updated 10/15/2010 10:42:01 AM ET 2010-10-15T14:42:01

Guests: Walter Dellinger, Brian Katulis

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

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

As Keith said, big, conflicting and confusing but potentially good sort of news in “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” from the Pentagon and from the president tonight.

Walter Dellinger was President Clinton‘s solicitor general.  He will be joining us this hour to try to make some sense of this.

Plus, the story of how one missing letter of the alphabet became the strangest, saddest, funniest politics story of the day.

Also, I have fallen in love with a bridge.  Don‘t worry.  You will fall in love with it, too.  Nobody needs to be jealous.  It‘s all going to be fine.

But, first, I‘d like you to take a look at a very, very, very short video clip.  Are you ready?  Check this out?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM DONOHUE, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE:  There are legitimate values in outsourcing—not only jobs, but work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was Tom Donohue.  Tom Donohue is the president and CEO of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONOHUE:  There are legitimate values in outsourcing—not only jobs, but work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  There are legitimate values in outsourcing, not only jobs but work.  The president of the Chamber of Commerce in his capacity as the president of the Chamber of Commerce endorsing outsourcing, endorsing the practice of American companies shipping jobs overseas so those jobs can be done by people in foreign countries instead of by Americans.

Quote, “U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Thomas Donohue urged American companies on Wednesday to send jobs overseas.  Donohue said people affected by offshoring should, quote, ‘stop whining.‘  The benefits of offshoring jobs outweighs the costs.”

During a trip to India around the same time, Tom Donohue assures business leaders, quote, “We are very confident that outsourcing is here to say.  It would be absolutely foolish to try and stop the phenomenon.”

Whew.  Outsourcing, awesome!  All of you Americans who lost your job because your job was outsourced to India or China, the Chamber of Commerce has a message for you.  It is, I quote, “stop whining.”

The same Tom Donohue whose Chamber of Commerce has championed outsourcing is now running TV ads like this all across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  Rising unemployment means families are suffering.  Tell Richard Blumenthal to stop.  His job-killing lawsuits are hurting Connecticut families.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is responsible for the content of this advertising.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Richard Blumenthal is a job killer, so says the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Here‘s what awkward about that sort of an attack ad being launched by the Chamber of Commerce of all people.  Over the last 16 years, more than 87,000 Connecticut workers saw their jobs shipped overseas.  Over the last 16 years, more than 87,000 people in Connecticut lost their jobs because a Connecticut company gave their job to someone in another country.  And that is something that the Chamber of Commerce promotes.

That‘s according to a new report out by the nonpartisan group Campaign Money Watch -- 87,000 jobs lost in Connecticut alone due to outsourcing, but the pro-outsourcing guys want you to think that it‘s Richard Blumenthal.  He‘s the job killer.

Yes, the Chamber of Commerce also running this ad in the great state of Missouri.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  In the past two years, Missouri‘s lost thousands of good-paying jobs.  So why does Robin Carnahan support card check and unfair scheme to grow unions?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Did you see that figure that they flash on the screen there at the beginning?  Missouri lost 120,000 jobs.  Take a guess where those jobs went.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!  That‘s right.  More than 102,000 lost their jobs because Missouri companies decided they would rather fire Americans and instead have people in other countries do that work.

Chamber of Commerce is all for it.  Remember, according to them, outsourcing is god.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONOHUE:  There are legitimate values in outsourcing—not only jobs, but work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The Chamber of Commerce is flooding the airwaves right now with a $75 million ad blitz almost entirely focused on blaming Democrats for killing jobs even as they openly support American companies firing Americans to have the work done by people in other countries instead.

It is because of the chamber‘s out-loud, well-documented support of outsourcing American jobs to other countries that turned that “Think Progress” report last week on the chamber into a political bombshell.  “Think Progress” reported last week that the chamber‘s $75 million ad blitz was potentially being paid for, in part, by other countries, by companies in other countries.

Please, send us your American jobs.  And even by state-owned companies in other countries, which means they may be funded by foreign government.  Please, hire our citizens.  In America, fire your own citizens.  We like it when America is weak because of high unemployment.

After that report came out, the Chamber of Commerce immediately denied it.  They claimed that not 1 cent of foreign money was being used to fund their campaign ads.  They did not produce any evidence to back up that claim.  They just said, arrggh, that makes us so mad.  We don‘t do it.  Trust us.

Do you trust them?  No, neither does anybody else outside of FOX News apparently.

