updated 9/8/2010 1:34:04 PM ET 2010-09-08T17:34:04

Guests: Ezra Klein, Christina Bellantoni, Welton Gaddy

           

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  That‘s September 7th, it‘s the 2,686th day since President Bush declared mission in Iraq, 2,275th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 141st day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.

           

And now to discuss why Republicans aren‘t endorsing other Republicans

ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.

           

Good evening, Rachel.

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

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. 

Happy day after Labor Day, everybody.

As the day after Labor Day, today is officially two things.  It is the first day on which it is no longer OK to wear white.  I‘m talking to you.  Yes, I can see you.

It‘s also this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Unofficial end of summer means the 2010 campaign season is now in full swing.

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR:  Campaign season kicking into high gear today with the arrival of Labor Day.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR:  Labor Day typically marks the unofficial kickoff of the midterm campaign season.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS:  And Labor Day, of course, signals the official start of the campaign season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Welcome to the beginning of the fall campaign season.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  I do not know why it is true, but it is always true.  In any election year, no matter what else has happened all year long, for some reason, Labor Day or the day after Labor Day, is when everybody agrees that the campaign season is in top gear.

And it‘s—this is not one of those things where because it‘s the common wisdom I‘m going to say it‘s not true.  It actually is true.  All you have to do to verify it is to look at the president‘s schedule these days, to know that the campaign season is in top gear.  You don‘t even have to close your eyes and imagine campaign Obama.  Obama the campaigner is definitely back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I am going to keep fighting every single day, every single hour, every single minute, to turn this economy around and put people back to work and renew the American Dream, not just for your family, not just for all of our families, but for future generations.  That I can guarantee you.

That‘s why, Milwaukee, today, I am announcing a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America‘s roads and rails and runways for the long term.  I want America to have the best infrastructure in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Ooh, the sexiest word in American public policy—infrastructure.

As the economy continues to be not only the biggest issue in the country but also the Democratic Party‘s biggest liability heading into the elections, eight weeks from today, expect to hear a lot more about infrastructure.  Expect to hear a lot more of President Obama the campaigner talking infrastructure, talking economy, talking jobs—economy, jobs, economy, jobs, economy, jobs.  That‘s what we‘re going to hear.

When it comes to what options the government has to try to bring down unemployment, nothing is a perfect solution, but spending money to rebuild American infrastructure is an un-outsourceable, uncontroversial thing.  Even Republicans are in favor of infrastructure spending.

Remember back during the stimulus debate, they claim to have wanted more of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  We do need more money on infrastructure spending.

We need more on the infrastructure.  We need more on infrastructure.

REP. JOHN MICA ®, FLORIDA:  There is 7 percent of this on infrastructure out of $825 billion.  We have an opportunity to double the amount of infrastructure money.

REP. DON MANZULLO ®, ILLINOIS:  We had an $825 billion bill, about $90 billion was for infrastructure.  This was not a stimulus bill, just a tiny portion of it was.

REP. DAN LUNGREN ®, CALIFORNIA:  We can disagree on other things, but Democrats and Republicans can get together and say if there‘s one thing we agree on with the spending package, it is for simple infrastructure.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  If there‘s one thing we can agree on, it‘s for infrastructure.  Amen to that, right?  Everybody agrees.

So, naturally after President Obama came out and proposed some infrastructure spending yesterday, the Republican leadership came out, and now, they‘re totally against it.  Yes.

According to House Minority Leader John Boehner, quote, “The White House has chosen to double-down on more of the same, quote, ‘stimulus‘ spending.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the proposal as, quote, “a last minute cobbled-together stimulus bill that will not reverse the complete lack of confidence Americans have in Washington Democrats‘ ability to help this economy.”

So much for infrastructure spending being the one thing we agree on.  They all agreed on it until President Obama proposed some of it and then they said they were against it.  How can you say you are emphatically for spending on infrastructure and then decide you are emphatically against it once it has actually been proposed?

What‘s next?  What‘s next?  Republicans coming out against tax cuts? 

Yes.

Tomorrow, President Obama is set to announce $300 billion worth of corporate tax cuts—tax cuts of the exact variety that Republicans are on record being in favor of.  The biggest piece of this proposal was a $200 billion tax cut for companies to write off any investment in new plants and equipment.  If you own a business, you can just deduct anything you spend on stuff like that from your taxes.

Now, this is not exactly an original idea.  This has been done before and it has been done by Republicans.  In 2002, the Republican-controlled Congress then passed legislation to allow companies to write off 30 percent of their investments in equipment.  In 2003, Republicans raised that to 50 percent of equipment purchases.

