tv MSNBC Live MSNBC February 12, 2013 11:00am-12:00pm EST
>> to mobilize the american people, build support for his proposals, and push the republicans through public pressure and through public opinion. proposals to grow the economy, to deal with immigration, to address gun violence, that have majority support in the country. >> the question remains, will the president strike a softer tone than he did in his inaugural address? will he reach across the aisle, or draw another line in the sand? >> this is the last best shot he has to move the needle. there's a little more pressure on the president to have an effective state of the union, because this is, you know, this is the window for him to -- if he's ever going to motivate congress to do it. >> well, domestic issues will dominate the evening, the white house confirming the president will announce the withdrawal of 34,000 u.s. troops from afghanistan by this time next year. half the troops currently in that country. adding to the intensity is a bold act by north korea, its third successful nuclear test, conducted underground in the northern part of that country.
now, the first such test to be done under north korea's young new leader, kim jong-un. >> it was a highly provocative act, it violates nurpsresolutio. >> we have a lot to talk about this morning, and joining me is south carolina democratic congressman, james clyburn. sir, great to have you here. let's talk about what we do expect to hear from the president tonight. we do have the information, he will be talking about the drawdown of troops in afghanistan, going down to 34,000. that's half of u.s. troops currently in afghanistan. but adding a wrinkle to the state of the union tonight is north korea and what we know happened there with their third nuclear test. the statement from the white house, i want to read it for everybody. "the united states remains vigilant in the face of north korean provocations and steadfast to our defense commitments to allies in that region." however, though, there are already people on the right who are giving their, i guess,
understanding of what the president is going to say tonight in the fact that representative mike rogers is saying that this test is a reminder of years of failed policies to prevent nuclear programs and proliferation. so with the language that we understand that the president will talk about tonight in regard to afghanistan, what are you hoping the message he will send in regards to north korea? >> well, first of all, thank you so much for having me, thomas. i would hope that the president will remain steadfast. he's made it very, very clear that he is not going to stand idle, as these rogue nations continue to pursue nuclear weapons. i think he's demonstrated his intestinal fortitude time and time again. he's demonstrated that domestically, when you push forward with his health care plan. he's demonstrated that on the national front, when he they went after bin laden. so i think that the president has all it takes to stand up to
this challenge. and it is a challenge. we must be very, very careful when we deal with these kinds of immature actions, coming from a nation that is pretty immature, but now has a leader, that is rather immature. >> congressman, you're asking the congressman to be steadfast. and one thing that we're hearing today about the president's steadfastness is in regards to the budget concerns of this country. and we had john boehner coming out today, saying he doesn't think that the president has the guts to do the heavy lifting. his exact words saying, "i think he'd like to deal with it, but to do the kind of heavy lifting that needs to be done, i don't think he has the guts to do it." and we see that republicans are circling the wagons, as we heard from kevin mccarthy this morning on "the daily rundown." take a listen. >> don't underestimate this house. i listened to the white house before. this is the second largest republican majority since world war ii. this is larger than any majority during newt gingrich's years. and we've got a stronger senate that i believe in the next
election can take the majority. >> so, sir, with a very narrow window for the president, do you believe that he can get anything done when republicans are already looking ahead to the midterm elections? >> that's exactly -- that's what i was kind of interested in what senator mcconnell had to say about the president campaigning. it sounds to me that mr. mccarthy is running the campaign. that's not what the president is doing here. he's not thinking about what may or may not result in a majority. he's thinking about what should be done in order to get our country on the path toward economic development, job creation, infrastructure, educating our children, doing what is necessary to move this country forward. he is not running a campaign. he is responding to a campaign of misinformation and misdirection that's coming from our republican colleagues. >> sir, i want to talk to you about the president's cabinet, because there's a headline in the south carolina state newspaper, saying that clyburn not interested in u.s. transportation post. a reference to you taking over
for ray lahood, who is stepping down. are you interested in being secretary of transportation or having any cabinet post at all? >> no, i'm not interested in being secretary of transportation. i'm not interested in leaving the congress. i love the congress. i have spent 20 years here. i look forward to regaining the old job i had as house majority whip, and so i'm going to be responding to this campaign of misinformation and misdirection from mr. mccarthy and others, to reach out to the american people, trying to help this president do what is necessary to move our country forward. i believe i can be much more effective in the house of representatives, and that's where i plan to stay. >> congressman james clyburn, sir, thanks for your time this morning. i appreciate it. >> thank you so much for having me. >> absolutely. i want to bring in and say good morning to our state of the union pre-game political power panel. we have susan page, washington bureau chief for "usa today."
