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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, December 22, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, John Stanton, Steve Kornacki

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Ed, you feel like you and Rex is a merry
Christmas present to the whole country. That was so awesome, man.

(LAUGHTER)

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Well, it was unrehearsed. And he was
actually out on the set earlier and threw up. So he got all the
nervousness out.

MADDOW: You know, that`s what I do every Friday. So I understand how
that works.

SCHULTZ: Me too. Rachel, thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks, man.

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

Listen, it was a 100 percent total collapse on the Republican side in
D.C. today over the ongoing payroll tax cut fight. It appears to basically
be over now.

We`re going to get the latest details in just a moment about what
happens next in Washington. But it looks like the payroll tax cut thing
will be at least temporarily extended. You will not be having an extra 40
bucks taken out of every one of your paychecks starting January 1st.
That`s what it looks like.

But the way that this has ended, the way that this total political
disaster for the Republicans has come about has given us really two things
in American politics. It has shown us one interesting new thing about the
Democratic Party and the way Democratic politics are working right now.
And it has raised one really important question about the Republican Party.

So, first on the Democratic side, the critique from some parts of the
left, and not just from the left but from -- even from Obama supporters who
say they wanted more out of this presidency, one of the critiques from that
direction in the polity has been that Democrats aren`t fighting hard
enough, that Democrats cave too easily, that Democrats given even when
public opinion is on their side.

Now, whether or not what happened this week was done in response to
that kind of criticism from the left, I`ve got to tell you, the Democratic
Party`s behavior in D.C. in this particular standoff has proved those
critics wrong. And I have been among those critics so I know of what I
speak.

The Democrats this week showed not even an inclination toward backing
down from this fight. They were confident in their position. They were
unified.

And they not only resisted what is too often the Democratic temptation
to roll over on their backs and show their bellies and surrender. They
actually stayed on offense the entire time. And that`s true of both
congressional Democrats this week and specifically of President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Enough is enough. The
people standing with me today can`t afford any more games. They can`t
afford to lose $1,000 because of some ridiculous Washington standoff.

On Tuesday, we asked folks to tell us what it would be like to lose
$40 out of your paycheck every week. And I have to tell you that the
response has been overwhelming. We haven`t seen anything like this before.
Over 30,000 people have written in so far, as many as 2,000 every hour.
They should remind every single member of Congress what`s at stake in this
debate.

Let me just give you a few samples. Joseph from New Jersey talked
about how he would have to sacrifice the occasional pizza night with his
daughters. He said, and I`m quoting, "My 16-year-old twins will be out of
the house soon. I`ll miss this."

Richard from Rhode Island wrote to tell us that having an extra $40 in
his check buys enough heating oil to keep his family warm for three nights.
In his words, I`m quoting, "If someone doesn`t think that 12 gallons of
heating oil is important, I invite them to spend three nights in an
unheated home. Or you can believe me when I say that it makes a
difference."

Pete from Wisconsin told us about driving more than 200 miles each
week to keep his father-in-law company in a nursing home. Forty dollars
out of his paycheck would mean he`d only be able to make three trips
instead of four.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: President Obama today not only keeping the political pressure
on House Republicans but also really turning up the emotional component of
the political pressure as well.

So, as the Republicans just caved and fell apart on this, this
afternoon, the lesson that we learned about Democratic politics right now
is that the critics, including me, who have sometimes said that Democrats
have a hard time playing offense, in this instance, we critics have been
proven wrong.

More interesting, though, I think, than learning that fact about the
Democrats is the great question that this turn of events has raised about
what`s going on in Republican politics and inside the Republican Party in
Congress.

And that question is this: who killed J.B? With apologies to "Dallas"
and J.R. Ewing, who killed John Boehner`s career here? Raise your hand if
you still think John Boehner`s still going to be speaker of the House at
this time next year. Anybody? You know, I can see you through that TV.

That shirt is lovely. It`s very flattering on you. And also,
nobody`s raising their hand. Thank you.

Things do not look all that good for John Boehner`s speakership. And
I say that not because screwing up this payroll tax thing today and having
to cave on it today with his tail between his legs, it`s not that this in
itself is such a substantive failure that it is a career killer, although I
guess reasonably it could be.

I think the reason what we`ve got now are serious questions about John
Boehner`s viability as speaker is because of the way this all went down.
This was not John Boehner tripping and falling. This looks like John
Boehner was pushed.

Who let John Boehner took this stand on the payroll tax?

I mean, John Boehner took this defiant out-on-a-limb stand with
absolutely nobody in his own party backing him up. John Boehner came out
this weekend with this bold plan to defy the thing the Senate had already
approved by an 89-10 margin, including a huge majority of people in his own
party.

He came out with this plan to defy a deal that his own party had
worked out, to defy a deal that he himself supported a few days earlier, to
defy a deal there was overwhelming public support for, John Boehner came
out this past weekend and boldly declared that House Republicans were
standing against, against this payroll tax cut extension, and we are not
doing it. I realize I said I was for it before and I realize it just got
89 votes in the Senate and that Senate Republicans have signed on to it and
that we want to be seen as the tax cut party and that even though we were
sort of against this before, we`d like to be for it now and tit`s kind of a
mess.

