'The Rachel Maddow Show' for **October 31, 2008**
Read the transcript to the Friday show
Past transcripts by month
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Steve Coll, Amy Klobuchar, Lawrence
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith, and congratulations on the “SNL” thing. You have truly, truly made it.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Yes. We‘ll see.
MADDOW: All right.
Thank you also for giving up on the trick or treating for an hour and sticking with us. You will be glad you did because our big awkward sports metaphor is back and we have a new poll reading machine doohickey-thingy to unveil. Yeheey (ph).
(voice over): On Halloween, it‘s time for kids to go door-to-door for candy, for grown-ups to go party in costumes, for TV anchors to use (INAUDIBLE) and for politicians to scare up votes any way they can with anyone they can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama has been in the left hand lane of American politics. And he‘s a taxer and spender. He‘s the most liberal senator in the United States Senate.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you can‘t win on your own ideas, then you try to make up ideas about the other person.
AL GORE, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The choice is between change and more of the same.
GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let‘s not entrust all the powers of the federal government to the one-party rule of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The McCain campaign keeps trying to turn Obama into the boogey man and keeps scaring Democrats with their eerie, eerie electoral optimism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re going to get a down scaled, less well educated, rural, older white voter that I believe is going to vote and break towards John McCain and make the race close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Is the McCain campaign‘s eerie optimism justified? We‘ll break out our all new one-time only special: Where does it all stand polling doohickey machine. That will give us some idea. And Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar will give us hers.
Why is this man backtracking? He is former Republican Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. He said a bad, bad thing about Sarah Palin four days before the election and now he‘s had to apologize. New polling also says bad things about Sarah Palin, but the polls don‘t have to say sorry.
Are we watching the end of Palin‘s political career or the beginning? Lawrence O‘Donnell is here to answer.
And, what‘s wrong with this statement?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let‘s not retreat from wars that are almost won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wars that are almost won? We aren‘t in any wars that are almost won and we‘re kind in a new pseudo-war with Pakistan that just got worse.
And the missile silo in Nebraska with the maybe nuclear missile in it caught fire and George Bush is about to hand all of that, plus some new last-minute deregulation off to the new president. All that plus tricks, treats and more Halloween cliches.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
(on camera): It started on Tuesday night when the McCain campaign released a memo full of certainty that the race for president which has looked lopsidedly like Obama‘s twin was tightening significantly, they said. They said it was too close to call.
Today—more of the same. McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters, quote, “We‘re pretty jazzed up about what we are seeing in the movement of this election.” McCain‘s lead pollster Bill McInturff then chimed in, reasserting that massive turn-out will favor Senator McCain.
What are they seeing that nobody else is seeing? And how can we try and get a peek? Well, we do have some evidence. The polls are evidence. But there‘s so many of them, it sometimes hard to know how to follow them sometimes.
Enter—drum roll please—THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW polling doohickey. We focused group the name. Our polling doohickey takes a broad view, the sum of recent polls as measured by Pollster.com, rather than living and dying by each individual poll, the mission of the doohickey—is to see which way the state races are moving, where things are trending, where is it getting closer, where are McCain or Obama polling away.
OK, cue the doohickey, I hope it works. In some key hotly-contested states, Senator Obama currently has a lead. That‘s those numbers there. And the movement in the polls shows his lead getting bigger, pulling away. That‘s the arrow pointing up. These states are: New Hampshire, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia and Ohio. All of these states are trending blue more and more each day.
Well, how about the states where Senator McCain has a lead? He has a lead that he is widening—there is one of those states, it is West Virginia. Five electoral votes looking McCainy and now even McCainier.
Well, how about key states where McCain currently has a lead but the race is tightening—Obama is moving on him? Those states are:
Indiana, Georgia, Montana, and South Dakota.
Now, the good news for McCain and maybe the big news here is that McCain is closing the gap on Obama in Florida and Pennsylvania. Big states where McCain is behind, but the polls are moving in McCain‘s direction. McCain is also closing in on Obama in most national polls. But, as you know, national polls don‘t count.
So, that‘s our polling doohickey. A measure of the race based on trends. A glimpse of what‘s moving rather than a still snapshot. OK. So, that‘s one kind of evidence of the state of the race: polls.
Another kind of evidence? Looking at exactly where the game is being played, on whose turf it‘s being played, or in my big awkward sports analogy, viewing the race as sort of a football game, where the goal is to take your opponent‘s territory away. You can usually tell who‘s winning a football game by where most of the game is being played, where the action is.
When we last checked our Obama v. McCain football field earlier this week, most of the action was playing out on Senator McCain‘s side of the field, roughly, his 25-yard line. He was being forced to defend states like North Carolina and Indiana—states that should be safe because George Bush won them easily in 2004.
