updated 8/12/2009 9:50:53 AM ET 2009-08-12T13:50:53

MADDOW

August 11, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Kent Jones, John Rother,Sherrod Brown, David Goldsmith

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening. I would take advice from Chris Kofinis on anything.

KEITH OLBERMANN, "COUNTDOWN" HOST: Yes.

MADDOW: So, I don't know why the Republicans wouldn't.

OLBERMANN: Well, because it would probably-it might make some sense.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN: OK. Never mind. Back to work.

MADDOW: Thank you at home for tuning in tonight for the next hour.

Over the course of this hour, we will be talking about more investigations into the well-paid people who are spreading lies to turn actual everyday Americans into hostile mobs of everyday Americans, bent on stopping health care reform at all costs. There was confrontation and widespread rudeness at town halls across the country today.

We've got quite a bit of footage and we've got President Obama's more civil affair in New Hampshire to cover this hour.

And, General Motors finally unveils a car that might actually change the whole kit and caboodle when it comes to the American love affair with the automobile. A very exciting mechanical geekery coming up this hour on this show.

But we begin tonight with an investigation that confirms something that a lot of Americans have had a Scooby sense about for quite a while now. Since the political fight over health care has taken the recent turns that it has taken, it has seemed at times that while there was a fight going on about health care reform, there was not actually a debate going on. That sense started in the third week of July when Roy Blunt, the top Republican in the House for health care policy, announced that the Republicans would not be introducing any health care policy.

That sense was furthered when strategy memos for right-wing protesters attending town hall meetings about health care gave specific instructions for how those protesters could interrupt those meetings, how they could try to rattle the members of Congress leading those meetings, how they could shout out and then sit down to derail the meeting, to try to get it off-course, not to get a specific point across or try to be persuasive in a debate.

That sense that this was a fight but not a debate was furthered still when Democratic Congressmen Brad Miller, who decided not to have town hall meetings after getting death threats, decided instead to offer his constituents the chance to meet with him one-on-one, to meet with their member of Congress one-on-one so they could tell him their views on health care policy, and so they could hear his.

Quite an opportunity, right, if you care about health care policy? Yes, except the resounding response from his constituents opposed to health care reform was no. We don't actually want one-on-one meetings with our member of Congress. We'd prefer our town hall meeting. The better to get on the YouTube yelling, like other like-minded people. Who cares about policy? Who cares about health care, really?

It's felt for weeks now like the conservative reaction to the prospect of health care reform has not been seen by conservatives as an opportunity to debate what to do about health care in the U.S., there is one side wanting to talk about that. But the other side, the conservative side, just wants the whole discussion to not happen at all.

It's not a fight over how to fix the American health care system. It's people who want to fix the health care system versus people who don't even want this conversation to happen, and who want to make sure that nothing happens to the current health care system.

Today, we have confirmation that what it has seemed like is exactly what it is. Greg Sargent at the Web site "The Plum Line" uncovered details of a conference call that was held last week among some of the organizers of the town hall disruptions.According to someone who was on that call, the explicit goal of the disruptions, as stated by the protest organizers, is, quote, "not to find a solution to the health care crisis." The moderator of the conference call again, this is a conference call of the organizers of the town hall protests-the moderator of the call said, quote, "The goal is not compromise. And any bill coming out this year would be a failure for us." Yet another organizer put it even more bluntly saying, quote, "We have an opportunity to realistically kill Obama's agenda."

That conference call was brought to you by a group called the Tea Party Patriots. The Tea Party Patriots-it sounds like a pretty grassroots organization, right? Probably made up of just normal folks looking for a way to organize. Well, but if you go to-on over to the Tea Party Patriots' Web site, you will see that the group bills itself as the, quote, official grassroots American movement. It's official. They say so.

Scroll down to the bottom of the Tea Party Patriots Web site and you'll ill see their list of partners, official grassroots partners, no doubt. Among them, an organization that's been popping up over and over and over again in connection to these town hall disruptions, it's a group called FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks has acknowledged it's a national co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. In fact, when the Tea Party Patriots organized a trip to Washington, D.C. last month, it was FreedomWorks that provided them with prepared packets of information, and who briefed them on a typical Capitol Hill visit.

