updated 10/24/2008 11:21:23 AM ET 2008-10-24T15:21:23

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW

October 22, 2008

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

Guests: Brian Williams, Chuck Todd, Pat Buchanan, Bob Herbert, Kent Jones

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you.

And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

She may be the biggest problem for John McCain in the newest NBC News Poll, but that did not stop Sarah Palin from sitting down with John McCain and NBC's Brian Williams. Today, we got that interview. Plus, a lot of biker game news. You know, a typical news day.

(voice over): She's a bigger drag on John McCain's poll numbers than the great poll number anchor of the last century, George W. Bush. But don't tell John McCain that Sarah Palin was the wrong pick.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think she's the most qualified of any that has run recently for vice president, to tell you the truth.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: McCain and Palin sit down with NBC's Brian Williams.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to toot my own horn, but I do have more executive experience than Barack Obama even has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: We've got the interview and Mr. Williams himself, live from battleground, Ohio.

Plus, Pat Buchanan makes the case for the governor even after Troopergate, family travel-gate, on American America-gate, oh, and the whole numbers that say she's ruining everything for John McCain-everything except this flailing negativity on the campaign trail. Governor Palin hasn't ruined that at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: So, do we have any Joe the Plumbers in the house?

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

PALIN: Joe the Plumbers (INAUDIBLE) -- I love Joe. So, here it doesn't sound like you are supporting Barack the wealth spreader in this election here.

(CROWD BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Robocall battles ugly mailers and it Dadaist devotion to poor Joe the Plumber, only escalates as the McCain/Palin campaign searches for something, anything that will stick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's be clear who Senator McCain is fighting for. He's not fighting for Joe the Plumber; he's fighting for "Joe the Hedge Fund Manager."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Bob, the "New York Times" columnist joins us to review the latest on the efficacy of lowdown politics, including the reappearance of Rudy Giuliani, and what will forever be known as the "sex criminal robocall."

And some crackpot who's not an al Qaeda higher up put some nonsense about preferring Senator McCain to Senator Obama up on the Web and the McCain campaign-responds? And tries to make a case against Obama with it?

Another episode tonight in our ongoing series called "They didn't actually do what they just did, did they?"

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.

(on camera): By measurable standards, it has not been a very fun day or so for Governor Sarah Palin. Since Tuesday morning, she had her Troopergate deposition scheduled, it's Friday-kind of like putting a root canal on the calendar.

Then, it was revealed that the Republican National Committee bought her about $150,000 worth of fancy clothes after she was nominated-kind of inconvenient thing for the hockey mom, maverick, moose-hunter image.

The "Associated Press" reported, perhaps more seriously, that she spent $20,000 or so Alaskan tax dollars on travel for her kids, even in instances where they weren't invited to the official events to which she brought them, not only an image issue there, but an ethical issue, and maybe, even a legal issue.

And then the NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" Poll came out last night which showed that her association with John McCain is now an even bigger political problem for the Republicans than George W. Bush's association with John McCain.

The technical term for this in political science terms is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news cycle. It's a lot of stuff gone not quite right in a short amount of time. So, what do you do after a day like that? The same thing millions of Americans do every night, sit down with the anchor and managing editor of the "NBC Nightly News," Brian Williams.

Governor Palin and Senator McCain did just that, this afternoon in Ohio. I want to welcome to the show, the aforementioned Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News." Brian joins us from Akron, Ohio, where he conducted that interview earlier today.

Brian, it is an honor to have you on the show. Thank you for joining us.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" ANCHOR: Oh, thank you. Back to you, longtime viewer, first time caller. Rachel, you set the scene so nicely. In addition to calling me Mr. Williams in the opening segment, which I'll demand a dub of on tape or DVD.

So, here, you've got a campaign, 10 down in our poll of last night. Fifty-five percent of respondents now saying Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president, which, of course, is the ultimate, possible responsibility of number two on the ticket. And then, after, quite candidly, we have waited a very patient 55 days, as the number one network evening newscast, for our chance to sit down and spend time with the vice presidential nominee of the GOP.

That was the backdrop and we sat down today with the ticket in an auditorium, here inside Green High School. We're in Akron, Ohio suburb tonight. I started at the start of things, big picture of the McCain/Palin campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS)

WILLIAMS: Did this campaign get out of your control? And here's what I mean. A lot of people who know you well saw you take that microphone from that women in Wisconsin, and for the first time in a long time, they said there-that's John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Brian, they either haven't paid attention or they don't want to. At my speech at the convention, I spoke of my admiration for Senator Obama, the fact that he had motivated so many people. I have said continuously of my respect for him.

