updated 9/21/2010 12:01:51 PM ET 2010-09-21T16:01:51

Guests: Ken Strickland, Howard Dean, Major Michael Almy

           

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  And now to discuss what Christine O‘Donnell scrubbed from her Web site and why—ladies and gentlemen, the song stylings of Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  You know, the network is still on the air, everything‘s OK, no glass broke.  I think this singing thing might catch on.

OLBERMANN:  Not on your life, just once.

MADDOW:  All right.  We‘ll just keep doing it in the halls.

OLBERMANN:  OK, great.

MADDOW:  All right.  Cheers!

Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well.  We do have a lot more ahead about “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” Lady Gaga, the big day tomorrow, and the wrench that Senator John McCain is so lustily throwing into the works on this issue.

A report from the scene of today‘s rally with U.S. Air Force Major Mike Almy, and from Capitol Hill on what could be another—yet another filibuster eve.

Also, there are two big reasons why Thursday is a day to mark on your electoral calendar.  It should favor Democrats, and Howard Dean will help us explain.

That‘s all to come.

But first, when a political candidate comes from outside mainstream politics and that candidate gets nominated to represent a major party, and part of that candidate‘s appeal is that they come from outside mainstream politics, there‘s now a well-established process of making that candidate obverse, subtly, to make them seem more mainstreamy for the general election.  We saw that process in action with the post-primary scrubbing of Republican Senate candidate, Sharron Angle of Nevada.  We saw that in the shut-down-all-media-access scrubbing of Rand Paul.

And we‘re now seeing the same process at work with Christine O‘Donnell of Delaware.  If you two to Christine O‘Donnell‘s campaign Web site right now, here‘s what you‘ll find—“Victory in Delaware!”  It‘s a short article thanking the people of Delaware for making Christine O‘Donnell the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

If you look closely, though, you will see that the date on this article is September 11th, 2010.  The problem with that is that the Republican primary that Christine O‘Donnell won did not happen until three days after that, on September 14th.  So, Christine O‘Donnell‘s Web site is declaring victory in the primary three days before she won the primary.  Spooky!

How to explain the discrepancy?  It could, of course, be the result of a little hocus-pocus maybe?  Eye of newt, toe of frog?

The more likely explanation is that right after Christine O‘Donnell won the Republican Party nomination, her official Web site officially came down.  The whole thing got replaced by this page, which prominently featured a big “donate now” button, and that was it.  That was all that existed about her online for a few days, until the new Christine O‘Donnell Web site was unveiled.

And when the new Christine O‘Donnell Web site got unveiled—boy, things sure did look different.  On the old campaign Web site, for example, there was this big list, prominently displayed on the endorsements page, all sorts of Tea Party groups and individual activists who had officially endorsed Christine O‘Donnell‘s bid for the United States Senate.

The shiny new endorsements page looks a little different now.  Scrolling through, you can find that very nice giant soft focus picture of Republican Senator Jim DeMint.  Also, there‘s one of Sarah Palin there, too.

But many of the groups that are listed on the original endorsements page are no longer listed on the new one.  You can dig around on the site and still find them, but they are not listed on the official endorsements page anymore.

Who are they?  Who‘s been moderate make-overed out of the Christine O‘Donnell campaign?  Well, there‘s this guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERB DENENBERG, INDEPENDENCE HALL TEA PARTY PAC:  My advice to the president is, in two good words, shut up!

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Whoo!  That fellow was Herb Denenberg, keynote speaker at a recent event for the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC, an organization prominently listed on Christine O‘Donnell‘s old endorsements page, but not on the new one.

Here‘s some of the Independence hall Tea Party PAC‘s other magnificent work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We will take a literal fight to every street and capitol building in every state.  We, the people of the United States, will gladly, and with honor, replenish that tree of liberty with the blood of new patriots!  In order to sustain that shade of liberty which protects ourselves and our posterity from the destructive heat of tyranny.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  When he said, “We will take a literal fight,” he was contrasting that with a more metaphorical, like, political fight.  He means blood, literal fight and blood.

So that‘s the group that didn‘t quite make the cut anymore on the new Christine O‘Donnell Web site—one of them.

Another group that got axed from her new endorsements page is a group called Catholic Families for America.  See, here they are on the old Christine O‘Donnell page, misspelled as Catholic Families of America.

Apparently as part of its endorsement process, Catholic Families for America has candidates fill out a four-page questionnaire.  The one for 2010 U.S. House and Senate candidates includes questions like, “Do you promise to advocate that judges who attempt to establish secular atheism as the state religion should be removed from office?”  Also, “Will you vote to protect the sovereignty of Latin America countries such as Honduras against takeovers by Castro, Chavez leftists, who are aided and abetted by our own president?”

