingrich‘s very robust self image, things do not seem to be going his way in this campaign.  I mean, who knows?  Maybe he will surprise us all and go on to become the Republican nominee and win the White House.

But, today, while appearing in a place called Waterloo, Iowa, Waterloo famous for three things: one, sounding like it might be a foreign toilet joke, two, being where Napoleon met his end, and three, being an ABBA song, while appearing in a place called Waterloo today, while everybody thinks his campaign is either over or a joke now, in the middle of addressing the Waterloo crowd, things are just not going Gingrich‘s way.  In the middle of addressing the crowd in Waterloo, this happened.


MADDOW:  Newt Gingrich‘s phone went off and Iowa.  And what is the ringtone?  His ringtone is “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, which made “The Associated Press” today.  Newt Gingrich‘s ringtone on his cellphone is “Dancing Queen.”  We found that out today in Waterloo, I do, I do, I do, I do think that nobody‘s going to take a chance on Newt Gingrich.  But I could be wrong, Fernando.

Here is the larger point, though—the apparent collapse of Newt Gingrich‘s presidential campaign does not appear to be as much about Newt Gingrich the man, right, Newt Gingrich the myth, the man, the Nina the pretty ballerina.  It is not about Newt Gingrich personally.  It appears to be the way he has screwed up in Republican political terms and what that tells us about the country right now.

Mr. Gingrich‘s downfall was criticizing the Republican Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan—but that plan has turn out to be a trap on both sides for Republicans, because as much trouble as it has caused, Newt Gingrich—to criticize it, it has caused other Republicans even more trouble to have endorsed it.

On Tuesday, this upcoming Tuesday, there‘s going to be a special election for a congressional seat.  Yes, it is this congressional seat.  Remember him?  Christopher Lee.  Yes.  He is no longer a congressman, although he may still be in excellent shape.

Christopher Lee‘s congressional seat will be subject to a special election on Tuesday in New York 26, which is a very Republican district in Upstate New York, in a district where Republicans shouldn‘t have to spend one red cent in order to elect a mainstream Republican candidate.  That district is so red, the Republican Party and Republican allied groups like Karl Rove‘s no donor disclosure group, they have already spent more than 1 million bucks there to try to hold on to the Republicans‘ chances for that seat in that special election.

There is a Tea Party candidate who is weakening the Republican from the right, although he does not seem to have a chance to win himself.  But there‘s also an unexpectedly strong challenge from the Democratic candidate, whose political traction is being attributed to the fact that she seems to be a pretty good candidate, and also the Republican in the race said she agreed with Paul Ryan on killing Medicare.

The Republicans are now pulling out all the stops to try to make this Medicare gaffe go away for that one Republican candidate in New York‘s 26.  They are also trying to bring as many national Republican resources they can bring to bear on this little district to avoid the national embarrassment of losing or even having to fight a closely fought battle for a seat in a district that is that red.

But, again, this Paul Ryan thing is such a disaster for them, they cannot get away from it even as they are trying to in this one district, so specifically.  What they tried to do is their closing argument in this district this week for this Republican candidate, Jane Corwin, who is struggling because she said she would vote to kill Medicare, what the Republicans are doing is they have started running robocalls for her.  Who are the robocalls from?

The robocalls are from this guy.


REP. ALLEN WEST ®, FLORIDA:  This is Lieutenant Colonel (retired) and Congressman Allen West with a critical Tea Party alert.  Jane‘s opponents have only one goal and that is to scare seniors.  Jane will be a fighter on Capitol Hill to preserve Medicare for our future generations.


MADDOW:  To preserve Medicare.  She‘ll be a fighter for the Medicare.

Here‘s how credible Congressman Allen West is, as someone who can reassure you about the safety of Medicare, who can reassure you that Republicans don‘t have any untoward designs on getting rid of Medicare.  This is what happened at a town hall event at his home district on Tuesday, when his own constituents got angry with him about his vote to kill Medicare.


WEST:  I will take my hands off Medicare when there is no Medicare, and then I will come and see you, sir.


MADDOW:  I will take my hands off Medicare when there is no Medicare, and then I will come and see you, sir.

Remember, he‘s the star of the new robocall in New York 26 to convince any scared elderly people up there that Medicare is safe with him—safe with the Republicans.

In the House, Lord knows why, but House Speaker John Boehner had all of the Republicans in the House go on record and cast a vote on the Paul Ryan kill Medicare thing, so the 235 out of the 239 House Republicans who voted for this thing are all vulnerable to that kind of anger from any of their constituents who don‘t want Medicare killed.

