updated 9/18/2009 11:06:43 AM ET 2009-09-18T15:06:43

Guests: Cleve Jones, Joe Cirincione, Kent JonesRACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you for that

And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour—during which we will report some “stop you in your tracks” news about something very wrong in the state of South Carolina.  It is something that you will not hear anywhere else until every other news outlet takes our findings and runs with them tomorrow.  So, you might as well save yourself some time and get it from us here tonight.

There‘s also big news tonight that, for the first time, a member of George W. Bush‘s cabinet member is under formal criminal investigation for corruption.  We will tell you who it is and how damming that case is.

That is all ahead.

But we begin tonight with an unexpected and dramatic appeal today from the most powerful figure on Capitol Hill.

Just days after a Republican member of Congress screamed at the president while he addressed Congress, and thousands of conservative protesters descended on D.C. on the occasion of the anniversary of 9/11, some threatening to return with weapons, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who ordinarily present an iron-lady facade, today emotionally urged her fellow politicos to try to tone down the rhetoric, to recognize the risk of stoking extremism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER:  I think we all have to take responsibility for our actions and our words.  We are a free country, and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance.

I have concerns about some of the language that is—that is being used because I saw—I saw this myself in the late ‘70s in San Francisco.  This kind of rhetoric was very frightening and it gave—it created a climate in which we—violence took place.

And, so, I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made so understanding that some of the people—the ears that it is falling on are not as balanced as the person making the statement might assume.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Speaker Pelosi‘s office confirmed today that the violence to which she was referring there were the assassinations that rocked California and her home district of San Francisco in 1978.  On the morning of November 28th that year, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk were murdered by one of their former colleagues.

Harvey Milk, of course, was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.  Mayor Moscone was one of his political allies.  They were shot by Milk‘s conservative rival on the board of supervisors, a man named Dan White.

It was Senator Dianne Feinstein who was then the president of the city board of supervisors who found Harvey Milk lying dead on the ground in the city hall, and who then had to deliver the shocking news to the city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA:  Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed.

(INAUDIBLE)

FEINSTEIN:  The suspect is Supervisor Dan White.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  As a person who grew up in the Bay Area, whose earliest memories include that statement by Dianne Feinstein and the news reports of the rioting that followed Dan White‘s sentencing, I personally can tell you that it is rare and striking for a California politician who lived through that era to bring up that violence today.  It‘s especially striking to hear it brought up this way, the speaker of the House, a politician who rarely shows that type of emotion.

Here was the response from her counterpart in the House, in the Republican Party today, John Boehner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  A little while ago, Speaker Pelosi grew pretty emotional describing how our political climate is grown increasingly hostile, especially the rhetoric.  Do you feel that our climate has gotten extremely hostile these days?  If so, what‘s your opinion on all of that?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  As you‘ve heard me described before, I do believe we‘re in the middle of a modern day political rebellion.  The American people are saying enough is enough.  They‘re scared to death that the country that they grew up in is not going to be the country that their kids and grandkids get to grow up in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It‘s a modern day political rebellion.  Americans are rightly scared for their country.

I guess that means that Congressman Boehner doesn‘t agree that given the history of political violence and assassination in this country, political leaders should try to not escalate the situation toward those sorts of things.

And it wasn‘t just Congressman Boehner, the top Republican in the House today.  It was also the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Pete Sessions of Texas, who responded to Speaker Pelosi‘s plea for responsible de-escalation by saying, quote, “Speaker Pelosi is right that the American people are upset, but it‘s her own words that continue to fuel voter frustration in America.  Voters are justifiably frustrated with Washington.”

When politics becomes what it has become recently, when protesters are regularly brandishing guns at appearances by the president—politicians have a choice.  They can use their influence and megaphone of their stature to further escalate the rhetoric?  To try to stoke it further to just see what might happen?

Or they can use that influence, that megaphone, to try to de-escalate, to try to get the threats of force out of our political debate.  To use leadership to ask everyone to take a deep breath before someone gets hurt.  Who‘s doing that right now on the American right?  Is anyone who is influential on the conservative side of American politics going to step up to do that?  What are they waiting for?

Joining us now is Cleve Jones, a great friend and colleague of the late Harvey Milk.  He was one of the first to discover Milk‘s body in city hall.  Cleave is now an organizer with the hotel workers‘ union, Unite Here.

Mr. Jones, it‘s really nice to see you.  Thank you for joining us.

CLEVE JONES, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST:  My pleasure.  Thank you for having me.

MADDOW:  Do you think it was appropriate for Speaker Pelosi to raise the specter of those murders, the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, in the context of extremism in today‘s politics?

JONES:  Well, I certainly do and I certainly understand the speaker‘s emotions on the issue as one who was there that day and saw what those bullets did.  It‘s hard not to hear the residents—again, in the words and the actions and the signs that we‘re seeing all over the place right now.  And it‘s important for people who understand that this kind of rhetoric—many times in the past, in our country—has led to violence.

So, I was particularly disturbed by Representative Boehner‘s response, which seemed to me to be a tacit endorsement of the kinds of things that you described as you led into this: the carrying of firearms to town hall meetings.  When did this become a legitimate part of political discourse in our country?

MADDOW:  Do you think that there‘s a cavalier attitude about the risks of political violence today?  I mean, it feels like there‘s two ways to think about this.  Either it doesn‘t seem like a real threat to people and so it‘s OK to sort of flirt with it, or it is a real threat and people are still stoking this use of violence rhetoric, knowing that that real possibility is there?  Which do you think it is?

JONES:  I think it‘s a very frightening, cynical, deliberate attempt to manipulate the fears of many people in our country.  And, you know, I‘m certain that Representative Boehner is old enough to remember, as I remember, how it felt to be an American following the assassination of President Kennedy, how it felt to be an American following the assassination of Dr. Marlin Luther King.  I remember, as a child, when the cities burned.  And I remember tanks going down the street in front of my school.

Is that the kind of America that these people want to lead us into?  It is, I think, becoming inevitable that we‘re going to see political violence.  And that is a terrible thing for everyone in this country, regardless of your position on these issues.

MADDOW:  Cleve, I know that you‘ve been an activist for decades.  You‘ve worked at the grassroots level.  You still do.  You‘ve worked with a lot of different politicians.

Is the situation now where political leadership could really make a difference?  Could someone influential on the right use their leadership to calm things down right now?  Or is this a self-propelled thing?

JONES:  Well, I would hope that the Republican leadership would take a deep breath and look clearly at what‘s happening.  But I don‘t see any sign of it.  What I do see is every single day now, in the mainstream media and blogosphere, the fanning of these flames, the using of—the deliberate use of words like “kill” and “death.”

This does not bode well for our country.  And—you know, I am a protester.  I have a long history of marching and protesting and confronting politicians.  I‘m going to be marching in Washington on October 11th.  But I certainly won‘t be bringing a gun and I certainly won‘t be bringing racist—overtly hateful placards and signs like we‘re seeing every time these tea baggers get together.  And what also are not genuine grassroots movements by any means—they‘re well-financed and orchestrated by consulting firms with clear ties to the Republican Party that you, on this show, have done a good job of demonstrating.

MADDOW:  Cleve Jones, activist, friend and colleague of the late Harvey Milk—it‘s great to have your insight on this stuff.  Thanks for joining us.

JONES:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  In some states right, are conservative politicians cutting off their noses to spite their faces by opposing health reform?  There is some appalling news today about some of the red state, which shows that if reform doesn‘t pass, those states are going to want their proverbial noses back.  That‘s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Occasionally, you come across something when you‘re reading the news that can‘t be improved upon with comment.

So here, without comment, is from today‘s “Wall Street Journal.”  Quote, “Protesters who attended Saturday‘s tea party rally in Washington are unhappy with the level of service provided by the subway system.  Republican Congressman Kevin Brady asked for an explanation of why the government-run subway system didn‘t, in his view, adequately prepare for the rally to protest government spending and government services.  Seriously.”

That‘s not me saying seriously.  That‘s in “The Wall Street Journal.”

Quote, “The Texas Republican released a letter he sent to Washington‘s metro system complaining that the taxpayer-funded subway system was unable to properly transport protesters to the rally to protest government spending.”

I said I wouldn‘t comment, but if you‘re wondering how Mr. Complain-About-the-Metro-Congressman voted on the last Metro funding request, he voted no.  I‘m not commenting.  I‘m just saying.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Time for a magic map trick.  Ready?  Watch this.

Here are the three states with the highest number of young women getting vaccinated for HPV.  About three out of every four American women will eventually get HPV.  It‘s the virus that is the leading cause of cervical cancer.  Now, unlike other types of cancer, cervical cancer can largely be prevented by this vaccine.

So, these three state are doing the best in the country at administering that vaccine on a relatively wide basis.  They‘re doing a good job with that part of health care.  Good.