Last week, FreedomWorks came out with an August recess action kit, directing people to town hall events and arming them with questions to ask. Recently, FreedomWorks officials have been going on the TV machine to brag about, in their words, blowing up town hall events and calling on those who attend them to be, quote, "aggressive."

FreedomWorks is a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that is chaired by the former Republican House majority leader, Dick Armey. In addition to being the head of FreedomWorks, Mr. Armey is a senior policy adviser at a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm called DLA Piper.

Among DLA Piper's clients and former clients who just might be interested in what happens with health care reform, pharmaceutical maker Bristol-Myers Squibb, who paid DLA Piper through the end of 2008; medical device supplier SleepMed incorporated, who also ended their arrangement with Piper just last year; health care provider Metropolitan Health Networks; and the pharmaceutical firm Medicines Company.

Now, we mentioned Medicines Company on this program last week. And while they do acknowledge paying Dick Armey's legal firm for lobbying, they told us specifically that the type of activities that FreedomWorks is engaged in now, with the shutting down of debate over health care, by shutting down town hall meetings over health care-this group, the Medicines Company, says that is not at all what they were paying for.

So, the question is: why are DLA Piper's clients relevant? There appears to be some pretty good evidence that when you pay Dick Armey's lobbying firm, DLA Piper, you get what Dick Armey's grassroots organization FreedomWorks does.

Take the American Council of Life Insurers, for example. According to government records, they hired DLA Piper in February 2007. Within six months, they paid the lobbying firm $100,000.

What else happened in that six months? You guessed it! Dick Armey's group FreedomWorks, grassroots, remember, began lobbying Congress to deregulate the life insurance industry. You know, that all just happened to happen within the same six months. And, of course, perhaps it is just mere coincidence that FreedomWorks happened to have a newfound, ideological, purist grassroots commitment to life insurance deregulation at the same time the American Council of Life Insurers hired Dick Armey's lobbying firm. It could just be a coincidence. Could be, right?

Want one more? In 2006, DLA Piper began lobbying for the Senado de

Republica, the Mexican Senate. The purpose of the lobbying, quote:

"enhancing U.S.-Mexico relations." Coincidentally around the same time, FreedomWorks began promoting itself as "one of the few organizations willing to aggressively promote meaningful immigration reform." Another coinkydink. It's very grassroots.

In 2004, when President George W. Bush was trying to privatize Social Security, a FreedomWorks employee was introduced at a White House economic conference as a single mom from Iowa who supported President Bush's efforts. The president's budget director even singled out that FreedomWorks employee as one of the regular folks who was behind the whole idea to privatize Social Security.

This is how FreedomWorks does their work. They try to create the impression that their just regular grassroots Americans without any financial or political interests in the outcome of these policy fights.

On the board of directors of FreedomWorks, you'll find Richard Stephenson. In addition to being director of FreedomWorks, a group that's actively trying to derail health care reform, Richard Stephenson is also the founder and chairman of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Incorporated. He's also president of International Capital and Management Company, which runs a hospital consulting company. Totally disinterested party, right?

And then there's the president of FreedomWorks-a gentleman named Matt Kibbe. Before joining FreedomWorks, Mr. Kibbe was the former senior economist for the Republican National Committee. Before that, he was chief of staff for Republican Congressman Dan Miller of Florida.

Republican officials and the health insurance industry and for-profit hospital consulting firms and for-profit cancer treatment centers and all of these other people have every right to participate in this debate. Of course, they do. They have every right to go to these events and yell no and say that there's no reason to reform health care. They even have the right to scream at people who actually want to talk about the fact that there might be need to reform health care.

That is their constitutional right. They are Americans like any of us. Nobody is suggesting that they can't participate in this debate in the way that they are.

What is dishonest is to do it in a way that disguises who they are, that disguises their role in it, that disguises their financial role in it.

Washington lobbyists and health care executives and former Republican Party officials have just as much a right to shout down the policy debate about health care reform as anyone else does. These folks have just as much a right to try to derail this entire process as anyone else does.

But we have a right to know who they are and who is paying them for their efforts. These guys are pros. This is an industry. This is beltway politics being organized and played out in town halls across the country.

