THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
October 29, 2008
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Kent Jones, Mike Easley, Michael McDonald, Frank Rich, Ron Paul
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Keith, me too.
And thank you for staying with us this hour. So, what did you think of the Obama 30-minute campaign ad. I had to tell you, he had me at the waving wheat right from the beginning. Americans love crops in stiff breezes.
(voice over): Less than a week to go and the two-year run, and the Obama campaign goes all Ross Perot? We`re not talking about the ears and there`s no giant sucking sound to speak of. But, still, a half hour ad buy on just about every channel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Michelle and I have met so many Americans who`re looking for real and lasting change that makes a difference in their lives.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you`re watching this gauzy, feel-good commercial, just remember, that it was paid for with broken promises.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Was it worth the money? Does it pose a risk? Governor Mark Easley joins us live with his view from battleground North Carolina.
The McCain campaign sends some Democrats into a cold sweat by claiming they are even in the battleground polls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: There`s less than a week to go, we`re a few points down. The pundits have written us off, OK, just like they`ve done several times before. They are wrong before and they are wrong now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What does the McCain campaign know that nobody else knows? Are the early voting numbers that soft?
McCain and Palin tried to take one last swing at Obama at this eerie, terrorist-sympathizer, commie guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His associate, Rashid Khalidi, he -- in addition to being a political ally of Barack Obama, he`s a former spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They are talking about a former PLO spokesman whose research was funded to the tone of about $500,000 by the International Republican Institute, and its chairman, John McCain. Frank Rich of the "New York Times" is here to talk us through that hypocrisy minefield.
And, what`s to become of the Republican Party? Sarah Palin sort of tells ABC News that she`d like to say out loud that she`s sort of kind of been maybe thinking about absolutely running for president in 2012. What will that do to the mavericky old party? Presidential candidate Ron Paul joins us to comment.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
(on camera): It`s closing time on the campaign trail. And how is Barack Obama trying to finish last call? With a cocktail that is equal parts audacity, anxiety, humor and offense. The audacity? Obama`s big final sales pitch in a format typically reserved for stomach muscle machines and cutlery that never dulls, even after slicing through a tin can. But Senator Obama`s infomercial did have one thing that the folks talking all-in-one garden tools at 2:00 a.m. will never have. And that was a primetime slot on seven networks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: Starting at that speech at the Democratic convention in Boston and ever since, people have noticed there`s a quality in Barack Obama they just don`t see in other candidates.
OBAMA: There is not a liberal America and a conservative America, there is the United States of America.
DURBIN: He`s a person who as a state legislature was a clear leader in Springfield on so many important issues that really made a difference. Came to Washington, had an impact as soon as he arrived.
SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He came in, not only reached out, but reached across the aisle to Dick Lugar, one of the leading guys in America for the past 20 years on arms control, to keep loose nukes out of the hands of terrorists.
I was amazed. I watched him incisively question the secretary of state in a nomination process. I remember literally turning to Chris Dodd saying, "Whoa, this guy`s good."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Is this 30-minute ad a bold move? Well, it is the boldest presidential TV time buy since Ross Perot in 1992 and the giant sucking sound pie charts. Is it too bold a move? Purning (ph) in American`s all important TV time with the political ad?
Well, John McCain was apparently hoping you would feel that way when he tried to shore up the vote of Joe the Philly`s fan by accusing Obama and his evil ad of delaying the World Series.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TUESDAY)
MCCAIN: It used to be that only rain or some other act of God could delay the World Series. But I guess the networks execs figured an Obama infomercial was close enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There are two problems with McCain`s protest. First, according to FOX, that bastion of liberal elitist media, Obama`s ad buy is not at all delaying the World Series. The executive in charge of the buy for FOX, again, a noted bastion of Democratic partisanship, the FOX exec said, quote, "Our first pitch for the World Series is usually around 8:30 anyway -- so we didn`t push back the game, it was really just about suspending the pre-game."
The problem with McCain`s "no one will delay a World Series when I`m president" line is -- well, remember that the first game of the NFL season this year got pushed up by an hour and a half? Why was that again? Oh, yes, to accommodate John McCain`s speech at the Republican National Convention. Are you ready for some stump speech everybody?
Even if Americans don`t blame Obama for the regular 8:30 start time of the World Series, just like no one really blamed John McCain for changing the whole start time of the NFL season this year, Republicans still want to try to stoke your annoyance anyway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE EARLY SHOW"/CBS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think the one fear, I bet people inside the Obama campaign have is that this comes across as a little presumptuous that he`s already in the job and taking over network time like this, I think can have a negative reaction in some of these states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As if in answer to Mr. Bartlett (ph) there, Barack Obama has tempered the boldness of the big TV buy tonight with an online ad that targets his supporters, specifically. And that online ad is going way viral. Did you see this today?
