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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Al Roker, Eugene Robinson, W. Craig Fugate, Bob Cavnar

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  -- for the Republican candidate in Colorado.  Making up what you did as a police officer in the town of Liberal, Kansas, is, in Kansas—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  The best thing about all of it is that it has to be Liberal, Kansas, where all this craziness happens.  Liberal, really?

OLBERMANN:  Reality has a well-known liberal bias.  And liberal has a well-known reality bias.

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly right.  Thank you, Keith.  Appreciate it.

We do begin tonight with an update actually on the biggest story in the country—and that, of course, is Hurricane Earl.  The category 2 hurricane, a significant hurricane, currently bearing down on North Carolina‘s outer banks with winds up to 110 miles an hour and a possible storm surge of three to five feet.  Hurricane Earl‘s projected path sends it right up the east coast, hitting Long Island and then Cape Cod tomorrow night and into Saturday morning.

The last time the East Coast was so threatened by a storm that looked anything like this, it was nearly 20 years ago in 1991, Hurricane Bob, which the National Weather Service blames for $620 million worth of damage and six deaths in the Northeast.

Hurricane Earl beginning to affect the outer banks right now.

NBC‘s Al Roker is in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, tonight.

Mr. Roker, thank you very much for being with us.  What can you tell us about what‘s happening right now?

AL ROKER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Ms. Maddow, as you can see, we‘ve got quite a bit of wind going on.  Nothing horrible.  Maybe about 15 to 20-mile-per-hour winds.  The seas behind me very angry right now.

We haven‘t seen the rain bands just yet.  They are literally just to our south.  Currently, Earl is about 160 miles—the center of Earl about 160 miles south of us right now, about 625 miles south of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Right now, as you mentioned, 110-mile-per-hour winds.  It‘s moving north at 18 miles per hour.  Now, for a hurricane, that‘s a pretty quick clip.  So, we are watching this thing move rather rapidly.

We expect by around 2:00 or 3:00 this morning, it should be parallel to the outer banks.  We don‘t expect it to make landfall.  Right now, it‘s moving north.

And the latest look at the satellite shows a wobble to the east.  But we‘ve had a little wobble to the west.  So, we‘re going to be keeping an eye on this.

We don‘t expect necessarily there to be landfall per se.  However, when you consider that hurricane-force winds extend out 70 miles from the center of Earl and tropical-force winds extend out about 205 miles from the center, you don‘t have to have landfall to get the direct action.

Storm surge, as you mentioned, is going to be a factor, about three to five feet above normal.  And that‘s going to happen right about high tide.  So, we can expect some coastal flooding.  Beach erosion will be a problem.

Rainfall, about four to six inches generally in some areas, and locally, may be higher here in the outer banks.

Then this thing will take off like a sling shot later this—tomorrow morning, moving up along the Eastern Seaboard, running parallel to Maryland, New Jersey, Long Island—probably won‘t have a direct hit on Long Island.  But they‘ll be within either not the hurricane-force winds, certainly tropical-force winds.

The biggest threat for landfall is probably Nantucket sometime late tomorrow night, in about 8:00 or 9:00, and then continuing on into possibly mainland Canada.  But for the most part, we think that landfall is going to be slight.  But as I say, it doesn‘t have to make landfall, Rachel, to have some major impacts.

MADDOW:  Al, based on all of those different factors, all of those potential impacts and the expected track of the storm, how bad is this hurricane expected to be in the end looking at the most immediate threat when you compare it with previous hurricanes that have hit North Carolina?  How should we compare this to past storms?

ROKER:  Well, I think this is mostly going to be a coastal event in that some hurricanes have come in and then gone inland and caused major flooding.  And that‘s usually what kills the most people and does the most damage.  It‘s not the winds.  It‘s the rain.  It‘s the water.  It‘s the storm surge.

We‘re not going to see that widespread over North Carolina or Virginia right now on this current track.  It will mostly be a coastal event.  There will be coastal flooding, coastal beach erosion.  There may be some winds.  There may be some scattered power outages.

But if this continues on this track, and we‘re hoping it‘s making more of a north-northeasterly turn now and run parallel to the coast to maybe a little farther away, we will see minimal damage.  But, again, it‘s still too early to tell.  We‘ve got to wait for it to continue to make that turn before things really settle in.

MADDOW:  Al Roker in Kill Devils Hill, North Carolina, for us tonight

many thanks, Al.  I really appreciate your time and you‘re being out there in the weather for us.


ROKER:  All right.  Thanks a lot, Rachel.