Right now, four Senate Republicans led by Chuck Grassley are cosponsoring legislation to renew that, to allow companies to write off 50 percent of their equipment purchases.  President Obama is about to propose tomorrow upping that to 100 percent, more than Republicans ever dreamed of.

And the response from Republican leadership?  Quote, “President Obama‘s latest plan should be met with justifiable skepticism.”

Why?  These are your ideas.  That‘s one thing if you‘re not sort of down with the business tax cuts and down with the business tax cuts specifically on investing in equipment, but when that‘s been your idea, why justifiable skepticism?  It‘s your idea.

There are two possible things going on here.  One is that President Obama somehow thinks that Republicans are going to be uncraven enough this year to actually vote for things they say they‘re for—like tax cuts for businesses.

If you listen to President Obama these days, though, he does not sound like he‘s being that naive about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Even on things we usually agree on, they say, no.  If I said the sky was blue, they‘d say no.  If I said fish live in the sea, they‘d say no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I think the president has now been disabused of any notion that Republicans might vote for their own policies, even if he proposes them.  The other possibility about what‘s going on here is that this tactic, what President Obama has started doing now in this new campaign season, is about showing, demonstrating that Republican cravenness, showing that Republicans will reject and denounce their own ideas.  They‘ll even denounce corporate tax cuts if Obama is for them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If I said the sky was blue, they‘d say no.  If I said fish live in the sea, they‘d say no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It seems like he gets it.  They‘d say no.  They‘d say no. 

They.  They.

The case he is making to that crowd in Milwaukee is about “they,” right?  It‘s about Republicans—Republicans being crazy extreme in their opposition to him.

And you know who that kind of an argument resonates with?  You know who that kind of an argument gets big smiles and big laughter and spontaneous applause from a crowd?  You know who that argument works for?  That—who that argument motivates in an election season, who it fires up and gets ready to go?  The Democratic base—the progressive base of the Democratic Party.  Remember them?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I want to say, thank you to the Milwaukee area labor council and all of my brothers and sisters in the AFL-CIO for inviting me to spend this day with you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Thank you, AFL-CIO.  Thank you labor roots of the Democratic base.

The most important national dynamic heading into this year‘s elections is the economy.  The most important political dynamic is the yawning chasm that is the enthusiasm gap between the Republican base—they‘re highly motivated—and the Democratic base, which hasn‘t really been motivated at all.

Apparently, Democrats in the White House are ready to start working on that, finally.  They‘ve got eight weeks from today.  Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor.

Ezra, thanks very much for being here.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Policy-wise, what is President Obama proposing this week that is so offensive to Republican ideology?

KLEIN:  So, I spent some time with this today.

We have one tax cut that is meant to give businesses hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in equipment, another one meant to give businesses hundreds of billions of dollars to do research and development.  We got the small business bill, which is $30 billion for small businesses to get money lent to them.  And then we have the infrastructure bill which will be about $50 billion, which will be end up leveraged and multiplied so states and local governments can pay private businesses to build things for them.

So, this is a pretty business friendly package of proposals here.  They‘re not that big.  A lot of them, as you pointed out in your intro, were based on Republican proposals from the beginning.  But the problem is that they are now coming from a Democratic president and, as you point out, we are eight weeks before the election.  The problem Republicans have with this is not ideological.  It‘s fundamentally electoral.

MADDOW:  House Minority Leader John Boehner responded to these proposals by saying this.  He said, “They don‘t address the two big problems that are hurting our economy—excessive government spending, and the uncertainty that Washington Democrats policies are creating for small businesses.”

I hear you that this is an electoral argument that they‘re making against these policies, not an ideological one.  But I don‘t understand—

I honestly don‘t understand the case that he‘s making.  What is this uncertainty argument?

KLEIN:  I have really tried to track this one down.  I‘ve been like Mario looking for the princess on it.  And you get, whatever—whenever you talk to any business guy about uncertainty, here‘s what they end up telling you.  What I would like is if the government were more certain to do the exact policies I would like them to do.  So, I spoke with folks from G.E.  They said what they need to invest in nuclear energy was an energy bill like the one the Democrats wanted to do and the Republicans blocked.

Others would like tax cuts for them, certainly the business community would love to have the R&D tax credit expanded and made permanent.  That has been one of their major sources of uncertainty.  We tend to let it expire every year to—so, now, it‘s going to.

And then, of course, there is the question of government spending, which Boehner also brought up.  If you are a grocery store near a school and teachers shop there, the uncertainty you‘re worried about is that the state will fire the teachers and they won‘t shop there.  You go on and on and on down the line like that.  The biggest uncertainty businesses are facing, bar none, is that they will not have customers.

