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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, February 23, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Yasmin Neal, Manuel Roig-Franzia

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

The best show on television this whole past year has just come to an
end, which is very sad. And like any character driven show, part of what
kept it exciting over the course of the season is that some characters,
even characters that you might have grown really attached to, some of the
most charismatic characters of all got axed from the show unexpectedly,
right? Even if you love them, they had to go.

Remember back to the season premiere of the Republican debate show?
This is who was on the very first episode of the Republican debate show.

Ron Paul, obviously.

Rick Santorum -- who knew how it would work out for him by the end of
the season, right?

Tim Pawlenty was there on episode one. Yes. Just last year that Tim
Pawlenty was running for president. It seems like a lifetime ago.

Herman Cain, the breakout child store that fell into obscurity and now
we all worry about him.

And now this guy, the situation, Gary Johnson.

By the second episode, Gary Johnson was gone.

But we got new characters by the second episode, right? There was the
introduction of Newt Gingrich. There was the only female character,
Michele Bachmann. There was some guy named Mitt Romney.

But by the fourth debate, Tim Pawlenty was gone. And then -- Tim
Pawlenty was gone, but by the fourth debate, we got even a new character, a
new guy -- Rick Perry.

By December in the debate show, we had lost Herman Cain.

After Iowa, we had lost Michele Bachmann.

After New Hampshire, we had lost Jon Huntsman.

After South Carolina, we lost Rick Perry.

And by the season finale, by the season finale last night of the
Republican debate show, by number 20, we were used to just seeing these
four remaining characters. The whole cast narrowed down to these four.

But throughout this show, throughout the whole season, the most
interesting and most unpredictable and most outrageous character of all of
them for the entire series of this show has been this character. This
character. The audience.


STEPHEN HILL, SERVING IN IRAQ: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq,
I had to lie about who I was because I`m a gay soldier and I didn`t want to
lose my job. My question is: under one of your presidencies, do you intend
to circumvent the progress made for gays and lesbian soldiers in the





That was debate number six in Florida where Republican debate audience
booed at an American soldier who had been deployed to Iraq. They booed at
him because he was gay.

For most of these debates the sound coming out of the audience told
you more about Republican politics in 2012 right now than the sound coming
out of any of the characters on the stage itself.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Your state has executed 234 death row
inmates more than any other governor in modern times. Have you --


WILLIAMS: Have you struggled to sleep at night?

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Are you suggesting that heroin and
prostitution are an exercise of liberty?

century, you know, for over 100 years, they were legal. What you`re
inferring is, you know what? If we legalize heroin tomorrow, everybody is
going to use heroin.

How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I bet no one
would. Yes. I need the government to take care of me. I don`t want to
use heroin so I need these laws.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: The healthy 30 year old young man has a good job,
makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I`m not going to spend
$200 a month for health insurance because I`m healthy. I don`t need it.

But now, something terrible happens. All of a sudden, he needs it.

PAUL: My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not
before --

BLITZER: But he doesn`t have that. He doesn`t have that. And he
needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

PAUL: That`s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This
whole idea --


PAUL: -- that you have to compare and take care of everybody.

BLITZER: Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him



REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: If I were president, I would be
willing to use waterboarding. I think it was very effective. It gained
information for our country.


MADDOW: Whoo! Yes!

The Republican debate show audience has been everybody`s favorite
character in this amazing show this year. And last night, we got the
Republican debate show audience booing birth control.


JOHN KING, DEBATE MODERATOR: Since birth control is the latest hot
topic, which candidate believes in birth control and if not, why?



MADDOW: Now, it`s possible that the debate audience is booing
contraception. It`s possible also that the debate audience is booing the
fact that there is a question about contraception that`s being asked at the

And that seems to be how it was interpreted by the guy from CNN who
was last night`s debate moderator.



KING: As you can see --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a very popular question you have.

KING: It`s a very popular question in the audience as we can see.
Look, we`re not going to spend a ton of time on this.


MADDOW: CNN`s John King saying we`re not going to spend a ton of time
on this, saying that candidates don`t have to spend too much time on the
issue of birth control, he`d be happy to move things right along, let`s get
touch on this and get onto other things that won`t go booed.

But for all of the audience booing, and the characters on stage,
totting at CNN for asking this birth control question, when given the
chance to talk about birth control, boy, howdy, did these guys have a lot
to say.

If you exclude the big voice announcer guy introducing the whole
debate and you exclude the commercial breaks, we counted today. There were
a total of 89 minutes in this debate. Given the chance to talk about birth
control, the candidates held on forth on the subject of birth control for
13.5 minutes.

