updated 9/19/2008 12:14:28 PM ET 2008-09-19T16:14:28

Guests: Amy Klobuchar, Thomas Frank, David Eberly, Bruce Braley, Kent Jones, Bill Maher

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Keith. I appreciate it.

KEITH OLBERMANN, COUNTDOWN HOST: Of course.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for sticking around with us. Much to get to in the next hour, including the bear. Also, a U-turn in the polls.

Brand new outrage about the Bush administration's treatment of veterans. A story you will not believe about American prisoners of war and how they're being treated by this White House.

Also, the Hillary Clinton supporter who defected to John McCain which might end up being a good thing for Barack Obama.

And the world's first $10 trillion bill, at least, it's the first I've heard of.

(voice over): What goes bounce must come down. Day three of high economic anxiety has polls trending from red to blue and the Obama campaign at their most confident yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where is he getting the lines from, the lobbyists who were running his campaign?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar from the battleground state of Minnesota joins us live.

Meanwhile, John McCain is a born again overseer of the market.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCIAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to reform the way Wall Street does business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Could it be that for all those years we just misheard him? He was actually saying-the regulations, and not deregulation? Senator McCain's long record on the subject is turning out to be inconvenient for him.

Former prisoners of the Iraq war want to sue their captors for torturing them. And only the Bush administration stands in their way. OK, except these are American former POWs from the first Iraq war and they want to sue Iraq. What gives?

We'll talk to one of these American heroes and the congressman fighting for him.

And: Sarah Palin may have given the McCain ticket a boost with women voters, but how long will the Obama campaign allow that to go unchecked? We'll get to some very uncomfortable truth about McCain-Palin and the female vote.

All that, plus more, with this guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, TV TALK SHOW HOST: They don't hate us for our freedom; they hate us for our airstrike.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.

(on camera): The fundamentals of our economy are strong. Do you think John McCain goes over and over and over those words late at night as he crisscrosses the country and ponders how his couple weeks of a lead over Barack Obama evaporated? Those four seconds of his standard speech that he stuck to, inexplicably, as the American economy teetered and swayed like a drunk on the train platform.

Those four seconds of out of touchiness have ignited the Obama campaign the way Sarah Palin's convention speech ignited the Republicans long, long ago in the galaxy far, far away.

McCain's sticking to the assertion that the fundamentals are strong, a claim he made more than 20 times this year, has allowed Obama and Biden to regain their rhetorical oomph. It's also helping their numbers.

Today, for the first time since the Republican convention, Barack Obama moved ahead of Senator McCain in Gallup's daily national tracking poll. Now, it is a scant two-point lead, but it's a lead.

In key battleground states, more good news for Obama. He's now even in Florida, a state in which he trailed McCain by five points in the latest Real Clear Politics average. Same in Ohio, where he now leads by two points after trailing there by an average of two points. And he's just one point behind McCain in North Carolina, a state that Democrats have not won since I was three years old.

On the stump, Obama is sharpening his attack, hitting Republican stewardship of the economy. Today, in Elko, Nevada, Obama ripped John McCain's proposed magical elixir for the economy, a blue ribbon commission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Folks, we don't need a commission to figure out what happened. We know what happened. We don't need a commission to tell us how we got into this mess. We need a president who will lead us out of this mess and that's the kind of president I intend to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You can also put the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Joe Biden in the "I'm excited this election is now about the economy and not about lipstick and Paris Hilton campaign."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, this campaign is about change, but it's about even more than that. It's about what we value as a people. It's not just about your job. It's about the dignity of your job. It's about whether you are respected about your job.

It's not just about your paycheck. It's about pride. It's not just about opportunity, it's about genuine respect. Corny sounding words these days, but that's what it's about. That's why we're in the race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You see, the reason the Obama campaign is throwing so many more hard punches right now and arguably connecting with more of those punches is because John McCain has, so far, proven to be a very soft target on this issue.

Take for example, an interview circulating online today that McCain gave to a New Hampshire paper back in November. Now, why is an old interview suddenly relevant in the campaign? Well, it shows how prescient, how prepared McCain was for what we are going through in the economy right now.

The shortest possible version of this story is a pure visual. The look of abject horror on John McCain's face as the interviewer teased up a question about the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 4, 2007)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, I have a question about the prime mortgage loans. Yes. We're starting to see now that states are taking proactive measures of their own to deal with this mess. That kind of a three-prong question. Who's at fault of this mess, who's not at fault? And is there a role that you see that the government can play in helping to form (ph) a resolution with this?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He looks like he just found half a rat in his Danish, doesn't he?

All right. Actually, the substance of this interview, here's what John McCain was offering on the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I can't come down yet, and give you a specific solution because I don't claim to be smart enough. I'd like to tell you, I did anticipate it, but I have to give you straight talk, I did not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: McCain also acknowledged during this interview that he did not anticipate another seminal event in American economic history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dimension of the problem may be surprising to a lot of people, but are you surprised?

MCCAIN: Yes and I was surprised at the dot-com collapse and I was surprised at other times in our history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The dot-com collapse? You know, even the sock puppet from those Pets.com commercials knew his days were numbered. And you think you didn't see that coming?

Therein lies the Obama-Biden opportunity. Now, we have for the moment, returned from the surreality of lipstick on pigs and Britney Spears and insults about community organizing and we have returned to a country with real challenges, including a few big ones which are by his own account, not John McCain's specialty.

Here's his analysis of the market this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Greed and excess and corruption is beset Wall Street.

They've treated it like a casino.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Treating it like a casino. That's kind of a neat way to think about it, honestly, except when you remember that John McCain's plan for Social Security is to privatize it, which is to say to put it in that same stock market that lost 500 points just two days ago, and another 449 points today, which is to say, McCain wants to take Social Security, one of the most successful federally-funded programs in U.S. history and put Social Security on something that he equates to a roulette table. Cocktail, anyone?

I'd like to welcome to the program, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of from Minnesota. She is supporting Senator Obama.

Senator Klobuchar, thanks for joining us.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: Well, thank you, Rachel. It's great to be on.

MADDOW: Senator McCain does not claimed to be an expert on the economy. That's part of his straight talk. He has never pitched that as his strong suit. We just showed a clip from an interview a couple months ago in which the whole idea of answering on the subject appeared to horrify him. But the country is pretty horrified about the economy right now.

Is there anything that John McCain could say or do right now about the economy that would reduce this big political liability that he's got on this issue?

KLOBUCHAR: You know, I think he'd have to come clean and tell the truth. You know, you've seen in the last 26 hours words out of his mouth that he's never said in the last 26 years in Congress. Time and time again, he stood by these companies. He was chair of the commerce committee for seven years.

He did nothing about increasing our gas mileage standards. Something the Democratic Congress has to do, out of the same commerce committee. Nothing about protecting our kids from toxic toys on our shores and in our stores, again, out of this commerce committee, something Barack Obama was a leader on. Nothing to regulate these financial institutions. He referred to himself as a deregulator.

And you know what? I heard someone say this morning, from Texas, Rachel, they said there's an old Texas saying, all hat and no cattle. And that's what we are hearing from John McCain. It's all hat and no cattle. When you look at his record, and you look where the Bush-McCain policies have brought us.

MADDOW: You know, John McCain has sort of sidestepped the flip-flop allegation in this campaign, even though a lot of his positions really have changed. He sidestepped that by saying, if I have changed on an issue like offshore drilling, it's because circumstances dictated that I changed, because the news meant that I had to change. I'm flexible and open-minded enough to change my mind, if need be.

I wonder if it would be feasible or if it would plausible, if it would cost him too much with his own party to make for him to make that sort of case about why he has changed from 26 years as a deregulator, into now, about 48 hours as somebody who is a proponent of regulation. I wonder if there is a credible way to make that case.

KLOBUCHAR: You know, I don't know if there is. I just know that he's gotten us into this mess. And you look at, as this mess has been unrolling, even in the last few weeks, you see Barack Obama weathering the storm of this unfair criticism and doing a two-minute ad where he actually addresses the American people to their face.

And then you see John McCain running these lipstick ads and these fraudulent ads about sex education. Enough is enough. People have had it.

And you know, as you see in the polls, it's not just the Obama campaign that's ignited and it's with purpose to get change here-it's the American people, because they watched that convention and they got a little interested. And they started to say, what is going on here. You know, my healthcare expenses, my premiums have gone up 100 percent. You got kids can hardly go to college. And these guys are talking about lipstick.

I mean, enough is enough. And I think you see that with the American people because they're hurting.

