'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, Nov. 5th, 2010
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Guests: E.J. Dionne, Amanda Marcotte, Ana Marie Cox
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Hey there. Happy Friday. Anything kind of crazy happen where you work today?
It has been an extraordinary day around here at MSNBC—for reasons you have probably heard about, if not twittered about, if not e-mailed MSNBC about or phoned us here. Later on this hour I hope you will indulge my own thoughts on the issue of why Keith is not at work today, on the issue of double standards and false equivalencies in the cable news business now. It‘s coming up later on this hour.
But we begin tonight with the bombshell news out of the Democratic Party today. Is the lesson of Democrats‘ losses in this week‘s elections that Democrats would have been better off if they‘d been more like Republicans? If they‘d just gone along with more Republican ideas? If they had come up with more Republican light ideas of their own? Is that the lesson?
Or is the lesson of this week‘s elections for Democrats that Democrats need to get in touch with their pugilistic side, to be seen to be standing for something, to be able to articulate their beliefs, to know what their values are and their positions are, and to fight like hell for those values and those positions? This is a question that does not have an empirical answer, right? The answer is in the eye of the beholder.
But in terms of one very important beholder, the answer cranked out by the common wisdom machine is definitely option “A.” If you ask the Beltway punditocracy, the answer is A, if only Democrats are more like Republicans, Democrats will do better. Democrats would have done better in Tuesday night and they‘ll do better in the future if they tact to the right, if they act more like Republicans.
The problem with option A, the problem with that answer is that the Democrats who are most like Republicans got most killed in this week‘s elections. The Blue Dog coalition, the conservative Democrats, saw their numbers reduced roughly by half this election cycle. The Blue Dogs just got proverbially slaughtered in this election.
A vote against health reform was almost predictive of a Democratic loss in this year‘s election -- 34 House Democrats voted “no” on health reform, just over a third of those people are coming back to Congress next session.
Blue Dogs and more conservative Democrats lost big-time this week.
But that has not stopped the Conservadems, the ones who are still left, the ones who still have their jobs, that has not stopped them from trying to gain yet more influence in the party, even after they got killed on Tuesday.
Heath Shuler and Jim Matheson are among the conservative Democrats who said Nancy Pelosi should step down as Democratic leader in the House. Nancy Pelosi should step down, get out of the way and make way for somebody more Republican-ish to take over, somebody more like, say, them.
So, you could take that lesson from these elections. If Democrats were more conservative, they‘d get more votes. Or—
MADDOW: Or you can take a cue from Nancy Pelosi, who today gave her own personal salute to her conservative critics in the party, declaring that she is back, that she is not stepping down, that she intends to run for minority leader in the House. And it should be noted, Nancy Pelosi is good enough at running things in the House that if she is running as minority leader, it is surely because she will—she knows that she will win as minority leader.
It helps, of course, that so many of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats that would have voted against her will be gone. So, the fact she‘s running can probably be taken as a very good predictor that she will win.
E.J. Dionne of “The Washington Post” interviewed Nancy Pelosi less
than 24 hours before she declared her intention to run for minority leader
and let‘s just say she came out swinging. When E.J. asked her why Republicans have attacked her so fiercely, listen to her response. Listen to this.
If you believe that Democrats just need to act more like Republicans and people might accidentally vote for them thinking they‘re Republicans, if that‘s your take on where Democrats are right now, Nancy Pelosi‘s response to this question from E.J. Dionne will probably upset you. But if you believe that Democrats need to get in touch with their inner pugilist, if you believe Democrats are short of one thing and that is spine, this will probably excite you.
So, E.J. Dionne again, asks, “Why did the Republicans attack you so fiercely, Nancy Pelosi?” Here‘s Nancy Pelosi‘s response—quote, “Because I‘m effective.” “Because I‘m effective. It‘s why they had to do it. They had to put a stop to me because we were effective in passing health care reform, which the health insurance industry wanted to stop; Wall Street reform, which Wall Street wanted to stop; student loans for taking the money out of the banks and giving it back to the taxpayer and to the families.”
Nancy Pelosi, why are you running for House minority leader given how much the other side hates you? She says because they hate me because I‘m good at this and that‘s why I should be doing it.
Whatever you think of Nancy Pelosi‘s politics or her policy positions, she has been one of the most effective House speakers in history. Most of the most effective House speakers in history held that job for a very long time, which makes sense because power and the experience necessary to use it well tend to accumulate over time.
Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, was only speaker for four years. But in that time, her list of legislative accomplishments, the volume of things she got passed through the House, rivals anyone in American political history.