WILLIAMS: You mentioned Senator Biden's comment the other day about a new president and a test of the new president's metal. One of your very closest friends in the Senate, Joe Lieberman said on "Face the Nation," quote, "Our enemies will test the new president early. And it has happened throughout modern history."

MCCAIN: Well, look, I've been tested. They know me. They know me very well. I've been tested. Senator Biden said-what if Sarah said-oh, my God. It would have been terrible.

PALIN: I imagine (ph).

MCCAIN: Imagine, his own running mate said it's because he is young, and new, and untested.

WILLIAMS: Yesterday, you tied the notion of an early test to the new president with this notion of preconditions.

PALIN: Right.

MCCAIN: . that you both have been hammering the Obama campaign on.

What-first of all, what, in your mind, is a precondition?

PALIN: You have to have some diplomatic strategy going into a meeting with someone like Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-il, one of these dictators that would seek to destroy America or our allies. It is so naive and so dangerous for a presidential candidate to just proclaim that they would be willing to sit down with a leader like Ahmadinejad and just talk about the problems, the issues that are facing them. So, that's some ill-preparedness right there.

But following up with your comment about Biden, also, when Biden-what he had done the other night to his Democrat donors and talking to them in a fundraiser, warning them, saying mark my word, there will be an international crisis if Barack Obama is elected, he was confirming what he had been saying all along in the primary race. He had warned voters that Barack was not prepared yet to be president and that the presidency is not a place for on-the-job training. So, there was confirmation there in the comments that he made.

WILLIAMS: When he says the new president will be tested, though, I'm missing how that's different from Senator Lieberman saying, quote, "Our enemy's will test the new president early."

MCCAIN: Look-I don't know whom Joe Lieberman said that. But Joe Lieberman is supporting me. The main reason is probably because he thinks America is going to be safer and more secure with me as president.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you both about what must have been a hurtful Sunday for you, especially you, Senator McCain-Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. And, governor, respectfully, the heart of his quote about Governor Palin, Senator McCain, "I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of vice president. And so, that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

When you heard those words from a man you've known for a long time, what was your reaction, saying basically we have little to judge these future leaders on except for the big decision of picking a running mate?

MCCAIN: I know that if General Powell had wanted to meet Governor Palin, we could have arranged that, easily, number one.

But, number two is, then, obviously, General Powell does not know Governor Palin's record. Reform. Governor, 24,000 employees, I believe, for the state of Alaska. Negotiated a $40 billion natural gas pipeline, and taking on the oil and gas interests.

Took on the governor of her own party who was an incumbent. Stood up against corruption. Cut taxes. Gave her constituents money back. Shares my world view. Has, frankly, in all due respect, a son with his life on the line right now in defense of freedom.

And that's not qualified? Tell me what is qualified. I am overjoyed to have a person who's a real reformer.

PALIN: I'm not going to toot my own horn. But I do have more executive experience than Barack Obama even has, dealing with multibillion dollar budgets, and thousands of employees, in position as mayor, as a manager, as a regulator of oil and gas and as a governor.

But, let's not forget, also, in this context of one endorsement, Colin Powell's-that you've received the endorsement of, at least, four former secretaries of states and hundreds.

MCCAIN: Five secretaries-former secretaries of state.

PALIN: Five-and hundreds of retired top U.S. military brass that see, also, in John McCain, the ability to win the war and to keep our nation safe.

And, of course, those are in more economic-minded also who are endorsing John McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was NBC's Brian Williams speaking today with John McCain and Sarah Palin. Brian is with us, live now from Akron.

Brian, I was very struck by you pursuing Senator McCain on this issue of whether the next president will be tested with the crisis of some sort. You had to-several times reminded both candidates that Joe Biden said that would happen when he was trying to make the case for Obama, just as Joe Lieberman said it when he was trying to make the case for McCain.

McCain's two responses to you on that, first, "I've been tested, they know me," and then, "Joe Lieberman supporting me." Those both seem almost like non sequitur responses to me, I know you went after him on this, repeatedly. How do you assess his response, could you tell what he meant?

WILLIAMS: A bit. The "I've been tested" is, as you know, the speech line over and over and over from convention up to present day with 13 days to go. In addition to, of course, the Biden quote, not to explain the words of a U.S. senator, but in those first six Kennedy months, remember, Khrushchev almost has JFK for lunch, and President Kennedy was very down about that first meeting-anytime you have a new leader taking over in the White House.

So, again, Senator Obama was asked about the Biden quote today. What an interesting dynamic. You have the top of the ticket. You have the vice president.

In the last 48 hours, in both parties, the top of the ticket has said of the vice presidential nominee, something to the effect of, what did they say now.

