updated 9/16/2008 6:52:08 PM ET 2008-09-16T22:52:08

Guests: Keith Olbermann, Janet Shamlian, Kerry Sanders, David Shuster, Michael Isikoff, Joan Walsh

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening to you, too, Keith.  Thanks.

We got our eyes on Hurricane Ike, of course, which is already causing havoc in southeast Texas as you‘ve been covering.  We‘ll be covering it on the program and MSNBC will have full coverage throughout the night.

First, though, Keith, on politics, Sarah Palin has finished her first national TV interview now.  And I want to get your perspective on what we really learned here.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I think it‘s not the issue what she‘s really learned here (INAUDIBLE) debate.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  I just—I use the analogy because I think it‘s the only safe one, there‘s 1,000 that might occur to other people.  It‘s the only one that isn‘t going to turn into one of these false McCain accusations of sexism.  They‘re already selling Sarah Palin dolls on the Internet.  I‘m imagining a Sarah Palin doll that has one of those little drawstrings and a voice recorder in it and it repeats 10 or 15 different things.

In the interview, certainly, the first two parts of it, I don‘t know, I can‘t say fully about the third, we haven‘t seen the third in full, the first two parts, it seemed to be 10 or 15 things that she remembered, that she tried to cram in to answer questions that Charlie Gibson had prepared for her.  And it was almost worse than the idea that she had never heard of the Bush doctrine and didn‘t recognize it.

The second try was the idea that this was what she thought she could get away with with the American public, what the Republican Party thinks they can get away with in terms of expertise from a woman who, as a vice president, would be entering—the vice president most likely to become president through tragic means probably since FDR.  It‘s a terrifying prospect and a lot of it was revealed in that interview, particularly, the early parts.

MADDOW:  To hear Willie Brown talked about it yesterday, talking about it, as the former San Francisco mayor, talking about having done debate prep in the past, and one of the ways that you do it when you really don‘t know what you‘re talking about is that you get a keyword and that keys you to say an automatic answer.  And we saw that sort of keyword automatic answer—keyword automatic answer almost regardless of the contours of the question.  It was very, very robotic and weird.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that sequence of questions in which Charlie Gibson did a great job of coming back to whether or not what would happen if Israel decided to take out Iran‘s nukes.  And all she would say was, well, we are friends with Israel and we never second guess them and he prodded or again saying, “What does that mean you‘re supporting them if they, in fact, start what, as an ally of Israel do we do if they turn, they precipitate nuclear war, justified or not?”  And she said, “Well, we can‘t second guess them.”

And she has it in the third way with the slightly different twist, but she gave exactly the same answer.  The other joke that I used at the start of my show tonight was to run that quote of that unfortunate beauty pageant contestant from who said, she just got completely thrown by something and start talking about “the Iraq” and so forth.

It just—it was so, so disturbing and really so indicative of what people think they can get away with.  I imagine, for a large part of the population that saw that, it was, well, I really like her.  And a lot of other people were probably, were tuning in, hoping to hear something they can hold on to and go, all right, I can live with that.  I think they lost a sizable amount of the population last night, even perhaps on the Republican side.

Anecdotally, I have a friend that was right on the fence, watched that interview—a conservative friend called me up and said, “I just can‘t do it.  I don‘t know that I‘m voting for Obama, but I can‘t have her.  She shouldn‘t be in Washington, let alone inside the White House.”

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.  I appreciate your sticking around and talking to us about this.  It‘s always good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  Always good to see you, Rachel.  Have a good show.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

And thanks to you who are at home for sticking around as well.

Tonight, we are tracking the hurricane and a ton more news.

(voice over):  Along the gulf coast, some Americans head for higher, drier land and some don‘t, as Hurricane Ike bares down amidst warnings more dire than usual.  We‘ll keep you up to date on the season‘s most ominous weather event.

Far, far to the north in Alaska, first dude, Todd Palin, is on the kind of list that no one ever likes to end up on, the subpoena list, as trooper-gate takes a turn for (ph) even more serious.

