updated 10/18/2012 11:53:19 AM ET 2012-10-18T15:53:19

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
October 17, 2012

Guests: Dan Rather, Shannon O`Brien

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: And I want to say that I had no
problems sleeping last night. How about you?

(LAUGHTER)

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I slept very soundly last night. In part
because I was so wrung out. It was fun to watch, wasn`t it? As a debate?

SCHULTZ: It was fun to watch. It was -- you know, the look of the
president last night was so totally different. The look in his eye, his
demeanor, his intensity, very impressive in his game, no doubt.

MADDOW: Your intensity today, when you sung out the word "fumble" in
your E-block tonight, I was like, oh, yes, I`m still feeling it.

It`s great, man. Thanks, Ed. It`s great.

SCHULTZ: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

You know, winning a debate is not the same as winning an election.
And common wisdom holds that winning even all the debates doesn`t
necessarily guarantee that you will win the elections. It may not even
help you very much at all.

But after the big bump in the polls that Mitt Romney got after his
dominant performance in the first presidential debate this year, all eyes
right now are on whether last night`s debate win by President Obama will
similarly move the needle.

We are three weeks out from Election Day. But people are voting now,
right? People are voting early and by absentee ballot, across the country,
including in the swing states.

And the early word is pretty good for the president. I mean, every
snap poll taken after last night`s debate showed President Obama as the
winner of the debate. The polling outfit PPP even did a swing state
specific snap poll in Colorado. PPP is generally seen as a slightly
Democratic leaning firm, but their sample for their Colorado voters
watching the debate last night actually skewed a little bit conservative.
And those Colorado voters overall thought President Obama won.

Even better for the Obama campaign, the margin of victory for the
president was particularly large among the independents who were watching
that debate, which is exactly who the president wants to be winning over.

You know, it`s funny, one of the things we have learned over the
course of this campaign is that Mr. Romney doesn`t like to do stuff the
morning after big events. At least, they don`t like to have big, public
events planned for Mr. Romney after big events. I mean, traditionally,
candidates see, and campaigns see big marquis events like debates or
conventions as springboards for the next day`s public attention and
momentum. But the Romney campaign is not like that.

After his convention, Mr. Romney did not do a traditional bus tour or
barn storming campaign trip. After his convention, you will recall that
Mr. Romney went on vacation. Mr. Romney, even after he had such a big win
at the first presidential debate, he did not have any big, morning after
the debate rallies or anything.

He went and did an event that was off his public schedule, but nobody
knew for sure he would be anywhere, and there wasn`t a big crowd of people
around him while he was rallying the troops to his big win. It was a very
quiet morning.

And then again today, after the second presidential debate, Mr. Romney
did no public events in the morning. I mean, I don`t know if it means
anything important, but it is an unusual choice for this candidate that no
other modern candidate has done.

And Mr. Romney, it wasn`t just a fluke. He keeps doing it after big
events.

That said, Mr. Romney did not take the whole day off today. This
afternoon, he did a rally in Virginia and then he stayed in Virginia for
the day to do another Virginia rally tonight.

On the Democratic side, Vice President Joe Biden did an early
afternoon rally in Greeley, Colorado, today. He was very fired up at that
rally. Vice President Biden is campaigning tonight at an event in Reno,
Nevada.

The Republican side, the vice presidential nominee there, Paul Ryan,
he was out and about in the morning today. They put him out well before
they put Mitt Romney out. And specifically, they put Paul Ryan out at a
photo op and at a rally, with Condoleezza Rice.

You know, there are a lot of former George W. Bush administration
officials advising the Romney campaign. But even they, you would think,
would be sort of cognizant of how people view that administration, right?

You think they would recognize that there is a little political peril
in trying to underscore to a country that is really paying attention right
now that everybody should expect a lot of continuity between the George W.
Bush years and a Romney presidency. If you like the George W. Bush years
and you miss all those folks, like Condoleezza Rice, don`t worry, if you
elect Romney, you`ll see more of them again.

This came up last night in what I thought was a brilliant question
from one of the audience members at that debate at Hofstra, and it got
right at the central problem that the Republicans have been coping with now
for the better part of the decade, since the country`s support for Bush and
Cheney just cratered during the George W. Bush second term.

I mean, the greatest show on earth has been the Republican Party
figuring out who it is after Bush and Cheney. The Republican Party
figuring out if they are like Bush and Cheney or if there`s something they
learned from those years they don`t want to do anymore.

Are they any different from Bush and Cheney? Who`s the new leadership
of the party and what do they stand for that`s different than the Bush and
Cheney years?

It`s a really vexing political quandary for the Republicans. It`s
been amazing to watch them try to work it out. They still haven`t totally
worked it out.

