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'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Thursday November 20, 2008

Read the transcript to the Thursday show


November 20, 2008


Guest: Debbie Stabenow, Malcolm Gladwell, Mike Huckabee, Nancy Youssef

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, David.

And thanks to you at home or on your portable TV-watching machine for sticking around for the next hour. You know, I take just three days off and not only does Ted Stevens lost, they shutdown the Senate to salute him. Wow, it's good to be back.

(voice over): What does it take to get a minute-long standing ovation in the United States Senate? Where they're really, really not supposed to do standing ovations? It looks like seven felony corruption convictions is a good place to start.


SEN. LARRY CRAIG, ® IDAHO: Uncle Ted, I'm going to miss you. The Senate will miss you. Your state will miss you. And America will miss you.


MADDOW: The nation's highest-ranking convicted felon, Uncle Ted Stevens takes an hour's long victory lap, a victory lap in the U.S. Senate today while the auto industry remains on life support, with millions of American jobs in the core of the American manufacturing base on the line, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan joins us live.

So far, the Obama transition rumors have given us a Clinton Justice Department person as potential attorney general, George W. Bush's secretary of defense is potentially keeping his job, and, oh, yes, day after day and leak after leak about the former first lady, Senator Clinton as secretary of state. Is this change we can believe in? Can one person actually make change happen? "Tipping Point" author, Malcolm Gladwell is here with his view.

Know who's having a bad time right now? Besides investors and job-holders? Try Republicans-approval ratings in the 30s, the long knives (ph) out for each other, self-doubt expressed publicly, but there may be a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel. Could it be Mike Huckabee? Mike Huckabee joins us live from a very telling location.

And the lame duck watch continues tonight on Iraq. Once you find out what's in that new proposed agreement for keeping our troops there, it will be clear to you why they have not yet translated it into English for us to read. Ah (ph), the quack-itude.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.(on camera): Today was one of those "they aren't like us" moments-one of those "Congress isn't like other jobs" moments, and, "Oh, now I get why their approval ratings never rise above freezing" moments. Did you, by any chance, catch this event this afternoon? The hours-long, heartfelt, tears streaming, standing ovation tribute to the senator who is just convicted on seven felony corruption accounts? Yes, howdy. We will get to that in just a moment. But first, to the future of that Senate. We have been telling you for days now that Decision '08 is not over and, boy, did we mean it. Tonight, we have brand-new numbers to report just coming in from day two of the Minnesota hand recount. Just under 3 million votes are being re-tabulated in the Senate race between Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman, and Democratic challenger, Al Franken. With 42.33 percent of the state's ballots now recounted, Senator Coleman leads the recount with 43.28 percent of the vote. Franken has 40.07 percent. Franken picked up 41 votes after day one of the counting yesterday narrowing Coleman's lead from 215 votes to 174 votes. But as of right now, that is on the move again. Franken is trying to unseat Coleman, vying for the honor of joining one of the country's elitiest clubs, the U.S. Senate, a distinguished group which, today, did anything but distinguish itself. They extended morning business for two hours today just so senators could emotionally bid farewell to the convicted felon in their midst. Now, we're not talking DUI, accidental gun at the airport, bar fight stuff here, this would be the senator convicted on felony corruption charges, who Alaskans just voted out of office, Senator Ted Stevens. Uncle Ted or prisoner 649327, as he may soon be known yielded the Senate floor for the last time today, to a rousing 56-second standing ovation.


SEN. TED STEVENS, ® ALASKA: God bless the Senate and every member of this body. I yield the floor for the last time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority leader has recognized.



MADDOW: You know, mathematically, this works out to, I think, eight seconds of heartfelt standing applause for each of his felony convictions. Count one, false statements scheme; count two, false statements on his 2001 Senate financial disclosure form; count three, false statements on his 2002 Senate financial disclosure from; count four, false statements on his 2003 form; count five, that pesky (ph) 2004 form; count six, false statements on his 2005 form-oh, yes, that was a good one; and, count seven, false statements on his 2006 form. You know, standing ovation never happens in the Senate. It's a violation of Senate rules and customs. They apparently save it for very special occasions, like what used to be called "felon sneaking out the backdoor day." Shouldn't Senator Stevens be packing up his own boxes and hitching a midnight greyhound out of town, hoping to hit the bail bondsman first thing in the morning? Shouldn't he, at least, not receive a rousing emotional send-off from his colleagues? Retiring New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici even offered up this somewhat frightening praise today. Quote, "More than anyone else, you," Ted, "have taught me the meaning of representing my state." So, everything you ever needed to know about serving your country in the Senate representing your state you learned from a convicted felon? Wow, your constituents must be really proud. You know, it wasn't just the Republicans heaping praise on their disgraced, possibly prison-bound cloakroom buddy, it was the Democrats, as well. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid inexplicably got in on the "nobody loves the corrupt senator felon guy more than I do" chorus.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: For Ted Stevens, public service has been more than a career. It's really been his life's calling. His career has been than about longevity. He's been an advocate for his state and that's an understatement. I've said in the past that though Senator Stevens flew in World War II with the flying tigers, here in the Senate floor, he will always be remembered as a lion.


