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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

April 10, 2013

Guests: Chris Murphy


Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I like it where you left it, you just
established peace in the land.

HAYES: Yes. Exactly.

MADDOW: This is how it`s going to be -- you don`t do it, you don`t do
it. Whoo! I`m with you, man.

HAYES: All in an hour`s work.

MADDOW: All right. I`ll talk to you later.

HAYES: See you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home, as well, for joining us this hour.

Happy Wednesday -- a Wednesday in which I must give you fair warning.
We`re trying tonight to put a ten-pound show into a five-pound bag.
There`s a lot going on in the world.

Big immigration protests in Washington today and in 18 other states.
Really big coordinated marches and rallies calling for immigration reform
as a bipartisan group of senators suggests that there, in fact, might be a
path to start moving forward on immigration reform as early as next week.

President Obama releasing his budget today. I`m not sure if it`s
connected, but right now at the White House as we speak, the president is
hosting a dinner with a dozen Republican senators.

The Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus responded to the dinner
tonight by saying he was outraged that the president is taking senators out
to fancy dinners at restaurants. No one apparently told the chairman this
dinner was not at a restaurant, it was at the White House -- but still,
he`s outraged!

Today in the states, it was a big day for Republican big government
social conservatism. Alabama`s Republican governor has signed a new TRAP
law. It`s modeled on Mississippi`s similar law. It`s designed to shut
down all the abortion clinics in Alabama.

Meanwhile in Virginia today, the attorney general there, Ken
Cuccinelli, he has been shot down by a federal appeals court in his effort
to keep the state`s sodomy law on the books. He was fighting to uphold his
state`s mandate it be penovaginal intercourse only in Virginia, by order of
the statement government. Nothing else.

Montana Republicans repealed their sodomy law today. But in Virginia,
it is apparently a fight to the death as long as Republican A.G. and
gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has anything to say about it.

In the Exxon pipeline leak in Arkansas, today was the deadline for
Exxon to respond to the subpoena from the state`s attorney general. He`s
demanding Exxon`s answers and documents about what went wrong with that
pipeline spill today.

So, there`s a lot going on, a lot of moving parts in today`s news.

But we start tonight in Louisiana. We start in the courtroom of this
local district court judge. His courtroom a couple of weeks ago, a case
arose that involved a convicted felon, a young man who was a convicted
burglar. He was found riding in a car with a loaded .40 caliber Smith and
West son handgun on the back seat. There was also an AK-47 with an
extended capacity, 30-round magazine in the trunk of the car.

This guy is in the car with those guns and he is a felon. Convicted
felons are not supposed to have guns. But when this young man`s case came
up in court last month, the young man, the burglar with the AK-47 and .40-
caliber handgun, he was not contesting the facts of the case. He was not
denying he was a convicted felon. He was not denying that he was in the
car with those guns.

What he was contesting in court last month was the very idea that it
can be illegal for a convicted felon to have a gun. And he won his case.

Louisiana, like every state in the Union, says, yes, we respect the
Second Amendment, there is a right to keep and bear arms, but it`s not
without any limits at all. Perhaps the lowest common denominator we can
all agree on is that convicted violent felons are not allowed to have guns,

Louisiana and every other state in the country all ban violent felons
from having guns, but in Louisiana, that ban on felons getting guns was
declared unconstitutional by that local trial court judge last month.
That`s because of a new law that the NRA supported in Louisiana last year -
- a new law that singles out gun laws and gun regulations for special
scrutiny by the courts. Essentially, gun laws in Louisiana now are
presumed to be unconstitutional unless proven otherwise, including the one
about felons.

When the law was first proposed, the Bureau of Governmental Research,
which is kind of like the congressional research service at the state
level, they do nonpartisan review of legislation and policy for the state
of Louisiana, this nonpartisan analysts in this state said don`t do this
thing the NRA wants us to do. They urged people to vote against this
change in the law.

They said, there`s no good reason to enter this uncharted territory.
They said, changing the law like this, quote, would expose the public to
unnecessary risks and hamper law enforcement.

Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, though, supported it. He said he
was proud to join with the National Rifle Association on this. He said
it`s time we protected our freedom.

Now that it turns out that what he was protecting was the ability of
convicted felons to legally possess ak-47s, Governor Bobby Jindal is saying
now that maybe this is a big misunderstanding. Put out a statement saying,
quote, "We disagree with the judge`s ruling." See, he never thought that
this law he was joining with the NRA to support would protect laws barring
felons owning guns -- oh, but it does.

