THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
January 2, 2013
Guests: Charles Schumer, Terry O`Neill
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I did. I took a whole bunch of time off, more time than I`ve taken in a long time. And what I did with it is I cleaned the basement, because now I`m an old person, and that counts as an exciting way to spend time off.
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: You`re one of the Americans who throws everything in the basement, who will deal with it later.
SCHULTZ: I understand. I`ve been there.
MADDOW: Thanks, man. It`s great to be back. Nice to see you.
SCHULTZ: You bet. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us as well. It is great to be back. And my basement -- spectacular.
There was a time in the Republican nomination process for the presidential nomination this past election year when the strange candidacy of Newt Gingrich got even weirder than usual. I mean, toward the end, it got even logistically weird when Mr. Gingrich started scheduling his press availabilities at the zoo. Mr. Gingrich famously likes exotic animals, and he specifically likes exotic animals at zoos.
At one point, he started inviting the press to come along to talk to him about campaign-related issues, but price of admission for the press was that they had to go to the zoo with Newt Gingrich in order to hear what he had to say.
Whether you find that endearingly eccentric or creepily eccentric, that form of eccentricity is a recurring theme in American politics. President Lyndon Johnson famously used to do interviews from the bathroom. He would be sitting in the bathroom, using the bathroom, speaking to reporters about important things, but if reporters wanted to record their thoughts of those important things. That would have to take themselves within earshot of his toilet time. That`s even weirder than taking people to the zoo.
But my nomination for 2012`s most awkward setting goes to ABC News reporter Shoshanna Walsh (ph) who scored a really detailed, really fascinating, really insightful interview with the former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. She scored that interview while Mr. Armey was doing this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stroke, stroke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, slow down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What you are looking at here, what this is, is a combination workout routine and video game that`s called Wii Fit. It`s a video game system that can track your movements, and it encourages those movements through the competitive gaming instruction. So you not only have a fun time playing video games, you are moving around, and so you get sweaty while you are doing it. It was while doing a Wii fit workout that Dick Armey spoke with ABC`s Shoshanna Walsh and explained why he did bring a guy with a gun to FreedomWorks to try to mound a coup to take over the organization, he does not want that to be seen as him mounting an armed coup to take over FreedomWorks.
We knew that Dick Armey was leaving the supposedly grassroots Tea Party group FreedomWorks. We knew he was getting paid $8 million to leave that group. We knew that thing about him bringing the guy with the gun to work with him one day. But now thanks to this interview he gave while doing this, we now know how it happened from Dick Armey`s perspective.
Mr. Armey told ABC, quote, "I can`t state here at FreedomWorks. I can`t work with people like this, and I can`t afford to leave with empty pockets."
He said his choice was to put in 10 years of hard labor to win control of FreedomWorks. But then a zillionaire donor stepped in and made him this offer instead. He says what the donor said to him was, "Instead of hard labor, how about you never have to work again forever?" Mr. Armey said, "How many people have the trouble making that choice at the age of 72?"
And it is a great deal that he got. He gets paid $400,000 a year, every year, from now until he is 92 for a total of $8 million. And what he has to do to earn the $8 million is promise not to work at FreedomWorks anymore.
This Tea Party gig is a sweet gig if you know how to do it right.
This is not Dick Armey`s first experience from getting fired from a top job, but finding a way to get fired profitably. He was House majority leader for the Republican Party for eight years. That means he was the number two Republican in the House. That should have put him in line to be speaker of the House if anything happened to the guy above him.
But when something did happen to the guy above him, Dick Armey never got the job. He got passed over. It was Newt Gingrich, the zoo guy, who had been the number one in the House. He had been the speaker while Dick Armey was the number two Republican in the House. And Newt Gingrich did get thrown out by his own House Republicans in 1998.
Dick Armey was next in line for the speaker`s job when Newt Gingrich was thrown out. But they threw Dick Armey over as well. Mr. Armey never got the top job.
He then left and took a very sweet and highly paid job as a lobbyist, which led to his even sweeter job with FreedomWorks, which has now led to the sweetest job of all, which is getting paid $8 million to please not come to work anymore.
What happened to Dick Armey and what happened to Newt Gingrich happens a lot to Republicans. They tend to back stab their own supposed leaders. They tend to throw their own top guys out.
They did it with Newt Gingrich. They did wit Dick Armey. They did it back in the `60s to their former Speaker Joe Martin. They did to Charles Halleck.
That`s how Gerald Ford got to be the Republican leader in Congress before he ever became president. He got his leadership role thanks to a Republican coup in the House of Representatives. There was a good article in "The Week" today about this history, which we`ve linked to on the blog if you want to check it out.
