'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
August 2, 2012
Guest: Michael Waldman
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: You, too, Michael. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
The House of Representatives is leaving now. Bye-bye, Congress. They
are leaving. They are taking a big long recess and they are going home.
They`re going home without having done a whole bunch of stuff that Congress
basically always does.
They have not, for example, done a farm bill. They did not make any
decisions on overall government spending levels. Even though they said
they would. And that sequester thing you hear about is looming if they
don`t. They just didn`t make any decision on it.
They have not done their post office bill. Even though Congress so
screwed up the post office that as of yesterday the post office is
defaulting on payments that Congress says it is supposed to make.
Congress did not reauthorize the violence against women act which used
to be the very definition of a noncontroversial bipartisan thing in
Congress. They did not do a Russia trade bill they said they were going to
do. They did not make their Bush tax cuts decision. They just didn`t do
any of it.
And they could have, I guess, stayed until they got it done. But
instead they`ve decided to just leave. They`re leaving. Bye. They`ll be
gone for the rest of August and into September. Jobs, jobs, jobs.
When Congress is in Washington but they`re not actually working on
anything, what they do with their time there instead is something called
messaging. They do things that don`t necessarily have any real policy
impact, but they`re supposed to have some sort of political impact.
They`re supposed to excite the base. They`re supposed to at least make the
folks back home in the home district happy.
Which is why, for example, there have been zero bills brought to the
floor to fix this giant problem of the postal service which is a real
problem created by Congress that Congress has to fix. There have been zero
bills brought to the floor to fix that. But there have been 60 bills -- 6-
0, 60 bills to give new names to post office buildings.
See, when you`re not working on real policy, Congress does messaging
instead. Messaging and politics and making donors and home districts
happy. And the Republicans in the House have chosen for their messaging
and politic stunts this week.
Well, yesterday it was a big anti-contraception rally at which one
member of Congress, a Republican congressman you see here, Mike Kelly, he
called expanded access to birth control the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor
attack and the 9/11 attack.
The last round of congressional Republican ranting against access to
birth control this past spring, you may recall, was devastating to
Republican poll numbers among women voters including for their standard
bearer Mr. Romney. But Republicans in the House have decided anyway they
are going for it again.
So that was yesterday. Yesterday was expanded access to birth control
is Pearl Harbor and 9/11 messaging and politics day.
Today`s big messaging and politics move by Republicans in Congress who
aren`t working on real policy was English only -- a hearing today on a bill
to establish an official language of the United States -- English only.
Thus barring from helping someone in their native language unless their
native language is English.
Now, practically speaking, there is zero percent chance that this will
become law. But the Republicans decided to hold this public hearing on it
anyway, as a matter of urgency before leaving town. Sure the post office
is imploding and it`s their fault and we haven`t fixed it, and sure, we
haven`t even done a farm bill, but we got to get to this important
messaging here -- to this important English only thing.
And presumably that means they like the politics in this. They like
the messaging in this. The latest Latino Decisions poll shows President
Obama beating Governor Mitt Romney by 48 points among Latino voters, 48
points. That`s the margin.
The de facto leader of the Republican Party is not just less popular
with Latino voters, he`s in are you kidding me territory.
The Republicans have been trying hard to fix this problem. For
example, they announced a Latino outreach team called Juntos Con Romney.
The Romney campaign itself put out a video of one of Mr. Romney`s sons, I
think it`s Craig, speaking Spanish.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: It is Craig. Hola, Craig Romney!
And, you know, maybe that will work. Maybe that`s what most Latino
voters care about. Maybe the Republicans in Congress will make sure to
hold hearings on English only.
One of the first rules of political competition is that when your
opponent is setting themselves proverbially on fire, you should avoid
providing any proverbial water. I always think of it as the first do no
help rule. When somebody`s messing up, just get out of the way.
The Democrats today could have got out of the way. They could just --
I guess put out press releases about the fact that the Republicans were
shooting themselves in the foot like this. Hey, look how the Republicans
are capitalizing on the great P.R. they got from electing Ted Cruz as their
Republican Senate nominee from Texas.
Look how they`re capitalizing on that. An English only hearing in the
House of Representatives. Attention Latino voters. Democrats could have
just let it all happen and the damage is done, right?
But the Democrats today decided they could not let well enough alone.
They could not hold themselves back. The Democrats in the House today
decided to make this more than just a political victory for their side that
they could watch and smile at. They decided that they were going to make
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I now yield to distinguished ranking member Mr.
