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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: September 17, 2015
Guest: Bernie Sanders

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you.

And we will be keeping an eye on that as well. As Chris mentioned, a
tsunami watch issued for Hawaii after that earthquake. Again, this is one
of those stories where the early indications are obviously something that
you want to be riveted to. The early indications can be very scary. They
do not always end up being a scary thing, particularly given the direction
in which these things move over the course of the -- over the surface of
the ocean. But we`ll watch that closely tonight and let you know as we
learn more.

But I thank you for joining us tonight. Thank you for being with us.
Let`s be honest, I know why you`re here. The Republican Party is hosting
its second presidential candidate`s debate tonight, the second of the two
debates being hosted on CNN tonight is three hours long. In the three-hour
debate, the candidates are being given one bathroom break over the course
of the three hours. And that comes after another two hours of a different
subset of candidates who were made to debate first and separately from the
larger group. So that is five straight hours of Republicans talking. And
I know why you`re here. Sometimes that feels like too much Republicans
talking.

But in addition to the five hours of Republicans talking plan, CNN also
made the strange decision to make the main event, the later of the two
debates, the one that has 11 podiums on stage, they made this strange
decision to pick that weird and large number of candidates for the second
debate, 11. The reason they`ve got 11 candidates on stage instead 10
candidates, which is what FOX News did for their first debate, the reason
tonight have 11 instead of 10 is because CNN broke its own debate
eligibility rules, specifically to let and can a candidate called Carly
Fiorina into tonight`s debate. Under CNN`s previous rules she would not
have been there. CNN wanted in and so they broke their own rules.

In the first debate, Carly Fiorina was not allowed in the main event, she
was at the kids table with six other candidates. CNN moved her into the
big table tonight so today`s a big day for Carly Fiorina. I think because
she`s at the big debate tonight and she`d been at the kids table before
really this is a bigger day for her than it is for any other candidate.
This is really Carly Fiorina`s moment.

And so, naturally, because that`s how it`s going this year for every
candidate not named Donald Trump, because today is Carly Fiorina`s big day
in the campaign, naturally a giant rainstorm just opened up over her
parade.

Carly Fiorina has never held public office before. She did run once
before, she ran a losing U.S. Senate campaign against Barbara Boxer in 2010
but more than that one failed run for political office, Carly Fiorina is
known for having been a business leader, right? She was CEO of Hewlett-
Packard for from 1999 to 2005 during which time she made a number of very
controversial decisions at HP, including firing more than 30,000 people.

She herself then got fired by Hewlett-Packard`s board of directors in 2005,
but it was the nice kind of firing. It was the kind of firing where they
tell you, you can`t have your job but they also give you $40 million on
your way out the door.

So it`s kind of this awkward foundation for her presidential candidacy,
right? One state didn`t want her as a senator but now she wants the
country to want her as president. She wants to run as a business leader.
But to most people, firing 30,000 people and then getting fired yourself,
it doesn`t seem like a great business record to run on, right? I mean,
even if you were able to cash in when you did it, it just doesn`t seem like
the kind of thing you want to offer the country.

Well, today her big day, the day that Carly Fiorina is participating in the
big kids` debate for the first time ever. Today, today, her old company,
Hewlett-Packard, decided to remind everybody of the worst part of her
business record by putting out this announcement.

Literally on the day of this debate HP announces that they are going to be
firing another 30,000 people a la Carly Fiorina. And also they may be
breaking the company apart. So that happening today is a nice reminder of
what Carly Fiorina probably does not want people to think about when they
think about her time as a business leader.

But even with that, Carly Fiorina today is better off than the boys who are
still stuck at the kids` table. I mean, at least first time there was a
kids` table debate when FOX News did it there were seven people at that
table. It looked like a substantial number of candidates. There was a
significant number of people to watch.

But between the first debate and the second debate, the kids` table went
from seven people to six people to five people to four people after Jim
Gilmore fell so low in the polls he didn`t even qualify to name CNN debate
at all and then Rick Perry quit the presidential race altogether. And then
CNN made this inexplicable decision that they were going to let 11 people
instead of 10 people in the big debate so that took away another slot at
the kids` table debate. And so, the kids` table tonight was really only
four people and it was therefore sort of a terrible and awkward place to be
for these guys in political terms.

I mean, these four guys who CNN apparently decided to organize left from
tallest to shortest like a decrescendo of disappointing height -- really,
CNN? George Pataki is there on the tall side, or the left side of the
stage. He ended up speaking a lot so that was probably good for him, more
people heard George Pataki`s voice tonight than heard in the other parts of
his not very impressive campaign.

In terms of the guys in the middle, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum both
seemed frantic and urgent, but they basically stuck to all the same stuff
they always say on their campaign speeches, just more of a panicky tone of
voice from those two tonight.

South Carolina Lindsey Graham, he had been criticized at the last debate
for being morose, one Republican observer told the "Washington Post" that
in the last debate Lindsey Graham seemed like someone had quote "just
killed his dog." Tonight Lindsey Graham tried to turn that one around by
being the jokester of the kids` table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wasn`t the best law
student. By the end of this debate it will be the most time I`ve ever
spent in any library.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAHAM: We`re not going to deport 11 million people here illegally but we
will start with felons and off they go. As to the rest, you can stay but
you have to learn our language, I don`t speak it very well but look how far
I`ve come. Speaking English is a good thing. Ronald Reagan did a couple
of really big things that we should all remember. He sat down with Tip
O`Neill, the most liberal guy in the entire house. They started drinking
together, that`s the first thing I`m going to do as president. We`re going
to drink more.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re having a good debate, but there is this problem
of Washington elites and saying wonderful things about each other.