But that all made for a very good pointed question at last night`s
debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDY CROWLEY, DEBATE MODERATOR: I want to move us along to Susan
Katz, who has a question.

And, Governor, it`s for you.

SUSAN KATZ, UNDECIDED VOTER: Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter
because I`m disappointed with the lack of progress I`ve seen in the last
four years. However, I do attribute much of America`s economic and
international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush
administration. Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear
a return to the policies of those years should you win this election.

What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush and how
do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Yes. Great question. A question that nobody had any idea
how Romney was going to answer it.

This is why town hall is such a great format. You get real people
asking direct questions, that the campaigns do not want to talk about, and
that the Beltway press maybe hasn`t been focused on, but they are questions
that are really on regular people`s minds.

And to Mr. Romney`s credit, he did not try to evade that question. He
did try to answer this question by pointing out differences between himself
and President Bush.

He said that the first difference between him and George W. Bush is
that he, Mitt Romney, would make us, he said, North America, actually. He
said, he would make us energy independent. He, Mitt Romney, unlike George
W. Bush, would promise to get America totally independent from foreign
sources of oil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We`ve got to become
independent from foreign sources of oil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Mr. Romney also distinguished himself from George W. Bush by
saying, unlike President Bush, he, Mitt Romney, would expand trade in Latin
America. He said, unlike President Bush, he, Mitt Romney, could promise
more free trade with nations in Latin America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Our goal will be free trade agreements with all the nations of
Latin America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: See, that`s what Mitt Romney is promising, which is totally
different from George W. Bush promising the exact same thing.

The kicker, though, and this one really has to sting a little bit for
the Republicans, is that Mitt Romney said last night that he would promise
to balance the budget. Something President Bush never did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: First, we must balance the federal budget.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: See, Susan Katz of Hempstead, New York, doesn`t that set your
mind at ease about how Mitt Romney is going nothing like George W. Bush?

It is -- I realize this is not a question the Beltway press has been
asking, but do you really think that nobody in the country, nobody at the
town hall debate was going to ask this? This wasn`t on people`s minds.

It is hard to believe that the Romney for president campaign has yet
to think about something that they might say, that might hold up to any
scrutiny at all to distinguish themselves from Bush. To distinguish what
they`re offering from what the last Republican to hold the office of
president to offer the country.

The Bush/Cheney overhang is so ominous in Republican politics, in
terms of the country being willing to trust a Republican again in the White
House, that you think they would have had to come up with some explanation
for how Mitt Romney would be different than Bush, other than Mitt Romney
pledging to do all the same things that Bush pledged to do.

And then after Mr. Romney got his turn, President Obama took hold of
that knife that Mr. Romney had shoved between his own shoulder blades and
the president turned that knife 90 degrees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, there are
some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. Heck,
George Bush didn`t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush
embraced comprehensive immigration reform. He didn`t call for self-
deportation. George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for
Planned Parenthood.

So, there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but
they`re not on economic policy. In some ways, he`s gone to a more extreme
place when it comes to social policy. And I think that`s a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Any further discussion, gentleman? No. From there, they
moved on. The George W. Bush question, settled.

For undecided voters, who very reasonably might be worrying about
putting another Republican in the White House, since the last guy was
George W. Bush, this is what was ringing in your ears last night if you`ve
ever thought about that problem.

And actually, in terms of the day two coverage, or even the late, late
night coverage after the debate wrapped up last night, in terms of fact-
checking that whole exchange, George W. Bush in turns out did hint at
privatizing Medicare, which the president referenced there. George W. Bush
did hint at that, but he did not go as far as Mitt Romney did, which is to
put the guy responsible for the kill Medicare budget on the ticket as his
vice presidential nominee.

So, think about that as a political point. The fact check just twists
the knife further, for Romney, it just makes it worse. All the promises
you say differentiate yourself from Bush are things that Bush promised too.

And the president points out, all the places that you say you are
actually worse, all the places where you are actually worse than Bush on
social policy. But then the second day story is that, actual, Bush is even
worse than we remember him being on social policy and Romney turns out to
be worse even then that.

So if you are among the roughly 3,000 percent of American who is do
not remember the Bush/Cheney years fondly, then what happened last night,
in front of 65 million people, in terms of knitting Mitt Romney to George
W. Bush, in ways that he self-inflicted, and ways that were further
inflicted upon him by the president without rebuttal, it`s just disastrous.

Big picture question, do we want another Republican president after
George W. Bush? That was the answer last night. I`m proposing all the
same things. I`m worse on social policy. Some of the stuff you forgot
that wasn`t that bad about Bush, we are going to remind you about that now,
and I am worse than that.

