THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
February 13, 2013
Guest: Rick Hasen
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is starting right now.
Good evening, Rachel. Great to have you -- great job last night,
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Ed. I have to tell you, I`m having a
little trouble with my audio right now. So we`ll see how my show goes
MADDOW: If you can hear me, you can just give me gestures.
SCHULTZ: OK. Well, I`ve been talking for 35 years. I can probably
fill some audio for you if you need me to.
MADDOW: I think I`m all right, as listening as I hold perfectly
still. All right.
SCHULTZ: You sound fantastic as always.
MADDOW: Thank you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: All systems go. No problem, Houston.
MADDOW: All right, thank you, man. I appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It ought to be more exciting than usual. Let`s see.
President Obama`s State of the Union address last night lasted almost
exactly 60 minutes, with not quite 7,000 words. It was a little longer
than average in terms of word count. The speech was interrupted 83 times
for applause, according to a tally by "The National Journal".
There was no notable disruption in the audience this year, no moment
like a Republican congressman yelling "you lie!" the way Congressman Joe
Wilson did during the joint address to Congress back in 2009. There was no
moment like a Supreme Court justice muttering a rebuttal to the president
from the rows up front, the way Justice Samuel Alito did in 2010.
There was one moment of the speech, though, last night where you heard
something from the room. You heard a gasp from the room in response to
something that the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should follow the
example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When Desiline
arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six
hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or
aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say.
And hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of
her, because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when
she finally put on a sticker that read "I Voted."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The room gasped at that reveal in the anecdote, right, where
the president reveals how old Desiline Victor is. And then the crowd
stood, Democrats and Republicans, everybody in the room, and they gave
Desiline Victor, 102 years old, a standing ovation. They stood and they
cheered her patriotism, the heroism that she showed by waiting all that
time in line, by willing to be able to go back.
Today, back home in Miami, look at this, Desiline Victor got another
hero`s welcome. Her friends and her family turned out to meet her at Miami
International Airport with hand-made signs and balloons and flowers, a
little bit of dancing even when she flew home from Washington, D.C. from
having gone to go see the speech.
Welcome home, Desiline. Thank you what you have done, Ms. Victor.
The day that she waited so long in line to vote, Desiline Victor was
trying to cast her ballot at the second most busy in all of Miami-Dade
County. Throughout Miami, throughout Florida, Desiline Victor was not
alone in wanting to vote, in trying to vote, but finding that that simple
act of citizenship had in Florida become an endurance test.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: Now in campaign 2012, and one day left to cast your early
vote. And so far the process has been plagued by very long lines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was long, long wait. Very slow-moving day.
CROWD: Let us vote, let us vote! Let us vote!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve been waiting here since 12:30 to pick up an
absentee ballot, and now they`re telling us we`ve got to go home. That`s
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not leaving. This is democracy. Whoever
you vote for, you should vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not Cuba. This is not China. We cannot
allow this to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not seen a line this long in a very long
REPORTER: These voters arrived around 7:30 this morning. They`re
nearly to the front of the line. They`ve waited two and a half hours. And
down the line a bit, these folks arrived around 8:00. Their estimated wait
time more than three hours.
And around the corner, down this very long line, these folks arriving
between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. Their estimated wait: up to four hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Voters in Florida waiting four hours. Some voters waiting
twice that long.
This is not how we expect elections to work in a country that is
supposedly the beacon of light for the world, right? It`s not how we
expect elections to work in this country. Not historically, not for
regular folks. Certainly not for 102 retired ladies.
And after he hosted Desiline Victor at the State of the Union last
night and told her story about trying to vote in order to dramatize this
problem in our country, President Obama then moved on later on in the
speech to propose a solution to this problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are
protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental rights
of a democracy, the right to vote.
When any American -- no matter where they live or what their party --
are denied that right because they can`t afford to wait for five or six or
seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. So --
So, tonight, I`m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the
voting experience in America. And it definitely needs improvement.
I`m asking two long-time experts in the field -- who, by the way,
recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor
Romney`s campaign -- to lead it. We can fix this. And we will. The
American people demand it, and so does our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president calling on the State of the Union for a
commission to improve the voting experience in America, to be led by what
he called two long-time experts in the field. They are the top attorney
for the president`s campaign, this man, Bob Bauer, general counsel for the
Obama reelection effort. The other top attorney is this man, Ben Ginsberg,
who served as national counsel for the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012. So,
one chairman from the Democratic side, one chairman from the Republican
Now in setting the commission up this way and announcing it this way,
the president is clearly trying to turn fixing our national problem with
voting into a bipartisan effort. He is trying to proceed here as if a
story like Desiline Victor`s pulls on everybody`s heartstrings equally,
Democrat and Republican.