Well, tonight? The line of scrimmage is in even a worse place for McCain. It looks even worse. Obama announced TV ads today in Georgia, a state that is deep in McCain territory, right around his 20-yard line.
Also on the Obama TV ad list? North Dakota. North Dakota? A state George Bush won by 27 points in 2004. That‘s like roughly John McCain‘s 10-yard line.
You want to know why the Obama campaign thinks they have a chance in reliably red North Dakota. Well, sometimes, images say more than words ever could. That‘s not the stock market crash of the past month, that‘s the Pollster.com trend line of Obama v. McCain in North Dakota. That‘s McCain up there in the red, cratering on his own 10-yard line. I have that up on my office door.
But, possibly, the most alarming thing on our football field for the McCain campaign—is that there‘s one more little state that Obama is heading into as of today. And that little state is: Arizona. Forget ‘04 results and red and blue. Arizona is beyond McCain‘s metaphorical one-yard line. Arizona is McCain‘s home state. It‘s like his locker room.
And John McCain is being forced to defend his own locker room. This would be like Obama campaigning at a McCain family reunion. The part of the family that likes him.
So, there‘s the territorial evidence. It is going Obama‘s way.
One last bit of evidence after all this number play here, purely qualitative, not quantitative evidence? The McCain campaign is now using Democrats to make the sell in a pair of new ads. This ad has just gone out from the McCain campaign. It features Barack Obama praising Senator McCain‘s work on global warming. But, I thought, Senator Obama‘s judgment was super-suspect and he was super-scary?
How about this mailer going out in Pennsylvania? Just look at that, which links Hillary Clinton to John McCain. It looks like they are dating. Because you know how much those rabid Republicans love the Clintons and how much affection John McCain has for Hillary Clinton, something tells me Senator Clinton is not too jazzed up about that particular flyer, right?
So, where does the race really stand? It‘s time to find out from someone who‘s been on the ground in battleground states.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She is an Obama supporter. She‘s been traveling some of the key battleground states in support of Senator Obama.
Senator Klobuchar, Happy Halloween. Thanks for coming back on the show.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: Thank you, Rachel. With our orange and black, we‘re almost a Halloween duo.
MADDOW: That‘s actually a very good idea. Some people say I look like.
KLOBUCHAR: There you go.
MADDOW: Some people say I look kind of Jack ‘o Lanterny even on the best days. So, I know what you‘re thinking there.
The McCain campaign is making the case that higher turn-out in this election will favor McCain. I am guessing that it‘s not the way you see it. But, what do you make of that assessment from them?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, you know, it‘s like they haven‘t gotten the memo. Everyone in the country knows that Barack Obama has turned out hundreds of thousands of new people. And you can see it in the voter registrations. You can see it in the numbers in this early voting.
And I believe this massive turnout is going to favor Barack Obama. And so, I‘m not quite sure where they are going with this. I‘m sure they are desperate to spin different things right now. But what I‘ve seen in these key states, Louisiana, where we are seeing just record turnouts in New Orleans, when you go to Oregon, where unbelievable number of people that are casting their early mail-in ballots. You go to New Hampshire, Colorado, just a lot of excitement out there. So, I don‘t quite know what they are talking about.
But in your football analogy, which was very complicated and interesting, Barack is on the offense and they are on the defense. And I would say this, Rachel, I‘d say that they have been out of bounds and offline so many times that the American people have basically tossed in a number of penalty flags, being yellow flags since June. And they keep getting put back and back and back, losing their 10-yard, 15-yard penalties and they‘re way in defense at this point.
And those penalty flags are all about the way they‘ve been campaigning with the hate calls, with the negative connections. And people just don‘t like it. They want to talk about the economy and healthcare, and energy, and how they move this country forward. They like what Barack has been doing and his clear, steady hand as the quarterback.
MADDOW: You know, the more complicated this football analogy gets, the better it gets, I‘m enjoying it more and more.
KLOBUCHAR: No, (INAUDIBLE) today go into the Hail Mary‘s passes (INAUDIBLE).
MADDOW: Oh, well.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, you see.
MADDOW: Yes, go for it.
KLOBUCHAR: I grew up covering, my dad covered the Vikings, so either, you just can‘t match me on football metaphors.
KLOBUCHAR: But, anyway, it‘s so obvious that we have this change where you have Barack going into these red states like Arizona and North Dakota. Things that he really has wanted to do from the beginning when he said there‘s no such thing as a red state or a blue state. And I think this is just about winning the election, this is about having a president that‘s going to come into the White House with the respect of people throughout this country.