Now, here are the three states that are doing the worst.  This is where the lowest proportion of teenage girls are getting vaccinated for HPV.  So, here, one very effective form of health care is relatively lacking.

When that data about those states came out today, it got us here thinking.  We wondered what other states are really sort of blowing it on women‘s reproductive health care.  It turns out—here‘s the teenage pregnancy stats.

Here are the states with the most teenagers who are now also moms.  In these states, more than 15 percent of babies are born prematurely.  And here are the states where the babies are born with the lowest birth weight.  If you want to map the infant mortality rate, here are the nation‘s worst three state.

Now, magic map trick.  If you put all of this data into a big computing machine—which states are offenders in all the above categories?  Which states are the worst of all of these worlds?  They are:

Mississippi and South Carolina.  South Carolina, the Palmetto State, also home of lawmakers who perhaps more than in any other state have staked their reason for being on preventing health reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  The reason you‘re not going to have a government-run health care pass the Senate is because it would be devastating for this country.

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  If we‘re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his waterloo.  It will break him.

REP. JOE WILSON ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  I will not be muzzled.  I will speak up, and speak loudly against this risky plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  More than 20 percent of South Carolinians do not have health insurance.  Teen pregnancy rates are among the highest in the country.  They are among the worst at getting young women vaccinated for a nearly preventable cancer.  Infant mortality—among the highest in the country.

If anyone might want to get a little help with the disaster that is health care in their states, you‘d think it would be these guys.  But they‘re the ones who are fighting hardest against it.

We‘re going to have—we‘re going to—we‘re supposed to be joined right now by Donald Fowler, former national chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a great South Carolinian.  We‘re going to be joined by Mr. Fowler right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  If you‘ve been wrong on as many national security issues as Joe Lieberman has, it takes a special something to call the president a wuss because you didn‘t listen to you and instead took the unanimous advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the defense secretary.  Joe Lieberman and Mitt Romney and a bunch of other national security geniuses are going after the president on defense.  That‘s next.

Plus, Kent Jones has a shocking report that involves a anchorman and a defenseless chicken.

It‘s all ahead.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘ve always said that one of the options in the insurance exchange should be a public insurance option.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Wild applause!  President Obama gave a raise-high-the-roof-beam speech at the University of Maryland today, before a huge crowd of students who packed the school‘s 18,000-seat basketball arena to see him.  The crowd was very enthusiastic.  The president repeated his most crowd-pleasing, crowd-rousing rhetoric on health care.

It all went about how you would expect it to—a very positive rah-rah experience until, a surprise moment.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Four out of five committees in Congress have completed their work.  Yesterday, the finance committee, under the leadership of Max Baucus, put out its own bill.

(BOOING)

OBAMA:  Each bill has its strengths and there are a lot of similarities between them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  OK, two things.  One, American college kids right now are really psyched about the minutia of health policy.  They cheered the public option.  Two, American college students now know enough about the minutia of health policy to boo when they hear the name of the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.  They booed when he said Max Baucus.

Kids today with their rap music and their baggy pants and their hatred for the chairman‘s mark to the Senate Finance Committee‘s health care—kids today.  Get off my lawn!

You know, I have a college degree in health policy, and I have to say my college experience was not like that.  Wonk on, University of Maryland.  Wonk on.  The geeks of America shall inherit the Earth.

As has Ken Salazar.  Ken Salazar inherited responsibility for about 500 million acres of the Earth when President Obama appointed him secretary of the interior.  Yesterday, as we reported, he announced that he would shut down the Interior Department office known during the Bush administration as the place where department staffers snorted meth off of toaster ovens.

The inspector general reported that in addition to the toaster oven meth-snorting, employees of one middle management office had sex with, did drugs with, and took embarrassingly small bribes from people in the oil and gas industry they were supposed to be regulating.

Now, the secretary of the interior during the time of the toaster oven, meth-snorting, what‘s known as the department‘s orgy era, was a person named Gale Norton.  During the orgy era at her department, Gale—at her department—Gale Norton awarded Shell Oil a bunch of extremely lucrative leases to squeeze some oil out of federal lands.

Two months after the big present for Shell Oil was announced, Gale Norton quit the Department of the Interior.  Where did she go to work after that?  You guessed it.  Shell Oil.

Dear Miss Norton, thank you for submitting your resume.

If then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton discussed her future employment with Shell while she was making the decision to award the company those lucrative leases, she will have broken the law.  An internal investigation was launched of this while George W. Bush was still in office.

And “The Los Angeles Times” reports today that it has now been turned over to the Justice Department in a formal criminal referral.  That makes Gale Norton the first Bush cabinet secretary to be the subject of a formal corruption investigation.  She, of course, is also the first to have multiple results show up when you goggle her name along with the words meth, toaster oven and snorting.

Finally, one last story in THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW alleged crime blogger.  A suspected identify theft in Hinton, West Virginia, has been charged with impersonating a public official, impersonating a state officer and forging a public document.  He has not been charged with poorly impersonating a public official and doing a spectacularly inept job forging public documents, but he may also be guilty of those.

With the help of a man he met online, the suspect allegedly sent out letters posing as a law enforcement officer offering people jobs with the state of West Virginia.  In order to apply for those jobs, folks had to hand over their Social Security numbers, their birth certificates, and some other form of I.D.  Who wouldn‘t do that, right?

Well, if you‘re afraid that you might have been a victim of this scheme, here‘s how you can tell your job offer letter is a fake.  It does have the signature of the governor of West Virginia, Joe Manchin on it—

Joe Manchin.  But it‘s missing the governor‘s seal.  Also, the text of the letter makes t the last text message you received from an 8-year-old look like Tolstoy.

From the letter, quote, “It‘s nice to have you as an employee of West Virginia.  Your super boss Matt talk a lot of thangs about you.  I hope you stay with us a long time.  If you got?  Please ask Matt.”  Love, Joe Manchin, governor of West Virginia.

We‘re trying to obtain copies of these extraordinarily forged letters.  If we‘re successful, we will let you know—perhaps with a little RACHEL MADDOW SHOW forgery theater.  Oh, please.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  President Obama today made worldwide headlines by dropping President Bush‘s planned fantasy missile defense plans for Europe in favor of a new plan that actually might work.  Now, missile defense is one of those buzz terms that‘s widely known but not widely understood.  That‘s because not everyone saw this episode of “The West Wing.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR (as Jed Bartlet):  You know what you are?  You are the Charlie Brown of missile defense.  The Pentagon is Lucy. 

JOHN SPENCER, ACTOR (as Leo McGarry):  I‘m not familiar with the

reference, sir. 

SHEEN:  Peanuts - Charlie Brown. 

SPENCER:  I‘ve heard of them.  I‘m just not conversant in them. 

SHEEN:  Why?

SPENCER:  I never read the comics. 

SHEEN:  Leo, were you born at the age of 55.

SPENCER:  I know that there‘s a dog.

SHEEN:  Charlie Brown wanted to kick a football and Lucy would hold it, except she‘d pull it away at the last minute and Charlie Brown would fall on his butt.  

SPENCER:  That‘s funny?

SHEEN:  No.  But each time, Lucy would find a way to convince Charlie Brown that this time she wouldn‘t pull the ball away, but she would.  And once again, Charlie Brown would fall on his butt.  

SPENCER:  And that‘s funny?

SHEEN:  It‘s satirical. 

SPENCER:  What is it satirizing?

SHEEN:  The DOD bringing you to the situation every time they run a new missile test so that you can come tell me how great it worked so I‘ll put money in the NMD assist. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Intercept in five -

SHEEN:  There you go. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Four, three, two, one. 

SHEEN:  Is that silence usually a pretty good sign?

SPENCER:  No.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Negative intercept.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have we got sensor readings?  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Negative intercept.  KM warhead has overshot its target.

SHEEN:  It was enthusiastic.  

SPENCER:  By how much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Leo -

SPENCER:  By how much did it miss the target? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Colonel?  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  137. 

SPENCER:  We missed it by 137 feet. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Miles. 

SPENCER:  We missed it by 137 miles?

SHEEN:  When you consider the size of outer space, Leo, that‘s not so bad.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sir -

SHEEN:  By the way, the words you‘re looking for are, “Oh, good grief.” 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was the best pretend president in TV history, explaining that, as neat as it sounds, missile defense doesn‘t actually work.  It sounds like a magical force field that missiles bounce off of.  But it‘s actually more like trying to shoot down a bullet from the other guy‘s gun using a bullet of your own. 

Report out this week from the Government Accountability Office is highly critical of the entire missile defense program over the last eight years.  President Obama today said he is canceling the Bush-era plan to put 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a big radar station in the Czech Republic that was widely opposed by the Czech people. 

The Bush plan is being dropped in favor of different system that‘s thought more likely to work and which happens to target the kind of missiles that Iran actually has, not the ones the old fantasy system targeted. 

