updated 9/29/2011 12:30:59 PM ET 2011-09-29T16:30:59

Guests: Joe Sonka, Carl Hiaasen

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

Texas Governor Rick Perry currently jockeying with Mitt Romney for
frontrunner status in the Republican presidential race. Rick Perry has
never lost an election in his 26 years in elected office. Not one. And
that is not because he hasn`t had hard fights, not because he hasn`t had
serious well-funded, high-profile, big-name challengers.

Just last year, for example, he was challenged in his re-election bid
for Texas governor by Texas` long-serving popular Republican Senator Kay
Bailey Hutchison.

And there were two things that I found surprising that the Hutchison
for governor campaign tried to use against Rick Perry. The first was the
more or less famous Rick Perry gay hidden text in the Kay Bailey Hutchison
campaign Web site. Remember this story?

A reporter for the "Austin American-Statesman" found in the summer of
2009 that the Kay Bailey Hutchison campaign Web site included a huge long
list of terms that seemed designs to make her Web site pop on search
engines. You have how sometimes when you Google something and you click on
one of the search results, but the Web site that comes up doesn`t actually
contain the terms that you searched for?

That sometimes happens because Web sites have this hidden text that
you don`t see as a user but that hidden text does get read and indexed by
search engines. Search engines hate the hidden text trick on Web sites.
But people do it anyway.

In the case of the Kay Bailey Hutchison campaign Web site, when she
was running for Texas governor against Rick Perry, among the hidden text
she had hidden on her Web site was the phrase, "Rick Perry gay." She
actually had "Rick Perry gay" up on the hidden text of her Web site twice.

When asked by the "Austin American-Statesman" about this the Hutchison
campaign said they had not done it on purpose, they said it was a computer
generated result of the fact a lot of people were searching the phrase
"Rick Perry gay."

Even in saying, they would make sure that hidden text was going to be
taken down right away, the campaign made sure to get this quote into the
newspaper. Listen to this.

"We did not know these offensive word associations were being searched
for by hundreds of thousands of Texans every day nor do we condone the
computer generated existence on our Web site. They will be removed
promptly."

So, in other words, we`re not saying Rick Perry is gay, we would never
say that. We find the whole idea offensive. But, apparently, a lot of
people want to know.

It is not unheard of for candidates to launch whisper campaigns and
insinuate that their opponents are gay. It happened in 1994 when George W.
Bush ran successfully against Ann Richards in Texas for governor. It
happened again in the Republican Senate primary last year in Delaware when
Christine O`Donnell weirdly tried to insinuate over and over again that
Congressman Mike Castle was gay.

Insinuations that a candidate is gay, those insinuations turning up in
a gubernatorial campaign is not an unprecedented thing in American
politics. But even though it is not unprecedented, I think it was still a
surprising gambit from the Kay Bailey Hutchison campaign.

The other surprising thing she tried to use against Rick Perry was the
case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed by
the state of Texas in 2004 despite a lot of rather troubling flaws and the
evidence used to convict him. And despite his protestations to the very
end that he was innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is a supporter of the death penalty. She raised
in her campaign against Rick Perry, though, the fact Perry had intervened
in a panel looking into the evidence against Cameron Todd Willingham.
Hutchison said that in messing with that panel, Rick Perry both made a
mistake and was, quote, "trying to ramrod a covering up."

Again, this was not in the general election. This is not Rick Perry
running against a Democrat or running against somebody who is anti-death
penalty. This was a race of two vehemently pro-death penalty Republican
candidates in Texas. Which made it a surprising choice for the Kay Bailey
Hutchison campaign that they would go after him on the case of Cameron Todd
Willingham and whether or not he should have been executed.

That said, neither of those surprising choices worked out for Kay
Bailey Hutchison. Ultimately in the primary, she lost to Rick Perry by 20
points, and neither of those attacks by her seemed to have carried over
into Rick Perry`s next campaign which is the one he`s in now trying to win
the Republican presidential nomination.

The other candidates he`s up against in this race are throwing a
million things at Rick Perry in terms of his record, but they are neither
explicitly nor implicitly accusing him of being gay and the Cameron Todd
Willingham case -- in that case, frankly Rick Perry is all but wearing that
one like a badge of honor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Governor Perry, a question about Texas.
Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor
in modern times. Have you --

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: -- have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that
any one of those might have been innocent?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, sir, I`ve never
struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a
very clear process in place of which when someone commits the most heinous
of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an
appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States if
that`s required.

