updated 10/19/2010 9:52:09 AM ET 2010-10-19T13:52:09

Guests: Chris Hayes, Meghan McCain

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening.  And thank you for being with us tonight.

It is two weeks until the elections.  And now, two weeks before the elections, it is finally become clear what is going to happen in those elections and why.  It had not been clear before because over the past few weeks, in particular, the media narrative about what‘s going to happen in this year‘s elections has turned into a Republican campaign ad.  There has been no daylight over the last couple week between how the Beltway media has been explaining what‘s going to in politics and what conservative candidates say they want to happen in American politics.

In other words, the message is that the Beltway media is using to explain what‘s happening in the elections right now happened to be the exact same messages that Republicans are using in their campaign ads.  This may be one of those things easier to show than say.

So, here‘s just one example.  Here‘s the spin as dictated to us by the punditocracy.  It‘s the deficit.  That‘s what the elections are all about, the deficit.

The reasons Republican are going to pick up seats in this election is because people are fed up with the deficit.  That‘s the media spin.  “The Republican Party‘s focus on reducing the federal deficit may be resonating with independent vote who could swing the midterm elections.”

You know, conveniently, here‘s that exact same spin in a typical Republican campaign ad this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK FLEISCHMANN ®, TENNESSEE CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  Deficit spending is the number one threat to our country.  It is immoral to spend money we don‘t have.  The federal government like my family and yours has got to live within its means.  My solution to the budget crisis is plain and simple: stop spending our money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  See, these two dovetail really nicely, right?  It‘s a perfect spin cycle.  The Republicans say we want to bring down the deficit.  And then the media says, Republicans will win because they want to bring down the deficit.  That‘s what explains the election.  It‘s the deficit.

No, it‘s not.  If it were the deficit, this would not have just happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST:  You want to extend all, all the Bush tax cuts which would add $4 trillion to the deficit.

You say balance the budget by cutting spending.  Question: As a bottom line business woman, where are you going to find $4 trillion to cut?

CARLY FIORINA ®, CALIFORNIA SENATE CANDIDATE:  Well, let‘s just start with the fact that as you pointed out in your last interview, spending has skyrocketed out of control in the last two years.

WALLACE:  But forgive me, Ms. Fiorina.  Where are you going to cut -

where are you going to cut entitlements?  What benefits are you going to cut?  What eligibilities are you going to change?

      

FIORINA:  You know, Chris, I have to say, with all due respect, you‘re asking a typical political question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina of California on “FOX News Sunday” yesterday.  Mr. Wallace went on to ask her seven times in total what she would cut to offset the $4 trillion in lost revenue from extending all of the Bush tax cuts.  Seven times he asked her before in exasperation, he just quit.

If the Republicans really were poised to gain seats in this election because they‘re so credible on fixing the deficit, then major Republican candidates would not be on TV two weeks before the election proposing to add $4 trillion to the deficit with no corresponding cuts, no way to balance and it no explanation.

And this is not just true right now.  This is not just Carly Fiorina falling apart.  This has been true the whole campaign season.

Months ago, you‘ll remember that we traded fake campaign ads with Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio of Florida, after he started fundraising weirdly using my name.  We finally boiled it down to just asking Mr. Rubio over and over and over again, even using signs, about his economic plan, which is to add $3.5 trillion to the deficit, $3.5 trillion.

How can you propose adding $3.5 trillion to the deficit and call yourself a fiscal conservative?

At that point, Mr. Rubio, stop playing with us and started ignoring that question that we were asking.

If what is about to happen in these elections is all about

Republicans having such credibility on the deficit, what happened between us and Marco Rubio would not have happened.  What happened with Carly Fiorina yesterday on “FOX News Sunday” would not have happen.

We keep hearing from Republican candidates and we keep hearing from the media that spin the elections for Republican this is year, we keep hearing how much concern about the deficit explains why Republican are going to pick up seats in this election.  It‘s the deficit.  That‘s what explains this election.

No, it‘s not.  Not this election and not these Republicans.

But when we are not hearing that it‘s the deficit, they‘ve got another example.  They‘ve got another explanation for what‘s happening.  They‘re telling us that maybe it‘s not the deficit.  Maybe it‘s big government.

Big government is what explains what‘s going to happen in these elections.  The Republicans are poised to pick up seats in these elections because they represent a rejection of big government.  That‘s what we‘re hearing from the media.  “As Views of Big Government Go, So Go Dems Out the Door.”

Conveniently, it‘s not just what we‘re hearing in the media.  It‘s also what we are hearing from the people who are trying to elect Republicans this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I woke up one morning and it was there, big government on my back.

It‘s a huge problem.  It‘s affecting everyone.  Congress supported big health care, big bailouts, big debt.

Get Washington off our backs.  Stop big government on Election Day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  And, again, these two things dovetail nicely, right?  There‘s these conservatives, as the Family Research Council, they say they want to get big government off our backs.  And then the media says, Republican will win because they want to get big government off our backs.

That‘s what explains the election, see?  It‘s big government.

No, it‘s not.  If it were big government, this would not be happening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

NARRATOR:  Sharron Angle voted against background checks to identify sex predators.  She said rape victim should be forced to have the baby.