ben la holt, former national press secretary to the obama 2012 campaign, and republican strategist chip saltsman. all right, let's dive in and first off, let's talk about what we can expect tonight from the state of the union. and as we have watched over the years, we've been listening to a president that has sounded hopeful, but will we hear someone that sounds more aggressive? let me remind everybody what we've heard in the past. >> we don't quit. i don't quit. let's seize this moment to start anew. i'm not sure how we'll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but i know we'll get there. i know we will. we do big things. there is no challenge too great, no mission too hard. as long as we are joined in common purpose. >> so "the new york times" is out saying that they are watching and what to watch for, the signs of president obama. take a listen to this. "many will watch as well for the signs of the state of barack
obama. he is relaxed, more voluble, and even more confident than usual. these people say, freer to drop profanities or dismiss others' ideas, enough that even some supporters fear the potential for hubris." do you think we'll see a different kind of self-confidence? something the president has never lacked, but do you think we'll see a different kind of self-confidence in this state of the union address? >> i think since the election, we have seen a more muscular president obama. he seems less wearier, i guess, of washington ways. less thought that he can change the way washington works. and emboldened, maybe, by the fact that he won a second term, that in the polls, his positions on issues on spending cuts, on immigration, on gun control are supported by a majority of americans. and the fact that the republicans are so divided that we're going to have not one, but two republican responses to the state of the union, the republican response and the tea party response. so, yes, i think we are seeing a second term president obama, who
is more combative, more confident than the president obama we've seen in the previous four state of the union addresses. >> all right. certainly, there is a lot on the table here, especially regarding the economy. and people wanting to hear more about our economy in the state of the union address tonight, that maybe they feel short thrifted from the inaugural, although he addressed it there as well. but if we look at the numbers from this new cbs news poll, talking about the president's handling of the economy, ben, 45% approve, 49% disapprove. these aren't numbers that the white house likes to see, especially knowing that they're going into this sequester battle coming up. talk to this new number and the fact that the president is subpoena below water of where he would want to be about handling the economy, especially with this narrow window of time to get policy ideas done. >> well, i think that the american people are looking for quick action on these issues. and they voted for the president's vision in november, which was to build the economy from the middle class out, to create those good-paying jobs for the middle class and make investments in things that will give workers the skills that they need to compete and win in
this economy. that was the central thrust of the campaign, and i think that will be the central thrust of the speech tonight, though he'll certainly expand upon what he talked about, in his inaugural address, which was laying out the vision. this is how we get there. and let me build on something that susan just said. the republican response i'm most interested in seeing tonight is what ted nugent says, since he seems to be the star republican guest for the evening. >> so you bring up ted nugent. let's talk about that, chip, because right now the names being talked about for the rebuttal, marco rubio, we've got rand paul, and we've also got ted nugent, who is going to be a guest of stock mab tonight, coming in. so, when we look at this, people are kind of in shock about these three names being put together, but listen to how michael steele talks about what this sends from the republican party, its message. >> so you're going to have rubio give a response to the president, and rand paul give a response to the response to the response of the president. >> that's the republican party. >> this is the problem. does this make any sense to