But what happened to Desiline Victor when she tried to vote this year
was not an accident, it was on purpose. It was policy.
Ahead of the election, Florida Republicans took overt steps to make
voting lines longer in Florida and to make voting harder, to make
registering to vote harder even. Governor Rick Scott signed into law new
requirements that made voter registration drives so legally perilous, that
even the hearty League of Women voters gave up trying. Rick Scott cut
early voting in Florida almost in half. And when it became clear that
Florida voters were facing eight-hour lines for early voting, Governor Rick
Scott refused to put any of those lost days back.
Get in line, Florida. Let`s see how long you can wait.
Republican Governor Rick Scott refused to do anything to shorten the
lines, even though not everybody could stand in the marathon lines that he
and Florida Republicans created by policy.
In the after-election studies of what happened this year, it is
reported that at least 200,000 Florida voters ultimately gave up and walked
away from the polls. They had to because of the lines. At least 200,000
voters who wanted to vote who did not make it through the epic journey from
the end of the line to the voting booth, at least 200,000, maybe more.
That did not happen by accident. Making voting harder was policy in
Florida and in several other states as well. Republican-controlled states,
because it was Republican policy.
And since the election, Republicans in the states have seen that kind
of effect that we saw in Florida this year. They have seen that -- 200,000
people didn`t vote who might have voted if voting was easier. They see
that effect, and they see that as a feature, not a bug.
Since the election, they have continued pushing laws to make voting
harder. It`s underappreciated in the Beltway, but this kind of thing did
not stop after the election. Republicans are proceeding apace in Missouri.
Republicans there trying anew to require voters to show new documentation
they have never had to show before, and they know some quarter of a million
voters in that state do not have.
Republicans in Montana in the legislature there, they`re now trying to
take away the long-standing Montana right to register and vote on Election
Day. Last week, Republicans in the Virginia legislature voted to eliminate
several common forms of ID that you can show in order to be allowed to vote
there now, things like a paycheck or a utility bill.
Today, Virginia Republicans advanced a bill with even tighter
restrictions under the new bill they advanced today, get this, the ID card
that you got to allow you to vote, the ID card that you got already from
the state board of elections, that would not be good enough to allow you to
In the great state of Indiana, two Republican lawmakers there
introduced a bill to ban any college student from voting if you paid out-
of-state tuition in the state. Indiana Republicans proposed that, even
though it is blatantly, patently almost laughably unconstitutional. There
is a Supreme Court ruling specifically on this exact issue that says you
cannot pass that kind of law.
But Indiana Republicans want it anyway. They proposed it. They held
a hearing on it. The lead sponsor of the bill only gave up on the specific
provision involving college students today after fending off lots of
questions on its obvious unconstitutionality.
But the lead sponsor now says she wants a committee to study this
question over the summer, and then maybe she`ll try again with it? I don`t
Republicans in the state spent the years ahead of this last
presidential election trying to make voting harder in order to try to help
Mitt Romney win. In moments of candor, they said so. Like when that top
Republican in the Pennsylvania legislature said voter ID laws would deliver
the state of Pennsylvania for Mitt Romney.
It did not work well enough to accomplish that this time. But after
Mitt Romney lost, Republicans in the states started in again with renewed
vigor. They are not giving this thing up.
The Republican lawyer who will now co-chair the president`s bipartisan
commission to, quote, "improve the voting experience," Ben Ginsberg, he
spent last year advising the Romney campaign, including the Romney campaign
in its role in the state-by-state fights over how hard Republicans in those
states could make to it vote in this country. When the Obama campaign sued
over Ohio Republicans cutting early voting, it was Mr. Ginsberg and the
Romney campaign who condemned that challenge as despicable.
In Wisconsin, when the Romney campaign recruited poll-watchers to
challenge individual citizens` right to vote, the manual they gave those
poll watchers contained wrong information, the kind of instructions that
might lead people to challenge voters without real legal cause from
From "The Washington Post," quote, "The story prompted a letter from
the Obama campaign attorney Bob Bauer to Wisconsin`s attorney general.
These acts of willful misrepresentation to individuals sent to polling
locations to enforce the law raise serious concerns under Wisconsin law,"
Mr. Bauer wrote.
