Guests: Matt Viser, Tarina Keene, Bob Putnam
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Updates ahead on the storm track of hurricane Irene on the East
Coast. The evacuation underway in the Carolinas, and the preparations
being made for the impending march of the storm up the Eastern Seaboard.
Also, Dick Cheney`s new book reveals the war he regrets not starting
while he was vice president.
And also some election results that do not bode well for the
celebrated Tea Party movement and their highly paid celebrity spokes-
models, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. That is all coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with the front-runner once removed for the
Republican presidential nomination. Mitt Romney has been the front-runner
in the Republican race for president for months now -- right up until about
five minutes ago when Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, cannon-balled into
the race and swamped everybody else.
Mr. Romney had been leading every national Gallup poll for the
Republican nomination since they started polling for this year`s field of
candidates. But it is the latest poll that shows Mr. Romney all of a
sudden 12 points behind Mr. Perry.
And the question now in presidential politics is how long Rick
Perry`s shine is going to stay shiny, and how Mitt Romney is going to
adjust his campaign to try to deal with the threat of Rick Perry.
Rick Perry, after all, is new on the national stage. And Mitt Romney
has been around for a while. He has essentially been running for president
for the last eight years. People got to know him really well when he ran
in 2008. They got to know him really well, and then they picked the other
There was just something about Mitt Romney that the Republican
electorate didn`t like back then, or at least they didn`t like enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TIM RUSSERT: Some of your opponents pass out these flip floppers,
that Mitt Romney flips and flops on the various issues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, when you hear Giuliani and Romney in
particular in some of these issues, immigration, the words that come to
mind are flip flop, flip flop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The former governor faces doubts about his
conservative credentials all the way home to Massachusetts, where Democrats
have posted his alleged flip flops on issues like gun control, gay rights,
Since Romney`s failed 1994 Senate run and his campaign for governor
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Mitt Romney needs to do is change the
narrative. And the question is, has the flip flop narrative that has been
so prevalent over the last six months, will that continue?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Mitt Romney is running for president as a do-over. That was
footage of him trying to do it in 2008. He spent a ton of money. He won a
few states in the primaries but did not go the distance.
And perhaps the majority liability he was unable to overcome in that
race and that he brought with him to this race is the perception that he
just takes whatever position he thinks the people listening to him at that
moment might like to hear at that moment -- on even substantive things.
Take the issue of gun control, for example. As "The Washington Post"
reported back in 2007, quote, "In the past, Romney emphasized his support
of gun control measures. In 1994, he said, quote, `I don`t line up with
the NRA.`" That was 1994 Mitt Romney. "I don`t line up with the NRA."
By the time he was ready to run for president, though --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did you join the NRA?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s about -- well, within
the last year. And I signed up for lifelong membership. I think they`re
doing good things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Lifetime membership. Not lifelong membership. You lived
here all your life? Not yet.
Mitt Romney went from "I don`t line up with the NRA" to card-carrying
lifelong membership, right?
You may also remember the varmint hunter episode from the `08
campaign. Here`s how Ryan Lizza wrote it up in "The New Yorker,"
describing a campaign stop in New Hampshire back then. "Suddenly, a
heavyset man wearing a bright orange cap entered the room. `Mr. Romney,`
he called out. `Eric Orff -- I`m a hunter.` It was a potentially awkward
Earlier this year, Romney claimed that he`d, quote, `been a hunter
pretty much all my life.` A few days later, he said in a statement, quote,
`I`ve hunted small game numerous times.` Four days after that, Romney the
`Austin American-Statesman, `Any description of my being a hunter is an
overstatement of capability.`
Still, though, he couldn`t resist. `You`re a hunter,` he said to Mr.
Orff. `Well, same here. Good to see ya.`"
Which one is it? You`re a hunter or you`re emphatically not a
hunter? You only have to pick one. Either one of them is fine, but you
can`t be both a hunter and not a hunter.
But the issue of guns pales in comparison with the one-man Gordian
Knot, Romney has tied himself into over the years on the issue of abortion.
In the `90s, when he was running for the Senate of Massachusetts and into
the 2000s when he was running for governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney
was quite vocally pro-choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this
country. I have since the time my mom took that position when she ran in
1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been
the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and preserve it.
I will preserve and protect a woman`s right to choose, and devoted
and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.
When asked will I protect a woman`s right to choose, I make an
unequivocal answer -- yes.
(END VIDEO CLILP)
MADDOW: Unequivocally, yes -- I am pro-choice. I stand tall for a
woman`s right to choose.