Republicans in the Senate are not yet on the record in terms of how they feel about the Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan.  But as they see how it is playing out as a political disaster for Republican across the country, for presidential candidates, for House candidates, for serving members of the House, Republicans in the Senate are trying to keep that problem out of the Senate.

An anonymous Republican senator telling “The Hill” newspaper today that Paul Ryan made a serious tactical mistake by spelling out Medicare reforms in his budget plan.  “The Hill” also reporting that the Republican leadership in the Senate will not whip Senate Republicans on this vote.  They will not pressure or expect Republicans to vote for it when it comes up, which is very good news for somebody like Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

Scott Brown of Massachusetts has spent the last week trying to unravel himself from the human knot he tied himself into on the Paul Ryan kill Medicare thing.  It‘s kind of an amazing story.  On Friday, Scott Brown said in a speech that he supported the Ryan plan.  He said, quote, specifically, “I will vote for it.”

A few days later, his aides explained that when he said, “I will vote for it,” he didn‘t actually mean “I will vote for it.”  They said he wasn‘t saying how he would vote on the bill when he said I will vote for it.  He didn‘t mean that at all.

Now, almost a week later, Scott Brown has gone from “I will vote will vote for it” to this.


SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  The way that Medicare and Medicaid proposals and a lot of other proposals on that bill are right now, no, I can‘t support it.


MADDOW:  From having said he will vote for it, and then saying he didn‘t mean it when he said he will vote for it, Scott Brown now says he will vote against it—adding this for good measure.


MADDOW:  I‘ve made that very clear.


MADDOW:  Yes, you have made that very clear, sir.

If you want to see just how much this Republican Paul Ryan kill Medicare thing has taken over U.S. politics right now, you have to look at the Democrats, too.  The top Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi, where is Nancy Pelosi this week?  The House is not in session here in D.C.  So, members of the House can be anywhere in the country.

Where is Nancy Pelosi gone?  Where is the top Democrat gone?  Has she gone home to her district, to California?

No.  Nancy Pelosi this week has gone to Paul Ryan-ville.  Nancy Pelosi is in Wisconsin, making sure that Paul Ryan and his kill Medicare plan stays on the front pages as much and as long as possible.

When asked about whether Democrats have an alternative plan to what Paul Ryan has proposed, from Wisconsin, Nancy Pelosi told Greg Sargent at “The Washington Post” today, yes, quote, “We have a plan.  It‘s called Medicare.  The fight of this Congress and beyond will be to preserve Medicare and not have it abolished.  The three most important issues we should be talking about are Medicare, Medicare, and Medicare.”

You know, when you repeat it like that—Medicare, Medicare, Medicare, it kind of has a nice—Medicare.




MADDOW:  Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar joins us here next.  We‘ll be right back.  Sorry.



CROWD:  Hands off Medicare!  Hands off Medicare!

WEST:  I will take my hands off Medicare when there is no Medicare, and I will come and see you, sir.


MADDOW:  I will take my hands off Medicare when there is no Medicare.

Again, that was Republican Congressman Allen West of Florida speaking to his beloved constituents this week.  The star of the—he is the star of the new robocall in New York 26, to try to convince anybody in that district who is worried he‘s there to convince you that Medicare is safe with him and safe with the Republicans.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Senator Klobuchar, thank you for being here.  It‘s nice to see you.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  Thank you, Rachel.  It‘s great to be on again.

MADDOW:  Majority leader Harry Reid in the Senate has scheduled a vote on Paul Ryan plan, we understand, I think for sometime next week.

KLOBUCHAR:  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  How important do you think it is to actually schedule a vote on this, get everybody on the record on this?

KLOBUCHAR:  I think people have to understand that this was the budget plan that was put forth by the Republicans in the House.  It passed the House.  And that‘s why it‘s being considered by the Senate.

And the concern I‘ve heard at home is people want us to do something reasonable.  I think you know I have been a supporter of the bipartisan budget commission and the work that‘s being done there.  Not everyone that‘s watching your show will agree with everything in that suggested plan.

I don‘t agree with everything.  But at least it‘s a start.  It looks at both revenues and spending cuts.

And as you know, the Ryan plan doesn‘t do that.  It balances the budget and doesn‘t even do that for the first 10 years.  It has really no cuts.

But what it does is has a bunch of tax cuts front loaded, and then what it does is it basically has the budget goes on the backs of the middle class -- 2/3 of those cuts are on the backs of the middle class.  And, in fact, it eliminates Medicare as we know it.

