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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Muneer Awad

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  And now to discuss about how Sarah Palin complained about government overreach based on a bogus story about a local school board banning cookies—ladies and gentlemen, here to speak out on behalf of bake sales is Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thank you, Keith.  Tonight‘s show is brought to you by baking powder.

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.

MADDOW:  Of which I am a supporter, I confess.


MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us for the next hour.

This is one of those day when the biggest political news in the country was not what happened, but how it happened.  This is one of those days when the context of what you were reading about the news was as important as what you were actually reading.

The context is this: President Obama is overseas right now.  President Obama is in a foreign country.  Everybody freak out!  He‘s not foreign.  He is in a foreign country.  He is still American.

But the president gave a big speech in Indonesia last night.  Today, he traveled to South Korea.  Within the last hour, the president addressed U.S. troops stationed in South Korea on the occasion of Veterans Day.  We‘ll have more on that later in the show.

President Obama is not just away, he‘s really, really, really far away.  The president is away now and he will continue to be away for a long time.  He is not due back from this trip abroad until Sunday, and it is only Wednesday now.

So, given that, why pick today to surprise everybody here at home with the first results of the president‘s big commission on everything in the whole entire government?


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  What gives?  Should retirement age get moved back?  Should you get fewer health care benefits?  It‘s got to come from somewhere.  Tonight, the folks who were asked by the president to find where to cut are out with their answers.


MADDOW:  You may remember that a while back, Republicans in Congress proposed setting up a blue ribbon commission to work on the big picture financial issues facing our country.  Are we going broke?  How do we keep ourselves from going broke?  What do we need to do in the long run to get ourselves, to get the country back into financial health?

Republicans proposed a commission to try to get answers for those questions.  Then when President Obama endorsed that idea, all of those Republicans decided they were all of a sudden against it.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This law failed by seven votes, when seven Republicans, who had co-sponsored the bill, had co-sponsored the idea, suddenly walked away from their own proposal after I endorsed it.  So they make a proposal, they sign on to the bill.  I say, “Great, good idea.”  I turn around, they‘re gone.  What happened?


MADDOW:  What happened?

After Republicans abandoned that idea, their own idea, President Obama decided to go ahead and form this commission himself.  It is a bipartisan thing.  It is headed up by respected elder statesmen from both parties.  And it is supposed to look at the big picture of, honestly, everything that the government does, everything we do that spends money or takes in money, and how we can get those things to even out.

Nobody knew the commission was going to release its preliminary findings today.  It was big, red-banner breaking news everywhere when it happened.  It was such as a huge deal.  It was a surprise.  And, oh, and by the way, the president is in freaking South Korea right now.

Maybe this is not a coincidence.

What you‘re seeing here is just scratching the surface of all of the politicians left, right, and center who responded to the commission‘s findings today by saying, and I paraphrase, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.”

Given that this is a presidential commission, they have just done the president a huge favor by having him not here, not in the country when his findings came out—because as expected, the preliminary recommendations by this group are toxic.  Cut Social Security benefits, delay everybody‘s retirement, cut Medicare, cut out a bunch of really popular tax breaks that lots of middle class people use, lower the tax rate for rich people and for corporations.

There are individual things that are recommended here that individual slices of the electorate or individual groups, interest groups, might be able to get behind, but politically speaking, all in all, this is like a toxic burrito, double the toxic, with toxic sauce and a side of toxic—a fact that did not escape the folks who served it up today.


ALAN SIMPSON, DEFICIT COMMISSION CO-CHAIR:  We have harpooned every whale in the ocean, and some of the minnows, and no one has ever done that before.

I feel like we ought to be in a witness protection program when this is over, so look us up.


MADDOW:  Now, look, maybe some of what they are suggesting will happen.  It will get implemented.

But if you were president of the United States and your commission just recommended this litany of stuff, you, too, would probably want to be 6,941 miles away from the White House when these findings came out.

Here‘s one thing, though, that before this year would have been considered just another of the political toxins in these recommendations.  But this year, it‘s legitimately really interesting.

In order to get the country‘s financial house in order, one of the things these elder statesmen recommend is that we cut the country‘s defense budget—hah!  Defense?  This is one of these things that‘s been so politically off-limits for so long in American politics that it‘s almost impossible to believe that they put it down on paper—or PowerPoint, or whatever.

Here‘s defense spending under Ronald Reagan—up, up, up, up, up.  Here‘s defense spending under the first President Bush, up a bit, and then down a bit, and then naturally right back up again.  During the Clinton administration, defense spending actually did go down a teeny, teeny, teeny, tiny a little bit before it started coming back up.