anyone in america, to have a bifurcated message coming out of america? >> chip, does it make any sense? >> well, you know, what happens is, the republican party's always been kind of the executive-based party, and we've always liked having the president, because we've got one person in charge. in lieu of not having the president, we've had a lot of members of congress who think they're in church. i think it does send kind of a mixed message. but marco rubio has been giving the official response for the republican party. that's what we're going to focus on. senator paul says he's doing something a little extra for the tea party. and i think ted nugent will just be entertaining. >> but isn't marco rubio also tea partyish? isn't he a tea party guy? and the fact that he's giving a bilingual response, does that make him not tea party enough? >> no, i think marco rubio is certainly one of the most conservative guys we have in the senate. i think his response will be amazing in a lot of ways that we haven't seen in responses before. it's always tough to follow the act of the president, giving the state of the union, in any response, but i think marco rubio's going to have give a great response. and look, there will be hundreds of responses to this state of the union all night long. just turn on msnbc, i'm sure we'll have a few responses from some of our favorite anchors
tonight. >> i love you give a little shout-out to our network night coverage. this just into to me about the hagel vote coming up this afternoon for secretary of defense at 2:45, senator levin just announcing that that committee is going to come in and that you can, and he put tout there, promptly at 2:45 today. set your watches, everybody, 2:45. but when we look at what dick cheney had to say about hagel on cbs this morning, take a listen. >> if you look at what the president's motives are for picking chuck hagel, i think he wants a republican to go be the foil, if you will, for what he wants to do to the defense department, which i think is do serious, serious damage to our military capabilities. and looks to me, that the president has made choices, in part, based on people who won't argue with him. >> is the vice president right there, in reference to the fact, susan, that hagel could be used as a foil? a republican to go in and cut the defense budget? not someone that's not going to disagree with the president, because we know hagel has sharp elbows, but somebody that can be
used as a foil for the cuts? >> i think that the president chose him as his defense secretary because they're in agreement on the big issues that are going to be facing the pentagon. and that includes withdrawing almost all u.s. combat troops from afghanistan by the end of 2014, and some savings in the pentagon. so, i mean, it can't be a surprise that he would choose someone for the -- for his top, you know, for these top cabinet jobs, that are going to be on the side of what he wants to do. the fact that senator hagel is a republican, it helps the fact that he's a former senator. it helps, and, you know, the fact that he is a combat veteran himself, from vietnam, i think also gives him credibility in dealing with these issues. it's going to be contentious. we know that when these sequestration budget cuts come up in just a couple weeks on march 1st, that we would expect to hear senator hagel's voice on those cuts as well. >> again, that vote is coming up this afternoon at 2:45. that just announced by senator levin. so we should have some forward motion on that vote. thanks to the power panel today,
chip saltsman, ben labolt, and a happy birthday to susan page. we understand it's your birthday, falling on the state of the union, how lucky is that. thanks, gang. as the president gets ready to make his address, we want to know what you think your answer is. my answer is proud and ready for what's next. share on twitter or instagram with the #sotuis. we'll share your responses on the air. and keep it locked in here on msnbc for complete coverage of the state of the union beginning tonight at 8:00 p.m. we are following some breaking news right now that we need to pass along. the senate is set to begin voting on the violence against women act. they're going to be taking up several amendments before the final vote on that. now, the vote reauthorizes the law and extends protection to gays, lesbians, immigrants, and native americans in. and aids in the house say they plan to introduce their own version of this act as well. we're going to keep you posted on that. there was supposed to be a vote yesterday, getting pushed to today. coming up, a personal quest.
congressman james langovich's spinal cord was severed by a bullet at the age of 16. what he's doing to make sure the issue of gun violence stays in the spotlight. plus, two suspected gun members charged in the murder of high deiah pendleton. why they are saying they did it. and ipicking a new pope. who's on the short list to replace the outgoing pope benedict. [ ship horn blows ] no, no, no! stop! humans. one day we're coming up with the theory of relativity, the next... not so much. but that's okay -- you're covered with great ideas like optional better car replacement from liberty mutual insurance. total your car and we give you the money to buy one a model year newer. learn about it at libertymutual.com. liberty mutual insurance. responsibility. what's your policy? ♪ shimmy, shimmy chocolate.
