'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, August 17, 2012
Read the transcript to the Friday show
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Guests: Steve Kornacki, Eugene Robinson
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Have a great weekend, my friend.
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Count on that. That is a guarantee.
That`s an absolute guarantee. I`m good at that. Believe me.
MADDOW: I hear you, man.
All right. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
hour. Happy Friday. It is going to be a good weekend and this is going to
be a really good show. We had a really good day in the tape archives
All right, in the 1970s, American Express had an awesome award winning
series of TV ads that sort of defined American Express as a brand. It
defined them as kind of the upscale credit card for excellent types or at
least for important people. The tag line from the old ads is: don`t leave
home without it. The tag line survived for decades there after.
But the gimmick from these brilliant ads that they did in the 1970s,
the gimmick in these ads for some reason did not survive even though it was
great. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENNY GOODMAN, JAZZ AND SWING MUSICIAN: You know me. Without my
clarinet, a lot of people don`t. That`s one reason I need the American
Express card. This machine is another. I put my card in here, punch my
special number and get up to $500 with the American Express travelers
checks at major airports around the country.
After all, even the king of swing can use some extra loot.
ANNOUNCER: To apply for a card, call 800-528-8000.
GOODMAN: The American Express card, don`t leave home without it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No way. That`s Benny Goodman? I wouldn`t -- right? So the
premise of the ad is -- I`m a famous person whose name you would know, but
you don`t recognize me looking at me. I`m important, but the only way I
can get myself treated with the importance I deserve is by using this card
-- this card that you, too, can have.
That was the premise of the ad. They had the awesome Benny Goodman
one, but they did it with other notable people as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES CONRAD JR., ASTRONAUT: Do you know me? I`m one of the
astronauts who walked on the moon, but when I walk in here to rent a car,
they don`t always recognize me. That`s why I carry an American Express
VIRGINIA WADE, TENNIS CHAMP: Do you know me? You think having won
Wimbledon, people would recognize me, but without my racket, they don`t.
So I carry an American Express card.
FRANCINE NEFF, FORMER U.S. TREASURER: Do you know me? I was
treasurer of the United States so many people know my name, but not me.
That`s why I carry the American Express card. It`s welcome all over and
that makes me welcome all over.
Sure, it`s super to have my signature on $60 billion, but for
traveling and entertaining, it`s a lot better to have my name right here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Francine Neff turned the job of United States treasurer into
awesome corporate sponsorship deal. That was also U.S. astronaut Charles
Conrad Jr. and Wimbledon champ Virginia Wade.
These ads were so great, and they also did one of these ads for a man
named Bill Miller. That particular American express ad was referenced in a
great piece in the "New York Times" today about historical vice
presidential picks. I would not have known this ad existed before I read
about it in the "Times" today, but we looked all day for it in the
And right before air time just moments ago, we found it deep in the
NBC News archives. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM E. MILLER, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you know
me? I ran for vice president of the United States in `64. So I shouldn`t
have trouble charging a meal, should I? Why, with this, they treat me as
though I had won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: William E. Miller. They treat me as though I had won. He
did not win. William E. Miller, Bill Miller, was Republican presidential
candidate Barry Goldwater`s choice for vice president in 1964. Before they
picked Congressman Paul Ryan for V.P. this week, the last time the
Republican Party picked somebody out of the House of Representatives to be
V.P. was in 1964 with Bill Miller. And, of course, he was perfect for that
"you don`t recognize me" American Express ad a decade later in 1975 because
Bill Miller never became vice president. He and Barry Goldwater lost very
badly, but it wasn`t for the lack of awesome ads like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Barry Goldwater speaking with General
Dwight D. Eisenhower at Gettysburg.
BARRY GOLDWATER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We keep getting back
to the subject of war and peace. And in this campaign that Congressman
Bill Miller and I are engaged in for the presidency and vice presidency,
because we stress the need for a strong America, our opponents are
referring to us as warmongers. And I`d like to know what your opinion of
that would be. You have known me a long time and have known Congressman
Miller a long time.
GEN. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: Well, Barry, in my mind, this is actual
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Campaign ads were different then.
Despite the awesomeness of having Ike on their side, calling their
critics tommyrot, Barry Goldwater and Bill Miller, the last Republican
ticket to have someone from the House of Representatives as V.P., Barry
Goldwater and Bill Miller just got clobbered. I don`t think it was because
of the choice of Bill Miller for V.P. I think it was more because of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN: I asked to speak to you because I`m mad. I have known
Barry Goldwater for a long time. When I hear people say he`s impulsive and
such nonsense, I boil over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ronald Reagan telling America that he`s mad. He is boiled
over with rage over allegations that Barry Goldwater might not have the
appropriate emotional temperament to be president. I`m mad! Don`t say
he`s mad. Probably didn`t help.