And then under George W. Bush—up, up, up, up, up—way up.  And that way up trend has continued.  So, look at that, continued so far under President Obama.

More than half of this country‘s discretionary spending is this.  More than half the discretionary spending, more than half of the things we are not statutorily required to spend but we get to decide about each year, more than half, a majority of what we spent.  This is it.  We as a country spent as much on defense as the rest of the world spends on defense combined.  And yes, that includes China.

But the Republican secretary of all of that money, Bob Gates, who President Obama held over from George Bush‘s second term, he keeps giving speeches about how the Pentagon cannot keep having budgets this big.

Last month, 57 members of the House and Senate wrote to this commission of elder statesmen thing, saying, if you guys are going to be talking about how to get our financial house in order, then you really have to consider defense.  Everybody billed that as a bipartisan letter, but honestly, you want to know who the Republicans were who signed on to it?

There was Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas and Ron Paul. 

Also, Ron Paul.  And Ron Paul.  Yes, that‘s it.  But they did get Ron Paul.

This is the hard part—even as defense spending has completely busted the budget for decades now, Republican attacks on anyone who would propose even flattening defense spending, even slowing the rate of increase, let alone cutting it, is such a finely honed attack now, through years and years and years of repetition.


NARRATOR:  John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America‘s intelligence operation, cuts so deep they would have weakened America‘s defenses.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER:  Leaders of the Democrat minority voted consistently to cut intelligence spending throughout the 1990s, as they voted to slash defense spending.  And that anti-defense, anti-intelligence philosophy lives on in one of the Democratic alternatives that we have before us today.

KEN MEHLMAN, RNC CHAIRMAN:  When Senator Kerry first entered the Senate, he sought to cancel the very weapons systems that are critical to winning the war on terrorism and maintaining our military strength.

REP .TOM DELAY ®, TEXAS:  If Democrats gain control, you can count on them to slash defense spending to pay for wasteful Washington spending.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Today, a senior congressional Democrat

proposed cutting defense spending by a quarter


MCCAIN:  Slashing defense while our troops are at war.  The Democrats‘ answer to the challenges we face is to lower our defenses and raise our taxes.


MADDOW:  Regardless of the utility of any particular part of defense spending each year, for essentially my entire life, Republicans have reflexively attacked anybody who doesn‘t support big increases in defense funding every year, to infinity and beyond, there‘s no ceiling.

What‘s different this year, what might be the one interesting and potentially constructive thing that results from the conservative movement‘s partial takeover of the Republican Party this year is that it might not be just Ron Paul who‘s willing to talk about this now.  There is now a split in the Republican Party between those who say defense spending is untouchable and those who at least say they‘re willing to look at maybe cutting it.  This is new.

They say nothing in politics is ever new.  This is new.  This is something new under the sun—at least in my lifetime.

Republicans as a unified block have always attacked Democrats for any proposals to cut defense.  They have attacked Democrats for wanting to cut defense, even when Democrats haven‘t proposed cutting defense, because they‘ve just liked the sound of that attack so much.

But this year, for the first time, Republicans are not unified on that anymore.  There is something new under the sun.  Senator-elect Rand Paul, the son of Ron Paul, Senator-elect Mark Kirk of Illinois, Senator-elect Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Senator Johnny Isakson, Senator Bob Corker, Governor Mitch Daniels, Congressman Paul Ryan -- all of these Republicans have suggested in varying degrees in recent weeks that cuts in defense can be on the table.

Of course, lots of other Republicans are still taking the same old line.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  Would you cut defense across the board as well as domestic spending?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE:  No, you do not cut defense.

MADDOW:  Just so I understand what you were just trying to tell Chris, do you believe that defense spending is discretionary spending?

BLACKBURN:  No, I think that what you can—you have to fund the efforts of the military, and we all know that.


MADDOW:  We don‘t even get a choice about it.  I don‘t even acknowledge that it‘s discretionary.  She says we all know that—can‘t cut defense, can want do it.

But maybe not anymore.  You know, the idea that defense could actually come down in terms of what we spend on it every year, that has been derided by the right as a pot-smoking, dirty hippie pipe dream for most of my lifetime.  Is it possible that that might change this year, that this year, it might actually happen?

Joining us now is independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who sits on the Senate Budget Committee.

Senator Sanders, thanks very much for your time.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Good to be with you.

MADDOW:  Senator, before I ask you specifically about the proposed defense cuts, let me get your reaction, overall, to what we heard from this commission today.

SANDERS:  Well, it wasn‘t the commission, it was the chairman and the co-chairman, and I think it‘s basically a disaster.