So, yes, for some reason, Catholic Families for America did not make it on to the new and improved Christine O‘Donnell‘s endorsement page.

We called them to today to ask their reaction to the omission.  They told us in part, quote, “We were not aware of the change on Miss O‘Donnell‘s Web site, but we are also not concerned about it.  Campaigns make decisions—or sometimes simple computer mistakes, occasionally.”

We also asked them if they could provide us with a copy of Christine O‘Donnell‘s completed questionnaire.  We will let you know if they do that.  And if we get that questionnaire, we will definitely let you know how she said she feels about protecting Honduras from Barack Obama‘s pending invasion.

But Catholic Families for America shares something in common with a few of the yet further groups—yet more groups who have been purged from the new Christine O‘Donnell endorsements page.  That organization, that Catholic Families group, as well as the Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund, and the Concerned Women PAC, they‘re all anti-abortion groups.

The way that the conservative resurgence has been marketed this year as if it is all about fiscal conservatism, it‘s all about cutting government spending, getting the federal deficit under control, shrinking the size of the federal government, putting all those divisive social issues behind, behind them.  Uniting Republicans and conservatives on these fiscal issues and not dealing with those divisive social issues anymore.  That‘s what the Republican comeback has been framed as.

But that is not at all what we‘re seeing right now from the crop of Republican candidates who are getting elected as part of this conservative resurgence.  As we mentioned last week, Christine O‘Donnell is one of the many Republican Senate candidates this year who are moving one traditionally hot-button issue way to the right of where it has ever been before.  Yes, there have been lots of anti-abortion Republican Senate candidates over time, the whole party, almost without exception, wants to make abortion illegal.

But this year, there are five candidates for Senate who want to ban it without exceptions for rape or incest.  Christine O‘Donnell in Delaware, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Joe Miller in Alaska, all want the government to intervene if a woman gets pregnant because of rape or incest.  They want the government to intervene to force a woman or a girl in that situation to give birth to the rapist‘s baby or to their relative‘s baby, no matter what she or the girl or woman‘s doctor wants.

The culture war is back.  Culture war issues are back in Republican politics this year, even though everybody said they weren‘t.  And they‘re back in a big way.

The right is now starting to admit it amongst themselves, even as the Beltway media has failed so far to catch up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  We do not live in a world where an American leader can just focus on the financial ledger.  A political party that would govern this great nation must be able to handle more than one issue at a time.  We must work to create jobs and protect innocent human life and defend traditional marriage.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE:  To those who say that marriage is not relevant to our budget crisis, I say, you would not be able to print enough money in 1,000 years to pay for the government that you would need if the family continues to collapse.

To those who say we should focus on cutting spending, I say, OK, let‘s start by denying all federal funding for abortion at home and abroad.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, who won the presidential straw poll at the Values Voters Summit in Washington this weekend, saying, essentially, you want to talk fiscal conservatism, OK, let‘s say that abortion is a fiscal issue then!  Sure.  Why not?  These terms otherwise have no meaning.

At the risk of stating the obvious to everyone who doesn‘t work in media, what is going on on the right right now is not about fiscal conservatism.  It is culture war, all over again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRYAN FISCHER, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION:  Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to have to choose as a nation between the homosexual agenda and freedom, because the two cannot coexist.  Every advance -- 

(APPLAUSE)

FISCHER:  Every advance of the homosexual agenda comes at the expense of liberty, particularly religious liberty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The homosexual agenda and freedom cannot exist.

In the last great era of Republican culture wars, it was the then-vice president of the United States, Dan Quayle, waging war on the TV show “Murphy Brown” for being a bad example of single motherhood.  Remember that?  It was Pat Buchanan‘s podium-pounding, blood-curdling call for culture war at the 1992 Republican convention.  It was Republicans like Jesse Helms saying that AIDS is God‘s punishment on people who are gay because they are gay.

And maybe 2010 now, and not 1994, but the same folks—a lot of them, at least—are still around, and the same tactics are still being used.  In 1994, when George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards to become the governor of Texas, he did it with the help of a whisper campaign about gays and lesbians surrounding Ann Richards, so you know, of course, Ann Richards must be secretly gay.

Flash forward to 2010 and Christine O‘Donnell‘s effort to defeat Republican Mike Castle, Mike Castle who suddenly besieged by rumors from folks connected to Christine O‘Donnell that he‘s secretly gay.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  I think that that‘s a very tacky approach.  I never said that Mike Castle was gay.  I don‘t endorse putting out rumors that Mike Castle is gay.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Are we talking about those rumors that Mike Castle is gay?  Who said that Mike Castle is gay?  Did you say that Mike Castle is gay?  I didn‘t say Mike Castle is gay?