He may not get the majority in every single red state, but he‘s going to get a significant amount of the vote. And to really move ahead in this country with those challenges that we have, I think he needs that kind of mandate. So, I‘m really excited that at this point in the campaign, he‘s willing and able to go to places like Georgia and Arizona because we‘re going to need the people of those states behind us when we tackle healthcare and when we tackle the economy.
MADDOW: Senator Klobuchar, what do you make of Republicans using -
and the McCain campaign specifically using Barack Obama and using Hillary Clinton in their ads now? Using them not just to attack them, but using them in a positive way?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, it is certainly a switch and very confusing for people who‘ve been following all those debates where they‘ve been hitting on Barack and calling him names and every name you can think of, I mean, it makes no sense except and I‘ll say one thing—the fact that Barack has been positive about John McCain‘s work on climate change is just another sign of what a strong leader he is. You saw it on those debates.
He was willing to acknowledge when he agreed with John McCain, when he thought that John McCain was right. And he appreciates the work he has done on climate change. So, I will say with Republicans in charge of the White House and in charge of Congress for six of the last eight years, and we haven‘t been really able to move on climate change. But with a new president, and a new Senate and a new House, I think we‘ll be able to do that.
MADDOW: We are seeing some new polling about close—the race possibly closing in John McCain‘s favor in Ohio and in Florida, seeing him getting closer to Barack Obama in those states where the lead was already very narrow to begin with. Are you expecting to see any new tactics, any sort of new message, any new special effort to try to hold on to those big and very important states?
KLOBUCHAR: You know, I think that we‘re going to keep with the same strategy from the beginning which is really going all over the country. You see Joe Biden everywhere. You see Barack everywhere. And I know your polling doohickey had some interesting facts there. But the bottom line, you see in Pennsylvania, Barack is still up by nine points.
I talked to Senator Casey just about an hour ago, he‘s saying that in Pennsylvania, Democrat hasn‘t gotten 52 percent of the vote since LBJ. So, you have to look at it in that historical context in some of these more difficult states like Pennsylvania, in Ohio and Florida, where I believe we‘ll do well, and in the end, we‘ll win.
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, thank you for being with us tonight. I really appreciate it.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you, Rachel. And thank you for taking me away from the eighth grade Halloween party for 10 minutes.
KLOBUCHAR: And n, I get to go back and judge the best costume. It‘s between the Austrian milkmaid and the disco queen. So, I‘ll be thinking (ph) of you.
MADDOW: How are you going to be choosing between them? And isn‘t that like a no-win situation?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, no, it‘s my daughter and her friends and there‘s all kinds of categories. You know, you have best costume, most creative, everyone get as prize.
MADDOW: Very, very, very smart. Thanks, senator. I appreciate.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. Thank you.
MADDOW: It is one or the other. It can‘t be both. And I‘m not talking about choosing between the disco queen and the milkmaid. Does former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger think that Sarah Palin is a potential hazard in the White House? Or does he think she would be fine? And is Sarah Palin‘s career being ruined right now or is it being launched right now? We will have Lawrence O‘Donnell to comment on that next.
And, early voting was supposed to encourage better voter turnout by preventing long lines all over the country. Does this look like nice, short lines to you? Fasten your seatbelt; this might be a bumpy ride by Wednesday morning.
But first, just One More Thing: Have you seen John McCain‘s latest ad featuring Joe the Plumber?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Americans are catching on.
JOE WURZELBACHER, JOE THE PLUMBER: Your new tax plan is going to tax me more.
OBAMA: It‘s not that I want to punish your success. I think when you spread the wealth around, it‘s good for everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wait a second. Everbody? I wonder if it‘s an ideological decision by the McCain camp to leave out that big socialist spare vowel in the middle word “everybody” or maybe the “Y” was somehow elitist. On the other hand, there is no “Y” in maverick or in correct or in pathetic. Everbody knows that.
MADDOW: What do former Reagan chief of staff, Ken Duberstein, Republican Senator John Enson (ph), former Bush senior Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and 59 percent of likely voters have in common? They all more or less agree on Sarah Palin.
