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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Meghan McCain

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.

And you don‘t look a day older than zero.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thank you very much, Keith.  That‘s very nice of you.  I have decided that now that we are starting our third year of this show, we‘re really going to take the terrible “two” thing to heart and just going to try to be as terrible as possible all year long.

OLBERMANN:  Well, wait.  But you‘ve completed two years, haven‘t you?

MADDOW:  Yes, but the whole terrible two‘s, that‘s for people who have turned two, right?  We‘re just going to be terrible.

OLBERMANN:  Oh!  All right.  I wouldn‘t tell anybody in management about that.

MADDOW:  All right.  Yes, I‘m working on a new promo script.  We‘ll see how that goes.

OLBERMANN:  Bye.  Out.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Olbermann out.

MADDOW:  It is indeed two years to the day since this show debuted and we are still on the TV machine, which is both excellent and it is mainly thanks to you at home.  So, thank you, really, truly.

For our second birthday today, we did receive a really great gift from the universe.  We got a tremendously busy news day.

The president gave a big speech and picked his personal opponent for this election season.  Not everybody has that kind of luxury.

Sharron Angle explained what she meant by Second Amendment remedies, which it turns out was exactly what it seemed like she meant in the first place.

And Meghan McCain, the free-spirited, outspoken daughter of Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, will be joining us live here in studio this hour.  We are all very, very much looking forward to that on “The Interview” tonight.

It is all ahead.

But, we begin with what is known in American politics as a soft target.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  Think about what happens if we don‘t pass this bill, think about what happens to your friends, your neighbors, your constituents.  So, I ask all of you, both sides of the aisle: what‘s in the best interest of our country?  Not what‘s in the best interest of our party, not what‘s in the best interest of our own re-election—what‘s in the best interest of our country?  Vote yes.


MADDOW:  That was the top Republican in the House, John Boehner, getting emotional, getting choked up while speaking on the House floor.

Keep that in mind as you watch this—the newly unveiled first campaign ad of the season from the National Republican Congressional Committee.  It‘s an ad that targets a Democratic congressman named Joe Donnelly from Indiana.  This appears to be their template ad so you should watch what they‘re attacking the Democrat here for.


NARRATOR:  Joe Donnelly claims he‘s independent.  But he‘s voted with Nancy Pelosi 88 percent of the time, for the Obama/Pelosi health care plan, the Wall Street bailout.


MADDOW:  The Wall Street bailout.  OK.  Here‘s the problem right now, if you‘re the Republican Party.  Here‘s the problem if you are the Republican Party trying to figure out the message that you are going to try to win on in November.

If you want to run against the Wall Street bailout, first of all, you have to run against the fact that almost all of the Wall Street bailout money has been paid back.  Second of all, we awkwardly still do have a financial system in America which at one point was not a foregone conclusion, which is why we got the bailout in the first place.

But most acutely, in political terms, if you want the Republican Party to run against the Wall Street bailout in this year‘s elections, how do you handle the fact that the Wall Street bailout was substantially a Republican policy?

It was put into place under Republican President George W. Bush and his treasury secretary, Hank Paulson.  It was given the seal of approval from Republican presidential candidate John McCain.  You will recall that he suspended his presidential campaign and rushed back to Washington to make sure the bailout passed.  Mr. McCain‘s running mate, Sarah Palin, right there with him on the bailout.


SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  The bailout provisions and the measures that have already been taken, it is a time of crisis and government did have to step in playing an appropriate role.  Government did have to step in there.


MADDOW:  The National Republican Campaign Committee, which is now running ads against the bailout, is headed by a man named Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas.  Pete Sessions of Texas cast a vote for the bailout back in 2008.

As Republicans try to cast themselves as the party ready to take over Washington, to take the country back from the horrible, horrible Democrats and their horrible, horrible Democratic policies like that horrible, horrible Democratic bailout, here is the Republican Party‘s speaker in waiting as they keep calling him now, John Boehner—a man who not only voted for the bailout but grew teary-eyed on the floor of the House while beseeching his fellow Republicans that they should vote for it, too.


BOEHNER:  So, I ask all of you, both sides of the aisle: what‘s in the best interests of our country?  Not what‘s in the best interests of our party, not what‘s in the best interests of our own re-election—what‘s in the best interests of our country?  Vote yes.


MADDOW:  Vote yes.  That‘s John Boehner imploring Republicans to vote for the bailout as Republicans now try to campaign on how much they were against the bailout.  This is not ancient history.  This is not one of those unknown knowns.  You can look this stuff up.  It‘s in Google news still.  There‘s tape.

John Boehner crying over how much he wants the bailout is one giant awkwardness for Republicans as they try to put together their message for this fall and they want it to be an anti-bailout message.  It also explains why Democrats, at the start of the campaign season, seem to have found a very, very, very clear point of focus for their Democratic political message.