MADDOW:  You can see Al Roker, of course, on the Weather Channel and, obviously, and, of course, on “The Today Show” in the morning.

Joining us now is the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA: Craig Fugate.

Mr. Fugate, thank you.  I know your time is really precious right now.


MADDOW:  What is the latest that FEMA knows about Hurricane Earl?  If you could update us on anything that Al didn‘t cover right there in terms of what areas you‘re expecting to potentially have a significant impact from this storm.

FUGATE:  I think he covered it.  You know, pretty much the outer banks of North Carolina to Nantucket and the outer banks in Massachusetts tend to be the two areas we‘re most concerned about direct impacts of a hurricane.  And then again, coastal effects, strong, you know, wave action, some flooding and power outages.

I think the real message right now for people in the outer banks and those areas there is to stay safe tonight and tomorrow morning, stay safe, because we may be dealing with power lines downed and other impacts.  But our teams have basically been positioned along the coast, waiting for the storm to come by.

MADDOW:  In terms of your teams being positioned along the coast, what can you tell us about what FEMA has prepositioned?  What FEMA has in place in the areas you‘re most worried about?

FUGATE:  Well, what we did was we sent supplies into Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for the southern part of the track, and sent supplies up into Massachusetts for the northern end, and sent stuff we would expect we may need after a storm like water and food, but also things like generators and tarps.  Again, we weren‘t going to wait until we had specific missions.

But also, our partners at Red Cross have been bringing supplies for shelters.  And, you know, one of the things we learned from Katrina is we got to make sure we have supplies there for children and infants.  And so, a lot of this stuff is being done with the partnership in addition to what the governors are doing and local officials are doing.

MADDOW:  You mentioned Katrina there.  One of the things, of course, on everyone‘s minds is that this five years to the week from Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans.  And that, of course, is the disaster that made FEMA less of an acronym and more of a four-letter word in many parts of this country.

What should we all understand as Americans about how FEMA operates differently now than it did five years ago in terms of people having confidence in your agency?

FUGATE:  I‘ll tell you the big difference is.  In 2006, Congress passed laws that said we would not have to wait for governor to ask for help to get ready.  And I think the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act took a lot of the lessons from Katrina, a lot of the concerns people had about the structures within FEMA and the authorities and clarified that.  So, well before the governors even activated their state emergency operation centers, we knew the East Coast was at risk.  We began moving resources, just like we did down in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands prior to the storm getting there.

And again, this is a partnership.  You know, people say, what—who does the state got to ask to get help?  I said, well, we‘re sitting right next to the state, in their operation centers.  We‘ve been there the last couple of days in North Carolina.

So, it‘s really working as a partnership, shortening up the line of communications, not waiting until it gets bad to get things moving, but also remembering, the governors and the local officials are leading this response.  We‘re going to support them.

MADDOW:  Mr. Fugate, one last question for you, just so this is crystal clear for anybody watching on the Eastern Seaboard right now who thinks they may be in an area that‘s going to be hit for this.  What‘s your advice to people as they watch this storm?

FUGATE:  Again, if you‘re in the area on the outer banks of North Carolina right now, pretty much, if you‘re in a safe place, stay there and stay inside.

For Massachusetts, those areas along the coast and people that may be along this coastal path, pay attention to the storm, get ready.  When it gets there, make sure you‘re somewhere safe.  Don‘t go outside, don‘t drive in it.

After the storm, be very careful, we may have some dangerous conditions.  Let your responders get the area safe.  Don‘t add to everybody‘s workload.

So, really, right now, if you pretty well have done what you need to do, which is get really to monitor the storm.  And as it comes to your area, if you‘re in a safe place, stay inside and make sure you‘re safe during the storm.

MADDOW:  Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency—good luck to you in handling this one and thanks so much for your time.

FUGATE:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  We have a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW exclusive coming up tonight.  It‘s an exclusive on race and on an aggressive and rather odd campaign to try to rewrite America‘s recent racial history and to do so for preliminary reasons.  Our exclusive tonight is about presidential hopeful Haley Barbour.  You will hear this only on this show, it‘s sort of a big deal and it is next.

Please stay tuned.


MADDOW:  Republicans have had some buffo electoral news this week.  A new Gallup poll out this week shows that a generic Republican candidate beats a generic Democratic candidate by a huge margin, 51 to 41.  That‘s the best number for either party in that poll dating back to 1942.  Today, one of the deans of political prognostication in America, Larry Sabato, predicted that Republicans will take control of the House in this year‘s election.  He says they‘ll also pick up another eight or nine seats in the Senate—which would get them darn close to a takeover there as well.