So, things that the government does, which allow them either to have the money to do the things they need to do or customers to pay the money to help them do the things they need to do to hire and expand, that reduces their uncertainty.

Again, what Republicans are worried about is less certainty about winning the election and that comes if they say, “You know what, President Obama has heard the message of the voters or our message, reach across the aisle and have some pretty good ideas here.”  That isn‘t a winning message for the opposition party going into an election.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about one other specific policy angle on what the president is proposing.  I am open about the fact that I love infrastructure, because I hate bad infrastructure and I think it makes sense economically and from a national strength and resilience point of view to invest in infrastructure.  But what is this infrastructure bank idea that President Obama is now talking about?  What‘s the bank?

KLEIN:  So, infrastructure is beset by a couple problems, right?  If it‘s a one state, if we have an infrastructure project that‘s going to be for Southwestern states, it‘s a little bit hard for California and Arizona and a couple others to get together and do it.

We also don‘t have a great way of doing infrastructure in Congress.  The bills don‘t come up very often.  We wait for stimulus measures.  They go into earmarks.

The infrastructure bank would be a bank with politically appointed and then insulated appointees—so they‘d be appointed and confirmed by Senate, sit there for a couple years, couldn‘t take them out that easily.  They would get seed money, maybe $50 billion in this case, which they could then use to leverage up and they could then make loans to good projects.  It would be a way of speeding this along and prioritizing them effectively.

MADDOW:  Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor and very good explainer of complicated things—Ezra, thanks very much for your time tonight.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  OK.  It is an issue that has led to many a Sunday school threat that an angry God will strike you blind.  Or make you grow hair on your palms.  It is an issue that is very difficult for a person who blushes easily to discuss on television without the help of extra heavy duty makeup.  But it is an issue that is becoming unavoidable in one very high profile race for the United States Senate this year, so we shall endeavor to discuss it in just a moment—and that when it is done, we shall be relieved.  Not like that.  Sorry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  You know that expression “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?  In Arizona this year, that could be changed to: “the enemy of my enemy is a total fraud.”  Dirty tricks, specious third party candidates—that‘s all ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  When I was growing up in California, I played a lot of sports.  I know, duh.  Insert gay joke here.  But there‘s a political point.  So, hold on.

I started off as a very young kid playing lots of sports, including basketball and soccer, and I‘m—I‘m not proud of this, but I was sort of a rough player.  I think I compensated for not being a great player by having greatly sharp elbows.  I probably fouled out of more high school basketball games than I managed to stay in.

But there was one rule I always remembered—one rule we all remembered because it‘s just about the first thing you learn in kids‘ sports.  After the game, when you‘re done trying to knock the bejesus out of each other while your parents cringe, you are supposed to line up and shake hands.  You‘re supposed to shake hands and say, good game and wish your opponent well.

That‘s the way it‘s supposed to go.  That‘s the way it‘s supposed to go in kids‘ sports, and in adult sports, and in life generally—especially the parts of life that are often really analogous to sports, things like electoral politics.  But, apparently, this year, a lot of candidates on one side of the aisle were hiding out in the minivan when their coaches were trying to teach them the whole shake hands sportsmanship lesson.

A surprising number of Republicans who have lost in primary elections this year are refusing to go along with the campaign version of shaking hands, the dreaded unity rally—where all the candidates from the same party endorse whoever won the primary so the whole party will be unified for the general election.

Last week, we reported that after Senator John McCain beat J.D.  Hayworth in Arizona‘s Republican primary for Senate, Mr. Hayworth not only did not endorse Senator McCain, he did not show up at the supposed unity rally.  Then Senator McCain‘s people kept attacking J.D. Hayworth at that supposedly unifying event.

Same deal happened in Florida where Rick Scott beat Bill McCollum in the Republican primary for governor.  Bill McCollum not only did not endorse Rick Scott, but told reporters he still thought Mr. Scott was dishonest.  In Florida, they just canceled the unity rally rather than put on a sham one.

In Nevada, after Sue Lowden, the chickens for check-ups lady, lost the Republican primary for Senate there to Sharron Angle—Ms. Lowden refused to endorse Ms. Angle and she skipped the unity event there as well.

After we reported those stories last week, the Web site “Think Progress” found a bunch of other examples of the same phenomenon.

In Washington‘s Senate primary, the defeated Tea Party Republican is refusing to endorse the Republican nominee.

In Missouri, the Tea Party candidate refusing to endorse the Republican who won the Senate primary.

It was either no endorsement or skipping the unity rally for losing Republican candidates for Congress in South Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Kansas—also in the governor‘s races in Iowa and in South Carolina.  It turns out that what we have spotted is not just a trend.  It is almost the new normal.

