The Rachel Maddow Show | February 14, 2012
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Happy Tuesday. Happy Valentine's Day. And thanks for being with us this hour. Today is also the 100th birthday of the great state of Arizona . Happy birthday, Arizona . We start in Arizona tonight where the state legislature is grappling with the pressing issue of foul-mouthed public school teachers. This is Arizona State Senator Lori Klein . She's a Republican. Senator Klein introduced state legislation, a bill in Arizona , that would punish teachers for using speech that violates the FCC standards for network television shows. So, Senator Klein wants to stop the scourge of teachers cursing. As her bill is written, this would have the Arizona state government regulating the language of teachers, not just while they are in the classroom, but anywhere in their whole lives. So, math teacher, you hit your thumb with a hammer, the state government of Arizona will be listening in to make sure you only say dang. Or they will unleash, you know, all heck on you, I guess. It's sort of hard to be angry at somebody if you barred the whole swearing thing. Anyway, if that's not big enough role for government for you, there is a man in Virginia I'd also like you to meet. His name is Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall . He's also a Republican. Delegate Bob Marshall once tried to outlaw swearing in e-mail. Not just by teachers, not just by any one group of people, not just in a particular kind of email, Bob Marshall proposed that Virginia state government outlaw profanity by anyone in any e-mail sent from the commonwealth of Virginia . Now, it's one thing to think swearing is bad. It's another thing to say that swearing is bad, or to ask other people not to do it. But to dislike swearing so much that you would expand the role of government , you would create a government so intrusive that the government would monitor your speech and read your e-mails in order to prosecute you for swearing , few people are that dedicated to stamping out curse words. But that is what Arizona is considering today, for the teachers -- on the state's 100th birthday . And that is how seriously Bob Marshall took the problem of Virginia 's e-mail swearing epidemic back in the 1990s . This year, Virginia Delegate "watch your mouth" Bob Marshall is championing a really, really, really, really big government conservative cause. It's an anti- abortion , anti- birth control personhood bill that would define a person under essentially the entire code of Virginia state law as beginning at the moment of conception. You might remember the whole personhood idea from its double digit defeat on the Mississippi ballot last November, or its 46-point defeat in Colorado in 2008 , or its 42-point defeat in Colorado again in 2010 . What Bob Marshall is proposing in Virginia is essentially the same thing that has been defeated by voters in Mississippi and in Colorado . A key element to personhood 's big loss in those states was the implication spelled out graphically on this billboard that went up during the Mississippi campaign , is the implication the personhood thing had for birth control . If you grant a fertilized egg the rights of a person, you might just be banning not only all abortion in all circumstances, but also hormonal birth control , which is the kind of birth control that most American women used. The personhood folks know they have been losing in part because they seem to want to ban birth control . In Mississippi , for example, once they seemed to be losing ground on the " birth control is murder" argument, they changed their personhood campaigns language on their Web site about birth control . Earlier in the campaign, they had listed on the Web site all the kinds of birth control that they opposed. But after a couple weeks, that language mysteriously disappeared and much softer language appeared in its place. So, playing down the birth control issue, saying it's not they were opposed to birth control , they just didn't necessarily advocate for the use of contraceptives. In Virginia , the Republicans backing the personhood measure in that state had a chance to take the birth control argument off the table entirely. A Democratic Delegate Vivian Watts tried to attach an amendment to the Virginia bill that would declare nothing in that bill could be construed to outlaw any form of legal contraception. Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates voted no on that by a huge margin. The vote was 64 to 34 against taking birth control out of the equation. So, in Virginia , Republicans had a wide open opportunity to say this personhood thing, this bill is only about banning abortion , we do not want to ban birth control . They had the opportunity to say that, and they rejected it, hugely. Virginia Republicans have watched this personhood measure go down over and over again across the country in large part because it's seen as a way to ban birth control . But they're not contesting that idea. Ban birth control , sure, sounds like a plan. That is what passed the Virginia House of Delegates today, the anti- abortion , anti- birth control personhood bill, and now it's headed over to the Virginia senate . In recent years, the senate in Virginia has been kind of the brakes for this sort of legislation in the commonwealth of Virginia . The Senate was under Democratic control had been a cooling off chamber for Virginia conservatives' really intrusive big government proposals on social issues like this. But now, Republicans are in control of the state senate and Virginia politics watchers say this personhood bill has a pretty good chance in the senate . If it passes the house and passes the senate , Virginia 's uber conservative governor, Bob McDonnell , will say nothing more than that he plans to take a look at it if it reaches his desk. But wait, there's more! Not only are Republicans of Virginia moving to pass a bill that could ban birth control , that they explicitly acknowledge could ban birth control -- Virginia Republicans have are already passed in both chambers a bill that would have the state government force Virginia women into having medically unnecessary, unwanted vaginal ultrasounds. That is a physical penetration of the body, ultrasound, by state order, without your consent. That would be forced on you as a condition of your being allowed to have an abortion in the state of Virginia . I don't mean to be unnecessarily graphic about this, but the legislation is really specific about how detailed the ultrasound has to be. And so, for the vast majority of women, seeking an abortion in the commonwealth of Virginia , the state government will specifically require a physical internal probe for which there is no medical reason and for which neither you or your doctor has a choice. The " A.P. " reported on this today, you know how -- I'm a highlighter base life form , I'm always reading with either a pencil or highlighter, you know it's incredible story when you're reading like three paragraph news story and you're highlighting the important parts and you end up highlighting the entire story. From " The Associated Press " today, quoting from them directly, "Legislation that has advanced on the strength of a GOP majority would force women to under go a transvaginal ultrasound that produces fetal images. An amendment