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'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Tuesday September 23, 2008

Guest: Rosa Brooks, Michael Isikoff

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thank you, David.  I appreciate it.

And thanks to you for sticking with us for the next hour.

So, there‘s the biblical proportions Wall Street bailout.  There‘s the big day at the U.N. for Bush, Ahmadinejad, and yes, Sarah Palin.

And there‘s Michael Isikoff with brand new news on the story that caused the McCain campaign to haul off and smack down the venerable “New York Times” yesterday.  This has been a news day with an exclamation point on it.

(voice over):  By a two-to-one ratio, Americans blame the Republicans over the Democrats for the economic mess we‘re in.  So, in this economic mess, with the public against you, what‘s the Republican campaign to do?  Cue the negative ads.


NARRATOR:  Obama and his liberal allies: mum on the market crisis because no one knows what to do.  More taxes, no leadership.  A risk your family can‘t afford.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Contrary to what Senator McCain suggested earlier, I don‘t think actually the fundamentals of our economy right now are where they need to be.  And the plans I put forward are designed to bolster those fundamentals.


MADDOW:  With all this Wall Street rescuing going on, the question remains: Who‘s got a better record?  Who‘s got a better rescue plan for those of us who don‘t work on Wall Street?

And, Senator McCain gives his first press conference in more than a month.  And Sarah Palin faces reporters.  Well, reporter singular, kind of, not even really that.

The press revolts and we the press have the story.

And, it‘s finally “mission accomplished” in Iraq.  If by mission you mean the real reason we invaded in the first place.  Can we bring the troops home now?


(on camera):  The fast tracking of the proposed $700 billion financial bailout may need a little bailing out of its own.  Top administration officials went to Congress today and continued to warn of dire consequences if Congress doesn‘t act right now.  But skeptical senators from both parties say the current plan is unacceptable and they want more details.

So who did the White House tap to run over to Capitol Hill to charm and strong arm and sell to Congress a plan that would cost about $2,300 for every man, woman and child in this country?  Who do you think they picked?  He‘s got to be a real sales guy, got to be somebody who‘s got a lot of pull.

How about Dick Cheney?  Because that‘s who they sent, emerging from his undisclosed location, the vice (ph) headed up to the Hill to corral support for the bailout.  The last time Cheney made such a trip, according to the “L.A. Times,” that would be the last time he went there to scare up some votes for the Iraq war resolution.

Not clear exactly what his results were on the Hill today, but the write up of his visit was headlined, quote, “House GOP Rises Up Against Cheney.”  It doesn‘t sound good.

Also today, we learned a surprising bit of new information about the administration‘s rescue plan courtesy of the deputy press secretary, Tony Fratto.  Mr. Fratto reported said, “The White House has had a version of its bailout plan for months and they just decided to roll this one out now.”  Thereby giving members of Congress just a couple of days to study and sign it.

According to the newspaper “Roll Call,” “Fratto acknowledged lawmakers were getting only days to peruse it, but he said this should be enough.”

If the plan is so good, why not so much time to consider it?  This bailout business is confusing and scary and almost too big for most of us to understand.  And so, it‘s main affect on voters on the current politics, maybe simply to refocus us, to refocus the electorate not on foreign policy, or on distractions like lipstick on pigs, but on meat and potatoes domestic politics.  The mess on Wall Street makes us worry about our own street.

The common political wisdom which the polls indicate is warranted is that John McCain has been losing out to Obama in terms of who voters trust to handle an economic crisis like the one we‘re in.  But if the long lasting affect of this crisis to keep basic pocketbook politics front and center, will John McCain have better luck running on his record in the Senate on those issues?  You be the judge.

John McCain was rated the worst U.S. senator for the year 2007 by the Children‘s Defense Fund.  The rating was based on 10 key votes.  One was education, specifically, the Head Start program, the Early Childhood Education program.  Despite telling a Cincinnati group during this campaign season that he would, quote, “be glad to fully fund Head Start,” his voting record shows his consistent opposition to it.  He‘s voted against increased funding for Head Start four times over the past 11 years.

Well, how about health insurance for kids?  Surely that is a Main Street issue at a time of economic worry.  Senator McCain has consistently voted to limit the number of children eligible to be covered under the State Children‘s Health Insurance Program, SCHIP.  He most (ph) recently voted against reauthorizing the program for five years and he supported for President Bush‘s veto of that expansion.

How about minimum wage?  Well, McCain has voted 19 times against the Democratic attempts to raise the minimum wage.  After 19 “no” votes, he did most recently vote for the bill that raised the minimum wage, but that wage hike was packaged in a larger spending bill for the Iraq war.

Joining us now: Democratic representative, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, who supports her fellow Illinois congressional representative, Barack Obama.

