updated 9/21/2009 12:16:51 PM ET 2009-09-21T16:16:51

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Mark McKinnon, Jane Hamsher

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thank you, Lawrence.  Have a great weekend.  Great thanks to you.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Thank you, Rachel.  Thanks.

MADDOW:  Thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

We are beginning tonight with the biggest of all big political events in the country today.  It was the kickoff of the Values Voter Summit, a conclave of conservative Christian activists organized under the mantle of the Family Research Council.

Today and through the weekend, the summit will hold some of the leading lights of the conservative movement, and nearly all of the marquee Republican politicians in the country and the 2012 presidential hopefuls.  There‘s Mitt Romney, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Bill O‘Reilly from the FOX News Channel, conservative ethics guru-come problem gambler Bill Bennett, the top Republican in the House, John Boehner, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, Republican rising star, Eric Cantor.

It‘s an event where elected Republicans like Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, for example, can feel confident using their most conservative base-pleasing rhetoric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHRIS SMITH ®, NEW JERSEY:  Never in all of those years have I been more concerned—and I know you share that and I know our panelists share that—about the abortion promotion coming out of the White House.  The culture of death promoted by Barack Obama, by his secretary of state, by his cabinet, by Sebelius, by the sub-cabinet and by appointees, by czars, is outrageous and it‘s unconscionable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The Obama culture of death.  You know, those were the totally the best hoodies out of all of the campaign swag.  You have to admit, right?  Remember those?  With the little reefer on them, culture of death.

Along with the “culture of death” podium-pounding today, Congressman Mike Pence also went off on the czar issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  You know, I do think members of Congress should be required to read bills, but I‘ve got to tell you, I‘d be just about as happy if more of them read this a little more often—the Constitution of the United States of America.

And nowhere in here can I find the word czar.  Washington, D.C. must become a no-czar zone, starting here and starting now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I wonder if Bill Bennett was in the room when Congressman Pence said that.  Mr. Bennett was the first President Bush‘s drug czar, you‘ll remember.  So, maybe Congressman Pence had to chase Bill Bennett out of the no-czar zone that he declared in D.C.

Aside from the conservative celebrity sightings, it‘s the topics of the breakout sessions at the Values Voter Summit that really can give you a sense of the overall direction of the group and of the, frankly, the types of things that these base voters will be looking to hear from the politicians who were there courting them.  There‘s one that‘s called “True Tolerance: Countering the Homosexual Agenda in Public Schools.  There‘s another called, “Global Warming Hysteria: The New Face of the Pro-Death Agenda.”  The description on that one reads, quote, “If people are the problem, what‘s the final solution?”

There‘s also a session called “The New Masculinity.”  Quote, “Feminism has wreaked havoc on marriage, women, children, and men.  It‘s time to redress the disorder it has wrought and that must start with getting the principles and ideals for a new ‘masculinism‘ right.”  Masculinism to combat the evils of feminism.

It‘s important to remember this isn‘t just a conservative for conservative Christian activists.  This is where the Republican Party goes for votes.  Nine currently serving members of Congress spoke at the event just today, including the Republican leadership from both the House and the Senate.

And this is an important stop for Republican presidential hopefuls.  Former Arkansas governor and weight loss self-help book author, Mike Huckabee, for example, was there trying to shine up his foreign policy and national security bona fides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR:  Here we are gutting the integrity of the CIA and calling them liars while at the same time treating suspected terrorists like rock stars and giving them refuge in Bermuda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Bermuda, by which I think he means Bermuda, which makes me think he‘s referring to the four Uighurs who were found to be not enemy combatant and not guilty of anything, but who we nevertheless held in Guantanamo for seven years before we sent them to go work on golf courses in Bermuda.

Mike Huckabee is no stranger to the Values Voters group.  He was one of the top tier Republican presidential candidates who attended the Values Voter presidential debate during the primary season, at which he and the other candidates stood on stage at their respective podiums while a choir opened the proceedings with an anti-patriotic song titled “Why Should God Bless America?”  The point of the song is that God shouldn‘t bless America because America is not worthy of being blessed, because of abortion and the Supreme Court ruling against prayer in schools and other things that conservatives don‘t like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHOIR (singing):  Why should God bless America?  She‘s forgotten he exists and has turned her back on everything that made her what she is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  “Why should God bless America?”—a song about God rightfully hating America is the song that the Values Voters folks used to kick off their presidential debate in this past election cycle.