by Delegate David Englin , Democrat of Alexandria , would have allowed medical professionals to determine whether images can be obtained without being penetrated by equipment used in the ultrasound, women would have to give written consent to such a probe under the amendments, but not to sonograms that aren't invasive. The amendment failed on a 64-34 vote setting up the bill for final House passage." So, Republicans of Virginia seriously want a government so big it can literally get inside individual citizen's genitals by force and without their consent. That bill, the "let the government inside your body" bill passed the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates today. It has already passed the Republican-controlled Virginia senate . And Republican Governor Bob McDonnell says he will sign it. Virginia 's governor is, of course, one of the leading candidates on the presumed vice presidential short list for Republicans this year. Sure, all of the Republican candidates for president have endorsed the ban on birth control / personhood thing. But now, one of the men considered most likely to be chosen as vice president has the chance and says he will -- sign this forced ultrasound thing in law. He will have a chance to sign it in into law a birth control ban. Government mandated medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds from the state of Virginia . So, that's going to be the choice for voters in November. All right? Let's say they pick Bob McDonnell , right? So, are you going to go with it's OK to outlaw birth control anti-family planning presidential ticket that wants to force its way in your, right? Or are you going to go with the pro- birth control , pro-family planning presidential ticket that would like to leave your to you. I would love the opportunity to ask Bob McDonnell about the ban birth control personhood bill that might land on his desk. I would like to ask him about his vice presidential hopefulness, I would like to ask him about how his issues -- how his take on those issues fits in his vice presidential hopefulness. In fact, Bob McDonnell told a conservative radio host a few weeks ago that he would love to come on this very show, he even asked the radio host , Laura Ingraham , if she would help set up an interview for him on this show. And she did. Laura Ingraham 's producer sent us over a clip of what Bob McDonnell had said on his show about wanting to come and talk to me about these issues on this show. I have been super excited to have him, we called his office, we e- mailed his office, Governor McDonnell still not returning our calls or e- mails. But, sir, I'm looking forward to some day you getting back to us. Anytime, Governor, you know where to find me. You have my number. I know you. We left it on your voice mail . Joining us is MSNBC political analyst and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for " The Washington Post ," Eugene Robinson . Gene , thank you for being here.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Great to be here, Rachel .
MADDOW: One of the big campaign issues of 2012 is birth control it turns out.
ROBINSON: Yes. Who knew?
MADDOW: Are we -- do you think we're heading toward a November election that is the pro- birth control party against anti- birth control party?
ROBINSON: I can't imagine, because that cannot be a good idea for the Republicans to go into a November election as the anti- birth control party. That just -- you know, I've tried to figure this out from every sort of cynical smart politics angle I can figure it out from. And it doesn't work for me. What's the figure, something like 98 percent of American women use some form of birth control at some point during their lives? How can you be against that?
MADDOW: Well, why do you think we are seeing -- I mean, everybody reads the same polls on this. Everybody knows what Americans believe and practice about birth control . But yet we are seeing this big push for the personhood legislation in Virginia . It failed in Mississippi . It failed twice in Colorado . In Mississippi , after they just got clobbered by the voters, they are trying now, through the legislature, to do it again, even do it by referendum again. We're seeing it brought forth in Virginia , and in all these other states. What about this issue seems to be a winning argument to Republicans ? Why do they like it if the polls aren't with them?
ROBINSON: Well, the polls are not with them. The voters are not with them. So, clearly, it's not a winning issue. They can't believe this is a good idea politically. So, the only thing I can figure out, Rachel , is that it's based on a wrong and frankly insane belief that a fertilized egg is a fully formed person and has personhood and preventing, you know, preventing of implantation of that egg is murder. I don't -- you know, it baffles me what other explanation there could be, they can be sincerely mad on this subject, I think, and maybe they are.
MADDOW: Do you think that this factors possibility of Bob McDonnell as a vice presidential pick? Obviously, he's one -- he's not only on the short list. He's the guy who makes no bones about the fact he would like to be chosen. He keeps showing up in campaign states where he's not the governor, he's traveling around the country making himself evident on the campaign trail. He's been very friendly toward the idea of being asked to be vice president. He can't continue to be the governor of Virginia , they are term limited. He has tried to, I think, cast himself in a Mark Warner -esque pro- business role as governor. But yet, his social conservative is to the right of Rick Santorum . I don't think Santorum ever talked about the state forcing vaginal ultrasounds as punishments for seeking abortions. Bob McDonnell says he'll sign that. Does that -- does that follow him into the political calculus of choosing him for V.P.?
ROBINSON: Oh, you bet it does. I mean, look, the personhood thing he's been kind of coy on that, I'm not convinced that if it actually passed, that he would sign it. He seems to understand that that's a bad idea politically if he wants to be vice president. The voters of Mississippi rejected this. I mean, this is not a great idea for him. But the vaginal ultrasound bill which he says he will sign, I think is equally problematic for him. This is a Republican Party in Virginia that claims the government has no right to force anyone to buy health insurance, yet the government has a right to insert a vaginal probe for no reason, for no medical reason? And you have no choice about it, your doctor has no choice about it? That is absolutely outrageous. I don't see how you can go into the November election if you're the Republican candidate, essentially endorsing that view.
MADDOW: I think so, too. And yet, this doesn't seem to be front page news around the country. I've been sort of amazed to see the way abortion politics and reproductive rights politics only surface when Republicans want to make them the issue like when they want to attack Democrats on it. But as they had this bulldozer, a couple of years on this issue, even when they are radical, it's only liberals who squawk. Anyway, Eugene Robinson , MSNBC political analyst , Pulitzer Prize - winning columnist for " The Washington Post " -- Gene , thank you again for being here.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Rachel .