KEN BUCK ®, COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE:  I am pro-life.  And I‘ll answer the next question.  I don‘t believe in the exceptions of rape or incest.

NARRATOR:  That‘s right, even in case of rape, Ken Buck, he‘s too extreme for Colorado.

NARRATOR:  In Carl Paladino‘s New York, victims of rape or incest would be denied the right to choose.  He would make them victims a second time.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  This year, we have a slate of Republican candidates running for office who want a federal government so big that it makes decisions about every pregnancy in the country.  It decides them by fiat.

We have the most extreme slate of big government, criminalized abortion candidates that has ever run for office, running for office this year.  So, even though we keep hearing from Republican candidates and the media that is spinning the elections for them, how much concern about big government explains why Republicans are going to pick up seats in these elections, that‘s what explains the election, right?  It‘s big government?

It‘s not.  Not this election.  Not these Republicans.

But when we are not hearing that it‘s big government, we‘re hearing that maybe it‘s—it‘s the stimulus.  Oh, yes.  The stimulus.  Yes, the stimulus is what explains what‘s going to happen in these elections.

Republicans are poised to pick up seats because they oppose the stimulus.  The stimulus was such bad policy, everybody knows that their stimulus didn‘t work.  That‘s the line from the media.  That‘s the line from Republicans and the reality of it is on display today yet again.

Yet another report outed yet another batch of Republicans who were happy to rail against the stimulus but then proved by their actions that they did not believe their own rhetoric when they asked for stimulus money to boost jobs in their own districts, Republicans like Pete Sessions of Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETE SESSIONS ®, TEXAS:  Democrats have forced their tax and spend policies through Congress killing jobs and drowning our nation in debt.  No to budget-busting stimulus bills.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Pete Sessions said those things in public while simultaneously asking for stimulus funds on the side, writing to the Transportation Department that stimulus funds will, quote, “create jobs and stimulate the economy.”

And it‘s not just Pete Sessions.  It‘s all of these other A-list supposed conservatives.  It‘s John McCain, it‘s Ron Paul, it‘s Mitch McConnell, it‘s Michele Bachmann even.  They‘ve all asked for stimulus lust dollars to fund jobs in their districts even while they say publicly that that stimulus program didn‘t make any jobs.

So, we keep hearing from Republican candidates and from the media that is spinning the elections for them how much opposition to the stimulus explains why Republicans are going to pick up seats in these elections.  That‘s what explains the election, right?  It‘s the stimulus.

No, it‘s not.  Not this election.  Not these Republicans.

When we‘re not hearing that it‘s the deficit or it‘s big government or it‘s the stimulus, they‘ve tried out maybe it‘s Obamacare.  Yes, maybe it‘s Obamacare.  Republicans poised to pick up seats because they opposed Obamacare.

Obamacare, a classic example of liberal government overreach.  Republicans will win this year because they opposed it.  That‘s the line from the media and that‘s the line from Republicans.

The reality is that on the day that the trial starts, where the Virginia‘s conservative attorney general is show boat suing the federal government to stop health reform, the show boat conservative governor of Virginia has just finished taking credit for all the new funding that the state of Virginia is getting from health reform.

So even though we keep hearing from Republican candidates and the media that is spinning the elections for them how much opposition Obamacare explains how Republicans are going to pick up seats in these elections, then how do you end one show boat conservative candidates running on everything that health reform is doing f their state?  They keep saying, it‘s Obamacare. That‘s what explains this election.

No, it‘s not.  Not this election and not these Republicans.

When we‘re not hearing that it‘s deficit or big government or the stimulus or Obamacare, they‘ve also have tried on the idea that maybe it‘s economic populism.  It‘s the economic populism that Republicans represent.  Yes, Republicans are poised to pick up seats because they represent a populist message.

It all started with Rick Santelli on CNBC.  It‘s all about being against the Wall Street bailout and it boils down to personal responsibility and being against those fat cats on Wall Street.  That‘s the line from the media and Republicans, right?

The reality is that Republicans have nominated people like Pat Toomey, a former derivatives trader, to be the Senate candidate in Pennsylvania.  That‘s stepping up against the Wall Street cats.  They‘ve nominated former D.C. lobbyist Dan Coats to be their Senate candidate in Indiana.

Even though we keep hearing from Republican candidates and the media that is spinning the elections for them how much economic populism explains why Republicans are going to pick up seats in these elections, that‘s what explains this election.  It‘s this populism thing.

It‘s really not.  Not this election and not these Republicans.

When it‘s not the deficit or big government or stimulus or Obamacare or populism—they‘ve tried on this idea that maybe it‘s about being political outsiders.  Yes, Republicans are poised to pick up seats because they‘ve nominated all these outsider non-candidate candidates, all these political novices who are bringing a breath of fresh air to people who are sick of seeing the same name and the same faces come election season.  That‘s the line from the media, that‘s the line from the Republicans.

The reality is that these Republican political novices—supposedly

are people like Sharron Angle, an elected Nevada state legislator for seven years; Ken Buck, who is an elected district attorney in Colorado;

Christine O‘Donnell, a perennial Senate candidate.  This is her third run for Senate in five years.