Further dogged reporting from “Think Progress” has now revealed that even though the Chamber of Commerce says foreign money doesn‘t pay for their campaign ads, the same Chamber of Commerce bank account that pays for all of those ads has taken in at least $885,000 from more than 80 foreign companies—foreign companies like this one in Mumbai, India, who calls itself the world leader in I.T. outsourcing.  Also, this one in Singapore, which says it is a leader in engineering services outsourcing.  They also get from this one, in Bangalore, India.  It‘s described as India‘s biggest destination for U.S. offshoring.

They all pay money into the Chamber of Commerce account from which the chamber pays for its political ads.

What do those political ads say?  Democrats are killing jobs.

Yes, these are can companies in countries that benefit directly from American companies firing Americans and instead hiring people in foreign countries to do the work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONOHUE:  There are legitimate values in outsourcing—not only jobs, but work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That‘s the Chamber of Commerce—an organization that takes foreign donations that advocates for outsourcing and that is now among the biggest players in this year‘s elections.  They‘re running tens of millions of dollars of almost entirely anti-Democrat ads.

Now, Democrats in the White House have attempted to make this a big campaign issue in recent weeks.  They highlighted the fact that groups like the Chamber of Commerce are blanketing the airwaves ads without disclosing where they‘re getting their money from.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They don‘t disclose who‘s behind ads.  It could be an oil company, could be an insurance company, could be Wall Street.  You don‘t know.  Are you going to let special interests from Wall Street and Washington and maybe places beyond our shores come to this state and tell us who our senator should be?

AUDIENCE:  No!

OBAMA:  That‘s not just a threat to Democrats.  That‘s a threat to our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  They don‘t disclose who‘s behind their ad.  Their money could be coming from beyond our shores.  President Obama making this a campaign issue.  And that, of course, has probably, predictably caused this reaction on the right.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  I would like to make this the biggest fundraising day in the chamber‘s history.  I am donating $10,000 to the Chamber of Commerce now.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Because they could sure use the help.  That‘s amazing. 

Amazing.

That was FOX News‘ Glenn Beck today encouraging his listeners to fork over their own hard-earned cash to give it to the Chamber of Commerce, to promote the outsourcing of American jobs—asking regular Americans who presumably get pink checks and stuff to help out the poor corporate titans because—because, you know, why not?  Obama, boo!

Earlier this week, we spoke with Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.  This was her assessment of this as a campaign issue with three weeks to go until this year‘s elections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CELINDA LAKE, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER:  This is an issue that is a good October surprise for the Democrats and the progressives.  It‘s a way of really raising the fundamental question about whose side you‘re on.  This is a great issue to unite blue collar voters of all kinds, Democratic-leaning union workers and Tea Party people.  All of them against foreign corporate influence, all of them say that we‘re—our economic system is being undermined by these policies and these corporations are trying to pay for a Congress that will keep these policies going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  As if on cue.  A new poll just comes out from “Bloomberg News” revealing the extent to which Democrats have really been handed a political gift here.  When voters are asked how their view of a candidate would be affected, if they learned that the candidate‘s campaign was being aided by advertising paid for by anonymous business groups, the percentage of people who said they‘d be more likely to vote for that candidate is a whopping 9 percent.  The percentage who say anonymous funding would make them less likely to vote for a candidate?  Forty-seven percent.

But, wait, there‘s more.  Another polling firm, Survey USA, has just released the results of their poll on the same topic, and the numbers are staggering.  The percentage of those polled who say they have a right to know who‘s paying for these ads?  Eighty-four percent.

Try getting 84 percent of Americans to agree on anything.  We don‘t even agree that cheese tastes good.  We don‘t even agree that the earth is round.  Eighty-four percent says we have a right to know who‘s funding these ads.

When asked whether these group have their best interest in mind, 63 percent of those polled said no.  The percentage who said they would less likely—be less likely to vote for a candidate who benefits from anonymously funded ads, it‘s a solid majority, 56 percent.

And are you paying attention, Democrats?  If a candidate insists that voters have a right know who‘s paying for these ads, the percentage of people who say that would make them more likely to support that candidate?  Forty-seven percent.  Attention, Democrats, this is a long, slow curveball right over the heart of the play.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  President Obama today did a town hall with MTV.  He faced a tough civil rights question in that forum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I voted for you in the last elections based on your alleged commitment equality for all Americans, gay and straight.  And I wanted to know where you stand on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  I know that you mentioned that you want the Senate to have repealed it, before you do it yourself.  My question is: you as the president can sort of have an executive order that ends it once and for all, as Truman did for the integration of the military in ‘48.  I wonder why don‘t you do that if this is a policy that you‘re committed to ending.