Since none of those candidates who stood there before the choir singing about America not deserving to be blessed by God ended up getting elected president since the Republicans lost—this year, the reason to pay attention to this summit in Washington is to look for who the conservative movement is looking to for new leadership.

Their de facto keynote speaker today, the culminating speaker who the speeches by Mike Pence and Mike Huckabee and Chris Smith and Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor all led up to today is—it was—it was someone who needs no introduction, actually.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARRIE PREJEAN, FORMER MISS CALIFORNIA:  I was confident.  I did see it in my head.  I did see me competing for Miss Universe.  I did see that coming because I knew who I was and I knew that Miss USA wanted me.  I knew that they had needed me.  They needed a woman like me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  And the Values Voter Summit apparently needed someone like opposite marriage defender and former Miss California, Carrie Prejean, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREJEAN:  I knew, as soon as I said that, as soon as I didn‘t give the politically-correct answer, that there was no way I would be Miss USA, at least that night.

(LAUGHTER)

PREJEAN:  Little did I know I would be—I‘d feel as though I‘m Miss Universe, but.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The crowd goes wild.  She actually really brought the house down at the Values Voter Summit even without actually being Miss Universe.  Just being a nationally sought speaker for events like the Values Voter Summit, despite the awkwardness of the emergence of photos of her topless modeling after this whole scandal, Carrie Prejean has become a poster child for the conservative movement.

And Carrie Prejean said today that she knows that she deserves it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREJEAN:  Why me, a 22-year-old young woman?  Who had the courage and the bravery that not many people have?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Confidence is a big part of winning beauty pageants—also, elections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREJEAN:  Being a 22-year-old college student, not really into politics, at least I wasn‘t at the time.

(LAUGHTER)

PREJEAN:  But now, I have a new outlook on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  My favorite part.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREJEAN:  And I am disgusted at the way some people can be so intolerant.

(APPLAUSE)

PREJEAN:  It disgusts me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Carrie Prejean, champion of tolerance for her brave stance against other people‘s civil rights.  Last year, at the Values Voter Summit, this speaking slot she had today was filled by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.  This year, it was Carrie Prejean.  The Republican Party continues to be a fascinating path out of the political wilderness.

Joining us now is Mark McKinnon, former adviser to President George W.  Bush and Senator John McCain.  He‘s currently a contributor to “The Daily Beast” and vice chairman of the public relations group, Public Strategies.

Mark, thank you so much for being here.

MARK MCKINNON, FMR. BUSH MEDIA ADVISOR:  Sure.  Rachel, thanks for having me on.

MADDOW:  I know you love the Republican Party.  You are personally responsible for a significant amount of its electoral success over the years.  Tell me honestly, is there something good for the Republican party about events like this—this Values Voter Summit that I‘m not seeing?

MCKINNON:  Well, it is a—these voters and the constituency, they are an important part of the Republican Party.  And there‘s a lot of energy and enthusiasm there, and, that, you know, that I think that the press and Democrats kind of write-off these sorts of events and also the tea parties as populated by, you know, cranks.  But the reality is that—that there‘s a lot of, you know, very middle American voters at these summits and at these tea parties.

And something‘s happened out there, and, you know, I think it‘s accumulative effect perhaps, but there was like a tipping point that hit in August.  And when I saw these town halls and tea parties and see the summit today, I‘m struck by the fact that people really aren‘t talking off talking points, that there‘s a lot of, you know, people coming out from getting off work and coming out of these things because they‘re really angry and are frustrated.

So, something real is going on there.  And I think it‘s—I think we‘re making a mistake to write-off these rallies and these events, because there‘s some real energy and enthusiasm going on there.

Now, interestingly, one of the most—the biggest political news to me last week was a poll that was published that people who self-identify as independents is as high as it‘s been in 70 years.  So people are getting disaffected.  But the reality is they‘re being disaffected by the both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

So there‘s a lot going on politically out there.  But, you know, this is an important component of the Republican Party.  My view is that it needs—the party needs to be more tolerant, that we shouldn‘t be talking about murder panels and calling people racist and liars and communists.  I don‘t think that‘s productive, and I don‘t think we‘ll ever get those centrist independent voters with that kind of language.

And it is ironic that somebody like Carrie Prejean, who got famous for being intolerant about same-sex marriage, was out there today preaching tolerance.  But I do preach that as well.

MADDOW:  Mark, I‘m—I believe that it‘s—there‘s an interesting, I think discussion to be had about the prevalence of astroturfing and how many regular folks are represented by these various events that we‘ve seen over the course of the summer.  But today, the Values Voter Summit, this is definitely an event by and for pros.  I mean, this is the Family Research Council.  This is Tony Perkins, nine members of Congress speaking today, including a lot of very highly-ranking Republicans.