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the two men suspected of killing a teen that performed at president obama's inaugural festivities are due in court in about two hours. police say that michael ward and kenneth williams thought that they were shooting at a rival gang when they hit 15-year-old hadiya pendleton, just days after the inaugural. they were charged with first-degree murder.
last evening and just days after the first lady attended the young girl's funeral. now, the teen's mom says she is relieved. >> i'm happy that the murder of hadiya pendleton is now off the street. i look forward and i hope that they are convicted to the fullest extent of the law and i'm going to be in court every day. >> police say that one of the men confessed and admitted that hadiya was not the intended target. right now, members of hadiya pendleton's families are attending a senate hearing on ways to reduce gun violence in america. the judiciary committee is hearing from law enforcement on how to strike a balance between security and the second amendment. meanwhile, tonight's state of the union address is giving some lawmakers a way to keep pressure on their colleagues to pass gun control legislation. more than a dozen are bringing people who have been affected by gun violence, for example, house minority leader, nancy pelosi is bringing a little girl from newtown. in gun violence and a gun violence roundtable in philadelphia yesterday, vice president joe biden said the government isn't after anybody's guns.
>> no one, no one, no one who legitimately owns a gun has any worry about their constitutional rights being violated. none. zero. none. >> joining me right now is democratic congressman, james langevin of rhode island, along with the man he's bringing to the address tonight, jim tyler, whose sister was a victim of gun violence. gentleman, it's good to have you here. congressman, i want to start with you. obviously, this is a personal quest for you for those who may not know your back story, your spinal cord was severed by a bullet when you were just 16 years old, as a junior police cadet, in an accidental shooting of a semiautomatic pistol. you've now asked several of the lawmakers to bring victims of gun violence to tonight's speech. what are your hopes? what are your expectations, by doing this? by asking your colleagues to bring a victim of gun violence this evening? >> well, you're right. this is a very personal issue for me, any time we talk about gun-related issues.
my accident was an accident. it didn't happen, thankfully, because of violence. but for all of the people that are here, that are passionate about this issue, it is a very personal issue. and i give great credit to all the families who are coming down here today to share their personal story about how gun violence has affected their lives directly. and i believe that lawmakers now, members of the house and senate, need to show the same kind of courage that the victims or those who have have been affected profoundly by gun violence are in sharing their stories. we need to have responsible gun safety legislation passed in this country, that bans assault weapons, that bans these high-capacity gun magazines, that hold 30 or 100 rounds of ammunition, that are weapons of war, that have no other purpose other than to kill people in large numbers, at high rates. and we also need to pass universal background checks, to make sure that any time someone is buying a weapon in this country, whether it's at a gun
dealer, which, of course, is already the law of the land, or at a gun show or in a private sale, that a background check is conducted, to make sure that that person that's buying the weapon can legally do so. >> congressman, i want to talk to jim real quickly. i see him standing next to you with this picture of his sister, debbie. he was killed during a robbery at a convenience store that she owned in providence. for the past nine years, as i understand it, jim, you've ran a golf tournament to raise money for the institute of the study and practice of nonviolence. so if you could speak directly to resistant members of congress right now, what would you want to tell them about why you want to see gun violence and new legislation enacted? >> you know, it's a terrible thing happened in my family, i'm just trying to turn a negative that happened in my family into a positive one. i come down here to help support mr. langevin on this gun cont l
control. the institute for the study and support of nonviolence has been a big support for my family. people who get through this tragedy, you know, that happened in our family, and hopefully it doesn't have to happen to another family. >> one thing that we've seen is, there has been some tough opposition on the democratic senatorial side of the hill. and we have heard from senator jon tester of montana and his reasons why he might be opposed. take a listen. >> i think in montana, we look at guns more as a tool, not unlike a pickup truck or a stove. the fact is, it's part of what we grew up with. but there's a fair number of folks out there, when it comes to guns, that are concerned that any sort of ban is the first step to a bigger ban. >> congressman, how do you debate that argument? >> well, i certainly respect and support the second amendment and individuals' right to bear arms, but we have to make sure that we, that those who own weapons are legally able to do so, and they're not one of the secluded
categories that would not be able to legally own a weapon and a criminal or someone who has some form of mental illness that would prevent them from owning a weapon, because it would be a danger to them or others. i believe we can strike a balance, protecting the legitimate rights of lawful gun owners, and most people who do own weapons are lawful gun owners, as are gun dealers who sell these weapons. but there are that category of people who get their hands on weapons and they shouldn't have their hands on weapons, because they, again, have a criminal background or for some other reason prevented from doing so. and i believe in those cases, universal background checks are necessary. and i give great credit to people like jim tyler. i'm so glad he's here along with all these other victims who are going to share their personal stories with lawmakers to make sure we keep this issue front and center and this is personal for these folks. >> gentleman, thank you so much, rhode island congressman, james langevin and jim tyler, i really appreciate your time. >> thank you. coming up, promises made, promises kept.