And what`s the big next event in the campaign? Foreign policy debate
-- where Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have precisely zero experience between
them combined and 17 of the campaign`s 24 announced advisers on foreign
policy are Bush foreign policy people.

And President Obama has frankly not even hit Mitt Romney yet for the
way his foreign policy apes the catastrophic foreign policy of the
Bush/Cheney years. I mean, the Romney campaign knows that punch is coming,
right? How do they inoculate themselves against that? How does the
Romney/Ryan campaign protect itself against the other shoe that everybody
knows is about to drop, which is the withering allegation that if you
squint at Romney and Ryan on foreign policy, what you know you`re going to
get is act two of the Bush and Cheney foreign policy.

What`s their defense on that? Really?

Paul Ryan does a photo op today with Condoleezza Rice? Was Paul
Wolfowitz not available? Yes, they had Paul Ryan go to a Cleveland Brown
football practice with Condoleezza Rice today in Ohio, a practice at which
Paul Ryan misidentified the Cleveland Browns quarterback and called him by
the wrong name in front of a whole bunch of reporters. That the Cleveland
paper noted, quote, "Ryan pleaded for mercy when he realized his mistake."

But look, I`m here with the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud lady
from the Bush-Cheney years. Remember the war in Iraq? McCoy, is that your
name?

President Obama today, for his post-debate campaigning, went first to
Iowa, where thanks to last night, he was able to add to his standard stump
speech a whole new riff about women and why women should vote Democratic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When young women graduate, they should get equal pay for equal
work. That should be a simple question to answer.

(APPLAUSE)

When Governor Romney was asked about it, his campaign said, "We`ll get
back to you". That shouldn`t be a complicated question, equal pay for
equal work. I want my daughters paid just like somebody else`s sons are
paid for the same job. That`s straight forward.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I`ve got to say, last night, Governor Romney`s top adviser
finally admitted, no, the governor didn`t really support that bill. You
don`t have to wait for an answer from me. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
was the first bill I signed into law as president, the first bill.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Now, an update on that riff, actually. What the president
just said there about Mitt Romney`s top adviser, admitting last night that
Mitt Romney was actually against the fair pay act for women. That is true.
Ed Gillespie said that on Mitt Romney`s behalf last night.

But then, update, today the campaign changed its mind and said, never
mind, no, no, no, Mitt Romney is not against fair pay for women. Of
course, Paul Ryan voted against it in Congress. The Romney campaign used
to say it did not know Mr. Romney`s position on the subject.

Last night, Mr. Romney himself refused to give a position, then the
campaign said last night that he was against it, now today, they say that
he`s not against it, but he wouldn`t repeal it. So maybe that means he`s
fine with it. Everybody clear on that?

The president went on today to talk about Mr. Romney`s policies on
contraception, another area where Mr. Romney`s campaign is just an
impenetrable mess. He got a big round of applause last night for saying --
sorry, Mr. Obama got a big round of applause at his speech today for saying
that nobody should be able to interfere with a woman`s access to
contraception.

Again, like the connection between Romney and George W. Bush, and like
the basic question of supporting or not supporting fair pay for women, the
most amazing thing is not that the Romney campaign`s position on this
subject is any particular thing.

But the fact that it`s not any particular thing. The fact that
mapping their position on this relatively straightforward subject looks
like a Jackson Pollack painting -- I mean, this is not drip art. This is a
simple issue. Tens of millions of American women right now, who have
health insurance, do not have to pay extra for contraceptives under their
health plans.

And insurance regulation says if contraception something you want, you
do not have to pay extra for it, above your premiums. It`s covered under
what you pay for your premiums.

Millions of American women are covered by that. That is because of
President Obama.

What is the Mitt Romney position on that? Well, I`m glad you asked.
Do you have a second or an hour? When Republicans decided to make this new
regulation an issue back in the spring, Mitt Romney was asked then, do you
think your boss should be able to block you from having access to
contraception?

And Mr. Romney recoiled from that question. He said, no, he was not
for that bill. That very same day, though, later on, he was reminded that,
actually, it was his Republican Party that was promoting this legislation
that says, your boss really should be able to block your access to
contraception, and he was supposed to be all on board with that.

So then he said, oh, of course, I`m in favor of your boss being able
to block your birth control access. I didn`t understand the question.

But then President Obama last night pointed out that that was Mitt
Romney`s position, and Mitt Romney totally denied that that was his
position.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to
provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured, because this is
not just a health issue, it`s an economic issue for women. It makes a
difference. This is money out of that family`s pocket.

Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that, in fact,
employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman
gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That`s not the kind of
advocacy that women need.