Rachel, at a time when the top 1 percent have seen a huge increase in the amount of money they make, and that‘s more than the bottom 50 percent, I think you got to take a hard look at the tax breaks that these people and large corporations have gotten.  Every single year, we‘re losing about $100 billion in revenue because of money being stashed away in tax havens in the Cayman Islands, in Bermuda.  In the year 2005, one quarter of America‘s large corporations didn‘t pay a nickel in taxes after earning $1 trillion in profits.

Last year, ExxonMobil made $19 billion in profits.  Not only did they not pay any taxes, they got a refund from the IRS for $156 million.

So, you‘ve got to look within the context of the American society, huge loopholes in tax breaks for the richest people at a time when they are becoming much wealthier, and while the middle class is in steep decline.

So, I think when you talk about moving toward a balanced budget, clearly, you don‘t punish working families and the middle class who are already hurting, you got to go to those people who have made out like bandits in recent years.  The last 25 years, 80 percent of all new income went to the top 1 percent.  Those are guys that I think you‘ve got to look at in order to bring new revenue into the system, not working families—which is why I think the Bowles and Simpson report today was very, very weak and unfair.

MADDOW:  On the issue of defense, specifically, Senator, do you think that we could actually see defense cuts this year for the first time in such a long time?  Is it possible you‘ll have some new allies among this new crop of self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives?

SANDERS:  Rachel, I do.  And I think the point that you made is some of these very, very conservative guys understand that when we spend $700 billion a year on defense, that‘s the elephant in the room.  And you can‘t have any credibility at all if you‘re not looking at defense spending.  And I think there are—is an enormous opportunity in there.

Let me give you just some examples.  My office took a look at spare parts that the military is purchasing and not using.  They‘re putting in warehouses—something like $25 billion every year in unused spare parts.

There is weapons systems out there—you know, when the military budget was substantially increased, we were fighting a major world power called the Soviet Union.  We are still spending tens of billions of dollars a year on weapons systems, fighting the Soviet Union, except the Soviet Union no longer exists.

Our military posture should be fighting international terrorism and al Qaeda.  We need to make major changes in the way we do business.

Also, there is massive fraud—massive fraud within the defense industry.  We issued a report, which will soon be up on the Internet, talking about how major military contractors are ripping off the government.  They‘ve been fined billions of dollars, because of just cheating the government.  These guys go out—in addition to that, they go out for contracts.  They say, yes, we‘ll build these weapons systems for $5 billion, turns out they end up building it for $15 billion.

So, I think any honest person understands when you‘re looking at a $700 billion budget, there are enormous savings that we can bring about without lessening our military strength.

MADDOW:  And let the record show that we discussed on this program tonight potential policy overlaps between Senator Sanders of Vermont and Senator Coburn of Oklahoma, and in that, I believe anything is possible.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont—Sir, it is always a real pleasure to have you here.  Thank you.

SANDERS:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  OK.  Still to come: cookies—cookies used as a political weapon in Pennsylvania, a weapon wielded by former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin.  She wielded cookies and she wielded them wrongly.

Also ahead, I will stop wielded so much—and we will set the stage for my interview with “The Daily Show‘s” Jon Stewart.

That‘s all coming up.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  Hey, so, today is November 10th, which means tomorrow is November 11th, which means tomorrow is Veterans Day.  Veterans Day is a celebratory day.  It is not the same as Memorial Day, when we remember those who gave their lives for this country.  Veterans Day is the day we celebrate everyone who served this country in wartime.  It is a hip, hip, hooray and a thank you.

One way to hip, hip, hooray and say thanks is check out  That‘s a Web site of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  They‘ve got a new Facebook app and an online march to commit to supporting veterans who are back from our current wars.

Full disclosure: IAVA is a nonpartisan organization and I‘m a financial supporter of theirs.  I have been since I have had any finances to speak of.

If there are other veteran service organizations active in your community who could use some support or a V.A. medical center in your area that‘s looking for volunteers, or if there are veterans among your friends and neighbors and families who could stand a shout-out from you, tomorrow is Veterans Day.

And we‘re doing this tonight on purpose, because tonight is the night to talk with your family or your friends or your Facebook friends about what you are going to do tomorrow to mark Veterans Day.  Happy Veterans Day.


MADDOW:  For all of the differences that many Americans have with George W. Bush and his policies as president, one thing that is—I think it‘s fair to say, almost entirely uncontroversial about his legacy is the way he spoke about Muslims and about Islam as a religion less than one week after 9/11 occurred.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  The face of terror is not the true face of Islam.  That‘s not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  These terrorists don‘t represent peace.  They represent evil and war.

When we think of Islam, we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world.  Americans count millions of Muslims among our citizens.

And Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.  Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads, and they need to be treated with respect.

In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.


MADDOW:  Nine years later when anti-Muslim sentiment soared this year, fueled in large part by the conservative media hyping stories like the mosque in Lower Manhattan, no strong voice on the right emerged to caution tolerance.  Would Mr. Bush take on that kind of role again?

I asked his former communications director, Nicolle Wallace.


MADDOW:  A lot of people, I think even on the left, expected that George W. Bush might be the adult to do that, because even somebody in the most politicized—even somebody who served through the most politicized times, he was a person who was a sort of voice of reason against Islamophobia on the right and the left and the center, and he didn‘t do it.  And there isn‘t anybody else who rose up to do that.  Do you have any insight into why he‘s not?

NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER BUSH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  Look, I think that would have been a great place to hear his voice for the first time since leaving the presidency, and I think we‘ll get to see.  You know, his book comes out soon and I hope he‘s asked about that, because he was an incredible voice.


MADDOW:  Mr. Bush was asked about it on his book tour this morning on the “Today” show and he pointedly and with what struck me as a strange tone of anger and dismissiveness in his voice, pointedly declined to step up—declined to step up and be a voice of reason on this issue again, like he had in the past.  I found this jaw-dropping.

Please watch.


LAUER:  You wanted to be a uniter.  Along came 9/11 and you did something that a lot of people thought was a real effort to unite.  You reached out to the Muslim world.

BUSH:  Right.

LAUER:  And you visited a mosque.  And you said the following, quote, “The face of terror is not the true face of Islam.”  And you said, quote, “In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”

You know there is a major controversy brewing here in New York City downtown, where there‘s a proposed Islamic community center sited for just two blocks from Ground Zero.  If I look at your words there, it makes it seem to me as if the rights of Muslims should not be denied for the sake of the sorrow of others.  Is that fair?

BUSH:  If I listen to what you‘re trying to rope me into, you‘re trying to get me to talk about this mosque issue.


LAUER:  Which is fair.

BUSH:  Again—

LAUER:  I know, I tried the other day too, didn‘t I?  Why wouldn‘t you speak out?  You could calm a lot of rhetoric.

BUSH:  Because there‘s a lot of events and a lot of opportunities for me to speak out over the next years, and I have chosen not to.  And the reason I‘ve chosen not to is I don‘t want to intrude upon my successor‘s ability to get the job done.  Inevitably, if you were able to get me to answer this question, they would then compare that answer to what President Obama or other presidents might say on the issue.  And I don‘t—

LAUER:  Well, without saying whether they should build the community center or not, are you disappointed by the increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric in this country that we‘ve seen recently?

BUSH:  I think most Americans welcome freedom of religion and honor religions, I truly do.  And the problem with the arena today is a few loud voices can dominate the discussion.  And I don‘t intend to be one of the voices in the discussion.


MADDOW:  One man bearing the brunt of there not being a prominent voice from the right, for dialing it back, for respect, for tolerance joins us next.


MADDOW:  Do you know what the name was of the anti-Sharia law constitutional amendment in Oklahoma?  This was on the ballot in Oklahoma, it passed with 70 percent of the vote.  It changes the constitution of the state to ban Oklahoma courts from considering Sharia law in making their rulings—you know, just in case.  The name of that constitutional amendment, I kid you not, the “Save Our State” amendment, as in, save our state, save Oklahoma from the Muslims.

As we reported last night, the implementation of Oklahoma‘s new “save us from the Muslims” amendment has been stayed by a federal court judge in Oklahoma City in light of a lawsuit challenging the measure on First Amendment grounds.  That lawsuit was brought by the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma.

CAIR sent us a dossier of e-mails they said they have received in conjunction with this case, e-mails they told us were sent in just the last week alone.  Most of them, I cannot get anywhere near reading to you on television, including overt threats against President Obama and the detailed descriptions of the desecration of Muslim graves and a lot of really, impenetrably bad spelling and all-caps screaming.

Some of the milder ones, quote, “This is America and the voters spoke, get the message, we want you all to go home.”

Quote, “Go back to your own Islamic country, stop invading ours.”

Quote, “Shut the heck up.  You people are neither citizens of Oklahoma

or the United States.  Take your Islamic law and shove them up your—yes

and go back to where you came from.”


This one also in shoddy all caps, quote, “Oklahoma has spoken in regard to your fricking messed up so-called religious whatever.  Now back the F off.  Americans will never get or accept your fricking beliefs.  So basically give up and go back to where you can be the freaks that you are.”

This one, quote, “We will work in this country, Jews and gentiles, to destroy mosques built here and cover them with the blood of swine, because you‘re—spelled wrong—religion is nothing more than a superstition.”

