Guests: Frank Rich, Thomas Ritchie, David Lieberman
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for being with us this hour. This is James
Leon Holmes. He goes by Leon, not by James. But he was the president of
the Arkansas Right to Life group. He headed up in Arkansas an effort to
amend the state`s constitution to ban all abortion, even in instances where
the pregnancy could hurt the mother or where it was caused by incest or
where it was caused by rape.
The idea that being a rape victim might be enough to excuse you from
the state forcing you to carry a child to term, that idea really got under
James Leon Holmes` skin. He wrote a letter once to the editor of the
"Moline Daily Dispatch," explaining that people should stop worrying about
rape victims in cases like this. He said, quote, "Concern for rape victims
is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the
same frequency as snowfall in Miami."
That`s James Leon Holmes. He wrote that in 1980.
During the George W. Bush administration, President Bush gave him a
lifetime appointment as a federal judge. James Leon Holmes is now the
chief judge of the eastern district federal court in the state of Arkansas.
This is Clayton Williams. In 1990, Clayton Williams was the
Republican candidate for governor of Texas. He was running against
Democrat Ann Richards. Ann Richards beat him pretty well in the general
election, but not before Clayton Williams told reporters that rape was a
little bit like the weather. As long as it was inevitable, women should
just lay back and enjoy it.
In June 2008, Clayton Williams was scheduled to headline a fund-raiser
for then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain. He was scheduled
to headline that fund-raiser until people started asking about whether John
McCain agreed with Clayton Williams about when women should enjoy rape and
then the McCain campaign canceled the fund-raiser.
In 1988, a long time antiabortion leader in the Pennsylvania House of
Representatives argued for criminalizing abortion even for rape victims by
saying this, quote, "The odds are 1 in millions and millions and millions"
that a woman would get pregnant from being raped. And why is that? He had
an explanation. He said, "Rape obviously is a traumatic experience. When
that traumatic experience is undergone, a woman secretes a certain
secretion which has a tendency to kill sperm."
In 1995, a Republican state representative in North Carolina, a man
named Henry Aldridge made his case that rape victims should not be spared
from a new crack down on abortion rights, he said because quote, "The fact
show that people who are raped, who are truly raped, the juices don`t flow,
the body functions don`t work and they don`t get pregnant." He said,
quote, "To get pregnant, it takes a little cooperation."
In 1998, in Arkansas again, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate
running against Blanche Lincoln, a man named Fay Boozman was reported in a
local Arkansas paper to have told a crowd at a political gathering that
there was no need for a rape victims` exception to making abortion criminal
because of something he described as God`s little shield. He later denied
using the exact phrase "God`s little shield," but he did explain further
that based on anecdotal information he had collected as an ophthalmologist,
he knew that real rape victims could not get pregnant from a rape
In 1999, the former president of the National Right to Life Committee
published an article that anti-abortion activists still link to online
today. And says, the same thing the Republican men have been saying for
all those years, that women don`t get pregnant when they`re raped. These
guys in the anti-abortion movement and in the anti-abortion movement side
of Republican politics keep arguing, they keep making this case in public
because it has important policy consequences for them.
See, if you can`t get pregnant by being raped, anybody who is pregnant
by definition was not raped. It cannot have been a rape -- no matter what
you say, you must have wanted it if you ended up pregnant. If you wanted
it, there`s no reason to feel sorry for you and let you end this pregnancy.
You should have thought about that before you lured your supposed rapist to
do this thing that you obviously secretly wanted.
What was the line there? To get pregnant takes a little cooperation.
So we know you secretly wanted it, otherwise you wouldn`t be pregnant, and
we would not be talking about what the government is going to force you to
do with regard to your pregnancy.
Exceptions to the government`s decisions based on you supposedly being
raped, those, these guys say, are B.S. exceptions. Because any woman who
says she wants an abortion because her pregnancy is a result of a rape, by
definition, she`s lying about the rape thing. That`s the reasoning here,
right? That`s why you need to come up with the cockamamie fake science
theory if you want to talk about that as a policy.
And so, quietly over the last few years as the Republican Party has
slipped its moorings post-Bush and Cheney, as the party apparatus has
fallen apart and the conservative movement has stepped in and taken over in
the party`s place. As that has happened over the last few years, rape and
incest exemptions start have fallen out of favor.
I mean, there have always been people in Republican politics who
thought that rape victims had it too easy and we should stop coddling these
rape victims, these lying rape victims who seriously, secretly wanted it.
