'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
Past transcripts by month
Guests: Ed Rendell, Richard Engel; Eugene Robinson , P.J. Crowley
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Melissa. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us tonight.
On a typical Tuesday, between 1:30 and 2:00 in the afternoon, the New
York City 911 call center gets about 800 calls, about 800. Today, it was
6,900 in that half hour period and another 4,000 calls to the city`s 311
Today`s earthquake was the largest earthquake to hit the east coast
of the United States in more than 65 years. The U.S. Geological Survey
saying it was a 5.8, its epicenter was near Mineral, Virginia, which is
about 80 miles away from Washington, D.C. Although we think of earthquakes
as a more West Coast phenomena in this country, when they do hit on the
East Coast, the geology of the faults and of the land on the East Coast
means that eastern quakes tend to be felt over a wider area than similar-
sized quakes would be felt in the West.
This one on the East Coast today was felt in 22 different states from
Maine to Ohio to New York to South Carolina. There were even reports of
shaking in eastern Canada.
In Washington, D.C., here`s what an "Associated Press" camera trained
on the White House recorded. And here was the subtle rock and roll the
camera captured of the U.S. Capitol building.
An MSNBC studio in Washington, D.C., you might not have known
something was up unless you were watching for it, but here`s what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST, "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS": You`re watching
"ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" right here on MSNBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just slight camera wobble, the only indication was amiss
there. But the shaking was enough to evacuate those studios, at least for
the short run, just to make sure that everything was OK.
Very close to the epicenter in Virginia, there was nothing subtle
about it. The "Associated Press" says the filming of this commercial, for
example, caught the quake live in Chantilly, Virginia. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to take this opportunity to show you my
new customer waiting room -- do you feel that? What was that? My God, I
think that was an earthquake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, it was. At the epicenter, in Mineral, Virginia,
chimneys were damaged, store front windows were broken. Closer to
Washington, D.C., in Tysons Corner, Virginia, a building collapsed and
crushed a handful of cars as you see here.
In Washington, D.C., itself, the National Cathedral`s tower and
several spires were damaged, plaster and paint chipped off -- look at that
-- off the U.S. Capitol dome into the rotunda. As the quake hit, dozens of
buildings were evacuated, including the U.S. Capitol building and the
Pentagon. The Senate is sort of on recess, but technically the Senate is
in session so the Republicans can block the president from making recess
After the Capitol was evacuated today, though, the Senate decided to
hold its pro forma session at the Postal Square Building, which is right
next to D.C. train station, Union Station, about four long blocks from the
The president is vacationing in Martha`s Vineyard. He says he did
not feel it, although some on that Massachusetts island did feel the quake.
Hundreds of office workers definitely felt the quake in shore at Boston.
In New York City, some buildings, including the federal courthouse,
But unless you lived where a giant chunk of building fell or you know
someone who got hurt, the wall-to-wall coverage may have seemed a little
much. Twitter, for example, was occasionally hilarious today, with people
making fun of the outsized media coverage for a relatively minor disaster
that happened to strike where a lot of people who work in the media kind,
sort of, felt it.
This is a map of all the earthquake activity in the continental U.S.
over the past seven days. This country of ours is prone to shaking.
California shakes all the time. Nevada shakes all the time. Alaska,
Hawaii, Puerto Rico, they shake all the time. And this fair 5.8 really
surprised the Eastern Seaboard -- 5.8 and people from Boston to Richmond,
Virginia, run out on the street. Quake surprises eastern U.S.
Check this out, this is from "The Wall Street Journal" report last
month, revealing that U.S. nuclear officials were working on a new study
about how well our country`s nuclear power plants can handle earthquakes.
Quote, "We`re concerned about a magnitude-6 earthquake occurring and
surprising us in the East." That`s from someone with the U.S. Geological
Survey speaking in the context of what our nuclear plants can stand up to.
The 5.8 quake we saw today was still a ways from being a 6.0. But if
you are concerned about something surprising you and then something pretty
close to that thing happens, can you still say that you were surprised?
Today`s quake, again, was centered in Mineral, Virginia, which just
happens to be home to the decades old North Anna power station, which is a
nuclear power plant -- at the epicenter of the quake.
Officials at the plant felt the shaking today and powered down both
In the quake, North Anna also lost the source of electricity the
electricity the plant brings in to cool the super hot, super dangerous
nuclear fuel so it does not overheat and caused a meltdown. When the quake
hit and the North Anna plant went off the electrical grid, its diesel
generators kicked in. The plant is now running on those back up
In a statement today, the power company that owns North Anna said no
major damage has been reported at the plant and that, quote, "No release of
radioactive materials has occurred beyond the minor releases associated
with normal station operations."