That last one from a genius in Dallas, Texas, who also claims that he has the ear of the FBI Terrorist Task Force—spelled wrong—and the Department of Homeland Security.  I bet he does.

CAIR also tells us that their offices have been vandalized recently.  Some of the threats and vandalism that they have been subject to, they have been advised by law enforcement to not describe in more detail for their own safety.

Joining us now is the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Oklahoma.  His name is Muneer Awad.  He filed CAIR‘s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma‘s bizarre Sharia law constitutional amendment.  Mr. Awad, thank you so much for your time. 


IN OKLAHOMA:  Thank you for having me. 

MADDOW:  Can you tell me what the climate has been like in Oklahoma for you surrounding this whole anti-Sharia law constitutional amendment? 

AWAD:  Well, initially, it has been somewhat intense, as you can imagine, bringing about the lawsuit again in defense of the Constitution and in defense of Muslim citizens of Oklahoma.

We‘ve been challenged by a lot of the supporters who supported this amendment ever since it was mentioned as a state ballot.  But recently, since the lawsuit, since the judge made an order to stay the certification, we have seen an outpour of Oklahomans who have come to our support, who have mentioned the need for rationale and understanding of the violation of our First Amendment rights. 

And they‘ve spoken out with us and they‘ve said it‘s unfortunate that we‘ve allowed politicians to basically rewrite our Constitution solely for political gain.  And they‘re supporting us with our cause and, hopefully, it will be a successful one. 

MADDOW:  I know that the basis of your lawsuit is a claim that it violates your freedom of religion.  It violates your First Amendment rights.  Why do you think that this passed so overwhelmingly?  It passed with 70 percent of the vote. 

AWAD:  Right.  Well, I mean, this was a well-planned and well-funded campaign of misinformation.  We‘ve basically got politicians stump-speeching, telling Oklahomans to fear the looming threat of Islam, that Islam was coming to take over our courts if we didn‘t act immediately. 

Unfortunately, it resonated with a lot of voters who don‘t know much about Islam, who‘ve never met a Muslim, who know nothing other than what these politicians were telling them. 

And if we know - I mean, we already have an amendment that makes sure Sharia law will never take over our courts.  It also makes sure that no law will take over - no religious law will take over our courts and it‘s called the First Amendment. 

If we know that it‘s impossible for a foreign law or a religious law to ever conflict with and replace the laws of our courts, we need to ask these politicians, “Why were you deliberately misinforming Oklahomans into voting for this?”

MADDOW:  If you think that the overwhelming vote for was born of ignorance, and I have to tell you, I share your belief that it was, do you think it would have made a difference to have prominent voices, particularly on the right, speaking out about religious freedom and respect for Muslims and respect for Islam and what the meaning of the First Amendment is? 

Would it have made a difference to essentially have people try to tamp the down the ignorance in this case? 

AWAD:  Absolutely.  I think so, absolutely.  I mean, if we have people that come from the same side where these political campaigns came, that were telling Oklahomans to fear Muslims, to be afraid of Muslims, to disrespect Muslims, if we would have voices out of that side come out and say, “You know, this is wrong.  There‘s nothing to fear about Muslims.  Muslims are our neighbors.  They‘ve lived here just as long as we have. 

They are engaged and active members in our community.” 

Had we had voices from the side of the political campaigns that were pushing to say that, I think it would have really - it could have cut the edge off of the violent rhetoric and the hate rhetoric that has come out. 

But, of course, if you have voices that say we shouldn‘t be hateful, we shouldn‘t be violent, we shouldn‘t be fearful, that would undermine a campaign that‘s based on hate, violence, and fear. 

So that‘s obviously why no one from the political campaigns on that side came out with those sentiments. 

MADDOW:  Muneer Awad, the Oklahoma executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, bearing a lot of grief and getting a lot of abuse right now for his position there and for having launched this lawsuit defending religious freedom, thanks for your work.  Thanks for being here, and good luck to you. 

AWAD:  Thank you, guys, for having me. 

MADDOW:  Thanks.  OK.  Ahead on “THE LAST WORD,” Lawrence O‘Donnell talks to Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief-of-staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.  They‘ll be talking about President Bush‘s magical mystery book tour, which is still as close as I‘m going to get to an interview with him anyway.

Next on this show, Sarah Palin‘s cookie offensive.  It‘s crumb-y. 

Sorry.  Stick with us.


MADDOW:  Have you heard about the nanny state‘s latest plan to control our lives, right down to the food we eat?  It is happening.  It is happening to kids in Pennsylvania, of all places, home of Hershey, Pennsylvania, where the streets are paved with chocolate and the lampposts are sugar canes, and even that Democratic governor guy declares each year that there be real gumdrops on the roofs of all the gingerbread houses. 