And all over the country, Sarah Palin‘s public pop quiz on foreign policy has raised eyebrows and questions.  Is it fair to expect her to know what the Bush doctrine is?  No.  Well, was it fair to expect her to understand it after it‘s explained to her?  What about the “Bridge to Nowhere”, the once she was for before she was against?  Will she finally come clean about that?

Don‘t hold your breath.  More reactions tonight to more of Sarah Palin‘s first one-on-one.

Plus: Democrats wimp out on drilling.  The no-fly list wimps out against the stupidest loopholes of all time and we now have no choice but to wimp out to the FBI no matter what we haven‘t done.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.

(on camera):  Good evening, from Ithaca, New York.  There is a lot of politics to cover today on both sides of the presidential race.

But we begin, of course, with Hurricane Ike, a colossal force after nature already swamping southeastern Texas, expected to make landfall after midnight.  Ike is currently a category two storm and could soon be upgraded to a category three.  Many residents were warned by government officials to leave or face the most dire consequences.

We‘ll go live right now to NBC‘s Janet Shamlian, and who is Galveston, Texas.

Good evening, Janet.  Thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

What‘s the situation where you are right now?

JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Oh, Rachel, it‘s not good. 

I‘ll tell you, we‘re getting the full assault from Hurricane Ike right now. 

And it‘s still several hours before landfall.

Galveston here, just getting pummeled by wind and rain and you can see behind me, the Gulf of Mexico spilling on to Seawall Boulevard.  Most of this island is already underwater.  That happened earlier in the today in this low-lying community.

And now, we‘re just seeing wind, perhaps, 75 to 80-miles-an-hour.  We‘re not exactly sure.  But they are just really intensifying over the past few minutes.  And we know, for certain, Rachel, that there are people who have not followed the mandatory evacuation orders in this community of 55,000 people.  We‘ve seen them.  They‘ve been out taking pictures, driving down the street, crazily (ph) just touring around to take a look at what the storm is bringing.  And again, this is not the worst of it.  We still have that coming, a couple hour from now.

Now, not just here in Galveston, as you know, we‘re looking at Houston and Beaumont area, getting the dirty side of the storm and what is going to bring to these communities.  Right now, the concern is possible loss of life and whether people have—are in a (AUDIO BREAK) fly through the air here, and rain and wind that we know is going to (AUDIO BREAK) fall, it‘s still predicted (AUDIO BREAK) between midnight and 2:00 o‘clock in the morning.

It could slide a little one way or the other—but we‘ll see some intensifying of the conditions.  This is a place you do not want to be tonight.  Hopefully, we will not be out here in a couple days reporting on any casualties from people who decided that this was one they wanted to stay behind and watch, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Janet, in terms of the people who stayed behind, do you feel like you are seeing dangerous denial, do you feel like the people who are staying there really don‘t have a sense of what‘s barreling down on them?

SHAMLIAN:  Well, I think, in the hours, it‘s leading up to something like this, it‘s sunny and you see all the TV trucks and the satellite dishes.  And there‘s almost a carnival-like atmosphere that leads you to believe, well, you know, this is just going to be fine.  And we‘ve had so many calls for evacuations before.

You know, I talked to some people on the west end yesterday, they said they were going to stay.  We checked with them this morning, they actually made the decision to leave.

But just down the seawall, in a two story apartment building, there was a guy who was boarding up plywood this morning—and right here, at this level of the seawall—and said that he was going to stay.  You know, he had no concerns, had heard the dire warnings from the National Weather Service and insisted that he just was going to take his chances.  It‘s really hard to know.

And you know, the storms are just—the surge is the big question right now, how big is it going to be.  That‘s going to impact what happens to a lot of homes and people who may have stayed behind.  So, it‘s just a really tiny situation heading (ph) hour to hour right now, Rachel.

MADDOW:  NBC‘s Janet Shamlian, be careful out there, yourself.  We are grateful to have you reporting but no stories worth your life.  So do please take care and thanks.