Those folks were always around in anti-abortion politics and Republican
politics, but now, in this Republican Party, they have taken over.
It was Sarah Palin`s take in 2008 as the Republicans` vice
presidential nominee that there should be no exceptions for rape and incest
victims when the party would criminalize abortion. In 2010, it was the
position of a whole bunch of Republican Senate candidates. Sharron Angle
as the Republican U.S. senate candidate in Nevada in 2010, she said the
government forcing a rape victim to bear the rapist`s child should be
thought of as a way of making lemons out of lemonade.
Abolishing rape and incest exemptions was also championed that same
year, 2010, by Christine O`Donnell in Delaware. She lost.
By Joe Miller in Alaska, he lost.
And by Rand Paul in Kentucky. He won.
It was also championed, of course, by Ken Buck in Colorado. Ken Buck
lost a Senate seat in 2010 in Colorado -- a seat that Republicans never
otherwise should have had any business losing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN BUCK (R-CO), THEN-U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I am pro life and I`ll
answer the next question. I don`t believe in the exceptions of rape or
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Ken Buck position is not an outlying position for the
Republican Party anymore. It has become the new Republican normal. Yes,
so called personhood amendments to ban all abortions including for rape and
incest victims and to also ban hormonal birth control and many fertility
treatments -- those personhood amendments got voted down by huge margins in
2008 in Colorado and in 2010 in Colorado, and 2011, even in Mississippi.
But by the following year, by 2012, by February 2012 in the Republican
presidential primary, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry and Rick
Santorum had all signed on to personhood as their policy position. Rick
Perry even went so far as to repent on the campaign trail this year for
previously saying there should be rape and incest exemptions to
criminalizing abortion. This year, Rick Perry said watching one of Mike
Huckabee`s DVDs changed his mind and now he too believes that rape and
incest victims should be forced by the state to give birth against their
In New Hampshire, in Georgia, in Indiana, in Virginia, in Idaho, in
South Carolina, in Iowa, Republicans in all of those states in the past
couple years have moved to overtly go after rape victims and incest victims
and anti-abortion laws, removing protections that they used to have in law.
In the House of Representatives, federally, when Republicans voted on
a new abortion ban for Washington, D.C. recently, it of course had no
exceptions for rape victims or incest victims.
HR-3, the third bill introduced by the Republican majority when they
took over the House after the 2010 elections, HR-3 was not just a federal
roll-back of abortion rights, it initially tried to redefine rape in
federal law, creating a new category called forcible rape. What I guess
you might think of as real rape, to, what? Distinguish it from non-
forcible rape, the kind of rape women secretly want and like?
Republicans upon taking control of the House in their third bill,
sought to redefine rape because the old definition of rape apparently
included too many things that women wanted to be protected from when we all
know they were the kinds of rape that are really no big deal.
Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, was an original
cosponsor of the bill to redefine rape. To make it harder on rape victims
who wanted to get an abortion.
The bill eventually dropped the redefining rape language, but Paul
Ryan was a sponsor of the bill while the original language was still in
there. He was also a sponsor of the federal version of the personhood
thing that had failed in Colorado twice and in Mississippi. Because even
in Mississippi, personhood language that would ban all abortions with no
exceptions at all, including for rape and incest, and would also ban
hormonal birth control and some fertility treatments was too extreme for
Mississippi, but Paul Ryan sponsored it for the whole country.
Paul Ryan also sponsored a federal version of Bob McDonnell`s ultra
sound bill from Virginia, in which the government forces women to have a
medically unnecessary producer against their will ands potentially against
doctors` orders, because the government wants it.
Paul Ryan`s bill for doing that at the federal level had no exemptions
for rape or incest.
The furor in Virginia over the forced ultrasounds bill is widely
viewed as having derailed Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell`s chances of
being this year`s Republican vice presidential nominee. He wasn`t famous
for much else, now he`s governor ultrasound. Of course he can`t be the
vice presidential pick.
But in skipping governor ultrasound, in skipping Bob McDonnell, Mitt
Romney honestly just picked someone else who had the exact same policy
record as governor ultrasound. Why didn`t the same policy record also
derail Paul Ryan`s chances at getting picked for the number two spot on the
Now that Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin has become the
latest Republican politician to articulate the pseudo-scientific thinking
behind this long-standing strand of Republican politics, now that there`s a
full scale freak-out about Todd Akin`s viability and his insanely out there
offensive politics on this issue and how the Republican Party can afford to
keep a guy like that on the ballot in that important race, once again, you
have to ask why the freak-out about Todd Akin when the Republican Party has
picked somebody with the exact same track record, with the exact same
policy record, his co sponsor on all of the bills to be the party`s vice
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female
body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is a moment of instability in Republican politics. Todd
Akin, Mr. Legitimate Rape there, he`s apologizing now for those remarks,
but he`s not changing any of his policy positions that derive from that
belief that he holds. And of course, for now at least, he`s staying in the
race for that Missouri Senate seat. At least he`s trying to do.
Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate said he would have supported a
personhood constitutional amendment at the state level. He told Mike
Huckabee when Mike Huckabee asked if he would support something like that,
he told Mike Huckabee, absolutely.
Mr. Romney then picked the national personhood guy for his vice
president, a congressman who sponsored bills to redefine rape and force
women to have medically unnecessary ultrasounds. He picked for his vice
presidential nominee a politician who has never in his political career
supported exemptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest when he has
advocated criminalizing abortion.
But now, today, out of the blue, with people disgusted by Todd Akin`s
explanation of the thinking behind the policy position, we`re told by the
Romney campaign to ignore Mr. Romney`s previous statements and to ignore
Paul Ryan`s whole political career. We`re told that what has been their
policy position is no longer the position of the campaign that is promoting
these candidates. Even if they have not quite yet come up with a story yet
for why Paul Ryan in particular might have changed his mind on this
subject, for why he might think now that rape victims deserve more empathy
from the government today than he thought they did two days ago.
This is a moment of instability in Republican politics. They`re going
to have to figure out which way to go on this.
The Republican Party let this strand of strange politics grow within
its midst. They let it become mainstream Republicanism. And now the
Republican Party is witnessing the country recoiling from what the party
You know, governor ultrasound, Bob McDonnell, he may not have gotten
the presidential nod this year, but you know what he got as a consolation
prize? He got assigned to oversee the Republican Party platform for this
year`s election. The national platform has supported criminalizing
abortion since 1976 with no exceptions for rape or incest. Republican
Party has always counted on that being kind of quietly ignored in national
politics, noticed by the activists to whom they answer but not noticed by
any of us.
Do you think they`ll still take the Paul Ryan/Todd Akin position on
rape victims in the national platform again this year or do you think now
that`s going to have to change?
Bob McDonnell is the one who decides.
Joining us now is Frank Rich, writer at large for "New York Magazine"
and former columnist for "The New York Times".
Mr. Rich, it is great to see you. Thank you for being here.
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: It`s all in Bob McDonnell`s hands.
RICH: As long as he`s not waving a wand.
RICH: (INAUDIBLE) anyone`s private parts.
MADDOW: You have to excise all magic wand references when talking
about Bob McDonnell, which is a crime against storytelling.
RICH: Yes, indeed.
MADDOW: The Romney/Ryan campaign spent the day trying to run, not
walk, away from Todd Akin`s views and Paul Ryan`s policy positions where he
has been a cosponsor of a lot of this really radical antiabortion
legislation alongside Todd Akin. Do they keep running from it and pretend
like that wasn`t Paul Ryan`s record or do they turn and start to defend his
RICH: I think they`re going to have to defend his record because they
can`t eradicate it, and what about the presidential candidate`s record? I
mean, after all, Romney has called for defunding Planned Parenthood,
defunding Title 10, which is not only gives contraception access to
American women but cancer screening, even abstinence education. We also
have to say that Mitt Romney belongs to a church where women have secondary
positions. They do not have the full rights of men.
MADDOW: Has he every spoken about whether he believes that portion of
his church`s teachings?
RICH: No, not to my knowledge. Instead, he says things like, I`m
going to send Ann out to canvass women and see what they think and report
back to everybody.
I think we`re seeing a cycle that just keeps repeating itself. From
the whole Sandra Fluke contraception Rush Limbaugh fracas happened,
everyone was embarrassed in the Republican Party who wants to win because
it blew the story. It told America what this party is about in terms of
women`s issues. And my view, human issues, in much the way you describe
them. At the time, people like Vin Weber and Whit Ayers (ph), Paul Stern,
Peggy Noonan said this will all die down and people will forget. And
particularly, if Rick Santorum, the hardest line guy on these issues in the
primaries is gone, everyone will forget.
But it keeps popping up because this is actually the policy of the
party. So, now they`re hoping Akin will go away, just as they hoped
Limbaugh would lower his slut language and the rest of this, but this is
If McDonnell tries to fool with the hard line language, it will put it
more in the spotlight because the real base of the party that supports
people like Akin will complain and scream and yell about it.