Tea Party favorite Clint Didier lost the Senate primary in Washington to Dino Rossi.  Didier is still withholding his endorsement.  Now, he tells this to “The Snohomish County Herald,” quote, “I want Dino to win in the worst way.  It‘s not that I wouldn‘t endorse him.  I will endorse him, but he has to try and reach out to my voters.”

Didier also insists that Mr. Rossi adopt Mr. Didier‘s positions because, hey, when you want your opponent to win in the worst possible way, you should first saddle him with your losing agenda that couldn‘t even get you through the primary.

But at least Mr. Didier is offering to shake hands if he gets what he wants.

In Alaska, soon to be former senator, Lisa Murkowski, has decided not only is she not going to shake hands, she is not even going to quit playing.  Lisa Murkowski lost in the Republican primary to a Tea Party-backed candidate named Joe miller.  Lisa Murkowski pointedly did not endorse Mr. Miller.

Now, Senator Murkowski has told the “Associated Press” that despite losing that primary, she is not a quitter and that she is, quote, “still in this game.”  It appears that Senator Murkowski is testing the idea of running against Joe Miller again—this time, perhaps on the state‘s libertarian party line.

Supporters of Senator Murkowski reportedly met with officials from Alaska‘s libertarian party over the weekend to ask about the possibility of her becoming the libertarian candidate.  The libertarian chairman later is telling the Anchorage paper that Senator Murkowski might as well try to climb Mount McKinley.  Get out the ice axes.

The “A.P.” is now reporting that Alaska‘s current libertarian candidate, David Haase, sat down today with Senator Murkowski to talk things over.  Mr. Haase sounds like he may be open to giving up his spot on the ballot if—he told “The Alaska Dispatch”—Alaska‘s Republican senior senator essentially agrees to become its libertarian senior senator, quote, “with sincerity,” he said, “ and for real.”

Trying to understand what that might mean to Mr. Haase, I spent some quality time today with his campaign Web site which is DavidforAlaska.com.  Honestly, I‘m still not sure exactly what a Lisa Murkowski conversion to for real libertarianism might mean for David Haase.  I can tell you that Mr. Haase says on his Web site that he has, quote, “hunted Caribou and observed their determination.”

We will all be observing David for Alaska‘s determination to stay in this race in the days ahead.  As well as the Beltway media‘s determination to not report on all of these major Republican candidates openly hating on each other eight weeks before the election despite all the evidence that they are since that sort of story spoils the fact free election year narrative about how great things are going this year for the unified on the march GOP.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  As we have been talking about on this show recently, there‘s

a little remarked upon epidemic of sore loser-ism in this year‘s elections

candidates who lose Republican primaries but who can‘t accept that they lost, who refuse to congratulate or endorse the candidates who beat them.

           

In addition, though, to the sore loser phenomenon, we are also witnessing this year Republican candidates who simply freak out other Republicans.

In Louisiana, for example, Governor Bobby Jindal has found himself unable to endorse Senator David Vitter, the hooker guy, in the senator‘s bid for re-election.

In Colorado, there is Dan Maes, the amazing Republican nominee for governor who claimed falsely that he was once a secret agent in Kansas.  Now, the Republican Party in Colorado wants Dan Maes to less-than-secretly drop out of the race.  Even Ken Buck, the quite out there himself Tea Party endorsed Republican candidate for Senate in Colorado, has withdrawn his support for Mr. Maes.

But the most extreme case of Republicans being freaked out by one of their own appears to be happening in the great state of Delaware.  The primary is one week from today.  And Christine O‘Donnell, with the backing of the Tea Party, is taking her second stab at the United States Senate.  To get to the general election, though, first, she must defeat Mike Castle, a long-time Republican congressman and former governor of the state.  He is the choice of the GOP establishment.  He has never lost an election in his very long political career.

A Tea Party group that invested heavily in Joe Miller‘s far-right campaign against Lisa Murkowski in Alaska is now supporting Christine O‘Donnell in Delaware.  In any normal year, Mr. Castle would be a shoo-in to win the primary but this is the year that not only brought us, Mr.  Miller over Ms. Murkowski in Alaska, it also brought us Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sharron Angle in Nevada and more—candidates who would be human interest stories in any normal election year who this year are beating establishment Republicans in primaries all over the country.

And so, Christine O‘Donnell and her long history of campaigning against things that don‘t usually get discussed on cable news now must be discussed on cable news.

In her former job describing herself as the president and founder of The Savior‘s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, Christine O‘Donnell told an MTV interviewer that conservatives crusading for abstinence were not going far enough.  It is not enough to be abstinent with other people.  You also have to be abstinent alone.

