updated 10/6/2009 11:16:47 AM ET 2009-10-06T15:16:47

MADDOW

October 5, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

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

Guest: Dave Weigel, Chris Hayes, John Ralston, Bernie Sanders, Kent Jones

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us on a day of news in which the theme was revenge. The sweet revenge of success as someone fired from the Bush administration for criticizing it won the Nobel Prize; the vicious revenge of a husband against the married senator who seduced his wife; and the revenge-the perhaps unlikely revenge of liberals in Congress who have boomeranged the right-wing crusade against ACORN into a crackdown on corporate crime that's left Republicans not knowing which way is up.

That is all coming up this hour.

But we begin tonight with a window into the soul of America's modern conservative movement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If anyone cares, Chicago is out?

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On what vote?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The very first vote. They did not have any chance at event negotiating. They were out on the first vote. So.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Woo. Woo. Do you see the little high-five there at the very end? Woo. It's very nice touch.

That "hooray the U.S. lost" video was shot at a conference of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. And if today's news is any indication, America conservatives are going to be wearing this video like an albatross for a very, very long time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President (ph), this was really hard to comprehend. The same minority who happily pumped one fist when Chicago-when America lost its bid to host the Olympics. They were cheering. We saw it on television. Because we lost the Olympics, but they shake the other fist at those it slanders as unpatriotic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: They were cheering. We saw it on television.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaking on the floor of the Senate today. Although any number of conservatives were caught online expressing their glee at the United States losing its bid for the Olympics, it was this Americans for Prosperity group that was caught on tape, quite literally cheering, and slapping high-fives when they heard the news that America had lost.

Now, you might remember Americans for Prosperity from their recent efforts to fight health reform. They're the people who have been driving around the country in big buses with a bloody red hand print on the side. The buses say, "Hands off my health care." Now, they say their mission is, quote, "educating citizens about health reform." Education that apparently consists of promoting speakers like this guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this new Obama care program comes to fruition, when you reach 65 and every five years thereafter, you're going to have to have a counseling session with some federal airhead. Part of this process is called end-of-life counseling, and part of the end of life counseling can be an end-of-life order.

What does that mean? End of life. Another word for that is death.

Order-what's another word for that? A sentence.

Now, you folks review with me a little bit. As I recall Stalin in 1920s issued about 20 million end-of-life orders for his fellow Russians.

Pol Pot did it during the Vietnam War. He ended issued about 2 million end-of-life orders. It's being done in Africa today.

Mugabe is doing it every day.

Adolf Hitler issued 6 million end-of-life orders. He called his program the final solution.

I kind of wonder what we're going to call ours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was an Americans for Prosperity event in Pueblo, Colorado. You wonder where these things come from about health care, this is a well-funded campaign, going around the country hosting speakers like this, telling people what they need to know, educating them about health reform.

Americans for Prosperity has been on the front lines of the conservative movement's opposition to everything that's been done by President Obama. And while they bill themselves as, quote, "the nation's premier grassroots organization," at their big "Yay, the U.S. lost" conference over the weekend, one of the weekends featured speakers was a man named David Koch.

Now, David Koch-it's K-O-C-H, is the way you spell his last name-he's the ninth richest person in America, thanks to an oil and chemical empire called Koch Industries that he inherited from his dad. David Koch also happens to be the chairman of the nation's premier grassroots organization, Americans for Prosperity. He funded the group starting up. He continues to be one of their major funders.

And this weekend, incredibly, in public, David Koch took a victory lap for his decision to form this supposedly grassroots organization which now fights against all sorts of things that would be bad for big business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KOCH, KOCH INDUSTRIES: Five years ago, my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start the Americans for Prosperity, and it's beyond my wildest dreams how AFP has grown into this enormous organization. Days like today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors. We envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Thousands of people from all walks of life marching proudly under the banner of massive funding from two brothers who inherited a big oil and chemical company from their dad.

But Americans for Prosperity sort of looks grassroots. It takes great pains to try to look grassroots. And it uses that grassroots look to fight for economic freedoms, as he said. Economic freedoms for businesses like David Koch's Koch Industries.

Koch Industries happens to be the largest privately-owned energy company in the country. Their Web site boasts all about all of its companies that "engage in petroleum refining, chemicals and base oil production, crude oil supply, and wholesale marketing of fuels, base oil, petrochemicals, asphalt and other products."