MADDOW: And they`ll fight it. And that`s what I think is -- I mean,
how we got here is interesting and where we`re going is interesting,
because how we got here I think is the party falling apart and the
conservative movement, which has always bolstered the Republican Party, has
stepped in. They don`t have any governor or whatsoever when it comes to
radical antiabortion politics.
So, there`s nobody in the conservative movement who`s saying, no,
don`t push on the rape and incest exemptions. That`s going to weird out
independent voters. That`s going to weird out even Republican women.
There isn`t anybody within the party who can speak with authority to
the conservative movement in a way that can shut them down. So, I think
that`s how we got here. But where we`re going to is a confrontation
between the Romney campaign and the Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum
conservative movement base of the party which will fight if they try to
take a stance.
RICH: They will, and frankly, since Romney has proved to back down at
almost any confrontation throughout this campaign, going back to the
primaries, whether it be about immigration -- it doesn`t matter what the
issue is -- he backs down. He`s not going to fight these people.
And furthermore, who would be his allies? Who are the people in that
party who are going to stand up for women`s rights? This is a party where
in the Senate, the entire Republican caucus voted for the fluke -- what was
it called, the flake amendment?
The Blunt Amendment, excuse me, the Blunt Amendment, which allowed
employers to sort of basically stop any kind of health care coverage that
dealt with women`s issues. It wasn`t framed that way. The only one to
vote against it in the Senate in the Republican side was Olympia Snowe, of
course, who is leaving the Senate.
So there`s no there there for people who would stand with Romney/Ryan
if they wanted to take the disingenuous position they that support
exceptions on abortion.
MADDOW: I`m just -- I`m just trying here. I don`t even know what
happens tomorrow on this let alone in the long run because we do have them
saying now with Romney/Ryan administration would allow abortion for rape
victims, even though that`s plainly in contradiction from their previous
RICH: They don`t believe it. They would never enforce it. It`s the
same thing as when Romney said, oh, Rush Limbaugh had a bad choice of
MADDOW: I wouldn`t have said slut.
RICH: I wouldn`t have said slut.
It`s a fig leaf they hope will fool these mythical, I think largely,
independents that are so easily fooled. I don`t think people are so easily
fooled. I don`t think they`re fooling Republicans, Democrats,
independents, or anybody. It`s a desperate attempt to put it back on the
back in the eve of the Republican convention.
MADDOW: Yes. Exactly, where the fight is going to happen. They
haven`t finalized their platform. Bob McDonnell is in charge. They need
to have that fight right now. Todd Akin has got to make his decision by
tomorrow. We should stay on TV all night.
RICH: I hope we will. Let`s do it.
MADDOW: Frank Rich, writer at large for "New York Magazine" -- I
should say your article in this week`s magazine, which is out today is
about Nora Ephron and it`s just brilliant. So, thank you for writing about
that. Thanks. Appreciate it.
OK. So, Republicans, shorts of sending him back and getting a refund.
What do you now do with Todd Akin? Time is short and the river is rising.
And later, two men might be fired for making it easier to vote. It`s
a big story with big national implications and the people in the middle of
this ongoing big deal are going to be joining us for the interview tonight.
That`s an exclusive here and it`s coming up.
MADDOW: In the election in the year 2000, the ballot in the great
state of Missouri was unique. Listed on the ballot in the Senate race that
year was the incumbent, Republican, you recognized there in your screen on
the left, John Ashcroft. Also listed on the ballot was his challenger,
Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan.
Now, Mel Carnahan by election day was no longer alive. He had been
killed in a plane crash less than a month earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TV ANCHOR: Governor Mel Carnahan was on his way to a campaign rally
in a small plane that went down in heavy fog and rain near St. Louis. The
first word came last night from a spokesman for the governor.
JERRY NACHTIGAL, GOVERNOR`S SPOKESMAN: It is with great sadness that
we report that earlier this evening, a plane believed to be carrying
Governor Mel Carnahan, his son Roger, and senior campaign adviser Chris
Sifford went down in Jefferson County.
TV ANCHOR: Carnahan died, along with his son who was piloting the
campaign and his campaign aide, Christopher Sifford. Carnahan was running
for a U.S. Senate seat against John Ashcroft.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Governor Carnahan died just a few weeks before the election
in Missouri in 2000. And that meant that Democrats did not legally have
time to replace him on the ballot for that senate race. State law didn`t
So, in a pinch, the acting governor told the people of Missouri if
they voted for Mel Carnahan on their ballot, the acting governor would
appoint Mr. Carnahan`s widow to the Senate seat.