The metaphor here is -- get your hands back on the handlebars you dorknossle (ph). Stop celebrating. Keep pedaling.
Now, even though this looks like a homemade YouTube clip job, it`s got that priceless feel, it`s actually a piece that was produced by the official Obama campaign, to remind worried Democrats that they ought to be worried, that they ought to be working harder. It ends with -- the ad ends by imploring the viewer that they should get out and plan to volunteer for Obama on Election Day or before.
Then there`s also Obama`s secret sense of humor weapon. After weeks of being pounded by the McCain campaign as a socialist, Senator Obama decided to take that on today by making fun of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Lately, he`s called me a socialist -- for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class. I don`t know what`s next. By the end of the week, he`ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And now, in the home stretch of the home stretch of the home stretch, the Obama campaign has added some pointed offense to the mix. Their newest ad accuses John McCain of being weak on the economy, and for the first time, it`s sort of officially goes after McCain for choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate -- wink, wink.
So, audacity the infomercial, enunciated anxiety, keep pedaling, a sense of humor, the communist PB&J sandwiches in offense -- McCain picked Palin. Those are the ingredients in Obama`s closing time cocktail. Is he leaving anything out?
Joining us now is Governor Mike Easley of North Carolina, a swing state for the first time in years, where Barack Obama spoke in front of 28,000 people in Raleigh today.
Governor, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
GOV. MIKE EASLEY, (D) NORTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Rachel. Good to be back with you. What is dorknossle (ph) again?
MADDOW: I will tell you when you`re older.
MADDOW: Governor Easley, first, I`ve got to ask you about the 30-minute ad. I assume that you were able to see it from where you are now. Do you think it was a good move? Do you think that was well done? Do you think it poses any risk?
EASLEY: I think it was necessary. I think it was good. I think it gave Barack Obama a chance to make his closing argument to the people, to do away with some of the inaccuracies that people have seen.
And, you know, the important thing about this is, if you spend a little time with Barack Obama, which I have had the privilege to do, you find out that this is not about him. And this ad was not about him. It was about a lot of different people across in America and he had this kind (ph) of ways where everybody saw somebody like themselves or somebody they know. That`s the first thing I noticed about it and I thought that was very compelling, that he`s making this about the American people, not about Barack Obama.
The second thing that I think is important is he`s talked about and written a book about the "Audacity of Hope." Tonight`s ad was more about the power of hope, letting people know that if they will just stand up, stand up for themselves, take charge of their own life, accept personal responsibility for this democracy -- that we can go forward and we can make a lot of changes. Those were the two things I picked and I thought were particularly helpful. I actually were very moved by this 30-minute ad.
MADDOW: I thought that the ad was -- it was very serious and very sober. And it was interesting, I mean, we did see some flash of humor today on the campaign trail, today from the candidate in person when he was in North Carolina today. And I think it`s the third time he`s been there this month.
He actually made fun of McCain calling him a socialist. And I love that because I feel like the socialist thing is ridiculous and it deserves being made fun of. But I wonder if you feel that there are people in your state, undecided voters who may have taken that line of attack seriously, who need to be seriously, soberly talked out of the socialist accusation?
EASLEY: Yes. I really don`t think -- I mean, he had a lot of great lines, but I thought that was a good one about, you know, while he was in kindergarten playing with his link-n-logs (ph) and shared with others or whatever -- LEGOs (ph), whatever they were.
Look -- here`s what`s going on. Barack Obama is talking about doing a tax cut for the middle class, people who really need some help. And all of a sudden, McCain says, well, that`s socialist, you`re helping your friends and you`re going to make sure they get a tax cut. And that`s true, Barack Obama represents the middle class, everything he wants to do does help to rebuild the middle class, what he calls builds (ph) America.
But, what about McCain`s tax cuts? He wants to do $700,000 a piece for every Fortune 500 CEO -- $700,000. Now, how come that tax cut isn`t socialist if Barack Obama`s middle class tax cut is supposed to be socialist? So, I think they are sort of throwing the long ball here. They`re -- as he put it, I think, in one speech, they are out of ideas and they`re running out of time.
I don`t think anybody is buying the socialist agenda. They understand it. If they are making under $250,000, they`re going to get a tax cut. That covers about everybody in North Carolina.