And now thanks to the legislation that you let the NRA write for your
state, the convicted felon who was in jail because he was found to be in
possession with an AK-47 with a 30-round clip and .40 caliber handgun, he
has been sprung from jail. And when the state Supreme Court hears the case
soon, the people who warned against this NRA law in the first place are
warning one of the possible outcomes at the Supreme Court would be the law
banning felons from having guns won`t just be struck down permanently, it
will be struck down retroactively, which would result in a mandatory
springing from prison every convicted felon who`s in jail in Louisiana
right now because he was a felon illegally in possession of a gun.

That won`t be able to be illegal anymore, thanks to what the NRA
tricked Bobby Jindal into supporting, even though he swears he didn`t
understand it would work out like this. Louisiana is the first state to
enact this thing what the NRA wrote for them. But they also convinced
Republicans within the past year in seven other states, Minnesota,
Missouri, Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

So, what do you think, Minnesota, you ready for the NRA to force you
to let out of prison all of your felons who were caught with AK-47s? You
sure you understand what you`re getting into here?

Louisiana is a case study for what happens when you let the NRA write
your gun laws. Turns out it`s not a great idea. I mean, it would be one
thing if Bobby Jindal and the rest of them intended to give guns to all the
convicts in the state of Louisiana, but they apparently did not intend to
do that, and they are shocked to find out that`s what they got when they
did what the NRA told them to do.

Louisiana is a case study for what goes wrong when you let the NRA be
in charge of this part of public policy. And at the federal level, we are
now, today, deciding if we want to keep letting the NRA be in charge of
this part of public policy.

Under the NRA`s leadership, after all, we have built a national policy
system in this area in which if you are on the terrorist watch list, you
can`t fly on a plane, but you can buy an AR-15 assault rifle and 100-round
drum magazine while you`re on the terrorist watch list.

Our system now is a system in which if you are adjudicated mentally
ill, if you try to buy a gun here in a store like this, they will run a
background check on you that should show you have been adjudicated mentally
ill and you will not be allowed to buy a gun in that store. But if you
want to buy the same gun here at a gun show instead of a gun store, if
you`ve been adjudicated mentally ill and you want to buy a gun at a gun
show, feel free, go ahead, go nuts. Oh, right, you are already.

In the very, very, very, very cautious baby steps consensus
legislation unveiled today in Washington by senators from both parties,
everybody fell all over themselves to try to say the NRA was OK with this,
NRA A-rated, NRA lifetime member, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin announcing
the NRA would be neutral on the background checks legislation that he put
forth today with Republican Senator Pat Toomey. The offices of the senator
even floating that the NRA was in the room watching over the negotiations
on that legislation every step of the way.

The other bipartisan legislation released on gun trafficking today
from Senators Pat Leahy and Susan Collins also announced today as having
been agreed upon with the NRA. And while the NRA itself is maintaining its
same old publicly hostile stance, even to the measures they were said to be
involved with, hopes for the passage of the very modest reforms, hope for
those passing rests now on the hope that these guys have had their rings
kissed enough in the development of this legislation, that even though they
are publicly hostile, they might not rear up to their full height in
fighting these bills, and, therefore, maybe something might be able to be

And that is one way to think about this, that`s one way to think about
the power, right?

The other way is to look up from the late `90s and look around and
realize the NRA isn`t the only game in town anymore.


MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: And as I visited with the Pendleton
family at Hadiya`s funeral, I couldn`t get over how familiar they felt to
me, because what I realized was Hadiya`s family is just like my family.
Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her when I met with Hadiya Pendleton`s
classmates on the day of her funeral. Dozens of them later spoke at the
service, each referring to her as my best friend.

And let me tell you, whoo, it is hard to know what to say to a room
full of teenagers who are about to bury their best friend. But I started
by telling them that Hadiya was clearly on her way to doing something truly
worthy with her life. I told them that there is a reason that we`re here
on this earth, that each of us has a mission in this world, and I urge them
to use their lives to give meaning to Hadiya`s life.


MADDOW: Hadiya Pendleton was 15 years old when she was shot and
killed in Chicago in January, just one week after she performed at the
president`s inauguration in D.C.

After that emotional speech today in Chicago, First Lady Michelle
Obama then went to Harper High School in the Englewood neighborhood of
Chicago, where just last year, in one year, 29 students at that high school
were shot.

Michelle Obama is a very popular first lady. But she has not made a
habit of using that popularity to weigh in on a lot of contentious policy
debates in Washington. She has her causes. She`s not frequently weighed
in on stuff that is being debated before Congress, but today she did.