But the short of it is Republicans have a history of attacking their own relationship, overthrowing their own top dogs. But importantly, it is only Republicans who do this. Democrats do not do this. There is no history of a Democratic speaker being overthrown by his or her side.
But Republicans seem to enjoy it. And tomorrow they will get another chance.
House speaker John Boehner faces a vote tomorrow in his own caucus as to whether or not he gets to remain speaker. The smart money says that he is going to keep his job, in part because nobody knows who else might want that job right now except for him.
But it is never a good sign when you have to respond to reports that you are going to quit. Speaker Boehner`s office insisting today that he expects to be elected speaker tomorrow, despite reports that might he not only win that speakership vote. He might not even thrive for it.
The speakership of John Boehner has been chaotic from the beginning. But it has now devolved into outright defiance of his leadership, outright derision against him from his own side. His own plan to avert the fiscal cliff before Christmas went to the floor where it was quickly clear that the bill wasn`t going to pass, and so it was humiliatingly pulled.
The White House eventually stopped negotiating with John Boehner when it became clear there was no point, because it didn`t matter what he said Republicans will do. Republicans were not taking instruction from him. So, he couldn`t promise anything about their behavior. So why would you talk to him about what Republicans were going to do?
In the end, his Congress not only passed less legislation than any Congress in American history, it could also not pass the basic keep government running bills that have bipartisan support, that have previously made their way across Capitol Hill with, yes, the usual wrangling, but with the expectation that they do have to pass. Things we need, things like the farm bill. We do one of those every five years, but not this year. John Boehner couldn`t get it done. So they`re just extending the old one for a few months, hoping that something changes.
It`s same thing with Violence Against Women Act. It`s utterly bipartisan. It has passed without incident and been renewed year after year after year. But this year, John Boehner could not get it done.
Ultimately, House Republicans did get their side of the fiscal cliff deal passed, but John Boehner had to do it with 172 Democrats, and only 85 Republicans. Twice as many Republicans voted against him as voted with him.
The man was already at the end of a very, very, very frayed rope, and that was before this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: It`s inexcusable. And I am -- I am here tonight saying to myself for the first time that I`m not proud of the decision my team has made.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: This Congress has never, never failed to vote emergency appropriations for the aid of the beleaguered states, never.
To ignore the plight of millions of American citizens -- unprecedented, disgusting, unworthy of the leadership of this House. They should reconsider or they should hang their heads in shame.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they`re out raising millions of dollars. Anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their mind because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyians. It was absolute disgrace.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims -- the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. It was disappointing and disgusting to watch.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: This is one of the most sad but also most frustrating and angering days I`ve spent in 37 years as a legislator. Speaker Boehner pulled out the rug from under us at the last minute. This failure to get relief now could be called the Boehner betrayal.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: That`s New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, who is here tonight to talk with us.
But that litany of people you just saw is not just Democrats. This is not a Democratic versus Republican fight. The outrage here is bipartisan and born of shock, which you can hear in the tone from those speakers. Because the relief bill for hurricane Sandy is not something anybody was expecting to have a huge ideological or partisan fight over. This is not something that Republicans have taken a stand against. This was a long-awaited fight.
In fact, John Boehner had told the congressional delegations and the governors of the states affected by hurricane Sandy that this would get done. The Senate passed it last week. Everybody expected it was going to get done because he said it was going to get done. And then he just walked away without explanation, without warning, and without anybody having any idea what he was thinking. Chaos.
Joining us now is Charles Schumer. He is the senior senator from New York. He is a Democrat. He is a member of the Finance Committee.
Senator Schumer, thank you for being here.
SCHUMER: Good evening.
MADDOW: The Senate obviously passed the bill for Sandy relief. It was a surprise when the house did not. We`re now hearing that the House will get it to later on this month. Is that -- is that good enough?
SCHUMER: Well, we`ll see. If we get the $60 billion by the end of January, it will certainly be relief that people need. But, remember, every week you wait is a problem.
I was with homeowners in Long Beach. They have huge amounts of damage in their home. And they can`t get a contractor to sign a contract or a bank to give them a construction loan until they know that there is money there from the federal government to back up those types of activities.
So it should have been done yesterday. There now is a path to getting the money. But what happened last night on the floor of the House, as you point out, is disgraceful. This is the first time in a 100-year tradition -- America has always had the wisdom when disaster strikes, no locality, even a large one like New York, can deal with it on its own.