Joe Miller is now refusing to answer questions about the time he misused government computers in his former government job in an attempt to become chair of the state Republican Party.

This is not your neighbor running for office.  This is not your buddy who has never been interested in the issues before.  These aren‘t political novices.  There aren‘t outsiders.

There are perennial, sometime crank, candidates who are good enough at talking to the media and the media is cowed enough by conservative bullying that they have been imagineered into credible candidates.

So, even though we keep hearing from Republican candidates and the media how much nominating outsiders explains why Republicans are going to pick up seats in these elections, that‘s what explains these elections.  It‘s outsiders.

It‘s not.  The narratives that are now being pushed by the media and by Republicans about how they‘re all just populists, they‘re all just small government amateurs—those narratives are wrong.

Bob McDonnell, the conservative hero governor of Virginia before getting elected, he wrote about wanting to use the power of government to punish fornicators.

Christine O‘Donnell started her professional political career touring the country promoting the idea that homosexuality can be cured, that condoms cause AIDS and that having sex with yourself is adultery.

Mike Lee, the Republican Senate candidate in Utah, is running on the platform that people should not be allowed to vote for senator because he wants to repeal the 17th Amendment.

John Raese, Republican Senate candidate in West Virginia is saying he wants to return to 19th century labor laws.  Yes, in West Virginia.  He‘s out on the stump calling our nation‘s energy secretary now, Steven Chu, calling him Dr. Chow Mein.

Ron Johnson running for Senate in Wisconsin against Russ Feingold, has a theory that there is global warming in the world, but he believes it‘s caused by sun spots.

Rich Iott, running for the House in Ohio, exposed by the “Atlantic Monthly” for dressing up in a Nazi uniform as a hobby.  His campaign has defended the choice on the grounds that hey, the SS really weren‘t as bad as the Nazi Nazis.  They‘re just the SS.

The response to that in the Republican Party is that House Minority Leader John Boehner has decided to let the guy keep the $5,000 donation that Mr. Boehner‘s PAC gave to him.

Carl Paladino, running for, envying most recently against pornographers, coming after our kids—who also known for emailing video after video after video after video of hardcore pornography with his own approving captions to his friends and supporters.

Sharron Angle, running for Senate in Nevada, embracing the John Birch Society conspiracy about the evils of fluoride in the water.  And more worryingly, repeatedly threatening that conservatives should be expected to take up arms, to use Second Amendment remedies if they don‘t get what they want in the next election.

Joe Miller running in Alaska after running in the primary by having people show up with open carry assault rifles in Alaska parades.  This weekend, he had his own private security detail handcuff and fake-arrest a reporter who was trying to ask him questions at a public forum.

There was not an ideological coherence to what‘s going on in right wing politics.  There‘s not a cogent argument to make about what kind of challenge these folks present and what‘s going to happen in these elections.

It‘s not the deficit.  It‘s not big government.  It‘s not the stimulus.

It‘s not Obamacare.  It‘s not populism.  It‘s not that all of these people are outsiders.

It‘s none of these things.  These things are all provably not what‘s going on.  They‘re not bolstered by the facts no matter how many times you hear from the Beltway media.  This is not what‘s happening.

But the media dressing these guys up like there is some coherent narrative, like there is some cogent argument here, that conveniently obscures what‘s really going here, which is that we are on the precipice of elevating the federal office, the most extreme and in some cases strange set of conservative candidates in a lifetime.

Yes, this has happened to a smaller degree before.  In 1994, in the first midterm election after the last Democrat president was elected, we got a slate of candidates that included Helen Chenoweth of Idaho, Steve Stockman of Texas.  These two were so close to the militia movement in this country that Mr. Stockman actually received advance notice that the Oklahoma City bombing was going to happen.

There are extremist candidates who from time to time survive the churn of electoral politics and actually make it into the mainstream.  There‘s always a few.  But there has never been this many.

None of this makes any sense.  We‘re just about to elect a whole bunch of extremists—unless thing change in the next two week.

Two weeks out.  How do Democrats run against this?  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We‘re very excited about Meghan McCain joining us tonight here on the set.  But we got worried when she tweeted this early today, quote, “Sick as a dog, trying to get as many vitamins in my system as possible before going on Maddow tonight.”  Like a nature (ph) alert.  Uh-oh!

But then a little bit later on, she tweeted this.  Quote, “Don‘t worry, I‘m not canceling Maddow tonight.  My voice just sounds like Kathleen Turner and I‘m going to need a bit more make-up.”

More make-up, not a problem.  We buy it in bulk.  Kathleen Turner voice, I will also talk that way throughout the interview in solidarity.

Meghan McCain is here in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Common wisdom about this year‘s elections is that Democrats can only win if they do not run on their records as Democrats.  They can only win if they do everything they can to convince voters that they‘re not even really Democrats.  They can only win by highlighting the issues that Republicans believe should be highlighted.  Another great example of Beltway common wisdom, being exactly what Republicans want it to be.