And as we have said before-and I fear we will have to continue saying and saying and saying again-this should be reported as such.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for death panels that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that we don't-it's too expensive to let her live anymore. I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, et cetera.

The irony is that actually one of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican then-House member, now-senator named Johnny Isakson from Georgia who very sensibly thought this is something that would expand people's options. And somehow, it's gotten spun into this idea of death panels. I am not in favor of that. So just-I want to-I want to-I want to clear the air here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Also, the president would like to make clear that he is not in favor of rubbing chewing gum into everyone's hair, nor is he in favor of forced sex changes, nor is he in favor of making everyone wear nude-colored panty hose on their hands like mittens all year around just for the pure inconvenience of it all. He'd like to make that clear.

What's being called a debate about health care policy right now is so far from an actual debate about health care policy that the charge from his critics that the president of the United States has to rebut in public is whether or not he wants health care reform because he secretly wants to kill all of the old people. And apparently he doesn't.

As we've discussed before, the health care reform is a secret plot to kill old people rumor was started by a woman named Betsy McCaughey. She is the person who in "The New York Post" and on right-wing talk radio first promulgated this idea that Medicare covering consultations about living wills is secretly the murder of the elderly.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FMR. LT. GOV. BETSY MCCAUGHEY ®, NEW YORK: Congress would make it mandatory-absolutely require that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: That is not true at all, not a word of it. Not mandatory, not require, not every five years, not counseling, not tell them, not how to, not end their life. None of the words in that claim are true except maybe the two "that's" and the word "in."

It's not true, but it is convenient, and so it survives. And it is in fact being promoted more than ever. It's convenient for the interest opposed health care reform to scare old people about reform. And so, there's now $1.5 million nationwide TV ad buy for this ad which we highlighted on last night's show, and now, that says the government will decide whether or not old people are worth the cost.

As we discussed on last night's show, the ads by a group called 60 Plus. It's a corporate-funded interest group that pretends like it's an advocacy organization for seniors. And today, 60 Plus has gone even further. Reporter Greg Sargent at "The Plum Line" cited for the second time on tonight's show has obtained a new mailer from 60 Plus-and as is often the case in politics, what they put in the direct mail piece is much worse than what they're willing to put on television.

For example, the big poll quote in the mailer includes this out-of-context quote from President Obama, "Maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller." See, the president wants old people with health problems to take the painkiller. Maybe even take a lot of painkillers, if you know what I mean.

This is a group that claims to represent seniors. The way they have chosen to represent seniors in this particular fight is to try to scare seniors into thinking their government wants to kill them. With friends like these, who needs corporate-funded fake grassroots enemies?

Joining us now is John Rother. He is executive vice president of policy at AARP.

Mr. Rother, thank you very much for coming on the show tonight. I appreciate it.

JOHN ROTHER, AARP EXEC. V.P. OF POLICY: Good evening.

MADDOW: Now, on the surface, it looks like your organization, AARP, and 60 Plus could be rival groups. Are we looking at a turf war between your two competing organizations here, or is there something that's fundamentally different about these two groups?

ROTHER: Well, we represent 40 million members, 50 and older. We don't know if they have members or what they do when there's not a big controversy. But clearly, they're funded primarily by corporate interests, especially pharmaceuticals.

So, there's a big difference. We take no corporate money. We have no pharmaceutical money. Our income is from member dues and the services and products that members buy.

MADDOW: One of the things that we have talked about on this show is the investigation that is AARP bulletin did a couple of years ago into why 60 Plus was opposing pharmaceutical reform at the state level. Can you tell us what that organization found about this group?

ROTHER: Well, we hired an independent investigator and found that 60 Plus in that year was taking most of its money from the pharmaceutical industry and kind of using it as a screen to pretend that they were really representing the interest of seniors, when in fact, of course, seniors very much want more affordable medications. But 60 Plus never owned up to who was funding it until well after the fact.

MADDOW: You know, everybody is being hit with misinformation about health care reform. But one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you, Mr. Rother, is because it seems like seniors are being targeted with some of the scariest allegations. Do you think that is by design, that older people are being singled out for this type of-these types of scare tactics? Have you seen this kind of strategy before?