Congressman Schakowsky, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY, (D) ILLINOIS:  Well, it‘s just a pleasure and congratulations on your show, Rachel.  It‘s great.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Do you think that the long-term political effect of this economic crisis that we‘re in right now will be to get voters focused on basic “bread and butter” economic issues like the ones I‘ve just described?

SCHAKOWSKY:  I do think that it‘s crowded out more of the ridiculous issues that they‘ve been focusing on, you know, the kind of gotcha campaigns.  And now, I think the American people understand that this is really serious and that we‘re focusing on the really important issues and that we need someone like Barack Obama who will get serious, who understands the nuances, who is thoughtful.  So, I‘m hoping now that we‘re kind of done with the trivia.

MADDOW:  I kind of feel like the 19 votes against the minimum wage, the votes against kids health insurance, the votes against fully funding Head Start, I don‘t fell like that stuff is widely known about John McCain.  And when we talk about the affect of the economy on the electorate, we‘re so often talking about women voters.  I feel like those issues in particular, those votes I just described would be of a lot of interest to women voters.

Do you think that the Obama campaign needs to do a better job getting that record out there?

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, actually, we are on a main offensive to make sure that we go out and talk to women.  Women like myself have been going around the country and meeting with women‘s groups.  We even have soap opera stars that are going out with us as well and talking to women who may be watching the soaps.

But we‘re also focusing, for example, on older women.  There were two rallies that Barack had in Florida this week talking about what the danger of privatizing Social Security would be.

John McCain has voted for privatizing Social Security.  That means investing some of it in the stock market, for heaven‘s sake.  You can imagine what kind of insecurity we‘d have; we turn a guarantee of Social Security into a gamble if it were invested in the stock market.  And so, we think that older women ought to know about that.

Women should know about the votes against child care, against after school programs, against special education programs, the child‘s health insurance program.  You know, for less than we spend for a month in Iraq, we could have insured 10 million more American children with health insurance and he voted against that.  And so, yes, we‘re definitely going to get this message out.

MADDOW:  It feels like these are the specific details, what you have just described, those are the specific details of political analysis that we need to understand in order to make concrete the one thing that everybody understands about the campaign right now, which is that when you talk about the economy, Barack Obama benefits.


MADDOW:  And, frankly, to be honest, any generic Democrat would benefit because Americans tend to trust Democrats on the economy more than Republicans.  It seems like the way it may translate in very brass tax term is the votes of seniors who are worried about economic insecurity, and the votes of women who are worried about pocketbook at home issues.

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, let me say one very important one.  John McCain in this 21st century is against equal pay for equal work, and even said that the explanation for the wage gap, 77 cents for women to $1 for men is that women need more education and training.  I mean, how patronizing can one get?  We know that women are qualified to get exactly what men get for the same job.

MADDOW:  Maybe with more education, we could understand why it is that women make 77 cents for every dollar that men make.

Last question to you on this same issue and that is the choice of Sarah Palin as vice president.  Certainly, as a woman, it is exciting to me to see a woman who could be that close to the presidency.  I‘d like to see a woman in the west wing, seeing a woman in the east wing is the next best thing.

How do you think that the choice of Sarah Palin ultimately is going to boil down in terms of women voters, given the policy challenges that their ticket has on issues that women care about?

SCHAKOWSKY:  Exactly.  When we look at Sarah Palin‘s positions on women‘s issues, the thing that women care about, she is not with us on any one of those.  She exactly mirrors John McCain except in those instances where she‘s even more extreme.  On women‘s reproductive rights, she is not for allowing women to make a choice for themselves, even in a case of rape or incest.  Sarah Palin supports John McCain in his opposition to equal pay for equal work and so women cannot be looking to Sarah Palin for a rescue, that‘s for sure.

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, thank you for taking some time to talk with us tonight.  Appreciate it.

SCHAKOWSKY:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  As we turn to the issues, it hits you where you live, politics of the economy that we are experiencing right now, it appears to be helping Senator Obama, even when you look at the latest state-by-state battleground polls.

Check out these battlegrounds won by Bush in 2004.  A new NBC/Mason Dixon Poll has Obama up by two in Florida.  ABC and the “Washington Post” have Obama up by three in Virginia.  Quinnipiac shows Obama up by four in Colorado, and down by only one in Nevada which is a state Bush won by just over 20,000 votes.

Taking a look at some states that John Kerry won in 2004: Obama leads McCain by two points in Pennsylvania according to NBC News, by two in Quinnipiac‘s poll of Minnesota, four points in Michigan and seven points in Wisconsin.

This does not match the common wisdom.