SHAMLIAN:  You got it.  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  We will be checking back in on that story throughout the night.  Anybody, of course, who is in the path of Hurricane Ike who has been subject to a mandatory evacuation order and has decided not to move, of course, really needs to be reconsidering that option at this point according to what we are hearing on the ground from Galveston.

Now, as you‘re seeing pictures here, there‘s also big news to report in politics, specifically in this Sarah Palin trooper-gate developments.  And there are new (AUDIO BREAK) position as governor of Alaska when she fired the state‘s top Public Safety official.  We are hearing new comments from Sarah Palin herself on the subject tonight.

Today, lawmakers (AUDIO BREAK) voted to subpoena 13 witnesses in this case, including Governor Palin‘s husband, Todd.  That‘s right, a subpoena for Alaska‘s (AUDIO BREAK).  The investigation is looking into whether Palin‘s firing this past July of Walt Monegan, the state‘s former Public Safety commissioner was (AUDIO BREAK) to fire Palin‘s former (AUDIO BREAK) Wooten and Palin‘s younger sister went through a messy divorce.  You might recall hearing about that.  Palin denies Monegan‘s firing was connected to Wooten.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Commissioner Monegan was not terminated because of concerns about trooper Wooten.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  In Palin‘s interview with ABC‘s (AUDIO BREAK) she said (AUDIO BREAK) him to hire or fire anybody.  (AUDIO BREAK) Commissioner Monegan was after two years of working in my cabinet as a political appointment that will exempt recognizing after two years (AUDIO BREAK) in that area service.  Gibson (AUDIO BREAK) didn‘t properly intercede, not worried about the subpoenas, even to Todd Palin, no, because I know that Todd (AUDIO BREAK) pressure Commissioner Monegan.  He did (AUDIO BREAK) bring up (AUDIO BREAK) who is making threats against the first family (AUDIO BREAK).

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  As you can see, we‘re starting to have some technical difficulties with Rachel in Rochester.  So, we‘re going to take a break and we will come back on the other side of this break with more live coverage of what‘s happening with Hurricane Ike as it batters the Texas gulf coast.

I‘m David Shuster.  Again, more hurricane coverage coming up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  I‘m David Shuster.  And this is our continuing coverage of Hurricane Ike.  We lost some of our technical facilities with Rachel Maddow up in Ithaca, New York and we are trying to reestablish that and bring Rachel back in.

But in the meantime, we want to give an update again on Hurricane Ike.  The latest storm track is not good news for the city of Houston.  The latest track has Hurricane Ike jogging a little bit now to the west which that means that the dirty part of the hurricane or the strongest hurricane force winds now appear to be on the side of the hurricane that is going to go directly into Galveston Bay.

The most populated part of south Houston, south and southeast of Houston is right along there, right along the gulf of Galveston.  Literally, hundreds of thousands of people there, including an estimated 40 percent who chose to try to ride out the storm.  And again, the bad news, based on the latest hurricane track of just to the last couple of minutes is that the strongest part of this hurricane, the northeastern quadrant is going to brush up through Galveston Bay and essentially give it a direct hit.

Over the last couple hours, forecasters were hoping, hoping that Hurricane Ike would jog to the east and provide Galveston Bay a little bit of relief by having the lower sort of hurricane force winds hit the Galveston Bay, with the stronger hurricane force winds heading up by Beaumont.  But that does not appear to be the case.  It does appear that the worst fears are now being realized in the city of Houston, in the gulf of Galveston Bay and along those towns including Galveston and east and the Texas City and all the cities that dot Galveston Bay.

This is not good news at this hour.  And as you saw what Janet Shamlian, a short time ago, the hurricane force winds have now started to impact Galveston and the cities along the coast.  Again, the hurricane track, as you see it, the eye is still, perhaps an hour or so away from hitting Galveston.  But the hurricane force winds have already started.  The storm surge has already started.