Republicans in Congress—Mr. Boehner and his allies—when Mr. Boehner

was here in Cleveland—let me be clear to Mr. Boehner and everybody else

Mr. Boehner dismissed these jobs we saved—Mr. Boehner has, so far, said no to infrastructure.  When these same Republicans, including Mr.  Boehner, were in charge—there were no new policies for Mr. Boehner—



MADDOW:  President Obama today in Cleveland, Ohio, delivering what was billed as a major speech on the economy and using that platform to call out John Boehner by name over and over and over again—almost as if the two men were facing off against each other on the ballot in this year‘s elections.

A few hours before President Obama‘s speech today, the chairman of the Democratic Party, Tim Kaine, expanded on the “John Boehner, John Boehner, John Boehner” thing.


TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN:  Mr. Boehner led Republican opposition to legislation important in Pennsylvania and Virginia and elsewhere that helps states in a tough time keep teachers, firefighters, and policemen on the job.  This is the same John Boehner who infamously handed out tobacco company campaign checks to Republican members of Congress on the floor of the House of Representatives a couple years ago and plotted with the Wall Street lobbyists to block financial reform.


MADDOW:  Around the same time that Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine was blasting “John Boehner, John Boehner, John Boehner” in Philadelphia, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s office was churning out this fact sheet on “John Boehner, John Boehner, John Boehner,” and his policy proposals that they calculate would add $4.2 trillion to the deficit.

Democrats know that history over all is against them for this year‘s elections.  The president‘s party always loses seats in the first election of a new president‘s first term.  Democrats also know that the strongest wind blowing against them right now is that the economy is really bad and voters vote against the party in power when the economy is bad.  So they know they have to talk about the economy.  They know they have to campaign very aggressively, that the odds start out against them.

So, Democrats are making the case that Republicans are campaigning against policies that they supported.  Democrats are making the case that Republicans say they‘re fiscally conservative, but they want to give millions of dollars to the richest people in the country without paying for it, just larding that onto the deficit.

If you are the Democrats, you can make all those policy points you want, but in the campaign year, what you really want is to have all of the bad things you want to say about the other party personified in one very easily caricatured opponent.


OBAMA:  To most of you, I‘ll bet this just seems like common sense. 

But not to Mr. Boehner and his allies.


MADDOW:  It is Barack Obama versus John Boehner in 2010.  We speculated this might be it before.  Now, as of today, Democrats are leaving no ambiguity.  This is their frame—Barack Obama versus John Boehner.

The Beltway media says this is elevating John Boehner.  But Democrats aren‘t promoting him.  They‘re not changing his job title.  They‘re just trying to make sure that this year, this campaign season, John Boehner is very, very, very, very famous.

Joining us now to assess the strategy is Princeton University professor and MSNBC contributor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell.

Melissa, it‘s great to see you.  Thanks for being here.


MADDOW:  Well, thank you.  To the show, not to me.  I know.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  To the show, of course.

MADDOW:  We‘re so proud.

Why does it help politically to have a single politician personify the opposition party?  Obviously, the president plays that role for the Republicans, but why—why are Democrats picking one guy to be ichiban, Republican numero uno?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, I mean, obviously, the problem of the mid term election is exactly as you framed it here, that it‘s clear who the bad guy is on the in party.  It‘s the president.  It‘s part of why the president‘s party typically loses seats in a midterm election.

Voters, you know, will vote for a new president, hoping that all kinds of things will change.  Only some things change.  And so, the way they can demonstrate their discontent presumably is by voting against the party of the president.

And, therefore, you know, they have this bad guy.  They‘ve got Barack Obama.  But what does, you know, what do Democrats have?  Well, they just have this a amorphous GOP or this Tea Party or these other guys and gals.  And so, they‘re hoping to be able to embody and personify.

But there is a danger here.  And, of course, the danger is if you run

against Boehner and Boehner wins, I don‘t mean Boehner personally but I

mean the GOP has a big win in November, then, of course, what you‘ve done

is in a certain way weaken your president.  You‘ve suggested that your

president can be beaten by a potential speaker of the House.  And there‘s -

it‘s a risky strategy to decide to kind of embody everything that they‘re against in this one person.


MADDOW:  Melissa, you have talked a lot and I know done a lot of academic work on how economic stress leaves the electorate really vulnerable to political tactics that make us blame each other and divide us.  Is there a high road to take in a bad economy election or do you see both parties likely just seeking to out-scapegoat or out-blame the other guys?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  You know, it is tough because, you know, history tells us that we do a sort of ethnic balkanization, a sort of pulling to our own kind and claiming that whoever is not like us must somehow be to blame for our economic downturn.

If there is a high road at all, you know, interestingly, we saw a little bit of Boehner trying to do it during the passage of the Wall Street bailout and we saw Barack Obama doing it today.

When President Obama talked about his economic plan, it was framed very similar to both how his 2008 speeches, but even his 2004 speech, this sort of there‘s no red America, there‘s no blue America, there‘s only the United States of America.  Well, similarly today he said, really, all Americans are in this boat together.  Again, strangely enough, this was similarly how Boehner was suggesting Republicans should be thinking about the Wall Street bailout in ‘08, that this was, in fact, a moment when people had to think of themselves as Americans and think about the longer term strategy.