ROTHER: I don't think you can look at those commercials and not conclude that seniors are the target of a very intentional scare campaign. And many seniors, of course, are worried about change because they depend on Medicare. They are perhaps not in the greatest of health, and they definitely want to know that Medicare will be there, their doctor will be there when they need it. So, change can be a little scary.

On the other hand, when we've looked at this bill and we read every page, we've concluded that the bills proposed in the Congress would be good for seniors, would actually help them afford their medications better, make sure that doctors are there when they need them. So, we feel there's nothing to be scared about in the actual legislation.

MADDOW: I know that you're the executive vice president of policy at AARP and your job is to be analytical and to do these things sort of to the letter and to the service of your members. But I just have to ask you if it-if it makes you mad to see fearmongering of America's seniors over this issue or any policy issue, does it? For me, it makes me feel protective and angry.

ROTHER: It certainly makes me angry because, you know, there are real issues and people should be engaged in this debate. But to scare people, to raise these bogus issues, to intentionally mislead a big part of the population is-you know, it's a subversion of democracy. And it does make me mad. And I think that the news media, such as yourself, are starting to catch on to what's going on.

MADDOW: John Rother, executive vice president of policy for the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP-thank you so much for joining us tonight, sir. Thank you.

ROTHER: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Still ahead: As health care town halls take on an atmosphere of violence and threat and intimidation and frankly theater that would make pro wrestling envious, the president of the United States faced 1,800 people at his own town hall today. Senator Sherrod Brown will join us in just a moment.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Coming up: It is really not your father's Chevrolet, or your mother's, unless your mother was Mrs. Jettison. If you put just one gallon of gas in a Prius and one gallon of gas in this new Chevy, the Chevy would still be going when the Prius ran out of gas. It would still be going for another, oh, say, 180 miles on that one gallon of gas. We've got the total geeky details about that coming up.

But first, it's time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today's news.

In 2006, nine U.S. federal attorneys, prosecutors, were surprisingly and suddenly fired by the Department of Justice under George W. Bush. U.S. Attorney Paulson Charlton of Arizona was fired while he was in the midst of building a case against Republican Congressman Rick Renzi for an allegedly illegal land swap deal that would eventually lead to a 35-count indictment, including charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and extortion.

And in San Diego, U.S. Attorney Carol Lam had spearheaded the corruption investigation that brought down Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham, who eventually pled guilty to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes. The "Dukester" is still doing more than eight years in prison for that.

And then there was U.S. attorney David Iglesias. And Mr. Iglesias' dismissal really caught people's attention and the House Judiciary Committee has been looking into his case and the cases of the eight attorneys for more than two years now.

Well, today, that committee released emails and transcripts of closed-door testimony by Bush's White House counsel, Harriet Miers, and Bush's political guru, Karl Rove. Ms. Miers testified that the White House, specifically Karl Rove and his staff, were intimately involved in the decision-making process about whether or not the supposedly independent U.S. attorneys, the supposedly apolitical prosecutors, were going to be allowed to keep their jobs.

Ms. Miers told the committee that she received a call from Mr. Rove, in which he said that the U.S. attorney in New Mexico, Mr. Iglesias, was, quote, "a serious problem and he wanted something done about it." Miers told the committee, quote, "My best recollection is that he was very agitated about the U.S. attorney in New Mexico."

Why would Karl Rove be so agitated about David Iglesias? Why was Iglesias such a serious problem, according to Karl Rove? Well, e-mails released today from the committee showed Rove's deputy, a man named Scott Jennings, explicitly saying that Iglesias should be fired and complaining that Mr. Iglesias was, quote, "shy about doing his job on Madrid."

Madrid is Patricia Madrid, a Democratic candidate for Congress who Republicans were hoping the U.S. attorney would target with an election eve voter fraud indictment.

Iglesias didn't do that to Patricia Madrid. The Bush White House and Republicans were apparently furious about that, and then David Iglesias got fired.

The federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy continues to work on this case.

She will decide ultimately whether criminal charges will be filed.

Next up: The off the kook end conspiracy theory that President Obama was secretly not born in the United States and, therefore, is secretly not really president, might be a more complicated off the kook end conspiracy theory than we originally thought. A new North Carolina poll by Public Policy Polling finds that the percentage of North Carolina voters who say President Obama wasn't born in the U.S. or they're not sure if he was, is 46 percent -- 46 percent of North Carolina voters think Obama might be secretly foreign, and he, therefore, might not really be president.