And if you were—if you‘re thinking about viability of Republican candidates moving forward, is there a risk for them showing up at events like this?  That they‘re going to be associated with this talk about, you know, the final solution and the Obama death agenda.  Is there a risk for them being associated with this?

MCKINNON:  I think there‘s a risk and, you know, talking about—I mean, the items you mentioned.  Those get reported in the press and then people associate that with the party.  I think, for example, Mitt Romney made a big mistake in the last campaign by really attacking way too far to this constituency when that really wasn‘t his normal—his normal zone.  And had he run his campaign like he did the last month of the campaign, he probably would have been the nominee.

So, I‘m disturbed when I see people like Tim Pawlenty, you know, kissing those rings and jumping out on Joe Wilson when, you know, he was—he was initially attracting support from people like me.  I liked him because he‘s got a history of being pretty centrist and a reformer.  But when he goes and starts reflecting sort of some of that language that you just mentioned, that‘s problematic for those independent voters, and you‘re never going to get a majority back unless we get those independent voters.

MADDOW:  Should we look for some moderate or independent-minded Republican leadership candidate to attempt sort of a Sister Soulja moment with these folks, to say, “Look, we actually need to compete on policy terms and not just accuse Democrats of wanting to promote a culture of death” and all of this?  I mean, you‘re an adviser to candidates.  We‘re not yet seeing candidates saying the sort of things that you have.

MCKINNON:  Well, yes.  And that disturbs me.  There‘s not a lot of voices echoing the sort of moderate-centrist language that I think we need to get out there to attract voters.  I think a Sister Soulja moment would be great.  As I said, you know, there‘s a lot of candidates, Huckabee and Palin and others who—Rick Santorum, for example—who are going after these, you know, social Republicans, but there hasn‘t been a clearly identified candidate yet who is going after the more libertarian, more economic issues that attract people like me.

So, there‘s a lot of room out there, and we need a voice out there articulating that message.  And, by the way, we also need—at these kinds of summits and others—we need these candidates to get out there and not just be “candidates of no,” but get out there and start articulating a plan.  Newt Gingrich was successful in ‘94 because he had a very distinct and clear plan and agenda, and Republicans need to get one together.

MADDOW:  Mark McKinnon, former adviser to President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, a smart man who takes a lot of heat every time you come on this show, I know, from your friends in the Republican Party—thanks for taking the risk and thanks for joining us, Mark.

MCKINNON:  Hey, carry on regardless.  Thanks.

MADDOW:  Will do.

When West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller was interviewed by “The New York Times” today about why he is taking such an aggressive stance in favor of health reform, he said, quote, “I represent a state that really needs health care reform.  And I want it to be good.”

You know, what state really, really, really, really, really, need needs health reform and could therefore really use at least one major politician who wants it and wants it to be good?  Yes, you know what state I‘m talking about.  We are going south—next.

But, first, “One More Thing” about the Values Voter Summit.  There was also an unexpected moment at today‘s conservative confab, one that the conference organizers apologized for personally and profusely.  It involved Values Voter attendees accosting an MSNBC reporter live on the air while he was in the middle of reporting from the event.  We have the footage of that live interruption for you in just a moment.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Earlier today while reporting live from the Values Voter Summit, MSNBC reporter Brian Mooar was accosted live on the air by attendees at that conference.  Here‘s what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re being rude.

BRIAN MOOAR, MSNBC REPORTER:  You‘re invited guests and we‘re doing live television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re being rude.  Would you mind?  This is about the rudest thing you can do.

MOOAR:  We‘re on live with MSNBC.

MOOAR:  Please don‘t touch the microphone.  Well, tell us—tell us what your thought is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My thought is that you are rude to do this in front of the public.

MOOAR:  OK, even though we‘re credentialed press brought here to tell your story and bring it out to the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Security escorted at least two of the people harassing the reporter out of the building.  It doesn‘t appear to have been just an MSNBC thing.  A FOX News reporter was also harassed similarly by people in the audience.

MSNBC‘s Brian Mooar received a personal apology from the conference media director and from Tony Perkins, the event organizer and the head of the Family Research Council.  Mr. Perkins later made an announcement to the crowd that the reporters were invited guests, that they‘d been told to broadcast from that spot, and that they should be treated more kindly.  Sadly that announcement came after the MSNBC crew was done for the day.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We‘ve had that lot of reaction to our report last night about the appalling new data out of South Carolina that read like a statewide cry for health care reform.