Nixing the plan was a bold move, but it wasn‘t a surprise.  Sen.  Obama campaigned on the fact that he was going to do this.  Now, you can guess what the Republican response was to it. 

You got it.  They all basically said what former Massachusetts governor and ‘08 Republican also-ran Mitt Romney said, which was, quote, “President Obama has made a dangerous and alarming decision to shelve our missile defense system in Europe.  The Pentagon‘s missile defense agency has worked long and hard to secure a site for the system to thwart a potential Iranian strike against our European allies.  His decision is wrong in every way.” 

Mitt Romney‘s foreign policy experience consists of having been a missionary in France during the Vietnam War.  And he owned a house in New Hampshire when he was governor of Massachusetts.  That‘s kind of foreign.  We do appreciate his analysis. 

Joining us is now is Joe Cirincione, president of the

Ploughshares Fund and author of “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons.”  Joe, it‘s nice to see you.  Thanks for being here.  

JOE CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND:  My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW:  First of all, I‘m sure that Mitt Romney is a very nice man.  To the extent you have any interactions with him, I want everybody to know that you had nothing to do with me making that crack against him.  Fair?

CIRINCIONE:  That‘s absolutely right. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Fair.  Let me ask you why it is the joint-chiefs-of-staff and the Secretary of Defense made a unanimous recommendation to President Obama to drop the Bush missile defense plan?

CIRINCIONE:  Because the military has always been skeptical of missile defense.  It‘s a huge money sink.  We spent about $240 billion over the last 50 years trying to create a missile defense that works.  And we‘re very, very short of that goal. 

We do not have a missile defense system that can protect the United States from a ballistic missile attack.  The joint chiefs would rather put that money for systems that actually do work. 

And now, they‘ve recommended to the president that we scrap this plan to spend $5 billion to place 10 interceptors in Poland in favor of a plan that, for half that amount, can put hundreds of interceptors right up against the Iranian coast to counter the actual threat that Iran represents with its short-range missiles.  

MADDOW:  The idea of the Bush plan was that they would target long-range missiles that Iran - long-range nuclear missiles that Iran doesn‘t actually have.  And the Obama plan is to target the types of missiles that Iran, not only already has, but has successfully tested.  

CIRINCIONE:  Exactly.  President Bush was promoting a technology that doesn‘t work against a threat that doesn‘t exist.  Obama is replacing nothing with something.  Instead of building indefinitely for a system that might defend against a system that the Iranians, might field 10 or 15 years from now, he‘s actually going to be putting more hardware on target quicker in the next two years against the Iranian missile threat that exists, defending more countries in Europe than the Bush plan would have.  

MADDOW:  Joe, in addition to Mitt Romney coming out about this, calling it dangerous and alarming today, and then later, in his statement calling it alarming and dangerous, which I thought was a big escalation. 

A lot of neoconservatives with left of them came out and criticized this today, people like John Bolton, people like Joe Lieberman, John McCain, even, not necessarily thought of a neoconservative but certainly taking the neocon line on this.  Why have neoconservatives been so whetted to the idea of the Bush system?

CIRINCIONE:  Well, two reasons.  They have a deep distrust of arms control agreements.  They think these are paper agreements that sacrifice U.S. security.  They don‘t want to give up any American military system even if the other side‘s giving up theirs. 

Two, therefore, they think the only way to protect against a missile threat is not to eliminate the missiles, eliminate the weapons, but to build up a technological shield.  And 50, 60 years of experience in failing to do that hasn‘t dissuaded them at all. 

But the third reason I think this is really what motivates them most is that it‘s politically useful.  There is a conservative hate machine out there that takes any defense issue now and turns it into an attack on President Obama. 

They want to portray him as weak, as an appeaser, as unconcerned about American natural security, maybe not even an American.  So any defense issue that comes up now, whether it‘s missile defense or Iran or nuclear policy or North Korea or relations with Russia, it will also be used to try to portray Obama as an appeaser, as weak. 

And missile defense is that - in order to make that, they have to make up facts.  They make up, as you say, this myth, this fantasy system that missile defense can work.  They exaggerate the Iranian threat.  They use words like “dangerous” and “ominous” and “appeasement” all the time . 

You would think having these people be so wrong about so many international security issues, they would have little credibility.  But they still find TV stations and newspapers that will give them time.  

MADDOW:  What about the allegation, Joe, that this is somehow going to appease Russia, that this is something Russia didn‘t want, that Russia will be happy this isn‘t there and that this somehow, is going to embolden them at a time when Russia has been very aggressive internationally.  

CIRINCIONE:  Well, one, the Russians are basically pleased with this.  They do see this as a return to rationality in the part of Americans.  They never thought this system made much sense and they were right about that.  They did see it as a threat to Russia. 

And this system did have some capability against Russia.  So they are pleased - there‘s no question about it.  And there will be some politicians in Russia that will crow about it. 

There are also some that are concerned about the Obama plan.  My friend and colleague, Gen. DeVorkin(ph), is complaining - is warning about this plan in an article in “The Washington Post” Web site tonight saying that this system, if it proceeds the way Obama wants, could be a bigger threat to Russia than the Bush plan. 

And the reason is simple.  Bush - as long as it‘s a few interceptor missiles on Aegis cruisers and destroyers off the coast of Iran, not much of a threat. 

But if it multiplies the way Sec. Gates and Gen. Cartwright laid out today, over 10 or 15 years, you could have hundreds of interceptors on dozens of ships with extremely capable systems that could threaten U.S.  strategic systems.  So the Russians are not just going to just give Obama a free pass on this.  

MADDOW:  But of course, if that happens, then the conservatives will attack Obama as needlessly provoking Russia, our great ally, right?

CIRINCIONE:  That‘s right.  That‘s exactly right.  Any issue will be used to portray Obama as weak, as overreaching, as vacillating.  The facts don‘t matter here.  Just like in the healthcare debate, the conservatives and the neoconservatives do not care about the facts. 

And in this vitriolic attack, they‘re doing more harm to national

security than anything they could hope to gain.  This, as you pointed out

in the beginning of the show, is the great curse we now have in Washington

·         this vicious, vicious fight that sacrifices domestic issues or international issues on this partisan altar of hate and vitriol.  

MADDOW:  Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, author of the book, “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons,” thanks very much for joining us and helping us work this out tonight, Joe.  It‘s good to see you.

CIRINCIONE:  My pleasure.  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  I have a quick programming note for you.  NBC‘s Ann Curry interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today after President Obama‘s announcement on the missile defense policy.  Her interview with Mr.  Ahmadinejad will air in part tomorrow morning on the “Today” show and in its entirety right here on MSNBC on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. 

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN” tonight, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy‘s son, Teddy Kennedy, Jr., will be joining Keith to discuss the state of the healthcare debate.  

Coming up next on this show, the one event in today‘s news that deserves everyone‘s attention - I promise.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty has just landed a stunning political blow against a completely imaginary enemy.  The good governor has been trying to raise his national profile in advance of a widely expected run for the presidency in 2012. 

To that end, he has now jumped on the anti-ACORN conservative bandwagon.  He‘s issued a statement - a statewide directive to the Minnesota Management and Budget Office that directs all agencies to, quote, “stop all state funding of ACORN.” 

Oh, tough move, except the state doesn‘t actually give any money to ACORN.  But rest assured, conservatives, every dime that the state of Minnesota doesn‘t give to ACORN is going to be cut off, right now.  Their imaginary state budget, we‘re imaginary slashing it.  It doesn‘t get imaginary tougher than that. 

Many conservatives who Gov. Pawlenty is hoping to woo with the imaginary tough guy act will be convening in D.C. tomorrow for the start of the fourth annual values voter summit.  For the low, low price of $99 you can sign up to listen to speakers that include Rep. Michele Bachmann, actor Stephen Baldwin and former Miss California Carrie Prejean. 

If that‘s not enough, wait, there‘s more.  You could sit in on breakout sessions like, “Obamacare: Rationing Your Life Away.”  Or, “Global Warming Hysteria: The New Face of the Pro-Death Agenda.”  How about, “Thugocracy: Fighting the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.” 

I‘m not making up these titles.  This is really what they‘re doing.  Here‘s my personal favorite, “True Tolerance: Countering the Homosexual Agenda in Public Schools.” 

This, of course, is all just a pre-game warm-up to the Saturday evening‘s black-tie optional gala honoring Phyllis Schlafly with the James Dobson Vision and Leadership Award.  So see you there.  I‘ll be the one being denounced as a pro-promiscuity zealot by the anti-abortion Catholic people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  My other deeds - they challenge every American to ask this question, “What can we do to be better citizens?  What can we do to be worthy of such service and such sacrifice?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Out of all the stories in the news today, if you only hear one, if you only pay attention to one, this is the one.  Our country did something today that we do very, very, very rarely.  And this is the story. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  It was June 21st, 2006 in the remotest northeast of Afghanistan, near the border of Pakistan.  Sergeant Monti was a team leader on a 16-man patrol.  They‘d been on the move for three days, down dirt roads, sloshing through rivers, hiking up steep mountain trails, their heavy gear on their backs, moving at night and in the early morning to avoid the scorching 100-degree heat. 