OBAMA:  First of all, I haven‘t mentioned that I‘m against “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  I‘ve said very clearly, including in a State of the Union address, that I‘m against “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and we‘re going to end that policy.  That‘s point number one.

Point number two, the different between my position right now and Harry Truman‘s was that Congress explicitly passed a law that took away the power of the executive branch to end this policy unilaterally.  So, this is not a situation in which with a stroke of the pen, I can simply end a policy.

Now, having said that, what I have been able to do is, for the first time, get the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, to say he thinks the policy should end.  The secretary of defense has said he recognizes that the policy needs to change.  And we, I believe, have enough votes in the Senate to go ahead and remove this constraint on me as the House has already done so that I can go ahead and end it.

But this is not a question of whether the policy is end—will end.  This policy will end, and will end on my watch.  But I do have an obligation to make sure that I‘m following some of the rules.  I can‘t simply ignore laws that are out there.  I‘ve got to work to make sure that they are changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  While that was happening today, the Department of Justice appealed to keep the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy in place, and the military said that they would stop enforcing the policy.  Confused?  Join the club.

We will make sense of it with the help of some very, very expensive booze—coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  I‘m going to be totally honest with you here.  I am not sure exactly what happened this afternoon, but something big definitely happened, to the policy of kicking people out of the military for being gay.

Here‘s the big clear headline.  This is the part that makes sense and this has never happened before and this is a big deal.  “An injunction barring the enforcement or application of ‘don‘t ask, don‘t tell‘ effective 12 October, the Department of Defense will abide by its terms.”

Military lawyers today issued legal guidance to U.S. military commanders worldwide, telling them that at least for now our military is no longer enforcing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

It‘s a big deal, right?  I mean, this never happened before.  Any existing discharges or separations or investigations or other proceedings that are pending now under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” are halted.  Any enforcement or application of the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” rules is no longer allowed.  It never happened before.  It‘s never been done.  Military‘s no longer enforcing “don‘t ask don‘t tell.”  For now.

This is a huge milestone.  Don‘t get me wrong.  For the first time since the policy went into effect 17 years ago, the policy has been stopped.  The ban is not being enforced.  Huge deal.

But for how long?  The stop enforcing the gay ban letter says the military will no longer implement “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” quote, “in the meantime while the government decides whether or not to appeal the court ruling that said the policy is unconstitutional.”

Today, the Justice Department did say it‘s appealing the ruling and asking for the policy to be kept in place while the appeal is heard.  So, the military is stopping the policy.  The Justice Department says it wants the policy to stay in place.

Imagine you‘re a gay 18-year-old in the Army right now?  What do you think of today‘s news?  Yes.

The president today was asked about and reiterated his position against the ban, but he said it is not in his power to unilaterally to get rid of it.  He says he needs the Senate to vote to do that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  This policy will end and will end on my watch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  OK.  But does the control the Senate?  No, he does not.  Why is he confident that the Senate will end it?  That is inexplicable to me.

Does he have another plan to end it if the Senate doesn‘t vote to end it?  That‘s what I want to know.  And now that the enforcement of the policy is suspended, at least for now, can gay people go enlist in the military tomorrow if they want to?

Joining us now for “The Interview” is a man who is more likely to have answers to these questions than anyone else we can persuade to be on this show.  He‘s Walter Dellinger, former solicitor general of the United States of America.

Mr. Dellinger, it is an honor to have you on the show.  Thank you for your time, sir.

WALTER DELLINGER, ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL, 1996-1997:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  So, let me ask you the smaller questions first and lead up to the bigger ones.

Since enforcement of the policy is now suspended by the military, should an openly gay person today, now, be able to enlist?

DELLINGER:  No.  I think this is a very temporary moment.  What‘s happened is this: the district court has issued and order and the order says do not proceed with any investigations, do not proceed with any discharges of any person in the military on the grounds of sexual orientation.

And the Department of Justice is going to appeal that ruling.  They‘re going to try to get her order stayed, that is, it‘s effectiveness postponed during the appeal.  But until they do, the military wants to make sure that it is not violating the order, which is in place at the moment.

MADDOW:  So, would you expect that the military will do a U-turn and start enforcing the policy again if this injunction that is halting it right now gets lifted?