After the earthquake, a dozen nuclear plants from North Carolina to
Michigan declared what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls unusual
events. But those plants are continuing to operate.
A year ago this month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released new
estimates for the risk of devastating earthquakes at our country`s 104
commercial nuclear reactors. Of the top 10 list of greatest risk for
serious damage from an earthquake, nine of the 10 of the top 10 list are in
the eastern half of the United States. Where, remember, they are worried a
6.0 quake might come along and surprise us all.
North Anna located at the epicenter of today`s quake is number seven
on the top 10 list. Its risk factor went up in the last survey by 38
percent -- not because that nuclear power plant is necessarily more
dangerous, but because we know now more about how earthquakes work and the
risk they pose to nuclear plants.
We started getting more reporting and more reports on the worst risks
to America`s nuclear power plants starting, of course, in March when an
earthquake and tsunami knocked out power to Japan`s Fukushima nuclear
plant. Months later, the Japanese government acknowledged that fuel in
three of Fukushima`s reactors didn`t just meltdown. It melted through the
super strong containment vessels at the plant. That disaster is still not
Coincidentally, Vice President Joe Biden was in Japan today.
Remember the scenes of devastation at Sendai airport in Japan after the
quake and tsunami there? U.S. troops actually had a large part to play in
the clearing and opening up the Sendai airport. That`s part of why the
vice president visited Sendai today, reviewing the damage and rebuilding
and promising the United States will stand with Japan for as long as it
That could turn out to be a very, very long time. "The New York
Times" reporting this week that the Japanese government may have to declare
land within 12 miles of the Fukushima reactor as a no-go zone for decades.
In some places, radiation exceeds the acceptable limits for humans by a
factor of 25.
One catastrophe quake and loss of power and Japan now has its own
Chernobyl. Japan is set to declare land off-limits probably for decades, a
dead zone, because it is too dangerous to be there.
You know, even when it`s done perfectly, nuclear power is a high wire
act. Mistakes in the nuclear power field can be catastrophic. Already in
the U.S. this year, we have watched nuclear plants in Nebraska battle weeks
of record flooding where inches mattered and where the aqua dams they put
up as an extra line of defense failed and water got into the plant.
When we reported on the Nebraska story in June, we discovered a
couple of unsettling things. First that when the Fort Calhoun plant was
built, someone miscalculated how ready that plant was to handle a serious
flood. That error was noticed two years ago, and this year`s flooding was
the first test of whether they got the re-working right.
The other thing we learned came by way of a landmark investigative
piece from "The Associated Press" this year which found that the owners of
nuclear power plants that were designed to last for 40 years are now asking
to keep their 40-year-old plants around for up to a century. These plants
are getting old.
When President Obama makes his speech next month about how the
country can take action now to create jobs, maybe this time he can get
really granular about his plan, really specific. Maybe instead of saying
we need to get investing in our nation`s future or whatever, maybe instead
of saying something big picture like that, maybe he can go really small
Maybe he can say the nation needs to seismically retrofit all of our
nuclear power plants so they are ready for earthquakes like the one that
hit the Eastern Seaboard on August 23rd, we`ll do this as a public/private
partnership and, by the way, we will create jobs while doing it.
The August 23rd earthquake, he could say, did not come with a warning
and neither will the next test of our resilience as a nation. So, that
means we`re going to be retrofitting all our nation`s critical
infrastructure and we`re going to be doing it now, because we need it,
because it`s critical infrastructure and because doing it now we`ll create
the jobs that the economy desperately needs now. He could say that.
We keep getting surprised by disasters. By the markets going nuts.
By a ratings agency downgrading the United States on the basis of our dumb
politics and brinksmanship about our debt.
Is one of these shocks or all of these shocks enough to change what
is possible for our country? Are they enough to change our minds?
Joining us now is Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor, former
chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and NBC News political
Governor Rendell, thank you so much for your time tonight.
ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: This quake obviously was not the big one. But could this
quake be a wake-up call? Does it give us the chance to start a serious
discussion about the dangerousness of our, in some cases, pretty lousy and
pretty old infrastructure?
RENDELL: It should, but it won`t. If we can take any lesson from
the bridge collapse in Minnesota, the pipelines in northern California
blowing up, all the disasters we had, the levees breaking in New Orleans
and Cedar Rapids because they weren`t properly maintained, the impetus will
last for a week or 10 days.