Connors for his statement.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), GEORIGA: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman John Conyers, Democrat of Georgia, obviously not
a native Spanish speaker and equally obviously having a great deal of fun
at the Republicans` speak English only hearing today -- which again will
result in no new policy. It is simply a message from the Republican Party
to the nation`s Latino voters about what they think of you. Oh and also
jobs, jobs, jobs.
Joining us now is Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist from "The
Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor and my friend Eugene Robinson.
Gene, it`s great to see you tonight.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Buenas tardes.
MADDOW: Knowing that you speak fluent Spanish ands lived in Latin
America made this all the more perfect to talk to you about this today.
Tell me -- maybe some of this is lost in translation. Is there a
secret genius at work here? I mean, they did not have to do this. And
they did this. Why did they do this?
ROBINSON: No, no, no. This is not super secret, double reverse
psychology at work here. This is just dumb.
I mean, look at those numbers in the polls, 70 to 22. That is worse
than the drubbing that John McCain took from Barack Obama among Latino
voters. Which in and of itself was historic. It was two to one.
This is worse. And what Republicans are on the verge of doing is not
only blowing the vote of the nation`s biggest and fastest growing minority
for this election, but perhaps for a generation. This is serious long-term
implications for the party.
MADDOW: We have seen Romney pursue the Latino vote in a way that
seems hapless and counterproductive. His policies are Tom Tancredo
territory in terms of how far to the right they are, even of the Republican
field. He`s the one who went after Rick Perry of Texas as being too
compassionate on the issue of immigration.
And so, we`ve seen Mitt Romney sort of screw this up. But it seems
more interesting and more puzzling to me that John Boehner would let this
happen in the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives is
essentially a dictatorship under the speaker. The speaker gets to decide
Why would the Republican congressional leadership let this happen on a
day they could have had anything happen?
ROBINSON: Well, this is not the first time that John Boehner has had
to go along with things in the house that he personally might not have
thought were such a great idea.
But, look. He has a majority, but there`s this huge very right wing
block that is going to create problems for him. And frankly, he`s got Eric
Cantor looking over his shoulder, ready to assume the gavel if Boehner
So, he does some things in order to keep his speakership, to keep his
position. And he`s a smart politician. So I`m sure he realizes this was
not a great move.
MADDOW: OK. On the last point there, being smart and realizing this
was dumb but letting it happen anyway. I have an operating hypothesis for
this entire Congress. And I don`t mean it personally, and I don`t mean it
in a mean way. But I think John Boehner is really bad at his job. I think
he can`t control a group over whom he essentially has total control would
he assert it.
Is he actually so worried about a revolt from Eric Cantor or from
somebody else that he has to be forced into making these decisions that
he`s taking? I think he`s just bad at this.
ROBINSON: Well, you can look at it either way. I mean, I frankly
think he has to be worried about a revolt. I think he has to be worried
about appearing to be on the wrong side of the fence on what are seen as
bedrock conservative, conservative issues. That`s what the base seems to
respond to. That`s what the base seems to want.
And all the Republicans that I talk to in Washington are always
looking over their shoulders at that Republican base -- the red meat, the
base, and not wanting to do anything that offends them.
So I do think that`s a real factor in Boehner`s decisions about
whether or not he -- a more adroit politician would find a way to not, you
know, knock yourself in the head a few weeks before the election. That`s
But I do think the fear of the base is important to Boehner.
MADDOW: Gene, we have been talking a lot recently on the show about
the Democrats assertion and increasingly the Republicans assertion that
Texas ultimately becomes a purple state, a swing state, because of the
growing Latino demographic there and the Latino vote. And that -- I think
that may happen in Texas in the long run.
In the shorter run, though, for this election, with the Latino vote
situation desperately awful for Mitt Romney and getting worse thanks to
congressional Republicans, are there states you`re watching for this
election where you think Latino voters may make as yet under appreciated
ROBINSON: Virginia. The Latino population in Virginia has been
increasing rapidly. It`s significantly bigger now than it was four years
ago. Virginia`s the ultimate purple state. It could be the state where on
Election Day you find both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama looking for that
And so, the Latino vote could potentially be not just influential but
decisive in a state like Virginia. Certainly, in a state like Nevada,
another swing state where there`s a huge Latino vote that`s going to make a
big difference. And right now, you`d have to say it`s going to go to
MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
Gene, I really appreciate it.
ROBINSON: Mucho gusto.
MADDOW: I won`t say it back. I`ll embarrass myself.
I should mention, though, a quick correction. Congressman John
Conyers I said was from the state of Georgia. I don`t know why I said
that, but I wrote it myself and corrected it back in the edit after
somebody fact checked me, which is idiotic. So he`s from Michigan, not the
great state of Georgia. My error. I`m sorry.