Once Mitt Romney was ready to run in 2008, though --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I will be a pro-life president. I`ll appoint --
ROMNEY: I`ll oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. I`ll oppose
partial birth abortion.
ROMNEY: I`ll oppose abortion at military clinics. I`ll oppose
funding abortion in international aid programs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s not just big ticket items like guns and abortion that
Mitt Romney has flipped on, it`s also specific policy issues like "don`t
ask, don`t tell."
As "The Washington Post" reported a few years back, quote, "In a 1994
letter to the Log Cabin Republicans, who advocate for gay rights, Mitt
Romney said he was in favor of, quote, `gays and lesbians being able to
serve openly and honestly` in the military."
OK. So, Romney in 1994 is against "don`t ask, don`t tell." Mitt
Romney in 2008 --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Well, "don`t ask, don`t tell" has worked well. We are in
the middle of a conflict. Now is not the time for a change in that regard.
And I don`t have a policy posture as to allowing gays in the military to
serve there openly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mitt Romney has a history of radical, 180 degree shifts on
positions, depending on what office he`s running for and what he thinks
people might want to hear.
And whatever you think that says about him, substantively as a person
and what he would be like as a national leader, the fundamental issue for
the Romney campaigns strategically is that the flip-flopper perception was
their major liability coming in to this campaign. This is already what
everybody thought about Mitt Romney. This is part of the reason -- maybe
the biggest part of the reason why people thought about it and decided no
on Mitt Romney last time around.
So how is the Mitt Romney for president campaign in 2012 heading off
that charge this time? How are they making him not seem like a flip
flopper this year?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: He did not cause this recession, but he made it worse.
He didn`t create the recession, but he made it worse and longer.
When he took office, the economy was in recession. And he made it
I didn`t say that things are worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, you did. Yes, you did. Yes, you did. Yes, you did.
Yes, you did, over and over again.
Mr. Romney, when you are the flip flop guy, when you are the guy who
Tim Russert taunted on the air with a pair of flip flops on television, why
hasn`t your campaign figure out you can`t be caught doing this again? This
is the one thing you have to get right. You cannot be caught doing this
again, not even once.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: If indeed Gadhafi goes down, you think that
the new government should hand over Gadhafi to whom?
ROMNEY: Well, the United States of America would be my first choice.
We would try him here and see that justice is done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The conversation here is what we should do with the
Lockerbie bomber, once the Gadhafi government falls in Libya. The
Lockerbie bomber is Libya. Mr. Romney telling Neil Cavuto on FOX News on
Monday, "The United States of America would be my first choice. We would
try him here."
Now that, of course, is a big deal, because most conservatives don`t
want terrorism suspects tried in America. So, you know, hey, Mitt Romney,
surprisingly moderate stance on that -- a stance that lasted for three
The bomber standing trial here? That was Monday`s position from Mitt
Romney. Today`s position is this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I mean, Guantanamo always serves a useful purpose in
settings like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Maybe when he said bring him here on Monday, maybe mentally
he was in Cuba -- I don`t know.
Back in December 2007, Mitt Romney told a crowd in College Station,
Texas, quote, "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King." A few days
later, Mr. Romney had to take it back to "The New York Times" saying,
quote, "I did not see it with my own eyes."
In 2002, Mitt Romney was pro-stem cell research. Quote, "I am in
favor of stem research. I will work and fight for stem cell research." A
few years later, against stem cell research, quote, "In the end, I became
persuaded that the stem cell debate was grounded on a false premise."
On health care, Mr. Romney was quite sure back in `07 that what he
accomplished in Massachusetts should be replicated all over the country.
Quote, "I`m proud of what be we have done. If Massachusetts succeeds in
implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation."
A few years later, he says, "What works in one state may not work in
another. Of course, the ultimate goal is to repeal Obamacare." Which is
basically the Massachusetts plan which he said could be a model for the
On Social Security, Mitt Romney said in `07, quote, "I`m not in favor
of privatizing Social Security." Then three months later, "Privatize
Social Security." He says, quote, "You can have personal accounts where
people can invest in something that does better than government bonds."
Then there was the auto bailout. Mitt Romney famously writing an op-
ed before President Obama bailed out the auto industry. His op-ed was
titled -- you can see it here -- "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."
Once President Obama`s auto bailout was successful, Mitt Romney`s
campaign team ran to "The New York Times" to say about the bailout, quote,
"Mitt Romney had the idea first. You have to acknowledge that."
Maybe Mitt Romney is done. Maybe Mitt Romney is done forever in this
campaign. Maybe Rick Perry is now the new permanent front-runner and we`re
not ever going to have to really about the niceties of how Mitt Romney
campaigns for president.