And then we`ll be back to the same old thing, we don`t have the
money. We don`t have the money. We can`t do it. We can`t invest, we
can`t change things in America -- which is pure B.S., but that`s what we`ll
MADDOW: Is the fact we need it economically too any different now?
I mean, we are as a country poised for the president to take the bully
pulpit, which he says he`s going to do and put forward a bold economic
plan, a bold jobs plan to create jobs. And one way to do that is through
infrastructure spending. He has talked about the need for new
Does his political will make this more possible than if we didn`t
have his political will on this?
RENDELL: Yes, and I think, clearly, infrastructure is always
important for public safety for the quality of our lives and for long-run
economic competitiveness. But what makes infrastructure, I think,
tantalizingly possible, if everyone e listens is it is the single best job
creator we can do.
Rachel, your example, I know this because we just had work done on
one of our reactors at Three Mile Island and it employed over 1,000
construction workers for six months -- for six months doing that work. We
can, for a decent infrastructure investment program, we can put a million -
- not a million, millions of Americans to work in well-paying jobs both as
the construction sites and back at manufacturing plants, producing the
steel and the concrete and the asphalt and all the things that are
necessary. It`s the single best remedy we have.
But it can`t be done for six months or one year. It has to be a
long-term -- in my judgment -- a decade-long commitment.
MADDOW: You can`t get up there though, as President Obama and say we
need to do something different for a decade, because the Republicans are
not willing to say yes to their own ideas as long as they are hearing them
out of President Obama`s mouth.
Is he likely to get more done if he actually goes very specific and
granular? And he doesn`t say we need to change our approach to
infrastructure and do something different for a decade. Let`s go fix this
bridge. Let`s go fix that plant.
I mean, this earthquake today was -- the epicenter of it was in Eric
Cantor`s district, as was this nuclear plant that was, frankly, shut down
today because of the danger about this quake, even though they say there
was no damage.
Doesn`t that put Eric Cantor on the spot as majority leader in the
RENDELL: No question, and if he`s honest, he`ll say we do need to
invest in our infrastructure.
Look, Jim Inhofe, one of the most conservative members of the Senate,
do you remember during the stimulus debate, Jim Inhofe and Barbara Boxer
combined to try to put an amendment in which it would triple infrastructure
spending in the original stimulus. Unfortunately, it was beaten back. But
there is Republican support for infrastructure spending.
And what we would have to do, look, specific projects, you`re right,
people love specific projects because they can point to and say, yes, I get
that, we need that. And we can do that in the short run, but in the long
run, and I`ve seen it when you do your promos standing at the base of the
Hoover Dam, we`ve got to do big things with the American infrastructure.
Big things can`t be done in six months, can`t be done a year.
But if we committed ourselves to a decade-long program, like building
America`s future as advocated, that`s going to produce millions of jobs,
not just for one year or for 18 months, but for 10 years straight. And it
will revitalize American manufacturing and get this economy back working.
MADDOW: For a plan like that, though, who`s lobbying Republicans for
support on that and what Republicans are coming along?
RENDELL: Well, you have to build a consensus for a plan like that.
And every little thing helps. And clearly this episode helps today.
There`s no doubt about it.
And the good news about nuclear plants, it`s not good news for the
public, but you can order new plants to be built or plants to be totally
modernized and torn apart, and some of that can costs can be worn by the
rate payers over a long period of time and some of it could be born by the
private sector as well. So, there are ways to get this done.
You could spend $200 billion a year more on infrastructure than we`re
spending now, and the total cost to the federal government would be around
$40 billion, Rachel, and they get about $18 or $20 billion back in the
additional taxes that would be generated by 4 million or 5 million people
working who wouldn`t otherwise be working.
MADDOW: Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor, former head of the
DNC, NBC News analyst and the only person who I can always count on to be
super enthusiastic to talk infrastructure with me, even when I`m not sure
anybody else would be.
RENDELL: And, Rachel, for the record, myself and my little band of
three people who worked with me, we stayed in our office, we saw it shaking
and rattled, but we weren`t wussies, hung in there and stayed at work.
MADDOW: I know. Who would ever call you a wussy?
RENDELL: Never, never.
MADDOW: It would never happen. Thanks, Gov. I appreciate it.
All right, the pictures for the battle of Tripoli have been
incredibly dramatic, including this man who claims to be wearing Moammar
Gadhafi`s accessories, look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was like oh, my God. I`m in Gadhafi`s room,
oh, my God. But then this thing happened. I found this -- I was like oh,
my goodness, I`m happy now I`m having this thing. And I`m happy for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is not us making up a guy dressed up in a Moammar
Gadhafi suit saying he stole it out of Gadhafi`s bedroom. That in real
life is a guy wearing Gadhafi`s clothing. So, he says that he says he
stole out of Gadhafi`s bedroom.
