Guest: Chris Kofinis, Ric Dyer, Matt Whitton, Lawrence Korb, Howard Fineman, Rob Boston
RACHEL MADDOW, GUEST HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The presumptuous nominee, John McCain kind of sort of forgets he‘s only running for president.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I may be so bold, there was another president.
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MADDOW: And, as the crisis in the Black Sea continues, McCain plays “pretend cabinet” and dispatches Joe Liebermann and Lindsey Graham to Georgia, on the heels of a real diplomatic visit by the actual American secretary of state.
McCain‘s campaign is sending mixed messages abroad. Is this what “country first” looks like? Lawrence Korb joins us.
He‘s back. After telling us we‘re a “nation of whiners” and the economic crisis is all in our heads, after stepping down as McCain‘s national campaign co-chair, Phil Gramm returns to the campaign trail claiming this time, he‘s just a grassroots supporter—one who gets front-row seating and a loving shoutout from the candidate himself. I guess that exile to Minsk was short lived.
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MCCAIN: I think Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus.
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MADDOW: The evangelical vote. Obama and McCain set to appear this weekend at a Christian forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren.
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PASTOR RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: People of faith want more than just to hear that they know the lingo and know the language, they want to know what‘s your world view.
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MADDOW: Will the candidates‘ test of faith test the waters among the religious right? Will Obama be the candidate who separates the religious from the right?
Unfit for publication. The Obama camp issues a 41-page rebuttal, debunking Jerome Corsi‘s latest hit job book, the “Obama Nation.” Are they hitting back hard enough?
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PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.
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MADDOW: While attempting to scold Russia, the president makes a powerful case against himself and his own presidency. You can‘t make this stuff up.
But is this made up?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now the best Bigfoot trackers in the world.
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MADDOW: These two men claim the hairy corpse stuck in their freezer is indeed Sasquatch. Have we finally found Bigfoot?
All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) hell lot of years (ph).
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MADDOW: Good evening. This is Friday, August 15th, 81 days until the 2008 presidential election. Unless, of course, they‘ve already held the election and the only person who knows the outcome is the winner, our new and current secret president, America‘s 44th president, Senator John McCain.
Our number five story: The presumption and perils. Politically and geopolitically, in John McCain‘s custom of acting as if he already picks up his mail at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Last night, for instance, McCain announced a fact-finding trip to Georgia. Not his own, but that of two U.S. senators who happen to be among his strongest supporters and busiest campaigners—Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham routinely join John McCain on the campaign trail even overseas.
So, when McCain announced their trip, it certainly sounded as if they were going as his presidential envoys. Especially since, just the night before, President—excuse me—Senator McCain admitted to what he called boldness in referring to President Reagan as, quote, “another president” before quickly correcting himself.
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MCCAIN: If I may be so bold, there was another president. At one time, there was a president in Ronald Reagan, who spoke so strongly about America‘s advocacy for democracy and freedom.
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MADDOW: McCain even issued his first statement on Russia‘s military action before the White House did.
Given McCain‘s mockery of Barack Obama as a candidate “who didn‘t know his place, his own trip abroad looked too presidential,” McCain‘s own foreign policy freelancing has invited similar criticisms of him.
MSNBC‘s political team weighing in with audacity watch today while ABC pegged not just pretend “President McCain” but also pretend “Secretary of State Lieberman” and pretend “Defense Secretary Graham.”
A political presumptuousness that might not be so problematic where it were not, (A), the dangers of sending mixed messages about America‘s intentions during a volatile, ongoing foreign policy flash point, if it were not for (B), the fact that McCain‘s pro-Georgian saber rattling despite actual that shortfall of actual sabers just happens to be exactly what Georgia paid for when they paid the lobbyist, Randy Scheunemann, McCain‘s top foreign policy advisor, $800,000 to push Congress on their behalf. And were it not for ©, McCain‘s decidedly un-presidential habit, unless you want to sound like Reagan at his worst, of saying things like last night‘s dozy, unchallenged about Georgia and foreign policy supposedly McCain‘s great strength.
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MCCAIN: My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War.
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MADDOW: No serious crisis in New York City, Washington and Shanksville. No serious crisis in Afghanistan and Pakistan. No serious crisis that McCain helped create in Iraq.
We‘re joined now by Lawrence Korb who served President Reagan as assistant secretary of defense and is now senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He‘s also an unpaid advisor to the Obama campaign.
Thank you very much for joining us, Dr. Korb.
LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Nice to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Today‘s “Washington Post” headline reads “McCain‘s focus on Georgia Raises Questions of Propriety.” What does McCain doing with regard to Georgia that is raising questions of propriety?