That is not what the people of my state want it.  They want shared sacrifice.  They want us to do something that brings down that debt, $4 trillion is a good figure.  I think we can do it and we can do it the right way, a reasonable way, without taking away Medicare from our seniors.

MADDOW:  Well, Nancy Pelosi today saying that Democrats do have a plan in response to what Paul Ryan has proposed, and that plan is called Medicare.

It‘s a good rhetorical turn, but it does raise the question.  I mean, you bring the deficit commission.  Should voters believe that Democrats will absolutely protect Medicare, that benefit cuts in Medicare, the entitlement basis of Medicare, all of that is off the table in terms of trying to balance the budget?

KLOBUCHAR:  People have to understand what the Democrats are doing.  What the Democrats did in the House and what the Democrats are doing in the Senate.  We want to protect Medicare.  We understand how important it is for our seniors.

And that the way that we handle this budget is by looking at things like oil companies.  You know, $4 billion a year, you could save, $40 billion over 10 years.  Negotiating with the drug companies, that would save $240 billion for Medicare Part D over 10 years.

Defense cuts the Secretary Gates has suggested.  That‘s $78 billion right there.  Medicare fraud, $60 billion a year, Rachel.

You look at the idea of going back to the Clinton levels when we were doing really well with our taxes for people, say if you do it, people making over $1 million a year, that saves $360 billion in 10 years.

There‘s a way to get there where there is shared sacrifice, where you‘re not doing it on the backs of the middle class or you‘re not doing it on the backs of our seniors.  Those are the values that we have been talking about in the Democratic Party, in the Senate.

And, by the way, right now there are Republicans in the Senate, there‘s a group—it used to be the gang of six, and now it‘s the gang of five—that are willing to talk about a mix of revenue and spending cuts.  That‘s what‘s happening right now in the Senate.

And that‘s what I‘m waiting to see what they come up with.  I have been long supporting their work.  I think it‘s very important when I talk to people in our state, they don‘t want this one-sided budget that came over from the House.  They want people who are willing to work together.

MADDOW:  When I think about the distance between political polling on an issue and political outcomes on that issue, I always feel like the distance between those two things is partisan advantage, right?  So, if you look what at you were talking about for the tax cuts for—the tax rates of people making over 1 million bucks, the idea that those would go back to the Clinton levels is more popular than free beer on a Saturday in a big college football town.

I mean, it‘s really one of the most popular ideas out there having anything to do with the economy, and is it is unbelievably impossible to talk about that in Washington.  The idea that Republicans would let that pass is so far away from those poll numbers is hard to believe.  How come the Democrats haven‘t been able to get more political advantage out of that?

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, you know, we tried and you know we voted almost uniformly for that $1 million level, and some of us would have supported it at the $250,000.


KLOBUCHAR:  But simply didn‘t have the votes.  I think the American people are going to step in.  When they look at this Ryan budget—if you‘re talking about the beer, it‘d say it‘s all foam and no beer.  When you look at that Ryan budget, and you look at what it does to seniors and middle income people, and you say, OK, you know what?  There‘s an alternative.  And it looks pretty good to me.

And so, that‘s going to be our job in the next few months to really explain that to people and get it out there, and people are already understanding it.

MADDOW:  What do you make of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell saying that he‘s not going to whip the Republican votes in favor of this?  He‘s not going to expect Republican senators to vote for the Ryan plan?

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, I think it‘s interesting.  I think it shows there‘s problems in the party.  I think most of it was shown this past week when you have Newt Gingrich, as you have so well pointed out, his ringtone -- 

MADDOW:  Hold on.


MADDOW:  Newt Gingrich, thank you.

KLOBUCHAR:  Very good.

When you have Newt Gingrich, who I guess is committing the sin of truth by coming out this Sunday and saying that this budget was basically too radical, the Ryan budget.  And when you think about that, I heard someone say today that Newt Gingrich saying that this budget is too radical for him is like saying, you know, Charlie Sheen saying he doesn‘t want to did to a party because it‘s too wild.

I mean, this was a monumental statement, no matter what he said later.

I think that there‘s realization in our country that we need to do something on this debt, and I want to make that clear.  And I think there‘s going to be things that people won‘t like that we are going have to do.  But there is a fundamental value decision about how you balance this budget, look at where you‘re going to make those cuts.

And I go with looking at the people who are the least vulnerable.  I look at going with the people that can handle it.

And when you look at our country, we‘ve always been built on that, a strong middle class.  And so to take a budget like the Republicans did in the House and take 2/3 of those cuts on the middle class, I just don‘t think that‘s the way that this country wants to go, and people are already having problems paying for their mortgages, paying for gas at the pump.  There‘s a different way to do this.

