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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, August 6th, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Steve Kornacki, Amardeep Kaleka

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening. And welcome back, my friend.

SCHULTZ: It`s good to be back. And thank you for your kind and wonderful
communication. I appreciate it so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: Of course. You know --

SCHULTZ: So does Wendy obviously.

MADDOW: And you know, while you guys are in New York and while you guys
are back home, our company is you and your are our company. We`re all

SCHULTZ: Well, thank you. I appreciate that very much, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Ed. I appreciate it.

All right. And thanks to you for staying with us for the next hour.

For the second time in just over two weeks, there has been a mass shooting
with multiple casualties in an American town. Two weeks ago, it was in
Aurora, Colorado, of course. Twelve people killed there, almost 60 people
wounded there, in an apparently random mass shooting at a movie theater in
the middle of the night.

Yesterday, yesterday morning, another mass shooting. This time in Oak
Creek, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of Milwaukee. But this time, because
of the location of the shooting, because of who was killed, and frankly
because of what is known so far about the apparent gunman who was killed in
the assault, we are now grappling with the possibility that the targeting
here was not random. It was deliberate.

In Wisconsin, six people were murdered plus the gunman himself being
killed. It happened at about 10:15 yesterday morning. A man entered the
Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. There were about three dozen people
there. Services were not scheduled to start for another hour.

Eyewitnesses say the stranger started shooting within moments of arriving.
First at a group of priests who had gathered in the lobby. Police say the
shooter was armed with a 9 millimeter handgun and multiple rounds of

By 10:25 a.m., about 10 minutes into the assault, the first calls to 911
started pouring in. At first, dispatchers said there was a lot of noise.
The calls coming in were garbled. Police did not know how serious the
situation was. They just knew the calls were coming in. But nevertheless,
police were on the scene just three minutes later, three minutes after
those first calls started coming in.

Lt. Bryan Murphy was one of the first police officers to arrive on the
scene. A more than 20-year police veteran, Lt. Murphy was the emergency
management liaison for Oak Creek. When he arrived at the temple, the
lieutenant tended to a person he found in the parking lot who had been
wounded. And while he was tending to that person, that`s when the gunman
shot Lt. Murphy, too.

The gunman was apparently hiding in an ambush nearby. He shot the
lieutenant at least eight times at close range. The lieutenant`s bullet-
proof vest may have saved his life, but he was reportedly shot in the neck
and the cheek as well as the bullets that hit his chest. Officers say
after he was shot and they rushed to tend to him, Lt. Murphy waved them off
and sent the other officers and responders not to help him but to help the
other victims on the scene.

Police officers ultimately found the shooter in the parking lot. They
ordered him to drop his gun. He did not. He fired back at the other
police officers, hitting at least one police car. Officers returned fire
and the shooter was killed.

Police say they believe the shooter in this incident acted alone. He is a
40-year-old male with known neo-Nazi ties. He`s reported to have played in
a number of lousy white supremacist punk bands. He once served in the U.S.
Army in the 1990s but he was not a combat vet. He was reportedly
discharged with reduced rank for bad behavior.

Of the six people that he reportedly killed, five were men, one was a
woman. They ranged in age from 39 years old to 84 years old. Four of the
bodies were found inside the Sikh temple. Another two were found in the
parking lot where the gunman himself was shot down.

Three additional people were wounded, including Lt. Murphy. He had surgery
and is expected to recover, although he is still in critical condition.
Now, the FBI, we`re told, is taking the lead on the investigation into this
incident. It`s being described by law enforcement sources as an incident
of domestic terrorism.

President Obama today ordered all flags in the United States to fly at half


what`s happened, and I offered the thoughts and prayers not only of myself
and Michelle but also of the country as a whole. I think all of us
recognize that these kinds of terrible tragic events are happening with too
much regularity. For us not to do some soul searching and to examine
additional ways that we can reduce violence.

If it turns out, as some early reports indicate, that it may have been
motivated in some way by the ethnicity of those who were attending the
temple, I think the American people immediately recoil against those kinds
of attitudes. And I think it will be very important for us to reaffirm
once again that in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we
come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one
another and we respect one another.


MADDOW: President Obama speaking about the tragic shooting at the Sikh
temple yesterday in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. As the president said, we do not
yet know more about the shooter`s motivation. But we have seen a huge
outpouring of support in particular from various religious communities.

The Wisconsin Council of Churches is calling for a day of prayer at their
services this Sunday. The director of the Action Center for Reform Judaism
and the head of the Catholic University issued statements expressing
condolences and support, and last night, hundreds of people attended a
vigil for the victims in Milwaukee.

