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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, September 8

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guest: Steve Benen, T.D. Jakes, Rosa Brooks, Pat Buchanan, Kent Jones

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Hi, Keith.  Thanks for helping me out here on night one.  And congratulations on your interview with Senator Obama tonight.

Welcome to the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW here on MSNBC.  We are very excited

about the new show; we will be getting to all of it.  We are beginning our special coverage tonight with a special guest here in studio, “COUNTDOWN’s” Keith Olbermann.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  It feels like I was just here.


MADDOW:  Thanks for sticking with us.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, sure.  Absolutely, anytime.

MADDOW:  I wanted to talk about your interview.


MADDOW:  I was struck by Senator Obama telling you that the McCain campaign is not telling the truth in its latest ad.  Essentially, he’s expressing a strong sentiment there, but expressing it in the gentlest possible term.


MADDOW:  But at the same time, in terms of his tune, he seems confident.  Do you think that he is confident that his tactics are going to change, or that his tactics are just magically going to start working?

OLBERMANN:  I don’t know.  I mean, it’s a great concern to a lot of people who think, you know, just—you don’t have to go out there and hit anybody over the head with anything, but one punch every once in a while would be a good idea.  And I think he did that in Denver a couple of times as we saw when we were out there.

The thing that I heard in there was that may have been a slip because he’s usually—he’s very well prepared.  You can hit him on almost any topic and he has a pretty good idea of what it is he wants to say.  But he mentioned something about we’re going to see what happens in this campaign and that we’re going to get to the debates.

And it’s like—I didn’t mention the debates, senator.  I was thinking of that on the back of my head, I think he is confident about going into those debates.  I think that’s what the premise is that he doesn’t—the one thing he wants to avoid is being perceived as beating up on an older man or a woman, I think.  And that’s the kind of, you know, trap that the Republicans have set for him.

MADDOW:  And so, you think the confidence is about what comes next in the campaign, not necessarily an undue confidence about where his tactics thus far have gotten him.

OLBERMANN:  Well, look what he’s—he’s fought off this.  He’s fought off this, you know—we found somebody at Schwabs Drugstore in Hollywood and give her a screen test and now she’s Liza Minnelli and a star is born and we’re making her the vice president of the United States or at least the candidate on the ticket.

He’s, you know, in a virtual tie in the latest polls, after the Republican convention, which followed his own.  So, Republicans get the larger bounce because they’re the most recent ones.  And yet, everything is still basically within a couple points of where it was before the convention, having survived his relative newness, having survived a really series of bad mean-spirited, sort of all-star kind of bad whispering campaign against him.

And, you know, frankly, with what has happened in Iraq, he has survived a loosening of the definition of his position, that what was obvious a year ago is less obvious now because all the buttons were pushed to create a safer environment troops even though none of them get to get home, oddly enough.

So, I think he sees this as a lot of people don’t see this, which is we have been through a lot of warfare here.  And it’s still even.

MADDOW:  Very, very close.

OLBERMANN:  With a clear Republican momentum only getting it two even.

MADDOW:  One last point, Keith.


MADDOW:  I have to thank you for hooking me up with a question through you to Senator Obama.  We got a little clip of that here.

OLBERMANN:  Sure, of course, we do.


OLBERMANN:  Rachel Maddow wanted me to ask this question.  I’m doing this on her behalf, because her show is starting tonight.  Given the tune that the campaign has taken, I mean, this Georgia congressman last week, Mr. Westmoreland who called you and your wife, quote, “uppity.”   In that context do you regret putting the brakes on the 527 groups who would have produced or could have produced hard hitting ads that would have been sharing your sympathies?


you what, Keith.  I am confident that the American people, once the dust is settled, are going to say to themselves—do we really want to do the same thing we have been doing for the last eight years, or do we want something new.  I think that by the time this thing is all over, the contrast is going to be clear.


MADDOW:  Contrast is a great political code word for attack.


MADDOW:  Do you see the capacity for attack in this campaign and with the senator?

OLBERMANN:  Look, bon mot is the guy who’s always constantly spouting criticisms, that bon mot has a certain implication of talking too much.  I would be the guy assigned the role of bon mot.  The mot juste the guy who says nothing all evening and then at the right moment says exactly the perfect thing in response to everything that ties everything together.

What we’re seen in Obama speaking is that he goes for the mot juste than the bon mot.  And maybe I’m hurting him, his chances here by talking about these French terms, from them—the French guys.  But seriously, I mean, he goes for those put away lines.  Again, the one word, “enough,” in the middle of the Denver speech continues to reign.

I think, anything he does will be really pinpoint and real marksmanship more than this—you know, the Republican campaign is every day come out with baseball bats and hit everybody in the first 20 rows with the baseball bat over the head.  As they get up, hit them in the stomach, and when they fall over, hit them in the back.  This is the Democratic campaign and the argument is: Should other people be doing the dirty work for him and will Senator Biden be doing that?  And now, the extra dimension is: Has Governor Palin sort of reigned in Senator Biden?

MADDOW:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  I don’t—I think only perhaps at the debate and the rest (ph) and they can go after Senator McCain with impunity at this point.