So, on Election Day in the year 2000, John Ashcroft was in the
uncomfortable position of technically running against a dead person. He
ran against a dead person and he lost to that dead person.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: John Ashcroft, who was the incumbent, was
faced then with the delicate and difficult proposition of running against a
man who is dead.
Here`s where it stands at this hour in Missouri -- two thirds of the
vote have been counted. Mel Carnahan, who is now deceased, obviously, is
within striking range of John Ashcroft. In Missouri, NBC News is
projecting that Mel Carnahan who was killed in a plane crash, has been
elected over John Ashcroft, the Republican incumbent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Twelve years after the John Ashcroft versus a person who is
no longer among us race, the good and great state of Missouri is once again
facing a bit of a ballot problem. If you think it`s complicated when one
of the candidates dies, look at what they`re dealing with this year.
Congressman Todd Akin was just picked up by Republican voters in Missouri
to be their Senate nominee, to challenge the sitting Democratic U.S.
Senator Claire McCaskill. But then yesterday, Todd Akin doused his
political career, lit a match, and you know the rest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AKIN: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to
shut that whole thing down. But let`s assume maybe that didn`t work or
something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the
punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All the Republican senators and Senate candidate this year
are now calling on Todd Akin to step aside, to let another Republican run
against Claire McCaskill for that senate seat. Republican Senator Mitch
McConnell, the Senate minority leader, urged Todd Akin to quote take time
with your family to consider whether the statement will prevent you from
effectively representing our party in this critical election.
John Cornyn, who is in charge of the Republican Senate Campaign
Committee, said, "Over the next 24 hours, Congressman Akin should consider
what is best for him, the Republican Party, and the values he cares about
and has fought for throughout his career in public service.
Even less subtle was the national party pulling its million dollars of
ad from Todd Akin`s campaign. So too did Karl Rove`s money machine,
American Crossroads and Crossroads. They have spent hundreds of thousands
of dollars on Todd Akin`s campaign, but they pulled their ads for him
And yet, and yet, Congressman Akin says, at least he says this right
now, he says he is not resigning. Also he says please donate money to my
campaign, OK, thanks, bye.
So, for right now, Todd Akin says he`s not leaving. His son is
running his campaign. His wife is said to be his top political adviser.
They apparently are not pushing him out.
But the Republicans who are pushing him out are pushing with some
urgency. That`s because it appears that time is of the essence here.
Remember, 12 years ago when Mel Carnahan died a few weeks before the
general election, Missouri state law did not let Democrats replace his name
on the ballot. This year, if the November election is going to be free of
Todd Akin, there are not many ways to get his name off the ballot in this
Missouri Senate race. The easiest is for him to voluntarily withdraw from
the race. But the deadline for him to do that is tomorrow office 5:00 p.m.
It turns out tomorrow is the 11th Tuesday before the election, and
that`s the deadline, according to state law. If he gets out before 5:00
local time tomorrow afternoon, a Republican committee in Missouri will get
to pick his replacement to be on the ballot against Claire McCaskill.
There`s one other sort of strange option for how he can get his name
off the ballot which would give him a little more time to think about it.
According to Missouri state law, quote, "A candidate who has filed or
nominated for an office may withdraw as a candidate pursuant to a court
order. And if he withdraws pursuant to a court order, then the deadline is
no later than 5:00 p.m. on the sixth Tuesday before the election." The
sixth, not the 11th.
So if he does it that way, if he tries to get a court order to take
his name off the ballot, he will buy himself five more weeks to make his
decision. The sixth Tuesday before the election is September 25th.
Between now and September 25th, could Todd Akin get a court order to get
himself off the ballot? I don`t know.
Could the Democratic secretary of state in Missouri or somebody else
challenge that court order if he did get one? Theoretically, yes. How
would the Republicans deal with that possibility? We don`t know.
We called and wrote to the Missouri state Republican Party for comment
on their rules and strategy for dealing with Mr. Akin`s predicament right
now. We have yet to hear back from him, but we live in hope.
Right now, those are the options. Step down by tomorrow, get a court
order somehow by next month, deal with the possible objections to it, or of
course, there`s always the third option, Todd Akin, Mr. Legitimate Rape,
could stay in, in the Missouri Senate race. So he doesn`t step down,
Republicans don`t force him out, but then the Republican Party will
therefore be running a Senate candidate in an important swing state in a
presidential election year who is a policy clone of the Republican vice
presidential nominee and who has just been caught on tape explaining that
if your body didn`t reject the rapist`s sperm, it wasn`t really a rape.