ROMNEY: I don`t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell
someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don`t believe
employers should tell someone whether they should have contraceptive care
or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Yes, you do believe that. At least that is your policy
position. Remember?

I mean, you can see the wheels turning in his head. Man, that sounds
awful. I would never support that. Would I? Would I support that?

Yes, governor. Yes, you would support that. This is your policy
position. Your boss decides whether or not you get access to
contraceptions under your health insurance.

And the fact that you can`t remember it or that you can remember it,
but you don`t understand that not only is that your position, but it`s the
kind of position that people pay attention to, because it freaks people
out, and a lot of people are focused on it in this election, and maybe you
ought to figure out how to say one thing or the other about it, and not
both things all at once, denying your positions. I mean, this is the
incredible thing about the Romney campaign. That is what is so strange.

In this campaign at this late date, everybody can understand the
concept of two people, running against each other, on an issue on which
they disagree. Everybody can grasp a politician holding, for some reason
or another, a political view that is unpopular and that is going to be
difficult to defend. But he or she is going to learn to defend it anyway.

What is new and weird and hard to believe and that I don`t think we
have much precedent for, in fact, it is hard to believe it`s true, until
you see it in motion, and in an incredible debate, like we had last night,
what is new and true and strange is a campaign and a politician that cannot
be bothered to come up with real positions that the candidate believes.
That the campaign admits to, and that everybody, at least, pretends to
understand.

Dan Rather joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The one and only Dan Rather joins us here live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

OBAMA: Let`s recap what we learned last night. His tax plan doesn`t
add up. His jobs plan doesn`t create jobs. His deficit reduction plan
adds to the deficit.

So Iowa, you know, everybody here has heard of the New Deal. You`ve
heard of the fair deal. You`ve heard of the square deal.

Mitt Romney`s trying to sell you a sketchy deal.

ROMNEY: I just think that the American people had expected that the
president of the United States would be able to describe what he`s going to
do in the next four years, but he can`t. He can`t even explain what he`s
done in the last four years.

I mean, he spends most of his time trying to talking about how my plan
won`t work. Well, what about his plan?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: That`s President Barack Obama in Iowa and Mitt Romney in
Virginia at campaign rallies today, continuing the fight from last night --
or trying to.

Joining us tonight is Dan Rather, the host of "Dan Rather Reports" on
AXS TV.

Thank you for being here. It`s nice to have you here.

DAN RATHER, AXS TV: Always glad to be here.

MADDOW: The first debate was a big and consequential win for Governor
Romney. That tracks with the history of challengers beating incumbents in
first debates. How do you think President Obama`s sort of rebound
performance last night stacks up historically?

RATHER: The very impressive part for no other reason, this reason --
I can`t think of another president who has demonstrated that he could
absorb criticism, accept it, and say, "You know, they`re right." And then
study what it takes to come back and then come back strongly with optimism
and strength, as President Obama did last night.

You have to go back, at least as far as President Eisenhower to find a
president who publicly did that. I think he has a hard time finding anyone
who did it privately.

MADDOW: You know, it strikes me hearing you say that before and I
have not thought of this. But in early interviews that President Obama
did, as president-elect and in the first year of his presidency, one of the
things that he would use as a criticism of the Bush administration was that
there was no critical feedback loop. That there was no way for them to
change based on criticism.

And he kept referencing that when interviewers weren`t bringing it up
as a way of saying what he thought was wrong with the previous
administration. I think we`re seeing it now.

(CROSSTALK)

RATHER: And I think he can do it, he did it here. I don`t think that
his win last night, I cast it this way, that President Obama won more than
Mitt Romney lost. Mitt Romney had his moments, and didn`t do all that
badly. We`ll see what the polls say.

But I don`t expect -- Romney got about a four to six-point bounce out
of what the newspapers say the drubbing in Denver. But this heavy night at
Hofstra, I expect President Obama to get a modest bounce out of this, maybe
in the order of two points, two and a half points, and the polls won`t play
completely out, because, after all, we have the foreign policy debate
coming up next Monday night. So we`ll have another set of polls at that
time.

The race right now has been as hot as a burning stump for a long time.
Last night put kerosene on that. The race is still close, very close by
anybody`s estimation.

The key, as we said before, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. Governor
Romney, partly because he`s bounced from the last debate, seems to have
pulled up at least even, probably a little ahead in Florida. Virginia,
almost dead even. But President Obama clings to a whisper close lead in
Ohio.

Now, if you do the Electoral College math, it`s very hard to see how
Romney can win, if he doesn`t win at least two, and he probably needs
three, all three of those states, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio.

On the other hand, if President Obama can just win Ohio, he`s probably
going to win the election.