MADDOW:  I think the next 60 days are going to be really different than the previous parts of the campaign.  I think that things are taking a turn right now.

OLBERMANN:  I hope so.

MADDOW:  Keith Olbermann, thank you for sitting in with us.  Nice to see you.

OLBERMANN:  You’re welcome.  Congratulations and good luck.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Have a nice time out here because I’m going home now.

MADDOW:  I appreciate it, Keith.


MADDOW:  Thanks a lot.  We’re going to have much more of Keith Olbermann’s interview with Barack Obama later on in the show this hour.

Senator Obama, of course, faces the daunting task of beating the GOP in the general election.  But how old exactly is the Grand Old Party, the GOP?

History books say the Republican Party was founded in 1864 by disaffected members of the Wig Party.  At the Republican convention last week, Governor Mike Huckabee said that Abe Lincoln founded the GOP, except, he didn’t run for office for another six years.

And now, there’s this new entry.  On the heels of Sarah Palin’s ascension to vice presidential nominee, John McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, has told “Bloomberg News” that the Republican Party is actually only four days old.  Davis said, quote, “One of the things this Republican convention did is create a whole new Republican Party.”

Apparently, it took a woman to give birth to the new Republican Party. 

Congratulations.  Next up, talking and walking and then feeding yourself.

The McCain-Palin party wants the country to see them as a new kind of Republicanism as a fresh new start that he raises all taint of the Bush-Cheney years, as if they never happened.

Keith Olbermann, our colleague here did have a chance to ask Barack Obama about that tonight.


OLBERMANN:  In your opinion, is Governor Palin experienced enough and qualified enough to become president of the United States in the relatively short-term future?

OBAMA:  Well, you know, I’ll let you ask Governor Palin that when I’m sure she’ll be appearing on your show.


OBAMA:  But rather than focus on a resume, I just want to focus on where she wants to take the country.  As far as I can tell, there has not been any area, economic policy or foreign policy, in which she is different from John McCain or George Bush.

In many ways, in fact, she agrees with George Bush even more than John McCain.  So if John McCain agrees with Bush 90 percent of the time, maybe with her it’s 97 percent.


MADDOW:  That brings us to our next guest, Steve Benen who writes for “Washington Monthly.”

Hi, Steve.  Thanks for joining us.

STEVE BENEN, WASHINGTON MONTHLY:  Hi, Rachel.  It’s great to be here.

MADDOW:  On the campaign trail today, Joe Biden said he can’t find anything to indicate that McCain disagrees with this administration on a single, solitary significant policy initiative.  So, we thought we’d throw it out to you.  Can you think of one?

BENEN:  Now, I’ve been trying.  I’ve been trying to find an are where there’s some area of disagreement between the Bush administration, the Bush White House and the McCain campaign.  I can’t find any.  And it’s odd given that right now, it’s actually in the convention and the couple of days since, we’ve heard this unusual line from the McCain campaign that somehow they have the ticket of change.

I don’t see it.  In fact, if you scratch the surface and look for any explanation for how did the party has changed, there’s just nothing there.  It reminds me a lot of the list of Bush’s economic success story.  There’s just not much there.

MADDOW:  Steve, on the idea that this is a brand-new Republican Party, a Republican Party that indicates a lot of change from the old Republican Party five days ago, I feel like I’m seeing parallels to this so-called “compassionate conservative argument” from George W. Bush running for president for the first time in 2000.  Do you see parallels there?  Is there something about the re-branding of the traditional Republican policies that might work here, the way it worked for Bush in 2000?

BENEN:  Well, it’s a stretch.  You know, eight years ago, Bush was a different kind of Republican.  That was a line that Karl Rove had crafted and he was very proud of.  And then, even if we go back to 1988, George H.W. Bush talked about a kinder gentler party, as well as a kinder, gentler nation.

You know, it seems as if we’re just repackaging the same frames over and over again.  There’s a hunger for change in this country and, I think, most of the polls show that there is.  It’s a pretty tough sell, especially if you actually look for the substance, you look for areas of disagreement in terms of economic policy, foreign policy, there’s just no real difference.

And so, given that, it’s very tough to make the case that there’s going to be a ticket or a party of change or for that matter, a new kind of party given that there’s no real difference.

MADDOW:  Steve, in terms of Sarah Palin and her, I guess, entry into the campaign at this point, as the most unknown of all four people who are at the top of these two tickets for the major parties, there seems to be some evidence that in terms of what leadership style Sarah Palin has demonstrated in her previous jobs, in her work as governor of Alaska, even her work as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, there seems to be some stylistic similarities, some, maybe even temperamental similarities between her and George W. Bush, have you looked into that at all?

BENEN:  Absolutely.  There’s a terrific article in the “Los Angeles Times” just this morning, that kind of went into some of the details on how Palin governs as a chief executive.  As a rule, we’ve heard from members in both parties in legislature saying that Palin’s style is not one where she likes to really roll up her sleeves and get down to the unglamorous work of governing.  She just kind of likes to paint with a broad brush and wait for other people to fill in the details.  It just sounds kind of familiar.  It’s a lot like the Bush White House.