KORB: Well, he‘s not just commenting on the situation, he is trying to make policy. I mean, after all, sending his two top advisors to Georgia, announcing “We are all Georgians,” himself communicating directly with the president of Georgia, really is not just commenting, it‘s actually trying to make policy and trying to move this country in a certain direction.
MADDOW: That same “Washington Post” article quoted you today talking about the risk of sending mixed messages to foreign governments. What is the statecraft rule of thumb on that as an issue and what‘s the risk posed by violating that rule of thumb?
KORB: Well, whenever you have a crisis, we can only have one voice in the country. We have one president at the time, and what should happen is that he is the one sending the signal, sending the people around so that this country speaks with one voice. And what‘s happening is McCain actually spoke before Bush did and he‘s sending much stronger messages, almost like he‘s shooting from the hip to sending messages to Russia and Georgia, and it could be very dangerous if either side overreacts in this very, very delicate time.
MADDOW: John McCain, thus far in his presidential campaign, he has been delivering weekly radio addresses, as if he is president. He gave a speech, at one point, reflecting back on his fake first term in office—the 2013 speech. He‘s ran ads in which he is captioned as “President McCain.” All those things are less substantive than what he is doing with Georgia now. But, do all of those things together reflect a certain reckless attitude about the weight of the presidency?
KORB: Well, I think it‘s rather ironic because when he goaded Senator Obama into taking a trip overseas and then Senator Obama gave a speech in Berlin, he accused him of being presumptuous and acting presidential.
I‘m much more concerned with what he‘s done now to upset American foreign policy. I think voters can decide whether he‘s being presumptuous, for what he‘s doing is very dangerous for the security of this country.
MADDOW: When John McCain recently flat-out ruled out any use of force by the United States with regard to this Georgia and Russia conflict, while that‘s something that I don‘t think a lot of Americans would find controversial, was he out of bounds in ruling that out as if he is the one who gets it decide?
KORB: Well, again, this is not something he should be doing. I think it‘s correct to rule out their use of force, but I‘m not the president. This is something for the president to do. We don‘t know what messages that Secretary Rice is communicating to the Russians and to the Georgians.
And, you know, it‘s rather ironic since McCain is always arguing, particularly when it comes to Iran, “Well, you never want to take the military option off the table.” Well, here he is taking it off and could be undermining our leverage, particularly with the Russians.
MADDOW: One last question, Larry, and it‘s bit of a political question. I wonder if you see something contrary about McCain assuming this sort of fake presidential mantle this week now while Barack Obama was on vacation. In other words, if McCain only acts this way when Obama is not around, does that suggest that McCain is actually sort of acting more vice presidential than presidential?
KORB: Yes, he‘s sort of substituting. We‘ll see what happens when he has the meeting with Pastor Warren this weekend. You know, and Senator Obama is back on the stage. And, I think, this is what we really need to get back to, let‘s discuss the policy options of both candidates.
MADDOW: Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, formerly assistant defense secretary under President Reagan—thank you for your time tonight.
KORB: Nice to be with you.
MADDOW: While pretend “President McCain” was busy dispatching pretend “Secretary of Defense Lindsey Graham” and pretend “Secretary of State Joe Lieberman” to Georgia, another member of the pretend pre-cabinet made a surprise appearance last night. Pretend “Treasury Secretary Phil Gramm,” it was Gramm‘s first appearance with McCain since he supposedly left the campaign July 18th, after famously calling America “a nation of whiners.”
You may remember, McCain first kept Gramm on, and then dropped him as national campaign co-chair three days later. Fellow McCain advisor Steve Forbes told CNBC that Gramm is still advising McCain.
Why does it matter? Well, like Randy Scheunemann, Gramm is another lobbyist who has helped shape McCain policies that just happened to be in line with their clients. In Gramm‘s case, defending banks from laws that might help homeowners in the mortgage crisis, a crisis Gramm himself contributed to by deregulating banks, much like he deregulated energy trading, a move even some Republicans admit let speculators drive up gas prices.
Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, also, the senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek.”
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, McCain supposedly bounced Gramm from his campaign, and now, Gramm is back openly in less than a month. Gramm‘s policy, Gramm‘s politics aside, what does this process tell us about McCain and his campaign?
FINEMAN: Well, I check with the McCain campaign leadership and they wanted to stress to me that the event that we‘re showing video here of is at the Aspen Institute, it wasn‘t a McCain event. It was an Aspen Institute event.
But, the fact is, if John McCain had been embarrassed to have Phil Gramm and Wendy Gramm sitting in the front row out there at the Aspen Institute, I‘m sure the people who run the Aspen Institute would have accommodated the wishes of John McCain and put Phil and Wendy in the back of the tent. They were right there in the front row.