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households are now currently without power. that's down from more than 625,000 in the immediate aftermath of that storm. and take a look at this. check out the incredible video, a series of tornadoes with winds as high as 100 miles an hour, and the damage that it did to the southwest states of mississippi and alabama, just incredible. at least ten people were injured. just ahead, president obama plans to announce the withdrawal of more than 30,000 troops from afghanistan during his state of the union address tonight. so what else is on his to-do list? we'll take a look. plus, the world all over -- all atwitter over the pope's abrupt announcement. he will step down by the end of the month. but will his abdication usher in a new, more modern pope? we'll take you to rome, next. we've all had those moments. when you lost the thing you can't believe you lost. when what you just bought, just broke. or when you have a little trouble a long way from home... as an american express cardmember
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>> this is a man of great integrity and looking out for what he believes is the best interest of our church. i admire him for it. i think it's been 713 or so years since anyone's ever done that. i think he sets an incredibly high standard. >> a dose of humor and respect yesterday from the vice president on the pope's abdication. but he's right, the stakes couldn't be higher. the pope's sudden decision to step down, step aside also begs the question, will the pope's successor be a man of the times? so check out today's cover of the "new york post." pope gives god two weeks notice. now, the job's been around for more than 20 centuries, but what does a modern, 21st century candidate look like? i want to go now to msnbc's chris jansing, who has been hosting her hour, "jansing and co.," over in rome. chris, you started your hour by announcing this prophetic pic of a lightning strike in vatican city yesterday. this news was really like a lightning strike to everyone around the globe. has the vatican talked more about any decisions behind the
scenes? we do know that the pope has a pacemaker. they've put that out there. he's had it for years, but have they decided or released what were the real factors behind the scenes? because this is uncharted territory. >> it is, absolutely, uncharted. and they're still in a state of shock here, i have to tell you. but from a lot of people that i've been talking to since i got on the ground here, and also speaking the to the vatican spokesman, there doesn't seem to be more to it than the fact that the pope is 85 years old, he's gotten increasingly frail in recent months. and frankly, this is somebody who has to run what is a global enterprise, 1.1 billion catholics around the world. and i think he just realized that there was so much on his plate, that with modern medicine and our ability to keep people alive longer, but perhaps not with the energy and vitality that this job requires or, in his opinion, after a prayerful thought, deserves, he decided to step down. so i think it has to do with his aging, and remember, thomas, he
was the oldest pope to be elected in something like 300 years, when he was elected eight years ago. so, i think there's a good possibility we will see a younger cardinal elected to pope this time. >> and papal politics are kind of taboo. people don't really talk about that going into the college of cardinals and the conclave, but what are the main names that are being discussed, publicly, who might be his successor? >> well, that's very interesting. and i know it's not supposed to be politics, and first of all, the vatican has said that the pope has made it very clear, he doesn't want to influence this, obviously, uncharted territory, to have a living pope, during the election of a new pope, but, you know, there are a lot of names being passed around. if you want to look at the bookmakers, there's cardinal arinze from africa. he's from nigeria. he was considered a front-runner to be the first black pope eight years ago, but now he's 80, so i think that's much less likely, although he's very pastoral. i had dinner with him a couple
of times. he's very warm, has sort of those kind of qualities that pope john paul did, however, there are a few other people from growing areas of the world, they'll be looking at africa and latin america. there is also cardinal ouellet from question beck. he's from a huge diocese there. and even some talk, although a long shot, of cardinal dolan at 62. he's been a cardinal for less than a year and that would argue against him, although, a lot of people questioning whether they need someone like him, who's great at dealing with the media, great evangelizer at a time when the church is facing some, frankly, competition from protestant evangelists in parts of the world like latin america and africa, thomas. >> the one and only, the incredible chris jansing reporting live from rome. you can watch chris on "jansing and co." every day right here on msnbc at 10:00 a.m. eastern. chris, thanks again. as president obama addresses north korea's third nuclear test at tonight's state of the union, he's also going to have an announcement on troops, our troops in afghanistan.