MADDOW: Are you serious? A lion? You know, I understand that the Senate is famously collegial, you guys are nice to each other no matter what, I get that. But honestly, this was-yuck. You guys work for us. At least, fake a little concern for the dignity and integrity of the job you guys do, OK? Be swishy (ph) in private, really. Anyway, (INAUDIBLE). After this nauseating display of "My honorable friendliness" was over, our senators got back to the important business of deadlocking on the future of the American auto industry, which, at this very moment hangs in the balance. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate were, yet again, unable to agree on one, whether the auto industry deserves a bailout; two, who is to blame for the sorry state of the Big Three; and three, what strings should be attached if an agreement to help is reached. One wing of the Republican Party led by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby says, "Let them go bankrupt." Some Democrats in the House and Senate say they are willing to fork over $25 billion if the companies can come forward with a plan for how exactly they intend to save themselves. And today, a third group emerged, a bipartisan group led by six U.S. senators, all of whom represent auto industry states. They are saying, "We've got to do something and we've got to do it now." Specifically, they are recommending that they get $25 billion out of a previous government loan that was intended to green up the auto industry. Can Congress actually reach a deal before the end of the year? And, if they get saved, if the Big Three get saved, what strings should be attached to the bailout that saves them? Joining us now is Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, who's part of that bipartisan group pushing to give the automakers a $25 billion emergency loan. Senator Stabenow, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW, (D) MICHIGAN: It's great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Senator, nobody wants the car companies to fail, but, if they are going to fail anyway, nobody wants to lose more $25 billion on the way toward that ending. Do you believe that this is more just than staving off the inevitable?

STABENOW: Well, I believe, first of all, that we can't allow them to fail. Because part of our energy future are those hybrid, plug-in vehicles that, frankly, we'll get us off the foreign oil much faster than drilling. And when we look to the future in terms of manufacturing, whether it's defense, whether it's aerospace, whether it's a multiple of other industries, autos are an incredibly important part of that. And, you know, one out of 10 people right now work directly or indirectly for the auto industry. So, this is about American jobs and I think it's really about the backbone of the middle class. So, do I think that everything will be fine after a $25 billion loan? No, I think there are some tough times ahead. But we've got to help them get through a credit crunch that is facing the world. Canada is helping their automakers. Europe is helping their automakers because of the credit crunch. We need to get them with a bridge loan. And then, as the author of the retooling loans to green the auto industry, I'm very focused on making sure we move to the green technologies. The great news is, our incoming president is also very interested and committed to doing that. So, I believe that's going to happen.

MADDOW: I think that the imperative, the need to do something, the need to shore up these industries is something that is very widely shared. The only people who aren't saying that the industries, we shouldn't even try to save them, I would put this people on the very extremes of the political debate right now.


MADDOW: But there is worry that the right sort of strings need to be attached to the funding so that the future of the auto industry, in President-elect Obama's words, is sustainable. Are you worried about taking away those environmental-related strings, again, on the legislation that you authored? Should there be other forms of strings? Should the companies be in some sort of receivership?

STABENOW: Well, first of all, we don't take away any environmental strings, a cap-fuel efficiency is going up, and the retooling loan program is intact. We don't change it. I wouldn't want to change it. What we do is take the $25 billion that was put aside for that. We essentially borrow that to give them a bridge loan. And as they pay it back, it will go back into retooling. And I think that President-elect Obama will actually even do more, much more as it relates to that. I do think there should be strings. I think it's appropriate. In fact, in the bipartisan group, we took some wonderful work by Congressman Barney Frank in creating an oversight board and accountability. We require them to have a plan, to show that they are viable for the future. We put a number of different strings on it to hold them accountable, and deal with executive pay, and no golden parachutes and all kinds of those things that, I think, are very appropriate. But the bottom line is this, and what bothers me, Rachel, is that when this $700 billion bailout came through, you know, AIG and Bear Stearns and Wall Street weren't being asked these kinds of questions. It was just-they got the money. We're asking for 4 percent of it in a loan to keep 3 million people working in this country, middle-class jobs, actually making things. You know, not just credit default swaps. I mean, actually making things. And we are seeing an entirely different standard. And that's a concern to me. And I tell you what-for those of us in Michigan who've gone to downsizing like crazy, if you want to have a downsizing tour, I'm happy to show you around Michigan where we lost 400,000 jobs. This is serious, a serious business. And there's a whole lot of families watching right now hoping that we are going to keep this industry going.