MADDOW: One of the reasons that I think the vice presidential debate
was very fun to watch and last night was very fun to watch, they were just
good debates, that they covered a lot of other ground that hasn`t really
been trod in this campaign. And I think last night in particular, we got
to a bunch of issues asked by those voters in the audience that are the
kind of things that undecided voters might be hung up on, even if the
Beltway press hasn`t. Things like differences between you and George W.
Bush. I didn`t much like Obama, but I really didn`t like the last
Republican president, how are you different?

I -- you saw my introduction there. I was struck by the fact that Mr.
Romney chose to put Condoleezza Rice out on the campaign trail today after
that whole discussion. What did you make of that?

RATHER: This is a puzzler. On the night after -- a few hours after
the candidate who is trying to separate himself from President George W.
Bush, the very next morning, at an early event, up comes President Bush`s
principal foreign policy adviser, Condoleezza Rice, with his vice
presidential candidate. Somebody in the campaign, Romney campaign, has got
to be asking, whose idea was that?

Now, there are plenty of people, not all of them Democrats, who are
saying, you`re more likely to see the return of a woolly mammoth than you
are to see Romney able to separate himself completely from the George W.
Bush record.

But since he`s trying so hard to do that, why send Condoleezza Rice
out first thing the next morning. It makes no sense to me.

MADDOW: That was the morning. And then in the afternoon, the Romney
campaign made a big announcement about their new military adviser`s group.
And the headline name that they put out, front and center, the marquee name
from that group would get reports in every article was Tommy Franks, the
general from the initial invasion of Iraq, from the Bush administration in
2003.

I mean, I don`t -- I wonder if they`re playing a game of chess here
that I can`t see. That they think there`s something good about associating
themselves with the Bush foreign policy? Or the Iraq war, specifically?

RATHER: Listen, Governor Romney has some good advisers around him.
It`s a puzzle to me, whether you like candidate Romney or not, he has some
good advisers around him. And these things, trotting out Condoleezza Rice,
trotting out Tommy Franks, which tie him directly to the Bush
administration simply do not make any sense.

Having said that, Rachel, I thought this was a great debate last
night. I went through the historical record and have seen all of the
televised debates. This was, I think, the best single debate that we`ve
had in the history of the television debates and the three debates, the two
presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, as a threesome, are
by far the best series of debates that we`ve had. It`s rather encouraging.

The format last night worked. I did like the idea that real people
were asking real questions. The best question of the night, you`ve already
said, was the women who said, look, I`ve got my concerns about you, about
President Obama. But you, Governor Romney, I want to know how you explain
the difference between you and President George Bush. Best question of the
night.

MADDOW: Absolutely. And I think the best question thus far, I think
Candy Crowley deserves credit for choosing good questions.

RATHER: I`m glad you raised that. Candy Crowley, you know the
Republicans believe they lost the debate last night when they start whining
about the referee. And let the record show that Candy Crowley brought, she
brought honor to the whole business of moderating, she honored the
profession of journalism. She did her job.

You don`t have to be a Republican or Democrat or a Muslim (ph) to
acknowledge that she did a good job. And the fact that Republicans are
whining about it tells you they pretty much know they lost. Maybe a modest
loss, but a loss.

MADDOW: Dan Rather, it is an honor for us to have you here. Anytime
you want to be here. Thank you so much, sir.

RATHER: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks so much.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: OK. After last night, how long did you think you`d have to
wait for the inevitable video of women standing on the steps of the Ohio
Republican Party`s headquarters dressed up like binders?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Equal rights not binders! Equal rights not binders!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: There it is. We knew it was coming, and there you go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Equal pay, not binders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Very exciting. More ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: After last night`s debate, after what was, I think, a pretty
clear win for President Obama, what seems to worry the Romney campaign the
most is the meme that sprung from Mr. Romney`s weird reference towards
binders full of women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I went to a number of women`s groups and said, can you help
us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: And so as the Obama campaign launched a Web site at
bindersfullofwomen.com and a million Tumblrs were born, texts from Hillary,
LOL, to the very idea that Mitt Romney was still using binders and there
was the Facebook page and there was the video game that I`m not really sure
how you win, but it works kind of like the Atari game Kaboom, and there was
the Twitter feed for Mr. Romney`s binders.

Of course, as all of that was happening last night and today, the
Romney campaign fired up their patented meme doubling machine. They tried
to make it seem like President Obama was the one with the big, embarrassing
binder problem.

The Republican Party put out this picture of a binder, an empty binder
and said, this is President Obama`s binder, his binder of policies. See
how it`s empty?!

See, Obama`s the one with the hilarious binder! Did you hear a binder
thing from the debate! It was a thing about Obama! This is insane, right?