Their mission, to keep watch on the valley down below in advance of an operation to clear the area of militants.  Those who were there remember that evening on the mountain.  Iraqi ridge, not much bigger than this room.  Some were standing guard, knowing they had been spotted by a man in the valley. 

Some were passing out MREs and water.  There was talk of home and plans for leave.  Jared was overheard remembering his time serving in Korea.  Then, just before dark there was a shuffle of feet in woods and that‘s when the tree line exploded in a wall of fire. 

One member of the patrol said it was like thousands of rifles crackling.  Bullets and heavy machine gunfire ricocheting across the rocks.  Rocket-propelled grenades raining down.  Fire so intense that weapons were shot right out of their hands. 

Within minutes, one soldier was killed, another was wounded.  Everyone dove for cover, behind a tree, a rock, a stone wall.  This patrol of 16 men was facing a force of some 50 fighters.  Outnumbered, the risk was real.  They might be overrun.  They might not make it out alive. 

That‘s when Jared Monti did what he was trained to do.  With the enemy advancing so close they could hear their voices, he got on his radio and started calling in artillery.  When the enemy tried to flank them, he grabbed a gun and drove them back. 

And had they came back again, he tossed a grenade and drove them back again.  And when these American soldiers saw one of their own, wounded, lying in the open some 20 yards away, exposed to the approaching enemy, Jared Monti did something no amount of training can instill.  His patrol leader said he‘d go but Jared said, “No, he is my soldier.  I‘m going to get him.” 

It was written long ago that the bravest are surely those who are the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet, notwithstanding, go out to meet it. 

Jared Monti saw the danger before him and he went out to meet it.  He handed off his radio.  He tightened his chin strap and with his men providing cover, Jared rose and started to run into all those incoming bullets, into all those rockets. 

Upon seeing Jared, the enemy in the woods unleashed a firestorm.  He moved low and fast, yard after yard, then dove behind the stone wall.  A moment later, he rose again.  And again, they fired everything they had at home, forcing him back. 

Faced with overwhelming enemy fire, Jared could have stayed where he was behind that wall.  But that‘s not the kind of soldier Jared Monti was.  He embodied creed all soldiers strive to meet, “I will always place the mission first.  I will never accept defeat.  I will never quit.  I will never leave a fallen comrade.” 

And so for a third time, he rose.  For the third time, he ran toward his fallen comrade.  Said his patrol leader, “It was the bravest ever I had ever seen a soldier do.”  They say it was a rocket-propelled grenade that Jared made it within a few yards of his wounded soldier. 

They say that his final words, there on that ridge far from home, were of his faith and his family, “I have made peace with god.  Tell my family that I love them.”  And then as the artillery that Jared had called in came down, the enemy fire slowed, then stopped. 

The patrol had defeated the attack.  They had held on, but not without a price.  By the end of the night, Jared and three others, including the soldier he died trying to save, had given their lives. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Sgt. Jared C. Monti of Raynham, Massachusetts today was awarded the Medal of Honor.  It is the highest honor that we give in this country.  While Sgt. Monti‘s parents received his medal today in Washington, in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers there renamed a combat outpost in his honor. 

Only five Medals of Honor have been given thus far to Americans who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And since Vietnam, no Medal of Honor has been awarded to a soldier, a sailor, an airman or a marine who has survived the fight for which he was honored. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Earlier in the show, we presented some new and appalling data about the state of health care in certain parts of the country.  Specifically, the data showed which states in our union have the worst rates of teen pregnancy, premature births and infant mortality as well as the lowest and therefore worst rate of young women who are given the vaccine for HPV. 

And who‘s at or near the bottom of all those ignominious lists?  The states of Mississippi and South Carolina.  And who represents South Carolina in the health reform debate? 

That would be waterloo Sen. Jim DeMint and “you lie” Congressman Joe Wilson, both of whom are hell-bent for leather that we will have no healthcare reform.  It‘s a one thing to be against health reform; it‘s another thing to be against health reform when you‘ve got the some of the most disastrously bad health care in the country. 

To talk about this, we were supposed to be joined by former Democratic National Committee chairman and proud South Carolinian Don Fowler who was going to be joining us from Columbia, South Carolina. 

What else was in Columbia, South Carolina, tonight? Really, really bad weather.  Huge thunderstorms, which interfered with our satellite feed and cost us the chance to hear from Mr. Fowler.  What can you do? 

We apologize to Mr. Fowler and to you.  We think it‘s a story worth-talking about and we‘re hoping to do that just as soon as it stops raining in South Carolina. 

(MUSIC)

We turn now to our unplanned media event correspondent, Kent Jones.  Hi, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  TV is an inexact science.  I think we proved that this evening. 

MADDOW:  Absolutely.

JONES:  Sometimes, things go wrong and sometimes things go terribly, terribly, terribly wrong. 

MADDOW:  OK.

JONES:  This is one of those.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  The filter between private thoughts and public declarations can be perilously thin.  Case in point - here in New York, a local news anchor is exchanging pleasantries with the weather man on last night‘s newscast. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It takes a tough man to make a tender forecast, Nick.  Keep (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that chicken. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, I‘ll do that. 

JONES:  Excuse me? Based on the reaction of his co-anchor, yes, he really did say that.  Clearly, the word “plucking” is was in his head but the word right next to it came out.  What a difference a couple of consonants can make especially when a chicken is involved. 

With that, he joins a long, rich history of TV chicken-plucking moments. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR:  Sask Energy is announcing a proposal to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up the cost of heating your home. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let me talk, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Translate that for us.  I don‘t know what that means.  What does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, if you let me talk -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Texas rat snakes are going to be one of the largest snakes you find in the metroplex area. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What the -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He climbed the highest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest.  But he‘s gay - I mean, he‘s - I mean, excuse me, he‘s blind. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, my god, ladies!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, I got my balls screwed up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lady, as you can see (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It looks like Ruben(ph) is in the lead and here comes - that was a bad idea. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What did you think he was going to say about the chicken that he didn‘t quite say?

JONES:  “Plucking,” I believe, was the word. 

MADDOW:  You keep plucking that chicken. 

JONES:  I think that was the intent. 

MADDOW:  I‘d like to buy a vowel. 

JONES:  You missed it by that much. 

MADDOW:  That much.  Very good.

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  Absolutely terrifying.  It‘s like can see my own life flashing before my eyes.  I have a cocktail moment for you. 

JONES:  Great.

MADDOW:  Have you ever been tempted to play the Bulgarian lottery.  

JONES:  Once or twice, but you know. 

MADDOW:  In the Bulgarian lottery on September 6th, the winning numbers were 4, 15, 23, 24, 35 and 42.  OK?  Those are the winning numbers on September 6th.  September 10th, the winning numbers were 4, 15, 23, 24, 35 and 42.  Same six numbers, two consecutive drawings. 

JONES:  What are the odds?

MADDOW:  I know, exactly.  Apparently, one in 4 million. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I worked it out. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  Thank you at home for watching.  We‘ll see you again tomorrow night.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  .  

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Guests: Frank Schaeffer, Chris Hayes, Anthony Weiner, Kent Jones

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  I‘m still sort of hung up on the broke back Texas Two Step.  But I.

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Michael will do that to you.

MADDOW:  I might ask him to stick around to elaborate on that.  Thank you very much, Keith.  Appreciate it.

And thank you for staying with us for the next hour for what—I have to warn you—it turns out is going to be a rather prurient hour of cable news.  I did not intend for it to work out this way, but we‘ve ended up with a show full of terrifying warrior robots, comic book heroes come to life by terrorists, right-wingers calling me really funny names, drugs being snorted off toaster ovens, and polling—as Keith said—on the anti-Christ.

I will admit that this is a very, very weird hour of television we have coming up this hour.  But that‘s because it‘s been a very, very weird day of news.

We begin in D.C., where Republicans fighting against the reprimand of Congressman Joe Wilson for screaming “You lie!” at the president, insisted that they did not want to spend time on that reprimand because they had better things to do.  Well, today, we learned what it was they were so eager to spend their time on instead of censuring Mr. Wilson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE:  As you can see, we have a team effort to get a handle on this issue of the czars.

REP. STEVE SCALISE ®, LOUISIANA:  What I found is H.R. 3569, which is called the SAC Act.  This bill would sunset all czars effective December 31st of this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The SAC Act, get it?  Sunset all czars, sack the czars. 

Genius.

