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'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Tuesday October 21, 2008

Read the transcript to the Tuesday Show

Guest: Douglas Wilder, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Kent Jones, Bill Richardson

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thank you, Keith.

And thank you for staying with us at home this next hour.  The new news on the state of the race tonight is good for Obama and not good for McCain and Palin.

And we may have found the cringiest sound bite of the entire campaign and it is not from Sarah Palin but from John McCain.

(voice over):  Two weeks until the election.  And do you know where your poll numbers are?  Senator Obama, yours are apparently safe and sound.  Senator McCain, yours in trouble, down 10 points in tonight‘s NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Survey.

The attack ads: not working.  The Palin effect: worse than the Bush effect.

How is that even possible?


GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  A vice president has a really great job because not only are they there to support president‘s agenda, but also, they are in charge of the United States Senate.


MADDOW:  Oh, that‘s how.

Barack Obama is now guarding against overconfidence.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator McCain on the other hand, at that time back in January, insisted that the fundamentals of the economy were strong.


OBAMA:  It‘s—no, we don‘t need that.  We just need you to vote.



MADDOW:  The challenge of keeping the vote free and fair.  Former Governor Douglas Wilder has the view from that key battleground state of Virginia. And, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is here to talk about the real process of an election being stolen rather than won.Of course, one other way the Democrats could blow it would be to put every one of their little feet in their big mouths?  They could still blow it that way because tonight, John Kerry, Jack Murtha, and Barney Frank are apparently trying their best.  Don‘t you guys have some vacation due in the next couple of weeks?  Don‘t you want the see the leaves turn (INAUDIBLE) or something?

No matter who wins the election, what will the new president inherit from the old one?  NBC‘s Richard Engel in Afghanistan.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  We‘re trying to cross an open stretch of road and we came under attack.


MADDOW:  The national security albatrosses that Bush plans to pass from his neck on to some new president‘s neck.  Former U.N. ambassador, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico on what the new president will face and who‘s equipped to handle it.  Whoever it is, I hope he or she doesn‘t have to be in charge of the Senate, too.  That sounds hard—and illegal.


(on camera):  Senator McCain repeated the refrain again today, that he has Barack Obama and the Democrats right where he wants them.  I imagine, a mouse in on open field, shaking his little mouse fist and yelling the same thing up at a hungry hawk circling him overhead.  McCain telling his supporters about his confidence seemed misplaced when he first unveiled the line last week.  Now, it seems downright bizarre. Two weeks before Election Day, as yet another poll, our NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll shows things turning for the much, much worse for the McCain/Palin ticket.  Whoever‘s fault it is, these numbers are kind of gobsmacking.  The head-to-head matchup nationally shows Senator Obama leading McCain by 10 points.  That‘s up from six points just 2 ½ weeks ago.  And that number is not the worst of this story for John McCain. The worst news for him is about his relentless character attacks on Barack Obama.  Obama hearts terrorists.  Obama is a commie.  Obama wants to kill babies. These attacks for which Senator McCain has risked his reputation, his political brand, and I‘m convinced a good chunk of this civic health of the nation.  These attacks are demonstrably, according to NBC‘s new poll, not working. Senator Obama‘s negatives have gone down.  His positives have gone up.  Obama is now seen positively by 56 percent of Americans.  That‘s up from 52 percent.  His negatives are down from 35 percent to 33 percent.

How about the Bill Ayers attacks specifically, which is still in the McCain arsenal even today?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He was friends with a terrorist and his wife.  He was.  And we need to know the full relationship.  And we need to know all of those relationships.  The American people need to know it.


MADDOW:  Apparently, when he says “we,” Senator McCain means himself, his campaign and, a teeny, teeny-tiny sliver of the electorate.  Nobody else seems to care much. Asked to pick which two things worry them the most about Senator Obama?  William Ayers ranked exactly fifth, far behind “none of these cause concern,” which led the way.  In addition to their attacks on Obama, apparently, missing the mark, the poll has one other jump off the page finding—people really, really aren‘t jumping on the Sarah Palin bandwagon, contrary to what McCain campaign manager Rick Davis might think or wish.


RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  She‘s become a real force in this campaign—you know, when you put her in these communities, huge crowds, enthusiastic crowds, people bringing their kids, they want to see this historic woman.


MADDOW:  They may want to see her, but if you believe the polls, they sure don‘t think she‘s qualified to be commander-in-chief and they apparently worry about John McCain‘s judgment based on the fact that he picked her.  Thirty-four percent of respondents say, McCain‘s vice-presidential pick is not qualified to be president.  Incredibly, she‘s even 11 points more of a drag on Senator McCain than President Bush is.