Where might you have heard that Mike Castle is gay?  Gay.  Gay.  Have you heard that?

And it‘s not just the same tactics being used in many cases.  In many cases, it is the same exact people using the exact same tactics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GARY BAUER, FMR. GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When the world looks at America these days, all too often, they see a moral swamp, a culture promoting sex and violence.  No wonder our enemies think they can defeat us.

This has been the equivalent of a cultural oil spill.  It‘s not sea otters and ducks that are washing up on shore, covered with gunk, it is our kids.

NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  We have to have the courage to tell the truth and we have to have the courage to act on the truth.  Our elites are wrong on the basic values to define America.

We are allowing a brutalization and a degradation of children in this country, a destructiveness.

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE:  Bureaucrats and politicians in Washington think they should decide what kind of light bulb we use, what kind of toilets we flush.  They‘ll buy your teenage daughter an abortion, but they won‘t let her buy a sugary soda in a school‘s vending machine.

A lot of the money that we‘re spending goes to things that we know will not prevent AIDS, but indeed will continue to spread the disease, when a lot of our money goes to distribute condoms in high schools, when a lot of our money goes to distribute material that is literally pornographic.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  The culture wars are back.  In some cases, they never went away.  People got jobs doing other things, raising money on culture war issues, doing some other stuff around politics, keeping a hand in—now, they‘ve just been promoted to high-ranking electoral candidates again; trading prayer in schools for mosques; trading “Bill Clinton‘s a drug dealer” for “Barack Obama‘s a socialist”; treading abortion restrictions for even more restrictive abortion restrictions; trading the gay agenda for the gay agenda; trading ‘don‘t ask, don‘t tell” for “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

The culture wars are back.  Someone hide the National Endowment for the Arts, quick.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  As of September 23rd, insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping you when you get sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  There‘s a lot going on in American politics Thursday, September 23rd.  A lot of health care kicks in.  It‘s also the day Republicans have chosen to unveil their latest in a long line of brave new manifestos for American.

Governor Howard Dean joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  On Friday‘s show, we pulled a full Martin Luther, finding a door somewhere in the props department and sort of vaguely nailing to that door all the various conservative treatises that have been published in the last year and a half.  All the manifestos and national candidate pledges and 10-point plans and national agendas that have been promoted this year as conservatives try to define what it is they stand for now in their post-Bush, post-McCain era.

That little bit of “maybe should have been rehearsed more” theater was meant to show just how many conservative agendas there are out there now, in advance of the National Republican Party releasing an agenda—an agenda Republicans have been promising for months now, but that we still haven‘t seen.

Well, today they finally set a date.  This Thursday, September 23rd, Republicans say they will announce what amounts to their agenda—this year‘s version of the “Contract with America.”

Six weeks before the 1994 congressional election, the first midterm election of President Clinton‘s time in office, soon-to-be speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, announced that party‘s “Contract with America” then.  This is supposed to be sort of the same thing this year.

Except this year, there are two big twists.  First, Republicans this year tried to get their ideas from the Internets.  They built a Web site called AmericaSpeakingOut.com where they solicited what they described as America‘s ideas for a Republican agenda.

Flipping through that site today, the single idea that seems to have the most thumbs up votes is “decriminalizing marijuana,” legalizing pot.  So, if the Republican legislative agenda for 2011 is really going to be based on what Republicans learned on AmericaSpeakingOut.com, we can all look forward to would-be Speaker John Boehner on the cover of “High Times” really soon, man.

If Republicans don‘t adopt legalizing pot as their legislative agenda

who thinks they will—everybody gets to ask why they bothered soliciting American‘s advice online anyway if they were just going to ignore that advice.

           

But here‘s the other interesting twist to this big unveiling.  This Thursday, September 23rd, the day that Republicans peg to unveil their agenda, could be a date that is just as important for defining this year‘s Democratic agenda.  This Thursday, September 23rd, is the day that a lot of health reform goes in to fuller effect.

Leave it to Democrats to make this a complete mystery to 99 percent of American voters, but six months ago on this show, we told you to mark your calendars for September 23rd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The next day to mark down in your calendar, 90 days after that, is September 23rd.  As of September 23rd, it will no longer be legal in this country for insurance companies to deny kids coverage because of a pre-existing condition.  As of September 23rd, insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping you when you get sick.  No more rescissions.  As of September 23rd, insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on your benefits.  And if you have children, they can stay on your insurance until the age of 26.