That‘s what Republicans have been working on.  More surprising than a midday press conference called to address the czar epidemic that Republicans have just noticed has struck the country was perhaps the reaction that this Republican attack elicited from the White House today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think it‘s been somewhat remarkable that in previous administrations, the so-called criticism of this has been a bit deafening.  The silence has been deafening, only to have it come around as a political issue now.  I‘ve noticed that—you‘ve read Senator Bennett was pushing for a Y2K czar that he didn‘t think was powerful enough.  You‘ve seen Lamar Alexander call for a manufacturing czar.  So, you know, somebody referred to in the bush administration as the abstinence czar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That mentioned of the abstinence czar there was a reference to a gentleman named Randall Tobias, who also known as President Bush‘s AIDS czar.  As AIDS czar, Randall Tobias insisted that countries who wanted any of America‘s AIDS funding had to promote abstinence and denounce prostitution.  That turned out to be very awkward when Randall Tobias‘ name turned up on the D.C. madam‘s phone list.

The press secretary also singled out Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Bennett in his rejoinder today.

Back in 2003 when President Bush was the one appointing the czars, this was Lamar Alexander‘s stance then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE:  The president of the United States yesterday, in a Labor Day speech in Ohio, talked about—talked about jobs, and specifically, manufacturing jobs.  He talked about appointing a sort of manufacturing jobs czar in the Commerce Department, which I would welcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Which I would welcome.  Manufacturing czar, sure, sounds great.

But now that President Obama is the one appointing the czars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER:  These czars are an affront to the Constitution.  They‘re anti-democratic.  They are poor—a poor example of a new era of transparency which was what was promised to this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Senator Lamar Alexander.

As for Senator Bennett?  Well, he‘s just written a letter to the Obama White House complaining about the proliferation of czars in your administration.  If you go to Senator Bennett‘s Web site at this very moment, you will see that one of the things on his brag list of his accomplishments in the Senate is, quote, “Successfully urged President Clinton to appoint a ‘Year 2000 Czar.‘”  Yes, but that was for Y2K, that was huge, that totally needed a czar.

Czarism is auditioning to be the new “Birtherism” right now on the

right.  It‘s a fact-free but exciting slander against the Obama White House

one that bridges the ever-narrowing gap between conservative conspiracy theories and the beltway Republican agenda.  Even as the birther theory that the president is secretly foreign is considered debunk in polite circles, 12 Republican congressmen—do not forget -- 12 of them are still trying to push birther legislation in the House.

           

And what must have been a disappointment for the birther dozen today, a federal judge appointed by President Bush in Georgia just issued a Hall of Fame-quality smackdown to the birthers, denying yet another of their lawsuits challenging Obama‘s legitimacy as president and saying in the process, quote, “Unlike in Alice in Wonderland, simply saying something is so does not make it so.”  The judge even threatened the Medusa head of the birther movement, Orly Taitz, with sanctions if she keeps filing these same frivolous lawsuits in federal court.

So, even as “Birtherism” rapidly converts to a punch line, the overall idea of challenging presidents—challenging President Obama‘s legitimacy is so attractive to the right that they‘re no longer reserving this technique just for President Obama.  Today—get this—a three-judge panel in D.C. heard a case brought by a group called Judicial Watch, which alleges, this time, that it‘s Hillary Clinton who is ineligible to serve in office as secretary of state.

A provision in the Constitution says you can‘t take a job if you also had a part to play in raising the salary for that job.  Now, Hillary Clinton was a senator when the secretary of state job got a pay raise.  To avoid the constitutional issue that was posed by that, the salary was dropped back to its lower level when Secretary Clinton took the job.  Of course, it‘s always possible that she is secretly getting paid the difference in Kenya.

If the czar thing and the birther thing and the “Hillary Clinton can‘t really be secretary of state” thing aren‘t cookie enough for you, consider one last development in today‘s news.  Today, Public Policy Polling released results from its new poll of residents of the great state of New Jersey.  The poll found that 18 percent of New Jersey conservatives say they are sure that President Obama is the anti-Christ.  No questions asked.  Another 17 percent of New Jersey self-identified conservatives say they just aren‘t sure, but they‘re not willing to rule it out.

What do you think the White House strategy is going to be to rebut the fact that more than one in three conservatives think the president might be the anti-Christ?  At least in New Jersey.  That is a P.R. challenge.

Joining us now is Frank Schaeffer.  He grew up in the religious far right.  He is the author of “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All or Almost All of It Back.”

Mr. Schaeffer, thank you so much for coming back on the show tonight.

FRANK SCHAEFFER, THE HUFFINGTON POST:  Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW:  I do not know what possessed this polling firm to ask whether or not people think the president is the anti-Christ, but they did.  Does the response rate among conservatives surprise you?  More than one in three saying yes or they don‘t know.

SCHAEFFER:  Well, I was a child when President Kennedy was assassinated, and my mother thought, because he died of a head wound, foretold in scripture of the anti-Christ he would be resurrected as the anti-Christ.  She thought this might be a possibility.

So, those of us who come from the evangelical subculture have been weaned with our mother‘s milk on a changing cast list of villains.  It might be Kennedy to one generation, Obama to the next.

But I think the larger point this brings up is that the mainstream—not just media, but culture—doesn‘t sufficiently take stock of the fact that within our culture, we have a subculture which is literally a fifth column of insanity, that is bred from birth through home school, Christian school, evangelical college, whatever, to reject facts as a matter of faith.  And so, this substitute for authentic historic Christianity, and I may add as a little caveat here, I‘m a church-going Christian, really brings up the question: Can Christianity be rescued from Christians?  And that‘s an open question.

And when you see a bunch of people going around thinking that our president is the anti-Christ, you have to draw one of two conclusions.  Either these are racists looking for any excuse to level the next accusation or they‘re beyond crazy?  And I think beyond crazy is a better explanation.

And that evangelical subculture has rotted the brain of the United States of America and we have a big slice of our population waiting for Jesus to come back.  They look forward to Armageddon.  Good news is bad news to them.

When we talk about the “Left Behind” series of books that I talk about in my book “Crazy for God.” what we‘re talking about is a group of people that are resentful because they‘ve been left behind by modernity, by science, by education, by art, by literature.  The rest of us are getting on with our lives.  These people are standing on the hilltop waiting for the end.

And this is a dangerous group of people to have as neighbors, and they‘re our national neighbors.  And this is the source of all of these insanities that we see leveled at the president.  One way or another they go back to this little evangelical subculture.  It‘s a disaster.

MADDOW:  It is one thing though to think about these as almost cultish

views, to think about these as views that are on the fringes of beyond the

edge of mainstream Christianity.  It‘s another thing to look at the

numbers.  I mean, in this same poll, the numbers are also really high on

the question of whether or not the president was born in the United States

61 percent of McCain voters in New Jersey expressing doubt that Obama is American, saying he definitely wasn‘t born in the U.S. or they‘re not sure.

           

The birther thing has been disproven.  The anti-Christ thing is—it‘s all another kettle of fish.  But how do you work to move people off that position?  It doesn‘t seem like facts are relevant in trying to move people away from these beliefs.

SCHAEFFER:  You don‘t work to move them off this position.  You move past them.  Look, a village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.  It‘s as simple as that.  And we have to understand, we have a village idiot in this country, it‘s called “Fundamentalist Christianity.”

And until we move past these people—and let me add as a former lifelong Republican—until the Republican leadership has the guts to stand up and say it would better—it would be better not to have a Republican Party than have a party that caters to the village idiot, there‘s going to be no end in sight.  The next thing they‘ll do is accuse Obama of being the anti-Christ and then who knows what comes next on and on it goes.

There is no end to this stuff.  Why?  Because this subculture has as its fundamentalist faith that they distrust facts per se.  They believe in a younger of 6,000 years old with dinosaurs cavorting with human beings.  They think that whether it‘s economic news or news from the Middle East, it all has to do with the end of time and Christ returns.  This is la-la land.

And the Republican Party is totally enthralled to this subculture to the extent that there is no Republican Party.  There is a fundamentalist subculture which has become a cult.  It‘s fed red meat by the pawns like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other people who are just not terribly bright themselves and they are talking to even stupider people.  That‘s where we‘re at.  That‘s where all of this is coming from.

And it‘s becoming circular.  It‘s becoming a joke.  Unfortunately, a dangerous joke because once in a while, one of these “looney tunes,” as we see, brings guns to public meetings.  Who knows what they do next.  It‘s a serious thing we all have to face, but the Democrats and sane Americans just have to move past these people, say, “Wait on the hilltop until the end, the rest of us are going to get on with rebuilding our country.”

MADDOW:  Mr. Schaeffer, briefly, is there anybody on the right who could be constructive here if they wanted to be?  To the extent that people could be moved off of these conspiracy theories?  And I understand your point that they not—it‘s not true that all of them could be.  But is there anybody who could be influential to try to stop the impact of these conspiracies?