Whether this man is telling the truth or not, whether or not the hat
and necklace and scepter thing really do belong to Gadhafi or they not, we
cannot say, but I do know that happened on film today. And we do know that
the battle to oust Moammar Gadhafi from Libya is not over. We`ve got lot
developments from NBC`s Richard Engel, coming up next.
MADDOW: A man named Sherwood Schwartz died last month after an
extremely productive life as a TV producer. Among his legacies were the
"Brady Bunch," also "Gilligan`s Islands." But in his wildest imaginations,
Mr. Schwartz could never have anticipated that one of his all-time most
excellent TV characters would come to shape a leading presidential campaign
in 2012. But it has. And no, it`s not Sam the Butcher or Marsha Marsha
I will explain the unexpected arrival of Thurston Howell III in this
year`s presidential race, coming up in just moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS: Gadhafi effectively lived on a military
base, and there were tanks inside this complex, if you -- it`s effectively
like the White House but he put the White House inside a military barracks.
It is surrounded by high walls, the walls are built to be defended
militarily, when you drive around the complex, there are small holes in the
walls with little metal gates on the holes, little metal latches on them so
the people inside can put guns out of them and fire to defend the complex.
So, it was built for defensive purposes.
And it has many buildings inside. It has intelligence buildings. It
has command and control buildings. Gadhafi`s private residences in there.
Bunkers and tunnels underneath the complex. So, it is a very elaborate
structure but it was built with the idea that something like this could
happen and that it would come under attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent,
finally wearing a helmet, reporting throughout the day from outside Moammar
Gadhafi`s compound in Tripoli, in the capital city of Libya.
Later in the day, the rebel forces in Libya did, of course, force
their way into Gadhafi`s compound. This is what Richard filed about that
for today`s "NBC Nightly News."
ENGEL (voice-over): The battle began early this morning with NATO
air strikes and rebel rockets fired from afar, to weaken the defenses of
(on camera): There`s a lot of stray fire in this area as is running
gun battle is continuing.
(voice-over): As the compound burned, the rebels advance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is for Gadhafi.
ENGEL: Gunfire ripped across Tripoli. A barrage of bullets fired
from inside the compound. Loyalists are defending their ground.
And then nearly five hours after the battle began, Tripoli suddenly
changed. We`re hearing something we haven`t heard all day, which is
silence coming out of the compound.
(on camera): If you listen to it, there`s really not much going on
right now, and that itself is significant.
(voice-over): There`s no Internet in Tripoli, phone service is down,
state TV is off the air, so the news was spread from loud speakers from
We approached the compound, unsure if it really had fallen.
(on camera): This is one of the main gates of Gadhafi`s compound,
the rebels are going inside. There`s bullet holes, clearly been a fight
here. They are even moving in their heavy weapons.
(voice-over): The rebels had taken Gadhafi`s forbidden city. The
loyalists inside apparently ran away.
(on camera): The rebels are now looting Gadhafi`s compound, they are
taking out everything they can carry, these men have automatic weapons
taken from inside the complex.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ENGEL: It`s an FN automatic rifle, a Berretta, this is ammunition,
or this all pistol. So, this is a pistol taken from the armory inside.
(voice-over): At the center of the compound, what may be Libya`s
most iconic symbol, a statue of a fist crushing an American fighter jet.
In front of it today, rebels sang, kissed the ground in prayer, and fired
celebratory gunfire, at times, dangerously close to other rebelers.
But where was Gadhafi? Rebels scoured the grounds, and think they
spot Gadhafi loyalists.
They fire. But the loyalists are gone. And Gadhafi remains at
The leader of Libya for 42 years is now a fugitive, wanted by
international courts and no longer considered in command by his people.
Today, Gadhafi lost his compound and also his country.
(on camera): But amid these celebrations, there was still one place,
the Rixos Hotel, that remains under the control of Gadhafi loyalists. In
that hotel, there are 30 western journalists being held by armed Gadhafi
loyalists against their will and the fate of these journalists remains
Richard Engel, NBC News, in Green Square.
MADDOW: Colonel Gadhafi was not in his compound when the rebels
seized it, as Richard said there. According to "Reuters," though, tonight,
Gadhafi has made a statement on Libyan radio, saying that withdrawing from
that compound was a tactical move in response to NATO air strikes. A
government spokesman for Gadhafi then threatened to turn Libya into
volcanoes, lava, and fire.