MADDOW: I don`t want to look too far ahead here, but I was looking at the voter registration numbers in North Carolina that they`re preparing to talk to you and realize that because of the mobilization efforts in this election, there are now almost 1 million more registered Democrats in North Carolina than there are registered Republicans, which reflects an incredible ground game, a lot of enthusiasm.
But, I wonder, regardless of what happens of the presidential election, has the North Carolina political landscape changed or North Carolina Democrats going to move to try to take advantage of this motherload of new Democrats they`ve got after this election?
EASLEY: Well, I think so. The registration drive has been great. They`ve got 50 offices in North Carolina, 21,000 volunteers, had 28,000 people at the event today. And that`s because you couldn`t put anymore in that area than that. I think it`s going to be good for the Democratic ticket, up and down.
But, you know, that dynamic has changed a little bit. But what has changed more than anything else is, it`s finally catching up. The chickens have come home to roost from these McCain-Bush economic policies, these trade policies -- all of which had been poorly negotiated, all of which had been even more poorly enforced.
And the public is finally getting it. After 2004, they almost got it. But they know now that this doesn`t work. And we have to make a change.
So, I think, what you are seeing in the change of dynamics, and not only registration, but you see a simple syllogism here which is Bush and McCain have the same policy.
Secondly, the Bush economic policy does not work. It`s a failure. And third, that means we have to change and that`s Barack Obama. And he`s got specific policies and not only in the economy, but education and energy and tax policy that will change the dynamics of the economy for America.
MADDOW: Governor Mike Easley of the unlikely swing state of North Carolina. It`s so good to have you back on the show. Thanks for joining us.
EASLEY: Thanks, Rachel. Good to be back with you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Barack Obama is having quite a day -- an uninterrupted half-hour in primetime television and a rally with Bill Clinton coming up shortly. Most people never get either.
Still, John McCain seems as confident as he ever has. Does McCain know something that we don`t? Time for a talking down.
And, in Florida today, McCain and Sarah Palin tried to link Obama with PLO. Here`s the catch, in this case, Obama is rubber, McCain is glue, everything McCain said bounced off him, and (INAUDIBLE) you know who. We`ll get into that later with "New York Times" columnist Frank Rich.
Quick reminder: Right after tonight`s show, I`m going to Florida to prepare to sit down tomorrow for an interview with Barack Obama. I know. Tomorrow night, you can see the entire interview right here.
But first, one more thing, about the polls and how accurate they maybe aren`t. The latest "L.A. Times"/Bloomberg Poll of early voters in Florida and Ohio contains this really, really interesting tidbit: 6 percent of Florida voters and 3 percent of Ohio voters, those are early voters told pollsters they don`t know who they voted for, who they already voted for. The post election undecided voter? That is a very new idea.
MADDOW: Maybe it`s post-traumatic stress, dating back to November 2nd, 2004 when John Kerry snatched shame from the jaws of glory and lost to George W. Bush. Maybe it`s genetic predisposition. But a lot of Democrats are waking up in the middle of the night lately, in a cold sweat, despite favorable poll numbers for their candidate.
Last night, the voice in the darkness was John McCain`s lead pollster who leaked a strategy memo to the press that said this, "The McCain is functionally tied across the battleground states, with our numbers improving sharply over the last four tracks." He went on to say this, quote, "All signs say we are headed to an election that may easily be too close to call by next Tuesday."
We`ve talked a lot about early voting and record voter registration and the Obama ground game, all of which look like signs of a forthcoming Democratic presidency, but we are coming up on Halloween. So, do you want more chills up your spine, Obama supporters?
The McCain campaign pollster also says this, quote, "There is simply no model that begins to know or predict the composition of the electorate at this level of turn-out. My own view and our own weights in our surveys reflect a belief that African-American turn-out will be at historic levels. There will be a significant boost with voters 18 to 29 years old, yet the overall high level of turn-out will begin to mute the increase in the percentage these sub-groups represent in the overall electorate."
In other words, lots of Obama voters are going to turn out, sure, but not enough. Meanwhile, the McCain campaign`s political director, Mike DuHaime, he told reporters in the back of the campaign plane that he was encouraged -- encouraged by some of the early voting trends.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE DUHAIME, MCCAIN`S POLITICAL DIRECTOR: There`s no doubt that a lot of Democrats have voted early, but as you look deeper in the numbers a vast, vast majority of Democrats that are voting are presidential-year voters. They vote in every single presidential election. In a state like Nevada, you have fewer new people voting this year than in 2004. A place like Iowa you have fewer young people voting than in 2004.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Low turn-out so far he`s saying among young voters and new voters, that`s exciting to McCain campaign. Have Obama`s tires sprung a slow, invisible leak? And if the McCain camp is so confident, how they come they`ve resorted to running robocalls in Arizona, McCain`s home state?