But because that is what the American people thought about Barry
Goldwater, that he was a little -- the Goldwater/Miller loss in 1964 was
the worst presidential loss in the modern era of presidential politics.
And I am defining modern loosely.
The difference between Goldwater picking Bill Miller and Mitt Romney
picking Paul Ryan are kind of stunning. I mean, he is the same kind of
pick with the same kind of rationale. Republicans put Bill Miller on that
ticket in 1964 because he was essentially seen as being super Republican.
They didn`t think they`d be able to get New York state with him, where he
was from, but they liked his partisanship.
In the House, he had never really passed something of significant.
Neither has Paul Ryan, but he had a leadership role in the Republican
Party. Mr. Miller had, in fact, been Republican Party chairman. He was
seen as being a rather aggressive partisan. He was very popular among
Republican Party activists. He was seen as the hardcore guy, even if he
wasn`t more widely known throughout the country. They thought he was such
a partisan Republican hero that he could really energize their side and it
would drive the Democrats nuts.
Specifically, they thought that Bill Miller would drive the Democratic
president they were running against, LBJ. They thought it would drive him
nuts. They put that on the record. This is the front page of the
"Milwaukee Sentinel" in 1964.
The last time Republicans picked somebody from the House to be vice
president, it was for the same reason, the exact same kind of pick as Mitt
Romney and the Republicans picking Paul Ryan now. And it is early days
yet, but right now at least, it`s looking like the same kind of results.
We`re are one week in and I don`t think it`s unfair to say this is one of
the all-time least successful roll-outs of a vice presidential selection in
modern history. Maybe things will get better, but the first week has been
It started with the announcement itself, which became public knowledge
at around 12:01 a.m. on a Friday night/Saturday morning. That was then
followed up by an early Saturday morning event. The Romney campaign made a
big deal about how the announcement of the vice presidential choice was
going to be carefully timed to reward their greatest supporters. The only
people who were going to know who the pick was were the people who
downloaded the Mitt Romney cell phone app. They were going to learn it
Instead, you know, midnight on a Friday night, there`s Chuck Todd and
its on MSNBC at midnight. Yes, I don`t know. Then there was the actual
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Join me in welcoming the
next president of the United States, Paul Ryan.
ROMNEY: Every now and then, I`m known to make a mistake. I did not
make a mistake with this guy. But I can tell you this -- he`s going to be
the next vice president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Handled charmingly. Not a great beginning.
Luckily for the Romney campaign, President Obama had actually made a
similar though not quite as bad version of the same mistake when he
announced Joe Biden as his running mate in 20008. Still, not an auspicious
And then there was a question of the staging. Why were they running
out of a battleship? I mean, the official line was that they had been
touring the battleship that morning. So, they went on a tour and then all
of a sudden, realized they had to be at the podium so they run down off the
gangplank of the battleship?
These two men, both of whom have been of military age in major wars,
neither of them served, still using a decommissioned battleship to imply
that they have military service they do not have?
And whether you like the announcement or not, it was all over by 10:30
on Saturday morning and America woke up and wondered what happened? What
did I miss?
That was followed by the first solo trip for the vice presidential
nominee. Here`s what that looked like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to cut Medicare?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to cut Medicare?
RYAN: We like to listen to one another. These ladies must not be
from Iowa or Wisconsin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Paul Ryan is saying there, she must not be from Iowa. She
must not be from Iowa.
It turns out that the woman who was yelling at him was from Iowa.
Despite what Paul Ryan was saying about her. She later wrote about it on
the "Huffington Post."
What she was screaming of him about, what the heckler who were dragged
out of his first event was screaming about was Paul Ryan`s plan to kill
Medicare. Paul Ryan`s plan to kill Medicare also dominating all of the
local headlines in Florida newspapers. That was the initial swing state
response to who Mitt Romney picked as his running mate.
If the Romney folks could have seen anything coming about picking Paul
Ryan, they should have seen having to answer for Medicare thing coming.
The Romney campaign apparently did not plan for that. They did not come up
with what they were going to say about Paul Ryan`s kill Medicare plan.
When Mr. Romney was asked about the plan right after the announcement
that same weekend on Sunday, he said essentially, forget about the Paul
Ryan plan. My plan is different from his and that`s the one we`re going to
run on. Then the next day, he said my plan for Medicare is very similar to
his plan. The day after that, one of his surrogates went on television and
said the plans are very different. Then the day after that, Romney told
reporters that the plans are, quote, "probably close to identical."
The most difficult thing to pick this guy to be on the ticket and your
explanation of his biggest liability is clear as mud. We didn`t think this
up. Where the Republican position on the Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan is
being made crystal clear, however, is down ballot from these guys. As
Republicans across the country and all sorts of states have started running
advertisements and making statements to the press saying that they are
against Paul Ryan and his plans for Medicare.