Here to talk about what this all means, with the first debate coming up on Friday, Craig Crawford, MSNBC analyst and a columnist for

Hi Craig, nice to see you.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to see you.  Tighter than a tube sock, as Dan Rather might say.


MADDOW:  That‘s fair enough, and super-weird, but thank you.

Craig, everybody does back flips over the national head-to-head polling numbers, but it‘s these battleground state polls that I just went through, these are the polls that actually tell you who‘s going to win the election, right?

CRAWFORD:  Yes, because guess what, that‘s how we pick presidents, state by state in the Electoral College.  What I have found interesting is not terribly unusual, but when someone gets up two or three points in the national polls there‘s a collection of what I called the paper or plastic states, who can‘t seem to decide between paper or plastic like at the grocery store, that go one way or the other, depending on those who‘s got that two or three-point lead on the national polls.

And these states, what we‘re seeing is a real uptick in the change mode.  I think Obama—the economy has actually tuned up the change vibe to Obama‘s advantage with voters as they see Wall Street greed and Washington‘s complicity, that hunger for change grows again and Obama‘s benefiting.

MADDOW:  Does that mean that the shift toward concerns about the economy essentially gives voters a way to vote against Bush?  It gives people—it gives voters a way to vote against the current administration and by extension John McCain?

CRAWFORD:  Yes.  I think anything that‘s putting Bush officials back in the news and reminding people that Bush is there and that Dick Cheney is still there reminds people they want a change.  It‘s almost like they were hypnotized coming out of the convention on that score and this has brought that back into focus.

I mean, one reason I say it‘s more of the change that the economic is because, in these polls, these economic numbers on confidence and leadership on the economy, is still pretty close between McCain and Obama.  The big difference is he‘s expanded that lead among those who want change as high as 24-point lead among the change voters in these states.

MADDOW:  Craig, looking specifically at Florida, infamously close in 2000, not nearly as close in 2004, won by George W. Bush in 2004.  We‘ve got Barack Obama hunkered down in Florida right now to prepare for the debate on Friday.

Do you see any symbolism in that and do you think that Obama really has a shot there?

CRAWFORD:  I see reality more than symbolism.  And Tampa is a very critical swing area in Florida, one where he does have a pretty good lead in Florida, but tight enough that being there is helping him a lot.  You know, Florida is one of those states that‘s come back in toward Obama with these recent changes.

I would say I‘m guessing he‘s still going to need to be ahead in the polls in Florida, Obama will—maybe three, four, five points—simply because the governor there, the Republican governor, Charlie Crist, has a very powerful network for getting out the vote and probably made the difference for McCain in getting him the nomination, when McCain won the Florida primary.

MADDOW:  One last question for you, Craig, very specifically on the Electoral College, on the swing states.  Are there any states that John Kerry won that you think Barack Obama might not win and what are the most important states that John Kerry lost that Obama‘s really going for?

CRAWFORD:  I think New Hampshire is a possibility.  But McCain has a long history in New Hampshire and they do like him there and they‘re very loyal to politicians in New Hampshire.  I think that‘s one that might be in that category, a Kerry state Obama might have trouble with.  There are more red states—Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, where Obama has McCain pinned down.

You know, this whole electoral game sort of like a giant game of twister where you try to pin the opponent down in awkward states and hope he falls down, now, even in states you don‘t intend to win but just make him spend money there.

MADDOW:  The idea of either these candidates playing twister just feels viscerally gross, that I‘m (INAUDIBLE) it.  But I appreciate the analogy.


CRAWFORD:  How about they play twister in tube socks, right?

MADDOW:  Too much, too much.

CRAWFORD:  All right.  Now, I made you sick.

MADDOW:  Craig Crawford, you made me sick but in a good way.


MADDOW:  MSNBC analyst, columnist for, thank you for joining us.

CRAWFORD:  You bet.

MADDOW:  Governor Palin went to the United Nations today to meet with world leaders for the first time.  And the Bush handlers who run her campaign decided they wanted some nice pictures of her looking very vice presidential without all those inconvenient questions about—oh, I don‘t know—troopergate?

Well, today, the media fought back.  We‘ll have more on Palin‘s visit in a moment with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell.

And there‘s breaking news tonight about ties between Rick Davis‘s lobbying firm and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.  Rick Davis is John McCain‘s campaign manager.  Fannie and Freddie, of course, are a mess.

Just yesterday, the campaign blasted the “New York Times” for its reporting on the subject.  But the campaign did not deny the information that the “New York Times” was reporting.

Tonight there is much more.  So, stick around.

One more thing about the Wall Street bailout.  You know, President Bush is still the leader of the Republican Party.  That would be the party whose official 2008 platform says this, quote, “We do not support government bailouts of private institutions.  Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself.”