Among Republicans in North Carolina-it's worse. The percentage of Republican voters in North Carolina who say Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. or they're not sure, 76 percent. More than three-quarters of North Carolina Republicans think Obama might not really be president-more than three-quarters, more than three-quarters, more than three-quarters of them.

But here's the additional detail that might make your raised eyebrows turn into a furrowed brow. This huge majority of North Carolina Republicans say that Obama either wasn't born in the U.S. or they're not sure, right? The president, of course, was born in Hawaii. Well, whoever the genius is who put this poll together-I salute you because I never would have thought to ask this as the follow-up question-by the way, do you believe that Hawaii is part of the United States? They asked that question. And fully 12 percent of North Carolina self-identified conservatives said no, Hawaii is not part of the United States. Or they just don't know whether it is.I mean, how could that ever be known?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: By the way, do you believe that Hawaii is part of the United States? They asked that question. And fully 12 percent of North Carolina self-identified conservatives said no, Hawaii is not part of the United Sates or they just don't know whether it is. I mean, how could that ever be known?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So imagine the decision making, the political calculations going on in the White House leading up to today, the decision today to put the president in front of his very own town hall meeting on health care before an audience of 1,800 people who weren't picked because of their devotion to him or their promises to ask nice questions.

The White House made that decision knowing that this is the milieu of the American healthcare town hall meeting right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D-PA): You want to be let out of here, you're welcome to go. Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you go back to Washington and represent us first as an American and tell Mr. Obama he's an American, and if not, there's other countries.

SPECTER: Well, I think - I think President Obama knows he's an American and when you asked me - when you -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country. My question for you is -

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Koran says that all unbelievers shall be executed, killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day, God's going to stand before you and he's going to judge you and the rest of your damn cronies up on the hill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was the scene in Pennsylvania today at a town hall convened by newly Democratic Senator Arlen Specter. Fast forward just a couple of hours to the town hall of Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who, it should be noted, has gone out of her way to praise the anti-healthcare forces who have been packing town halls.

For example, she wrote recently on her Twitter feed, quote, "I disagree that the people showing concern over some healthcare proposals are 'manufactured.' Real folks, strong opinions."

She also said this on Fox News -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): This is a real grassroots anger, and I appreciate that. Both sides have passion. Both sides are organizing. That's what this democracy is about.

MADDOW: Here's how the conciliatory, of course, relatively conservative Democratic senator was treated today by her own constituents in Hillsboro, Missouri -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCASKILL: I don't understand this rudeness. What is this? I don't get it. I honestly don't get it. Do you all think that you're persuading people when you shout out like that? I beg your pardon? You don't trust me?

CROWD: No!

MCCASKILL: OK. You know, I don't know what else I can do. I don't know what else I can do. If you want me to go home - OK. Let me - I - please, please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Outside a town hall hosted by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin last night, the anti-health reform forces were back at it with the calling people "Nazis" thing, comparing all Democrats and President Obama, of course, to Adolf Hitler.

Again, a black congressman named David Scott even had a four-foot swastika spray painted on the sign in front of his office overnight. Knowing that this is the atmosphere surrounding what are supposed to be healthcare town hall meetings right now, the White House chose to put the president in front of a town hall meeting about health care in New Hampshire.

As the president was set to arrive, one man stood amongst the crowd with a gun strapped to his leg. He was holding up a sign that read, "It is time to water the tree of liberty." It's a reference, of course, to Thomas Jefferson's famous words, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

For perspective on the implication of Jefferson's words in this context being quoted by the guy with the gun at the event as which the president was speaking, when Timothy McVeigh was arrested 90 minutes after the Oklahoma city bombing, he was wearing a t-shirt with that slogan and a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the front and a tree dripping with blood in the back.

And so is the atmosphere surrounding town hall meetings this August. And so it was when President Obama took questions from his constituents, 70 percent of whom were chosen in a random, online lottery. The questions were not prescreened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Before I start taking questions, let me just say, there's been a long and vigorous debate about this, and that's how it should be. Now, that's what America is about - is we have a vigorous debate. That's why we have a democracy.