So, I think that there is only a high road to the extent that we‘re willing to think about our commonalities.  Just one quick challenge there though, if it‘s all about being Americans, then it still leaves us able to vilify migrant workers and undocumented workers.  And so, we‘ve seen an awful lot of that sort of nasty nativism showing up.

MADDOW:  Not to mention the Kenyan president.


HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Not to mention.

MADDOW:  Exactly.

One last question on the specifics here.  The president, himself, is planning to be very visible from all accounts, multiple campaign events, the first planned press conference in a long while.  Is he still the Democrats‘ best campaign asset or do Democrats need somebody else out there who can throw sharper barbs than a sitting president is really allowed to?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Look, I love to see President Obama out there.  He loves giving the speeches.  He‘s a great campaigner.  We know that.

But I have to say, one of the reasons I was a big supporter of Joe Biden for the vice presidential position is because I always thought that Biden could provide a real asset in a moment like this.  Look, don‘t get me wrong, but Joe Biden has a sort of a reputation for being crazy Joe and one of the best things about your crazy uncle at a family reunion is that he says the one completely honest thing that everybody is thinking, that none of the people with that actual filter will, in fact, say.

So, I‘m a big fan of kind of deploying the crazy uncle Joe strategy.  Send Vice President Biden out there.  Let him kind of get tough.  Let him say things that are somewhat outrageous.  And then, you know, let President Obama do his typical strategy of reaching across the aisle and, you know, he‘ll look and say, “Oh, come on, Joe.  That may have gone too far.”

But, I‘m a big fan of let‘s get crazy Joe out there.

MADDOW:  The crazy Uncle Joe strategy, T.M., Melissa Harris-Lacewell.


MADDOW:  I want the t-shirt—I want the t-shirt franchise on that.

Princeton University professor, MSNBC contributor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell—it is always a pleasure.  Thanks a lot.


MADDOW:  So, “The Interview” tonight is John McCain‘s excellently outspoken daughter, Meghan McCain.  We last had her on the show a year and a half ago.  That is still one of my favorite interviews I have ever done on the show.  I‘m very excited to say she‘s back live here in studio tonight.  That‘s coming up.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  At a breakfast with reporters today in Washington, D.C., Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour quantified the Republican Party‘s Michael Steele problem.

While Mr. Steele is beloved by everyone in cable news for obvious reasons, he is not particularly beloved by Republican Party donors.  Well, that is widely understood in political circles.  Before today, we didn‘t really know exactly how much the Republican Party calculates it has cost them to keep Mr. Steele onboard as chairman.

Today, Haley Barbour made it clear, telling reporters, quote, “We have to come up with about $10 million that normally would have been pushed into the governors races in various directions.”

Mr. Steele did not respond immediately to that accusation because, naturally, he‘s on a Republican Party funded trip to Saipan today.  Honestly, he‘s in Saipan—your donations to the Republican National Committee at work.


MADDOW:  What is over the line?  What qualifies as an unacceptable position for a major party nominee to hold in this year‘s elections?  What earns a reprimand from the party?  What earns other politicians distancing themselves from a position that is too extreme?  What‘s too extreme?

This year, a lot of positions that used to be politically over the line seem to be viable—positions like Social Security should be abolished; women should be forced to bear their rapist‘s babies; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a bad idea.  Those positions, despite what they‘ve been seen as in previous years, this year aren‘t necessarily seen as too controversial.

But is there anything that is too far out there, too over the line?  How about candidates saying that if conservatives don‘t get what they want in this year‘s elections, we should expect conservatives to use guns instead to get what they want?

That was the position held by a Nevada Republican Senate candidate named Sharron Angle who at the outset nobody expected to win.  Here she is explaining that position on conservative radio back in January.


SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?  And I‘ll tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.


MADDOW:  Here Sharron Angle is explaining that same concept some more that same month.


ANGLE:  The Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry.  This is not for someone who‘s in the military.  This is not for law enforcement.  This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical.

BILL MANDERS, RADIO HOST:  If we needed it any time in our history, it might be right now.

ANGLE:  Well, it‘s to defend ourselves.  And, you know, I‘m hoping that we‘re not getting to Second Amendment remedies.  I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.


MADDOW:  But if the vote isn‘t the cure, if the vote doesn‘t work against the Harry Reid problems, then there‘s the Second Amendment.  There‘s guns.

Just to make sure it is super clear that Sharron Angle is, in fact, threatening that conservatives should be expected to use guns to get their way if they don‘t get the results they want from the next election, in May, Sharron Angle told “The Reno Gazette-Journal,” quote, “The nation is arming.  What are they arming for if it isn‘t that they are so distrustful of their government?  They‘re afraid they‘ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways.  That‘s why I look at this as almost an imperative.  If we don‘t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?”