DELLINGER:  Well, it‘s—you know, I think that‘s unclear about how fast the military would want to process any cases or proceed with any investigations while this matter is pending.  This order of the district judge will be stayed on appeal, either by the Ninth Circuit or by the Supreme Court, because the court will not want it to go into effect until they‘ve had a chance to hear, you know, full briefing and argument on the question.

MADDOW:  So, do you agree that—it sounds like you agree that gay people in the military are still not safe to come out and the issue of being an openly gay person and trying to join the military, even for right now, is not at all settled.

DELLINGER:  I think that‘s right.

Now, the president said that this will end on his watch, and he‘s actually moved the ball pretty far down—down the road to making that happen because the president has gotten the chairman of the joint chiefs to agree that the policy should end.  He, himself, has stated unequivocally that it undermines our national security, and that‘s going to be a powerful argument in court.

I think the government really has no choice but to appeal the case because we don‘t want a system where a single federal judge can invalidate an act of Congress and the president simply say, well, that‘s it, we‘re not going to seek to appeal that.

Imagine, Rachel, three years down the road if someone is challenging the health care, individual mandate, or the minimum coverage requirements, and there‘s a Republican president in the White House and they find one federal district judge who holds that it‘s unconstitutional.  I don‘t think the Supreme Court would agree with that, not close.

But suppose one district judge held it unconstitutional.  You don‘t want a situation where the government can say, well, we‘re just not going to appeal.

Now, it would be very different if they took the appeal and took a fairly bold step, and it‘s something the administration, I think, ought to consider down the road, sometime in December or January when the full briefing is done, whether to tell the Court of Appeals that in the government‘s view it‘s unconstitutional.  They‘re appealing because they believe the final decision ought to remain with the court.

MADDOW:  Now—

DELLINGER:  But they are going to appeal.  And they are going to tell the court that in our view, it‘s unconstitutional because it‘s harmful to the military.

MADDOW:  Now, this is—this is one of the reasons that I wanted to talk to you specifically about this today, because you‘ve been making this case that for this specific type of appeal.  Can you explain what precedent there is for the government doing that?  For the government saying, listen, we recognize our responsibility as the Department of Justice to defend the nation‘s laws.  We agree that this law that we are defending is unconstitutional.  We are, therefore, still appealing it but saying we think it‘s unconstitutional, too.

It seems like a split-the-baby decision.  But you say it‘s been done before.

DELLINGER:  It has been done before.  It‘s been done in 1945.  It‘s been done by president Reagan‘s administration in certain circumstances.

What the government does is says, look, we‘ve got an active Congress.  We can‘t say for sure that the Supreme Court will invalidate it.  There‘s no case right on point.  So, we feel like we owe it to Congress to make sure that the appeal is at least taken up to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.

We‘re going to tell the court we think it‘s constitutional.  We think you should strike it down.  But we‘re going to allow others, members of Congress who support the law or other groups who support the law, to come in and appear as friends of the court and argue for its constitutionality.  But we‘re going to say what we honestly think.

And think that‘s an option that will be open to the administration at some point in the briefing process.  And, indeed, once the president has said with some support from the military that he believes that it undermines the military to have 14,000 service men and women who have been separated from service since this “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” went into effect in 1993, 14,000 people we‘ve lost their services, including skilled linguists and technicians and weapons experts—that doesn‘t advance military security.  And any law that has this substantial effect on the liberty of individual Americans without advancing a governmental goal is unconstitutional.

And the president can say, I‘ve decided in my view that it‘s not necessary.  It‘s harmful.  Therefore, I‘m going to tell the court I think it‘s unconstitutional—leaving the final decision to the court.  We don‘t know what the court‘s going to hold.  We don‘t know what the court‘s going to hold.

So, it‘s critically important to keep this in the realm of politics and to support candidates who support repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” because the only sure way to get this done since you can‘t rely upon the Supreme Court at the end of the day, no matter what position the Justice Department takes is to make sure it gets repealed by Congress.  I think that‘s going to be the critical battle that we‘re going to face in the coming months.

MADDOW:  I think the thing that is so uncomfortable about that is the idea that it is a constitutional matter, that people who support the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” do so on the basis of essentially agreeing with this judge‘s ruling that this is unsustainable under any reasonable understanding of our constitutional rights and therefore, the idea that it ought to be up for a vote, it ought to be up to whether or not John McCain‘s having a grumpy day about gay people or a happy day about gay people, rubs us the wrong way.