But I do hope that we will talk with each other and not over each other. Where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Because the way politics works sometimes is that people who want to keep things the way they are will try to scare the heck out of folks. And they'll create boogeymen out there that just aren't real.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Sen. Brown, thanks very much for being with us tonight.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Sure. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Today, in New Hampshire, a discussion about healthcare policy. At some town halls across the country today, a shout-fest of intimidation and threats and fighting about whether or not we're now a communist country and calling people Nazis.

What is the distance between these two things going on simultaneously in the country right now?

BROWN: Well, I think when you can get people to sit down and discuss rationally, you end up learning from each other. I was, today, at a chamber of commerce meeting in Dover, Ohio and at a hospital in Chillicothe and another hospital in Cambridge, Ohio.

We had good discussions. We had people that, in some cases, were angry. Some people bordered a little bit on rude. But, you know, I don't dispute - I don't even believe - I do believe that people that disagree with the president, disagree with me and others on this, even people who are angry about it, I think it's a legitimate anger.

But so much of it is based on the fear that - on the fears that people in Washington, that corporate lobbyists, the fears they play on to create fear among people. You know, frankly, Rachel, if we had had these kind of corporate groups in Washington, they were around - been around the country creating the fear that we just saw on television.

If we had seen that 45 years ago, we probably never would have gotten Medicare. That's why it's so important to patiently, one person at a time, explain what this healthcare bill is about. Be patient, even with the anger people show. Don't let them show disrespect.

But at least, stand your ground. Don't get angry. Don't fight back, but answer calmly and rationally, because we need to pass this healthcare bill the same way that some pretty gutsy people 44 years ago passed Medicare.

MADDOW: Nobody expected that healthcare reform would be easy. It's been the great brass ring of American domestic politics for 40, 50, 60 years now in terms of trying to get some sort of significant healthcare reform in this country.

The question, though, is whether or not the way that the opposition to healthcare reform is playing out with these displays of extremist rhetoric, in some cases, with people being sent to hospital with minor injuries, with arrests happening at some town halls, whether this forum, this manifestation of the opposition of healthcare reform make it's more likely or less likely that we'll actually get something passed this year?

BROWN: I think it makes it more likely and here's why. In this chamber of commerce meeting today in Dover, probably half of the meeting was chamber of commerce people at this breakfast. The other half were people that came that were mostly angry and against this and had been reading Web sites and all about socialized medicine, about euthanasia, about the - you know, the so-called death - what do you call it - the death panel that Sarah Palin talked about.

But as those people talked and were angry, the other people in the room, many of whom were Republicans - they were chamber of commerce. Many of them were just shaking their heads and thinking, why don't we have a rational discussion? I can reach those people.

You know, when I hear that North Carolina poll you talked about where half of the Republicans in North Carolina, more than half, think the president's not born in this country or add to that, aren't sure that he was born in this country, those are the people that are the most fearful. Those are the people whose fears are played upon. Those are the people screaming euthanasia, socialized medicine.

One woman stood up in Dover, a woman clearly in her 70s, maybe her 80s, and said, "I hate socialized medicine. I don't want government in my health care." I asked her if she's on Medicare. She said, "Yes, and I'm really pleased with my Medicare." Those people need education instead of the fear-mongers playing up on their fears.

MADDOW: Should the people who are truly - truly fearful, and the people who, whether or not it's out of their own fears or whether or not they're doing it in terms of political activism, are saying things like socialized medicine and euthanasia and the other myths that have been out there.

It makes sense that they should be educated about these things that they are in fact ignorant about them. But if they're not, and this is just politics, is it right and smart for Democrats to engage with them and try to debunk them, try to expose where they're coming from? Or should they be ignored?

BROWN: Well, you can't really ignore them when they're in a meeting. You can't totally ignore them because they're going to stand up and they're yelling and they're screaming. But when they do that, they really push other people away, people that are undecided or thinking, you know, this maybe isn't so bad.

If this group of people who doesn't even believe the president of the United States was born here, if they're that irrational, if they believe that the president of the United States is for euthanasia, if they believe some of these things that the far right is screaming, I don't think they're winning any arguments.