So, that‘s over now?  That was just a party platform for times when we didn‘t need a bailout?  And now that you say we do, new policy?  Handy - - very, very handy.


MADDOW:  He‘s unpopular at home, relations with Congress are strained, and a host of urgent domestic issues demand his attention.  This is the plight of the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon.  Until very recently, the president of Mexico was not allowed to set foot on foreign soil without specific provision from Congress.  He actually had to grapple to his legislature if he wanted to travel at all, every single time.

However, a change to the country‘s Constitution passed over on the summer allows him to finally travel hassle-free for short period of times.  Case in point, Mr. Calderon is now on his first easy brief trip to New York for the United Nation General Assembly.  Trips longer than a week, though, still require explicit legislative permission.  A national leader required by law to stay home and govern.  What a noble idea.


MADDOW:  Today was Sarah Palin‘s first dive into the deep end of the foreign policy pool.  It‘s actually more of a dipping a toe into the deep end.  But she did meet with lots of world leaders.  We can‘t be sure what she learned or what she said and that‘s part of the story.

The press was barely allowed to cover Sarah Palin today.  A pool camera crew and producer had been assigned to cover Palin‘s meeting with Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.  The way pool footage works, that one crew provides all the TV networks with their footage.

Bizarrely, the Palin camp declared at the last minute today that they only wanted pictures of these New York meetings and they intended to block anyone who might be inclined to write about the meeting or, gasp, try to ask a question.

Campaign spokesman, Tracey Schmitt did the uninviting, saying, quote, “The decision was made for this to be a photo spray with still cameras and video cameras only.”

The decision was made?  When the networks were told they couldn‘t get an editorial producer in the room, they united to say, “Thanks but no thanks” to that camera crew.

This isn‘t North Korea; we don‘t do just do pure photo-ops with no questions.  Palin‘s handlers quickly reversed course, Tracey Schmitt‘s new line with the whole thing sort of like an episode, “Three is Company,” quote, “A mix-up, a miscommunication among staff.”

So, as access restored and press mutiny averted, here‘s what we saw, 29 seconds of Palin‘s meeting with Hamid Karzai, in which according to the pool report, the two talked about Karzai‘s new baby.  And then 31 seconds of the Palin‘s meeting with the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, in which the two exchanged pleasantries that couldn‘t be heard over the camera clicks.

And an efficient 23 seconds of Palin‘s meeting with former U.S.  Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  The governor actually did take a question, just one, from a TV news producer who asked, “How did it go?”  She was seemed to mouth the response, “It was great.”  That‘s great.

If you‘re keeping score, Palin has held zero press conferences and has done precisely two major interviews since she has been the V.P.  candidate.  Her rollout now threatens to crossover from extra-super wildly controlled rollout to she hasn‘t actually ever been rolled out at all.

Are we just supposed to take it on faith and John McCain‘s good judgment that she is who we want as vice president?  What are they hiding her for?

Joining us now, NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell.

Andrea, thank you for joining us.


MADDOW:  Thanks.

You have covered these sort of high level meetings with foreign dignitaries, getting at least one editorial staff member in the room to represent the entire network is standard practice, right?

MITCHELL:  It is standard practice.  It‘s standard for the White House, for the State Department.  And often we are in foreign countries where it is not standard practice, like in Pyongyang or in Damascus.  And, usually, the State Department insists upon it and then we are at risk for whatever happens.

In Sudan, I had the problem in Khartoum with the Sudanese leader when Condoleezza Rice‘s folks said we have to let these people in and in fact we were pushed and shoved and thrown out by the Sudanese.  But that‘s not by American officials and certainly not by Republican campaign officials running in a national election here in the United States.

MADDOW:  I‘m proud that that‘s American journalistic value.  That makes me have patriotic feelings about our freedom of the press.  Are you heartened, encouraged, proud to see the press stand up to the McCain/Palin campaign today and say, “We‘re going to compromise our standards”?

MITCHELL:  Yes.  Sure.  It is a tradition.  Now, I have to say that we have compromised.  Over the years, there has been a lot of push back.

When first started covering the White House back in, you know, the Stone Age, all networks were permitted and there were only three networks back then.  It was pre-cable.  All networks were permitted in for every photo opportunity.  And so, you would have three of us in the Oval Office with Ronald Reagan or even in, you know, the earliest days with Bush 41.

Then and post-cable, it did expand, there were five major networks including the cable, five or six, or more, and then they started restricting it to one editorial presence and one camera.  But it used to be a big group, what they called an “expanded pool.”  Now, everything is what they call a tight pool, one.  But it certainly never zero.