And so, we all unite together as Americans, not Democrats, Republicans, Northerners, Westerners, Southerners Easterners, but Americans, and say we`re going to help this beleaguered area out. For the first time that didn`t happen last night.
MADDOW: The Congress -- the 112th Congress ends tomorrow at noon. The new one will be sworn in at 1:00. What John Boehner is proposing the House do after what happened last night is it will take place in the next Congress.
Does that mean that the Senate has to start over, pass this whole thing that they passed again?
SCHUMER: Well, in the Senate, we did it the way it`s usually done. We did have a bipartisan majority. We allowed amendments. Tom Coburn had nine or seven amendments to cut this or cut that. Most were defeated.
But we will have to start over. I don`t think we`ll have to start with the whole process, because of the way we handled it in the Senate, I think we`ll be able to handle it rather quickly. It`s the House you got to be more worried about.
MADDOW: Why do you think this happened? I mean, it is one -- I`ve tried to make the distinction there between this being a fight over the policy. Certainly, there will be some concerns about various aspects of this. But this wasn`t a policy fight. This was just an unexpected abandonment of something they said they would do.
Do you understand why it happened?
SCHUMER: Well, there are two reasons why it happened probably. The first is that -- and this explains a lot of the other failures of this Congress that you mention, failure to pass a farm bill, there is a new group here in the House. There are maybe 50 to 75 House hard-right Republicans who really don`t believe government should be involved in things that have traditionally been involved in. They`re way out of the mainstream.
Now, there have always been people over to the extremes in the House and the Senate. This is the first time the speaker has just totally kowtowed to them. They dictate the policy.
When people want to know why we are stuck on issue after issue, it`s a twofold reason. Not only are these 50 to 70 people there, but they have a veto power over what Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans do. You cannot govern like that.
And the only good thing that could come out of this Sandy debacle is maybe some of them will see it, because on the issue of disaster aid, we`ve not even -- we`ve never even come close to having this kind of confrontation.
MADDOW: You obviously are not who the Republicans are turning to for advice on internal Republican politics, and neither am I. Do you think it would be better for the country if there were a different speaker of the House? With the Republicans still in control, if they needed to pick a different member of their caucus to be speaker, would the country be better off?
SCHUMER: Well, you know, you`d have to find out who that is. There are some who would be better in that place and some who would be worse. But the one thing they would be that they can`t do no matter who is speaker is just let this hard right group of people dictate.
And we`ve been waiting for mainstream Republicans to rise up and say, no, because it`s bad not only for the country most importantly, but for their party. And they`re going to be -- as long as they let this group govern, they`re going to be a minority party. They`ll be a minority party, and they`ll be more and more of a minority party. Sooner or later that will wake them up.
But the hard right, with its money machine and with the way they control the messaging and even their wing of the media, has such a grip on this party that I`m afraid it`s going to take a while before the Republicans themselves come to their senses. I don`t think it`s the person who is there. Boehner by all reports is more moderate than just about anyone else in that leadership, more moderate than Cantor, more moderate than McCarthy, more moderate than Paul Ryan.
But any one of them right now is sort of almost a slave to this group of hard right people. And when you talk to those -- that group, not only are they totally out of the mainstream, they don`t listen. They think they have the fountain of all wisdom that compromise is a dirty word. That`s what we`re seeing with the debt ceiling, and, you know, this will be a big test.
Will they -- if President Obama follows through on what he says he`s going to do, and I believe he will and I think we should, too, we`re not going to negotiate on debt ceiling. You guys, if you want to come in the room and say we`ll only raise the debt court of appealing if you cut this, this and this, we should say, leave the room. If you want to let the debt ceiling lapse, that`s on your back.
I don`t believe the Republican Party would, even though these 50 or 75 would. But if we don`t negotiate with them and isolate them, then -- then we can achieve something. And force in a certain sense the more mainstream Republicans not to go along.
MADDOW: Well, seeing that coalition vote would eventually you had on the fiscal cliff side in the House with essentially all of the Democrats and some Republicans --
MADDOW: -- who could bring themselves to do it, that may be the future.
SCHUMER: That`s the only way to govern. And that`s what will get us out of this mess on Sandy. But it also is the path with the rest.
And the nation has to be aware. The reason we have gridlock is not oh, on the other hand, the other hand, the Democrats, the Republicans. There are very liberal Democrats, but they don`t hold things up unless they get their way because they realize they`re not a majority of the Senate or the House. These hard right Republicans do, but only with the cooperation of Speaker Boehner. And that`s why he has been a failure.