But not all Democrats are going along with it this year.  Some are defying the dumb common wisdom and running aggressive campaigns that not only tout their campaigns but also attack Republican—their Republican opponents for what the Democrats see as politically indefensible conservative extremism.

A few week ago, we showed you an ad that is still one of the best examples out of there of a Democrat committing in politics, going on the offense against her opponent.  It is an ad from Illinois Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson n which targets Republican Adam Kinzinger for his stance on Social Security.  Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  And Adam Kinzinger supports plan to raise the retirement age.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How old do you have to be to retire?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s not right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t even think about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You just don‘t get it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t you dare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Keep your hands off my Social Security, Adam.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re out of your tree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re a young guy and you got a lot to learn, Adam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You‘re out of your tree.

Debbie Halvorson, the congresswoman behind that ad is a first-term Democrat who unseated a Republican to win her seat in the 11th district of Illinois.

When we first came across that ad last month, we pointed out that essentially, all Democratic candidates could run some version of that anywhere in the country.

Not only does the ad nail the Republican Party on a party position that they really don‘t want to be associated with.  It also defends a cornerstone Democratic Party value.

Weeks later, we are seeing more Democrats join Congresswoman Halvorson in defying the common wisdom.  Take Democrat Russ Feingold who‘s in the fight of his career against Ron Johnson to try to hold on to his Senate seat in Wisconsin.

Here‘s Russ Feingold landing a punch for Social Security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN SENATE CANDIDATE:  Mr. Johnson says where Social Security is concerned, everything is on the table, even privatization for some.  Here‘s my position—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Subtle.  Privatizing Social Security, off the table for Senator Feingold no matter how many globes or tea kettles or hot air popcorn poppers he has to sacrifice in order to illustrate the point.

Another economic issue Democrats have been on offense about is outsourcing, specifically how Republicans who claim that they‘re for job creation have been themselves personally responsible for shipping American jobs overseas.

Once again we bring you Senator Russ Feingold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Unfair trade practices by China destroyed our mill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  While Russ Feingold is leading the fight against these abuses and bad trade deals, Ron Johnson endorsed deals like the one we have with China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He calls it creative destruction.

NARRATOR:  As the CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina laid off 30,000 workers.

FIORINA:  When you‘re talking about massive layoffs which we did, perhaps the work needs to be done somewhere else.

NARRATOR:  Fiorina shipped jobs to China.  And while Californians lost their jobs, Fiorina tripled her salary, bought a million-dollar yacht and five corporate jets.

FIORINA:  I‘m proud of what I did at HP.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, Debbie Halvorson, Democrats running against common wisdom on the economy—Democrats running on the economy on their own agenda and against the Republican economic agenda, in a way that the common wisdom this year says Democrats are not supposed to do.  You guys are supposed to be pretending you‘re Republicans.

But in a year when Republicans winning big gains would, first and foremost, result in the country getting the farthest right extreme slate of conservative candidates we have ever elected, certainly in my lifetime and probably in several.  Frankly, the biggest step the Democrats have to take across the country is to define who and where Republicans are out this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

NARRATOR:  Sharron Angle would wipe out Social Security, Medicare, and she‘d privatize the V.A.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She‘s wild.  She‘s wild.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  So, no insurance mandates.

NARRATOR:  Not if Sharron Angle has her way.  That‘s extreme and dangerous.  And she‘d make abortion a crime.

NARRATOR:  No wonder Fiorina is endorsed by Sarah Palin.  Carly Fiorina—just too extreme for California.

NARRATOR:  Extreme beauty, extreme sports—good extremes in Colorado.

But what about Ken Buck‘s extreme ideas?  Maybe Ken Buck asked the right question.

BUCK:  I‘m an extremist?  I‘m an extremist?

NARRATOR:  Ken Buck, he shouldn‘t be speaking for Colorado.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Joining us now is Chris Hayes.  He‘s Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine and a contributor here at MSNBC.

Good to see you, Chris.  Thanks for joining us.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Thank you, Rachel.  I‘m sitting here in my tree in the Beltway.

MADDOW:  Very good.

Well, give us some Beltway uncommon wisdom, Mr. Hayes.  I feel like from my seat in the liberal media ivory tower near New York City, I feel like everything coming out of the Beltway is telling Democrats that they need to lay low, run on local issues, hope people don‘t notice what party you‘re affiliated with and just make sure you don‘t take on anything that might indicate what party you‘re in.

Is that‘s the advice that I feel like Democrats are getting.  Do you feel like that I‘m reading that right?

HAYES:  I think you‘re right.  I mean—and I think the problem, right, is that you can‘t—people understand what a defensive crouch looks like.  If you communicate to voters that you‘re embarrassed about what you‘re doing, what your record is, what your ideas are, if you‘re constantly in this—I mean, there‘s this Joe Sestak ad that I saw about his vote for TARP.  And obviously, that‘s a problem for him, right?  Toomey had the good fortune—Pat Toomey, his opponent in Pennsylvania in the Senate race—has the good fortune not having to cast that vote.  The entire 30-second ad was a totally defensive ad.  Everything about it said, basically, I am validating the attack of my opponent.