I need some talking down here, or at least some setting straight. Here to Talk Me Down, perhaps, is Michael McDonald. He`s an associate professor at the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University. He`s compiling early and absentee data from all the states this year. He is a very busy man.
Professor McDonald, thank you for your time.
MICHAEL MCDONALD, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: McCain is -- he has political director saying to reporters, not privately but to reporters that fewer new voters are voting in Nevada than in 2004. He says Iowa has fewer young people voting than in 2004. From what you can tell from the data, are they right about that?
MCDONALD: Well, it`s actually difficult to tell with the data that I`m seeing. But we are seeing in North Carolina where there`s one-stop early voting. This is almost like Election Day registration, where people can come in and vote and register all at the same time. They just can`t do Election Day registration within the state on Election Day.
And here in North Carolina, we`ve already seen 100,000 people who were not previously registered to vote, vote within that state. So, I wouldn`t call those people frequent voters by any stretch of the imagination.
MADDOW: Do you see any soft spots in early voting for Obama, either things coming in lower than expectations, slower than expectations or different demographic turnout than was expected?
MCDONALD: Well, where we are seeing strength is among African-Americans. And they really are off the charts. So -- African-Americans are voting at this rate and they maintain that level of voting through Election Day, we`re going to see a much greater share of the electorate be composed of African-Americans than in 2004, in fact, in many previous elections.
And what`s really fascinating here is how early voting usually is not where African-Americans tend to vote. They`ll vote on Election Day. To see these numbers switch around where we are seeing high levels of African-Americans voting, that`s very unusual.
Now, the weaknesses. So, in some of these states, we are seeing that the absentee vote, that traditional vote that`s cast through the mail, the Republicans are doing quite well. They`ve got about a three-to-two margin in states like North Carolina and Florida, where we do have these breakdowns by party registration.
And so, in states where we`re seeing high levels of early vote that`s coming through the mail, the Republicans are actually doing rather well now when we look at the registration numbers. There`s at least some parity with the Democrats in, say, a state like Florida.
And we`re also seeing, yet, for those young people to turn-out to vote. So, there`s some truth to that as well. They have not turned out in the early electorate like they do. The same share they did in 2004.
But here`s the thing. Young people don`t vote early in the past. So, this is not surprising to see these differentials at this stage of the election so far.
MADDOW: So, if you want to pile up all the negatives, which, of course, I like to do because I`m that kind of person, the piling of all the negatives for Obama supporters who have felt very confident -- right now, we`re looking at high numbers of Republicans requesting absentee ballots. We`re looking at relatively low turn-out among young voters for early voting. And also in states like Colorado and Florida, we are seeing less than a 5 percent difference between Republicans and Democrats in terms of who`s turning out for early voting.
So, there are some reasons for the McCain camp to be cheerful here. I guess, in the larger scheme of things then because early voting isn`t everything, we have to go right through Election Day. It seems to me that the Republican voter turn-out program is really focused on the last 72 hours, we haven`t even really seen what the Republicans are capable of turning people out for, yet.
Do you have a sense of how good their last 72 hours program is going to be this year?
MCDONALD: We really don`t. We`re not going to know until we actually see it take place. All we know that in 2004, is that those 527 organizations, which we don`t hear a lot about anymore, did quite well in turning out their Democrats for Kerry but that 72-hour campaign, which the Republicans really pioneered back in 2002 and carried forth 2004, did an exceptional job of matching those 527s, voter for voter. And we know how that 2004 election turned out.
What`s different is that the Democrats have learned lessons from the past. And in 2006, it looked like the Democrats actually did a better job of mobilizing their voters than the Republicans. And so, what we`ve got here is a situation where the Obama campaign has a lot of energy, a lot of money, a lot of volunteers. They have a lot of organization to not only register people, but now, they`ve transition that registration effort into an early voting, get out the vote effort. And they dug a deep hole for John McCain.
Will the ladder be long enough for John McCain with that 72-hour campaign to get out of the hole that the Democrats have dug for him?
MADDOW: That`s the question at hand.
Michael McDonald, associate professor in Public and International Affairs at George Mason -- many thanks, I appreciate it.