Even as politicians continue to have some bad days—I‘m talking to you, Jan Brewer—the Republican Party in aggregate is getting good news and has been recently.

If you are the Republican Party, how do you come out of what is expected to be a ginormous midterm election and ride that wave toward taking the presidency in 2012?  Toward keeping Barack Obama one-term president?

Well, one approach to it is to employ the patented Karl Rove approach

to elections, to try to hit your president—in this case, President Obama

not just where he‘s vulnerable but also where he is strong.  And that may explain why we‘re seeing a lot of, frankly, unusual salvos on the issue of civil rights lately from some very conservative figures.


This past weekend, of course, there was an event that got lots of national attention on the anniversary of Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream” speech, there was FOX News host Glenn Beck trying to take on the mantle of civil rights for himself, speaking to a mostly white crowd about how he was reclaiming the civil rights movement from politics.

Now, today, something that probably won‘t get as much attention because it‘s not as flashy, but something that is maybe even more dramatic because it‘s a more serious Republican figure making an even more radical claim has happened.  Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, the chair of the Republican Governors Association, the former head of the Republican Party, has just given an interview to the organization, Human Events, in which he goes into great detail about his recollections of civil rights, segregation, race relations and the modern Republican Party.

Check it out.


GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI:  The people that led the change of parties in the South, just as I mentioned earlier, was my generation.


BARBOUR:  My generation who went to integrated schools.  I went to an integrated college—never thought twice about it.  And it was the old Democrats who had fought for segregation so hard.  By my time, people realized that was the past.  It was indefensible, wasn‘t going to be that way anymore.


MADDOW:  My generation who went to integrated schools.  I went to integrated college, never thought twice about it.

That is Haley Barbour‘s history of integration in the South. 

Essentially, it was all over by his time.

That‘s not actually the real history.  That‘s not even Haley Barbour‘s real history.

Haley Barbour is 62 years old.  He was born in 1947.  He graduated as valedictorian of Yazoo City High School in Mississippi.  Now, we can‘t be sure exactly what year he graduated from high school because his press office wouldn‘t respond to our request for information today.  But from we do know, it seems like he got his high school diploma right around 1964 or 1965.

Mississippi schools did not integrate—they didn‘t stop segregating students by race until the Supreme Court forced them to in 1970, well after Haley Barbour, Mr. “We went to integrated schools” graduated high school.

A civil rights historian named Joanne Prichard Morris who taught in Yazoo City and knew Haley Barbour personally told us today, quote, “Anybody who graduated high school before 1970 in Mississippi did not go to an integrated school.  Giving Haley the benefit of the doubt, he probably feels like he is of that generation, but he‘s not.”

After high school, Haley Barbour went to the University of Mississippi, better known as Ole Miss.  Again, this was his recollection of his college years.


BARBOUR:  I went to an integrated college—never thought twice about it.


MADDOW:  Never thought twice about it.  Again, we do not know exactly when Haley Barbour entered Ole Miss.  Again, it‘s likely around 1965.  That wasn‘t long after this man, James Meredith, became the first African-American to enter Ole Miss.  He transferred in during the fall of 1962 and graduated in 1963.

Today, an Ole Miss history professor, Charles Eagles, told us the next African-American undergraduate at Ole Miss transferred in during the summer of 1964.  Again, right around the time that Haley Barbour started there.  That same year, Ole Miss admitted its first black freshman, which means we think there were as few as two other African-American students, two African-American students on the entire Ole Miss campus, two out of 5,000 or so total students when Haley Barbour was in college there.


BARBOUR:  I went to integrated college—never thought twice about it.


MADDOW:  Two students.  By the time his senior year rolled around in 1968, Ole Miss had a grand total of 39 black students.  That would make 0.7 percent of the student body.  So, 99.3 percent white.

What was it like at Ole Miss for a black student then?  Dr. Donald Cole, an African-American provost now at the school told us today that he was expelled as a freshman in 1968 for protesting discrimination at Ole Miss.  Among conditions Dr. Cole remembers, there were no black faculty, there were no black athletes.

So, that was Haley Barbour‘s time as he says, as an integrated college.


BARBOUR:  I went to integrated college—never thought twice about it.


MADDOW:  Never thought twice about it.

Haley Barbour argues in this interview that his generation not only didn‘t live segregation, didn‘t experience it, he also says, Republicans like him in the South, they realized segregation was not only the past, it was indefensible.