Satwant Singh Kaleka Kaleka was the president of the Sikh Temple in Oak
Creek. He was one of the six people killed in that mass shooting yesterday
morning. Joining us now is his son, Amardeep Kaleka.

Amardeep, thank you for joining us at this difficult time for you and your
family. I`m so sorry for your loss.

me here.

MADDOW: How would you say the Sikh community in Oak Creek and Oak Creek in
general, your community there, is coping with what happened at the temple
yesterday? How have you spent your day and how are people treating one

KALEKA: I mean I think it`s a day for heroes because the more of the story
is uncovered, and the more I walk around and I see people, a lot of people
did a lot of good work that day in order to, I guess, bring the situation
to a halt and kind of safe haven the people inside, including my mother who
every minute now I go home and try to thank her and, you know, love on her
and comfort her. So I think we`re coping well because we`re all looking
towards the positive in the situation.

MADDOW: We`re trying to piece together what might have been motivation for
the shooter in this utterly senseless act. There`s been more biographical
information released about the shooter over the course of today. Do you
know if the temple or the Sikh community in Wisconsin there has ever faced
any threats in the past? Have there ever been any incidents of violence or
hostility that could be in any way linked to what`s happened here?

KALEKA: Rachel, let me tell you, like, I think there`s a lot of soft
attacks that happened on immigrants. And by soft, I mean things that kind
of go unnoticed or like you get a broken window or somebody slashes your
tires. I was in Georgia and somebody hit me from behind and then wrapped
around me and then started whipping their middle finger, and told me to get
out of this country, and that was just post 9/11.

In a sense, these soft attacks, I thought it`s just happening to me once in
a while. We had a congregation at our house of well over 200 people that
came to pay their respects to my father. And the more stories I would hear
from them of these soft attacks where people thought, it`s not something we
should tell people, it`s not something we should just let -- you know, push
it out there, they wouldn`t even tell their friends and family.

I didn`t tell mine until they started telling their stories. And I started
thinking to myself, oh, my god, how many soft attacks are actually
happening out there? I mean this is obviously like critical attack. But
what is happening out there right now? What`s the pulse of our nation?
How is immigration and immigrants, how are they doing right now? Because
99 percent of us are immigrants on this -- on this land. And we all have
to look at each other and figure out each other`s culture and background.

MADDOW: In terms of trying to remedy that situation and that epiphany that
you have had just in the past 24 hours, do you feel like there`s leadership
or policy actions or anything else that you could look -- that you`re
looking to the country for, that you`re looking to Wisconsin for in terms
of trying to remedy that?

Is there more coming out about that issue that you want to see from your
own community? What would you -- what do you want to happen?

KALEKA: First and foremost, we had a great discussions with the leadership
here in terms of governmental leadership. But I absolutely at this point
look to the people. The government`s always going to give you the missing
gap information. They`re going to actually leave a bunch of information
out like such as these soft attacks or anything that you give them.

The people know the pulse of their own community. The people know the
pulse of their neighborhoods. If your neighbor is new, if your neighbor
doesn`t look like you, approach that person, create a conversation, create
a dialogue. If you don`t look like other people in your area, if you are
Punjabi or Chinese or of immigration descent, go out, be an emissary, be --
you know, an embassy to yourself. Go out and contact people in the
community and make sure that they know you and make sure that they
understand you.

And my father, I thought, I mean, he did a tremendous job of doing that in
Milwaukee, whether it be the Latino community or the African-American
community, or every alderman knew him by first name, and it was amazing how
much he did. And I`m not saying that all that stuff is for naught. I
actually think that`s why we`re having such an outpouring of support. It`s
because he did those things and he planted those seeds, in a form of
protection for us when he built this temple.

MADDOW: Hearing that you are receiving that support now is some comfort in
this horrible aftermath, but Amardeep Kaleka, again, we`re so sorry for
what you`ve been through, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us
tonight. I really appreciate it.

KALEKA: Thank you so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: Good luck. Thank you.

KALEKA: God bless.

MADDOW: All right. We will be right back with much more news. Stay with


MADDOW: Much more going on in the news tonight including Senate majority
leader Harry Reid acting out in a way that is uncharacteristic for him and
that seems to have unnerved the entire Republican Party. That`s coming up.
Stay with us.


MADDOW: So I think we did something on the show recently that had some
unintended consequences. I`m not 100 percent sure that we`re to blame
here, but I think it`s possible that we might be. Back in June, we did a
segment on the show about congressional Republicans and their single-minded
focus on all things jobs, jobs, jobs, by which I mean abortion.