But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one
of our children, you kill a police officer, you`re involved with another
crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice
in the state of Texas. And that is you will be executed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Not only is Governor Perry not losing sleep over executing
prisoners, but he rather expertly turns even a question about it around
into an opportunity to get the crowd to root for him -- to root for him
essentially in unison against these kinds of monsters who are coming into
Texas and doing monstrous things to find themselves on death row.

It`s the same way Governor Perry handled it during the Kay Bailey
Hutchison race when she brought up the Willingham race, when she accused
him of the covering up, his campaign responded like this.

It said, if you, quote, "oppose the death penalty for someone who
murdered his three children, beat his wife while she was pregnant with
twins in an effort to force an abortion, repeatedly changed his story, who
confessed and whose last words were an obscenity laced tirade aimed at his
ex-wife and whose conviction was upheld numerous times over the courts of
more than a decade, including nine times by federal courts, then they
should just say so."

So, the idea was, you know, what are you, on his side? This monster?
You`re worried about this guy`s execution? That`s why you`re on this
monster`s side.

This is why it is hard for anybody to make political hay, to get
politically attraction out of alleged bad treatment of allegedly bad guys.
This is why when politicians get involved in crime and justice issues, the
policy always changes in one direction. It almost always becomes more
conservative than it was before the politicians got involved.

The political defense against claims that you are badly treating
criminals or suspects or protesters or prisoners has always been to point
at those people and say, you`re taking these guys` side? These are the bad
guys. You`re going to take their side?

So, these debates always go in the same direction and it has always
been true and may always be true that nobody has ever lost a race for
governor in Texas or a Republican primary because they mistreated a bad
guy. That has never been used successfully against somebody in American
politics. At least it very rarely is.

And that will be comforting to the governors of Florida and Georgia,
frankly. Today in Florida, yet another delay in an execution -- there have
been seven this month nationwide. Florida kills its prisoners with a
lethal drug cocktail that includes a new drug something called
pentobarbital. Makers of the previous drug in the cocktail stopped making
it so it could not be used to kill prisoners.

The maker of the drug, the new drug, a Danish company, does not want
their drug to be used to kill people. And they have said so over and over
and over again. But the states have gone on killing their prisoners with
it. So, the company announced this summer it would no longer sell
pentobarbital to prisons in death penalty states. Nevertheless, Florida
has a stock pile.

Today, hours before Florida was scheduled to carry out the execution
of this man, Manuel Valle, the execution was delayed pending a review by
the Supreme Court of request for a stay in part because the man`s lawyer
said the new death penalty drug would cause him substantial harm. The
Supreme Court decided not to block the execution and the state of Florida
went ahead with it. Manuel Valle was declared dead at 7:14 p.m. Eastern.

Also today, it was announced that a memorial service would be held
Friday and funeral on Saturday in Savannah, Georgia, for Troy Davis. Mr.
Davis, of course, was executed by the state of Georgia last week despite
the fact the seven of the nine witnesses against him recanted their
testimony and three jurors who sentenced him to death now say or who voted
to convict him now say they have significant doubt in the verdict.

And today also, the largest jail in the world, which naturally is in
America, also ended up in the news. Did you ever see the movie "The
Hangover"?

I personally have not seen the movie "The Hangover," but it is very,
very popular among THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff. I know that because I
asked today if people had favorite clips and it was like a giant fight,
people fighting over what we should show from "The Hangover."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked everywhere. Nobody`s seen Doug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think I`ve ever been this hung over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s on your arm?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were in the hospital last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only important thing now is we find Doug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: One of the executive producers of that very popular movie,
one of the executive producers of "The Hangover" is a guy named Scott
Budnick. And Scott Budnick, in addition to being a big deal Hollywood
producer, he does something ultraistic and civic-minded and self-
sacrificing and very cool. He volunteers teaching writing to people in
jail in L.A. He`s done it for years.

And about five years ago he actually won Los Angeles Volunteer of the
Year Award in the district in L.A. in which he lives because he does this
work.

Today in Los Angeles, Mr. Volunteer of the Year, the man who was the
producer of "The Hangover" had a sworn legal declaration released by the
ACLU in which he describes the multiple times he was in Los Angeles jails
and saw sheriffs deputies beating people up -- people who were imprisoned
there, people who were not fighting, not resisting, not provoking anything,
not doing anything to deserve getting beaten up. But getting beaten up and
getting, in some cases, getting beaten up badly.

Mr. Budnick in his declaration says things like, quote, "I then saw
the deputy grab the inmate`s head and smash his head into the wall hard.
It was so hard I could hear an audible crack when the deputy slammed his
head against the wall.