That means for roughly one out of every seven minutes in the grand
finale in the debate last night, one out of every seven minutes, the
candidates wanted to talk about contraception -- specifically the evil and
immorality of contraception.


PAUL: As an O.B. doctor, I`ve dealt with control pills and
contraception for a long time. Sort of along the line of pills creating
immorality, I don`t see it that way. I think the immorality creates the
problem of wanting to use the pills.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Health care insurance that
would include birth control, sterilization and the morning after pill.

department was prepared to give a waiver to Catholic hospitals about a
morning after abortion pill and that the governor`s office issued explicit
instructions saying they believed it wasn`t possible.

KING: When you were campaigning in Iowa, you told an evangelical
blog, if elected, you will talk about what no president has talked about
before -- the dangers of contraception. Why?

is we have a society, Charles Murray just wrote a book about this. It`s on
the front page of "the New York Times" two days ago, which is the
increasing number of children being born out of we wedlock in America,
teens who are sexually active.


MADDOW: Rick Santorum citing the guy who wrote "The Bell Curve,"
which is the book about black people being biologically inferior to white
people when it comes to intelligence -- citing that guy and his new book to
make his case if there was less birth control in America, take birth
control away, there will be fewer pregnancies out of wedlock. I don`t.

It is a conspiracy theory on the right, right now, that Democrats have
brought up this contraception issue as a trap for the Republicans.

This is what the Rush Limbaugh show is about right now. Democrats are
the ones who raised the issue of contraception. Democrats are the ones who
decided to politicize birth control to try to make Republicans look bad and
to distract Republicans from their core message which has absolutely
nothing to do with this.

Now, as a liberal personally, would that Democrats were that
Machiavellian, or that they could make Republicans talk about things they
don`t want to talk about? But in this case, it really, really is
Republicans bringing it up.

I mean, the Obama White House decision on health insurance coverage
for birth control -- that came down in the middle of January. It sat there
for weeks unmolested by national politics until Newt Gingrich started
trying to make anti-birth control hay over that decision. He is the one
who brought it up on the campaign trail and thereby the national outcry

Republicans are the ones who decided that inveighing against the
accessibility of birth control, even inveighing against birth control
itself as evil was what they wanted to campaign on. You cannot blame
liberals for this. I wish you could. As a liberal, I wish you could but
you cannot.

But it`s not just the campaign against contraception. It isn`t only
happening on the Republican presidential campaign trail this year.

Since Republicans won governorships and control of state legislatures
across the country in 2010, frankly, it has been abortion and
contraception-palooza in the states that when it comes to state policy.
And wherever Republicans are in control, these are issues they have

In the great state of Virginia, for example, in 10 years before 2011,
there were 19 votes over ten years on abortion in the general assembly.
That`s an average of less than two a year. After Republicans took control
of the House in 2011, there were 34 votes on abortion in one year -- 34
votes on abortion just in 2011.

In Virginia, representing a national trend -- a flood of new anti-
abortion restrictions in state legislatures across the country, and they
are being passed. Check this out. This is a chart of the number of anti-
abortion bills enacted by states up to 2010. Then look at what happens in
2011. Hello!

Look, a record number of anti-abortion bills enacted by the states
last year after the Republicans had their huge year in 2010 election.
Eighty new abortion restrictions courtesy of Republican state lawmakers.
That`s more than double the previous American record of 34.

But here`s the thing. What happens when you start having steamrolling
legislative success like that -- is that I think it tends to make you cocky
and sloppy.

And so, in Virginia flushed with their own power, Virginia Republicans
proposed their own version of a forced ultrasound bill, like seven other
states have enacted.

But in Virginia they are very excited about their own power and they
overreach. They overreach almost literally. They mandate the forced
ultrasound must reach inside your body -- the forced vaginal probe
ultrasound which gets everyone in the country`s attention. It takes a
couple days but it does get everyone`s attention.

And now, Virginia Republicans are frankly in chaos. There was another
day of protests outside of the capitol in Virginia today. This one
decidedly not a silent protest like the one organized earlier this week
outside the capitol.

There were also protest happening inside the building where a Senate
committee was busy amending and passing both a forced ultrasound bill and
"a fertilized egg as a person" bill that would ban all abortion in the
state and hormonal birth control as well.

This is the kind of chaos the sponsor of the personhood bill
encountered as he tried to talk to reporters outside of the committee
meeting room. The lobby was full of people shooting "shame" and chanting
at him. At least one woman had to be physically restrained by police while
he is conducting this interview.