MADDOW: Well, on that issue, I mean, my feeling is that when people are talking about hardcore issues like the economy, the Obama-Biden campaign is at its strongest and I think we're seeing that these last couple of days. When people aren't talking about the issues, when the other guy has succeeded in making the debate about lipstick or preachers or Parish Hilton or whatever, the Obama-Biden campaign sort of wilts and that's a winning strategy, if you control the message. But it is a losing strategy if you don't control the message. Do you see it that way?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I do. And I'd say this, though, is that the American people, in the end are going to be sophisticated about this. And they are going to make the decision based on the issues, based on their pocketbook. The average middle class wage is down something like $1,000 to $2,000 in this country. Expense is up $4,500.

Barack Obama has got a plan-middle class tax cuts, rolling back some of these tax cuts on the wealthiest. McCain's plan would give over $500,000 to the 0.1 percent. And the American people are going to get this.

And I just, you know, you think that the Republicans had so many opportunities to do something about this and they let these agencies decay, they put the wrong people in charge, even in 2005, Representative Oxley, a Republican had a bipartisan effort to better regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And he said and this is a public quote, he said, "All I got from the administration was a one-finger salute."

So, time and time again, you see them letting these institutions decay. And look where we are now. You know, secretaries on the front line with nothing at Lehman Brothers. You got people in the state of Minnesota losing their homes and all their life's fortune. You got elderly people worried about their pension. They are not going to listen, the people of this country, the ads about lipstick. They want a real plan and real change. And that's what Barack Obama has to offer.

MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, thank you so much for your time tonight.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you, Rachel. And thank you for making my daughter think I'm cool going on your show. I lost her when I didn't know that LOL meant laugh out loud on a radio program and being your show makes her think I'm cool.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Well, if you need any help on the other abbreviations, you just, I'll hook you up. Please give me a call.

KLOBUCHAR: I'll call, yes. OK, thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks, senator. Appreciate it.

You know, what Senator Klobuchar was just saying there about the belief that the American people want to decide this on the issues, that they are not cynical enough that they want to decide this based on gimmicks and insults. It's-there are ways that we understand the difference between the parties and between liberal and conservative approaches to the country.

And it's not just the policies that you advocate, it's also the way you approach the American people and what you expect of them.

Anyway. So, the country's focus on the economy has given at least some evident political advantages thus far to the Democratic ticket.

John McCain conversely continues his feverous populist backpedaling, yesterday saying he opposed the government bailout for insurance giant, AIG, today, talking about its necessity. Now, he is for more regulation about 48 hours ago and for 26 years in Washington before that, he was against regulation.

How can an avowed Reagan Republican make a pitch that he is the new FDR? And do Democrats win in the big picture, anyway, just because the Republican presidential candidate is trying to do that?

Here to talk more about Senator McCain's record on economic issues and what happens when politics and economics get in a stock market crash together is Thomas Frank. He's the author of the new book, "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule."

Mr. Frank, thanks for joining us.

THOMAS FRANK, AUTHOR, "THE WRECKING CREW": How are you today, Rachel?

MADDOW: I'm great. Happy to see you.

John McCain is on the campaign trail right now, talking about the urgent need for more regulation. Does that strike you as strange or expected?

FRANK: Well, of course, it's totally bizarre. It's an act of pure opportunism is what it is. You know, this is a guy, not only has he been, you know, a deregulator for his entire career, but look at his-look at his former financial or former advisor on economic issues. I think, he's back now, Phil Gramm. Isn't that the author of the law that overturned the Glass-Steagall Act from the 1930s that originally regulated the banks?

I mean, he's surrounded by deregulators. He comes from the party of deregulation. This is the party that road to power in 1980 on this sort of great wave of anger at OSHA and at FTC and the EPA, and all that sort of thing and they were going to turn back regulation. And they did it, you know. They did it. And now, they've got to take-they've got to take the responsibility for it.

MADDOW: When McCain calls himself a Reagan Republican, which he still does proudly, you describe the Republican Party just now as the party of deregulation. The argument was, essentially, government is bad.

FRANK: Yes.

MADDOW: How much of that has survived since 1980? Has it been refined? Is there a new form of antiregulation Republican? Or is McCain defining a pro-regulation Republican future? Are Republican politics on this issue changing?

FRANK: Well, I strongly doubt it. Not if he's still listening to the same people. Not if he's listening to Phil Gramm. You know, you look around Washington D.C., you look at the various institutions that make up conservative Washington D.C., something like the Heritage Foundation, right, or the Marcadas (ph) Institute out in Virginia, or the Cato Institute. These people are all about deregulation.

I mean, it's all about letting the market run its course, letting the market rule everything. They pitched that, too, as well, when gets to be inconvenient, when that looks ugly, you know, and ultimately, what it comes back to is defending business. That's what the Republican Party is about, getting them off the hook, passing the bill on to you and me.

MADDOW: Thomas Frank, author of the new book, "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule," also, a weekly columnist now at the "Wall Street Journal," to their great credit. Thanks for joining us.

FRANK: Sure thing, anytime.

MADDOW: Now that he has picked Sarah Palin as his running mate and identified her as his soul-mate, what exactly has John McCain learned about this so-called fairer sex? And can we make him learn it any faster? Please?

Plus, Bill Maher is here to talk politics real-time style.

And on its way out the door, the Bush administration is preparing another indignity for some U.S. veterans. Several American POWs from the first gulf war want to sue Iraq for damages, but our White House wants to stop them. One of these American heroes joins us next along with the congressman who's trying to help him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: While our military fights concurrent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States Congress is still working on sifting through the fallout from the last gulf war. The 1991 war was shorter and thankfully claimed many fewer lives than the current conflict there. But there were American prisoners of war who are held captive and tortured by Saddam Hussein's forces. Seventeen of them have been trying to sue the Iraqi government damages.

A 1996 law says a state sponsor for terror can be sued. And Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terror when the POWs and hostages were held. Still, the Bush administration, our own government has opposed the efforts of American POWs to sue Iraq for their torture, because, as the president said in a statement last year, quote, "Exposing Iraq to such significant financial burdens would weaken the close partnership between the United States and Iraq during this critical period of Iraq history."

This week the House of Representatives passed a bill that would take away the president's power to insulate Iraq from this lawsuit. President Bush is threatening to veto that bill in order to keep American POWs from suing the people who tortured them.

One of those prisoners of war joins us now, Colonel David Eberly, retired from the United States Air Force. He was the senior ranking Allied prisoner of war in Iraq in 1991 where he was held for 43 days.

Colonel Eberly, thank you so much for joining us.

COL. DAVID EBERLY (RET.), FMR. GULF WAR POW: Thank you very much for allowing me to bring this, once again, to the public.

MADDOW: I have read and reading about your story, that in your 43 days in captivity, you were starved, essentially, you lost 45 points while you were held captive by Saddam Hussein's regime, that among other things as a flagrant violation of the rules by which the Geneva Convention say how POWs have to be treated. Can you tell me what happened to you-what sort of conditions you and other gulf war POWs faced in Iraq in 1991?

EBERLY: Yes, let me first thank Congressman Bruce Braley and Congressman Joe Sestak for championing this through the Congress. They reached across the aisle. And Monday night, late, it was approved. This bill was approved by unanimous voice vote. So, thank you very much.

Now, let me talk about, not just personally, but there were many aspects that violated the Geneva Convention. I'll list a few of these. There are several hundred pages that detail the violations of the Geneva Convention. Those can be summarized with electric shock treatment, chemical injections to alter the mind, broken bones, mock executions, and then, of course, we were used as propaganda tools. All five of these are clear violations of the Geneva Convention that Iraq was a signatory to.

MADDOW: What led you to the decision-you and other POWs-to the decision to sue the Iraqi government over that treatment?

EBERLY: We believe that by bringing this on to the world stage, we can cause future governments that hold United States Americans as hostage, we can deter future torture by those countries.

MADDOW: You and 16 other gulf war prisons were actually awarded damages by a U.S. federal court five years ago on this case.

EBERLY: That's correct.

MADDOW: And that award, as far as I understand, it was then blocked by our government. And again, last year, when a provision to allow your lawsuit to move forward, it was attached to a military spending bill, President Bush, in essence, vetoed it. How does it feel to be fighting your own government on this?

EBERLY: Well, it's a sorry situation.

Yes, in 2002, we brought the suit. The United States district in Washington awarded, they determine the amount, they made an award and then shortly there after, the administration, through the Department of Justice appealed that. We lost the appeal in the appeals court, tried to take it to the Supreme Court.

The ironic thing about this is that at the same time, the administration was fighting this particular action. They were, in fact, supporting and are now supporting foreign companies, the board rooms of foreign companies to the tune of $20 billion to $30 billion so that they can recover damages from the government of Iraq.