Under Nancy Pelosi‘s leadership, we got the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women, we got credit card reform, we got student loan reform, we got the stimulus, we got Wall Street reform, and a new consumer watch dog agency. We got cash for clunkers, we got the children‘s health insurance expansion, the saving of the auto industry, expanded benefits or veterans, a major land conservation bill, a new hate crimes law -- 25 separate tax laws, oh, yes, and health reform, coverage for 32 million uninsured Americans.
The thing is, you‘ve heard that list before. That‘s the “what‘s been accomplished in the Obama era” list because all of things became law. The bigger list even is what Nancy Pelosi was responsible for. What Nancy Pelosi was responsible for and got passed through her House of Congress, stuff that did make it through what Nancy Pelosi was responsible for but didn‘t make it through the Senate. The current count, according to the House records, is 420 pieces of legislation.
That‘s how productive Nancy Pelosi has been as speaker. She‘s churned literally hundreds of bills out of the House that the Senate has yet to act on. They include things like the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” and the cap-and-trade climate change bill—among, as you can see here, many, many, many, many, many others.
In 2007, everybody thought that Nancy Pelosi‘s speakership would be historic because she would be the first woman to hold the speaker‘s gavel. It turns out it was historic for an entirely different reason as well.
The Beltway and Republicans today are shocked—shocked I say, shocked—that Nancy Pelosi wants to stay on as minority leader after the Democratic Party lost control of the House in these midterms. Shocked, shocked.
Of course, that‘s the same Beltway that‘s convinced that voters would have liked the Democrats more if only they were a little less accomplished, a little quieter, a little more Republican-ish.
As E.J. Dionne noted in closing his column, this column that includes the interview with Speaker Pelosi today, quote, “Aren‘t Democrats tired of reflexively capitulating to the other side‘s narrative? That is what Pelosi is counting on.”
Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, columnist for “The Washington Post.”
E.J., thanks very much for being here. Congratulations on the scoop.
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Oh, thank you. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: So, is it—is it a done deal that if Nancy Pelosi wants this job she gets it? I tend to think that she knows the House well enough to know that if she declares, she probably is declaring because she knows she can get it.
DIONNE: She does know how to count votes pretty well as that screen going so fast suggested.
There is no strong opposition to her that‘s emerged yet. Heath Shuler is going to run against her. No one expects him to win. It will probably play well in his district and when he runs for re-election. And there is just no obvious candidate.
So, I think the consensus is she‘s going to win. I mean, the big fight will be—this will kick off a big fight between Steny Hoyer, the number two, and, Jim Clyburn, the whip, because they lose a job when they lose the speakership. That could be a divisive fight. But it looks like Pelosi is not going to have strong opposition.
MADDOW: It does seem like the remarkable decision here, the boldness of this decision is that it implies Nancy Pelosi not only had a plan for getting all that legislation passed, she has a plan to get Democrats into the majority, to have them do better in the next election.
Do you think she has a plan for getting Dems back into the majority?
Is that why she wants to run?
DIONNE: Well, first of all, I think she wants to run because she‘s a warrior and she wants one more crack at them. I think her view is that she‘s come under attacks that are, you know, fundamentally unfair—although it kind of rolls off her.
She said they always go after liberals first. They had taken Kennedy then for a while. They had Hillary Clinton, and then she said, and then you have a progressive and a woman and then she just laughed. She didn‘t finish the thought.
One of the things she said that suggests kind of critique of what the Democrats were doing is she said all the stuff we did was designed to create jobs, but it really did not create a sense among people that over the short term we were doing enough to create jobs. And so, I think what she wants to do is have Democrats very focused in the next two years on what they can do practically to create jobs, infrastructure, for example, probably more aid to states and also holding the Republicans‘ feet to the fire, asking how many jobs are the bills you‘re passing creating in the country?
So, I think it‘s both an offense against the Republicans and an attempt to reconnect with the voters who left the Democrats Tuesday.
MADDOW: The way the Beltway common wisdom works, it sort of posits that people have to be in the middle of the various factions they‘re trying to get to agree on any one thing, in order to get people to come together around those issues. Nancy Pelosi was not that model at all. Nancy Pelosi was definitely a liberal Democrat. And she did have this big majority, but it was a big diverse majority, including all the Heath Shulers of the world.
So, why was she so good at getting legislation passed?
DIONNE: You really have to be in the middle to win. So, the very moderate Republican Party won the election on Tuesday. It‘s really quite striking.
I mean, Pelosi was very aware that this majority the Democrats had depended on a lot of these conservative Democrats. And a lot of these votes—some of those Democrats were simply let off the hook. Pelosi knew that they really couldn‘t vote for some of these bills. And so, that‘s why all these majorities were narrow.
She wasn‘t going to force extra people to cast votes that might hurt them in the election, although, as you pointed out, the folks who voted against health care, it didn‘t help them given the nature of their districts.