Now, before you go and dump that giant jug of Gatorade all over David Axelrod, there are still major risks out there for the Obama campaign.  First, there‘s the risk of overconfidence.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK:  The tectonic plates are changing, and it serves as well.  And I think it will mean that Barack Obama—and I said this six months ago before the financial crisis, I said it publicly—we‘ll get more than 300 electoral votes.


MADDOW:  Overconfidence.  How else could the Democrats lose this one, how about voter suppression?  A very scary stuff.  We‘ll be joined by Robert Kennedy, Jr. to talk about that in just a moment on tonight‘s show.

But, finally, there‘s one last big caveat about tonight‘s poll numbers.  That 10-point spread represents a national poll of registered voters, not, I repeat, not a state-by-state poll.  Barack Obama can pile up as much of the popular votes as he wants to, he can win by 100 percent in California if he wants to, but it‘s still going to come down to those all-important battleground states. What do they show?  Well, in Ohio, Barack Obama leads by less than 2 percent, in the average of recent polls done there.  The race is also a dead heat in Florida where Obama leads by just under 3 percent. So, are Obama supporters still feeling cocky and landslidy like Senator Schumer? As Democrats find out, every four years, this thing is won and more often lost in the battleground states.  One of the most important this time around is the great Commonwealth of Virginia. Joining us now is the former governor of Virginia, Doug Wilder.  He was the first African-American to be elected governor of a U.S. state back n 1989.  He‘s currently the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, and he is an Obama supporter.

Governor Wilder, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

MAYOR DOUGLAS WILDER, (D) RICHMOND, VA:  Rachel, it‘s my extreme pleasure to join with you.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  You are scheduled to appear with Senator Obama at an event tomorrow in Richmond.  What does Senator Obama have to do to close the deal in Virginia?  Can you imagine a scenario in which he loses there?

WILDER:  Well, no, I can‘t imagine a scenario in which he loses.  He keeps it in the road, but he‘s done something that I find very, very good and reassuring to me.  Others may have told him.But he has adhered to what I asked him to do and advised him to do, and that is—go to the people.  Don‘t take anything for granted.  Don‘t take a state not being for you for granted.  Stay with the people.  Go to the rural areas, let them hear you, see you, touch you, feel you.  No, and get a different idea of the precise person that you are.  He has done just that. Don‘t get down into the mud.  He hadn‘t done that.  And speak to the issues because people are always ahead of the leaders.

I‘m impressed with the campaign.  It‘s done an excellent job.  We have almost 50 offices here in Virginia.  He is campaigning in Virginia, all over the state.  And you‘re right, he‘s going to be in the capital city here tomorrow, talking about his vision for doing better things for America.

MADDOW:  I know that that trip tomorrow, I think, it‘s going to be his eighth trip to Virginia since the primaries ended, which is remarkable for a Democratic candidate.

WILDER:  It is remarkable, indeed.

MADDOW:  Can you—yes.

WILDER:  But more importantly.

MADDOW:  Sorry.  Go ahead, sir.

WILDER:  What he is doing is not taking polls for granted.  He is going to the small places.  He‘s going to the big cities.

He‘s talking to people.  He‘s engaging with them, and your point is absolutely well taken.  Don‘t take anything for granted.  Polls are so misleading on occasion.  National polls are one thing as you point out.  State polls are quite differently. And then, as you point out again, so excellently, a slip of the lip in some cases can bring it all tumbling down.  Let‘s hope that doesn‘t happen.

MADDOW:  The polls do look good for Senator Obama right now in Virginia.  You know from personal experience that Virginia polls.

WILDER:  Yes, ma‘am.

MADDOW:  . can sometimes be deceiving.  I wonder if you could describe for our viewers what the polls showed for you before Election Day back in 1989, and how that turned out?

WILDER:  Well, just about at this point on (ph), from the polls, they showed me with a double-digit lead, the polls that were taken by people.  My internal polls, however, showed me with a plus or minus two points, up or down.  And yet, the exit polls, again, had me up. But I want to point out something.  Polling has become more perfected.  People are now doing a better job, a better demographic, a better matrix, not over-sampling. You look at the last poll that was projected in our friend, Senator Harold Ford, the Senate race rather in Tennessee.  Those polls had him where he ended up, three to five points off.  Same thing with Ron Kirk, who was the mayor of Dallas, who ran for the Senate seat in Texas. And what I‘m saying is that there is a perfection in the taking of the polls, and yet, people are seeing that the errors that we found with my case and Tom Bradley‘s case, Dave Dinkins‘ case others, I don‘t expect you‘re going to see that. I do predict one thing.  You see a reverse Bradley effect.  There are going to be some Republicans, particularly here in Virginia, who may not say to anyone that they‘re going to vote for Barack Obama but they will. And I can tell you just from looking at bumper stickers and looking at signs on automobiles, this state is energized.  And they are very independent people here.  They don‘t want to be taken for granted by anybody.  And that‘s why McCain has had to campaign here.  And spend a great deal of resources that otherwise he might not have thought he had to do so. Barack is for the real deal.  And that is for all of the people.  One thing I‘m so excited about in this campaign, he doesn‘t have a special message, it‘s one of unity—uniting, changing, bringing us all together.