MADDOW: Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama who has a lot of foreign-owned car companies operating plants in his state, he says, "Let the Big Three go bankrupt." He says he's happy with just the foreign-owned companies building car in his state. Republican Mitt Romney vying obviously for sort of more leadership role in his party right now, he blames the whole crisis on unions. He says-essentially, let them go bankrupt as well. I'm sort of happy to ignore those guys but I am wondering if you think that those arguments have any leverage in this debate?

STABENOW: Well, first of all, we should say that the United Autoworkers in the latest contract have taken a 50 percent cut for new hires. I don't know anybody else in any employees that have done that. So, there are major changes going on. I think, unfortunately, this idea that you can have G.M. go down and it won't affect Toyota or Honda or the others really doesn't-you know, shows they don't understand the connection. The same suppliers who are right on the edge right now who supply the Detroit three also supply the foreign automakers. They supply defense contractors, they also supply aerospace. It's all connected. And it's interesting that in Europe, Toyota was part of an effort to go to the European Union to ask for $56 billion to be able to help them get through this credit crunch. And so, this is not of their making. I'm not suggesting that every decision they've ever made was the right decision. But this credit crunch in the financial market, what's happening right now is a global crisis. And shame on us if we lose American manufacturing in the process.

MADDOW: Senator Debbie Stabenow, I do have to ask you this one last, very quick thing.


MADDOW: And I would just remiss if-because I said a lot about it before I came to you, please tell me that you think it was an embarrassment with the auto industry hanging in the balance, looking over of this (ph) today to spent that much time congratulating Ted Stevens today on his career in the Senate.

STABENOW: Well, let me say this, Rachel. I wasn't there on the floor. I chose not to participate. I certainly wish him and anyone else retiring well. But I'm excited about Mark Begich who just won that election. He's a Democrat, the current mayor of Anchorage. I was on the phone with him. And he's very exciting. And I'm looking to the future.

MADDOW: Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, thank you so much for your time tonight, senator. It's nice to have you on the show.

STABENOW: You're welcome.

MADDOW: Barack Obama promised change we could believe in. And the country said, "We'll take it." But what about change we can notice? Rahm Emanuel-Clinton administration. Eric Holder-Clinton administration. Hillary Clinton-Clinton. And Bob Gates-Bush administration, Bush Jr. So, is change really coming? And is it fair to expect one newbie president to be able to bring in?

Malcolm Gladwell, author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink," and the new book "Outliers," joins us next.


MADDOW: Barack Obama has only been president-elect for a couple of weeks, even though my colleagues on the right in talk radio are already blaming him for everything bad in the country-from the economic crisis to their toast falling jelly-side-down. You know, what we really honestly don't know very much yet about what kind of president he will be? So far, what we can observe is how he handles process and who he picks for personnel. On process, after watching the Obama campaign for nearly two years, a lot of voters expected that Team Obama would operate in a way that was new to Washington, like the campaign, no leaks, message discipline, absence of drama, a new way of doing business. And on personnel, new people with new ideas, right? Well, it hasn't necessarily worked out that way thus far. Yesterday's widely-accepted leak was that Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano will be Obama's nominee for secretary of Homeland Security. Fine, not much objection there unless, like me, who think that the Department of Homeland Security should be annulled. But the leak itself? They sort of just like it always happen in Washington. And the leaks about defense are that President Bush's secretary of Defense, Bob Gates could very well stay on the job. That's not just a leak, it's a leak about staying the same, the same as the Bush administration. At Justice, Obama's reported choice for attorney general, Eric Holder, is a change that he would be the first African-American A.G. Excellent. But Holder was the deputy A.G. in the Clinton administration, which makes him somewhat not very changy. And then there's the Joe Lieberman affair. It's true that Obama's conciliatory position marked a change from "eye for an eye" politics. But allowing Lieberman to maintain his chairmanship in the Senate is not really the kind of thing you'd ask anyone other than Joe himself to believe in. At the summit of "Mount More of the Same" are the twin peeks of un-Obaman drama and kitschy retro '90s politics-Hillary and Bill Clinton. For a week now, and again today, the nation is gripped by a Clinton administration drama about whether or not the senator will accept the secretary of state position. And guess what? Bill Clinton's actions outside government maybe trouble for Hillary. Huh, familiar. Beyond to the same old, same old drama, there's the question of Senator Clinton's policy stances. She disagreed with Senator Obama's position on talks with adversaries and disagreed with him on the Iraq war. What's new and fresh and better about that? It all feels familiar as if we have seen this dance before, seen these players before, like we know where this is all going. So, will Barack Obama, could any candidate actually deliver change to a system of same old faces and same old practices? If Barack Obama's success is defined by how much he changes things, how much he changes Washington, bluntly, should we expect him to succeed? Joining us now is a very influential man, Malcolm Gladwell. He's the author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink" and a brand new book called, "Outliers: The Story of Success."