Give that connection, it may not surprise you-as you are connecting the dots in your head right now, it may not surprise you to learn that in addition to opposing President Obama's efforts to bring the Olympics to the United States, and opposing President Obama's efforts on health reform, Americans for Prosperity chaired and funded in part by energy titan David Koch is also against President Obama's climate change legislation. You can see their hot air tour which is a giant hot air balloon which travels around the country-you guessed it-educating people, about the fallacy of global warming and the big dangers posed by the climate change bill.

In addition to President Obama-weirdly, I feel like I have to

mention this because it's weird if I don't-it turns out they're also not

fans of me either. According to David Weigel at the "Washington

Independent" who reported from the Americans for Prosperity conference this

weekend, he said, quote, "They booed loudly when MSNBC's Rachel Maddow

appeared on screen in a clip where she promised Americans for Prosperity

President Tim Phillips to be, quote, 'as fair as I can be.'"

Joining us now is Dave Weigel.

Dave, it's great to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

DAVID WEIGEL, WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT: Oh, thanks for having me again.

MADDOW: What was I saying in the video clip when they booed me?

WEIGEL: You were asking questions of Tim Phillips and pointing out where the funding came from, sort of like you just did right now. There's a-there's a bit of a discrepancy here. Americans for Prosperity does not hide where the money comes from.

But when these activists are told that the money's coming from oil companies, when the implication that their "Astroturf" gets out there, they get very angry. And they don't-they don't like you very much. I'm sorry to have to break it to you.

MADDOW: Well, I don't-I'm not trying to make either important enemies or unimportant enemies, but I do recognize that they've taken great pain sort of to try to convince people they're not Astroturf. They bring that up all the time. They've really tried to seem like they're not just a corporate-funded P.R. exercise.

So, that's why it strikes me as so strange that David Koch of Koch Industries took this victory lap, took credit for everything they've done. Did that seem weird in the room?

WEIGEL: It did. And his was the speech that probably got the least applause, because he was sandwiched in between a bunch of table-pounding politicians and professional speakers. It-I saw people looking at each other and wondering who he was.

But it's important to note, David Koch has been funding libertarian and conservative causes for decades. He founded the Cato Institute. He has sunk a lot of money into this. Five years ago, Citizens for a Sound Economy, later Americans for Prosperity, existed. They just weren't this successful.

So, when he looks at this huge crowd out there, I think he saw what it was like when he spent this money and there were not people taking over the Capitol grounds and there were not people interrupting town halls. I don't think it's surprising that he wants to take credit for what happened.

MADDOW: In terms of the image of the group and what they can't take credit for and what they would be blamed for, do you know if there was any sort of self-consciousness at the conference about it being a little ugly or at least bad P.R. to be seen to be cheering and applauding the news that America lost our Olympics bid?

WEIGEL: There definitely was. That message was not approved by everyone at AFP. Laura Ingraham, who was the speaker for the first night, joked about it-went on a long rant about it, chanted "R-I-O" to celebrate Brazil's victory.

And I talked to the Phil Kerpen, he's the policy director for AFP, and he was wincing. He just said, "I don't like it when America loses. I don't think we should celebrate it when America loses."

The more on-message Olympic speech which was from Newt Gingrich who led off the Saturday morning and said, "Look, I wanted America to get the Olympics. I love the Olympics." Newt Gingrich is, you know, is onboard with this kind of jingoism. But he used it to say, "President Obama can't close a deal," and he thinks his charisma's enough to patch over his bad policies. And that was smarter framing that I think, if you hear that coming over the next week, if there's real damage from this Olympic gloat, that's the message you'll hear them going back to.

MADDOW: Particularly if they can back it up with some sort of-some sort of credible line of reasoning that the IOC voted no to Chicago because of Barack Obama's policies. But I suppose that will be a fun fight to have if they'll actually pick up Newt's line of reasoning.

One last question for you, Dave, and one of the things that you wrote about today in "Washington Independent" is the extent to which these activists are being termed toward electoral aims, they are being termed toward the midterm elections in 2010. Are they explicitly identifying with the Republican Party? Do they see that it's their job to elect more Republicans?

WEIGEL: Many of them are. Again, Gingrich in his speech made a point of saying, "If you're in a Democratic district, go ahead and run as a Democrat. If you're in a swing district, maybe you want to run as a Republican." They want to couch this stuff as nonpartisan.