But if you have been thinking about Mitt Romney as the only other
plausible nominee among all the Republican candidates running, how do you
square the perception of his plausibility as a nominee with the fact that
he still has not come up with a way to deal with the biggest problem of his
candidacy from the last time around? This is the one thing he has to get
right. And he`s doing just as bad on it this time around as he did last
How can a campaign this fundamentally flawed -- and with some real
competition now -- plausibly win this nomination?
Joining us now is Matt Viser, reporter for the "Boston Globe," who
has been following Romney campaign since January.
Matt, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.
MATT VISER, BOSTON GLOBE: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is the Romney campaign worried about the flip flop charge?
Do they see it as a perception that might have cost them the nomination
back in `08?
VISER: A little bit, yes. And so, I think you`ve seen for example
on health care that he did not -- he may have changed a little bit on
health care but not completely. He defended the Massachusetts plan -- and
I think a major reason for that is because of the flip flop narrative that
they came out of 2008 with.
And I think they feel too that the election will be decided on the
economy and jobs so that`s the point they are stressing more than any
other. But as you point out, there have been some other issues that people
will bring to the forefront as well.
MADDOW: I think every candidate would love it when voters at large
thought about their concerns about the economy and jobs, they thought of
their candidate. Everybody wants the economy and jobs to be their message.
But the question here for Mitt Romney and message discipline and
whether he is doing things that distract from that message.
Do you expect they will try to keep him more scripted and less out in
the wilds among other humans in order to try to keep it more focused?
VISER: I actually think they want him out, you know, out more. You
saw this a little bit with the -- in Iowa, at the state fair. The
interaction there where Romney made the point of corporations are people,
too -- which is probably not a great line for the general election, but
during the primary, it`s not as bad as you would think.
And I think having him in those moments where he shows some passion
or some sides that you don`t always see from him, I think there`s also the
perception that everything with him is scripted.
So I think in moments where he`s out there and not scripted, I think
it helps them a little bit. The downside, obviously, are the gaffes or are
things that catch him off guard and we`ve had a couple of those so far in
MADDOW: I was -- on that specifically, I have seen just in watching
clips of him today from the last I think 48 hours, I saw him sort of yell
at a woman. You`ve had your time, madam. Now, I`ll have mine. He also
yelled at a guy. You`re not the boss of me.
And he seems to be very easily -- he doesn`t seem angry. He seems
sort of frustrated and patronizing toward people who confront him. And I
guess there`s a way that the campaign could see that as an asset if he
seems like a boss figure.
Do you know what their thinking is about those types of interactions
where he yells at people?
VISER: I think, you know, like the Iowa thing, I mean, you had a
similar exchange there as you`ve had over the past two days in New
Hampshire during the town hall meetings, where he does show some passion.
And I mean, it`s still to be seen sort of how that comes across. If comes
across as him being too bossy, I think it`s a negative.
But if you see it as the campaign often does, as showing passion over
his issues, and sort of over jobs and the economy and a balanced budget
amendment, which I think was the exchange you`re referring to in New
Hampshire was over that. So I think if he`s showing passion over those
issues, I think the campaign sees that as an asset.
MADDOW: There`s a test of this. Remember, they turned the
corporations or people thing into a campaign ad. If they turn you`re not
the boss of me into a campaign ad, then we will know that you`re right,
they can turn it into an asset.
But let me just ask you, Matt, let me ask you also if you have seen,
following the Romney campaign, if you`re seeing any visible change in the
campaign and its strategy in response to this very large Rick Perry surge.
VISER: Not at all, actually. And it`s interesting. And it will be
interesting to see what they do and when, if anything, in regard to Rick
Perry. Mitt Romney joked today that the only thing different today about
him is he changed his shirt. You know, that they are not changing their
strategy, they are not recalibrating it all with Rick Perry seemingly
surging in the polls.
And it will be interesting to see if that`s -- if that turns out to
be a mistake. But I think their hope is that Rick Perry falters himself.
I mean, Rick Perry has already made some comments that maybe have not gone
across well. So I think the Romney campaign hope is that he continues to
But we`ll see. I mean, the next couple of weeks will be interesting.
And, of course, we got them on a debate stage together shortly.
MADDOW: Hoping that your opponent messes up is never a confidence
inspiring strategy, but it is often the best one, I think.
Matt Viser, reporter for "The Boston Globe" -- I know you`re right on
the thick of it with these guys, I really appreciate your taking the time
to talk to us about the campaign trail. Thanks, Matt.
VISER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. More to come on the hurricane set to barrel up
the East Coast. We have the latest track on that.
