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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, September 27th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Richard Holbrooke


KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  And now, why Democrats, like a commitment phobic guy, find it harder to talk about what they believe in.  That‘s my line.  Ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Did you say commitment phobic?

OLBERMANN:  Commitment phobic guy, I did.

MADDOW:  Fair enough.  I wanted to have that for the record.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  What did you think I said?

MADDOW:  I didn‘t—I just didn‘t want—I didn‘t want to have it end up where you said something totally different and I invented that.

OLBERMANN:  You mean like the French Justice Department minister?

MADDOW:  Oh, the giggly guy?

OLBERMANN:  No, no, no, the woman who didn‘t say—meant to say inflation but didn‘t say inflation?

MADDOW:  Oh, yes.  That was—that was one of those ones I saw the headline and couldn‘t read any further because I got verklempt for the rest of the day.

OLBERMANN:  Me, too.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

For the next hour—in which we shall celebrate the launch of Lawrence O‘Donnell‘s new show, which is tonight, right after this hour.

We shall also celebrate the arrival of our new desk which inexplicably has something to do with the start of Lawrence‘s new show with you I‘m not sure what.  But I‘m very excited about my new desk.

We shall also celebrate the return of Barack Hussein Obama.  Hussein is back in mainstream Republican talking points.  Just in case any Republicans previous efforts to convince you that the president is secretly foreign did not work on you, they‘re going to give it one more shot.

That‘s all to come over the course of the hour.

But we begin tonight by putting a giant asterisk on the well-worn political truism that all politics is local.

The big decision Democrats had to make about this year‘s elections was whether or not they would try to run this year‘s elections as a national campaign, whether they were going to try to run as Democrats versus Republicans, or whether they were going to try to block out everything happening at the national level and, instead, hope that each individual congressional and Senate and governor‘s race would just be viewed as an individual candidate being judged on a local basis.

Republicans, of course, had the same choice.  But they made their decision very early on.  Republicans decided, as a party, to run a national anti-Obama campaign for this year‘s elections.  The elections for them are a referendum on President Obama.  Every single Republican in the country is running a mini-campaign for president with Barack Obama as his or her opponent.

Democrats had the opportunity to counter that.  They could have said, “Oh, yes, you want to run against President Obama?  Great.  Let‘s contrast him with you.  Let‘s contrast him with what you are offering.”

Democrats could have approached the elections in a national way like that.  But they‘ve decided not to.  They have decided on another strategy.

Republicans are running national campaigns.  Democrats are running local campaigns.

Here‘s what that looked like in the ground: up in Alaska, the surprise Republican nominee for the Senate is Tea Party favorite Joe Miller.  If you go to Joe Miller‘s campaign Web site right now, here‘s what you‘ll find.  Right at the top of the page, there is a big banner that reads “Alaskans Endorse Joe Miller.”

Right next to “Alaskans Endorse Joe Miller,” you will see images of decidedly non-Alaskans—non-Alaskan national conservatives, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, right wing talk show host Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Lars Larson.  If you click on the “Alaskans Endorse Joe Miller” banner, you find all sorts of endorsements again from people who are not at all Alaskans—non-Alaskan national conservatives.

The first endorsement on the “Alaskans Endorse Joe Miller” page is Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  The second is from the national conservative group FreedomWorks.  The next one is an actual Alaskan—hooray.  But most of the rest of the page is full of national conservative groups, like the Club for Growth or conservative commentators like Martha Zoeller or Erick Erickson.

In Alaska, Joe Miller is running a decidedly national campaign.  He is touting all of these endorsements he‘s gotten from national conservative figures.  He just puts them all under a banner that calls them Alaskans.  Who cares?

The Democrat in the race, on the other hand, Scott McAdams, he just released his first campaign ad.  See if you can notice the difference in strategy.


SCOTT MCADAMS (D), ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE:  This is a long way from D.C.  I‘m Scott McAdams and I‘m not your usual Senate candidate.  I grew up in Petersberg, was a deck hand in the Bering Sea, went to college in Sitka and married up.  I‘ve been a teacher, a mayor, and a dad.

Here‘s the difference between me, Joe and Lisa.  They think this campaign is all about them.  I think it‘s about Alaska, getting our fair share.

I approved this message because after you‘ve been cursed at in the region, you can take on anyone.


MADDOW:  Did you catch the tag line sort of there?  It‘s about Alaska. 

That‘s essentially his slogan.  It‘s about Alaska.  Local, local, local. 

That‘s how the Democrat Scott McAdams is running in Alaska.

Now on the front page of Republican Joe Miller‘s Web site, the campaign is touting a recent national media interview that he did with Neil Cavuto, who is a host on FOX News.

Scott McAdams, on the other hand, is touting this video on his Web site, and it‘s just about as local as you can get.


MADDOW:  We got yard signs!

