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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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But what about Rick Santorum, does she also think Rick Santorum is not going to happen? I asked Nancy Pelosi that today for the interview on tonight`s show. I also asked her about Bob McDonnell and the contraception and abortion controversies down in Virginia. You will be surprised by her
responses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: What`s your take on Rick Santorum?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: Right now, as we gather here in another part of the Capitol, there is a hearing, five men are testifying on women`s health. My colleague, Carolyn Maloney of New York, who is on the committee, looked
down at this panel from which a woman who was the Democratic witness was excluded, and said, where are the women? And that`s a good question for the whole debate.

Where are the women? Where are the women on that panel? Imagine having a panel on women`s health and don`t have any women on the panel.
Duh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Nancy Pelosi the highest ranking woman ever in the American electoral politics. No major party in Congress was led by a woman before Nancy Pelosi. No woman had ever been speaker of the House before Nancy Pelosi.

And in the midst of our current national firestorm and national Republican political confusion on issues of women`s health, on the issues which she lately has been ex-claiming duh, Nancy Pelosi joins us tonight
for the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: Madam Leader, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to have you.

PELOSI: It`s my pleasure to be here.

MADDOW: Let me start by asking you just about something right on today`s news. Virginia`s Governor Bob McDonnell has backed off from his previously stated intention to sign a bill in Virginia that would mandate -
- it`s hard to talk about -- a medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasound for any woman seeking an abortion in Virginia. He said he would sign that, now he`s changing his mind on that.

What is your take on what`s going on right now with the politics of choice and abortion rights in the country?

PELOSI: Well, I think this is women`s health issue, first and foremost. And what we saw in Congress was five men at the table to talk about women`s health one day last week -- I`m sure you saw it.

MADDOW: Yes.

PELOSI: But this is something that`s personal with women, sort of a sisterhood about it. Women know that this isn`t any place that public policy should intrude. I`m glad that this will be an improvement over what
is happening in Virginia. But the fact is this is not public, it`s very personal.

MADDOW: When that, Chairman Issa convened that hearing last week with that all male panel of witnesses, you famously said and I quote, "Duh. The Republican leadership of this Congress thinks it`s appropriate to have a hearing on the subject to women`s health and can purposely exclude women
from the panel. What else do you need to know about the subject? If you need to know more, tune in. I may be moved to explain biology to my colleagues."

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Obviously, there is a political difference -- there is a political difference of opinion about what policy ought to be on the subject.

But do you actually think there is a difference in understanding? I mean, what would you explain to them if they would listen?

PELOSI: Well, first of all the idea they would be talking about contraception in this way is a breakthrough for those of us -- I have been in Congress, this will be my 25th year.

MADDOW: Yes.

PELOSI: And for 25 years, I have been saying to people this isn`t about abortion. They like to say it is but it`s about contraception. And contraception is something that is universally practiced. The size and
timing of families is an important decision to make together with their doctor, with their God. It`s not about some five men sitting around a table in Washington, D.C.

But what is interesting about this is that, at last, the country knows all this talk about reproductive freedom really extends to something as personal as family planning and birth control, and depriving women of
access to contraception.

MADDOW: So, you feel it`s a clarifying -- it`s a clarifying moment even if it has become sort of extreme?

PELOSI: Well, I think so. And, you know, to us it`s been extreme all along, but people didn`t believe it when you say you know they don`t believe in family plan and contraception, they believe in the rhythm system but no contraception and the like, and well, that can`t really be because overwhelmingly women -- Catholic women of child-bearing age, they admit that they practice birth control.

I`ve come from an era when women were deprived of receiving absolution if they confessed if they used birth control.

So, again, it is good to get it out on the table.

MADDOW: Yes.

PELOSI: And the fact is the president made the right decision andthen he moved to a clearer place, which should have been acceptable and was acceptable for many more people. But it also revealed that these folks who were opposing contraception for institutions that are affiliated with religious groups were now saying, well, we don`t think any insurance companies covering any employers and employees should be providing access to contraceptives. So, it really revealed how extreme they are.

The maintenance of our -- of the human race has been in the hands of women for thousands of years. It`s something that we understand, and families do together. There should be no public role in this.

MADDOW: But one of the politicians in modern American political life who is more aggressive than anyone on the idea that the state ought to have a role in people`s sexual decisions and their family life decisions, is
Rick Santorum -- that has been sort of his brand in politics for a long time -- that you famously said when Newt Gingrich`s star was rising in Republican presidential politics, there was no chance he would be
president.

Now that Rick Santorum`s star is rising, I wonder -- I wonder what you think about his prospects? I mean, a lot of liberals are almost openly wishing for a Rick Santorum nomination because they think President Obama could beat him easily. But what`s your take on Rick Santorum?

PELOSI: I would like to leave the Republican selection of their nominee up to them.