Here‘s Ken Duberstein talking to NBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell today. Remember, Duberstein worked for Reagan, John McCain‘s “I think of him every day” Ronald Reagan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN DUBERSTEIN, FORMER REAGAN CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it has very much undermined the whole question of John McCain‘s judgment. Even at McDonald‘s, you‘re interviewed three times before you‘re given a job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Enson, the gentleman from Nevada.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN ENSON, ® NEVADA: John McCain is much more qualified than Barack Obama, and certainly, Joe Biden is more qualified than Sarah Palin is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yikes. John Enson is a Republican, remember? Onward to Lawrence Eagleburger, one of John McCain‘s coveted five Republican secretaries of state who have endorsed him. When NPR‘s Neil Conan asked him if Palin is qualified to take over in a crisis, here is the ringing endorsement he offered up.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Of course not. Give her some time in the office and I think the answer would be, she will be adequate. I can‘t say that she would be genius in the job, but I think she would be enough to get us through a four year—well, I hope not.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
Today, Secretary Eagleburger tried to get back to the company line. He went on FOX News and said he just wasn‘t thinking when he said Palin isn‘t qualified. The old temporary loss of faculties defense.
That said, there are no Eagleburgerian redos among respondents in the latest “New York Times”/CBS Poll. Only, 35 percent of those likely voters say they think Palin is prepared to be vice president. That‘s down seven points from a month ago. And, you know, it‘s not just what polls say, or what her presumed political allies say, it‘s what Sarah Palin says, herself, almost every day on the campaign trail, like, for example—today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Let‘s not retreat from wars that are almost won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Which wars are the almost won wars? Iraq? David Petraeus won‘t go there. So, Sarah Palin probably shouldn‘t either. Afghanistan? John McCain won‘t go there, governor.
Still, the theory persists that she is the new face of the
Republican Party. John McCain‘s view—decidedly undecided. Here he was today on “Good Morning America.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”/ABC)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that she is the face of the Republican Party going forward?
MCCAIN: I think to a large degree as vice president or—or—I think there‘s no doubt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Has anybody ever worn that expression over the word “or”?
Do you mind if we just play it one more time?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I think to a large degree as vice president or—or.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What‘s he thinking there? Or—or—Senator McCain loses—or Sarah Palin becomes president? It kind of look like McCain hasn‘t gotten around to thinking about those possibilities until that moment and we saw it happen right there on his face. Most of the rest of the country has got to that moment over the last couple months. We‘ve been thinking about these possibilities.
So, what happens if “or” happens? Is this the start of Sarah Palin‘s assent or has this campaign been the start of her demise?
Joining me now: MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell.
Lawrence, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: If John McCain loses the election, will all this criticism have destroyed Sarah Palin‘s political future? Is there a chance that this is the end of her short national political career? Or is it definitely the beginning?
O‘DONNELL: There‘s nothing that destroys a political career like losing. Forget everything that Colin Powell has said, and that his close friend, Ken Duberstein said at the beginning of this segment. Losing is the unforgivable thing in American politics now.
Take a look at the careers of the losers on the vice presidential ticket recently. Ask John Edwards what a great launching pad that was for his next presidential campaign. Ask Joe Lieberman what a great launching pad that was for his presidential campaign which he did attempt to run after losing on the V.P. slot. Ask Geraldine Ferraro how it works out.
There is absolutely no model out there for success after losing on the vice presidential slot. Dan Quayle lost in that slot, tried to run for president after that. It was hopeless.
So, there‘s a big swoon among the pundit class about, you know, what a great position she‘s going to be in if McCain loses as the front-runner for Republicans. And they are just imagining this. There‘s absolutely no model for that having happened before. And none of the people I named just then have such high negative ratings in the vice presidential slot as she has. She has a created a whole new territory of negative polling for the vice presidential slot.
MADDOW: In addition to the overall problem of losing as the vice presidential nominee on the ticket, do you think it will matter whether or not she gets the bulk of the blame if they do lose? Does it matter if she is seen as the worst vice presidential choice politically in a political generation if not in the century?
O‘DONNELL: No, I mean, look at how hopeless John Edwards‘ future turned out to be and this is before he got in to any scandal trouble, coming off of that ticket. And no one said John Edwards did a bad job running for V.P. You know, Lieberman did an OK job running for V.P. It didn‘t matter. No one wanted to hear from them again as a national candidate.
Now, she will be given an unusual amount of blame for the defeat of this ticket if it goes down. You know, this is extraordinary stuff that you are hearing from her own party, really extraordinary stuff. It‘s unprecedented what Colin Powell had to say about her. It‘s unprecedented what Ken Duberstein, a Republican White House chief of staff, had to say about her.
Her own hometown newspaper in Alaska endorsing Barack Obama, had to specify that as much as they think she‘s done an OK job as Alaska governor, they don‘t think she‘s ready to leave the state of Alaska for a higher office. We‘ve never really seen this kind of outpouring of negativity against a vice presidential candidate.
MADDOW: If John McCain and Sarah Palin do lose badly, this will be the second time that we‘ve ever had a woman on a major party ticket and the second time that that ticket lost, badly. Is this—will it hurt potential future women candidates?