Also, new research that is undoing all of the patently dumb beltway
common wisdom about the Tea Party and its strength and its membership. The
subtitle of that research from tonight`s show is why this man, Tito the
Builder, will not be going to his state`s legislature. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: Once the Republican Party picks its presidential nominee,
maybe one of the other people running for president will get picked as the
vice presidential nominee. But that`s not always the way it works.
Sometimes there are people who are just running for vice president from the
beginning, and that is sort of how it feels this year.
In fact, the vice presidential party sweepstakes almost seems as
interesting as the presidential contest. The front-runner for vice
president so far, I think, are: Chris Christie, Republican governor of New
Jersey. The main strike against him at this point is that so many
influential Republicans seem to want him to run for president, that as vice
president he could potentially overshadow the nominee.
Then, there`s Marco Rubio, the brand-new Tea Party rising star, shiny
new thing senator from Florida. In a year when the Republican Party`s
seemingly murderous intentions toward Medicare might be seen as their
biggest political liability, Mr. Rubio just saddled himself with a big ugly
flip flop on Medicare.
The first post-election action for which Marco Rubio really gotten
attention was a statement he made about how important Medicare was to him,
how Medicare saved his father`s life, how Medicare was very important to
his family, and how we need Medicare in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: America needs Medicare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The very next speech that Marco Rubio gave that got lots of
national attention was the one he gave this week at the Reagan Library.
And in that speech, he described programs like Social Security and Medicare
as moral sops that weaken as a people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: These programs weakened us as a people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Marco Rubio`s vaunted political skills maybe not proving to
be all that skillful.
What would he run as, the guy who says Medicare saved his father and
his family but it`s also turned you weak and helpless?
So, who else is in the top tier of the vice presidential sweepstakes?
Bob McDonald of Virginia is there. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, the great
milk toast hope -- the moderate-looking, vaguely, vice presidential-seeming
governor of the great commonwealth of Virginia. The GOP has been marketing
him as their counterpoint to President Obama since the night of President
Obama`s first State of the Union Address, when they chose him to deliver
the Republican Party`s response after he had been in office less than two
Bob McDonnell rose to prominence in Virginia as not just a
conservative Republican, but as a crusading religious right activist.
Remember, he is the guy who wrote his master`s thesis at Regent University
when he was an adult, in his mid-30s. His master`s thesis about how public
policy could be used to punish cohabitators, homosexuals, or fornicators.
The national GOP is clearly hoping to get him over his fornicators
face to groom him for greater things. But as governor of Virginia, Bob
McDonnell both seems to want to go along with the attempted moderation
makeover, but he also can`t stop himself from being really not moderate at
Tomorrow, Virginia is set to unveil the regulations from its new TRAP
law. New regulations designed specifically to force abortion clinics out
There are 21 abortion providers in the state of Virginia. Abortion
rights advocates say that Governor McDonnell`s new TRAP law could shut down
15 of the 21 clinics in one fell swoop.
This is what Sam Brownback, the crusading anti-abortion governor of
Kansas, did earlier this year you may recall. He passed new regulations
for abortion clinics that shut down two of the state`s three abortion
providers. And that last one expected to be shut down too before winning a
last-minute reprieve to stay open.
Sam Brownback`s radical TRAP laws in Kansas have been put on hold
now, while he is frankly having his pants sued off of him for it.
But this is where we are at. The supposed small government cut the
red tape, anti-regulation Republican governors using deliberately
intrusive, shut them down, punitive regulations to get the government`s way
on what happens to your pregnancy.
Joining us now is Tarina Keene. She`s executive director of NARAL
Pro-Choice Virginia and a member of the Virginia Coalition to Protect
Women`s Health, which is a group of medical providers and advocates formed
specifically in response to Virginia`s new TRAP law.
Ms. Keene, thanks very much for joining us. I appreciate your time.
TARINA KEENE, NARAL VIRGINIA EXEC. DIR.: Absolutely. Thank you for
having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Did I -- did I describe what`s going on in Virginia
accurately? Do you expect that these regulations will effectively shut
down most of the abortion providers in the state?
KEENE: Well, I think tomorrow, once the draft regulations come out,
I will have a better answer for that question. But if there`s -- if they
are following the same track that our proponents are pushing, that they
emulate the South Carolina regulations, then, yes, we have a really big
problem on our hands here. And I fear that the majority of our women`s
health care facilities will be forced to either close their doors or cease
offering first trimester abortion care.