just a short time ago, a source telling nbc news that president obama would announce more than 30,000 troops will be coming home soon. nbc's white house correspondent, kristen welker, joins me now. so kristen, what more details can we give on that? because there is a lot more now on the plate to discuss with north korea now in the mix. >> reporter: absolutely. well, in terms of afghanistan, tho thomas, i can tell you that president obama plans to specifically announce that 34,000 u.s. troops will be home within the year. this is significant for a couple of reasons. this is the first time that the president will give specifics about troop levels. it also represents that about half of the troops will be brought home. currently, there are about 66,000 troops in country. now, this comes after president obama met last month with afghan president hamid karzai. you'll remember the two discussed troop levels and actually talked about speeding up the timeline for troop withdrawal. what remains unseen, though, is how many troops will be left after 2014? that is, of course, the official
end of combat missions. there has been some discussion about leaving zero troops in country, but some military officials have expressed concern about drawing down the troops too quickly, concern that that would leave afghanistan vulnerable. but, of course, if you look at the polls, there is a lot of war fatigue. as you mentioned, thomas, we also expect president obama to address north korea and that nuclear launch, the third one of its kind. the white house strongly condemned the nuclear launch overnight. the president calling it a provocative act. we expect him to reiterate that during his state of the union address. and really, to talk about the fact that if north korea wants to become a part of the world community, it has to stop these types of nuclear tests. but, thomas, make no mistake, the state of the union will focus on domestic issues, the economy, the middle class. >> kristen welker at the white house for us. kristen, great to see you. >> reporter: thanks. while pundits say tonight's speech could be the most important state of the union of his entire presidency, a new poll is showing that many americans may be feeling lukewarm about it. according to the pew research
center, 32% feel it's more important than previous speeches. 15% find it less important. and 43% say it's about the same. joining me now is nbc news presidential historian, michael bechlas. michael, good to have you with me. talk about this in relevant facts about how this maps out with second term presidencies. our own chuck todd notes that the president has this narrow window to get these policies initiated. this might be his last best chance. so how narrow is that window and how critical is that speech? >> i think his window is about six to eight months. lyndon johnson had the second most democratic congress of the last hundred years, and he was trying to get through all sorts of great society laws, you know, voting rights and medicare education, things like that. got them through, but only within the first six months. because after that, congress began to rebel. got a few more laws, but if you look at the great society, that was the real times. so i think it's pretty much that
way with president obama tonight. plus, president obama has got a tool that president obama johnson did not have, a weapon. which was to use the state of the union really to set this out for americans. johnson and earlier presidents gave these speeches in the afternoon. they didn't get much attention. if you would have had that pew poll that you mentioned a moment ago, i doubt many americans would have had an opinion, one way or the other. tonight, needless to say, this is going to be a big effort for president obama to reach a lot of americans. >> and one thing that "the new york times" has pointed out, that normally the state of the union is to categorize our strength, the state of our union, they always use the word "strong," at least, we've seen that used -- >> they use it strong, unless they've just come into office, oftentimes, then they say it's not very good, but the fault of the previous guy. >> in "the new york times," they say it's strong, stronger, strongest, one of those words has been used to describe the union in each of the last 17 state of the union addresses. but you're saying that's how it's being referred to --
>> previous term presidents will say strong, because they're talking about their own record. >> so they don't want to give themselves short thrift. >> right. >> but americans do respect and want to hear that from the commander in chief, to know exactly where our country is going and not feeling weakened by what we've seen over the prior four years. >> i think that's right. and, you know, the presidents who really use this more than anyone else, i think, first ronald reagan, who it was prime-time, but also with his ability at showmanship. he was the one who instituted this idea of having a hero up in the gallery. there was a hero in 1982. he had lenny skutnik, who had helped to save people in the air florida crash that year here in washington, d.c. that's a staple. so this became really theater, and bill clinton as well, used that in a way that previous presidents have not done. >> is the president, is he, i guess, faded to overreach tonight? >> i think if he does not overreach, it probably would not say very much for him.