Joining us now is P.J. Crowley, former assistant secretary of state
for public affairs and a 26-year veteran at the United States Air Force.
He`s now the Omar Bradley chair at Dickenson College, Penn State University
and the Army War College.
Mr. Crowley, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Hello, Rachel.
MADDOW: How significant tactically and psychologically is the
capture of Gadhafi`s compound, do you think?
CROWLEY: Well, I think, from a tactical point, being able to assume
an essence full command of Tripoli is important strategically and a huge
psychological boost for the Transitional National Council, particularly
given the embarrassment 24 hours ago of having Gadhafi`s sons so visible.
So, this is a very significant move.
In the short-term now, they have the challenge of security, making
sure that, you know, the streets are controlled and conditions return to
normal, and also politics.
Now, demonstrating that as a regional power center, they can now
credibly lead the country towards this transition.
MADDOW: The National Transitional Council, the government force
which is now succeeding Gadhafi, even as he has not yet been found, they
said today they will move their headquarters from the stronghold in the
East, from Benghazi to Tripoli in the next few days. If that happens, do
you think that actually will make a difference to the people of Libya in
terms of seeing the physical central power in their country as staying the
same even as Gadhafi is gone?
CROWLEY: I think it will be a very important moment and a very
important popular move. Obviously, Libya`s a tribal society, so there will
be some politicking both at the wholesale level and also at retail level.
But these are groups that have done business with each other for a long
time, but there`s going to be some jockeying as we forward. I think maybe
a second challenge for Libya is the matter of oil.
Now, getting oil back flowing again will generate revenue for the
country, but as we`ve seen with the resource curse in many countries, the
fact there`s now something to fight over, it`s no longer under the command
of Gadhafi means that`s an enticing irritant or splinter that could, you
know, pick at the unity that we hope Libya will achieve.
MADDOW: Do you have any sense of how unified the country is behind -
- behind the rebels? I mean, that seems to me it may be an important part
of how bright the country`s future is at this point, not just how together
the National Transitional Council is in terms of holding basic governance
together or establishing basic governance, whether or not there`s going to
be an insurgency? Whether or not there are going to be loyalists
continuing a fight or somebody else who tries to overthrow this government
that`s trying to find its legs?
CROWLEY: And that`s why the fate of Gadhafi does matter. If he`s
still in the country somewhere and he`s still protected, that means that he
can potentially lead an insurgency, although I think his effective command
of any resistance, I think, is very, very limited. You know, then again if
he`s left the country, that`s a different matter entirely.
But -- so resolving the issue of Gadhafi will tell us a lot about the
basic security situation will be for the foreseeable future.
But as we`ve seen with many movements and prior revolutions, it`s one
thing they are unified by an opposition to Gadhafi, it`s another they`d
have to create a common vision for a country and then effectively move in
that direction. That`s where national assistance is going to be vital.
MADDOW: You have operated at the highest levels of diplomacy during
the Obama administration. Your role at the State Department, I know you
were not just a spokesperson but a hands-on person at the senior levels of
Tell me what you think will happen if some country somewhere, whether
it`s Russia or somebody closer to home, somebody decide to take in Gadhafi
personally and shelter him from any international efforts to bring him
before The Hague or anyplace else where he might face justice.
How will the United States react to some country that makes a
decision like that?
CROWLEY: Well, obviously, it`s a very limited circle I think, and
Gadhafi has probably made some arrangements to have an escape hatch in the
event this happen. And there are lots of rogue leaders, Mugabe,
(INAUDIBLE) else where that are, themselves, pariahs around the world that
may well be willing to welcome Gadhafi and the billions he`s squared away
somewhere in the world.
And this is where the credibility of the international system of
justice is vitally important and critical. And this is very difficult. We
see next door to Libya in Sudan where Bashir is under an indictment from
the ICC. But so far, no country has been willing to execute, you know,
that writ and move him to The Hague.
So, this will be a challenge going forward in terms of the
credibility of the ICC and the willingness of the international community
to enforce its dictate.
But then again, the good news here is that Gadhafi has very, very few
friends. There`s only a handful of leaders who -- you know, Hugo Chavez is
another in this hemisphere that potentially would be willing to take him in
and as the United States and others would exert a heavy price politically
and economically for anyone who shelters him.
MADDOW: P.J. Crowley, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for
public affairs -- thank you very much for helping us understand this. I
really appreciate your time.
CROWLEY: OK, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
The Thurston Howell III factor surfaces in this year`s presidential
politics. That my lovey is coming up.