And there are activists who don't like these Republicans like Gingrich who originally didn't support TARP and then did, telling them that their solution is to get back in office the Republicans they hated at the end of 2008. There's a little resistance.

But at the same time, they're all very frustrated-I think honestly frustrated. They think taxes are high. They think the government doesn't listen to them. And their natural inclination is to kick the bums out.

There are a few Republicans they like and trust. They don't like many of them. But it's very easy for them to get ramped up about beating Nancy Pelosi, beating Harry Reid, and supporting the sort of anti-cap-and-trade, anti-tax agenda, which is what I think you're going to see all the Republicans run on next year.

It's-I saw a few skeptics. But most people are very ready to take this message and then go knock on doors for Republicans next year.

MADDOW: We will be on the lookout for Americans for Prosperity taking up issues that would be bad for Koch Industries and that's true independence here.

WEIGEL: I don't know about that.

MADDOW: Yes. Well, that's-I've been looking. So far, I don't have anything to report.

Dave Weigel is a reporter for the "Washington Independent." You're doing great work covering this part of American politics. Thanks, Dave.

WEIGEL: Thank you so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: Nothing says statesman like traveling overseas to undermine the authority of the United States government, right? It's a new bad trend among some American politicians right now. "The Nation's" Chris Hayes will join us next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Right after mega-monstrously, ridiculously rich guy David Koch boasted this weekend about financing what became the tea party movement, Mr. Koch bestowed an award on Senator Jim DeMint, the senator who's just back from a trip to Honduras, during which he met with the de facto government in Honduras. It's a government that the United States of America does not recognize. But Jim DeMint does because he's pursuing his own foreign policy-which is to try to undermine the official foreign policy of the United States. It's classy. And he's not the only one doing it.

That story is next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

MADDOW: As Republicans search for meaning in the political minority, as they try to beat a path out of the political wilderness, an increasing number of Republican leaders seem to be trying to compensate for their relative lack of power at home by flexing their muscles abroad. Republicans have been traveling to other countries to try to undermine the policies of the United States. You might call it anti-diplomacy.

We first reported this phenomenon in June when Illinois Republican Congressman Mark Kirk bragged that on a trip to China, he had met with Chinese government officials and told them to not trust the American government on matters of the budget and the deficit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARK KIRK ®, ILLINOIS: One of the messages I had-because we need to build trust and confidence in our number one creditor-is that the budget numbers that the U.S. government had put forward should not be believed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Don't believe the U.S. government, China. Congressman Mark Kirk's great idea for building trust and confidence is to tell China to definitely not trust us.

But a little over two weeks ago, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma made an announcement. He said that he was going to go rogue overseas himself. He says he plans on attending the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December and it's because he thinks that global warning is a hoax.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA: All these problems, it just didn't happen. In fact, the IED rate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Well, that's not at all-what was interesting part of what he said. What he said was, "I'm going to go ahead and announce now, I'm going to go to Copenhagen. I think someone needs to be there as a one man truth squad." A one man truth squad.

Senator Inhofe says the mission of his little one man truth squad will be to tell other countries not to believe what the United States says when our government negotiates on climate change and carbon emissions. And, you know, when it was just Mark Kirk going to China to tell the Chinese not to trust us, that was weird. Then when it turned out to be Mark Kirk plus Jim Inhofe, when it happened twice, sort of seemed like it might be a coincidence.

But when something like this happens three times, I think it's called a trend-which makes Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina officially the trend-maker. Senator DeMint is now back from meeting with the de facto government of Honduras, the government that the United States does not recognize.

Mr. DeMint called the meeting with the military government that ousted their president there, quote, "very productive." Adding, "We saw a government working hard to follow the rule of law, uphold its Constitution, and to protect democracy for the people of Honduras."

Senator DeMint is referring to a government that ushered its country's democratically-elected president out of the country in his pajamas, a government that until today allowed police and soldiers to break up public meetings, arrest people without warrant and restrict the news media.

Then today, remarkably, three more Republican members of Congress went to Honduras and visited with this government that we, as a country, supposedly do not recognize. Thereby jumping on the "go abroad to undermine American foreign policy" even though you're an American bandwagon -- this creepy, creepy bandwagon.

Joining us now is Washington editor for "The Nation" magazine, Chris Hayes.