GRAHAM: I`ve been called wonderful things but never "elite" before. My
dad owned a liquor store or bar in a poolroom. So only in America can you
go from being in the back of the liquor store to being elite.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So Lindsey Graham at least brought some levity to the proceedings
today. But for all these guys at the bottom of the Republican polls right
now, all these guys at the kids` table tonight, they are in a pretty
hopeless position. It`s possible to imagine that something might change
for them in future but right now if you add up all the support that all
four of them collectively receive in the last national Republican
presidential poll, all of those candidates on stage tonight, those four
guys, all of them totaled combined support in the last national poll was
one percent, total combined. And it was easy to add up because three of
them had zero percent support in the last poll and only one of them had
one.

The rest of the field, though, is not exactly a study of contrast in terms
of strength. Almost everybody else running right now is stuck in single
digits in every national poll. I mean, yes, it`s embarrassing to be Rick
Santorum at one percent, but how much more embarrassing is that than being
Jeb Bush at six percent?

It`s just numerically unavoidable right now. You have to admit that the
top of the ticket on the Republican side is so dominant, Donald Trump`s
huge lead is so big it`s just squeezing almost everybody else in the race
out as they try to find any support.

So Ben Carson and Donald Trump are way up there at the top. But until
Donald Trump in particular with his big leads, until he is cut down a
little, until his lead shrinks, not only is nobody else going to have a
chance to be a leader but a lot of people at the bottom of the race won`t
be able to get above zero percent or one percent or two percent and there`s
going inevitably to be more and more pressure for them to get out of the
race entirely just because of how badly they are failing.

The longer Donald Trump stay this is far out ahead, the more not just non-
viable but sometimes self-parodying it looks like for guys like Jindal and
Santorum and Graham and maybe even Chris Christie and Rand Paul to be
talking about themselves as the next president of the United States. I
mean, the longer those guys stay at one percent because Donald Trump is up
over 30 percent, the more ridiculous their odds look at the bottom of the
race. And the more inevitable it feels that they will have to get out of
the race and maybe soon. And even facing that sort of existential trauma
none of his presidential opponents have been able to cut Donald Trump`s
lead down at all.

But, Donald Trump is now facing two new opponents trying to cut him down
from elsewhere in the political firmament, not other candidates but other
big hitters in politics. The first one is happening in Iowa. It`s the
largest and most influential newspaper in Iowa which, of course, is the
"Des Moines Register."

The "Des Moines Register" has previously feuded with Mr. Trump. They said
after he criticized John McCain`s war record that Mr. Trump should drop out
of the race. Since then the "Des Moines Register" has found its
photographers and reporters frozen out of all Donald Trump Iowa events.
But that`s really not causing them to back down.

Heading into tonight`s debate, the "Des Moines Register" has just run one
of the most blistering editorials I have ever seen against any American
politician in any state in any context let alone a front-runner for a
national Republican presidential nomination.

This is from the "Des Moines Register." I`m not tuning this up at all.
I`m not making it more hyperbolic than it is. This is actually what they
published. Here`s how it starts.

Every woman has met a Donald Trump. He is the jerk at the bar, family
reunion or sporting event who disrespects women. He laughs the loudest at
his own jokes and thinks the world resolves around him. He puffs up his
chest and stares at yours. If you tell him to back off, he asks if you`re
menstruating. Every man has met a Trump, too, he`s the guy who makes
comments about your sister, yells out car windows and just won`t shut up.

All of just met a Donald Trump. He might be a family member who
embarrasses us regularly, he`s the person you probably don`t want to take
home to mother. And the idea of that guy being seriously considered as a
candidate for the president of the United States is inconceivable.

Look at that face he recently said about fellow candidate Carly Fiorina.
He called Rosie O`Donnell a slob and a pig. It doesn`t matter what`s
written about you quote "as long as you`ve got a young and beautiful piece
of ass said the man seeking the job of leader of the free world."

These are a few comments made by Donald Trump over the last several years
that an overtly sexist candidate continues to poll so well among potential
caucus goers reflects negatively on all of us. It`s increasingly difficult
to believe he could garner support from any male with a mother, daughter,
wife, or sister let alone support from any female. The way he talks about
the opposite sex is disgraceful. Then again, maybe it`s just that time of
the month for this editorial board.

I have never seen an editorial like that about a presidential candidate in
Iowa. I mean, there`s a New Hampshire paper, the union leader, that`s
really known and proudly known for being brutal in its editorials. Some of
the New Jersey papers have prided themselves on being New Jersey crass in
the way they`ve gone after Chris Christie.

But this is Iowa, and this is the biggest paper in the state. And Iowa is
first in the country in terms of the presidential race. What does it mean
for Donald Trump to have made an enemy this potent in a place that
important? I don`t know, but I`m really interested to watch that space.
That is one huge new variable in the Iowa contest.

Now, add it this second variable. Add to that a million dollars in anti-
Donald Trump ads that are going to start running in Iowa tomorrow. These
ads are being run by a group called Club for Growth. Club for Growth is
not an Iowa group. They`re a national group. Over the years they`ve
earned a fearsome reputation in Republican circles for getting elected
Republicans and candidates to vote the way the club for growth wants them
to vote. Club for Growth has a very efficient system for bending
Republicans to their will and it works in Congress in particular like
magic.