O‘DONNELL: It will hurt token women candidates.
O‘DONNELL: . which is arguably what you had in both instances, in Geraldine Ferraro and in Sarah Palin. But what Hillary Clinton showed and what other women senators around the country have showed in very strong state-wide runs all around the country, not just in New England, but from New England to California to Arkansas, we have these strong women Senate candidates who, I think, are showing all the time how powerful women candidacies can be. And they are beating very strong male candidacies all over the country.
And Hillary Clinton beat every man running except for Barack Obama in her field. So, I think the serious woman candidate is as strong a possibility as the serious male candidate. But picking someone because she‘s female, sticking her on the ticket turns out to be a bad idea.
MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Happy Halloween, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: On January 20th, the next president will find on the doorstep of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue a metaphorical, obnoxious bag filled with Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, Syria, China, Russia, al Qaeda and the Taliban. That bag will quite possibly be on fire. More on the welcome gift being left for President McCain or President Obama by out-going president—you know who—in just a moment.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: We‘re an industrialized nation, a superpower, a sophisticated western republic, right? Then what‘s the deal with our voting process? In Atlanta, lines for early voting were reportedly over five hours long today. Why do we still hold elections that cry out for a Jimmy Carter, you know, national oversight mission? And does it mean trouble specifically for the Democrats? More on that in a moment.
First, though, it is time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. First, “Adieu, adieu, to you and you and” - I‘m sorry, totally. Tempelhof Airport is what I‘m saying “adieu” to, a symbol of the Cold War, closed last night. Berlin‘s historic Tempelhof Airport. It was the site of the Berlin air lift in 1948 and ‘49.
When the allied powers were ruling a divided Berlin after World War II, the Soviet Union blocked off the roads into Berlin to try to consolidate their hold on the city. The U.S. and Britain responded by flying millions of tons of fuel and supplies and food to the citizens of Berlin through Tempelhof.
Not long after having bombed the daylights on Germany, American pilots were back, this time with cargo-holds full of food. They were dropping candy to German kids on the ground who got to know the flight path very, very well.
Last night, one of the last flights was made out by a vintage DC 3 Candy Bomber and the runway lights went out at Tempelhof for good. It‘s not that well remembered here, but I thought it was one of the finest hours in the 20th century.
That said, Tempelhof itself was built by the Nazis with slave labor, so it always had sort of creep factor as a landmark. But because of its landmark status, Tempelhof will not be torn down. Now that it‘s closed, no one quite knows what‘s going to become of it.
And President Bush is making a last push to deregulate before he leaves office. “The Washington Post”” reporting today that as many as 90 of the most controversial changes to industry regulation of the whole Bush era are in the works right now, easing limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants near national parts, allowing increased pollution from oil refineries and chemical factories, allowing for dirtier drinking water and more coal slurry waste from mountain top mines in the streams of Appalachia.
Whoever the lobbyists, who are trying to get counterterrorism rules relaxed for the benefit of the shipping companies, rest easy, you country first guys. The Bush administration is apparently planning on taking good care of you, too, before they leave.
The Republicans are well-aware of the need to get these changes done now. On the afternoon that President Bush was first inaugurated, his chief-of-staff issued a government-wide memo, blocking the new regulations that were drafted in the last days of the Clinton administration.
There‘s a 30-day or 60-day waiting period before regulatory changes become legal. And since Clinton‘s changes were newer than that, the Bushies just blocked them. Learning from their own experience, the Bush administration is getting their goodies in early this year so they‘ll all be actual law without debate and without Congress by the time the next president takes over.
And this is apparently how we make decisions as a country about whether American kids drink dirty or clean water, and breathe dirty or clean air, and whether or not those shipping containers on our ports are checked for bombs or not. Tada.
MADDOW: I know, I know. I‘m the last skeptic standing about Tuesday‘s election. I can read, I can hear, but bear with me, because I am so not convinced about the thing that was supposed to convince me about the process and disenfranchised this time.
Early voting - it was supposed to make things better, right? But look at the lines. In Georgia, people waited eight hours to cast a ballot today. There are reports of five-hour waits in Indiana. In North Carolina, the State Board of Elections ruled voting sites can stay open an extra four hours tomorrow to accommodate big crowds.
And in Oklahoma, the fist voter at the Oklahoma County Election Board reportedly showed up at 4:30 a.m. even though the polls didn‘t open until 8:00 a.m. Here‘s the thing. A day-long wait might as well a poll tax. What does it cost you to wait eight hour in line? Is it the way our democracy works now that we‘re a country where only people who can afford to give up 20 percent of a weeks‘ pay are allowed to vote?