MADDOW: What would be the effect -- as I understand it, the idea is
that abortion clinics that perform first trimester abortions will be
regulated as if they are full-scale hospitals. What do you think the
effect of that would be, not just on clinics but on other doctors who may
perform abortions just as part of a full OB/GYN practice?
KEENE: Well, certainly it would affect their practices. But our
main concern, not only with the medical practices in these facilities is
the impact it will have on women and their access to safe, affordable
health care. I mean, this is a very big deal for women, especially already
marginalized women, young women, minority women, women who live in rural
areas. This is a really big deal.
And, yes, I think it will have an astronomical effect across the
MADDOW: One of the things we have seen this week in the reproductive
rights scholarship world, is that Guttmacher Institute published a study
that said that as the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions have
dropped over time among wealthier women, among poor women in America, the
number of unplanned pregnancies and the number of abortions has gone up.
If Virginia goes from 21 abortion clinics to five abortion clinics,
if it goes down to some, much smaller number than are now, do you expect
that to have a disproportionate impact by income on women?
KEENE: Oh, absolutely. We know that the women who use women`s
health care facilities, many of them use them as their primary health care
provider, simply because they are very affordable, and that`s by purpose.
Many women`s health care facilities had been open for a very long time, and
they understand the problems that women have faced when it comes to seeking
safe and affordable health care.
And like I said before, these are -- many of these women are
marginalized already. And this might be the only place that they can go
for their general health care needs. Not to mention their reproductive
health care needs, such as birth control, and their regular annual pap
smears and cancer testing, STI testing.
These are things that are very important to the women of Virginia,
but especially those groups that tend to be underinsured, uninsured, young,
and rural women. They really depend on these facilities.
MADDOW: I mentioned in the introduction that you`re part of a group
that has formed in Virginia, specifically in response to this new TRAP law
and these regulations from Governor McDonnell.
What are advocates in Virginia doing at this point to try to
strategize in this environment, and what do you think happens next after
these regulations come out tomorrow?
KEENE: Well, we definitely have formed a coalition to try to
mitigate these regulations, to give us the best-case scenario, although we
feel like being singled out is never a best-case scenario. But since we
have this situation, we want to make sure that we`re part of the process.
We are recruiting medical professionals who have expertise in this area.
And also patients who have used these facilities to really talk to the
board of health members and other people in the community to just basically
talk about how this all happened in the first place.
I mean, this all based in politics. This is not about health and
safety of women. If it were, I wouldn`t be here. But, unfortunately, it
is a political -- it`s been a very politicized process.
And what the coalition is doing at this point is continuing to
educate the stakeholders and educate the policy makers on the real impact
that these regulations will have on women`s access and affordability to
reproductive health care.
And so, we`re very excited. We kicked off the coalition last week.
We are out gathering signatures for a petition. We have well over 1,200
signatures at this point.
And we hope by October, we will be able to deliver about 10,000
signatures to the governor, asking him to base these regulations in sound
medical science and not in politics. That is what will keep women safe and
will continue this -- their access to first trimester abortion care, among
other health care needs.
MADDOW: Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice
Virginia -- Tarina, thanks for your time tonight. Keep us in touch on
KEENE: Again, thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll do.
All right. The commonwealth of Virginia held some primary elections
this week. So, who did Republicans pick for the open Senate seat there?
Was it the former chairman of the Virginia Republican Party? Or was it
Sarah Palin`s old Tea Party friend, Tito the Builder?
Place your bets. Do not Google it. And stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMRER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Just the other day in New
Mexico, I saw a sign that said, Ed the dairy man. We could call him Tito
the builder, Phil the bricklayer and Rose the teacher, Corrine the nurse.
We have Andy the engineer. We have Dave the cop. We have Jeffrey the
hockey player, who got another miner. We got Jon the only Republican in my
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rachel the TV show host. Nice to meet you.
Ed the dairyman and Phil the brick layer and Rose the teacher and
Corrine the nurse -- I loved that part of the 2008 campaign. Joe the
plumber spawned 1,000 other people that called them the first name, the,
and then occupation. We have not heard from those folks since Sarah Palin
tried to make them famous in that campaign.
But one of the people who got a nickname like that from Governor
Palin has actually sort of kept his name in the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: We can call him Tito the builder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tito the builder held onto the Sarah Palin moniker and Tito
the builder this year became Tito the candidate. Tito the candidate`s real
name, the name on his tax returns, the name his mom calls him is Tito
Munoz. And Tito Munoz just ran in the Republican state Senate primary in
Virginia as the Tea Party candidate against the former chair of the state
Republican Party. You can read all about Mr. Munoz on the FreedomWorks
blog that`s called diverse tea. Get it? Diversity? Without the eh?