But, you know, she is a compromiser. She passed a health bill that didn‘t have the public option in it that she wanted. She‘s passed a lot of the—certainly the cap-and-trade bill was an incredibly complicated compromise.
So, the notion she‘s doctrinaire, I think, is entirely wrong. She wants to move the ball forward in a progressive direction, but she‘s willing to get three quarters of the way there or two-thirds of the way there rather than insist on the whole thing. So, I think it‘s just a mischaracterization of her to see her some kind of a radical.
MADDOW: I think that‘s right and I think in that strategy, in her taking that approach, not denying her liberal beliefs but pursuing them in a way that is about getting points on the board, that is about moving the ball forward, she‘s the most progressive leader the Democratic Party—most accomplished progressive leader the Democratic Party has had in my entire lifetime, in terms of what she‘s actually been able to—what she‘s been able to accomplish legislatively.
E.J.—sorry, go ahead.
DIONNE: I was going to say that a small fact that people don‘t remember, when she ran the first time for Congress in San Francisco, she was the moderate Democrat.
DIONNE: Her opponent actually was a socialist, a self-described socialist. And that‘s how she won in the primary.
MADDOW: Yes, and that‘s where I come from. So, that‘s why I approached Nancy Pelosi all of this time.
E.J., my sense from my perch sort of outside the Beltway is that the Beltway bias is always toward the conservatives. It‘s always toward the conservative Democrats in particular. The Beltway common wisdom always sort of says, hey, scoot to the right, that will work better.
Has—given that, has the reaction to this news in D.C. today been, you know, playing tub-thumpers like me and throwing confetti, or is it being greeted as a bad decision?
DIONNE: Well, I think there‘s a lot of what you say going on. And look, her standing in polls is not high. It‘s not crazy to say, well, should the party have said, thank you for your service, let‘s find somebody new, because they really demonize her and it‘s going to hurt some Democrats. So, there‘s that view.
There‘s the Republicans saying, we love having Pelosi back there.
We‘re glad we‘re doing that.
And then there are a lot of Democrats saying, yes, we need to move to the middle.
But there‘s also—I have run into quite a lot of quiet good for her for not backing down. You know, good for her for wanting to fight this one more time.
So, even within the Beltway, I think there is some for gumption.
And on this whole bias toward the middle, everybody says Bill Clinton won because he went to the middle after the Republicans won. What they forget is that he had a big fight with the Republicans on Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment. Clinton was always a combination of a moderate and with a populist streak in him, at least rhetorically. And it was that combination that worked for him, not just the middle-of-the-road stuff.
MADDOW: Sure. It was him taking a—it was him taking sharp line with the Republicans on—in particular those health care cuts that supposedly drove the Republicans to shut down the government, which I think they were probably going to do anyway. But Clinton refusing to budge in the face of that threat helped define the Republicans probably until now.
DIONNE: And he drew the line.
DIONNE: And I think that‘s the lesson for President Obama. The Republicans drew most of the lines in the last two years. And if he‘s going to come out of this election, he‘s going to have to draw the lines where he wants them to, much as Clinton did on health care and the environment and education.
MADDOW: Tax cuts. Tax cuts.
E.J. Dionne, columnist for “The Washington Post”—thank you for joining us on a Friday night. E.J., I really appreciate it.
DIONNE: Great to be with you. Thank you.
MADDOW: OK. Lots to come. Another one of the races in this week‘s elections that was a big undecided race as of last night has been decided and it has gone to the Democratic candidate. I will tell you which race that is, who the candidate is in just a moment.
Also, Ana Marie Cox is here to talk about how exactly sending George W. Bush‘s budget director back to Washington shows that this is a whole new Republican Party.
Plus, later on, the extraordinary day around here at MSNBC—the suspension of my colleague and friend Keith Olbermann and what the whole thing says about what it is we do around here.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: The great Republican landslide of 2010 sent shockwaves through the capitals. An angry and conservative electorate threw all the bums out and hit a big populist reset on the way things are done in Washington—new blood. It‘s an insurgency, everybody!
Awesome narrative. Such an awesome story about what happened in politics this year. Also, fiction.
Ana Marie Cox joins us for the good but fake news on the all new Republican Party heading back to Washington, D.C.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You know, in Tuesday‘s election, 10 women will appear on the ballot for governor. And almost 150 are running for seat in the U.S. Congress.
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Don‘t forget, you‘ve got mama grizzlies, you have Democratic and Republican women who are absolutely disgusted with Washington politics, and a lot of these people like Sarah Palin and they like her ilk.
CARLY FIORINA (R-CA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: It‘s very exciting.
GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Well, it seems to be the year of the woman in politics.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Year of the woman—year of the Republican woman, year of the conservative Republican woman.
This was one of the favored and exciting means in political coverage this year before the elections. Then the elections actually happened and now you‘re not hearing quite so much breathless coverage, are you, about that while conservative women surge thing? Because this upcoming Congress, the one we just elected, the 112th Congress scheduled to meet on January 3rd, 2011, it will be the first Congress in 30 years to not have more women in it than the one that came before—the first in 30 years. Depending on how the Senate race in Alaska turns out and a few still to be decided races in House, there will be as many or fewer women in Congress next year than there were this year. That has not been the case in a generation.
It is true that there were a ton of high profile Republican women in particular running for Congress and governor this year. They got a lot of media attention. And all of—all of them lost. Meg Whitman in California, Carly Fiorina in California, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O‘Donnell in Delaware, Linda McMahon in Connecticut.
Yes, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Nikki Haley in South Carolina won in their races but, that‘s sort of it. What in the name of Elizabeth Cady Stanton happened here? How did this, the year of the woman after all, how did this end up being one of the worst elections in a generation for women running for office?
Joining us now is Amanda Marcotte. She‘s contributor writer for “Slate‘s DoubleX.”
Amanda, thanks very much for your time.
AMANDA MARCOTTE, SLATE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, what happened? How did this end up being one of the worst elections in a generation for women running for office?
MARCOTTE: Well, it‘s kind of interesting because you would think that with the Republican women running and Republicans winning so many seats, Republican women would have just done better by riding on the coattails. But I actually think that this mama grizzly narrative hurt them in a way because it was about creating an idea where you could both be anti-feminist in your views and your policies and your ideas and even your demeanor, but somehow still feminist in having ambition. And I think that that kind of contradiction didn‘t sit well with some segments of the public and I think it hurt them in the polls.
MADDOW: In terms of, I guess, not just women candidates but women voters, is that sort of discomforting relationship between women‘s ambition and women‘s anti-feminist case to voters? Did it play differently among male and female voters?
MARCOTTE: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think both female and male voters are generally more attracted to policy ideas than they are to somebody‘s gender. And so, you saw the similar spread in male and female votes between female Republicans and male Republicans, which is to say on average 5 percent to 6 percent more men—percentage points more men voted for the Republican than women did. And women rarely voted majority in most states for the female Republican candidate.
MADDOW: OK. I mean, I guess the thing that is—the thing that is so often assumed about female candidates is that they attract female voters. And we saw in the presidential race in 2008 that the—putting a woman as the—as the Republican vice presidential candidate in Sarah Palin did not result in that Republican ticket doing better among women voters. In fact, they did significantly worse among women voters than the all-male tickets in previous elections that had them do.
So, does that—I mean, the common wisdom about why John McCain picked Sarah Palin is that she would be offering competition for female voters who might have otherwise been attracted to Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy.
How does that turn that this—that political common wisdom on its head? What‘s the new common wisdom now?
MARCOTTE: Well, I certainly hope that the new common wisdom is women as voters are not that stupid and aren‘t going to fall for that trick.
I mean, I think in a lot of times, female voters, especially more liberal leaning ones, see that as insulting. As if we‘re just going to see a woman in a skirt and just go, I wear skirts, too, so I‘m going to vote for her. No, it just doesn‘t work that way. We‘re going to notice things like one‘s stance on reproductive rights or the safety net or the economy or the war.
MADDOW: Are there issues like reproductive rights that stand out as issues that particularly attract the interest or voting patterns of female voters? I mean, reproductive rights was a big issue in this election because there were a number of top of the ticket Republican candidates who had very, very extreme antiabortion views. If Joe Miller, depending on what happens with Joe Miller, I think that four of the five candidates other than Rand Paul being the one, the standout, who believed in banning abortion, including no exemptions for rape or incest. They all lost.
But do reproductive rights predict voting behavior or I guess the attraction of women candidates even at this point?
MARCOTTE: I think to a degree. I think reproductive rights becomes a bigger issue if it can be connected to other larger issues. I think that the average voter, when they hear pro-life, doesn‘t necessarily think about what that means. But somebody like Sharron Angle was caught on record saying really unsympathetic and ungenerous things about women who need abortions and that kind of thing, that lack of generosity, I think, more comes across to the voters than maybe even just a sort of dry “I‘m pro-life” stance.
MADDOW: Amanda Marcotte, contributing writer for “Slate‘s DoubleX”—
Amanda, thanks very much for joining us tonight. It‘s a really pleasure to have you here.
MARCOTTE: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, my least favorite kind of news stories are media stories about media stories. But sometimes, these matters are unavoidable, like today when my friend and colleague Keith Olbermann finds himself in the headlines. I‘ll give you my take on that—just ahead.