That particular day, their abortion obsession was particularly remarkable
because Republicans were holding up the Flood Insurance Bill by attaching
an abortion amendment to it. They were holding up a bipartisan flood
insurance bill at a time when the American southeast was being flooded by
tropical storm Debbie. It turns out this act to block the flood bill by
attaching anti-abortion stuff to it, it was too much for Democratic Senate
majority leader Harry Reid.

Harry Reid just lost it. You want to see? Ready for some emotional c
catharsis? You ready to feel the rage, America?


SEN. HARRY REID (R), MAJORITY LEADER: On flood insurance, I am not going
to put up with that on the flood insurance. I can be condemned by outside
sources, my friends can say let them have a vote on it. There will not be
a vote on that on flood insurance. After all the work that has been put in
this bill, this is ridiculous.


MADDOW: See, when you read the transcript, when you look at the words in
print, you can tell he is mad. It just doesn`t sound very mad when it
comes out of Harry Reid`s mouth. So that day in June, to convey the fact
that he really was mad, on this show, we ran Harry Reid`s words through a
rage producing device by the name of Kent Jones. So it`s Harry`s words but
Kent`s rage.


KENT JONES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I am not going to put up with that on the
flood insurance. I can be condemned by outside forces. My friends can
say, let them have a vote on it. There will not be a vote on that in flood


MADDOW: All right. Here`s the problem. Ever since we did that segment,
essentially sending up Harry Reid for being insufficiently demonstrative
about his rage, ever since then, Harry Reid has been transformed into a
one-man rage bot.

I don`t know if it was us, but something seems to have activated a major
case of Reid rage. The first sign after we did that segment was what
happened when Senator Reid found out that the uniforms for U.S. Olympians
had been made in China.


REID: I am so upset that I think the Olympic Committee should be ashamed
of themselves. I think they should be embarrassed. I think they should
take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them, and start all
over again.


MADDOW: Suddenly, Harry Reid who usually sets an incredibly mild mannered
person, saying even when he`s saying very angry things, he usually doesn`t
even sound angry, but suddenly, Harry Reid sounds angry. Then last week,
more. Senator Reid let this gem fly on the Senate floor in the middle of a
debate on taxes.


REID: We haven`t done the appropriation bill. Do you think -- stop and
think just a minute. IF you think 85 filibusters had a thing to do with
that? Eighty-five. We haven`t done a budget. That is poppycock.


MADDOW: Senate majority leader Harry Reid using sarcasm in both words and
tone and leaning way over the podium and using the word poppycock in a
sentence. A very angry sentence.

Then more, a few days later, during an interview, Senator Reid called one
of the members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, quote, "One of the
most unethical, prevaricating incompetent people I`ve ever dealt with."
Not to mention a, quote, "treacherous, miserable liar." A, quote, "first
class rat, a tool of the nuclear industry, and an expletive stirrer."

Wow. Reid rage activated. And that was apparently still just a warm-up
act because last week, the new 100 percent more rage Harry Reid really went
off the rails.

The big story in the presidential campaign right now is of course Mitt
Romney`s tax returns and why nobody is allowed to see them except for John
McCain. On Tuesday of last week, Harry Reid decided to offer his own
totally unsubstantiated theory that the reason Mr. Romney`s tax returns are
being kept under lock and key is because Mr. Romney did not pay any taxes
over a 10-year stretch. None at all.

Senator Reid offered no evidence for that claim whatsoever. Other than
saying a Bain investor told him so over the phone. Now who knows, maybe
Harry Reid is right. But he has not produced any evidence. It is just a
wild allegation. It is hearsay.

And yet, the next day, the newly activated Harry Reid man of rage not only
didn`t dial it back. He cranked it up to 11, saying when he was pressed
for evidence to back up his claim, saying, quote, "I don`t think the burden
should be on me. The burden should be on him. He`s the one I`ve alleged
has not paid any taxes."

He truly said that. He said the burden is on Mitt Romney, not because it`s
traditional for presidential candidates to release their tax returns, not
because President Obama has released his, not because even other
Republicans are calling on Mr. Romney to release their returns. Not only
because -- not because he, Mitt Romney, has attacked his opponent in the
past for not releasing their tax returns.

Now Harry Reid says the burden is on Mitt Romney because he`s the one I
have alleged has not paid any taxes.

And then the next day, he dug in further. He took his idea for a guilty
until proven innocent system along with his new propensity for both anger
and hearsay right to the Senate floor.


REID: The word`s out that he hasn`t paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him
prove that he has paid taxes because he hasn`t.