And I think you‘re absolutely right.  You have to go on the attack for the last two weeks, particularly because you‘re right.  Look, the record of these people, Buck and Angle and Miller and these folks, it really is genuinely very, very extreme, way, way outside of the sort of spectrum of the center in American politics.

MADDOW:  The thing that surprised me is that that extremism, extremism is—you know, extremism in the eye of the beholder.  The only quantitative thing that you can say, which is not a value judgment, but an objective sense, is that you can identify extremism when people are confronted on it and they squirm about it and it try backtrack on their position.

And that keeps happening over and over again on privatize the V.A., privatize Social Security, Second Amendment remedies—all these other things that they have put forward.  Ken Buck squirming on that personhood amendment that would define a fertilize egg as having essentially voting rights in Colorado.  Any time they squirm or change their position on these issues, doesn‘t that mean keep hitting them on it, you hit a weak spot?

HAYES:  Yes, absolutely.  And I think, look, I think you‘re going to see more of that.  I mean, there‘s a certain amount of basic understanding of the dynamics of that.

You‘re seeing it in the Angle race with Harry Reid.  But he really has made Social Security an issue and it‘s a major talking point.  In fact, when she told him to, quote, “man up,” in the debate, she was responding to an attack over Social Security privatization.  She understands that‘s a weakness for her.

So, you‘re going to see more of it.  I will say this, though, it is a little weird that none of this conversation is happening about the legislative agenda of this Democratic Congress over the past two years.  I mean, the things that are most effective are these sorts of, you know, horrid cliches, these sort of Democratic perennials, which are true and good.

I mean, we shouldn‘t privatize Social Security.  We should have a better trade policy.  All that stuff is good, right stuff to attack on, but it is also completely detached from the legislative record of the Democratic Congress and that‘s a little weird, I think.

MADDOW:  When you see people float the idea, and only a few member of Congress have done this, only a few incumbents have done this—but somehow, they‘ve run ads or have followed a line of attack in debates in particular where they are defending the health care ruling, the health care legislation.  They‘re defending health care reform.  In some cases, defending the idea of Wall Street reform, saying that their opponent wants to undo these things.  We‘re seeing a few of them floated but it‘s not becoming a national line.  Why is that?

HAYES:  That, I really honestly don‘t know.  I mean, let‘s take case of Wall Street reform, because that‘s the—the entire Democratic legislative agenda, that pulls the best.  It‘s by far the most popular in the polls.  It was when it passed.

It is now—it‘s good on the merits.  It comes on the heels of the largest financial catastrophe in the last 80 years that the banks caused, everything hates the banks.  You can beat up on the banks and I‘m your opponent, I honestly don‘t understand why every Democrat isn‘t rallying around this piece legislation and around—and forcing their opponent to either defend the status quo, to defend the banks.

The only thing I can think of is that they‘re worried that if they open that up front, then they have to defend the TARP vote.  And that TARP vote is hanging like an albatross across the necks of almost every incumbent Democrat.  Remember, a lot of them were in Congress when they voted for it.  You have more incumbents defending on the Democratic side.

The only possible rationale I could come up with for why this isn‘t a bigger theme is that any invocation of the banks and Wall Street leads people to remember the bailouts, and everybody, a lot of Democrats have that vote on their record that they have to deal with.

MADDOW:  But even if they‘re afraid on TARP, you can—I mean, on partisan grounds, Democrats don‘t have to be anymore afraid of that than Republicans.

HAYES:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  John McCain suspended his campaign and came back to Washington and make sure TARP would pass.  Sarah Palin is on record as being in favor of TARP.  John Boehner cried on the floor of the House asking people to pass TARP.

The Democrats have that as their albatross, it‘s a pretty big albatross and it hangs around the necks of both parties.

HAYES:  Exactly.  And the other thing is, look, you have that vote.  You can‘t go back and undo the vote.  What you can do is talk about the vote you didn‘t take on the right side of the issue that was against the banks that the Republicans, almost an entirely lock stop, voted against. 

And I understand that - the White House, I think, did a pretty good job of trying to make this an issue.  For some reason, it has not caught on in local races.  And I‘m frankly (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

I mean, the other argument, right, is that at the same time that these Democrats are trying to win these races, they‘re also trying to raise a lot of money from the financial sector. 

And so they have this sort of cross-pressured problem, and it is a huge problem for the Democratic Party, you know, at large, that they feel like they can‘t quite lean into that because, at the same time, they‘re dialing for dollars, you know, at Goldman Sachs. 

MADDOW:  They‘ve got two weeks to figure out which side their bread is buttered on. 

HAYES:  Yes, exactly. 

MADDOW:  Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation.”  Chris, it‘s always great to have you.  Thanks.

HAYES:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So tonight, on the interview, I talked to the woman who just yesterday referred to Christine O‘Donnell as a nut job and whose father just doubled down on his right to filibuster any efforts to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” 

Meghan McCain, who has a cold, but who we hope has not shifted yet from DayQuil to NyQuil, is right here, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, COLUMNIST AND AUTHOR:  Well, I speak as a 26-year-old woman.  My problem is that no matter what, Christine O‘Donnell is making a mockery of running for public office. 