First the Club for Growth puts out an alert telling elected Republicans how
they`re supposed to vote on a specific bill up in Congress. If you`re an
elected Republican who decides to ignore that alert, if you decide to vote
contrary to the way Club for Growth has told you to vote, then more than
likely the Club for Growth will start running ads against you in your home
district. They`ll try to bury you with a primary challenger in your own
party primary. They pride themselves on essentially firing elected
Republicans who don`t toe the Club for Growth line.

So the Club for Growth, whatever you think of them, for years they have
been a serious power player in Republican politics. And now that Donald
Trump is the prohibitive front-runner for the Republican presidential
nomination, it is the Club for Growth that has stepped up to argue most
aggressively against his candidacy.

This week, Club for Growth called a press conference in D.C. to unveil
their new million dollar anti-Donald Trump ad campaign. And because the
Club for Growth is such a heavy hitter there was anticipation about this
killer punch they were about to throw against Donald Trump. Again, this is
not just one of the other people running for president, this is a
heavyweight Republican operation. These are big political guns being
trained on Donald Trump for the first time since he has been the front-
runner.

So they had their big Washington unveiling of what their big ads are going
to be. They`re going to start running tomorrow in Iowa, a million dollar
buy. All that anticipation, right? What will are they going to hit Donald
Trump with? Nobody`s hit him like this before. What have they got on him?
And I swear to you, this is what they came up with. This is how they say
they`re going to stop Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Supreme Court`s kilo decision gave government
massive new power to take private property and give it to corporations.
Conservatives have fought this disaster. What`s Donald Trump say about the
decision?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I happen to agree with it 100
percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump supports eminent domain abuse because he can make
millions while we lose our property rights. Trump, the worst kind of
politician.

Club for Growth action is responsible for the content of this advertising.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s it? The Club for Growth has been telegraphing they`re
going to hit Donald Trump hard, they are going knock him out of the race
even though nothing else could but this is what they came up with? Donald
Trump favors the Supreme Court Kilo decision from a decade ago, the Kilo
decision. Which if you know case law that maybe Donald Trump wants to take
your house.

In fairness, they also put out a second ad that compares Donald Trump with
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton but the Donald Trump want yours house
something is what Club for Growth is now dumping a million dollars into.
These ads are going to start running tomorrow in Iowa. And who knows?
Maybe they`ve struck focus group gold here. Maybe this he`s stealing your
house ad resonates with Republicans more than I can get my Commie Pinko
(ph) liberal brain around.

But if that`s it, if the kilo decision ad is the best they`ve got, is that
the best the big money establishment power brokers and conservative
politics can muster against Donald Trump, then it is looking brighter for
Donald Trump now than it ever has before. That can`t really be it, can it?

There is one ray of sunshine, though, for anybody on the left or the center
or the right who wants Donald Trump to not become the Republican nominee
for president of the United States, and it turns out to be something that
we uncovered somewhat unexpectedly here on this show last night. That
story has developed later today and particularly it has developed tonight
in a way that is really, really bad for the presidential front-runner and
that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So last night we brought you a story from the very, very top tier
of Republican national politics that I almost couldn`t believe was sitting
there unclaimed in plain sight. Well, today with some terrific digging
that story got even better I guess is the right word. It at least became a
much bigger scandal. Stay right there, you need to hear this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Boy, oh, boy, I didn`t expect that. You know Joel and the group
called and they said would you come over and speak? I`m here for a certain
reason, you know, it`s called tomorrow night. So I got here and they asked
a couple of days ago would it be possible to come over and say a few words.
An endorsement from your group with so many veterans, hundreds of thousands
of veterans, I really appreciate that, Joel. I did not expect it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Hundreds of thousands of veterans, Joel.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump last night did a campaign
event on board a decommissioned battleship called the USS "Iowa." We had
known an event this was going to happen. It was sort of inherently funny
because Mr. Trump has no personal history of military service although he
says he felt like he was in the military because he went to a military-
themed prep school. He also has no expertise whatsoever on anything
related to national security. And so naturally he has to go stand on a
battleship right underneath the 16-inch guns.

Part of the reason that event last night got so much live national press
attention is because it had been billed by the campaign as Donald Trump`s
major foreign policy address. Since he`s been the Republican front-runner
Donald Trump has yet to give a policy address of any kind let alone a
foreign policy address and since he`s the presidential front-runner it
seemed like that was going to be a newsworthy thing. Turned out to not be
a newsworthy thing, at least not for that reason. There was no foreign
policy in it at all and it frankly wasn`t even that much of a speech. What
it was, was a fund-raiser. A fund-raiser for a group called Veterans for a
Strong America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Boy, oh, boy, I didn`t expect that. You know, Joel and the group
called and they said would you come over and speak? I`m here for a certain
reason, you know, it`s called tomorrow night. So I got here and they asked
a couple days ago would it be possible to say a few words. An endorsement
from your group with so many veterans, hundreds of thousands of veterans, I
really appreciate that, Joel. I do not expect that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Let that be indelible in your mind. Donald Trump last night
saying this group he was raising money for included hundreds of thousands
of veterans. That does not appear to be the case. In fact, veterans for a
strong America does not appear to have any members at all. If you wanted
to become a member of Veterans for a Strong America, there is no way for
you to join.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America, you want to go check them out?
You go check out iava.org, check them out online, here`s how you join. You
want to check out veterans of foreign wars, you go check them out, find out
about them, here`s how you join. There`s no way to join this Donald Trump
group which nobody heard of before last night. And it really does appear
to be just one guy, the guy in the glasses there.