It should also be noted that as an adult, Haley Barbour married and had two sons.  Mr. Barbour‘s two sons were educated in Yazoo City, too, just like their dad.  Only, Mr. Barbour sent them to private school.  He put his sons in this particular private school, Manchester Academy, was founded in 1969, when all-white private schools were popping up across Mississippi because public schools were being forced to integrate.

According to press reports, Manchester Academy where Haley Barbour sent his sons, Manchester Academy, admitted its first black students in the year 1996.  That‘s a year before one of Mr. Barbour‘s sons looks to have graduated from that school.


BARBOUR:  My generation, who went to integrated schools.  I went to integrated college—never thought twice about it.


MADDOW:  Again, the larger point here, whatever fantasy Haley Barbour is spinning about his own history and race and life in Mississippi, the overall point he is trying to make here, what he‘s trying to sell America on, is the idea that America should understand that the modern Republican Party is as dominant as it is in the South because it‘s so against segregation, because it was so post-racial.


BARBOUR:  The people that led the change of parties in the South, just as I mentioned earlier, was my generation.  The people who really changed the South from Democrat to Republican was a different generation from those who fought integration.


MADDOW:  I do not know what you fought or didn‘t fight.  But what you lived, is to a certain extent a matter of record.  It really happened in real life.  Other people were there.  We can check these things.

Joining us is Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and MSNBC contributor, Eugene Robinson.

Gene, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Oh, it‘s so great to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Does Haley Barbour‘s history of race relations and political parties in the South square with your understanding of race relations and political parties in the South?

ROBINSON:  Well, gee, Rachel, I was there too.  And do you mind if I just rant a little bit?

MADDOW:  Oh, Gene, allow me to pop popcorn.  But you just go.

ROBINSON:  Look, there was a time, yes, when the Democrats were Dixiecrats and the Democratic Party was a party of segregation.  Then came a little thing called the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Now, that was passed by Lyndon Johnson, who was seen by many white Southerners as a race traitor.  Johnson said at the time, predicted at the time, that his civil rights legislation would cost Democrats the South for a generation.  He was being modest.

Among the Republicans who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was Barry Goldwater.  Well, in the November election in 1964, Barry Goldwater against Lyndon Johnson, Goldwater won precisely six states, he won his home state of Arizona and he won five states in the Deep South.  He won Louisiana, Mississippi, Haley Barbour‘s state, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

I wonder why.  It was the first time the Deep South states had voted for a Republican presidential candidate since reconstruction.  I wonder why?  We all know why.  It was because that was the moment when the Republican Party began to become the party of white southern grievance, the party that was essentially resentful of the fact that there was integration, the party of private academies, which were started in places like my hometown of Orangeburg, South Carolina.

And this idea that in the 1960s, in the mid-60s, Segregation was somehow a settled matter and that we were all done with that, my generation was so enlightened—well, you know, in my home town, again, there was an incident called the Orangeburg massacre in which three black students were killed by state troopers in a demonstration that had begun over a segregated all-white bowling alley in the middle of town.  The year was 1968.

So, the news of Brown versus Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act must have traveled by pony express to reach those Deep South states.  But this was by no means a settled question.

And Haley Barbour‘s version of events is the biggest bunch of revisionist claptrap I think I have ever heard in my life.

Thank you, rant over for now.  But I reserve the right.

MADDOW:  I would like to just actually cancel the rest of the show and put that on a loop, if you don‘t mind.


MADDOW:  Gene, let me ask—let me ask you about this, though, because Haley Barbour making up his own history about this is—an interesting thing about Haley Barbour, he‘s considered to be a very credible Republican candidate for president, among other things, in 2012.  But it seems like it fits this larger Republican effort right now.

The Republican Party‘s Web site right now, they have their list of accomplishments.  It is as if all they‘ve ever done is work on civil rights, like in the military, at Ole Miss, in Little Rock, they wrote Brown v. Board.  They are making the case for themselves as the party of civil rights and Democrats have been lying to you about that.

How do you understand this overall strategy?

ROBINSON:  Well, first of all, I find it really hard to remember those many phalanxes of white, liberal, Southern college students who were standing with the civil rights marchers, at least in my hometown.  We must have missed out on that.

You know, it‘s—and also, I seem to recall, by the way, that during this period, like all the black people left the Republican Party and went to the Democratic Party for a reason—it seems to me there are two possibilities.  The generous one is that this is perhaps the way Haley Barbour would like to remember his racial attitudes and his history of the period of the period 1960s.  Maybe he likes to think of—think that that‘s what he thought and that‘s how he behaved.

The more cynical view of it would be that this is not really an appeal for the African-American vote, which they‘re not going to get, and not really a serious attempt to rewrite the history books, but just to kind of muddy the water and soften the edges and perhaps allay the concerns of, say, white suburban independents who would perhaps vote for a conservative but perhaps not vote for a bigot.