All of that will happen in just six months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  And that will all happen on the date the Republicans choose to unveil their legislative agenda for the midterms.  How‘s that for a scheduling conflict?

Joining us now is CNBC contributor, former governor of Vermont, and former Democratic Party chairman, Dr. Howard Dean.

Governor Dean, thanks very much for your time.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, Republicans have tried to make health reform into this terrible thing that should be feared and repealed and defunded.  Isn‘t this an opportunity for Democrats to run on what health reform really is?  I mean, these changes may happen in the law.  They may not translate to everybody‘s lives right away.  But they‘re real concrete changes.

DEAN:  They are real changes.  And they are good changes.

I think that there‘s a certain amount of education we can do about health care, but, by and large, I think we‘ve passed that one by.  I think this is really going to be about jobs and the economy, and it‘s going to be about who‘s a better steward of the economy, and I think the Republicans have got a problem.

And I think the president needs to keep reminding the people of this country who got us in the ditch in the first place—as he—as he has more frequently in the last couple of weeks.

MADDOW:  But you think Republicans get to run on how awful health care is with—

DEAN:  No.

MADDOW:  -- pulling the plug on grandma and all that stuff—

DEAN:  No.

MADDOW:  -- and Democrats shouldn‘t run on what‘s good about it?

DEAN:  No, they don‘t get to run on how bad it is, because that will be fine for their base, but they‘re going to vote for them anyway.

Average people get that this isn‘t so bad.  Republicans know very well that repealing health care is a loser for them.  And they don‘t say it very often.  They‘re trying to change it around to repeal and redo or something like that.

Their base hates it, but that‘s their base.  That‘s the Tea Party people.  That‘s the people who want to tell women what to do and basically become the ayatollahs of America.  That‘s a very small part of the electorate.

The big part of the electorate does not want health care repealed.  They want it fixed.  And it puts the Republicans in a bad spot, because their base is so dogmatic and so unwilling to tolerate even from the Republicans any difference of opinion.

MADDOW:  Do you see the resurgence of culture war issues on the right?  Obviously, the economy is the main issue for everybody in the country, but the resurgence of really extreme politics on abortion, a lot of the politics around this “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” issue, the religious freedom issues around, Muslims and Islamophobia.  The resurgence of these really hot-button culture war issues—how do you see those playing out in terms of election results in November?

DEAN:  I actually think it‘s the last gasp of the far right.  I think they‘re incredibly energized.  The Republicans—the Republicans know that the new generation isn‘t going to buy any of this.  If the Republicans succeed in this election, it will be because young people don‘t vote.  But they‘ll be back in 2012.

Young people in this country can‘t stand all this anti-gay bigotry, the anti-immigrant bigotry, the crackpot, Obama‘s a Muslim stuff.  They don‘t like all that stuff and they‘re not going to vote for Republicans.

You know, the Republicans know—the smart ones that are in charge of the party, some of them are smart in charge of the party—the Republicans know that you can‘t—you could get to young people by being fiscally conservatism.  They are younger.  Our kids are more fiscally conservative than we are, but you can never get to them by appealing—by attacking their friends.  And their friends today are immigrants, gay people, lots of people of different kinds of races, and that‘s the future of America.

So, this is really the last gasp of the far right, energized by a bad economy.

MADDOW:  As famously a 50-state strategy guy, when you were Democratic Party chairman, somebody believed that every Republican district should be contested and that every race is at least theoretically winnable.  Democrats should at least try.

What do you think is the key toward getting more Democratic voters to actually go vote this year, toward upping Democratic enthusiasm?

DEAN:  Well, I do think the president makes all the difference.  If he‘s out there doing what he‘s doing today—he did a town meeting today, it was very, very good.  He—if he‘s out there all the time—and he needs to be Harry Truman.

I‘ll tell you, I have heard more times from people in the street, yes, you know, if you put the car in D, it goes forward, and if you put the car in R,  it goes backward, and you don‘t want to give the keys to the same people who put us in the ditch.  People get that stuff.  You don‘t have to campaign against George Bush, but people know who got us in this problem.  And the president‘s got to remind people about that and then go on and talk about the positive things that he has done and wants to do.  And that‘s the election winner.

I‘ve said before on your show that I do not think we‘re going to lose either the House or the Senate.  We simply have better candidates and people are afraid of extremists, and they won‘t vote for them.  There‘ll be some that get elected to the Senate, but not many.

MADDOW:  You stand by your prediction that Democrats keep the House and keep the Senate?