And those among those candidates who were lucky enough to be able to
vote against it have been touting as loudly as they can that they voted no
on Paul Ryan from Denny Rehberg, excuse me, in Montana, to Chris Collins in
New York state, to Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Linda McMahon in
Connecticut, Heather Wilson in New Mexico, all Republicans all saying they
are against Paul Ryan on the Medicare issue.
This is all just the first week of his roll-out as the vice
presidential nominee. This is the honeymoon. And then he himself started
talking to the press, and he handled it roughly as well as he handled those
hecklers at his first solo speech in Iowa. He tried to get away with
insisting that he had never requested stimulus money for his home district,
telling a reporter this week, quote, "I never asked for stimulus."
Yes, yes, you did. After he got called out for lying about that, the
new vice presidential nominee had to backtrack, saying actually he just
hadn`t recalled and it was a mistake when he did ask for the stimulus
money, and oh, yes, then he took the courageous stance of blaming it on his
"The Boston Globe" nailed him again today, finding another federal
program he had attacked and called wasteful even while he was getting funds
from it for his own district. We`ll see if he blamed a staffer for that as
He also then tried to get away with blaming President Obama for an
auto plant in his district closing even though that auto plant closed
before President Obama ever became president. So you`d be wanting to blame
George W. Bush for that one.
This is week one. This has been a bad rollout. There has been no
honeymoon whatsoever, which you can tell in part because Mitt Romney is
still answering questions about his tax returns.
The rollout of the vice presidential selection did not even distract
people for long enough to get that off the front pages, we will have more
on that later, because it`s still a story. But you can also see it in the
As Nate Silver of "The New York Times" noted today, the average vice
presidential announcement produces a four-point bounce in the polls. In
the case of Paul Ryan, it`s more like a one-point bounce.
The Democrats, of course, are gleefully sending around those numbers,
noting that Paul Ryan`s rollout is the least successful on record. It`s on
par with the rollout of Sarah Palin and the rollout of Dan Quayle.
Now, the Sarah Palin dig, of course, that one hurts. The Dan Quayle
one, though, Democrats may be gleeful about comparing Paul Ryan to Dan
But when the Republicans rolled out Dan Quayle for vice president that
year, Republicans won that year. So, regardless of how embarrassing Dan
Quayle now looks in retrospect, he did win for them. How can the
Republicans turn this into a Dan Quayle year and not a Sarah Palin year?
I mean, you would assume the Republicans knew the Medicare thing was
always going to be hard, right? Maybe you can forgive them for still
having no idea to say about that except some people saying very clearly,
no, no, no, let me run away.
The other thing Paul Ryan supposedly brought to them is his reputation
for policy seriousness. His ability, his willingness, his reputation for
being a details guy, for being willing to defend even his controversial
policy positions in detail. So at least they have still got that, right?
The newest leak from the Romney campaign to what is effectively their
campaign newsletter, Politico.com, is that their overall strategy from here
on out, now that they have Paul Ryan is nobody on the campaign is going to
be allowed to discuss details. It is their view that, quote, "diving into
details during a general election race would be suicidal."
Well then, what did you pick Paul Ryan for exactly? You have made him
abandon his own policies and run against his own plans now. You won`t let
him talk about your policies you`re making him embrace.
The thing that most people knew about him if they didn`t know him as
the kill Medicare guy, at least he`s from the least popular Congress in the
history of polling in the popularity of Congress.
And the most recent historical president for picking a Republican from
the House is the guy who not only lost but who then had to parlay the
depths of obscurity into which he fell into a credit card commercial deal a
decade late. What`s the plan here? There has to be a plan here. You guys
are supposedly careful planners. What`s the plan?
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki. He`s co-host of MSNBC`s 3:00 p.m.
Eastern show "THE CYCLE." He`s also senior writer for Salon.com. And he`s
a good student of history.
Steve, thanks for being here.
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Sure, I spend way too much time in the C-
Span video archives, so I love the intro, the old Bill Miller clips, the
American Express ads, Dan Quayle coming up that riverboat.
MADDOW: The fact -- the premise of the Bill Miller ad is you have no
idea who I am looking at my face. It`s as if I won, I`m so happy with this
credit card. I mean, that was not only a loss, but a huge loss.
But I was so struck today going back and looking at contemporaneous
press coverage to see the rationale for picking him by the Goldwater folks
and all of their strategic dunderheadedness was that they really needed
someone who seemed like a hard core partisan to keep their own side happy.
It`s essentially the rationale that they`ve used for Paul Ryan, is that
reason to believe that it`s a dumb strategic move as much now as it was in
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, you could look at `64. I mean, the sort of
caveat there is there were so many factors lined up against Barry Goldwater
in the election, that it didn`t matter who he picked. He had been against
the civil rights that year. He was going to lose the north by 40 or 50
points. So that thing was over.