MADDOW:  Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota—thank you very being here.

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you, Rachel.  Great to be on.

MADDOW:  Thank you for going along with my ringtone.  I‘m sorry.

KLOBUCHAR:  It was great.  I only have a plain phone tone, and now, I know my life could be much more exciting.

MADDOW:  I will hook you up.  It took me a long time to figure this out today, and it was very disruptive.

KLOBUCHAR:  Yes, I‘m picturing it on the Senate floor.  It would be good.

MADDOW:  Excellent.

All right.  Have you seen the cover of Dick Cheney‘s new book that just leaked?  Check it out.

It‘s called “In My Time.”  That‘s a photo that says, “I‘m an important man who makes important decisions in important places.  Right now, all of you are in my time.”

But does that picture of Dick Cheney also look familiar?  Weirdly familiar?

If that photo is ringing a bell for you right now, but you can‘t quite put your finger why that looks familiar, I will show you why that looks familiar in just a second when we come back.  Fair warning: it will probably bother you.


MADDOW:  Where were you when you heard that Osama bin Laden had been killed?  Do you remember exactly where you were when you heard?  I was here in Washington, which is weird because I‘m not very frequently here.  But it was the weekend of the White House Correspondents dinner.  And I had to work at the MSNBC party after the dinner on Saturday night.

So, the following day, Sunday, when bin Laden was killed, I was at a Washington, D.C., hotel with Susan and with two of our friends, and we were watching an unexpectedly good Ben Affleck cops and robbers movie called “The Town.”  I don‘t know how it ends, and do not tell me because before it ended, my BlackBerry started going off like the Fourth of July, and there was word that the president was going to speak, and then there was word of what the president was likely to say, and then everyone in the country, at least 56 million of us, at 11:35 p.m. on a Sunday night, we all, the whole country, watched this.

The president walking up to the podium in the East Room of the White House and making the announcement Osama bin Laden was dead.

After I watched the president make the announcement, I went over to the White House to report on the celebration happening on the street outside the White House.  But even though that was a pretty remarkable place to be, and a pretty remarkable thing to see, this is really what‘s burned into my mind—in terms of that night.  That is the announcement of Osama bin Laden‘s death.

That is the American president saying to the country after 10 years, we got him.  That is the image for all of us.  It is indelible.

This is the cover of Dick Cheney‘s new book.  The publisher released it yesterday.  Remind you of anything?

Dick Cheney‘s book pictures him in the same suit, the same shirt, and the same tie, and the same flag pin, and the exact same placement of the flag pin, standing in the exact same place where President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden.  He is standing in the exact same place, the picture for his book taken from exactly the same angle, except, of course, on his book cover, Mr. Cheney stands a head taller than President Obama.

Dick Cheney‘s new book pictorially makes him the guy who killed bin Laden, or at least the guy who got to announce, in that suit, in that tie, in that flag pin, in that room of the White House, standing between those two lamps just slightly off center to the right, looking just so.

They might as well have PhotoShopped Dick Cheney‘s head onto one of the Marines at Iwo Jima.  No, you look great, Mr. Vice President.  We‘ll make it look like candid.

The front page of President Obama‘s big speech today was the “Arab Spring”—the popular populist uprisings in the Middle East, and America‘s role in facilitating democratic change in that region, and development and peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The unspoken big political elephant in the room, though, was the question of how much more political room to operate this president now has on all foreign policy issues.  Not just on Israel and Palestine.  Not just on the “Arab Spring”—but on the wars in particular now that bin Laden is dead, and now that we all know on whose watch it happened.  And we will not be persuaded to forget it.

Joining us now is Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation.  Steve is also publisher of “The Washington Note.”

Steve, it‘s great to see you.  Thanks for being here.

STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION:  Great, Rachel.  Good to be with you.

MADDOW:  I have to ask you first, do you think that the—do you think that everybody is going to be convinced that it was really Dick Cheney who made that announcement in the East Room?

CLEMONS:  Well, I‘m just—when you were going through that, I just reminded of that line of—that Ron Suskind put on his book about someone in the Bush administration saying we make our own reality.


CLEMON:  So maybe so.

MADDOW:  That‘s a convenient and well shot reality.

Steve, there are wider things in flux right now in terms of America‘s relationship with the Muslim world and we should talk about that.  But let me ask you specifically of the issue of the Afghanistan war.  Do you think there are real signs of it starting to be wound down?  Things happening that might not have been able to happen before the death of bin Laden.