Quote, “The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. 

So you can‘t—a word that rhymes with congratulate—without lust.”

As interesting as Ms. O‘Donnell‘s opinions are on how people congratulate themselves, is a November, 1998 article O‘Donnell wrote called “The Case for Chastity” in which she began, quote, “Adolph Hitler once said that to engineer a society, you must first engineer its language.  We can see the unfolding of that in our society.  Society‘s sexual liberation has unleashed an entirely new lexicon.  For example, “gay” has always meant joyful or gleeful.”  Until the homosexuals got ahold of that word, like Hitler did.

Finally, there is what Christine O‘Donnell has said about herself, about her past run for the U.S. Senate, some claims that don‘t add up.

Last Thursday, those claims caught up with her in a disastrous interview with a conservative radio host back in her home state.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HOST:  When you were speaking at an out-of-state group recently and

you told them that you won two out of three counties in Delaware, what did

what did you mean?

           

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t think I ever said I won two out of three counties, but I personally—

HOST:  Well, let‘s listen to the audio.  Hold on one second because I have the audio right here.

O‘DONNELL ON TAPE:  I was a 2008 endorsed candidate against Joe Biden and I won in two counties.  I didn‘t have the support of our liberal Republicans then.

HOST:  You said you won in two counties.

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  You know what that probably was, you‘re on the campaign trail a lot.  I meant tied. 

HOST:  Well, you didn‘t tie. 

O‘DONNELL:  You have a tracker following you, waiting for you to trip up. 

HOST:  Yes, but you didn‘t -

O‘DONNELL:  So I - you know -

HOST:  Christine, I‘m just saying why - you didn‘t tie him either. 

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, absolutely, I did. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  No, she didn‘t.  She really didn‘t.  Didn‘t.  It‘s a fact.  Didn‘t.  Ms. O‘Donnell isn‘t a new candidate.  She ran and lost against Democrat Joe Biden two years ago. 

But extreme views that did not even make the national radar then are precisely the kind of views that have gotten other Republican candidates the nomination this election cycle.  Many of them destined to become United States senators in January.  And their fellow Republicans, in some cases, are freaking out about it. 

Joining us now is a senior reporter for “Talking Points Memo” who has been bringing the story of this race and this remarkable candidate to a national audience, Christina Bellantoni.  Christina, thanks very much for joining us. 

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, SENIOR REPORTER, “TALKING POINTS MEMO”:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Have I missed anything else about Christine O‘Donnell that Republicans are worried about in terms of her as a potential nominee? 

BELLATONI:  Well, yes.  Actually, there are a few things.  You haven‘t missed them, but we haven‘t mentioned them here.  Her college education has been an issue.  And this has sort of come up in recent stories in the last few days, but also her finances. 

She is still paying off debt from the 2008 campaign and there are some questions about the way that she is raising money from her supporters and some of that is going to pay off that debt. 

And then, also looking at sort of her own personal finances and what she has paid the IRS.  And Republicans have sort of quietly been making this an issue for a few weeks as they‘ve worried she might actually beat Mike Castle. 

MADDOW:  Did she also tell “The Weekly Standard” she gets home every night and has staffers look through her bushes? 

BELLANTONI:  Yes.  I am not sure if that was the exact quote but she essentially said that people have been following her home and that there are people looking in the bushes and she needs some people to check that. 

And that is a conservative publication, a friendly publication. 

And a lot of Republicans are pointing to that saying, “What‘s going on?”  You also had a supporter of O‘Donnell‘s sort of questioning Mike Castle‘s sexuality.  O‘Donnell distanced herself from that but also repeated the allegations several times in press releases and in subsequent interviews. 

So there‘s definitely a lot going on there and national Republicans are worried she is not ready for primetime. 

MADDOW:  Well, how realistic are her chances?  I mean, obviously in a normal election year she would be the kind of candidate that she was the last time that she ran, in which case she was beaten rather soundly by Joe Biden.  This is not a normal election year. 

BELLATONI:  Right.  Well, Delaware has historically been a blue state, you know, in national elections.  Joe Biden held that seat for decades.  Mike Castle has been elected for decades in part because he earned the votes from independents and from Democrats who respected his record.  He had a pretty moderate record as a Republican. 

This is a closed primary.  You have to be a registered Republican to vote.  I‘ve had my sources in the state telling me there could be as few as 50,000 voters coming out on Tuesday.  That is far less than came out in Alaska‘s primary, for example. 