MADDOW: And that`s why that vote tomorrow is way more exciting than you think it would be by the numbers.
Senator Schumer, thank you for coming in tonight.
SCHUMER: Good to see you, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: It`s nice to see you. Thanks.
All right. The 112th Congress did get next to nothing done over the last two years. Historically feckless, this Congress. However, the last big bill this Congress passed achieved something that was decades in coming. The real history made over the holidays, coming up next.
MADDOW: You know what is really expensive? War.
We started one war in Afghanistan right after 9/11, and then we started another simultaneous war in Iraq two years later. Iraq went on for more than eight and a half years before it ended. In Afghanistan we are well into our 12th year there now. And even if the only cost you add up from those wars is the financial cost, those wars have been staggeringly expensive.
Do you want to know what is more expensive than those wars? The George W. Bush tax cuts are more expensive than those wars.
Here again is the financial cost of the wars, which started in 2001, and here is the financial cost of the tax cuts, which started that same year.
Both are staggeringly expensive. But of the two, the Bush tax cuts are worse. And of course, the combination of the two of them together is stupefying. It is a nightmare.
It`s the kind of thing that can send the world`s most powerful economy from having hundreds of billions of dollars in surplus to instead having hundreds of billions of dollars in deficit. And that`s even before the economy blew up entirely thanks to the Wall Street meltdown at the end of the Bush presidency.
The Bush tax cuts were so expensive that they just gutted the national budget right in time for the Great Recession downturn that almost took us out entirely.
Now, we`re more than a decade on from that. The Iraq war is over as of just exactly a year ago. The Bush tax cuts were all extended for one more year last year after they reached their 10-year expiration date.
And in the deal that President Obama is due to sign now from his vacation in Hawaii, the Bush tax cuts are about to be made permanent for 99 percent of all American taxpayers. The tax cuts will go back to Clinton-era rates, right? The tax rates will go back to what they were in the Clinton area, only on income over 400 gs.
So the Bush tax cuts were a fiscal disaster for our country. But we are keeping 99 percent of them.
Still, though, the president got most of the deal that he wanted in this deal that happened over the holidays. And he did get the Republicans to admit to that one tiny exception to making all the Bush tax rates permanent.
And the president signaled in a statement released by the White House today that he is now after this deal ready to move on. Specifically, the president name checked five policy areas that he wants to move on now that this cliff nonsense is at least partially behind us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Once we get this done, we can get to work on the issues that will determine whether America prospers not just in the next four years, but for the next 40 years: winding down the war in Afghanistan in a responsible way, reforming our immigration system, and protecting our children from gun violence, freeing ourselves from foreign oil and the harmful effects of climate change, reforming our schools, and opening the doors of higher education to more Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, in the White House statement, they did not put in that handy box. We added it to allow for a more tight focus on what exactly he name-checked there. President Obama name-checked five things he is ready to move forward on with the Congress.
From the statement today, I think we are supposed to believe this is the top of the second term agenda: ending the war in Afghanistan, immigration reform, gun reform, education reform of some kind, and something on climate change.
Now, if this president can get all of that done, that would be a heck of a second term, right? Especially if you add in nonpartisan election reform as well, which is attorney general at least has been highlighting after the long lines and the partisan bullpuckey we saw in running this past election.
So, if you add in election reform to those other five, this is a really big and somewhat comprehensive agenda that the president is laying out for his second term after the little cliff walk we all enjoyed through the holiday season.
But, of course, all those things he has to do he has to do with Congress. And since Republicans control the House, that means the president needs a plan to work with or work around Washington`s Republicans.
So here is the question. Here is the question. Is there anything about what is going on with Washington Republicans right now that should give us reason to believe that it`s possible to work with them, that they are capable of participating in governing the country instead of everything having to be done around them like there is some spilled liquid on a supermarket floor we`re all in danger of tripping.
Is there reason to be hopeful? The answer is yes, there is reason to be hopeful. Congressional Republicans in their current round of in-fighting and back stabbing and hysterical and hyperbolic self blame have decided to make one change in the one way they talk about policy, to make one change that I think is a really constructive sign.
Before now, Republicans insisted that the Bush tax cuts were free, that in fact all tax cuts were free, that cutting down the amount of money that people give to the government does not in fact reduce the amount of money that people give to the government. That`s been their case, right? It is a very weird case to make. But that has been their public contention for years.
And they have stuck with it through thick and thin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLY FIORINA (R-CA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Let me just propose something that may seem crazy to you. You don`t need to pay for tax cuts. They pay for themselves.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: You need policies like an extension in making permanent the `01 and `03 tax cuts. They will be paid for because they create economic growth.