MADDOW:  Well, and as they tried to push it today, to zero, there was a big push back.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  The “New York Times” political blog joked about Palin‘s top secret foreign policy tutorial.  The “Chicago Tribune‘s” Washington blog talked about a media free zone around Palin.

Is today‘s burst of attention sort of a culmination of a long-simmering pool relationship between the press and the McCain/Palin campaign or is this a brand new fight just sparked by this one confrontation today?

MITCHELL:  Well, it‘s a trend.  And it is a trend that I don‘t think the press will necessarily win.  Because they have made us the issue and so far, whenever it‘s the media versus Sarah Palin, the popularity, you know, the reach of Sarah Palin, over our heads, around us, is what really resonates mostly with the voters.  That‘s certainly what we‘ve been seeing out on the trail.

That said, it‘s a principle that, even if it makes us less popular, I think we have to stand by, because if the cameras go in, Rachel, without any editorial presence, what you don‘t see as good as our photo journalists are, you don‘t see what goes on beyond the camera view.  That‘s the reason for an editorial writer.  That‘s the reason why you want a producer, a correspondent, preferably, in the room to say, sitting on the couch to the left was so-and-so, or prompting her behind the scenes or him as the case may be, or in that part of the room, I could see such and such.  You know, especially when they‘re permitted in for 29 seconds.

There is obviously also the opportunity if there is an editorial person in the room to ask a question.  And very often, they answer questions.  Ronald Reagan answered questions.

MADDOW:  Yes.  John McCain has -

MITCHELL:  Bill Clinton answered questions.  John McCain has, on occasion, answered questions.  And this is a vice presidential nominee who has not had a news conference.

Now, truth be told, neither has Joe Biden in some time, according to the people on his campaign.  And Ron Allen has been covering Joe Biden non-stop for us says that he has not been answering questions, which is unusual.

And what they would like to do, I am told, by people inside the campaign structure is keep her in a more or less controlled environment until after she has the big debate.  Once she gets past that debate, the big test, then if she‘s asked questions, they can try to fix a gaffe, if there were to be a gaffe.

My suspension is that she will do better than people expects because the expectations were set so low.  But by controlling her, they can, at least, prevent something major from happening that she can then be questioned about in that debate.

MADDOW:  Until they‘re preventing her from access to the press itself becomes an issue that makes people judge them, I suppose.

Andrea Mitchell, NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent.  It‘s a real pleasure to have you on the show.  Thank you so much for joining us.

MITCHELL:  My pleasure.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Coming up in a moment: There is new reporting on John McCain‘s campaign manager, Rick Davis, in the nature of his relationship with recently bailed out lender, Freddie Mac.  In the current environment, that‘s inconvenient news.  And Michael Isikoff reports it for us, fresh, shortly.



RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  If ever there was a day for the Bush administration to hang a big banner on an aircraft carrier, it wasn‘t five years ago in May, 2003.  But it might be today.  For the first time since 1972 when the oil industry was nationalized in Iraq, a private oil company is open for business in Baghdad.  That‘s right, after 36 years, Shell oil is back, everybody.  Black Gold, Texas Tea, Baghdad Bullion.  Mission accomplished?  We‘ll have more on that in just a moment. 

First though, it‘s time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  In the beginning, fertilizer was just a lot of bold manure.  Then science gave us fertilizer which, in the wrong hands, could be used to make bombs.  Well, science may have solved the problem it created.  A new fertilizer has been developed which almost eliminates its potential use as an explosive. 

The discovery comes 13 years after homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh used a truck-full of fertilizer to kill 168 Americans and destroy a federal building in Oklahoma City.  The Department of Homeland Security has certified this new fertilizer, which is a mix of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate.  It‘s projected to be available in some parts of the country by next year, which will probably come as a relief to farmers who felt rather creepy all these years reporting their stockpiles of fertilizer to the federallies. 

And now, an update on a story we brought you last night.  The U.S.  Supreme Court has granted a last minute temporary stay of execution to a man on death row just two hours before he was scheduled to be killed. 

Troy Davis was sentenced to die by lethal injection tonight for the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer.  Seven out of nine witnesses who testified against Troy Davis recanted their testimony.  No murder weapon, no fingerprints and no DNA linked Mr. Davis to the crime. 

The Supreme Court temporarily stayed the execution just until Monday when the court was already scheduled to decide if it would hear Davis‘s appeal.  If on Monday, the court does not agree to hear his appeal, Mr.  Davis‘ execution will be back on the calendar.  Read more and stay tuned, we will.

Finally, in an unusual move, Republican Florida Congressman Tom Feeney has released a very sad new ad, apologizing for his involvement with jailed Republican uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. 