All right. What do the BP oil spill and Mitt Romney`s time at Bain
Capital have in common? Something brand new, and that story is coming up.
MADDOW: What`s a good second career if your first career had involved
tragically mismanaging the occupation of a foreign country? Thanks to the
second career of Paul Bremer, this is not a theoretical question.
You might remember Paul Bremer as America`s point man in Iraq at the
start of the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003 and 2004. He was the
administrator of the coalition provisional authority, the transitional
government that we set up in Iraq after we invaded. Among other things,
Paul Bremer oversaw the disastrous dissolving of the Iraqi army and the
prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib.
But now, Bremer has moved on to something new. Water color. Yes,
painting. Mostly landscapes.
The folks at "Foreign Policy" took time out for a "where are they now"
piece in which they highlight some of his latest works. There`s one that`s
even a nude. This one is called "nude with Matisse colors". He painted in
Paul Bremer making abstract nude water color paintings is actually
kind of great, if you think about it. In the sense that way too many
people with horrific foreign policy experience fail upwards, right? They
keep getting foreign policy jobs.
But not Paul Bremer, he did not fail upward. He is not doing American
foreign policy anymore. He is quietly painting Vermont landscapes and the
occasional tasteful nude. Yes!
But that`s more yea than we can say for the other guy most closely
associated in the American mind with the coalition provisional authority
experience in Iraq. The spokesman for the U.S. in Iraq after the invasion,
Dan Senor, the guy who was always telling reporters, hey, everything is
fine over here. Everything is going great.
That guy is not painting landscapes in Vermont. He is now serving as
Mitt Romney`s top foreign policy adviser.
And, of course, the Romney campaign is not dumb. They knew that would
be a liability to have their most visible foreign policy guy be one of the
most visible foreign policy guys from the Iraq war. But you make a
calculation, right? You make a calculation in politics against the whole
spokesman for the invasion Iraq thing.
On the other side of the ledger about the decision to hire Dan Senor,
maybe they like his ideas. After all, it was one of Mr. Senor`s ideas
reported out in "The New York Times" today, the idea that Palestinians have
an inferior culture to Israelis, which is why they`re more poor than
Israelis. It was that idea Romney expounded on a trip to Israeli this
week, to lots an lots of fanfare.
So, apparently, lending ideas like that to Mr. Romney, the campaign
saw as enough of an asset to outweigh Dan Senor`s Iraq war baggage, when
the campaign decided to take him on. I would maybe not have made that
call, but that apparently is the kind of calculation the Romney campaign
made. You have to make a calculation. What do you gain and what do you
Similarly there`s what they made against the latest attack against the
Obama White House. The Romney campaign is accusing President Obama`s
campaign manager now of improperly using a personal e-mail address for
White House business.
Now, this is a brand new attack they have not made before. They keep
trying to turn the page away from Mitt Romney`s refusal to release his tax
returns. So, on the plus side of this attack is that this is definitely
not about Mitt Romney`s tax returns. It`s not about anybody`s tax returns.
So, that is a plus for the Romney campaign in deciding whether or not to
And, also, it`s going on offense. That`s always good. They`re trying
to turn the page.
And it`s about Mr. Obama`s campaign manager who`s kind of an anonymous
guy who doesn`t usually get attacked in politics. So maybe they think that
will rattle him and thereby rattle and hurt the campaign. Those must be
things the Romney campaign is thinking they stand to gain from launching
this attack. Those are all pluses.
On the minuses side, bringing up the idea of hiding your e-mails if
you`re the Romney campaign does run the risk of reminding people he`s the
guy whose top aides bought their government hard drives at the end of his
term as governor of Massachusetts, leaving the Romney administration`s e-
mails wiped from a government server. They took the hard drives with them
when they left the governorship.
That`s a story that really hasn`t been in the news all that much. It
is a known thing about Mr. Romney. He admits that they did it to avoid
letting politically damaging information out into the public sphere. It`s
a liability for them and nobody has made much hay about it until now. But
now, his campaign has people talking and thinking about proper e-mail use
because of this attack they launched on the Obama campaign this morning.
But again, it`s a calculation. That`s the risk -- the calculation
that the campaign has to make. You bring up the issue of hiding away
government e-mails, maybe that`s a good attack for you. It does risk
people remembering your own record in office which is a real liability.