Now, this may reflect the resources available and the personalities and political preferences of these two candidates.  But this is also evidence of the way the Democrats on the national level have decided to run this year.  It‘s true across wildly different campaigns.  For example, in that Alaska race, Scott McAdams is a huge underdog against Republican Joe Miller and probably even against the potential write-in candidacy of Lisa Murkowski.

But over in Delaware, Democrat Chris Coons is expected to beat Republican Christine O‘Donnell.  It is in a totally different race with totally different expectations.  But the campaigns look pretty much exactly the same.

Here is what it looks like on the Republican side in Delaware.  You have Republican candidate Christine O‘Donnell, just like Joe Miller, touting the endorsements of—again, all sorts of national conservatives, people like South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the conservative organization the Family Research Council which is based, I think, in Michigan and in Washington, D.C.  Also, there‘s conservative commentator Eric Erickson again who, as best I can tell, lives on CNN.

During the Republican primary, here—look at this.  This is the breakdown of where Christine O‘Donnell got her money from -- 85 percent roughly of her itemized campaign contributions came from not Delaware.  Only about 15 percent of her campaign cash came from people who might even consider being able to legally vote for her some day because they live in Delaware.

As we—as we reported on our Web site at “Maddow Blog,” if you go to, which appears to at least be loosely affiliated with the official Christine O‘Donnell campaign, you will see that Team Christine has begun forming affinity groups—affinity groups by state and by foreign country—Texas for Christine, Colorado for Christine, New Jersey for Christine, Kansas for Christine.  There‘s even an Italy for Christine.  Where people can be for Christine and give her money, but they can‘t legally vote for her no matter how much they might want to.

Christine O‘Donnell is not running a Delaware campaign.  She is running national, even international “help Christine O‘Donnell get elected” campaign.

The Democrat, Chris Coons, on the other hand, is running this type of campaign.


NARRATOR:  Six years ago, New Castle County government was a mess of corruption and out of control spending.  Then Chris Coons took over.  Today, New Castle County has a AAA bond rating.  Now, Chris Coons is running for Senate because we need new, responsible leadership in Washington.  Chris Coons.


MADDOW:  Hyper local.  Hyper local but Delaware is a very tiny state.  It only has three-county.  New Castle is by far the biggest on one.  But still local, right?  Local, definitely not a national ad.

Midterm elections are not defined by one big race by definition, right?  It‘s district by district, state by state, candidate by candidate.

But each political party has made a decision here.  Republicans are running nationally.  Democrats are running locally—which is why even if you have never heard of Scott McAdams, you sure as heck have heard of Joe Miller.  It is quite possible you have never heard of Chris Coons but you have definitely heard of Christine O‘Donnell—even if you only get your news from “Saturday Night Live.”

I do not raise this issue in order to quibble with all politics is local truism.  But that quote was supposedly coined by former Democratic House Speaker Tip O‘Neill in the 1930s.  And while I do not want to get at anyone‘s exact ages, I am thinking that‘s a time reasonably predates, say, Bill O‘Reilly.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Governors Association filed an elections complaint against FOX News after Mr. O‘Reilly directed his viewers to the fundraising campaign Web site of Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich, while Kasich made his pitch to FOX viewers.

What conservative candidates can do with the national fundraising platform that is FOX News right now, qualitatively changes the game about whether candidates can compete by running purely local races.  The national conservative fundraising and softball publicity forum that did not exist before changes the rationale calculus of how to campaign and how to win.  For conservative candidates, it ends up being politically rational to run away from their own local media and only cultivate what they can get at the more than friendly national level.

And when I say “run away from their local media,” I mean, literally, run away from local media.


KAREN GRIFFIN, KRNV REPORTER:  Sharron, will you answer some questions really quickly?


GRIFFIN:  So you don‘t have anything to say about Dean Heller‘s comments?

(voice-over):  No answer from Angle.

(on camera):  Sharron you don‘t have any—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re running behind.  I‘m sorry.


MADDOW:  Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle running away from Karen Griffin, a local reporter for the TV station KRNV in Reno, Nevada.

The same thing, of course, happened in Delaware.  Christine O‘Donnell‘s campaign turns away local reporters for Delaware‘s “News Journal” at a recent event, but let national reporters from “The Wall Street Journal” and “New York Times” in.

The strategy here is clear: Democrats may have felt like they had the luxury of choosing whether or not to run local campaigns or national campaigns for this year‘s elections, but top tier Republicans are not bothering to compete on the local level anymore.  They don‘t have to.


BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  Ms. O‘Donnell could be on here tonight, could be presenting herself in front of the nation.  Her people don‘t want her to be.

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  She is going to have to dismiss that, go with her gut, get out there, speak to the American people, speak through FOX News.

SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE:  I‘m going on Bill O‘Reilly the 16th.  His audience is friendly, and if I can get an opportunity to say that at least once on his show—when I said it on Sean Hannity‘s television show, we made $40,000 before we even got out of the studio in New York.