you're always expecting a president at the beginning of the second term to ask for more than he knows he will get. ronald reagan got tax reform his second term. that was about it on domestic policy. he asked for more than that in that speech. >> presidential historian, michael beschloss, great to see you, thank you, buddy. >> you too. thank you, thomas. coming up, a different kind of state of the union history. a seating chart history. did you ever think there was one? well, there is. plus, president obama brought up marriage equality during his inaugural address. will he bring it up again tonight? andible and contusions to the metacarpus. what do you see? um, i see a duck. be more specific. i see the aflac duck. i see the aflac duck out of work and not making any money. i see him moving in with his parents and selling bootleg dvds out of the back of a van. dude, that's your life. remember, aflac will give him cash to help cover his rent, car payments and keep everything as normal as possible. i see lunch. [ monitor beeping ] let's move on. [ male announcer ] find out what a hospital stay could really cost you at aflac.com.
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so one day after the pentagon announced its historic decision to extend benefits to same-sex military couples, gay rights advocates are eager to hear how much the president's speech this evening will focus on issues that matter to them. now, "roll call" points out that obama's inaugural speech cemented the president's transformation from opposing to gay marriage a few years ago to a full-throated demand for equal rights. but now he's under pressure from
gay rights groups to take administrative steps banni inni discrimination. joining me now, richard socarid socarides. good to have you here. just like the president evolved, as we watched on his stance about marriage equality, you have evolved on your stance about the president's dealings with lbgt rights in the country. you had written in the "wall street journal" in 2010, you wrote of him being missing in action on gay rights. however, we fast forward to now to the second inaugural speech last month, you mentioned that we might have witnessed the most important speech in gay history from a president. so, this evening, how granular do you think the president will be in talking about lbgt equality? and an equality agenda at all? >> i think you're right. we've watched his transformation, his evolution, before our very eyes. and he's become much bolder, to the point where, at the inaugural, he gave a broadly thematic and really aspirational speech, which had, at its core,
a message on gay rights. i think, tonight, we will see a much more kind of back to basics speech. i think that, you know, the administration, i think, feels maybe that they overdid it a little bit in the inaugural address, so i think this speech will be much more, you know, back to work, back to basics. >> all right, back to basic. weeks after the election, you wrote a piece in "the new yorker" highlighting eight different things that the president should do for gay rights, a few things, including appointing an openly gay person to the cabinet and making same-sex marriage legal in even more states. it seems to be a pretty tall order, but realistically, where do you think this can get done? again, we talk about this short window of time that the president really has. >> i think that all of those things are realistic and very doable. but i think tonight, when the president's main message is going to be about jobs and the economy, he may very well talk about passing the unemployment nondiscrimination act, which as you know, is the long stall piece of federal legislation, which would guarantee employment discriminations to workers around the country, and outlaw
discrimination based upon sexual orientation. >> which you could do by executive order. >> the executive order that advocates want signed would extend that rule to federal contractors, to all federal contractors. so the law is quite a bit more broad, would apply to all private employers, but the president can't act on federal contractors unilaterally. and if the congress does not pass the appointment of nondiscrimination act soon, i think what he'll say tonight, hopefully, is that maybe he'll go for this executive order. i don't think you're going to hear about marriage equality tonight, like you did in the inaugural speech. >> okay. richard socarides, richard, great to see you. thanks so much. appreciate you making time for me. >> coming up next, congressman eliot engel has been sitting in the same seat for every state of the union address since 1989. in the center aisle, the perfect spot to shake the president's hand when he enters the chamber and when he leaves. so how does he do it? how does he get this seat? we've got the congressman, coming up. switch to swiffer wetjet,
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>> we've been curious to know. my answer proud and ready for what's next. rosemary h. has told us that she thinks it's a work in progress. janet says shaken, not stirred. very 007. take a picture. submit it to us at facebook.com/msnbc or share on twitter and insta gram and use the _#when you do, sotuis. on an airplane everybody thanz the best seats are the window seats. that's for a nap. or you want an aisle seat if you want to get up and go to the bathroom a lot. everybody knows that too. the staeflt union, the best seats in the house are on the aisle as well. now, those are where you have the best chance to press palms with the president on his way through the chamber. one congressman has been called the dean of the aisle seat. check out the headline in today's "new york daily news." you see it right there. new york congressman elliott engel joins me now to talk about