At no point did I see the inmate do anything to any of the other
prisoners or deputy. In fact, the inmate was very respectful to the
deputy. After I saw this, I quickly went back inside the classroom."

The biggest jail in the world, the biggest jail in the country and the
biggest jail in the world is now in trouble. The FBI has been
investigating the L.A. County jail system in secret for months now. Part
of the reason the jail found out that the FBI was investigating them in
secret is that people in the jail, people who work in the jail, found that
a prisoner inside the jail had a cell phone. They`re not supposed to have
cell phones. It turns out the FBI had allegedly paid a bribe to a
sheriff`s deputy 1,500 bucks to give that cell phone to the FBI`s informant
inside the jail so the informant could use the phone to call out to the FBI
and tell them what he was seeing for their investigation.

One local Los Angeles news station, KTLA, has also done an exclusive
report earlier this year on a gang in that prison. Not a gang of
prisoners, but a gang among the jail guards -- a gang among the prison
sheriff deputies. That gang stands accused of among other things
assaulting this former prisoner, a man named Evans Tutt. According to Mr.
Tutt, he was beaten with flashlights and kicked repeatedly by deputies
despite complying with their orders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: At least three deputies involved in Tutt`s case are part of
the group who call themselves the 3,000 Boys, named after the third or
3,000th floor of men`s central jail where they`re assigned. The group
works hard and they play hard.

As a symbol of their bond, they flash gang-like hand signs, three
fingers for 3,000. They sport similar tattoos. One even has their number
inked onto his neck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a distinct line drawn between inked and
non-inked deputies.

REPORTER: The ink that this current active L.A. County sheriffs
deputy is talking about are the tattoos worn by groups of deputies as
symbols of their allegiance to deputy-affiliated gangs within the
department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call them subgroups, secret societies.

REPORTER: Do you think these groups breed propensity for violence?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They brag about it. You know, they brag about
kills and deputy-involved shootings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The sheriff in charge of the Los Angeles County jail system
acknowledges these groups exist within his department but he denies they`re
responsible for any sort of violence. Regardless because of what they
describe as hundreds of reports of unprovoked assaults and beatings,
including specifically on that 3,000 floor of the jail you just heard
about, the ACLU of southern California is asking the attorney general of
the United States and the federal Justice Department to get involved here.

They`re asking the FBI -- excuse me, they`re asking the Justice
Department to bring a criminal investigation into how the largest jail in
the country is being run. They`re also asking for the sheriff who is in
charge of the facility to resign. His name is Lee Baca.

Whether or not Sheriff Baca does resign, whether or not the Justice
Department does turn this into a criminal investigation, if past is any
prologue, no one else other than the sheriff is likely to win or lose an
election because of this issue.

This is politics but it is politics of a different kind. This is
values politics, about who we are as a country. It is a specific kind of
political work to fix problems like this, to get attention to problems with
the way we are doing the death penalty these days, for example, and
sometimes to get attention to the death penalty as a problem, itself.

It is political work to raise enough of a ruckus to convince the
Catholic chaplains and the people like a Hollywood producer visiting as a
writing tutor, to convince people like that to speak out against the jail
they`re working in even though they are definitely not there to make waves,
because the ruckus has to be loud enough to get people to notice and care
that the biggest jail in the world probably ought to be torn down -- even
the sheriff admits that.

To get people to notice and care that the people for whom they
probably don`t have too much sympathy, still should not be beaten with
impunity. Because it is not about whether or not you like the person who
the guy in the uniform is beating up, but this is about the fact that the
guy in the uniform is us, that that is in our name.

This is a democracy -- government of, by and for the people. What
sheriff deputies did to this visitor, a visitor to the L.A. County jail,
that`s us. That`s us. Killing Cameron Todd Willingham, that`s us.

No one really loses an election over stuff like this. It`s true,
especially on the right. There really is no compassionate conservative
voting bloc holding politicians accountable on issues like this. Kay
Bailey Hutchison tried it against Rick Perry and lost to him by 20.

These political fights do not decide elections. But these political
fights, every bit as much as who we elect in the next election will write
what history says about who we are as a country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Last week folks in Clark County, Kentucky, were woken up in
the middle of the night by what sounded like a huge explosion, giant,
middle of the night explosion just east of Lexington, Kentucky, turned out
to be a gas pipeline rupture. Local news stations were flooded with calls
about it. So, they sent the crews out, as you can see, to cover the
incident overnight.