Thanks for being here, Chris.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, help me understand the politics here. I am assuming that Jim DeMint does not want to be president of Honduras. But.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Does he think that having his own personal foreign policy toward Honduras is going to help him become president of this country someday?

HAYES: Well, I mean-I think the Honduras thing is a little so generous because it's become this little cause celebre among the right wing. It's almost a matter of sort of hemispheric right-wing solidarity, to go support the-you know, the military coup that's taken over the Honduran government.

So I think that DeMint and-particularly the Republicans-congressmen and women who are going-from south Florida, who are sort of the, sort of right-wing Cuban exile milieu. There's a certain kind of, you know, they're "doing it for the cause" aspect to it. And they're trying to essentially, I think, intimidate and embarrass the president because what they want to do is push U.S. foreign policy to the right and to recognize the Honduran government.

James Inhofe has his own crazy reasons to go to Copenhagen, because he considers himself a one man truth squad, as he said, fighting-you know, fighting the myth of global warming. And, you know, Mark Kirk is now going back to Honduras. So, he seems like he's sort of-and create a sideline in this sort of activity.

MADDOW: Wait! Mark Kirk is going to Honduras, too?

HAYES: Yes, I think so.

MADDOW: Oh, wow.

It's-I mean, this is-when I reported on Mark Kirk in China, I thought this was a remarkable thing to know about Mark Kirk. We did a segment on the show. We talked to somebody about what effect this might have on those negotiations with China, about budget and deficit and all those things in which he told the Chinese not to believe us.

It seemed like it was a weird thing about him. But now it does seem like a trend. Do you think overall Republicans are doing this to try to effect U.S. policy? Do they reasonably expect to? Or is it just a way to take shots at the president?

HAYES: Well, no. I think it's both, right? I mean, they're trying to embarrass the president. They're trying to push things in the right direction. I should say I'm not sure that actually Kirk is going now. I'm sort of scrambling through my mind.

MADDOW: OK, fair enough.

HAYES: So, they're to-what they're trying to do is push foreign policy in the direction they want. But really, what they're trying to do is embarrass the president. They're trying to create an alternative.

I mean, that is the kind of key political point from the perspective of Republicans in Congress, in domestic policy and also in foreign policy. It's not they're trying to play any kind of constructive role in forming policy, so much as at every single juncture, they're trying to create the maximum amount of distance between them and the president, provide the clearest and starkest choice to voters for the upcoming midterms.

MADDOW: Well, and I don't want to try to extrapolate the trend too far, Chris. But we did-and we just talked about this again on the show. We did see widespread celebration on the right for America not getting the Olympic bid.

Yay, this international body said no to America. Yay! It was sort of rooting against America's interests internationally.

And we've got this sort of active attempt to undermine America's policy goals abroad with this anti-diplomacy.

Do you think that there is a sort of a deliberate decision and strategy that connects these things or should we just see them as outbursts?

HAYES: Well, there is a strategy insofar as it's every sort of step that's taken is an opportunity to try to embarrass the president essentially, right? And very crucial to the emerging sort of conservative right-wing narrative about Obama is that he thinks that, you know, through his sheer force of personality, he's going to have other nations bend to his will. And so, to whatever degree they can undermine him on the global stage is the degree to which they can kind of cut against whatever perceived global authority the president has.

And that's very important because, A, I don't think they want him to be successful in reaching out in the kind of diplomatic fashion in the broad strategic sense that he's outlined because it really cuts against this sort of very jingoistic, militaristic, go-it-alone foreign policy that's been the bedrock of the Republican Party and conservative right for a very long time now.

MADDOW: I just keep flashing back to the declarations at the RNC. Remember how they didn't put the word Republican anywhere in the hall and it just said "country first" everywhere?

HAYES: That's right.

MADDOW: Yes. Chris Hayes, Washington editor for "The Nation" magazine-it's always great to see you, Chris. Thanks.

HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, how worried should Democrats be about next year's midterm elections? Well, the best-known Republican who's gunning for Harry Reid's Senate seat says that she would love to campaign with Senator John Ensign, presumably before he goes to jail? Or it could be super-double secret, reverse, psychological, political genius to campaign with John Ensign or it could be that Republicans in Nevada just haven't read the newspaper this year.