Only now, the nanny state of Pennsylvania Department of Education wants to take the cupcakes right out of your kid‘s lunch box.  This could be very bad news for freedom and for the girth of future defensive linemen of Pennsylvania. 

But take heart, Pennsylvania, you‘ve got a warrior for freedom, and she‘s got a bear and a Twitter machine and a boatload of sugar cookies.  That‘s one version of the story of Sarah Palin and the great Pennsylvania nanny state accusation dessert fail of 2010. 

The other version, the real version, began on Monday when a conservative Pittsburgh newspaper reported that state education officials were taking the sugar out of public school celebrations.  Quote, “Parent organizers would have to pick just one sweet per party, and will be encouraged to order anything else from a menu of healthy snacks.”

On Tuesday, as Sarah Palin was due to give a speech at a private Christian school in the state, she took to the Twitter machine, quote, “Two P.A. school speech.  I‘ll intro kids to beauty of laissez-faire via serving them cookies amidst school cookie ban debate.  Nanny state run amok.”

Then she showed up at the private Christian school with 200 cookies and told all assembled exactly who ought to be boss. 


FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK):  I heard that there was a debate going on in Pennsylvania over whether public schools are going to ban sweets.  I wanted these kids to bring home the idea to their parents for discussion, who should be making the decisions what you eat and school choice and everything?  Should it be government or should it be the parents? 


MADDOW:  Or should it be the lady who brought the cookies to her $75,000 speech?  It should be noted that the conservative Pittsburgh newspaper that ran the original story about the cookie police retracted the story and posted a correction, saying there was no mandate about sweets, only a plan to encourage schools to serve something healthy to eat. 

No word on whether Gov. Palin will now try to retract the cookies, now that the basis of using them in her publicity stunt has been debunked.  Even though I want her to take back her big lie against Pennsylvania, I think I don‘t think I want her to try to retract the cookies. 

More debunkery about what you should and should not believe from today‘s headlines when we come back.


MADDOW:  Debunk-tion(ph) junction, what‘s my function?  OK.  Today‘s headlines - true or false?  Vrai ou faux?  Verdad o falso? 

Number one, the Republican who was just elected governor of the great State of Florida paid his campaign staffers, not with money, but with American Express gift cards for some reason.  Is that true or false? 

That is, ding, true.  A young man named Mark Givens, who said he found a job through the Rick Scott for governor campaign through a listing on Craigslist, has told local WTSP news station that he did not find out until after he had already worked for Rick Scott‘s campaign that Rick Scott campaign‘s would not pay him in, you know, money. 


MARK GIVEN, RICK SCOTT‘S CAMPAIGN STAFFER:  They go, “We can‘t give you a check.  We‘re going to give you gift cards.”  I‘m like, “Gift cards?”  “Well, yes, that‘s all we can do right now.  We‘re going to give you gift cards for your hours worked.  Obviously, you can‘t pay bills with gift cards.” 

I mean, after all the hassle, I was kind of angry about it.  I

was there for a solid month, waiting two weeks for pay.  Waiting, waiting,

waiting.  Two weeks went by.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this week and then this

week.  Forgot about it.  Finally, we got it before Halloween

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How do you feel about the governor-elect now? 

GIVENS:  Going Democrat. 


MADDOW:  The Rick Scott campaign admits to paying this young man and other campaign staffers in gift cards instead of in money.  The campaign now says they will cut Mr. Givens a check if he wants one, even though they wouldn‘t before. 

But we still have no explanation as to why Rick Scott‘s campaign operated this way, and how many people they compensated with the present your less creative family members give you around the holidays.  Doubly sad is that Rick Scott‘s campaign slogan, of course, was, “Let‘s get to work.”  Not work for pay, of course, but still work. 

So far, our efforts to get an explanation out of the Rick Scott campaign have been unsuccessful.  If that changes, we‘ll let you know - in actual words. 

Story number two, true or false.  GM after the bailout, after its near-death experience, General Motors has not only survived, but is thriving, and is now back in excellent financial health.  Is that true or is that false? 

True.  Today GM posted a big profit, its biggest quarterly profit in 11 years.  Two quarters ago, the companies made a profit of $865 million, another $1.2 billion in the next quarter, and, today, they announced $2 billion in quarterly profit. 

Of course, if you are against that bailout, you think the whole company and all the companies that depend on GM and all of GM‘s jobs and all of the jobs of all the companies that depend on GM should have died. 