Those are your three options, Republicans. Tick-tack, tick-tack,
MADDOW: Missouri Republican senate candidate, Congressman Todd Akin,
has done something that is inconvenient for the Republican Party. He
yelled "look over here!" to everyone who hadn`t noticed where the
Republican Party is these days on women`s health and women`s rights. It`s
a sensitive subject this year given, you know, Paul Ryan, et cetera.
Yes, Todd Akin really stunk it up for many politicians today. But not
all Republican politicians. There is a congressman who would be tonight`s
big headline politics story if Todd Akin wasn`t occupying that position.
So, this guy for one owed Todd Akin big time. His story is ahead.
MADDOW: Want to see what 1.3 million signatures look like when you
put them together in one place?
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Last June, volunteers in the great state of Ohio hand-
delivered 1.3 million signatures. They hand-delivered 1,502 boxes in total
to the Ohio secretary of state`s office, 1.3 million Ohioans signing
petitions calling for repeal of the state`s new union stripping law.
And the group called We are Ohio pulled up to the secretary of state`s
front door, they dropped those signatures on the secretary of state`s
Just for context, 1.3 million signatures, that`s more signatures than
the entire population of Wyoming or Vermont or North Dakota or South Dakota
or Alaska or Delaware or Montana or Rhode Island. Those signatures getting
dropped off there that day, 1.3 million of them, ultimately led to a
people`s repeal of the Ohio Republicans` stripping of union rights in that
It wasn`t even close. Republicans saw their anti-union law overturned
in a huge blowout.
Well, that location you just saw there, the doorstep of the Ohio
secretary of state`s office, that was the scene of another small D
democratic show of force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give the people the right to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s open the polls and let the people vote. Let
them be heard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a rally at the Ohio secretary of state`s office
today`s. It was in support of these two gentlemen you see framed here.
That`s Tom Ritchie, Sr., see there on the left and Dennis Lieberman on the
Why were all these people in Ohio rallying behind these two men today,
at the secretary of state`s office? Because Ohio Republican secretary of
state is threatening to fire them. Tom Richie and Dennis Lieberman may
lose their jobs this week for the crime of voting to expand voting hours in
their county. Tom Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman are the two Democratic
members of the Montgomery County board of elections.
Montgomery County is a traditionally blue county in a sea of red
counties in southwestern Ohio. It`s where there city of Dayton is. Dayton
is famous not just for the Dayton peace accords which ended the blood shed
in Bosnia, it`s also where John McCain introduced Sarah Palin to the nation
Dayton, Ohio, and Montgomery County, more broadly, ultimately rejected
Sarah Palin and John McCain in the election in 2008. That county went for
Obama by six points in the presidential election. It did so on the
strength of the residents there, frankly, having lots and lots of
opportunity to cast their ballots.
Montgomery County had early voting on nights. It had early voting on
weekends. There were plenty of opportunities to vote in the lead-up to the
2008 election. Montgomery County residents took advantage of that. In
particular, their African-American residents took advantage of that. More
than half of the early votes cast in that county in 2008 were cast by black
Heading into this year, heading into the 2012 presidential election,
Montgomery County elections officials wanted to repeat the success they had
running a relatively hassle free, trouble free election back in 2008. Last
December, the two Democrats that you saw earlier, Tom Ritchie and Dennis
Lieberman were joined by the two Republicans on the board of elections in
voting to expand early voting hours in Montgomery County
The county voted to do that in 2008 and they voted to do it again in
2012. They wanted to offer early voting this year in nights and weekends
and it was a bipartisan vote in favor of it in Montgomery County which runs
counter to what has been happening across the rest of the state.
As we have been reporting on the show, what is happening in Ohio this
year is a mess. The county elections boards are equally divided, two
Republicans and two Democrats in every county. The Republicans on these
local boards have been voting to expand early voting hours in Republican-
leaning counties but they have been voting against it in Democratic
counties. And that led to a situation where voters in traditionally
Republican counties like Butler County, for example, they would have had
the opportunity to vote on nights while voters in traditionally blue
counties like Cuyahoga County would not have that chance.
In order to rectify that problem, in order to fix that blatantly
biased set of rules, Ohio`s Republican secretary of state last week came
out finally and decided to take away expanded early voting hours for
everyone. At least it was sort of standardized. For every single county
across the state, he directed every county elections board to adopt the
same hours for early voting during the weeks leading up to election day.