And so, I think this appeal really isn‘t for the black vote.  It‘s to try to be a part of, you know, this stirring chapter in American history and blur the historical edges, which we will not allow to be blurred, because what happened happened.

The South has changed an awful lot.  I think it‘s perfectly appropriate and it‘s very good to look at the new South and how it‘s different from the old South.  But, in fact, we will not forget what the old South was like.

MADDOW:  That‘s absolutely right.  It is on the record.  People can still tell the tales.  We have the photos.  We have the people who experienced it and the stuff cannot be rewritten.

I couldn‘t agree with you more and I look forward to keeping those edges sharp with you into the indefinite future, Gene.  Thank you.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Eugene Robinson, of course, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post,” MSNBC contributor, and I‘m very happy to say, my pal.  I‘m always he‘s on the show.

All right.  So, it was a debate for the ages.  The incumbent seems to lose all sense of where she is and what she‘s supposed to be talking about.  She resorts to nervous giggling, looking around and grinning maniacally at the camera while saying nothing for long stretches of time.  And that‘s before we get to the part about the fake headless people—next.



GOV. JAN BREWER (R-AZ):  I want to thank you all for being here today and hope that we meet again on better circumstances maybe. 


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  As long as she has been on the national radar because of her state‘s “Papers, Please” immigration law and everything that‘s followed.  Arizona‘s Governor Jan Brewer has, I believe, been underappreciated - underappreciated for her show-stopping verbal abilities. 

Last night, on this show, we had a long exclusive report about Gov. Brewer‘s retaliation against a local news affiliate in Phoenix, pulling her campaign ads from that station in retribution for their news team reporting on her administration. 

While we were airing that report, though, Gov. Brewer herself was at a big important debate in Arizona.  She is running in this year‘s election to hold on to her job as governor.  Her performance in the debate was amazing. 

As humans, we are wired to want to turn away from things like this, and that is a good thing about human nature.  But I‘m asking you to please try to override that good, natural empathetic impulse to cover your eyes or flee.  Please just trust me, stay to the end.  Here‘s Jan Brewer‘s opening statement from last night‘s debate. 


BREWER:  It‘s great to be here with Larry, Barry and Terry.  And thank you all for watching us tonight.  I have done so much.  And I just cannot believe that we have changed everything since I‘ve become your governor in the last 600 days. 

Arizona has been brought back from its abyss.  We have cut the budget.  We have balanced the budget and we are moving forward.  We have done everything that we could possibly do.  We have - did what was right for Arizona. 


MADDOW:  The most amazing thing about Gov. Brewer‘s performance last night was that opening statement.  That‘s not the most awkward part of it.  During the debate, her Democratic opponent, the state‘s attorney general, Terry Goddard, asked Gov. Brewer about her frequent claims that people are turning up without their heads in Arizona. 

That has been part of how Jan Brewer made the case for the “Papers, Please” law, SB-1070.  She made the claim about beheadings a number of times on television.  She made the claim as a result of illegal immigration, authorities in Arizona were finding headless bodies around. 

That claim, of course, has been very thoroughly disproven.  And the governor‘s opponent, Mr. Goddard, hit her for it last night.  Here‘s what happened during the debate. 


ATTY. GEN. TERRY GODDARD (D), ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  What is hurting us right now economically, are statements, false statements, made by Jan Brewer about how Arizona has become so violent, that we are a place of fear, that we have beheadings in the desert. 

Those are false statements that cause people to think that Arizona is a dangerous place.  And they don‘t come here and don‘t invest here because our governor has said such negative things about our state. 

And Jan, I call upon you to stay that there are no beheadings. 

That is a false statement and it needs to be cleared up right now. 

BREWER:  And you know, Terry, I will call you out.  I think you ought to renounce your support and endorsement of the unions. 


MADDOW:  That was during the debate.  As you might have noticed, she doesn‘t answer the question, what is a totally standard political debate tactic. 

But it was an interesting enough question and she side-winded around it enough additional times during the debate that reporters that who were covering the debate decided they wanted to get an answer to that, too.  So they asked her about it afterwards. 

Now, again, I have to ask you to please override your empathetic human urge to close your eyes, plug your ears and go la la la la la la, to turn away from the screen or to flee the room entirely.  You can do it and you need to see the end of this clip for the way the assembled press corps responds to what the governor does here. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Governor, why wouldn‘t you recant the comment you made earlier about the beheadings in the desert? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  That‘s a serious question, governor. 