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: You should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You should never have to offset the costs of a tax cut because by virtue of it being a tax cut, it has no cost, it`s free, it costs nothing. That`s what Republicans have said for years. That is how they justified keeping the Bush tax cuts all this time. That is how they justified going ahead with the second round of Bush tax cuts right after we started our second simultaneous war in 2003.
Why would we need to do anything about taxes to pay for that? Tax cuts are free! Down is up, night is day, the Jets are going to the Super Bowl.
It`s nonsense. But they have believed and argued that nonsense now for years.
For all of the mess in Washington right now and all of the specifically Republican mess in Washington right now, I am here to tell you that Republicans have apparently given up on that particular part of their nonsensical mess.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: President Bush`s tax cuts were not paid for. They were anticipated to be grown out of. These are not anticipated to be grown out of. CBO has already said 3.967. In other words, $4 trillion will be added to the debt over 10 years with this tax cut unless we do some spending cuts to help offset it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hey, that`s who congressional Republicans put out to talk about the whole tax cut deal that just passed. And his argument is the Bush tax cuts were not paid for. And, boy, were those Bush tax cuts expensive. And we need to come up with something to offset the horrible effect of the Bush tax cuts on the budget. Right, right, right! A decade on.
That has been true all along. But when the Bush tax cuts were the Republicans` own policy and the Democrats were against them, Republicans refused to accept that hard truth.
Now that the Bush tax cuts, now that 99 percent of the Bush tax cuts are national settled policy supported by Democrats and enacted under President Barack Obama -- well, now the Republicans think these tax cuts are very expensive. We couldn`t possibly be so irresponsible.
Congressional Republicans have come to this belated appreciation for how math works simply because the partisan tables are turned. They cannot take yes for an answer. When their policies, their own Republican policies are accepted, it is by virtue of Democrats accepting those policies that the Republicans no longer find themselves them acceptable -- which is nuts, right?
But whatever the reason is that got them there, however nuts their reasoning is to get them here, the fact is they`re here. They now seem to be acknowledging how bad George W. Bush`s math was, how George W. Bush`s math never really worked. And it never really worked, and maybe that`s a start.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Illinois State Senator Barack Obama speaking at the 2004 Democratic Convention, expressing a sentiment so stirring, so patriotic that the speech is barely remembered for all of the parts of it that were about John Kerry and John Edwards. Remember those guys?
Now, what we remember from that convention is the United States of America. But united is not the same thing as identical. We are not the identical states of America.
And today, the first business day of the New Year, this is one of those days when you might really feel the difference between liberal America and conservative America. Por ejemplo, as of today, as of this week, people who earn the minimum wage saw their hourly pay go up in 10 states. In all those states except for Rhode Island, the increase happened automatically because the state governments decided at some point that the minimum wage should go up automatically to keep up with inflation.
And in those states, the average minimum wage is 8 bucks and 12 cents an hour, $8.12 an hour. Everywhere else in the country, the average is only $7.40 an hour. If you work full-time for minimum wage, the difference between what just happened in those nine states and everywhere else in the country, it`s about 1,500 bucks a year, which matters, right?
Elections, state elections have consequences. There are big differences between the way that our states are governed, and if you thought the differences between the red states and the blue state were already pretty stark, wait until you hear what just happened in Virginia. That`s next.
MADDOW: Just a few days ago, the new cycle presented a rare opportunity for the politically savvy politician, the kind of opportunity that only comes around once a year, the opportunity that is the Friday between Christmas and New Year`s, the mother of all Friday news dumps, right?
If you are a political leader and you are looking to bury an unpleasant bit of business where nobody is going to notice it, there is probably no single better specific day to do it than on the Friday between Christmas and New Year`s. If you are Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, for instance, what better day to sign off on a measure designed to shut down the majority of your state`s abortion clinics? Good timing, governor ultrasound.
"The Richmond Times Dispatch" describing their governor`s stealth move as follows, quote, "Unlike the public relations ballyhoo that accompanies many executive actions, Governor McDonnell, an anti-abortion Republican, certified the regulations and had them posted to the Virginia Town Hall Web site without a public announcement."
And he did this when? Ah. On the Friday between the Christmas and the New Year`s holidays.
This has been an incredibly contentious and controversial policy issue in Virginia, led by governor ultrasound and his attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, both lifetime anti-abortion activists. The state`s health board had initially tried to block these new regulations, but Cuccinelli and McDonnell aggressively pressured and threatened the board into reversing their decision. And now with the governor signing these regulations in the dead of night on a Friday between the Christmas and New Years, with no public announcement, we are now on track for the Republicans in Virginia state government to have shut down most of the clinics in that state.