Choices: weighing the pros and the cons. These calculations,
campaigns make these every day. They make them about attacks. They make
them about political movements of the candidate. They make them about
Here`s a new one. The Romney campaign we learned today has hired a
lobbyist. A new person who has not yet been involved in the campaign, to
help them craft a political response on the attacks to what is supposed to
be Mitt Romney`s greatest asset as a candidate, his time in the private
They thought that was going to be the basis on which Mr. Romney was
running for the presidency. They were not going to run on his
Massachusetts` governorship, they were not going to really win in the
Olympics. They wanted to run on his being in business. But if you look at
the poll numbers right now on how people view Mr. Romney in terms of his
business experience, it is not looking like Mr. Romney`s greatest strength.
New swing state polling out this week, according to "The New York
Times" about this -- the polls, quote, "Found that more voters say Mr.
Romney`s experience was too focused on making profits at Bain Capital
rather than the kind of experience that would help create jobs."
So now the campaign has hired a new lobbyist to help them out on this
subject, which they thought was going to be great for them and is turning
into a liability rather than an asset. But again, even hiring this
lobbyist, every campaign move is a calculation. And when they were
drafting what must have been their pros and cons list about whether or not
to make this higher, because they knew obviously it was going to get a lot
of attention, there was surely a lot of things in the don`t do this column,
a lot of things in the con column.
The woman they have hired -- her name is Michele Davis -- she is
somebody from the George W. Bush administration. And that is always
problematic. You do not want to remind America of the George W. Bush
administration or brag on how many people you are bringing over from that
administration to what you`re promising for the future.
She was also in the exact wrong part of the Bush administration during
the exact wrong time period in terms of the politics. Michele Davis was
the right hand woman to the treasury secretary while the economy was
falling off a cliff at the end of the Bush administration and when they
came up with TARP, the big bailout.
In the Bush administration, she was part architect and spin doctor for
selling the bailout, selling TARP, so much so that in the movie about the
bailout, the "Too Big to Fail" movie, a famous actor portrays her. Cynthia
Nixon plays her. Neat. That`s her, bailout lady.
That`s a liability. That`s a problem.
From the transition from the Bush administration to the Obama
administration, Michele Davis is on record saying she was pleased with the
new choice for treasury secretary to succeed Hank Paulson. She was very
pleased Barack Obama picked Timothy Geithner. She said she was very happy
with Tim Geithner. Mitt Romney, of course, attacks Tim Geithner all the
This new person he`s hired was totally into him in a publicly on the
record way. And there is this problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think you know that
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were a big part of the housing crisis we have in
the nation. Speaker Gingrich was hired by Freddie Mac to promote them to
influence other people throughout Washington, encouraging them not to
dismantle these two entities. I think that was an enormous mistake. I
think instead we should have had a whistle blower, not a horn tooter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A horn tooter. Step off.
During the Republican primary, when Newt Gingrich was just destroying
Mitt Romney on the issue of Bain Capital on his business sector career,
Mitt Romney`s joiner to that was, well, Newt Gingrich was a lobbyist for
Freddie Mac. Mitt Romney would like to blame Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae
for the financial collapse.
This person he has just hired to help him out with messaging on his
business career was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae.
So the campaign has to make a calculation about whether or not to hire
this person. And all of these things on the "don`t hire her" side, all of
these things on the not pro but con side, these are frankly just such
flaming political bags of poop on the doorstep. There must be something
really great on the other side of the ledger. There must be something
great about this hire that outweighs all those things that are downsides.
Well, the other salient thing in her background, the other thing for
which she is maybe even more well known than having Cynthia Nixon portray
her about being a lobbyist for the thing that Mitt Romney says destroy the
economy, the thing she`s more famous for than those things is this. She
was the top P.R. person in charge of trying to make BP look good in the
wake of the BP oil spill. That`s how Mitt Romney just hired to make his
Bain record look better.
Remember when the guy who was the head of BP did that really ornate
apology? It was almost like a Japanese corporate-style apology for the BP
spill, as if that that was supposed to absolve him and he was going to be
able to stay on as CNN. But it was just -- everybody still hated him and
they had to fire him anyway and it really didn`t help. That P.R. move
apparently was hers.
Michele Davis was a led executive at the P.R. firm, Brunswick Group,
when B.P. hired Brunswick Group to try to salvage their image in the wake
of them causing the worst environmental disaster in the history of the
Now, the trade press in the pr industry at the time was pretty
scathing about how big this job was but how not great it was being done.
If ever there was a P.R. agency, look at this, tasked with putting lipstick
on the metaphorical pig, it`s Brunswick. The lead communication shop
working with B.P. to try to manage the messaging around the Gulf of Mexico
oil spill. Given that BP`s crisis communications so far is disastrous,
industry insiders wonder whether Brunswick is the right firm for the job.