That primary was held on Tuesday in Virginia and Tito Munoz, Tito the
builder, Tito the candidate, Tito the Tea Party candidate, despite the
association with Sarah Palin, despite the Tea-mentum, he lost very badly.
He lost to that entrenched to that Republican Party operative, he losts
big, 69 percent to 31 percent.
Halfway across the country, another celebrity-endorsed Tea Party
candidate was running for office. Tea Party candidate Kim Simac. Former
TV show host Glenn Beck was a big booster of Kim Simac. She was his
favorite children`s book author, in fact, her book about guns for kids.
You may recall that Kim Simac was running in one of those two state
senate recall elections against Democrats in Wisconsin earlier this month.
Kim Simac, despite the big Glenn Beck boost there, Kim Simac did not win.
Democrats held onto both of those Wisconsin Senate seats.
And in New Hampshire, you have an upcoming election, not for
political office but for the chairmanship of the state Republican Party.
Jack Kimball is the New Hampshire Republican Party chairman. He`s only had
the gig for seven months. He defeated the establishment candidate in
Mr. Kimball calls himself, quote, "The first Tea Partier to be
elected chairman of the Republican Party in the nation." Today, New
Hampshire`s entire Republican congressional delegation, Senator Kelly
Ayotte, and both members of Congress, as well as the Republican House
speaker and the Senate president, all called on Jack Kimball to resign.
Twenty-two of the 36 people who sit on the party`s executive committee
signed a letter informing Mr. First Tea Party Republican Chairman that,
quote, "a vote to remove the chairman will be taken."
Since Mr. Kimball took over, there have been two special elections in
New Hampshire, both in New Hampshire districts that tend to vote
Republican. And both times, the Republicans in those races lost.
The party has also suffered financial hardships under Jack Kimball`s
Tea Party stewardship. At one point, one of their bank accounts was down
to a balance of $1,300 for the whole state.
The vote to fire Jack Kimball is scheduled for next Thursday. And if
all 22 of the executive committee members who signed the "we are going to
fire you" letter actually vote to fire him, then Jack Kimball will be out
of a job.
There`s not yet a national storyline or a beltway storyline that the
Tea Party may have peaked. The Tea Party may be on its way out. That the
Republican Party may be already marginalizing them and patronizing them
just like they always do to their base.
But there does seem to be increasing evidence of that both in real
life elections and in the raw data of statistics. And who, boy, do we have
some statistics for you. Hold on, we have some research that I`m not sure
is widely known, but really ought to be by anybody who is opining about
politics anytime soon. The story is next.
MADDOW: In 2006, a pair of researchers from top schools in the U.S.
set out to understand the role of religion in politics. They surveyed
3,000 people from across the country, some of them church-goers, some of
them not. They got a representative sample on a range of issues, like
whether America should allow more immigration or dial it back; whether
abortion should be outlawed or protected outright -- as a matter of choice
or something in between; whether religion should play a bigger role or any
role in American government.
They asked whether government itself should be bigger or smaller.
They asked where voters saw themselves on the political spectrum, which
party they identified with, if any.
And then they took all of that data and crunched it down to make this
book, "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us."
The book came out last October. The study of faith in American
politics and American society. But as they were putting together the book,
a funny thing happened -- or not funny, depending on how you feel about it.
The Tea Party was born in the middle of this.
In 2009, with its call for smaller government, and no -- and lower
taxes or no taxes, and yay, guns, but also hands off our health care -- the
Tea Party built itself as a secular political movement. This was not God
and guns. This was "don`t tread on me" and guns.
This year, the authors of "American Grace" started work on the
paperback edition of their book. Instead of just taking the old data and
putting it between softer covers, they decided to update it. Since theirs
was a book about changes in America, they decided to see how people in
their original survey had changed.
In particular, they decided to ask about who now identified with the
Tea Party -- which remember did not exist. The Tea Party did not exist
when they first started asking all of these questions about faith and
politics and policy back before.
And then the answers came back. It turns out that the second
strongest predictor of whether someone in the original survey would be a
Tea Party supporter today was whether they believed back then that religion
should have more influence in government. That was the number two
But the single strongest predictor of whether you were going to
eventually become a Tea Party member was party you belonged to in the first
Overwhelmingly, the people who identified as Tea Partiers this summer
called themselves Republican before the Tea Party ever existed. Whatever
story the Tea Party wants to tell about itself, the data show that this new
phenomenon, this new Tea Party phenomenon, is really just a new name for
the same old religious conservative wing of the Republican Party and one
more fascinating thing. The authors of American grace also decided to ask
everybody to ask the big wide range of Americans how they felt about a
range of groups and political leaders from Barack Obama to poor people as a
group to gay people to this new political group, the Tea Party.