BREWER:  Well, this was an interesting about evening tonight.  Of course, you caught a complete display of the difference between myself and Terry Goddard, you know, somebody that wants to tax and spend and somebody that had to make hard decisions. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Governor, why won‘t you recant the comment you made earlier about the beheadings? 

BREWER:  So we will continue forward -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  But governor, seriously, the fact is, if you‘re talking about - you‘re complaining about Terry Goddard and unions and people not coming to the state.  Maybe people aren‘t coming here because you‘re making comments about headless bodies? 

BREWER:  The big thing that didn‘t happen tonight was Terry Goddard never gave us a plan.  Terry Goddard has never had a plan.  If he has, he hasn‘t shared it.  It‘s about time that he steps up and brings us a plan.  This being governor is not an easy job, Terry.  You need to get your plan out. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  What about the headless bodies? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Will you answer the question, governor?  Please answer about the headless bodies?  Why can‘t you recant that?  Do you still believe that?  Come on, governor. 

BREWER:  OK.  Thank you, all. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Governor, what do you - oh, come on. 



MADDOW:  Heading into last night, Jan Brewer was 19 points ahead of Terry Goddard in the polls.  Mind the gap, governor.


MADDOW:  Vermilion Block 380 was an oil-producing platform owned and operated by Mariner Energy, a Houston-based oil company.  Located about 80 nautical miles from the Louisiana coast, the platform produced about 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas each day and 1,400 barrels of oil during the last week of August alone.

This site was producing oil, and this morning, it caught fire.  Just after 9:00 a.m. local time, workers on a nearby oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico spotted the fire and called the coast guard.  All of Vermilion 380‘s 13 crew members were rescued from the Gulf of Mexico, where they had jumped into the water to save themselves from the flames. 

The coast guard originally reported that one of the crew members was injured.  But Mariner Energy later said that no one was hurt.  This platform was already producing and it was in what is deemed shallow water.  It was in about 340 feet of water, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. 

Because it was a producing well in shallow water, it was not covered by President Obama‘s moratorium on so-called deepwater drilling, which targets rigs in 500 feet of water or more. 

The Deepwater Horizon rig‘s explosion on April 20th killed 11 people and caused one of the worst environmental disasters ever.  That was in more than a mile of water.  Unlike the Deepwater Horizon, Vermilion 380 also sat on the ocean floor instead of floating like a deepwater rig. 

Still, ban or no ban, everyone is on eggshells now, wondering about potential further damage to the beleaguered and battered Gulf of Mexico.  The Associated Press initially reporting that the coast guard said a mile-long oil sheen had been spotted near Vermilion 380 after it blew up. 

But as with the report of the workers‘ injury, Mariner Energy had another story, telling CNBC that there was no sign of a spill whatsoever.  The coast guard later walked back their original report saying that no one could see a sheen. 

The moratorium, which is designed to assess and upgrade safety regulations on deepwater drilling rigs - that moratorium is currently scheduled to expire November 30th.  No word yet on whether or not today‘s incident at Vermilion 380 may cause the White House to revise that deadline. 

Take your time with that decision, folks.  According to “Mother Jones” today, there are only about 33,000 miles of pipeline and 50,000 wells in the gulf.  See all those dark blue dots.  Those are all the platforms and rigs in the gulf.  Did we also mention that it‘s hurricane season?  Yes, no rush. 

Joining us is Bob Cavnar, oil and gas industry veteran and founder and editor of “The Daily Hurricane.”  Mr. Cavnar, thanks for joining us. 


MADDOW:  Usually, you either see something or you don‘t.  Is there an oil spill associated with this disaster here at this rig or is there not? 

CAVNAR:  What‘s been reported to me, Rachel, is that the wells did automatically shut in when the fire occurred or when the leak that they had on the platform occurred. 

So I think that the wells themselves shut in pretty quickly.  But often, what you get here is you‘ll get some residual oil on the platform.  And sometimes, when they flood the platform with fire water the way they did today, you‘ll wash that into the water.  And that‘s probably what they saw. 

MADDOW:  So what‘s the biggest risk at this point from this particular rig for what‘s happened there so far?  Should we be watching this site in terms of potential further environmental damage here? 

CAVNAR:  I believe this is - being a shallow well, the wellheads and all of the valves are actually above the surface of the water so you can see them.  So it‘s different than the deepwater wells where everything is done by remote-operated vehicle. 

Also, in 300 feet of water, you can actually put divers in to look at the seafloor around the wells so you can monitor much more closely.  I think the risk of something further happening here is pretty low. 