REP. TOM FEENEY (R-FL):  Five years ago, when I was first elected to Congress, I was invited on a trip to Scotland.  I found out later it was paid for by a corrupt lobbyist.  It was a rookie mistake and I did everything I could do to make it right.  I reported it to Ethics Committee and I paid the money back.  I embarrassed myself and embarrassed you, and for that I‘m very sorry. 


MADDOW:  Congressman Feeney claims his Abramoff golf junket to Scotland was a rookie mistake.  Though he was the Florida speaker of the House in the two years before he was elected to Congress.  Does that still mean you can call yourself a rookie?

Feeney‘s Democratic opponent, Suzanne Kosmas, has just released a poll saying she is trailing Feeney, the incumbent, by just one point for November.  She‘s also apparently got more cash on hand for her campaign than congressman Feeney does.  Funny how apologies and political desperation often sleep so close together. 


MADDOW:  There are new reports tonight from the “New York Times” and “Newsweek” magazine that a lobbying firm at which Sen. John McCain‘s campaign manager Rick Davis was once a partner was paid $15,000 a month by mortgage giant Freddie Mac until last month.  Last month?  Last month. 

The McCain camp says that Rick Davis had broken ties with that company.  Asked about the reports by NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell and CNBC‘s John Harwood, McCain‘s campaign senior advisor said this, quote, “Rick Davis was never a lobbyist for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  Sen. McCain‘s positions on policy matters are based on what he believes to be in the public interest, period.” 

The McCain campaign also added, quote, “Rick Davis left Davis Manafort” - that‘s the lobbying firm - “and stopped taking salary from the firm in 2006.”  Sunday night, McCain said Davis had no involvement with Freddie Mac. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My campaign manager has stopped that, has had nothing to do with it since.  And I‘ll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it. 


MADDOW:  So what if anything - does all of that money paid by Freddie Mac to the firm from which Rick Davis has taken leave add up to politically?

Joining us now is Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  He‘s here and reporting this news at “” tonight.  Mike, thanks for joining us. 


MADDOW:  We knew before that Rick Davis was involved in a group that had been set up by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to advocate for its interests, chiefly less regulation, that he had been paid $30,000 a month at some point in his past to be involved in that group.  What‘s the new information and how does it connect to that earlier story?

ISIKOFF:  Well, the new information is this.  After that story the other day, which the “New York Times” reported on, the McCain campaign came back with a ferocious push back and saying this was a totally unfair, low-ball hit against Rick Davis, that he severed his ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back at the end of 2005 when this advocacy group, the Homeownership Alliance was dissolved.  And McCain, as we just saw, said that that was - it was over at the end of 2005. 

And Rick Davis said he hasn‘t been involved at all in any activity, housing-related activity, since then.  Though they left out something that, you know, I think a lot of people could find fairly significant, which is that after the Homeownership Alliance ended at the end of 2005, Rick Davis went back to Freddie Mac and said, “I would still like to be paid according to our reporting tonight on this,” and asked for a consulting arrangement to continue. 

And an arrangement was entered into, according to our sources, basically because of his relationship with John McCain.  That Freddie Mac put Davis Manafort, Rick Davis‘ consulting firm, on a $15,000-a -month retainer in 2006.  And we are told because of his association with John McCain, “You didn‘t want to say no to John McCain‘s campaign manager,” as one source put it to us. 

Now, that relationship has continued ever since.  Davis has severed his relationship, severed his payments from Davis Manafort.  He is no longer participating in Davis Manafort at some point.  We don‘t know when he severed that relationship. 

But here‘s the thing and here‘s why I think this could be a bigger deal.  The payments continued for what?  We‘re told that no work has been performed under this consulting arrangement with Davis Manafort.  There‘s nobody else at Davis Manafort who was doing work for this $15,000-a-month consulting arrangement. 

Rick Davis attended a PAC meeting of Freddie Mac in 2006.  He attended a few breakfasts, but other than that, this money has been doled out month by month until last month.  And I think people may look at this and say, “Well, wait a second.  This is an arrangement that Rick Davis set up,” and it was still being paid by this entity, Freddie Mac, and now the taxpayers are having to bail out. 

MADDOW:  When the John McCain campaign was asked about this tonight, they are saying that Rick Davis has never lobbied for Freddie Mac.  They are pushing back very hard on your reporting here.  We saw them push back very hard against the “New York Times‘” reporting on the earlier arrangement, the arrangement that ended at the end of 2005, earlier this week to the point of attacking the “New York Times,” the very idea that they‘re even a journalistic institution.  What do you make of the pushback and are you experiencing it personally tonight?

ISIKOFF:  You know, I think this is - you know, one of the problems you get into when you sort of forget about the press and say, “We‘re going to declare war on the press,” is you don‘t go through a filter of trying to examine your own statements before you make them and try to think about how its going to play in the press. 