In addition to that, I read that one of the things we found is she doesn’t have a real tolerance for dissent.  If there are people who disagree with her or confront her or challenge her in a way that make her feel as if she’s wrong, she shuns them and in some instances, even punishes them.  And again, this sounds a lot like the Bush White House.

And so, when we deal with a substance, the agendas are almost identical.  Then, look at the style.  It seems like there’s—if anybody is ideological heir, the stylistic heir to George W. Bush, it’s Sarah Palin.

MADDOW:  Steve, one last question for you.  It’s one thing to talk about how the campaign is representing itself, what they are trying to do, but there’s another question about how it’s received.  Is it possible that the country, the electorate will have seen the conservative—compassionate conservative line will have seen people try run as a rebranded new type of Republican before and that they’ll just be too smart for this type of politics this time around?

BENEN:  Well, you know, that’s where the lines that Barack Obama has been emphasizing a lot.  I heard him mention it today in Flint, Michigan.  I heard him mention it over the weekend.  And he kept on saying, “Americans are not stupid.”  And I think that’s a very subtle way or not so subtle way of him saying that the McCain is trying to fool voters, they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes, trying to suggest that they’re different, trying to suggest that there’s going to be a party of—a ticket of change.

It’s a tough sell.  I think that if—you know, one of the things Rick Davis said last week is that this election is not about the issues.  If Rick Davis is right and he’s able to successfully sell that, that this isn’t about issues, then I think the McCain campaign has a real shot.  But if Obama can focus things back on to the issues and notice and emphasize how there’s no real difference, I think that the Obama campaign is probably pretty well-positioned for November.

MADDOW:  Steve Benen from the “Washington Monthly,” thank you so much for joining us.

BENEN:  Thank you.  Congratulations on the new show.

MADDOW:  Thanks a lot, Steve.  We’re going to have more of Keith Olbermann’s interview with Senator Obama later on this hour.

And honestly, I’m a little bit worked up about how Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been explaining her politics, her favorite public policies in terms of what side God is taking.  Bishop T.D. Jake will be here to try to talk me down about Governor Palin’s potential blurring of the lines between church and state and unlike chocolate and peanut butter, church and state are two great things that actually really don’t go great together.

One more thing on the McCain-Palin ticket.  One of the things you monitor when your opponent accuses of being an extension of the most unpopular presidential administration ever is whether that reviled administration endorses you and how they do it.  So far, we had President Bush effusively praise Governor Palin as dynamic, capable and smart.  He said she is an inspired pick.

Slightly less enthusiasm from Vice President Cheney who said of her, quote, “Each administration is different.  There’s no reason why Sarah Palin can’t be a successful vice president.”

Sliding even further down the enthusiasm scale is Condoleezza Rice, who told in an interview this morning, quote, “She is a governor of a state, here in the United States.”  Indeed she is, Madam Secretary.  No argument there.


MADDOW:  Should Governor Sarah Palin face the same scrutiny of her faith and church and religious associations as Barack Obama did?  If so, there are questions to ask about the Wasilla Assembly of God Church—where Governor Palin worshipped until a few years ago.  She returned to the church this summer to address the parishioners there.

Here’s what her pastor said as he thanked her for coming.


REV. LARRY KROON, PASTOR:  There are things God wants to tap into to be a refuge for the lower 48.  And I believe Alaska is one of the refuge states.  Come on you, guys, in the last days, and hundreds and thousands of people are going to come to the state to seek refuge and the church has to be ready to administer to them.  Amen?


MADDOW:  So, Alaska is like an ark?  At the end of days, Alaska will be OK?

Up next, we’re going to speak with Bishop T.D. Jakes on religion and politics, church and state and Sarah Palin.


MADDOW:  Republican’s vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s pastor offered a prayer to all of us in the media yesterday, saying the media should be, quote, “cherished and respected as essential pillars of democracy.”  Honestly appreciated, Reverend Kroon.  We will take all the prayers we can get.  Believe me.

But even well-intended blessings will not keep the news media from our appointed rounds, specifically asking questions of a woman who, theoretically, 4 ½ months from now could find herself president of the United States.  And the more we learn about Sarah Palin’s statements on religion and politics, the more urgently I feel that the governor should be asked if she believes in the separation of church and state.

This past June, Governor Palin speaking at her longtime church in Wasilla, Alaska, said that the commander-in-chief for our side in the Iraq War is a mighty general who’s initials are GOD.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right also for this country.  That our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God.  That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.


MADDOW:  A task that is from God, God’s plan for Iraq.  Wow.  Governor Palin also says she believes that God prefers one particular Alaska pipeline proposal, hers.


PALIN:  I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that pipeline built.  So, pray for that.


MADDOW:  God’s will is the pipeline?  And according to a report quoting Governor Palin’s pastor—a report that has not been denied by the campaign—Palin was also in church on August 17th, just three weeks ago, the day Jews for Jesus founder, David Brickner gave a guest sermon in which he said the deaths of Israelis killed by a terrorist who commandeered a bulldozer were the result of, quote, “God’s judgment of unbelief against the Jews.”

Governor Palin did not get up and walk out, even as her pastor says, she listened to the assertion that God uses terrorism to express judgment against Jews for not believing in Christ.  So, on the one hand, we got some extreme inflammatory religious views, on the other hand, we got assertions that God’s will is being done through Governor Palin’s chosen public policies.  I’m worried.