Third story, true or false?  Whatever you think of the Obama administration‘s policies, the real problem they‘ve got is they are sending the deficit skyrocketing, through the roof, over the moon, all sorts of metaphors an going up, right?  Up, up, up, up.  Is that true or is that false? 

False.  Today, the new budget year begins with the deficit, quote, “that fall 20 percent from a year ago.”  And nobody on the right is going to believe me, but here it is. 

Here it is from the Associated Press.  Blame the AP.  Do not blame me, “The Treasury Department says that the Federal Government begins its new fiscal year with a deficit that is 20 percent lower than it was a year ago.  These are the facts in black and white.  Do not blame me.  Geez.

Fourth, Michelle Obama caused an international religious incident on the president‘s trip abroad with a misplaced handshake in Indonesia.  Did you hear this one today? 

The information minister in Indonesia, for religious reasons, avoids shaking hands with women.  Like Hasidic Jews, some male conservative Muslims observe that as their religious custom.  As local - after local press noticed that despite generally hewing to that custom, the information minister did shake hands with Michelle Obama.

The minister took to his Twitter page to defend himself.  According to the “New York Times‘” translation, this translates to, “I tried to prevent being touched with my hands, but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me, so we touched.” 

So did Michelle Obama strong-arm the minister into breaking his customs and shaking her hand?  Did that happen?  True or false?  False, and we have tape.  As you can see, the Obamas making their way down the receiving line, shaking hands with everyone. 

Far from forcing herself on the information minister, there seems to be some mutual - ah!  Meeting of the hands.  Let‘s take another look at that in slow-mo.  Hands - oh!  Hands go out.  It is most certainly mutual, if not outright started by him.  There is handshaking. 

Now, the minister may want to blame Michelle Obama for forcing him to shake her hand.  But even if he was not the instigator, he was at least a co-conspirator in fake handshake-gate. 

Finally, in Virginia, “Talking Points Memo” reports today that the Glenn Beck-derived tea party group, the 9/12 Project, wants there to be “Don‘t Tread on Me” government license plates. 

They want the government to advertise “down with the government.” 

This is so ridiculous.  Is this true or is this false? 

Well, actually true.  Debunk-tion junction, they‘re actually doing that.  We‘re going to do this debunk-tion junction thing until we find it boring.  So far, we find it really, really not boring.  We‘ll be right back. 




please welcome to the program, Rachel Maddow. 


Did you ever see “The Munsters?” 

MADDOW (on camera):  Oh, yes. 

STEWART:  Oh, good.  Here‘s what I think when I watch MSNBC.  You‘re Marilyn. 

MADDOW:  Thank you. 

STEWART:  But everyone else over there is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) nuts.  And by the way, MSNBC, while we‘re on it, what‘s with the complex, eloquent, even-tempered lady.  Who‘s she supposed to be matched up against on Fox?  No, no, there‘s my girl. 

MADDOW:  I really like bombastic rhetoric.  I like people going over the top and using hyperbole and being a little nuts.  I think it‘s exciting.  I‘m in cable. 

STEWART:  It‘s our food.  It‘s our manna. 

MADDOW:  It‘s what we look for.  I also find it enjoyable.  I think it‘s fun.  I think it‘s make for a good healthy democratic discourse.  But don‘t lie or expect to get called out when you lie.  And don‘t threaten to shoot people or encourage the shooting of people.  Let‘s just agree to that. 

STEWART:  I was about to find that - if I saw that engraved on a plaque somewhere, I would think, this is a reasonable place of business. 


STEWART:  You know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is right.  Right is to blame for this monster they have created.  Right after the earthquake in Haiti, I thought I gave a gentle nudge to Rachel Maddow over purely the timing of a perceived political point concerning the relative merits of President Bush and Obama re disaster relief. 

MADDOW:  Putting someone as high-profile and powerful and capable as Hillary Clinton in charge of the State Department, all of that, central to what the Obama administration says it wants to do differently than what Bush and Cheney did. 

STEWART:  Not the right time.  Or to put what happened in blog-speranto(ph) - Stewart rips Maddow.  That wasn‘t a rip.  That was a rib.  A rib, not a rip.  But, of course, have you to respond to a ripping. 

MADDOW:  Listen, I love me some Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show.”  I‘m a big fan, but no apologies for reporting on which agency is the lead in our national efforts to respond to Haiti. 

STEWART:  Now, when I saw and heard what she said right there, I thought it was completely fair.  But when I read what she said, “Maddow retaliates against unlikely foe Jon Stewart.  Oh!  Oh!  We‘re foes (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?  You don‘t retaliate at me, young lady.  No, no, no. 