And the court‘s ruling that this is not—the court ruling if the government agrees with it seems to make sense that, you know, there is jurisdictional concern that you don‘t want a just a district court judge making a policy for the whole country, but it does sort of feel like something that ought to be—if it can‘t be the president, then it ought to be some sort of constitutional declaration on this.

DELLINGER:  Look, if you and I were on the Supreme Court—and I think there are going to be plenty of votes on the Supreme Court to strike this policy down.  And I think the case of striking it down as a constitutional matter is going to be stronger if the president can work his way to get the Defense Department fully on board.  The more he‘s got the Defense Department to back him up and say that this is not necessary to advance efficient military security interests, the more likely it is that it will be struck down.

So, he‘s playing a very delicate game of trying to get the Defense Department onboard to enhance the chances that it will be struck down while he‘s also seeking legislative repeal.  I still think, at the end of the day, the one place where I—you know, I may differ with him is that I hope at the end of the day, they‘ll consider telling the court, look, we think it‘s unconstitutional.

MADDOW:  One last quick question for you.  If this does go to the U.S.

Supreme Court, does Elena Kagan have to recuse herself?

DELLINGER:  I am aware of nothing that would indicate that she has participated in any of this litigation, but I just don‘t know.

MADDOW:  All right.  Walter Dellinger, head of the Office of Legal Counsel and acting solicitor general during the Clinton administration, it‘s been a real pleasure to hash this out with you, sir.  Thank you so much.

DELLINGER:  Thank you.  You‘re quite welcome.

MADDOW:  All right, it is a rare day in the news business—a rare, rare day when a misspelled name is the saddest, funniest story in all of the news for all of the day, and it is also a two-word indictment of American politics, enlightenment through not proofreading.  Coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  While in Illinois today, fundraising for Democratic candidates, our nation‘s first lady, Michelle Obama, stopped in Chicago to cast her vote in the state‘s elections. 

Illinois early voting began on Monday.  Now, the Chicago Board of Elections tells us that all early voting there is done electronically.  Because of that fact, the First Lady likely today saw an eyebrow-raising choice on her electronic ballot when she cast and reviewed her vote for governor. 

What we believe she saw there was among the choices, R. Whitey, the initial R starting for “Rich.”  So Rich Whitey - Rich Whitey is on the ballot in Illinois, everybody, all right.  And it is a mistake. 

There is a Rich Whitey on the ballot, but he is there where Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney is supposed to be - not Rich Whitey, but rather Rich Whitney.  It turns out not all N‘s in the middle of words are created equal. 

The Green Party candidate for governor is on the ballot as “Rich Whitey” in 23 wards, about half of which are predominantly African-American communities.  Mr. Whitney understandably flabbergasted by this typo from hell, said, “I don‘t want to be identified as ‘Whitey.‘  If this is happening in primarily African-American wards, that‘s an even bigger concern.  I don‘t know if this is machine politics at play or why this happened.” 

The “Chicago Sun-Times” reported that the misspelling of Mr.  Whitney‘s name appears on the review screen that appears after a voter has made his or her electronic voting choice.  So Chicagoans in those 23 wards, do not freak out when you chosen to vote for Green Party candidate Rich Whitney. 

But then, on the review screen, holy smokes, he‘s been transformed into “Rich Whitey.”  It is a typo, not a comic book-style dramatic unveiling.  It was also a typo that they are trying to fix. 

The spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections Jim Allen telling the “Sun-Times” today that 90 percent of voters do not vote electronically and Mr. Whitney‘s name is spelled right on the paper ballot. 

When we reached Mr. Allen this afternoon, he told us the Board of Elections is in the process of testing a potential solution and that the problem of Mr. Whitney being listed as “Whitey” on the electronic vote machine should hopefully be fixed by next Saturday, by which time early voting on electronic machines will have already been underway for nearly a week. 

Mr. Whitney, I don‘t have anything to do with this having gone so horribly wrong, but I am still very, very, very, very sorry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Today and yesterday, in just the last two days, 14 NATO troops have been killed in Afghanistan - six killed yesterday, eight more killed today in five separate attacks. 

While violence is ramping up in the war, efforts to end the war are taking some really dramatic turns.  The “New York Times” and others reported today that in addition to fighting the Taliban on the increasingly deadly battlefields of Afghanistan, U.S.-led forces there are also now, quote, “permitting the movement of senior Taliban leaders to attend initial peace talks in Kabul.” 