MCDONALD: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: Republican Party honchos are having a not-so-secret summit meeting two days after the election. Topics that are not likely to be on the agenda? How about: how do we do exactly the same thing this year the next time around? The Republican Party this time next year will probably be really, really different than it is right now.
I wonder how the phenomenon that is Ron Paul will fit in to the new post-election Republican Party. I will ask Ron Paul in just a few minutes on tonight`s show. For a man whose campaign has been hitting every...
MADDOW: For a man whose campaign has been hitting every pothole lately, John McCain certainly has been smiling a lot this week. Is the Florida sunshine a natural endorphin rush? Or does John McCain know something that we don`t know about the election? Something game-changing? Later, I`ll talk with "New York Times" columnist Frank Rich about John McCain`s eerie sense of confidence.
First, though, it`s time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in today`s news. We are six days out from the election. And the election is sort of all anyone can talk, think, or read about which makes this a great time to quietly roll out other news that is you hope no one pays attention to.
This is the week, for example, that the Bush administration has decided to leak word of their big sequel idea for the Bush doctrine. Remember when Charlie Gibson asked - ABC asked Sarah Palin was asked about the Bush doctrine and she didn`t seem to know what it was and it was embarrassing?
Well, the Bush doctrine is about waging war to prevent a threat to the United States from emerging. It`s a really radical idea. I mean, it`s not controversial to say a country can wage war in response if they`re attacked. It`s not even really controversial that a country can use force if they believe they are about to be attacked.
The Bush doctrine is a big hairy deal because it says we believe we can attack any country, if we think they may, at some point, ever become a threat to us. The Bush doctrine is preventive war, asserting the right to wage war against the country because we think they could, at some point, in the future, develop a capacity to attack us some day. It`s radical, right? It`s even bizarre. That`s why it`s a big deal that Sarah Palin didn`t know what it was.
Well, this week, Bush administration officials started to unveil Bush doctrine two - those cross-border raids from Afghanistan into Pakistan, those cross-border raids from Iraq into Syria. Are troops making raids inside sovereign countries that we are not at war with, or even into countries that we`re allied with, ignoring governments and borders at our own discretion? That`s all apparently Bush doctrine two.
Now, love it or hate it, it`s a big deal. It probably deserves some debate. That`s probably why they`re sneaking it out in leaks to the press a week before the election.
Now, we`ve got an update on the story that we covered a few days ago, the two-to-five-hour waits in line at early voting sites in Florida. Those lines are in part because of a law passed in 2005 by the Republican Florida legislature, limiting early voting to fewer places over less time.
Close a couple of lanes on the bridge at rush hour? More people will be late for dinner, right? Right. Well, Republican Governor Charlie Crist changed that law with an emergency order on Tuesday. Hooray. That`s Charlie Crist who was on everybody`s shortlist to be John McCain`s vice presidential running mate before McCain picked - well, you know.
Gov. Crist cited long lines as the reason for his action. He extended early voting hours from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. as well extended weekend voting hours to a total of 12. It`s not clear if this move is payback for being snubbed by McCain for VP, but who cares? Good on you, Gov. Crist. A five-hour wait to vote is a problem in America, full stop. I`m glad you saw it that way.
MADDOW: Think what you might about John McCain`s chances of winning the presidency. I think they`re pretty good. That said, nobody else agrees with me. McCain has a spring in his step, a twinkle in his eye, vim and vigor. It`s kind of an eerie confidence. But why does he seem that way?
Whether it`s secret internal polling or superhuman denial, McCain is throwing punches like he thinks he is going to win. In Florida, today, Sen. McCain went right for the old Republican bread and butter of the Cuban American population. McCain saying this, quote, "I noticed in the past couple days that Fidel made his preferences known in the campaign and had some very unkind things to say about me. My feelings are hurt."
Oh. Invoking Fidel Castro. Anything scary that more 2000-ish that you want to say about Obama? Well, no. But they did retread something that "L.A. Times" reported in April which is about - in 2003, in Chicago, there was a going-away party for a professor, who is a current Columbia University professor named Rashid Khalidi who is an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights.
Barack Obama attended the event and "The Times" apparently has a tape of the event. Now, the McCain campaign is trying to make an issue of that.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I guarantee you, if there was a tape with me and Sarah Palin and some neo-Nazi or one of those, you think that that tape wouldn`t be made public? Of course, Americans need to know, particularly about Ayers and also about the PLO.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Careful, Senator. You are violating the "I`m rubber, you`re glue" rule of hypocritical campaigning. According to reporters, Seth Colter Walls of "The Huffington Post" today, John McCain was chairman of the International Republican Institute when that organization sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Palestinian research center, co-founded by - say it with me now - Rashid Khalidi, same guy.