But this is what they do. This is their trick, meme doubling. War on
women? Your war on women.

The overall problem here is that Mr. Romney brought up the binder
story as a way of avoiding answering a very direct question on policy,
which was: does he support fair pay for women? His running mate, after
all, voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the campaign`s
first response to a question about that policy, when asked by "Huffington
Post`s` Sam Stein, the response was memorably noncommittal.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Does Governor Romney support the Lilly
Ledbetter Act?

ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Sam, we`ll get back to you on that.

(END AUDI CLIP)

MADDOW: That was six months ago. Last night, this was still an
unanswered question. Would Mitt Romney support Fair Pay Act for women? We
know his running mate was against it. Is he for it?

Mr. Romney gave no answer about the policy at the debate. That`s when
he instead wandered off into the now-infamous binders anecdote.

His campaign followed up last night. Senior Romney adviser Ed
Gillespie said, quote, "Mitt Romney was opposed to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair
Act at the time." But then today, about 12 hours later, the campaign sent
out another change, in the form of a correction from Mr. Gillespie saying,
no, no, no, "I was wrong when I said last night Governor Romney opposed the
Lilly Ledbetter Act, he never weighed in on it."

So the problem for Mr. Romney last night, it was for the purpose of
avoiding a question, or a direct statement about that policy that Mr.
Romney wandered into his crazy anecdote about binders full of women. He
thought apparently that was safer territory than actually addressing the
policy. That was the problem last night.

The problem for him today is that even the awkwardly distracting
anecdote about binders turns out to be poison for him. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I went to a number of women`s groups and said, can you help
us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Which was very uncomfortable.

Joining us now for the interview is Shannon O`Brien. She ran against
Mitt Romney in the 2002 Massachusetts governor`s race. That was a race, of
course, that Mr. Romney won.

Shannon O`Brien, thank you for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have
you back.

SHANNON O`BRIEN (D-MA), ROMNEY`S RIVAL FOR GOVERNOR IN `02: Thanks,
Rachel.

MADDOW: That `02 campaign is at the heart of today`s debunking, if
you will, of the binders thing. Can you explain to us what was going on in
2002 at that time that Governor Romney was talking about last night?

O`BRIEN: Well, it was fascinating for me to listen to that story. I
called on another one of Mitt`s Massachusetts myths. And he`s made himself
the shining knight.

The fact is, there was a group, MassGAP, which is the Government
Appointments Project, put together by a number of bipartisan women`s
groups. At the time there were approximately, I don`t know, 30 percent of
women in high-ranking positions in that administration. And this group got
together and demanded, frankly, of me and of Mitt Romney that we make a
pledge, that we pledge to bring more women into, whether it was my or his
administration. So we actually signed, I think he did too, signed the
pledge.

So when he goes and says that he was out finding all these women, the
fact is, the women beat on our doors and said, take these binders. So, at
least the binders, I think, was truthful.

MADDOW: But the binders -- so you`re saying, just so I get this
right, it`s not that Mitt Romney realized that all of his cabinet,
potential appointees, as he mentioned last night, were too male in terms of
the pool, and he needed -- he sent people back to go find binders full of
women in order to change the gender makeup of the people he was considering
for his cabinet. You`re saying that you guys were both offered these
binders before you were ever in a position of appointing anybody?

O`BRIEN: I`m saying that I`m sure the things that was delivered to
him may well have been in a Staples binder, was these groups had a
discussion with both candidates well before he got sworn in in January.

So these people were putting together resumes and women who had the
right credentials to serve in some of these high-ranking positions. So the
real absurdity is that he said he looked around and that he personally went
out and met with groups to go out and find these women, as if this was some
sort of affirmative, good act on his part, of him standing up for women.
It just really is not that truthful.

MADDOW: So people were standing up for women, it just wasn`t him who
was initiating it?

O`BRIEN: It was the bipartisan women`s groups who were standing up
for women. And the good news is he actually did appoint women to his
administration. So he can get a little bit of credit for that.

MADDOW: Sure. Well, did he put in place any actual policies in terms
of benefiting working women, affirmative action for women, the kinds of
things that were being discussed last night?

O`BRIEN: Not so much. Well, I`m not really aware of any policies.
When he first came into office, he did have something like 40 percent, 42
percent of the people in some of the higher ranking positions in his
administration. But by the time we got to the end of his gubernatorial
term, he had lost interest in governing Massachusetts. He was already off
running for president, or at least staking that out.

And so, the numbers had shot back down to 25 percent, frankly lower
than what the previous administration had. So he lost interest, and I
guess maybe the women in his administration lost interest too, because they
left.

MADDOW: So he did have a high initial number female appointees, but
they fled when his administration sort of pooped out toward the end?