SCHAEFFER:  Look, in the year 2000 I worked for John McCain, to try to get him elected in the primaries instead of George Bush.  But John McCain sold out by nominating Sarah Palin who comes directly from the heart of this movement and carries with her all that baggage.  So, he sold out.  I don‘t see anybody on the Republican side of things these days who has the moral standing to provide real leadership, or who will risk their position to do so.

MADDOW:  Frank Schaeffer, author of “Crazy for God”—thank you very much for your time tonight, sir.  It‘s always fascinating and a pleasure to have you on the show.  Thanks.

SCHAEFFER:  Thanks a lot.

MADDOW:  The terrorist group al Qaeda appears to have adopted an American as a new spokes-model, an American whose image they have modeled on a comic book hero.  True story—a very weird true story coming up in just a moment.

But, first, “One More Thing” about fact-free indulgence in our politics today.  Opponents of health reform first said that it was a secret plot to kill old people.  Then they said it was a secret plot to take away veterans health care.  Then they said it was a secret plot to take away health coverage just from Republicans.  Then they said it was a secret plot to kill women with breast cancer.

Casting around for another group of hopefully scare-able Americans to try to turn against health reform, it‘s possible reform opponents have hit a new low this week, targeting disabled children.  Republican members of Congress Trent Franks and Cathy McMorris Rodgers held a press conference this week warning that kids with disabilities would somehow become victims if there is health reform.  Pressed by reporters as to whether she could actually point to any language in proposed health reform bills that would deny care to disabled kids, Congresswoman Rodgers said, “No.”  But she did say that parents of disabled kids are worried it‘ll happen anyway.

Hmm.  I wonder why on Earth they‘d be worried about that.  Maybe because people like Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Trent Franks are telling them to worry about it?  It may also be useful to note here that kids with disabilities in this country right now, by and large, have government-run health coverage.  The SCHIP program is kids‘ health insurance, the Medicaid covers people with disabilities.

So, when Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Trent Franks tell people with disabilities to be afraid of government-run health care, they‘re telling them to be afraid of what they‘ve got now.

Don‘t let the truth hold you back from a good scare though, right?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Before the Bush administration, the phrase “Department of the Interior” never really had much zing.  After the Bush administration, it will always sound vaguely pornographic.  That‘s because during the Bush administration, the Interior Department‘s inspector general nailed its own employees for having sex with, doing drugs with, and taking all sorts of cheap bribes from employees of the oil and gas industries they were supposed to be regulating.

And one memorable finding, the inspector general described a supervisor at the Minerals Management Service at the Department of the Interior snorting meth of his subordinate‘s toaster oven before they—did something I‘m uncomfortable describing on television.  The “meth off the toaster oven” reports and all of the other details is linked at Rachel.MSNBC.com today if you want to read it yourself.  Fair notice, it‘s PG-13.

Today, there was a little Interior Department change that we can believe in.  Secretary of the Interior Kent Salazar announced that the whole office made famous by the “meth toaster oven snorting” is going to be closed.  It turns out that while the employees of that office were stooping and getting high with and taking bribes from the oil and gas industries, they also were letting those industries get away with underpaying their obligations to the federal government to the tunes of tens of millions of dollars.

So, that office is now closed.  And hopefully, the phrase of “Department of the Interior” will go back to being very boring.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In the wake of Congressman Joe Wilson being reprimanded by his colleagues in Congress yesterday, the signs are proliferating that his decision to scream “You lie!” at the president during a speech to Congress is making him a hero on the right.  And by signs of that, I mean that literally, this sign has just gone up outside the office of Republican Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida.  “I am a friend of Joe Wilson.”

And Congressman Steve King of Iowa continues in his efforts of screaming “You lie!” at the president step one in becoming a new Republican hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA:  Because his hope for amnesty in the health care bill has gone down because of who?  Joe Wilson.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KING:  God bless Joe.  He said what we were thinking.  Joe‘s a man of honor.  He‘s an officer and a gentleman and he‘s a patriot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Conservatives are now actually asking Congressman Joe Wilson to autograph photos of himself yelling at the president.  The congressman has been happy to oblige.  Did I mention how sorry he said he was for doing it?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST:  The truth is, that had Joe Wilson not spoken, it‘s very likely that this legislation, 3200 in the House, would have proceeded, which has no enforcement at this point even now of the prescription against health care insurance for illegal immigrants.  I mean, he did a public service.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  He did a public service.  That‘s CNN‘s Lou Dobbs joins the canonization of the “You lie!” screaming congressman.  He also serves to remind us that Wilson screaming at the president has also served as sort of a kick-off event for the resurgence of anti-immigration politics on the right.  Texas Governor Rick Perry this week used a press conference with Rudy Giuliani to pound his chest about his decision to send the Texas rangers to the border—not the baseball team formally run by George W.  Bush, but rather a Texas rangers law enforcement unit that if you squint, looks a lot like a military commando group.  Their mission at the border, in Governor Perry‘s words, will be to, quote, “go to where the bad guys are.”

You know, the electoral potency of anti-immigration politics for Republicans can‘t really be denied.  After all, without the salient and motive demonization of immigrants, we never would‘ve elected President Tancredo.

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation.”

Chris, thank you very much for coming on the show.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Are we seeing a resurgence of anti-immigration politicking on the right?

HAYES:  Yes, absolutely.  I don‘t know if it ever went away amongst the base.  I mean, this is something that has tremendous—tremendous—resonance with the certain portion of the Republican and conservative base.  It has for a long time.

I think it was sublimated largely because the vehicle for the conservative movement sort of awkwardly for much of 2008 was John McCain, who doesn‘t fit quite so comfortably with that portion of the base.  And now we‘re seeing it be resurging right now.  And there‘s no question that it has exploded in both intensity and profile, you know, in the last six months or so.

MADDOW:  Well, it is a weirdly an electoral blessing for Democrats looking ahead to 2010.  I mean, how have anti-immigration politics fared for Republicans in recent election cycles?

HAYES:  Well, it fared terribly, and it fared terribly because of a basic demographic fact, which is that the country grows more Latino by the day, and shockingly, Latino voters are not super psyched about voting for a party that has, as part of its coalition, a percentage of the population—a portion of the population that seems to hate them.

(INAUDIBLE)

HAYES:  So, yes, shockingly.  And so, you know, it‘s proved disastrous and there‘s all sorts of people who are, I think, bad people but have, you know, sort of basic faculties of math and reason, like say Karl Rove who understand that it‘s absolute, you know, political suicide for the Republican Party to continue to be associated—in the minds with the growing Latino population—with this totally intolerant and demagogic portion of the conservative base.  And yet, when you see the glorification of someone like Joe Wilson, that‘s exactly what‘s happening.

MADDOW:  Well, fantastical success of President Tancredo aside, why is it that Republicans then are going back to this well?  I mean, first of all, health reform bills don‘t benefit illegal immigrants, that hasn‘t stopped Republicans from repeating this is a myth, from taking up.

HAYES:  Right.

MADDOW:  . Wilson‘s cry as a battle cry here.  And we‘ve—as you say

we‘ve seen how this has fared for them in past electoral cycles.  Why can‘t they help themselves from doing this?

           

HAYES:  Well, they can‘t help themselves because it plays incredibly well for the base.  I mean, it‘s one of these things that gets people‘s blood boiling and gets people‘s blood boiling for all sorts of reasons I won‘t speculate on.  But the fact of the matter is it does for a certain percentage of the population.

But I think it‘s just really important just to piggy-back on what you said, that there are two things to think about in terms of this health reform bill, right?  The accusation is that it‘s going to subsidize the purchase of health insurance for illegal immigrants, absolutely 1,000 percent not true, right?  It‘s statutorily borrowed in the bill and the mechanism for subsidization, our tax returns which the legal immigrants then not to file.

But because of Joe Wilson‘s outburst, Max Baucus went and made sure that illegal immigrants cannot purchase health insurance in the exchanges.  This is a totally brittle and criminally stupidly idea.  And so, what‘s really more frustrating than how politically backwards this is, is the fact that in a round about, in perverse way, Joe Wilson has won through his outburst.

MADDOW:  Because conservadems decided to come up with a whole new idea of preventing illegal immigrants from buying stuff.

HAYES:  From purchasing insurance.

MADDOW:  Unbelievable.

HAYES:  I mean, look, presumably Congress could pass a bill, right, that would prevent illegal immigrants from purchasing food and maybe that would chase them out of the country, but really—I mean, really?  Really?  Is that the kind of country we want to be?

MADDOW:  And how is that going to fare for Republicans politically, honestly.

Chris Hayes, Washington editor for “The Nation” magazine.  Thanks for joining us with the bucket of cold water in the face, as usual.  Appreciate it, Chris.

HAYES:  Thank you.  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right.  Dead on arrival pretty much describes the reception today to conservadem Senator Max Baucus‘ health reform proposal.