And also, it is a situation that they have ignored, this debt of honor. The amount of money involved now is actually pennies on the dollar. What the bill calls for is a settlement that amounts to 1 percent of the interest that Iraq currently earns with the funds that they have on deposit in the United States. It's almost shameful to compare the amount of money as having any impact on the government of Iraq's ability to move forward in their own country.

MADDOW: Colonel David Eberly, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Thank you for your service and good luck to you, sir.

EBERLY: Thank you.

MADDOW: So, why is the Bush administration intent on keeping them, like Colonel Eberly from collecting damages from a country in which they were starved and tortured?

Joining us now, a man who was just thanked on this program, one of President Bush's prime adversaries on this battle, Representative Bruce Braley, Democrat of Iowa. He sponsored the POW legislation which passed the House on Monday night. If it becomes law, it would strip the president of his ability to exempt Iraq from lawsuits from former POWs and hostages.

Congressman Braley, thanks for joining us.

REP. BRUCE BRALEY, (D) IOWA: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: When you first announced you would be submitting this bill, the legal battle was already entrenched between the Bush administration and the POWs who are trying to sue Iraq for torturing them back in 1991. This has been going on for five years. What got you involved in this?

BRALEY: Well, what got me involved was the very clear memories of the images of these tortured POWs during the gulf war and then something that should shock and outrage every American citizen, which was a 60 minutes piece that I saw in 2003, describing how our president, George Bush, was placing a greater on transferring the assets that could have been used to pay these tortured POWs and human shields, and using them to rebuild the oil fields in Iraq that have been destroyed during "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

And then, as I followed this and had met and had a chance to learn more about the amazing stories of these tortured heroes and the POWs who, and their families, this is the type of thing that should shock and outrage every American and that's why Congressman Sestak and I have fought so hard to restore this right.

MADDOW: Well, I want to say what the White House explains about what they are doing here. They say they oppose allowing these former POWs, these heroes, to sue the Iraqi government because it would open Iraq up to billions of dollars in lawsuits for crimes committed under the old regime. They've also cited the fact that Iraq threatened to pull assets out of the U.S. if we allowed these American citizens to sue the Iraqi government. We just heard that address in part by Colonel Eberly. But about you, do you buy those arguments?

BRALEY: These claims are bogus and absurd. What this bill would do is actually eliminate all known claims of American POWs and human shields because Iraq is no longer labeled as a state sponsor of terrorism. And one of the threshold things you have to prove to recover under this law that Congress passed in a bipartisan way in 1996 is that you were tortured by a state sponsor of terrorism which Saddam Hussein's Iraq was at that time. But the government of Iraq is no more.

MADDOW: Congressman Bruce Braley, thank you for joining us and helping us bring this issue to light. I think we're going to be hearing a lot more about this. Thanks for your efforts.

BRALEY: I hope so. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: One of the things that's going on here is that as a signatory to the Geneva Convention, we are forbidden from absolving any country from any liability for torturing a POW ever. And, of course, the fact that much of this torture from American POWs in Iraq in 1991 happened in Abu Ghraib Prison. It's not lost on history and it should not be lost on us as we understand the political context here.

All right. Barack Obama has put out a new ad hitting John McCain for opposing a law that would guarantee women equal pay for equal work. Good thing John McCain picked a female running mate to help set him straight on women's issues, right?

Well, coming up, we take a look at Governor Palin's record on women's issues in Alaska. You be the judge. But before that, more of my conversation with Bill Maher.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Coming up, Bill Maher is back. I will try to coax him into giving his opinion about politics.

First, though, it's time for a couple more holy mackerel stories in the news today. If you have ever wanted to be a trillionaire, all you need is a ticket to Zimbabwe and about three cents. The rate of currency exchange right now is roughly 35 trillion Zimbabwean dollars to one of ours. At least that would be the change rate if Zimbabwe's government hadn't arbitrarily just dropped 10 zeroes off the value of their currency last month.

They keep dropping zeros off their dollar, but the inflation is so bad that the zeroes keep bouncing back. Today, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe replaced a $10 trillion bank note with one that's worth $1,000. That's still only about enough to buy a loaf of bread. Zimbabwe's inflation is now the highest in the world. Officially, it's about 11 million percent. It's expected to be at about 30 million percent right about now.

Back here at home, you know how every four years, the pundit-ocracy says this election is about swing voters. And then every four years, it's completely not about swing voters. It's actually about each side exciting and turning out their partisan base. Well, the Republican selection of John McCain this year was supposed to seal that independent swing voters hypothesis once and for all.

The Republican base supposedly hated John McCain and he and the Democrat would be fighting out for the voters in the middle. Well, common wisdom? Meet Sarah Palin. A new field poll says John McCain picked up six points in California since he chose Palin, but that support has come entirely from the Republican base. Palin is solidifying Democrats against McCain and solidifying Republicans for McCain. In other words, Maverick sh-maverick.

If McCain wants a shot at California's 55 electoral votes, it's not going to come from the one-in-five California voters who consider themselves non-partisan. That means get ready for another Karl Rove-style wedge politics culture war election. Surprise.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: And now, more of my conversation with Bill Maher, the host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher." We talked national security politics and I asked him if the Republicans who got Bush elected twice, in part by making Gore and Kerry look like wimps, will they be able to do it again this year? Mr. Maher was, of course, as politically incorrect as ever.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I think he is trying not to, you know - his idea about Afghanistan, for example, you know, I don't really agree with that. At least we should have a debate about Afghanistan. But of course, the Democrat can't say, "Look, I'm not for war in general." He has a say, "Well, come on, I'm not a wuss. I'm for some war."

So it somehow comes down that the Iraq War is the Republican war, the bad war, the stupid war. But Afghanistan, that's the smart war, the good war, the Democrat war. But I don't know if that's true. At least I'd like to have a debate about it. At least I'd like to feel that there's someone in the race who represented my feelings, not really just two sides of the same coin.

MADDOW: It seems like there's a lot to say about Afghanistan. We've got a lot of stuff that we need to get done in Afghanistan. The argument that I want to hear is how us sending more troops there gets our national objectives met. I agree we've got a focus on it, Maher. I just don't know that more troops is the right thing after seven years there.

MAHER: Exactly, I mean, study after study shows that they don't hate us for our freedom. They hate us for our air strikes. In Afghanistan, that seems to be the problem - is that we keep killing people with our air strikes. And then those people tend to have a grudge against us and they will join the Taliban or be sympathetic to the Taliban.

So if we are sending two more brigades there as Obama wants to do, first of all, is that really going to pacify the whole country? Are we really going to take over Afghanistan and turn it into the kind of country that we want to turn it into? That should be debated.

But even if we were, when we send more brigades, that's more of our men. More of our men get killed. When our men get killed, what do we do? That's when we send in the air strikes. Then we kill the other people. So it's kind of like we're trying to get rid of the flies with a fly swatter made of raw meat.

MADDOW: Back in June, Charlie Black, who is John McCain's advisor, said that - he thought another terrorist attack on the United States would be a, quote, "big advantage to the McCain campaign." Back in 2004, three days before the election, John McCain himself said that the Osama Bin Laden tape that came out before that election was great news, electorally for the Republican ticket. Why is it that terrorism, war, the continuing existence of Osama Bin Laden - why is this politically advantageous for the Republicans?

MAHER: Yes, John Kerry said the same thing. He said that tape that Bin Laden put out right before the election helped Bush and it probably did. It's perverse to think that people - the American people would use this logic of, "Oh, let's reelect the guy who didn't get him the first time." But that seems to be what happens in this country. And, you know, I keep going back to this cynical point of view I have and people jump down my throat.

But the underlying problem we have in this country is that the people are too stupid to be governed. They are - they are too dumb to get it. So how do you explain complex situations like terrorism, like the environment? You don't. The public is like - it's like a dog. It can only understand inflection. It can't understand any sort of rational argument.

You know, a dog can understand 20 or 30 commands like "come," and "sit," and "fetch" and people in this country can understand things like "mavericks" and "surge." "Surges always work and mavericks will clean stuff up." So I don't trust them to make the right decisions.

MADDOW: Well, the dynamic has been, not necessarily, I guess, maverick versus complex smart idea, but rather weak versus dumb. And the American people, I think, have said, "You know what? We understand the Democratic case that the Republican guy is dumb, but we don't mind dumb so much as we hate weak." And that Republicans haven't argued that they are smart. They've just argued that Democrats are weak, effete, foreign eggheads, intellectuals, somebody you couldn't trust in a fight. And they've almost made being smart a liability in an election.

MAHER: Yes, I mean, what they don't understand is that John McCain is more likely to get us all killed. When McCain talks about staying in Iraq for 100 years, he is, to my way of thinking, not understanding the most important thing about the war against Islamic fundamentalists which is that what they really hate is that we are in their country. This is what drove Bin Laden crazy the first time, was that we had troops in Saudi Arabia, in the holy land.