What will be the next step if conservatives don‘t get what they want in the election?  Sharron Angle is warning that it will be conservatives using guns to try to get their way.  This is not the hyperbole.  There is no further context to these remarks.  She keeps volunteering this quote over and over again.  This is what she‘s been saying.

All of those comments were made before Sharron Angle became Nevada‘s official Republican nominee for the United States Senate.  Since becoming the nominee, the Republican Party has been trying to give her a moderation makeover, redesigning her Web site, and telling her to challenge the context in which some of her stated positions are being quoted back to her by reporters, but now, despite all of that, she is still making the case that America should expect conservatives to use guns, to use weapons to try to get what they want if they don‘t get what they want from the election results.

Today, in a remarkable ABC News interview, Sharron Angle was given one more chance to recant or at least soften that position—and what did she do?  She did challenge the interviewer saying she‘s being taken out of context, but she then proceeded to reiterate her original position, once again, articulating the belief that we should expect conservatives to get their guns if they aren‘t satisfied with this year‘s elections.


ANGLE:  We were discussing once again in a context of the Second Amendment.  We were having a discussion about the Founding Fathers and why they had put the Second Amendment into the Bill of Rights.  And they felt that there were times when governments became tyrannical that we need to have a place for the people to be able to secure the blessings of liberty, which is what they did in the Revolutionary War, as you know.  And that was why they put the Second Amendment into the Constitution.  And that was what we were speaking of on that program, was the whole Second Amendment and why it was there.

REPORTER:  And, of course, Jefferson said the tree of liberty needs to be fed with the blood of tyrants or patriots from time to time.  But do—

I mean, could you foresee us getting in a situation where there is such anger in this country that we are in a—you know, a revolutionary situation again?

ANGLE:  Well, I think the conclusion of that discussion I said, I hope not.

REPORTER:  Yes.  But do you think it‘s possible?  I mean, hoping—

ANGLE:  Well, of course, anything is possible, I suppose, you know?



MADDOW:  The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Committee, are funding this campaign where the candidate says, expect conservatives to try to use the Second Amendment, try to use guns to get what they want if they lose the election.

Given the opportunity to recant that now that she is the Republican Party‘s official nominee for Senate, the candidate has essentially just reiterated it and laughed.

Is this considered a mainstream position now?  Everybody down with this idea?  NRSC, RNC, are you guys OK with this?  If this is now a mainstream position, that we should expect political—armed political violence in this country if conservatives don‘t get what they want in the next election, this is a mainstream position, what counts as over the line now?


MADDOW:  No matter how cookie cutter many politicians might seem these days, no matter how generic, how you‘ve seen one you‘ve seen them all they might seem, the problem with lumping all of them together like that is no one actually votes for a generic candidate.  You vote for a real person.  You vote for an actual candidate.

So, when a polling organization like Gallup asks in its weekly tracking poll whether voters prefer a generic Democratic candidate for Congress or a generic Republican candidate in this year‘s elections, and we report as we did last week that they prefer the generic Republican by 10 points, a big, big margin—look, it‘s right there.  That is interesting.  That is the kind of thing that drives incessant political chatter.

But its usefulness as a predictor of what will actually happen in the elections is quite easily overstated—as demonstrated by the fact that just one week after that Gallup poll, that survey last week showed a 10-point gap, now shows the generic candidates suddenly tied.  Within days, the Republicans‘ perceived lead magically evaporated or not.

Maybe it had something to do with the completely hypothetical question.  Maybe last week‘s numbers were a statistical anomaly.  Or maybe registered voters were surveyed instead of likely voters, people more likely to show up and vote.

Here‘s another poll from Gallup that takes a more useful snapshot of American politics right now.  This graph measures enthusiasm about voting.  Why is that important?  Because the people who say they are excited about voting are people who, again, are probably more likely to go to the trouble of actually voting on Election Day.

In the past week, there‘s really been no change in this one, no change in the advantage that Republicans hold over Democrats when it comes to how excited, how likely to actually show up on Election Day their members really are.  There‘s a whopping 25-point gap in stated voter enthusiasm, enthusiasm that has also been measured another way without all of the hypotheticals and the speculation. 

Researchers at American University counted the number of people who voted in the primaries that have been held so far this year.  They found that four million more Republicans have turned out than Democrats - 4 million more. 

They counted.  Understanding what‘s going to happen in the elections and why means discerning among all the data out there which data, which numbers are most predictive of what is going to happen on Election Day. 

A poll that tells you how a fictional-does-not-exist Republican might do against a fictional-does-not-exist Democrat?  It‘s probably not all that predictive.  A survey that tries to measure how voters might feel eight weeks from now, that is only slightly less hypothetical. 

But the actual observed number of people who have voted this year, the number of Republicans compared with the actual observed number of Democrats who have voted this year, that‘s actually a real number.  A 4-million vote turnout deficit in the primaries is a very bad news metric for Democrats. 

But it‘s also a good number in the sense that it is a solid, measurable, not hypothetical, not chatter-based bad news metric.  It‘s real.  They count it. 