But another parallel that`s kind of interesting to me is when you
think about 1996. You think of Bob Dole selecting of Jack Kemp as his
running mate. And it wasn`t just that he took Kemp as the running mate.
It`s that Bob Dole, who had been sort of an Eisenhower style Republican his
whole career, he`s been a deficit hawk, he never bought into the supply
side stuff, he reinvented himself in the middle of that summer and he
embraced supply side economics.
He embraced, you know, Jack Kemp`s economic philosophy because he
needed to do that in order to win over and to really reassure that
Republican base and energize the Republican base and give him something,
quote, "big" to run on in the fall.
And I saw shades of that in Romney`s announcement last week because
you have the same guy, a similar guy who`s not trusted by the Republican
Party base, needs to energize them, needs something to define his campaign,
so what did he do or what did it look like he was going to do, he was going
to embrace Ryanism. He was going to embrace the Ryan budget. He`s going
to embrace the Ryan Medicare plan and then they`re going to roll the dice
and see if they could sell the press and public on the idea that they were
courageous truth tellers telling people things they didn`t want to hear but
need to hear.
So, on some level, that made sense to me when they did it. They`re
down in the polls. The summer isn`t going to way they want it to go, so
this is the risk you take. But it now basically seems like they have
decided a week into this thing, they want to run with Paul Ryan and the
want to strip the Ryanism out of it.
KORNACKI: It`s like a Rube Goldberg thing. They have gone through
the most elaborate possible means to get to a generic vice presidential
candidate. That`s what they`re trying to turn Paul Ryan into right now.
And if you wanted a generic vice presidential candidate, you could have
picked anybody in the Republican Party. He`s literally the worst person in
the Republican Party you could have picked if you wanted a generic vice
MADDOW: Well, imagine you`re the Bob Dole/Jack Kemp campaign to have
been a better campaign, right? I mean, if we can imagine to that sort of a
choice. It`s actually not even just an historical analogy because Paul
Ryan says he learned economics from Jack Kemp. He worked for him directly.
So, it`s more of an apostle than someone learning from the writing.
But is it possible to make a good case to the country for supply side
voodoo economics, or trickle down economics or the Ryanism supply side
stuff that Ryan has made his name on defending? Could you do that at the
KORNACKI: I think what is interesting there is what Ryan represents
is the next generation of what Kemp and that sort of Kemp/Bill Roth, you
know, supply side crowd started. Because the thing about Kemp was he cared
deeply about tax cuts, he cared deeply about slashing rates for upper
income, for businesses, that sort of thing, believing that would grow the
economy. He did not have an appetite for cutting into the social safety
net. His answer to that always was like, we got these huge deficits under
Reagan, we`re going to grow out way out of them. We can always grow our
way out of it with tax cuts.
Paul Ryan, now, he`s largely -- he and the fellow Republicans in
Congress are responsible for the deficits of the last decade that Bush sort
of racked up. But Paul Ryan`s posture now is to take the theory and apply
this sort of, you know, libertarian war on government to it.
So, it`s not just we want tax cuts. It`s we want to dismantle the
social safety net in so many ways, and that is politically problematic and
that`s something the Romney campaign recognized right away. We got Ryan on
the ticket. Apparently, our candidate wanted this guy, but we can`t run on
Ryanism because this is not just supply side economics. This is a new
generation of it.
MADDOW: So, they`ve got Ryan, so anybody who looks closely finds that
out about him, but anybody who`s not looking closely, just listening to
what Romney is having him say in the stump is hearing Paul Ryan essentially
try to be a liberal. That Barack Obama is cutting the safety net, getting
rid of your Medicare.
It`s amazing. They`re trying to make him run as a liberal, the worst
possible choice for that strategy.
KORNACKI: Yes. And his case is basically, look at Barack Obama, he`s
doing what I actually said he should do. But no, we don`t want to say
MADDOW: I believe that if you look at the fundamentals, this
presidential election is the Republicans for the taking. And I believe
that the Romney campaign is fundamentally incompetent on the basic
decisions they need to make in order to take something that should be
basically theirs. Just incredible.
Steve Kornacki, the host of MSNBC`s 3:00 p.m. Eastern show, "THE
CYCLE," also senior writer for Salon.com and a nice guy for being here late
on a Friday. Thanks, Steve. Appreciate it.
All right. The Romney/Ryan campaign has assigned somebody to be the
Paul Ryan person, the Paul Ryan guy. If they were thinking about the
politics of this, again, I have no idea why they picked this particular
guy. We`ll have more on that ahead.
But, first, one more thing about Bill Miller, .Barry Goldwater`s pick
for vice president in 1964. Yes, Bill Miller and Barry Goldwater got
beaten really, really badly in 1964, the Republicans` worst presidential
showing ever. Johnson and the Democrats beat them by over 20 points, and
yes, Bill Miller was lost enough to obscurity that a decade later he did
one of those American Express do you know me ads where the whole idea of
the ad was, of course, you didn`t know who this person was.