Also today, the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
released this new ad.


DISPATCHER: 911, what`s your emergency?

CALLER: There`s a man with a gun.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bloodied children ran out of the school as shots
were being fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shocked and saddened by the news of the shootings
at Virginia Tech today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does it take to see what is unfolding before
our eyes?

life ahead of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My child is gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My little girl was so full of life, isn`t coming


MADDOW: That ad out today from a new gun reform group that was formed
after Newtown that`s called Moms Demand Action.

Also today, members of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in
Washington today read the names of the more than 3,300 Americans who have
been killed by guns since the Newtown massacre in December. Family members
of the victims of Sandy Hook were among those who stood up to read names.

At one point, one woman reminded the crowd they had been reading names
for more than 20 minutes and they were barely through one day`s worth of

Also today, Americans for responsible solutions, which is the gun
reform group formed by Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, they released a
statement of support for the bipartisan background check bill that Senators
Manchin and Toomey put forth today.

And it was a statement of support, but it ended with a warning that
this group would communicate directly with the constituents of senators if
they try to block debate on the bill.

When Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly formed the group back in January,
they did it with the expressed purpose of taking on the NRA. That was
their reason, they said, for existing. And now they are issuing warnings
to lawmakers who do the gun lobby`s bidding.

The families of the kids and educators who died in the Newtown
massacre were also back on Capitol Hill today in person for a second day
meeting with lawmakers. When, after meeting with the families today,
Senator Joe Manchin, who you see in this room, was asked by a reporter how
the families have impacted this debate, Senator Manchin got very emotional,
was unable to answer, all he could say was, "I`m a parent, I`m a

In the debate over gun laws in this country, the professional gun
lobby is no longer the only side. Certainly, not the only side that has
the energy and resolve to push hard and push relentlessly for what it
wants. There is another big, strong side in this fight now, and they are
organized and they want results, and they are pushing for those results,
and, I think it matters they have an outspoken ally in this White House.
They have been told all along that even getting a vote on these issues
would be impossible.

Well, the vote`s tomorrow. They said it couldn`t be done.

Joining us now is U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Senator Murphy, thank you so much for your time tonight. I really
appreciate it.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So, the big news yesterday was the Republicans` filibuster
threat seems to have been defeated, that there will be a vote. Big news
today was about the bill Senators Toomey and Manchin on expanding
background checks.

What do you think is the most important thing to know about that deal?

MURPHY: Well, I think it`s important to note that Republicans and
Democrats, like they did in Connecticut, are coming together. I mean, you
know, Pat Toomey is not someone you`d necessarily expect to buck the NRA,
but he has read the writing on the wall here, 90 percent of Americans, 90
percent of Pennsylvania voters, support universal background checks.

And I think, frankly, thoughtful Republicans have figured out that
aside from policy considerations, politically, they just cannot sit on the
line and stop a piece of legislation that`s supported by 90 percent of
Americans from becoming law.

Now, the NRA has come out today and said not only are they going to
oppose this, but they are going to score it. And, normally, that`s
signaled the death knell for pieces of legislation on the floor of the
House and Senate.

But with 90 percent of Americans supporting what Manchin and Toomey
came out with, frankly supporting something stronger than what they came up
with, the question next week is going to be who runs the United States
Senate, do the people really run this place or does the NRA run it?
Because nine out of 10 people should probably be able to get something done

The NRA is going to put their reputation, their mythology on the line,
I think this time they are going to lose.

MADDOW: What do you make of the effort and the forces lined up on the
other side of the debate from the NRA here?

Obviously, the families who are -- the family members of the victims
of the Newtown massacre in your state are the most potent emotional core of
the other side of the NRA in this debate, but there`s mayors against
illegal guns and the group against gun violence and the new moms group that
formed after Newtown and there`s the Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly group.
And there`s all of this effort, the Brady Campaign, who`s been there for so
long, this Connecticut congressional delegation, you guys have been
galvanized by this like nothing I`ve ever seen before.

How do you assess your own strength being on this side of the fight?

MURPHY: You know, well -- I mean, it matters in two respects, one,
these families who are down here this week, I mean, I`m just in awe of
them. They are in the middle of grieving and they are coming down to lobby
in Washington. And nobody can make the case better than they can.

Remember, five kids escaped. Five kids escaped while Adam Lanza
switched cartridges, and the argument that they are making is that if Lanza
had to switch cartridges 10 times or 15 times instead of just five or six
times, their kids might have escaped as well. There`s nobody that can make
that argument, it`s a real policy argument, better than those families.