So, I think the message that John McCain is sending, you know, “Don‘t worry, Phil, you‘re still in my heart and you‘re still giving me advice and, by the way, we have lot of money to raise, a lot of bundling to do between now and Labor Day. So, get at it.”
MADDOW: As you mentioned, Phil Gramm‘s wife, Wendy, was also there with him. She‘s, of course, a key figure in the Enron scandal, and really, both Gramms are exemplars of D.C.‘s revolving door, cashing in at big companies while, during or after holding a big political post that helps those big companies cash in.
Do you see the Democrats, either Obama specifically or the Democrats generally in this election cycle, heading towards a Sherrod Brown-style, Jim Webb-style populism that would give them room to rail against this as a form of corruption?
FINEMAN: Well, I think the Democrats are going to try. I think Obama‘s going to try. I think they‘ve talked a lot. As a matter of fact, the Obama campaign has an ad on now about the contributions that John McCain has received from oil industry sources as John McCain comes out with his drill, drill, drill, drill policy.
But it‘s tricky for the Democrats and it‘s tricky Obama because he‘s got his bundlers, too—they‘re not precisely the same ones, although there may be some that are the same, and the Obama campaign itself having foregone public financing for the fall campaign is increasingly relying on a lot of the big bundlers and contributors of the same stripe as McCain.
The question is—whether there are as many of these kinds of out-front lobbyists operating as policymakers in the Obama campaign and, frankly, I don‘t see any quite as out-front as people like, as people like Phil and Wendy Gramm.
MADDOW: That policymaking aspect is, I think, exactly the political key here. I mean, the word lobbyist is supposed to be one of the boring political words that people don‘t get excited about. But a politician who‘s bought and paid for, that‘s still a description that gets an exclamation point from the American people. I mean, the issue here is the policymaking issue aspect.
Gramm was writing economic policy for McCain, at the same time, he was a paid bank lobbyist. Scheunemann was writing foreign policy for McCain, at the same time, he was a paid foreign lobbyist.
Is it an ethic‘s issue for McCain, this impression that the agenda of this politician could be bought and paid for, rather than just a personnel issue?
FINEMAN: Well, it certainly could be. I think McCain would argue and he does argue that these are his policies to begin with, but that hasn‘t always been the case. He switched some policy positions and some money has flowed afterwards.
Now, what‘s the cause of connection? A lot of people would argue there would be some.
What I find fascinating especially bout the foreign policy angle here, Rachel, is that Randy Scheunemann is out there advocating for the Republic of Georgia for its interest, for the democratic government there, for the reformists in Georgia, basically the point of the launch (ph) of American policy in Georgia and it‘s become very much a part of this campaign.
McCain is hardly embarrassed by it, he‘s proud of it. He views the involvement of his aide in helping to shape American policy in Georgia as an extension of his political campaign here in the United States.
And I was at a McCain rally the other day in York, Pennsylvania, where basically McCain was proudly taking credit for being out ahead of the president of the United States in this policy because McCain thinks it‘s a way he can outmaneuver Obama and paint Obama as being afraid to use military force and now afraid to confront the Russian bear that has suddenly awakened in the east.
MADDOW: If McCain is going to be touting Scheunemann that way, it‘s up to the Obama campaign then to pin $800,000 price tag proudly on Scheunemann‘s suit.
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, you can expect them to try.
MADDOW: Yes, we‘ll see. Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek” magazine, thanks for joining us. Have a good weekend, Howard.
FINEMAN: You, too. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Next up: The battle for evangelicals. They are traditionally part of the Republican base, of course, but could Barack Obama win them over? He will get a chance tomorrow when the presidential candidates make their first joint appearance at a religious forum in California.
Also, the swift boating of Obama signs that the initial pushback by the Obama campaign may already be petering out.
And, is that a real big hairy Bigfoot corpse in your freezer or are you just happy to see me? The guys who claim to have found Bigfoot are going to be joining us live tonight.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
MADDOW: For the first time in this election, John McCain and Barack Obama will be sharing a stage at a forum on religion. Eight in 10 white evangelicals supported George W. Bush in ‘04, but could Obama be the Democrat who splits the religious from the right?
That‘s ahead on COUNTDOWN.
MADDOW: Bush/Rove era Republicans have been so effective for so long at using wedge issues to drive the religious right to the poles. It would be noble, at least, if a Democrat were able to drive even the tip of a wedge between the religious and the right.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Senator Barack Obama is trying to make his case to faith-based voters. He‘ll have a big, high-profile chance to do that tomorrow night when he and Senator John McCain appear for the first time together at the Saddleback Civil Forum. The two candidates are taking questions from the pastor of the nation‘s fourth largest congregation, Saddleback Church in Orange County, California.