Mr. Gladwell, thank you for being here.


MADDOW: Your new book is-it's not about politicians. It is a sort of social science of outliers, what makes for unique, above and beyond success. I think that Americans are hoping for unique, above and beyond success from the new presidency. What have you learned to look for as determinative, important contextual factors for success?

GLADWELL: Yes. Well, (INAUDIBLE), as you were doing that lead in, I felt a lot of sympathy for his choices. Because of one of the things we learned as we look at success for people is something called "the 10,000-hour rule," which is an idea that expertise researchers have developed. It says that no one can master any complex task unless they have put 10,000 hours of practice in first. So, it's impossible to be a chess grandmaster unless you play chess for 10,000 hours which roughly say it's about 10 years. It's impossible to produce a world-class piece of classical music unless you have been composing for 10,000 hours. When we deal with modern complex problems, the amount of lead time necessary to master all of those layers of complexity is enormous. So, when I see what Obama is doing, I don't see someone who is just simply giving into the old ways in Washington. I'm seeing someone with a healthy respect for the amount of time it takes to master the complex thing called running this country. And, frankly, can we afford to have people-an entire administration learning on the job? You know, I think we need some guys, some men and women in there with their 10,000 hours already under their belt. You know, Hillary Clinton certainly has that and so do a number of other of his choices. So, that's very much his decision so far-a very much in keeping with our understanding of what it takes to be good.

MADDOW: Does it also raise questions though about his own qualifications?

GLADWELL: Well, you know, it's-we also have a choice, right? We - you know, we can't have the same people come back again and again. We are constantly balancing this question expertise.

MADDOW: Right.

GLADWELL: . with this question of fresh faces and direction.

MADDOW: Exactly.

GLADWELL: I like the balance. I like his understanding that-as someone who is himself not heavily-experienced in this area, he has to surround himself with those kinds of people. I wouldn't want an entire government of neophytes and I wouldn't want an entire government of old hands.

MADDOW: So, somebody who's confident and new enough to bring something new, confident enough to surround himself of people who are practiced with the art of governing and politics.

GLADWELL: Look-if anything, if this man is anything, it is not-he's not insecure, is he?



GLADWELL: I mean, he doesn't have a shred of that. So, I don't see him being pushed around by these people but I see a kind of enlightened respect for the value of experience.

MADDOW: What about the idea of practical intelligence, the sort of idea of social knowledge and an expanded concept of I.Q. that you write about in terms of predicting and understanding success?

GLADWELL: Yes. And I got interested in the book in talking about the limitations of pure intelligence. And I spend a lot of time with this really remarkable man with the highest recorded I.Q. in America, but who has not had the kind of career that one would expect of someone with those that kind of analytical qualifications. And the reason is that he was never in a position in his life to master all those other things you need to be successful, which is the ability to kind of figure out how to get your point across, to decode institutions, to get your way in the world. That kind of savvy is at the end of the day far more important than your I.Q. and your academic qualifications.And I always felt, you know, Clinton had that instinct (ph), right? And so does Obama. I mean, I really-I have to say that that's one quality that he has that makes me very confident of his ability to lead this country, which is, he does have some kind of extraordinarily attuned antenna into how to make people feel comfortable, how to get his way, how to get his point across, all that kind of stuff, which is extraordinarily important.

MADDOW: It's a way to move people but also a way to apply your analytical skills and intelligence to actually have things done (ph).


MADDOW: One last very quick question. You write about how some success comes from the right person simply comes of age at the right time.


MADDOW: Does that have any lessons for understanding American presidents at this moment and Obama's moment?

GLADWELL: I hope so. I mean, you know, I did this thing in the book where I talk about how incredible numbers and the most powerful people in Silicon Valley were all born in 1955. I mean, it's crazy.