But, second are all these other groups that are spending money. I
mean, the secret is out. The NRA actually hasn`t been doing well in
elections. In 2012, they spent money in 16 U.S. Senate races and they lost
13 of them, and that`s even without Bloomberg and Giffords groups, and Moms
Demand Action spending money in these races.

So you add on top of the already bad record of the NRA recently in
elections, this new wave of money to support people who take them on, and I
just think this is a new day. I could be proven wrong. Twenty years has
gone by since we passed serious gun legislation, but I think this is

MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut -- it`s been a
real pleasure to talk to you over the course of this as we`ve seen it
evolve. I think you`ve been astute in being able to explain what`s
important about the ongoing debate. I hope you`ll stay in touch with us as
it goes forward. Good luck.

MURPHY: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks very much.

All right. A lot still ahead tonight, including Elizabeth Warren
letting loose today at a rather unexpected target. David Axelrod is here
tonight. Plus, we`ve got important news about a French zoo. It`s all


MADDOW: It`s only three weeks ago that the chairman of the Republican
Party called a big press conference in D.C. to release his party`s autopsy
of what went wrong for them in 2012.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I didn`t need the report to tell me
that we have to do a lot better job and do a lot more to make up ground in
minority communities. We`re launching a new national field program
designed to engage minority groups and communities at the local level.


MADDOW: The day after party chairman Priebus` big "let`s reach out to
minority" press conference, the very next day, a Republican took him up on
it. Republican Senator Rand Paul from the great state of Kentucky put his
money where Reince Priebus` mouth was, and he took a trip to the Hispanic
Chamber of Commerce.

Senator Paul`s argument for why Hispanic should vote Republican hinged
on an argument that Hispanics, obviously, agree with Republicans on social
conservative issues. Everybody knows, he said, that Hispanics are wildly
opposed to abortion rights and wildly opposed to same-sex marriage. That
may be Senator Rand Paul`s view of what Hispanics belief, it is not, in
fact, the truth of what Hispanics believe.

He then transitioned from the stereotype part of the program to this
part of the program.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: There`s a hilarious episode on
"Seinfeld," any "Seinfeld" fans? Where Jerry, Jerry admits that he loves
Asian women, but he frets and he worries. He said, is it racist to like a
certain race?

MADDOW: Don`t do it, don`t do it, just don`t.

PAUL: So, it is with trepidation that I`d like to express my
admiration today for the romance of the Latin culture.


MADDOW: Back to the drawing board, Reince Priebus!


MADDOW: Reince Priebus could not have known that the day right after
his "let`s reach out to minorities" press conference, Rand Paul would be
the one Republican who`d really give it a go, right? But it turns off that
was not a one-off thing.

Today, Senator Rand Paul ventured to Howard University, the
prestigious historically black college in Washington, D.C., and his pitch
to the Howard University students there was, essentially, they would want
to vote Republican if only they understood more about black history, if
they only understood black history as well as he did.


PAUL: I mean, how many of you would have -- if I would have said who
do you think the founders of the NAACP are, do you think they are
Republicans or Democrats, would everybody here know they are all

All right, all right, you know more than I know. OK. And that`s -- I
don`t mean that to be insulting. I don`t know what you know. You know, I
mean, I`m trying to find out what the connection is.


MADDOW: It turns out quizzing the audience at Howard University about
the history of black America worked better in the teleprompter than it did
in the room. Who could have seen that coming?

Awkwardness aside, though, there`s the nuts and bolts issue of Senator
Rand Paul`s record on the issue of race and discrimination and civil
rights, which the students at Howard today knew about before he got there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thank you for coming, despite the fact you have
spoken out against the Civil Rights Act, against the Voting Rights Act, and
you`ve done it as a champion of individual liberties and states rights.
And so I wonder, aside from the moral reasons not to discriminate, of which
there are many, when is it OK legally to discriminate, according to you?

PAUL: Well, I think it`s a mischaracterization of my position,
mischaracterization. I`ve never been against the Civil Rights Act, ever.
I still continue to be for the Civil Rights Act, as well as enforcement of
the 14th Amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elaborate on that? I mean, this was on tape.

PAUL: There was a long -- there was an interview that had a long
extended conversation about the ramifications beyond race, and I have been
concerned about the ramifications of certain portions of the Civil Rights
Act beyond race as they are now being applied to smoking, menus, you know,
listing calories and things on menus, and guns.