He added that this was not an isolated matter, citing the Wisconsin
activities of True the Vote, an organization close to the Republican Party
and the Romney campaign.
That would be Mr. Bob Bauer making that complaint, the attorney on the
left there, who is now co-chairing the president`s improved voting
commission with the Romney lawyer on the right, whose campaign was trying
to stop early voting in Ohio, and that gave its poll watchers wrong
information about how to try to keep people from voting who should have
been allowed to vote. Awkward match, right? Putting the guy whose party
has tried and is still trying to make it hard to vote on the commission to
fix voting, insisting that Republicans must be as bothered by this as
That`s what the president left on the table last night after that
incredibly moving story about this 102-year-old woman pulling out all the
stops to vote, even though all the odds were against her. That`s what the
president put on the table. And the president is a smart political
What kind of strategy is this? Is it hope? I mean, is it the same
kind -- and I don`t say that dismissively -- it is the same kind of hope
and optimism and persistent never give up-ism that is embodied by Desiline
Victor? By her coming back for more after her first try, after standing
for hours in line? Is it that kind of hope and persistence and optimism?
But also, is there a plan B if it turns out Republicans aren`t really
going to come around on this and they still feel about this the way they
have for years now?
Joining us is Rick Hasen. He`s professor of law and political of
science at the University of California-Irvine Law School, where he
specializes in election law. He also writes the excellent election law
blog. He is the author of "The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next
Professor Hasen, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
RICK HASEN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-IRVINE: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: So, you are the expert on these things. I`m a political
observer on these things. What do you make of the strategy of President
Obama choosing the top two lawyers from his campaign and Mr. Ginsberg from
the Romney campaign to try to head up a commission like this?
HASEN: Well, first of all, if you`re going to have a commission like
this, you`ve got to have credible Democrats and Republicans. And there was
a question whether there would be a credible Republican who would be
interested in doing something like this. The fact that Ben Ginsberg, who
is a well-respected Republican lawyer is willing to sit down with Bob Bauer
and sit down with this commission and try and hash things out is an
But they`ve set the bar really low. If you look at the press release
that the White House put out about this, all they`re going to do is issue
some guidelines for states and localities about best practices. It doesn`t
look like federal election reform, which I think is something we really
need, is on the agenda.
So it may just be that it`s going to put out some ideas. Then they`re
going to sit on the shelf, like the ideas of the Carter-Baker commission,
the Carter-Ford commission, what the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission
has done and it may get us nowhere.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of the history right now, though, in terms of
what has worked in the past, and in light of how partisan these fights have
been over voting rights, particularly leading up to this last election and
what has been going on in Republican-controlled states, it is possible that
they should be aiming super, super low, aiming at doing very small reforms
simply to show that something can be done, that there can be some
nonpartisan technocratic approach to these measures, and that aiming any
higher would simply assume that nothing happened?
HASEN: Well, I think that, you know, even if this commission wanted
to propose federal legislation, the House Republicans have already said
Candice Miller, the former Republican Michigan secretary of state, who
chairs the House Administration Committee, she is not interested. So,
maybe aiming low is the best they can do in coming up with best practices.
But I think, you know, the biggest way change is going to happen here
in the short-term, at least, is through public pressure. So Rick Scott has
now backed away from the bill that he signed and says we need to expand
Scott Walker in Wisconsin, who was supporting at one point a bill to
get rid of early Election Day registration wants to -- has changed his mind
So I think the attempt to make it harder to vote backfired on
Republicans. And although we`re still having some of these hearing, and
people are still trying to make it harder in some places, I think there was
a public and judicial backlash, which has caused Republicans to maybe step
back a little bit. And that may be what saves us a little bit in 2014 and
MADDOW: I think that`s an incredibly smart point, especially on the
specific issue of Florida. I mean, we saw after the election not just
Florida becoming a laughingstock and becoming the butt of national jokes
and sort of being singled out for shame on this issue.
But we also saw an electoral challenge emerge to Rick Scott with
former governor, new Democrat Charlie Crist, making this a tip of the spear
issue for how he went after Rick Scott and how he might challenge him for
Is that then maybe a better way forward, that Democrats make this an
issue, that they beat Republicans over the head with in an electoral cudgel
sort of way? I mean, is there any historical precedent for that being the
way to reform?
HASEN: Well, I think what happened in this election, and it`s clear
from watching your show, and watching the rest of the media, is that the
issue of voting rights really broke through. You`ve been talking about
this stuff for years. But it became a topic of regular conversation. You
had the Sarah Silverman video. People were talking about voter ID laws.