They may have a higher - they may turn up the volume and be louder than we are. But their impatience, their anger, the looks on their faces - I mean, hateful looks on their faces when they call people like me names or they call Barack Obama worse names than they call me, that just ultimately drives people away.

That's what happened in the 2006 and 2000 elections in a lot of ways. The sort of the angry far right made a lot of moderates, independents and some not-so-sure Democrats and some moderate Republicans think, "You know, this political party's not for me anymore. This political party, the Republican Party, is too far out there for me to support. I'm going to listen to what Sherrod Brown says. I'm going to listen to what Shelton Whitehouse or Bob Casey says. I'm going to listen to Barack Obama more than I have because these opponents are just way over the line with what they're saying."

MADDOW: I happen to agree with you 100 percent. I suppose it remains to be seen whether or not it plays out that way. But that certainly is where it feels like it's going now. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, thanks very much for your time tonight.

BROWN: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: I appreciate it. Having grown up watching a lot of cartoons, I sort of figured that we would have flying cars by now, right? Didn't you? Well, Chevrolet hasn't gotten there yet but they are a little bit closer, at least in my mind. Here's some really, really cool car news and including lots of cool pictures and a mechanic to explain it all.

And then, Kent Jones has a report about flying cars and the Jetsons and stuff, seriously. That's coming up.

MADDOW: Here's when I started to figure out that the whole hybrid car thing was not necessarily going to transform the whole way that Americans think about cars and gas and how we get around.

In 2007, General Motors unveiled a hybrid version of its Chevy Silverado full-size pickup truck, which got an eye-popping, life-altering, grand total of 20 miles per gallon. Woo-hoo.

Current hybrid engines do improve gas mileage and in something and efficient car like a Honda Insider or a Toyota Prius, the MPG numbers are sort of impressive. The average new vehicle on the road today gets an estimated 22 miles per gallon.

The best combustion engine you can get right now is the diesel running Volkswagen Jetta TDI, turbo diesel. That gets 41 miles per gallon on the highway, 30 in the city. There's also the tiny little Smart car, which gives you 41 on the highway and 33 in the city.

If you're talking about hybrids, the best you can get right now is the Prius at 50 miles per gallon. That's the way things stand today. But if you want to truly change your mind, change your thoughts about the way things work, you want impressive, you want a number you won't believe, I'm here to tell you that the Chevy Volt next year is expected to get 230 miles per gallon in the city - 230 miles per gallon or the equivalent of that because it's an electric car.

Here now is David Goldsmith who is a mechanic and is owner of Urban Classics Auto Shop in Brooklyn. He's also a weekly guest on the Auto Lab Radio Show in WMCA 570 AM in New York. Mr. Goldsmith, nice to meet you. Thanks for coming in.

DAVID GOLDSMITH, OWNER OF URBAN CLASSICS AUTO SHOP: Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: All right. So 230 miles per gallon - is this one of those numbers that has like a big asterisk next to it and nobody will ever actually get that? Or is that for real?

GOLDSMITH: Well, there is a little bit of an asterisk there.

MADDOW: OK.

GOLDSMITH: I mean, because you will have a car that can do 230 miles per gallon. That's, of course, if you don't use your air conditioning. And on a day like today in New York, who wants air conditioning, right?

MADDOW: November, though, right? OK.

GOLDSMITH: Yes. But there is November. But in November, you need heat. So - and if you want heat, you'll lose something. But it's still - it's a major breakthrough. We're talking about - I mean, really, the important thing about the Volt is that it's a zero-emissions car.

I mean, it's potentially a zero-emissions car for people who use that car as a commuter. If they're driving less than 40 miles a day, which a lot of - take New York City or Chicago or L.A., you know, you can drive, you know, 30, 40.

Then, you go over, you go 50 miles. You're using very little gasoline. But you can drive continuously, pure electric, zero emissions, except for what it takes to produce the electricity in a Volt.

MADDOW: So if you - I mean, it's one thing to think about going like Chicago to St. Louis. It's another thing to think about making like 115 separate trips to the 7-Eleven. I mean, what we're talking about here is trips that are under - the total consumption that is under 40 miles.

GOLDSMITH: Under 40 miles. You are not ...