And so, I do question some of the ramifications in the extensions, but
I`ve never questioned the Civil Rights Act and never come out in opposition
of the Civil Rights Act.

MADDOW: I`ve never questioned the Civil Rights Act. I could be wrong
here, but I think the interview he was referring to in that clip is the one
he did with me back on this show in 2010. I remember it because it was the
last time he ever spoke to me.

During the interview, I tried for about 15 minutes to get Dr. Paul to
state his position on the Civil Rights Act, whether he thinks it`s kosher
for the federal government to end the discrimination in private businesses
like bars and restaurants. It went on for 15 minutes because I wasn`t ever
able to get a straight answer out of him on that question, even after 15
minutes of repeated asking.

But the reason I asked him in the first place is because of what Rand
Paul had told his hometown newspaper on that subject just a few weeks


REPORTER: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended
discrimination in all public domains, and I`m all in favor of that.



PAUL: You had to ask me the "but." I don`t like the idea of telling
private business owners. I abhor racism. I think it`s a bad business
decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time, I
do believe in private ownership.


MADDOW: That was Rand Paul in 2010 questioning the Civil Rights Act,
and this is Rand Paul today.


PAUL: I never questioned the Civil Rights Act.


MADDOW: Rand Paul saying at Howard University today that he never
questioned the Civil Rights Act is not true. And it`s not true on tape, as
the moderator noted today at Howard. I mean, it`s one thing to have a
sketchy record on racial discrimination and basic civil rights law that you
don`t want to defend, it`s another thing to be condescending enough to
think you can get away with just flat-out lying about it.

If you`re a U.S. senator, you`re Googleable and people are going to
Google you before they turn out to hear you so they will know it when you
lie to their faces.

We are now three weeks into the Republican outreach program to
minority voters. Do you think they are going to stick with Rand Paul being
their outreach director, or you think they maybe are going to change gears


MADDOW: Famously, upon winning a second term, President George W.
Bush immediately made a huge political stumble. He decided the first thing
he was going to do was the big national effort, a big national rollout was
that he was going to privatize Social Security, and the whole country
laughed in his face. The more he talked about it, the more unpopular the
idea became. And it did not take all that long before everybody realized
this was just a misfire, it was a huge political mistake, so they gave it

And to recover, the second-term Bush administration decided they
needed to change gears, they needed to do something totally different, they
needed to hit the reset button and start over.

They decided to start over with immigration reform. For people who
wanted the immigration system reformed, President Bush promising to do
that, starting with his State of the Union address in 2005, it stirred up
great hope that something really would be done.

Now, President Bush`s conservative base hated the idea. It was a big
right wing backlash to it, and in the end, nothing got done.


REPORTER: From border states like here in Arizona, to unlikely places
like South Bend, Indiana, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, illegal immigrants,
alongside their supporters, stepped from the shadows, marching out of the
American flag, they demanded a place at the American table.

Today in Atlanta, an estimated 50,000 demonstrated, met by some of
their opponents along the way.

In Tucson, Arizona, police were on alert for counter-protesters from
the group Border Guardians, who over the weekend burned Mexican flags.

Today in Dallas, a small plane carrying an anti-amnesty banner


MADDOW: President Bush never did get immigration through Congress.
He did spend three years trying.

His other big domestic idea, his other big domestic fight that he
picked was the Supreme Court. October 2005, he picked his own White House
lawyer, Harriet Miers, to fill the Sandra Day O`Connor seat on the Supreme
Court, and again, the president`s conservative base hated it.


TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: Pat Buchanan, George W. Bush is a
conservative. He nominated Harriet Miers, a conservative, to the Supreme

You`re a conservative. Why don`t you support her?

qualifications for the Supreme Court are utterly nonexistent. She`s not
only not ruled or written on any of the great controversies of our time, on
religion, or faith, morality, she has shown no interest in them in 40
years. We had an outstanding bench of conservatives, of traditionalists
who had the right judicial philosophy and President Bush ducked a fight.


MADDOW: Now, Uncle Pat does not speak for all Republicans now and did
not speak for all Republicans then, but he did have his finger in the wind
on that one and Republican senators who met with Harriet Miers came back
saying that they really did not want her to get the Supreme Court gig. And
President Bush gave up on her.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Twenty-four days ago, President Bush said
one person stood out to replace Justice Sandra Day O`Connor on the U.S.
Supreme Court. He said his own White House lawyer, Harriet Miers, was the
most qualified choice. But many of his fellow Republicans weren`t having
it. The votes weren`t there in the U.S. Senate.