So it`s become part of the public consciousness. And to the extent
that people think Republicans are trying to make it harder for people to
vote, whether that`s true or not, that`s going to work against Republicans
who are trying to get those swing voters, who are trying to attract Latino
voters. It`s going to make it tough in Florida.
So it might be that there will be a little bit of a political solution
to this. Whether a commission is going to do things -- let me point out in
the aftermath of Florida 2000, we set up the United States Election
Assistance Commission, a federal agency that is supposed to be doing this
very thing. But that agency has essentially been without commissioners, no
commissioners over the last year. We went through the election without it.
We have a structure to try and deal with this. We just don`t have the
political will. Republicans have blocked appointing people to the EAC.
So, on the federal level, that doesn`t seem like right now it`s going
to be a pathway to trying to get some major changes in our election system.
It`s going to have to be fought state by state and locality by locality.
MADDOW: Political science and law professor and election law blogger
Rick Hasen from U.C.-Irvine. Thank you very much for your time tonight.
Your perspective on this is very, very helpful. Thank you.
HASEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: I think one way to watch this is to look at this in parallel
with climate change. Climate change is another issue on which the
Democrats believe the Republicans will never do the right thing, that
Republicans on climate change are too close to petro interests,
essentially. And on voting, that they`re too close to their own electoral
interests, and that they want to stop voting for their own electoral
purposes, and the Republicans are never going to go along with doing the
So you are seeing the president do something different, which is make
these emotional public cases for what should be done on this issue, not
expecting Republicans to come along and laying the groundwork, essentially,
with this public education effort, with these emotional appeals directly to
the people in speeches that Democrats and the White House in some cases are
going to act on their own, without Republicans if they need to, and they
will use it against Republicans in elections. They will not try to
persuade them. They will beat them with it.
This is a second term kind of thing.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I don`t believe in drinking water on television. I don`t
believe that a person should -- if you`re on TV, I don`t think you should
be drinking out of a water bottle. I think -- honestly, I just think it`s
not appropriate. If a camera is on you, unless you are dying from a
coughing fit or something, if you want to take a swig out of a bottle of
water on TV, I just don`t -- I don`t know if it`s just the way I`m raised
or the way I was taught to be on TV or something, but I`m not -- I just
don`t -- I don`t think you should do it. I would never do it.
What? I am not drinking water on TV. Like I just said, I would never
do that. What I am doing is hydrating. It`s totally different. I would
never drink water on TV. But I`m happy to hydrate.
And that is the kind of distinction that Republicans in the Senate are
using right now to try to stop Chuck Hagel from being confirmed as our
nation`s next defense secretary. No cabinet nominee has ever been
filibustered in the history of our country. It takes a majority vote to
confirm someone the president wants in his cabinet, full stop. No senator
has ever tried to mess with that principle before by filibustering a
cabinet nominee. It has never happened.
And even though a bunch of Republican senators do not want Chuck Hagel
to be defense secretary, they have insisted they would never filibuster
him, because of course that would be unprecedented. You don`t filibuster
John McCain said that. Lindsey Graham said that. They said they
don`t want him. They`re not going to vote for him in all likelihood, but
they wouldn`t filibuster him. But now, they are filibustering him any way.
Those two senators and James Inhofe from Oklahoma, they say they will
force a 60-vote super majority threshold for confirming Chuck Hagel for the
first time in America for any cabinet nominee. And that is a filibuster.
But they are insisting that nobody call it a filibuster, because, of
course, they said they wouldn`t do that.
They are filibustering a cabinet nominee for the first time in
American history after saying they wouldn`t, but they do not want anybody
to report it that way. Because, see, they are not -- drinking water, they
Write it down the way I said you should write it down, reporter.
We`re going to call this hydrating. It`s a totally different thing than
drinking water on television.
MADDOW: So there is a best new thing coming up on tonight`s show.
It`s completely apolitical, but it lies at the intersection of the
presidency and Valentine`s Day. And it is awesome and involves tape that
lots of people on my staff today thought I made up, but is actually real
historical tape. That is coming up right at the end of the show. The
whole staff is somewhere between shock and excited about that.
That`s the best new thing. That`s ahead.
But also, still to come tonight, we have a programming note that I
dare say you might want to tell somebody about on the Facebook machine or
the Twitter machine or something, if I can be so bold as to suggest that.
This is going to be the first announcement about this anywhere.