Think about that for a second.  I mean, everybody has admitted far while that the war will end in Afghanistan the way most wars end, through talking, through negotiation.  Gen. Petraeus, late last month, started prepping the U.S. public for this when he outlined the preconditions the Afghan government was setting for talks with the Taliban to star. 

Gen. Petraeus said, quote, “This is how you end these kinds of insurgencies.”  It‘s understandable enough in theory.  These things end by talking.  But in practice, it is harder to fathom, U.S. forces knowing who senior Taliban leaders are, knowing where they are, and knowingly letting them pass safely on their way to Kabul and then presumably back home against to keep fighting U.S. troops. 

Joining us now is Brian Katulis.  He is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.  He specializes in U.S. national security policy the Middle East and in South Asia.  Brian, thanks very much for being here tonight.  We appreciate your time. 

BRIAN KATULIS, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Hi, Rachel.  How are you?

MADDOW:  Good.  It is tough to fathom U.S. troops letting Taliban leaders pass safely when so many U.S. troops are still being killed by the Taliban.  And the only reason it makes sense is if these negotiations are really going to end the war.  Do you really think it‘s likely that they really are? 

KATULIS:  Well, I don‘t think anybody really knows the answer to that question.  And I would draw a parallel to Iraq.  You know, we all know the violence is down in Iraq.  A big part of it wasn‘t because we added more troops.  I mean, that was one factor.  But a big part of it was that we reached out to some of those insurgents that were attacking Iraqi forces. 

And today, we actually have an Iraqi government and a parliament has formed that actually has political movement that has American blood on their hands.  So that‘s a part of the nature of these conflicts, you know. 

MADDOW:  In terms of that parallel with Iraq, one of the interesting things, of course, about what happened in 2006 is that those insurgent groups, on their own, decided that they wanted to be a part of negotiating some sort of solution, some sort of solution that excluded groups like, say, al-Qaeda in Iraq. 

Once those insurgent groups decided that on their own, U.S.  forces decided to get in and try to facilitate it.  Is that same sort of thing happening in Afghanistan where this is happening organically among Afghans and that we are just trying to help?  Or are we making this happen? 

KATULIS:  I think it may be happening organically.  The key factor here, the difference, is Pakistan and the fact that in Pakistan, a lot of these militant groups have a safe haven and we know this. 

You know, U.S. operations have gone across the border.  There have been multiple drone strikes there.  And some elements of the Pakistani security establishment have supported elements of the insurgency.  So they‘re the key wildcard that make it a little bit more complicated than Iraq and we have to be careful about these parallels that brought the comparison up. 

But this, you know, is very complicated.  I would categorize these reconciliation talks and everything that Sec. Gates is talking about in Brussels right now as very important, but also easier said than done.  Very hard to execute and actually get right. 

MADDOW:  Well, how involved are we in the talks?  Do we know?  I mean, are we counting on the Afghan government to be able to come to an enforceable deal?  Or are we actually involved in trying to make this happen and will be involved in trying to make it stick? 

KATULIS:  Well, I think the U.S. has been involved in multiple efforts for several years now, going back to - as far back as 2002 to bring some elements of the Taliban back in.  I think the only way it really works is if this is an Afghan-led process, if actually Karzai and others in the Afghan government can actually facilitate a power-sharing deal. 

If it‘s any way seen to be something that we execute ourselves, it may not sustain itself.  And at the end of the day, all of the parties have got to agree to it.  I think the news reports in “The Wall Street Journal” and “The New York Times” you‘re talking about allude to a NATO official saying that the U.S. has facilitated some travel. 

A lot of this has happened before, too, in places like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  There have been talks about talks for years.  And I think we need to wait to see if there‘s more there in terms of whether there‘s a sustainable agreement here. 

MADDOW:  Right.  And one of the things that I know that you have worked on and studied is the connection between the war effort and Americans‘ feelings about the war. 

KATULIS:  Right. 

MADDOW:  If this is the way the war ends, either in the short term or in the medium term, or, god forbid, the long term, tell us how you see this playing out here.  I mean, we sent U.S. troops to oust the Taliban. 

KATULIS:  Right.

MADDOW:  They (UNINTELLIGIBLE) insurgency against the new Afghan government we installed.  Ten years, later that government makes a deal with the Taliban.  How does that play out here among the American public? 

KATULIS:  Well, here, the key factor, number one, is the American public perceives that we‘re safer as a result of all these actions.  We‘re in Afghanistan because of the 9/11 attacks. 