And so tonight, the Miers nomination has been withdrawn.


MADDOW: President George W. Bush vanquished the Democrats in his
reelection effort in 2004. Maybe it was that that made limit take his hold
over his own side for granted in his second term as president. But he did
take his side for granted in his second term as president, and it cost him

Today, President Obama released his proposed budget in Washington.
He`s selling this budget as a pragmatic, tough-minded compromise.
Predictably, Republicans hate it anyway. But this time so does a portion
of the president`s liberal base.

Liberals are calling it a betrayal, most particularly because it
includes significant cuts to Social Security benefits. Senator Bernie
Sanders of Vermont is calling the president`s budget a bitter
disappointment. Liberal groups are threatening to primary any Democrat in
Congress who supports this budget.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said today she was shocked by
the budget. She said it dismantles Social Security inch by inch, noting
that two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for most of their
income. Elizabeth Warren said today, quote, "They are hanging on by their
fingernails to their place in the middle class." She said, "We cannot chip
away at America`s middle class and break the promise to our seniors."

Should the Obama White House see this as a George W. Bush second term
moment, a president taking for granted the supporters he cannot afford to
lose and the ones he cannot afford have disenchanted with him, or are the
parties not the same and do Democrats always see their base differently?
Do Democrats actually really like these punch the hippie moments where they
think complaints on the left make them look strong and centrist? It`s one
or the other.

Somebody I am darn sure knows which way the White House sees us joins
us next.



that all these ideas are optimal, but I`m willing to accept them as part of
a compromise -- if, and only if, they contain protections for the most
vulnerable Americans.


MADDOW: President Obama today releasing what he describes as his
compromise budget, compromising with Republicans on cuts to Social
Security, especially, and in the process, enraging some of his own liberal

Is this a president who thinks he has much to lose by angering the
otherwise loyal left, or is this a president who sees having a big visible
fight with the left as a way to see himself look centrist, and, therefore,

Joining us now is a man who probably knows -- David Axelrod, former
adviser to President Obama, director of the Institute of Politics at the
University of Chicago, and now, a senior political analyst for MSNBC and
NBC News.

Mr. Axelrod, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here.

to be here.

MADDOW: So, when you hear the criticism of President Obama`s budget
from somebody like Elizabeth Warren, somebody who he has been so closely
aligned with, particularly on her signature, some economic populism issues,
does that -- as somebody so close to the president -- does that sting or
does that sound like good cover for him winning over some people in the
middle and on the right?

AXELROD: Look, I think that we ought to back up and look at this for
what, as I think he looks at it. Really, we have a choice in this country.
We`ve got a Republican vision about how we move forward that would not only
turn Medicare into a voucher system, but would decimate investments in the
future in education, in research, in social spending generally that would -
- and would leave standing all the tax preferences that benefit oil
companies and other special interests, allow millionaires to avoid paying a
proportionate share of their income, versus a vision that the president

And I think his view is, we`ve got a fundamental economic challenge in
this country, we have to make investments in education, research and
development, in energy and infrastructure, he proposed a universal pre-K
program. That`s a progressive vision of how we build the economy. And as
part of that compromise, he has other elements in here that are

But I heard your setup piece, Rachel, I don`t see the analogy, because
those fights that Bush had were free-standing fights. They weren`t part of
this larger struggle.

And I think most Americans in this country, including those who
consider themselves progressives, understand that that central economic
challenge is the one we have to go after. And if we go down that
Republican road, we`re going to exacerbate the problems that we`ve seen
over the last many years.

MADDOW: But in what the president has put forward, he`s not trading
away cuts to Social Security, and I should say, cuts to Medicare for
anything that he`s getting from the Republicans. The Republicans are
rejecting this flat out anyway, saying, sure, we`ll take the cuts to Social
Security and Medicare, but we`re not giving anything. I mean, those --
that funding for pre-K comes from a tobacco tax. That`s the sort of stand-
alone measure.

Being willing to be the party that wants to cut Medicare and Social
Security --

AXELROD: Well --

MADDOW: -- erases the biggest advantage that the Democratic Party has
over the Republican Party on economic issues.

AXELROD: I hear that, you`re talking like a political strategist and
member of Congress. I hear that, and understand it.

There are people in Congress who say let`s not do anything about
Medicare. Let`s certainly not do anything about Social Security because
this is a great issue for us. We can win on this issue. We can win in
2014. We can win in 2016. We can return ourselves to Congress.