They have a 15 to 17-foot wall that was built in 1902 in Galveston to protect the city.  That was two years after Galveston had 6,000 people killed in a hurricane in 1900.  That wall has essentially protected the city ever since.  And it hasn‘t had a direct hit since then but it does appear that the worst is starting to take shape at hour.

Let‘s go now live to Beaumont, Texas where NBC‘s Kerry Sanders is standing by.  It‘s about to 45 miles to the north and east of Galveston.

And, Kerry, what‘s the situation where you are?

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, you know, there‘s been some gusts that will be picking up later.  As you know, people often refer to the dirty side of the storm.  So, this will be the dirty side of the storm, meaning that the hurricane force winds and the tropical force winds will extend further out to the east, and eventually, we‘re going to feel some more of those really strong winds here.

Most of the streets, of course, now are empty, and people have retreated to their homes or they‘ve evacuated.  Some people have piled into hotels, thinking it‘s a safer place to be.

Port Arthur is likely to see a storm surge that could portend real problems not just for Port Arthur but for the refineries up and along the coast here and that‘s the real story.  Texas has shut down all of its refineries.  Twenty percent of the nations fuel is refined right here.  As those refineries go offline, we‘ve seen prices spike across the country.

In Clarksville (ph), Tennessee, we had a camera man there as the price was changed 30 cents a gallon, upsetting a lot of people because they said, hey, that gas was been in the tank there, I don‘t know why you‘re raising the price.  In Orlando, Florida, in a heavily traffic are where tourists are, gas was selling for $5.49 a gallon today.

The experts say that this does eventually make sense.  You‘ve got more than 700 platforms and rigs out in the gulf, that are in the way of Ike.  And so, Ike is coming down and barreling on them.  They are not producing.  And in many cases, they have not been producing since Gustav came through.

And so, with the lack of production, there‘s less inventory of fuel in our country.  The refineries are now offline.  So, there be even less.

So, for folks, it will be about 3.5 million barrels of fuel a day that is not being refined.  Put that in perspective, that‘s about as much fuel as California and Florida combined use in one day.  So, there‘s concerns that we‘re going to see these price increases go up.

But, for the time being, right now, the folks in this area are waiting.  They still have electricity, primarily in this area.  So, they‘ve been watching this on television, watching what‘s going on in Galveston.  They realize the storm surge may not make it all the way here to Beaumont (ph), but they do know the storm surge likely will hit Port Arthur and many of them have retreated from there to here.

So, there‘s a lot of concern.  It‘s happening at night.  So, you know, in the sunlight, we‘ll get a much better idea of how seriously these areas have been damaged by Ike.

SHUSTER:  And, Kerry, let‘s talked a little bit about the human toll.  You mentioned, of course, the economic toll that‘s going to take place.  But the human toll, how are the evacuations going in Port Arthur?  And give us a since from Port Arthur down to Galveston.  It looks like it‘s about 45 miles.  And now, it does appear to be where the worst of the storm is going to hit.  How populated is that area?

SANDERS:  Well, you know, Port Arthur has about 55,000 residents.  Most people took the advice and left.  I mean, some people have decided to stay and I think they‘re going to find it was a big mistake.  But most people have left.  Same with the Galveston area, most people realize they needed to get out.

And, actually, Mother Nature did a warning sign today.  When the flooding began because the storm surge started to arrive, by all predictions, was early, people began to realize that they did need to get out.  I mean, if this was happening under cover of darkness, they wouldn‘t quite understand it until they were standing in water in their house.  And, of course, that‘s well too late.

So, the government did a very good job of getting busses.  You know the mistakes that were made during Rita when people back in 2005, just got on roads and everything came to a complete gridlock, standstill.  And a lot of people said, “I‘ll never go through that again.”

So, a lot of review has taken place after that and they put a lot of busses in place.  They have staging areas for people to get on those busses to get out.  I mean, some people were complaining that, you know, this is an expensive operation, even if you‘re getting in your own car and leave and you have nowhere to go, you‘re heading inland and you‘re finding a hotel.  And then they saw the price of gas going up and so that bothered them.