And after all of the drama surrounding today`s hearings in the Senate
on that bill, in the Virginia Senate, something really surprising happened.
Virginia Senate Republicans decided to not take a vote on that personhood
bill, that "fertilized egg as a person" bill. They decided to scuttle, to
not take a vote on it in the full Senate. They went along with a
Democratic motion to send the bill back to committee and a move that means
the bill is dead for the rest of this year. So, the personhood bill --
dead in Virginia.

The mandatory forced ultrasound bill on the other hand passed a Senate
committee today and is moving forward. There wasn`t a vote on it in the
full Senate today.

Now that the whole nation is sort of awake to the horror of state-
ordered vaginal probing which was in the original bill that Bob McDonnell
had already said he would originally sign, I wonder if it is sinking into
Virginia Senate Republicans that state probing of any kind, vaginal or
otherwise, is seen by Americans as legislators playing doctor.

So, as this resonates from a hearing room to a state legislature to a
governor who really, really, really wants to be vice president, to the
national stage, Republican political chaos on the issue of abortion and
contraception and what they supposedly think of as limited government,
Republican political chaos on this issue is spreading.


SANTORUM: Obamacare, which is the biggest issue in this race, of
government control of your lives.

GINGRICH: You inevitably move towards tyranny because the government
has the power of force.


MADDOW: There was a collision course in Republican politics right
now. Bob McDonnell after amending the forced vaginal ultrasound bill still
wants to force doctors to do things to you even if it`s against their
judgment and it`s against your will and he wants to make you pay for the
privilege. That`s the revised bill from Bob McDonnell. Not the forced
vaginal ultrasound bill, but the forced ultrasound nonetheless.

And you can pay for it, the states said so. You can tell your doctor
to shut up and you too. Take it.

Across the country nobody in the Beltway media noticed until now, it
has been the Republican agenda both federally and at the state level to
have the government control this part of the practice of medicine --
telling you what to do, forcing you to do things you do not want done to
your body, telling your doctor what to do, all because the government knows
best. Medical judgment doesn`t matter. Your will doesn`t matter.

The chaos in Virginia today is coming to the national stage, because
you can be the party that tries to scare people about a phantom government
takeover of health care when you rant about what you call is Obamacare,
right? You can be the party that rants about a phantom government takeover
of health care. Or you can be the party that really is trying to take over
health care -- women`s health care, anyway.

You can be one of those things or you can be the other. You cannot be
both of those things.

Joining us now is a Democratic legislator who has been fighting back
anti-abortion rules by way of legislative satire. Georgia State
Representative Yasmin Neal is the author of an anti-vasectomy bill in the
Georgia House of Representatives.

Representative Neal, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I
appreciate you being here.

STATE. REP. YASMIN NEAL (D), GEORGIA: Thank you. Thank you for
having me.

MADDOW: Let me ask you if you would explain both what your vasectomy
bill would do and why you decided to proposal it.

NEAL: Well, the anti-vasectomy bill makes it where men cannot get
vasectomies unless they are trying to avert a death or serious bodily
injury. And it originated due to the fact that when we started the
abortion debate, I noticed that the number one thing that was missing in
the conversation was women -- how women feel and what we want to do with
our bodies.

Granted we don`t want to act like there`s no sympathy for a fetus or
what-have-you, but what a fetus is and when life starts is at the
discretion of each individual person or family and your belief system, and
we don`t feel that the Georgia House of Representatives should legislate

MADDOW: What would be the consequences of your introducing this? How
has it been greeted in the state legislature? And what do you think is
going to happen in the long run because you`ve done this?

NEAL: Well, ironically, it hasn`t had really bad reviews at all.
Even the author of the abortion bill himself, he hasn`t been nasty or rude
or anything of that nature. The opposing Republican Party -- they have not
been rude at all. Some of think it is quite funny.

At the same time, the Democratic Party, they have been supportive as

I don`t see -- I don`t see anything really happening as far as
historically bad. I don`t see anything occur -- I don`t see any problem
with anything moving forward as far as any repercussions after the bill has
been introduced. I`m just interested to see what happens with the bill.

MADDOW: When you look at not just what`s happening in Georgia but
what`s happening nationwide, as a state legislature, somebody who is in the
midst of this in your own state, what do -- what do you think? Why do you
think the issue of contraception and abortion rights has risen to the very
top of the political agenda in state legislatures, legislatures in the
nation`s capital and even in the presidential campaign trail this year?
Why do you think this is being made such a priority by Republicans?