And this is the state that‘s not necessarily used to having competitive Republican primaries, so really, anything can happen.  You throw in the tea party endorsement of her.  O‘Donnell has been courting Sarah Palin hoping for an endorsement there that could come in the next six days. 

And everybody is spending a lot of money in a state that‘s not really used to seeing competitive advertising.  So definitely, anything could happen. 

MADDOW:  Christina Bellantoni, senior reporter for “Talking Points Memo,” which has been doing a great job on this race and with this candidate, thanks very much for joining us, Christina. 

BELLANTONI:  Thanks.  Have a great night. 

MADDOW:  So the Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele has found a way to kick off the campaign season today with a very expensive means of keeping himself totally out of the way and totally in the news at the same time.  As always, Michael Steele is amazing.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We learned today there are Federal Justice Department investigations under way of at least five incidents of alleged violence or threats against Muslims in this country. 

They include the stabbing of a New York City cab driver last month, arson at a construction site for a future mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. 

Another fire and graffiti at an Islamic center in Arlington, Texas, a brick thrown into a window, and anti-Islam signs at a mosque in Madera, California and an incident last week in Waterport, New York in which five teenagers were arrested after a son of one of the founders of a local mosque was sideswiped by a car a few days after a shotgun was fired into the air near the same mosque. 

Today‘s announcement of these Justice Department investigations coming alongside increasing statements of concern from Washington over the planned actions of one tiny Fred Phelps-ian church in Florida this weekend. 

The congregation is a small one in Gainseville, Florida that, like the Fred Phelps funeral picketers from Kansas, revels in doing stuff that is extreme enough to attract nationwide condemnation. 

What this little publicity-seeking extremist foundation has done now is that they‘ve declared on September 11 this year on Saturday they will burn a thousand copies of the holy book of Islam, the Koran. 

Why burn the Koran?  So that people will say the name of their congregation and their pastor on television which personally I can‘t stomach. 

Gen. David Petraeus in Afghanistan this weekend expressed concern that U.S. troops abroad could be targeted in retribution for a publicized Koran burning.  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley today echoing those concerns. 

Mr. Crowley noting that U.S. diplomats in several countries have already reported small scale anti-American demonstrations as the news starts to travel that in America that‘s where they‘ll inexplicably burn the Koran. 

Joining us now for the interview is Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy.  He is a Baptist minister in Louisiana.  He‘s president of the Interfaith Alliance.  Rev. Gaddy is also a member of the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques.  He was part of the group that met with Attorney General Eric Holder to talk about these incidents this afternoon.  Rev. Gaddy, thanks very much for being here. 

REV. DR. WELTON GADDY, PRESIDENT, INTERFAITH ALLIANCE:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Can you tell me a little bit about your meeting this afternoon with the attorney general, the subject and the outcome? 

GADDY:  It was a very interesting meeting, a very personal meeting.  We met with him to talk about ways in which there could be a legitimate partnership between religion and government, one that really works and doesn‘t have any exchange of money in it. 

We asked him to be very thoughtful in looking at people disobeying the law from the perspective of religious bias, prejudice, hatred, and to be very faithful in prosecuting those who commit hate crimes and let the American public know that we‘re going to, as a nation, protect people‘s right to worship as they please and that people who try to stand in the way of the Constitution will be arrested and prosecuted. 

We also ask him for a high visibility from him and from the president in talking about the crisis that is developing with the rise in hatred and anger toward Islam and toward Muslims. 

We ask also that the Justice Department coordinate efforts from all cabinets on the president‘s staff to see that everybody in the administration was working on this particular issue.  And I found him to be very attentive, very responsive in a way that was convincing. 

MADDOW:  I‘m reluctant to - I was reluctant to talk about it in the introduction.  I‘m almost reluctant to ask you about it now, but I feel like I have to.  This small extremist congregation in Gainseville, Florida planning to publicly burn copies of the holy Koran on the occasion of September 11th, because it‘s September 11th

Did that issue come up specifically with the attorney general? 

Did he address that? 

GADDY:  It did come up and I can quote him with permission.  He said that the act is both ignorant and dangerous.  I agree with him.  I had the privilege this afternoon of being on an interview on an international network that broadcasts primarily in the Middle East.

And I said to them what I wanted to and it‘s what I would say to our nation, too, as well, about that event.  Rachel, that is neither a patriotic act nor a religious act. 

I don‘t have the vocabulary to denounce the intent or the action going on in that church.  It is dangerous for our nation abroad.  It is disrespectful of our Constitution.  It certainly represents no religion I know and particularly Christianity, it doesn‘t represent.  There is no way that should take place. 

MADDOW:  Welton, do you have any sense of why this is happening right now?  I mean, there wasn‘t this sort of violent upsurge, at least in this way, even after 9/11. 