Here to try to Talk Me Down is Bishop T.D. Jakes.  Bishop Jakes heads up the Potter’s House, a multiracial, non-denominationally church with 30,000 members in the great city of Dallas, Texas.  He’s also author of the forthcoming book, “Before You Do: Making Great Decisions You Won’t Regret.”

Bishop Jakes, it’s a real pleasure to have you on the show tonight. 

Thank you for joining us.

BISHOP T.D. JAKES, POTTER’S HOUSE CHURCH:  Thank you for having me.

MADDOW:  Do you believe it’s inappropriate or worrying for an American politician to say that God is on one side or another in a war or that God prefers one public policy over another?

JAKES:  You know, we really get in dangerous territory when we really start speaking for God as it relates to some political issues, certainly as it relates to war and the amount of innocent people that get killed in the process of war.  I think it promotes an image that is contrary to how I like to see God anyway.

Certainly, I respect the fact that Governor Palin or any other Christians, they have the right to expresses their views on any subject and to believe what they want to believe that’s what really our nation is founded on, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  But personally, I think we’re treaded on thin ice when we start speaking for God as it relates to war.

MADDOW:  Senator Obama was raked over the coals for weeks, for months for what his pastor preached, even when Obama was not at church during some of those sermons that were most widely quoted, is it appropriate to question Governor Palin about the views spoken from the pulpit of her church when she was there, the views of the Jews for Jesus founder, he did voice those views while Palin was in church in Wasilla three weeks ago?  Should she be asked about them?

JAKES:  Well, I think it was appropriate to ask her anything because we want to know how she thinks and how she feels and what her perspectives are.  But I don’t think it’s appropriate to judge a parishioner based on a guest speaker who happened to be visiting their church that Sunday they frankly don’t have control over the opinions of the person who spoke at that church.

And, I think, as long as we put it in proper context, I don’t think that there’s a parallel there between Senator Obama’s situation and hers.  This wasn’t her pastor.  It was a guest speaker who was at her church.  She may or may not agree with that.  And she has the right to her opinion, but she doesn’t control who gets to speak at her church as a parishioner.

MADDOW:  Certainly.  And nobody, I think, would try to put those words in her mouth.  But there has been a push back from the McCain campaign against even asking the question, even asking some of these questions and I think the association of her with this church, of the church with this guest speaker is at least worth, at least, I think, worth an answer to the American people.

JAKES:  Well, you’re very, very true.  The overarching issue is to understand how this woman thinks.  She is new to many of us.  It was a surprise, almost sprung on the American people, her role of assuming of the possibility of being the vice president for the United States.  And I think it’s appropriate to ask her any and everything, but we must do it in a fair and unpartial way so that we can really get down into how she thinks because we are going to live and die based on the decisions that she or McCain or Senator Obama makes in the future.  And I think that we really do need to get down to the issues and get down to the point and focus on that rather than the superficial thing that take up so much of our time as it relates to this presidency and election.

MADDOW:  One last question for you, Bishop Jakes, and that is that a conservative group called the Alliance Defense Fund, they’re now recruiting clergy to break the federal prohibition on clergy endorsing candidates and endorsing political parties from the pulpit.  They say, “You ought to be able to preach to your congregation about how they should vote and still keep your tax exempt status.”  What’s your position on politics at the pulpit and this effort to try to undo those longstanding rules?

JAKES:  I have, for a long time, been nonpartisan.  I’ve never endorsed a candidate since I’ve been pastoring a church.  For me, personally, I’m a little bit uncomfortable with that.  But I certainly want to use my influence to point to political issues that our church needs to be concerned about and to represent them as it relates to their issues and concerns.  It’s a thin line to walk.  It’s a tight line to walk.  But I think it’s a very important line to walk, a line to walk.

I understand that all clergy are also citizens and they have a right to have their opinion but to use a pulpit to voice those opinions, I think, many times, it confuses people into thinking that God is for this candidate or that candidate, and then, two years later or three years later, we are horribly embarrassed to find out that the person has feet of clay.

MADDOW:  Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House Church in Dallas, Texas—it’s been a real pleasure to have you on the show.  Thank you so much for joining us.

JAKES:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Governor Palin has been hidden from the mean old press ever since John McCain asked her to be his running mate more than a week and a half ago.  Now, the McCain campaign says she will not be doing any interviews until they’re confidence that the press will be differential to Governor Palin.

My fake uncle, Pat Buchanan, has a rather different take on that issue than I do.  He’ll be joining us in just a moment.

If you were a Democrat in Congress hoping to score some political points on a critical issue and an effective policy like the SCHIP legislation for children’s health care, would you cower at a threat of a presidential veto or would you go ahead and pass it any way, at least to make a point, to sharpen the difference between your party and the Republicans?  The silly Democrats in Congress are earning every bit of their reputation for electoral obliviousness.  We’ll tell you how after the break.


MADDOW:  We’ll have more of my colleague, Keith Olbermann’s interview with Senator Obama a little later on this hour, including Keith asking the Democratic nominee if he has thought about getting more angry on the campaign trail.