The reason this fiasco of Donald Trump wrapping himself up in the mantle of
veterans support and saying he`s raising money for veterans, although he is
raising money for a group that doesn`t appear to represent any veterans
other than its one founder. The reason this fiasco maybe be good political
news for opponents of Donald Trump and people who are hoping Donald Trump
might eventually blow up as a presidential front-runner, is that this guy,
the Donald Trump just hopped into bed with and then his big battleship
event for and race money for and basically plated his political trump with
by saying, this is his legitimacy on the issue of veterans. That guy is
really somebody who Donald Trump should have Googled.

As we reported last night, the client that Mr. Joel Arends worked with on
her U.S. Senate campaign in South Dakota last year, his client in that
campaign just last year was later convicted on 12 election-related
felonies. She says on the basis of advice given to her specifically by
Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship.

Further googling might have turned out news that Donald Trump`s new friend
on the battleship was also involved in the Arizona governor`s election last
year in a way that now has him under investigation by two different parts
of Arizona state government including a referral for investigation to the
state attorney general.

Further googling by Donald Trump or his campaign might have next turned up
this rather lurid story of Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship
being part of a super PAC scam operation that apparently relieved some
naive old guy in Texas of several million dollars of his own money. Pro-
Publica calling it an egregious example of what can happen when people
running super PACs, use super PAC contributions to basically hire
themselves.

A little further googling might have revealed that "the Associated Press"
first posted today, that just last month the IRS posted this public
notification that Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship and his group
Veterans for a Strong America, they just had their nonprofit status revoked
officially because they haven`t filed tax returns with the IRS in at least
three years.

We knew last night according to their last FEC filing this group that
Donald Trump did his battleship event with, they only had $30 in the bank
and about $300 of outstanding obligations. Something just didn`t seem
right about Donald Trump calling this a group with hundreds of thousands of
people and doing this big high profile fund-raiser for them. But now that
we know more about that this group or I should say this guy, which appears
to be the whole group, it now seems clear that Donald Trump and his
campaign are either in on some kind of scheme with this group that is not a
nonprofit or Donald Trump and his campaign just got duped and taken for a
ride by a guy who you could sass out pretty easily with literally one page
of googling and 30 spare seconds.

In either instance, that`s the kind of base-level failure in a presidential
campaign that doesn`t bode well for the long-term viability of that
candidate just in terms of the basic functions of what it takes to run.
Maybe Republican voters don`t care and it doesn`t look scandalous to them.
But if he keeps doing stuff like what he did with that fake veterans group
on the battleship last night, the "Des Moines Register" hating his guts is
going to be the least of Donald Trump`s problems in Iowa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[21:31:40] DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vaccines are very
important. Certain ones, the ones that will prevent death or crippling.
There are others, a multitude of vaccines which probably don`t fit in that
category and there should be some discretion in those cases.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You take this little beautiful
baby and you pump, I mean, it looks just like it`s meant for a horse not
for a child. And we`ve had so many instances, people that work for me just
the other day, two years old, two-and-a-half years old, a child, a
beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got
a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.

I only say it`s not -- I`m in favor of vaccines. Do them over a longer
period of time. Same amount.

CARSON: It is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a
period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that. And I
think are cutting down on the number and the proximity in which those are
done.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: And that`s all I`m saying.

CARSON: And I think it`s appropriate.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R-KY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I`m all for vaccines,
but I`m also for freedom. I`m also a little concerned about how they`re
bunched up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I don`t know who won last night`s Republican
debate, but I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks they lost
or at least that America`s infants lost because of the anti-vaccine
conspiracy theories that were put forth on last night`s debate by
frontrunner Donald Trump.

And then basically supported by the two medical doctors up there on the day
as well -- Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Ben Carson. You could see the
American Academy of Pediatrics freaking out during the debate as the
candidates went down that conspiracy theory rabbit hole on vaccines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics started tweeting out, basically, no, no,
no. They`ve got this wrong. Don`t listen to this. They put out a formal
statement about why vaccines are important and they don`t cause autism.
They distributed a video of a pediatrician explaining why it`s important to
take them on the right schedule instead of spacing them out like Dr. Trump
said and the other actual doctors there last night.

So let`s turn now to the democratic frontrunner in New Hampshire, maybe in
Iowa, too, Senator Bernie Sanders.







MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview is Vermont senator and Democratic
candidate for president of the United States, Bernie Sanders. Senator,
it`s great to have you with us here tonight.

SANDERS: Great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: We talked on this show right before you got in the race, and we
talked right after you jumped in the race. How do you feel now compared to
then?

SANDERS: In a slight state of shock. I watch television and I hear a lot
about this guy, Bernie Sanders, and I say that`s an interesting guy. I`d
love to meet him. Me? That`s kind of what I feel.

I thought that we had a message that would resonate with the American
people. But the truth is, it`s resonating a lot faster than I thought it
would. And one of the problems we`re having now is putting together the
political infrastructure, to kind of channel all of that support into
constructive and effective political action. So that`s where we are right
now.