But no -- John Boehner said no. I have a bold idea, Republicans are
standing against it. Who`s with me? Who`s with me? No, seriously, who`s
with me? Hey, guys, where did you go?

Have you seen the movie "Old School", Will Ferrell? Watching John
Boehner this week was like that scene from the movie "Old School" where
Will Ferrell gets really, really drunk and decides that everybody`s going
streaking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL FERRELL: We`re going streaking! Yes! Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
We`re going -- we`re going streak through the quad, and into the gymnasium.
Come on, everybody! Come on!

Whoo! Come on! We`re streaking! Come on! Come on, everybody! Come
on! Whoo! Whoo!

We`re streaking! We`re streaking! Whoo! Come on!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, why are you slowing down? Just drive.
Go.

FERRELL: Whoo!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frank? No way.

Frank!

FERRELL: Hey, honey. Hey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What the hell are you doing?

FERRELL: We`re streaking. We`re going up through the quad to the
gymnasium.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who`s streaking?

FERRELL: There`s -- there`s more coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frank. Get in the car.

FERRELL: Everybody`s doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now.

FERRELL: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Get in the car, Frank.

You know hard it was for us to blur out his moving butt like that? We
are not that technically adept.

But essentially, that is John Boehner right now. John Boehner is the
metaphorical out of shape naked guy running down the street alone at this
point.

Why did John Boehner believe it was feasible for him to say no to this
payroll tax cut deal that everybody else was on board with? Why did he
think this was a good idea? What made him think he wasn`t going to be left
running naked through the streets on his own, as he ultimately has been?

He went out on a limb, and the Republicans in Washington started
sawing through that limb as soon as he was out on it. As soon as John
Boehner took this crazy stand on Sunday, everybody in his own party started
killing him for it.

First, it was the more or less centrist Republicans in the Senate
attacking him, people like Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe attacking him for,
quote, "playing politics rather than finding solutions." Then it was more
conservative Republicans in the Senate, people like Chuck Grassley and
Roger Wicker and John McCain attacking John Boehner for, quote, "harming
the Republican Party." Then it was anonymous Republican staffers on the
Senate side saying that John Boehner and House Republicans have, quote,
"painted themselves into a corner. They are on their own."

Then it was named Republican staffers on the House side circulating e-
mails and then leaking those e-mails to the press, things that said --
saying things like, quote, "Republicans are not playing this right" --
written in all caps. Then it was named members of the House, members of
John Boehner`s own caucus, the people who supposedly answer to him, coming
out in public opposition to him.

Republican Congressman Rick Crawford of Arkansas saying, quote, "An
all or nothing attitude produces nothing." Republican Congressman Shawn
Duffy of Wisconsin calling out Speaker Boehner directly, demanding that he
bring the Senate bill to the floor.

Then today, 30 minutes after John Boehner gave his "I`m staying out on
this limb, I will not budge" press conference, 30 minutes after John
Boehner did that this morning, Mitch McConnell -- his supposed compadre,
his counterpart in the Senate, the other Republican congressional leader in
Washington -- 30 minutes after John Boehner declared he`s not backing down,
Mitch McConnell put out his own statement saying, "No, John, you`re on your
own, get in the car, John. Nobody`s behind you."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Speaker Boehner, there`s a lot of folks who are saying hat
you caved on this. Did you cave? And considering the fallout, was this
the worst week of your speakership?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You know, sometimes
it`s hard to do the right thing. And sometimes, it`s politically difficult
to do the right thing. It may not have been politically the smartest thing
in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Part of this I believe is John Boehner being bad at his job.

Nancy Pelosi, whatever you think of her politics, in the previous two
years when she was speaker, Nancy Pelosi never allowed there to be a vote
in the House that she controlled where she did not know the outcome of that
vote in advance. There were no surprises. She got everything lined up
just so before ever going public.

John Boehner, on the other hand, puts stuff on the House floor and
whoo, anything can happen.

So part of this, I think, is just that John Boehner is not good at his
job of being speaker. And I don`t mean that as a dig at Speaker Boehner.
I just mean in terms of observing the way he works he doesn`t seem to be
good at it.

But in this case on this payroll tax thing, it can`t be that he just
John Boehner blundered into this one on his own, because somebody made John
Boehner believe that if he did this bold defiant thing that the Republicans
would have his back. That some other Republican would have his back for
some other purpose than just jamming a political knife into that back. Who
are the people on John Boehner`s own side who let him do this?

Joining us now is John Stanton, reporter for "Roll Call" newspaper.

John, it`s nice to have you here. Thanks for being here.

JOHN STANTON, ROLL CALL: Anytime. Of course.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about my basic thesis about how the House
works and how a speaker works in a situation like this. Is it possible he
got into this on his own or would he have had to have some help in coming
to the conclusion that this was a viable political move he was making?