I see that, well, in some cases, some of the electricity just shot out here.  We don‘t even have strong winds.  So, I think, we‘re going to be seeing some more power outages and the winds are picking up, David.

SHUSTER:  Absolutely.  Kerry Sanders is reporting from Beaumont, Texas.  And again, that‘s about 45 to 50 miles away from where the eye of Hurricane Ike is expected to make landfall.  But, of course, you can see that the hurricane force winds have started where Kerry is.  And that power, of course, is now being reported out in Port Arthur, it is out in Galveston, it is out affecting apparently, now according to the wire services, up to 100,000 people.  And that number will only grow.

Again, the big news at this hour is that Hurricane Ike is tracking in a path that is the worst fears for officials in the state of Texas.  We will have more with live reports coming up from Galveston and also from areas between Galveston and Houston.  You‘re watching MSNBC.  Live coverage of Hurricane Ike is coming up again after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  And we‘re showing you live pictures right now of Galveston, Texas.  Hurricane force winds have arrived in Galveston.  And the eye of the storm has not yet reached.  That will take perhaps another hour and a lot of drama already playing out tonight along the Texas gulf coast.

Hurricane Ike is 600 miles across.  Earlier today, 60 people had to be rescued by the Coast Guard who are stuck in the part of Galveston.  And at this hour, there‘s still drama playing out involving a cargo ship, a 584-foot cargo ship which is from Cypress (ph), has 22 crews onboard.

Earlier today, just a few hours ago, the Coast Guard attempted a rescue because the cargo ship was essentially stuck in the middle of the storm.  The winds were so strong up to 90-miles-per-hour that the helicopters and aircraft had to be called back.  And so, again, at this hour, they are hoping, they are praying for the best for this cargo ship that is essentially at the mercy right now of Hurricane Ike and there‘s nothing anybody can do about it.

Again, the eye of the storm has not yet reached Galveston.  But you can see from these live pictures of the hurricane force winds, certainly have winds in excess of 80 to 85-miles-per-hour.  They will get up to 110-miles-per-hour at the strongest point.  And this is going to continue for several hours.

But in the meantime, let‘s talk to Joshua Wurman.  He‘s the director from the Center for Severe Weather Research and he joins us on the phone.

And Mr. Wurman, put this in context.  How bad is this hurricane compared to, say, Hurricane Katrina?

JOSHUA WURMAN, CENTER FOR SEVERE WEATHER RESEARCH:  (INAUDIBLE) and the levees, the people have designed hold up better.  That was a lot of the problem in Katrina.

SHUSTER:  Give us a sense, as far as—I mean, what‘s the danger point for Galveston.  Is it simply the storm surge that you have a storm wall of 16 to 17 feet and if the storm surge is above that, that‘s the big problem?

WURMAN:  Yes, usually with hurricanes, the main problem is storm surge.  There‘s wind damage, but it‘s usually not as bad as a strong tornado, overwhelmingly, the damage is due to surge.  Right now, we‘re on an overpass up about 35 feet.  But everywhere around us is surrounded by water and things are being damaged by water.  There‘s this huge force of the water pushing things around.  And, once something is destroyed, then the debris pushed into something.  So, big parts of a building will knock down the neighboring buildings.

SHUSTER:  And, Josh, I‘m going to ask you to standby because we got a live picture and a reporter we can go to on the Galveston beach.  And that‘s Janet Shamlian.

And, Janet, the winds are pretty strong, clearly behind you.  Why won‘t you describe what it‘s like right now?

SHAMLIAN:  The winds are in excess of 80-miles-per-hour right now.  Perhaps, the gust is even higher than that.  Now, I‘ll tell you, the real danger of being out here in something like this is the debris that‘s flying around, David.  The storm has kicked up so much trash on the Gulf of Mexico and it‘s strewn all around this area.  It‘s really just flying all over right now.  So, not advisable, obviously for anybody or people like me to be out in this.