This is the same campaign tune being sung with standard hypocrisy but renewed vigor. Another piece of evidence in Sen. McCain`s closing argument today - a greatest hits "be afraid of Obama" ad, but this time with a weird new twist at the end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OVER: Behind the fancy speeches, grand promises and TV specials, lies the truth. With crises at home and abroad, Barack Obama lacks the experience America needs. And it shows. His response to our economic crisis is to spend and tax our economy deeper into recession. The fact is, Barack Obama is not ready, yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yet? Not ready yet? It`s kind of an upgrade from not ready at all, isn`t it? So here`s the question. Where is McCain`s confidence coming from? Can the reemergence of this sort of happy-warrior bit thing win in the election? And what does this "yet" thing, anyway?
Joining us now is "New York Times" columnist frank Rich. Mr. Rich, nice to see you.
FRANK RICH, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: First I have to ask you - yet? Not ready yet? Will he be ready next week? What`s the idea?
RICH: Well, maybe it`s a Florida thing - you know, Yiddish inflection "yet?" All right. But you know, I think there were people who are no longer with the McCain camp, who were at the start saying one way to run this campaign would have been to actually do a positive campaign, say I respect Barack Obama and mean it, but the guy isn`t ready yet, and for now, you need someone with more experience. Those people are no longer involved with the campaign. And yet that they`re going to this tactic in the last week shows they`re just trying absolutely everything from moment to moment.
MADDOW: But it`s hard to say that somebody is essentially a terrorist sympathizer who is anti-American, who is essentially a traitor and ought to be killed for that, because that`s what we do to traitors in this country. But also that, you know, he`s relatively a nice guy. I have a lot of respect for him. It is hard to throw the tactics of the kitchen sink when they defeat one another internally.
RICH: Exactly. And also, this was the week we were kept being told that McCain finally had an economic message and was sticking to it. Joe the Plumber, ad infinitum, and that`s the main issue facing the country. It was a smart thing for him to do. Well, that was sort of forgotten now as we`re back in national security and 3:00 a.m. call type ads.
MADDOW: Are you surprised by the effort by the McCain campaign to try to bring the conversation back to national security? I mean, they have been using the sort of blunt fear-mongering, you know, invoking Castro, invoking Bin Laden today, invoking the PLO today and going to this great and embarrassing and hypocritical lengths to do it. This is pretty simple stuff, but they are doing it in a pretty overt, concerted ways. Is that a surprising move?
RICH: Nothing that they do surprises me, because everything they do is a surprise. They don`t - Obama had a plan for this campaign and they don`t. So this is now in the greatest hits territory. It`s an oldie but a goody. It worked for Bush in other campaigns for the government. But people are not thinking about this now. And I think as we saw with the response to the Bill Ayers thing, they`re just basically tuning it out.
MADDOW: Well, they don`t need to get everybody to think about it. But if they can move key constituencies in key states with this stuff, that might be what they need. It seems to me, particularly, because of where McCain was when he was making these accusations today in Florida. But this is a specific effort to try to move Jewish voters in Florida, to try to turn them against Obama.
RICH: Well, yes. I`m sure that`s the case, if I may say. Speaking as someone who is actually Jewish, I find the pandering to the Jewish community in the most base terms really offensive. And, you know, if they want to get into this sort of guilt by association thing - American Jews could point out, they are made uncomfortable as I am by Sarah Palin going to a church that plays host to Jews for Jesus which is an attack on Jewish religion.
But I think, you know, they are underestimating the intelligence of American Jews just as they are of the other constituencies. And you know, if he really wanted to pander, he probably should have put Lieberman on the ticket anyway. He missed that call, big time.
MADDOW: Well, Lieberman, at this point, is the only one who hasn`t said, "He really would be doing better if he had picked me," the way Tom Ridge said in Pennsylvania.
RICH: Give him another day.
MADDOW: I know. The Republican defections are entertaining, but they`ve all got to a little bit painful, too. The overt fighting between McCain and Palin factions within the campaign obviously served Sarah Palin well if she does want to make a post-2008 run for the leadership of the Republican Party to say, "Listen, if they left it up to me, obviously I was fighting them. I was being a maverick even against them. If they left it up to me, we would have won. I`m a better choice than John McCain." Is there any way in which it serves John McCain as well?
RICH: No. I don`t think there is. To be honest about it, it looks very fractious. It looks like his own campaign is in disarray because they`ve broken out in civil war. This always happens with failing campaigns in both parties.
