TODAY   |  March 27, 2012

Maddow on health care, politics,  Martin

Rachel Maddow, host of msnbc’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” talks to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about health care, the presidential race, the Trayvon Martin shooting and her new book, “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> dow is the host of the rachel maddow show on msnbc and the author of the new book

"drift: the unmooring of american military power." let's stake on trayvon martin for a second before i get to your book and talk about how the case has become part of the public consciousness. prominent republicans criticized president obama when he made the comment, quote, if i had a son, he'd look like trayvon. they say that the president injected politics and race into the issue. i think race was injected from the very beginning.

>> yes.

>> but politically speaking did president obama make a mistake commenting, weighing in on it?

>> i think in moments of national upset, and there is real emotional weight to this issue, i think a president's role is to say, america's institutions work, and they need to work. and our leaders are on the side of them working better. so for him to say, my son would look like trayvon, if i had a son, is him saying, this case will not be swept under the ruling, there will be no immunity from prosecution because of the race of the vick film tim. which is the worry, the suspicion and the accusation of many people who are very concerned about this case. i think that is sticking up for american institutions kind of line. i don't think it was particularly racial. but i understand his critics are going to go after him.

>> let's move over to what's happening at the supreme court today. second day of oral arguments over the president's health care reform law. if it is struck down by the supreme court , talk to me about how that affects november. and then take it the other way. if it's upheld by the supreme court .

>> the most interesting thing that i have seen about this and how it's going to affect the public is that bloomberg did some polling on it and bloomberg's poll found that 75% of people think that the supreme court will decide based on their political beliefs. not on the law. so, this may, as much be a referendum on the supreme court , whether or not the roberts court is so conservatively politicized that it will make a decision to hurt the president. rather than sticking closely to precedent here.

>> if they don't, if they uphold this law, what's the effect on the president come re-election time in november?

>> i don't actually think it will have that much of an effect if it is upheld. i realize that the partisans who have -- the people who have -- made this about partisan politics think that it will be the end all-be all for the election. but if what the republicans call obama care is upheld, then the president has reformed health care and republicans still hate it and we're back to where we are now.

>> this open mike issue. okay. happened yesterday. the president speaking to the russian president , said on all these issues, but particularly missile defense , this can be solved but it's important for him, putin, to give me space. yeah, i understand, replied the russian president . i understand your message about space and then president obama said, this is my last election. after my election, i have more flexibility.

>> yeah.

>> why shouldn't people think this is a disingenuous stand on foreign policy ?

>> well, what they're talking about is missile defense . and what he's saying is, we're probably not going to make any further agreements or have any -- we're not going to make much progress in terms of talking about missile defense while i am in an election year.

>> but it adds to the cynicism that people have. that they say our leaders should take a stand on principle, not political vulnerability.

>> but the issue with arms control and the russians is that the agreements that the president has been making with the russians, the senate will not follow. the congress will not follow. and so if you want to be realistic about it, the congress and the senate, in particular, is not going to follow him in an election year. so it's a little bit of a window into real politics and the way these guys really talk to each other. i don't think we learned anything new. it's kind of interesting to see two leaders speaking unguarded.

>> from your book, you write when civilians are not asked to pay any price it's easy to be at war. not just to intervene in a foreign land in the first place, but to keep on fighting there. compare the wars in iraq and afghanistan for me, and the price people like me, and citizens of this country have been asked the price with past wars and what's been the impact.

>> i think what i -- what i wrote about and what i think has happened is we made a series of political decisions over the past 30 or 40 years that essentially made war less hassle. we gave presidents ways to go around the congress trying to block them. we gave the american public sort of some blinders to put on in terms of the cost of things. we shielded ourselves from casualties. we're not even off an howed to know when private contractors are hurt or killed. all of these ways have made it more comfortable for us. so we've ended up after all of those changes with the longest war in american history and an 8 1/2 year second war fought alongside of it. and the american people not even really much noticing when that 8 1/2 year long war in iraq ended. oh, was that still going on? we didn't have a parade here in new york. there's no real civilian effect of it and that is something -- that civilian distance from our war fighting is --

>> real quickly is that system here to stay? or are there simple ways to change it so there's more of a realization?

>> there are simple ways to change it. what i found in the book and the reason i wrote it is because i think the decisions that 2k3w09 us here, that we're so insulated from the war as civilians are simple decisions made over about 30 or 40 years since vietnam. they can all be reversed. we don't need a secret military, private military and we need to have a big, robust debate when we're thinking about using force.

>> it's always nice to have you here, rachel.

>> thanks for having me.