MADDOW: Do you feel -- and this is a little bit personal. I don`t mean it
in a prying way. But this process and how much attention you`ve gotten and
how much success you have had, is it energizing to you, or is it tiring and
overwhelming to you?

SANDERS: It is both. I mean, it`s an unbelievable moment to go to
Portland, Oregon where the Trailblazers play, you know? And look at 28,000
people, third tier, and say why are these guys here? Oh, I`m speaking.
That is really mind-blowing.

On the other hand, if you go through a month -- 30 days -- and you don`t
have any days off, it gets to you a little bit. I got a day job as the
United States senator from Vermont. But all in all, the kind of support
that we`re getting, the kind of energy and the kind of young people that
are coming out, you know, that energizes me a lot.

MADDOW: You`ve been preparing for this your whole life in some ways.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Let me ask you about that, what you raised there about kind of
scaling up. Your campaign put out a mass hiring call earlier this week for
campaign coordinators to focus on Massachusetts, Georgia, Colorado,
Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont,
Alabama, and Arkansas. All these super Tuesday states. Should we take
that to mean that you think you`ve been out-organized a little bit in that
state -- in those states, or that you just never thought you would have to
do that?

SANDERS: What you can take from that is the fact that we have put a lot of
resources and energy into New Hampshire and Iowa and Nevada and South
Carolina, (inaudible). And now we`re gearing up for the week after. We
think we can do very, very well on super Tuesday. I think we`re going to
do very well in Minnesota and Colorado and Massachusetts, states to come,
and I think we`re going to do a lot better than people think in states like
South Carolina, where we`re beginning to put a lot of resources in.

MADDOW: Did you learn anything from your admittedly somewhat unexpected
success in New Hampshire and Iowa that has taught you how you want to
organize in new states that you`re just getting into in a more serious way
now?

SANDERS: Yes. Our emphasis, what we`re doing now in Iowa, I think we have
50 or 60 people on the ground. We have people already knocking on doors.
That`s what we`re doing in New Hampshire. We are obviously going to be on
television and the radio with ads. But most of our emphasis is going to be
at a grassroots level, just door to door, talking to people, going to
meetings.

MADDOW: Getting supporters to meet each other in addition to getting the
people--

SANDERS: Absolutely. One of the exciting aspects of what is happening
right now is I think we have close to 200,000 volunteers.

MADDOW: Wow.

SANDERS: And this stuff is sprouting up all over the country. I read
about it in the papers. We didn`t organize it. A lot of this is
spontaneous. And it`s very moving to me.

MADDOW: Can you say with confidence tonight that you definitely will be on
the ballot in all 50 states? I know getting on the ballot is not an easy
thing all over the country.

SANDERS: We got a guy whose focus in life is just that. And the answer
is, unless I`m very mistaken, yes. We`re in this race to win. You don`t
win unless you`re on the ballot in 50 states.

MADDOW: You live tweeted last night`s debate. I read a bunch of those
tweets. A little sarcasm there. A little frustration. You posted about
it on Facebook. Your Facebook post about the Republican debate was the
single most viewed Facebook post of any Facebook post about the debate by
anyone, but that debate went on for more than three hours, had 23 million
people watching. Combine it with the 24 million people who watched the
first debate. Are you concerned that Republican candidates are getting
that much air time, that much opportunity to articulate their ideas, that
much attention, with no equivalent for the Democratic candidates?

SANDERS: I think that is a very legitimate concern, and from day one, I
didn`t think it was a good idea to limit the debates to six. Rachel, we
live in a country where in the last election, 63 percent of the American
people didn`t vote. My guess is a majority of the people don`t know which
party controls the Senate or the House. Public consciousness is not
terribly high, and debates are a means for us to get out, talk about real
issues and show the difference between the candidates. But mostly talk
about the need for people to be involved in the political process. Because
if they`re not involved, if ordinary people are not involved, the
billionaire class will continue to dominate what goes on in this country.

MADDOW: You turned out these big crowds, you inspired 200,000 volunteers.
You move people. If that does not translate this year into you winning the
nomination, and I hear you when you`re saying you`re in it to win it, and I
believe you. If you don`t win the nomination, will you lead those people
or try to inspire those people to do something else?

SANDERS: Yes. I don`t know if it`s me as a leader, but what I believe
from the bottom of my heart, and I say this every time I speak to people.
Let me repeat it here . Bernie Sanders cannot do it alone. Yes, I`m
running to win. I want to win, and I think I can be a great president.
But no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can take on Wall
Street, corporate America, the corporate media, the Koch brothers, all the
big money interests, unless there`s a mobilized force of millions and
millions of people who stand together and say, you know what, hey,
government has got to work for all of us, not just the wealthiest people in
this country. That`s what I believe from the bottom of my heart.

MADDOW: We`ll be right back with more with Senator Bernie Sanders in just
a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN CARSON, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vaccines are very important.
Certain ones, the ones that will prevent death or crippling. There are
others, a multitude of vaccines which probably don`t fit in that category,
and there should be some discretion in those cases.

TRUMP: You take this little beautiful baby and you pump, I mean, it looks
just like it`s meant for a horse, not for a child. And we`ve had so many
instances. People that work for me just the other day, two years old, two
and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine,
and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very
sick, now is autistic. I only say it`s not -- I`m in favor of vaccines.
Do them over a longer period of time. Same amount.

CARSON: It is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a
period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that. And I
think are cutting down on the number and the proximity in which those are
done.