DEAN:  I do.

MADDOW:  Dr. Howard Dean, CNBC contributor, former governor of Vermont, former Democratic Party chairman—thanks for joining us, Gov.

DEAN:  Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW:  So, hey, there‘s a bunch of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” news right now.

First, the big vote is scheduled in the Senate tomorrow.  That could conceivably move the whole mess toward repeal.

Second, there was a spectacular anti-“don‘t ask, don‘t tell” rally organized on really short notice in Maine today, meant to make sure tomorrow‘s vote matters.

And third, Lady Gaga was there.  That‘s it.  You don‘t follow Lady Gaga with anything.  She always gets to go last.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We found out last week that Democrats were going to put the Defense Authorization Act, which includes allowing the military to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” on the table tomorrow.  But there were two things we did not know, even once we learned that.  Two things we didn‘t know about how this 17-year-old Clinton-era policy of kicking gay people out of the military might finally meet its long-overdue end.

First, would Republicans filibuster the entire authorization for Pentagon spending, including the wars, in order to keep on kicking gay people out of the military?  The answer to that first question, we have learned, is yes.  They are planning to filibuster the whole defense authorization bill tomorrow.

The second thing we did not know is what would John McCain do?  John McCain, with all the authority he brings to military and national security issues, what would he do on this issue? 

Would John McCain do what he said he would do all along on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”?  You‘ll recall that just a few years ago, McCain pledged that once the military came out in favor of repealing the policy, he would also support repealing it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  The day that this—the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Well, now the military leadership is for repealing the policy.  And it‘s not just the commander in chief. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This year I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Beyond the commander in chief, it is also the Joint Chiefs of

the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the defense secretary. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN:  It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. 

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  During the State of the Union address, the president announced he will work with Congress this year to repeal the law known as “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”. 

He subsequently directed the Department of Defense to begin the preparations necessary for a repeal of the current law and policy.  I fully support the president‘s decision. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So the first question we had was, will Republicans filibuster the whole Pentagon authorization bill because of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”?  Yes, they will. 

Second question, what will John McCain do?  Now we have an answer.  Not only will he not support repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”, even though he said previously that he just needed to hear from the military brass on this.  Not only will he not support repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”, John McCain says he will lead the filibuster of the bill that contains it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  That leads us to an amendment to strike the provision in the bill that would repeal the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” law as the only other issue the Senate will be able to debate and vote on. 

I‘m opposed to debating and amending the National Defense Authorization Act at this time. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  In Senate-ese that means, I can feel a filibuster coming on.  So now the pressure‘s on for John McCain‘s colleagues in the Senate to find 60 senators to override the filibuster he‘s going to lead. 

It is reported thus far that Senator Jim Webb of Virginia will vote with Republicans on this, and that means Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats need at least two Republicans to help them repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”. 

Who might those Republicans be?  Oft-mentioned possibilities are Senators Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Scott Brown, and George Voinovich and Dick Lugar.  You will notice that two of those senators are from the same state.  The great state of Maine.  Senators Snowe and Collins.  Which is why today you had this late announced on Twitter blockbuster event in Portland, Maine organized by the Service Member‘s Legal Defense Network and the pop star about whom everyone continues to say, get her as a guest on your show, to which I continue to show, boy, I‘d love to. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LADY GAGA, SINGER:  I‘m here because “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is wrong.  It‘s unjust—and fundamentally, it is against all that we stand for as Americans. 

In any workplace, there are tensions.  There‘s even more possibility to have tension when you‘re fighting for your life.  But I‘m more concerned that John McCain and other Republican senators are using homophobia as a defense in their argument. 

As the nexus of this law, openly gay soldiers affect unit cohesion.  Like, like it‘s OK to discriminate or discharge gay soldiers because, we are homophobic.  We, we are uncomfortable, and we do not agree with homosexuality, and I can‘t focus on the field of duty while I am fighting. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  In less than 24 hours, the United States Senate will have the opportunity to pave the way for a complete repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”.  The policy may begin to die tomorrow afternoon.  If Lady Gaga gets her way and if John McCain—well, new John McCain doesn‘t. 

In just a moment, we‘ll be talking with NBC News producer Ken Strickland in Washington this evening for the latest on the Senate vote and then Major Mike Almy will join us. 

Major Almy was discharged from the Air Force under “Don‘t “Ask, Don‘t Tell”.  He spoke today at the Maine rally. 

When and how and if “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is going to be repealed, when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  There are two things that Senator John McCain is so opposed to he is planning to filibuster the Defense Authorization Bill because of them.  They are “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”, which John McCain had said he would want to repeal if military leadership supported the policy. 