NEAL: Well, that`s the number one question that all women are trying
to answer themselves. Maybe it`s the irony of it being an election year.
Maybe it`s convenient to put a political campaign on the backs of women. I
don`t really know considering there are many Georgians and many Americans
that are trying to decide between if they`ll put food on the table or if
they`re going to pay the light bill when some of our school systems are in
shambles and we are trying our hardest to compete with international
students that are far exceeding us in all of the areas scholastically.

I don`t know. And that`s the question we`re trying to answer. So
many Georgians, so many Americans need help with so many other topics and
areas, why are we focusing on this? Why are we under the skirts of women
as opposed to handling the other government business?

MADDOW: Georgia Representative Yasmin Neal -- thank you very for
being here tonight. I know you had a bunch of national attention since you
introduced this and you`ve been willing to explain to us is real a kindness
to us. Thank you, ma`am.

NEAL: No, thank you.

MADDOW: Thank you.

All right. Given what Mitt Romney has said about immigration and
immigration law, and the stuff like Arizona`s papers please law should be a
model for the nation, given his positions on this stuff this year, you
would think that Mitt Romney had some big plan to try to de-alienate Latino
voters, right?

If his plan is the plan everyone thinks is his plan, then his plan is
maybe going kablooie. And that story is next.


MADDOW: Last night`s presidential debate perhaps the final debate in
the Republican nominating process. It was held in Arizona. Arizona, of
course, the land of these kind of politics.


REPORTER: Can you please explain to me what criteria will you use to
determine if someone is an illegal immigrant? What does an illegal
immigrant look like? Does it look like me?

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: I do not know. I do not know what an
illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think there are people
in Arizona that assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like.


MADDOW: That was Arizona`s Republican Governor Jan Brewer expending
great effort to not fend off very well questions about her state`s papers
please law. Papers please law, SB-1070, in its original form, required
Arizona police officers to demand papers on the spot from anyone who they
thought looked like he or she might be an illegal immigrant.

Last night in Arizona, the home of papers please, Mitt Romney was
asked about his vision for the nation for good immigration policy.


ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona.


MADDOW: Papers please for the whole country. That means now
reporters can start asking that same Jan Brewer question to Mitt Romney.
Do I look illegal to you, Mr. Romney?

I mean, he is running for office for Pete`s sake so be careful in case
he runs away from you at speed once you say that.

Right now, the polls in at least one of Mitt Romney home states,
Michigan, are heading in Mitt Romney`s direction. He still got six days to
make up Rick Santorum`s lead on him in Michigan. That happens next

But based on movement in these polls now and the overall state of the
race, it still looks like Mitt Romney is the likeliest candidate to win the
Republican nomination.

That said, this campaign has shown up a lot of weaknesses in Mitt
Romney. He`s struggling against Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for Pete`s
sake. I mean, nothing personal, but Barack Obama is going to be a lot
harder to beat than Michele Bachmann.

If Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee, the biggest thing he can do
to make up for his deficiencies as a candidate is probably the one decision
a nominee gets to make before they`re elected. That`s a presidential
caliber decision. And that presidential caliber decision is picking a vice

After this week in Virginia, clearly it`s not going to be Bob
McDonnell. Now, to be fair, Bob McDonnell has never been photographed
holding a transvaginal ultrasound probe as seen here.

But that picture will pretty much be everywhere if any nominee so much
has winks at Bob McDonnell, let alone picks for vice president.

One emerging theory about the hints Mitt Romney is dropping now about
who he might pick for his VP focuses on Mr. Romney`s hard, hard right turn
on immigration.


ROMNEY: If I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act,
would I veto it? And the answer is yes.

Amnesty is a magnet. What we have had in the past, programs that say
people that come here legally will get to stay legally for the rest of
their life, that`s going to encourage more people to come here illegally.

We went to the company and we said, look, you can`t have illegals
working on our property. I`m running for office for Pete`s sake, I can`t
have illegals.


MADDOW: I`m running for office for Pete`s sake.

You know, being super anti-immigrant is -- has been fashionable in
Republican politics for a long time. It`s not that weird.

But this year does represent a hard right turn for Mitt Romney even
for this particular field of candidates. I mean, Mitt Romney used to be
for the DREAM Act. It was a Republican idea after all. Now, he says he
would veto the DREAM Act.

Mitt Romney used to speak favorably about the John McCain/Ted Kennedy
bill to give a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But now,
no mercy -- papers for the whole nation. Self-deportation.