Before we hear more from Obama, though, if you underreported holy mackerel stories on this Monday night, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks seven years ago, tougher safety standards were devised to make the tallest skyscrapers safer.  Building codes now require office buildings over 40 stories high to include safety measures like an extra emergency stairwell and additional fireproofing.

But according to the “New York Times” today, the federal government’s General Services Administration wants to repeal those safety measures.  Why repeal safety measures after the horror of the Twin Towers?  Because the GSA says the measures will cut into profit margins for real estate developers.  The building Owners and Managers Association a.k.a.  those developers - they even want to repeal a measure requiring glow-in-the-dark markings in stairwells in case the lights go out.  Those markings are credited with saving many souls in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Ron Burton, vice president of the developers group says, quote, “What we have had here are knee-jerk reactions without any indication that they are going to do any good.  We put up buildings to make a profit.  If the numbers don’t work, it won’t happen.”

The developers and the General Services Administration shortly note that only one civilian per year died in office building fires nationwide from 2000 to 2004.  That is, of course, only if you exclude September 11, 2001.  Yes, funny that one outlier messes up those pretty statistics.

Also in Washington, the feds seize control of a couple of mortgage giants, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae over the weekend.  John McCain is apparently of two minds about the move.  In July, McCain slammed the bail-out plan.  In an op ed, he is calling it a, quote, “tribute to crony capitalism.”  Them’s fighting words.  Then, there’s this ditty from March.  



government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly whether they’re big banks or small borrowers. 


MADDOW:  That’s some straight talk, to be sure.  However, today’s McCain straight talk on the issue goes straight in the opposite direction.  Quote, “John McCain supports the steps needed to keep the financial trouble that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from further squeezing American families.”  Sen. McCain’s view has apparently evolved on this issue.  Gov. Palin’s view is apparently still “poor me,” maybe? 

On the trail in Colorado, Gov. Palin said Fannie and Freddie have become too big and too expensive for the taxpayers.  One issue, they aren’t funded by the taxpayers.  At least they weren’t before the bailout.  One hint, Gov. Palin, in the midst of a huge economic crisis precipitated by the mortgage disaster, try to figure out even the most basic information about the institutions of the mortgage world before you talk about them into a microphone. 

And finally, speaking of playing politics, one of the issues that won’t be taken up by the Democratic Congress this session is the State Children’s Health Insurance Program - S-CHIP, a wildly successful program that provides health coverage to millions of kids.  It’s more popular than ice cream and the Bush veto of the program’s expansion was an electoral kick in the teeth to the Republicans. 

The Democratic Congress, inexplicably, has just abandoned plans to vote again on S-CHIP, even though it would make money of the Republican opponents.  It would put them in the position of voting against something really, really, really popular right before an election.  That’s called “leaving the low-hanging fruit to rot on the vine.  And that’s why Democrats worry about their party’s electoral killer instincts. 


MADDOW:  Democrats wring their hands and gnash their teeth over fresh polling that suggests a post-convention bounce for John McCain.  There is one Obama supporter who has managed to keep his cool; his name is Barack Obama. 

In an interview tonight with my colleague, Keith Olbermann, Obama demonstrated more confidence in his campaign tactics than many of his own supporters are expressing.  The senator apparently derives that confidence from the belief that when the dust settles and it’s finally time to do some voting, the contrast between him and John McCain will be clear and will favor him.  The contrast in which Obama seems to have the most faith - John McCain and George W. Bush are essentially the same politician.  Take his answer to Keith’s question about the economy.


OLBERMANN:  Has there been thought given to breaking it down to the simplest element in much the way that one of the Republican icons, Mr.  Reagan, did in the 1980 campaign and ask the voters of today, “Are you better off now than you were eight years ago?”

OBAMA:  Oh, absolutely, and I often do that on the campaign trail.  And we’re just going to keep repeating that.  This should not be complicated.  Here’s what it comes down to.  Under George Bush’s stewardship with an assist from John McCain and the rest of the Republican Party, the economy is weaker now than it has been in a long time.  Unemployment is higher, poverty is higher, more people uninsured.  Wages and income have flat-lined.  Middle class folks who used to feel secure now feel unstable.  We’ve got more homes being lost to foreclosure at any time since the Great Depression. 

And John McCain does not have any discernible difference from George Bush when it comes to economic policy.  He’s got the same economic policy.  So if you like what has happened under George Bush’s presidency, you should vote for John McCain.  If you think that we have to move this country in a fundamentally different direction, then you should vote for me. 


MADDOW:  If you’re taking notes, you should have three George Bushes in one Obama answer about the economy and John McCain.  This interview appeared to be as much about Obama’s campaign tactics as it was about his vision for the country.  To that end, Keith challenged Sen. Obama tonight about whether he needs to get tougher with Sen. McCain in order to drive his point home. 


OLBERMANN:  Have you thought of using, on the campaign trail and in your speaking engagements, more exclamation points?  Have you thought of getting angrier?