CLEMONS:  Well, what we have is we‘re at the plate, and we have an opportunity to pivot in another direction.  It‘s not clear that‘s happening.  We have had the reassignment to some degree of General David Petraeus from the field in Afghanistan to the CIA.  That creates an opportunity.  Killing bin Laden removes from many Americans this one big problem that we couldn‘t fix after spending a couple of trillion dollars, deploying hundreds of thousands of people.  We sort of have been overcompensating trying to kill this guy and get him out of the picture.

So, if there ever was a chance for the president to begin to move in a different direction, this is it.  And we know coming up this June, the president is going to be announcing a real change.  And rumor is—and it‘s just rumor, is that maybe we‘re looking at about 30,000 over a year.  Some of us, like myself, think it should be larger.  But it gives him an opportunity to break the back of the motion that large-scale clunky military deployments are achieving security success for the United States there.

And the other big thing in this is America‘s best friend-emy is Pakistan.


CLEMONS:  And they control many of the choke points of our forces in Afghanistan and there‘s not a lot of comfort in that relationship right now.  And so, the larger our deployments there, the more dependent we are on the terms Pakistan sets for the relationship.

MADDOW:  And I wanted to ask you about that, too, because—I mean, it was really—the bin Laden raid was a fiasco for Pakistan in so many ways.  The international embarrassment of being caught out, having him—the suspicions about him being harbored, the implicit rebuke of Pakistan‘s own supposed counterterrorism work for not being able to get him, despite where he was living.

Are there things that we want Pakistan to do or to promise to help us wind down in Afghanistan that they might be more likely to do now because they have been through this fiasco?

CLEMONS:  Well, I think both sides need to sort of get the terms of their next relationship together.  I have to say that the White House is probably pushing them hard on coming forward on which agents if any helped bin Laden.  But the bench marks for us publicly is: will we say Ayman al-Zawahiri wrapped up?  Will we see other key al Qaeda lieutenants wrapped up?  Will see Mullah Omar and some of the lieutenants in the northern alliance of Taliban who have been sheltered in Pakistan essentially either coughed up or moved back into Afghanistan?

And if that begins to happen, that is a bench mark that will be more visible to many of Pakistan actually trying to get its relationship back on track with us.  If that doesn‘t happen after the intel trove that we took and others, then I think it leaves a lot of questions about: is there enough trust in this relationship to continue in a way—we won‘t be able to fully extract ourselves from Pakistan because it‘s a nuclear armed nation on one of the most dangerous geopolitical fault lines in the world with India.  But there‘s a limit to the robustness of the relationship, and I think that‘s what we‘re going through right now.

MADDOW:  And the degree to which we make our own decisions, dependent on them.

CLEMONS:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  For Americans who think of the Israeli-Palestinian situation mostly metaphor for unsolvable, term things -- 

CLEMONS:  A big ulcer.

MADDOW:  Yes.  Can you explain sort of the base level importance of what President Obama said today about it?

CLEMONS:  Hugely important.  No president of the United States has gone as far as he has and said, we‘ve got to break out of this trap and stop pretending that the status quo—and, you know, and people acting like one side or the other that there‘s a zero sum game.

He essentially warned Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas again—we‘re not going to settle for your immaturity.  And saying that we‘re going to take a borders and security approach is a back door to solving both the settlement problem that has the Palestinians upset, but it also helps solve the Hamas problem and the other Islamist problem, because you want to set up a security issue.  It doesn‘t solve the problem.  It sets a framework that we‘ve seen David Makovsky at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, very closely affiliated with APAC, has been a chief advocate for what President Obama put on the table today.

And even though we‘ve seen many Republican candidates come out and blast President Obama for this, and some Jewish leaders, the American Jewish committee, Abe Foxman of the ADL, the National Jewish Defense Council, have all come out with praise for Obama‘s speech today.

This is a real interesting moment that I think is important, and I think it‘s important on the Palestinian side, too, because they are trying to, you know, pursue at least a recognition of state, if not having a real state.  After this.

And I think these are important, because the administration has been faced with something.  I was so shocked today by the speech, because we just saw George Mitchell resign and the administration basically say, well, what we tried didn‘t work.


CLEMONS:   But the president isn‘t letting it go.

MADDOW:  Yes, in a big, big way.  High profile way today.

Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, publisher of “The Washington Note”—it is always great to have you here.

CLEMONS:  Thank you, Rachel.  Thanks so much.

MADDOW:  Appreciate it.