Each candidate will be interviewed separately for an hour on issues of faith—abortion is expected to be a prime topic, but also, global poverty, AIDS, the Constitution, the presidency and the role of the U.S. in the world.
For McCain, the timing is intriguing since this week, conservatives rounded on him after he flew to the prospect of choosing a pro-choice running mate like former Homeland Security secretary, Tom Ridge or Senator Joe Lieberman of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party.
Senator Obama, meanwhile, is trying to cut into McCain‘s lead among white evangelical voters, which polling suggests he‘s softer, but not all that much softer than what President Bush had. Intriguingly, Obama already leads McCain among all faith-based groups other than evangelicals.
Now, as for Rick Warren, the pastor bringing these two candidates together, he‘s an evangelical heavy-hitter, writer of the book “Purpose Driven Life,” that he is seen by some fellow evangelicals as too willing to soft pedal issues like abortion. In an interview with Andrea Mitchell on “HARDBALL” tonight, he embraced a broader agenda.
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WARREN: I think a lot of people are kind of in the middle and say, “You know, I think this party gets this right and I think this party gets this right” and I think there‘s a common ground area that needs to be staked out, maybe that is post-partisan, that allows for people to look at the whole spectrum instead of just voting party lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Let‘s bring in senior policy analyst for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Rob Boston.
Hi, Rob. Thanks for joining us.
ROB BOSTON, AMERICANS UNITED: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: Do you think, honestly, that Senator Obama has a chance of earning the votes of a significant portion of white evangelical voters?
BOSTON: Well, if you look at some of the recent elections, they have been very close. He doesn‘t have to pull off that many to make a difference. Of course, the challenge is to find a way to do that that doesn‘t isolate the voters who consider themselves secularist because that‘s the significant bloc as well.
MADDOW: How significant a bloc is that? That‘s a term that you never hear in polling.
BOSTON: Yes. From the data I‘ve seen, it could account for as much as 10 percent to 15 percent of the electorate, which is not a number to be sneezed at.
MADDOW: How much of the prospects of Obama winning over religious voters, how much of that owes to a change in the thinking of religious voters and how much of it owes to Obama‘s particular appeal, the policies he supports, the way he‘s campaigning?
BOSTON: I think it‘s a little bit of both. We are hearing a lot these days about so-called new breed of younger evangelicals who aren‘t so interested in the old issues of opposing abortion and opposing gay rights and same-sex marriage. Supposedly, these folks want to move on, they want to adopt environmentalism and poverty and fight AIDS around the world.
This may be, you know, a media phenomenon or maybe something real, I think, it‘s a little early to tell. I think, the religious right, as it‘s been traditionally, constitute, still has good bit of strength left and still has a kick but there‘s definitely attention there. The old guard versus this younger breed and it‘s really too early to tell how that‘s going to shake out.
MADDOW: We saw some of those politics in action this week that the McCain campaign seeming to float this trial balloon on a vice presidential pick who is not pro-choice. One Ohio activist, a guy named Phil Burress said, that choice will end his bid for the presidency and spell defeat for other Republican candidates, even threatening down ticket Republican politicians if McCain shows somebody who was pro-choice.
If the evangelical voters make up 20 percent or 25 percent of the electorate, what proportion of those are single-issue voters that would see an issue like abortion as a litmus test?
BOSTON: You know, a guy like Phil Burress is a representative of that old guard that I talked about a moment ago. I‘m familiar with him and what he believes and that‘s where he comes from. Now, these guys huff and they puff and they make a lot of noise but at the end of the day, I think what McCain was counting is that on Election Day, they really don‘t have anywhere else to go.
I mean, you could vote for Bob Barr, I guess, but everybody knows that he‘s not going to do very well and the other third-party candidates out there. The fact is that what McCain is, I think, hinging on is this sort of fear of Obama that‘s very prominent among the religious right groups right now. If you look at their Web sites and read their publications, as I do on a daily basis, you just see that they‘re really building this guy up as this, really, just awful force and not somebody you want to let to replace John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court.
MADDOW: Rob, do you think that the forum that‘s going to take place tomorrow in Orange County, the Saddleback Church forum, do you think a forum like that is a good idea? Do you think having the two presidential candidates meet on the same stage, if only for a moment, together for the first time in this general election campaign, at a forum on faith, is the kind of thing that undermines the traditional and constitutional division between church and state?
BOSTON: I think there‘s simply too much religion in our political system. We‘ve been through this already. We had these types of forums. We know what these guys believe. We know they‘re Christians, we know they go to church.