And yet, we do think, David, that there are a considerable number of people who maybe remaining here on Galveston Island in defiance of those mandatory evacuation orders, in defiance of that strongly-worded warning yesterday from the National Weather Service that there could be imminent and certain death, if you stay behind.

We do know that the west end of the island is underwater, completely flooded.  Many other parts of the island, the “Strand,” the business district, is also flooded.

And right now, the unknown here is the storm surge.  What you see behind me (AUDIO BREAK) come up and what type of damage will that do.  The seawall is 17 feet high.  It‘s offering us some protection here.  If you go down to the west end of the seawall is the dock.  And so, that‘s (AUDIO BREAK).

SHUSTER:  OK.  So, Janet Shamlian is reporting there from Galveston.  One of the challenges, of course, is that, even though the satellite truck where she is, is parked essentially next to the hotel, a building to protect it from the wind, there‘s still a lot of interference, of course, with the signal and even though Janet Shamlian, despite what it looks like, she‘s in a safer position than it may look like with all the winds behind her, I promise you that.  But again, it‘s not easy for the crew to transmit from there because of the high winds.

But Janet, why won‘t you just go ahead and describe how far away you are away, essentially, from that seawall?

(HURRICANE COVERAGE)

MADDOW: David, thank you so much.

I appreciate it.

We‘ve been very interested to watch the hurricane coverage here. And thank you for reassuring us all about Janet Shamlian there down in Galveston Bay and those dramatic pictures that we were seeing from her there.

We‘re going to be keeping our eyes on Hurricane Ike all night. But there is political news to cover tonight, as well, including the growing story of Governor Sarah Palin‘s involvement in the firing of Alaska‘s top public safety office, the story known as Troopergate.

Today‘s developments include 13 subpoenas in this case, including one for Governor Palin‘s husband, Alaska‘s first dude, Tom Palin.

Joining us now from Anchorage live is “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff.

He‘s been reporting on this story.

Thanks for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”: Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So what happened today with these 13 subpoenas?

Did we know that they we were coming down today and did we know that they would include one for the governor‘s husband?

ISIKOFF: We knew that subpoenas were coming. We didn‘t know that Todd Palin was on the list. That was the stunner. Steve Branchflower, the special counsel who‘s been hired by the legislature to investigate this matter has been keeping his cards very close to his vest.

But he did lay out some of his evidence today and explaining why Todd Palin was on the list, he said that in the depositions and testimony he‘s gathered to date, Todd Palin is a central character. He was driving the—a lot of the concerns about Trooper Wooten, had gone to Mr. Monegan right when Monegan takes over and presents him with a private investigator‘s report about Trooper Wooten, making allegations about him illegally shooting a moose without a permit and questioning why he‘s still on the police force.

And so as Branchflower laid it out, he explained Todd Palin was a key figure and he needed to question him as part of this investigation.

MADDOW: Is part of what‘s being investigated whether or not Todd Palin was acting inappropriately, as if he had official state powers, even though he is technically just a civilian who was married to the governor?

ISIKOFF: Well, that‘s clearly a subtext here. I mean, look, the actual charge for this investigation is very broad. It talks about whether there was wrongdoing involved in the firing of Walt Monegan, the public safety commissioner.

And, you know, the wrongdoing is not precisely defined, what they‘re looking for. There‘s been suggestions that confidential personnel files may have been pulled in order to get rid of Trooper Wooten.

Actually, a—one piece of new evidence that came out today is Branchflower said that he had uncovered evidence that somebody from the governor‘s office had been putting pressure to have a workers compensation claim that Trooper Wooten had filed be denied. And he had spoken to somebody who had worked on the workman‘s compensation claim and saying that this person testified under oath that she had been called or had gotten information she was to deny the—Trooper Wooten‘s compensation claim.

All this may seem very obscure. The bottom line in all this is that, you know, the question is was Governor Palin and people around her—her husband, people working for her—using their public office to settle a private score?