So we pulled our troops out of Saudi Arabia and what did we do? We went right back into the heart of the Muslim world, in Iraq. And to stay there is always going to be a thorn in their side. As long as we have bases and Pizza Huts and troops in Iraq, there are going to be young Muslim men who want to kill us.

MADDOW: Left, right and center - do you think that the American people are moving toward a more isolationist position, just don't get us involved anywhere? We may have preferences in how the world works but we're not going to actually intervene because it's no longer safe or we're not willing to risk the blowback?

MAHER: I don't know about that. I think a lot of this country thinks that military might is the only tool we really need to use or have to use, and they like it. They like the idea that America throws around its military might. I mean, you heard, at both conventions, threats against Russia over Georgia, a place, up until a week ago, I would guess most Americans had no idea even existed in the world. But suddenly, we are all Georgians. You know, we throw around this macho, jingoistic military might as if we really have the troops to even pull it off at this point.

MADDOW: I think we are all hoping that it meant that we were all Atlanteans(ph) in some way, but we never got there. Bill Maher, thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.

MAHER: Hey, Rachel, thank you very much.

MADDOW: Bill Maher of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Next, we'll get into that awkward moment between the McCains over Roe versus Wade on "Good Morning, America" this morning. Let's just say, it wasn't really all that good a morning, America.

And one more thing, our neighbors to the north have limited campaign spending in their upcoming parliamentary election to $20 million per political party. That's Canadian dollars, not Zimbabwean dollars or American dollars. To put that in perspective, Obama and McCain spent $15 million - that's American dollars - on TV ads just last week. I know Americans aren't totally convinced about the metric system or Newfoundland's half-hour-ahead time zone. But maybe Canada's got this one right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Whatever happened to the Straight Talk Express? According to "Politico.com," even the reporters who slogged the trail with John "Maverick" McCain haven't heard any actual unscripted talk from McCain in over a month. This week, reporters aboard the McCain plane resorted to chanting - yes, chanting - "Bring Mac back. Bring Mac back." Chanting frequently prompts a response from some Republicans. See "Drill, baby, drill" for quick reference.

And "Bring Mac back" may have actually worked. A mere 24 hours after the insurrection on McCain's plane, Sarah Palin took her first impromptu question from a reporter in at a campaign stop in Cleveland. I wonder if "Come clean about trooper-gate," could be made into a chant."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Most of the time, the news is serious business. Some of the time, the news is serious but still amusing. I'm talking to you, Zimbabwean 10 trillion dollar bill. But occasionally, the news is laugh-out-loud, coffee-out-your-nose funny. So far, this week, that news story is the one out today, that a former fundraiser for Hillary Clinton is now supporting John McCain.

A big Washington press conference was arranged. They made her available to the reporters. Everyone's writing up a story, and then the funny happens. Why doesn't this Hillary Clinton fundraiser like Sen. Obama? Well, she told CNN earlier this year, it turns out that Barack Obama is an elitist - an elitist, out of touch, that Obama guy.

So who is she who feels your pain and just can't throw her support behind a fancy Dan like Barack Obama? That would be Lady Lynn Forester De Rothschild - De Rothschild, of course, being the great banking and finance dynasty of Europe. Lady Rothschild herself was the head of a multi-million dollar telecom firm who then married the international banker, Sir Evelyn De Rothschild. She now runs a gazillion dollar Rothschild family holding company. She's the McCain campaign's big Hillary defector and Lady Lynn Forester De Rothschild wants women to know that Barack Obama is out of touch with regular folks.

No, you're not accidentally reading the onion, this is real. Here's the thing, though. The McCain-Palin campaign is making its appeal to women voters with Lady Rothschild/ They're also trying to appeal to women voters on the basis of the fact that they have a woman on the ticket. At some point, though, the campaign, I think, has to get to the point where we talk about the McCain-Palin ticket and what they are offering to women in terms of policy, how they have governed and how they will govern.

The Obama-Biden campaign is trying to go there. They're hitting the equal-pay issue with the new ad. They're for it; McCain and Palin aren't. And I expect we will probably see something from Obama soon on reproductive rights, on Roe versus Wade and the Supreme Court. Heck, Sen. McCain and his wife Cindy almost made that ad for Obama today when they were asked on "Good Morning, America" about abortion rights. This is Diane Sawyer asking about Cindy McCain favoring Roe versus Wade and John McCain wanting it overturned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE SAWYER, HOST, "GOOD MORNING, AMERICA": What's the difference in the two of your view of the issue?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me just say this is all about courage and compassion.

SAWYER: But Mrs. McCain, do you oppose the repeal of Roe versus Wade?

Is that report correct?

CINDY MCCAIN, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: You know, there are people

that are without jobs, that are hurting -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Maybe this is something you'd rather not talk about? We have seen this fair-pay ad already. We will see the reproductive rights ad soon, I'm guessing. We saw Michelle Obama and Jill Biden out on the trail today, and again tomorrow, talking about the fair-pay for women and disproportionate impact of the tanking economy on women. All that stuff can either be expected soon or it is already happening.

But here's my question. Is the Obama campaign willing to go after the other side, specifically after Sarah Palin, for the eyebrow-raising things in her record toward women, the stuff that is admittedly hard to talk about on TV, the stuff that has difficult language for polite company? Such as the fact that when Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Wasilla charge sexual assault victims for the cost of the swab kits and forensic exams needed to gather evidence for prosecuting those rapes or sexual assaults, the only city in the state to have done that, according to the former governor Tony Knowles.

Then there's the fact that the reason Sarah Palin says she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was not because Monegan refused to fire her brother-in-law, the state trooper, but because Monegan was seeking federal money to help investigate and prosecute the worst cases of sexual abuse in the state, including sex crimes against kids. She says she fired him for that.

I know this stuff is hard to talk about on TV. I know these are difficult subjects for polite company. But the McCain campaign is already running an ad against Obama implying there's something creepy and lecherous about him wanting to protect kindergarteners from sexual predators.

Meanwhile, the record on the Republican side includes executive oversight of charging rape victims to investigate their rapes and by they own assertion, firing a cop for going after child molesters and rapists. I don't know if the Obama-Biden campaign will raise this stuff. I admit it's delicate. But there is a case to be made that a record like that is a whole lot more relevant to women voters than whether or not Lady Rothschild has detected an odor of elitism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Now, it's time for "Just Enough" with my pal Kent Jones who force-feeds me just enough pop culture so I can be allowed out in public. Hi, Mr. Jones.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hello, Rachel.

MADDOW: What have you got?

JONES: Let's start off with Sarah Palin's clothes. Remember that little hockey mom outfit she wore at the Republican National Convention? Well, it turns out that very nice silk jacket was designed by Valentino. It was selected by one of a team of stylists and it cost $2,500. Those are just small town values, Rachel. Small town values.

MADDOW: She was in haberdashery, right?

JONES: Small town.

In Detroit, this week, General Motors unveiled it's hotly anticipated new electric car, the Chevrolet Volt. Due in showrooms by November 2010, the volt will be able to go 40 miles on a single charge from a home outlet. Now, I did a little research, and the first electric vehicle was invented by a Robert Andersen(ph) of Scotland around 1832. So all it took to get a mass-produced electric car was 180 years and $4 gas. Plug, baby, plug!

And finally, a little bit of sad news here. After 10 glorious years, MTV announced it is canceling "TRL" - "Total Request Live." The show will end in November and it counted down the most popular music videos of the day and it made stars out of artists like 'N Sync and yes, Britney Spears. With "TRL" gone, we could soon be looking at a channel called Music Television that doesn't play any music. What is that? That's jumbo shrimp.

MADDOW: Yes.

JONES: That's casual chic. That's McCain's economic plan. That's Lieberman's charisma. What kind of deal? I don't get it.

MADDOW: The thing about "Total Request Live" making celebrities out of groups like in 'N Sync, though. It seems to me that it's a request show.

JONES: Yes.

MADDOW: It's sort of just an amplifier of existing celebrity.

JONES: Yes, that's right.

MADDOW: Yes.

JONES: It's a booster.

MADDOW: It was a booster rocket to existing bands that people liked anyway.

JONES: Sure. Absolutely.

MADDOW: We all need that.

JONES: Every chance you got -

MADDOW: I want there to be more forces like that of all kinds in American culture.

Mr. Jones, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. Until then, you can E-mail us at Guests: Amy Klobuchar, Thomas Frank, David Eberly, Bruce Braley, Kent

Jones, Bill Maher>

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Keith. I appreciate it.