But there`s one thing about Bill Miller besides being Barry
Goldwater`s vice president and being in that American Express ad and his
previous career in politics and the military. There`s one thing that
survives the years about Bill Miller for which he still to this day is
totally justifiably famous in a very positive way, and that is that he is
Stephanie Miller`s dad.
Stephanie Miller, the high priestess of excellent liberal talk radio.
Her dad was Bill Miller, Barry Goldwater`s vice president. And it is
conclusive evidence of a life well-lived that she is his daughter.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: The Obama campaign made Mitt Romney an offer he had to refuse
today. More drama in an already dramatic narrative. That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: This tyrant has amassed a large cache of chemical and
biological weapons of mass destruction, and is aggressively seeking nuclear
weapons. He sees America as the only obstacle to his perverse ambitions,
and that is what he shares with al Qaeda, these terrorists against us. this
deep hatred for America. We must not let him share anything else with
these terrorists, Mr. Speaker.
And with that, Mr. Speaker, it`s a painful vote, it`s a painful
subject, it`s a painful issue, but this is a cause that we cannot go
unanswered. I urge a yes vote and I urge passage of this resolution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, not presumptive
vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan back in October 2002 explaining his
vote in favor of invading Iraq, because of the weapons of mass destruction
Saddam Hussein had stockpiled and was ready to deliver to the al Qaeda
Paul Ryan will probably not be asked on the campaign trail about how
wrong he was about Iraq when he voted to authorize a unilateral,
preemptive, preventive war for something that wasn`t there. The Iraq war
is over and pretty much nobody in American politics talks about it much
anymore if they are not a member of the Cheney family.
That said, if the Romney campaign wanted to draw attention to Paul
Ryan`s disastrous record on Iraq, they couldn`t have found a better senior
adviser for him. They have elevated a man named Dan Senor, who is already
a Romney campaign foreign policy adviser, to be the top Paul Ryan staffer.
Dan Senor was the spokesman for the U.S. led provisional government in
Iraq. In the months after the invasion, he was the spokesman, he was
trying to convince all of the reporters that the invasion was going awesome
when of course in fact it was a disaster.
The "New York Times" described what Mr. Senor did in Iraq as, quote,
"Often delivering rosy accounts of the war` progress to reporters whose on-
the-ground view of the crisis was anything but."
"Washington Post" reporter (INAUDIBLE) described an encounter when Dan
Senor told him, quote, "Well, off the record, Paris is burning, but on the
record, security and stability are returning to Iraq."
That`s Dan Senor. That`s the Paul Ryan senior adviser, the staffer
they gave to Paul Ryan, the top guy. The Bush administration flack who was
charged with trying to sell America on the Iraq war as it was descending
But the Iraq war is over, so nobody is asking Mitt Romney why he
wanted the off the record Paris is burning guy on his campaign at all. And
nobody is asking Paul Ryan about the weapons of mass destruction he said
Saddam was about to give to al Qaeda when he was helping cheer lead the
country into a second simultaneous war in the end of 2002.
Of course, the other simultaneous war that we were in at the time, we
still aren`t out of, the war in Afghanistan, the Bush -- the other
Bush/Cheney war that has become the Obama war, is still very much under
way. There have been five so-called "green on blue" attacks in Afghanistan
this week where uniformed Afghan security forces fired on coalition troops
who are training them or otherwise working with them.
Two of the attacks were today. At least seven Americans have been
killed just in the last week by uniformed Afghan service members we`re
supposedly working alongside.
And this appears to be part of a trend in Afghanistan right now, a
very bad trend. By "The Associated Press`" count, there were five
coalition troops killed in `09, five killed in 2010, last year, that figure
was up to 11, and this year, which is not over, there have already been 34
coalition troop deaths in green on blue, or insider attacks in Afghanistan.
NBC News has learned today that in response to all of these attacks by
Afghan security forces on Americans, all U.S. military personnel in
Afghanistan have been ordered to have a fully loaded magazine in their
weapons at all times, no matter what else they`re doing. The Army has also
ordered that at any gathering of U.S. military and armed Afghan security
forces, at least one U.S. soldier will be designated as a guardian angel to
stand in a protected space with a loaded weapon ready to respond
immediately if there is an attack.
The Taliban leader Mullah Omar, remember him? He`s apparently back,
at least back enough to try to take some degree of credit for these
attacks, but it should be noted that`s always what the Taliban does,
whether or not they deserve the credit.
Nobody expected this would be a foreign policy election. But we are
at war. Tens of thousands of Americans are in harm`s way right now and
their families are hanging on every word from the war zone.