MADDOW: OK, indulge me, please, in a throwback popcorn commercial.
There`s a reason we are showing this. This is actually an exercise in 2012
presidential campaign analysis. Do you remember who Orville Redenbacher
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is gourmet popping corn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can pop all this for the price of two bags of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call my broker, we`ll corner the market.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. Now, would you vote for somebody like popcorn magnate
Orville Redenbacher? Seems honest and wholesome and sincere, a big success
in the private sector, but he lacks a certain, doesn`t seem to be that
presidential or inspiring.
That, of course, is a moot question this year because Mr.
Redenbacher`s 2012 facsimile dropped out of the presidential race when he
finished third in the Iowa straw poll. So, if you vote for him, you would
have to wait for the choice o to vote for him for vice president this year.
But would you vote for the other guy in this ad? Would you vote for
not Lovey, but Thurston Howell III? The country clubbing millionaire who
for some reason brought a bunch of ascots and a smoking jacket on a three-
hour boat tour in 1965? When voting for president, would you vote for
Thurston? Not a moot question, America, you may have that opportunity in
this year`s presidential race.
The story of one candidate embracing the full Thurston as a campaign
strategy, it`s coming up.
MADDOW: When President Obama announced he`ll unveil his jobs plan at
the beginning of September, among the first to pounce on that announcement,
among the first to go on the attack is the current frontrunner of the
Republican presidential nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s going to come out on
November 6th with his jobs plan, why hasn`t he come out with it already?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: September, not November. But still, why hasn`t he come with
it already? September 6th is way too late, why even bother?
The punch line on that attempted attack from Mitt Romney, though, was
his line that came next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I`m also in Nevada on the September 6th, and I will be
coming out with my jobs plan, and it`s going to be very different from his.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mitt Romney says the September 6th is way too late to come
out with a jobs plan, he also says that his own jobs plan will come out on
the September 6th. That`s like death by palindrome.
But beyond Mitt Romney`s inherent awkwardness ruining another
attempted attack by him on the president, there`s also the substantive
matter of jobs, the substantive question of whether or not Mitt Romney`s
campaign is connecting with the American people on what they want to be the
central issue of their campaign, the economy.
When people think about Mitt Romney, Republican frontrunner, when
people think about Mitt Romney and jobs, what exactly do they think about?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I`m also unemployed.
ROMNEY: I`m not working.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`ve got it a lot better than what we`ve got.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mitt Romney prompting giggles and cringes around the country
and table he was sitting at when he tells a group of unemployed Florida
residents that he too is unemployed. And it is true, Mitt Romney is
technically an unemployed multi-millionaire private equity executive
running for president by saying things like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend. Of course, they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The "I`m also unemployed" moment and the corporations are
people moment, both seems like Mitt Romney gaffes when he did those things.
I mean, some of the major baggage he brings to this race is that the
money he has that he didn`t inherit is what he made as a private equity
mogul shutting down companies, liquidating their assets and firing their
American workers. So, he can`t really afford to be showcasing on the
campaign trail the corporations are people, heartless zillionaire side of
In what seemed like an effort to course correct after those errors,
Mitt Romney has recently tried to pivot. He tried on a man of the people
line recently when he attacked President Obama for vacationing in Martha`s
Vineyard. That line of attack quickly deflated however once we all figure
out that Mitt Romney`s own schedule showed him to be going to Martha`s
Vineyard at the exact same time that President Obama is going to be there.
Mr. Romney going straight from the Vineyard to the Hamptons -- no,
I`m not kidding. Mr. Romney`s foray into every man make fun of the rich
people blue collar populism did not go very well, and he now appears to be
over that already.
In fact, Mitt Romney now appears to be just embracing the zillionaire
thing. He`s going with it now. This is a campaign strategy that around
our office we have been calling going for the full Thurston.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole thing sounds so darn democratic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You understand the principle involved, after all,
you`re a man of ethics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You sure know how to cut a man, don`t you? All
right, I hereby officially place myself under house arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thurston, you`re a convict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lovey, I`ve been framed, I`ll appeal, I`ll take
it to the Supreme Court, I`ll take it higher, the rules committee of the
Newport Country Club.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thurston Howell III, the millionaire from "Gilligan`s
Island" who stole every scene he was in.
My best guess is that Mitt Romney`s campaign figured out that Mitt
Romney is going to keep saying things on the campaign trail like
corporations are people and sort of joking with unemployed people that he
too is unemployed.
Mitt Romney can`t be totally scripted. He has to be let out in the
wild every once in awhile, and he keeps saying stuff like that.