Mitt Romney sought out endorsement of a guy named Pete Wilson. Pete
Wilson -- does that name ring a bell? If it does is because you remember
the only thing Pete Wilson is famous for. As an otherwise totally
forgettable, totally unremarkable California Republican governor, the only
thing Pete Wilson is famous for is that he tried to make California a place
where if you got hit by a bus and got brought to a hospital, they would
have to dump you on the street and let you die without treatment unless
they could verify your citizenship. That`s the only thing Pete Wilson is
remembered for -- trying and failing to do that to California.

And Mitt Romney dug that guy out of obscurity to get his endorsement
for president. Why?

Latinos are the fastest growing block in America. You cannot win a
national election if you have alienated every Latino voter in the country.
Mitt Romney has so alienated Latinos that I kid you not -- Mormon Latinos
are now organizing against Mitt Romney. The Mormon Latinos are against
Mitt Romney.

How can this be the strategy of somebody who wants to be elected

The only way this makes sense is if Mitt Romney does something equally
big in his candidacy that`s presidency that`s going to seem so pro-Latino
that it will overshadow all this other stuff.

Oh, hello, Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio has been a United States senator
for one year and a couple weeks. Mr. Rubio has done essentially nothing in
federal politics at all. Actually, that`s not true. To be fair, combing
through his legislative record today, Marco Rubio has done one thing. He
personally championed and got passed through the Senate this important
piece of legislation, quote, "A resolution designating September 2011 as
National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month." Marco Rubio, everybody.
That`s the sum total of his legislative accomplishments.

Marco Rubio ran for his Senate seat as a fiscal conservative. And do
you remember his proposed budget plan as a Senate candidate? To put he was
a fiscal conservative, he put forward a budget plan to add $3.5 trillion to
the deficit.

Marco Rubio is not a particularly serious guy in terms of what he has
done in his Senate life or even as a Senate candidate. But his biography
as a young conservative Latino Republican senator in some ways makes him
perfect, right? I mean, unless spinal cord injury awareness is a much
bigger political deal than I as a liberal can possibly understand in
Republican politics, I think it is Marco Rubio`s biography and not his
legislative accomplishments that make him as a potential vice presidential

And as imperative of attracting the Latino vote and a hard right turn
of anti-immigrant policies on the Republican side have created more and
more and more of a focus on whether or not Marco Rubio might be able to
save the Republicans chances, the focus on Marco Rubio`s biography has
turned up a bunch of unexpected and unexpectedly complicated stuff.

Do you remember back on January 29th when Univision was going to host
a debate for all the Republican candidates but that it didn`t happen?
Univision debate got canceled?

All of the Republican candidates except Ron Paul boycotted that debate
as a favor to Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio was in a personal fight with the
Univision Media Company because Univision was planning to run and they
eventually did a run a story on a relative of his who had gone to prison
for being part of a drug ring.

A presidential debate got called off out of deference to Marco Rubio
wanting to keep that story out of print.

Then today, BuzzFeed ran a story about how any idea that Mitt Romney`s
Mormon religion might be balanced by having a Catholic vice president like
Marco Rubio and anyone who thought that now has to factor in that Marco
Rubio himself used to be a Mormon. Marco Rubio`s family during his
childhood and during teenage years was enthusiastically Mormon. And Mr.
Rubio himself was baptized into the church of Latter Day Saints.

And then, of course, and probably the biggest bombshell of them all,
"The Washington Post" revealed back in October that Marco Rubio`s stated
family history didn`t actually line up with the facts. The whole
biographical parable that he had spun about himself and his upbringing was
that his family had fled Cuba once Fidel Castro came to power. They were
exiles from communism.

That claim central to his rise to power in Florida was disrupted by
reporting from "The Washington Post`s" Manuel Roig-Franzia that actually
Marco Rubio`s parents immigrated to America more than 2 1/2 years before
Fidel Castro took power in Cuba.

What that does to vice presidential politics for the Republicans when
we come back.


MADDOW: What we have known about Senator Marco Rubio`s life story has
made him a pretty compelling candidate for number two slot on the
Republican presidential ticket. The problem is what we have been told
about Senator Rubio`s life story is not exactly the same thing as Senator
Rubio`s real life story.

And as the Arizona primary approaches and as Republican problems with
Latino voters start to get front-paged, now comes the part where the vice
presidential prospects of Marco Rubio are scrutiny beyond just the surface

Joining us is Manuel Roig-Franzia. He`s the author of an upcoming
book on Marco Rubio called "The Rise of Marco Rubio." It comes out in
July, which is right on time.