GADDY:  Right. 

MADDOW:  Do you have any sense of why it‘s happening now? 

GADDY:  I do.  I think, on the one hand, Rachel, and you document it all the time, we‘ve got a lot of people in this nation that are angry.  They‘re not angry about Islam.  They‘re angry about the economy and the loss of jobs and all of that. 

And so we‘ve had some people step in and manipulate this situation in a way to increase that anger and give people a way to focus it and the focus is on Islam. 

Look what‘s happening to our nation.  We‘re losing our Christian base.  They‘re bringing in these people who are different and as different as an immoral act, obviously.  Plus, and you know this, I‘m sure, we have politicians trying to advance their own partisan careers by dividing this nation on this religious issue.  It is inexcusable. 

MADDOW:   Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, member of the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, and my friend.  I‘m happy to see you, Welton.  Thank you very much for being here. 

GADDY:  You, too.  Bye-bye. 

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” the noticeable absence of support from the right for Gen. Petraeus on his rebuke of the “burn a Koran” day idea. 

Next on this show, where in the world is Michael Steele on this unofficial first day of the election season?  Hint number one, he is not in Hawaii.  Hint number two, he is wearing a lei, a pink one.  Please stay tuned. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  So during this final critical push of the midterm elections, where has Republican Party chairman Michael Steele chosen to exercise his leadership? 

Think of a place where the center of the political action is right now and then get on a plane going the other way.  And then stay on that plane for a long, long time.  That‘s where he is.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The political calendar has flipped over.  We are past Labor Day.  It is eight weeks out from the election.  We are unequivocally in campaign season. 

Yes, it gets going in fits and starts all year long in an election year.  But after Labor Day, no argument.  It is very clear for everyone in politics.  Everybody has now got their game face on. 

You see it in the president‘s schedule.  He campaigned yesterday in Milwaukee.  Tomorrow, he is in Cleveland.  You see it in the light schedule and correspondingly low expectations for what Congress will be able to do between now and the election because everybody is campaigning. 

And in this particular campaign season, with Republican expectations as high as they have been in nearly 20 years, with more Republican opportunity out there than in any other recent election, the Republican Party‘s leader, their national chairman, has embarked on his own somewhat mysterious campaign season strategy at a time when parties normally are fundraising as fast as they humanly can fundraise it, at a time when parties are triaging, cutting off candidates who don‘t have a chance. 

When they are marshalling every available resource, every available Republican headliner to help their candidates who need that last few weeks of help for the election, at the most key time for the Republicans‘ most key election in years, the Republican Party‘s Chairman Michael Steele has gone to Guam. 

He just got back from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Now, today he has gone to Guam.  Tomorrow, he is off to Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, famous, of course, for the Jack Abramoff Republican lobbyist corruption scandal and also for being really, really, really far away. 

Continental United States here, Hawaii here, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands all the way over there.  That‘s where the chairman of the Republican Party is right now. 

You‘ve heard of the Republican Party‘s southern strategy?  This is their very, very, very, very, very far western strategy.  Neither the Northern Mariana Islands nor Guam nor Puerto Rico nor the Virgin Islands send voting members to Congress.  Given that there are elections in eight weeks, Congress is what you think - you would think the Republican Party chairman would be focused on right now. 

But this isn‘t just any Republican Party chairman.  This is Michael Steele.  And those little island territories might not be allowed to vote for Congress, but they are allowed to vote for who gets to be chairman of the Republican Party. 

So if you are a donor to the Republican Party, the bad news is that eight weeks from the midterms, RNC money is being used to fly Michael Steele to four separate island nations that do not get to vote for a member of Congress in the midterms. 

On the other hand, if you are a Republican Party donor, the good news is that eight weeks from the midterms, Michael Steele is in Guam.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Allow me to introduce you to a cunning campaign strategy in the great state of Arizona.  This is 20-year-old street guitar player, Benjamin Percy.  He is running for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission under the Green Party ticket. 

This is Thomas Meadows, he is a 27-year-old tarot card reader running for state treasurer, also as a Green Party candidate.  And this is Anthony Goshorn, but everybody calls him grandpa.  He‘s running as a, you guessed it, Green Party candidate for the state Senate in Arizona. 

This batch of free-spirited Arizona Green Party candidates is brought to you by, according to today‘s “New York Times,” a Republican political operative who freely admits that their candidacies may siphon some support from the Democrats. 

This is a story that we have seen before.  In the wide, wide world of political dirty tricks, the exploitation of a third party that caters to the opposing party‘s base - it‘s a genre all its own. 