MADDOW: It's crazy, it's weird.

GLADWELL: It makes you think there's something about this being, you know-coming along at the right moment. And, you know, I have every wish that that's true of our new president.

MADDOW: It makes me feel like I ought to devout my numerology skills in that regard.

Malcolm Gladwell, congratulations on the success of the book and thank you for spending time with us.

GLADWELL: I'm delighted.

MADDOW: Malcolm Gladwell's new book is called "Outliers: The Story of Success."

Now, all though Mike Huckabee lost in the primaries to John McCain, the affable former Arkansas governor has thus far emerged from the wreckage of the Republican demolition derby as one of the few Republicans with the working engine. Coming up: Governor Huckabee will join us live from Iowa - - yes, Iowa. Yes, you should read something into that.


MADDOW: Only 34 percent of Americans have a positive view of the Republican Party right now. Coming up, I'll be joined live by Mike Huckabee, to find out if he thinks that glass is 2/3 empty or 1/3 full.

First, though, it's time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in the news today. According to the U.N.'s Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has acquired enough low-enriched uranium to something make enough highly-enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Now, does this mean that Iran has a nuke? No, not at all. Nowhere near. They not only haven't made a bomb, they don't have the appropriate material to make a bomb nor is there reason to believe they would know how to do it if they wanted to. So the milestone is sort of just slightly more than symbolic. It's roughly the equivalent of saying they have fenced off enough good grazing land to someday make a hamburger. Still though, the report means that Iran is making some nuclear progress. Since 9/11 and the global shudder of terror at the idea that the guys who attacks us then might have gotten a hold of a nuclear device, and since the Bushies' threat that the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud. Since then, just to recap, Iran has put together enough uranium to someday eventually make a nuclear bomb. North Korea went from enough material from 82 bombs to enough for up to 12. They also withdrew from the non-proliferation treaty, maybe traded nuclear technology to Syria and, oh yes, the North Korean set off a nuclear device in '06. Remember that? Also Bin Laden and the Taliban and Al Qaeda relocated their HQ to nuclear-armed and unstable Pakistan, which means they are closer to a nuclear bomb than ever. As my friend Joe Cirincione at the Ploughshares Fund says, thanks to the policies of the Bush administration, post 9/11, Iran and North Korea advanced further on their nukes in the last five years than they had in the previous 10. Every member of the axis of evil is more dangerous they were in 2001. So thanks, George. Don't let the Republican Party's national security brand hit you in the doff on the way out. In other news, Captain Beau Biden, also the attorney general of Delaware and also Vice President-elect Joe Biden's son has deployed with his National Guard unit to Iraq. He will be an assistant judge advocate general, JAG officer, in Iraq. He's expected to serve a year-long tour. Back in October, Vice President-elect Joe Biden spoke at his son's deployment ceremony.


JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: So stand strong, stand together, serve honorably, come home to your families that love you. May God bless you and may he protect you.


MADDOW: There has been speculation that Beau Biden would take his fathers seat in the U.S. Senate. But the younger Biden this week squashed that rumor. In an E-mail to his hometown newspaper, he said he would fulfill his military orders and he would not seek nor accept an appointment to the Senate. So who's the next Delaware senator then? Although Barack Obama already resigned his Senate seat this past weekend, so far, Joe Biden appears to be keeping to his plan to not resign until inauguration day, just to keep the drama level high. Thanks, Vice.


MADDOW: The Republican Party may have reached bottom. Today may be the day the turn around begins. But Rachel, what would make you think something like that? Why would you think they're turning around?

Well, because it doesn't seem likely that it's going to get worse than what happened to Sarah Palin on tape today. Remember, she's just about the most famous Republican of them all right now, the future of the party, maybe. Well, first, the governor pardoned a turkey with Thanksgiving just around the bend and all. And then, well, there was this unfortunate bit of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) camera framing. Now, what happens on the right side of the screen is the result of a turkey not getting pardoned. Close your eyes for a second unless you eat turkey in which case you should probably see this so you can - yes, OK. Well, you know -


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, this was neat. I was happy to get to be invited to participate in this. And you know, for one, you need a little levity in this job, especially with so much that has gone on in the last couple of months that has been so political, obviously.It is nice to get out and do something to promote a local business and to just participate in something that isn't so heavy-handed politics that invites criticism, certainly will probably invite criticism for even doing this, too. At least this was one fun.