STANTON: No, I think this was a situation in which I think Speaker
Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell and Harry Reid sort of all thought
they had this agreement. It looked like it was going to go forward.

And when the speaker went to go talk to his caucus last weekend, he
realized there was just no chance they were going to get it through the
House. And he found himself in sort of a no-win situation frankly. Here
he had the hardest conservative part of his party, the freshmen, some of
the long-term conservatives, the Tea Party types, were adamant they weren`t
going to agree with this.

I think there was some hope that with 89 members of the Senate voting
for it, that they could pressure folks and it just didn`t work.

And he found himself in a position where he had to go out and say no
to a deal that this had bipartisan support from the Senate. And then he
started to see his own people attacking McConnell and other Republicans in
the Senate which devolved very quickly. Any support he might have been
able to get, from say, Leader McConnell and others in the Senate was just
not going to come at that point once house Republicans started attacking
the Senate.

MADDOW: Well, then moving forward, just thinking about his
effectiveness in Congress, if this all started with he and Harry Reid and
Mitch McConnell sitting down and making a deal, and it turns out that John
Boehner`s negotiation meant nothing, that he couldn`t actually speak for
his own caucus -- why would anybody negotiate with him on anything in the
future? Doesn`t this affect his ability to even enter into future
discussions about what`s going to happen in Congress if he doesn`t speak
for anybody?

STANTON: I mean, I think it to a certain degree remains to be seen
what effect this is going to have. This is certainly the worst example of
it.

But, you know, there have been other instances over the last year,
with the C.R. in the spring, with the debt deal, with the C.R. this fall,
where he`s had to contend with his sort of right wing and find ways to
massage deals.

And, normally, what he allows them to do is sort of fight their way
out of their anger. And they fight and they fight and they fight. And
then they eventually come back to a deal that he and McConnell have worked
out.

But this breakdown I think could have a potential problem for them,
particularly when we come back to this same payroll fight in February when
the Senate is going to come up with something and he`s going to have to try
to move it through his chamber, if it`s not very far to the right.

I don`t know that he`s going to be able to muster the support,
particularly given the fact that folks like Alan West and others are coming
out and pretty much point blank saying they`re unhappy with him, they`re
unhappy with the deal that`s being made, they`re feeling they`re being
forced to swallow this agreement they don`t want to do, they want to
continue to fight, and so it`s going to be challenging for him.

MADDOW: That kind of open insurgency that you`re describing there,
pair that observation with what your newspaper "Roll Call" has been
reporting this week about sort of rumblings about viability of John
Boehner`s speakership, rumblings that he may essentially be forced out
before the end of his term -- how serious do you think that is or does that
depend on the emergence of a viable alternative to him?

STANTON: Yes, I think that there`s less of a chance that he`s going
to lose his speakership. I don`t see that happening in the cards, frankly.
There`s nobody there that could really sort of lead a revolt against him.
Eric Cantor, his number two, he`s not going to do that. I don`t know that
either he or, say, Kevin McCarthy, the whip, or anybody else could really
sort of be the lightning rod that brings the people that are angry with him
together to overthrow him.

I`m not sure there`s enough of an anger to try to overthrow him. But
what it does do is creates a challenge for him because now that they`re
sort of openly criticizing him and openly criticizing this decision he`s
going to have to contend with that now on every single step that he goes
forward. And to a certain degree, he`s going to have to try to play
against that and try to bring those people back in, which is going to move
him further to the right from the Senate, from Senate Republicans and
Democrats, and it`s going to make his life even more miserable than it
already has been this year.

MADDOW: John Stanton, reporter for "Roll Call" newspaper -- John,
thanks very much for your time tonight. It`s good to have you.

STANTON: Anytime.

MADDOW: All right. I should also note when Republicans took over in
the House in January when John Boehner took over as speaker, poll numbers
said that Americans trusted the House Republicans over President Obama by
five percentage points. A poll out today from CNN shows President Obama
more trusted than House Republicans by 19 points. And that polling was
done before the whole payroll tax debacle.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: OK, today on MSNBC, Al Sharpton had Christmas carolers on his
show singing Republican Christmas carols, and then Reverend Al arguing with
the Christmas carolers about the lyrics of their songs. It was
mesmerizing.

Also today on MSNBC, Ed Schultz had a dog on his desk.

I cannot compete with this. Everybody at MSNBC is better at their job
today than I am. I simply cannot compete with this.

However, I am the only person on MSNBC who has Melissa Harris Perry as
a guest on the show tonight, which means I win. Even if the competition
today here was brisk, and adorable.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: And it`s fair to say that none of the Republican presidential
contenders this year is inspiring overwhelming enthusiasm. So, campaigns
and the media get extra excited in years like this about endorsements.

It`s essentially like listen, you might not like me all that much, but
look, you like this other person, right? And this other person likes me.
So, by the transitive property, can I have your vote?

So there was lots of news coverage when a social conservative, sort of
fundamentalist leader in Iowa named Bob Vander Plaats made his endorsement
this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB VANDER PLAATS: I believe Rick Santorum comes us from. He comes
from us. Just not to us. He comes from us. He`s one of us.