While the story is leading most major newscasts and Brunswick`s client
has been painted as the ultimate villain, it`s a scene not all that
unfamiliar to Michele Davis, that`s who Mitt Romney just hired, a partner
at Brunswick Group, an agency lead on the B.P. crisis.
Before joining the agency, Ms. Davis worked at the Department of the
Treasury during the financial crisis. And before that worked in the White
House on foreign policy during the latter stages of the Iraq war. When she
sat down to do an interview with advertising aids from B.P. headquarters
during the sixth week of the oil spill, when advertising aides asked her,
how many people BP have in the Houston, her answer was: I`m not going to
get into that.
When asked, how hard is it to get a client in a situation like this to
take your advice? Her answer was, no comment.
Advertising age actually did a poll of the people in the ad industry
at the time of the BP oil spill, saying, hey, would you take this job? If
BP wanted you to shine up their image while the Gulf of Mexico is still
hemorrhaging their oil, would you take the job? Only 43 percent of people
in the not exactly saint-like ad industry said for ethical reasons, they
would not take that job. But Michele Davis, she took it. And that`s who
Mitt Romney hired to clean up Bain.
And this is what firms like this do. I mean, some of them do
apparently have ethical concerns in terms of what jobs they will take then.
But a lot of them don`t. I should mention that this firm the Brunswick was
also hired by the Gap in 2007 to clean things up for them after it was
discovered that Gap clothing was being produced using 10-year-old slave
laborers in India.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: For Gap, a retailer that has long promoted itself as long
promoted as socially responsible, the pictures could not be more
embarrassing. Children as young as 10 sowing clothing carrying the Gap
label in a sweat shop in India. The photographs taken by a British
journalist got a nearly immediate response from Gap`s president.
MARKA HANSEN, PRESIDENT, GAP NORTH AMERICA: I am grateful that this
investigative reporter found this, because we can do something about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Good answer.
When the Gap needed some good answers when they wanted to clean up,
not necessarily that problem, but the image problem created by their child
slave labor problem, they hired this P.R. company called Brunswick Group.
Brunswick also got the call when BP befouled the Gulf Coast with the
largest oil spill in American history.
Brunswick was who BP called not to clean up the problem of the oil but
to clean up the image problem created by the problem of the oil. And now,
Mitt Romney has hired the lead person from Brunswick who was in charge of
cleaning up the BP image disaster so she can apply the same cleanup skills
to his career at Bain Capital.
Why is this OK? I mean, it`s not even why is this OK for Mitt Romney
to do this. Maybe the most important part for Mitt Romney here is he sees
his career at Bain Capital not as an asset but akin to the BP oil spill in
terms of how it needs to be managed for the P.R. effect. That`s Romney.
But more broadly, why is it OK to team up with, to bring out the
corporate clean up my image disaster mercenary memory hole-diggers and
bring them into our politics? Why is it OK for politicians to pull that
most morally repellant, indefensible thing out of American corporate
culture and put it what is supposed to be the arena of public service?
When did the crisis management industry which is what they call themselves,
it`s nice, right? When did the crisis management industry people -- when
did they prove themselves in a way in terms of their worth and
contributions to us as a society that they get to do crossover duty at the
highest levels of our democracy?
And it`s not just about Mr. Romney, and it`s not a partisan thing. I
mean, there are Democratic politicos who work at the same firm from which
Mitt Romney has just hired his BP oil spill disaster consultant to clean up
his Bain record, there are Democrats at that firm.
And, you know, when Hillary Clinton was running for president in 2008,
her top pollster and top strategist was a guy who split his
responsibilities between her campaign, between the top role he played in
her campaign and running a P.R. firm called Burson-Marsteller, which
perhaps more than any firm epitomizes this open sewer that runs through
American corporate culture.
It`s not just Mitt Romney. It`s not just Republicans. But it is as
disgusting now as I have been saying for years now that it ever has been.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who`s Burson-Marsteller? Well, let me put it this way --
when Blackwater killed those 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, they called
Burson-Marsteller. When there was a nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island,
Bobcock & Wilcox, who built that plant, called Burson-Marsteller.
Bhopal chemical disaster that killed thousands of people in India,
Union Carbide called Burson-Marsteller. Romanian dictator, Nicolae
Ceausescu -- Burson-Marsteller. The government of Saudi Arabia, three days
after 9/11 -- Burson-Marsteller.
The military junta that overthrew the government of Argentina in 1976,
the generals dialed Burson-Marsteller. The government of Indonesia,
accused of genocide in East Timor, Burson-Marsteller.