And I think if there is a sense that we‘ve actually degraded al-Qaeda and others, I think if we passed that test - I think we may have already passed that test when you hear statistics like 50 to 100 al-Qaeda representatives perhaps in Afghanistan.

Then, beyond that, I think there‘s this issue of most Americans today, sadly, I think, are disconnected from these wars.  I know you were out in Afghanistan earlier this summer.  The burden of these wars is actually being borne mostly by the troops, other people serving in the U.S.  government and their families. 

That‘s a very narrow slice of the American public.  And because we‘re financing this war and all of our wars on borrowed money, most Americans don‘t feel the financial impact of this. 

So the sad thing is that when you look at the midterm elections and the politics of national security, the vast majority of Americans aren‘t affected by what‘s going on right now. 

And this disconnection, think, is one of the most dangerous things.  So, you know, I think there‘ll be less attention to how this ends, if it ends peacefully. 

MADDOW:  Which is bad in the sense of our moral obligation to be connected to this fighting and dying in our name. 

KATULIS:  Absolutely. 

MADDOW:  And it may be good in the sense of actually trying to wind down the war without it being politicized and extended for vainglory.  Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, thanks very much for joining us.  I really appreciate it. 

KATULIS:  All right.  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Straight ahead.  Look what Americans can do.  Art plus infrastructure plus utility equals a very happy ending to the show tonight.  Please stay with us for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  This time of the midterms, it‘s debate season.  Yay!  Harry Reid and Sharron Angle debated tonight in Nevada.  Yes, there were fireworks.  And yes, we have the best of them, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In Nevada, tonight, it is the very first only debate between the Senate majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid, and his Republican Senate challenger, Sharron Angle.  And we can now pronounce dead the stupid beltway anti-Democratic common wisdom that Democrats shouldn‘t defend health reform this year. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARRON ANGLE ®, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE IN NEVADA:  Obama Care cut $500 billion out of Medicare right at a point where senior citizens need to have that Medicare Advantage.  That‘s where their choices are. 

It also costs us $500 billion in new taxes.  The solutions to the health care insurance cost problem are simple, and they reside within the free market.  We need to get the government out so we can go across state lines to choose insurance companies.  We need to get the government out of the process so that we can take off those mandated coverages. 

We need to get the government out so we can have tort reform, so we can expand the pools.  But solutions to the health care cost of insurance are free market. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sen. Reid? 

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  The facts are wrong, how you read the Medicare under the medical people today - here today, the fact that - a letter from Sec. Sebelius.  Medicare Advantage people in the state of Nevada are going to pay less rather than more. 

There will be more Medicare Advantage people on the rolls now as a result of health care being passed.  My opponent doesn‘t like any insurance companies to have to do anything.  She‘s against mammogram, colonoscopies, and as we‘ve heard lately, insurance covering kids that have autism.  That‘s really extreme. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is there anything at all that you think the insurance companies should be mandated to cover?  Anything? 

ANGLE:  Anything at all? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

ANGLE:  I think that what we - what we have here is a choice between the free market and Americanism.  Americanism is about choices and we need to allow people to have those choices. 

The free market will weed out those companies that don‘t offer as many choices and don‘t have a cost-effective system.  Let the people decide where they want to buy their insurance.  You don‘t have to force them to buy anything.  And you don‘t have to force anyone to offer a product that no one wants. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  So no insurance mandates. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  No insurance mandates, right, Sharron Angle?  The insurance companies will take care of it, just like they were if we would just them alone.  Here is what happened on unemployment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you believe that getting jobs for Nevadans is not your job? 

ANGLE:  I believe that my job is to create the policies that will encourage the private sector to do what they do best, and that is to create jobs. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That would be a no.  OK.  Sen. Reid, your response?

REID:  Yesterday or the day before, we had a company from China come here to create 1,000 jobs.  They‘ve already leased a warehouse.  They‘re going to make LED lighting, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) windmills.

That is a result of tax policies that I put in a bill.  We have now $2 billion worth of work going on in Nevada with renewable jobs.  And that‘s a result of tax policy incentives that have them to do that.  They came here for it.