She has no real history, no real success in any kind of business.  And what that sends to my generation is one day, you can just wake up and run for Senate no matter how lack of experience you have. 

And it scares me for a lot of reasons.  And I just know in my group of friends, it just turns people off because she is seen as a nut job. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was Meghan McCain speaking this Sunday.  Since then, Christine O‘Donnell‘s campaign has responded with, quote, “Christine overwhelmingly won her primary battle against the establishment candidate, so Ms. McCain‘s vast experience in politics and running for office probably won‘t influence many Delawareans at any age to listen to her latest rant.” 

On the more vicious side was the response from conservative bloggers today.  As “Media Matters” compiled today, much of the conservative bloggers‘ criticism did not focus on Meghan McCain‘s stated opinion at all, but rather much more personal and petty. 

Joining us now for the interview is Meghan McCain, columnist with “The Daily Beast” and author of “Dirty, Sexy Politics,” her campaign memoir.  Meghan, thank you so much for coming back. 

M. MCCAIN:  Well, thank you for having me on. 

MADDOW:  Let me get your response, first of all, to these conservative bloggers who attacked you today.  I know a little about your response because I saw what you posted on Twitter which I thought was perfectly snarky.  What did you - what do you want to say back to those folks, if anything? 

M. MCCAIN:  You know, I love my job and I love my life and I expect this to sort of happen.  Two years ago, there are always scandals.  I‘m over when women say anything in any kind of public forum.  And everything goes back to what they look like and how much I weigh. 

I just don‘t know at which point - these people don‘t know it no longer bothers me.  But I worry about young women.  I have a lot of young women followers - teenagers.  I worry about little girls that are reading my column and reading this stuff and what it does to them. 

It means, “Don‘t speak out because, god forbid, my weight is criticized again.  And it‘s so old.  This is like the oldest thing ever.  It‘s so old.

MADDOW:  I feel like it is - it‘s like, wow, back in junior high.  And the reason - it‘s never surprising when politics go back to junior high level.  But what is surprising is that I feel like, on the right, particularly around Sarah Palin‘s candidacy and her continued ascendancy in the party, so much of the right‘s defense of her has been defending her from supposedly sexist attacks on the left. 

And then to have this sort of brutal, like, pure sexist assault on you, whenever you say anything that‘s critical of conservatives.  I just - I find it hard to understand.  I find it hard to find any coherence there. 

M. MCCAIN:  And I think the irony as well is that you cannot say sexist comments about Sarah Palin and Christine O‘Donnell.  But me, if free game all day, every day.  I don‘t think it‘s just right-wing bloggers.  I think it‘s men. 

I really think it‘s a lot of men on the Internet with a lot of time. 

And they‘re sitting around talking about my body and it is really pathetic.  But again, if I couldn‘t handle this, I wouldn‘t do it.  It‘s been happening literally since junior high so I don‘t care anymore. 

MADDOW:  Do you get defense where people standing up for you in a way that surprises you and makes you happy?  Have you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

M. MCCAIN:  Yes.  I mean, coming on this show, I mean, I know a lot of people continue to say that they like me coming on this show.  Right-wing people - of course you go to her show.  But I appreciate that you‘re letting me talk.  It‘s nice. 

MADDOW:  Well, I‘m sorry that that has to be - I‘m sorry that that has to be a positive thing and not the baseline.  Let me ask you about the comments about Christine O‘Donnell that started this. 

M. MCCAIN:  And again, I did not wake up in the morning being like, “I‘m going to start a big fight with Christine O‘Donnell today.  I had just done a lot of research before I went on a very prestigious Sunday news show.  And I got more and more scared the more research I did. 

MADDOW:  Why does she scare you? 

M. MCCAIN:  Because she has little-to-no qualifications to be a principal, let alone to be a senator.  I mean, it is the ethics complaints.  It‘s the bizarre social things, that she thinks she has secret information about China that‘s going to take over America. 

In any other context, in any other election, this would be a joke.  And originally, people like Karl Rove were against her.  But all of a sudden, everybody is rescinding and now supporting her. 

And the difference between me and everybody else is I am saying what everybody backstage is saying.  And I have the balls to come on television and I sit and I take heat and everything that comes because I do not lie.  And this is how I feel about this woman. 

MADDOW:  Why isn‘t anybody else able to do it?  Because they‘re going to lose their funding?  They‘re going to lose their jobs? 

I mean, one of the things that I have admired about the conservative movement over time, even from before I was born, is that there has been an effort to try to sort of defend the honor of the movement sometimes.  There have been adults who have said, “You know what?  If we‘re going to be identified as conservatives, I‘m not OK with what you are saying about that.” 

There has been some sort of internal - not policing, but at least standards within the movement about what counts as - who gets to be a spokesperson for the party and who actually ought to be exiled. 

M. MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  I don‘t see that happening anymore. 

M. MCCAIN:  There‘s a purity test you have to take, I mean, that has been - that was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by the RNC.  I don‘t know anymore.  I know I am comfortable with who I am as a person and what I speak about, politically.  There are a lot of people - whether these people like it or not, I do have a following with young people. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MCCAIN:  It doesn‘t mean anything.  You know, it could mean nothing to them.  But I am not going to stop speaking out just because a bunch of people are going to bully me around. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you just one last question on the Obama issue and that is the - after her last debate with Chris Coons, it emerged that had she had been prepped for the debate by the same people who prepped Gov. Palin when she was in her vice presidential debate on your dad‘s campaign. 