And so, I look forward to the next two weeks to see what I can do to
advance his candidacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: To refresh your memory, this is the guy with the marriage
vow. He says he`ll only support a candidate who will vow to vigorously
oppose, quote, "any redefinition of the institution of marriage through
statutory, bureaucratic, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions
which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, and same sex." They`re also
demanding, quote, "support for the enactment of safeguards for all married
and unmarried U.S. military and National Guard personnel from intrusively
intimate commingling among attracteds." Protecting our troops from the
attracteds.

Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and, of course, Rick Santorum also signed
this thing. Newt Gingrich said he wanted to tweak it first.

Mr. Vander Plaats has done it a very good job of making it seem like
he matters, like he`s the key to winning Iowa. FOX News calls him a
kingmaker. And this kingmaker this year chose Rick Santorum. So, yay,
Rick Santorum.

Oh, and also, Mr. Vander Plaats would please like some money from Rick
Santorum. "The Des Moines Register" reporting this week that Mr. Vander
Plaats had for help in raising money to promote the endorsement and that
Mr. Vander Plaats said he`d like to have the money to do television
advertisements to promote his personal endorsement of Santorum, and he
urges Santorum backers to contribute money for that purpose.

CNN`s Christine Romans asked Mr. Vander Plaats about the endorsement
for cash thing yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN: It`s been reported in the "Des Moines
Register" you that had asked him, look, we would like money, maybe a
million dollars, to help get out there and advertise our support for you.
Explain to me that relationship.

VANDER PLAATS: First of all, absolutely not. We would never ask a
candidate -- and by the way, when you endorse Rick Santorum, you probably
should also know that you`re not asking him for a million dollars. We
would never ask a campaign or a candidate for funds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: We hear that loud and clear. He would never ask a candidate
for funds. But you might want to try telling that to Rick Santorum,
because that same day, Rick Santorum was interviewed by another CNN
reporter on the campaign trail. It`s a little hard to hear because they`re
both off mike.

But on his way out of the interview the reporter throws him one last
question. Did he ever ask you for money in exchange for this endorsement?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What he talked about is he
needed money to promote the endorsement and that that would be important to
do that. But there was never a direct ask for me to go out and raise
money.

REPORTER: Did he mention maybe that if could be helpful --

SANTORUM: He mentioned that that was something that they would need
to do in order for their endorsement to have an impact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He didn`t ask me for money. He just mentioned that it was
important to have some money while he was mentioning that he was also
endorsing me. Right.

This whole smarmy endorsement sort of but maybe not really in exchange
for money incident says a lot about how things work in Republican politics
in Iowa. Do you remember when Michele Bachmann won the Ames, Iowa, straw
poll? She was the front-runner and it was a big deal, right?

The way candidates win the Iowa straw poll in Ames is kind of -- well,
the Ames straw poll is many things -- state fair with carnival rides,
political convention, fund-raiser for the Iowa Republican Party, test of a
candidate`s organizational strength. And it`s also what some might
describe as an institutionalized if genteel day of bribery.

This thing is conducted only by Republicans. The Democrats don`t do
this thing, right? And the Republican straw poll in Ames requires
candidates to fork over thousands of dollars to the state Republican Party
in order to pitch their tents. It`s pay to play. Candidates spend
hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more on food, entertainment, and
transportation, commandeering fleets of buses to get supporters to Ames
from around the state.

For the record, the candidate who paid the most this year for his tent
at the straw poll was Ron Paul. He paid $31,000 to the Iowa Republican
Party. And at Ames, he came in second. He came in second only to Michele
Bachmann. And maybe he came in second to Michele Bachmann because she
served meat sundaes -- mashed potatoes with brown gravy that looks like
chocolate with a cherry tomato on top. How can you compete with that?

All the debates and the paying for endorsements and carnivals and meat
sundaes aside, this is all leading to January 3rd, right? But how
Democratic are the Iowa caucuses? If you want to vote in the Iowa
caucuses, you have to show up at a specific time, which means if you can`t
make it at that time you do not get to vote.

Plus, in Iowa you either spend a lot of money to get voters to notice
you or you have to rely on endorsements like Bob Vander Plaats,
endorsements that may not mean anything on Election Day but mean a lot of
ideological pandering and maybe the exchange of money.

We talk about Iowa a lot this time of year, right? First in the
nation, we talk about the caucuses because they mark the beginning of
something, the beginning of the voting season. But how much are the Iowa
caucuses really like the rest of how we vote in America? How Democratic is
the Iowa system?

Joining us now is Steve Kornacki. He`s political news editor at
Salon.com.

Steve, thanks for joining us tonight. Nice to have you here.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Sure.

MADDOW: Should -- am I being naive to be shocked by the allegation
that the Bob Vander Plaats fundamentalist social conservative endorsement
comes with a price tag?

KORNACKI: Well, I mean, you`ve got to love the irony because one of
the sort of messaging things Republicans have emphasized for a couple of
decades now is the Democrats are the party of machine politics, they`re the
old school party with vote buying and --

MADDOW: Chicago politics.

