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Joining us now is not a nun, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a member of
Congress from Florida, chair of the Democratic National Committee --
Congresswoman, thank you for being here.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Thanks, Rachel. Great to
be with you.
MADDOW: I realize that you`re not Catholic. Do you agree with me
that one should not mess with nuns?
SCHULTZ: Absolutely. They would be way at the bottom of list of
women or men I would want to mess with.
Let me ask you, looking at all of those developments in turn, the
conference of mayors` resolution -- obviously, the mayors speak for a lot
of Americans. The Virginia board of health --
SCHULTZ: And they`re a nonpartisan group.
MADDOW: Absolutely. And also seen as a sort of technocratic group,
doing what is best for their constituents.
The Virginia board of health defying what the Republicans were trying
to do there, this outpouring in Michigan, thousands of people out on the
steps of the Michigan state capitol today in response to them shutting up
those women legislators last week, and the nuns defying the Vatican and
saying, we`re not going to be anti-abortion activists. We`re going to do
what we think is right, do you think that it`s right to cluster those and
talk about the idea there is sort of a reaction to what we have seen as the
Republican agenda on reproductive rights in women`s health for the past
couple of years? Is there a backlash?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think there really appears to be. You can take it
back to the beginning of this Congress when the Republicans took over the
House and became the majority and introduced the bill you referenced, the
H.R. 3, which also would have changed the definition of rape to mean only
So, I mean, there has been this relentless attack on women, and a
relentless hyper-focus on women`s reproductive rights in spite of the fact
that the number one, two, and three issue is creating jobs and getting the
economy turned around. So, their obsession with women`s bodies and
controlling women`s bodies has really seeped all the way down, so deeply,
and the extremism has seeped so deeply in the Republican Party, that you`ve
got state after state that is initiating this legislation, and so much so
that yours and my generation, which has really benefited from having
reproductive freedom for our entire lives and essentially has become
complacent, now even women who are my girlfriends, and probably your
girlfriends, who never pay attention, are saying. OK, you know, this is
enough to get me off my couch and out of my house, and onto the lawn of a
state capitol to fight back.
MADDOW: You know, in terms of strategy on these issues, I feel like
the big dynamic in American partisan politics is that on the right, there`s
a conservative movement that operates independently of the Republican
Party, and they constantly are pulling the Republican Party to the right,
demanding orthodoxy, purification, and they`re doing that whether
Republicans are in power or not. They`re always just exerting however much
power they got.
MADDOW: It`s an external force to the party at least.
In the Democratic Party, there isn`t a progressive movement that has
the same kind of effect on the Democratic Party. So, Democrats don`t move
that much on the issue, they`re not drawn to the left the same way
Republicans are dawn to the right.
Because of that, abortion rights are a litmus test for Republicans.
There are almost no pro-choice Republicans left. There`s a lot of pro-life
Democrats. There`s a lot of anti-abortion rights Democrats.
And so, how can the Democratic Party say to women who are upset by the
Republican`s agenda, come to us? When there are so many Democrats running
for office right now and holding important elected office right now who are
against abortion rights?
SCHULTZ: Because we are the big tent party, and we welcome the
diversity of points of view, and you oftentimes see Democrats that are
anti-choice, that aren`t making that the top of their legislative agenda.
So there`s a difference between someone who simply has a personal view that
is different than the majority of our party, and someone who says, I`m
going to Washington or I`m going to the state capitol to make limiting
abortion rights my number one priority.
And that`s -- we`re tolerant and respectful of a diverse point of
view. The Republicans are not, and on top of that, they nominate
candidates for president like Mitt Romney who want to take it even further
-- support personhood amendments and who when it comes to the issues
important to women like paycheck fairness and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay
Act, won`t take a position and say whether or not that they would allow
those things to become law.
It`s -- the dramatically out of step, out of touch extremism that
exists from the top to the bottom of the Republican Party is really, I
think, finally startling and shocking to women, enough to get many women
who aren`t normally involved and engaged off the sidelines.
MADDOW: That key issue about intensity both among elected officials
and also intensity among people who care about --
SCHULTZ: That`s enough.
MADDOW: You`re right on that.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee,
member of Congress from Florida, and again, not a nun.
SCHULTZ: Not a nun.
MADDOW: It`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
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