"Las Vegas Sun" columnist Jon Ralston will join us next.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Republicans are starting to sound like they really, really pumped for 2010 -- as if they're really definitely about to win a ton of seats back in the House and the Senate. They want to reverse their status as not just the minority party but as the very, very, very, very, very, very small minority party like they are now.

One of the biggest and brightest symbols of the GOP's hopes and dreams and cockiness for 2010 is the fact that they're trying to unseat the top Democrat in the Senate: the majority leader of the Senate, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada. They want a Nevada Republican to replace Harry Reid. Good luck in all that.

But it should be noted that Republican politics in Nevada right now are very awkward. Here's an example of why. The biggest name Republican currently running in the primary for the chance to beat Senator Harry Reid is named Sue Lowden. She's the former chair of the Republican Party in Nevada. And Sue Lowden has now gone on-record-including today on the Las Vegas news show "Face to Face with John Ralston" - she's gone on record saying how much she supports Sen. John Ensign.

Yes, you may recall that Sen. Ensign's sex-with-a-married-staffer scandal just got a lot more serious late last week when the "New York Times" reported that Ensign allegedly helped his mistress' husband get a job as a lobbyist.

The mistress' husband was himself a former staffer in Ensign's Senate office. After helping him get the lobbyist job, Sen. Ensign reportedly then encouraged Mr. Hampton, the mistress' husband, to lobby Ensign's own office. In other words, the allegation is that John Ensign got his mistress' husband a job lobbying John Ensign.

Now, in the wake of those revelations, Sen. Barbara Boxer, the chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, has said that a preliminary investigation of Sen. Ensign has been opened in the Senate.

Sen. Ensign's own hometown newspaper has called on the Federal Election Commission to investigate, saying in a Sunday editorial, quote, "We're losing hope that Ensign will ever open up to Nevadans about this embarrassing episode. But it's not too late for his Senate colleagues and the FEC to seek the truth."

And then, there's the possibility that the Justice Department would launch its own investigation, which would be a criminal investigation. What's the legal risk for Sen. Ensign? Well, in order to explain that, allow me to introduce you to Bob Ney. Bob Ney used to be a congressman from Ohio. Then, Bob Ney got caught up in the Jack Abramoff scandal and he went to prison.

One of the things that Bob Ney pled guilty to and went to prison for was conspiracy. Part of that conspiracy was Bob Ney, see if you can follow this now, encouraging his chief-of-staff turned lobbyist to lobby him, Bob Ney, right after his former chief-of-staff left Bob Ney's office.

That is precisely what Doug Hampton says John Ensign did for him. And that accusation is not hearsay. Doug Hampton was there for what actually happened. So you know, 2010, rock on. If Republicans want to hitch John Ensign to their beat-Harry-Reid wagon, we're going to suggest this campaign ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nevada, you know John Ensign. You know the kinds of choices he makes. The choice to have an affair with a member of his staff who was married to another of his employee. The choice to funnel that staffer $96,000 for reasons that aren't exactly clear. The choice to get the husband of the woman he was shtupping a lobbying job.

The choice not to tell the truth about it until he absolutely had to. And even then, when Sue Lowden had to choose whether or not to have his support for her Senate run, she chose yes. Sue Lowden for Senate, because Nevada needs good decision-makers now more than ever. This ad is completely made up by THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW and is for satirical purposes only.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Joining us now is John Ralston, a columnist for "The Las Vegas Sun" and host of "Face-to-Face with John Ralston." John, thanks very much for coming on the show tonight.

JOHN RALSTON, HOST, "FACE-TO-FACE WITH JOHN RALSTON: Thanks, Rachel.

Love that ad.

MADDOW: I know. If anybody wants to borrow it, they're allowed. I'll just say that right now. I know that you really pressed Sue Lowden on this issue today. You lined up her support for Sen. Ensign right next to all of Sen. Ensign's transgressions. She's still holding her ground saying she supports him. Do you get any sense of why she is supporting him?

RALSTON: Well, I mean, they keep saying it's a personal issue, when, of course, it's well beyond that at this point, Rachel. In fact, that's what Harry Reid is saying, too. And at some point, they're going to have to get off that.

But I have to believe Sue Lowden's campaign believes that in a crowded Republican primary, it would not be a good thing to distance herself from John Ensign. I think that's just crazy logic.