Senator Baucus, personal note you and I, feel free to come on the show to talk about it any time, or at least to please return the calls our office keeps placing to your office.

Meanwhile, the congressman who declared Senator Baucus‘ bill DOA, Anthony Weiner, will join us shortly.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Still to come, I interview a surprise crucial player in the health care reform fight that you have never heard interviewed before.  Trust me.

Plus, robots, robots, terrifying, soul-sucking robots in a scary movie moment of geek.  That‘s all coming up.

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

One of the funny things about al Qaeda, not ha-ha funny obviously, but more like “Hey, that‘s really embarrassing” funny, is that they keep trying to promote American guys purported western converts as al Qaeda spokes-models.  First, it was Azzam the American, a kid who was a dorky death metal fan raised on a goat farm in California who ended up in Pakistan running al Qaeda‘s A.V. Club, As-Sahab.  He makes propaganda and has himself appeared in al-Qaeda videos in which he speaks English with a fake foreign accent and inveighs against the American infidels. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AZZAM THE AMERICAN:  It‘s crucial for Muslims to keep in mind that the Americans, the British, and the other members of the coalition of terror have intentionally targeted Muslim civilians and civilian targets both before as well as after September 11th

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  If that message wasn‘t hard enough to take anyway, there‘s something about the fact that it‘s coming from a chunky kid who was raised in Orange County whose name used to be Adam Pearlman.  That makes it all the more ridiculous. 

Mr. Pearlman - I mean, Azzam the American is now on the FBI‘s most wanted list.  He faces charges of treason and providing material support to al-Qaeda. 

And al-Qaeda‘s now marketing another purported American al-Qaeda dude, a man whom they‘ve given the name of - I kid you not - Rakan Ben Williams.  This week Rakan Ben Williams issued an essay titled - and again, I kid you not - it was titled, “Obama, What up?”

It is noted by terrorism expert Evan Coleman the essay devolves from its genius title into a bunch of racist name calling, quote, “Do you remember who Kunta Kinte now is, Mr. Hussein Obama?  This is you, Mr.  Obama, who has failed to understand the true mentality of racism.” 

Kunta Kinte?  Al-Qaeda is attacking President Obama now with references from “Roots.”  I wonder if they mean the LeVar Burton mini series or if they read the novel in the original. 

But that‘s not even the most incredible cultural reference of the supposedly American al-Qaeda polemicist, Rakan Ben Williams.  People who study al-Qaeda and its communication say that Rakan Ben Williams is probably fake. 

He‘s probably not a real person like goat farm death metal boy on the FBI‘s most wanted list.  Part of the reasoning for why this guy might be made up is the name, Rakan Ben Williams. 

Rakan is a comic book character that‘s really popular in the Middle East.  He is “Rakan, The Lone Warrior.”  And according to comic book legend, his family was killed by roving Mongol hordes leaving young Rakan to be raised by a saber-toothed tiger. 

So to recap, today‘s al-Qaeda news, a probably fake American al-Qaeda convert named after a comic book character raised by a saber-toothed tiger wants President Obama to not be like LeVar Burton, or at least like the fictional character LeVar Burton portrayed in the American TV mini-series in 1977. 

Al Qaeda is never funny.  Americans will never laugh with them.  But sometimes, being nihilist, murdering medieval dirt bags also means being incredibly stupid and embarrassing.  And then I think it‘s OK to laugh at them. 

Finally, a quick programming note, or at least a quick request for future programming note.  By now, you will have probably seen images of this line, which was distributed at the 9/12 protest in Washington over the weekend. 

It says, “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy.”  That sign stood out at the 9/12 march, not for being gut-churning - a lot of the signs at the 9/12 march were gut churning.  But this one stood out because it was both gut-churning and well made. 

This was not some off-the-cuff message one person scribbled on the cardboard at their kitchen table.  This is a professionally-designed and printed sign.  And the group that had it professionally designed and printed and distributed, they printed their name on it.  It‘s the American Life League, which you can see there.

They describe themselves as a Catholic organization, a Catholic pro-life organization that printed and distributed signs that said “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy.”  The cackling over the senator‘s death is just implied. 

Even though the sign was distributed for Saturday‘s march, we haven‘t talked about it yet this week on this show because I had been hoping that the American Life League would come on to the show to defend or at least try to explain the sign. 

So far, they won‘t.  We ask them to on Monday, they said no.  We asked them again yesterday, they said no, since the American Life League‘s president, Judy Brown, has also called me names in her column, calling me a “pro-promiscuity zealot.”  Woohoo! 

I thought that she and I would like to have a chance to talk this out like adults.  I would love to hear the American Life League‘s Catholic pro-life explanation for the “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy” signs. 

So far, they are afraid to defend it.  I think they should defend it.  So consider the invitation extended for a third time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We have a very special exclusive guest tonight you will not see anywhere else.  Joining us now is health care reform.  Hi, bill.  Are you OK?  I have to say you don‘t actually look very good. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve had a bad August, Rachel.  People said so many mean things.  I don‘t want to kill old people.  Come on. 

MADDOW:  Well, things did seem to be going pretty well for you.  As recently as July, you were approved in those three House committees.  You were approved in one Senate committee before the recess.  You only had one committee to go.  What happened? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Max Baucus happened.  He thought delaying me would make Republicans like me better.  Yes, right.  As if. 

MADDOW:  Bill, that cough sounds pretty bad.  Maybe you should get that looked at. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would, Rachel, but I can‘t afford it.  I‘ve got to go.  Oh, I‘ve got a cracked rib too.  See you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Are you actually going to make it?  I‘m very worried about this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know, Rachel.  You tell me. 

MADDOW:  Oh, Max Baucus, what have you brought?  Back in November last year, Sen. Baucus released a healthcare reform call to action where he outlined his big plan for reform with the number one goal of universal coverage. 

And to get there, he said there would be a public health insurance option to compete with the private companies and bring down costs.  Health care for everyone. 

That sounded like a good idea to a lot of Democrats in Congress and lucky for them, they had huge majorities in both houses of Congress.  So practically, they didn‘t need to spend a lot of time worrying about trying to get Republican votes they could get a move on. 

And healthcare reform generally chugged right along.  It passed the Senate Health Committee, chaired by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy on July 15th with all Democratic votes.  It passed the House Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee two days later with all Democratic votes. 

And then it passed a third House committee, Energy and Commerce on July 31st with, spoiler alert, all Democratic votes.  This was the little bill that could.  Thanks to the Democratic majorities in Congress in both houses and the widespread belief that this was necessary, needed and going to happen this year, it was moving along. 

It only had to get through one more committee, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Max Baucus, the same Max Baucus who, back in November, wrote his health care for all public option manifesto. 

But instead of proceeding like all of the other committees had, like all of the other committees that healthcare reform had zipped through, Sen. Max Baucus decided to do things differently. 

In his committee, he decided to take Republicans from the minority of the committee and put them into a small bipartisan group of six, to see if those six could get Republicans to vote for the bill instead of it just being voted for by Democrats. 

And that‘s where everything came to a halt.  Instead of passing the bill before the August recess, which would have been probably possible if the Finance Committee had just done what all the other committees did.  Sen. Baucus instead started hundreds of hours of bipartisan negotiations while Republicans and anti-reform forces luxuriated in the time they were granted to crusade against reform. 

Sen. Baucus negotiated a way the public option and coverage for living wills.  And he made the bill anti-immigrant and he made it anti-abortion.  And in the end, what did he get?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT), CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES SENATE COMMITTEE ON

FINANCE:  No Republican has offered his or her support at this moment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So was it worth it?  All that time, Sen. Baucus spent watering down the bill and negotiating with Republicans who weren‘t going to vote for it anyway?  You know, that‘s time you‘ll never get back. 

Joining us now is Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Congressman, thanks very much for joining us again. 

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY), MEMBER, HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE

COMMITTEE:  It‘s my pleasure. 

MADDOW:  You said today that Sen. Baucus‘ proposal is quote, “dead on arrival.”  What makes you say that?

WEINER:  Well, I don‘t say it with any pleasure.  I just can say that if you don‘t have something containing costs, something providing competition, the public option, for example, in the bill, then it doesn‘t have the support in the House of Representatives. 

But it‘s not just in the House.  It doesn‘t seem to have the support among the president or the public of the United States of America.  So after all the time, I‘m glad they put so much effort into it.  You know, it is an important part of the process.  But frankly, if the bill was intended to move this forward, it really didn‘t accomplish that. 

MADDOW:  The reason that I highlighted the procedure by which we got the Baucus bill in our kind of stupid little intro that we did here is because I think it is worth knowing that the Finance Committee, Sen.  Baucus‘ committee, did this differently than everybody else did. 

They tried this experiment of doing this bipartisan committee within a committee, this group of six.  Now that that bill seems to have - or the outcome of that process seems to have produced something that nobody‘s necessarily going to vote for, should that process just be worked around?