The government of Nigeria, accused of genocide in Biafra, Burson-
Marsteller. Philip Morris, Burson-Marsteller. Silicone breast implants,
Burson-Marsteller. The government of Columbia trying to make all those
dead union organizers not getting in the way of the new trade deal, they
Do you remember Aqua Dots? Little toy beads coded with something that
turned into to date rape drug when kids put the beads in their mouths and
all these kids ended up in comas? Yes, even the date rape Aqua Dots people
When evil needs public relations, evil has Burson-Marsteller on speed
dial. That`s why it was creepy that Hillary Clinton`s pollster and chief
strategist in her presidential campaign was Mark Penn, CEO of Burson-
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And now, following this great bipartisan disgusting
tradition, Mitt Romney does not hire Burson-Marsteller. He hires the
person who was hired to make BP look better after this, in order to try to
make him look better after Bain. It`s disgusting.
MADDOW: The most dramatic video of an election day, not necessarily
of an election fight but an election day, people voting, was probably the
record of what happened in Ohio in 2004. You may remember this, right?
Nine hour lines to vote, and voting machine irregularities, and uncertain
And did I mention nine-hour lines? It was the kind of election that
Jimmy Carter supervises except it was here.
Well, buckle up, because Ohio has never been seen as more critical to
a presidential election than this one in 2012. Guess what`s going on in
Ohio now? That`s next.
MADDOW: When George W. Bush ran for president the first time in 2000,
he won the swing state of Ohio very narrowly. George Bush beat Al Gore in
Ohio by 165,000 votes. And Ohio is big and that is a slim margin.
Ralph Nader had more than 100,000 votes in Ohio that year. That was a
razor thin margin.
Then, the next election, 2004, President Bush won reelection and he
again won in Ohio. This time by an even slimmer margin, by only 118,000
votes. It had been uncomfortably close for Republicans in Ohio in 2000.
It was even more in 2004.
Part of what makes Ohio such a swing state, such a bellwether, is in
terms of the way people vote, it`s kind of a microcosm of what you find in
the rest of the country. People who live in the less populated parts of
Ohio tend to vote Republican. People who live in the more populated, more
concentrated density parts of Ohio tend to vote Democratic.
And for people who lived in the more populated parts of Ohio in 2004,
it was profoundly difficult to vote. Voters across urban Ohio in 2004
found their polling places did not have enough machines and they ended up
waiting in very long lines to vote, so long that a lot of people who had
kids at home or who had to go to work as well as vote on Election Day just
People who could wait waited in line in the rain in the early morning,
all through the day, at night, in the dark. They waited for hours. For
two hours, for three hours, even four hours. A lot of people in Ohio that
year waited even longer than that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I waited, I voted. That`s all that matters.
REPORTER: At Kenyon College, this was not your ordinary all nighter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m willing to wait as long as it takes for me to
REPORTER: Hours after the polls were scheduled to close in Gambier,
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve been here since 4:30.
REPORTER: -- hundreds of students, professors and neighbors were
still stuck here in line. Some stuck here for more than 10 hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not going to leave. I`m going to make sure
that every vote counts.
REPORTER: Why the wait? For 1,300 voters here, just two ballot
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People were voting 40 per hour. So you do the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To the extent an election is about making it possible for
people to vote, the `04 election in Ohio was an abysmal failure. It was a
landmark failure. It was the of extraordinary, heard around the world
failure that leads to front page hearings in Congress, that led to this
report, in fact, from Congress which you can now buy on the Internet in
book form. It`s called "Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio."
The report cited numerous serious election irregularities, like
precincts that didn`t have enough voting machines, partisan Republican
challengers waiting to challenge voters` rights to cast a ballot once
people made it through those interminable miserable lines.
This report, this congressional report called for election reform in
Ohio. Do you remember this from 2005? Do you remember us wanting to make
elections better? Do you remember wanting to make voting easier?
Remember Congress telling Ohio it had to make voting easier? Remember
Well, a few short years later in 2010, Ohio went bright red in the
Republican`s great red tide election in the midterms. In Ohio, Republicans
took over the statehouse to go with along the Senate. They elected a new
Republican Governor John Kasich.
And Ohio Republicans approach to election reform was to make the lines
longer. Get rid of the last three days of early voting. Now, instead of
being able to walk to the clerk`s office and vote early right up to the
election, now unless you are uniformed military or voting overseas, now you
have to get in line with everybody else. Early voting stops three days
earlier than it used to, and once you`re in line, just pray they have
enough machines. Pray you don`t spend your entire day waiting to exercise
your right as a citizen.