this. "the new york daily news" called you an aisle hog, but they did give you proper respect about your vrt throughout the years and being able to get this seat that you first grabbed in 1989 after joining congress. what's your secret, though, to be able to getting the same spot? >> well, you get there early. that's the secret. the problem is more and more people have caught on so more and more people get there early, but really it's just a tremendous honor for me to be at the state of the union. as a kid growing nup a working class family in the bronx i could have only dreamed someday that i would be able to say hello to the president at the state of the union when the whole world is actually watching, and i just think the trappings of democracy are just a great celebration, and i'm honored to do it. i've done it with every president since i've been in congress regardless of what the president was a democrat or republican because it's the president of the united states, and it's an honor for me to be there. >> sir, i think a lot of people can relate to your enthusiasm of why you want to do this. according to the washington post, some of your colleagues
have waited township seven hours to grab an aisle seat, so explain have the rules changed? i mean, how early are you squatting for seats? >> well, usually m morning, but, you know, it's not who you have to stay in the seat. you kind of claim your seat. you leave your stuff there, and you go about your general business of the day. i have meetings. i, you know, read the newspapers, go on-line, do whatever i normally do except i hang around the capitol instead of being back in my office in the legislative office building. i'm talking to you now. i'm in the canon building. it's across from the capitol. it's not as if you're glued to your seat, but if you get there, people generally respect it, and that's your seat, and you have the opportunity to say hello to the president. >> who is your plus one this evening? >> i don't know. >> you don't know? >> i don't know. who am i -- say it again. >> your plus one. who are you taking with you to the state of the union? >> i'm taking myself. generally the past couple of years we try to -- a democrat and republican, we try to pair
up, but the person that i always paired up with everything lost her bid for re-election, so i'm solo today. i'm dateless tonight. >> people will know where to find you on the aisle. what are you most looking forward or anticipating that you would like the president to impart tonight? >> well, i think i was -- i am a supporter of president obama. i was a supporter of his re-election. i think the general themes that he has been talking about are very important. we're concerned about the economy. there's got to be a compromise. there's got to be a give and take. it can't be my way or the highway. we're concerned about gun control. that's something i think he is going to touch on. i think the war in afghanistan, wibding down that war. i think we're really at a crossroads in a lot of important things in our country's life, and i expect the president to articulate his view and i suspect i will support most of what he says. >> sir, last but not least, as i understand it, you always have something worked out in your head when you can grab the president's hand, something to say. have you figured out the
one-liner? >> no, i just say whatever kind of moves me. the other day -- the other year, i should say, lst year i was on the republican side. president came down, and i grabbed him, and i said i thought i would sit on the republican side today to confuse you, and he laughed and thought that was really funny. he said i was looking at the democratic side and was wondering where is elliott? it's just kind of -- it's fun. it's nice. i'm just so honored to be a member of the u.s. congress, and i'm really honored to participate tonight. >> we really like your enthusiasm. congressman elliott engel, sir, thank you for joining us. that's going to wrap things up for me. see you back tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. eastern. maxine waters, former congressman patrick murphy, the first iraq war vet to serve in congress as well as atlanta mayor kasim reid and daniel hernandez, the former intern who helped save gabby giffords' life. "now with alex wagner" is coming up next. >> hey, thomas. i think plus ones are the difference between new york and d.c. >> yeah, i thought who is your plus one, you know? >> just part of the lingo up here. >> i thought it was, you know,
very straight forward. >> you will always be my plus one. >> i will take you up on that, so thank you very much. >> thank you, thomas. president obama is gearing up for state of the union episode five with a two-pronged strategy. speak to the public and twist congressional arms. will the strategy break the gridlock? we will discuss the president's to do list with jared bernstein, eugene robinson, karen finney, and rick hertzberg. >> marco rubio is set to give the official gop response and ran paul plans to offer his own rebuttal. whose party is it anyway? we'll talk about the unlikely new third rail of republican politics, karl rove. all that when "now" starts in a mere 180 seconds. [ woman ] ring. ring. progresso.
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