KORNACKI: Right. And here`s the religious guy engaging in it.

But I think the thing about Iowa, this sort of thing does happen in
both parties, in primary states, but I think it`s really pronounced in a
state like Iowa on the Republican side because you have such a small
activist-dominated voting universe.

When you look at what the turnout is like for the Iowa caucuses, in a
normal year, the percentage of like registered voters in Iowa who will
participate in the caucuses is usually under 10 percent.

MADDOW: Wow.

KORNACKI: Now, in 2008, you know, hugely interesting year, it swelled
to 18 percent. Now, contrast that with like the New Hampshire primary
where in 2008, another year there was a lot of interest you`re looking at
like 70 percent.

MADDOW: Wow.

KORNACKI: Or you go down to South Carolina, a state that`s even
smaller than Iowa, but three times as many people participated in the
Republican primary in South Carolina in 2008 as participated in the Iowa
caucuses in 2008.

So, it`s this really -- and you look at the sort of demographics of
the people who are there, 60 percent of the people who participated in the
Iowa Republican caucuses in `08 identified themselves as evangelicals.
That`s a staggering number I don`t think is even representative of what the
Republican Party in Iowa is.

So, that`s the universe you`re dealing with. And then you`ve got --
you know, you`re Rick Santorum. You`re at 10 percent. You`re trying to
distinguish yourself on the Christian right.

Here`s this guy that ran for governor, Bob Vander Plaats, he`s got 40
percent. He`s the key to the Christian right. So sure, wants a little
action for himself, all right, we`ll take care of that, you know?

MADDOW: I feel like those truths about the Iowa caucuses are sold
often as if they`re an asset, as if they are a nice thing. It`s the
tradition of the Iowa caucuses. Six old people get together and decide the
whole thing. I mean, it`s sold as being a romantic thing, sold almost as
if it`s the sort of New England town hall tradition.

But I wonder if there`s an extent to which the organizational
principle of Iowa does make it not only less democratic, less
representational, but a little bit more corrupt. I mean, in the sense that
the Republican Party does run the caucuses in a lot of ways as a fund-
raiser.

KORNACKI: Right. Absolutely. That`s something you see in New
Hampshire. You know, there`s a lot of people who make some money off the
presidential primary and get some prestige out of it.

But in Iowa, it`s just a lot more pronounced because it`s hard when
you`re a candidate also to sort of understand, to sort of separate, OK, is
this guy who`s promising me others going to deliver a bloc of votes at the
caucuses, a consequential bloc of votes, is he legitimate or not? You
know, is this firm that works and does politics in Iowa that everybody
tells me I have to hire if I want to win the Iowa caucuses, is that
legitimate or not?

And so, you know, you look at an example -- sort of the most famous
example was in 2000 when George W. Bush had the biggest machine ever
assembled on the Republican side. In the spirit of that thing was just
anybody who says they can do anything, hire them up, grab them up, let`s
just get everybody. You know, it was a great payday for the Republicans in
the state. I`m not sure how many at the end of the day did anything for
him.

MADDOW: It`s amazing.

Do you think that -- I mean, sort of like if you`re looking at this
system from outer space this would seem like a strange system. The race
that`s been going on for months and months now leading up to this small,
not very democratic vote in Iowa, do you think there`s any possibility that
Iowa is going to sort of feel pressure at least, maybe if not from the
entire political system, from the Republican political system because they
have not really become a means of pick a presidential nominee?

Iowa is not only a weird system for picking somebody, they are a non-
representational system in the sense that the Iowa nominee tends to be
somebody who doesn`t do well in any other states.

KORNACKI: Right. Although I think the effect of -- the importance of
Iowa or a state like Iowa, you need a state to lead off, what it usually
does it winnows the field. So, the candidate who may not win it but comes
in second or comes in third and is determined to have done something
significant there, like John McCain`s performance in 2008, he didn`t win
it, but it was better than expected. So it propelled him into New
Hampshire where he overtook Romney where he was coming off the
disappointing showing in Iowa.

MADDOW: But it also kept Mike Huckabee going forever when he actually
didn`t have any traction anywhere else.

KORNACKI: I think that`s a huge problem when looking at these early
states. And they have that winnowing effect and it really matters which
state it is and it matters what system they use. You look at New
Hampshire. Jon Huntsman is now at 13 percent in New Hampshire. Is there
another state in the country besides Utah where Jon Huntsman would be
polling at 13 percent right now?

But it has such a significant effect on the process that if Jon
Huntsman can climb to 20 there, or if you know, Mike Huckabee can come up
and get 35 percent in Iowa, it elevates them. You know, it could be the
reason Mitt Romney wins the nomination. If Mitt Romney wins this thing, a
big part of it`s going to be getting 40 percent of the vote in New
Hampshire. You know, he`s really lucky one of the few states that really
likes him is voting second, (INAUDIBLE) South Carolina.

MADDOW: I agree with the principle of what you`re saying, but I think
that the only way New Hampshire matters to Mitt Romney is if he loses it.
And if he loses it, he`s toast.