Told by Congress that Ohio needs to make voting easier, under
Republican government, the state moved overtly to make voting harder. Ohio
Republicans closed the window down on early voting which actually had been
expanded after the `04 debacle. They expanded early voting in Ohio in time
for the 2008 election, which went a lot smoother and, of course, a Democrat
named Barack Obama won the state in Ohio.
The loss of those three days of early voting for the next election is
only one of the ways state Republicans in Ohio have tried to make it harder
to vote this year. They tried adding a requirement you have to show kinds
of ID you never needed to show before to vote in Ohio and many residents
They tried not only to shorten by three days, they tried to cut early
voting in half initially. They tried to repeal the requirement that poll
workers give you correct information about where to vote, so you vote at
the right precinct table and your ballot doesn`t get thrown out. They
tried to repeal that requirement.
Ohio`s election system was already broken. And once Republicans
gained control, they set about making it worse.
"The Cincinnati Enquirer," which is not exactly a left wing rag, just
published a big multi-part investigation into the problem of voting in
Ohio. Their investigation is headlined "Will Ohio count your vote?"
Quote, "The Enquirer during a weeks-long examination of the state`s
electoral procedures found that voting -- America`s most precious right and
the foundation for all others -- is a fragile exercise for many Ohioans."
The problems in Ohio`s election process, quote, "call into question
both whether every Ohioan`s vote will be counted November 6th and whether
the state, always pivotal in close presidential races can ensure the nation
a timely, accurate, and lawsuit-free count."
Ohio, I love you, but your elections are a mess. Your election
officials cannot come close to guaranteeing that everybody who wants to
vote and tries to vote in fact casts a valid ballot. And your government
right now is making it harder.
The early voting Republicans tried to cut in half, nearly a third of
all Ohio voters used early voting in 2008 when the Democrats won the White
House. During the specific three days of early voting that Republicans now
have managed to get rid of for this election, last time 100,000 Ohio votes
came in over those three days.
As of last month, the Obama re-election campaign is suing the state of
Ohio over these new rules that cut off the last three days of early voting.
Who knows? Maybe they will win.
But if they don`t, then voting in Ohio this year, which is always
hard, is set to get that much harder. More ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: After a court order affecting two Ohio counties, election
officials tried to speed up the line by offering paper ballots.
Many here refused. After hours in line, they feared their vote
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was what happened in Ohio when people tried to vote in
the 2004 presidential election. Huge lines, up to 10 hour lines and not
enough machines and waiting all day and the offer of paper ballots. Don`t
That`s what it was like if you lived in some well-populated areas of
Ohio, if you went to the polls on Election Day in Ohio of 2004.
Expanding early voting in Ohio after that disastrous election, after
2004, actually made for a much smoother election in 2008, which
incidentally was won by a Democrat.
For this next election, a response from Ohio`s Republican governor and
legislature has been to try to make the lines longer. They have cut three
days off the early voting for 2012.
It`s the time frame when a hundred thousand people cast ballots in the
Joining us now is Michael Waldman, president for the Brennan Center
for Justice, which tracks laws about voting state by state. Mr. Waldman, I
should mention, was also a speechwriter for President Clinton in the late
Mr. Waldman, thank you for being here again.
MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Great to be here.
MADDOW: The Obama re-election campaign is suing Ohio officials for
cutting back early voting in that state. Do you think that`s likely to
WALDMAN: All these lawsuits that`s hand to hand combat, in Ohio and
in many other states, between here now and November, there`s a decent
chance, but these cases are tough. The laws are not clear. There`s not an
obvious way to bring a case like that.
But what they`re basically saying is first of all the Republicans
tried to cut back dramatically in early voting. The voters went and signed
enough petition signatures that that was going to be on the ballot and the
legislature repealed its own handy work.
MADDOW: So it wouldn`t turn out against them presumably?
WALDMAN: Right. They were worried that people might notice that
their rights were being taken away. But they did leave this period right
before the election. And in Ohio and so many other places, that`s the time
when African-American and minority voters are especially likely to vote
So what the Obama campaign is saying in the suit they filed two weeks
ago is, look, it`s an inconsistency between cutting that off and the
military voters. I`m sure it`s not a position they`re comfortable making
because, of course, military voters should be able to vote as easily as
possible also. But it`s just a microcosm.
Ohio didn`t get all the attention, but in a lot of ways it`s Florida
without the palm trees when it comes to voting.
MADDOW: One of the reasons I wanted to have you back tonight to talk
about this is because I feel like I understand a lot and we`ve been
covering a lot what these different Republican legislatures and governors
are doing to make voting harder in the states, since they won so many seats
in the 2010 election, I understand a lot less about what is being done to
stop them or to try to preserve voting rights.