Conservative Republicans take over both houses of the legislature and the governor‘s office in the great state of Kansas.  What do they do with their unilateral power?  They pass a big new bunch of government regulations on private business in Kansas, and they are super psyched about it and they‘re bragging about it.  New red tape!

Conservatism is getting weird in places like Kansas in a way that Washington, D.C eventually will have to start noticing.  I will explain in just a moment.


MADDOW:  Imagine, if you will, an eighth grade theater production of “West Side Story” being performed in a school auditorium somewhere in Tennessee.  On that stage, you see a young Maria in love, dancing around while her friends wonder what is up with her.  In Tennessee, if Senate bill 49 is signed into law, that might sound something like this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She looks somehow different.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And I think she is up to something.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I do.  I am.  She talks like a parrot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What is going on with you, Maria?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and -- 


MADDOW:  And what?  And what is the word you want to say there?  Tennessee Republicans have proposed a “don‘t say gay law” for Tennessee schools.

Now, one celebrity has come up with an ingenious work around for schoolchildren for Tennessee‘s proposed law.  He has done so by video.  It involves t-shirts and mouse pads.  It is rather awesome.  It is “The Best New Thing in the World Today, and that is coming up right at the end of the show.



SEN. JOHN BARRASSO ®, WYOMING:  We need to empower doctors and patients, and, Joe, you talked about that 14 years ago in Congress, empowering patients and doctors to make decisions.

REP. TOM PRICE ®, GEORGIA:  We don‘t want to put the government, we don‘t want to put bureaucrats, between a doctor and a patient.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The Democrats‘ emerging bill raises taxes, it rations care, and puts bureaucrats instead of doctors and patients in charge of medical decisions.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE:  I don‘t think a bureaucrat should be between a patient and a doctor.  See?  I don‘t want to be that bureaucrat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Excuse me.  I think that‘s exactly where you are right now.

SEN. JOHN THUNE ®, SOUTH DAKOTA:  We can accomplish health care reform while keeping doctors and patients in charge, not bureaucrats and politicians.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  The Democrats want the almighty federal government, which doesn‘t do anything very well except national security, and maybe a couple of other things, they want them to come between you and your doctor.


MADDOW:  No government between you and your doctor.  The Republican Party and conservative politicians have been running on that, on that message, on that proclaimed conservative value forever.  They did not just invent that in the last election when they made health reform and the idea that it would put the government between you and your doctor when they made that the focus for last year‘s election.

The slogan that Republicans don‘t want the government getting between you and your doctor—it is a slogan that goes way back for them and it has worked for them.

What are they going to do with that message in the next election?

What Republicans have done with all of the seats they won in the last election is that they‘ve made 2011 the year of the most aggressive rollback of abortion rights since Roe versus Wade.  What are they going to do with the “we‘re the guys who don‘t want the government between you and your doctors” message now—now that Republicans and legislators from Kansas to North Carolina to Wyoming to Maine have spent 2011 proposing and passing into law bills to have the government forcibly intervene between you and your doctor under pain of prison, forcing your doctor at your doctor‘s appointment to read you nonmedical government mandated scripts?

If you look at the law passed, like, by Indiana this year, the script that state government is forcing doctors to read to you includes medically disputed information written by politicians.  It is quite possible, it is reasonable even to expect, that your doctor does not believe the information in that script is true or medically accurate.  But the state government of Indiana will now force your doctor to read you this information while the legislature has crammed its way into your doctor‘s office with you anyway.


PRICE:  We don‘t want to put the government, we don‘t want to put bureaucrats, between a doctor and a patient.


MADDOW:  The big, intrusive government quality of the anti-abortion Republican governance of this year is something we have reported on before on this show—and it is something that some small government conservative Republicans in places like Wyoming, even in places like Florida have been recoiling against and rebelling against.

But those few dissident Republicans are really swimming upstream on this.  And now, the great anti-abortion ambition of Republicans in 2011 is complicating not just the big government/small government message that Republicans are really going to want to keep on running on.  It is also complicating some of the even more basic conservative values they say they are for.  The things they say define them as conservatives and as a Republican Party.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  We need to return to the Reagan years.  We need to have fiscal conservatism.  We need less government.  We need less regulation.

SEN. MIKE JOHANNS ®, NEBRASKA:  Let‘s reduce burdensome regulations that serve no purpose other than to insert more government into the lives of citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The government rules and regulations and red tape.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  Burdensome government regulations cause more red tape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Continuous overregulation by this government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think that all of us can agree on one thing, and that is if you‘re going do something, don‘t do this.  Don‘t give a new power to the regulators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am calling on Congress to enact a regulatory cooling off period.