MADDOW: Hello. Not only does election week continue, a whole week, but it continues to evolve in some unexpected ways. Remember these two words, OK, soggy ballots. More on that in just a moment.
But, first, in the Connecticut governor‘s race, NBC News has now declared Democrat Dan Malloy to be the apparent winner. The Bridgeport vote, which was received today, appears to have put Mr. Malloy over the top. He won in the home of the Bridgeport Bluefish by a margin of more than 13,000 votes, putting him ahead overall by some 7,000 votes, 91 percent of returns now in.
But, again, NBC News now declaring the Democrat, Dan Malloy, the apparent winner in the Connecticut governor‘s race.
In Illinois, republican challenger Bill Brady has now conceded the governor‘s race in that state just one day after it was called for the incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn. No change in the vote total since yesterday.
Possibly, the weirdest vote story yet of the entire election can be found in the great city of San Francisco. Where 75 ballots, 75 ballots, were allegedly stolen by a poll worker. These are ballots that were totally filled out, ready to be counted. A poll worker just inexplicably grabbed 75 ballots and ran out of the polling place.
Well, now those 75 ballots have been found. They have been found in a pond, discovered floating in a pond on the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. The best quote of the day, going to San Francisco Elections Chief John Arntz, who said of those ballots, quote, “they‘re very soggy.” They‘re very soggy. Mr. Arntz adding that it is unclear whether the soggy ballots will be counted, not just because they‘re soggy but because the chain of custody was broken for those ballots. Which seems darn well clear to me, unless one of the entities cleared to have control of those ballots was the pond at the Palace of Fine Arts.
I understand that a foot powder once won an election in Ecuador. True story. But I do not believe that a pond was named an election official in San Francisco. So, yes, I agree, chain of custody broken. Seventy five waterlogged ballots therefore in limbo. Inexplicable motivation by the poll worker still unresolved and still inexplicable.
However, four local supervisors‘ races and three available seats on the San Francisco school board still up in the air. I‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, OHIO: Across the country right now we‘re witnessing a repudiation of Washington. A repudiation of big government and a repudiation of politicians who refused to listen to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There is something a little discordant about hearing a guy who has just been elected to start his 21st year in Washington talk about how that represents a repudiation of Washington. That‘s like me saying, I represent a repudiation of girls with short hair and boxy jackets. But that whole repudiation of the Washington thing is the line this year, right? The Republicans have won because they represent fresh faces, outsiders, new guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Also tonight five days before the election.
(PEOPLE CHANTING) November, November.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Voters are so fed up with Congress, most now say, they‘re willing to take a chance on a political novice.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Is the public is going to have to say that I‘m so angry with Washington that I want a novice in office rather than someone who has experience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The likely new Majority Leader Eric Cantor has written a letter and a game plan for the future that he calls, “Delivering on our Commitment: A Majority to Limit Government and Create Jobs.” Seems to be sort of a letter to fellow republican elected officials. In it, he not so much pledges as points out as if it is a matter of fact that, quote, “we‘re not the same Republican Party.” I know this doesn‘t fit the narrative but can we just review this for a second? You are forgiven if the new Republicans coming to Washington now seem not all that new, if they seem sort of familiar. If you‘re having a case of deja news about them.
Just for example is Dan Coats, Dan Coats just won the republican pick-up Senate seat in Indiana once held by Evan Bayh. I‘m guessing that Dan Coats still has a place to live in Washington, after all he moved there approximately 30 years ago. First, he worked as a congressional staffer then as a republican congressman, then he spent ten years as a United States senator. He only left to do corporate lobbying in the 2000s. That‘s where he‘s been for about five years. Corporate lobbyist after 30 years in Washington.
Roy Blunt, the brand new republican senator from Missouri may also sound familiar to you. Roy Blunt, 14 years in Congress including as acting majority leader and minority whip under George W. Bush‘s time in office.
And hey, hey, hey, it‘s Rob Portman. Rob Portman is going to be the new junior senator from Ohio. But don‘t let the diminutive word junior flew you because Rob Portman is a big deal in Washington and he has been for a long time. Rob Portman was George W. Bush‘s budget director.
Remember when Eric Cantor was saying, we‘re not the same Republican Party? This was the context for that in his letter. He says, quote, “We lost our way. Republicans ceded our traditional advantage in the area of fiscal responsibility and our core republican principles of limited government. Perhaps the single greatest criticism of our previous majority is that we spent too much and that we grew the size of government.” And then he concludes, “We are not the same Republican Party.”