O`BRIEN: Well, again, it was 30 percent before he got there, 42
percent when he launched, and we the time he left, it was something like 25
percent women.

MADDOW: Shannon O`Brien who ran against Mitt Romney in the `02
Massachusetts governor`s race, and who now has a national role in telling
what it was like in Massachusetts at that time. Thank you for helping us
understand this tonight. Really appreciate it.

O`BRIEN: Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. Mitt Romney`s worst moment last night -- I mean,
really, really bad, concerned an issue on which the right were absolutely
sure they had President Obama nailed into the debate. Now that the right
turns out to be the nailee instead of the nailer, boy are they mad about
it. And that brings out bad behavior. And that is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It seemed too strange to be true when Mitt Romney embraced
Donald Trump after Donald Trump became a full-time birther, questioning
whether President Obama was secretly foreign. It seems too strange to be
true, even though it was true. What is stranger than that is who is on the
Mitt Romney campaign plane today. Hold on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: When Mitt Romney got on his campaign plane today to go do
some post-debate events in Virginia, a reporter at Politico.com named Dylan
Byers noticed a very surprising sight on the Mitt Romney campaign plane.
It`s this guy.

The Romney campaign has apparently credentialed as a member of the
press corps to travel with Governor on board his plane this guy, from
"World Net Daily". That`s the Web site that has done all of the exclusive
reporting about President Obama`s birth certificate. At the "World Net
Daily" super store, you can still buy the "where`s the real birth
certificate?" yard sign.

But maybe now that Jerome Corsi`s book on "where`s the Obama
certificate" is down to 78 cents on Amazon.com, Mr. Corsi has moved on into
a new conspiracy theory about President Obama, which is that the president
is secretly gay.

Actually I should say secretly gay married. I should secretly gay
married to a whole bunch of different guys who he killed because he`s a
secretly gay married murderer. Also, the ring he wears says he`s a Muslim
and he`s gay married and he`s a murderer. That`s Jerome Corsi.

The Romney campaign credentialed Jerome Corsi today and put him on the
campaign plane with the candidate.

But, you know, honestly, the "World Net Daily" web site kind of sucks
now. It`s always been -- but now that they`ve tried to move on from the
birth certificate conspiracy to the new conspiracy theory about Obama being
secretly gay married, it`s clear that it`s really just not giving them the
same juice that it used to. They`re not pushing that many stories, nobody
is really linking to them.

The best stuff in their super store now is all about how to protect
themselves from home invasions. I mean, it`s just sad. It`s clear they`re
not able to energize as many people as they used to with their crazy
conspiracies.

And I think that`s because of what feels good about a good conspiracy
theory, what gives conspiracy theorists their appeal. Like in the case of
the birth certificate, right, what those folks were saying, Donald Trump
and "World Net Daily" and Orly Taitz, and Joe Arpaio and Steve King and all
the rest of them, what they were claiming, even if you didn`t follow all
the steps about Kenya and the grandmother and the newspaper and how the
infant must have been moved and the pre-planning and all that stuff with
it, even if you didn`t follow all the steps, ultimately what they were
selling you was the basic idea that President Obama is not actually
president.

He is secretly foreign. He is ineligible therefore to hold office.
So therefore even though it seems like we`ve got this man as president --
feel better, he`s not really president. He`s not eligible to hold the
office. So he`s secretly not holding the office. Don`t you feel better?

The problem with "World Net Daily" now is that their new theory,
President Obama being secretly gay married, it doesn`t elicit the same
feeling, right? Nobody needs to be comforted about that. Nobody needs to
be comforted that President Obama doesn`t really love Michele. All right?
Nobody needs to feel that way.

But that dynamic and in conservative politics that animates those
conspiracy theories, it does not only happen on the fringes. We`ve seen it
over and over again as Republicans increasingly isolate themselves in our
country. They stay more and more inside a media bubble where they do not
hear any neutral or contrast points of view, where you can go all day from
conservative talk radio to conservative cable news, to conservative blogs,
to Republican politicians, importantly, who are playing only to those talk
radio hosts and cable news shows and bloggers in a loop that just gives
people what they want to hear in those settings.

And in that environment, when something happens that makes people feel
uncomfortable, there is an almost irresistible impulse on the right now to
just assure people that uncomfortable thing isn`t really happening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable jobs numbers, these Chicago guys will
do anything, can`t debate so change the numbers.