Military leadership now does support the policy, but Senator McCain still does not. 

The other thing is the Dream Act, which is not yet in the bill, but Democrats are seeking to add it to the bill with an amendment.  John McCain co-sponsored the Dream Act, which is an immigration measure, but he‘s now so opposed to this thing that he co-sponsored that he is willing to pledge to filibuster the Defense Authorization Bill to stop that one, too. 

Here to walk us through the big confusing day tomorrow is NBC Senate producer, Ken Strickland. 

Ken, thanks very much for being here.  I know you hate being on TV. 

(LAUGHTER)

KEN STRICKLAND, NBC NEWS PRODUCER:  I don‘t hate being on TV with you, so I‘ll give you a pass. 

MADDOW:  That‘s very kind.  Vote is set for tomorrow, 2:15 Eastern. 

STRICKLAND:  Correct. 

MADDOW:  Do we know if Harry Reid has 60 votes to beat the Republican filibuster on this? 

STRICKLAND:  Right now, at this moment, we do not know if he has those 60 votes.  And like many things in the Senate, when it gets close like this, it basically comes down to a handful of moderates. 

You mentioned two of them.  Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both from Maine.  I talked to both of their offices today and they‘re still uncommitted, undecided.  However late in the afternoon, Olympia Snowe released a statement.  While she didn‘t say exactly what she wanted to do, she was very critical of Harry Reid and the process for bringing this bill forward. 

And also she talked about the review.  And you remember back in March, President Obama had told the military to review the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy.  What many Republicans—most Republicans who oppose this measure, they pin that on their main reason for opposition, that the bill should be repealed after that review is done. 

That review is not scheduled to be done until December.  Democrats, supporters who repealing the ban say that passing this measure does not repeal it.  It just says that once the president, the secretary of the state—the secretary of defense, and the Joint Chiefs have certified it, then it can be repealed.  Once they‘ve certified that report. 

But right now, we don‘t know.  There‘s going to be a big meeting tomorrow.  There‘s usually always a big caucus meeting between Democrats and Republicans, where they go to their own corners and talk it through. 

After that meeting which starts at 12:30, once that starts to break up, we‘ll start to get some early reads on how this is going to play out.  But right now, at this hour, we don‘t know for sure how it‘s going to work. 

MADDOW:  Are there offices other than Snowe and Collins that people will be watching for for potential Republican defections on this?  I‘m assuming that Jim Webb is still planning to vote with the Republicans on this as well as the Democrat. 

STRICKLAND:  I talked to his office, too.  It‘s not clear how he‘s going to do this as well.  I mean the obvious suspects are your moderates.  Susan Collins, especially people are looking at, because she‘s on the Armed Services Committee. 

When that bill was debated in the committed, she voted with Democrats, but right now she‘s still mum.  So generally, you look towards all your moderates, you look towards people who are retiring, and see how it plays that way.  But right now I think all the pressure is on Senators Collins and Snowe from Maine. 

MADDOW:  Ken Strickland, NBC‘s Senate producer, Ken, thanks very much for being here.  I have a feeling we‘ll be bugging you all day tomorrow to let us—keep us posted on how things are going. 

STRICKLAND:  No problem. 

MADDOW:  Joining us now is Major Mike Almy.  Mayor Almy discharged from the Air Force under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” even though he was asked and he never told.  He testified that the federal trial that resulted in a ruling two weeks ago that “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is unconstitutional. 

Today he spoke at the rally in Maine. 

Mike, thanks very much for being here.  It‘s nice to see you again. 

MAJ. MICHAEL ALMY, FMR. AIR FORCE OFFICER:  It‘s good to see you again.  Thank you, Rachel, for having me. 

MADDOW:  Hearing that update from Ken Strickland, from our Senate producer there, do you have any expectations in terms of what‘s going to happen in the Senate tomorrow?  Are you optimistic about the chances for repeal? 

ALMY:  Personally, I‘m still optimistic.  I—there‘s been so much effort to get us to this day tomorrow, and there has been so much pressure, so much grassroots movement to get these senators to sway their votes, to support the American public on this issue. 

The reality of it is we just don‘t know, as Ken Strickland just highlighted.  It‘s all going to come down to tomorrow afternoon and it‘s going to be a real nail biter. 

MADDOW:  I wonder if being at that rally today, looking at the—I was looking at the crowd shots of that rally, and it‘s obviously people turning up for Lady Gaga, but also for the issue.  Such a young crowd out there on that beautiful day in Portland, Maine. 