OK. But you are the party that is sending George W. Bush‘s budget director back to Washington. This time as your senator from Ohio. There‘s nothing wrong with a party sending back experienced to old hands to Washington when the parties is recruiting candidates, the party‘s do that all the time. But the media is so in love with this narrative about the conservatives insurgency, republican of the outsiders is the new guys, as the fresh faces we‘ve never encountered before in the halls of Congress, let alone in the whole 202 area code. That the Dan Coats, and Roy Blunts and Rob Portmans have been written out of this year‘s election narrative altogether. It‘s as if they‘re not the same guys.
What‘s going to happen when voters, conservative voters, look up from their don‘t tread on me protest flags and realize that what they just did was send George W. Bush‘s budget director back to Washington again? If the Tea Partiers and the Rob Portmans and Dan Coats of the world are all going to get along in D.C. now? Then the beltway narrative about populism and throw the bums out anti-incumbent insurgency on the right, frankly is wrong. If they all get along and there‘s no friction there on the right, then this has not been an insurgency, then the Tea Party movement really has just been a front for corporate old school republican big business interests all along. And when we on this show called it astroturfing, we were right. This is going to be fun to figure out.
Joining us now Anna Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for “GQ Magazine.” Ana Marie, great to have here. Thanks for joining us.
ANNA MARIE COX, GQ WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Always good to be back, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, big happy family on the right on Capitol Hill this year or fighting? What do you think?
COX: Oh, kind of happy I think.
COX: A reunion, if you will. There are a lot of people who even if they didn‘t hold elected office are familiar with the, you know, whole, like, grid layout of Washington and the traffic circles and what not. Mike Lee, the Utah senator was a clerk for Judge Alito. You know, I mean, I think that everyone who‘s coming back is not going to be unfamiliar with the ways and means of Washington. They might even remember to walk left, stand right on the subways, which is a big pet peeve of mine. So, if they can do that, that will be one thing that makes me happy. Although, I do think that we‘re not going to see a lot attention in the republican ranks except for the DeMint caucus...
MADDOW: Well, the DeMint caucus, I mean, Jim DeMint is now making a big stink on behalf of Joe Miller in Alaska, the Murkowski recount. The National Republican Senate Campaign Committee is not making a stink about that at all. So, in that race—once they start governing, I mean, what are the practical consequences if there‘s a real rift on the right, say, in the Senate?
COX: Well, the rift will be tiny. I mean, it will be a loud but small rift. I think Jim DeMint—you‘ll see Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, perhaps Joe Miller, and perhaps Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, those are the only people that come to mind who actually have some legitimate outside sort of credentials. I mean, obviously Jim DeMint doesn‘t have an outside credential. But he‘s the one making the most noise. But I tell you, the people I talk to in the Senate and my Senate sources tell me that Jim DeMint‘s reputation within the Senate is an inverse proportion to what it is with the Tea Party.
That he is virtually no credibility and people are really upset with him. I mean, I think this is like moderately good news for progressives in a way because this means that their people in the Senate are going to play ball to borrow Jon Stewart‘s metaphor from last weekend, you know, you let me in, I let you in, you let me in, I let you in. People merging in traffic.
MADDOW: So, you think that, just to be clear, you think that if there‘s a split on the right and people in the republican caucus are very mad at Jim DeMint, that will actually make more rooms for some Republicans to peel off toward Democrats?
COX: Well, I don‘t know if they‘ll peel off. I just think there‘s going be more compromises made. And you and I might agree that these are compromises that we like.
COX: They‘re not compromises that we agree with but they will be compromises.
COX: I may be being overly optimistic to even think though even be a compromise. But remember, the Senate is the world‘s most deliberative body and they do tend to go toward a consensus whether or not we think that‘s a good consensus or not. Then usually people are there to stay. People who, in the house, the house is very different. People who come in on a wave in the house, like oftentimes find themselves coming back in the backwash. It‘s a very short term. In the Senate, you usually are there to stay. And you stay there because you learn the rules.
MADDOW: Is there no contradiction between exit polls in Indiana showing almost half of all voters going there identifying with the Tea Party in that state electing Dan Coats, right? Former senator, corporate lobbyist. I mean, is the story of Tea Party populism just not a true story or do real Tea Party populists not know who Dan Coats is?
COX: Well, I think we have to say that there‘s no such thing as the Tea Party, right? I mean, you‘ve covered this before. I mean, it‘s not an actual organic grassroots organization. It‘s not organization at all. So, it‘s unfair on this to say that is it contradictory? And also to be fair, I think what they say is that when they hate Washington, Dan Coats wasn‘t the guy immediately there before the person who they were voting on, you know? And that‘s I think what mattered most to the people who were voting this cycle. I think that far more than the Tea Party being a motivating factor it was, you know, upset, it was disillusionment with the people who were already there.