Should the whole Senate Finance Committee look at it the way whole committees and all the other committees that have done so thus far?

WEINER:  Well, let me just correct one thing.  I think all of the committees began with the idea of, “Let‘s try to do a bipartisan bill.”  But I think in every case we learn that many Republicans, if not all of them, came to the conclusion they want to be no part of actually solving this problem, whether it be for political reasons or just substantiated.  They don‘t believe that there‘s any problem to solve. 

The problem is with the group of six and Sen. Baucus is that we can‘t see bipartisanship as an end.  It has to be seen as a means to getting good legislation for the American people.  And at no point should we allow the people that simply say as the Senate Minority leader says, “We‘re against it,” or as John Kyl who is the whip of Republicans say there shouldn‘t be a single Republican vote. 

We can‘t let those people stand in the way of doing what the American people want us to do.  And clearly, whether it be Democrat or Republican or Independent, people in this country want us to solve this problem. 

MADDOW:  In terms of what is ultimately going to come to pass this year and it seems like something will happen even if we can‘t say exactly what it‘s going to be now.  Do you think that a bill without a public option won‘t pass the House?

WEINER:  I think that it won‘t.  I think that it won‘t because I think that fiscal conservatives who say they want to hold costs down or quickly realize that if we just say to the insurance companies go cover all of these new people but we have no cost containment, it‘s just going to be unaffordable. 

I think people are in the more progressive side, who believe that competition for insurance companies makes good sense, I think the - if you put those two groups together, you‘ve got well over 150 votes in the House who believe, in one form or another, you need cost containment. 

Look, let‘s explain what this is about.  If there are three parts, one part is covering the uninsured.  The other, second part is making sure that people who have insurance get treated well by the insurance company. 

The third piece of this is so important and that‘s cost containment or else the other two things won‘t be possible. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about a sticky political wicket here.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that Sen. Baucus‘ proposal will move the debate forward.  She has previously said, been a real champion of the public option, saying that something without a public option won‘t pass the House, which is what you just said. 

Are you confident that she is still an ally for your position on this?  Are you confident that the House leadership is still an ally for getting a progressive bill through the House?

WEINER:  100 percent because Nancy Pelosi can count.  You know, she is our speaker because she understands what‘s going on in the Democratic side of the aisle.  And I think she‘s got a pretty good sense of what‘s going on out there in the country as well. 

Look, this public option is not just a progressive pipe dream.  What it is, is a fundamental element, and to many of us, a compromise.  You know and I‘ve come on your show before to say that I think the really - the way to do this right, to do it least expensively and to do it most clearly is to extend something like Medicare for all Americans. 

I‘m prepared to compromise.  I‘m prepared to say, listen, maybe not an entire government single-payer plan.  But there at least has to be some element, some tiny sliver.  And that‘s all that‘s left.  Nancy Pelosi, I think, understands without at least that, there are at least 100 of us, maybe as many as 150 of us that won‘t vote for a bill. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, thank you very much for your clear statements on the matter for your leadership.  And thanks for joining us tonight. 

WEINER:  Well, I appreciate it.  I just want to know if the guy who does the voice of the bill is now in the union. 

MADDOW:  We took care of him, don‘t worry.  All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith‘s special guest is the insurance industry whistleblower, Wendell Potter.  He‘s been making headlines all across the country.  Wendell Potter explains why the insurance industry is reacting to the Baucus proposal like a 7-year-old reacting to getting a real live pony for Christmas. 

Next on this show, we‘ll talk about how I wasted my afternoon. 

Two words - jumping robot.  Moment of geek, stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In life during wartime news, the U.S. military has confirmed today that three American soldiers lost their lives today in southern Afghanistan when their vehicles hit a roadside bomb. 

Word of their deaths comes as a new CNN poll shows that U.S.  approval for the war in Afghanistan is down to just 39 percent now. 

Despite that and despite growing opposition in Congress to sending any more U.S. troops, the chairman of the joint-chiefs-of-staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told Congress yesterday that the insurgency in Afghanistan is strengthening and that, quote, “A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces.”

President Obama said today he isn‘t rushing to send more troops. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  You don‘t make determinations about resources.  And certainly, you don‘t make determinations about sending young men and women into battle without having absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Year nine of the war in Afghanistan starts on October 7th

It would be nice to have a clear strategy for the anniversary, you know.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  OK.  If you can spare 12 seconds, I want you to watch this little video.  It is only 12 seconds long.  This was just posted at the “Danger Room” blog at “Wired.com” this week and I cannot stop watching it.  It‘s a metaphor for something, but I can‘t yet tell what. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(voice-over):  So here‘s a tiny, little wheeled robot.  And obviously, this little guy has got an obstacle to get over.  That curb in front of it is like three times his size, right?  How is he ever going to get over that curb?

Oh, OK.  Let‘s see that again.  Here, I am all worried about how this little dude is going to get over the curb and - booing, not only over the curb but over the giant fence behind it. 

This little robot is called the Precision Urban Hopper.  It is the latest military spec robot built by Sandia Labs.  It‘s about to be developed by a company called Boston Dynamics who have also developed other robots they call the Big Dog which walks on all fours and can carry some cargo. 

The Rise Robot, which climbs up walls like the scariest gecko ever.  Also the RHex, which can cover rough terrain, which makes me wonder why our cars don‘t have flop-over treads like it, and which is frankly, inexplicably scary when it‘s going really fast. 

There‘s also Israel‘s Snake Robot, speaking of scary, with a camera for a head.  There‘s Vecna‘s BEAR Robot, BEAR standing for Battlefield Extraction Robot. 

And then, of course, there‘s the infamous drones, our deadly flying robots that allow us to say we‘re not really at war with Pakistan even though our robots are. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

That‘s tonight‘s “Moment Of Geek.”  The little jumper guy, the Precision Urban Hopper, can leap over obstacles up to 60 times bigger than itself.  Whether these things give you nightmares or make you want to go to engineering school or both, it‘s your call, of course.  Personally, I‘m terrified.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We turn now to our advanced symbology correspondent Kent Jones.   Hi, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  You know the “Da Vinci Code,” right?

MADDOW:  Oh, yes.  

JONES:  Well, the writer, Dan Brown, has got out a new one out called, “The Lost Symbol.”  It‘s a gigantic, crazy, “Harry Potter”-sized hit right now.  Everyone‘s buying it.  And take a look. 

MADDOW:  All right.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice-over):   In “The Lost Symbol,” symbologist Robert Langdon runs around Washington translating a complex web of arcane symbols‘ astonishing truths about a powerful secret society that will rock the world to its very foundations. 

So obviously, it‘s nothing like “The Da Vinci Code.” totally different.  This time around, Langdon delves into the mysteries of the free masons, the symbol-happy lodge brothers who are responsible for all of the freaky deaky on the dollar bill. 

Oh, and these guys.  OK, that is kind of sinister.  “The Lost Symbol” shrewdly arrives right after our summer of paranoid kookitude(ph) - you know, “If only we can penetrate the man‘s secrets, we can take down the man,” and all that. 

This gives me an idea for the next installment, “The Lost Document.”  The vast left-wing conspiracy wants to keep Robert Langdon from finding Obama‘s real birth certificate.  Clues to its secret location are buried in the pages of “The Nation” and “Huffington Post” and are jealously guarded by a fanatical priestly order called the registered voters of the United States of America. 

And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren‘t for these meddling Harvard symbologists.  Still, studying symbols can be useful.  For instance, I discovered a symbol that explains the entire universe.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  

JONES:  Sure.

MADDOW:  I have a great cocktail moment for you. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  It is an update on operation Iraqi baseball.  

JONES:  Oh, my favorite.  

MADDOW:  The Iraqi baseball team has received their uniforms.

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Awesome.  Ebbets Field Flannels donated the jerseys and the hats and the pants and the stirrup socks and everything.  They finally arrived.  The McClatchy news service got this photo of the team in the uniforms for us.  It‘s so cool. 

Jerry Cohen at Ebbets Field wrote to me today and said, “I can‘t tell you how great it feels to see them finally being worn by the guys.  It‘s very cool.”  And I should also point out that if you would like to have an Iraqi baseball team jersey, you can buy one from Ebbets Field.  

JONES:  Very cool.  

MADDOW:  Which is very cool.  We‘ve got the link posted at “Rachel.MSNBC.com” today.  And the even cooler part of it is that if you buy one of these jerseys, a portion of the proceeds goes to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. 

JONES:  There you go. 

MADDOW:  Operation Iraqi baseball -

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  The best thing that ever happened to me.

JONES:  Absolutely.

MADDOW:  I‘m so happy.  So thanks to Ebbets Field.  Thanks to the folks at Verdero in the south Bronx for donating the other gear.  It‘s been so cool.  Thanks.  

“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. 

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