MADDOW:  Governor Wilder, I have one last very quick question for you in the last couple of seconds we have left here.  Senator McCain‘s brother recently referred to Northern Virginia as “communist country.”  His spokesperson this week said that areas of Northern Virginia that may be leaning toward Obama are not, quote, “Real Virginia.” Very briefly, how does that play in Northern Virginia?

WILDER:  Well, I would like it to play over and over and over again.  Let him keep saying that.  And he will find out who the real Virginians are.  I predict that he is the kind of support that Obama needs.

MADDOW:  Doug Wilder, former governor of Virginia, current mayor of Richmond.


MADDOW:  Sir, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  It‘s been a real pleasure to have you.

WILDER:  Thank you very, very much.  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  Will by allowed to vote?  Will my name appear on the voter rolls?  Will my vote be counted?  As Election Day nears, these should be the last questions on the minds of the citizens of a proud, mature democracy such as ours, particularly, like in elections past.  Voter turnout may well be decisive. Robert Kennedy, Jr. joins us next to talk about voter suppression and how things may be way worse this year than they were even in the last couple of screwed-up elections. And speaking of scary, the winner of this election inherits a monumental national security mess.  We will hear NBC‘s Richard Engel‘s harrowing war report from the front lines tonight. We‘ll also talk with Governor Bill Richardson about why the next president needs to be really, really, really smart. But first, one more thing about Sarah Palin and her affect on the American electorate.  Conservative pundit and professional moralizer, Bill Bennett, and campaign manager, Rick Davis, opined on the radio together today about the greatness of Sarah Palin.  Bennett and Davis said they think Sarah Palin drives liberal feminists, quote, “crazy.”

Take a listen, Rick Davis speaks first.


RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  These, you know, various liberal feminists who have had a lock log (ph) on what is and isn‘t appropriate role in America for women.  She, a working mother, you know, someone who‘s raising five kids, one with special needs, and being able to serve as a governor of a big state and fought (ph) challenges.  And, you know, drives them nuts that she‘s a conservative Republican.

BILL BENNETT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Let me give you three things that I think drive them crazy, and you don‘t have to comment.  That she‘s very attractive.  That she‘s very confident or that she‘s very happy.


MADDOW:  Everybody knows how feminists hate happy women.

And it drives feminists really crazy when women work.  I look forward to another lesson in what liberal feminists think on the next edition of Bill and Rick on the radio.


MADDOW:  There‘s socialism, and then, there‘s living large on somebody else‘s dime.  Socialism?  The McCain-Palinites say that‘s Barack Obama‘s bag.  But Governor Palin‘s bag?  Lavish on other people‘s dimes including a few of the hardworking taxpayers she likes to talk about so reports that the RNC had spent more than $150,000 to style and cloth Sarah Palin since she was nominated to be vice president.  Over $49,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue in both New York and St. Louis.  $175,000 shopping spree at a Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis.  $9,000 at Macy‘s.The RNC response to this reporting, quote, “The RNC doesn‘t discuss expenses as it relates to strategy.”  Really?  Even when the strategy is to look really fancy?The “Associated Press” also reports that the governor charged the state of Alaska for more than $21,000 for her children to accompany her on business trips, even when they were not invited to the events.  She then changed the expense reports after the fact to say the expenses were official business.  Free duds and free trips for the kids kind of makes me want to be a maverick, too.


MADDOW:  Brace yourself.  We‘re about to take a step inside a small “d” Democratic nightmare, that also happens to be a big “D” Democratic nightmare—a nightmare that actually happened at least once before in this country in the year 2000.  Yes, I‘m talking about the Florida election disaster that brought us the presidency of George W. Bush. This year, could it happen all over the country?  Even if the polls don‘t shift much over the next two weeks, could Barack Obama end up losing the election by virtue of Republican efforts to prevent people from voting, or from having their votes counted? In 2000, the most obvious problems and villains were in Florida.  This year, we may be seeing the effect of the worst practices of voter suppression, especially the purging of voters from voter rolls being nationalized, systematically spread into many, many other states.Think back to that Bush v. Gore nightmare, and back to Katherine Harris, Florida‘s then-secretary of state.  She‘s best known for stopping the recounts.  Less well remembered however, is her removing 57,000 Florida voters from the rolls because their names, she thought, were similar to those of people convicted of crimes. So, what did America learn from Florida 2000?  About partisan officials running the election business instead of nice bipartisan county election boards?  Well, not much or way too much—depending on how you look at it.