Mr. Roig-Franzia, thank you very much for taking time to talk with us


MADDOW: Let me start by asking you about today`s news that was
reported by BuzzFeed. Mr. Rubio apparently as a child and as a teenager
was a Mormon, who had been baptized into the Mormon Church. Do you see the
news complicating the issue of whether or not he`s selected as vice
presidential nominee?

ROIG-FRANZIA: Well, I think there are two things to look at. One,
does it matter he had connection with the Mormon faith at one time in his
life when he was young? And, two, will this bring attention to the
complexity of his religious life and his faith, you know?

So, the first part, does it matter that he was Mormon at one time? I
think that it`s been established through polls, particularly by Pew, that
Mitt Romney wouldn`t be hurt in a general election by the fact that he`s
Mormon. At the same time, there`s still in the United States, there are
still some people who have questions about the Mormon faith.

And it`s interesting when you look at the research that Pew did, they
asked people what is the one word that comes to mind when you think of a

And in that study -- while a majority of people had positive things to
say, family values, et cetera, some of the most commonly referenced words
were cult, different, polygamy. In fact, cult was number one. That says
there are still some questions about the Mormon faith that exist in the
United States.

The second question about the complexity of Marco Rubio`s religious
life is a very interesting one because besides having had some connection
to the Mormon faith when he was young in Las Vegas, he also has
participated and identified himself as a Catholic, and at the same time has
attended services of an evangelical church in the Miami area that`s
associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

So, it becomes a much more complicated thing than simply saying I`m
Catholic, I`m evangelical, I`m Mormon.

MADDOW: Obviously, there`s no religious test for office in this
country and it`s not the sort of thing that should affect whether or not a
person is affected or even whether or not they`re popular. But I wonder
when you start looking at Marco Rubio as somebody who has got a sort of
meteoric rise in national Republican politics -- are issues of religion
important to that at all? When Republicans assess him as a potential
national leader, when they consider him for a job like V.P., or higher
profile national roll, does religion matter at all?

ROIG-FRANZIA: I think it absolutely matters. It matters in part
because Senator Rubio has made religion and faith an important part of the
narrative that he has communicated to the public. He talks about religion
a lot. He mentions God a lot in his talks.

I`m thinking of his farewell speech when he was leaving the Florida
legislature. He ended on a note in which he said that he wanted to tell
everyone who was sitting there something very important and what he wanted
to say was that God is real. And he repeated that phrase. God is real.

And it`s clearly something that is central to the way he identifies
himself. It`s clearly something that is central to the way that people
perceive him and I think that his faith and his religion will continue to
be an absolutely fundamental element of any assessment of Marco Rubio
whether it be for a national ticket as either a vice presidential
candidate, or even at some point as a presidential candidate, or whether
it`s simply an analysis of him as a political figure in Washington that has
risen quickly and developed a large following.

MADDOW: The back of the envelope calculation about Mr. Rubio`s
prospects as a V.P. choice have to do with the idea, I think, that he would
increase support among Latino voters for Republican candidate who chose

What is Mr. Rubio`s support among Latino voters like? I mean, could
he be counted on to bring Latino voters on board despite Mitt Romney`s
stance on things like the DREAM Act and E-verify and we should have an
Arizona type papers please law for the whole country?

ROIG-FRANZIA: Yes. Well, it`s a very good question. It absolutely
remains unanswered at this point at a national level.

In Florida, he did well in a three-way Senate race. And in Florida,
as you know, there`s a large percentage of Cuban Americans.

In the United States at large, Cuban Americans represent a small
percentage of the overall number of Latinos. The overall number of Latinos
are Mexicans and Central Americans primarily.

Now -- so the question becomes then how is Marco Rubio going to do
with those folks? And clearly, he has been attempting in recent weeks,
months, to communicate a message to all people, Latinos also, that the
Republican Party should be changing its rhetoric on immigration.

At the same time, he has had some problems with criticism because he
hasn`t supported the DREAM Act and because he has supported E-verify, which
is an electronic way of testing whether someone is legal and has been
criticized by a fair number of Latino groups.

MADDOW: That`s really important to remember that as sort of an open
question, the diversity of the Latino vote in this country and how these
things might not just translate by being Latino yourself.

Manuel Roig-Franzia, staff writer for "The Washington Post" -- the new
book about Marco Rubio coming out in July, I`m sure it will be a
blockbuster. Thank you for your time. It`s nice to have you here.

ROIG-FRANZIA: It`s been a pleasure.