I believe the campaign has decided that instead of covering those
things up when they happen one by one, they are just going to run with
this. They`re just going to go for the full Thurston. Instead of backing
off the whole corporations are people thing, for example, the Romney
campaign has decided to turn the corporations for people line into a
campaign ad as if this may be a good slogan for him.
News leaked yesterday that the Romney family has decided to apply for
a permit to quadruple the size of their $12 million beach front mansion
outside San Diego. The reason given by the Romney campaign for quadrupling
the size of the mansion, the current 3,000 square foot mansion is, quote,
"inadequate for their needs." That was the statement from the campaign.
I`m telling you, I think this is a deliberate strategy. When the
"Washington Post" reported a guesstimate of Mitt Romney`s net worth, the
Romney campaign wrote to them to correct the "Washington Post`s" guess and
said they wanted it to be made clear that an accurate range is between $190
million and $250 million. They`d like to be on the record about that,
And then this strange story popped up in "The Hill" newspaper
yesterday, a story about Mitt Romney stealing all of Barack Obama`s big
dollar Wall Street donors. The people that usually tip off a news outlet
about that sort of thing is the campaign that`s doing the stealing, not the
campaign being stolen from.
There`s no direct evidence that this is a Romney campaign planted
story in "The Hill," but it is a pro-Romney story about Romney donors and
it does come complete with this blind quote from one of those donors,
quote, "It`s not healthy for rich people to feel maligned," the executive
said. The executive said, of course.
But then after all this happens, this is why I think this has to be
deliberate. All right, Mitt Romney went on FOX News yesterday, he`s out on
the campaign trail so FOX has to put him on a satellite feed.
What is the image the Romney handlers allow to be used for the back
drop for their candidate in the studio? Look, there`s Mitt Romney
positioned in front of a whole row of yachts. I`m telling you, this has to
be a strategy. You can`t do this many things by accident.
Mitt Romney is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential
nomination. This kind of thing cannot happen by accident over and over
For awhile, I think all of these things maybe were just gaffes. But
now it really does seems they are doing it deliberately. The Romney
campaign is going for the full Thurston. If he starts insisting that we
call him Willard instead of Mitt from now on, then we will have full
Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst -- Willard, thank you
for being here tonight. Mind if I all call you Willard?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I do mind,
MADDOW: I take it back.
ROBINSON: But, listen, here, before we start, I have a question.
OK. So, Mitt Romney is Thurston Howell III, right?
ROBINSON: So, does that mean Jon Huntsman is the professor, even
though he has a lot of money because he believes in global warming and he
believes in evolution? Then Michele Bachmann could be Maryann, Sarah
Palin, of course, is Ginger.
MADDOW: Wait, wait, wait. You`ve got Ginger and Maryann backwards.
ROBINSON: Do you think so? I`m going with Bachmann as Maryann and
Palin as Ginger.
MADDOW: Oh, I totally see Bachmann as Ginger, but, OK, keep going.
ROBINSON: No, but there it ends. Who`s the captain, who`s Gilligan?
MADDOW: Well, the skipper is hard to say, because the skipper is an
usual -- the thing is, that if you think -- if you`re thinking about this
in terms of pure impression, Ron Paul is the skipper, don`t you think?
ROBINSON: Yes, I was thinking Ron Paul for Gilligan and Newt
Gingrich for skipper.
MADDOW: Gingrich is a little skipper. All right. Then Gilligan --
I mean , that does put Rick Perry in the position of being Gilligan, I`m
prefer for Gilligan to be Rick Santorum, but I`m afraid Rick Santorum will
sue me for even saying that of some obscure of what I`ve said that he`ll
reveal as religiously offensive.
ROBINSON: That`s a given, so we won`t go there.
MADDOW: A three-hour tour. Now we`ve done it.
Can a candidate turn a rich guy caricature into a strength by
embracing the heartless rich guy caricature?
ROBINSON: I don`t think so, but why not try it? I mean, he is who
he is, after all. And, you know, I had doubts as to whether they was
deliberate, but when you look at the expansion of the $12 million mansion,
for example, the stories go on to say he`s not even planning to do work
until after the campaign. So, why apply for the permit now, why make it
public now if you`re not even planning to move into your 10,000 or 17,000
or however big the new mansion is going to be?
So, maybe he just wants to embrace himself. It`s not good for the
rich to feel maligned, Rachel.
MADDOW: When the campaign put out their statement in response to the
mansion thing, they obviously could have delayed responding for as long as
they wanted, they didn`t respond instantly, they had a little time to come
up with something, and what they come up with is the existing $12 million
mansion was inadequate for his needs.