The “Katherine Harris effect” has caught on across the country, thanks to the law intended to reform the system after the Florida fiasco—the Help America Vote Act.  Partisan secretaries of state, not county election boards, thanks to HAVA, are now in-charge of maintaining lists of voters.  So, that means it would be Katherine Harrises around the country get their chance to put their personal spins on how our elections are conducted and who gets to vote. In some states, that means wholesale voter purges, leading the nation is the state of Colorado with purge numbers that some experts estimate have been as high as 19 percent of all voters. A new article in “Rolling Stone” says that the woman most responsible for starting Colorado‘s purge binge is Colorado‘s former Republican Secretary of State Donetta Davidson, for all that hard work kicking people off the voter rolls of her state, she got a promotion, a big one.  President Bush appointed her to a federal board formed to help fix Florida-style election shenanigans.  She‘s now in charge of showing secretaries of state across the country just how to maintain their lists of registered voters.  Fox meet when hen house.

These troubles stories are in the “Rolling Stone” magazine article I just referenced.  It‘s in this week‘s issue.  It is called “Block the Vote” and it is mandatory reading for all RACHEL MADDOW SHOW viewers.

Here to try to Talk Me Down, the co-author of that article, Robert Kennedy, Jr.

Bobby, thanks so much for being here.


MADDOW:  In the interest of, perhaps, maybe Talking Me Down about this, do you think that this election could be stolen and can, at this point, can it be stopped?

KENNEDY:  Well, as you pointed out, in Colorado which is a swing state a crucial swing state, it could be won or lost by a couple of thousand votes, 20,000 voters, 19.4 percent of the vote—not 20,000 but almost 20 percent of the vote was purged by the former secretary of state. The “New York Times” disclosed last week, that since then, an additional 37,000 have been purged.  And 6,400 new voters have been purged.  So, certainly, those numbers are very significant.  Those kind of numbers could affect an election.  And what we see is that the purges disproportionally impact the Democratic voters.  The new voters are almost three to one Democratic in Colorado. So, if you purge 6,400 new voters, you‘re getting rid of a substantial number of Democrats and the algorithms that they use that are in, you call the Help America Vote Act, which, incidentally, was passed by the Republican Congress and Republican Senate and the Republican president.  It was designed by—there was some Democrats involved in the original writing, but it was really hijacked by Congressman Bob Ney who is in prison.


KENNEDY:  And Jack Abramoff, who‘s now in prison.  And it was—it‘s been used to erect a series of barriers that make it really an obstacle course particularly for African-Americans to vote, for Hispanics to vote, for young people and old people.  One of the requirements is—that is now spread through most of the states via HAVA—is identification requirements. You may say, well, it‘s no problem.  Every time, I got to write a check, I show my I.D.  I show a government-issued I.D. and driver‘s license. But, in fact, there‘s a lot of Americans who don‘t have driver‘s license.  One in 10 Americans of voter age do not have driver‘s license.  Who are they?  They are senior citizens.  They are young people.  They are people who live in cities and they‘re black people.  In other words, Democratic voters.  One in five Democratic—one in five black voters does not have a driver‘s license.  That means if you require a driver‘s license, you‘re getting rid of 20 percent of the black voters in this country. There‘s other things that are now used also to purge mainly African-American voters.  In the last election in 2004, according to the United States Election Commission, there were 1 million black voters whose votes were not counted -- 2.7 million Americans all together, mainly Democrats.  But a lot of them, a lot of these methods target African-American voters. Another method that is being used that‘s probably the most frightening is called the “perfect match/tight match.”  And what that says is that if your registration, the information on your registration, the government agencies, the electoral officials in each state are required to check your registration information against existing government databases, your Social Security database and your driver‘s license database.  If any of the information—in some states, it‘s a perfect match—is required in swing states like Iowa and Florida—a perfect match is required.

MADDOW:  Perfect match.  So, that means like middle initial, hyphens, everything.

KENNEDY:  Exactly.


KENNEDY:  So, if I wrote my name on my driver‘s license Robert F.  Kennedy and I wrote on my registration to vote Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr., my registration would be thrown out and that‘s what the new secretary of state of Colorado has done to these 6,400 new voters who are again, mainly Democratic.