M. MCCAIN:  I did not know that. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  And it just made me wonder if there is - if there is continuity, if you‘re seeing any continuity between Gov. Palin‘s ascendancy in politics and sort of this year‘s slate of candidates.  Is there - are there lines or are there dots to connect between what happened with her as a vice presidential running mate for your dad and what‘s happening now? 

M. MCCAIN:  And I think there are other women in the Republican politics like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina that don‘t follow this model.  But I think what you‘re seeing are copy cats in a very real, bizarre way.  I wrote about them in my last column.  The media is just obsessed with them. 

And I understand why.  I mean, it gets a lot of time and the echo chamber starts going.  Why?  I don‘t know, but you know, time will tell.  I‘m really interested to see what happens in two weeks. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Me, too.  I know you have a cold.  Do you mind sticking around for a second segment? 

MCCAIN:  No, I‘m OK. 

MADDOW:  One of the things we‘ve talked about in the past I know you‘re very passionate about is gay rights.  Your dad is back on the news on the issue of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  I would love to have some of your response to that.  So if you could - that‘s great. 

Meghan McCain, the author of “Dirty, Sexy Politics” is our guest for the interview tonight.  We‘ll have more of her in just a moment.  Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Tonight, the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy remains under injunction.  It is, right now, not being enforced in the military after a federal judge indicated that she would decline the administration‘s request to reinstate the policy while it is being appealed. 

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips put the hold on enforcement of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” last Tuesday.  Today, she said she is inclined to leave that hold in place.  She is currently weighing arguments from both sides.  She is expected to make a firm ruling maybe later tonight, maybe tomorrow morning. 

The Justice Department has said it will ask the next court up the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to grant the hold if Judge Phillips will not.  If the Appeals Court denies that request, then, presumably the administration will go the Supreme Court and they will likely get that hold then. 

Whatever happens in the court in whatever order it happens, it does seem clear that the courts are not going to be able to stop “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” for long.  And the White House made it clear again this weekend that the administration‘s plan for ending the policy is for the Senate to end it. 

While the administration may be planning for the Senate to end it, here‘s what happens when you ask senators about that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ):  I will go as far as the four service chiefs are now advocated that we do, and that is we have a complete and thorough survey as to the impact of the repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  I will be largely guided by the results of that survey.

And I respect Sec. Gates, but I disagree with him, not on the grounds of whether it should be repealed or not.  But we need to find out what the effect of the repeal might be.  The reason why they to ram it right through the Senate is they know the Senate will look different next January. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you try - if it did come up in the lame duck amid - legislatively, I don‘t know if it is possible.  If it did come up during the lame duck session in November and, again, assuming you‘re reelected, would you filibuster it? 

J. MCCAIN:  Absolutely.  I will filibuster or stop it from being brought up until we have a thorough and complete study of the effect on morale and battle effectiveness. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Joining us once again is a Republican who disagrees with her dad on this particular issue, Meghan McCain, the author of “Dirty, Sexy Politics.”  Meghan, thanks again for sticking with us. 

M. MCCAIN:  Yes, thank you.

MADDOW:  The White House keeps saying they expect that the Senate will repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” after the elections.  I find that impossible to imagine.  Do you think that‘s going to happen? 

M. MCCAIN:  No.  I don‘t either.  I think that the administration should do something about it.  It is awkward to hear and watch my father saying that because I disagree with him.  In my family, me and my mother are against it.  My father -and my brothers who are in the military - (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are against “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” 

MADDOW:  Against repealing it? 

M. MCCAIN:  Against repealing it, yes.  And I think, you know, it‘s a complicated case.  There are lots of families like this across the nation.  You know, I went to Columbia.  I lived in New York City for five years. 

And I just - I feel differently abou8t this issue than my father does and it is very hard for me to sit and watch that because I still do think it is a civil rights issue.  And I think if somebody can go and fight for my country and die for my country, I don‘t really care what they do in their private time. 

MADDOW:  You‘ve been very open about your differences with your dad about this.  But your own strongly-held feelings about it - you‘ve written about your frustration with the Obama administration not doing more to get rid of the policy. 

And you‘ve said that people should hold politicians accountable on this.  What do you think that means?  Does that mean voting against people who don‘t share your civil rights view?  Does that mean demonstrations?  That does mean petitioning people? 

What do you think?  I mean, you‘re a senator‘s daughter.  I mean, from that vantage point, what seems effective to you in terms of moving people in this issue? 

M. MCCAIN:  My frustration is that I consider myself on some level a gay rights advocate.  The gay community doesn‘t seem to want a straight Republican in any way talking for them.  I‘ve had push-backs from other places. 

I can communicate, in a way, with middle America and Republicans, but I don‘t think a liberal person in New York City necessarily can.  This doesn‘t make it right or wrong.  I‘m just saying I think we should communicate in different ways.  And when you say politicians, I‘ve made a lot of promises to the gay community. 