PALIN:  We made 40 grand before we even got out of the studio in New York, during Mr. Hannity‘s show.

Republican candidates should speak through FOX News.  That is the advice they are giving each other because they have seen its effect firsthand.  Republicans should be raising money through FOX News.  That‘s what they‘re telling each other.  What happens to them?

Democrats and Republicans are operating in a media landscape that we have never had before in this country.  We have never before had a television network designed to raise money for the candidates of one party.  And because of that, all politics are not local anymore.  Democrats are still trying to play that old game.  Republicans are not.

And here is what the impact of that looks like.  Here is Christine O‘Donnell‘s campaign Web site right now.  After raising a huge chunk of her primary money from out of state, after Team Christine has managed to mobilize all these out-of-state, even out of country supporters, after her FOX News-only media strategy, look at her fundraising goal right now—

$2.5 million.  As you can see, she has already surpassed that.  She‘s already brought in $2.6 million.

Now, let‘s look at her opponent‘s Web site, Democrat Chris Coons.  Democrat Chris Coons, the candidate who‘s running in Delaware trying to appeal to people who will actually be able to vote for him because they live in Delaware, look at his fundraising goal -- $250,000.  One-tenth—

1/10 of what Christine O‘Donnell‘s raising.  His goal is to raise 1/10 as much as she is raising.

Used to be it made sense to pick a local strategy for a candidate with strong local credentials.  Now, if that candidate is a Democrat, swamped—swamped by national conservative money.

If Democrats are not messaging and trying to compete at a national level simply in order to raise money, it does not matter how good their messaging is locally.  They will get buried in conservative money, buried in national conservative money that they raise nationally and have no shame about.

All politics used to be local.  Democrats want it to still be local.  Those times have passed.  This year, Democrats compete nationally or they do not compete at all.


MADDOW:  So, it will be the year 2040 and a new generation of Americans will ask us, “Dude, why didn‘t Democrats in 2010 force Republicans to vote on the Bush tax cuts because, dude, the 99 gazillion dollar deficit really sucked?”  Whatever explanation you can muster for those future generations—coming up with MSNBC‘s Lawrence O‘Donnell.

Please stick around.



REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  We can‘t have that serious conversation until we lay out the size of the problem.  Once Americans understand how big the problem is, then we can begin to talk about potential solutions.  But I am committed to having that adult conversation with the American people because it is important for the future of our kids and our grandkids.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST:  Forgive me, sir.  Isn‘t the right time too much the adult conversation now before the election when you have this document?  Why not make a single proposal to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

BOEHNER:  Chris, this is what happens here in Washington.  When you start down that path, you just invite all kinds of problems.  I know.  I‘ve been there.

I think we need to do this in a more systemic way and have this conversation first.  Let‘s not get to the potential solutions.

WALLACE:  Will the House hold a vote this week before you adjourn for a month of campaigning, a vote this week on whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts?

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER:  I doubt that we will.


MADDOW:  And there‘s your party strategies for this year‘s elections in a nutshell.  Republicans promising that they‘re not really ready to talk about, you know, policy and stuff, solutions.  It‘s very complicated.  Democrats offered the softest of all political targets, nevertheless are refusing to campaign against Republicans.  Tada!

Joining us now is my friend Lawrence O‘Donnell, whose new show “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL” premieres right after this show tonight at 10:00 Eastern.

Lawrence, thanks for your time.


Good to be here.

MADDOW:  I know—

O‘DONNELL:  I was here in the building anyway, so I thought I‘d drop



MADDOW:  I understood.  And lazing around, have nothing to do.

What did Joe Biden tell you?  I know you‘ve got him for you debut show tonight.  What did he tell you when you asked him about Democrats not forcing Republicans to vote on tax cuts?

O‘DONNELL:  We pre-taped him a little earlier tonight and surprisingly, he accepts the judgment of the congressional leadership on the question of when to go to the vote on the tax issue.

It‘s a tough call.  I can see it either way.  I understand the strategy of not going forward.  I understand the strategy of going for it, a really tough call.

Democrats believe that they always lose the tax debate with Republicans, that the only—what the public hears is Republicans want to cut taxes more than Democrats, and they don‘t—the swing voter doesn‘t really care about any of the details beyond that.

MADDOW:  And the deficit stuff doesn‘t resonate at all?

O‘DONNELL:  It isn‘t resonating yet in the polling that the Democrats have on their races and on what their candidates need.  The way this was decided in the Senate, I‘ve been told by senators who actually wanted to go for a vote now, they—what happened is that the Democratic senators who are up for re-election right now were given the power to decide whether we should have this vote in the Senate before the election or after the election, and they overwhelmingly chose, “Don‘t make us go to the Senate floor during my re-election campaign, please.”