MADDOW: Yes, Senator Reid, the word is in fact out that Mitt Romney has
not paid taxes for 10 years. If by "the word" you mean your own

That day, Senator Reid put out a press release on the subject, saying,
quote, "It`s clear Romney is hiding something. The American people deserve
to know what it is. He followed that up the next day with another press
release on the occasion of Mitt Romney heading to Harry Reid`s home state
in Nevada to campaign, saying, Mr. Romney couldn`t be confirmed as a
Cabinet secretary let alone anything higher without releasing more of those

People are understandably being judgmental about raging Harry`s tactics
here. But as a matter of form, it is also worth noting that nobody has
disproven him. I mean he may be wildly irresponsible here, but no one can
say whether what he is saying is true or not. You may not like that he`s
saying it, but you can`t say whether it`s true or false. Not unless you`re
John McCain or Mitt Romney. Not even Republican Party chairman Reince
Priebus who apparently has some healthy rage issues of his own.


Reid is concerned, listen, I know you might want to go down that road. I`m
not going to respond to a dirty liar.

dirty liar?

PRIEBUS: I just said it.


MADDOW: Reince Priebus for all his righteous indignation has offered no
proof that Harry Reid is a liar, clean, dirty, or otherwise. Neither for
that matter has PolitiFact which says that Harry Reid is definitely lying.
Pants on fire lying. But they produced exactly zero evidence to support
their claim that Harry Reid is lying.

But you know, that`s PolitiFact. And that`s actually par for the course
for PolitiFact which is why it`s OK to not take them seriously on anything.

What`s also worth noting is how Senator Harry Reid continues to comport
himself on this issue. He`s taking criticism from left, right, and center,
and stupid in the form of PolitiFact for the way he has been pursuing this
allegation. He gets trashed on the Sunday shows, he gets called a dirty
liar, and how does he respond? He digs in deeper, telling reporters today,
quote, "The whole controversy would end very quickly if he would just
release his income tax returns just like everybody else who runs for

So, on the one hand, this has felt like an emotional outburst from a guy
who maybe had some pent up emotions ready to burst out, but whether or not
it seems to be uncharacteristically emotional from Harry Reid, it does not
seem to be a stunt. Even though the way he`s gone about it has been kind
of embarrassing. Harry Reid is not embarrassed by this. He is not backing
down. He didn`t do this accidentally and he`s not being intimidated out of
pursuing it.

Maybe it took unleashing the rage bot to get this genie out of the Harry
Reid bottle, but now that it is out, it is not going back in. Whether or
not you like him when he`s angry.


MADDOW: In May of last year, our awesome producer Trisha McKinney was
selected via a NASA Twitter contest to get to go witness the launch of a
space shuttle in person. Trisha`s reaction to that incredible event was
without question the best new thing in the world that day. That`s Trisha
on the right in the little box down there. And she`s so genuinely and
sincerely and un-cynically overwhelmed by what she is seeing happening, by
what NASA is achieving on behalf of human kind that honestly, I could watch
her watch that all day long.

Tonight, a different moment that happened in the midst of a whole new
outburst of pride and joy in spaceville. I mean you`ve seen today, right,
how happy everybody at NASA was to have landed the Curiosity on Mars? You
have seen how happy everybody was, but you have not seen this particular
part of it, that is the best new thing in the world today. That`s coming


MADDOW: Today`s August 6th. Today is the first Monday in August, which
means that this is supposed to be a totally dead time in politics, and
specifically in the presidential campaign. When that death were so.

Common wisdom says that nobody cares about politics or the presidential
campaign until a month from now. Until not the first Monday in August but
the first Monday in September, until Labor Day.

Labor day is supposed to be where people start to make up their minds and
pay attention to the campaign. And maybe that used to be true. That is no
longer true.

In the latest polling on the presidential race, whether or not you like how
your favorite candidate is looking in the polling, probably the most
telling, the most noble being picture thing about the polls right now is
that almost nobody is undecided. There`s only a teeny, teeny, teeny
portion of the electorate that has yet to make up its mind between
President Obama and Mitt Romney.

And yes, that teeny, teeny, teeny tiny slice of the population will be
fought over like the last piece of kibble at community puppy feeding time,
but there`s just not much there. There`s just not that many people who are
likely to vote in November who do not yet know who they are going to vote

So that turns old ideas about campaigning on their head. By and large,
here to the election is not -- no longer about persuading people who don`t
know how they`re going to vote. The campaigns are still trying to persuade
people to their side, but mostly they`re trying to get people who they
already know or already on their side to actually prove it, to register to
vote, to get out and vote, and to do both of those things in a way that
makes sure their vote is counted.

We`re already at that part of the campaign. And it`s not -- it`s true, not
just for the candidates themselves, but also for the activist groups and
the interest groups and funders who are increasingly now doing what the
political parties used to do.