KEITH OLBERMANN, COUNTDOWN HOST: Of course.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for sticking around with us. Much to get to in the next hour, including the bear. Also, a U-turn in the polls.

Brand new outrage about the Bush administration's treatment of veterans. A story you will not believe about American prisoners of war and how they're being treated by this White House.

Also, the Hillary Clinton supporter who defected to John McCain which might end up being a good thing for Barack Obama.

And the world's first $10 trillion bill, at least, it's the first I've heard of.

(voice over): What goes bounce must come down. Day three of high economic anxiety has polls trending from red to blue and the Obama campaign at their most confident yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where is he getting the lines from, the lobbyists who were running his campaign?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar from the battleground state of Minnesota joins us live.

Meanwhile, John McCain is a born again overseer of the market.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCIAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to reform the way Wall Street does business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Could it be that for all those years we just misheard him? He was actually saying-the regulations, and not deregulation? Senator McCain's long record on the subject is turning out to be inconvenient for him.

Former prisoners of the Iraq war want to sue their captors for torturing them. And only the Bush administration stands in their way. OK, except these are American former POWs from the first Iraq war and they want to sue Iraq. What gives?

We'll talk to one of these American heroes and the congressman fighting for him.

And: Sarah Palin may have given the McCain ticket a boost with women voters, but how long will the Obama campaign allow that to go unchecked? We'll get to some very uncomfortable truth about McCain-Palin and the female vote.

All that, plus more, with this guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, TV TALK SHOW HOST: They don't hate us for our freedom; they hate us for our airstrike.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.

(on camera): The fundamentals of our economy are strong. Do you think John McCain goes over and over and over those words late at night as he crisscrosses the country and ponders how his couple weeks of a lead over Barack Obama evaporated? Those four seconds of his standard speech that he stuck to, inexplicably, as the American economy teetered and swayed like a drunk on the train platform.

Those four seconds of out of touchiness have ignited the Obama campaign the way Sarah Palin's convention speech ignited the Republicans long, long ago in the galaxy far, far away.

McCain's sticking to the assertion that the fundamentals are strong, a claim he made more than 20 times this year, has allowed Obama and Biden to regain their rhetorical oomph. It's also helping their numbers.

Today, for the first time since the Republican convention, Barack Obama moved ahead of Senator McCain in Gallup's daily national tracking poll. Now, it is a scant two-point lead, but it's a lead.

In key battleground states, more good news for Obama. He's now even in Florida, a state in which he trailed McCain by five points in the latest Real Clear Politics average. Same in Ohio, where he now leads by two points after trailing there by an average of two points. And he's just one point behind McCain in North Carolina, a state that Democrats have not won since I was three years old.

On the stump, Obama is sharpening his attack, hitting Republican stewardship of the economy. Today, in Elko, Nevada, Obama ripped John McCain's proposed magical elixir for the economy, a blue ribbon commission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Folks, we don't need a commission to figure out what happened. We know what happened. We don't need a commission to tell us how we got into this mess. We need a president who will lead us out of this mess and that's the kind of president I intend to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You can also put the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Joe Biden in the "I'm excited this election is now about the economy and not about lipstick and Paris Hilton campaign."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, this campaign is about change, but it's about even more than that. It's about what we value as a people. It's not just about your job. It's about the dignity of your job. It's about whether you are respected about your job.

It's not just about your paycheck. It's about pride. It's not just about opportunity, it's about genuine respect. Corny sounding words these days, but that's what it's about. That's why we're in the race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You see, the reason the Obama campaign is throwing so many more hard punches right now and arguably connecting with more of those punches is because John McCain has, so far, proven to be a very soft target on this issue.

Take for example, an interview circulating online today that McCain gave to a New Hampshire paper back in November. Now, why is an old interview suddenly relevant in the campaign? Well, it shows how prescient, how prepared McCain was for what we are going through in the economy right now.

The shortest possible version of this story is a pure visual. The look of abject horror on John McCain's face as the interviewer teased up a question about the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 4, 2007)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, I have a question about the prime mortgage loans. Yes. We're starting to see now that states are taking proactive measures of their own to deal with this mess. That kind of a three-prong question. Who's at fault of this mess, who's not at fault? And is there a role that you see that the government can play in helping to form (ph) a resolution with this?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He looks like he just found half a rat in his Danish, doesn't he?

All right. Actually, the substance of this interview, here's what John McCain was offering on the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I can't come down yet, and give you a specific solution because I don't claim to be smart enough. I'd like to tell you, I did anticipate it, but I have to give you straight talk, I did not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: McCain also acknowledged during this interview that he did not anticipate another seminal event in American economic history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dimension of the problem may be surprising to a lot of people, but are you surprised?

MCCAIN: Yes and I was surprised at the dot-com collapse and I was surprised at other times in our history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The dot-com collapse? You know, even the sock puppet from those Pets.com commercials knew his days were numbered. And you think you didn't see that coming?

Therein lies the Obama-Biden opportunity. Now, we have for the moment, returned from the surreality of lipstick on pigs and Britney Spears and insults about community organizing and we have returned to a country with real challenges, including a few big ones which are by his own account, not John McCain's specialty.

Here's his analysis of the market this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Greed and excess and corruption is beset Wall Street.

They've treated it like a casino.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Treating it like a casino. That's kind of a neat way to think about it, honestly, except when you remember that John McCain's plan for Social Security is to privatize it, which is to say to put it in that same stock market that lost 500 points just two days ago, and another 449 points today, which is to say, McCain wants to take Social Security, one of the most successful federally-funded programs in U.S. history and put Social Security on something that he equates to a roulette table. Cocktail, anyone?

I'd like to welcome to the program, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of from Minnesota. She is supporting Senator Obama.

Senator Klobuchar, thanks for joining us.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: Well, thank you, Rachel. It's great to be on.

MADDOW: Senator McCain does not claimed to be an expert on the economy. That's part of his straight talk. He has never pitched that as his strong suit. We just showed a clip from an interview a couple months ago in which the whole idea of answering on the subject appeared to horrify him. But the country is pretty horrified about the economy right now.

Is there anything that John McCain could say or do right now about the economy that would reduce this big political liability that he's got on this issue?

KLOBUCHAR: You know, I think he'd have to come clean and tell the truth. You know, you've seen in the last 26 hours words out of his mouth that he's never said in the last 26 years in Congress. Time and time again, he stood by these companies. He was chair of the commerce committee for seven years.

He did nothing about increasing our gas mileage standards. Something the Democratic Congress has to do, out of the same commerce committee. Nothing about protecting our kids from toxic toys on our shores and in our stores, again, out of this commerce committee, something Barack Obama was a leader on. Nothing to regulate these financial institutions. He referred to himself as a deregulator.

And you know what? I heard someone say this morning, from Texas, Rachel, they said there's an old Texas saying, all hat and no cattle. And that's what we are hearing from John McCain. It's all hat and no cattle. When you look at his record, and you look where the Bush-McCain policies have brought us.

MADDOW: You know, John McCain has sort of sidestepped the flip-flop allegation in this campaign, even though a lot of his positions really have changed. He sidestepped that by saying, if I have changed on an issue like offshore drilling, it's because circumstances dictated that I changed, because the news meant that I had to change. I'm flexible and open-minded enough to change my mind, if need be.

I wonder if it would be feasible or if it would plausible, if it would cost him too much with his own party to make for him to make that sort of case about why he has changed from 26 years as a deregulator, into now, about 48 hours as somebody who is a proponent of regulation. I wonder if there is a credible way to make that case.

KLOBUCHAR: You know, I don't know if there is. I just know that he's gotten us into this mess. And you look at, as this mess has been unrolling, even in the last few weeks, you see Barack Obama weathering the storm of this unfair criticism and doing a two-minute ad where he actually addresses the American people to their face.

And then you see John McCain running these lipstick ads and these fraudulent ads about sex education. Enough is enough. People have had it.

And you know, as you see in the polls, it's not just the Obama campaign that's ignited and it's with purpose to get change here-it's the American people, because they watched that convention and they got a little interested. And they started to say, what is going on here. You know, my healthcare expenses, my premiums have gone up 100 percent. You got kids can hardly go to college. And these guys are talking about lipstick.

I mean, enough is enough. And I think you see that with the American people because they're hurting.

MADDOW: Well, on that issue, I mean, my feeling is that when people are talking about hardcore issues like the economy, the Obama-Biden campaign is at its strongest and I think we're seeing that these last couple of days. When people aren't talking about the issues, when the other guy has succeeded in making the debate about lipstick or preachers or Parish Hilton or whatever, the Obama-Biden campaign sort of wilts and that's a winning strategy, if you control the message. But it is a losing strategy if you don't control the message. Do you see it that way?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I do. And I'd say this, though, is that the American people, in the end are going to be sophisticated about this. And they are going to make the decision based on the issues, based on their pocketbook. The average middle class wage is down something like $1,000 to $2,000 in this country. Expense is up $4,500.