Now, Democrats, if you have succeeded ignoring the pointless metrics and paying attention to the real ones, the question is how are you going to turn that real and really worrying for Democrats number around?  What‘s your plan for turning out your base, for example?


MADDOW:  OK.  Here is the scene.  Election Day, 2008, John McCain told his family in the afternoon that the campaign already understood that they would be losing the election that evening. 

But election night had to roll out.  The results had to be understood.  Sen. McCain would have to give his concession.  Here is how his daughter Meghan saw it from the stage that night at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. 

This is from her new book “Dirty, Sexy Politics,” “I don‘t really remember walking off the stage.  Emotion can be like a drug and wipe everything out of your head.  But I do remember being backstage and seeing Sarah Palin‘s mother crying hysterically, wailing and making loud sobbing sounds and hugging little Piper.” 

“It was hard to witness.  All the other Palins had their game faces on.  They knew what their job was, but Sarah‘s mother couldn‘t do it.  Then for some weird reason Sarah stepped back onstage by herself.  She was waving to the crowd saying hi to the cameras almost as though she were in Alaska not Arizona.” 

“What was she doing?  I was shocked.  It was as if she wanted to make the night about her and not my dad.  She was trying to have the last word and the last wave.  What else did she want or need?  What was driving her to do this?” 

“Possibly it was unconscious, this dramatic bit of upstaging and she couldn‘t see how it could look to us or anybody else.  She was supposed to leave the stage but she couldn‘t go along with the plans even then, even on the last night and just follow my dad and the rest of us back to the hotel bungalow.” 

“She didn‘t have a go-along side to her.  And I saw something that I hadn‘t really wanted to see before.  Losing wasn‘t an end for her.  It was a beginning.  As for me, I was perfectly ready to say good-bye.  Good-bye to the campaign, good-bye to politics, soon it would all be behind me.  I told myself my dad will never run for president again.  I will never have to go through this again.” 

Joining us now for the interview is the author of “Dirty, Sexy Politics,” her campaign memoir, Meghan McCain.  Meghan, thank you so much for being here. 

MEGHAN MCCAIN, AUTHOR, “DIRTY, SEXY POLITICS”:  Thank you for having me again. 

MADDOW:  Good-bye to politics?  Really? 

MCCAIN:  That moment, when - this is really a story and the story of my two years on the campaign. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MCCAIN:  And I was unbelievably sad and I was very depressed afterward.  And I thought everything I believed in and worked for two years really diminished and had this very, very sad, tragic, very Greek ending. 

And I actually say later on I felt like I was at a funeral.  And I didn‘t understand it at the time.  This is - you really have to go back to Obama-mania and before Sarah was, who she is now and I was just confused. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MCCAIN:  And I was very honest and candid in this book because I wanted to be, you know?  Go big or go home.  Like, you might as well tell the truth.  I mean, it was sad and it was very hard. 

MADDOW:  But you know, in that same - at that same time, you‘re also sort of falling in love with politics. 

MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  You‘re talking about seeing the people who are there to see your dad‘s concession, “Look at how much people love my dad and love politics and love this country.  This counted for something.  This counted for everything.  There was so much love all around and spirit and faith.  And I saw that I was lucky to be John McCain‘s daughter and to have been part of this.” 

So at the same moment you‘re saying good-bye to all this.  Forget

politics -

MCCAIN:  I know. 

MADDOW:  You‘re also sort of falling in love with politics.

MCCAIN:  The story of my life. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MCCAIN:  Yes.  I mean, I didn‘t - you know, I didn‘t study this in college.  And I did fall in love with the process.  And you know, I don‘t think you can go, you know, into the primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa and Ohio and not fall in love with people in the process of politics which is why I‘m still idealistic. 

But it was sad at the same time.  It broke my heart.  It broke my heart worse than any man ever has.  So it was just hard, but beautiful at the same time.  And later on, I got motivated.  It took me like two months of, like, just staying in my pajamas and like eating a bunch of chocolate. 

And then -

MADDOW:  Playing rock band? 

MCCAIN:  Yes.  Playing nothing but rock band.  And then, I just decided I was going to be the leader I didn‘t have and I feel like I have ever since, sort of. 

MADDOW:  On that issue of being a political leader - I mean, the book sort of starts there and it goes back to it after you tell your personal story in between.  And you‘re sort of making this plea in the book.  It‘s the same one you‘ve made over the past couple years. 

MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  The last time we talked to you a year and a half ago, what

you‘ve done at “The Daily Beast” which is really pleading for -

MCCAIN:  And for the record, the interview on your show about a year and a half now was a turning point in a lot of ways because a lot of people were shocked that I came thon show. 

And I still get feedback from it though it was a while ago and they were like, “I can‘t believe you would go on.”  And I‘m like, “We can‘t just have Republicans going on Fox and Democrats going on MSNBC.”  And I really still get comments about it, which is why I wanted to come back on again. 

MADDOW:  Thank you. 

MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.  I appreciate it.  I know you have infinite choice as to where you‘re going to talk about the book, so thank you. 

But what we talked about a year and a half ago and what you wrote about “The Daily Beast” and you talk about in the book is this sort of plea for it to be OK for Republicans, not only to cross lines and come talk with liberals and stuff like this, but also for it to be OK for Republicans to be moderates. 

MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  The party does not seem to be taking your advice on that this year. 

MCCAIN:  Right now, I don‘t think it  is.  I have a bunch of friends at work, obviously in politics.  And they bet, what is going to happen.  Is this last election year the turning point?  What would be the turning point?

When will people see, on a very organic level, if you make the party smaller you have less voters.  So where do you go from there?  And I know what it feels like to be alienated.  I talk very candidly about how I felt alienated on the campaign. 

And I worry about the direction for lots of reasons.  But I just

I read about the direction in politics in general.  We‘re so polarized and it‘s us-versus-them.  And I think it is a very scary place and that‘s why I continue to do what I do. 

MADDOW:  And you love the Republican Party -  

MCCAIN:  I really do. 

MADDOW:  Like being a Republican?

MCCAIN:  I do.  I believe in the core ideals.  I think that, like so many things, politics is cyclical.  You know, in the ‘90s, there was this resurgence of extreme conservatism.  I hope that it will come back around.  I really do.  We‘ll see.  It‘s really going to depend on who we nominate in 2012. 

MADDOW:  Do you feel like you have any allies who are making the same case that you are now about the need for it to be OK to be a moderate Republican? 

MCCAIN:  I do.  I think Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey Graham are great advocates as well.  They take their heat though, you know.

MADDOW:  Right. 

MCCAIN:  People take their shots at them.  I certainly -

MADDOW:  Well, Sen. Lieberman isn‘t a Republican. 

MCCAIN:  He is an Independent technically, yes, but he endorsed my father and campaigned, so I consider him sort of on my side. 

And you know, it doesn‘t bother me, Independent, like Republican, like, you know, if you want to be like a conservative-leaning liberal.  And you know, it‘s no secret how socially liberal I am.  And I think the world is very gray and putting it in black and white scares me. 

MADDOW:  Can you stick around for a moment while we go to commercial until we come back? 

MCCAIN:  Of course.


MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Our guest is Meghan McCain.  Her new memoir about her time working on her dad‘s campaign is just out.  It is called “Dirty, Sexy Politics.”  It involves possibly the only story ever of the daughter of a politician being kicked off the campaign at one point.  We‘ll be right back to hear more about that. 

MCCAIN:  Thank you.


MADDOW:  On the last day of the last presidential campaign, at one point, candidate John McCain‘s daughter ended up on a campaign plane totally, irretrievably passed out with a blanket thrown over her head for her own protection from the cameras. 

It is true and it is an incident she later thanked the press for not covering.  Our interview with Meghan McCain continues right after this.



MADDOW (on camera):  You said, in the Ann Coulter column, “Ann Coulter could be the poster woman for the most extreme side of the Republican Party and in some ways I could be the poster woman for the opposite.”  What is the opposite?

MCCAIN:  The opposite is the more moderate Republicans.  These are Republicans that think where we‘ve gone wrong instead of being so extreme in our attitudes.  And I think, inadvertently, and maybe on purpose with these columns, I started speaking out.

And I guess I‘m the only one speaking out right now with this, this publicly.  And so that‘s why people are saying that I am the new poster child for the moderate side of the Republican Party. 


MADDOW:  Joining us again is someone I have wanted to interview about 10 times over the last year and a half since we last spoke last spring.  The gods of publicity and politics would not allow us to talk to each other since then, but they have now. 

She is John McCain‘s daughter famous for writing that “McCain Blogette” during the campaign and for her “Daily Beast” column there after she just published her own campaign memoir, “Dirty, Sexy Politics.”  Meghan, thanks again.

MCCAIN:  Yes.  Thank you.  Yes? 

MADDOW:  Do you still feel like you are alone as the poster child for moderate Republicans?

MCCAIN:  I feel like, as a public figure, I sort of am for the younger generation.  There is a lot of animosity that I get.  But I had to make the choice I would live like this, like I live with people screaming at me at airports and whatever.  And you just make the choice that it‘s going to be part of your life.  And it affects everyone.  It affects my friends.  But I believe in what I‘m doing. 



MADDOW:  Let me ask you about one issue about which you are very passionate about and that‘s gay rights. 

MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  On the issue of -

MCCAIN:  That is one of the reasons why I‘ve been so polarizing. 

MCCAIN:  Because conservatives who are not pro gay rights are upset with you for being vocal about it. 

MCCAIN:  Yes.  And it seems to be just sort of the - I wrote a column a while ago.  Is it better to make a sex tape with a Carrie Prejean, for instance, or be for gay marriage? 

And it is an interesting choice because a lot of people supported Carrie Prejean though she made, in my opinion, a very bad decision.  And you know, a lot of people chose her over me in that instance, so it is interesting. 