It is about something that MSNBC is going to the as a network next
week. I`m going to be hosting it. But it`s an MSNBC project. It
premieres next week. And I think it is going to cause a bit of a political
stir. I will tell you what it is in just a minute.
MADDOW: We have the tape, we have the tape!
Here is where it all went wrong, apparently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey. OK. Are you looking at me? Can you --
Jillian, can you see me?
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I`m looking at the teleprompter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. I speak to you tonight from
Does it look like I`m even remotely looking in the camera?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the setup for the Republican response to the
Republican response to the State of the Union last night. I think that is
a Rand Paul staffer trying to make sure that Rand Paul giving the Tea Party
Republican response to the Republican response to the State of the Union
this year did not end up looking like Michele Bachmann when she gave the
same address a couple of years ago while look at something that really
wasn`t the camera.
It turns out the staffer did have reason to be worried. Rand Paul, as
you can see, was not looking as far away from the camera as Michele
Bachmann was, but he was not looking into the camera either. They did the
same thing wrong again. Not only where we once again treated to not just a
Republican response to the State of the Union, but also a Tea Party
Republican response to the response that once again the response to the
response ended up being unintentionally funny because of bad staging --
which is especially amazing considering that Senator Paul`s staff was
acutely aware of this as a potential problem, and we can see them on camera
trying to fix it ahead of time.
And then there was the official Republican response to the State of
the Union -- the Republican Party`s first major chance to try to rectify
with voters whatever it was that the country disliked about them enough to
give President Obama a resounding reelection victory over them in November.
This is the first chance post election to change the country`s mind about
the Republican Party after Mitt Romney, right? This is the first chance at
de-Romneyification. It is the highest profile chance they will have for
that for the entire year, if you think about it.
I mean, there is no Republican convention there is no national
elections. This is it for more than a year. This is their chance to re-
impress the American people about what it means to be a Republican that
isn`t about Mitt Romney.
How do they rectify their image with a country where the women voted
for Democrats in the last election by an 11-point margin? Well, the one
thing that their State of the Union response giver did to make news
yesterday other than his State of the Union response was that he voted no
on the Violence Against Women Act. He and 21 other Republican men in the
United States Senate voted no.
Then, Marco Rubio got caught out once he started giving his speech in
the easiest trap to get caught in when you have to give a response address.
Just minutes after the thing that you are responding to has ended, he
anticipated things that he thought President Obama would say in the State
of the Union. He wrote complaints in his own speech about things he
thought President Obama would say.
But then when President Obama did not actually say those things, Mr.
Rubio did not adjust his speech the take out the complaints. So, Senator
Rubio in his response last night ended up complaining about things said by
President Obama that President Obama actually did not say in the speech
that everybody had just finished watching right before Marco Rubio got to
take his turn.
Mr. Rubio`s whole windup was about how President Obama had just spent
his State of the Union address defending big government and demanding even
bigger government. This president thinks the only solution to everything
is bigger government. And that might be an effective response to a yay big
government speech, but instead it seemed like a non sequitur, because this
is the speech that Senator Rubio`s comments actually came after.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It is not a bigger government we need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Rubio also complained with a sarcastic twist that the
president needs to put out a Medicare plan already. Tonight would have
been a good night to do that, huh, Mr. President?
The problem is the president had just put out a Medicare plan, a plan
he described in the actual State of the Union address that he delivered,
even if it wasn`t the one that played out in Marco Rubio`s head when he
wrote his own speech, and then didn`t adjust it to reflect reality.
Mr. Rubio also made a big point about placing himself in the American
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Mr. President, I still live in the
same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren`t
millionaires. They`re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare.
They`re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to
pay the bills. They`re immigrants who came here because they were stuck in
poverty in the countries where the government dominated the economy.
I want to protect my neighbors -- hard-working middle class Americans
who don`t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`m just a middle class guy looking out for my middle class
neighborhood and my working class neighborhood where I grew up in the
middle class where I live now. That bit is transformed from political
scene-setting into political punch line once everybody links to the
pictures from the real estate listings showing Marco Rubio is in fact
selling that middle class home in that middle class Miami neighborhood.
It`s on the market for $657,000.
So, you know, you may love your neighbors, but why would you brag
about that love for your neighbors in your middle class neighborhood in the
highest profile speech you will ever give in your life when you`re also on
record trying to move away from those neighbors in that neighborhood, so
you can go live in Washington, D.C.?