The fact of the matter is, we do have to do some things about
Medicare. We have a situation now where we have baby boomers turning 65
every eight seconds. It`s putting pressure on the system. We`re paying
out $3 for every $1 we take in in Medicare.

Now, I think a lot of that can be dealt with through the reforms the
president has been promoting to reduce the cost of health care and get all
of the -- you know, some of the waste out of the system.

But, you know, we have to do other things, as well. He`s proposed
means-testing, for example, as part of his proposal.

But I think it`s unrealistic to say, let`s not touch those things,
because we`ll give up a good issue. And we need that issue to win

I think at some point you got to stand up and say, let`s take a look
at the total picture what we need to do for the country moving forward and
deal with them.

MADDOW: You -- I feel like the argument, you`re answering my question
implicitly by willing -- by wanting to argue this on policy rather than
talking about its political impact. I feel like what the White House must
want is a fight with the left, because if it really was about the
sustainability of Social Security, you can get there without benefit cuts.
You know that these people stop paying the payroll tax contribution on
Social Security at $110,000 or $113,000.

You put that -- you raise that by $100,000, you`re only affecting
people who are making that much money and you put Social Security on a path
towards solvency. It makes more sense than cutting old people`s benefits
right now. I think this is a fight they want on the politics.

AXELROD: I agree with you, and I think that has great appeal. And I
think some combination of those things would be great. Probably not
salable, but good.

And obviously -- we should mention that my understanding is the
president`s budget builds into it protections for older seniors, for people
who are vulnerable, for people on the lower end. But, you know, this is --
I know that I`m a political guy. I spent my whole life working on
elections. Two years in the White House, but you asked me what is the
president thinking.

And I don`t think that he`s sitting there thinking, how can I get some
advantage by picking a fight with the left or picking a fight with this
constituency or that?

I honestly think what he`s trying to do is pass a budget that keeps us
from decimating our economy as the Republican budget would, that restores
the sequester cuts that need to be restored, that makes investments that
need to be made in things like education and in research.

The things we know -- infrastructure, $50 billion more in
infrastructure. These are things that would help our economy in the short
run, you know, expanding the earned income tax credit would help deal with
inequality. So, I think he`s looking at this.

You say I`m talking policy you`re talking politics, I think he`s
thinking policy. I think he`s thinking -- this is something I can get
done. It is -- it is a reasonable people in the Senate and the House could
vote for it, and it would preserve the things and enhance the things that
we need to do as a country.

MADDOW: I believe you that he believes in what`s in his budget, but I
think that if really what he believes in is Social Security benefit cuts,
but I think that really what he believes in is Social Security benefit
cuts, he`s going to feel the ground beneath his feet give way. And I think
this is a start of a fight that ends badly for the Democratic Party and
this president.

AXELROD: I think he`s going to have to make the case, Rachel, as to
why a progressive view of social insurance programs is that you have to do
things to preserve them in the long run and it`s not an honest position to
say we can do nothing and these things will take care of themselves.

MADDOW: Nobody`s saying -- that`s not fair. Nobody`s saying --


MADDOW: Nobody`s saying do nothing. First of all, Social Security
isn`t the problem with the deficit.

Second of all, there is a way to fix it that has nothing to do with
starving old people now or in the immediate future. You have people pay
more and the system is solved.

If you wanted to approach just towards solvency, that would be one of
the things that`s on the table. For the Democrats to not put that on the
table and say it`s all about solvency and not the politics, I just don`t
buy it.

AXELROD: Look, you chose to talk about Social Security, I think we
should talk about both Social Security and Medicare. There`s no doubt that
in the long run, there are going to have to be adjustments made to Social
Security, and there`s no doubt that there are other ways to approach that.

He said today he didn`t think this was the ideal solution, and the
reason he built in, I think, those -- those preferences for the most
vulnerable, for older seniors and so on, was because of his concerns, some
of the concerns that you -- that you share here.

But, again, I think the thrust of this is how you construct a budget
that is passable, that is reasonable, and that can -- that preserves and
enhances those things that are going to make our economy grow and grow in a
way that is progressive, that gives people a better shot. Universal pre-K
gives people a better shot, some of the higher education things he`s doing
gives people a better shot.

Research and development creates middle class jobs that are important
for this country. Medical research will save lives. All those are in
jeopardy if there`s not a path that can be embraced by the Congress.

And so I know what the Republican position is today. Let`s see what
the Republican position is in the ensuing weeks and months when they have
to defend what is an indefensible budget on their part.