TRUMP: And that`s all I`m saying.

PAUL: I`m all for vaccines, but I`m also for freedom. I`m also a little
concerned about how they`re bunched up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I don`t know who won last night`s Republican debate, but I know
that the American Academy of Pediatrics think they lost, or at least that
America`s infants lost, because of the anti-vaccine conspiracy theories
that were put forth in last night`s debate by front runner Donald Trump,
and then basically supported by the two medical doctors up there on the
dais as well, Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Ben Carson. You can see the
American Academy of Pediatrics freaking out during the debate as the
candidates went down that conspiracy theory rabbit hole on vaccines. The
American Academy of Pediatrics started tweeting out basically, no, no, no,
they got this wrong, don`t listen to this. They put out a formal statement
about why vaccines are important and they don`t cause autism. They
distributed a video of a pediatrician explaining why it`s important to take
them on the right schedule, instead of spacing them out like Dr. Trump
said, and the other actual doctors there last night.

So let`s turn now to the Democratic front runner in New Hampshire, and
maybe in Iowa too, Senator Bernie Sanders. I want to get your reaction to
that last night. That was one of the, I mean, it made me feel like last
night`s Republican debate was like a public health hazard in addition to
everything else it was.

SANDERS: Well, actually, over the years people of Vermont have met with me
on this issue. I think the evidence is overwhelming that vaccines do not
cause autism. And it really is a little bit weird for Trump, who has as I
presume, no medical background, to be raising an issue. And obviously it
is a concern, because when somebody like that says it, you`re going to find
thousands of people now who are going to hesitate to give their kids the
shots, and bad things may happen.

MADDOW: On terms of the relationship between Democrats and Republicans at
this point in this national discussion that we`re having. Early on in the
process, you and I talked about your proposal. I think it was back in
June, that Democrats and Republicans should start debating each other now.
Even before the Republican primary process is done. Are you still into
that idea?

SANDERS: Absolutely. I think the more debates, the merrier. I`ll tell
you what I think. I think that Republicans get away with murder. Because
they are never challenged. Last night -- I have to tell you, I did quit
after two and a half hours. The energy was just sucked out of my body. I
was exhausted watching this stuff.

In terms of the major issues facing America, did you hear one word from
anybody who said, well, you know, climate change is a real threat to the
planet, we need bold action? No. Did you hear one person say, well, the
real value of the minimum wage has declined significantly over the years,
we need to raise the minimum wage? No. Did you hear one person say one
word about 30 million Americans not having any health insurance, and the
United States being the only major country in the world that doesn`t
provide health care to all people or family or medical leave? One word?
Was there one word in terms of what the American people want asking the
rich and large corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes? Not
one word. And in terms of immigration, which you did hear a whole lot
about, the majority of people believe there should be a process, a path
toward citizenship for undocumented people. Not one of those guys had
anything to say in support of that concept.

MADDOW: You went to Liberty University this week. Very ideologically
unfriendly territory. You were, I listened to the speech, you were very
respectful to your audience. They greeted you very respectfully.

SANDERS: Yes, they did.

MADDOW: They heard you respectfully. With Donald Trump so dominant in the
Republican field, I wonder if you are starting to think about a plan for
trying to appeal to people who think of themselves not as liberals, not
even as centrists, but as moderate conservatives that usually think of
themselves as Republicans, but they cannot stomach somebody like Mr. Trump
as their nominee. Do you have a crossover appeal?

SANDERS: Absolutely. And, Rachel, to the best of my knowledge in the
state of Vermont, we got about 25 percent of the Republican vote. Why is
that? Because people say, okay, I disagree with Bernie on women`s rights.
I disagree with Bernie on gay rights. Okay. But you know what? I believe
he is fighting for my kids and for my parents and for the rights of the
middle class. And you see a lot of those folks saying, I disagree with
him, but I`m going to vote for them.

Now, you`re absolutely right. The folks at Liberty University were
extremely gracious and respectful. And here was my simple point to them.
You guys are a religious group of people. You are concerned about
morality. Let`s put it on the table. I disagree with you on abortion
rights. I disagree with you on gay rights. End of discussion.

How do we come together? Isn`t it a moral issue that in America today, we
are seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same
time as we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country
on earth? Isn`t that a moral issue?

MADDOW: Even if you`re a conservative, you would see that as a moral
issue.

SANDERS: Absolutely. It is. I think many of them are saying yes. And
we`ve gotten some wonderful responses from some of the evangelicals. Isn`t
it a moral issue? Listen to what the pope says, what other religious
leaders, evangelicals say, about destroying this planet in terms of climate
change. These people understand it. They see it as God`s earth and it
should be protected. And yet you have Republicans out there, not one of
them believing that we have to move aggressively to save the planet. Yes,
I think we can reach out in a respectful way, understanding there are very
important issues we disagree on. Let`s go forward together where we can
find common ground.

MADDOW: We have got more with Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential
candidate, Bernie Sanders, right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: We have a problem in this country, it`s called Muslims. We know
our current president is one. You know he`s not even an American.

TRUMP: We need this question.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to
kill us. That`s my question. When can we get rid of them?

TRUMP: We`re going to be looking at a lot of different things, and you
know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that
bad things are happening out there. We are going to be looking at that and
plenty of other things. OK, go ahead, yes, ma`am, go ahead.