They asked about 24 different groups or individuals in all. And
coming in last, coming in 24th out of 24 was the Tea Party -- lower than
Democrats, who had just lost control of the House, only months before;
lower than Republicans who had just taken over the House; lower than
Muslims who had been villainized over a community center and mosque in
downtown Manhattan; lower than Atheists, god bless them.
At the very, very, very bottom, the Tea Party. That`s what the
research showed. That`s just the data. Them`s the numbers.
Joining us now for the interview is Robert Putnam, a professor of
public policy at Harvard and one of the two authors of "American Grace."
Professor Putnam, thank you for your time tonight. I really
appreciate you being here.
ROBERT PUTNAM, "AMERICAN GRACE": Thanks. I`m very glad to be here.
Why don`t you just call me Bob the professor?
MADDOW: Bob the professor -- very good.
Thank you for putting your old database to such an interesting new
use. Were you surprised by what you found when you went back into the
second round of survey?
PUTNAM: Yes, I was shocked actually. David Campbell, my co-author,
said we should ask about the Tea Party because he thought it would be
related to the revisions of our book on religion.
I said, look, it`s a book about religion. It`s not a book about
politics. And so, I didn`t -- and I believed the basic storyline in the
public media, which is the Tea Party was a bunch of independents who were
upset about the growth of government and were getting involved for the
first time in politics.
He said, no, I don`t think that`s right, Bob. I`m betting there is
some relationship to the old religious right.
And I said, well, let`s ask and find out.
And David won that bet.
As you were saying before, of all the people who today in America
support the Tea Party, about 80 percent of them were five years ago,
Republicans. And about 5 percent of them were five years ago independents.
This is not a movement of independents up from the grassroots. It`s
the Republican Party.
But it`s interesting to ask -- well, did all Republicans back then
now end up in the Tea Party? And the answer is, no. Actually, the Tea
Party supporters are less than half of all the people who favored the
So, the Tea Party movement represents a minority within the
MADDOW: And specifically it is a minority that has differences of
opinions, statistically significant differences of opinion with the rest of
the people you are surveying and even the rest of Republicans about the
role of religion in government. But yet that hasn`t really become part of
their sort of Tea Party brand.
Is that fair to say?
PUTNAM: It isn`t part of the Tea Party brand yet, but it essential
is certainly is a fact. What we were asking is what differentiates the
Republicans who ended up with the Tea Party from Republicans who don`t
support the Tea Party.
And, you know, you might think, well, maybe it`s the size of
government. These Tea Party people are really upset about big government,
and maybe even upset about Republican big government. And there`s a little
bit of that.
But by far, the most important factor is that -- and by the way,
there`s another factor too which is these are the Republicans who are the
most skeptical about racial minorities. They are the most uneasy about
blacks and immigrants and so on.
But the big difference, as you said, is that the Republicans who now
ended up supporters of the Tea Party are highly disproportionately drawn
from those Republicans who all along have favored a closer connection
between religion and politics. They are more likely those who ended up in
the Tea Party, are more likely to say religious leaders should take an
active role in politics and encourage people to vote a particular way.
They are more likely to say that politicians should be active religious
leaders or active in expressing their faith. Actually they are more likely
to say it`s a good idea if we mix religion and politics.
And the Republicans, as well as the rest of the country, but the
Republicans who are not supporters of the Tea Party, differ on those. Most
Americans actually are moving in the direction of saying, it would be
better if we didn`t have such a quite close entanglement between religion
So, most Americans are moving in the direction of saying, let`s not
quite have so much religion in our politics.
But the Tea Party represents purely so to speak those Americans who
are moving in the other direction and think it would be great to have more
religion in our politics.
MADDOW: Which is an interesting insight into how the Republican --
how the Tea Party specifically is viewed by the rest of the country.
People may be sort of intuiting that.
MADDOW: One last question for you, specifically on that issue that
you mentioned about skepticism or uneasiness about minorities. The issue
of race and racism and racial sensitivity is obviously a very explosive one
in American politics.
What do you mean specifically when you describe them as skeptical or
uneasy about minorities?
PUTNAM: Well, they are much more likely to say that we ought to have
less immigration rather than more immigration. That`s, of course, a
controversial issue in the country as a whole. But what distinguishes the
folks -- Republicans who ended up in the Tea Party from those who didn`t,
those that ended up in the Tea Party are much more firmly anti-immigration.
I mean, lots of other Republicans are anti-immigration too, but the Tea
Party people are the ones who are really anti-immigration.