MADDOW: David Axelrod, former senior adviser for President Obama, now
a senior political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News -- I think the
Republicans are going to be exactly where they are months from now, now.
But we`ll have you back in the meantime.

AXELROD: I will be here to talk about that at that time.

MADDOW: You`re a good sport, David. Thank you.

AXELROD: Thanks for having me, bye.


MADDOW: It was 10 years ago this week, 10 years ago yesterday or
today, depending on the time zone, that U.S. Marines pulled town a big
metal statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. That wasn`t how it was reported
here at home. A couple of years ago, I went to Baghdad with NBC`s Richard
Engel who was in Baghdad at the famous Palestine Hotel when that all
happened and we saw how it really went down.


MADDOW: Marines come in.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS: Marines come in. A group of Iraqis look at
them tentatively then start to go after the statue.

MADDOW: How did -- the statue is like that height, it is tall.

ENGEL: There was a guy with a big sledgehammer, wailing at the base
of it. They started yanking on it, and it wasn`t going anywhere.

MADDOW: Right. If I wanted to take that down with 100 of my closest
friends, it is not going to happen.

ENGEL: So, they start yanking on it, then the Americans said we`ll
give you a hand, you want to do it, otherwise this is going to take all

MADDOW: Yes, you know, it would not have made local morning radio on
western Massachusetts. A bunch of people yanked on a statue, it didn`t
fall down.

ENGEL: Exactly.

MADDOW: So, if you want to help, you want to make the symbolic
impact, you help them bring it.

ENGEL: Or the Americans, they`re watching it as the Iraqis yank down
a statue and it collapses on top them and kills 10 people.


ENGEL: So, the Americans help them pull it down. It was a very
awkward moment, one person put an American flag.

MADDOW: That`s right. I remember that -- over the face of the

ENGEL: American head that was tied to 9/11, a flag that had been in
New York. And then it quickly erected this statue which is --

MADDOW: Which is --

ENGEL: Not great. It is odd.

And the people in that square at the time, I was listening to them
cheer. They weren`t cheering the end of America, end of Saddam, this is
freedom, freedom. They were yelling and sharing, Sadr, Sadr.


ENGEL: They`re cheering for Muqtada al-Sadr.

MADDOW: Sadr is father.

ENGEL: So they were cheering for --

MADDOW: They are giving a Shiite sectarian chant.

ENGEL: As the statue is being pulled down. That`s what they`re

MADDOW: Yes, see --


MADDOW: The toppling of that Saddam statue in Baghdad was 10 years
ago this week. You know, the date on which the George W. Bush Presidential
Library is going to be open to the public next month will be the 10-year
anniversary to the day of Bush declaring mission accomplished in Iraq just
weeks into the start of that eight-yearlong war.

On the 10 year anniversary of that, his presidential library opens.
On the ten-year anniversary of the Saddam statue being pulled down, House
Republicans celebrated this week by inviting former Vice President Dick
Cheney to a closed door meeting, for him to share with them his Dick Cheney
wisdom on foreign policy.

Former vice president reportedly told congressional Republicans at the
meeting that we are in, quote, "deep doo doo when it comes to North Korea."

Now, how does Dick Cheney know this technical information about our
exact situation with regard to North Korea? He explained to congressional
Republicans that he was basing that assessment on, quote, "his own
experience dealing with former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein."

For the record, Dick Cheney`s record of dealing with Saddam Hussein
consist of things like him telling us that Saddam had a nuclear weapons
program that he did not have. While at the same time ignoring the actual
nuclear weapons program that North Korea really did have. North Korea
became a nuclear weapons state on the Bush administration`s watch while
they were preoccupied starting a war for fun in Iraq.

And that`s who the congressional Republicans are inviting to give
advice on dealing with dictators, and the particular depth of our doo doo
when it comes to understanding other country`s dangerousness. That`s who
they`re going to for advice.

To be clear, Dick Cheney did not show up uninvited and they felt bad
and let him in, they invited him to talk to them. He is their chosen
expert. Still.

Heaven help us.


MADDOW: OK. This is the part of the show where I tell you about the
French zoo. Do you remember at the top of the show, I said we were trying
to fit a 10-pound show into a 5-pound bag? The French zoo didn`t fit into
the bag. But if you come back tomorrow, I swear I will tell you and it`s
totally worth waiting for. I`ve been doing this five years, still can`t
figure out how long the show is. Sorry.


Have a great night.


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