Last night, we reported that South Carolina has among the country‘s worst women‘s reproductive health care.  Rates of teen pregnancy, low birth weight infants, and infant mortality that are among the highest in the country.  The rate at which young women in South Carolina received the important and effective HPV vaccine is also among the lowest in the country.

But wait, there‘s more—and it‘s all bad.  The state has the fifth highest rate of obesity.  It has the highest stroke death rate of all states in the country, and has maintained that distinction for five decades.  It has the second highest death rate for oral cancer.  The life expectancy in South Carolina is the third worst in the union.

If Governor Mark Sanford, for example, decided to move to Argentina permanently, he would be among people expected to live at least a year and a half longer than South Carolinians are—in Argentina.

Yes, South Carolina needs better health care.  And to get it, it may need some civil servants who are slightly more interested in getting that for the state.

Governor Sanford, considered just a year ago a possible presidential contender in 2012, led the fight to turn down stimulus funding from the federal government, shunning federal unemployment benefits when South Carolina had the second highest rate of joblessness in the country.  We should‘ve seen that as a symbol.

And that was all before he offered this fine moment in leadership.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  I‘ve been unfaithful to my wife.  I developed a relationship with a—what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina.  About a year ago, it sparked into something more than that.  I have seen her three times since then during that whole sparking thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  After that performance, the Department of Homeland Security temporarily took away Governor Sanford‘s homeland security clearance, because they thought what the rest of the country thought—this man is not balanced.

And then there‘s South Carolina‘s senator, Lindsey Graham, who last week at President Obama‘s speech came dangerously close to clapping for the president but who has otherwise fought health care reform tooth-and-nail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  People have tried this model in other countries.  The first thing that happens—you have to wait for your care.  And in socialized health care models, people have to wait longer to get care and the government begins to cut back on what‘s available because of the cost explosion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  South Carolina‘s other senator, of course, “Senator Waterloo,” Jim DeMint, a man who perhaps more than any other senator has staked his current career on killing health reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  We must stop this government takeover of health care.  Friends, this is a critical battle for the heart and soul of America, and for freedom itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  And then there‘s this guy, South Carolina‘s own personal metaphor for things are good just like they are.

It‘s one thing to make the case against the country fixing something if in your state you‘re doing great on your own.  But if your state is a disaster area on its own, it is quite another thing to throw yourself in the way of what you more than anyone need for help.

Joining us now is a proud South Carolinian, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and associate editor for the “Washington Post.”  He‘s also an MSNBC political analyst.

Gene, thanks for being here.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Great to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Is there a connection, or a lack of a connection between South Carolina‘s bad health care outcomes and how violently opposed South Carolina‘s politicians are to health reform?

ROBINSON:  It‘s—it is, I think, you‘d have to call it a lack of a connection.  It‘s amazing, you know?  We don‘t have any health care and we don‘t want the government giving us any, by God.  It‘s amazing.

You know, it is a problem.  South Carolina has a lot of poverty—especially a lot of rural poverty, but there‘s urban poverty, as well.  And all that comes with urban and rural poverty, both black and white.  And, you know, it‘s just the sort of reforms that are being talked about that perhaps could begin to move the needle on some of these awful indicators that South Carolina has had for decades.

But our representatives, except one, most of—most of our elected representatives here in Washington are dead set against it.

MADDOW:  Well, let me ask you the awkward question about what you‘re just alluding to there.  African-Americans are disproportionately affected by poor health care.  Obviously, poor Americans are, as well.  And poor definitely straddles the race line in a lot of states, including South Carolina.

But here‘s a picture of what South Carolina‘s political representation looks like in Congress right now.  And it is—it is all white except for James Clyburn.

Is race and race and representation a factor in South Carolina‘s bad health outcomes but also its politics about health?

ROBINSON:  Well, I—sure.  I mean, just to ask the question flatly, yes, it is.  Now, is it same kind of factor that it was when I was growing up and Strom Thurman was our senator and students were fighting and dying in a demonstration in my town over a segregated bowling alley in 1968?  No, it‘s not bad.  And, in fact, I am struck when I go home to South Carolina and at seeing black people and white people together in integrated settings in a way that I never would have seen before.

That said, Jim Clyburn, the one African-American representative who happens to be in the majority whip in the House, which gives him an awful lot of clout is—talks about these health issues all the time and has for years and years.  He is—he is aware in very specific terms of what the situation is.  It is that faces poor people in South Carolina.