MADDOW:  We don‘t want to run against Republicans.  We‘d prefer to pretend we‘re running against viruses.  We‘d like to make up some sort of hypothetical thing that we‘re running against that we‘re more comfortable running against rather than Republicans.  That‘s what it feels like to me.  They don‘t want to talk about Republicans.

O‘DONNELL:  They just simply don‘t believe they can win the tax argument with Republicans in a campaign season.

MADDOW:  But they‘re not trying to win any arguments.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, they‘re going local, like you said, and that is, of course, the Tip O‘Neill commandment, you know, all politics is local, go local.


O‘DONNELL:  Now, when—you know, we‘ve seen these national races before.  In 1994, when the Democrats lost everything and they lost the House for the first time in 40 years, every commercial that was run against the Democrat who lost was the same commercial.  It was a picture of your local congressman, the Democrat, which over 30 seconds, morphed into the face of Bill Clinton.  And that was the campaign that destroyed the Democrats in the House.  They nationalized it around the president.

Democrats did that, nationalizing the congressional election around George W. Bush in 2006.  And so, you know, this is—the counterstrategy to that has always been “get them to go local” and, by the way, go negative.  You know, go against the individual candidate.  Don‘t try to get into this national debate, because we will lose the national debate.

Republicans did the same thing.  In 2006, when the Democrats went after them nationally with George W. Bush they changed the subject.  They tried to change the subject to local.

MADDOW:  But isn‘t the—isn‘t the other way to run against that, to say, all right, you want to talk national?  Let‘s talk national.  Let‘s compare what Barack Obama‘s offering to what you‘re offering, Joe Miller in Alaska.

I mean, if Republicans are trying to set the script, shouldn‘t Democrats recognize that they shouldn‘t accept that framing and do what the Republicans don‘t want them to do?

O‘DONNELL:  When we recall that this only matters in the swing districts.  You know, most of these are settled.  The outcome is settled.  It‘s been settled for a year.  There‘s no contest.

In the swing districts, the Democratic accomplishments are not popular.  The Obama Democrat health care bill has never had had the majority of support in the swing districts.  So, the Democrat doesn‘t want to talk about the health care bill or wants to say, “Hey, I voted against it,” and the Republicans love talking about the health care bill.  And so, that‘s—

MADDOW:  So, the Democrats end up running by not running.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  The health care bill is popular—


MADDOW:  Maybe I‘ll get some votes by accident.

O‘DONNELL:  The health care bill is popular where the Democrats don‘t need it to be popular.  You know, in Nancy Pelosi‘s district, it‘s popular, you know?  And she‘s not running any risks here.  But in those swing districts, with voters who can go either way, the Democrats are not finding that they have an accomplishment package to sell.

MADDOW:  And they‘re certainly not trying.

Lawrence O‘Donnell, I‘m so looking forward to “THE LAST WORD.”

O‘DONNELL:  They‘re scared.  They‘re terrified.

MADDOW:  Of course, they‘re terrified.  And the—when you are terrified about losing, you can either try to win or accept that you are going to lose and refuse to campaign.  They‘re doing the latter, which makes me nuts.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

MADDOW:  At least it makes sense to you, doesn‘t it?  It makes sense.

O‘DONNELL:  It does make sense to me.  I understand.  I understand terror, yes.

MADDOW:  But that‘s why you have “THE LAST WORD”—which starts tonight, right after the show.

O‘DONNELL:  Which starts in—do I look scared?  It starts in minutes.

MADDOW:  You are ready.  We‘re all so excited.

O‘DONNELL:  Boy, I wish the tech rehearsals worked.  I mean, you know, because the great thing about live TV, anything can go wrong.

MADDOW:  It‘s true.

O‘DONNELL:  I promise you, between 10:00 and 11:00, the chances of that are going to skyrocket.

MADDOW:  Are you going to try to actually juggle something so as to heighten—

O‘DONNELL:  There are so many things that could go wrong.

MADDOW:  Break a leg, my friend.  We‘re so looking forward to it.

Lawrence O‘Donnell‘s new show starts tonight at the end of this hour, top of the hour.  We‘re all very excited about it here at MSNBC.

All right.  Do you ever pine for the good old days like before we had child labor laws?  Before we had weekends?  If so, I have the candidate for you.  Put the gruel on simmer and cozy up to the coal fire.

We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  There‘s a way to do populism in politics whether or not you actually are a man or woman of the people.

Then there‘s the way John Raese is doing it in West Virginia, where he is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, his third try for the office.  Mr. Raese is a really, really, really, really wealthy guy—which is not so uncommon in West Virginia, at least among United States senators.  Democrat Jay Rockefeller is, after all, a freaking Rockefeller.

But “Think Progress” point to this recently to an interview that Mr.  Raese gave a few days ago to “Politics Daily” writer Matt Lewis.  When asked about his background in business, Raese was handed his politician‘s chance to relate to Joe the coal miner and Mr. Raese proceeded to blow that chance totally.


