The Rachel Maddow Show | March 06, 2013
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: path to citizenship, all right, you fall short of that. That's not -- you want legal residency. JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR : Yes. Our proposal is a proposal that looks forward. And if we want to create an immigration policy that's going to work, we can't continue to make illegal immigration an easier path than legal immigration. So going forward, we broke this last year, going forward, if there is a difference, if you can craft that in law where you can have a path to citizenship, where there is an incentive for people to come illegally, I'm for it. So I have supported both, both a path to legalization, or a path to citizenship.
MADDOW: Got that straight? Former governor and apparently a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016 , Jeb Bush and his varying positions on immigration, evolving fast over the course of this week. That was Governor Bush just over the course of two days. Joining us is Steve Schmidt , Republican political strategist, senior strategist for McCain / Palin and a MSNBC contributor -- Steve , thank you for being here.
STEVE SCHIMDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be with you , Rachel .
MADDOW: So, you were among the Republicans who signed on to the brief to the Supreme Court supporting marriage equality .
SCHMIDT: I did.
MADDOW: Only two elected officials were on that list of 130 Republicans signed on their. Now, we're seeing Jeb Bush going from former elected official with very progressive position on illegal immigration to potential candidate having a much more conservative position on this issue. What is it about elected office that makes Republicans take more conservative stances?
SCHMIDT: First off, I think there are two very different issues. But let's look at the immigration first. And let's evaluate Jeb Bush through the prism of a potential candidacy for president. There is no question that he has stumbled over this issue, that he has been inconsistent over the last couple of days. But we should remember with regard to Jeb Bush that he has been a voice of reason on this issue. He has been a voice for solutions on this issue. He has been a great friend to the Hispanic community in this country. Jeb Bush is an important voice in forging a consensus around this issue. Now, I was sitting next to him when he was on "MORNING_JOE" and he clarified his answer. And what he said there was he would be open to a path for citizenship. I think, in fact, if we are to solve the immigration crisis in this country, and it is a crisis. You had a great chart a couple weeks ago that showed the insanity of our immigration system. If we are going to solve the problem, we're going to have to have a permanent fix for the security of the border. For a sovereign country, we have to know who is in the country. We have to be able to secure the border, but we also have to deal in a compassionate way to the people that are here and that means offering a path of citizenship after some process, and that's the contours of how we get to a solution on that debate.
MADDOW: And that has been the line from Jeb Bush consistently for the last seven years and even before that when he was Florida governor . And that is the thing he started to take back at the same time he flirted the story that he wants to run for president in 2016 . Why are those two things happened at once?
SCHMIDT: I don't think those two things are necessarily linked together. I think that if he runs for president, he is going to be an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform --
MADDOW: Why didn't he just write a book that took it back?
SCHMIDT: Well, because I think he was offering solutions to the problem that are navigable, in his view, Republican Congress . Now, the politics of the situation has changed. There's been a very small number of us who have been outspoken and vocal, talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform . That became a flood after the last election. The book was written before the election, and I don't think the book is caught up to where the party is right now. But we should remember with Jeb Bush that he has been a consistent supporter of immigration reform , and I think that within -- and I think that despite what's in the book, I think that you've seen him trying to clarify his position now and get back to where he originally was.
MADDOW: I think he should blame the co-author. He should be like, dude, ghost writer stole my ideas.
SCHMIDT: Always best to blame someone in these circumstances.
MADDOW: He's going to need to at this point.
MADDOW: Anyway, I see --
SCHMIDT: He's not the first politics to flip-flop on an issue.
MADDOW: No, but having been so principled on it for seven years, you want to see him believing it and so, therefore, leading his party on this.
SCHMIDT: And, by the way, I'm not convinced he's going to be a candidate for president. But maybe he will, maybe he won't. But I think you've seen him trying to get back to where his original position was this week.
MADDOW: On the gay rights issue, I was surprised there weren't more elected officials who signed on. Given how bold-faced the names were who did sign on, and also it seems like so many Republicans are talking about the party needing to move on this issue, particularly younger Republicans .
MADDOW: But we don't see any younger, more moderate members of congress or even ranking state officials signing on for this. What is it about elected office that's stopping them?
SCHMIDT: I think this is an issue where people's attitudes are changing very, very quickly. President Obama is an example of that. When you look at Republicans , look, for example, at the legislators in the New Hampshire state legislature where you had many Republican members vote in favor of marriage equality at the state level. Now, at the congressional level, I know many members of Congress who were totally untroubled by the notion of gay marriage , who are supportive of gay marriage but aren't publicly vocal.
MADDOW: How come?
SCHMIDT: And the reason is because in politics, politicians of both parties have a finely attuned instinct for self preservation. And Republicans believe that there's a price to pay potentially in primaries even though I believe that organizations like the National Organization of Marriage , with a few exceptions, are all bark, no bite. And, in fact, can't determine the outcome of the race. But the day will come when you begin to see -- and it will come sooner than people think it will -- where members of Congress in the Northeast and the West , in the Mountain West begin to depart from what has been orthodoxy, and you will see more and more Republicans demanding that the Republican Party embrace its traditional values of freedom and equality and that no American should be disenfranchised from the fundamental right of marriage.
MADDOW: I believe that you want that to be true. I think that we would see it happening already in a more overt way if it was going to happen. And I 'm still dying to know -- one of those Republican members of Congress who is not closeted as a gay person but closeted as a pro-gay person, will you ask them if they'll do a silhouette with me and I'll disguise their voice and we'll do that whole thing and they can speak beyond --
SCHMIDT: People will ultimately come around on this issue. And when you look at some of the future leaders of the party that will be around potentially for a long time, Paul Ryan , Marco Rubio , the cast of elected officials in their early 40s, some in they're late 30s, who will be the first of them to break and to say we should not define conservatism along this issue? And, in fact, we support marriage, equality, not in spite of our conservatism, but because of it. I think that day will come. I gave a speech talking about the conservative case for gay marriage four years ago. There wasn't but a handful of Republicans . Now, there are hundreds of Republicans . This issue is evolving quickly. Attitudes are changing rapidly. And what is clear to me is that as we look ahead to 2016 , people that are disrespectful to the gay community , people that treat their fellow Americans will less than respect are going to be penalized by voters across the spectrum. And the intolerance that has been out of the mouths of so many of our Republican elected officials is going to be something that they pay a political price for. And when that happens, you begin to see people break from the old standards and drop some of the conformity on some of these issues, because at the end of the day , this notion that you're going to pay a political price, that you're going to lose your seat, that there are powerful organizations, that there are people who will come out in primary and take your seat away, most of it in most places is totally illusory.
MADDOW: Fascinating. Steve Schmidt , MSNBC contributor, former McCain - Palin senior strategist and a guy who's not afraid to annoy people in his own party on a regular basis -- thank you, Steve . I appreciate it.
SCHMIDT: Thank you, Rachel .
MADDOW: Thanks. All right. We'll be