First of all, Ensign's hemorrhaging in some Republican quarters here. Sure, they love what he did on the healthcare bill. But a lot of people here are very offended by his behavior here, whether they're Republicans, Independents or Democrats.

And I think it's a short-term potential gain, maybe not, for Sue Lowden, that she's going to really be hurt by with ads just like we saw on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW in the general election.

MADDOW: I wonder, John, thinking about Harry Reid, with Harry Reid and John Ensign being the state's two senators. And in a lot of states where the two senators are from two different parties, they do have sort of a mutual nonaggression pact. They agree not to go after each other. And there's obvious reasons and incentives why they do that.

But with Harry Reid being the majority leader, I wonder if that has something to do with why Sen. Ensign really hasn't been held accountable at all, if that's seen - if Harry Reid is seen as essentially being insulation for John Ensign in terms of how much trouble's going to get in, in the Senate.

RALSTON: Yes, I don't know how much longer that's going to last, because there's one thing, I know about Harry Reid, having covered him since 1986. He will do whatever he needs to, to win. And even though he and Ensign do have that nonaggression pact, you know, Ensign almost beat Reid in 1998. And since then, they've become friends.

And I think they are actually personal friends. But with Harry Reid, if this becomes a very tough race against Sue Lowden or whoever else gets the Republican nomination, Rachel, it will be scorched earth. And he will use whatever he needs to use, including John Ensign's transgressions - assuming John Ensign, by the way, is still there in 2010 - to hurt Republican nominee.

MADDOW: In terms of Ensign's future, is there pressure for him to resign? I mean, you've been covering this scandal since the very beginning, since it first broke. He hasn't been in great political shape since he came clean about the affair.

But there's new reporting from the "New York Times." It sort of seems like it's crossed the Rubicon a little bit. He does seem to be in legal trouble now, too. How serious do you see these new allegations?

RALSTON: Yes, I think their very, very serious. I think that there had been essentially kind of a quiet period. I've been told the "New York Times" did that. And what they have done is they've filled in a lot of blanks with a lot of documents to prove a lot of what Doug Hampton said was true.

We knew some of this information before, but not all of it. I think when you have a national newspaper like the "New York Times" devote a page-one story and all those words to this, then you have Barbara Boxer feeling that she needs to say something which she did, the chair woman of the Ethics Committee and the Justice Department, because, as you mentioned, Doug Hampton is essentially saying, "John Ensign and I broke the law."

Now, they're going to have to prove that and it's very bizarre. I think you'd agree, Rachel, that Doug Hampton is essentially saying, "I'm guilty, take me, but take John Ensign, too."

MADDOW: Yes. Man, don't underestimate people's anger and desire for revenge in a situation like this. That's what I feel like I'm learning here. John Ralston, columnist for "The Las Vegas Sun" and the host of "Face-to-Face with John Ralston" in Vegas, thanks so much for joining us tonight, John.

RALSTON: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Sen. Bernie Sanders joins us in just a moment. The fight about ACORN has just become a big dramatic acronym war in D.C. It's good news. It's funny. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The conservative war on the community group ACORN is starting to backfire. Liberals in Congress are calling Republicans' bluff and turning the legislation that targeted ACORN into conservatives' worst nightmare. Some rare liberal mojo in D.C. That is coming up.

But first, a few holy mackerel stories in today's news. Protesters outside the White House today called for an end to the war in Afghanistan. There were reportedly 61 arrests including at least one mother whose son was killed in Iraq.

The last 72 hours in Afghanistan have brought almost unimaginably bad news for the United States and for the U.S. Military. In northeastern Afghanistan, about 20 miles from the border with Pakistan, an estimated 300 Taliban fighters attacked two American outposts with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The fight began early in the morning on Saturday and it lasted all day. In the end, eight American soldiers and four Afghan security officers were killed and 11 Afghan police officers were kidnapped.

Despite those heavy casualties and being outnumbered two to one, the Americans never lost control of those two bases that were attacked. This is the deadliest attack on U.S. troops in Afghanistan in more than a year since July 2008.

That is when an eerily similar attack took place less than 20 miles away from what happened on Saturday. Last year, in July, nine U.S. troops lost their lives in an attack that was very similar to this one. Gen. David Petraeus just ordered an investigation into the command level decisions that allowed the units stationed there in last year's firefight to be so short-handed.