MATT LEWIS, POLITICS DAILY:  Tell us a little bit about you and your business experience and how you got here.

JOHN RAESE ®, WEST VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE:  Well, I made my money the old-fashioned way.  I inherited it.  And I think it‘s a great thing to do and I hope more people in this country have that opportunity as soon as we abolish inheritance tax in this country, which is a key part of my program.


MADDOW:  There‘s an old joke about the old-fashioned way with money, but from his tone, I think John Raese meant it.


RAESE:  I made my money the old-fashioned way, I inherited it.  And I think that‘s a great thing to do.


MADDOW:  He‘s either the most dead pan man on earth or he didn‘t know that‘s supposed to be a joke.

John Raese is the Republican candidate for Senate in West Virginia.  He is the CEO by nepotism of Greer Industries, which mostly produces steel and limestone.  Mr. Raese‘s grandparents started Greer in 1917.  A time for which Mr. Raese is nostalgic.  That nostalgia, in fact, is one of the main bases of his campaign for West Virginia‘s Senate seat.


RAESE:  My family came here from Wales in the 1880s, and we‘ve been in the steel business, banking business, and you went over several of the other businesses that we‘ve been in.  But my grandmother was the matriarch of all of our family.

What she created and what she did at the turn of the century still resonates today if we would have that opportunity in this country to bring back capitalism the way my grandmother had those fruits and really enjoyed it.


MADDOW:  Oh, yes, the good old days.  If only we could go back to turn of the century capitalism, the way it used to be.

At the turn of this last century, in 1999, the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, celebrated what the last century has meant for people who have to work for a living.  This is just the graph of Americans killed annually in mining over the decades, West Virginia, right?

Over there on the left side with roughly 13,000 Americans dying in mines in a year, more than 30 Americans dying a day in just that one industry, those would be John Raese‘s good old days.  The past century has brought us all sorts of anti-capitalism stuff like mining regulations that brought the death rate of miners down to just merely horrifying from apocalyptic.  It brought us rules against child labor.  Also brought us, you know, weekends which many Americans find handy to this day. 

But remember, Democrats don‘t want to risk a national campaign in these elections by saying Republicans are looking after rich people and not the middle class.  Remember, Democrats think this year that that message might not stick. 



made my money the old-fashioned way.  I inherited it.



MADDOW:  Quote, “When Maj. Gen. John M. Custer was the director of intelligence at U.S. Central Command, he grew angry at how little helpful information came out of the National Counterterrorism Center.” 

“In 2007, he visited its director at the time to tell him so.” 

Quote, “‘I told him that after 4 ½ years, this organization had never

produced one shred of information that helped me prosecute three wars.‘” 

Three wars?  Hold on a minute.  Iraq, Afghanistan, and - what‘s the third?  That was the great catch by Spencer Ackerman, a national security reporter at “”  When “The Washington Post” published their big expose on the giant post-9/11 intelligence bureaucracy that we don‘t fully understand and we fund anyway even though no one is totally sure of who it serves except itself. 

“The National Counterterrorism Center has never produced one shred of information, one shred of information that helped me prosecute three wars,” so says the military intelligence guy.  Three wars.  Iraq, Afghanistan - what is the third one? 

Here‘s one idea.  Today, it‘s reported that had we shot a missile from an aircraft southeast of a town named - called Miranshah, somewhere between two and eight people killed.  Yesterday, another one west of that same town.  Three people killed. 

Another one yesterday in the town of Datta Khel - four people killed.  We hit the same town on Saturday - two, three to four people killed.  Two more missiles fired by aircraft on Wednesday - 12 to 19 people killed.  Another four to six killed by another missile a week ago today. 

Last weekend, we hit that same town we hit yesterday and this weekend, four to five killed then.  We have shot missiles at people in Pakistan 20 times in the past 23 days, at least by my count from what I can figure from reports. 


No one really pays attention to us shooting missiles into Pakistan anymore.  It just gets filed into drone strikes.  I know what those mean.  We have ceased really worrying about them.  But we‘ve never done them at this pace before, at least as far as we can tell from what‘s being reported. 

Why are we doing them so fast and furious now?  Is it because we have better intelligence than before so we know more about what we should be shooting at there?  Does it have anything to do with the fact that the Pakistani government seems almost as inured to those drone strikes now as the American public does? 

The Pakistani government has almost stopped their even perfunctory complaining about using our unmanned robot planes to shoot people in their territory even as our own country‘s leadership will not readily admit that we are doing that. 

But we have never done them at this pace before.  Are things happening there now at such an intensity because we have better intelligence?  Are they doing that?  Does it have anything to do with the Pakistani government‘s take on all of this? 

When the Pakistani government has stopped their even perfunctory complaining about this and our own country‘s leadership isn‘t admitting that we are doing this, when that isn‘t happening anymore, we‘re put in a situation where we have to wonder when these things are going to become a matter of national debate. 