The thing is, and this is why I—I mean, I don‘t know how I feel whether or not the GOP will learn this. But that dissatisfaction can be very—this is a very volatile electorate, a very volatile group of independents. And if they aren‘t satisfied in the next two years, they may take revenge on the people that are coming up next time. And it‘s not about ideology, it‘s about do I have a job, am I worried about my house? And I think, you and I can agree that progressive policies actually might solve those issues more effectively. And that‘s why more people are voting them.
MADDOW: Anna Marie Cox, Washington Correspondent for “GQ Magazine.”
Thank you for giving us some of your Friday night. I appreciate it.
COX: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. So, the number one story right now on Google news, I checked on the commercial break. Number one story on Google news is about Keith Olbermann. More on that, coming up.
MADDOW: Campaigns, contributions, cable news, and my friend Keith Olbermann. We‘ll get into all of that, just ahead.
MADDOW: Frankly, it‘s been a long week. It‘s been a long week that involved at least two interminably long days. So, yes, it seems like a good night for a cocktail moment. The best athlete in the world right now is a 6-year-old girl with four legs. Thoroughbred Zenyatta throughout her career has obliterated all the competition that she has faced. In her career, she has run 19 races and she has won 19 races. If she wins number 20 at the Breeders Cup Classic tomorrow, Breeders Cup, a very prestigious horse race. Not a gay joke, if she wins the Breeders Cups Classic tomorrow, Zenyatta will retire undefeated 20 and zero. She biscuits.
If you like I have only in the last 45 seconds or so become caught up in Zenyatta mania, here‘s some ready made, impress your friends while you all watch the big race tomorrow information. She was named after the third album by the police Zenyatta Mandata which is not their best record but it‘s a good record, anyway. Zenyatta stands 17.2 hands tall, which sounds tall. Her favorite treats are carrots, though I‘m betting she‘s never had milk duds.
Her hobbies include running, duh, posing for photographs, although photographers might be projecting their hopes on her with that one. I don‘t know if anybody ever asked her. And Zenyatta has also said by people who know her, she likes dancing. And frankly, I would pay to see that. Her nicknames include, the Queen, oh yes, and Zennie. Among her favorite songs, reportedly Roxanne, by the aforementioned Police and any jazz by Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass. Also, Oprah Winfrey named Zenyatta to The 2010 O Power List in “O Magazine.”
How do you explain Zenyatta‘s dominance on the track? During a recent appearance on “60 Minutes,” her trainer told CBS that her diet includes not only oats but also Aloe Vera juice, because the Aloe Vera juice is good for her stomach. However, the other thing she puts away every day is, ready?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Zenyatta enjoying her Guinness this morning after a nice little gallop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Guinness stout. One of the greatest racehorses of all-time trains by drinking beer in the morning every day. Could this be why she looks so loose and relaxed out there? To recap, the cocktail that powers this awesome once in a generation talent is oats, Aloe Vera juice for the stomach and Guinness. This is what an undefeated champion drinks which settles it. Around here, the Zenyatta training regiment, minus the Aloe Vera juice, starts now. Or at least right after what I have to say next.
MADDOW: Hey, so this happens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Joining me now with reaction is Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is back. Congresswoman, welcome back.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: Sean, thank you. Always a pleasure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was from September 17th of this year, the host of FOX News Channel‘s 9 p.m. Eastern Time show interviewing Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Two and a half weeks after that same host donated $5,000 to Michele Bachmann‘s political action campaign. Mr. Hannity‘s donation to Michele Bachmann was noted at the time. It was reported on by Salon.com in the article you see here. FOX News Channel‘s executives responded to be—quandary pointed out here by telling the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota that Mr. Hannity would disclose his $5,000 donation to Michele Bachmann‘s political action committee on the air to his viewers when he interviewed Ms. Bachmann.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: All right. Congresswoman, good to see you. Thank you for taking time. We appreciate you being here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Despite FOX News Channel‘s assertion that the host would disclose on air when he interviewed her that he had made those donations to Ms. Bachmann‘s the political action committee, the host did not make that disclosure. The same host also maxed out his personal political contribution to a republican New York State congressional candidate named John Gomez. The host then interviewed Mr. Gomez after the campaign donations in late September of this year. FOX News hosts have also explicitly endorsed republican candidates, just from this election cycle. Here‘s one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: I stand proudly in Kasich‘s corner with an endorsement as long as it doesn‘t hurt you.
JOHN KASICH, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: We want all the help you can give us, Sean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Here is part of a press release announcing a whole lists of endorsements, the same FOX News host Mr. Hannity is touted by the Todd Tiahrt for Congress campaign from Mr. Hannity‘s endorsement of Mr. Tiahrt.