And if the McCain campaign knew two nights ago that Rick Davis‘s lobbying firm was being paid $15,000 a month by Freddie Mac, it‘s hard to imagine that they would have made - and cared about how the press might report that.  It‘s hard to imagine that John McCain would have been out there Sunday night saying, “He‘s had no relationship with Freddie Mac for the last three years.” 

And Rick Davis himself would have gone on that conference call and attacked the “New York Times” story and say as he did, “There‘s been no activity.”  He made be true that there‘s been no activity, but the payments to his firm have continued.  I think it‘s going to be hard for the McCain campaign and Rick Davis to explain why those payments continued. 

MADDOW:  Right.  Saying that you didn‘t do any work for the money makes us worry more about the money, not less.  Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, thank you and congratulations on the scoop. 

ISIKOFF:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Will there be political fallout to this apparently continually evolving scandal?  Do advisors matter to voters?  Is “lobbyist,” admittedly a very boring word - does it become politically exciting when it‘s paired with a massive freak show of a Wall Street meltdown? 

Rosa Brooks, columnist for the “Los Angeles Times,” joins us now. 

Rosa, thanks for joining us. 

ROSA BROOKS, COLUMNIST FOR THE “LOS ANGELES TIMES”:  It‘s great to be here, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Looking at this new reporting that Rick Davis‘ lobbying firm may have been being paid by Freddie Mac to the tune of $15,000 a month, even after Rick Davis severed his ties and there‘s this big push back from the McCain campaign.  Do you see this having political resonance or is this complicated stuff about people who are removed from the candidate himself?

BROOKS:  I think it has political resonance.  You know, I think that there are two issues here, both of which might be a little bit disturbing to voters trying to make up their minds.  You know, one of the things that‘s disturbing is the hypocrisy/dishonesty piece of this. 

You know, it‘s a little bit weird, as Michael Isikoff just said, to have the campaign going out and saying, “No, no connection to these people.  Absolutely not.  Certainly no lobbying, no nothing.  And then it turns out that these payments to Davis‘ firm were continuing to a month ago.  You know, he may not be getting that money going into his personal bank account right now, but this is still his firm. 

He presumably intends to go back to it at some point.  And as you said yourself, you know, it‘s even worse if he‘s not doing any work for it.  The money is just piling up, waiting for, you know - It‘s just like saying, you know, “Don‘t pay me.  Why don‘t you just give those payments to my brother over here for awhile while I do something else?” 

And I think to be denying it, saying this wasn‘t happening - you know, it‘s certainly, if I may say so, it‘s sort of Clintonesque.  It gets into the - it depends on what the meaning of “is” is.  It depends on what the meaning of “lobby” is.  It looks pretty yucky, and it‘s particularly hypocritical-looking at a time when the McCain campaign is trying very, very hard to tar Obama with associations - very, you know, questionable claims about associations far down the line with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. 

While meanwhile the McCain campaign is just lying like crazy about its own much closer links to the very same mortgage giants that are part of the root of this whole mess that we‘re in right now.  So that I think is one of the problems.  And it‘s only one; the other is the potential conflict of interest issue. 

MADDOW:  The substantive issues, the conflict of interest issues, and then the awkward lying about those issues, or at least seeming to be caught out on those issues again and again and again. 


MADDOW:  Rosa Brooks, “The Los Angeles Times” columnist, thank you for joining us.  I really appreciate it.

BROOKS:  It‘s a pleasure.

MADDOW:  There were no weapons of mass destruction and we were not greeted as liberators.  Saddam Hussein was not connected to the 9/11 attacks and there isn‘t greater stability in the Middle East.  Maybe the Iraq War was just about oil?  About getting it out of the ground and selling it? 

And if so, somebody owes President Bush a big congratulations.  Because today, after 36 years of nationalized oil in Iraq, Royal Dutch Shell Company is back on the block and in business in Baghdad.  Of course, they won‘t tell you which block, because of the continuing violence.  But still, they‘re there.  More on that in a moment.    


MADDOW:  Between the Wall Street disaster and the presidential campaign, no one‘s much talking about the war in Iraq right now.  But if you‘re willing to swim upstream a little bit and pay attention to what‘s going on there, we‘ve suddenly got a lot more clarity about Iraq right now than we‘ve had in a really, really long time. 

The Iraqi prime minister did an interview on Iraqi state TV last week.  It was translated by the U.S. Government‘s own public translation service “”  And according to the U.S. Government translation, Maliki said that, “The final date was really the end of 2010 and the end of 2011 was for withdrawing the remaining troops from all of Iraq, but they asked for a change in date due to political circumstances related to the domestic situation in the U.S.  So it will not be said to the end of 2010, followed by one year for withdrawal but the end of 2011 as a final date.”