And as a result tax policy, we have a $3 billion project going on there today.  Harrah‘s - as a result - (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and bill there, we saved 31,000 jobs at Harrah‘s alone.  All these things I‘ve talked about, my opponent is against those.  She wouldn‘t do that.  My job is to create jobs.  What she is talking about is extreme. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Extreme - there seems to be a theme here.  Much more on that debate coming up with the “LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL.”   Lawrence‘s special guest, the person missing from the podium, Nevada Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian who is running against both of those candidates.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  For your appreciation, I hereby submit the freaking awesomeness of the Hoover Dam, an American landmark described upon its dedication 75 years ago this year as the eighth wonder of the world; 726 feet tall, more than 1,200 feet wide.

It not only harnessed the Colorado River, it served as a mass of concrete metaphor for the think big, aim high, get it done spirit of America. 

If you have not already visited the Hoover Dam, if you haven‘t already driven across it, chances are you want to and you should.  You really should - only 30 miles from Vegas.

When you get there, you will see that the Hoover Dam now has a buddy - the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, another edifice of awesomeness, dedicated today, the largest concrete arch bridge in the western hemisphere, spanning even higher and even wider than Hoover Dam across the same black canyon. 

It is as spectacular as it is ginormous, the “Las Vegas Review” reporting that tourists now visiting the Hoover Dam cannot help but swing themselves around and take photos of the new bridge nearby instead. 

The Hoover Dam now is the perfect place from which to view the new bridge.  The new bridge, at least the little viewing platform they built right off of it, the best vantage point to take in the amazing Hoover Dam. 

It used to be you had to be in a helicopter to get a view of the dam like that.  Now, the bridge is officially called the Mike O‘Callaghan-Pat Tillman Bridge.  It was named after a former governor of Nevada, and Pat Tillman, the army ranger who gave up his career as a football player with the Arizona Cardinals to serve in Afghanistan, where, of course, he was killed by friendly fire. 

Now, the Federal Government recognized about 40 years ago that we needed to find another way to get cars across that stretch of the Colorado River, the main route between Vegas and Phoenix. 

The need for the project became particularly acute after 9/11, when the trucks were prevented from coming across the dam out of fear that the dam was now a terrorist target.  Trucks were diverted and they had to drive 30 miles around through Laughlin, Nevada to avoid the route. 

It took the government to take action on this.  It took government action nine years, $214 million to build this much-needed bridge, crane by crane, column by column, across the mighty Colorado, built by Americans in America, non-outsource-able jobs that kept those workers employed for nine years, because a choice was made. 

People had to decide to build the bridge and then commit the resources and the time to do it.  Stuff like this exists because people chose to build it.  We found the money to pay for it.  We developed the technology to get it done. 

But today, in this country right now, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that we shouldn‘t try anymore.  Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put the kibosh on a tunnel project, the tunnel that would have connected his state to New York City.

It would have provided some much-needed relief for the one single tunnel that, for 100 years, has handled all of the train traffic from the mainland United States west of the Hudson River into Manhattan, another engineering marvel, the largest concentration of people, a wealth of industry that this country has, all of it existing on an island just 11 miles long and connected to the rest of the United States only by bridges and tunnels.

Gov. Christie of New Jersey has decided that his state can no longer afford the third of the cost it would be responsible for, no matter the upside would be, no matter the economic activity that it would facilitate, neither the construction jobs created by building the tunnel.  Those can just go away.

The $600 million already spent on constructing this tunnel - he decided it can be thrown away.  Forget it.  We don‘t want to compete like this anymore. 

Now, that tunnel might still happen.  Private financing or the federal government may pick up Chris Christie‘s share of the cost.  But the vision thing, the American can-do spirit of thinking big, aiming high and getting stuff done - it has been replaced with “We can‘t afford it.  We shouldn‘t bother.  We‘re not capable of stuff like that anymore.  Let China do it.  We can‘t be bothered.” 

The new Hoover Dam bypass bridge is something they started building nine years ago.  Imagine proposing building it today.  Imagine making the case today, say, before the midterms.  They‘re making this kind of investment in our future.

Imagine the reaction on the political right.  You‘ve got to decide you want to build stuff.  You‘ve got to find a way to pay for it, to develop the technology to make it happen.  It does not happen on its own. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is, out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. 

If we are to go only halfway or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment, it would be better not to go at all. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  We are either still that country or we‘re not.  We can either do stuff, awesome stuff, or can‘t be bothered.  It is an overt choice that we‘ve got to make. 

That does it for us tonight, and we will see you again tomorrow night.  And now it is time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL.”  Lawrence, good evening. 

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

END   

Copyright 2010 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.  All materials herein are protected by

United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,

transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written

permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,

copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

WATCH 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.