Nobody is waiting until Labor Day. Everybody has hit their stride already.
We are in primetime right now. And you see it just in the weekend
schedules, even. This past weekend, the Koch brothers founded Americans
for prosperity folks. They held their big compound in Washington which
included phone banking sessions and shuttle buses to their anti-health
reform rally and screening of an anti-Obama movie and sessions like battle
for Wisconsin, what worked and how to repeat it.

The Koch brothers have pledged to spend $200 million in this election cycle
against President Obama.

Remember though, the head of Americans for prosperity is a guy named Tim
Phillips. Remember him? Tim Phillips is a longtime Republican activist.
The last time we had him on the show, I tried to talk to him about his
previous career in Republican politics. Before, he was at Americans for
prosperity. He was a partner in a PR firm called century strategies along
with Ralph Reed. Ralph Reed, the right hand of God.

Century strategies had an instrumental role in one of the more disgusting
parts of the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal. Tim Phillips and Ralph Reed
working on behalf of Jack Abramoff, they got American Christians to write
letters in support of keeping the made in the USA label on clothes that
were being made in the Marianna Islands, which is a U.S. commonwealth that
Jack Abramoff lobbied for.

How did that get Christians to support that? They mailed them material
that said these workers in the Mariana Islands were being exposed to the
teachings of Jesus while they were working there. But they didn`t mention
in those mailings is that there are workers who are being forced to work in
near slaver slot condition, conditions that include things like - include
the things like forced to abortion and forced to prostitution. Nice.

So, that is Tim Phillips from Century strategies. He now runs the Koch
brother funded Americans for prosperity which had its big beat Obama $200
million this year confab this weekend.

Also this weekend, not in Washington but in Arlington, Texas, Tim Phillips`
old business partner from Century Strategies, Ralph Reed, he was doing his
big beat Obama confab. Now, Ralph Reed never got indicted in any of the
Jack Abramoff scandal stuff. But given what he got caught for in that
scandal, it is almost impossible to believe that Ralph Reed got to rejoin
polite political society, especially as a super pious guy.

I mean, it wasn`t just the Mariana Islands thing. Ralph Reed`s whole role
in the Abramoff scandal was as the guy who was willing to cynically use his
connections with Christian voters and his perceives personal piate (ph) as
a way to, as he put it, start humping in corporate accounts.

The Senate investigation into the Abramoff scandal, quote, "shows that Reed
who once branded gambling a cancer on society, reaped millions of dollars
in tribal casino proceeds that Abramoff secretly routed to him through
various nonprofit front groups. Abramoff, a lobbyist for the tribes, paid
Ralph Reed to whip up grassroots Christian opposition to prevent rival
tribes from opening casinos."

It`s interesting, though, that that`s from a description of Ralph Reed`s
role in the scandal written in the Washington Post in 2008. That was
written back during the last presidential campaign, when John McCain was
running against Barack Obama.

The Washington Post noted at the time in the same article. Ralph Reed`s
much publicized role in at Abramoff scandal cost him the 2006 Republican
primary for Georgia lieutenant governor. Now, Ralph Reed is on the
sidelines, handicapping McCain`s prospects.

So, think about this. In 1998, he`s humping in corporate accounts. By
2006, the Senate is issuing its report on the fact that he was humping in
corporate accounts. He`s getting paid by gambling interests to secretly
trick anti-gambling Christians into un-wittingly helped casinos paying him
for the privilege.

He tries to run for office that year in 2006. He gets laughed off the
ballot because of the scandal. By 2008, by the next presidential race, he
is on the sidelines. He`s this disgraced figure. But now, by 2012, he`s
no longer on the sidelines.

Now, look. There he is. He`s back. And as ostentatiously pious as ever.
Only now the corporate accounts he`s humping in are apparently the $10
million checks from some of the country`s wealthiest conservatives. $10
million bank roll to presumably convince Christians to vote for Mitt Romney
and against Barack Obama. The same Christians he once tricked on behalf of
Jack Abramoff`s clients.

Jack Abramoff himself is out of jail. He`s marketing himself now as a
truth teller who may have been repellant once but he is now repentance.
He`s now learned the error of his ways. As Jack Abramoff has a radio show
on satellite radio now.

But all of the other people from the Jack Abramoff`s scandal who you
thought would have been drummed out of public life, not only are they not
repentant, they are now in this election in the middle of Republican
politics. They`re in the middle of the presidential race.

Tim Phillips is helping to run a $200 million effort on behalf of the Koch
brothers. Ralph Reed is sunning an at least $10 million effort as a faith
and values guy despite his faith and values con man past.