QUESTION: You know, I definitely have to ask you a good veteran question.
Welcome first of all to New Hampshire. Donald, last night was a disgrace.
CNN did not touch on any of the issues that are going on with veterans
health care.

TRUMP: It`s true. It`s true. I actually asked them about that. There
wasn`t one question relating to the veterans. That`s true.

QUESTION: Did anyone even ask them why -- I know that`s a Clinton news
network. Is it they don`t like veterans or?

TRUMP: You know what, there was not one question relating to that, and not
too much on the military, by the way, but nothing relating to the veterans.
Those days, believe me, are over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was earlier this evening, Republican presidential front
runner Donald Trump in New Hampshire asked about President Obama being a
Muslim and the need to go get the Muslims because we have a Muslim problem
in this country. Mr. Trump said we`ll be looking into that. Profiles in
courage there.

But then the follow-up question you just heard there about veterans. And
Mr. Trump also had no answer for that. That really is a question worth
getting an answer to.

We`re back with Senator Bernie Sanders, who is our guest tonight for the
interview. Senator, I want to ask you about veterans issues. In part,
because even though support for veterans is usually a pretty nonpartisan
thing, there are some particularly radical takes on veterans issues among
leading Republican candidates this year. Their frontrunner this week did
an event on a battleship with a group that he said represented hundreds of
thousands of veterans. In fact, it`s a group that no real veterans
organizations have heard of. They apparently have no membership. FEC
filings show them to have $30 in the bank and there`s only one person
associated with the group. The IRS recently revoked their nonprofit
status. Mr. Trump says now that that event on that battleship with that
one guy from that organization means he has veterans support. Mr. Trump
also has no platform whatsoever on veterans issues. And that comes as
several other candidates on the Republican side, including the guy running
second, Ben Carson, say they want to abolish the VA. They want to
privatize the VA.

You just finished up a term as chairman of Veterans Affairs in the Senate.
What is your response to the Republican positioning on this issue?

SANDERS: It`s an outrage. I was chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee
for two years. We managed to pass actually a bipartisan bill for some $17
billion to improve VA health care and some other issues. I introduced what
was called the most comprehensive and boldest of veterans legislation in
modern history, which got us the support of the VFW and the American Legion
and the DAV, and many of the major veterans organizations. We only got two
Republican votes in the Senate to pass that.

Here is the bottom line. As a nation, I think we understand now what we
didn`t always understand. You don`t blame the men and women who put their
lives on the line for the wars they`re fighting in. All right? We didn`t
always know that I think back in Vietnam. I voted against the war in Iraq.
That was one of the best votes I ever cast. But I have also worked day and
night to make sure that the men and women from all of our wars get the
health care and the other benefits to which they are entitled. And in some
ways, we`re making progress. In some ways, we`re not. But absolutely the
answer is not to privatize the VA. The answer is to strengthen it.

MADDOW: I remember talking to you about the scandal in the VA of wait
times and VA facilities lying about wait times, while that scandal was
emerging, you were supportive of General Eric Shinseki staying as the head
of the VA long time after some veterans groups and some other people were
really calling for his head. Now that he is gone, do you think it was
right that he stepped down? Has Robert McDonald been doing any better
trying to fix the VA since then?

SANDERS: The answer is I think McDonald is trying his very best to deal
with an enormous bureaucracy that is out there. One of the other things,
Rachel, which I learned as chairman, is it is very easy. The VA has 152
medical centers and some 800 community-based outreach clinics. Every day
there`s a problem. But every day there`s a problem in any and every
medical facility in America. And if all you talk about are the negative
things, then people get a certain view of the VA.

When I was chairman, I had all of the major veterans organizations in front
of me. American Legion, all of them. And I said, tell me, when veterans
get into the VA, do you think the quality of care is good? And they said,
it`s good to excellent. And that`s how most veterans feel.

Now, what we try to do and have done is put $5 billion into the VA to
increase the number of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel they
need, so that we can make sure never again will veterans be put on long
waiting lines.

MADDOW: Because of those long waiting lines, though, because of the
scandal, because of the things the VA hasn`t done right, that`s a big
political opening now for the right to try to kill the VA. Is that a
concerted effort?

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Of course it is. It`s the same attack -- look, same thing with
the Postal Service. There`s a desire to -- I`ve been very involved in this
issue, to privatize the Postal Service. The same thing with Social
Security. To privatize or cut Social Security and Medicare. Look at what
the Koch brothers and these guys believe. They don`t believe in
government. That is their underlying philosophy. Yes, they don`t believe
in public education. So there is a concerted attack against every major
public institution from the VA to Social Security on down.

MADDOW: Vermont Senator and Democratic candidate for president of the
United States, Bernie Sanders. You did not know you would be at this point
in your campaign when you launched it. And I know, because I can tell. I
didn`t know. It is a remarkable thing as a liberal to see the success
you`re having and the resonance your message is having. And I don`t know
what`s going to happen in the campaign long term, but good luck to you in
the long-term.

MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: OK, two things still to come tonight. The first is Steve
Kornacki, yey!

The second is that there`s going to be another big Republican presidential
debate thing tomorrow. It`s a debate-like thing. It`s not technically a
debate, but yes, in case you didn`t get enough, and the details of it are
kind of stunning. We`ve got more ahead. Stay with us tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[21:51:55] SANDERS: One of the excited aspects of what`s happening right
now is I think we have close to 200,000 volunteers. And this stuff is
sprouting up all over the country. I read about it in the papers. We
didn`t organize and a lot of this is spontaneous and it`s very moving to
me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on the show just moments ago.