Yesterday, Sarah Palin got the V.P. job description wrong as head of the Senate. And I'm quite sure, if you can read body language and regular language, Barack Obama wasn't thrill to have to back fill on that point for team today.

MADDOW: That said, as you pointed out, you have to wait a very long time to get an interview with Sarah Palin. And after her other network interviews which were politically, fairly disastrous, is the lack of a major gaffe sitting in that chair, talking to you in this interview today, is that actually the big Palin news out of this interview, the maturing of the candidate?

WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, and I do someday want to talk to you about the world of television ownership, but perhaps for another time.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS: As we say in television, there's much more of the interview. Rachel, we're going to take this, pretty much the way it transpired, we had, I guess, a total of 28 minutes with the two of them. I think I had eight minutes on camera, alone with Sarah Palin after we took a walk into a courtyard.

And so, over the next two nights on "Nightly News," we just have too much television to fit in a 30-minute newscast. We have to kind of serialize this interview. And I also want people to just see it and see what they think make up their own minds.

There's a question, she misunderstood, an honest mistake, wanted to correct the record. It was about 9/11, the role of the vice president. We did get her to go on the record saying she will release her medical records. There's a lot, I think, people will find embedded in this conversation. Heretofore hasn't been (ph), we talked about the definition of a terrorist. We talked about the definition of an elite.

So, I think, there's a lot here as we get to it. And again, this is not standard marketing but it's just too much television for time allotted.

MADDOW: Brian, if you don't mind standing by just one moment, I would like to bring in Chuck Todd, NBC's political director, I know he's there with you in Akron.

Hi, Chuck. Thanks for joining us.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good evening, Rachel. A pleasure to be here.

MADDOW: Thank you. What is the political impact of this interview, do you think?

TODD: Well, it's interesting. I think you pointed out one aspect of it which is, I don't think the campaign is cringing. I don't think there was a moment where they sit there and say, oh, you know, I wish I didn't said that. You know, maybe they didn't have a plan or did have a plan on the medical records.

But, you know, it's interesting. It was an enviable and yet unenviable task of parachuting in, right? You're in the last 13 days and what you see out there is a very exhausted campaign. Not just the two candidates, the staff, and you sort of see that it's a lot tougher to be exhausted and to be overtired, and to have all the issues when you are behind than when you're ahead.

And I think that-that was the one thing I noticed is that you wonder where is that bounce in the step, and I think, you're looking for it and they're looking for that bump a little bit to get them over that hump, get them over that finish line. And that was probably the most striking thing to me.

MADDOW: Chuck Todd and Brian Williams, thank you both so much for joining us tonight. Congratulations on the interview, Mr. Williams.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

TODD: You got it.

MADDOW: You can see more of Brian's interview, as he said, tomorrow night on "NBC Nightly News." There's much more of that footage to come.

So, John McCain said today-today that Sarah Palin is the most qualified recent vice presidential nominee-the most qualified. The polls don't agree, at all.

Up next: A truly dedicated supporter of the choice of Sarah Palin, my colleague, Pat Buchanan. We'll give it another go in the face of statistical evidence that I'm right and he's wrong, and Palin was a bad, bad choice. We'll let him argue his side of it.

Later, the robocall war is escalating. It turns out-Rudy Giuliani isn't just a noun, a verb, and 9/11. And if you pick up your phone in a swing state, you might hear his lovely voice whispering in your ear about sex offenders. "New York Times" columnist Bob Herbert joins us with the upshot of lowdown campaigning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: She's the gift that keeps on giving to her opponent in Minnesota's sixth congressional district.

Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who slipped in (ph) some Joe McCarthy, by calling for investigations of the anti-American-ness of members of Congress on Friday's "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews, she now blames our colleague, Chris Matthews, for her troubles, quote, "Chris Matthews laid a trap, and I walked into it."

By that standard, top of ice cream and your lack of will power is also a trap. The National Republican Congressional Committee is reportedly pulling their ads for Bachmann and her Democratic opponent has raised a ton of money in the wake of her remarks. So, it seems like the damage is already done. But the congresswoman still can't steer clear of those darn traps.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, ® MINNESOTA: What I question are Barack Obama's views, because Barack Obama's views are against America.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: When you're in a hole, congresswoman, stop digging. St. Cloud, Minnesota, your member of Congress starting next year will probably be a guy named Elwyn Tinklenberg. It's hard name to say. Trust me, I keep messing it up. So, you might want to start practicing now-Tinklenberg.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You've got to give the John McCain of 2008 credit for political courage. I mean, who would want to be the Republican candidate for president after the George Bush administration?