And as all of these outside groups and the campaigns themselves and the
political parties turn now to what is going to decide the election, which
is whether or not people get registered to vote, whether they turn out to
vote on Election Day, whether their vote is counted, it turns out that all
of the Jack Abramoff scandal sleaze balls are in the middle of that, that,
that, that, that specifically.

When the group Alec, the corporate funded secretive network that
essentially spoon feed corporate friendly legislation that Republican
lawmakers all across the country, when Alec announced earlier this year
under pressure of a major boycott effort that they would stop pushing voter
suppression efforts through the states, through the Republican state

The group that said they would take up the mantel after Alec dropped it was
this group. The National Center for Public Policy Research. You may
remember them getting famous in the Jack Abramoff scandal as their role as
a pass through for Mr. Abramoff, for par through to various perks that Jack
Abramoff wanted to spreads around on behalf of his corporate lobbying

Here`s how the Washington Post reported on their involvement in the scandal
at the time. Quote, "as far back as 1996, Abramoff was using the national
center for public policy research to hide the source of funding for trips
and other ventures intended to boost the interests of his lobbying

That group still exists. And even though they acknowledged their role in
the Abramoff scandal at the time, they now get very upset when anyone tries
to link them to the Abramoff scandal. And so, they just published their
first paper on voting laws. Remember, they were going to take off this
missile after Alec dropped it. There is published their first big paper on
this on why voter ID is actually secretly awesome for African-American

They say secretly, voter ID is great news for black voters. And even
though they don`t want to be linked to the Abramoff scandal anymore, the
author of their new paper on voter ID happens to be a guy who pled guilty
in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

The Web site talking points memo reported on this last week. This group
that does not want to be associated at all with the Abramoff scandal, just
put out their big report authored by a man quote, "indicted in 2009 on five
public corruption charges, charged with exchanging favors for gifts from
Jack Abramoff. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of falsifying a
disclosure report and was sentenced to 36 months of probation." But pay no
attention to the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Jack Abramoff himself at least has the decency to be embarrassed. The
people who helped him out in his legendary Republican corruption and
bribery scandal, though, apparently do not have that same decency. Nor do
we as a society have the decency to remember scandals like this, long
enough to shame people like this out of our politics when they try to come
back in this lifetime.

In the long run, we have to grapple ethically and practically with the fact
as a society, Ralph Reed walks onto a high profile political stage in the
year 2012 and people do not laugh and throw proverbial tomatoes. That`s
about us.

And the short run, though, the thing all of these Abramoff scandal sleaze
balls have in common in addition to being Abramoff scandal sleaze balls is
that they`re all working very hard right now on the practical, it starts
early this year election end game of getting one side`s voters to the polls
and keeping the other side`s voters away from the polls.

Today, we saw the emergence of essentially hand to hand political combat
over the issue of early voting in Ohio. There`s an underappreciated role
of the hundreds and millions of dollars that are going to spent by outside
groups on both get out the vote for their own side and voter suppression of
the other side.

And what is unknown now but will be answered between now and the November,
election, is which side`s political professionals, which side`s pros are
better. Which side is better prepared and which side has the more
aggressive posture on the thing we used to not do until after labor day but
this year we`re doing already, which is getting souls to the polls. The
underground shoe leather house by house voter ground game.

Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, co-host MSNBC`s 3:00 p.m. Eastern show
"the Cycle." He`s also senior writer for

Steve, thank you for being here.


MADDOW: So, does the fact that voters have mostly decided earlier on their
preference in the presidential campaign this year, does it mean that it`s
more of a mobilization battle than a persuasion battle?

KORNACKI: Yes. I think so. I wouldn`t underestimate the persuasion
aspect of it because part of the Romney four mil years basically, they are
counting on at the very end of the election, whatever swing voters are out
there are going to turn against Obama because of where the economy is. So,
that`s part of it.

But I think, you know, the parallel has been drawn to 2004 because 2004
ended up being very much a turnout election. Bush versus Kerry. It will
be a lot of people say this is sort of 2004 election sort of in reverse.
Reverse the basic dynamics. You know, what was working in Bush`s favor is
now working in Obama`s favor, what was working in Kerry`s favor is for the
working in Romney`s favor. And sort the liabilities are flipped around,

I think there`s something to that. and I think there is an extra twist to
Romney which is he really, really needs the Republican base to turn out a
big numbers this year and the Republican base is not going to turn out for
Mitt Romney. They`re going to turn out against Barack Obama.