The other screw-up with the Rubio speech, the Republican Party`s big
effort to reset and deRomneyify themselves in the eyes of the nation is
that somebody forgot to deRomneyify the speech itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
RUBIO: Our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class
prosperity. But President Obama, he believes it`s the cause of our
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know free
enterprise is on trial, and we have a president who really doesn`t believe
in the rights of people to do that.
RUBIO: Of course, solar and wind energy should be a part of our
energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil,
and natural gas.
ROMNEY: I mean, he likes the wind and the solar, but he doesn`t like
the stuff that`s under the ground, like coal and oil and natural gas.
RUBIO: Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called clean
energy companies like Solyndra, let`s open up more federal lands for safe
and responsible exploration.
ROMNEY: They should have done more studying on Solyndra and less
studying on that drilling in Marcellus Shale. I`m going to open lands for
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: De-Romneyification failed. The Republicans` official
response to Barack Obama`s State of the Union was essentially a new version
of the stump speech of the guy who just lost the presidential election to
Barack Obama. And the house that is the emotional centerpiece of the
speech turns out is a house for sale. And the criticism of the criticism
of the speech is not actually based on the president`s speech at all. And
they had him vote no on the Violence Against Women Act with 21 other
Republican guys right before he gave this speech.
And they ran a second Republican response again as well after they ran
this one. It had the same eyeball problem as the other Republican speech
had the previous time when they did it.
And then, of course, there was this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: False choices like the one the president laid out tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If anybody everybody asks you to give the Republican Party`s
response to the State of the Union, just say no. Seriously. I care about
you. Just say no. It`s not a good gig.
Joining us now Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s "THE CYLE", and a
senior writer for Salon.com.
Steve, thank you for being here tonight.
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Is Marco Rubio the victim of high expectations here? Was
anybody doomed to fail in setting or did he just screw it up worse than
others might have?
KORNACKI: No, I mean, I`ve come to the conclusion -- I actually think
that it would be a good idea for the chair of the Democratic National
Committee and the chair of the Republican National Committee to come
together and to say, you know what, the State of the Union response, it`s
just not going to work for anybody. It`s an impossible format.
I mean, I think there were some specific things, especially from the
substantive standpoint that were really troublesome about Rubio`s response
last night. But in general, it`s an impossible setting.
You`ve got the president coming into the chamber, joint session, all
the lights, all the cameras, all the pomp, all the circumstance, and they
have tried putting the responses in schools. They tried putting them in
state legislatures. They`ve tried every different possible backdrop.
They never work. They never help anyone. They never help any party
that delivers them.
MADDOW: And we end up -- I mean, we keep -- we have the bug up there
of Marco Rubio with the lurch for the water bottle, mostly because it`s
amazing, but also because there is inevitably a focus on just the physical
staging of the response because of the contrast with the president`s
Is there -- has there ever been one where the opposite party`s
response has either risen to the same level as the president`s speech or
advanced the opposite party`s interest?
KORNACKI: No, no. I can`t think of one. The evolution of these
things is funny. It wasn`t always just one person giving the response. I
think the low moment was 1985 when the Democrats just lost to Reagan and
they had Bill Clinton host this 30-minute infomercial. And they literally
packed in every Democratic politician in the country for like a 20-second
speech. And they had a focus group.
And they didn`t realize at the time that talking about the focus group
was political suicide. They kept saying our focus group told us this. It
But they`ve tried all different formats. I`ve never seen one that
actually pulls it off.
MADDOW: I almost feel like while there are still I guess two or three
more for Barack Obama, depending. The president doesn`t always give the
State of the Union when he is on his way out the door.
MADDOW: But if we`ve got more ahead for Barack Obama, this might be a
time for them to opt out gracefully if they are going to. But then while
we`ve still got it, there is also the political question of the Republican
Party having chosen Marco Rubio as their guy. Of course, he is on the
cover of "Time" magazine as the savior. And he has been talked up that way
in the Republican Party since even before he was sworn in, once he got
Does he deserve it substantively? Is there anything that is different
about him that lays out a more sustainable, more electorally likely to be
effective path for Republicans than other politicians they`ve got now
KORNACKI: There are two differences with Rubio. I don`t think they
add up to much, though.
One is that his life story is relatable in a way that their last
standard bearer wasn`t. Mitt Romney`s life story was the story of 1
percent from birth, you know, through to age 65. Nobody could really
relate to that.
Marco Rubio`s is sort of an immigrant story. It is the American dream
in a lot of ways. So it is more relatable.
