The Rachel Maddow Show | August 22, 2012
>>> you sponsored legislation that has the language forcible rape . what is forcible rape ?
>> rape is rape period, end of story.
>> so that forcible rape language meant nothing to you at the time?
>> rape is rape. and there's no splitting hairs.
>> that's what happened today when pittsburgh political editor asked vice presidential candidate paul ryan about congressman ryan 's own record, about his sponsoring a bill with todd akin that would in fact redefine rape, that as it were, would split hairs about rape. paul ryan had pushed that language before. he never got nearly so much attention for it in the national press. joining us now, i'm happy to say, is craig gilbert, the washington bureau chief for the milwaukee sentinel which has been covering paul ryan for a long time, right from the beginning. thank you for joining wrus.
>> nice to be with you.
>> i know you have covered congressman ryan since he got into ryan in 1998 , and it's not really what he likes to be known for. he's obviously avoiding direct answers on it right now, but from his history, what can you tell us about his record and his stance on abortion rights ?
>> well, he's always been a social conservative . with a few exceptions here or there, but i think he's -- he's not known for it, for obvious reasons because of his role on the budget committee , his kind of preoccupation with budget and fiscal issues. he would much rather talk about quantitative easing than rape and incest exceptions on abortion. this is not how he defined himself political and not how he's defined in the media, either.
>> i think we're seeing that in action. the think i'm trying to square, i guess, trying to get my head around is how he can so obviously want that, want that kind of reputation, and really have sort of earned that reputation in terms of what he has overtly done in talking about fiscal policy , but why then put yourself on the hard leading edge of all these antiabortion issues. he may have cosponsored the todd akin redefining rape bill with hundreds of other republican cosponsors, but his other bill redefining rape, it was him and one other cosponsor. he's really out there almost alone on the issues. why prioritize it when he hasn't wanted to talk about it?
>> he's a strong social conservative . he's -- if you look at, you know, he likes to talk about the three legs of the reagan coalition being social conservati conservatism, economic conservatism , and national security conservatism. he has positioned himself as pretty conservative in all three respects, but he's also, i think he sees economic issues not only as his particular interest, but i think he also sees economic issues at the portal for the republican party to reach out to moderates as opposed to the other issues. and he's talked to me about that, about kind of this is our way of broadening the coalition on economic and fiscal issues as opposed to social issues. at the same time, you know, he is with just a handful of exceptions, is among the most conservative members of congress on social issues.
>> and that, i think, was what makes his long-term history so interesting, and makes it so important to hear from people who have covered him for a long time because they're very clearly, and him refusing to answer the questions, they actually can't stay in that position for very long. he's going to have to either repudiate his previous record or he's going to have to come up with some other explanation for why he's running on a ticket he never supported in the past. something is going to have to give if they want to try to appeal to moderates and not have this block it. have you seen anything in his career to give you any sense of how amenable he will be to the idea of repute ydiating his previous position, giving up his opinions on rape that the romney campaign at large appears not to share?
>> i think he understood when he got selected there would be issues where he would have to conform to the position of mitt romney . so you know, the campaign is going to be full of these awkward moments where his historic position is not the same as mitt romney 's position. in some cases where mitt romney 's position has changed over the years and paul ryan 's hasn't. it's awkward on a couple issues. one, this is not the set of issues he wants to talk about. two, his position may be different from mitt romney 's and three, it may be an issue where mitt romney himself has shifted his position over the years.
>> i know this has come up in some general election campaigns that he's been in in the past with his democratic opponents trying to raise this. there's lots more here to learn about paul ryan and to talk about. craig gilbert, washington bureau chief from the milwaukee sentinel . i really appreciate your time.
>> thanks, anytime.
>> all right, if you think the day is coming when americans will have to leave the country in order to get something they're supposedly able to legally get here, if you think that is something that's sort of far fetched, if you think that's something we use as hyperbole but it doesn't happen, it's really happening. it's happening in the amazing story is coming up.