MADDOW: Yes.

PELOSI: I just knew that Newt Gingrich was completely unacceptable. But this is a matter of the marketplace of ideas, Rick Santorum is putting his forth, American people can make their judgment, the Republicans will make theirs as they choose their nominee.

And I think what he is saying speaks beyond his own words as to how it is heard by women across our country. And so, we`ll see. I mean, that`s up to the Republicans. I don`t want to get involved in terms of each of the candidates. I was just speaking from the public record about Newt Gingrich.

MADDOW: Do you feel like your prediction on Mr. Gingrich was vindicated? Do you feel like --

PELOSI: I didn`t think there was any question about it.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Fair enough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: Leader of the House Democrats, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi ostentatiously not weighing in on Rick Santorum`s prospects for becoming the Republican Party nominee. "That is up to the Republicans," she says, "I don`t want to get involved."

I`m not saying this is what is motivating Speaker Pelosi in taking the position, but you kind of hear that a lot from liberals around the country about Rick Santorum. Shhh, don`t interrupt the Republicans, don`t make a sound. They`re about to nominate Rick Santorum! Don`t move a muscle!

When we come back, more with Nancy Pelosi, including her reaction to the news that $1 in $4 spent on the presidential race in January, $1 of every $4 spent in the whole country came from five individual zillionaires.
That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: "The Washington Post" today crunched the number on the bit of financial disclosure that we get from the groups running all those political ads on your TV, particularly if you live in one of the early
primary states. It turns out $1 in every $4 spent last month on the presidential campaign was spent by five people -- five zillionaires.

So, if presidential campaigning is having any influence on who the next president might be, five individual people are wielding a quarter of all of that influence on the whole country. I asked Nancy Pelosi about
that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: These kingmakers just weighing in to the tune of millions of dollars. One of them said he`s willing to put up $100 million. Well, we might as well just go to them, cancel the elections, go to them and say,
who do you want to be president, who do you want to run Congress?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: More from my interview with the Democratic leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi -- coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: You`re working very hard for the president`s reelection. When you look ahead to November, what do you think -- what worries you most about his prospects for reelection? Do you think it matters in an
existential way for his reelection prospects who the Republicans nominate, or do you think it`s broader issues? What`s going on in the economy, gas prices, the president`s own performance as a campaigner, what worries you?

PELOSI: Well, I`m not worried because I have great confidence in the president. He`s not going to go out there and run for president against somebody. He will go out there and understanding as he has before, is that elections are about the future, not about your opponent -- except to make the contrast.

And we have seen in the past couple years or a few years that usually, it would be a question of we`re all going down the path, what is the role of government. But this is about two different paths. And the president I`m confident and I know, will be out there saying this is what is at stake in this election, this is about the future, about how we educate our children, how we create jobs for our workers, how we secure, have security for our seniors, how we reduce our deficit, protect our people, in a way that isn`t partisan in any way it`s priorities the American people share.

And I believe you will see a statement of values from him, not a taking down of his opponent.

MADDOW: Part of your responsibilities as Democratic leader is obviously fund-raising and traveling around the country, including here to New York to talk to people who support Democratic politicians and causes.
Obviously, this time four years ago, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were locked in one of the most exciting primary battles we ever had as a country. And the fund-raising was sort excited, too.

I saw today President Obama actually as an incumbent president raised 30 percent less at this time of the campaign than he had as a candidate running against Hillary Clinton and the other Democrats four years ago.

Do you worry at all about Democrats ability to keep up with Republican fund-raising, particularly now that the Republicans can tap these billionaires for huge checks all at once? I mean, Democrats can do that
one, too, but Republicans have been doing it more.

PELOSI: Well, I`m -- one of the reasons I`m going around the country now is to promote the Disclose Act introduced by Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

And what we`re seeing to all these people that you referenced is: stand by your ad. If you want to be putting up millions of dollars, five people putting up I don`t know what big percentage of the dollars that have been raised for the presidential --

MADDOW: One in four.

PELOSI: One in $4 -- stand by your ad, let the American people know, what is at stake, it`s the air we breathe, water we drink, safety of our food -- all of these issues where special interests weigh in. The issue of
money and politics and special interests weighing in, there is a direct relationship and the American people know it.

And so, while we think we`re reaching out to people with great idealism who care about the greatness of our country and the brilliant future, and I trust that we are, there is, in fact, all of this special
interest money, the best answer is to minimize the role of money.

Our founders created democracy. They took great risk to do it and it was about the will of the people determining who would lead our country, not the bankroll of a few people. And we have to -- right now, I think we have a great opportunity because they see these kingmakers just weighing in to the tune of millions of dollars. One of them said he`s willing to put up $100 million.

Well, we might as well go to them, cancel the elections, go them and say, who do you want to be president, who do you want to run Congress, who do you want to be governors of your state? And then forget about the initiatives that free us from special interests.