Did it—I wonder if that sharpened for you your sense that we‘ve talked about before that this is really a generational issue. 

ALMY:  It certainly is.  And today just really highlighted that.  There were so many young faces out there, college students, high school students, young adults, partly because of Lady Gaga, but also because of this issue, because they‘re so passionate about this issue, and the younger generation in America, which is primarily the 20-somethings serving in the military today, the largest demographic, they by and large just don‘t care about those issue. 

They‘ve grown up with gays and lesbians in their high school and on their sports teams, in their communities, and certainly in their military.  And for them, it‘s just a nonissue.  And it just highlights how out of touch the Washington leadership is on this issue.  And it‘s a sad day when Lady Gaga has shown more leadership on this issue than the large majority of our elected officials in Washington. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you specifically about the argument that she was making, that we excerpted in the lead-in in here.  She‘s essentially saying that the whole cohesion argument, the whole, good order and morale argument hinges on the idea that it‘s OK to be virulently homophobic in the military. 

That the people who have a hard time serving alongside gay people, that they‘re not the issue, that if they have a problem, that gay people are the ones who have to go.  She‘s saying, actually, the problem should be that if you‘re really homophobic and distracted by gay people, maybe you ought to go home. 

What do you think of -- 

ALMY:  Right. 

MADDOW:  I mean, it‘s interesting.  She‘s a 24-year-old pop star making this argument, but it‘s a substantive argument.  What do you think about that? 

ALMY:  I think she was spot-on.  And if you remember, way back in 1993 when Colin Powell and the other leaders—military leaders testified before Congress, they alluded to that very fact.  That “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” isn‘t there to protect the gays and lesbians serving in the military.  It‘s there because of the homophobia in the military. 

Because the straights that are serving in the military didn‘t want to serve alongside the gays and lesbians that are already in their units.  They felt uncomfortable.  It‘s not there to protect the gays and lesbians, because we‘re already serving.  We‘ve been serving. 

As long as we‘ve had a military defending this nation, we‘ve had gays and lesbians serve in them and we will continue to serve. 

MADDOW:  Major Mike Almy, thanks very much for being here.  And just as we‘re going to be bugging Ken Strickland all day to find out how things are going, we‘ll probably be bugging you, too. 

Stay in touch tomorrow, OK? 

ALMY:  Always a pleasure, Rachel.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Thanks, Mike. 

Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” President Obama hosted a town hall today and got an earful from his supporters.  Richard Wolffe weighs in on that. 

And on this show, when publicly taking credit for someone else‘s successful idea, it is often helpful if you didn‘t oppose that exact same idea in public.  Otherwise, you might get booed.  Voters are angry and some of them keep track of these things.  Please do stick around. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It is quite a trick to be a U.S. senator, to show up at a celebration of the return of jobs in your home state, and to get lustily booed by the home folks at that photo-op. 

Who exactly achieved that feat and how that good senator earned every bit of it?  That‘s next. 

Also, we have one programming note for you.  The big vote on the Defense Authorization Bill is scheduled for tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. Eastern.  Senator John McCain is expected to lead a Republican filibuster of the defense bill, as a means of trying to keep the military from repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”. 

A historic vote that has been 17 years in the making.  MSNBC will be covering the action in the Senate tomorrow afternoon and I will be on dayside MSNBC with MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing in the 3:00 Eastern hour. 

We encourage you to tune in for that.  More RACHEL MADDOW SHOW in just a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your stimulus package actually funded a very ailing financial system which was essential for small business people.  You turned around and invested in the auto industry and I believe saved millions of jobs, and I think you‘re actually going to make a profit on them. 

OBAMA:  Yes. 

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And  yet for some reason the public just doesn‘t get it.  You‘re losing the war of sound bites, you‘re losing the media cycles. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  In a live televised town hall today, President Obama was asked a lot of questions about why his plan for fixing the economy isn‘t doing better or going faster, but he was asked why is it that he‘s not getting credit for the things he has accomplished.  

One hunch?  It‘s because Republicans are busy taking credit for what he has accomplished on the economy.  They are taking credit for what he and Democrats in Congress have done while simultaneously arguing that those same things are bad for America. 

They are doing both those things at once.  Hey, give me credit for this awesome thing that I‘m against. 

This is a man named Dino Rossi.  He‘s the Republican Senate candidate against Democratic Senator Patty Murray in Washington state.  But Dino Rossi isn‘t just running against Senator Murray.  He‘s also running against the stimulus—the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad stimulus. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DINO ROSSI ®, WASHINGTON SENATE CANDIDATE:  It really isn‘t creating jobs.  Government can only create temporary government jobs. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  OK, Dino Rossi against the stimulus.  It can‘t do anything, it can‘t create jobs. 