And Jim, frankly, Joe Wilson was best known in the state before he became a U.S. representative, when he was in the State Senate, as one of the last seven diehard state senators to oppose taking the Confederate flag down from the state house.

MADDOW:  Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC political analyst—I believe when I talk to you about this, Gene, that if people know more about how bad the health care outcomes are in South Carolina, there will be more of a push for South Carolina politicians to want health reform.  You make me believe that.  Let us hope it is true.

ROBINSON:  Let‘s hope that it is.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Gene.  Nice to see you.

OK.  Here is a phrase that you never heard anyone say in the past 30 years.  Don‘t water down this bill or the liberals will come after you.  Since I‘ve been alive, liberals almost by definition don‘t come after anyone.  That may be changing.  Conservadems, prepare for some newly muscular, liberal punch-back—at least on health care.

More on that in just a moment.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Still to come, the L-word is back.  Not lugubrious - liberal. 

The left find its spine and some boxing gloves, too.

Plus a refreshingly mixed metaphor-free discussion about politics in football.  As which football teams give how much to which political party?  Our sports-obsessed executive producer Bill Wolff will be here to help with that.  And Kent Jones has the W-E-A-K, weak in review.  That‘s all ahead.

But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  Before elections this one party had had a lock on the government in Japan since 1955.  But last month, Japanese voters voted for change.  They voted in a more liberal party called the Democratic party of Japan. 

Now, they‘ve been in office for about 10 days now and wasting no time turning things around.  They appointed a new defense minister who ran on the promise that he would withdraw Japan‘s naval ships from the war in Afghanistan.  There‘s a near certainty that he will follow through. 

Then, the new government appointed a new justice minister.  The justice minister in Japan has the responsibility of personally signing off on every single execution order in the country.  Japan has about 100 people on death row. 

The new justice minister has a 20-year-long record of calling for the abolition of the death penalty, which means, that she‘s not going to sign anyone‘s death warrant any time soon, which means that Japan effectively no longer has a death penalty. 

Which means there‘s now precisely one industrialized democracy in the whole world that is still in the business of killing its prisoners.  And that one country is - us.  And that is a very, very specific kind of American exceptionalism. 

Also tonight, in the competition to woo the base among Republican presidential hopefuls, Tim Pawlenty versus Bobby Jindal is turning out to be the unexpectedly awesome featherweight match-up of the season. 

Both went after conservative votes by talking smack about federal stimulus money earlier this year before ultimately taking it.  Bobby Jindal traveled around his state and handed out big stimulus checks himself and even made the checks look like the money was coming from him personally. 

Governor Pawlenty dispatched his economic development director to travel around the state talking up the money that hopefully no one remembered Pawlenty saying he didn‘t want. 

Pawlenty and Jindal will both be featured in the Values Voter Presidential Straw Poll this weekend.  Gov. Pawlenty, though, is one-upping Jindal by actually speaking at the event, as well.  Take that, Bobby!

But late-breaking news today.  There‘s news that another Jindal versus Pawlenty one-upsmanship triumph has occurred.  As we reported yesterday, Gov. Pawlenty sent a state-wide directive to the Minnesota Management and Budget Office.  It directs all agencies to stop giving Minnesota state funds to the organization ACORN immediately. 

Not to be one-upped, Gov. Jindal today did the same thing today, but he did it with an executive order and trumpeted it in a state Republican Party press release, quote, “Jindal issues order ending funding of ACORN.”  Take that, T-Paw! 

It should be noted that neither Minnesota nor Louisiana actually provides any state funding to ACORN at all.  So these two governors have just made really big shows of cutting off funding that does not exist. 

So hey, it‘s all for make believe.  But that‘s never stopped us from enjoying a good fake fight in this country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Did you ever wonder what it would look like if the political left in this country decided to stand up for itself?  It might look pretty much exactly like this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They fought to do it every way, yelling, screaming, trying to defeat any real healthcare reform. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And through it all, Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Congressman Mike Ross have stood by the health insurance industry and their allies by trying to kill the public health insurance option which would force insurance companies to compete. 

Eighty percent of Arkansas Democrats support the public option.  Why won‘t Sen. Lincoln and Congressman Ross?  Stand with Democrats now or we‘ll find someone who will. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Or we‘ll find someone who will as in, “We will run someone against you in a Democratic primary.  Do not take your left flank for granted.”  That‘s a new ad from the FDL Action.  That‘s a political action committee that‘s an outgrowth of the well-read liberal blog, “Fire Dog Lake.” 