There‘s Rachel Maddow.  She‘s leaning forward, I guess, apparently having dropped something.  Hey, Maddow you like apples?  Round one, how do you like them apples? 

MADDOW:  I have two things to say about Jon Stewart‘s speech.  One, bravo.  And two, bravo.  I know this wasn‘t a political event, but I am a liberal, a capital L liberal and he‘s a small L liberal and that you go, I go, you go, I go principle, I believe it.  And I‘m really happy that in my country, over 200,000 people turned out to cheer that.  No joke. 

STEWART:  Had a good weekend.  I slept.  I spent a lot of it dressed as a boxer.  It will make sense.  Watching some of the reaction to our rally to restore sanity, and good thing I was dressed that way.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN”:  All of us here at “COUNTDOWN” and a lot of us among the progressives had one major, well-defined problem with the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, a false equivalence between what we do here and what Fox News and the like do there.  Sticking up for the powerless is not the moral equivalent of sticking up for the powerful. 

STEWART:  Whoa!  I don‘t think that we were equating the two.  We don‘t ever - we spent a lot of our time.  I‘m sorry, Rachel, you wanted to answer?

MADDOW:  I know everybody likes to say, oh, that‘s cable news.  It‘s all the same - Fox and MSNBC.  We‘re mirror images of each other.  Let this incident lay to rest forever.  The fossil(ph) never true anyway, bull-pucky, lazy conflation of Fox News and what the rest us do for a living. 

STEWART:  My teeth came out!  Oh!

TEXT:  Earlier today in Rachel‘s office. 

MADDOW:  So I‘m a huge “Daily Show” fan, you know. 


MADDOW:  And it‘s not like he talks about us all the time.  But when he talks about us, it‘s cool, hey, I‘m on “The Daily Show.”  But then, it‘s also nerve-wracking because when he nails people, he totally nails people. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s fun watching him nail other people, but not fun watching him nail you. 

MADDOW:  Exactly.  I have never been able to interview Jon Stewart before.  He‘s interviewed me twice.  I‘ve never interviewed him before.  I‘ve always wanted to interview him.  And hell - I mean, it just feels like a big deal. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is a big deal.  I think we ought to promote

this like the event that it is.  It‘s Ali-Frazier, you know.  It‘s the

brawl for it all.  It‘s Duran-Leonard II.  You know what I mean?  It‘s an

event.  It will be -

MADDOW:  Yes.  I‘m not fighting with Jon Stewart.  I‘m not at war with

him.  I mean, we‘re not -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Not technically.  Let me just take a run at this. 

MADDOW:  OK.  All right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For two years and two months, they‘ve both had shows on basic cable.  For two years and two months, they‘ve been circling each other.  Word warriors.  Politics pugilists.  He‘s funny.  She knows lots of stuff. 

Thursday night, they collide in a cable TV battle for the ages. 

Maddow, Stewart, the brawl for it all. 

MADDOW:  No.  No.  No, no, no, no. 


MADDOW:  No.  Not by infinity.  Not even.  Seriously, though? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, it‘s a good one.  Let me take another run at it.  I think I can tone it down for you. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Rachel Maddow really likes Jon Stewart.  Jon Stewart doesn‘t appear to think that Rachel Maddow is a total jerk.  Thursday night, Maddow, Stewart - something‘s got to give. 

MADDOW:  No.  No.  No, no, no.  Are you kidding?  I mean, not only can we not do that.  I - no, I can‘t do that.  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Understood.  Understood.  I get it.  I began my (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Just - will you just indulge me? 

MADDOW:  Yes, yes.  All right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She makes a genuine effort to make sense and use facts to support her point of view.  He‘s really funny and good at pointing out the absurdity in the media.  Maddow, Stewart - I got your sanity right here, Bub. 

MADDOW:  Bill, I am speechless and also totally alienated from you and from the whole concept of this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is basic cable.  This is basic cable promotion. 

MADDOW:  Good bye.  Let‘s just.  We‘ll figure something out.  Oh, my god.  What are we going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They really haven‘t had any crosswords.  There‘s very little chance that they‘ll brawl on TV.  Rachel Maddow, interested in what Jon Stewart thinks about politics and the news media, because she thinks he‘s smart and funny. 

Jon Stewart, gracious enough to come on Rachel Maddow‘s show to answer whatever questions Rachel has.  Maddow, Stewart - he‘s going to be a guest on her show. 


There had to be a fireball.  That‘s the only thing we could all agree on.  Tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern - we are very excited for that interview and for tomorrow‘s show. 

Now it is time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Good evening, Lawrence. 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE LAST WORD”:  Rachel, we‘re all going to be watching tomorrow night. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, I appreciate it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel. 



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