Here‘s another explicit endorsement of a congressional candidate named Michael Faulkner, and endorsement again by the FOX News host Mr. Hannity. Presumptive 2012 republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He‘s also a host at FOX News, he hosts the show there, I think, that‘s on the weekends. Making explicit political endorsements is essentially as Mr. Huckabee‘s full time other job, besides being on FOX. When he is not making explicit political endorsements, Mr. Huckabee, the FOX News host, is appearing at political fundraisers for Republican candidates. FOX News, Republican fundraiser, FOX News, Republican fundraiser. That‘s what he does as a FOX News host.
Same goes for FOX News host Sarah Palin. Ms. Palin hosts a TV show on FOX called “Real American Stories.” And when she‘s not working as a host at FOX News or doing her other TV show that I think that‘s kind of like a reality show, she is endorsing Republican candidates. Also headlining Republican fundraisers. FOX News, Republican fundraiser, FOX News, Republican fundraiser. It‘s what she does as a FOX News host.
Here‘s the local press in Cleveland, very excited about FOX News host Sean Hannity headlining an expensive fundraiser for Republican candidate for Ohio Governor John Kasich. Sometimes, FOX News hosts save the travel budget and they just hold these fundraisers for Republican candidates right on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: How can I help you raise money?
BACHMANN: Well, people could go to MicheleBachmann.com. I need the help.
KASICH: It is a very central race. And 11 times, Sean, they‘re coming after Johnny Kasich for 11 times, he‘s going to be here, it‘s amazing. People can come on our Web site at KasichforOhio.com. Sunday night at 6:30, we‘re going to talk about the damage the Obama agenda has done to us. And if you have any extra nickels or dimes, please send it our way. KasichforOhio.com.
HANNITY: Well, I want to put this—put some emphasis on this, because this is really important, to explain to people why we cannot afford to lose that race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Also, those nickels and dimes. In case it wasn‘t clear enough, this is from Mr. Hannity‘s own website, from his photo album on his Web site. The Web site brags that this is Mr. Hannity headlining a National Republican Congressional Committee fundraiser. That fundraiser reportedly raised $7 million for Republican House candidates. Earlier this year, that took place, Mr. Hannity raising money for the NRCC, $7 million in one fundraiser, $7 million earlier this year.
You may have heard today that my colleague and friend Keith Olbermann was temporarily suspended from his job hosting “COUNTDOWN” on this network because he made three personal political donations to candidates in this last election cycle. The reason that resulted in Keith‘s suspension is that here on MSNBC, there is an explicit employee rule against hosts making contributions like that. You can do it if you ask in advance and management tells you OK. That‘s what I understand happened with our morning show host‘s political donations in 2006 under previous management. But if you don‘t ask in advance for an exemption from the rule, you are bound by the rule.
For the record, the rule applies to us hosts here at MSNBC and to NBC News staff. CNBC is not under NBC News, so CNBC staffers are not bound by the same thing.
I understand this rule. I understand what it means to break this rule. I believe everybody should face the same treatment under this rule. I also personally believe that the point has been made and we should have Keith back hosting “COUNTDOWN.”
Here‘s the larger point, though, that‘s going mysteriously missing from all the right-wing cackling and the Beltway old media cluck-cluck-clucking about this. This is what I think is missing.
Let this incident lay to rest forever the facile, never true anyway, bullpucky, lazy conflation of FOX News and what the rest of us do for a living. I know everybody likes to say, oh, that‘s cable news, it‘s all the same, FOX and MSNBC, mirror images of each other. Let this lay this to rest forever. Hosts on FOX raise money on the air for Republican candidates. They endorse them explicitly. They use their FOX News profile to headline fundraisers. Heck, there are multiple people being paid by FOX News now to essentially run for office as Republican candidates. If you count not just their hosts but their contributors, you are looking at a significant portion of the whole lineup of Republican presidential contenders for 2012. They can do that because there‘s no rule against that at FOX. They run as a political operation. We‘re not.
Yes, Keith is a liberal, and so am I. And there are other people on this network whose political views are shared openly with you, our beloved viewers, but we are not a political operation. Fox is. We are a news operation, and the rules around here are a part of how you know that.
Before it was politically safe to do it, Keith Olbermann attracted the ire of the right wing and a lot of others besides when he brought to light and raged against what he saw as the errors and sins of the previous presidential administration. Keith was also the one who brought to light Fox News‘ water-carrying role for the Bush administration. He was one whose point-of-view journalism exposed and put exclamation points in the problems in the political operation disguised as news network model embraced by the guys across the street at Fox. Now, weirdly, once again it is Keith who‘s illustrating the difference between what he does on TV, what we do here at MSNBC, and what goes on across the street.
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