And that`s why he will never shake the nickname governor ultrasound. And that will not be handy if he ever tries to seek further political office after he is turfed out of the governorship this year.
It was February of last year when Virginia Republicans got to work on what started out as a forced vaginal probe ultrasound bill. And for whatever reason, that bill in Virginia got a lot of national attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to ask you about this red-hot story that has gotten so much ink, so many women in particular fired up.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: You backed an abortion bill initially that included a very invasive procedure as part of an ultrasound that the state would have required. And then you backed off of that. Were you wrong to support that initially, or did you simply back off because the political heat got turned up the way it did?
JOHN KING, CNN: Governor, you`ve gone through this with the personhood debate and the ultrasound bill in the state of Virginia. If you look at your Facebook page right now, there is a feisty conversation going on there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was a bill, an abortion bill that would have mandated that women get what is called a transvaginal ultrasound if they were getting an abortion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you were here last month, you were in favor of the transvaginal ultrasound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were educating yourself on this bill, did you originally not realize that it might mandate an invasive procedure?
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: You have to realize this wasn`t my bill.
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: During the entire wand forcibly inserted in your most private area experience, you still have complete and total control over what direction your head is turned. So, just set your iPod to shuffle, flip through a copy of "Vanity Fair," and try to ignore the fact that you`re being handled like a human popsicle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, don`t get me wrong. I love transvaginal. It`s my favorite airline. I got so many miles on transvaginal, that I always get upgraded to lady business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: That is what happened last year when Virginia Republicans tried to force a vaginal probe ultrasounds on women seeking abortions. Everything up to and including "Saturday Night Live."
The thing is there was something a little weird about all that attention, because the exact same policy had come up in a different state with an ambitious governor the year before, but that one got no national notice at all. In 2011, it was Texas. And Texas Governor Rick Perry, he held a big ceremonial signing event to usher in his state`s forced vaginal ultrasound law.
But in Texas in 2011, it was met with precisely no mainstream national outrage. Unlike Virginia, the Republicans who put that law forward were not forced to defend it on national TV. It didn`t attract so much attention that it derailed all the other things that they wanted to do, and they wanted to be known for. It didn`t get made fun of on "Saturday Night Live." It did not attract a national political spotlight from people all over the country who were horrified by the idea of what they were doing, even though they did exactly the same thing as Virginia.
In 2011, that did not happen. But in 2012, it did. And that outrage in 2012 had far-reaching consequences.
Virginia first passed its first ultrasound bill on February 1st of last year. February 14th is when it started to get attention. Up until that point, after Texas`s success the year before, after it had initially looked like Virginia was steaming right along with its own version of the Texas bill, these ultrasound laws were ready to go all across the country. And Republican-controlled states all across the country, the anti-abortion movement had made sure these bills were poised to move.
But once that attention on the Virginia law started to burn a hole through Bob McDonnell`s vice presidential ambitions, once what Virginia was trying to do became a national story and a point of national political focus and ridicule, efforts to do the same thing in many of those other states just started to fall apart.
By February 26th, less than two weeks after the uproar started over Virginia`s bill, Alabama`s Governor Robert Bentley was asked about the very similar forced ultrasound bill pending in his state. The very next day after the governor was asked, on February 27th, the Republican sponsor of that bill in Alabama suddenly backed away from it, saying he was going to rewrite the bill to remove the vaginal probe requirement. That bill, vaginal probe or not, ended up going nowhere in Alabama.
On March 1st, 16 days after the Virginia outcry started up, the Republican House leader in Pennsylvania started to back away from his state`s forced ultrasound bill that was pending there, canceled debate on the measure, announced that the bill wouldn`t be considered in the Pennsylvania House any time soon.
By March 21st, it was Republicans in Idaho who were getting so jumpy about their forced ultrasound bill that they canceled a hearing on the measure. Six days later in Idaho, their forced ultrasound bill was officially dead when a House committee chairman said he wouldn`t allow hearing on the bill. And the anti-abortion activists who were behind it admitted defeat, said they planned to withdraw it all together.
So what happened in Virginia set off a round of national attention that spooked people from pursuing the same policies in all those other states. And while that is the story of ultrasound bills over the course of last year, it`s also a bit of a microcosm for extreme anti-abortion policies of all kinds all over the country last year.