Now, the Pakistani government has started complaining again recently.  And they‘ve done so because we‘ve crossed another line.  Today, NATO confirming that it is not just drones anymore.  It‘s NATO helicopters with actual pilots flying into Pakistan now in combat. 

The first NATO air strike on Friday killing 49 people.  The second one on Saturday killing another four to six people, and the Associated Press saying a third one today killing another 10 people. 

To the extent that the world‘s attention is focused at all on Pakistan lately, it is because of the devastating flooding, flooding that covers an area that would reach in this country from the Canadian border to Florida. 

The disaster area there is huge.  The relief effort is going to last for years and cost billions.  But meanwhile, quietly, America‘s not very secret third war rages there, un-debated and undeclared. 

Joining us now is Former Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Mr. Ambassador, it is great to have you back on the show. 



MADDOW:  Have I just introduced a whole lot of stuff that you can‘t talk about? 

HOLBROOKE:  I want to talk about the floods, but what you said was pretty interesting. 

MADDOW:  Then, let‘s talk about the floods first. 

HOLBROOKE:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  I mean, the floods are -

HOLBROOKE:  Thank you for showing that map. 

MADDOW:  Massive. 

HOLBROOKE:  Yes, because, you know, floods aren‘t like tsunamis and earthquakes.  Those happen - boom.  The press moves in - stories of miraculous recoveries and rescues and then assistance. 

But flood in Asia is an old story and we put that map together.  And I‘m so grateful to you for putting it up because we wanted people to understand what this is.  It‘s an area the size of Italy stretching from the Canadian border to Florida.

Twenty million people are homeless.  Now - I was just out there last week.  Now, people are beginning slowly to come back to their homes, but there are no homes left.  They have been washed away.  Livestock has been destroyed.  Crops are gone.  Every bridge is out. 

By the way in the same area you were discussing a moment ago, there is - there may or may not be a connection.  I will leave it to you to decide whether there is or not.  But there are no - the bridges are all gone in that area. 

The flooding has washed away the roads, and - and so now we‘re in the early recovery phase.  Hillary Clinton participated in the big meeting at the U.N. last week.  We‘re going to go to Brussels to talk about how we could get more money. 

We‘re going to go to pack to Pakistan for more.  It is, as you said, going to cost billions of dollars.  But I do want to make a critical point to Americans watching.   The emergency phase, the phase we‘re still in, the U.S. is going to be first with the most.  That‘s what we do. 

There are a ton of American helicopters and airplanes in that area which you didn‘t mention when you discussed the attack across the border in the Miranshah area.  These people are well regarded all over the country. 

Pakistanis can see that Americans are there, and I‘m proud of that as an American.  But that‘s in the early recovery phase and the emergency phase.  These billions and billions of dollars for reconstruction, for one-fifth of the country, I have said publicly and want to stress again tonight, the international community cannot pay the $10 billion, $20 billion, $30 billion, $40 billion, whatever it will cost. 

Pakistanis are going to have to step up to the - up and take the

lead here.  We‘ll give support.  The World Bank will, the U.N. system, but

they have to do it themselves.  They have to -

MADDOW:  Are they capable of doing it? 

HOLBROOKE:  Well, you know, their maximum tax rates are much lower than ours.  And there‘s a lot of tax evasion there as has been well reported.  And we can‘t ask American taxpayers to pay the burden if the Pakistanis don‘t raise their own revenue, and we‘ve been very open about that. 

So I don‘t want to leave people with the impression we‘re going to pay for the reconstruction phase.  But, for example, Rachel, 5,000 schools are gone.  They‘re going to consolidate and build less.  Every bridge is gone.  It‘s tough. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the long-term commitment there, obviously, the United States has been looking for a way to try to do constructive development work in Pakistan essentially as a means of counterinsurgency, essentially as a way of trying to empower government there. 

HOLBROOKE:  Not counterinsurgency.  In fact, quite the contrary.  When we took office all American assistance was over in the tribal areas and it was very small, the area you were talking about. 

Hillary Clinton went there.  I went there.  We decided to restructure our assistance so that we‘d focus on the bulk of the people who live in the Punjab, who live in Sindh, who live in the area you just showed on that map. 

And we and John Kerry and Dick Lugar and the Senate and Chairman Berman in the House put together very well known Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation.  $7.5 billion of economic assistance have started to come in.  Hillary went there in July and announced energy projects, water projects. 

Now, we‘re reorienting for this situation.  But it‘s not - our aid impact is not counter insurgency aid.  It‘s aid for the people of Pakistan in their own merit and as we keep trying to say to Pakistanis we‘re not doing it because of Afghanistan.  We‘re not doing it because al-Qaeda‘s in the west.  We‘re doing it because it is an essential thing to do. 