Coincidentally, this weekend, many news outlets were just reporting on the new investigation into last year's firefight that killed nine men when the news broke of the new firefight that killed eight Americans.

Reuters is also now quoting a spokesman for the governor of Wardak province saying that an Afghan soldier at a joint U.S.-Afghan base opened fire on American soldiers while they were sleeping, killing two American soldiers and injuring four others.

The U.S. Military is saying only that two soldiers were killed in Wardak province after a hostile attack. They're not elaborating on the "attacking them while they were sleeping" detail.

President Obama is going to discuss the war with bipartisan congressional leaders at the White House tomorrow and with his national security team on Wednesday. Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, said today all options for Afghanistan are on the table. All options he said except withdrawal. Our war in Afghanistan, just so you know, starts its ninth year tomorrow.

Congratulations are due to three American scientists who have just won the Nobel Prize for medicine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORAN HANSSON, NOBEL COMMITTEE MEMBER: The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute today decided to award the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, 2009, jointly to these Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: OK. Two things to know about this. First, it's pronounced -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Telomerase.

MADDOW: Can you say that just one more time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Telomerase.

MADDOW: Telomerase. Although THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW science advisory board will probably ding me for this because I'm not going to go into a ton of detail, basically, telomerase is an enzyme that puts a specific predictable DNA sequence at the tips of chromosomes, right? That's one thing to know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Telomerase.

MADDOW: Telomerase. The other thing to know about this is that one of the scientists who was honored today, Elizabeth Blackburn, who will henceforth be known as Nobel Prize-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn - she was fired by president George W. Bush.

Dr. Blackburn had served on Bush's council of bioethics, but she was fired for criticizing the president's much-maligned policy severely limiting embryonic stem cell research.

The political moral here, if you try to bully geeks into serving your agenda, they will always get their revenge, occasionally, in the form of worldwide respect and the share of about $1.5 million in Nobel Prize money.

And finally, take a look at Duluth, Minnesota. See the problem here? Yes, Duluth is located right on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, meaning Duluth's football fans are a house divided. Some Duluth residents are fans of the Green Bay Packers. Others are fans of the Minnesota Vikings.

So what is the local paper in Duluth to do when the Packers play the Vikings whose quarterback is Brett Favre, the same Brett Favre who played for the Packers for a decade and a half?

Well, the "Duluth News Tribune," faced with this very problem today, just decided to cut the baby in half. They printed two front pages, one for Packers fans with the headline, "Fate is gonna get you, Favre." And one for Vikings fans that was headlined, "Favre shows Packers who's boss."

Of course, even as Duluth splits for and against Brett Favre, the whole country is, of course, in total agreement about how awesome Tom Brady is. So we should anticipate no such headline splitting in, like, "USA Today," right?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: There's now a new acronym for poetic justice in Washington, D.C. OK, first, 172 Democrats sided with the Republicans on something that was called the De-fund ACORN Act. It would have stripped this organization, ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - it would have stripped ACORN of all federal funding, you know, because ACORN represents all of the evils of helping poor people earn a living wage and vote in elections and other scary stuff.

Well, now, there's something new that's called the ACORN act. It's different than the De-fund ACORN Act. It's the ACORN act. And it was introduced by Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Democrat, of Minnesota. And in her bill, ACORN, A-C-O-R-N, the acronym, stands for something totally different.

It stands for Against Corporations Organizing to Rip off the Nation. And unlike the Republican ACORN bill, her ACORN bill, quote, "respects the Constitution by requiring a corporation to be guilty of a felony before federal funds are cut off." Which means that community organizing - the community organizing, the group ACORN could actually still receive government funding because they haven't been convicted of anything.

But companies like, say, Pfizer, which pled guilty to a felony violation and the fraudulent marketing of an arthritis drug - they would be cut out of any current and future government deals.

This sort of punch-back is also happening in the Senate. The Senate just took on defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing and Northrop Grumman who, as we pointed out 10 days ago on the show, have defrauded the taxpayer numerous times and have still been awarded new government deals.

Senators have now adopted an amendment in the Defense Appropriations Bill that would require the Pentagon to tally up the amount of money that's going to defense contractors who have repeatedly defrauded the government. It also then says that the Pentagon should suggest ways to punish those offending contractors.