And also the fact that he is Hispanic, and Republicans have this
problem with Hispanics, and that goes hand in hand with Rubio is slowly you
can see nudging the party away from the hard line on immigration. I`m not
sure exactly where that`s going to lead. But that`s the one sort of
substantive different that Rubio represents from where the Republican Party
In every other substantive way, though, not only was that speech sort
of a rehash of what Romney offered last year, that was a rehash
thematically of where the Republicans have been since the 1980 campaign.
Because the theme of the Reagan campaign in 1980 was government is not the
solution to your problems. Government is the problem.
And that was a measure that was geared towards what at that time was
the emerging working class, middle class, you know, sort of majority in the
country. That was Southern whites. That was Northern white ethnics. In
the north it was the outer borough Ed Koch types. You know, we talked in
the last few weeks when he died.
They had grievances against the government relating to bussing,
relating to desegregation, relating to welfare programs proliferated in the
Great Society. So, Reagan was really tapping into that and conservatism
for the last three decades has really tapped into that.
But the story right now in the story of the 2012 election is that
today`s emerging majority, emerging working class, middle class majority is
a lot more diverse. It`s nonwhite. It`s women. It`s professional women.
And their attitudes towards government are totally and completely
different than the attitudes of those old -- I mean, you can say the Archie
bunker voters of the `70s. I don`t want to be too dismissive. The
attitudes are totally different.
And Rubio looks different than Mitt Romney and his story is different
than Mitt Romney, but he is delivering the same Romney/Reagan message into
an audience that I don`t think is buying it anymore.
MADDOW: I feel like we hear so often that demography is destiny. I
feel like policy is destiny here.
And I felt like actually the single most embarrassing thing about the
Republican response was to say that this is the post-Romney Republican
Party and we`re going to have him vote against the Violence Against Women
Act as the one other thing he does on the day that he gives that response.
In terms of appealing to women voters specifically and the gender gap
was as definitive in this election as it was in any other. Do you see the
Republican Party picking up any signs of all that it`s about policy and
it`s not just about putting more female faces out there to represent the
same policies that they`ve been presenting all along?
KORNACKI: No. And the timing yesterday, the violence against women
vote I think tells the story. The fact that person that they have sort of
decided for the moment at least is the future of their party, Marco Rubio,
voted against it.
But it`s also -- think about the politics. He is a guy who is very
interested in running for 2016 Republican presidential nomination. There
was a calculation there on Marco Rubio`s part that voting against that
yesterday was the, quote/unquote, "correct vote" in terms of political
positioning for the 2016 nomination.
KORNACKI: So that tells you not just where Marco Rubio is in this
position, but where the Republican Party is or where he perceives it to be.
Until somebody like that feels safe voting for the Violence Against Women
Act, you`ve got a bigger problem there than you don`t have enough women on
MADDOW: I agree. And I think we should just offer this to the
Republican Party now and the Democratic Party of the future, just don`t do
State of the Union responses anymore.
KORNACKI: Yes. Both chairs get together. Common ground. No labels.
KORNACKI: That`s right.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, the co-host of MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE", senior
writer for "Salon" -- Steve, thanks a lot.
MADDOW: I appreciate you being here.
MADDOW: All right. Best thing in the world, an improbably sweet LBJ
Valentine`s edition, coming up.
MADDOW: In the 1964 State of the Union address, just weeks after
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the new president, Lyndon
Johnson, declared an unconditional war on poverty in America.
In 1941, as World War ii raged overseas, but for us Pearl Harbor was
still months away, Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed in the State of the Union
that year the four essential human freedoms -- freedom of speech, freedom
of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
In 1996, after his party`s shellacking in the midterm elections, but
before his landslide reelection victory, Bill Clinton proclaimed in the
State of the Union that the era of big government was over.
We`re too close in time now to know if any of the State of the Union
addresses by our current presidents will be remembered as highlights in the
history of that presidential obligation. But if we were to pick from all
the modern State of the Union addresses, only one president, and only one
speech, and only one line, if we were to pick the most important, the most
remembered line in any modern State of the Union, history has already
spoken as to what the most single important line is, and we have just hit
that important moment in the State of the Union address by an American
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Saddam Hussein recently sought
significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The most important line in any modern State of the Union was
not remembered because it was inspiring or elegant or anything else
positive, it was remembered and it is important because it was a lie -- a
very consequential lie that made it into the State of the Union in 2003, 10
years ago. We are now at the 10-year anniversary of what the last
presidential administration did to get our country to go to war on false
And it is starting to feel like that 10-year period of time is just
enough time to finally start to appreciate how remarkable that is, that we
went through that as a country. I mean, if it happened to another country
we would find it impossible to believe.