Politicos call inherit disadvantage, "headwinds." So, George Bush counts as a unidirectionally hurricane force headwind. In fact, in the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" Poll, 23 percent of respondents listed their biggest concern about McCain as the fear that he would continue George W. Bush's policies. It's hard to imagine a headwind much stronger than that, right 23 percent?

Except, according to the same poll, there is a stronger headwind than that-quite a bit stronger-and it's Sarah Palin. The negative force of the Bush effect was Senator McCain's number two problem, the number one concern voters have with McCain? Thirty-four percent of them say Governor Palin is not qualified to be president.

Breaking it down further, 54 percent of white women, women to whom they thought Sarah Palin would presumably appeal, 54 percent say she is unqualified. Even more white suburban women say that, it goes up to 62 percent among them.

And women's concerns about Palin's qualifications are translating to the more important polling, their ultimate choice for president. Obama leads among women by 18 points. After the Republican convention, as the campaign experienced a legitimate Palin bounce, Obama/Biden led McCain/Palin by just three points among women. That's a 15-point swing. So, to whom is Sarah Palin playing, at this point?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PALIN: And it also strengthens my faith because I'm going to know at the end of the day, putting it in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done, the end of the day on November 4th.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: I'm going to go out on a limb here-not-and say that Sarah Palin is playing, just to the base now, which is what you do when your negative poll numbers are higher than for any other modern vice presidential candidate. She is viewed more negatively now than Dan Quayle was. But don't tell that to John McCain.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I think she's most qualified of any that has run recently for vice president to tell you the truth.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Of anyone? More qualified than former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney? More qualified than CIA chief and ambassador to China, George H.W. Bush? More qualified than former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden?

Add the ongoing abuse of power investigation, the family trip she funded with taxpayer money, her pronounce misunderstanding about what a vice president does, and I think I might finally have enough ammunition here to convince my colleague, Pat Buchanan, that Palin has been a bad choice.

MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan-Pat, it's always nice to see you. Thanks for being on the show.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Rachel.

MADDOW: If John McCain could theoretically wave a magic wand and drop Sarah Palin from the ticket right now without people being upset about it, wouldn't you say that he should do that at this point?

BUCHANAN: No, I wouldn't. First, it would be an act of ingratitude. And secondly, it would be a disaster for him. But let me say this - back, we were out there in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and in Denver, and when Sarah Palin was named, she took John McCain's candidacy from about eight to 10 points behind after Barack's excellent speech, to something like two or four points ahead -- 15 points in three weeks.

No other vice presidential candidate in history has done that. I can't think of a single one. Then, Rachel, we've had something that's going to mention (ph), the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression in the stock market, worse and faster than in Great Depression, that's brought McCain down.

What Palin is doing for him, yes, she energizes the base. She brings out crowds that no other vice presidential candidate could and McCain can't do on his own.

MADDOW: Pat, though, when you ask people who they are going to vote for, a huge number of them say, I'm not going to vote for John McCain because he picked Sarah Palin. That bounce is over. The economic crisis may not have been Sarah Palin's doing, but she's the worst possible person to have on the ticket, given that it happened. I recognize she did something good once, but she's doing a lot bad, now.

BUCHANAN: Well, listen. Let me say this. Who you said, who's is he better than? Wasn't Sarah Palin a better pick than we know about John Edwards, huh? He was V.P. in 2004.

Wasn't she a better pick than Joe Biden? Look what Joe Biden just said yesterday or the day before, that-he on the weekend in these closed meetings, if, you know-when Barack Obama is elected, we're going to head into a generated crisis by our enemies, it's going to be like Jack Kennedy, who, of course, went through the missile crisis and the Berlin. What is he talking about?

If Sarah Palin made that statement, Rachel, you would have been all over her. She's raising the fear issue, does she know what she is talking about. And you give Joe Biden a pass. Sarah Palin is being hurt.

MADDOW: Pat, I have to say, when Joe Lieberman said that exact thing, I wasn't that moved by it or I didn't jump all over it because I thought that he was talking the historical record of presidents-president, historically, being tested earlier in their terms.

BUCHANAN: Rachel.

MADDOW: Joe Lieberman brought that up to make the case for John McCain. Joe Biden is bringing it up to make the case for Barack Obama.

BUCHANAN: Rachel, you're talking fast because you know you are wrong here. When Joe Biden got in there-what did he-it was something unusual. He didn't say, you know, this president is going to be tested, and I'm going to be with him, it's going to be fine. He described five or six areas around the world that it could come about the enemies. And first, it's going to look like when we decide (ph) the people aren't with him. What is he talking about? It sounds half-nutty, frankly. But it's apocalyptic.

MADDOW: He's talking.

BUCHANAN: Why didn't you deal with that? Look, you're defending him, instead of going after him, why?