Here where it gets awkward.  Last week Dino Rossi campaigned for office at a Whidbey Island shipyard.  The shipyard that got more than $800,000 in stimulus money, and was therefore able to hire 80 workers. 

In other words, look at me, Dino Rossi, smiling and shaking hands with these hard-working, resilient Washington business owners, while I run against the policy that made their comeback possible. 

How do you simultaneously hold both of those positions that the stimulus made this great thing possible for Washington state business, which you were totally for while also being totally against the stimulus, which, again, is what made it possible? 

How can you simultaneously hold both those positions?  You can hold—simultaneously hold both those positions only if you are incapable about being embarrassed by the fact that you hold those two positions at the same time. 

Topping even that, though, is the man I will always think of as the mayor of Chattanooga, U.S. Senator Bob Corker. 

Senator Corker was put forward as the guy who would negotiate for the Republican side during the debate over how and even whether to save the American automobile industry late in 2008. 

We still have a car industry in this country, and that‘s in large part because when it was going to disappear the government decided to extend what amounted to a bridge loan to the industry. 

When the plan for bailing out the auto industry was being formulated, Senator Corker, again, negotiating for the Republicans, argued if we were going to save the American car industry, the bailout of the industry should be used as an opportunity to lower the wages of American workers. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER ®, TENNESSEE:  The UAW, their benefits and their costs are way above the folks like Honda, Nissan and Toyota.  They have to agree to have a contract in place that puts them on parity, on parity with companies like Toyota and Nissan and Volkswagen and other companies here in our country. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Other foreign companies here in our country. 

Senator Corker, of course, represents a state that is chockfull of foreign car companies that are not unionized here and already do pay their workers less.  So Bob Corker wanted to make sure that the salaries of American workers employed by American car companies came down to the level being offered by nonunion foreign companies. 

And he wanted a firm date for those salaries to come down because that‘s the kind of American patriot Bob Corker is.  That‘s how he wanted to use Washington leverage to reduce American wages. 

When Bob Corker did not get what he wanted, when he didn‘t win a Washington imposed pay cut for American workers, he voted against saving the American car industry.  He voted against even allowing the measure to come up for a vote on the Senate floor.  He filibustered it. 

If Bob Corker couldn‘t cut American autoworkers pay, then Bob Corker wasn‘t going to support the continued existence of an American auto industry. 

That guy, I am not joking, on Friday went to a GM plant that was celebrating its ability to rehire 483 previously laid-off workers because of the bailout that Bob Corker voted against, after failing to get salary cuts for all its workers attached to it. 

Bob Corker went to that plant to take part in the celebration.  How can you be the guy who tried to kill the bailout because you couldn‘t lower American wages enough and then show up at the celebration of the success of the bailout? 

You show up to claim credit for somebody else having saved the company despite your best efforts.  What does it take to be that guy? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORKER:  We had a raucous debate in Washington, a raucous debate about the future of the automobile industry.  And I was an active player in that debate.  At the end of the day I think we all had to feel good about what we did.  And I know that I contributed to strengthening the auto industry in this country. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Actually, no, you didn‘t, Senator Corker.  Not you.  We don‘t actually have to feel good about what you did during the debate over saving the auto industry because you voted to not save the auto industry.

You voted no, because the industry was saved despite you.  The industry was saved despite what you did.  You were a speed bump that efforts to save the auto industry had to drive over to get where they were going. 

You were the problem, not the solution.  You voted against America having car companies anymore.  You voted no because you couldn‘t reduce Americans‘ wages enough. 

America has a car industry only because no one listened to Bob Corker, because Bob Corker lost when he tried to kill the industry.  And now Bob Corker wants to celebrate the American car industry that he tried to kill. 

There is one silver lining here, though.  If Senator Bob Corker is somehow incapable of feeling embarrassed about this, the workers at the GM plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, tried to help him with that emotional problem. 

They tried their very best to make him feel embarrassed by doing some serious heckling when Bob Corker showed up at their plant, their plant that wouldn‘t exist if he‘d gotten his way. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I would like to introduce Senator Bob Corker. 

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Go home, Corker. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Apparently the nobody‘s fool auto workers whose job Bob Corker couldn‘t kill despite his best efforts would like Senator Corker to be embarrassed to be showing his face at their factory.  Also that they‘d apparently like him to go home.  A silver lining.  We‘ll do a four-cylinder, eco-boost made in America silver lining. 

“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. 

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