MADDOW:  This idea is probably the most focused, mostly finely honed bumper sticker-ready Republican message of them all.  Republicans want less regulation, right?

In Kansas this week, Republican Governor Sam Brownback there signed into law sweeping new regulations.  They target the few remaining abortion clinics and providers operating in that state.  The new extra regulations in Kansas there will regulate where doctors providing abortions can physically practice medicine, where they will be allowed to put their practice.  The new regulations will regulate the number of people and even the gender of people who the new regulations say have to be in the room while an abortion is being done.

The government has set up new regulations for exits and for lighting and for bathrooms and for equipment for the clinics—unannounced inspections, annual licensing, a whole new agency with authority over abortion clinics.

From a down with regulation, cut the red tape conservative Republican

legislature and governor has sprung a red tape manufacturers‘ full

employment program in Kansas.  This kind of thing is called trap laws—

punitive regulations designed to make it anywhere from really, really hard

to impossible for abortion providers to keep their practices open.  From

the “we hate red tape party,” the prescription for these trap laws is death

by red tape.


This legislative session, Republican governors have also signed trap laws to regulate abortion clinics out of existence in Indiana, in Virginia, and in Utah.

So, competing with the less regulation thing, what‘s the only other

values message that might be more successful than that for the Republicans

more famous, more focused grouped, more clear, that they are more proud of, that Republicans are more consistent about than the “we hate regulation” message?  What‘s the only Republican values message you hear more consistently from them than that?


It‘s we want less taxes, right?


SEN. RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY:  Lower corporate taxes.  Don‘t raise taxes.  Lower taxes.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER:  No one should have to suffer under a tax hike right now while we‘re hovering around 10 percent unemployment.

BARRASSO:  Raising the tax rates, to me, is completely off the table.

BOEHNER:  Everything should be on the table except raising taxes.

NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The safest thing for America would be to have a provision passed this fall that says no tax increase of any kind in 2011.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  I don‘t want to raise taxes.


MADDOW:  Republicans hate taxes.  Nothing could be clearer. 

Republicans hate taxes.

On May 4th, every single Republican present in the House voted to raise taxes—to raise taxes as a means of restricting access to abortion.  That was H.R. 3, a bill that raises taxes on health insurance as a means of making abortion less available.

They want to restrict abortion rights so badly that in the great anti-abortion Republican overreach of 2011, they have defied and undercut and given lie to their own supposed value that they don‘t want to raise taxes.  They have defied and undercut and given lie to their own supposed value that they want less regulation.  They have defied and undercut and given lie to their own supposed value that they just want the government out of your doctor‘s office.

The whole next year is about defining what the two parties stand for, the remarkable and radical abortion politics of this year in the states?  That is not something that is separate from that national conversation. 

That ought to be part of that conversation.

Joining us now is Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Plain Dealer” in Cleveland.

Connie Schultz, it‘s great to see you again.  Thank you for being here.


MADDOW:  I sort of think you ought to believe people when they say what they believe in, what they‘re for.  How do you square Republicans pursuing a more taxes, more regulation, government interference and health care agenda on this one specific issue?

SCHULTZ:  Rachel, I think they‘re trying to raise money on the bodies of women across America.  This is not what they campaigned on.  I‘ve spent a lot of time looking at the campaign sites of these people who have been now passing these bills with just reckless abandon—and they were all running, you might remember it was all about jobs, jobs, jobs?  Do you remember that last fall?


SCHULTZ:  Yes.  And the only jobs being created will be with all the lawyers that are going to be hired to have to go after these laws.

It‘s interesting, in Ohio, I‘ve been in Columbus, Ohio, in the capitol, there watching some of this unfold.  We have no fewer than six—

I think it‘s more than at this point—bills pending about abortion.  One of them is called the heart beat bill.  And even Ohio‘s Right to Life is not supporting it because they know it‘s not constitutionally defensible, but there we are.  We‘re in a committee room.  We‘re watching fetuses testify by ultrasound on a screen, and when the woman was rubbing the jelly on the belly of the woman, and she was only nine weeks pregnant and they couldn‘t find a heart beat, she made a joke at one point that if only they had the vaginal probe, then they could get it and a bunch of the men on the committee started chuckling.

And at that moment you realize that this has nothing to do with women‘s health.  This has nothing to do with protecting life.  This has everything to do with playing to their extremist base.

And I sat there while an attorney from Washington got up and first suggested—not suggested—said that some women who are raped want to have those babies because it is a triumph over their rapist.  And I could hear women gasp in the audience and some of them were tearing up.