If you look at the polling data, the average American are saying the things that they‘re concerned about are energy prices, the mortgage crisis, the war in Iraq, the recession, are they going to be able to keep their jobs—real bread and butter issues, you know, paying the bills. They go back and talk about God again and Jesus and the Christianity and the Bible and ask what your favorite Bible verse and get into all that. We‘ve been there and we‘ve done that. I think the average American is saying, “OK, I‘m satisfied. Let‘s move on to some really more pressing issues.”
MADDOW: Rob Boston, senior policy analyst for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Thanks for joining us tonight.
BOSTON: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Just so you know, MSNBC will have complete coverage of tomorrow‘s forum at the Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern with a special edition of “HARDBALL” followed at 6:00 by the “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE” and then another edition of “HARDBALL,” then the forum itself live from 8:00 until 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
This tip for would-be felons—if you‘re trying to rob a bar and get away with it, probably best not to give your name to the authorities and then return to the bar. Oddball ahead.
And the same guy who wrote a pack of lies about Senator John Kerry is out with a new pack of lies about Senator Barack Obama. How well is the Obama campaign responding? That‘s ahead.
But first, the headlines breaking in the current administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed!
Number three: Pay no attention to the war-gate. Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would require the Department of Defense to grant the press access to ceremonies honoring fallen military personnel. The bill was introduced by Congressman Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Since the start of the Afghanistan war in 2001, Bush‘s Defense Department has prohibited photographs of flag-draped caskets arriving home on American soil, even when military families wanted press coverage.
Number two: Rendition-gate. Under the practice of extraordinary rendition, a Canadian man, Maher Arar was detained by U.S. authorities at JFK Airport in 2002. He was flown to Syria, jailed and tortured. He was later cleared of any terrorist links whatsoever by a Canadian court. But a three-judge panel in New York dismissed Arar‘s lawsuit against the U.S. government.
Now, the second circuit court of appeals has surprised everyone by announcing that Arar will get a rare second chance to challenge the administration. The case seeks damages from among others, former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Homeland Security chief and current McCain vice presidential shortlister, Tom Ridge.
And, number one: Do as I say, not as I do-gate. President Bush addressed the Russia/Georgia conflict again today, in prepared remarks, he stressed that the U.S. and our allies, quote, “stand with the people of Georgia and their democratically-elected government.” Fair enough. But then the zinger—quote, “With its actions in recent days, Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world. Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century,” end quote.
Right, Mr. President. Right. That‘s what we‘ve been saying.
MADDOW: Best persons in a moment, and an instance of actual blind luck. First, though, it was on this date in 1969 in Bethel, New York when hundreds of thousands of hippies got naked and did brown acid on Max Yazger‘s (ph) farm on the first day of the Woodstock Musical Festival. Musical acts from day one included Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez, which sounds like a great start, but tell that to all the bored, impatient Shanana fans, who had to wait to see their heroes until the second to last performance on the last day of the festival. Bummer, man. Let‘s play Oddball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We begin at the Junkanoo Restaurant and Bar in Ft. Myers, Florida, with surveillance video of a Mr. Christopher Kron (ph), who had a hankering for some booze Tuesday night, and decided to let himself into the bar after it was closed. Upon gaining entry, Kron set off an alarm. And when the security company called the bar, Kron answered the phone, gave his real name and the wrong security password. Kron was able to make off with a bottle of Grand Marnier before the law showed up. But his flight from justice ended when he returned to the same bar for a drink the next day and was promptly arrested. Now he will be shaking his side bars behind bars in the pokey.
To Edinburough, Scotland now, where a penguin named Nils Olaf (ph), the colonel in chief of the Norwegian King‘s Guard, is reviewing his troops. Move it, you disgusting fat bodies. If you don‘t think this makes any sense, you‘re right, it doesn‘t. For some reason, the Norwegian‘s King Guard has had a Scottish penguin for a mascot for decades. The penguin reviews the troops annually when they visit him at Edinburough. This year, at the end of the review, the penguin was knighted, with the sword on the shoulders and the whole deal.
Next up for Sir Nils Olaf, presumably John McCain will airlift him into South Ossetia to sort out this whole Georgia/Russia deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Coming up, Senator Obama under attack from the Swift Boat smear merchants. Has his campaign learned the right lesson from Senator John Kerry‘s 2004 mistakes?
And is this Bigfoot or is it just another monkey suit slathered with fake intestines? Those stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best reason to do your drinking at home. Jennifer Lynn Rosenberg of Long View, Texas, needing a lift to a local bar ahead of her birthday celebration, did what any responsible, soon to be intoxicated adult would have. She had her 12-year-old daughter give her a ride. The preteen was picked up by police after sideswiping a house. She then led cops back to the bar where mom was arrested and given a lift directly to the big house.