So Mitt Romney himself is not going to inspire these people, but when you
talk about Ralph Reed there, for instance. Ralph Reed is going to play a
critical role for the Republicans in the turnout strategy because Ralph
Reed is back organizing and mobilizing Christian conservatives. That`s
what he did for Pat Robertson and what he`s doing again.

With Mitt Romney, there was no group in the Republican coalition that was
more resistance to Mitt Romney than Republican presidential primaries that
evangelical Christians. And he had the nomination locked up and they were
still voting for Rick Santorum in primaries.

So, this is a group that is a huge group, it is about 44 percent of the
entire Republican party, they`re very hostile to Mitt Romney but equally --
much more hostile, I should say, to Barack Obama. So, Romney himself can`t
go to the group with much credibility, but a guy like Ralph Reed, believe
it or not, after all you said, still can.

MADDOW: I mean, I look at -- to see Ralph Reed and Tim Phillips and the
anti-voting rights people at the same time, to me, it`s like the rats who
survived the sinking Abramoff. I can`t believe they`re in public life at
all. But their very survival maybe ought to be seen as testament to how
good they are playing the game.

I mean, I think as a liberal, I tend to look at the real cretins of the
right like that and think, wow, liberals can`t match anything like that in
terms of sheer, hard-nosed, you know, survival instincts, hard ball
politics stuff. Am I just being liberal about that or, I mean, is the left
just as good at playing the games?

KORNACKI: I think there are some four season real differences, you know,
between the two parties. Voter ID really gets to it, when we talk about
the effect that could have this fall. Because there`s sort of -- I don`t
know the right way to say it, but a tradition in American politics where
look, not everybody is going to vote in every election. So, both sides
look at it and say OK, this is the group we really need to gin up turnout
among. Maybe it would be better if this group didn`t vote, you know, eight
is big numbers. There`s messaging strategies involved, there are some
tactical strategies involve, and both sides are equally guilty of that.
But it`s been taken to a completely different level this year in the last
couple years with the Republicans saying, OK, these are the groups we need
to vote. These are the groups we don`t need voting. Now we`re going to
build laws, we`re going to etch into law, you know, provisions that will
help our people and hurt their people. That`s completely different. That
is not an equal opportunity. That`s not one side. That`s not both sides.
That`s one side doing it and the other side isn`t.

And Republicans as we`re seeing are good at it because they have the
network establishes where you have these sort of bogus studies and you
have, you know, all of this grassroots organization. They get control of
the state houses in the 2010 elections. And suddenly, they are in position
to implement the laws in all of the states. And that could have a huge

MADDOW: And they have a long history of trying to do that, lot of ways,
but it`s happening more systematically that we have seen.


MADDOW: In the generations.

Steve Kornacki, the co-host of MSNBC`s "the Cycle," senior writer for and the owner of the best tie in Rockefeller center.

I tell you, it is getting --

KORNACKI: I rarely am complimented on my wardrobe, so thank you.

MADDOW: As a person who never is, take it for what it`s worth. That is
spectacular tie.

KORNACKI: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thank you.

All right, if it wasn`t surreal enough to be having political fights over
the issue of contraception in the 21st century, it`s just become all the
more surreal. Surreal enough to maybe even be funny if we`re allowed to
have a sense of humor about thesis things, and I think we are.


MADDOW: All right, this is a doozy. Did you hear about this?

There`s an evangelical university in the great state of Illinois called
Wheaton College. When the Obama administration unveiled the new insurance
regulation that requires health insurance plans to cover birth control,
Wheaton College said it was outraged, outraged at the idea of having to
include emergency contraception in the college`s health plans.

They said as a college, they believe emergency contraception is morally
wrong. They said being forced to include it in the health plans would be a
violation of their freedom, it would trample on their rights. So the first
step for Wheaton College before trying to sue the pants off the Obama
administration for this whole birth control travesty being upon the school,
the first step was to apply for a one-year exemption to the new birth
control rule.

Remember, the Obama administration was offering an exemption from the
requirement to any religiously for any religiously affiliated institution
who objected to the requirement on religious grounds.

So Wheaton went to apply for that exception. But when they went to apply
for that exemption, they, you know, this thing that they vigorously and
piously opposed, right, because covering emergency contraception was so
offensive to them. When Wheaton went to apply for an exemption from that
policy, they found out they had a problem.

Their problem it turns out is that the health plans at Wheaton College
already covered emergency contraception. The thing they couldn`t possibly
be expected to do, the thing that they were going fight, the thing they
claimed violated their religious freedom was something they were already
doing of their own accord.

"The Huffington Post" reporting this out, confirming what the spokesman for
the school, which we also confirmed today, that despite trying to appear
morally outraged, Wheaton was already voluntary complying with the
emergency contraception coverage requirement when the new rule was
announced, which made their objection to that new rule, the one they
already complied, rather difficult to sell.