OBAMA:  Well, I tell you what, with two months to go, I think everybody needs to feel a sense of urgency.  You know, when I hear John McCain suggest that he’s going to bring about change, I am reminded of the cartoon that Tom Toles did in “The Washington Post” where he has McCain say, “Watch out, George Bush.  With the exception of the economy, tax policy, foreign policy, health care policy, education policy and Karl Rove politics, we’re really going to shake things up in Washington.”  I said, I think, on Saturday in Indiana, the American people aren’t stupid.  They are going to get it. 


MADDOW:  When you hear that confidence from him, you wonder if Barack Obama is raising the prospect tonight that there’s something new coming from his campaign around the corner, something tougher, something with a harder edge.  Or are these the words of a nominee who is confident that if he just keeps doing what he’s doing, he will eventually prevail. 

Joining us now is Rosa Brooks who’s a columnist for “The Los Angeles Times.”  Hi, Rosa.  Thanks for joining us. 


great to be here on your inaugural show. 

MADDOW:  We are very happy to have you.  Sen. Obama seems to be demonstrating a lot of confidence in his own campaign tactics, more confidence than his supporters seem to have in those tactics.  Do you think he knows something that his supporters don’t?

BROOKS:  Yes, I think he does.  It think he’s noticed that the Democrats are terrified of doing well.  Democrats love to be on the losing side.  They love to wring their hands.  They feel much more comfortable that way.  So Democrats seize every opportunity to get panicky.  But Barack Obama, I think, is quite right when he says the fundamentals here are no different than they were before the convention. 

McCain is enjoying a bounce in the polls after the convention, but there’s a reason they call these things bounces.  You know, this stuff goes up, and then it goes boing - right back down again.  And we’re going to see a whole lot more boing, boing, boing stuff in the next couple of months.

But I think - frankly, I don’t think the convention changed anything fundamentally.  He’s right to stick to his message.  It was enough to spread before the convention was basically working.  It’s going to keep working because, as you said, the economy is in the toilet.  We’re in the middle of two wars.  We’re stuck.  Americans know that.  I don’t think they want anger.  I think they just want somebody who can deliver some solutions and change course. 

MADDOW:  I love that his response to Keith’s question about getting angry was a huge smile and a laugh. 


MADDOW:  It’s like, “Me, the angry guy?  Never.” 


You do hear people say, though, if the fundamentals are what they are and if people feel about George W. Bush the way they do and they feel about the Republican Party, the way they do, why is it tied or why is it close to tied?  And why has it been this way for so long?  Why isn’t Obama further ahead?

BROOKS:  You know, I think there are a couple of things going on.  One thing, obviously, the campaigns are not that interested in the national numbers.  They are following much more closely those critical swing-state Electoral College numbers. 

But you know, people are nervous.  A lot of people haven’t quite made up their minds yet.  The jury is still out for a lot of voters.  And the polls that we’re getting aren’t really capturing that all that well very much.  I think that - you know, we have a very divided country.  I think that the reason that Obama has been consistently throughout the election season - I think we’re going to see it coming back to this - consistently ahead of McCain and a little bit ahead of it, is because we have a very divided country. 

But, people are really receptive to hearing the message that says, you know, “Let’s get beyond that divisiveness.”  That’s actually part of the reason that I think the post-convention bounce for McCain is not going to last, because I think actually the very thing that gave him the big bounce was Sarah Palin’s introduction. 

But I also think that she - when the dust settles here, she’s a very divisive presence on the Republican ticket.  She’s firing up the base, but I think that, you know, when everything settles down, she’s really going to be alienating a lot of those moderate swing voters who are actually going to be much more attracted to the sort of can-do attitude of Obama which is not angry than to the “us versus them, let’s reignite the culture war” that they were getting during the Republican convention from Palin. 

MADDOW:  One thing - in terms of the way the campaign works, we have not seen from Sen. Obama any of the, you know, advisors telling tales on each other in the press.  We haven’t seen ugly leaks or infighting.  We haven’t seen high-level firings or a lot of turnover.  And we have also actually - and I don’t think they get very much credit for this - we have seen some message discipline. 

And the message discipline right now is McCain equals Bush, McCain equals Bush.  We saw that as much in Obama’s interview with Keith tonight as we’ve seen that over the past month.  Is that the right message?  They definitely have discipline on it, but is it the right one?

BROOKS:  You know, I think it is.  The Obama campaign has got a number that they sure like a whole lot better and think is a lot more important than the polling numbers.  And that is the number that says 63 percent of Americans are worried that John McCain is going to continue George Bush’s policies if he’s elected president.  And, you know, given the huge - you know, I think it’s 85 percent or something like that - Americans do think the country is going in the wrong direction. 

That’s a really comforting number to the Obama campaign.  There’s that military acronym which I love - KISS - “keep it simple, stupid.”  And I think that the Obama campaign is taking that message to heart.  They’re saying, let’s not muddy the waters here by having 600 different campaign themes. 

You know, we’ve got a campaign theme.  We think this is the right campaign theme.  We think this is what this country needs right now.  We’re going to keep saying it.  We’re not going to get distracted by all the bells and whistles that consultants are going to suggest that we adopt.  We’re going to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, did you like the last eight years?  If you do,” as Obama said, “If you do, go ahead.  Vote for the Republican Party who brought you the last eight years.  If you didn’t, vote Democratic.  Vote Barack Obama.”