According to those local news reports, there had been another
explosion in this same area along the same set of gas lines about four
years ago. After last week`s gas line scare in central Kentucky, we have
word this week from the "Associated Press" that Kentucky`s junior senator
is taking a principled stand now on gas pipeline safety. His principled
stand is that he`s against it. He`s blocking gas pipeline safety measures.

The safety bill the "A.P." notes has support from both parties and
from the gas industry, which after all, has been having a problem with its
pipelines blowing up. Quoting the "A.P.," a deadly gas line explosion near
San Francisco last year and other gas explosions and oil pipeline spills
has created consensus in Congress, as well as the industry, that there are
gaps in federal safety regulations."

There is a consensus -- consensus -- that something needs to be done.
A consensus except for Senator Rand Paul, who is blocking it from being
done. Quote, "Officials familiar with Senator Paul`s objections said he
has told lobbyists and company officials that he`s not opposed to any
specific part of the bill, just to the notion of additional federal
regulation." The notion.

Gas pipeline safety equals government regulation, which according to
Rand Paul is bad in the abstract even if it makes sense in the specific.

A gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, in September of
last year spit out a 300 foot tall flame that burned for an hour and a half
until workers were able to shut off gas valves feeding the pipeline
manually. That explosion killed eight people and destroyed dozens of
homes.

In December, a gas line apparently exploded in Wayne, Michigan. It
destroyed a furniture store and killed two people. In January of this
year, a gas pipeline exploded in Philadelphia and killed a city utility
worker and injured six people including two firefighters. About a week
later, several buildings were destroyed in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, in a gas
line explosion and series of fires. The gas line explosion in February in
Allentown, Pennsylvania, leveled two row houses and killed five people
including a 4-month-old child.

The pipeline safety bill that is being supported right now by
Democrats and Republicans and the gas industry, itself, could mean things
like automatic shutoff valves on new pipelines and confirmation that
records about how much pressure pipelines can take are, in fact, accurate
records.

It could mean more inspections of old pipelines for safety. But even
after the last year we`ve had with deadly -- with fatal, giant gas pipeline
explosions in this country, even after last week in which Rand Paul`s own
constituents lived through a catastrophic gas pipeline rupture, Senator
Rand Paul is the one solid U.S. senator who`s willing to stand up and block
gas pipeline safety for the whole country. He says it`s on principle.

President Obama is now squaring off against Republicans like he has
never done before in his presidency, drawing out the contrast between
himself and Republicans, between he says the whole country and Republicans
on issues like that principle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should have no more
regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people
requires. Every rule should meet that common sense test.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: But what we can`t do, what I will not do is let this economic
crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that
Americans have counted on for decades.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to
restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody`s money
and let everyone write their own rules and tell everyone they`re on their
own, it`s not who we are. It`s not the story of America.

No single individual built America on their own. We built it
together. We have been and always will be one nation under God,
indivisible with liberty and justice for all -- a nation with
responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another.

And members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our
responsibilities.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: To put it more succinctly and without the applause lines:
government equals bad. Not an answer to America`s problems.

And when one of America`s problems is exploding gas pipelines, a
certain junior senator from Kentucky may have picked a fight against fixing
those pipelines on principle, but the people on the other side of that
fight are fighting on principle, too, and doing it out loud. The
president`s campaign for his jobs bill is happening alongside the
beginnings of his campaign for re-election. And to make both cases for his
re-election and for his jobs bill, the president is talking more and more
now about principles, about values, more than ever he seems very happy to
contrast his values and what he argues are American values with the values
that the Republican Party is showing right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Middle class families shouldn`t pay higher tax rates than
millionaires and billionaires. Warren Buffett`s secretary shouldn`t pay a
higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. A teacher or a nurse or a
construction worker making $50,000 a year shouldn`t pay higher tax rates
than somebody making $50 million. That`s just common sense.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And keep in mind: I`m not saying this because we should be
punishing success. This is the land of opportunity, but what`s also a
quintessentially American idea is that those of us who have done well
should pay our fair share to contribute to the upkeep of the nation that
made our success possible.

I`ve talked to, and most wealthy Americans agree with this. Of
course, the Republicans in Congress, they call this class warfare.

You know what? If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a
plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will
accept that. I will wear that charge as a badge of honor.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You want to know why the president says he is willing to wear
that charge, the charge of being a class warrior as a badge of honor, a
warrior for the working class, a warrior for the middle class?