In the cold hard math of American politics right now, Republicans are not really a threat to the agenda of this president.  They were beaten so badly in the last two elections that they now make up a teeny, teeny, teeny, tiny, tiny, tiny little minority in each house of Congress. 

Republicans are not a threat to healthcare reform or to the rest of the legislative agenda.  Conservadems - conservative Democrats are the threat to the healthcare reform and the rest of the legislative agenda.  And so now, liberals are making themselves a threat to conservadems. 

Already, some liberals are.

Conservative Democratic Congressman Mike Ross of Arkansas is being targeted by “Fire Dog Lake” as you just saw.  He‘s also getting hit by the group Change Congress, which has its own ad highlighting that Congressman Ross took more than $900,000 in campaign contributions from the health industry and highlighting that his conservative stance on health reform appears to be at odds with the views of his own constituents. 

Sen. Max Baucus who is taking heat from almost everyone, up to and including the college kids at the University of Maryland who booed the mention of his name yesterday, has also apparently been through some rough meetings with his fellow Senate Democrats since he unveiled his own watered-down healthcare reform proposal earlier this week. 

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia told “The Washington Post” Ezra Klein today, quote, “Democrats really let loose at Baucus.  Max Baucus does need our votes to get through the Senate committee.  And there was a coalescence of Democrats that hadn‘t been pre-plotted.  Some of these members had been quiet, and suddenly, they were speaking and loudly about what was wrong.  And if those things weren‘t fixed, they implied they wouldn‘t vote for it.”

Liberal Democratic senators telling the conservatives in their own party they will vote no on Democratic legislation unless it includes what they want.  Liberal packs threatening primary challengers unless conservadems start voting like Dems.  Pinch me?

Joining us now is Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of “Fire Dog Lake.”  Jane, thanks very much for coming back on the show. 

JANE HAMSHER, FOUNDER, “FIREDOGLAKE”:  Thanks for having me, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  What prompted you to target Blanche Lincoln, and Mike Ross with this ad? 

HAMSHER:  Well, last week, “Daily Kos/Research 2000” did a poll and they found out that the majority of Arkansas citizens and 80 percent of Arkansas Democrats want a public plan. 

Now, that‘s very much at odds with what Mike Ross from the fourth district of Arkansas has been telling people.  He said that during the August recess, his constituents told him that they didn‘t want a public plan. 

Well, Mike Ross has the second most Democratic district in the state.  So that‘s pretty much statistically impossible.  He‘s been telling people things that aren‘t true. 

MADDOW:  The ad, I know, is up on the Web right now.  When is it going to go on the air in Arkansas?  And how big a buy is this? 

HAMSHER:  It‘s going up in Arkansas next week.  It‘s going to be out of the Little Rock area.  It will cover roughly 50 percent of all of the people in the state, 55 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of the people in Mike Ross‘ district and 66 percent of the Democrats. 

MADDOW:  Wow. 

HAMSHER:  It‘s a big buy.  It would be equivalent to a $3.5 million buy in New York. 

MADDOW:  Well, it‘s obviously going to have an impact in Arkansas if only because it‘s relatively cheap to buy a lot of air time in Arkansas as you point out with the comparison of the New York market. 

But by putting it out on the Web now and the attention it received today, sort of a shot across the bow for all conservative Democrats and for liberals to know that this is an option.  What sort of response have you been getting since the ad hit the Web? 

HAMSHER:  Well, obviously, amongst our readers, your listeners, this is a popular stance.  We made a compromise several years ago when the Democratic Party started sort of luring these conservative Democrats into the party to expand their majority. 

And now we‘re paying the price for that.  We‘re seeing that we‘re trading away our values, meaningful healthcare reform to these people who aren‘t even representing their districts unless their constituents are pharma and the insurance companies. 

So, you know, if they are truly at odds with what their districts feel, we hope that ads like this will lure primary challengers into the race because a healthy primary market is a healthy Democratic Party. 

MADDOW:  Jane, you are an aggressive strategist.  And I know that you think about these things in broad strategic terms.  Why is it that you think that primary challengers, that naming and shaming conservative Democrats will work? 

Not all liberals, not all strategists are taking that approach.  A lot of other people are saying that they want to basically keep doors open and they want to stay on friendly terms with these folks. 

HAMSHER:  Well, I think that if it were a situation where Mike Ross‘ district wholeheartedly back him up, I would say, who am I to say otherwise?  But that isn‘t the case as the polling indicates. 