That made me just wonder whether or not this was deliberate and
whether or not the idea was to try to sort of get an aspirational vote.
You get to try to get a Steve Forbes style vote because I`m rich, you can
be rich too.
ROBINSON: Steve Forbes did so well, though. President Forbes, no.
So, I think that only takes you so far. But that is an odd phrasing.
Isn`t it inadequate to his needs, as if of course we all need more than a
3,000 square foot sea front mansion, we all need more than that.
MADDOW: How do you think that a line like that -- I mean, you`re
from Orangeburg, South Carolina, how is the full Thurston going to play in
South Carolina? I mean, if this is deliberate and this isn`t just sort of
gaffe -- a multiplied gaffe now compounded by the campaign, if they are
really doing this, can you imagine -- I mean, he`s going to have to deal
with the South Carolina electorate sooner rather than later?
ROBINSON: He is, I don`t think it will play particularly well in
South Carolina and he has to deal with that electorate because he`s not
going to win Iowa, he`s going to perhaps win New Hampshire. Then you get
to South Carolina which has a record of choosing the eventual nominee, he
does well there.
And the heavily Republican sort of rock-ribbed parts of the state,
they don`t have even 3,000 square foot seaside mansions. They are just not
that common, and so I don`t know if that`s going to play well at all.
MADDOW: All right. Eugene Robinson, "The Washington Post" columnist
and MSNBC analyst. Gene, I have to tell you, since we`ve been on the air,
the Gingrich campaign called us demanding that he`d be the professor. So,
we`re going to have to consider how we reply my friend.
Thank you, Gene.
ROBINSON: OK, we can reconsider.
MADDOW: All right. Amid all today`s literally earth shaking events,
Michele Bachmann thinks she has a magic solution to make gas prices drop
below $2 a gallon. Had we not just made the whole "Gilligan`s Island"
analogy, I would make a bewitched one about doing noting you`re your nose.
Ed Schultz has the magic details about that coming up right after the show.
And here, if you liked no pants subway rides, and who doesn`t like
pants subway rides, you`re going to love the best new thing in the world
today, which is right at the end of the show.
MADDOW: When the Arab Spring began earlier this year in Tunisia and
then in Egypt, we are fortunate to spend a lot of time talking to this man,
al Jazeera Middle East correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin. Ayman`s reporting
not only helped us understand what was unfolding in Cairo and elsewhere, it
also helped his network find greater prominence in the United States. You
can now watch al Jazeera English on some cable systems in the U.S. that you
could not watch on before.
Soon, you`re going to be able to see a lot more of Ayman Mohyeldin
right here, when he joins NBC News as a foreign correspondent based in
Cairo. We`re all very, very excited about this. He`s a great reporter.
He`s already been a great asset to us as a guest. And we`re delighted to
have him onboard in a full time capacity.
Also today, MSNBC made this official. Reverend Al Sharpton will be
the new permanent host of the 6:00 hour which is going to be called
"POLITICS NATION." We were kind of hoping it was going to be called "reved
up." Whatever the name, we will not only take it, we will watch it.
Congratulations to Ayman and to Reverend Sharpton on their new gigs
here. I think it is great news for both of them. But I`m telling you, it
is even better news for those of us who are all the more to work here
because of really, really impressive new colleagues like this. It`s very
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today is an act of kindness from
Improv Everywhere. Improv Everywhere are the people that threw a wedding
reception for a random couple getting married in New York City. The group
who ahs organized mass high fives to amuse bombed out subway riders and who
famously brought the no pants subway tried cities around the world every
January. When 200 people froze in place inside New York`s Grand Central
terminal. Yes, that was Improv Everywhere.
They also do MP3 experiments where hundreds of people download
instructions into their iPods, gather in a prearranged location and press
play simultaneously and then do whatever the voice in their ear buds tells
them to do.
Their latest gig in connection with Guggenheim Museum in New York is
called Say Something Nice. They put up a podium with the megaphone on it
and moved around a few public spaces in New York. The podium had a sign on
it that said, "Say something nice." And then they left it alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a great day, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all look wonderful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome back to New York.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love everybody that is out here. I love you
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Hey, you in the umbrella. I really like it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES: We`re from Dallas, Texas, and we love New York
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is cool to be asked to play in public, to be encouraged
to have fun and be nice while doing it especially because people did.
So, Improv Everywhere, let me return the favor, excellent job. Best
new thing in the world today, definitely.
It`s time for "THE ED SHOW." I`m still keeping this.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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