MADDOW:  It‘s one thing to understand what these tactics are and when

you lay it out that way, it‘s very easy to see why they have chosen these -targeting new voters, these I.D. requirements, this perfect matchup, because obviously, the sort of selects for likely Democratic voters to keep people away from the polls.  It‘s one thing to know why it‘s happening and that it is happening.  It‘s other thing to know how to stop it.

KENNEDY:  Another thing that you talked a lot on this show is the Bradley effect.


KENNEDY:  And, you know, one of the—probably the best explanation about the Bradley effect, which is really the difference between the exit polls and the official tally.


KENNEDY:  That black voters, but really it‘s the Democratic voters receive less in the official tally than they did in the exit poll.  But that‘s largely explained by the fact that after they vote, hundreds of thousands, in fact, 1 million black voters are simply not counted.  This spoilage in black jurisdictions and black precincts—and this is according to the U.S. Election Commission are nine times the spoilage in white precincts.  That means ballots that cannot be counted by the machines.  Why not?  Because the black precincts receive the worst machines, the oldest, the most antiquated. So nine times the numbers of black votes are simply thrown out.  More blacks are also given provisional ballots, and 1/3 of the provisional ballots are thrown out.  That‘s why it‘s important if you get this book, “Steal Back Your Vote”—“Steal Back Your Vote” ought to work—this will tell you how to avoid the kind of the obstacle course, how to hundred through obstacle course so you can make sure that your vote counts.

MADDOW:  You need to know that they‘re setting it up for you.  Know why and know how to get out of it.

KENNEDY:  Don‘t accept a provisional ballot.  That‘s the key thing, and vote early.  That‘s absolutely critical that people go in and vote early.  And if you can avoid it, don‘t send your vote in, but actually go in person and vote early.

MADDOW:  The article this week in “Rolling Stone,” it‘s called “Block the Vote.”  “Steal Back Your Vote” is a very cool comic that explains not only how this stuff works, but how you can avoid getting trapped like this.  You can learn more about that at our Web site:

Robert Kennedy, Jr., it‘s great to see you.  Thanks for being here.

KENNEDY:  Rachel, thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  Attention high profile Democrats—just because your candidate is doing well in the polls doesn‘t mean now is a good time to start firing off obnoxious zingers in the press.  Barney Frank, Jack Murtha, John Kerry, report to my office.  More on that in a moment, though.


MADDOW:  NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has been embedded with troops in Afghanistan.  And tonight we‘ll show you some gripping, gripping videos that chronicle the reality of that war as members of a company called “Viper Company” fight the Taliban. First, thought, it is time for a couple of underreported holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  One Democrat is getting a down-ballot boost in a reliable Republican congressional district, thanks to a now infamous McCarthy-esque comment from his Republican opponent, incumbent Michele Bachman.  “The Cook Political Report” has moved her race from likely Republican to a toss-up after Chris Matthews, our colleague here at MSNBC asked Michele Bachman if she was implying that Barack Obama had anti-American views.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN):  Yes, absolutely.  I‘m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.  The news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look.  I wish they would.  I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?


MADDOW:  You know, that worked great in 1919 and the early ‘50s and kind of, sort of, for George W. Bush sometimes.  But now, not so much.  Bachmann‘s opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg, who will be on my Air America Radio show tomorrow has raised more than $800,000 since Bachman made those inane comments.  That has led to Bachmann‘s excellent backtrack. 


BACHMANN:  I feel like the views are concerning I‘m calling on the media to investigate them.  I‘m not saying that his views are anti-American.  That was a misreading of what I said.  


MADDOW:  And that leads to so much fun.  A misreading of a live television interview?  Unedited and unfiltered?  Good luck with that one, congresswoman.  

Finally, are you smarter than a third grader?  Gov. Sarah Palin gave an interview to our Denver affiliate yesterday.  And when the reporter asked her a question sent in by a third grader asking what does the vice president do, she gave this mind boggling answer.  


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  A vice president has a really great job, because not only are they there to support president‘s agenda, they are like a team member, the teammate to that president.  But also, they are in charge of the United States Senate.  So if they want to, they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes.  


MADDOW:  In charge of the Senate?  What constitution are you talking about?  Because the United States one doesn‘t say that at all. 

Did you ever think that spelling potato with an “e” would make a vice-presidential candidate seem relatively qualified?