MADDOW:  The carefulness of your language, the precision of your language there - I think an important window in how delicate and complicated our relationship is with Pakistan right now.  Do you mind holding on for a second and we‘ll come back? 

HOLBROOKE: Not at all. 

MADDOW:  We have to make money for the General Electric Corporation for a second, but we‘ll be right back. 

HOLBROOKE:  Which is - which is also working in Pakistan. 

MADDOW:  That was not meant to be a prompt.  Richard Holbrooke is our special guest.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  Do you remember in the last presidential campaign all the Barack Hussein Obama stuff?  For a while, I remember trying to always call Sen. McCain, Sen. John Sidney McCain III, but it didn‘t have the same impact.  Didn‘t stick the same way the Hussein thing did. 

Well, the Hussein thing is now back with a vengeance from not the usual suspects.  That story ahead.


MADDOW:  We‘re back with Former Ambassador Richard Holbrooke who is our nation‘s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Mr.  Ambassador, thanks for sticking around. 

What is the legal difference between remotely piloted, unmanned planes shooting into Pakistan and planes with pilots doing it?  Is there a legal difference? 

HOLBROOKE:  I‘m not a lawyer but I can tell you one of those two is a lot more accurate than the other. 

MADDOW:  The piloted planes would be? 


MADDOW:  The drones would be? 

HOLBROOKE:  Of course. 

MADDOW:  Why? 

HOLBROOKE:  Because of the technologies.  You know, there was a movie a few years ago called “Body of Lies” which showed it rather clearly.  And I thought when I saw it, my god, they‘ve been in the secret rooms. 

But there is a pilot, but the pilot is sitting in

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Air Force Base or somewhere.  He‘s not up in the air worrying about other things.  He‘s just focused - he or she is just focused on the target. 

MADDOW:  Does this represent -

HOLBROOKE:  And you know, it‘s such a precise weapon, the predator, that if they were aiming at your producers over there, you and I could continue the conversation.  It‘s very, very small.  Does that not appeal to you, that idea? 

MADDOW:  No.  It doesn‘t because I don‘t like the idea of the U.S.

waging war by any other name, but we don‘t talk about it -


MADDOW:  And therefore, there‘s no accountability for it.  I worry about the lawlessness. 

HOLBROOKE:  Yes.  Rachel - Rachel, I‘ve got to really be honest with you because I have such respect for where you‘re coming from.  We‘re talking about people who attacked the United States, who would do it again. 

We‘re talking about the Times Square bomber who went to that area of Pakistan and got his training, happily inept.  And we‘re talking about systems which we can‘t talk about, but which are definitely without doubt reducing the threat to the United States and to the very spot where you and I are sitting now. 

And I was in Vietnam.  I‘ve seen it, planes flying low, having to make judgment calls on an instant, close air support.  That‘s where mistakes can happen, that horrible thing in Kunduz where they blew up the tanks and 140 people got killed in the German area.  None of that happens with this vehicle. 

MADDOW:  But I worry about - I‘m not comforted by the technology because I‘m worried about the justification.  I‘m worried about the justification for our behavior hinging on how bad we say the people are we‘re doing these things to, because there‘s no appeal after somebody has launched a missile into your home.  There‘s no accountability for this by U.S. leaders. 

HOLBROOKE:  Rachel - Rachel, war really is hell. 

MADDOW:  Is it war in Pakistan? 

HOLBROOKE:  You‘ve seen it.  War in the western part of Pakistan?  Thousands and thousands of Pakistanis have been killed by the Pakistani Taliban - thousands.  Those are the people who trained the Times Square bomber. 

The al-Qaeda is sitting up there.  The Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani are sitting up there, killing Americans, attacking the Indian embassy.  These are really bad people.  You mentioned Miranshah in your opening remarks.  Miranshah is one of the headquarters of one of the groups that kills a lot of Americans. 

If you‘re in a war, you can‘t - you can‘t kid yourself about it. 

I‘ve seen a lot of wars.  I hate them more than anything you can imagine.  But in this particular case, as the president has said repeatedly, our own homeland security is directly involved. 

Then you have the LET, another group whose goal is to provoke a conflict between India and Pakistan and who did the Mumbai bombing.  This is the reason why this the most dangerous area on earth to stability. 

MADDOW:  Should we understand the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan as two separate wars?  Should we not consider what‘s happening in the Pakistan to be a war? 

HOLBROOKE:  One of the biggest mistakes of the previous administration was to treat Afghanistan and Pakistan separately, bureaucratically, and every part of the government. 

The President-elect Obama and Hillary Clinton asked me to combine Afghan and Pakistan on the civilian side.  The Pentagon followed suit, the CIA, the White House, other governments.  And now, we recognize the inner relationship. 

We treat Pakistan, as I said earlier, discussing the floods, as a great sovereign country we have to deal with, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a very difficult one, with its own set of problems vis-a-vis India, which I‘m not involved in directly. 