MADDOW: Yes, governor, maybe move a little just in either direction like about a mile so the turkey slaughter is out of the shot. Yes, very bad, like "maybe it really won't get worse" bad. Oh, oh, yes. In fact, a new Gallup poll released today shows that the Republican brand has never been measured out at worse levels. Just 34 percent of Americans say they have a favorable view of the Republican Party, while 55 percent Democratic Party. Republican Party unfavorable rating is 61 percent. That's the highest this polling organization has recorded for the GOP since the measure was first established in 1992. The Gallup poll quantifies what has looked and sounded like trouble for a couple of years now. Try as they may to separate themselves from the Bush administration, the country is weighed down both on the president and equally down on those who got him elected twice and those who stood for his agenda for six years. Consider the party's regional problem. The Republicans have zero House members from New England now. They have zero senators from the west coast and they have just three senators from the northeast, two of them are moderates from Maine. The party's collapse has given rise to a sort of a circular firing squad. The criticisms are many and at times, they are contradictory. Some folks want the Republican Party to become more moderate on the issues. The Republican governor of Utah told "" today, quote, "There's a fundamental tone deafness with our party when it comes to the environment." The conservatives who dominate what's left of the GOP caucus think that their party is not conservative enough. While other conservatives like columnist Kathleen Parker are blaming the conservative religious right. She wrote this week, quote, "The evangelical right-wing oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh." So allow that this may be the GOP's low political point. What will be the signs of inevitable revival? An analysis of the election results by the "New York Times" showed a vast majority of the country moving left on Election Day '08. But that same map showed that across larger areas of the south - well, maybe not areas but some areas of the south. Particularly in Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, the vote actually swung to the right, meaning that those areas got more red compared to the last election, not less red. Republicans in those areas made big gains in counties that were disproportionately white and working class, another sign of life for an otherwise catatonic party. The 2012 campaign is kind of, sort of, maybe already under way. There is a man with a plan who is currently on a book tour in, of all places, Iowa. Mike Huckabee is that man. I wonder why Iowa made the tour. Here he is. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, live in Iowa. He's the author of the new book, "Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement that is Bringing Common Sense Back to America." Gov. Huckabee, thank you so much for being on the show. Thanks for joining us.

GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AK), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much, Rachel. And by the way, I want you to know - don't blame me. I was born in 1955. I heard your previous guest, so I felt very vindicated by his comment of all the smart people born in 1955.

MADDOW: Specifically, that means that you need to be a software billionaire. So you might want to give up on the whole politician thing.

HUCKABEE: Well, there's a lot of people that wish I would give up on it. But let me set the record straight as to why I'm in Iowa. I'm on a book tour, and you know what you do in a book tour? You sell books. And guess where I'm likely to find a pretty good audience for books? It's the place where I have a huge constituency and won the Iowa caucuses. So please don't read a whole lot about my geographical presence because I'm going to be in 56 cities over the next two-and-a-half weeks. It just so happens that two of those 56 cities will be in Iowa. But that's because we've got a lot of friends here, and it was a big event for us. And the first chapter of the book is called, "I Love Iowa."

MADDOW: Oh, I understand the explanation and I give you credit. But you have to explain things in your own terms so I'm sorry for having that everybody should something into your being in Iowa.

HUCKABEE: Yes, indeed.

MADDOW: But let me ask you, given that, do you not want to be considered among the roster of people who may be vying for the presidency, the presidential nomination of the Republican Party next time around? Do you sense that there is a leadership race going on in your party right now, and do you want to be part of it?

HUCKABEE: Well, I don't want to be considered because four years ago, all the people that were being touted as the frontrunners - none of them made it. They were talking about President Bill Frist, President George Allen, President Rudy Giuliani. And so, if you're one of the names early on, that probably means you haven't got a chance.

Right now, I'm busy doing a television show about to launch, a commentary series on ABC Radio Network in January. This book is out. I think I'm having a lot of fun getting the message out in the book called "Do the Right Thing." And so, I'll spend some time helping other candidates, but it's not right now even on my agenda to start thinking about something four years away. And I really mean that.

MADDOW: I understand. Well, you certainly are everywhere, with your media career and with a new book out right now. And people are talking about you as particularly representing a likable, overtly Christian presence among the Republican leaders that made a good run of it in 2008. And I wonder what your reaction is to the argument from conservative columnist Kathleen Parker this week that the Republican Party has essentially been hamstrung by being seen as too religious, that Christian conservatives are actually a strategic detriment to the party.