Joining us now is the man who introduced that amendment, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, who is also only one of seven senators to vote against de-funding the community group ACORN. Sen. Sanders, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Your proposed amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill focuses on defense contractors. And I know that Project On Government Oversight has already done some investigating into fraud and other problems with defense contractors. Who would be the worst hit here?

SANDERS: Well, you're looking at the big three defense contractors - that's Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman. And Rachel, since 1995, these three companies have been cited 109 times - 109 times for misconduct. They have been fined or reached settlements for $2.9 billion.

So here, you have major multinational corporations who on a systemic basis have been ripping off the American people. And I think if we can go after ACORN, and I voted against that, that ACORN received $53 million over 15 years, you're looking at companies that have received hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars and their punishment in 2007 was $77 billion in government contracts. So there is a scandal here and we've got to take a hard look at it.

MADDOW: The thing that is politically ambitious and impressive and makes a good story about this is the way that the attack on ACORN has been turned back by you in the Senate and by these liberal members of the House on the other side - in the other chamber, turned back on the people attacking ACORN to say, "You know what? Put your money where your mouth is. If you're really against contractors who have done anything wrong, let's say it applies to everyone."

What sort of arguments are you hearing against your amendment? What sorts of arguments are you hearing from people who aren't willing to go along with it?

SANDERS: Well, you know what the most obvious argument is? That if you barred these corporations from receiving funds, the military would collapse, because these are the major contractors, the people who supply the weapons systems to our military.

So you have a situation where these major contractors, year after year after year, have been engaged in systemic fraud to the tune of billions and billions of dollars. And yet, if you really went after them you would have them not supplying the weapons system that the military has asked for.

MADDOW: And that argument -

SANDERS: That's the response.

MADDOW: And that argument in itself makes the case for why these companies have been able to get along - get away with it for so long. If they're seen as necessary, then nobody is going to crack down on them for anything, right?

SANDERS: And Rachel, I think the point to add to that is that a lot of these investigations were done under the Bush administration which I think, as most people know, was not very hard in terms of investigating large companies.

So what we may be seeing in terms of 109 instances of misconduct is certainly - could be just the tip of the iceberg. So my point is, the time is now. Instead of going after little groups like ACORN, let's take on the big guys who have been ripping off the American people to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, and by the way, in some instances, by producing defective equipment have put the lives of American servicemen at risk.

MADDOW: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, thanks for your time tonight, sir. I really appreciate it.

SANDERS: Thank you.

MADDOW: One programming note for you. Rick Berman, the lobbyist who has argued that there's not that much mercury in fish and that high fructose corn syrup really isn't all that bad for you, the man behind corporate-funded fake grassroots Web sites like "RottenACORN.com." Rick Berman will join us here on THE RACHEL MADDOW tomorrow night. I cannot wait. You will not want to miss it.

All right. Coming up on "COUNTDOWN," Lindsey Graham -

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We turn to our Franco-American culinary correspondent, Kent Jones. Kent, how did you know I was hungry?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Just guessed, I guess. Hi, Rachel. You know, some major gastronomic news from Paris tonight. This is the kind of story that could change both French cuisine and fine art forever. Take a look.

MADDOW: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice-over): In Paris' Louvre Museum visitors can experience this - and this - and this. And starting next month, they can also experience this. Yes, they're putting a McDonald's in the Louvre. Now, wait. I know what you're thinking and I'm right there with you. It's about time.

Sure, the Louvre is magnificent and all, but doesn't it seem snobby with masterworks everywhere you turn? Where's the human element? That little touch of strip mall that says, "This is yours, too?"

McDonald's is finally recognized as an American masterpiece alongside our blue jeans, our rock 'n roll, and our movies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know what they call a quarter-pounder with cheese in Paris?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do they call it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call it a royale with cheese.

JONES: Don't worry. This will be done tastefully. One, it's not a drive through. Big difference. And two, no one will be allowed to get McNuggets dipping sauce anywhere near the Titians, no.

Remember when France gave us the Statue of Liberty and dropped it right in the middle of New York Harbor? We didn't say to them, "Why did you have to put that there? We learned to love it."

McDonald's is, above all, Democratic. What could be more French than that? Liberte, egalite, fish fillet!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: Thank you. Spectacular.

JONES: Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Thanks, Kent. Thank you for watching tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow night. "COUNTDOWN" with Keith Olbermann starts right after this. And remember, Rick Berman tomorrow night. It's going to be good.

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

END

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