MADDOW: Using gas at all.

GOLDSMITH: You're not using gasoline at all. What they do with the Volt - and this is a - it's different from a hybrid vehicle. This is a purely electric vehicle. It works on electricity. That electricity is what moves you. In a hybrid, it's a gasoline engine that's assisted by an electric motor that moves you.

MADDOW: So when the gas kicks in, it's just recharging the electric motor?

GOLDSMITH: It's just recharging the battery. That's right.

MADDOW: So when you recharge, how long does it take?

GOLDSMITH: Well, I mean, you can plug this thing. You know, you read the letter - you can plug this thing like your iPhone into the wall just like I charge up my cell phone. And of course, it takes a little bit more to charge up your car.

But you're talking about - I think they're talking about - I think it's an eight-hour, and I'm not sure about that, an eight-hour, complete recharge.

MADDOW: I think I've seen eight to 10 ...

GOLDSMITH: Right.

MADDOW: From charging it from zip.

GOLDSMITH: And you know, that's not terrible. And you can drive, you know, for 40 miles without recharging at all. And then, what happens, let's say you want to drive 150 miles or 200 miles or 300 miles. That's when the gasoline engine - this very small gasoline engine which doesn't use a lot of gasoline, it's recharging your battery.

MADDOW: Yes.

GOLDSMITH: So, it's a big step forward. And you know, we hope it will work. You know, the good news is that they're improving constantly on battery technology. And I think that we'll see when the Volt comes in, you know, we hope that it's a success for the environment and it will be a win for the environment. But we hope that battery technology improves to make it a less expensive vehicle ...

MADDOW: That's right -

GOLDSMITH: ... and a more reliable vehicle.

MADDOW: If you're going to give one word of advice to college graduates today, it would not be plastics. It's would batteries.

GOLDSMITH: Yes, batteries.

MADDOW: Exactly. David Goldsmith, mechanic, owner of Urban Classics Auto Shop in Brooklyn, weekly guest on Auto Lab Radio Show on WMCA 570 AM. It's great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

GOLDSMITH: Thank you. Bye-bye.

MADDOW: Coming up on COUNTDOWN, Keith has the latest on the latest conservative to say that John McCain's daughter, Meghan, has no place in the Republican Party. That is a big, awkward type they've got over there.

Next on this show, the Volt is cool, but Kent Jones wants a car that actually flies. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We turn, now to our gravity resistance correspondent, Kent Jones.

Hi, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hello, Rachel. You know, all the car talk got me thinking about other ways that we can get around.

MADDOW: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice-over): Don't get me wrong. The Volt is cool. So are a lot of the other electric concept cars. It's just that, at this point, I thought I'd be flying - everywhere.

As a kid, I rode around in big American cars. But I assumed it was only a matter of time when me and the rest of America would be airborne, just like my heroes.

The Jetsons. In the future, I would accept into a glass contraption and fly wherever I needed to go, just like Elroy. Earth? Walking? That was for suckers. The years passed and the score's still, gravity 1, humans 0.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

It's not that no one is trying. This Dutch aeronautics student built a flying bicycle that uses pedal power. He managed to stay in the air for several seconds. Nice effort, buddy.

And there were some jetpack aficionados out there. It's cool. But hey, answer me this - you want to take this thing out at night? And what about dating? Hey, pick you up at 8:00. So to all you inventors out there, here's the kind of thing I'm looking for.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

Oh, and I'm going to need a trunk and an extra seat for Astro.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: Excellent, Kent. I have a transportation cocktail moment for you, too.

JONES: Oh, very good.

MADDOW: I am an average parallel parker - average.

JONES: All right.

MADDOW: And I've always wanted to be able to just lift up the back of the car and scoot it in sideways.

JONES: Wouldn't that be great?

MADDOW: This dude in Egypt invented a way to do that. It's a retractable wheel, perpendicular to the back two wheels, that swings the butt end of the car in and out of a parking place.

JONES: That's tremendous.

MADDOW: A text in Arabic that says, "An employee at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) invents a unique way to park his car. I have no idea who he is. This is on BoingBoing.net. But I think I'm in love.

JONES: Splendid.

MADDOW: Thanks for watching tonight. "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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