KORNACKI: Sure.

MADDOW: But if he wins it, everybody is going to be like oh, he used
to be governor of Massachusetts, whatever.

KORNACKI: Sure.

MADDOW: The more you learn about the quirks of the individual states,
the more amazing it is how much power they have. But how much power they
have I think may wane because Iowa`s getting so weird. I guess we`ll have
to see.

KORNACKI: The only thing that Pat Robertson second place 23 years ago
and he`s still kicking.

MADDOW: He can leg press 2,000 pounds. Would that have happened
without Iowa?

KORNACKI: That`s right.

MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, it`s great to have you here.

KORNACKI: Sure.

MADDOW: All right. Libertarians, firm believers in personal
responsibility, right? That means you just don`t get to erase the parts of
your past you that don`t like. The albatross around the neck of the Ron
Paul for president campaign -- that`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Newt Gingrich does not own the Web site NewtGingrich.com. He
forgot to buy it or forgot to renew it or something. And now, it has been
picked up by a liberal political action committee, which is offering to
sell NewtGingrich.com back to him, or to anyone, actually, for the low, low
price of $1 million. Somewhat confusingly, right after putting the
million-dollar price tag out there, they also said they would be willing to
accept $10,000. But mostly I think that was a dig at Mitt Romney for his
make me a $10,000 bet thing.

In any case, NewtGingrich.com is not under Newt Gingrich`s control.
And unless and until he gets it back, it seems like the people who own it
are going to be making the most of the fact that they own it.

And it doesn`t just do one thing now. It does a whole lot of
different things. If you type in NewtGingrich.com, it redirects to this
article about Newt Gingrich still shilling his books and DVDs to make a
buck while he is campaigning for president.

But then, this is the amazing thing, just do it, don`t hit refresh but
type in NewtGingrich.com again, and it goes somewhere else. It goes to his
InTrade page which shows the spectacularly precipitous drop-off of his
chances of winning a Republican president nomination, at least if you ask
the people betting on that at InTrade.

Type in NewtGingrich.com again and it goes fought Newt Gingrich-Nancy
Pelosi ad on global warming.

If you type in NewtGingrich.com again it goes to an article about the
imploding of his campaign this summer with all his staff criticizing his
crazy lack of discipline.

If you type it in NewtGingrich.com again, it goes to a travel guide to
Greece.

If you type in NewtGingrich.com again it goes to Freddie Mac.

You keep going. It goes to Tiffany`s at one point. It`s great.

Your typing NewtGingrich.com goes to this Think Progress article about
his awards scam and a porn company. It just goes on and on and on.

NewtGingrich.com -- just keep typing it in over and over and over
again.

It`s not exactly the same problem as Googling the phrase Rick
Santorum, but it is getting to be close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This is the skeleton in Ron Paul`s closet. This is from the
"Ron Paul Newsletter," the February 1990 edition.

Quote, "Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for that pro-
communist philander Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time
and time again as a congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan
approved it. We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day."

This is from the Ron Paul report in 1992. Quote, "If you live in a
major city, you`ve probably already heard about the newest threat to your
life and limb and your family, carjacking. It is the hip-hop thing to do
among the urban youth, who play unsuspecting whites like pianos.

What can you do? More and more Americans are carrying a gun in the
car. An ex-cop I know advises that if you have to use a gun on a youth,
you should leave the scene immediately, disposing of the wiped off gun as
soon as possible. Such a gun cannot, of course, be registered to you, but
one bought privately through the classifieds, for example.

I frankly don`t know what to make of such advice, but even in my
little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I`ve urged everyone in my family to
know how to use a gun in self-defense. For the animals are coming."

The "New Republic" a few years ago also unearthed this gem from the
Ron Paul newsletters on the subject of foreign affairs. The end of
apartheid`s white rule in South Africa described in a Ron Paul newsletter
as, quote, "a destruction of civilization that was the most tragic to ever
occur on that continent, at least below the Sahara."

Again, these are all from Ron Paul`s newsletters from the 1980s and
1990s. This is not a new issue for Ron Paul`s political career. We have
known about these newsletters for a long time. He has been called to
account for the wildly racist and conspiratorial passages in his old
newsletters every time they`ve been unearthed periodically over the 15
years or so.

When Ron Paul ran for Congress in 1996 after being home in Texas for a
few years, "The Dallas Morning News" pulled a couple of passages from a
1992 issue of the Ron Paul political report. Quote, "If you have ever been
robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot
they can be." Also, "Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly
calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95
percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely
criminal."

These were quotes from Ron Paul`s newsletters. And when the "Dallas
Morning News" asked him about them, running for Congress that year, he did
not disavow these statements. Quote, "In the interview, he did not deny he
made the statement about the swiftness of black men. If you try to catch
someone that has stolen a purse from you, there is no chance to catch
them," Dr. Paul said.

He also said the comment about black men in the nation`s capital was
made while writing about a 1992 study produced by the National Center on
Incarceration and Alternatives, a criminal justice think tank based in
Virginia. Quote, "These aren`t my figures," Dr. Paul said Tuesday. "That
is the assumption you can gather from the report."