And when we ask people to rate all of these various groups that you
just described, and I think your viewers have seen, the Tea Party people --
the people who are going to end up in the Tea Party -- were more likely to
rate blacks and other racial minorities lower on that ranking of how you
feel about different groups.
MADDOW: Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard, thank
you so much for your time tonight and for helping us to understand this.
I should tell our viewers that the hard cover edition of "American
Grace" co-authored with Notre Dame Professor David Campbell came out last
year. The paperback one will appear early next year. And you can learn
more on the website, which is AmericanGrace.org, which we will link to from
Professor Putnam, thank you again for your time tonight. I really
appreciate it, sir.
PUTNAM: Thanks very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: all right. Dick Cheney will soon be on a media blitz for
his hotly anticipated new book. At the end of the show, I will make a
shameless appeal for him to adjust one more stop to his tour!
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is currently what meteorologists are predicting for
hurricane Irene. The powerful storm now churning off of the coast of
Florida. Now, as you can see, it`s headed first toward the outer banks of
North Carolina, and then right up the Eastern Seaboard, the most densely
populated part of the country. In this storm track, around 65 million
Americans live in the path of the storm.
Possible category 1, maybe 2 hurricane, meet New York City. New York
City, meet category 1 storm.
And because predicting where a hurricane will go is an inexact
science, any one of these strands you see here, could be what Irene
actually ends up doing -- and should be noted that none of these possible
path, these little strands that you`re seeing here, have the storm tracking
out to sea and away from all of the people.
Hurricanes are fed by warm ocean waters intend to hit along coastal
areas. So, what can be as dangerous, is the wind and rain of the storm
itself is what is called the storm surge.
In New York, Sunday night right around 8:00 p.m. will be high tide --
highest tides of month, in fact. Storm surge will be on top of any normal
tide. So, having a very high tide plus storm surge means a big risk of
flooding at the coast. All of those areas colored orange on New York
City`s hurricane evacuation map are said to be the places at highest risk
of flooding of any hurricane making landfall close to New York City.
The yellow areas are at risk of a category 2 storm or above. Kennedy
and LaGuardia airports, flood zone. Queens, lower Manhattan all in the
orange or yellow potential flood zone. And that`s just New York City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is not just going to be a
sure incident. This is going to be a statewide incident the way it is
projected now. If it continues on the current track from a flooding
perspective, this could be a 100-year event. So, people should not --
should not take this lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s New Jersey Governor Chris Christie advising people
who live along the Jersey Shore that riding out storm is not a smart thing
to do, and that the entire state needs to take this very seriously. He
also declared a state of emergency, as did the governors of North Carolina,
Virginia, Maryland, and New York.
People on the West Coast of the U.S. made fun of Easterners for how
East Coasters reacted to the earthquake this week. And right now, I`m sure
Floridians are mocking the Northeast for how it is anticipating this
Hurricane Irene. But you know what? Sixty-five million people in the path
of a really big storm, make fun all you want. Don`t care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: We will make a decision about
whether to order a mandatory evacuation of Zone A low-lying areas by 8:00
a.m. Saturday, the day after tomorrow. However, we recommend that people
start going to alternative locations if they have them because of potential
traffic jams and mass transit limitations on Saturday.
New Yorkers should prepare themselves by stocking up on some basic
supplies and making what`s called a go bag -- a bag that could take with
you at a moment`s notice if you have to leave your homes, and it should
include things like drinking water, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, any
important medications that you take, essential documents, such as passports
or other forms of ID, and an extra set of car keys and house keys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today, mayor of
America`s largest city, showing just how seriously New York is taking this
storm. Nobody yet knows what path, what exact path this storm will take.
But up and down the East Coast, it is being taken very, very, very
seriously -- with good reason.
MADDOW: Former Vice President Dick Cheney has a book now. I have
not read it. I don`t have a copy yet -- but thanks to Charlie Savidge at
"The New York Times" reading it, we know that while Dick Cheney was
unconscious last year for weeks after a heart surgery, he, quote, "had a
prolong, vivid dream living in an Italian villa, pacing the stone paths to
get coffee and newspapers."
We also know that his one regret as his time as vice president is
that he did not start enough wars. Mr. Cheney`s book says he argued for
bombing Syria in 2007. Mr. Cheney`s first interview about his book will
air Sunday on "Dateline" NBC. He`ll be on the "Today" show on Wednesday
and the, "MORNING JOE" on Thursday.
Will Dick Cheney ever be on this show? Will he? I very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very much hope so.
Now, it`s time for "THE ED SHOW." Good night.
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