But I‘ve got to tell you, this is going to shed new light or raise new questions about shallow water and how it‘s being affected by the moratorium for the deep water. 

MADDOW:  Well, I know that there was an initial shallow water

moratorium after the deepwater disaster -

CAVNAR:  Right. 

MADDOW:  If I remember correctly.  But right now it‘s deepwater drilling, not production wells and not wells in water that is this shallow that are subject to that moratorium. 

CAVNAR:  That‘s correct. 

MADDOW:  Is there anything that is fundamentally qualitatively safer about drilling in shallow water than there is in drilling in deep water? 

CAVNAR:  The primary thing that makes it different - I‘m not sure if one is less safe than the other - I think the risk is higher of something going wrong in the deep water simply because you have a floating facility where these actually sit on the bottom. 

But you still have that severe risk of spill and fire on both facilities.  The advantage that you have with shallow water is that you can get to it easier than you can with deep water so it can be fixed faster generally than a deepwater spill or deepwater blowout. 

MADDOW:  Are incidents like these - are they outliers?  Is there a trend of safety problems in the drilling industry right now? 

CAVNAR:  You know of the industry will say, “Well, this is an anomaly.”  But you have enough anomalies.  You link them together and you have a trend.  And the timing of this could not be worse in my view because of the moratorium and because of all the questions being raised about offshore production. 

I do think that this is going to raise a lot of issues on the regulatory side.  There are incidents that happen, spills or - small spills and small incidents.  But when you have fire and when you have people in the water, you‘ve got a problem.  And I think we need to look at what those regulations are before we go forward. 

MADDOW:  Bob Cavnar, oil and gas industry veteran, currently the editor and founder of “The Daily Hurricane.  Bob, thanks very much for your insight tonight. 

CAVNAR:  Happy to join you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith dismantles the case being made by Republican political adviser Mark McKinnon we should be missing the good old days of George W. Bush right about now.   

On this show, coming up next, one governor‘s race that was already weird, has now ascended to magnificently strange heights.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  And now, part two of why the contest to become the next governor of the great state of Colorado is the leader around the clubhouse turn for this year‘s best race ever. 

Part one was based in the wacky wonderfulness of third party candidate, Tom Tancredo.  Tom Tancredo this week accusing First Lady Michelle Obama of trying to ban Christmas. 

Part two is the actual Republican nominee for Colorado governor.  His name is Dan Maes.  While there is much to say about Mr. Maes‘ current troubles, which I‘ll get to this hour, let us begin here. 

Dan Maes - M-A-E-S.  That‘s how you spell his last name - M-A-E-S.  He was a businessman before he was a politician.  The name of the business he founded was Amaesing Credit Solutions - A-M-A-E-S-I-N-G. 

And it gets more amazing from there.  The governor‘s race is such a mess now the Republican nominee may lose the nomination he has already won.  The primary‘s over and they may strip the nomination from him.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  Please stay tuned.  



MADDOW:  Sorry.  OK.  First, it seemed like the most interest thing was going to be the Republican frontrunner getting walloped for plagiarism.  The guy was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do reports on policy issues and he just copied the stuff someone else wrote, so he‘s out. 

That‘s what we thought was going to be the highlight, right?  Then RACHEL MADDOW SHOW frequent special guest star, Tom Tancredo, decided to threaten both the plagiarism guy and the other Republican candidate, the tea party guy, that they both should quit the race.  He hated both of them. 

They did not quit.  So Tom Tancredo got in the race on a third party ticket to spite them.  Then we thought that was going to be the highlight. 

But oh, no.  Then, Tom Tancredo did an interview with “Talking Points Memo” in which he asserted that First Lady Michelle Obama had banned Christmas at the White House.  For the record, this is what the White House looked like in late December of this past year.  Christmas-y, right?  But according to Tom Tancredo, secretly Muslim. 

So then, surely, that was going to be the highlight, right?  The Colorado governor‘s race couldn‘t get any weirder.  That‘s what we all thought.  And all that stuff alone was probably enough to make it the single most entertaining top-of-the-ticket race so far in this year‘s elections. 

But apparently, all of that was just the warm-up.  This was the main headline on “The Denver Post” all day today, in advance of tonight‘s gubernatorial debate in Colorado, “Maes rejects calls that he exit the race.” 

The Republican Party in Colorado has changed their minds again.  After the plagiarism guy, after the Tom Tancredo fiasco, now, they are trying to kick the actual Republican nominee for governor. 

The guy who won the primary, Dan Maes - they are trying to kick him out of the race and he‘s refusing to go.  And nobody knows what‘s going to happen next. 