MADDOW: Look, Pat, I'm just telling you that when Joe Lieberman said the same thing, I didn't think it was important thing, either. And I didn't jump all over them. And if Sarah Palin said the same thing, I wouldn't jump all over them because I don't think it's a controversial statement.

BUCHANAN: Come on.

MADDOW: I'm coming along with you whenever you want to go, except you're thinking that I'm ignoring this for some partisan reason. I'm really not. It's not a remarkable statement. And it wasn't remarkable when Lieberman said it, were you mad when Lieberman said it? Were you made when Lieberman said it, Joe-or Pat?

BUCHANAN: Look, if somebody said, we're going-look, every president faces crises and we're certainly going to probably face them, and this guy will be tested. Nobody would say anything about it.

Why was it a huge story, a front page story? But look, let me give you another Joe. Biden says, look, when the great crash came, we didn't behave like John McCain, Franklin Roosevelt went on national television. Roosevelt wasn't the president when the crash came, and there was no national television. And yet, you give him a pass.

MADDOW: Pat.

BUCHANAN: Look, I don't mind going after Palin, sure you should, and giving your ideological perspective, but we need some honesty and fairness, don't we, Rachel?

MADDOW: I'm honest and fair with you to the extent that I'm humanly capable of being so, Pat. And I've got to say that when you look at the poll numbers, people say they are voting for Obama because they like Biden and they say they're voting against McCain because they don't like Palin.

BUCHANAN: All right. Let me ask you a question.

MADDOW: So, I wish, I know that you wish that was not true, but it is actually what's happening outside the studio.

BUCHANAN: Let me ask you a question-would you not agree-look, let me tell you something. Of course, she's under savage attack because she's so attractive and so conservative. She's a Christian, a pro-lifer.

MADDOW: Why would that make-why would her attractiveness make me attack her? Why would you think that I would got to say-let me find somebody good looking. I'm going to go after that guy.

BUCHANAN: All right. What causes the press to go furor (ph) on this, (INAUDIBLE), an attractive woman who has great intelligence, ability, decisiveness, not a great information base, but look at Joe Biden's information base. What's his big decision as a senator? The Iraq war.

He said, I've got the biggest decision of my entire career wrong and I put us into an unnecessary war for no purpose whatsoever. I didn't do due diligence to see if there were weapons of mass destruction. That's the number one decision of a lot of people in this town, who have more experience and knowledge than Sarah Palin. And that's why they love her out there because she's not inside the city.

Let me say one thing, in conclusion.

MADDOW: Yes.

BUCHANAN: Let me-one point.

MADDOW: OK.

BUCHANAN: After this is over, she's been cut up and all that. After this is over, she will be, (A) a success in this campaign, and (B), she will an almost unmatched heroin of the American right. I can't think of a single woman who could have come into this thing, being dropped in, parachuted in, done that tremendous job at the convention, handled Biden in that debate as we saw from your reaction, and did a great job there. And OK, she's in trouble now, but, I think, she's overall, a great success.

MADDOW: Pat, I would be more persuaded by that if you hadn't turn the whole-made the whole segment have to be about Joe Biden to avoid talking about how bad she's been. But, Pat, it is always good to have you on the show. Thank you.

BUCHANAN: You got to bring up Biden. OK.

MADDOW: Yes, over and over and over again. Thanks, Pat.

All right. Follow me. Follow me now into dense thicket of tortured logic, like we haven't just come from one. According to former CIA director and McCain advisor, Jim Woolsey, al Qaeda is endorsing John McCain for president because al Qaeda wants Americans to vote for Barack Obama, because al Qaeda says stuff backwards, because they know we hate them. I told you this was dense thicket.

Later on, I take out my clarity-seeking metaphorical machete and track my way through this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Robo calls. Can't live with them, can't live with them. John McCain's already toxic campaign has kicked it up a notch with a blitz of robo-calls, still trying to make the case that Sen. Obama hearts terrorists. Senator Obama released his own robo-response call to counter those calls. The "New York Times" Bob Herbert will be joining us in just a moment to figure out why these calls that everyone says they hate just won't go away.

First though, it's time for a couple of underreported holy mackerel stories in today's news. Remember back in the olden days Elliot Ness busted murderous, bootlegging mobster Al Capone for tax evasion rather than murdering or bootlegging or mobsterism?

Well, here we go again. This time, it's a motorcycle gang and trademark law. The feds busted 61 members of the Mongols' motorcycle gang in six states this week, the culmination of a three-year undercover investigation. In addition to the resulting 86-count federal racketeering indictment, the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. says it's seeking to strip the biker gang of its name, its identity, the Mongols' trademark to their name and logo.