Barack Obama has got a plan-middle class tax cuts, rolling back some of these tax cuts on the wealthiest. McCain's plan would give over $500,000 to the 0.1 percent. And the American people are going to get this.

And I just, you know, you think that the Republicans had so many opportunities to do something about this and they let these agencies decay, they put the wrong people in charge, even in 2005, Representative Oxley, a Republican had a bipartisan effort to better regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And he said and this is a public quote, he said, "All I got from the administration was a one-finger salute."

So, time and time again, you see them letting these institutions decay. And look where we are now. You know, secretaries on the front line with nothing at Lehman Brothers. You got people in the state of Minnesota losing their homes and all their life's fortune. You got elderly people worried about their pension. They are not going to listen, the people of this country, the ads about lipstick. They want a real plan and real change. And that's what Barack Obama has to offer.

MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, thank you so much for your time tonight.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you, Rachel. And thank you for making my daughter think I'm cool going on your show. I lost her when I didn't know that LOL meant laugh out loud on a radio program and being your show makes her think I'm cool.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Well, if you need any help on the other abbreviations, you just, I'll hook you up. Please give me a call.

KLOBUCHAR: I'll call, yes. OK, thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks, senator. Appreciate it.

You know, what Senator Klobuchar was just saying there about the belief that the American people want to decide this on the issues, that they are not cynical enough that they want to decide this based on gimmicks and insults. It's-there are ways that we understand the difference between the parties and between liberal and conservative approaches to the country.

And it's not just the policies that you advocate, it's also the way you approach the American people and what you expect of them.

Anyway. So, the country's focus on the economy has given at least some evident political advantages thus far to the Democratic ticket.

John McCain conversely continues his feverous populist backpedaling, yesterday saying he opposed the government bailout for insurance giant, AIG, today, talking about its necessity. Now, he is for more regulation about 48 hours ago and for 26 years in Washington before that, he was against regulation.

How can an avowed Reagan Republican make a pitch that he is the new FDR? And do Democrats win in the big picture, anyway, just because the Republican presidential candidate is trying to do that?

Here to talk more about Senator McCain's record on economic issues and what happens when politics and economics get in a stock market crash together is Thomas Frank. He's the author of the new book, "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule."

Mr. Frank, thanks for joining us.

THOMAS FRANK, AUTHOR, "THE WRECKING CREW": How are you today, Rachel?

MADDOW: I'm great. Happy to see you.

John McCain is on the campaign trail right now, talking about the urgent need for more regulation. Does that strike you as strange or expected?

FRANK: Well, of course, it's totally bizarre. It's an act of pure opportunism is what it is. You know, this is a guy, not only has he been, you know, a deregulator for his entire career, but look at his-look at his former financial or former advisor on economic issues. I think, he's back now, Phil Gramm. Isn't that the author of the law that overturned the Glass-Steagall Act from the 1930s that originally regulated the banks?

I mean, he's surrounded by deregulators. He comes from the party of deregulation. This is the party that road to power in 1980 on this sort of great wave of anger at OSHA and at FTC and the EPA, and all that sort of thing and they were going to turn back regulation. And they did it, you know. They did it. And now, they've got to take-they've got to take the responsibility for it.

MADDOW: When McCain calls himself a Reagan Republican, which he still does proudly, you describe the Republican Party just now as the party of deregulation. The argument was, essentially, government is bad.

FRANK: Yes.

MADDOW: How much of that has survived since 1980? Has it been refined? Is there a new form of antiregulation Republican? Or is McCain defining a pro-regulation Republican future? Are Republican politics on this issue changing?

FRANK: Well, I strongly doubt it. Not if he's still listening to the same people. Not if he's listening to Phil Gramm. You know, you look around Washington D.C., you look at the various institutions that make up conservative Washington D.C., something like the Heritage Foundation, right, or the Marcadas (ph) Institute out in Virginia, or the Cato Institute. These people are all about deregulation.

I mean, it's all about letting the market run its course, letting the market rule everything. They pitched that, too, as well, when gets to be inconvenient, when that looks ugly, you know, and ultimately, what it comes back to is defending business. That's what the Republican Party is about, getting them off the hook, passing the bill on to you and me.

MADDOW: Thomas Frank, author of the new book, "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule," also, a weekly columnist now at the "Wall Street Journal," to their great credit. Thanks for joining us.

FRANK: Sure thing, anytime.

MADDOW: Now that he has picked Sarah Palin as his running mate and identified her as his soul-mate, what exactly has John McCain learned about this so-called fairer sex? And can we make him learn it any faster? Please?

Plus, Bill Maher is here to talk politics real-time style.

And on its way out the door, the Bush administration is preparing another indignity for some U.S. veterans. Several American POWs from the first gulf war want to sue Iraq for damages, but our White House wants to stop them. One of these American heroes joins us next along with the congressman who's trying to help him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: While our military fights concurrent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States Congress is still working on sifting through the fallout from the last gulf war. The 1991 war was shorter and thankfully claimed many fewer lives than the current conflict there. But there were American prisoners of war who are held captive and tortured by Saddam Hussein's forces. Seventeen of them have been trying to sue the Iraqi government damages.

A 1996 law says a state sponsor for terror can be sued. And Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terror when the POWs and hostages were held. Still, the Bush administration, our own government has opposed the efforts of American POWs to sue Iraq for their torture, because, as the president said in a statement last year, quote, "Exposing Iraq to such significant financial burdens would weaken the close partnership between the United States and Iraq during this critical period of Iraq history."

This week the House of Representatives passed a bill that would take away the president's power to insulate Iraq from this lawsuit. President Bush is threatening to veto that bill in order to keep American POWs from suing the people who tortured them.

One of those prisoners of war joins us now, Colonel David Eberly, retired from the United States Air Force. He was the senior ranking Allied prisoner of war in Iraq in 1991 where he was held for 43 days.

Colonel Eberly, thank you so much for joining us.

COL. DAVID EBERLY (RET.), FMR. GULF WAR POW: Thank you very much for allowing me to bring this, once again, to the public.

MADDOW: I have read and reading about your story, that in your 43 days in captivity, you were starved, essentially, you lost 45 points while you were held captive by Saddam Hussein's regime, that among other things as a flagrant violation of the rules by which the Geneva Convention say how POWs have to be treated. Can you tell me what happened to you-what sort of conditions you and other gulf war POWs faced in Iraq in 1991?

EBERLY: Yes, let me first thank Congressman Bruce Braley and Congressman Joe Sestak for championing this through the Congress. They reached across the aisle. And Monday night, late, it was approved. This bill was approved by unanimous voice vote. So, thank you very much.

Now, let me talk about, not just personally, but there were many aspects that violated the Geneva Convention. I'll list a few of these. There are several hundred pages that detail the violations of the Geneva Convention. Those can be summarized with electric shock treatment, chemical injections to alter the mind, broken bones, mock executions, and then, of course, we were used as propaganda tools. All five of these are clear violations of the Geneva Convention that Iraq was a signatory to.

MADDOW: What led you to the decision-you and other POWs-to the decision to sue the Iraqi government over that treatment?

EBERLY: We believe that by bringing this on to the world stage, we can cause future governments that hold United States Americans as hostage, we can deter future torture by those countries.

MADDOW: You and 16 other gulf war prisons were actually awarded damages by a U.S. federal court five years ago on this case.

EBERLY: That's correct.

MADDOW: And that award, as far as I understand, it was then blocked by our government. And again, last year, when a provision to allow your lawsuit to move forward, it was attached to a military spending bill, President Bush, in essence, vetoed it. How does it feel to be fighting your own government on this?

EBERLY: Well, it's a sorry situation.

Yes, in 2002, we brought the suit. The United States district in Washington awarded, they determine the amount, they made an award and then shortly there after, the administration, through the Department of Justice appealed that. We lost the appeal in the appeals court, tried to take it to the Supreme Court.

The ironic thing about this is that at the same time, the administration was fighting this particular action. They were, in fact, supporting and are now supporting foreign companies, the board rooms of foreign companies to the tune of $20 billion to $30 billion so that they can recover damages from the government of Iraq.

And also, it is a situation that they have ignored, this debt of honor. The amount of money involved now is actually pennies on the dollar. What the bill calls for is a settlement that amounts to 1 percent of the interest that Iraq currently earns with the funds that they have on deposit in the United States. It's almost shameful to compare the amount of money as having any impact on the government of Iraq's ability to move forward in their own country.