And I remember, on election night, thinking at least now gay marriage will probably be passed in this country with this man elected president.  So I just think that we have to hold him more responsible.  And there seems like -letting him get away with it and he continues to make these promises.  And I don‘t know. 

MADDOW:  I don‘t think there is a lot of anger against him.  I mean, I hear

a lot of it from gay rights advocates, people who are very frustrated with

it.  But I mean, it‘s -

M. MCCAIN:  And there is a whole - more drama going on between gay Republicans, because they‘re two separate organizations that are sort of battling each other out.  So it‘s not a simple issue.   

MADDOW:  You‘ve been - you and Mark McKinnon and other people that I‘ve talked to have been very vocal on this issue.  Let me just play you something.  This is from Colorado Republican Senate candidate, Ken Buck - Ken Buck on “Meet The Press” this weekend.  Let‘s watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you believe that being gay is a choice? 

KEN BUCK ®, REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL NOMINEE IN COLORADO:  I do. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And based on what? 

BUCK:  Based on what? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:   Yes. 

BUCK:  Well, I guess you can choose who your partner is. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You don‘t think it is something determined at birth? 

BUCK:  I think that birth has an influence over it like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that, basically, you have a choice. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You, all this and Mark McKinnon and some gay Republicans have been out there arguing for more Republicans to be more moderate on this issue.  This election cycle, it actually - it seems like it has just gotten a lot worse, not at all better. 

M. MCCAIN:  It‘s very sad. 

MADDOW:  Are there consequences for Republicans for being super anti-gay though?  Does anything bad happen to them politically when they‘re very anti-gay? 

M. MCCAIN:  I don‘t know, actually.  I think it is bad just culturally.  And you do see a lot from Republicans.  But even with Carl Paladino‘s statements, again, it just goes from being I‘m against gay marriage and I‘m against, for “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” but I‘m a bigot as well, like, to me, it filters another territory. 

And we have this whole gay suicide (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that‘s going on with teenagers.  I don‘t think in the same way that I think when you see a woman‘s weight criticized in the media, I don‘t understand how it cannot have an impact on gay teens. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MCCAIN:  You‘re seeing the results right now.  I just worry culturally, where we‘re at, in general.  This man, you know, says he thinks being gay is a choice.  I think it has been scientifically proven and most people believe that, you know, you‘re born gay.  So I don‘t know.  Because it‘s hard enough. 

MADDOW:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like alcoholism.  You know -

M. MCCAIN:  I don‘t know.  It filters - it‘s like one step, for me, into homophobia. 

MADDOW:  Meghan McCain, the author of “Dirty, Sexy Politics,” it‘s always a real pleasure to have you on the show. 

M. MCCAIN:  Thank you.  I wish I had the answers.  I wish I had more answers. 

MADDOW:  OK.  Sometimes the answers are asking harder questions, so I really got that. 

M. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Coming up on “THE LAST WORD,” Lawrence O‘Donnell talks to conservative operative, Roger Stone.  He has a lot of stories to tell. 

Coming up on this show, the president welcomes the nerdiest team of champions ever to visit the White House.  Hail to the geek.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In Reno, Nevada today, Sarah Palin kicked off another Tea Party Express bus tour with a message for folks like us. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK):  Our mainstream news media - you‘ve called them out.  You‘ve shown their true colors.  Their old way of doing business, put a fork in it.  It‘s done. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Actually, we are done.  We have one more segment.  It‘s about science, so I think you‘re going to hate it.  But the rest of us will have to see you in just a moment.  Not done.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  So we welcome championship sports

teams to the White House to celebrate their victories.  I‘ve had the Lakers

here.  I‘ve had the Saints here, the Crimson Tide.  I thought we ought to

do the same thing for winners of the science fairs and robotics contests

and math competitions -

(APPLAUSE)

Because often, we don‘t give these victories the attention that they deserve.  When you win first place at a science fair, nobody is rushing the field or dumping Gatorade over your head. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  President Obama proving today that not only will geeks inherit the earth, they have already begun collecting the first installment of their inheritance as today, the White House had its first ever science fair.  Oh, what a difference a presidential election makes.

Today, more than 80 students at the White House showed off their inventions and their science projects, solar-powered cars, real water purifiers.  These guys made a motorized therapy chair for kids in their school special ed department. 

How did they raise funds important for what they couldn‘t scrounge and have to buy?  In part, they sold tamales made by their moms. 

In another year where science and being seen as smart being are considered political negatives in some quarters, the White House made an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) show of geek solidarity highlighting projects like this robot which apparently shoots ping-pong balls better than other robots that shoot ping-pong balls. 

It was made by the girls on the left there, the “whack and roll robots,” a group of girl scouts from L.A.  Congratulations to them - the tamale selling kids from Phoenix, the spaceship navigation system inventor from Cal-Tech and to all of us who now live in a country where, if your student is great at science, you might get to go to the White and meet the president because we are a country that values smart as much as we value strong and fast.  And that itself seems smart.

Now, it‘s time for THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL.

Speaking of smart, good evening, Lawrence.

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.