Here‘s the situation with Dan Maes.  Dan Maes first made national news by voicing his suspicion that a pro-bicycling program in Denver could be a secret conspiracy to have the United Nations take over Colorado.  Black helicopters, cheerfully painted bicycles - what‘s the difference, people? 

Since then, Dan Maes has made a name for himself for a totally different, but still sort of conspiratorial thing.  Mr. Maes has been forced to admit to lying on his resume.  Specifically, he appears to have made up a back story about himself as a secret agent, a secret agent in Kansas. 

On his campaign website, Mr. Maes wrote that when he worked as a police officer 25 years ago in the town of Liberal, Kansas, he went undercover on what turned out to be a dangerous assignment. 

There‘s a lot of typos here, but it‘s follow-able.  He says, quote, “At one point in my two years at the local police department in Liberal, Kansas, I was place (sic) under cover by the Kansas Bureau of Investigations to gather information inside a book-making ring that was also allegedly selling drugs.” 

“I got too close to some significant people in the community who were involved in these activities and abruptly was dismissed from my position.” 

Dan Maes essentially says he was tapped by the state version of the FBI in Kansas to go undercover and that undercover assignment, busting a drug dealing, book-making ring, got him too close to official corruption and so he, upstanding undercover Dan Maes, was fired.  Very dramatic, right?  Tell me more. 

The Maes campaign did say more.  They sent out a fundraising letter last week from Dan Maes‘ wife.  Quote, “I know Dan to have stood up to corruption as a young police officer.  This stance of integrity cost him his job.” 

It‘s a great campaign line, right?  Brave man going undercover, fired for his stance against corruption, a made-for-politics storybook tale that now has to go back to whatever storybook Dan Maes read it in, because law enforcement sources are telling “The Denver Post” this week that frankly, they have no idea what Dan Maes is talking about. 

Confronted, Mr. Maes has fessed up, recanted, sort of, and has blamed people for taking him seriously in the first place.  He told “The Post” quote, “Some people are probably taking that a little too literally.  Those comments might have been incorrect comments.” 

And by those comments, he means his own campaign Web site and the mailer from his wife saying he was a secret agent in Kansas.  It should also be noted that in the three weeks since he won the state‘s Republican primary, Mr. Maes has not hired a campaign manager.  He‘s has had to pay more than $17,000 in campaign finance violation fines. 

And there was this weird thing about slipping the check into - slipping a check into someone‘s purse.  At a campaign event on Monday, “The Denver Post” reports that Dan Maes slipped an unsigned check for $300 into the purse of the former mayor of Greenwood Village, Colorado. 

The former mayor had previously said that she loaned Dan Maes more than $300 in cash to pay off his mortgage.  Mr. Maes said it was a campaign contribution but it‘s illegal to take that much cash as a campaign contribution, so Mr. Maes apparently tried to make that whole issue go away this week by slipping an unsigned personal check into the mayor‘s purse. 

As a reminder, Dan Maes won the primary.  He is the official Republican nominee for governor of the great state of Colorado.  At least, he is for now.  Former Senator Hank Brown rescinded his endorsement for Mr.  Maes yesterday saying he was, quote, “concerned about the revelations about Mr. Maes.” 

A Republican former president of the State Senate also rescinded his earlier endorsement of Mr. Maes, calling him, quote, “a manifestly unfit nominee,” who, quote, “flunked his job interview with the people of Colorado.” 

Now, right-wing business giant, Pete Coors, says that Mr. Maes should go and former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez is calling for Mr.  Maes to get out of the race, saying that he would actually like to run in his place. 

Colorado newspapers are starting to join in the call as well for Mr. Maes to drop out.  And even the tea party folks who supported Mr. Maes throughout are now throwing him under the bus. 

Mesa County commissioner and tea party organizer Janet Rowland sent an E-mail to what she says is a list of 10,000 tea party supporters today that says this, quote, “Dan is an accidental nominee and he is a fraud.  I realize those are harsh words but in this case, the truth is harsh.” 

If Dan Maes does drop out of the race before Friday, Colorado Republicans will be able to put anyone else they want on the ballot in his place.  Damn the primary.  Damn the voters.  Apparently, they can‘t be trusted.  So far, Dan Maes says he‘s not going anywhere.  Then again, he also once said he was a secret agent.  So who knows what‘s going to happen next?  Watch this space. 

That does it for us tonight.  Don‘t forget, there‘s lots to add to what you see on the show.  We are very proud of our excellent blog at “”  “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.  Have an excellent night.



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