MADDOW:  On the issue of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” you‘re obviously a big champion of your father‘s career.  Your father has, in the past year, really emerged in a way that has surprised me even as probably the Republican Party‘s most vociferous proponent of keeping “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” in place.  I know you disagree with him on that.  Do you guys talk about it? 

MCCAIN:  We do, to a degree.  We‘ve had to come to a sort of “come to Jesus” moment that we agree to disagree.  I mean, me and my mother have both (UNINTELLIGIBLE) no-hate campaign which is really (UNINTELLIGIBLE) than I even expected. 

And I don‘t know why it is so shocking that you can believe in, you know, small government, conservative beliefs, but think that your gay friends have the right to get married.  And for me, it‘s just a civil rights issue. 

I believe in freedom on a very basic level.  And I think that you can‘t live in a country and claim it to be free if I have different rights than do you.  And on a personal level, I write candidly in the book about my gay friends that were really there for me when a lot of people weren‘t.  And I want to go to their wedding someday just like I want them to come to mine. 

MADDOW:  Is your dad - is your dad worried that you‘re becoming outspoken on that in a way that calls into question his own beliefs and his own activism? 

MCCAIN:  I think the media might like to paint it that way.  I really think it‘s generational.  I‘ve been very disappointed with President Obama.  He is 49 which is significantly younger than my father.  I don‘t understand why the media doesn‘t put more pressure on him to do something as well.

MADDOW:  On gay marriage? 

MCCAIN:  And “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MCCAIN:  For me, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is also a national security issue.  For me - you know, I have two brothers in the military and it‘s just making them less safe when you throw out Arabic translators because they‘re gay.  And I personally believe that when you‘re in a fox hole, it doesn‘t matter who you go home to at night. 

MADDOW:  I would love to hear you talk to your dad about it, because I think it is possible that right now - I think it‘s possible “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” would be gone right now if your dad was in favor of getting rid of it because he is so influential on these issues. But I understand that‘s probably something that isn‘t fun over Thanksgiving. 

MCCAIN:  My life is complicated right now, you know. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MCCAIN:  It just is, because I have been so vocal and it‘s something I really believe in.  And it‘s difficult, you know.  But he respects me and we have an open dialogue.  And I think just the fact that I‘m here and wrote this book shows he supports me. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Let me ask you about - on that issue of the sort of big

tent in civil rights.  One of the things we were talking about on the show

before starting this interview tonight was how positions that used to be

like really out there sort of this year are not so out there.  Rand Paul

did an interview with me this year in which -

MCCAIN:  Yes, I know. 

MADDOW:  You have heard about it. 

MCCAIN:  The whole world knows, Rachel.  Yes.  I got a little publicity here.  I think everyone in the world saw that interview with Rand Paul. 

MADDOW:  The reason that it got so much attention is that because - is because he said essentially that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a bad idea, that businesses should be allowed to discriminate if they want to. 

MCCAIN:  I know. 

MADDOW:  Puts us back into Jim Crow era.  And you write about Barry Goldwater as a hero of yours in this book. 

MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Obviously from your home state of Arizona. 

MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Barry Goldwater had the same position on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and it is probably why the only states he won outside of Arizona in 1964 were in the super deep south.  Does that history trouble you about the conservative movement? 

MCCAIN:  Yes, of course.  I mean - and I think the Rand Paul interview, for me, was an example of why libertarianism is logical in the classroom and not necessarily applicable in real life. 

And Barry Goldwater for me - you know, I knew him as a child personally.  And I am from Arizona.  I just moved back.  And I drive down Goldwater Boulevard all the time. 

So - but obviously, these instances like that, I obviously disagree with him.  And you know, later on in his career he was for “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  And he was actually, you know, quite liberated in a lot of ways. 

And when I was growing up that is what I read.  So obviously, I

disagree with him.  And he has his moments that I don‘t agree with like

every other politician.  So -

MADDOW:  What happens next for you?  You obviously have very strong feelings about the Republican Party and where it is going as we‘ve talked about your sort of - you do not have a lot of friends in the party on that in terms of your beliefs about which direction the party should go. 

MCCAIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  So do you want to step aside from Republican politics?  Do you want to stay in the fight?  What do you want to do? 

MCCAIN:  I want to (AUDIO GAP).  You know, there is CPAC every year.  I would love to do, you know, a - just a more moderate Republican meeting of some kind, because, you know, it is kind of like the Island of Misfit Toys.  I go places and people are like scared to talk to me about it. 

And I think when you are out in this way, you just get eviscerated by blogs and reporters and things like that.  I would really love to somehow create a Web site or something that would organize it better because I‘m so not alone.  I wouldn‘t be sitting here right now if I was alone. 

MADDOW:  Moderate Republicans are getting - the one, I think, identifiable mainstream trend that I agree with right now is that moderate Republicans are getting voted out in every Republican primary all over the country. 

MCCAIN:  They are. 

MADDOW:  So then, people will be available to come to your meeting. 