Back in 2005, the patch shows their name surrounding a guy with a ponytail who sort of vaguely, but not really, looks like Genghis Khan riding a chopper. After prosecutors moved to essentially seize that intellectually property, late this afternoon, a federal court issued a ruling banning members of the gang from wearing their logo.

Here's the fun part. With that judges ruling, any law enforcement officer who sees a Mongol wearing the gang's patch is authorized to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket off his back. If ever there was a reason to be happy about the existence of dashboard video, it's probably the prospect of capturing one of those moments.

In news today, from our return to a hunting-and-gathering economy, the Dow dropped another 500 points. As companies reported bone showing third quarter losses, Wachovia with one of the largest in banking history, a $23.9 billion loss. Jobs are getting slashed faster than nameless teen boyfriends in bad horror movies at this point.

Merck cutting almost 7,000 employees off. Yahoo slashing 10 percent of its workforce. Even the state of Massachusetts planning on cutting its payroll by 1,000 jobs.

In two weeks, we've gone from new, wobbling panic about the Great Depression to the sober, gnawing reality of a really, really bad economy. The White House announced it will hold a summit on the world economy next month, after the election with the G-20 nations. So there's that if Bush's international magnetism is the kind of thing gives you hope at a time like this.

If you are looking for a real glimmer of good news, I can report that profits for McDonalds and Tupperware soared as cheap fast food and leftovers became what's for dinner in America. Bon Appetit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Ever hear of something called Dadaism? Deliberately being irrational, rejecting standard assumptions about beauty or organization or logic. It's an anti-aesthetic statement about the lameness of the status quo - kind of. Art history classes a long time ago.

Anyway, why am I trying to explain Dadaism on a cable news show 13 days from this big, giant historic crazy important election that we are about to have? Well, it's because it's what I found myself Googling today in search of a way to make sense of the latest McCain-Palin campaign ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Joe, the Plumber.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Joe, the Plumber.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Joe, the Plumber.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Joe, the Plumber.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Do not adjust your TV machines. I cannot explain this, but it is for real. Maybe it's some sort of intentional stab, but illogic? Are they trying to express disgust with the electorate by turning it into a world where people are solely identified by their first name, the word "the," and an occupation?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just the other day in New Mexico, I saw a sign that said, "Ed, The Dairy Man." We can call him "Tito, the Builder." "Bill, the Bricklayer," and "Rose, the Teacher" and Kareena, the Nurse." We have "Andy, the Engineer." We have "Dave, the Cab." We have "Jeffrey, the Hockey Player." We've got another minor. We've got "John the Only Republican in My High School."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Rachel, the Mystified. Is this what the campaign has come to? It's just not clear what end they are aiming at with the Joe the Plumber, the gimmick thingy. What is easier to understand is the good old reliable political slime tactics that are happening alongside the Joe, the Plumber stuff at the podium, like robo-calls. Today, another McCain campaign robo-call was uploaded to the Internet.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI ®, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Hi, this is Rudy Giuliani. And I'm calling for John McCain and the Republican National Committee, because you need to know that Barack Obama opposes mandatory prison sentences to sex offenders, drug dealers and murderers.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Thanks, Mayor 9/11. But you forgot to mention Willie Horton. Although the McCain campaign seems to be tied up in knots over these robo-calls, McCain is sort of for them, Palin sort of against them. The Obama campaign has placed two feet firmly in the "we're against them" camp. Just ask Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John, stop your ads. Bring down those robo-calls. If it's about the economy, argue about the economy, not about Barack Obama's character, not about these scurrilous ads. John, stop these calls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So, if you are that clearly against the calls, can you then go ahead and launch your own new robo-call? Apparently, yes, we can. If it's an anti-robo-call robo-call.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JERI WATERMOLEN, VOICE BEHIND OBAMA CAMP'S ROBO-CALL: Hi, this is Jeri Watermolen calling for the campaign for change. I live in Green Bay and like you, I have been getting sleazy phone calls and mail from John McCain and his supporters viciously and falsely attacking Barack Obama. I used to support John McCain because he honorably served our country. But this year, he's running a dishonorable campaign.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: OK. So we now have anti-robo-call robo-calls. What's the next step, a robo-call revolt?

Yes. As it turns out, one of the voices in your unfriendly neighborhood robo-calls in West Virginia, Chaylee Cole, put her foot down and up and quit her job saying this, quote, "I told them I did not want to read it. They said, 'Either you read it or you go home.' I told them I wasn't going to read it. They made me go home without pay for the rest of the day. I said I was unhappy with the situation and I quit."

You know, I think she will get a tax credit if Obama gets elected, by the way. But will Obama get elected amid this squall of robo-calling and mailing and Joe the Plumbering from the McCain campaign? Is this the stuff that is tightening the races in places like Florida, and Pennsylvania, and Ohio and even Virginia?

