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MSNBC "Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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Congressman Weiner, thanks very much for your time.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Do you think that we end up with a government shutdown?

WEINER: I kind of fear that we do. You know, we"re kind of this dynamic that we"re negotiating for different things. When John Boehner went into his caucus yesterday and told them that there might have a shutdown, they all cheered. And, you know, we all think we"re negotiating towards the same thing, trying to get government to run efficiently as least expensively as possible.

But I really do believe a lot of John Boehner"s constituents, meaning the Tea Party members of Congress, are kind of rooting for a shutdown. And we had some of their Tea Party constituents out here literally chanting "shut it down" today.

So, I"m skeptical and I haven"t seen much sign from Speaker Boehner that he"s prepared to stand up to those influences in his party. So, I"m kind of pessimistic this evening.

MADDOW: That dynamic that you were describing, though, is strategically interesting. I mean, Republicans who can get behind microphones keep saying that they do not want a shutdown. But, then, as you say, they go to these rallies of their supporters, and their supporters yell back at them, shut it down, sis-boom-ba, shut down, shut down.

How does it change the negotiation strategy to know that one side is hoping for negotiations to fail?

WEINER: Well, this is--you know, what we"re describing here is really this weird dynamic in the Republican Party. They have one element of their caucus that is actually unpopular in the American public. You know, most party--most people in America don"t consider themselves extreme anything, let alone Tea Party people who want to shut down government, who don"t realize how dangerous that would be to the economy. It"s complicated.

But this is what, you know, Boehner has paid the big bucks to be speaker for. This is why he"s third in line to be president is because he"s supposed to stand up to those elements.

In the middle of everything else, I think completely getting forgotten about this, you know, people in the middle class, and those struggling to make it, people who watch this debate and say, boy oh, boy, I thought these guys pledged when they came to town, they were going to run things better. They were going to run the trains on time a lot better. It certainly hasn"t worked out that way.

MADDOW: Why do you think that the Republicans in the House introduced the "we want to abolish Medicare" budget on the same week as the confrontation of this supposed shutdown of the government? Do you think they"re trying to sort of movie the frame to make anything short of abolish Medicare seem moderate by comparison?

WEINER: That"s one interpretation. The other is, they want to see how far they can push this extreme agenda before many of us start to wake up and realize how far they want to go. Look, to some degree, you know, the little big of leg of the budget that Ryan showed yesterday was, I think to some degree a canary in the coal mines, to see how far they can push this extreme agenda. There are a lot of people here in Washington who really want to see--and you introduced in your first segment, want to see how far they can go to deconstruct the things that many of us take for granted.

And many of your viewers probably say, oh, you know, Medicare, who"s actually going to get rid of it? These guys want to. And so, that"s what this is about, how far they can push it. And I think every day a Ryan budget comes out, and some people in your profession say, oh, wasn"t that courageous of him--you know, it gives them more impetus to try even more tomorrow.

MADDOW: You know, there"s a fight going in the states and there"s a fight going on in Washington. In trying to connect what"s going on in Republican Party politics between the states in Washington, I look at this union-stripping legislation all over the country, wherever Republicans are in power, corporate-funded groups on the right are now even going after the CEO of Duke Energy, because the Democratic convention is in the city where that company is headquartered and they are the host committee.

Do you think that the conservative movement is trying to cut the Democratic Party sources of support, sort of trying to cut Democrat"s financial supply lines? Is this strategic?

WEINER: Well, I do see that there"s always been this notification that we on the left and we progressives--you know, we kind of see government as trying to move forward through yards and a cloud of dust. The active governance is kind of, you know, we honor it, we try to do it.

But there is this element that always exists in the Republican hierarchy to see how much they can just destroy the things that get in their way. Sometimes they"re empowered, sometimes they"re not. They feel empowerment right now, and they"re trying to see how much they can do.

And I want to tell you this, a lot of the individual rank-and-file members of this so-called Tea Party movement are being used as pawns by the Koch brothers and by others. You know, this is a part of a very sophisticated effort that transcends the states and here in Washington.

It also goes right to the courts. You know, they"ve got influence in the Supreme Court, the likes of which I"ve never seen corporate interests so well-represented. And we"ve got to be careful, because if we don"t start arming ourselves now, you know, and start coming into this knife fight carrying library books, we"re going to realize a lot of the things that many of us take for granted are going to be undermined by these corporate interests.

MADDOW: With the president right now meeting with Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid, when he comes out of that meeting, again, in this context in which the Republican base is clamoring for a shutdown, even though as Republicans say that they really don"t want that--what are you most hoping to hear from the president? What do you think his best possible role could be in this fight right now?

WEINER: Well, you know, to give the president credit, he has kept a level head and has tried to negotiate the best possible deal possible. But I do think that there has to be a certain level of line drawing here, about what it is that our side is fighting for. You know, they"re fighting for smaller government, we"re fighting to protect senior citizens and Medicare and Social Security. They"re fighting to cut tax rates on the very wealthy. We"re fighting for fairness in the tax code.

We need him to kind of define these two lines of this argument so when the American people understand what they"re rooting for in the morning. Look, I trust the president is going to drive a hard bargain here, but up until now, it hasn"t been a very clear, crisp bargain. And, hopefully, that"s what--he"s laying down the law right now at the White House.

MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York--it is always great to have you here on the show. Thanks a lot.

WEINER: Thank you.

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