And while Obama is leading in the latest AP poll on early voting, the McCain campaign says they are not worried. John McCain‘s deputy campaign manager Christian Ferry points to Nevada, a state where Kerry led Bush in early voting in 2004 even though he ended up losing that state.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CHRISTIAN FERRY, MCCAIN DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: In 2004, first time in new registrant Democratic voters made up 13 percent of all the early votes cast. Thus far, in 2008, it‘s about 12.6 percent of all the early votes cast.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: McCain campaign says their internal polling numbers say Iowa is a dead heat - that‘s another place Kerry led in early voting, but ultimately lost the state to Bush. In Pennsylvania, here is what the McCain campaign is thinking. This is Christian Ferry again.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
FERRY: In Pennsylvania, if you look at absentee ballot returns, the GOP is leading by about 56 percent to 44 percent in terms of returns. Younger Democrat voters in 2004 made up 22.9 percent of the absentee vote. Thus far, in 2008, it‘s 14 percent of the - 14.6 percent of the early - absentee vote.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: See why they‘re confident? You want more of this? Come on, vegetables are good for you. We‘ll have dessert later, I promise. An “Orlando Sentinel” analysis of early voting in Florida found that, quote, “young people are turning out in disproportionately low numbers, making them the worst performing demographic group.”
The “Orlando Sentinel” says only 15 percent of early voters in Florida are under the age of 35, even though that group makes up a quarter of the electorate. All that talk in the Democratic primaries about how young people were proving the haters wrong by actually showing up to vote even thought the stereotype that they don‘t?
Well, the stereotype could have turned out to be right. Time for a talking down here, clearly. Here to try to talk me down is Florida Representative Debby Wasserman-Schultz whose district includes parts of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz, happy Halloween. Thanks for being here.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thank you. Glad to be here with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So here is your chance to talk me down. Tell me that young people secretly are turning out in huge numbers to vote or that the Democrats weren‘t counting on them anyway or something. What‘s going on here?
SCHULTZ: No, no. Let me tell you. I mean, I just came from trick or treating with my kids and I‘m really glad to be here with you to help talk you off the ledge, because - just to give you an example, about 25 percent of the of the early votes in Florida have actually been sporadically voting Democrats. So we expect many more of those Democrats to come to the polls, you know, by Election Day.
And comparatively, until four years ago, they have exponentially increased their percentage of the turnout. In addition to that, you have in overall totals for early voting in Florida - 45 percent, a little more than 45 percent of the turnout in early vote have been Democrat and about 38 percent has been Republican.
So what we are doing is executing our plan here in Florida. We have a ground game that is second to none. The largest ground game, grassroots outreach turnout operation that we have ever had in Florida history. And that is going to be churning all weekend long. We have thousands of volunteers going across Florida, Rachel, knocking on doors, turning those votes out.
And I can tell you that I really believe that that youth vote is going to surge through the weekend and into Election Day. Because everywhere I go, the youth vote is very motivated and planning to go to the polls. So I‘m really feeling incredibly good about what happens on Tuesday in Florida.
MADDOW: And the hope is that it is just youthful procrastination, leaving it off until the last minute, I think, at this point.
SCHULTZ: Yes. You know, honestly, I think you have to think about the fact kids have class. The younger voter has a lot going on in their lives. They have classes that they have to go to. With a very long line, it is difficult often because they are trying to vote in between classes, for them to stand in the lines.
But we have extended voting hours over the weekend. Gov. Charlie Crist, to his credit, extended the voting hours with an executive order. So we have 12 hours of early voting this weekend. And I think we are going to really be able to get those kids to the polls.
MADDOW: The images of the lines and the reports of people standing in lines are - for me, it‘s sort of heartbreaking in a small “D” democratic way. I don‘t want our elections to be like this anymore.
MADDOW: I don‘t want there to be this effective poll tax where people have to, you know, give up a day‘s wages or a half-day‘s wage in order to exercise their right to vote. Are you hearing a lot of complaints from your constituents? Do you think that it is affecting people‘s calculation about when they go to vote?
SCHULTZ: Well, I have heard people express concern, but that was really earlier in the week before the voting hours changed. You know, when Gov. Crist issued that executive order and extended the polls being open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. until tonight.
And then, you have over 12 hours over this weekend. It broadened out the lines and made it a little bit easier for people to have time to go vote. So I actually have - even though I‘ve heard people saying, “Wow. You know, I wish we didn‘t have to wait so long,” I have not heard a single person say, “Forget it. I‘m not just going to be able vote if I have to wait that long.”