It`s because in this country what he`s describing, what he is doing,
what he is fighting for in these speeches is a very, very popular thing. A
poll out this week from Public Policy Polling shows 73 percent of Americans
agree with the president on the Warren Buffett rule that the president just
laid out: changing the tax code so people who make more than 1 million
bucks a year pay at least the same tax rates as people who make less than
that. You should not have your taxes lower than everybody else because
you`re a zillionaire.

Look at that, 73 percent of Americans support that -- 73 percent of
Americans don`t support the idea of puppies. Seventy-three percent -- that
is a really, really popular idea. That I dare say is a mainstream idea.
Even conservatives like this.

When you pull out just Republicans from the polling here, you still
have 66 percent support for the Buffett rule -- 66 percent of Republicans
are with the president on this one.

Social conservatives are always talking about wanting to make
elections values elections. And what they mean is that they want the
election to be about gay rights and abortion and stuff like that. It turns
out it is Democrats this year who want this to be a values election, except
the values they want to talk about are things like rich people shouldn`t
get special treatment and bridges shouldn`t be left to rot and fall down.
Also, gas pipeline explosion -- bad.

It`s not as catchy as guns, gods and gays, but it is something.

Joining us now is Joe Sonka, founder and owner of the blog "Barefoot
and Progressive," and staff writer at "Leo," which is weekly paper based in
Louisville, Kentucky.

Mr. Sonka, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to see you.

JOE SONKA, BAREFOOTANDPROGRESSIVE.COM: Thanks for having me on,
Rachel.

MADDOW: Is it resonating in Kentucky after last week`s pipeline
rupture and everything, -- is it resonating in Kentucky that Rand Paul is
holding up the pipeline safety bill here?

SONKA: Well, the "A.P." broke the news on Tuesday and people are just
now starting to realize what Rand Paul is doing. But that`s basically what
his Tea Party base wants. The Tea Party has a really strong base in
Kentucky and they elected Rand Paul to come in and dismantle government and
shrink it as much as possible. And that`s exactly what he`s doing this
week, even on this pipeline safety bill which even the industry, itself,
has no problem with and thinks it`s reasonable.

MADDOW: So, you don`t -- Rand Paul absolutely campaigned as an anti-
government candidate. I had a very long awkward interview with him in
which he was so anti-government he wouldn`t say that he thought that
government intervening in terms of civil rights laws even was necessarily a
good thing.

Do you think that that Kentuckians knew that this is -- this is the
kind of thing he meant by this? That pipeline safety would be one of the
things that he`d be opposed to? Do you think that isn`t a surprise?

SONKA: I don`t think it`s much of a surprise. If you consider during
his Senate campaign he was saying there should be less safety regulation
from the federal government when it comes to mining, and he said that,
well, if there`s a mining accident and a bunch of miners die, well people
can just take their labor and their rational self-interest over to another
mine and work there. And I guess they would also hope that the lack of
regulations also didn`t kill them at that mine, too.

So I think Rand Paul pretty much laid it out straight in the Senate
campaign that he was going to come to Washington and get rid of as many
regulations as he can and shrink government and apparently 55 percent of
voters in Kentucky went along with that.

MADDOW: In terms of how Rand Paul`s Senate campaign is going to
evolve over time, if at all, I wonder what you think about -- I mean, your
vantage point being closer up to him and dealing with his constituents all
the time, what do you think he`s going to do about pressure from his own
party?

Congressman Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania, said he was
saddened but not surprised by Senator Paul putting this hold on the
pipeline safety thing. Do you think that pressure from other Republicans
will make any difference to him either in the short run or over time?

SONKA: Well, it`s really fascinating his relationship with Mitch
McConnell. Rand Paul ran basically against establishment Republicans like
Mitch McConnell blaming them for increasing the national debt and the bank
bailout. What you`ve seen over the past year is that Mitch McConnell
doesn`t really call out Rand Paul and Rand Paul doesn`t really call out
Mitch McConnell.

So I don`t think you`re going to find it from Mitch McConnell because
they seem to have a mutually beneficial relationship, but you could see
other Republicans pointing to Rand Paul and saying, hey, that`s Rand Paul
and the Tea Party, that`s not necessarily me. But in terms of the Tea
Party base here in Kentucky, that`s what Rand Paul really cares about.

And it`s not just the base. He`s a true believer. He comes from --
his intellectual heroes are libertarians like Lew Rockwell and Ayn Rand and
people from the Von Misses Institute, and, obviously, his father.

So, he`s definitely a true believer when it comes to that and he`s
typically very stubborn. So, I`m not sure how much pressure from other
Republicans is going to do.