Number two, best case of blind luck, literally, Roanoke, Indiana‘s Bobby Guffey. Usually he plays a combination of Lottery numbers representing the birth dates of his five children. Earlier this month, Guffey purchased a ticket without the aid of his forgotten bifocals. In a myopic haze, he misread one of the digits, entering 48 in place of his usual 46. And you guessed it, he hit the jackpot for three million smackeroos. He said his wife told him, it pays to be blind. To be fair, the better lesson here, it pays to be forgetful and extremely lucky.
Number one, best public service announcement. There‘s a rash of virus-laden e-mails filling in-boxes across the inter-webs these days, tagged breaking news from MSNBC.com. The fine folks who run our website did not send these things to you. Whatever you do, do not think about opening these e-mails. They‘re as legitimate as the Spam you probably already receive from those jokers at BillOReilly.com, only a whole lot funnier.
Reading from the subject line of some recently received bulletins:
“breaking news, Paris Hilton tosses dwarf on the street,” and “breaking News, I ate all the pies, man confesses.” Finally, “breaking news, new economic stimulus package includes goat.” That last one about the goat, almost irresistible, I know. Just don‘t go spending all your new goat in one place.
MADDOW: There‘s something about a hard cover book that connotes authority, sourcing, evidence. It‘s a symbolism imprinted in your developing brain from your first encounter with Encyclopedia Brown. and Therein lies the problem. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Barack Obama‘s campaign facing off against Jerome Corsi, who penned “Unfit for Command,” igniting the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry in 2004, not to mention his last book-length crusade against Bush‘s secret plan to merge the U.S. into Mexico. Yes, whatever.
True to form, Corsi‘s new trashy tone has a posted a forceful and lengthy response from Obama‘s campaign, a 40-page document rebutting no fewer than 50 of Corsi‘s lies. Because we can all use some comic relief at the end of a long week, here are six of our favorites. First up, quote, “no where in the autobiography does Obama disclose that his wife-to-be accompanied him to Africa in the 1992 trip.”
Corsi must have skipped page 439 in “Dreams From my Father.”
Next up, “Obama devotes the entire second chapter of his autobiography to his time in Indonesia, but makes no reference to Maya‘s birth?”
Then what‘s that on page 47, “mother, Lolo and,” look, “Maya.”
Next, “Obama didn‘t dedicate the book to is his mother or father or Indonesian stepfather. Missing from the dedication are the grandparents who raised him in Hawaii.”
Roman Numeral XVII, “it is to my family that I owe the deepest gratitude, and to whom I dedicate this book.”
Next, “according to the blog, his religion was listed as Islam.”
Which blog not the issue here. Fact is, Obama‘s parents registered his father‘s faith, not his own.
Next Mr. Corsi, “the year 1995 was a banner one for Obama. He had just married Michelle and the couple bought a Hyde Park condo, the first home Obama ever owned.”
Wrong again, the wedding was in 1992 and the real estate purchase was in 1993. Doh!
Also Corsi sites right wing blogger Ron Kessler‘s claim that he and Obama were present at one lavishly quoted, controversial Jeremiah Wright sermon. Sorry there, again, Jerome. Obama was actually giving a speech in Florida that afternoon and did not attend Wright‘s church that day.
When we need to talk political public relations, we turn to Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist and one-time communications director for John Edwards. Chris, I hope that Jerome Corsi fact checking didn‘t make your eyes roll back in your head. I‘m sorry.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it was definitely a very good read. What is amazing about this is when you—you know, you look at Corsi, this is a fellow who has become the poster child for lies and smears. He did in 2004 against Senator Kerry and he‘s doing it again. You know, I would say he should be ashamed, but, unfortunately, I‘m not sure he has a soul, because evidently he sold his soul in order to get this book published.
It‘s just a tragic irony here. I think the Obama campaign did a very smart thing. They didn‘t just go out there and say, these are lies and falsehoods. They went out in excruciating detail and made it very clear all the various mistakes, falsehoods and gross distortions in this book. It‘s unfortunate that this kind of stuff gets any press attention, but it‘s the reality of the world that we live in that this book is being pushed by the right wing as heavily as it is.
MADDOW: They learned in 2004 that nobody has the luxury of ignoring these things anymore, if you want to take account of their political impact. The big question, though—and I suppose this is an unknown, but I would love your take on it—does fact checking really matter? Are the rumors more potent than the facts in any case? Are they really counting on people to read a 40-page PDF document?
KOFINIS: The facts do matter. It may some Polly-Annish to some, but I think the last thing you want to do is just go out there in some kind of whimsical way and say this is a book that is all lies. What they did, and I think this is a very smart move, they went out there and dissected that book and a proved that a guy that goes out there and says the federal government was behind 9/11; a guy that goes out there and smears the Catholic Church and the Pope; a guy that has gone out there and said all these misogynistic things has not written a book with any credibility, the exact opposite.