Every day in the Congress in the United States, we have fights about enforcement of clean air, clean water, food safety, public education, public health, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security -- you see how the
special interests weigh in. And that is -- I believe that with Disclose, stand by your ad, if the public knows, considers the source they might be thinking differently about being taken in by some ad.

But we have to disclose, win, reform the system, and amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision, which has done more to undermine our democracy than almost anything you can name.

MADDOW: So you see requiring disclosure with the Disclose Act, putting people`s name on the money they spend as one step in a multipart system that just toward public financing of elections essentially, that
takes -- that takes large scale money out of our election system.

PELOSI: Well, I think that it also increases the voice of the American people. You have to understand that at the same time, that these people are flooding, deluging the airwaves and the mail and all the rest with their message, they are also part of the effort to suppress the vote.

So, voter protection, that means, you know, OK, we can complain about what they passed to make it harder for people to vote, but don`t agonize, organize. We can call attention to the fact that they are trying to
minimize the voice of the American people but at the same time we have to get it out there, get the IDs for people, get them registered, voting and make sure their votes count. Because there is a concerted effort, 36
states are attempting it, 20 have already succeeded, with these voter suppression initiatives.

We`re talking about voter protection. And they go hand-in-hand with diminishing the role of money in politics.

MADDOW: Do you think that Democrats have a role in taking -- not just defending the right to vote against efforts to limit the number of people who can vote through voter ID, but also advancing measures like same day voter registration.

PELOSI: Well, I was the chair of the California Democratic Party 30 years ago. And around that time and before and since, our role has always been, and we believe it`s the role of every secretary of state in the
country, whatever is your party, to remove obstacles of participation.

MADDOW: Yes.

PELOSI: Whether that is to voting or to running for office, whatever it is. The first step to voting, to make it easier for people to register and to vote, and to have them have the confidence that when they do, their
vote will be counted.

But this is again, it`s as fundamental as our democracy. Do we have kingmakers or do we have the people deciding who will win the election?

MADDOW: Last time you and I spoke, we had a long -- and I thought really interesting conversation that I thought about for a long time after we had it, about the end of the war this Afghanistan. And not just what
America`s role has been in Afghanistan, but what is going to happen to Afghanistan as we leave and once we have left. You obviously had great concerns not only about the overall role of the United States there, but
specifically about the women of Afghanistan and how they will fare post-war.

With the prospect of talks with the Taliban, with the emergence of what might look like the American off ramp out of combat operations in the country, what are you hoping for from Afghanistan? What are you worried about and what are you hoping for?

PELOSI: Well, I go each year to Afghanistan. And in the past year, last year, I went, and I`ll go again this spring -- I saw improvement, improvement in the prospects of when we leave what will happen. But that
can only happen -- again, we talk about those that place at the table. And I said this to President Karzai over and over, that can only happen if women are present at the table, making a -- how are we going to reconcile
with the Taliban, how are they going to reconcile with the Taliban and how are they going to integrate people back in society from the Taliban?

It won`t have legitimacy and it won`t allay the fears of women -- unless women are at the table when the conversations take place. And that`s every step of the way. And -- it`s their best protection, first of
all they will have a better solution and second of all have more acceptance among the women and that is important.

MADDOW: Do you think it`s possible, do you feel when you suggest that and when you talk about importance of that, that it`s heard?

PELOSI: Well, let me say that I`m not the only one saying it, our secretary of state -- Secretary Clinton has been forceful and as the whole Obama administration.

But I said, do yourself a favor, have women at the table, because if this is going to be a solution it has to be one that is shaped by women.

MADDOW: You are -- I`ll close with this question you are the woman who has -- who has risen higher in American politics than any other in our history, s the first female speaker of the House, third in line succession of the presidency. As this is your 25th year in congress. Congress has an atrocious approval rating, something like 10 percent right now.

And it is fashionable in spectrums of society to deride Washington, to deride Congress specifically, to think about public service as something that isn`t necessarily less than honorable, but at least you have to take
shots at.

In your 25 years in Congress, what has gotten better? What have you seen that has improved in terms of the way we fight it out as a country and the way we legislate, the way we govern?

PELOSI: Well, I think technology has made the biggest difference in terms of people being more in touch in real time and being able to register their opinion and that`s really important.

I tell my members when they come, your job title and job description are one in the same, representative. You`re an independent representative of your district. You come there to honor your conscience, to uphold the Constitution, to represent your constituents. Sometimes you have to take them down a national path that might not be readily known to them.

But, anyway, the technology of communication enables that to happen in real time and the rest. But the fact is some of that has also in flamed the situation, exploiting -- shall we say the Republicans specialty is to
inject confusion in the debate. And so we have to have clarity in which a residential debate can give us.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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