You know, it’s a simple message.  And I think that at the end of the day, when the warm and fuzzies from the convention are over, when everybody gets past the puffy narratives about war hero this or women governor that.  At the end of the day, they start thinking about, “There’s war.  There’s an economy - I can’t get a job.  I’m worried about getting a job.  I worried about keeping food on the table.”  They make their decisions based on who they think is going to keep them safe and who they think is going to help them get by.

MADDOW:  Sure.  That’s the simplest of all the possible messages.  Rosa Brooks, columnist for “The Los Angeles Times,” great to have you with us.  Thanks for being here. 

BROOKS:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  We are day nine into Gov. Sarah Palin’s media avoidance tour which is just as well because the media doesn’t seem all that interested in her.  Kidding.  Still, Gov. Palin has consented to her first network television interview as a VP candidate that will take place later this week.  My fake uncle, Pat Buchanan and I have some different ideas about what Charlie Gibson ought to ask her. 

But first, just one more thing, while Obama sat down with Keith, his other half danced with Ellen DeGeneres for the daytime show’s season opener.  Asked whether she would have more children, Michelle Obama said she probably won’t have any more kids, saying, quote, “I think our third child is this campaign.”


MADDOW:  It’s been nine days since Sen. John McCain plucked his vice presidential pick, Gov. Sarah Palin, out of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of obscurity of the Alaskan wilderness.  And while assailing the news media’s alleged bias and disrespect, the campaign has since kept Gov. Palin in a another brand of wilderness conspicuously away from the fourth estate, that would be us, in the media, if you’re keeping score. 

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis gave this reason. 


RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  She will do interviews, but she’ll do them on the terms and conditions of which the campaign decides that she’s ready to do it.  And Chris, all due respect - I mean, the information the news media is putting out on Sarah Palin is not what I would call objective journalism.  So until at which point in time we feel like the news media is going to treat her with some level of respect and deference, I think it would be foolhardy to put her out into that kind of environment. 


MADDOW:  Respect and deference.  To my mind “deference” has about as much of an appropriate role in journalism as “vertigo” has in trapeze.  The campaign has now consented to one national TV interview later this week with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, presumably even with an appropriate respect and deference toward the candidate.  Mr. Gibson will still be allowed and able to ask about Gov. Palin’s record. 

Here now, is MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan.  Hi, Pat. 

Nice to see you.


Congratulations on your new show. 

MADDOW:  Thank you very much.  I feel lucky to have you here. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, thank you. 

MADDOW:  The respect and deference -

BUCHANAN:  You may not say that afterwards. 

MADDOW:  Let’s see.  Respect and deference - that struck me like a slap across the face when I heard Rick Davis say that, the idea that the media ought to be deferential to a candidate for vice president to me just seems to be fundamentally wrong in terms of what the role of the media in democracy.

BUCHANAN:  Well, they ought to show this woman a lot more respect certainly than when she was shown when the “Financial Times” which is not a radical sheet said today the press threw an apocalyptic fit on this thing, an apoplectic fit, if you will, when she was announced.  And I think she was treated horribly. 

And I think the “New York Times” putting her teenage daughter’s pregnancy above the fold, “The Washington Post” doing the same thing.  The letters to the editor in “The Washington Post” on Saturday when I got home, every single one denounced “The Post” and my guess is “The Post” put it in there because they were ashamed of what they did. 

MADDOW:  The campaign itself put out a statement about the daughter’s pregnancy.  The campaign - even in her acceptance speech, she was highlighting the things that she wanted the press to focus on about her kids, talking about her son shipping out to Iraq, for example.  So I don’t feel like - I mean, she was introduced as a mother of five before we even got her name when John McCain announced her as his VP.  So I don’t feel like questions about her family, questions about her kids ought to be off limits if they are campaigning on the basis of her kids. 

BUCHANAN:  You know exactly why she had to put that statement out about her 17-year-old daughter being pregnant, because it was that the scurvy lies and slanders on “Daily Kos” which were running through the press corps.  And your smile tells me you know it as well as I do.  They were forced to do this. 

Now, they didn’t do this to John Edwards.  You and I didn’t talk about that.  We heard those rumors.  We knew the “National Enquirer” stuff.  We stayed off it.  And the way this woman is being treated ...

MADDOW:  But wait a second.  Wait a second.  They didn’t have to do that because, listen, there was a lot of blog rumoring about John Edwards that didn’t end up getting to the - didn’t end up getting talked about until it was in the mainstream press.  If there were rumors in the blog world that the campaign was concerned about, they didn’t have to respond to them.  They could have her do an interview with the mainstream press the way that John Edwards did about that. 

But instead they decided to proactively address the issue, thereby putting the pregnancy on the table for everybody to talk about.  They put this stuff out there.  How can it be unfair to discuss it? 

BUCHANAN:  Rachel, when you see an entire Republican convention standing up and speakers who - many of them moderate Republicans - Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, you got Fred Thompson, others getting up there - Huckabee, who has got friends in the media.  They are up there going after the media and that place is wildly cheering with enthusiasm.  It’s because they felt a lady, a woman that they had nominated who is a terrific candidate was being ripped apart.  Now, let me just say tonight, I’ve seen -you’re bringing out this religious stuff. 