People are determined to vote. They‘re hanging in there and they‘re in line. I brought literally a few hundred people to vote from the condos(ph) this week. And I mean, Rachel, I had people who are over 100 years old. Little old ladies in my district, who are over 100 years old, sitting in chairs, inching along the line. They were going to wait as long as it took because they want to move this country in a new direction so badly. And they know that this is the most important election, even in their lives, as many presidential elections that they‘ve seen in their lifetime.
MADDOW: I‘ve got to say, the way that it makes me want to move the country is toward a country that doesn‘t make 100-year-old ladies wait in line in order to vote.
SCHULTZ: I know.
MADDOW: We‘ve got to get this fixed. We‘ve absolutely got to get this fixed.
SCHULTZ: We do. And I think, what we‘ll do is, as I‘m certain what we‘ll do - we will have extended Democratic majority in the Congress. Steny Hoyer, who is the sponsor of the Help America Vote Act after the last election will make sure that we put in a new Help America Vote Act. We‘ve got to address the length of time it takes to vote. We have to address the process by which it takes to vote. There are issues of registration. We have a lot of reforms in the process that need to occur.
SCHULTZ: So I know we‘re going to get to work on that.
MADDOW: Amen. Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, thank you for your time tonight. And I now release you to go back to trick-or-treating.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, take care.
MADDOW: While we‘re picking George Bush‘s successor, we really, really, really ought to actually keep an eye on George Bush between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the new - the one we‘re not talking about with Pakistan. And the nuclear missile silo catching fire and a new round of deregulation on its way out the door. Can anybody clean up Bush‘s mess? That‘s next.
MADDOW: It‘s Halloween, prank night. In some neighborhoods, young punks set paper bags full of unmentionable stuff on fire on people‘s doorsteps. They ring the bell and they run away.
It looks like George Bush is thinking the same thing, leaving the same sort of gift on the doorstep of the next president. What‘s in his flaming bag? How about sort of war with Pakistan - nuclear-armed Pakistan? Today, U.S. forces launched another missile strike there near the Afghan border, reportedly killing 27 people. That is at least 16 missile strikes in Pakistan since mid-August.
All of these, Pakistan says, are violations of its sovereignty. What else is in George Bush‘s parting gift? Oh, there‘s Iraq. Today, Gen. David Petraeus took command of all U.S. forces in the Middle East in central Asia, leaving his post as commander general in Iraq. That would be good news, except, not really.
Here‘s a story about progress. Two years ago, President Bush used Mayor and Police Chief Najim al-Jabouri of Tal Afar as a symbol of success in Iraq. Do you remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Almost eloquent as the mayor of Tal Afar, a courageous Iraqi man named Najim. Mayor Najim arrived in the city in the midst of the al-Qaeda occupation and he knows exactly what our troops have helped accomplish.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, today, Mayor Jabouri is a symbol of how uncertain success in Coleman(ph) Iraq actually is. Last month, he quietly left Tal Afar with his wife and his four children. And he flew to safety in the United States in the face of death threats at home.
And how about Afghanistan? It seems to be worse and getting worser. On Wednesday, in the heart Kabul, right in the capital city, a suicide bombing at the Ministry of Culture and Information killed five people and wounded five others. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
And beyond the wars with actual countries, there is still Osama Bin Laden. Remember him? Multiple senior government officials tell ABC News the intelligence community is anticipating a message from Bin Laden before or maybe just around the time of the presidential election.
You‘ll recall that in 2004, the Friday before the Kerry-Bush election, Bin Laden released a videotape in which he condemned Bush‘s response to 9/11. After that, people believed that Bin Laden helped Bush beat Kerry. But actually, if you look at the exit polling, it suggests that of the voters who called that tape important, 53 percent went for Kerry and 47 percent went for Bush.
So maybe the common wisdom about that isn‘t true. Whether or not there is a new tape this year, no matter whom it helps or hurts politically, Bin Laden is seemingly alive and still able to threaten us.
And he and al-Qaeda and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran and Syria and a lot of other really stinky problems are all in the proverbial paper bag on proverbial fire, proverbially on the new president‘s desk.
Joining me now is Steve Coll, who is a staff writer for “The New Yorker,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Ghost Wars.” He‘s also president of the New America Foundation. Steve, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Happy Halloween.
STEVE COLL, STAFF WRITER, “THE NEW YORKER”: And to you, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: I asked Sen. Obama last night about whether increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan might be counterproductive given that that‘s the prospect of increasing a military footprint in a country that‘s really well known for being historically hostile to foreign troops.
He pointedly did not answer me. But I wonder if you see that as one of the big problems, one the big sort of thorny - one of the big knots, I guess, that is going to be facing the next president?