And Sarah Palin is indeed being set up by people around her and perhaps by herself as a martyr. And that meeting that you referred to earlier of the right, you know, sort of convening after the election is over. I`m sure that it will be like another sort of beauty pageant for her in terms of her being crowned for the future.
MADDOW: Frank Rich, "New York Times" columnist, thanks for being here. Nice to see you.
RICH: Nice to see you. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Follow me, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on a perilous journey across the stormy sea, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in danger of sinking to the watery depths. All hands are fighting. No one is at the wheel and the rudder has snapped in two. This is the piteous fate of the "SS/GOP." Congressman Ron Paul will be here next to talk about lifeboats for the Republican Party.
MADDOW: are we watching the end of the Republican Party as we know it now? You know, the Reagany(ph), Gingrichy(ph), Cheney(ph), Bushy(ph) party we have come to know and have feelings about? A political article suggests that the GOP might be starting over already.
"Politico" reports that next Thursday, two days after the election, top conservatives will meet at the Virginia home of one of the parties most prominent members to begin a conversation about how to best revive their party, which is not something you typically plan to do if you think your nominee is going to win the White House.
With the historic unpopularity of the Bush administration, defections from John McCain`s campaign by all manner of Republicans, and the nighttime soap opera that is the McCain-Palin ticket, it may be a good idea now to recalibrate what "Red State America" means. What is the future of the Republican Party?
Gov. Sarah Palin thinks that she is the future of the GOP apparently. She suggested today in an interview with ABC News that if the Republican ticket is defeated on Tuesday, she expects to be a player in the 2012 election. "I`m not doing this for naught," she told ABC.
You know, there may be no "I" in "team," but there one in "maverick." So Sarah Palin reads the party`s palm and sees herself, socially conservative, anti-intellectual, economic populist, maybe.
But there are many different types of conservatives as there are waves in the ocean. What does Libertarian candidate Bob Barr see in the future? He`s on the ballot in 45 states.
What about the Constitution Party`s Chuck Baldwin? He`s on 37 state ballots. And what about 2008`s grassroots sensation of the right wing, Republican congressman, Dr. Ron Paul. Dr. Paul stole the show at the Republican primary debates, largely by setting himself apart from the perceived pillars of the GOP.
And last month, at the third-party candidate`s press conference in Washington, Dr. Paul announced he would not support John McCain. So what is the future of the Republican Party and who is going to be heading it up?
Joining us now, former Libertarian presidential candidate, current Republican Congressman Ron Paul. Congressman Paul, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), FORMER LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
MADDOW: I should speak more precisely and say that you were the Libertarian Party`s nominee for president in 1988. You were a Republican presidential candidate this year.
MADDOW: Why did you decide to stick with the Republican Party right through the primaries and not try to be the nominee of the Constitution Party or the Libertarian Party this year?
PAUL: Mainly because the laws are very biased against people doing that. Some states won`t even allow you to do it. But this system is not very democratic for third parties and alternate choices. All the rules and all the laws are written by Republicans and Democrats, so it`s very hard to get in the debate.
If I hadn`t been in the Republican primary, I wouldn`t get into the debates. It`s very hard to get on ballots. Although they`ve done relatively well, it takes a lot of money. They spent half their money just getting on ballots. So the system is very biased against the competition and that`s the reason so many of us - and I think you`ve got a large number of the American people.
In spite of this horse race going on, a large number of American people - maybe not the majority - think that, really, they don`t have a good choice and that the system is very biased, and that the status quo is going to be maintained.
MADDOW: By virtue of the fact that you did get into the debates and you were part of the Republican primaries right through them and you made a lot of money and you got a lot of attention, you attracted a lot of support, particularly from people who had seen themselves as outside the traditional market for politicos.
You brought a lot of people in the political system who you didn`t think there was a place for them in it before you. And for that, I`ve had a lot of admiration for how you ran this campaign this year. I wonder how you see those folks who you mobilized moving forward in the electorate. Do you think they are still alienated from the two-party system? Or could you imagine them lending their support to somebody?
PAUL: Well, a lot of them are running for office right now. You`d be surprised there. In some states, there are 20 and 30 individuals running. And they did it spontaneously due to the enthusiasm built in the campaign. New Hampshire and Minnesota and different places - there`s a lot of candidates we can`t even keep up with just as we couldn`t keep up with how we were raising the money in the primary.