He and Blanche Lincoln are running around saying that the public option would cost more money.  It would be too expensive.  Yet the Commonwealth Fund found that $2,000 a year would be the savings the average person would experience with a public plan. 

So they‘re not being honest in what they‘re doing.  And as you mentioned, they‘re taking huge donations from the medical industrial complex.  So I think the question we need to ask is, why? 

Because 77 percent of the country wants this, Rachel.  And if we can‘t have it, it‘s going to be because these conservative Democrats decided to sell it.  And people are really upset about that.  And they‘re asking a lot of the questions about how we go forward with - forward from here and how we make sure that the Democratic Party respects Democratic values. 

MADDOW:  And there are questions that are putting a little steel in the spine of I think a lot of Democrats and a lot of liberals.  Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of “Fire Dog Lake,” thanks very much for joining us.  Good luck. 

HAMSHER:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Football should know no political allegiances, right?  It‘s football, right?  Except pro football teams totally do have political allegiances.  We‘ll see who is on which side of Washington‘s line of scrimmage, coming up next.  Just warning you now, it‘s probably going to make you mad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you have been paying contractors to guard the American government‘s most important buildings and diplomats and politicians in those war zones. 

If you‘re keeping score at home and it‘s never too late to start, these knuckleheads were the employees of the firm, Armor Group, hired to guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.  It‘s part of Wackenhut.  And frankly, the vodka industry is never going to recover.  Armor Group still has a contract with the State Department, although it is under review. 

So does Blackwater.  Blackwater - they still have their contract two years after its employees opened fire in Baghdad and what will forever be known as the Nisoor Square shooting.  Seventeen Iraqi civilians were killed in that shooting. 

And that brings us to your score card.  We have a new contractor gone bad revelation.  Pencils ready?  It involves the security firm Triple Canopy, owners of $1 billion contract with the State Department which they got in part because of Blackwater‘s bad rep. 

Triple Canopy was given that government contract even though they did not have permits to import weapons from the United States for their security officers.  So they ended up purchasing guns off the black market in Iraq, which means they were probably funding the Iraqi insurgency. 

One former manager with Triple Canopy says the company also traded booze and cigars to obtain U.S. Military equipment and supplies.  So, you and I, taxpayers, we paid for the U.S. Military equipment.  Then we paid for the contractor to buy booze and cigars, which they then traded to get these stolen U.S. Military equipment from our troops.  We pay all the way.  And that‘s the efficiency of contracting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  There‘s new data just released yesterday about football - about politics and football.  It‘s from the campaign donation trackers at “OpenSecrets.org.”  They track donations over the past 20 years from team owners, officials, and players, millions of dollars given to federal candidates and committees since 1990. 

Twenty of the league‘s 32 teams donated more than $100,000 apiece over that time period.  Now, that‘s a significant financial footprint in politics.  And the numbers are only going up.  The total dollar amount of NFL political donations spiked hugely in the last couple of years. 

And now, the league itself has formed a political action committee that opened up a lobbying office in D.C.  They‘ve even hired dedicated two full-time NFL lobbyists.  That said, we all know why the NFL‘s political secrets really matter. 

We all just want to know if the team we‘re rooting for is secretly rooting against us.  Odds are if you‘re at all a lefty and your team is one of the big political donors in the league, your team is rooting against you. 

Five of the top six highest donating teams gave more than 90 percent of their donations to Republicans.  The San Diego Chargers, the Houston Texans, the Washington Redskins, the New York Jets and the New Orleans Saints.  The Cincinnati Bengals also gave 99 percent of their donations to Republicans.  They were ranked 14th in total donations. 

There‘s only one team in the top 20 list of contributors, only one team that‘s made more than $100,000 in donations that‘s given more than 90 percent of its money to Democrats.  One team - behold, the St. Louis Rams.  In the top 20, the Eagles, the 49ers and the Dolphins also gave most of their donations to Democrats but they weren‘t up over 90 percent. 

The single most interesting sticks out like a sore thumb jammed into a facemask fact in these football stats.  To me, it‘s the huge gap between the biggest political contributor in football and all the other teams. 

Here‘s the total donation numbers for the whole league, smallest to biggest.  And then you get up to the top of the list and - booing.  Yes, the San Diego Chargers have made quadruple the donations of any other team, 98 percent of which, by the way, they have given to Republicans. 