COLL: Surely, it is. And I think the problem is that troops alone, almost by everybody‘s account, can‘t solve the problem. They may be necessary for a brief period. They may be part of a new strategy. But what really is going on in Afghanistan is that U.S. policy over the last four or five years isn‘t working and needs to be rewritten.
And I think the next president is going to have a really complicated set of choices to make in which troop levels is just one element.
MADDOW: On the issue of nuclear security, which is something that we think about whenever we think about Pakistan, whenever we think about those border concerns and how apparently upsetting they are to the Pakistani government, which has such problems with instability now, not only in its border regions, not only instability with radicalism but also, now, economic instability.
When I think about nuclear issues, I always think about our own nuclear security as well. We‘ve just had another worrying incident in which the Air Force admits that a fire broke out in a nuclear missile silo in Cheyenne, Wyoming, last year. It burned itself out, luckily, without setting off the missile. But the Air Force didn‘t even find out about it until five days after that fire happened. There was a minute man missile in that silo.
How worried should we be about our own capacity for safeguarding our own giant nuclear stockpile?
COLL: We‘ve clearly got a systematic problem in the Air Force in particular. And I don‘t know how far it extends beyond the Air Force in the routine maintenance, supervision, transport and protection of our nuclear weapons in - and the delivery systems such as missiles.
There has been really an astonishing series of incidents, not only the number of the incidents but the character of them. You‘ll recall when a plane flew across the United States with live nuclear weapons on board that the pilots and the crew apparently didn‘t know were live.
Now, that, to me, just suggests that the organization itself has deeply rooted systemic problems. Secretary Gates, to his credit, has fired a few people. And, yet, that doesn‘t seem yet anyway to have changed the situation.
MADDOW: Sen. Obama has really prioritized nuclear safety issues - loose nukes, locking up loose nuclear material around the world in his time in the Senate. The prospect that he would take over as president and have to deal with loose nukes of a sort in his own country is ironic and very scary.
One last question for you. The Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and the Iraqi governments that would replace the U.N. mandate that governs U.S. troops being stationed in Iraq now, that mandate expiring at the end of the year. It seems like the country-to-country Status of Forces Agreement is probably not going to happen.
Theoretically, that would mean that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, if they went off their bases, would be sort of illegal as of January 1st.
Do you think that U.N. mandate is going to be extended? What do you think is going to happen there?
COLL: You know, it‘s really hard to tell. I think the Iraqis don‘t want a complete void, so it‘s possible that they‘ll try to do a quick rollover agreement with the Bush administration in which they seek to extend the status quo for some indefinite time to allow the next president to restart negotiations or go back to the U.N.
It‘s conceivable that the United States with Iraq‘s support could go to the U.N. and get a similar rollover extension for a short time to accommodate the next president. But you know, the Bush administration has been confident for month after month after month that they were going to make this deal work and it simply hasn‘t.
At this point, as you say, Iraqi politics suggests that it‘s just not doable before the end of the year unless something changes very suddenly.
MADDOW: It‘s so easy to not follow national security stuff day to day because of the horse race. But when you think about what the next president is going to inherit, it‘s just stunning.
Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation, staff writer for “The New Yorker” thanks very much for coming on this show. Happy Halloween to you.
COLL: Happy Halloween, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: Next I‘m going to get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. Why are so many campaign signs disappearing from people‘s lawns? I‘m asking. I‘m not blaming.
MADDOW: Now it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent. What have you got tonight?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. As the campaign draws to a climax, reports of stolen or defaced Obama and McCain lawn signs are everywhere. Passive meets aggressive. For instance, in Cincinnati, one Democrat who lives in a mostly-Republican neighborhood was so P.O.‘d about having his Obama yard sign pilfered. He called “The Cincinnati Enquirer” asking to air the grievances. And that man was Peter Frampton.
I know. Frampton told the newspaper that the one reason he became a U.S. citizen was so that he could vote and that he has installed video cameras to catch the thieves.
JONES: Frampton then added, quote, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah,” end quote.
Moving on to Austin, Texas. Shannon Bennett had her Obama sign stolen and so did all of her neighbors. But instead of replacing hers, she spray-painted this giant Obama “O” on her front lawn. Nicely done.
JONES: Even her Republican neighbor liked it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I looked out and I was surprised to see it one morning. But - and I am a Republican, but I was really impressed with how pretty it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: You know she doesn‘t look like a sign thief, does she? That‘s how they operate. She might have taken Frampton‘s sign, too. We just don‘t know. Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. I appreciate it.
We‘re going to be doing a special show here on Sunday night. Join us then for a special weekend edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.
Until then, you can catch us online. Our E-mail address is . We‘ll see you here Sunday night for that special weekend edition.
“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Good night.
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