Joining us now is "New York Times" columnist Bob Herbert, or as he might be referred to at a McCain rally some time soon, "Bob, the Columnist."

BOB HERBERT, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": Bob, the Columnist. How are you, Rachel?

MADDOW: I am mystified. It has to be said. Do you think this name, the occupation construct is an attempt at populism? I don't really understand it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Bob, the Builder. I don't -

HERBERT: Yes. It's dada.

MADDOW: It's dada.

(CROSS TALK)

HERBERT: I've actually seen the clip of Rudy Giuliani and it reminded me of the old days when he was mayor of New York and I was a columnist at "The Daily News." It was like, that's the way Rudy was all the time, attack, attack, attack. So they've got the perfect guy for the robo-calls.

MADDOW: Do the robo-calls - do they stick with the robo-calls even with the obvious blowback, the obvious sort of tarnishing of the brand, right, for getting nailed for doing these things particularly because so many of them have such ugly scripts. Do they risk that blowback and do they keep doing them because they are effective?

HERBERT: Well, honestly, they think they are effective, but all the tactics of the McCain campaign so far - they have not been particularly effective. So I don't understand why sort of their whole strategy doesn't change.

The Republicans, for the longest time now, the national Republicans, have tried to, in big elections, demonize their opponents, use divisive tactics and that sort of thing.

And they have worked to a great extent. I mean, all of this is out of the Lee Atwater-Karl Rove play book. I do think times have changed, and I think McCain has made a really bad error. Now, I don't know if it's a fatal error. This election is not over. He may well get elected president.

But I strongly believe that McCain - that so many people really liked as a politician before this campaign got heated up. The McCain that a lot of independents and even a lot of Democrats said, "You know, I can live with that guy." You know, he has sort of tarnished that brand a great deal.

I think that old McCain would have done much better against Barack Obama in this campaign. I'll add one more thing. The bounce that he got after the convention, after naming Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate came because people really liked Palin's personality. They liked her persona. They liked her style.

Now, I know, she's had trouble with some of the issues and had some trouble on network interviews and that sort of thing. But this decline in Palin's popularity and even respect for her, I think, is also associated with the fact she's been used as an attack dog in this campaign.

So it's no longer such a winning personality. It's a mean-spirited personality. And I just don't think that's working and especially not in this election.

MADDOW: I would say that the Palin bounce - if I had to come up with an explanation for it, it was that she was new. It was combined with the convention bounce which is something that every campaign gets because it was essentially simultaneous with that.

But she also - because she was new, felt like a new kind of Republican.

HERBERT: Right. Sure.

MADDOW: And I think, you're right, that in putting her in the, probably inevitable role of launching the most vicious of the attacks from the campaign itself toward Obama and Biden, she ended up looking like a very old school Republican. And I wonder if you think that it is harder in this election, in 2008, to get away with the attack stuff because everything does gets uploaded to the Internet, because you can't do anything under the radar.

HERBERT: I think that's part of it. But I also think that voters have seen what's gone on for the last eight years or so. And they really do want something different. They have seen these harsh tactics for more than the past eight years. They think that, you know, Democrats and Republicans fighting each other, liberals and conservatives fighting each other, racial problems, all kinds of other divisive things going on. They think that that has all combined to hurt the country badly.

The United States is not in good shape right now. You add to that this profound economic crisis and I think a lot of voters are saying, you know, "Enough with that old stuff. Deal with this crisis, get together and work this out. You know, we're tired of that old stuff."

I also think that there's been a generational change. Lee Atwater was a long time ago. Karl Rove probably carried those kinds of tactics as far as they could be carried. I think the country is ready for something different.

MADDOW: Bob Herbert, "New York Times" columnist, here and maybe forever, Bob, the Columnist. Thank you for being here.

HERBERT: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: The McCain camp would like you to know that even though they got an Internet endorsement today form a widely-discredited and diminished anonymous poster claiming to be the al-Qaeda, it was really actually an endorsement for Barack Obama because the terrorists are using complex, reverse political psychology to try to get people to vote for McCain because Obama is really their guy, or something? This is wrong on so many levels, but I will sort it out, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Did you hear the one today about al-Qaeda endorsing John McCain for president? It sounds like line three of a joke that starts with a parrot and an RPG, doesn't it?

There was a post on a militant Web site today that said how a McCain presidency would be good for al-Qaeda, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, it's not an official al-Qaeda endorsement. It's some guy who posts commentaries on a militant Web site and he's making what's being called a consensus argument from the militant Web site, which is that to the extent these guys care about American politicians, they would prefer one who will cooperate with the bleed-America-to-bankruptcy plan that Bin Laden announced in 2004 which unfortunately has been progressing pretty well under George W. Bush.