They are the number one political spender by far.  And since I don‘t know much about football other than every single medical detail ever publicly released about Tom Brady, I have a chargers question. 

Joining us now is the sports savant of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, a weekly football columnist at the “Philadelphia Enquirer,” our executive producer and the vice president of MSNBC‘s primetime programming, Bill Wolff.  Hi, Bill. 

BILL WOLFF, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:  It‘s a hell of a long intro, Rachel.

MADDOW:  It really is. 

WOLFF:  I do a lot of stuff.  That‘s amazing. 

MADDOW:  The charges, by far, the numero uno, ichiban team in terms of political donations.  I don‘t know about the Chargers. 

WOLFF:  Yes.  It‘s a mixed bag.  They‘re not a very good team traditionally.  There have been 43 Super Bowls.  The Chargers have been in one.  

WOLFF:  Oh, they got shellacked by the San Francisco 49ers, like the worst - I was there.  Worst game ever.  They do have an excellent helmet.  They have an excellent helmet.  It has a lightning bolt. 

And then, if they do the throwback, the helmet that has a lightning bolt with the numbers underneath.  There it is right there.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 

I‘d say, one of the top two, the Dolphins.  Also a nice helmet. 

It has a dolphin with a helmet on the helmet.  A dolphin with a helmet. 

They don‘t have hands.  Why did (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

But what‘s key to knowing about the Charges and the real big downside and no Republican donations could help them with this, was their association with this. 

MADDOW:  OK.

(MUSIC)

You know every word to that song. 

WOLFF:  Not just a disco fight song.  A bad disco fight song. 

MADDOW:  The disco fight song.

WOLFF:  Well, like when “Chips‘” Erik Estrada went to the roller rink, that was the tune they were playing.  Real bad, late ‘80s.

MADDOW:  Bill Wolff, executive producer of this show, sports savant of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, thank you, man.  I appreciate it.

WOLFF:  Well, it‘s my pleasure.  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” insurance industry whistleblower Wendell Potter explains the bare minimum required for a decent healthcare reform bill. 

And bumbling burglars, dating hell and history 101, all part of the W-E-A-K, “Weak in Review,” with Kent Jones.  That‘s next.  Stay tuned. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Here now with a look at the W-E-A-K, “Weak in Review: is my friend, Kent Jones.  Hi, Kent.  

(CROSS TALK)

Bill is busting a move with that.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Well, at any given moment, really.

MADDOW:  A multitalented guy.

JONES:  You know, if I were a football ref, I would flag these for unnecessary weakness.  I would.  

MADDOW:  Well done. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES:  First up, fact deficit of the weak.  A pollster asked some Oklahoma public high school students such brain teasers as who was the first president of the United States.  Seventy-seven percent said, “Huh?”  We‘re not talking Benjamin Harrison here, or James K. Polk. 

We‘re talking the guy on the dollar.  How is that possible in a state in whose senators are Tom Coburn and James Inhofe?  Weak. 

Next, cyber-bungler of the weak.  In Martinsburg, West Virginia a criminal mastermind paused from burglarizing a house to log on to his victim‘s computer and check his Facebook status.  Then, he forgot to log off. 

I wonder - did he tend his little green patch or invite his Facebook buddies to play Mafia Wars?  Dude, I got your status right here.  Weak. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi, I‘m Maurice.  I‘m an executive by day and a wild man by night.  

JONES:  We don‘t know if this dating profile video from the ‘80s is real, fake or just some deeply uncomfortable performance already placed in between.  Regardless, fellows, if you recognize yourselves in any way here, stop, rethink, reboot, I‘m begging you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m really looking for somebody I can feel special about.  Are you that woman?  Please give me a call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m looking for the goddess.  Are you the goddess? 

JONES:  Weak. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  OK.  It was a high-end enough dating service that they had different-colored backdrops for each individual man mood? 

MADDOW:  I‘m no expert on these things.  But I didn‘t feel better about the men in orange. 

JONES:  No - unflattering for most people. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  You‘re right.  Thank you very much, Kent.  I appreciate that.

JONES:  You‘re welcome.

MADDOW:  Thank you very much for watching tonight.  We will see you again on Monday night.  Until then, you can E-mail us at rachel@msnbc.com.  Our podcast is available at iTunes or at Rachel - hey, look.  I‘m in the iPod.  How do they do that?  Or at “Rachel.MSNBC.com.” 

You can also hear my radio show coast to coast on Air America Radio.  Have a spectacular weekend.  Don‘t hold it against the Chargers.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Have a great weekend.

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

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