MADDOW: In the meantime, the whole country doesn`t get improved gas
pipelines.

Joe Sonka, founder and owner of "The Barefoot and Progressive" blog,
and staff writer at the Louisville Alt Weekly, "Leo" -- thanks very much
for joining us. Nice to have you here.

SONKA: Thanks for having me on, Rachel.

MADDOW: On last night`s show we ran out of time because of the
breaking non-Chris Christie news before we could show you our "Best New
Thing in the World." While I like the happy stories and the weird stories,
the ones I really, really love are the stories that are happy and period
and also a little weepy. So, I`m pleased to report that we`ve got a deluxe
three hankie heart tugger coming up.

"Best New Thing in the World" right at the end of the show tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The latest episode in the free wheeling reality show called
the state of Florida is a battle over who should be forcibly tested for
illegal drug use. People applying for welfare, state employees? Yes.
Members of the Florida legislature? No, apparently. The great Carl
Hiaasen is here for the interview tonight. That`s just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Today, the great state of South Carolina began leading
America out of our long national funk. South Carolina is leading by
example and by the force of its Palmetto will. From now on, from
Charleston, to Long Creek, from Beaufort to Columbia, to Greenville, every
day is going to be a great day. A doggone great day every day and don`t
you forget it because from now on by order of South Carolina Governor Nikki
Haley, your call to the state parks department or the prison system or any
of the other fine South Carolina agencies you might call for any reason
will be answered by someone saying, by gubernatorial mandate, and I quote,
"It`s a great day in South Carolina." Not hello. You have to answer the
day by saying, "It`s a great day in South Carolina." Order of the
governor.

Governor Haley is a rookie Republican elected last year on a small
government, business-friendly platform. She says she needs all the
positivity that she can get in South Carolina. This month at a local
rotary club, she repeated a story she said she`s told a million times, that
at one South Carolina employer, half the people applying for a job failed a
drug test, half the people. And that`s why the governor said she wants to
drug test everyone who applies for unemployment benefits in the state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I so want drug testing. I so
want it. The problem is, I`ve got to make sure the numbers work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Governor Haley so wants drug testing. She says she just has
to make sure the numbers work. Like, say, those numbers she just mentioned
about half the people applying for a particular job in South Carolina being
on drugs.

It turns out those numbers don`t work. Executives at the employer she
cited by name say, in fact, they don`t even test all job applicants, only
the ones who accept a job offer. And of those the company says, quote, "We
have less than 1 percent of those hired test positive" -- which does not
mean half. Even -- not even close. Not even within 50.

But it looks so attractive when Florida tried it, this whole mandatory
drug testing thing. Governor Haley likes it anyway.

Governor Haley`s rookie Republican counterpart in Florida, Rick Scott,
also ran as a small government, business-friendly conservative. Governor
Scott also pushed for mandatory drug testing -- in his case, for anyone who
applies for welfare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: People that are on welfare are higher
users of drugs than people not on welfare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Not true, sir. Let`s make sure those numbers work. We do
have some data now because the Florida legislature passed Governor Rick
Scott`s bill and he signed it. The law went into effect in July. The
"A.P." reporting that so far, about 2.5 percent of welfare applicants
failed the drug test. On top of that, 2 percent of all applicants declined
to take the test. So, let`s call that 4.5 percent at most all together, if
you damned everybody who just didn`t take the test.

Again, from "A.P.," quote, "The Justice Department estimates that 6
percent of Americans 12 and older use illegal drugs which means Florida
welfare recipients hire some rather clean living folks by comparison to
everybody else. Not only are Governor Rick Scott and the state lawmakers
wrong about who uses drugs, they are costing the Florida taxpayers money
because the state pays the cost of every test that someone passes.

In his most recent column at "The Miami Herald," author Carl Hiaasen
noted the shortcomings of Governor Scott`s plan, saying, quote,
"Interestingly, the governor`s pee-in-the-cup mandate doesn`t apply to the
one bunch that whizzes away more tax dollars than anyone else -- the
legislators who pass such useless laws.

I say line up all 160 of them for a patriotic whiz fest at the Capitol
clinic. You think more than 2.5 percent might test positive? Let`s find
out.

And I will pay for it out of my own pocket. Seriously," he says.

Joining us now for the interview is Carl Hiaasen, "Miami Herald"
columnist, best-selling author, South Florida native, and the one person I
most wanted to talk to about this tonight.

Mr. Hiaasen, thank you for being here.

CARL HIAASEN, MIAMI HERALD COLUMNIST: Hi, Rachel. How are you? It`s
a great night in Florida, by the way.