There`s a lot of spontaneous energy because the message is so great. The message of individual liberty really attracted the young people. It`s interesting that a lot of young people that Obama has go back and forth. They support him but they like me and yet our message is significantly different.
But our message is very attractive to young people. They like the idea of self reliance and individual liberty. They like to get out of these wars. They love the idea of talking about monetary policy which neither McCain or Obama will dare talk about. Why do we have a federal reserve?
And now, we have this financial crisis going on. The young people are really excited. Well, this is what we`ve been talking about knowing for the past two years - for about many more years. So it`s appropriate to talk about this financial calamity, how it`s related to this trillion-dollar-a-year expenditure that we spend on our foreign policy and how it`s bringing us to our knees and how we more or less capitulated(ph) to Osama Bin Laden`s idea of getting us over there.
You know, bringing us down overseas in a war like they did to the Soviets, bankrupting this country. So we have fallen into a terrible trap. And right now, we`re expanding it. And unfortunately, the two major candidates aren`t even talking about Syria and Pakistan and the things that are important because they essentially both agree with that viewpoint.
They both say, "Send more troops to Afghanistan." And quite frankly, I am not expecting the troops, regardless of whether Obama wins, that they`ll be home in 16 months. That is just pure political talk. Both candidates support the same foreign policy, same monetary policy. Neither one talks about, you know, balancing the budget so the young people want to hear something different. They love the message of individual liberty. They love the idea of defending the constitution, you know, that old fashioned idea. And that`s what has energized our campaign. Actually, it`s given me a lot of energy as well.
MADDOW: Former presidential candidate, current Republican congressman and political phenom, Ron Paul, thank you so much for joining us tonight, sir.
PAUL: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up, I`m going to get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. The worst campaign ads ever. We`ve got them and you will love them.
MADDOW: Now, it`s time for "Just Enough" with my friend, Kent Jones, who force-feeds me just enough pop culture so I can be allowed out in public. Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Well, for some reason you thought Barack Obama`s ad tonight was the worst thing you`ve ever seen. Pull up a chair. "Politico" made a list of the worst campaign ads of the season. Let`s start it off with a very deserving spot from Jim Slatter(ph), a Democrat running for Senate in Kansas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OVER: Wall Street bailout -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: OK. You know, the thing is we`re the little guys on this and the big guys are big oil and big healthcare and they are all bad, right? And then let`s see what happens.
MADDOW: Oh, no, no.
JONES: Oh, no, no, no, no. Red card. OK. OK. Now - yes. Jim, there`s metaphor and then there`s whatever that was. Learn the difference. Begging you.
Next up in North Carolina, Sen. Elizabeth Dole redefines the word "desperate" with this unbelievable ad against Democrat Kay Hagan. Dole refuses to pull this ad, by the way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE (R-NC): I`m Elizabeth Dole and I approve this message.
VOICE OVER: A leader of the Godless American`s PAC recently held a secret fundraiser in Kay Hagan`s honor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no God to rely on. There was no Jesus.
BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": You`ve taken "under God" out of the pledge of allegiance. You`re down with that?
DAVID SILVERMAN, GODLESS AMERICANS, INC.: We`re down with that.
O`REILLY: "In God we trust" - are you going to rip that off the money.
SILVERMAN: Yes, we would.
VOICE OVER: Godless Americans and Kay Hagan. She hid from cameras, took godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Godless money? So what paid for this ad, Senator? God-full money? How about this just god awful.
MADDOW: It`s not actually Kay Hagan yelling, "There is no God." That`s somebody else`s voice they put over her face.
JONES: Yes, absolutely.
MADDOW: Very nice.
MADDOW: Very nice.
JONES: And finally, here`s one for the Democrat Diane Benson who ran for Congress in Alaska. Benson lost in the primary but I suspect this ad will last forever. It`s called "Experience."
(VIDEO CLIP OF DIANE BENSON`S POLITICAL AD)
JONES: Alaska - it`s different up there. Rachel -
MADDOW: Kent, please tell me there were words that we edited out of that.
JONES: No. Mostly had trombones and dogs and dog stuff.
JONES: Experience, right.
MADDOW: That`s what you call it? Wow.
JONES: Yes, it`s unbelievable.
MADDOW: Well, thank you, Kent. I appreciate - thank you, I think.
MADDOW: And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. Until then, you can E-mail us, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out our new full-length podcast, the entire show. Go to iTunes or Rachel.MSNBC.com.
And a reminder, tomorrow I`m going to Florida to interview Barack Obama. We`ll show you my entire interview here tomorrow night. A special live edition of "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN" starts right now. Good night.
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