This is cruelty.  This is an assault on women‘s rights.

The same lawyer at one point said if Romeo—I‘m not kidding you—if Romeo had known that Juliet still had a heart beat, Romeo would not have killed himself.  And I wanted to look around the room and just ask for a show of hands, how many know this is fiction?  How many know this was a play?

It‘s stunning to me what‘s happening.  It‘s hypocrisy.  I can‘t—I think what we‘re trying to do, Rachel, you and I and so many of us right now, are trying to look for the logic in what they‘re doing—and there is no logic.  They are trying to play to their far right base and they‘re trying to raise money.  And it has really nothing to do with women‘s health.

MADDOW:  Connie, I have been talking about what‘s going on in the states on abortion politics this year.  We‘ve been trying to document it in as many states as possible.  What you are describing in Ohio is some of the most radical proposed anywhere—that heart beat bill would be essentially an abortion ban at five weeks.  So, as soon as you realize you missed your first period, an abortion would be illegal if that bill was in effect in Ohio.

But it‘s not popping at the national level.  There‘s no—when you‘re here in Washington, when you‘re talking about national politics and what‘s going on and the difference between the parties, people really aren‘t—the decision makers and the opinion makers aren‘t really talking about this abortion radicalism as being nationally important.

And from your post at “The Plain Dealer” in Cleveland, when you write about this stuff, are you able to get any insight into our national ability to have a discussion about this based on the response you get to your writing about it?

SCHULTZ:  Yes.  For the first time ever—I mean, I‘ve been writing about abortion rights since I‘ve become a columnist.  I became a columnist in the fall of 2002.  I‘ve never had the number of e-mails and phone calls I‘m getting now from Republicans, readers who self-identify as Republicans who say to me: do not lump me with these nuts.  Basically is how they put it.


SCHULTZ:  Or do not lump me with these extremists.

And what I think the Republicans who are shooting for this, I think it‘s not all Republicans.  These are extremists and they are losing their base.

And what it seems to me, from the mail I‘m getting, from the response and the conversations I‘m having, and what I‘m starting to hear a little bit about internal polling in some campaigns, it is also causing them to lose independent voters, because they did not vote for these men and women in the fall to pull these sorts of stunts in statehouses.  They voted for them to really bring down the deficit in their states.  We have a lot of budget issues in various states, including Ohio, and they had expected them to be spending an awful lot of time figuring out how they‘re going to create jobs.  They did not vote for this circus.

MADDOW:  Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Plain Dealer” in Cleveland—Connie, thank you very much for your time tonight.  I really appreciate having you here on the show.

SCHULTZ:  And thank you for spending all the time on the issue, Rachel.  You are alone out there doing that for us and I appreciate it.

MADDOW:  Well, thank you.

I should say in the interests of full political disclosure, Connie Schultz is married to a man you may have heard of.  He is named Sherrod Brown.  And he is a U.S. senator from the great state of Ohio.

OK.  Up next here: “The Best New Thing in the World.”  It comes from Tennessee‘s proposed “don‘t say gay law.”  Whatever you think of that law that proposed law has provoked a celebrity response so perfect, so poetic and so satisfying that it is “The Best New Thing in the Whole World Today” -- and that is next.


MADDOW:  “The Best New Thing in the World Today” comes from George Takei, “Star Trek‘s” Mr. Sulu.

There‘s a bill working through the state legislature in Tennessee right now that would ban any mention of the gay in Tennessee schools.  The bill is called the “don‘t say gay” bill because the language bans teachers from acknowledging even the existence of anything other than heterosexuality.

Now, the great George Takei, Mr. Sulu, has decided that if Tennessee‘s teachers cannot say the word “gay” in class, he will provide a brilliant alternative.  Watch.


GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR:  I‘m here to tell Tennessee and all LGBT youth and teachers who would be affected by this law that I am here for you.  In fact, I‘m lending my name to the cause.  Any time you need to say the word “gay,” you can simply say Takei.  For example, you could safely proclaim you are in support of Takei marriage.  If you‘re in a more festive mood, you can march in a Takei pride parade.

Even homophobic slurs don‘t seem as hurtful if someone says that is so Takei.

And around the holidays you can sing—don‘t we know (ph) our Takei apparel.  Speaking of apparel, I‘ve created a t-shirt, “It‘s OK to be Takei.”  I hope you‘ll wear it proudly.  We also have buttons, mouse pads and mugs, all in time for Takei pride month.


MADDOW:  That is “The Best New Thing in the World Today,” George Takei, you are living long and prospering and I could not be happier about it.

Have a great night.  Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.”



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