They clearly had it in for Trooper Wooten. They thought—you know, he was embroiled in this messy divorce with Sarah Palin‘s sister. And, you know, there is a bit of—you know, divorces can be very nasty. This kind of back and forth is not that unusual.

But when you add the power of the state, the power of the governor‘s office to influence events—and then on top of that, that Governor Palin, when all of this came up, denied that she or anybody from her administration had put on any—exerted pressure on this matter at all.  And, you know, the mounting evidence is chipping away at the credibility of those statements.

Which is why I thought the comments she made to Charlie Gibson we were so interesting. Rather than talking about the denials, she was basically going after Trooper Wooten, talking about what a terrible guy he was, which struck me as kind of unusual and different than the tact she was taking when this thing first broke.

MADDOW: Well, it seems to me that she‘s very focused now—and probably with the advice of the McCain campaign. We know that Steve Schmidt and other senior McCain campaign folks have been in Alaska with her these last few days. She must be—and they must be very focused on the way this story plays nationally—not just the legalistic implications, not just the technical implications of who‘s going to get caught and what the findings are going to be of this investigation, but how it plays to a national audience.

And that‘s why they‘re focusing, presumably, on Trooper Wooten being a bad guy, sort of making that case to the American people.

What the American people have to decide is whether this is a character drama or whether this is something important about a politician who‘s about to ascend to a very, very high office in the land, who has a problem with abuse of office—the abuse of power.

And that‘s why the workers compensation claim doesn‘t seem obscure to me. Because if the problem is that they—her family needs to be protected from Trooper Wooten, him not getting a workman‘s compensation claim filled doesn‘t seem to have much to do with her protecting anybody from him. It seems more vindictive.

ISIKOFF: Right. Right. And just sort of adding on to that, what was so intriguing about this little rabbit trail in this, is that Branchflower said that when he first called the head of the workman‘s compensation office, or the contractor who is handling it, the woman denied that there had been any pressure put on Wooten‘s worker‘s compensation claim.

He then checked with other people in the governor‘s office and they, too, denied that there had been any pressure.

And then he gets a phone call on his tip line from the woman who actually handled the claim. And she said I have some information for you—pressure was put on this case.

So there do seem to be some real contradictions in what people are saying. And, you know, look, it‘s the old Washington adage applied here to Alaska—it‘s often the cover-up that seems—that is worse than the crime.

I think what‘s at least raised today by Branchflower‘s presentation is that people had not been truthful with him.

Now, I should add that the McCain people, working with allies in the legislature or in concert with allies in the legislature, are making a concerted attack on this investigation. They‘re saying it‘s been politicized, there‘s real questions about whether these subpoenas will be honored at all, whether anybody will submit to them. There may be legal challenges from the attorney general‘s office, which reports to Sarah Palin.

So there is all the makings for quite a dust-up here as events move forward.

MADDOW: Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent with “Newsweek”.

I‘ve never been happier in my life that you‘re in Alaska.

Thanks for joining us.

ISIKOFF: Thank you.

MADDOW: In her first media interview, Governor Sarah Palin did sit down with Charlie Gibson.

But did her story standing up? Coming up, America‘s hockey mom faces awkward questions about earmarks, the “Bridge To Nowhere” and about other things she used to be for and now she‘s apparently against.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The other big story besides Hurricane Ike right now, for the second week running, is Sarah Palin. She speaks on TV without a script, but well studied. The juiciest bits of her sit-down with Charlie Gibson have led to a national discussion of how well she did.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Welcome back.

This is the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW here on Air America Radio.

Sarah Palin‘s interview with Charlie Gibson tonight included her repeating her now notorious line about the nowhere—excuse me—the “Bridge To Nowhere” story, denying that she was for that bridge before she was against it. Palin claims she was just trying to get money for infrastructure, the way that everyone does. She also tried to explain that she‘s against Congressional earmark spending, even though she used to be for that, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY ABC)

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And Charlie we killed the “Bridge To Nowhere”. And that‘s the bottom line.