What is politically incredible is not so much we can have an election
without talking too much about the war, what`s even more incredible than
that is that the Ryan/Romney ticket is so confident in that result, they
are so confident they will not asked any hard questions about this war or
the last one that they have put the spokesman for the last disastrous war
right at the top of their campaign.
MADDOW: The last time Mitt Romney told voters to trust him about what
was in his unseen tax returns, it turned out he was not telling the truth
about what was in them. Why that is now coming roaring back. That`s
MADDOW: We spent a lot of very good time in the way deep archives
today, looking for a tape we showed at the top of the show about the last
time Republicans picked a member of the House for their vice presidential
nominee. That was the Barry Goldwater campaign back in `64.
And while we were rooting around in all that archive tape, we had a
little bit of an eureka moment when we got to the part of the archives
about tax returns. I have never seen this before today, but I think this
All right. It`s 1974. Richard Nixon has just resigned. Gerald Ford
has, therefore, just become president. And by the power vested in him by
the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, Gerald Ford gets to pick who the
new vice president of the U.S. will be.
But because there is not an election that confirmed his pick, it`s
just someone being appointed by the guy named president, actually, Congress
has to confirm the choice. Congress has to confirm the guy Gerald Ford
picks to be the new vice president. Who does he pick?
He picks Michael Bloomberg. He picks the Michael Bloomberg of his
time. He picks a governor who is a giantly, giantly rich New Yorker.
But Nelson Rockefeller has to go before the senate to be confirmed as
V.P., and Nelson Rockefeller will not release his tax returns. At least he
tries not to.
Watch him try not to with members of the press. The context here is
that he is saying he will release his tax returns if the Senate demands
that he has to. But he`s not going to give his tax returns to some pesky
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NELSON ROCKEFELLER, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The role of the vice
president depends on the president, if the president wants to use him,
wonderful. If he doesn`t, fine.
REPORTER: Do you believe that -- what would you do about your
financial assets to meet the requirements of the vice presidency?
ROCKEFELLER: I`ll just conform to the law.
REPORTER: Are you prepared to detail your personal finances for
Congress, including your tax returns?
ROCKEFELLER: I`m prepared to do whatever the Congress asks me and to
conform to the law in every respect.
REPORTER: What is your net worth now, Governor?
ROCKEFELLER: You`re not a member of the Congress, excuse me.
REPORTER: You seem to be a little less open with us, it seems to me.
You`re a little than open with us.
ROCKEFELLER: Well, you`re not the committee of Congress. I haven`t
been confirmed and I haven`t gone before the committee. My understanding
is that protocol says that you don`t discuss matters that are going to be
taken up by a committee before you get to the hearings.
REPORTER: Do you doubt you will be confirmed?
ROCKEFELLER: Pardon me?
REPORTER: Do you doubt you would be confirmed?
ROCKEFELLER: I would never take anything for granted in life,
particularly the action of this time.
Thank you, gentlemen. It`s been a pleasure. I may see you again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Eventually, Nelson Rockefeller did get confirmed by the
Senate but not before coughing up seven years of tax returns. Precedent
matters, right? I mean, politically, right now, the most important thing
about Mitt Romney not releasing his tax returns is he hasn`t been able to
change the subject from people asking him to release his tax returns.
But substantively, there`s two things I think are underappreciated and
very relevant to this whole discussion. One of them is precedent. The
other, of course, is what light his tax returns would shed on his plans.
How much money he would make under the policies he`s proposing for the
country. What his policies would do for his own tax burden and for the
taxes paid by the middle class.
On the issue of precedent, though, I think the national press, for
some reason, is blind to looking back at Mitt Romney`s public record. I
don`t really understand it, but it seems like there`s a willful resistance
to looking back at what Mitt Romney has done in public life in the past.
When Jim Messina from the Obama campaign today tried to make a deal
with the Romney campaign about the tax returns, Obama campaign narrowed the
question. They asked for five years of returns. They asked Mr. Romney to
release from 2007 to 2012, basically the years Mr. Romney has been running
for president. In doing that, they tried to address the Romney campaign`s
main objection to releasing more tax returns. They keep saying they`re
worried if they reveal anything, the Obama campaign will only demand they
Well, today, the Obama campaign manager acknowledged that concern.
They said, quote, "If the governor will release five years of returns, I
commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more --
neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the
rest of the campaign."
Despite the question being narrowed and their objection being met, the
Romney campaign still said no, no deal. Mr. Romney said he had looked back
over the last decade of his returns and found that he, quote, "never paid
less than 13 percent." And we all have to trust him on that.
But back when he was running for governor in Massachusetts in 2002,
Mr. Romney set a precedent for what he is doing now, and it`s a bat
precedent. He was refusing to release his tax returns. He was insisting
instead you have to trust me.
That year in 2002, he just finished running the Olympics in Utah, he
came back to Massachusetts and announced he would be make a bid for office,
because he had been in Utah, working in Utah for a few years. He had told
a local Utah reporter he declared himself a Utah resident for tax purposes.