MADDOW:  Sure.  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  She went to an Assembly of God church.  She’s a

Pentecostal.  I heard what she said.  She said, “Let us pray that this war

is part of God’s plan.”  What is wrong for that for a woman whose 19-year-

old boy is about to be sent off and may never return if she asks for

prayers?  Just as Lincoln said -

MADDOW:  She’s not playing that the war be part of God’s plan. 

BUCHANAN:  Oh, yes, she is.

MADDOW:  She’s asserting that the war is part of God’s plan. 

BUCHANAN:  No, no.  She did not say this war is God’s plan.  Look at

it again -

MADDOW:  She’s asserting that God has a plan for the war just as God has a plan for the pipeline. 

BUCHANAN:  Just like Lincoln said, “Look, let us pray that we are on God’s side.”  And the fact is, do you know how many Assembly of God folks there are out there?  Do you know how many Pentecostals there are out there?  Do you know who many pre-millennialists who are out there?  Tim LaHaye’s book sold 40 million copies. 

MADDOW:  Sure.

BUCHANAN:  Now, you go on national television and you go trashing that

religion because of what they believe about the end times -

MADDOW:  Nobody’s trashing anybody’s religion.

BUCHANAN:  Well, you go back over the two shows we just had. 

MADDOW:  No, you look at this stuff because we do not know, because Sarah Palin was a total national unknown ...


MADDOW:  ... and she hasn’t been made available to reporters.  We don’t know if she believes in the separation of church and state. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me ask you -

MADDOW:  We believe what we hear from her which is that God is directing her public policies. 

BUCHANAN:  Name one thing that suggests that she wants to establish

the Assembly of God or her Baptist church, or whatever she is in now as a

national church.  There is nothing -

MADDOW:  I would love to ask her that, but I fear that they wouldn’t think I was appropriately deferential to get an interview. 

BUCHANAN:  You know, this is remarkable.  OK.  We have the other candidate, Barack Obama, who has been - for 15 years belonged to a church which is run by a racist anti-white, anti-American pastor, and his wife had those kids baptized by him. 


MADDOW:  It’s bad strategy to talk about trashing religion and then come on in and bring that stuff up. 

BUCHANAN:  I think we can trash Rev. Wright. 

MADDOW:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at great length.  Pat, it is a pleasure to have you hear.  Thanks for coming in.

BUCHANAN:  Good to be here. 

MADDOW:  In a minute, we’ll get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones so I can be allowed out in public.  Seriously, this is a little bit of a problem for me.  We’ll be right back. 


MADDOW:  Now it’s time for “Just Enough” with Kent Jones, who was kind enough to force-feed me just enough pop culture so I can be allowed out in public.  Hi, Kent.  What have you got for me?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  Good to be here on the TV. 

MADDOW:  Indeed.

JONES:  Let’s start off in Los Angeles at the MTV Video Music Awards. 

Starting off, the house was duly rocked by Rihanna.  Wow.  And then Pink.  Love the pink and the fire.  And of course the Jonas Brothers.  They’re adorable.  You’ve got to pinch them. 

MADDOW:  I can feel our ratings surging right now. 

JONES:  But the biggest star of the night was the talented and dare I say courageous Britney Spears who bombed so badly at last year’s show.  This time, she won three awards including video of the year. 

MADDOW:  Good for her. 

JONES:  You know, Rachel, I’ve got more Britney here. 

MADDOW:  I’m good, actually. 

JONES:  You’re good?

MADDOW:  Yes, I’m good actually. 

JONES:  And finally, in sports, rumors have been flying today.  Repeat, rumors, that 37-year-old Lance Armstrong will come out of retirement next year to ride in the Tour de France and other races.  However, there is no truth whatsoever to reports that the seven-time tour-winning, cancer-surviving, serial babe-dating Armstrong said this quote, “Since I retired, other men were starting to regain pride in their own accomplishments.”  And that has to stop.  Game on!  Michael Phelps.  Bring it, fish boy.  Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thank you very much, Kent. 

JONES:  Good to see you. 

MADDOW:  It is great to see you tonight. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Here, I saved a pet story for you today. 

JONES:  Oh, excellent. 

MADDOW:  Bob Woodward’s new book is out today.  He’s got a front-page piece in the “Washington Post” talking about how when Bush wanted to send 30,000 more troops to Iraq, he completely disregarded what the joint chiefs-of-staff wanted.  So he just completely disregarded the military commanders, said no to the Pentagon brass and instead went with this right-wing think-tank that he really liked that wanted to send them.  Bush is trying to make it up to them. 

JONES:  Oh, good.

MADDOW:  Yesterday was the T-ball game on the White House south lawn. 

JONES:  That’s my baby.

MADDOW:  And he had the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff be the commissioner for the game and the former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Pete Pace he had coach third base. 

JONES:  Third base?  I think it would be a little more dignified if they were allowed to pitch.  Just let them pitch. 

MADDOW:  Thanks, everybody, for watching tonight.  I’ll see you here tomorrow night.  Until then, you can E-mail us at  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. 

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