But this is important. This is important. He did not say what should
happen on the weekends. The hours that he distributed only laid out the
rules for early voting on week days.
In Montgomery County which again had voted in a bipartisan manner to
have early voting on weekends this year, the Democrats on the board when
they saw this ruling from the secretary of state that was jut for week
days, they decided they would give the weekends question another shot.
So Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman voted on Friday to go forward
with weekend early voting there. And for those efforts, they were
suspended from the elections board by the secretary of state for the crime
of voting to offer the residents of their county more opportunity to vote.
The Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has now threatened to remove
them from office.
Think about this, though. He didn`t just say no to the proposal for
weekend voting. He didn`t threaten to take away the jobs of the
Republicans who also participated in that vote and voted the other way. He
didn`t just fix his directive about early voting hours to close the
loophole about weekends so it would also apply to weekends and be
standardized across the state. Instead, he just told these Democrats and
I`m quoting here, "You leave me no choice but to begin to process necessary
to remove you as member of the Montgomery County board of elections."
Remove? Today, Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman were hauled before
a state hearing that will ultimately decide their fate or help to decide
their fate. They were grilled by an attorney for the secretary of state`s
office. Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman were put in the weird position
of having to defend themselves against the charge that they used their
power on the country board of elections to a vote to allow people more time
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do as a board member take an oath to follow
the laws of the state of Ohio.
DENNIS LIEBERMAN (D), MONTGOMERY CO., OH ELECTIONS BOARD: The United
States Constitution and the Ohio constitution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And part of that is to follow the directives
issued by the secretary of state, correct?
LIBERMAN: Correct, which I believe I did. And still to this day
believe I followed that directive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That directive which did not have instructions about
Thanks to the Ohio Capitol blog for providing the tape from the
Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman, both Democrats, who between them
have more than 27 years of experience on their county elections board, they
could be fired by the end of this week for voting to expand voting hours
for the residents of their county. They`re going to be joining us live for
the interview next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS RITCHIE, SR., MONTGOMERY CO., OH ELECTIONS BOARD: All I want
to do is make sure that we have done what we have done in 2008, and that is
give the people the right to vote.
RITCHIE: There is a lot more that I would like to say but I`m going
to have to use a friend of mine`s line. Under advice from counsel, I am
just going to say let`s open the polls and let the people vote. Let them
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Thomas Ritchie, Sr., a Democratic member of the
Montgomery County, Ohio board of elections.
Today, Mr. Richie along with the other Democrat on that elections
board, Dennis Lieberman, were hauled before a state hearing and forced to
argue that they should not be fired by Ohio`s Republican secretary of state
who is threatening to fire them. They potentially fireable offense is that
they voted to expand early voting hours in their county in Ohio.
Joining us now for the interview are the two Democratic members of the
Montgomery County Ohio Board of Elections: Dennis Lieberman and Thomas
Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Ritchie, thank you both for being here. I
really appreciate your time, gentlemen.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
RITCHIE: Thank you.
MADDOW: Mr. Lieberman, let me start with you.
How important was early voting on weekends in your county, in
Montgomery County, the last time around in the 2008 presidential race?
LIEBERMAN: It was exceptionally important. You know, I can give you
some numbers, we had 28,000 people that voted early. Of those, one third
of them voted them voted on weekends. In fact, there was the weekend
beforehand, in which we had almost 8,000 people, the weekend before the
I remember standing out on the lawn, and because there was so many
people that they actually were lining up on the lawn, and we -- there was a
college student that had a guitar and he was playing songs, and my
Republican counterpart on the board at the time looked at me with tears in
his eyes and he said, this is what America is about. And he was right. It
is. Early voting in Montgomery County is critical.
MADDOW: Let me ask about working with your Republican colleagues
here. Obviously, all the elections boards have two Democrats and two
Republicans, and Mr. Ritchie, I`ll ask you. Under some other -- unlike
some other Democratic-leaning counties across the state, the Republicans on
your county board originally joined with you in wanting to expand early
voting hours in the county. Why do you think they originally went along
with that, when Republicans and a lot of other Democratic counties were
voting no on that?
RITCHIE: Well, I think that they knew it was the right thing to do at
the time they cast that vote, to let the people of the county vote. We had
made that commitment to them in two previous board meetings, where they had
appeared. And the Republican board members voted to allow weekend voting.
MADDOW: Let me ask you -- this is to either of you -- in terms of the
technical matter here at hand, the secretary of state issued some
guidelines about essentially standardizing some of the early voting hours.