What they‘ve done is not only discredit this book, but help discredit this author. And I use that term very loosely.
MADDOW: Chris, I have a hard question for you here. Last night on this program, I sat here in Keith‘s chair and I proclaimed earnestly that the Obama campaign was shooting back with both barrels, you know, the 40-page response. I quoted their phrase that they would use all means at their disposal to push back against this. That was 24 hours ago. Today, honestly, they essentially dropped it. They did a big push back announcement, but then today not much actual push back. What do you make of that?
KOFINIS: Listen, the Obama campaign is in a Catch 22, and I understand that. The reality here is you go out there and you really unload both barrels every single day. You actually help make it more news, if you will. The other side is you also don‘t want to ignore it. I think they have kind of broken this down into steps. Step one was obviously putting out the booklet, you know, discrediting all these falsehoods, very smart thing to do. I think step two is, obviously, mobilizing their surrogates and others that are going out there and have gone out there to discredit this author and this book.
And I think step three, and I think this is probably the next phase of this, and I would recommend it, is to hit John McCain, and hit him hard. John McCain went out there, as we all know, and said he was going to run an honorable campaign. This is not an honorable thing what this book is doing. He should go out there and publicly disavow and condemn it. If he doesn‘t, it really is a statement as to who he really is and what kind of candidate he has become.
MADDOW: One last question, Chris. It‘s about one specific surrogate for the Obama campaign. John Kerry is fighting back with his own blog in response to this. And, of course, there‘s symbolism there because of Kerry himself being Swift Boated. But there also this practical decision to have a surrogate do this work. Is Kerry the right guy to do this for Obama?
KOFINIS: Yes, it‘s the right call. Unfortunately, Senator Kerry knows better than anyone the consequences of being Swift Boated and not responding very significantly and vigorously. I think it‘s a very smart thing that they‘re utilizing him in this fashion. The other part to this, which I think is very key, it‘s going to really make it very clear to the base the stakes in this election and that you have to fight back and you‘ve got to hit back with extreme prejudice. This is not the end. This is not going to be then end of the attacks, unfortunately, just the beginning. That‘s the way it is.
MADDOW: Chris Kofinis, former communications director for the Edwards campaign. Thanks for joining us, Chris.
KOFINIS: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: One financially troubled old celebrity gets rescued by another totally unrelated celebrity. Keeping tabs is on it.
And two hunters say they found Bigfoot and they even say they have DNA evidence. Evidence of what exactly? We‘ll put their claims to the test. It‘s all ahead on COUNTDOWN.
MADDOW: Time now for our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, Keeping Tabs. COUNTDOWN‘s criteria for so-called tabloid grist is, of course, that it contains a hard news angle. And so it was that when the California Supreme Court gave same-sex couples the right to marry, producers here at 30 Rock were poised to report the first officiated same-sex celebrity pairing. As if on cue, Ellen Degeneres and her partner, Portia Derossi (ph), announced their intentions to tie the knot. Today, we learned that the ceremony will take place this weekend, a small, intimate affair for close friends and family.
Only, well, it seems that not even fame and fortune and being a political pioneer can mitigate the universality of wedding drama. Ellen herself betraying typical guest list anxiety today, quote, “planning a wedding is very stressful. It‘s crazy. My gardener is now invited.”
Chances are landscaping isn‘t high on Ed McMahon‘s priority list, although the entertainer‘s widely reported financial burden is about to get a lot lighter. Donald Trump, of all people, says he plans to buy the McMahon Mc-mansion, a cozy six bedroom abode in Beverly Hills, so that the 85-year-old TV personality can continue living there. McMahon was Johnny Carson‘s sidekick for decades. He is also known for being one of the diner guys in the commercial, ironically enough, for the New York Lottery.
McMahon defaulted on a 4.8 million dollar mortgage with Countrywide Financial. He faced foreclosure within two weeks. Exact figures are not available, but we do know this much, Trump ain‘t giving it away. Donald Trump, a one-time Ed McMahon fan, is now Ed McMahon‘s landlord.
Are these the remains of the legendary and mythical creature known as Bigfoot? We‘ll talk to the guys who found them next on COUNTDOWN.
MADDOW: It‘s been a summer chalk full of the advancement of monster urban legends. In July, a new one washed on to the shores of New York‘s Long Island. Dubbed the Montauk Monster, it could be a shaved dog or a good photo shop job. Either way, the beast‘s carcass is now missing. Earlier this week, out of Texas, came video evidence of what may be a Chupacabra, the goat-blood drinking, mythical beast running down a dirt highway. Again, possible shaved dog.