When the "Houston Chronicle" started asking about those comments also
in 1996, Dr. Paul`s campaign spokesman defended the remarks about the
criminality of black men thusly. He said that the Reverend Jesse Jackson
had also talked about urban crime, so essentially that made it OK.

So, that`s how Ron Paul and his political campaign responded to
criticism about nakedly racist passages in his newsletters when he was
asked about them during his congressional campaign in the mid `90s. He
responded essentially by defending those nakedly racist passages.

And that was not enough to kill Ron Paul`s political career, quite to
the contrary. He won the election that year in `96. He went back to
Congress, and he has been there ever since.

And right now, Ron Paul is having the biggest political surge of his
career. He`s the front-runner in most of the Iowa polling. There`s a
reasonable chance he could win the Iowa caucuses in a week and a half.

But now in the face of the scrutiny that early state front-runner
status brings, Congressman Ron Paul has come up with a totally different
explanation for what`s in his old racist Ron Paul newsletters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I didn`t
write them. And I don`t endorse those views. And I`ve explained it many
times.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: So you read them but you didn`t do anything about
it at the time?

PAUL: I never read that stuff. I`ve never read it. I was probably
aware of it 10 years after it was written. And it`s been going on 20 years
that people have pestered me about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: In 1996, Ron Paul defended the black men are fast and
criminal writings in his newsletters. Today, he says not only did he not
write that stuff, he didn`t even read it.

That`s at least what he told CNN before in the middle of the
interview, he took off his microphone and stormed away, walked away.

It is hard to believe that Ron Paul didn`t see this coming, that he
didn`t think he`d need a good explanation while running for president for
the fact that advice on how to shoot black young people, without getting
caught for it, appeared under his big bold-faced name as if he had wrote
it, as if he had written it, excuse me.

But after first defending the stuff in 1996, Ron Paul`s defense on
this stuff is just sort of slowly evolved, changing over time, to make him
seem less and less culpable. In a 2001 interview with "Texas Monthly," he
reversed what he had said five years earlier, claimed he didn`t actually
write any of the racist stuff from his newsletters.

By 2008, he had decided than only had he not written that stuff
himself, he didn`t even know who had written it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: How did this stuff get in these Ron Paul
newsletters? Who wrote it?

PAUL: Well, I have no idea. Have you ever heard of a publisher of a
magazine not knowing every single thing? The editor is responsible for the
daily activities. And people came and gone. There were some people that
were hired. I don`t know any of their names.

I do not -- absolutely, honestly do not know who wrote those things.

BLITZER: Did you used to read these newsletters? Congressman?

PAUL: Not -- not back then. There might have been at times I would,
at times.

But you know, I was in a medical practice. I traveled a lot. I was
doing speeches around the country.

So very frequently, you know, I never did see these. As a matter of
fact, some of the things you just read I wouldn`t have recognized them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: All of the candidates who could conceivably win Iowa this
year, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, they`ve all been in
politics for a really long time. And they all have scandals in their past.
Perhaps none as scandalous as having overtly racist, violent diatribes
written in your name, but what is reanimating this dusty skeleton in Ron
Paul`s closet right now is not just the substantive disgust for what this
scandal is, it`s frankly Ron Paul`s incoherent, inconsistent explanations
for how it happened.

He`s supposedly Mr. Integrity, Mr. Consistent, right? His multiple
stories and his unwillingness to explain this clearly, to clear it up in a
way that seems credible, is what is giving this controversy new life, less
than two weeks out from the Iowa race that polls now show him leading.

Political science professor and MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris-Perry
will join us to help unpack all of that Ron Paul baggage, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: I was still practicing medicine. That was probably why I
wasn`t a very good publisher, because I had to make a living.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: If not being a good publisher means letting people put out
how to shoot black people without getting caught instructions under your
name, then put Congressman Ron Paul down as not a good publisher.

Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Perry, political science professor at
Tulane University, an MSNBC contributor, and tonight`s guest host of "THE
LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.

Melissa, I`m looking forward to that.

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it`ll be good.

MADDOW: Good to have you here.

Ron Paul`s defense when he`s asked about this scandal now is that this
is very far in the past, this is a settled matter, why is everybody still
talking about it? What is your reaction to that?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you know, there are so many ways that Ron Paul is
America. And it`s one of the reasons that I always have been an engaged
Paul watcher. I was talking to my daughter earlier, who`s 10, and
reminding her that when she was 6, she got a copy of the Constitution from
Ron Paul in New Hampshire. We were there for the primaries, he happened it
had to her, and, you know, we still have it, because he really is sort of
an "I am America," but that is also sort of America`s response to the
entire history of institutionalized racism.

Let`s not talk about that, let`s not think about that, that was in
some time in the past. I`m now this remade thing. And so, we don`t have
to cope with any of the residual realities of American racism.

So I actually feel like the one hand, easy to beat up on Paul, but he
is part of -- symptomatic of something larger.