MADDOW: You know, I was really worried that might spread and that you
couldn`t say hello to anybody from South Carolina without them saying that
back to you like an automaton. That would be cause for a new civil war.

In terms of your offering to pay for state lawmakers to be drug
tested, any reaction so far? Anybody thinking about taking you up on it?

HIASSEN: I heard that two of them had agreed to do it. So, that only
leaves I think 158 more. I`m holding my breath.

MADDOW: What is the justification for testing welfare recipients and
state employees but not anybody else who receives state funds? Like
lawmakers, as you suggest, like state contractors, lottery winners, why
just people on welfare and state employees?

HIAASEN: It`s an easy target. This is class warfare. This is
picking on the folks who happen to be unemployed especially ones with
children. And they`re testing at a lower rate than the general population.

The most recent federal drug survey shows national drug use at 8.9
percent, almost 9 percent. These people are living like monks compared to
them. But it`s very easy and it`s very popular to go after the poor and
the disabled, and those who are struggling to get work right now. And
that`s what they did.

My point was that these legislators control $70 billion in -- that`s
the size of our state budget. They should be first in line for any drug
testing, immediately. And it would be a public service.

MADDOW: In terms of how we got to this place, obviously Rick Scott
campaigned in Florida as a small government conservative, somebody who
wanted to shrink both the role and the size of government.

HIAASEN: Right.

MADDOW: How do you -- why don`t we have any sort of mental
disconnect? Any sort of, like, cognitive friction over the idea that
government is now intrusive enough to be forcibly demanding urine samples
or hair samples from anybody who wants to do something as simple as apply
for benefits?

HIAASEN: And all you have to do is walk in the door. You don`t have
to show any signs of drug use. Just -- it`s completely without suspicion,
without basis and fact.

These are the guys that preached small government, that ranted and
raved about small -- about government reaching its hands into people`s
private lives and the first thing they do when they get into office is go
after the poor and unemployed. So, it`s full of hypocrisy. But they were
an easy target.

Obviously, it`s a condescending and prejudicial attitude. You heard
the governor`s sound byte where he just announced blindly that welfare
applicants used drugs at a higher rate than the rest of us.

It`s not, by the way, the first time that Rick Scott has gotten his
facts messed up and I`m sure it won`t be the last.

MADDOW: One of the things you`ve written about on this subject
recently is the fact what Rick Scott is doing with the mandatory drug
testing thing, however hard it is to justify and however screwed up his
facts may be in explaining it, it`s pretty popular.

HIAASEN: It is. Yes.

MADDOW: Go ahead, sir.

HIAASEN: Well, I mean, the idea is that it sounds great. There`s a
very reasonable assumption that people who are struggling to find work and
who are unemployed shouldn`t be spending their money on dope. We can all
say, yes, that would be a very bad idea.

Can you legislate that? No. And is this helping or hurting the
problem? And the big issue also is the cost to taxpayers. The expense of
not just the drug test but administering this law and fighting all the
legal battles to preserve the law, which by the way has been challenged
successfully in other states.

And in one case the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997 threw out a law that
Georgia briefly had saying that all candidates for political office had to
undergo drug testing. By an 8-1 vote the U.S. Supreme Court said that was
a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

So, all these costs are accrued now to Florida taxpayers, to all of us
by a governor who promised us less expense, less government, and now we
have a whole other layer of bureaucracy thanks to him. And I should say
the lawmakers who cheered and pushed this thing forward overwhelmingly.

MADDOW: Carl Hiaasen, "Miami Herald" columnist, best-selling author
and man who is offering to pay for the drug tests of all of Florida`s
legislators -- if you get a majority -- if we`re getting close to a
majority saying yes, I would please like to be there along with a camera
crew if you don`t mind.

HIAASEN: Yes, but the deal is all or nothing. This is what they do
to the applicants for the welfare funds. It`s all or nothing. Everybody`s
got to do it.

So, all 160 of these folks have to stand there with their little cup
and do the deed. And if the lab sends me the bill, I`ll send a check the
next day.

MADDOW: It`s a deal. You will send a check and I will send a crew
and I will be there. I promise.

All right. Thank you very much, Carl. It`s nice to see you.

We got the "Best New Thing in the World Today" coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Chris Christie is not running for president. That means for
Republicans unhappy with their choices, the last maybe candidate on the
sidelines who might still get in is former Alaska governor and former vice
presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. Governor Palin has been doing campaign-
like things for months now, resulting on her polling further fourth among
Republican contenders in national polls even though she has not technically
entered the race.