HUCKABEE: I was very surprised that Kathleen took that position. I think it's completely wrong headed. Look, here's the fact. If all of the people who are people of faith were to leave the Republican Party, who would make the phone calls? Who would go and man the headquarters late at night? Who is it that would go knock on doors and that would be the foot soldiers for the party? I guarantee it wouldn't be necessarily the establishment types. They will go to the cocktail parties. They'll write big checks, but they're not going to be out there grinding it out day after day. So if the party really does want to become a party of angry old white guys that become about as relevant as the Whigs, then throw the religious people out of the party and we'll get there in a hurry. But let me tell you what I think has to happen. This is not about religious people versus irreligious people. What people want is a Republican Party is a party that can function and actually run the government. I was the governor for 10-and-a-half years. And what people judge me on was not whether I prayed, but whether we've improved schools, rebuilt our road system, whether or not we reformed healthcare and provided health for children who are going to school, whether we could tackle the issues like childhood obesity. If you can succeed at things like that, people don't really care as much. But Republicans want somebody who has clarity of conviction, so that is important when it comes down to looking at whether you respect the sanctity of life, the Second Amendment. But at the end of the day, you can have all the slogans you want, but you have to be competent and get the job done.

MADDOW: Governor, I don't think the argument though is that people who are religious should not be part of a party or shouldn't even be activist. I think the reaction is in part some of what you have articulated about how to explain your values. You got a lot of heat and got a lot of controversy for having said that you hope that the Constitution could be altered to make more like the word of God, and that the Constitution was easily alterable than the word of God and so that's the one we should want to change. Making an overt religious argument for how the country should be governed, I think, is what some of the reaction is against, not that you have your heartfelt faith-based beliefs, but that you would expect that Americans should want to make the country more like your theological vision.

HUCKABEE: I don't have any intention and I don't know anyone who does that we would force people to pray or force them to go to church or tithe their income. That's not a government function. What I do think people want is to know that there is a connection between the economy of our nation and the morality of our nation. Why is Wall Street melting down? Is it just because we have some really bad decisions? It's because greed and unbridled attention to profit at the top without any regard to how it's going to affect workers at the bottom has driven a lot of the market. We really don't have a market that's based on investing in products and services. We've got people investing in what the products and services might be worth. In other words, they're basically just gambling. Wall Street has become Las Vegas east. But the difference is when you lose in Vegas, you pay your own debt or get your own legs broken. On Wall Street, you don't pay your debt; you just ask the taxpayers to stand in line and bail you out with a nice big old tax burden that's going to be passed to your grandkids. I think what makes Americans crazy has nothing to do with faith, but people of faith ought to still be responsible and they ought to show that they have issues that they care about. But they're going to deal with them in a way that doesn't threaten people and make them feel like they're going to have to join somebody's church in order to be affected by the positive outcomes.

MADDOW: I think where we end up on common ground is that we both agree that nobody should be that greedy. But we also agree that government ought to stop people who are that greedy from getting their way. Mike Huckabee, former presidential candidate, author of the new book, "Do the Right Thing." Thank you so much for your time tonight. And good luck on the book tour.

HUCKABEE: Thank you. I hope people read the book. Even if they're liberals, Rachel, they're going to find some interesting things life behind the scenes of the campaign. I think they'll find it fascinating.

MADDOW: Liberals are known for their reading, it's true. Thank you, governor. Appreciate it.

HUCKABEE: They just don't understand what they read, that's the problem.

MADDOW: Yes, OK. You get the last line. You totally got that one. I won't even go back at it with the obvious rejoinder.

HUCKABEE: Thanks. All right.

MADDOW: All right. Next, another installment of "Lame Duck Watch." Imagine giving Iraq unprecedented control over U.S. troops. Imagine Iraqis having the authority to search cargo shipments to U.S. troops. Imagine the Iraqi government having the right to read the mail that is sent to our troops. Well, the Bush administration's new agreement with Iraq may do all of that and more. We will give you the full, scary quackitude, coming up next.