All that is child‘s play when it comes to the Grand-pappy of all urban legends. In our number one story, two Georgia hunters say they have recovered the corpse of a Sasquatch. The men held news conference today in California. They will join us here live in just a few moments.
First the details. Hunters Matt Whitton and Ric Dyer say last month they stumbled across the dead corpse of a Sasquatch in the north Georgian woods. You‘re looking at what the pair say is Big Foot in a cooler on ice. They say it‘s 7‘7. They say it weighs over 500 pounds. And it is definitely male.
The pair got out word of their find by releasing pictures on the web and posting videos on Youtube. In fact, in one video, hunter Matt Whitton speaks to a Dr. Paul Van Buren, a pathologist from Texas who confirmed the hunter‘s suspicion that the corpse was, indeed, Bigfoot. The only problem, Dr. Paul Van Buren turned out to be Matt Whitton‘s brother, not a doctor.
In a minute, we‘ll talk to the hunters who say they bagged the beast.
First, though, their news conference from this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that you did not call any kind of authorities, fish and game authorities or anything like that. Why did not not call any kind of authority figures?
MATT WHITTON, CLAIMS FOUND SASQUATCH: I didn‘t see any need to do that at the time. It seemed like it would create a frenzy. Of course, then there would be—I want to protect the species.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I‘m pleased to welcome the two men who say they have got Bigfoot on ice, Matt Whitton and Ric Dyer, fresh off their big news conference. Gentlemen, welcome. Thanks for joining us.
RIC DYER, CLAIMS FOUND SASQUATCH: Hey, how you doing?
MADDOW: Great, thank you. First off, why the Palo Alto press conference. Why not do this back in Georgia?
WHITTON: Well, we joined forces with the Bigfoot hunter, Tom Biscardi (ph). He‘s out here and everything‘s out in California. So we went ahead and came out here. And one other thing I wanted to clarify is we‘re not hunters. We were just hiking in the woods when we discovered this.
MADDOW: OK. Matt, I have to ask you because I also said this in the set up. How do you explain pretending your brother was the pathologist from Texas. What was that about?
WHITTON: Yes, I heard that. That was actually something we had done because of the harassing phone calls and web threats that we had received. We did it to basically give the stalkers something to do for the weekend. If you look at some of our previous Youtube videos, you would also see that we have actually already had a picture of my brother up. It was pretty easy. And, of course, within 24 hours they did know it was my brother. But it just gave them something to do. We were just having a good time.
MADDOW: A red herring to put them off the trail. I hear you.
MADDOW: Where is the body now?
WHITTON: Well, it is in a safe house somewhere in the continental United States. We‘ve turned it over to the possession of Tom Biscardi and his team. It‘s going it be looked at by some scientists and there‘s going to be an autopsy done of it. And more developments could come about that.
MADDOW: I have to ask you about Tom Biscardi, whom you mentioned here. At the press conference today, he actually volunteered. He said it with his intention to make as much money as possible off this discovery. That has to be kind of worrying for you guys. Doesn‘t it?
WHITTON: Well, you know, he didn‘t volunteer it. There was actually a reporter who asked that question. And I think he handled the question pretty well. I mean, I do—I think we‘ll all three agree that we‘re not going to give away everything about this Bigfoot. But it wasn‘t disturbing to me. I thought the question was a little rude.
MADDOW: And, well, Rick, let me ask you, do you share that goal, to try to make as much money off this as possible?
MADDOW: It‘s good for you guys to be up front about it, I guess. Clears that up. Let me ask you this as well. Somebody from the costume website TheHorrorDome.com says they think the picture looks like their Sasquatch costume. What do either of you guys make of that claim?
WHITTON: Well, I just think it‘s interesting because, you know, whenever we didn‘t have a picture out, everyone said it was a hoax. When we put a picture out, everyone says it‘s a hoax. There‘s always going to be somebody out there and we‘ve seen that. You know, there‘s always going it be somebody out there that will doubt us. We‘ve got it. And just like I already went over a few minutes ago, there‘s going to be some scientists involved that are reputable.
DYER: If Bigfoot went and knocked on their door, they would say it‘s a hoax.
MADDOW: One last question, are you guys doing tours or any sort of commercial enterprises trying to get people to tour this area or these woods?
DYER: We‘re not making no money at all until this is proven to be 100 percent real.
MADDOW: Bigfoot finders Ric Dyer and Matt Whitton, congratulations on all you guys have done so far. Thank you for joining us.
WHITTON: Thank you.
DYER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good luck, you guys. That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,934th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Rachel Maddow, in for Keith Olbermann. You can catch me weeknights on Air America radio at 6:00 pm Eastern, except when I‘m here. Have a good night and a great weekend.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.