So the public and the press and certainly Massachusetts Democrats
wanted to see his tax returns. They wanted to know whether he was
qualified to run for governor of Massachusetts, whether he met the
requirement that you have to be a resident of the state for seven years.
Mr. Romney declined to release his tax returns citing a concern for
privacy. Now, because the question was not Mr. Romney`s income at the time
but it was his residency, "The Boston Globe" narrowed the question, just
exactly the way the Obama campaign did today. They offered the Romney
campaign in 2002 a deal. "The Globe" said, release the tax returns to us
with all of the financial information redacted, all of the numbers blacked
out, with only your name and address still visible. They narrowed the
question to account for the supposed objections that Mr. Romney had raised
The issue is your residency. Just let us see the tax returns just to
see your residency. Still, they said no, no deal.
Mr. Romney had been filing as a Massachusetts resident, the campaign
said. Mr. Romney`s staffer Eric Fehrnstrom told the paper, you are going
to have to take my word for it. It turns out that word was not good.
Facing a legal challenge by the Democrats, Mr. Romney was forced to
admit that actually maybe the reason he didn`t want to release the returns
is because what was in them was not what he said was in them. He had not
been filing his taxes as a Massachusetts resident as he publicly insisted
After he announced the campaign for governor, he had to retroactively
amend his taxes so that they would match what he had been saying they said.
What the Romney campaign said been saying about his taxes when they said
the public should trust him was. They had been lying about what was in the
tax returns. That`s why they would not release them, even with all of the
financial details blacked out.
Now, they`re assuring us they never paid zero in taxes and even with
their stated objections addressed in this new offer from the Obama
campaign, even then, with the question narrowed, they still will not show
the evidence. They`re still saying just trust us. The precedent for
trusting them on this is not good.
Stay with us. More ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Let me also say categorically, I have paid taxes every year,
and a lot of taxes.
My view is I have paid all the taxes required by law. I don`t pay
more than are legally due.
REPORTER: A spokesperson would only reiterate, Mitt Romney has paid
his taxes in full compliance with U.S. law and he has paid 100 percent of
what he has owed.
ROMNEY: I pay all full taxes. I`m honest in my dealings with people.
People understand that.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Is there some secret? People know you`re
ROMNEY: I understand.
MITCHELL: There`s nothing to hide.
ROMNEY: No, I agree. There`s nothing to hide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I agree.
Mr. Romney will not release his tax returns and he cannot seem to
change the subject.
Today, the Obama campaign pressed that political advantage, addressing
the Romney campaign`s complaint no matter what they released, the Democrats
would just ask for more. The Obama campaign asked Mr. Romney to release
just the last five years of his taxes. They promised if they did that,
they would not criticize him in public for not releasing more.
The Romney campaign still said no.
Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
for "The Washington Post", and an MSNBC policy analyst -- Gene, thank you
very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here.
EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: They cannot get this issue off the front pages. Does this
issue survive all the way to November, through the debates and everything?
ROBINSON: I think it probably does. It`s a really easy to understand
issue. You know, everybody pays taxes. So let`s see them.
I mean, his stated reason for not showing the taxes is that what`s in
there, whatever is in there, will be used as ammunition. Therefore, he`s
saying, gee, there`s something in there that doesn`t look good. So, you
know, that really makes people more curious as to what it is rather than
I never understood that like of defense.
MADDOW: Well, on this specific issue of his precedent. He has been
dogged by his tax returns all the way back to `02 when he ran for governor
of Massachusetts. He said it back then, everybody had to trust him, he
filed as a Massachusetts resident, until he had to admit he hadn`t. What
he said been saying to trust him about was not the case.
Now, he says we should trust him that he never paid zero in taxes.
A, how does he shake the precedent? And, B, how come Mitt Romney`s
time running for governor of Massachusetts isn`t more central to the way we
understand how he behaves now?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, it should be more relevant to how he
behaves now. Look, precedent for the voters was -- voters looking back,
it`s precedent for Romney, too. I mean, in 2002, from his point of view,
he did have to admit that there was this sort of discrepancy in residency,
but it got cleared up in his favor. He cleared it up, and he ended up not
releasing the actual taxes. And I think he figures he can get away with
MADDOW: Today, the Paul Ryan side of the ticket released two years of
tax returns. It showed him making less money than Mitt Romney but paying
more in taxes. I wonder if that might sort of be a foreshadowing about the
kinds of troublesome questions we would be asking if we did see more.
ROBINSON: I think so. There`s an ad running in battleground states
now, I know, because it`s running in Virginia. That the Obama campaign
just put up about the 14 percent rate that Romney paid last year and
essentially saying, gee, the Romney/Ryan tax plan is he pays less, you pay
I think we`re going to hear that a lot.
MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The
Washington Post," MSNBC policy analyst, and a good sport for being here
with us on a Friday night -- thanks a lot, Gene. I appreciate it.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We got more ahead. We got more ahead that will
specifically challenge your structural integrity. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: I moved to western Massachusetts in 1998 when I was something
v very sad called ABD, as in "all but dissertation". I had finished all my
coursework and everything else for my degree but I had not finished my
thesis. My idea about western Massachusetts was that I would live in
undistracted bucolic bliss in order to finish the darn thing. It took me
years but I did finish.
To the extent that finishing the darn thing meant having to work in
libraries, I did most of my library work here at the W.E.B. DuBois Library
at UMass Amherst. It is the tallest university library in the world,
almost 30 stories.
And western Massachusetts is not a skyscrapery kind of place. It`s
more of a 19th century barn and a couple of cows kind of place. But the
campus library at UMass Amherst is this big tall brick tower. You can see
it from everywhere.
And here`s the weird thing. The whole time I was squeezing blood from
that stone, the whole time I was writing my dissertation, there was this
temporary looking chain link fence that went around the building. These
are pictures of the fence from back in the day.
The chain link fence meant you couldn`t just walk up to the building
except through one tiny alley of space. So, it`s a giant building visible
from everywhere. But when you got there, you had to enter through this
tiny colored alley like cut through in the chain link fence.
And that was because of the building`s unfortunate habit of dropping
bricks off its facade. So the fence kept you far enough away from the
building that the brinks would not hit you on the head and the one little
alley they allowed you to walk in was covered up by a roof that would
protect you if the bricks did fall.
Local legend had it the architects who designed the library in the
late `60s did a lot of neat things and made a lot of neat plans, but did
not plan for the weight of the books. And so the bricks popped off.
You might have heard a similar architecture rumor about a library near
you. UMass Amherst is not the only school that has that particular urban
legend. But I say it`s an urban legend because brick chips have been
falling off that library at UMass Amherst for decades but apparently the
weight of the books accuse was a bit of legend. It was never
substantiated. It is maybe probably not true. Not why that problem was
To prove I`m an old person, these days that ugly chain link fence at
UMass library is gone, but it`s because it`s been replaced by a prettier
fence because they still have the same trouble.
There is a place where the factoring in the weight of the building`s
content legend turns out to be a real thing. There`s a new inspector
general report out about this federal government regional office in North
Carolina. And in this new report, the inspectors describe what the
building`s contents were doing to the building`s structure.
The building`s contents, quote, "created an unsafe work space for
employees and appeared to have the potential to compromise the integrity of
the building. The contents exceed the capacity of the floor by
approximately 39 pounds per square feet. The excess weight has the
potential to compromise the structural integrity of the whole sixth floor
of the facility. We noticed floors bowing under the excess weight."
So, what could possibly be causing floors at this federal government
regional office to be buckling? Tada!
This turns out to be a Veterans Administration office. A V.A. office.
And so, naturally, what is so out of control that is potentially destroying
the building are files. Tens of thousands of pounds of claims files -- an
estimated 37,000 of them stacked on top of file cabinet and in boxes on the
floor, causing the floors to bow to the point that inspectors could see the
cabinets were not level.
An after the inspection, the V.A. decided to shift a lot of that
paperwork out of the building and figure out how to store it better which
may make the building safer but doesn`t solve the real problem. The site
of all of those files stacked up in those piles in just one of the V.A.`s
regional offices is sort of astounding visual confirmation of an
The V.A. right now is wading through a backlog of nearly 900,000
claims from America`s veterans. That`s close to a million veterans who`s
filed their paperwork for services they need and still waiting to hear back
whether or not they`re going to get them.
If you are a veteran who`s been waiting right now, if you haven`t
already been waiting for four months to hear back from the V.A., you`re not
even counted yet in that backlog.
In places where the V.A. is doing really badly, like in Oakland in the
San Francisco Bay Area, the wait for vets is more like 10 months. In
Phoenix, Arizona, the wait is more like a year. In Central Texas, it is
more than a year. Veterans are waiting that long to even hear back about
whether or not they are getting what they are owed.
We`ve seen multiple congressional hearings on this. We have heard
V.A. promises to do better. We have heard claims that they are making
progress -- lots of talk from them about digitizing records, to make them
easier to be processed.
To be clear: this does not look like progress has progressed far
enough. Moving this stuff out of this one building to another building
that might not fall down under the weight of the paper is obviously a
necessary first step.
But I would hesitate to even call it a step forward. To the good
people who work at the V.A., we are all counting on you. Your job is
really important to us as a country. Your failures as an agency are a
moral failure for all of us as citizens.
So please stop saying this is all under control, that this is all
getting better. What do you need to fix this problem? We will get you
what you need.
That does it for us tonight. Now, naturally, you, prison, right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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