MADDOW:  It‘s one thing - it‘s one really fun and fascinating thing to talk about who‘s going to win the presidential election and how they‘re going to do it.  Trust me, I could do a whole TV show and a whole radio show about that every day. But it‘s another thing to think about why on earth someone would want to be president of the United States any time soon.  Cleaning up after the reign of George W. Bush means starting with an economy that‘s on its way back to hunting and gathering.  A national debt and deficit that dwarfs even what Ronald Reagan did to us.  The world‘s dumbest, most expensive healthcare system that brought us an infant mortality rate on par with great powers like Slovakia.  And that‘s before you even get to the security and military challenges which we face which are legion.  Take for example today‘s news about our pseudo-legal offshore prison in Cuba, Guantanamo.  If you recall, we‘re supposed to be in the process of closing Guantanamo. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I‘d like to close Guantanamo.  No question Guantanamo sends, you know, a signal to some of our friends, provides an excuse, for example, to say the United States is not upholding the values that they are trying to encourage other countries to adhere to.  


MADDOW:  Well, it turns out President Bush is not going close Guantanamo.  The “New York Times” reports he never even really considered proposals to close it.  And a Bush administration official suggests that Guantanamo will be an albatross around the next president‘s neck saying, quote, “The new president will gnash his teeth and beat his head against the wall when he realizes how complicated it is to close Guantanamo. 

Defense Secretary Gates disagreed today.  He said this, quote, “This is an issue that will have to be addressed early on by a new administration so we can get past this and close it.” 

So thanks for handing that one off to the next guy, President Bush. 

Also there‘s the small matter of Iraq where despite the dearth of headlines, there are about 150,000 American troops and an even larger number of contractors still stationed.  The U.N. mandate that makes it legal for our troops to be there expires at the end of this year.  The Iraqi government, despite months of negotiation, appears not at all capable of or willing to work out some sort of new agreement so our troops can stay there which means U.S. troops will not be allowed to remain in Iraq after the end of this year.  Does anyone have a plan for that?  President Bush, apparently, not so much.  Secretary Gates?  He said this today, quote, “The consequences of not getting an agreement are very real.  We basically would stop doing anything.”  That‘s the plan?  That‘s the official plan?  So the issue of the legal black hole of Guantanamo and our 150,000 troops in Iraq - these are essentially are being handed over to the next president while they‘re actively on fire.  And with Guantanamo and Iraq in the what-the-are-we-supposed-to-do-about-that category, there‘s also the increasingly awful prospect for the next president of a renewed, revivified war in Afghanistan. 

NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, has this week filed some incredible reports from the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan. 


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC‘S CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  High on a ridge in the Korengal Valley, Firebase Restrepo with little more than a huddle of shacks and tents.  One guard post is so bare, so small soldiers had to carve it out of the mountain.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This was broke down.  It‘s been busted.  

ENGEL:  They built reinforcements because al-Qaeda and the Taliban attack almost every day.  The Taliban opened fire from just a few hundred yards away.  But Private First Class Jordan Taylor‘s gun keeps jamming.  The machine guns aren‘t working either. 

(on camera):  For the second time in less than 24 hours, this outpost has come under attack.  Some of the incoming rounds were so close you could hear the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Now, they‘re putting out suppressive fire to try to push back the attackers.  We‘ve also pulled in the mortar fire. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Last 100, drop out (UNINTELLIGIBLE) over. 

ENGEL (voice over):  The mortar teams fire wherever they think the Taliban might be.  But they rarely see the enemy.  Too much cover.  Too many trees.  After about 15 minutes, this attack at Restrepo is over. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hold your fire. 

ENGEL:  The soldiers spend the rest of the day cleaning and repairing their weapons so they won‘t jam again.  If the weapons fail, Restrepo could be overrun.  They know they are stretched thin. 

SPEC. JEREMY SHEPLER, “VIPER” COMPANY:  More men would help?  We really don‘t have that luxury right now, so we just do what we can with what we have.  

ENGEL:  And they can never let their guard down, expecting more attacks are coming.  


MADDOW:  Richard Engel reporting from the war zone in Afghanistan.  Just incredible footage and reporting from him.  We have spent a lot of time for the last two years assessing which candidate will make better choices than George W. Bush made.  When you cast your vote, you‘ve also got to think about which of them is better equipped to manage the flaming heap of problems, even these national security problems, that Bush is leaving on his desk when he‘s out of there in January. 

Joining us now is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.  He served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration.  He‘s now supporting Barack Obama in this election.  Governor, thanks very much for joining us.  


UNITED NATIONS:  Nice to be with you, Rachel.  Thank you for having me.  

MADDOW:  Sure.  The current president is handing over a mess to the next one.  I‘ve just spoken specifically about Guantanamo, about Iraq, about Afghanistan.  Would you rather that President Bush try to resolve any of these matters or have a plan for any of these matters before he leaves?  In some ways, is it better for him to let the next president try to fix these messes?