That's all beside the point. The point here is that the al-Qaeda endorses the McCain story. The Obama campaign and even most of the press did not today show a ton of enthusiasm for trying to hit McCain with this. Sure, it's a shocking headline but I mean, what are these guys supposed to do? Reject the endorsement?

Thanks but no thanks to the al-Qaeda endorsement. Incredibly, incredibly, that is actually what the McCain campaign decided to do today. Rather than letting this sleeping dog lie, the McCain campaign today announced a conference call with reporters to discuss the fact that militant Web sites were posting commentaries saying that John McCain would be a better bet for al-Qaeda than Barack Obama would.

If you are a campaign operative and you're scanning the agenda for your conference with reporters and somewhere on that agenda, you see the phrase "explain terrorist preferences for our candidates," cancel the conference call. What are you thinking?

But sure enough the ever-loving McCain campaign decided to go for it today to try to make hay in this sunshine. The foreign policy guy, Randy Scheunemann - he got on the call and read a list of positive quotes about Obama from people like Hamas and Iranians and stuff.

And then former CIA director Jim Woolsey got on the line. He is a guy perhaps best remembered most famous for blaming Saddam for 9/11 two days after 9/11. He got on the line and explained that as a former CIA director, we should interpret what this endorsement means as such.

Quote, he said, "I think one has to consider the motives. This individual knows that the endorsement of people like him is a kiss of death. He's clearly trying to damage John McCain." Not speaking from his heart. So you got that?

The official on-purpose McCain campaign line on the al-Qaeda pseudo-endorsement of McCain is that it is reverse psychology. They know that Americans hate al-Qaeda so the al-Qaeda is pledging their support for John McCain to try to hurt John McCain.

In other words, al-Qaeda is playing the opposite game. They're being sarcastic. They know we hate them. They know we'll do opposite of what they want us to do. So they're telling us to do what they don't really want us to do.

MADDOW: On a related note, have you seen the new al-Qaeda poster series showing Osama Bin Laden hugging a swimsuit model? That's how they're planning to force all of the American women into the burqas. Bin Laden loves bikinis. So cover up, ladies.

We shouldn't even have to be talking about this, but now that they have gone there, it has to be said. Why is it that when al-Qaeda sort of endorses John McCain, we shouldn't take that at face value? We should see that as reverse psychology?

But if Hamas or anybody else unsavory endorses Obama, well, those people - they say what they mean. The McCain Web site still today has a hit piece up about Hamas loving Obama. Maybe Hamas is playing the opposite game, too?

This is among the stupidest things I have ever seen the John McCain campaign do. Instead of ignoring this nonsense, which is what they should have done, they are trying to make it into a hit against Barack Obama by saying anything damaging to Obama should be taken at face value, but anything damaging to McCain should be seen as it's opposite. Good luck with that, you guys.

Now, I'm going to get back to reading my big book of Bin Laden's heart warming love songs to the infidel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Now, it's time for "Just Enough" with my friend Kent Jones.

Hey, Kent. What have you got?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Now, campaigns are all about selling, right? So the new "Ad Age" magazine has the results of a survey where voters were asked to associate the candidates with well-known consumer brands.

The results - voters associated Barack Obama with BMW, Target and Google. While John McCain was compared to Ford, Wal-Mart and AOL.

Now these results have been updated to reflect his performance in the last couple of weeks, so now McCain is being compared to Beta Max, New Coke and the '74 Pinto.

In Japan, the Prime Minister Taro Aso is being slammed by the media because since taking office in late September, he likes to hang out in swanky Tokyo bars and hotel restaurants with his cronies a lot when his country is on the verge of a recession.

Aso, who comes from a rich family, defiantly informed reporters, quote, "Fortunately I have money. I pay by myself. It's my style. I won't change it."

Aso, who recently (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for spending hours at a luxury restaurant right after going to a supermarket to talk to voters about rising food prices. Well, at least he's not out there preaching small town values and then dropping $150,000 on clothes. I mean, a leader can't do that.

Finally, Kim Jong Il versus hair. A Japanese newspaper reports that the opinionated North Korean strong man was watching a university soccer match and became incensed by some of the players' insulting, disrespectful long hair, saying, "I think it is untidy and not befitting for athletes. What kind of haircuts are these? If things are like this, you cannot tell whether this is a men's football match or women's.

Now, I'm not getting into your business but maybe hair isn't your best subject. Rachel?

MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.

MADDOW: And thank you for watching tonight. We'll see you tomorrow night. "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN" starts right now.

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

END

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