In essence, he said when he was negotiating with the Bush administration to pick a withdrawal date for our troops to come home.  They initially settled on about 15 months from now, the end of 2010.  But then, according to “,” their government translation, the Maliki government says - Prime Minister Maliki says the Bush administration came back and told the Iraqis they‘d actually like our troops to stay in Iraq an extra year, through 2011. 

Why an extra year?  Quote, “due to political circumstances related to the U.S. domestic situation.”  To the prime minister, it says on tape according to our own government‘s translation, that the Bush administration wants to prolong the war in Iraq for an extra year because of our domestic politics. 

If you feel like your hair is on fire right now, you‘re not alone.  If you‘re an Iraq vet or the family member of an Iraq vet, if you‘re thinking about the prospect of yet another tour of duty in Iraq, not because of any condition on the ground, not because of any national security need, but just because it might be helpful for domestic political purposes here, you have the right to feel like your hair is extra double on fire. 

We, here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW today contacted the White House to ask for an explanation, a comment or response.  This is what an administration official told us, quote, “You‘ve heard us speak about different kinds of timelines or aspirational goals that may be acceptable.  We do not have anything to announce on that.  What we‘re focused on is a good agreement, not getting an agreement by a particular date.  Stepping back, what we‘re really pleased about is the fact that we are having these discussions with a sovereign, democratically elected country.  Any decisions on troops will be based on the conditions on the ground in Iraq.  That has always been our position; it continues to be our position.”

That‘s the statement we got from the White House today.  If you‘re keeping track at home, you‘re right.  They are not directly denying what the Iraqi prime minister said, which is incredible.  What he said is that the Bush administration is keeping the war going an extra year because they think it will be helpful somehow for domestic politics here in the United States. 

Does John McCain agree that keeping the war going longer makes for good politics here at home?  It seems like that has been his take on it in the past. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t think Americans are concerned if we‘re there for 100 years or 1,000 years or 10,000 years. 


MADDOW:  You know, I‘m an American people and I‘m sure concerned about that.  The Republicans are convinced that keeping the war going is good for them politically.  I think it‘s a political stinker.  I think there‘s a reason why the tape you‘ve seen over and over and over again of John McCain promising to stay 100 years in Iraq.  That‘s the tape that turns up in pro-Obama ads, not pro-McCain ads.  It‘s because it‘s a political stinker. 

So why are the Republicans invested in our troops staying and staying and staying and staying, even to the point of believing war in Iraq is a political winner for them.  Well, here.  My colleague and pal Keith Olbermann ends his show every night here on MSNBC by stating the number of days that have elapsed since President Bush put on that flight suit and proclaimed mission accomplished in Iraq. 

Last night‘s number was 1,972.  That‘s how many days have elapsed the “mission accomplished” speech.  You know, 1972 is also the year that Iraq kicked out the foreign oil companies.  That‘s when they nationalized their oil industry.  And thus, it is a weird numerological coincidence that yesterday was the day that for the first time since 1972, a western oil company opened an office in Iraq. 

In a sobering reminder the danger of doing business in Baghdad, the company is not disclosing the exact location of its office.  If you‘re looking for a mission to proclaim accomplished in Iraq, there you have it.  Oil companies b back open for business.  Unfortunately, it‘s starting to get more and more clear the more news we get out of Iraq that the accomplishment of this mission in Iraq.  This is the kind of accomplishment that will keep our troops there longer, not one that lets them come home. 


MADDOW:  Now it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones, who force-feeds me just enough pop culture so I can be allowed out in public.  Kent, what have you got?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Thank you, Rachel.  You know, earlier, you talked about Sarah Palin‘s trip to the United Nations today.  She met with a couple of presidents and that was nice.  But tomorrow, she actually steps on the world stage for real when she meets with Bono.  You know, that‘s the big kahuna. 

Think about the last 20 years.  Bush 41, gone.  Bill Clinton, gone.  Tony Blair, gone.  Gorbachev, gone.  Who‘s the only one that never goes away?  Bono.  For god‘s sake, Sarah, don‘t blow this.  He penciled you in. 

And finally, following the example of Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw donated $100,000 to fight California‘s November ballot initiative that would overturn same-sex marriage.  Spielberg said in a statement, quote, “Such discrimination has no place in California‘s constitution or any other.  Constitutions, right?  These liberal moon-bats and their crazy ideas, right, Rachel?  Hah, constitution. 

MADDOW:  Thank you very much, Kent.  I know, wacky.  I love mine. 

Thank you for watching tonight.  We will see you here tomorrow night.  Until then, you can E-mail us at  My Air America Radio show is 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast to coast.  “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.




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