MADDOW: Colonel David Eberly, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Thank you for your service and good luck to you, sir.

EBERLY: Thank you.

MADDOW: So, why is the Bush administration intent on keeping them, like Colonel Eberly from collecting damages from a country in which they were starved and tortured?

Joining us now, a man who was just thanked on this program, one of President Bush's prime adversaries on this battle, Representative Bruce Braley, Democrat of Iowa. He sponsored the POW legislation which passed the House on Monday night. If it becomes law, it would strip the president of his ability to exempt Iraq from lawsuits from former POWs and hostages.

Congressman Braley, thanks for joining us.

REP. BRUCE BRALEY, (D) IOWA: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: When you first announced you would be submitting this bill, the legal battle was already entrenched between the Bush administration and the POWs who are trying to sue Iraq for torturing them back in 1991. This has been going on for five years. What got you involved in this?

BRALEY: Well, what got me involved was the very clear memories of the images of these tortured POWs during the gulf war and then something that should shock and outrage every American citizen, which was a 60 minutes piece that I saw in 2003, describing how our president, George Bush, was placing a greater on transferring the assets that could have been used to pay these tortured POWs and human shields, and using them to rebuild the oil fields in Iraq that have been destroyed during "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

And then, as I followed this and had met and had a chance to learn more about the amazing stories of these tortured heroes and the POWs who, and their families, this is the type of thing that should shock and outrage every American and that's why Congressman Sestak and I have fought so hard to restore this right.

MADDOW: Well, I want to say what the White House explains about what they are doing here. They say they oppose allowing these former POWs, these heroes, to sue the Iraqi government because it would open Iraq up to billions of dollars in lawsuits for crimes committed under the old regime. They've also cited the fact that Iraq threatened to pull assets out of the U.S. if we allowed these American citizens to sue the Iraqi government. We just heard that address in part by Colonel Eberly. But about you, do you buy those arguments?

BRALEY: These claims are bogus and absurd. What this bill would do is actually eliminate all known claims of American POWs and human shields because Iraq is no longer labeled as a state sponsor of terrorism. And one of the threshold things you have to prove to recover under this law that Congress passed in a bipartisan way in 1996 is that you were tortured by a state sponsor of terrorism which Saddam Hussein's Iraq was at that time. But the government of Iraq is no more.

MADDOW: Congressman Bruce Braley, thank you for joining us and helping us bring this issue to light. I think we're going to be hearing a lot more about this. Thanks for your efforts.

BRALEY: I hope so. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: One of the things that's going on here is that as a signatory to the Geneva Convention, we are forbidden from absolving any country from any liability for torturing a POW ever. And, of course, the fact that much of this torture from American POWs in Iraq in 1991 happened in Abu Ghraib Prison. It's not lost on history and it should not be lost on us as we understand the political context here.

All right. Barack Obama has put out a new ad hitting John McCain for opposing a law that would guarantee women equal pay for equal work. Good thing John McCain picked a female running mate to help set him straight on women's issues, right?

Well, coming up, we take a look at Governor Palin's record on women's issues in Alaska. You be the judge. But before that, more of my conversation with Bill Maher.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Coming up, Bill Maher is back. I will try to coax him into giving his opinion about politics.

First, though, it's time for a couple more holy mackerel stories in the news today. If you have ever wanted to be a trillionaire, all you need is a ticket to Zimbabwe and about three cents. The rate of currency exchange right now is roughly 35 trillion Zimbabwean dollars to one of ours. At least that would be the change rate if Zimbabwe's government hadn't arbitrarily just dropped 10 zeroes off the value of their currency last month.

They keep dropping zeros off their dollar, but the inflation is so bad that the zeroes keep bouncing back. Today, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe replaced a $10 trillion bank note with one that's worth $1,000. That's still only about enough to buy a loaf of bread. Zimbabwe's inflation is now the highest in the world. Officially, it's about 11 million percent. It's expected to be at about 30 million percent right about now.

Back here at home, you know how every four years, the pundit-ocracy says this election is about swing voters. And then every four years, it's completely not about swing voters. It's actually about each side exciting and turning out their partisan base. Well, the Republican selection of John McCain this year was supposed to seal that independent swing voters hypothesis once and for all.

The Republican base supposedly hated John McCain and he and the Democrat would be fighting out for the voters in the middle. Well, common wisdom? Meet Sarah Palin. A new field poll says John McCain picked up six points in California since he chose Palin, but that support has come entirely from the Republican base. Palin is solidifying Democrats against McCain and solidifying Republicans for McCain. In other words, Maverick sh-maverick.

If McCain wants a shot at California's 55 electoral votes, it's not going to come from the one-in-five California voters who consider themselves non-partisan. That means get ready for another Karl Rove-style wedge politics culture war election. Surprise.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: And now, more of my conversation with Bill Maher, the host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher." We talked national security politics and I asked him if the Republicans who got Bush elected twice, in part by making Gore and Kerry look like wimps, will they be able to do it again this year? Mr. Maher was, of course, as politically incorrect as ever.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I think he is trying not to, you know - his idea about Afghanistan, for example, you know, I don't really agree with that. At least we should have a debate about Afghanistan. But of course, the Democrat can't say, "Look, I'm not for war in general." He has a say, "Well, come on, I'm not a wuss. I'm for some war."

So it somehow comes down that the Iraq War is the Republican war, the bad war, the stupid war. But Afghanistan, that's the smart war, the good war, the Democrat war. But I don't know if that's true. At least I'd like to have a debate about it. At least I'd like to feel that there's someone in the race who represented my feelings, not really just two sides of the same coin.

MADDOW: It seems like there's a lot to say about Afghanistan. We've got a lot of stuff that we need to get done in Afghanistan. The argument that I want to hear is how us sending more troops there gets our national objectives met. I agree we've got a focus on it, Maher. I just don't know that more troops is the right thing after seven years there.

MAHER: Exactly, I mean, study after study shows that they don't hate us for our freedom. They hate us for our air strikes. In Afghanistan, that seems to be the problem - is that we keep killing people with our air strikes. And then those people tend to have a grudge against us and they will join the Taliban or be sympathetic to the Taliban.

So if we are sending two more brigades there as Obama wants to do, first of all, is that really going to pacify the whole country? Are we really going to take over Afghanistan and turn it into the kind of country that we want to turn it into? That should be debated.

But even if we were, when we send more brigades, that's more of our men. More of our men get killed. When our men get killed, what do we do? That's when we send in the air strikes. Then we kill the other people. So it's kind of like we're trying to get rid of the flies with a fly swatter made of raw meat.

MADDOW: Back in June, Charlie Black, who is John McCain's advisor, said that - he thought another terrorist attack on the United States would be a, quote, "big advantage to the McCain campaign." Back in 2004, three days before the election, John McCain himself said that the Osama Bin Laden tape that came out before that election was great news, electorally for the Republican ticket. Why is it that terrorism, war, the continuing existence of Osama Bin Laden - why is this politically advantageous for the Republicans?

MAHER: Yes, John Kerry said the same thing. He said that tape that Bin Laden put out right before the election helped Bush and it probably did. It's perverse to think that people - the American people would use this logic of, "Oh, let's reelect the guy who didn't get him the first time." But that seems to be what happens in this country. And, you know, I keep going back to this cynical point of view I have and people jump down my throat.

But the underlying problem we have in this country is that the people are too stupid to be governed. They are - they are too dumb to get it. So how do you explain complex situations like terrorism, like the environment? You don't. The public is like - it's like a dog. It can only understand inflection. It can't understand any sort of rational argument.

You know, a dog can understand 20 or 30 commands like "come," and "sit," and "fetch" and people in this country can understand things like "mavericks" and "surge." "Surges always work and mavericks will clean stuff up." So I don't trust them to make the right decisions.

MADDOW: Well, the dynamic has been, not necessarily, I guess, maverick versus complex smart idea, but rather weak versus dumb. And the American people, I think, have said, "You know what? We understand the Democratic case that the Republican guy is dumb, but we don't mind dumb so much as we hate weak." And that Republicans haven't argued that they are smart. They've just argued that Democrats are weak, effete, foreign eggheads, intellectuals, somebody you couldn't trust in a fight. And they've almost made being smart a liability in an election.

MAHER: Yes, I mean, what they don't understand is that John McCain is more likely to get us all killed. When McCain talks about staying in Iraq for 100 years, he is, to my way of thinking, not understanding the most important thing about the war against Islamic fundamentalists which is that what they really hate is that we are in their country. This is what drove Bin Laden crazy the first time, was that we had troops in Saudi Arabia, in the holy land.