So what do you do when you get called out in something like this? Do you
give up? Do you admit the fact you`ve already been offering birth control
in the health plans, and that means, by definition, a rule making you offer
birth control doesn`t exactly trample on your rights? Of course you don`t
admit that.

Wheaton College, instead, scrambled to get rid of their emergency birth
control coverage as quickly as they could, so then they could claim that if
they covered emergency birth control, that would trample their rights and
destroy America.

So Wheaton College, having just scrambled to get rid of that birth control
coverage, is now asking a federal judge for an emergency ruling, exempting
them from the birth control coverage they used to provide. Saying quote,
"Wheaton otherwise faces the imminent prospect of irreparable harm to its
religious freedom, its integrity, and its employees` well-being," which of
course were all fine when the college was happily providing birth control

But now they`re all threatened because -- did I mention how irreparable the
harm is here? Obama care! Bogeyman! Genius.


MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. It is related to some
exclamations of joy that you may have seen a little of today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. Touchdown confirmed. We`re safe on Mars!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we`ll see where Curiosity will take us.


MADDOW: That was a control room full of rocket scientists at NASA`s Jet
Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, geeking out over the successful landing of the
Mars Curiosity rover. And it is safe to say that their intense celebration
is directly proportional to the aerospace engineering feat that they are
celebrating here.

The rover is the size of a car. It weighs about a ton, which means it`s
too big and too heavy to land using the only ways we have successfully ever
put anything on Mars before. So engineers had to come up with a really
novel and sort of crazy plan for how to do this.

The rover wouldn`t just plummet down to the surface of Mars. They came up
with a plan in which it would start to plummet to the surface of Mars, but
then at the last minute, it would essentially stop and it would dangle from
a rocket-powered platform.

The rockets would control the descent, until the rover touched the ground
gently. Then, even more crazy, the platform`s rockets would fire again
after the rover had landed, which would send the rocket part to crash land
at a safe distance away from the rover, so it didn`t just crash down right
on top of it.

It may have been crazy, it is a crazy idea, but it could work. And it did
work. And right after landing, Curiosity sent back its first pictures of
the surface of Mars.

So those were the stakes, right? But I want to get back to the tense
moments right before the landing, right before the celebration. But this
time, I want you to take a look at one specific guy in the back row.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. Touchdown confirmed. We`re safe on mars!

MADDOW: So that guy is the one guy in mission control -- look at him,
before anybody else. The one guy in mission control who did not wait for
the head of the descent team to declare, touchdown confirmed, mission
accomplished, something that guy heard or saw on his screen made him get
all excited, just a few seconds earlier than everybody else in the room.

I have to give a hat tip to Dan O`Meara of "New York" magazine who first
pointed this guy out to us today. But Dan pointing it out was not enough
for us here at the show. We had to figure out who this guy was and what he
knows and why he popped off earlier than everybody else did.

So a couple of our producers scrutinized the video and the stills of the
scene and figured out that he probably works in avionics. And we called
NASA and we called around and we were able to get the guy`s name, and it`s
true, he`s an avionics system engineer, named Jonathan Grinblat. So,
that`s one mystery solved. We know who he is.

But the other mystery is, why did he react first before everyone else
reacted? Well, after a really fun day`s effort, we reached Mr. Grinblat at
NASA today to asked him. And he explained it to us. He told us that
everybody knew that there were several landing criteria, right? And he
calls them checkpoints. These landing criteria checkpoints. And everybody
knew that if they were met, that meant the landing was successful.

He says when he saw the rover`s sky crane, the rocket thing that eases the
rover on to Mars, and then fires itself away so it doesn`t crash land on to
the rover, when he saw that thing successfully fire and fly away to leave
the rover safely on the ground on its own, he said, that was the checkpoint
he was waiting for. He knew the landing was successful.

Mr. Grinblat says, he also heard a little animated chatter in his head set
from engineers not in that room with him, but in nearby rooms, meaning that
the other engineers felt it was a success too.

But our guy was apparently too excited to wait to cheer with everybody else
which I totally get. That totally would have been me.

So to all of the amazing scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion
Lab, you have done something wonderful and we salute you. The whole
country salutes you.

But to the early celebrator, Jonathan Grinblat, you are the man I most
identify with this scene. You, sir, and your uncontrollable and unbridled
enthusiasm are the best new thing in the world today. You are maybe even
the best new thing in the solar system.

That does it for us tonight. I needed that today. See you again tomorrow
night. Now it`s time for "the Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell."

Have a great night.


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