RICHARDSON:  Well, not really.  Basically, what it seems President Bush is doing he‘s punting.  They‘ve check out.  And that‘s kind of irresponsible because there‘s three months to go.  There‘s no reason why he can‘t shut down Guantanamo.  He can do that by an executive order and transfer those detainees to our courts, to our military courts.  Obviously, you want to have safeguards so they don‘t come into the United States and stay forever.  But I think this could be handled as it should have been through our military court system which is very good.  On Iraq, and Afghanistan, look, he could work an agreement out with the Iraqis or announce a plan that is consistent with the Iraqis that now seems to be embraced by senator Obama of a safe and orderly withdrawal.  I would do it sooner than later, backed up by diplomacy, backed up by a multinational force in the region, backed up with negotiations with Iran.  I mean, this is something that President Bush could at least send a signal.  And then in Afghanistan, the situation is, I don‘t know if we have three months to make the situation salvageable.  The worry I have is the absence of equipment, of more troops, that young Americans saying, “We need more help.”  They are under siege.  You know, this president needs to recognize the error of our foreign policy ways and at least set up structures so that when Sen. Obama hopefully comes in, you know, we can continue an effort to disengage from Iraq, shift forces to Afghanistan, end probably the biggest black mark on our moral leadership around the world and it‘s this Guantanamo prison which even, Robert Gates, the secretary of defense recognizes we have to act on.  It‘s such a black mark.  And just to wait and punt and do nothing - it‘s very disheartening.  

MADDOW:  Sen. McCain has made the case because of his 26 years in Washington.  He‘s been involved in a lot of national security issues as a legislator and that‘s why he would be well-equipped to handle these sorts of crises.  What is the case that Barack Obama - that leads you to that Barack Obama also would have - essentially have the chops, the spine and the steel and the experience that he would need to be able to handle these things well?

RICHARDSON:  Well, if you look at the debates, if you look at Sen.  Obama‘s service on Foreign Relation‘s Committee in the Senate and his judgment on Iraq - he called this one, right, years ago saying it was a mistake, and that we should not engage there.  What he has said in Afghanistan, he has laid out a concrete plan.  We are going to put more resources in Afghanistan.  We are going to go to the border and if we have actionable intelligence of terrorists, Bin Laden, we‘re going to go after them.  He has said he wants to shut down Guantanamo.  He‘s made that very clear.  You know, Sen. McCain policies are the same as President Bush.  The surge is working.  Keep our policy the way it is in Iraq.  That‘s not going to work.  He finally recognized sending more troops to Afghanistan after Sen. Obama made the point forcefully.  And on torture, Sen. McCain has said he‘s against it but he‘s back and forth.  I don‘t know what his latest position is.  So all these years of experience cannot compensate, in my judgment, for Sen. Obama‘s principled - he‘s engaged.  He has shown good judgment.  He‘s surrounding himself by people - look at Gen. Powell, former National Security advisor, a soldier, a Republican, basically saying Obama has the temperament and intelligence to be a good president and to be a transformational figure.  So I think that experience argument is not very strong right now.  

MADDOW:  New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former United Nation‘s ambassador.  Thank you so much for your time tonight, sir.  Appreciate it.  

RICHARDSON:  Thank you.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  One day, science will invent a mute button that works on people.  That day can‘t come soon enough for Barack Obama as top Democrats like Barney Frank, Jack Murtha and John Kerry all blurted out regrettable comments on the campaign trail this week.  Gentlemen, if you don‘t have something useful to say, move away from the microphones.   But first one more thing.  If you love OPEC, the oil cartel, you will love this.  Iran, Qatar and Russia say they are teaming up to form an OPEC-style cartel for natural gas producers.  It was the Ayatollah‘s idea, apparently.  So, of course, Vladimir Putin loves it.  Those three countries combined pulled more than more than half of the world‘s natural gas supplies.  Will they be able to control natural gas supply and set prices?  Scary, particularly given Putin‘s history of using energy supplies as a weapon?  Well, energy policy geeks think there might be less to be worried about here than it seems, mostly because the natural gas market is a hard thing to corner and partly because of those sanctions on Iran.  The most pressing question then for now may be what to call the OPEC for natural gas.  OJEC?  ONJEC?  GASPEC?  I like GASPEC, I think. 