You might remember the third party candidacy of one Ralph Nader, not necessarily in 2000 but in 2004.  You might also remember how, at one point, nearly one in 10 of Mr. Nader‘s major donors just so happened to be Bush-Cheney donors as well.  I wonder why. 

In 2000, Republican operatives in New Jersey took credit for getting a Green Party candidate on the ballot in the U.S. Senate race to try to drain votes from Democrat Rush Holt.  They tried to do the same thing in Pennsylvania in 2006. 

And of course, Roger Stone, the famous for being famous Republican dirty trickster who is proud of having learned dirty trickery from the Nixon administration, he pulled the third party trick on an intra-party scale in 2000. 

First he recruited Pat Buchanan to run for president.  Then, he recruited Donald Trump, who relentlessly attacked Mr. Buchanan as having a love affair with Adolf Hitler before Mr. Trump himself got out of the race. 

So you‘ve got your two bookend candidates to attack and chase each other effectively neutralizing each other, all of which results in a stronger Republican Party with no real third party threat.  Tada! 

So this happens a lot.  Unless we change the way we vote, unless we switch to the system they call instant runoff voting or one, two, three voting or Australian voting where you can say, “If my first choice candidate doesn‘t win, give my vote to my second choice candidate.”  Unless we adopt a system like that - oh, please - third party candidates will almost always function as spoilers in our two major party system. 

And that creates this incredible incentive for dirty tricks, for people to use a third party as a means of siphoning off votes from the base of one of the major parties.  That‘s why we see Republicans abusing the Green Party status on the ballot over and over again to try to siphon votes from Democrats. 

And this is one of those rare moments in politics where the stupid beltway media device of saying, “Oh, it happens on both sides,” it‘s actually true.  Because just as the “New York Times” is highlighting this instance of third party exploitation/spoilerism in Arizona involving these Green Party candidates, “The Detroit News” is also reporting on what appears to be a Democratic dirty tricks case, Democrats having tried to qualify fake tea party candidates for the ballot in Michigan. 

In this case, it turned out that a Democratic Party official had notarized affidavits for half the tea party‘s 23 candidates in Michigan.  And the company used to collect signatures to get those tea party candidates on the ballot was the same firm that Michigan Democrats had used for stealth petition drives in the past. 

Also, it should be noted that two of the candidates recruited for this supposed tea party were born in 1990 and therefore ineligible to either hold office in the state or to drink, for that matter. 

So for once, the “oh, this thing happens on both sides” tripe is actually true.  But there‘s one important caveat here.  What‘s the difference in the outcome again, say, this year‘s Arizona Green Party Republican dirty tricks and the Michigan tea party Democratic dirty tricks? 

Well, the reason “The Detroit News” is reporting on the tea party candidates right now is because the fake tea party people are not going to be on the ballot in Michigan.  The Democrats‘ attempt at dirty tricks involving a third party line in Michigan did not work. 

Yes, and in Arizona, you know, complaints have been diligently filed by Democrats and by real green party folks.  But right now, as it stands, that Michigan tea party with the ineligible to serve 20-year-olds that was going to hurt the Republicans and help the Democrats, that‘s not going to do anything. 

Assuming it was a Democratic dirty trick, it was a big fat failure of a Democratic dirty trick.  Why did it fail?  Because whoever put together the petitions to get the 20-year-olds on the ballot didn‘t put the name of the party in 24-point font as required by law. 

So far, the presumed Democratic dirty trick has failed and the Republican dirty trick in Arizona appears to have worked.  And if you really want to know why, it‘s not just about following directions about 24-point font. 

There‘s one other otherwise unimportant detail about this pair of stories that tells you all you need to know about why this sort of tricks tend to work for Republicans and not for Democrats. 

When the Democratic Party fingerprints were found to be all over that Michigan tea party thing, the two Democratic Party officials seen as most responsible for the trickery, including the one who notarized all those tea party affidavits - both of those Democrats lost their jobs, one resigned, the other one was fired. 

The Democrats responsible for that bad embarrassing, dirty, sleazy tea party dirty trick thing in Michigan resigned in shame or were kicked out by the party. 

Their counterpart in the Republican Party, the guy who recruited the homeless people, the tarot guy and everything that ran under the Green Party in Arizona to hurt Democrats, that Republican guy is not only not ashamed of what he did, he‘s not only not getting fired, he‘s got his picture in the “New York Times” that has done a whole article with them in which he brags about what he‘s done. 

So yes, everybody does dirty tricks both sides.  But one side has been teaching it so long, they‘re actively proud of it and brag on it for political career advancement.  Tells you all you need to know. 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.  Have a great evening. 

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