MADDOW: A lame duck president is a dangerous thing and that postulate just keeps getting proven. With 60 perilous days left of the Bush administration, it's time for another installment of the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW's "Lame Duck Watch," because somebody has to do it. Iraq watchers have been squawking about the expiring U.N. mandate governing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Without that agreement, January 1st, 2009 might very well see big trouble for U.S. forces, like Saigon '75 helicopters on the embassy roof kind of trouble. With most of the world enthralled by Barack Obama's election, the Bush administration has been negotiating a new deal to replace the U.N. mandate. The new deal, which is just between the Iraqi government and the American government, that was signed in Iraq on Monday. But it does still need the agreement of the Iraqi parliament. A congress doesn't get to sign off on it, but their parliament does. You might think our Congress would be interested in the details of this agreement, particularly because it gives an unprecedented level of control over U.S. troops in Iraq for three years starting January 1st to the Iraqi government. Under the agreement, Iraq will be given joint authority over U.S. military operations including intelligence gathering and controlling the green zone in Baghdad. Iraq may also have the authority to search cargo shipments and even, get this - maybe the mail sent to our troops. The could check the mail that we're sending to our troops? American private contractors would also be subject to Iraqi law and in some cases, so might American troops themselves. So does that tell you something about why an official English translation has not yet been released by our government of this agreement? For its part, the Arabic language version calls the final agreement a withdrawal accord. And the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says this, quote, "We don't call it a security pact, but an agreement to withdraw the troops and organize their activities during the period of their presence in Iraq." On Monday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was asked why this agreement is not a timetable, which is the thing that President Bush fought so hard against.


DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a mutually agreed to agreement. And that's one of the things that is different about an arbitrary date for withdrawal when you say you're going to leave, win or lose. We believe that the conditions are such now that we are able to celebrate the victory that we have had so far.


MADDOW: Celebrate the victory - that's what this is? The agreement has not yet been ratified by Iraq's parliament. And for the second straight day, debate over it turned the parliament into shouting matches and scuffles.

But if it is ratified, is this an agreement that Americans want? The terms are radical and would create an unprecedented situation for our troops in how we combat operations abroad. Joining me now is Nancy Youssef who is the Pentagon correspondent for "McClatchy Newspapers." Nancy, thank you very much for joining us.


MADDOW: You've written about how some members of the Pentagon are upset with this agreement. What are their biggest worries about it?

YOUSSEF: Well, I think there's a feeling that the U.S. capitulated more than anyone had intended when these negotiations began in April. A lot of the things that you mentioned are worrying to some of them. But the Pentagon's response from the top officials, anyway, is that there are conditions on all of those agreements, that U.S. soldiers for example couldn't be charged unless both sides agreed, that the search of mail couldn't happen without monitoring. And so they feel that they have put enough conditions in to protect it. But for a lot of the rank-and-file who are hearing about this agreement who haven't seen the details of it, who haven't been given the English translation, it sounds like the United States gave up a lot in an almost desperate effort to get an agreement done before the end of the Bush administration.

MADDOW: And we may have had them sign up to things that the Pentagon is not at all comfortable operating within, in terms of new rules. We also, as far as I understand, have more private contractors in Iraq than we do U.S. troops at this point. Do you have any indication of whether the private contractors will leave Iraq because of this agreement, because they'll be subject to Iraqi law?

YOUSSEF: Well, that's a great question and I think one that's being debated among contracting circles now. There are roughly 150,000 U.S. troops and 173,000 contractors. And one of the sort of red lines, as they say in Iraq, was that U.S. contractors would be charged under Iraqi law and that appears to be the case under this agreement. So this will, at the minimum, fundamentally change how contractors operate in Iraq and what they can do. And I think there's going to be a debate about whether contractors will want to stay in Iraq, whether it's worth it to them economically because things that they used to do simply won't be allowed under Iraqi law. Remember, last September of 2007, Blackwater contractors were charged with killing 17 Iraqi civilian in an unprovoked attack. Before, they were under U.S. jurisdiction, and now they will be under Iraqi law.

MADDOW: Nancy Youssef, this is going to be one of the biggest undercover stories, certainly, over the next five weeks in the world. We look forward to having you back on the show to talk about it again. Thank you.

YOUSSEF: Thank you.

MADDOW: Nancy Youssef is a Pentagon correspondent for "McClatchy Newspapers." Coming up, I'm going to get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. Let's here it for the write-in candidates, Teddy Roosevelt for president, bully.


MADDOW: Now, it's time for "Just Enough" with my friend Kent Jones. Hi, Kent. What have you got?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Welcome back, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you.

JONES: Meanwhile, in Florida, you know, officials in Duvall County said 736 write-in ballots were cast in the last presidential election. There were the usual names, Hillary Clinton, Ron Paul, tonight's guest, Mike Huckabee. But other people receiving votes, included Stephen Colbert, Joe the Plumber, Jesus, Donald Duck, Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, Theodore Roosevelt, Bill O'Reilly, Bobby Bowden, Tommy Chong, Noah Cheech(ph), Willy Nelson, Homer Simpson and God. You know, to me, this proves that just getting out the vote isn't enough. Though I think I can get behind a Tebow-Chong ticket.

MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Appreciate. Thank you for watching tonight.

"COUNTDOWN" starts right now. Good night.



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