MADDOW:  We started off the show tonight looking at the state of the presidential race, where the race stands two weeks from Election Day.  And if you take a look at the NBC news map, the beloved map-child of our resident wonk, Chuck Todd, prospects do look pretty good right now for the Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama.  That‘s a map that Obama supporters can feel much better about than the way it worked out in 2004, right?   And today‘s “Wall Street Journal”-NBC poll putting Obama 10 points ahead of McCain nationally, that‘s something Obama supporters will feel very good about as well. Still, though, deep down, do Obama supporters feel like there‘s a cloud inside the silver ling?  My old friend Tucker Carlson, who gave me my first big job on the TV machine - Tucker blogged about this today.  He said, quote, “Wondering if you‘re really a Democrat?  Here‘s a quick way to find out: Given everything the Democratic Party has going for it this year - the overwhelming financial advantage, the legions of new voters, George W. Bush - do you believe the Obama campaign could still somehow, in the final moment, find a way to blow it and lose this election?  If you answered yes, you‘re a Democrat.” God bless Tucker.  He totally nails it.  But there‘s a reason why what he says is true.  It‘s a rational response to modern history.  In the past 30 years, precisely one Democrat has won a presidential election in the United States.  One. Now, granted that one Democrat, Bill Clinton, won it twice, I‘m actually pretty sure that Al Gore won in 2000.  But, still, Clinton is the one example in the last 30 years of a Democrat winning the Oval Office.  So if you think of a generation as about 30 years and you think about the last generation of American politics, there‘s a reason that Americans are not generally speaking electorally optimistic for Democrats.  Now, how could the Democrats blow it this year?  They could blow it with overconfidence, right, Sen. Schumer?


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  I think it will mean that Barack Obama - and I said this six months ago, before the financial crisis, I said it publicly - will get more than 300 electoral votes. 


MADDOW:  Thank you to the senior senator from “Overconfidentville.”  So there‘s overconfidence to worry about.  There‘s voter suppression which we talked about earlier with Robert Kennedy, Jr.  Not fighting voter suppression efforts and not protecting the vote could cause the Democrats to blow it.  Or the Democrats could just blow it.  They could just do what Democrats do when elections approach.  They could hop into a tank, say, and put on a big helmet and smile at the camera while pointing.  They could decide to spend a weekend off the campaign trail windsurfing in front of cameras off the coast of Nantucket.  The members of their party could start saying impolitic and unquotable things about their own constituents. 


REP. JOHN MURTHA (D-PA):  There‘s still folks that have a problem voting for somebody because they‘re black.  This whole area years ago was really redneck. 


MADDOW:  The members of their party could start saying impolitic and unquotable things about how they see the whole country. 


REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA):  I think there are a lot of very rich people out there whom we can tax at a point down the road and recover some of this money. 


MADDOW:  The members of their party could start to make adult diaper jokes, say, about the other party‘s elderly candidate. 


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA):  What I was doing was referring to how the press - and I didn‘t in fact say that.  I said it depends.  It‘s part of the joke. 


MADDOW:  It depends, get it?  Listen, you guys, if you‘re not answering a direct question about adult diapers during the election season, do not mention adult diapers.  It‘s nay on the ‘ipers‘ day. Enough with the “we‘re going to win by a mile” stuff.  The “my constituents are racist stuff.”  The “there‘s a ton of rich people to tax” stuff.  Democrats, take a lesson from your candidate.  Stay calm, do not blow it.  Do not put on the funny hat.  Do not tell the off-color joke.  Do not accept the turn of the beer bomb, unless you want to give Democrats across the country yet another reason to doubt that Democrats can actually finally win something. 


MADDOW:  Now it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend Kent Jones. 

Hi, what have you got?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Good evening, Rachel.  John McCain is working extra hard out there on the campaign trail.  Here he is at western Pennsylvania today, taking on Jack Murtha for calling some voters in that area, rednecks. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think - and you know, I couldn‘t agree with him more.  I couldn‘t disagree with you - I couldn‘t agree with you more than the fact Western Pennsylvania is the most patriotic, most God-loving, most patriotic part of America.  And this is a great part of the country.


JONES:  Prepare to fail when we fail to prepare. 

MADDOW:  The look on the guy‘s face behind him frozen in terror.  You couldn‘t agree more?

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I‘m sorry.

JONES:  You know, this campaign has inspired some good music but here‘s one that may be my all-time favorite.  In honor of the first day of early voting in Louisiana, here‘s a group of Cajun and Zydeco musicians in Appaloosa singing, “Oui, nous pouvons.”  Yes, we can.  Take it away.


Is it too late to change the national anthem?  Because I love that. 

MADDOW:  That was awesome. 

JONES:  C‘est si bon.

MADDOW:  And generally we need more of Zydeco on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.

JONES:  In general, in life.  Really, in life.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  I appreciate it.

JONES:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  And thank you for watching tonight.  We will see you here tomorrow night.  Until then, you can check out our new podcast, which we‘re very excited about at  Or it is on iTunes.  You can also hear my radio show, 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast to coast on Air America Radio.  “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.  Good night. 



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