MCCAIN:  Yes.  Hopefully.  Maybe it will be in my apartment, but I will have it.  I don‘t know. 

MADDOW:  Megan McCain, columnist for “The Daily Beast,” author of the new memoir, “Dirty, Sexy Politics,” which I understand is on the “New York Times” bestseller list.  Congratulations. 

MCCAIN:  Congratulations on your two-year anniversary. 

MADDOW:  Thank you very much.

MCCAIN:  Congratulations.

MADDOW:  I couldn‘t have done a better interview to celebrate it with. 

MCCAIN:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Meghan, and good luck, too.

MCCAIN:  Thank you so much.  Yes. 

MADDOW:  OK.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Christians and Muslims side by side in Memphis, Tennessee.  A pastor and a chairman of an Islamic center being built next door to the church discuss the real meaning of religious freedom. 

Next on this show, a certain level of dirty trickiness is expected in politics, not to say that it is intrinsically acceptable, but let‘s agree that some underhanded business is unavoidable. 

That said, what has just happened in one Virginia congressional race is beyond dirty tricks.  It is even beyond politics.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  One of the Democrats‘ big success stories in the last election and one of its toughest races this year is Virginia‘s fifth congressional district, when freshman Tom Perriello won the district, which includes the central Virginia city of Charlottesville.  He defeated a Republican who had held that seat for 12 years. 

Mr. Perriello‘s district remains very conservative, very Republican, so it is no surprise that the new Democratic congressman would be subject to some real hardball politics. 

But since he took office, Tom Perriello has also been subject to some tactics that do not meet the standard for being called politics at all.  A year ago, an Astroturf group sent Mr. Perriello letters in which they pretended to be a Hispanic group from Virginia and representatives of state chapters of the NAACP. 

The letters urged Perriello to vote against climate change legislation.  The letters were fake.  They were frauds.  Tea party groups also camped outside Mr. Perriello‘s Virginia office, one of them threatening to burn Mr. Perriello in effigy. 

After Congressman Tom Perriello voted for President Obama‘s health reform bill in March, a tea party group in Virginia posted online what it believed to be Congressman Perriello‘s home address.  But the address turned out to belong to the congressman‘s older brother, who, the next day, discovered that someone had cut the gas line running from the propane tank at his home. 

The congressman‘s brother also received a threatening letter again sent to the address that had been wrongly posted online as if it were the Congressman‘s address.  So you can see why people on the ground in Virginia‘s fifth district can be a little on edge as people opposed to Tom Perriello who decided repeatedly to give up on politics and instead just go for intimidation to try to get what they want from him.

But last night, a regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington - not in Virginia, in D.C.  NRCC headquarters - decided that what happened in Virginia‘s fifth district already just isn‘t enough. 

The man tweeted - he posted online the home addresses of several staffers who work for Tom Perriello‘s campaign.  “The Huffington Post” counted six campaign staffers and all each with their complete home addresses, house members, zip codes, the works, posted on this national Republican Party staffer‘s Twitter account. 

The explanation from Republican headquarters was to blame the Perriello campaign saying they deserved it because Perriello‘s campaign had called a staffer from his Republican opponent‘s campaign a carpetbagger. 

Even if you take Republican HQ at their word on that, you can make your point about whose staffers live where by just listing their names and hometowns.  You don‘t actually have to include their complete addresses. 

So we did it here, so we can show you one of the Republican press aides tweets, one of the tweets his bosses at the National Republican Congressional Committee say they stand by, that they are fine with. 

We were the first to notice this afternoon that the press aide who had posted these home addresses had started deleting them after what he did got some press coverage.  By roughly 3:20 Eastern this afternoon, the last of these tweets of these addresses was gone. 

You can see his page now, this afternoon, that just said, among other pleasantries, quote, “@VotePerriello, you‘re pathetic.”  You can‘t see the tweets with the addresses anymore because they are all gone.  They have been deleted. 

As we reported on our blog today, the national Republican press aide who posted all those personal addresses last night circled back today and took them down very quietly. 

We called his national Republican Party bosses for comment.  Those bosses somewhat unbelievably gave us the same statement they had made before the tweets were deleted down the memory hole. 

They say Tom Perriello is lashing out after polls show him trailing in the race.  Quote, “We are surprised that Tom Perriello has reduced himself to attacking staff.  His frustration is understandable but unbecoming of a member of Congress.” 

Unbecoming?  Calling someone a carpet bagger, sure, doesn‘t get you invited to Thanksgiving dinner.  But putting a target on political staff, posting their full home addresses and saying they deserved it and then erasing what you did, delete, delete, delete, but then, standing by it anyway? 

That is not only unbecoming.  That is almost unbelievable.  We have been wondering in this year‘s election season what exactly counts as too far, as over-the-line in American politics.  This kind of thing is so too far it doesn‘t even really count as politics anymore. 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, there is lots to add to what you see on the show.  We‘re very proud of our excellent blog at “”  “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.  Have a good night. 



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