MADDOW: All right. Political Zen question: is a supporter still a
supporter if he keeps saying in public that you`re wrong about really
important things? Mitt Romney and the hazards of honest surrogates --
coming up.


MADDOW: Thesis number one about Mitt Romney`s unexpectedly
treacherous and uncertain path toward the Republican nomination for
president, that he still might not get -- thesis number -- Mitt Romney is
being made a better, tougher, more nimble candidate by all this intramural
brawling. Whatever weaknesses he`s got, they`re out there, he is figuring
out how to deal with him. He`ll be ready for rumbling by the fall.

Thesis number two about Mitt Romney`s treacherous and uncertain path
toward the nomination that he still might not get -- dude, nobody likes
this guy. Not even the people who have endorsed him.

Fresh data in support of thesis number two, coming up.


MADDOW: Yesterday at the end of the show, we reported on a
demonstration in the Syrian city of Homs, honoring two slain international
reporters -- American Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik.
These are people in a city that`s been attacked for three straight weeks by
the military of its own country holding a demonstration in honor of foreign
journalists who died trying to cover what was going on there.

The pieces of paper they are holding up to the camera say, "We will
not forget you." A third journalist was also honored at that same
demonstration, a Syrian man named Rami al-Sayed . This is a picture of Mr.
Sayed with his infant daughter.

He was one of the reasons the world had any idea what was happening in
Homs. He was a digital journalist. He kept by live stream of the bombing
there. His videos, many of them too disturbing to show on TV were uploaded
to a YouTube channel that showed almost unbelievable atrocities in Syria.

It`s been reported that Mr. al-Sayed died of injuries he received
during bombing in a neighborhood called Baba Amr in the city of Homs.

Rami al-Sayed posted this message online shortly before he died.
Quote, "Baba Amr is facing a genocide right now. Our hearts will be with
those who risk their life for our freedom. I know what we need. We need
campaigns everywhere inside Syria and outside Syria, and now we need all
people in front of all embassies all over the world.

In a few hours, there will be no place called Baba Amr and I expect
this will be my last message and no one will forgive you who talked but
didn`t act."

Today, a video surfaced of a French journalist named Edith Bouvier
pleading to be evacuated from Syria as soon as possible. She was wounded
in the same bombardment that killed Rami al-Sayed and the American Marie
Colvin and the French photographer.

Ms. Bouvier is speaking in French and the video she`s explaining that
her femur has been fractured and she needs surgery -- surgery that is not
available to her in the makeshift clinic where she is inside this city that
is being attacked all day every day by Syria`s military.

This young journalist is there with a French colleague and someone we
presume is a doctor maybe and a couple of other Syrian men who have been
trying to help her and her colleague. The person filming her appeal is the
only one who speaks English. You can hear what we guess is an explosion
toward the end of this plea for help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We asked the French government and the Red Cross
for help and to evacuate these injured people and take responsibility out
of our shoulder because we are here in a very dangerous situation. We
plead for you to come and evacuate them and give them the right to medical


MADDOW: Today, a group of investigators from the United Nations
reported that the highest levels of the Syrian government are guilty of
crimes against humanity, that Bashar al-Assad`s government is killing
anyone and everyone with military force and with impunity.

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said that the
opposition forces should be recognized as the legitimate representatives of
the Syrian people, not Assad`s government but rather the opposition. The
United States, along with the European nations met today to start drafting
what has been reported as an ultimatum to the Assad regime in Syria.

We`ll try to keep you informed about what happens next. And we`ll be
right back.


MADDOW: OK. Heading into the 2012 election, Mitt Romney`s strength
was that he`s the establishment candidate, right? The former Massachusetts
governor, never the most popular guy, and the more he campaigns, the less
people have liked him.

His unfavorable ratings, the measure of how much voters disliked him,
clocked in at 47 percent today in a new Gallup poll which actually is,
believe it or not, an improvement.

But what Mr. Mitt Romney lacked in the popular support coming into the
race, he could maybe make up for with big money billion-dollar donors,
right, and high profile endorsers everywhere. He is the establishment guy.

And that`s one way to run a modern campaign -- unlimited money from
rich guys with money to burn, and publicly professed love from political
stars. You especially hope to bring along the supporters of those
political stars who express their support for you. It`s like the
transitive property of politics, right?

It works best when those politics stars are not embarrassing. For
instance, freshman Congressman Michael Grimm of New York, a young buck on
the rise, working hard for the Romney campaign in the Florida primary,
until Congressman Grimm turned up in the "New York Times" denying
allegations about his campaign fundraising. Mr. Grimm is not a Mitt Romney
surrogate anymore.