Joining us now is my colleague Steve Kornacki, the host of "Up" with Steve
Kornacki, right here on MSNBC.

Hey, Steve.

STEVE KORNACKI, HOST, "UP": How are you doing, Rachel?

MADDOW: Good. So I know you heard the Bernie Sanders interview. Your
political, professional opinion on where he stands in this race right now.
It`s really interesting for me to hear him say that it`s a moving
experience, that he didn`t expect this, that he was shocked. What do you
make of it?

KORNACKI: Yes, I know. I thought it was interesting to hear him say that,
too. And I think a lot of people are shocked looking at this. I mean,
it`s hard to believe just 4 or 5 months ago, it was controversial to say
that hey, maybe Bernie Sanders has a better shot against Hillary than
Martin O`Malley. And look where we are right now. And now the fact that
he`s leading in some of these early states.

So I think if you play it out a little bit. Let`s say he`s able to sustain
the strength that he has right now in Iowa, to sustain the strength in New
Hampshire. You look at two things.

First of all, there`s always this battle that takes place between the
establishment candidate and the insurgent. Obama played insurgent role in
`08. Howard Dean played the insurgent role back, you know, in 2004 and on
and on and on.

It`s never happened that the insurgent candidate has gone in and won the
first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire. You go back like 1984. Walter
Mondale wins Iowa. Gary Hart wins New Hampshire. Now we have our race.

You know, in 2000, you had Al Gore, the establishment candidate, he beats
Bill Bradley in those first two states. That ends the race on the spot.
It`s never happened that the insurgent wins both of those.

MADDOW: Both Iowa and New Hampshire.

KORNACKI: So, yes, I`m torn looking at this between two possible scenarios
here. One is a world in which Bernie Sanders actually pulls that off. And
right now, you look at it and say, it`s plausible that he could pull that
off.

Is that a world where there`s such panic and there`s such chaos that things
crumble for Hillary Clinton down the line because the flipside is when you
look down the line, the states that Hillary Clinton`s campaign is pointing
to right now, the southern states, the super Tuesday states, the SEC
primary states, these are states where traditionally the establishment
candidate has faired very well. The establishment candidate tends to get
overwhelming support from black voters. Black voters loom so large in the
south. So that`s her firewall. So those two things are sort of in
conflict with each other.

MADDOW: In terms of the candidates -- in terms of those two candidates
facing off against each other, how much do they need to trim their sales or
think about their strategy in light of a possible entry from Joe Biden?

I mean, I personally -- if you want my personal opinion, I don`t believe
that Vice President Biden is going to get in. I just don`t feel like he`s
going to. I have nothing to base that on because I don`t think he knows if
he`s going to get in.

But they have to be planning differently because there is a possibility he
might jump?

KORNACKI: Yes. It complicates things very much. In terms of if you`re
looking at where Biden is taking the support from right now, it`s coming a
little bit from the Sanders side. It`s coming a little bit from the
Hillary side. It`s not clear that he`s drawing just from one.

The problem here, I think this is more of a problem for Biden to think
about, too, is this. If you take the national polls right now, Hillary,
Biden, Sanders. If you add up the Sanders and Biden numbers, that`s enough
to give Hillary a lot of gain. I mean, they`re basically tied with her if
you add those together.

[21:55:40]So if you`re Joe Biden, you`re saying, my strategy has got to be
that I get what I have right now and I`ve got to fold in the Bernie Sanders
people. That`s a very tough thing to do when you look at how committed so
many of the Sanders voters, specifically to Bernie Sanders.

So you would need a scenario if you`re Joe Biden, where basically, you take
out Bernie Sanders in those first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire.
Bernie Sanders is not considered a factor coming out of there, then you Joe
Biden get the one-on-one with Hillary. Maybe you inherit Biden -- Sanders
supporters. And then the big wild card if you really want to play this
out, the wild card for Biden would be how he can reverse that southern math
that usually favors the establishment.

Would in that scenario, President Obama, his boss, his close personal
friend, would President Obama see Joe Biden coming out of a New Hampshire
win and say, I`ll back you in South Carolina. That could change the math.

MADDOW: Right. Wow.

And just back to the president, listening to Bernie Sanders tonight,
thinking about any other candidate trying to inherit his supporters.
Trying to match the passion they have. It`s very hard to imagine that
being a transitive thing.

Steve Kornacki, host of, "Up," weekend mornings here on MSNBC.

Steve, thank you. I really appreciate it.

All right, we`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So was last night too short? Was five straight hours of
Republicans talking not enough for you? If that`s how you feel then I`ve
got good news for you, you weirdo. Because the Republican candidates are
going to square off again tomorrow night in an event that has an even
longer format.

I am not kidding.

It`s a "Heritage Action for America" forum. Tomorrow in South Carolina.
It is scheduled to last six hours. Sadly, even though, it is in South
Carolina, Heritage Action has decided that home state South Carolina
Senator Lindsey Graham is not polling well enough to qualify so they will
not let him in, but most of the rest of the field will be there including
Donald Trump who, weirdly, even though everybody else has normal headshots
in their promo materials.

For this event, he has been cast as some sort of raptor. That`s a terrible
picture. That`s six hours of Republicans talking is on top tomorrow in
South Carolina just in case that`s what you needed.

That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow, now it`s time
for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell.

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

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