JACK WELCH, FORMER G.E. CEO: I don`t know what the right number is,
but I`ll tell you, these numbers don`t smell right when you think about
where the economy is right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Sadly, no. The unemployment rate really is below 8 percent.
I know it feels awful to you because of your politics, but the unemployment
rate really is below 8 percent. It is 7.8 truly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unemployment is going down, just as a factual
matter. Why would Congressman Ryan in defiance of facts suggest otherwise?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: I think what he was saying is the truth
which is unemployment is higher today when the president took office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: No. That is not true. I know you want to think that
Congressman Ryan said the truth when he said that, but he did not. The
unemployment rate is factually going down. And that must feel awful to you
guys, but it really is the truth. Truly.

That impulse on the right now did not just down play or distract from
or try and explain away things they didn`t like, like people have always
done in politics. The impulse not to do that normal stuff, but to instead
assert that uncomfortable facts just aren`t real facts, that the president
isn`t really president, that the unemployment rate hasn`t really gone down,
that closed loop, cuddle yourself, la, la, la, pretend it isn`t happening
impulse that`s what made the right`s presidential candidate last night walk
into this horrible wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I`m the president and I`m always responsible. And that`s why
nobody is more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I did.

The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I
told the American people and the world that we are going to find out
exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror.

ROMNEY: I think it`s interesting that the president just said
something which is that on the day after he attack, he went in the Rose
Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That`s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the rose garden the day after the attack it was
an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what
you`re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it
took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act
of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: He did in fact, sir. So let me call it an act of terror --

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Mitt Romney repeating the story told about the subject on the
right in the way that is very satisfying to conservatives.

The way this story is told on the right is a story that tells
conservatives exactly what they want to hear and what they wanted to
believe about that bad, bad President Obama. A comforting story about how
this bad president never used that word terror in talking about these
attacks until two weeks that happened. This awful guy.

I mean, that story must feel great if you`re a conservative, if you`re
against this president. And if you only experience reality as mediated
through the conservative media, you might think that is really what
happened.

That is not what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great
nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we
stand for. Today, we mourn for more Americans who represent the very best
of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to
see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake:
justice will be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You can count on three-two-one until the right starts saying
that the tape has been doctored and the transcript has been forged from a
fax machine in Hawaii. Mitt Romney getting it wrong last night because he
apparently consumes the right wing version of reality instead of the real
reality outside the right wing conservative media bubble, that was the
story of the night when he face planted on that story. Just a shocking,
stylistic, and substantive face plant by an excitable candidate who decided
to take a leaping, round house punch while his opponent was standing there
at his most presidential.

And the guy taking the punch not only missed his target, he punched
himself out in the process, splat. That was the story of last night.

But the story of today was that the right decided that was too
painful. The right decided what happened to Mr. Romney there felt too bad.
That they were going to make themselves feel better by telling themselves
that did not actually happened, telling themselves that Mr. Romney actually
did land that punch, that he was right and he looked great for it.

Look at the lower third on FOX News today when they were talking about
this. This was on their day side program in which FOX says when supposedly
when they were not doing any opinion at all, just straight news, fair and
balanced -- look at it -- debate interruption by Candy Crowley steps on
major moment for Governor Romney.

Oh, darn that Candy Crowley. Her pointless interruption ruined Mitt
Romney`s big moment when he was just nailing Obama for not saying the word
terror in the Rose Garden that day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great
nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: In the right wing world, President Obama never said that.

Part of the reason I think this country would be better off if the Web
site "PolitiFact" didn`t exist is because "PolitiFact" has encouraged
relativism on the subject of whether or not stuff happened as a mainstream
thing. So like when Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed entitled "Let Detroit Go
Bankrupt" and he went on CBS News and defended his call to let Detroit go
bankrupt, including that headline, "PolitiFact" fact-checked whether or not
Mitt Romney did say `Let Detroit go bankrupt," and they found that half
true, because basically they don`t think that Mitt Romney likes to be
quoted saying "let Detroit go bankrupt" or something, even though he did.
So half true?

"PolitiFact" last night looked into whether or not President Obama
used the phrase act of terror the day after the Benghazi attack when he
gave that speech in the Rose Garden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great
nation.

(END VIDEO CLI)

MADDOW: "PolitiFact" said yes he did say that but it`s only half true
because people on the right say maybe he didn`t mean it when he said it.

This infection is leading the conservative media, through purportedly
arbiters of fact like "PolitiFact," these baldly false, conservative feel-
good assertions about noble facts that come from the right end up becoming
just the other side of a political issue. We`re taking an objective look
and that is bull.

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. The unemployment rate is below 8
percent. The day after the Benghazi attack, the president called it an act
of terror.

Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel better, but do not
confuse your "World Net Daily" caliber, therapeutic, conservative,
alternative reality, fantasy bubble for what actually happened, because
stuff really does actually happen. And eventually you really do have to
deal with it.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a
great night.

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

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