So we pulled our troops out of Saudi Arabia and what did we do? We went right back into the heart of the Muslim world, in Iraq. And to stay there is always going to be a thorn in their side. As long as we have bases and Pizza Huts and troops in Iraq, there are going to be young Muslim men who want to kill us.

MADDOW: Left, right and center - do you think that the American people are moving toward a more isolationist position, just don't get us involved anywhere? We may have preferences in how the world works but we're not going to actually intervene because it's no longer safe or we're not willing to risk the blowback?

MAHER: I don't know about that. I think a lot of this country thinks that military might is the only tool we really need to use or have to use, and they like it. They like the idea that America throws around its military might. I mean, you heard, at both conventions, threats against Russia over Georgia, a place, up until a week ago, I would guess most Americans had no idea even existed in the world. But suddenly, we are all Georgians. You know, we throw around this macho, jingoistic military might as if we really have the troops to even pull it off at this point.

MADDOW: I think we are all hoping that it meant that we were all Atlanteans(ph) in some way, but we never got there. Bill Maher, thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.

MAHER: Hey, Rachel, thank you very much.

MADDOW: Bill Maher of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Next, we'll get into that awkward moment between the McCains over Roe versus Wade on "Good Morning, America" this morning. Let's just say, it wasn't really all that good a morning, America.

And one more thing, our neighbors to the north have limited campaign spending in their upcoming parliamentary election to $20 million per political party. That's Canadian dollars, not Zimbabwean dollars or American dollars. To put that in perspective, Obama and McCain spent $15 million - that's American dollars - on TV ads just last week. I know Americans aren't totally convinced about the metric system or Newfoundland's half-hour-ahead time zone. But maybe Canada's got this one right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Whatever happened to the Straight Talk Express? According to "Politico.com," even the reporters who slogged the trail with John "Maverick" McCain haven't heard any actual unscripted talk from McCain in over a month. This week, reporters aboard the McCain plane resorted to chanting - yes, chanting - "Bring Mac back. Bring Mac back." Chanting frequently prompts a response from some Republicans. See "Drill, baby, drill" for quick reference.

And "Bring Mac back" may have actually worked. A mere 24 hours after the insurrection on McCain's plane, Sarah Palin took her first impromptu question from a reporter in at a campaign stop in Cleveland. I wonder if "Come clean about trooper-gate," could be made into a chant."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Most of the time, the news is serious business. Some of the time, the news is serious but still amusing. I'm talking to you, Zimbabwean 10 trillion dollar bill. But occasionally, the news is laugh-out-loud, coffee-out-your-nose funny. So far, this week, that news story is the one out today, that a former fundraiser for Hillary Clinton is now supporting John McCain.

A big Washington press conference was arranged. They made her available to the reporters. Everyone's writing up a story, and then the funny happens. Why doesn't this Hillary Clinton fundraiser like Sen. Obama? Well, she told CNN earlier this year, it turns out that Barack Obama is an elitist - an elitist, out of touch, that Obama guy.

So who is she who feels your pain and just can't throw her support behind a fancy Dan like Barack Obama? That would be Lady Lynn Forester De Rothschild - De Rothschild, of course, being the great banking and finance dynasty of Europe. Lady Rothschild herself was the head of a multi-million dollar telecom firm who then married the international banker, Sir Evelyn De Rothschild. She now runs a gazillion dollar Rothschild family holding company. She's the McCain campaign's big Hillary defector and Lady Lynn Forester De Rothschild wants women to know that Barack Obama is out of touch with regular folks.

No, you're not accidentally reading the onion, this is real. Here's the thing, though. The McCain-Palin campaign is making its appeal to women voters with Lady Rothschild/ They're also trying to appeal to women voters on the basis of the fact that they have a woman on the ticket. At some point, though, the campaign, I think, has to get to the point where we talk about the McCain-Palin ticket and what they are offering to women in terms of policy, how they have governed and how they will govern.

The Obama-Biden campaign is trying to go there. They're hitting the equal-pay issue with the new ad. They're for it; McCain and Palin aren't. And I expect we will probably see something from Obama soon on reproductive rights, on Roe versus Wade and the Supreme Court. Heck, Sen. McCain and his wife Cindy almost made that ad for Obama today when they were asked on "Good Morning, America" about abortion rights. This is Diane Sawyer asking about Cindy McCain favoring Roe versus Wade and John McCain wanting it overturned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE SAWYER, HOST, "GOOD MORNING, AMERICA": What's the difference in the two of your view of the issue?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me just say this is all about courage and compassion.

SAWYER: But Mrs. McCain, do you oppose the repeal of Roe versus Wade?

Is that report correct?

CINDY MCCAIN, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: You know, there are people

that are without jobs, that are hurting -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Maybe this is something you'd rather not talk about? We have seen this fair-pay ad already. We will see the reproductive rights ad soon, I'm guessing. We saw Michelle Obama and Jill Biden out on the trail today, and again tomorrow, talking about the fair-pay for women and disproportionate impact of the tanking economy on women. All that stuff can either be expected soon or it is already happening.

But here's my question. Is the Obama campaign willing to go after the other side, specifically after Sarah Palin, for the eyebrow-raising things in her record toward women, the stuff that is admittedly hard to talk about on TV, the stuff that has difficult language for polite company? Such as the fact that when Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Wasilla charge sexual assault victims for the cost of the swab kits and forensic exams needed to gather evidence for prosecuting those rapes or sexual assaults, the only city in the state to have done that, according to the former governor Tony Knowles.

Then there's the fact that the reason Sarah Palin says she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was not because Monegan refused to fire her brother-in-law, the state trooper, but because Monegan was seeking federal money to help investigate and prosecute the worst cases of sexual abuse in the state, including sex crimes against kids. She says she fired him for that.

I know this stuff is hard to talk about on TV. I know these are difficult subjects for polite company. But the McCain campaign is already running an ad against Obama implying there's something creepy and lecherous about him wanting to protect kindergarteners from sexual predators.

Meanwhile, the record on the Republican side includes executive oversight of charging rape victims to investigate their rapes and by they own assertion, firing a cop for going after child molesters and rapists. I don't know if the Obama-Biden campaign will raise this stuff. I admit it's delicate. But there is a case to be made that a record like that is a whole lot more relevant to women voters than whether or not Lady Rothschild has detected an odor of elitism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Now, it's time for "Just Enough" with my pal Kent Jones who force-feeds me just enough pop culture so I can be allowed out in public. Hi, Mr. Jones.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hello, Rachel.

MADDOW: What have you got?

JONES: Let's start off with Sarah Palin's clothes. Remember that little hockey mom outfit she wore at the Republican National Convention? Well, it turns out that very nice silk jacket was designed by Valentino. It was selected by one of a team of stylists and it cost $2,500. Those are just small town values, Rachel. Small town values.

MADDOW: She was in haberdashery, right?

JONES: Small town.

In Detroit, this week, General Motors unveiled it's hotly anticipated new electric car, the Chevrolet Volt. Due in showrooms by November 2010, the volt will be able to go 40 miles on a single charge from a home outlet. Now, I did a little research, and the first electric vehicle was invented by a Robert Andersen(ph) of Scotland around 1832. So all it took to get a mass-produced electric car was 180 years and $4 gas. Plug, baby, plug!

And finally, a little bit of sad news here. After 10 glorious years, MTV announced it is canceling "TRL" - "Total Request Live." The show will end in November and it counted down the most popular music videos of the day and it made stars out of artists like 'N Sync and yes, Britney Spears. With "TRL" gone, we could soon be looking at a channel called Music Television that doesn't play any music. What is that? That's jumbo shrimp.

MADDOW: Yes.

JONES: That's casual chic. That's McCain's economic plan. That's Lieberman's charisma. What kind of deal? I don't get it.

MADDOW: The thing about "Total Request Live" making celebrities out of groups like in 'N Sync, though. It seems to me that it's a request show.

JONES: Yes.

MADDOW: It's sort of just an amplifier of existing celebrity.

JONES: Yes, that's right.

MADDOW: Yes.

JONES: It's a booster.

MADDOW: It was a booster rocket to existing bands that people liked anyway.

JONES: Sure. Absolutely.

MADDOW: We all need that.

JONES: Every chance you got -

MADDOW: I want there to be more forces like that of all kinds in American culture.

Mr. Jones, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. Until then, you can E-mail us at rachel@msnbc.com . I assure you, somebody does actually read the messages that go there, and sometimes they even come to me. You can also hear me at 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast to coast on Air America Radio. "COUNTDOWN" with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC's copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

I assure you, somebody does actually read the messages that go there, and sometimes they even come to me. You can also hear me at 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast to coast on Air America Radio. "COUNTDOWN" with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC's copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

WATCH 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.

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