It`s one of the reasons why after you saw this huge unprecedented historic spike in anti-abortion legislation in 2011, when you got to 2012, look, the number is lower. You still had a higher number, higher than any other year than 2011. But compared to the previous years, many fewer pieces of legislation were passed into law. These numbers are just out today from the Guttmacher Institute.
And, of course, it`s not the only reason. These are multi-varied things. But the folks at Guttmacher say part of the drop between 2011 and 2012 for the anti-abortion measures was because of opposition, because of the outrage, the furor, the pushback, the national ridicule, the national attention and pressure that these Republican efforts attracted this past year in 2012. That they didn`t attract in 2011.
So what`s 2013 going to be like? Is it going to be outrage or no outrage? Is the pushback against the Republican anti-abortion agenda last year, is that -- forgive the pun -- a reproducible phenomenon?
Did this just happen because Democrats saw it as a way to reach women voters in election year? Is the opposition that helped drive down those numbers in 2012 and that ruined bob McDonnell`s 2012, does that opposition still exist? Will that opposition hold together to fight whatever new anti-abortion measures are on the horizon this year that have already been snuck into law in Virginia by Bob McDonnell between Christmas and New Year`s? He is trying to avoid attention, will it work?
To the extent the opposition has been fueled by national Democrats taking up this cause as their own in mainstream politics, do we have reason to believe that is an every year commitment from Democrats? Or was this a one-time deal linked to the election?
Joining us now is Terry O`Neill, she`s president of the National Organization for Women.
Terry, it`s good to have you here tonight. Thanks for joining us.
TERRY O`NEILL, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: Hi, Rachel. It`s good to be here.
MADDOW: Let me ask what I just explained about the sort of furor in 2012, starting with the Bob McDonnell law there in Virginia, but one that ended up affecting policy in a lot of different states.
Do you see that causation the way that I do? Do you think that the national attention and furor changed what states were able to do on this issue?
O`NEILL: Yes, absolutely. I think what happened in 2012 were two things coming together at the same time.
Number one, the affects of the 2010 election when Tea Party extremists flooded into the United States Congress, and also flooded into key swing states -- Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan. We saw this wave, this huge wave as the graph that you put up there showed of anti-women legislation and anti-abortion rights legislation. At the same time, you had a national election, a presidential election.
And the Democrats clearly saw that they could get a lot of votes from a key voting bloc, 50 to over 50 percent of the voting public being women, and they pressed for their own gain. But also, the Democrats pressed the issue because it is in fact where the Democrats are. And the Republican Party as a party has moved so far to the right where women`s access to reproductive health is concerned that it very much a legitimate issue for the elections.
So both of those things, the Republicans going way extreme and being captured by really a radical fringe that represents virtually nobody in the country agrees with their anti-reproductive rights agenda in the Republican Party.
So you had both going on -- the Democrats wanting to win elections, and the Republicans going off the rails.
MADDOW: The Democrats moved in 2012 from what had been sort of a private assurance to people in the pro-choice movement that the Democrats were on their side, and the Democrats were a better place to sort of stake your political -- put your political flag as it were, moved from private assurance to publicly campaigning on it, as you say as a way I think of trying to lock up the women`s vote.
Is there a way for the pro-choice movement to try to make permanent that sort of overt public, political Democratic support, or do you expect that to recede until the next election?
O`NEILL: No, actually I expect it to grow. At least I`m hoping that it will grow. And it`s partly my job to make sure that it does grow.
I think there is good reason to believe that it will grow. And, really, it`s because of the enormous success that that strategy by the Democrats proved in 2012. That`s number one.
Number two, I think that there is a sort of -- you can`t really get the genie back in the bottle on this. In other words, suddenly the public`s attention has been put on the extreme nature of Republican anti-reproductive rights agenda. And people are waking up and saying whoa, whoa, whoa, this is not what we want.
The fact is that well over 80 percent of the American people when polled say that they think that even if abortion were to be a crime, for example, there should be an exception in the case of protecting women`s health. But the radical fringe in control of the Republican Party is out there -- Paul Ryan was on the floor of the House of Representatives not six months ago railing about the fact that women routinely lie about their health just in order to get that abortion. That`s not where the people of this country are.
And I think that thanks to governor ultrasound, McDonnell of Virginia, and thanks to Ken Cuccinelli, who wants to be the next Republican governor of Virginia, who is absolutely another governor ultrasound, I think people`s attention has been sort of focused on this, and people are turned off by it.
I think that if Democrats want to continue winning elections, they will continue to put this issue forward and be very open and transparent about it and say, you know, we don`t see why women`s health should be restricted. There is not a single aspect of men`s health that gets restricted on ideological grounds. We`re not going to do it to women.