But it happened to us. We were tricked by our own government -- not
into passing some piece of legislation or letting some corrupt politician
off the hook who should not have gotten off the hook. We were tricked into
starting a full-blown war. How did they pull that off? And do we
understand how that happened to us well enough that we are in a position to
stop it from happening again if anybody else ever tries to do that to us
We have just completed a brand-new blockbuster of a documentary here
at MSNBC on exactly this question. It will premiere Monday night here on
MSNBC. And I think it is possible that it is going to cause quite a bit of
upset. We`re going to have the first preview clip of it here, exclusively
tomorrow night. I`m hoping they`re going to give us another preview clip
on Friday, although I`m not sure.
But the whole thing premieres with me hosting it on Monday at 9:00
Eastern on MSNBC. And then everybody will start to lose their minds soon
there after. So mark your datebook, Monday night, at 9:00.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world.
OK? Tomorrow is Valentine`s Day. If you are in a relationship, do
not forget, do something nice. If you are not in a relationship I hope
that Valentine`s Day does not bum you out and you have a really good day,
however you want it to go.
But on the occasion of Valentine`s Day this year, one of the
presidential libraries is going to make that president`s love letters, to
the woman who would become his first lady available for public viewing.
Now, some of those letters were made public before. A few of them, in
fact, were even performed out loud back in the `70s by actors Kirk Douglas
and Helen Hayes. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRK DOUGLAS, ACTOR: My dear Bird, this morning, I`m ambitious,
proud, energetic, and very madly in love with you. I want to see people.
I want to walk through the throngs, I want to do things with the drive. If
I had a box I would almost make a speech this minute -- plans, ideas,
hopes, I`m bubbling over with them.
HELEN HAYES, ACTRESS: Lyndon, please tell me as soon as you can what
the deal is. I`m afraid it is politics. Oh, I know I haven`t any
business, not any proprietary interest, but I would hate for you to go into
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Isn`t that awesome? After they first met it took the passage
of nearly two months and nearly 100 letters between them, before Ms.
Claudia Taylor known as Lady Bird agreed to marry Mr. Lyndon Baines
It`s amazing, right? I mean, we don`t think of our presidents as
young men in love, even sometimes think of them as celebrities, but we
don`t think of them as young men in love.
Particularly, we don`t think of this president that way. We think of
LBJ as a kind of president who was deliberately crass as a tactic. I mean,
he made famously people talk to him while he sat on a toilet. We think of
LBJ as a kind of person whose most famous presidential recording of him was
making an incredible phone call from the White House to order himself from
pants from a man in Texas.
You have heard the recording of LBJ ordering his pants over the phone,
haven`t you? Oh please tell me you have heard this recording.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I want a couple of --
maybe three of the light brown, kind of an almost powder color, like the
powder on a lady`s face. And then there was some green, and then maybe
some other light pair, if you had a blue on that, or black, one blue and
one black. I need about six pairs to wear around in the evening when I
come in from work. And I need about a half an inch, too tight in the
JH: Do you recall the exact size? I just want to be able to get them
right for you.
JOHNSON: No, I don`t know -- y`all just guessed at `em, I think, some
-- but wouldn`t you have the measurements there?
JH: We`ll find them for you.
JOHNSON: Now, the pockets when you sit down in the chair, the knife
and money comes out so I need at least another inch in the pockets.
Yes. Now, another thing -- the crotch, down where your nuts hang is
always a little too tight, so when you make them up, give me an inch so I
can let it out there because they cut me. It`s just like riding a wire
fence. These are almost -- these are the best that I`ve had anywhere in
the United States.
But when I gain a little weight, they cut me under there. So leave me
-- you never do have much margin there. Let`s see if you can`t leave me
about an inch from where the zipper (BURPS) ends, around, back to my
JH: All right, sir.
JOHNSON: So I can let it out there if I need to.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I have heard it before, I have never, ever seen it laid out
with the pictures of him. And to the subtitler who had to actually add in
there the burps -- I`m sorry. We may be getting LBJS`s love letters
released in time for Valentine`s Day this year, but for Valentine`s Day
eve, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW gives you President Lyndon Baines Johnson
ordering pants in all of its glory.
Happy Valentine`s Day eve, America, this is how you know I love you.
The best new thing in the world. Oh my God!
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great ride in the wire fence kind of night.
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