MADDOW: That said, this has got his name on it?

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

MADDOW: And, I mean -- the -- I guess the cheapest possible objection
to this is, dude, you let people put out a newsletter with your name on it
and you didn`t even bother to read it, doesn`t sound like a very effective
manager, the cheapest possible approach to it.

But, I mean, we -- the other part of this what is happening
politically here is Ron Paul knew that this scandal was out there knew he
was getting asked about it since at least the mid-90s.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

MADDOW: And he knows that he doesn`t have a coherent explanation for
what happened here, didn`t bother to come one even while running for
president again. Is he banking on people not caring about it, sore that
sort of dereliction of duty, politically speaking?

HARRIS-PERRY: No, you know, think -- so I agree, the cheap seats are
-- well, you put out a newsletter and didn`t know what it said or you just
sort of a bad politician. No. This smacks of someone who fundamentally
believes in the inequality of African-Americans and probably other people
of color relative to whites and a belief that white Americans should have a
right to behave in a way that represents what he would understand as
freedom but that freedom doesn`t stop at the -- doesn`t have to respect the
freedom of people of color.

And so, you don`t have to quite work up a political explanation for it
because it`s a deeply ingrained belief, it is part of his sort of
ideological adherence. So, I don`t know it is about being a bad
politician. I think it`s about believing that if some black kid wants to
take your car, you have a right to kill that person.

MADDOW: The Ron Paul defense is he didn`t write this stuff, it was
essentially irresponsible -- I guess he might concede it was irresponsible
somebody did it in his name, but that he doesn`t belief these racist
sentiments. Now, that said, when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was
commemorated the 40th anniversary in Congress, Ron Paul voted against it,
describing the Civil Rights Act as a unconscionable expansion of government
power, staying it reduced liberty.

So, I mean, nobody says that they`ve ever seen Ron Paul behave or
speak in a way that seems like an overtly racist guy. He denies that these
overtly racist things were authored by him.

But at what point does his civil rights and race track record
intersect with his defense?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, look, it`s under his name and it`s written down.
You and I both exist in a business where we write collaboratively, we
present idea collaboratively.

MADDOW: Yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s your head from here up saying the words,
but it`s part of a collaborative process. But you take responsibility for
it once it comes out of your mouth. You don`t turn around and say, oh,
that was my segment producer, I don`t actually really think those things.

MADDOW: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: No, that`s your responsibility. And so, I think we can
lay this right at his feet for just this. We don`t need him to say oh,
yes, of course, I don`t believe that.

He need not be David Duke, who will openly say I was a member of the
Klan and all of this. He can simply be the person who, under his name
allowed this to be published.

MADDOW: And when he says I disavow it, how far does that go? What
else does he have to do to prove that he really means that he disavows it?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I mean, I think at a minimum, I would like to
hear the reasons that these arguments are either inaccurate or -- I mean,
there needs to be some reasoning.

Ron Paul, whatever else he is, is incredibly good at giving reasoned
arguments often based in kind of American historical, you know,
constitutional language. Let`s hear that argument for racial equality.

MADDOW: I think that would be the way that he could put this away.
Otherwise, I think this might mean the end for him. That`s what I think
about it anyway.

Melissa Harris-Perry, political science professor at Tulane, MSNBC
contributor, guest host of "THE LAST WORD" at the top of the hour.

HARRIS-PERRY: Two minutes.

MADDOW: I know. Thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. Still to come here, best new thing in the world
today, for the first time ever -- it involves ticker tape. Yay.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In New York City, when you do something great, something
heroic, like say winning the World Series, you get one of these -- a trip
down the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan, under a shower of ticker
tape, or confetti.

Sometimes, it`s sports teams. Senator and astronaut John Glenn got
his second ticker tape parade in 1998 after his trip on the space shuttle
Discovery. The veterans of First Gulf War got one in June 1991. Crowds
celebrating the return of troops after the campaign to take back Kuwait
from Saddam Hussein.

That same month, veterans of a much older war, the Korean War, also
got a long overdue trip down the Canyon of Heroes.

Now that we have officially ended the 8 1/2-year war in Iraq, now that
the last American troops have left Iraq, crossing into Kuwait over the
weekend, why not throw them a ticker tape parade?

Two New York City councilmen have formally requested a parade but no
word yet from New York City`s mayor.

Mayor Bloomberg appears on a radio show every week, responds directly
to New Yorkers who call in questions. Today, he used Twitter to solicit
questions he will answer on the radio tomorrow.

And today, Paul Rieckhoff, the head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
of America, tweeted: "What do you think of the idea of a welcome home
ticker tape parade for Iraq vets in NYC?"

Do the troops from this American war get a ticker tape ride down the
Canyon of Heroes, do they Mr. Mayor? I would go and so would everybody I
know. Thanks to Paul Rieckhoff, that question is openly, publicly,
respectfully, in play.

A simple suggestion from an Iraq vet -- best new thing in the world
today.

That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with
Lawrence O`Donnell, tonight with Melissa Harris-Perry. Have a great night.

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

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