Or there is Arizona sheriff Paul Babeu -- a Republican who walked the
desert with Senator John McCain in 2010 and had more recently been a
leading surrogate for Mr. Romney in Arizona. Paul Babeu, Romney surrogate,
Republican stud, until he turned up as just stud boy 1 on a dating Web site
with a secret Mexican ex-boyfriend who accused Sheriff Babeu of threatening
to deport him if he told anybody about their closeted relationship.

So the congressman and the sheriff ended up in the embarrassing
surrogate discard pile from Mitt Romney.

But for you`re not embarrassing surrogate, it also helps that these
people you`re relying on to bring voters your message actually agree with
your message. Last year for instance, Romney said the solution to the
nation`s foreclosure crisis was to let the whole thing, quote, "runs its
course and hit the bottom."

That position was a problem for Mitt Romney in Nevada where the
housing crisis is epic and where Nevada Congressman Joe Heck was trying to
be a leading surrogate for the Romney campaign.

How do you feel, Congressman Heck, about Mitt Romney`s position on
letting housing hit the bottom?


REP. JOE HECK (R), NEVADA: Mitt Romney and I don`t agree on every
issue and certainly housing is it one of them. When you look at what`s on
in here in southern Nevada, you can`t say you got to let the housing market
hit bottom. We have been bouncing along the bottom for years. And the
fact is we`ve got to do everything possible to one, keep people in their
homes, and two, get people who are out of their homes back into their


MADDOW: Mitt Romney and I don`t agree on every issue, like whether
Congressman Heck thinks Nevada votes ought to get thrown out of their

Similarly, in the middle of the financial crisis, Mitt Romney famously
argued that the federal government shouldn`t offer the automobile industry
a hand. Let Detroit go bankrupt.

Now that we didn`t let that happen and Detroit is back and they paid
off the government bailout and they`re posting huge profits, Michigan
Congressman Fred Upton is stumping for Mitt Romney in Michigan. Just don`t
ask surrogate Upton about the auto bailout.


REP. FRED UPTON (R), MICHIGAN: I guess on this particular issue,
there is a fundamental disagreement between the two of us.


MADDOW: In other words, I, Mitt Romney, surrogate in Michigan, think
Mitt Romney was wrong about Michigan. But vote for him, anyway, Michigan,
OK? For some other reason.

So Mr. Romney has tons of endorsers. He has tons of surrogates.
That`s part of what it means to be the establishment candidate.

But these supposed surrogates are frequent than you would expect, not
helping Mitt Romney.

For another example, Randy Pullen, former chair of the Arizona
Republican Party, major Romney surrogate. Surrogate Pullen telling CNN
this week, quote, "Santorum connects with people. Unfortunately, my guy
has had a hard time doing that. My guy needs to come out and connect with
the people and just lay it out there. I know he can do it, he just has to
make the effort."

I think he can, I think he can.

Or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a crowd pleaser willing to beat
the bushes for Mitt Romney, willing to stand up and say, hey, I know he
seems reserved, but he`s got passion, I know he does.

That`s how the surrogate should do it -- except for Chris Christie
jumping all over Mitt Romney for being slow to release his tax returns.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`ve released my tax returns
every year as soon as I file them. I released them historically when I ran
for governor. I just think get the stuff out there. So, if Governor
Romney were to ask for my advice, I would just say get the stuff out there.
If they`re interested in your tax return and you`re running for president
of the United States or governor of New Jersey, let people see it.


MADDOW: I hate to say it, with friends like these -- but seriously,
wait, there`s more.

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman had looked like the other Mitt
Romney, right, the other establishment good guy to beat. And when Jon
Huntsman left the race and threw his support to Mitt Romney, that was a
feather in his cap -- another Romney supporter for the long, long lists of
Romney supporters.

Well, check out Jon Huntsman on this network earlier today when he was
asked about last night`s Republican debate.


when the Republican Party used to put forward big, bold, visionary stuff.
I see zero evidence of people getting out there and addressing the economic
deficit, which is a national security problem, for heaven`s sake, and
addressing the trust deficit. I think we`re going to have problems
politically until we get some sort of third party movement or some
alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas.


MADDOW: Jon Huntsman saying we need new ideas, we need a new voice --
heck, we need a new party. But remember, vote for my guy, vote for Mitt
Romney. I endorse him.

It sounds less convincing when you put it like that.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
great night.


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