And it seemed from the -- most people`s reading of those guidelines, that
he was saying that there would be no early voting on weekends and there
would be some minimal expanded early votings on -- expanded early voting
hours on weekend nights.
Is it your contention, when you took this vote last week, that he
didn`t actually instruct you, that you couldn`t have early voting on
weekends? Do you think you have the right to do that?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, I do. It was my motion, and the reason I made the
motion is because we had already, in December -- on December 28th of 2011,
we had already decided that we were going to have early voting in
Montgomery County on weekends as well as during the week. And it`s
authority that we have under the Ohio revised code, I believe, to make
When I got his directive Friday morning, and when Tom got it, we
looked at it, and I looked at the directive, and it talked about regular
business hours, Monday through Friday. Now, the secretary of state knew
that we had already voted in early voting on weekends and had been using it
in Montgomery County since 2008 and had actually used it in the primary,
the presidential primary, this year, just a couple months earlier.
So he knew we had it, and my thought was that if he knew we had it and
he didn`t address it, then we were free to fill in those blanks. And
that`s what we did. And my motion was to accept the directive that he had
for weekdays and simply keep the weekends that we had decided. And we got
a letter telling us to rescind the motion or be fired and I refused to
rescind the motion.
MADDOW: Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Ritchie, Democratic members of the
Montgomery County Ohio Board of Elections, I know that this is as of yet
unresolved. This is still a pending matter, and I know it, therefore,
takes some guts to talk about it publicly in terms of what`s going on, but
thank you for being willing to explain it to us and good luck this week.
Please keep us posted. The whole country`s paying a lot of attention
to Ohio for good reason.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
RITCHIE: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thanks, gentleman. OK.
Do you want to know who won the news lottery today? The Republican
congressman whose own scandal was squeezed out of the headlines by the Mr.
Legitimate Rape Todd Akin scandal today. The guy who got squeezed out of
the headlines and who is very thankful to Mr. Akin, we`ve got his story
MADDOW: And now a brand-new and possibly ill-advised new RACHEL
MADDOW SHOW franchise -- the best timing in the world today. In the best
timing in the award goes to Republican congressman from Kansas, Kevin
Congressman Yoder featured today in headlines like this that did
appear in a few of today`s papers. "Congressman Kevin Yoder`s nude swim
yields an apology." "Representative Yoder apologizes for skinny dipping in
Sea of Galilee." "GOP colleagues: Yoder`s nude swim breaches trust."
"Politico" had the story first, posting this banner headline that`s,
"Exclusive: FBI probed GOP trip with drinking, nudity in Israel." It
apparently happened during a congressional delegation to Israel last
summer. A group of Republican congressmen brought to Israel by a
foundation connected to a pro-Israel lobbying group.
And one night, some members of the delegation went to this restaurant
that is right on the Sea of Galilee -- you know, the one you read about in
the Bible. Not the restaurant, but the sea. The restaurant is called
Decks. And you can apparently jump right off one of the decks into the
water, into the sea.
And reportedly about 20 members of this delegation did just that. And
all of the swimmers can kept at least some of their clothes on. Except for
Quote, "Congressman Yoder removed all his clothes, the only person to
do so, according to multiple sources."
Some of those present took photographs of the group right after the
late-night swim, sources said. Dude, everybody threw you under the bus for
Today, Congressman Yoder went on a local radio show to explain the
naked in the Sea of Galilee thing.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN YODER (R), KANSAS: Members decided at the Sea of Galilee,
they wanted to take a spontaneous dive into the sea and at some point, I
decided to join them and made the real mistake of going in without
clothing, and it`s a regrettable incident. We were, you know, having wine
with dinner, but alcohol really played no role in the decision to go in.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Judgment was unimpaired when you took all of your clothes off
and jumped into a body water that is closely associated with not one, but
two miracles of Jesus.
For what it`s worth, despite the "Politico" headline, the FBI is
denying to NBC News today that it is involved in any sort of investigation
of the skinny dipping congressman. International naked swimming in the Sea
of Galilee is apparently not a federal crime. In any case, today could
have been so much worse for Congressman Kevin Yoder, because, of course,
Congressman Kevin Yoder is not Republican Todd Akin, his Republican
colleague in the House.
Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas, you are the inaugural beneficiary
of the best timing in the world today. Mazel tov. May all of your sober,
public skinny dipping adventures find their way to "Politico" in the wake
of much bigger stories, which is what you benefited from today.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell." Have a
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Guests: Frank Rich, Thomas Ritchie, David Lieberman