There is so much snark and so much speculation anytime anybody talks
about Governor Palin doing anything now that I think it is sometimes hard
to recognize it when there is important, real news about her role in
politics. But I think that important real news about Sarah Palin of her
potential candidacy happened here on this show last night.

In July 2008, Steve Schmidt took over running John McCain`s
presidential campaign. The following month, in August, the campaign
announced that Sarah Palin would be Mr. McCain`s running mate. Steve
Schmidt last night on this program described the choice of Sarah Palin for
the Republican Party`s vice presidential nominee as a mistake. As someone
who took part in the decision, he said Governor Palin being chosen for that
nomination was a failure of the vetting process to arrive at a nominee who
was a person qualified to be president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there have been
failures in the vice presidential vetting process and I was involved in one
of them. And I think both parties have had failures in the vetting
process. You know, John Edwards, clearly, and the nominee in 2008.

And I think, you know, that there are rooms -- that there is
substantial room for improvement about how the vice president is selected.
It`s a process that is marked by, you know, fundamentally a lack of
transparency in the selection. It`s marked by, you know, tactical
considerations, it`s too political, it`s about how do we step out of
bounds, how do we get a couple points here, how do we reshape the race?

And the first and foremost consideration should be: is this person
qualified to be president in chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Steve Schmidt who ran the McCain-Palin campaign saying that
Sarah Palin`s selection as the vice presidential nominee in `08, as someone
ostensibly qualified to be commander in chief was a failure of the vetting
process.

Is Sarah Palin thinking about running again this year? This seems
about an important assertion from somebody who should be in a position to
know.

Also who sat here last night with Steve Schmidt was Nicolle Wallace,
another senior staffer to the McCain-Palin campaign, who worked closely and
directly with Governor Palin on that campaign. Now, for context here,
Nicolle has just published a book about someone very much like Sarah Palin
who is elected vice president and who then turns out to be very seriously
mentally ill.

Here is Nicole Wallace of the McCain-Palin campaign, here is Nicole
Wallace`s take now on the thought of Sarah Palin getting into the race for
president this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER STAFFER, MCCAIN-PALIN CAMPAIGN: So, my advice
for anyone, but particular formal her, and she has a whole nest of problems
that would -- you know, that she`d have to confront. But the first one
would be to resist her most partisan and most polarizing instincts because
that would make her a bad candidate for the moment.

MADDOW: And does she have anything to offer beyond that?

WALLACE: Look, you know, I was inspired by her to write a book about
someone who was coo coo for cocoa puffs, so don`t ask me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Two of the most senior people from Sarah Palin`s vice
presidential campaign in 2008 say she is the living proof that the vetting
process sometimes doesn`t weed out people who aren`t qualified to be
president and that she is the inspiration for a terrifying book of fiction
about someone who gets all the way into the White House before they are
revealed to be seriously mentally ill.

We are not usually a show that breaks important political news about
Sarah Palin, but that is important political news about Sarah Palin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: "Best New Thing in the World" has to do with the Friday night
lights of Rogers, Arkansas, which is way up in the northwest corner of that
fair state.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW: This was the scene at Rogers Heritage High School when the
Rogers Heritage High School War Eagle marching band made its season debut
earlier this month.

Eighty-five-year-old Martie Barrett lives in Rogers, Arkansas and she
would have loved to be there. Her grandson Anthony plays trumpet in the
band. But Mrs. Barrett was not in her regular seat in the bleachers that
night to see the band play.

That`s because Martie Barrett has cancer. She is in hospice care at
home and she is not feeling well enough to get to the games right now as
much as she wants to.

And so, these are pictures of two buses chockfull of marching band
members unloading instruments Monday morning in marching not onto some
opposing team`s football field, but on to Martie Barrett`s front lawn. Her
grandson Anthony was front and center, naturally, so Martie could see him
from her window. Watch.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW: Mrs. Barrett loved it. She told our local NBC affiliate,
quote, "It was jazzy," and then she said this about her grandson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIE BARRETT, GRANDMOTHER: I`m very proud of this boy. I try to go
wherever he`s playing, and I`m not sure I`ll be able to from now on. So, I
just mentioned I don`t think I`ll ever be able to hear him play again, and
this happened. Isn`t that wonderful? It`s like a miracle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The Rogers Heritage High School War Eagles marching band
showing up on Martie Barrett`s front lawn so she can hear him play again --
"Best Thing in the World Today" and forever. Well-played you guys.

Now, it`s time for "THE ED SHOW."

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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