MADDOW: Your -- I think your hypothesis there bolstered by the fact that Governor McDonnell, governor ultrasound saw fit to pass this -- sign these regulations that are likely to shut down every clinic in the state in the dead of night with no public announcement in way that he hope head wouldn`t be held accountable for.
Terry O`Neill, National Organization of Women president, thank you for being here tonight. It`s nice to have you here tonight, ma`am.
O`NEILL: Thank you. It`s great to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. The great state of Alaska has a new neighbor, an unwanted, dirty, gassy new neighbor. Happy New Year, last frontier. That story is coming up.
MADDOW: We have alarming and very visual news from Alaska, specifically from off the coast of Alaska, coming up as tonight`s last story. It`s coming up in just a moment. But before we get there, we have a programming note. I am excited to tell you that tomorrow tonight on this show, we have a big deal exclusive interview.
Tomorrow night, we`ll be joined by this man, who until this week was the top lawyer at the Defense Department, Jeh Johnson. He is the one to ask about how the Pentagon repealed "don`t ask, don`t tell," about the Obama administration`s justification for drone attacks for the military. He is the man to ask about all the controversial aspects of the war on terror, which he, in a closing speech, argued must be seen as having an end.
This is going to be Jeh Johnson`s first television interview on TV since leaving office. It`s an inclusive. It`s happening right here tomorrow night, I very much hope you`ll watch. We`re all very excited about it.
But we`ve got much more tonight ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK, map time.
This right here is the United States mainland, the lower 48 as it is sometimes known. About a thousand miles off the West Coast sits a small island here off the coast of Alaska. It`s called Sitkalidak Island.
Sitkalidak Island itself is uninhabited. But the area is home to 200 people. It`s also home to an endangered sea lion species, as well as endangered sea otter species. It`s home to one of the most important archeological sites in Alaska.
And now, as of this week, it is also home to this -- a $300 million Shell Oil drilling rig that has just crashed onto its shore. Today is Wednesday, the rig crash-landed onto this island on Monday. Nobody seems to have any idea how to rescue it.
And, by the way, it is packed with 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and drilling oil.
Sitkalidak Island, say hello to your new disgusting neighbor.
Late last week, as Shell was trying to tow that drilling rig back to Seattle from its drilling operation in the Arctic, that towing mission ran head on into, what you know, inclement weather. That was a real surprise in Alaska in December -- all 18 workers on board the rig had to be evacuated to safety.
And then the mission to tow the rig itself to safety turned into a disaster. First, the vessel trying to tow the rig lost the connection to the rig in the high winds and choppy seas. Then that towing vessel saw four of its engines completely fail. Then they failed the first try, it failed the second try, failed the third try, failed the fourth try.
Then, a second vessel was brought in to help. It was forced to cut its connection to the rig because its own crew was put in danger.
And as a result of all that, the shell rig was left floating alone in the ocean, and it slammed into Sitkalidak Island late Monday night, which is where it now sits, damaged, holding on to 150,000 gallons of toxins in Alaska`s most -- one of Alaska`s most pristine bodies of water.
That rig was one of two Shell Oil rigs drilling in the Arctic in recent months after recently being given the thumbs up by the federal government. How has the other rig fared? Don`t ask.
Back in July, the other rig nearly ran aground after dragging its anchor in the Aleutian Islands. Four months later, it was beset by an engine fire. That same month, the Coast Guard found more than a dozen violations involving the rig safety solution and population equipment.
In terms of the worst case scenario equipment that Shell has staged in the Arctic, a recent test of its underwater oil spill containment system was called a, quote, "spectacular failure" after the equipment was, quote, "crushed like a beer can during testing."
If you live in this part of America right now, that record is the terrifying, unpredictable, calamitous truth of this American industry and how it operates. And no matter how much everybody loves oil industry jobs, it also raises still the question of how much the country needs protecting from behavior like this from these companies who keep assuring us that they need further access to more sensitive areas, and not to worry because they know what they are doing.
Tonight, Coast Guard officials there in Alaska are describing that beleaguered and adrift, crashed Shell Oil rig as, quote, "upright and stable". The plan at this point is to land rescue workers onto the deck to assess what kind of damage it sustained, and the check on the status of the tens of thousands of gallons of fuel and oil that are now perilously rocking on board.
We`ll keep you posted as they keep telling us more. And meanwhile, your tax dollars will keep subsidizing the most profitable industry on earth, the oil and gas industry, to the tune of billions every year.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Have a good night.
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