As far as I understand it, that Ohio lawsuit by the Obama campaign is
the first campaign lawsuit at least of the election so far. But we are
seeing some other legal battles. There`s been these hearings in
Pennsylvania this week.
WALDMAN: That`s right. The big wave of laws that cut back on voting
in 2011 has really hit a wall of legal and judicial resistance in 2012.
There been lawsuits mostly by voting rights groups, by the Brennan Center,
by other groups, saying that this violates -- these various laws violate
the Voting Rights Act or violate the First Amendment or violate other
The really high stakes one right now is in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania
just passed a very, very strict voter ID law. And it`s really as you know
it`s a law saying you`ve got to have an in effect driver`s license -- which
one out of 10 Pennsylvanians don`t have. There`s a suit brought by the
ACLU and Advancement Project, two voting rights groups. It`s gone very
well for the plaintiffs.
The first day of the trial, the state of Pennsylvania signed a
stipulation where they basically fessed up and said we have no evidence of
any voter fraud in the state of Pennsylvania. That`s a bad first day of
the case, you know, for them. Then they had their officials on the stand
and forgot what the law said. Then, of course, there actually were real
live very sympathetic voters who would be blocked from voting.
So, you know, I think there`s a good chance it`s under the state
constitution, it`s not under the federal Constitution. And it`s state
constitution has blocked bad voting laws in Wisconsin and Missouri. We
think there`ll be a ruling in the next couple of weeks, perhaps. And we`re
MADDOW: Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice
at NYU Law School, I`d like to have you back soon to talk about one other
specific issue, which is the issue of poll watchers and people being at the
polls to intimidate people out of voting. Would you come back to talk to
me about that?
WALDMAN: Absolutely. It`s the next wave around the corner of risks
MADDOW: Great. Thank you. Appreciate it, sir.
WALDMAN: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: It is a sport that requires agility and flexibility and
endurance. It`s the sport of avoiding one very specific Olympic sport.
Mitt Romney, take it away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: When is the event and for those of us who
don`t follow the sport, what happens? Are there rounds of competition? Is
there just one chance? What happens?
ROMNEY: I have to tell you, this is Ann`s sport, I`m not even sure
which day the sport goes on.
My son gave me a box and said if you wear this mom will pay more
attention to you? It was a rubber horse mask.
REPORTER: Did you wear it?
REPORTER: It sounds like Rafalca, your horse, is going to the
Olympics. People are already getting snarkily about this, Governor,
saying, well, this is elitist, this is not a sport that Americans are
familiar with. But it is originating in sort of cavalry history. Our
country does have that.
Any comment to what it means to have your horse there and Ann and your
own familiarity with the sport?
ROMNEY: It`s actually Ann`s passion, not so much mine, to tell you
the truth. When I get a chance to ride a horse, it`s Western and it`s on
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: "You`re not going to actually see this horse compete," Matt
Lauer said. "I mean, this is a big deal having a horse in the Olympics?
No interest to be there?" Mitt Romney`s response. "It`s Ann`s horse.
She`s the horse guy."
The whole thing is so awkward. But the effort here is for the
candidate to distance himself from this hobby that his family as pursued
with a lot of commitment. You even have the FOX News reporter trying to
help, suggesting dressage had this long and honorable tradition in cavalry.
But the answer is still, I`m not even going to watch, I don`t know
when it`s happening, I don`t like it, it`s my wife who likes it. Not me.
His awkwardness in trying to be linked to the horse ballet sport of
dressage in which he has apparently been invested to the point of eight
horses including this one in the Olympics. That awkwardness honestly
essentially is a matter of style, of spin.
The more substantive point here is that this is actually Mr. Romney`s
personal business. Not personal business as in it`s his personal business.
But literally a business that he and his wife own as a business interest.
We know this from the one and only complete year of tax returns Mr. Romney
You see there? That highlighted line is the Romney`s ultimate failed
attempt at a $77,000 write-off in 2010 for the care and feeding of that
horse, Rafalca, that competed in the Olympics that Mr. Romney says he`s not
going to watch and doesn`t care about.
Mr. Romney, in his tax returns, ascribes to his personal business
interests, the horse`s upkeep as a business loss. The matter of what is in
Mr. Romney`s tax returns and what he says in his tax returns turned into a
white hot political fight today. We have found some tape in the archives
that may take this fight in a whole new direction as of tomorrow. We have
got that tape that I think nobody has seen in at least a decade and we`ve
got that story as our lead tomorrow night.
We`ve got that incredible tape for you tomorrow night. Please be
here. Same bat time, same bat channel.
Now, it`s time for the Lawrence -- "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence
O`Donnell. Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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