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You said you now agree with John McCain that earmarks should be eliminated. The State of Alaska, governor, this year, requested $3.2 million for researching the genetics of harbor seals, money to study the mating habits of crabs.

Is that exactly the kind of thing that John McCain is objecting to?

PALIN: Those requests through our research divisions in fish and game and our wildlife departments and our university, those research requests did come through that system. But wanting it to be in the light of day, not behind closed doors with lobbyists making deals with Congress to stick things in there under the public radar. That‘s the abuse that we‘re going to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So the genetics of harbor seals is a good kind of pork?

Let‘s bring in now Joan Walsh, who‘s the editor-in-chief of Salon.com.

Joan, thanks for being here.

Thanks for joining us.

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SALON.COM: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: So Governor Palin‘s second sit down with Charlie Gibson, the second part of this interview, your overall impression of how well she did?

WALSH: Well, I think last night he demolished the idea that she could be our commander-in-chief with his questions about foreign policy that she really kind of blew. And tonight, I think he demolished the other McCain story line, which is that she‘s this great reformer. He did kind of sort of get her to admit that she‘s been lying about supporting the “Bridge To Nowhere”. She kind of had to come out and say, well, she did support it, but maybe not for $400 million. She was—you know, bobbing and weaving.

And then on the earmarks question, I mean, it‘s ridiculous. That‘s what earmarks are. Sometimes they come through universities. You know, when she was mayor of Wasilla, she actually hired lobbyists—the lobbyists she‘s decrying—to bring in $27 million in earmarks.

And all this was happened on a day that John McCain is out there saying she doesn‘t ask for any earmarks on “The View.”

So I think it was a pretty bad day for her.

MADDOW: The source of Sarah Palin‘s political power is her appeal to the very far right-wing base of the Republican Party. She‘s seen as giving that ticket conservative credibility, particularly on the issue of fiscal responsibility, which is an area where John McCain has had his issues with the base.

So are these questions about the “Bridge To Nowhere,” about earmarks, about her raising taxes, as a mayor, for example, are these things potentially going to weaken her appeal to that base and therefore weaken her political power?

WALSH: You know, I clearly think that they should. I mean you could make a different argument about her, Rachel.

Let‘s say you wanted to say she‘s been an effective governor, she was an effective mayor, she fought for pork, she brought home the bacon.

A lot of politicians run on records like that. She might be able to make that case.

But instead, it‘s very strange that she‘s making the exact opposite case.

The “L.A. Times” reported last week that a senator named John McCain actually personally opposed certain earmarks that she asked for when she was the mayor of Wasilla. So they‘re completely at cross purposes when it comes to their messaging around pork and earmarks and reform. And I just think they‘re going to keep colliding on this, because there‘s so much on the public record about what she‘s done.

MADDOW: Beyond the substance, is it possible that she is winning on style?

Is it possible that we‘re seeing, in reaction to this interview, something a little bit like George W. Bush debating Al Gore, in which people—a lot of people reacted to those debates by saying oh, Al Gore beat him on all these things that George W. Bush obviously didn‘t know.  He‘s naive. He‘s somebody who doesn‘t get the issues. But a lot of other people thought George Bush, he‘s just like me. I want to say that he won because I can imagine me doing that well in that debate against Al Gore.

WALSH: I‘m dumb, too?

I don‘t know what the Bush doctrine is, so she should be vice president.

Maybe people are saying that. But I think the ripples are going to continue to extend from these two interviews. She is not prepared, Rachel.  She really isn‘t.

MADDOW: Joan Walsh of Salon.com.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

I appreciate it.

WALSH: My pleasure.

MADDOW: We‘ll be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: That does it for us this Friday night.

Thank you for watching tonight and for bearing with us through our inadvertently entertaining technical difficulties.

We will see you here on Monday night.

MSNBC‘s coverage of Hurricane Ike with Davis Schuster continues right now.

Good night.

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

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