But In regard to what‘s happening in Afghanistan, let‘s go back to first principles.  And I think you and I discussed this the last time I was on your show.  There‘s no possible success in Afghanistan unless the Pakistanis are part of the solution, not part of the problem. 

That has been one of our major focuses.  And we worked very hard in trying to close the gap between the two countries. 

MADDOW:  Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, I could talk you all night.  I‘m sorry that I can‘t.  I‘m sorry that can‘t go longer with you, but I‘m hoping that you‘ll accept another invitation to come back soon. 

HOLBROOKE:  I‘d love to. 

MADDOW:  Thank you again, Ambassador.  Still ahead on this show, there was a time when leading Republicans would not stoop to using the president‘s middle name as an accusation.  That time, once again, is over.  The return of Hussein, courtesy of Sarah Palin et al.  That‘s coming up. 



FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are learning more about Christine O‘Donnell and her college years and her teenager years and her financial dealings than anybody ever even bothered to ask about Barack Hussein Obama as a candidate and now as our president. 


MADDOW:  What was that?  Barack who? 


PALIN:  Barack Hussein Obama -


MADDOW:  Hey, so that happens.  That was on Fox News just a few days ago.  The first time we at the show can determine that Gov. Palin has ever used the president‘s middle name in public. 

What a difference two years makes.  Two years ago, the McCain-Palin presidential campaign loudly denounced anyone who used Mr. Obama‘s middle name, calling him Barack Hussein Obama to imply Mr. Obama‘s very scary secret foreignness. 



about how you‘ll feel on November 5th if you wake up in the morning and you see the news that Barack Obama, that Barack Hussein Obama, is the president-elect of the United States of America. 


MADDOW:  A local Republican Party leader speaking at a McCain-Palin rally in October 2008.  Immediately after that rally, the McCain-Palin campaign released this statement, saying, quote, “We do not condone this inappropriate rhetoric which distracts from real questions of judgment, character and experience that voters will base their decisions on this November.” 

The McCain-Palin campaign made no bones about it.  They called the Hussein tactic off limits, even as a lot of conservatives associated with their campaign really wanted to use it. 


BILL CUNNINGHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  At some point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing and maybe start covering Barack Hussein Obama - at some point, is going to peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama. 


MADDOW:  At a press conference immediately following that Hussein incident, Sen. McCain addressed reporters in person that no uncertain terms said that he understood why conservatives were invoking the middle name thing.  And he said the McCain-Palin campaign would not stand for it. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It‘s my understanding before that I came in here that a person who was on the program before I spoke made some disparaging remarks about my two colleagues in the Senate, Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton.  I have repeatedly stated my respect for Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton, that I will treat them with respect.  I will call them senator. 

We will have respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions.  I regret any comments that may be made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans. 


MADDOW:  Back in 2008, the Hussein tactic, using the middle name bogeyman as a campaign trick to make Mr. Obama seem secretly foreign, the Hussein tactic earned a stern rebuke from the Republican Party‘s standard bearer. 

That had the affect of confining the Hussein tactic to the lower uncommon denominators of conservative politics, the low-rank radio hosts, the “World Net Daily” kooks, Sean Hannity.

But now that the same tactic is back big time, using the president‘s middle name and also just directly questioning whether or not enough is known about him, especially his childhood, whether or not he was vetted for the job, wink, wink, maybe something shadowy and foreign in his past. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘ve seen some intriguing polls this year on the president‘s religion.  Eighteen percent of Americans think in incorrectly that he is Muslim.  Why do Americans think that about him, think erroneously of his religion?  And also, why do so many people think he was born outside the United States?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R-MS):  I don‘t know why people think what they think?  This is a president that we know less about than any other president in history. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So you believe that this president was born in America?  Because we have not seen enough evidence to say that he is an American citizen.  And do you believe he‘s a Muslim?

TIM WALBERG ®, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE IN MICHIGAN:  You know, I don‘t know.  I really don‘t know.  We really don‘t have enough information about this president.  He was never given a job interview that was complete. 

But that‘s not the issue now.  He is president.  Right now, we need to make sure that he doesn‘t remain as president, whether he‘s American, a Muslim, a Christian, you name it.


MADDOW:  That last speaker, Tim Walberg, a Republican running for Congress in Michigan.  He later walked back saying he is not demanding to see the president‘s birth certificate or anything. 

But note the word on the president‘s religion, “I take President Obama at his word that he‘s a Christian.”  That‘s how he walked it back.  If that sounds familiar, it‘s because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been saying the same thing. 


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER:  The president says he is a Christian.  I take him at his word. 


MADDOW:  “If you say so, President Obama.  I guess I‘ll just have to take your word for it.  It‘s kind of hard to believe, but if you say so.” 

In 2008, the far reaches of conservative world argued that President Obama was a secret Muslim Manchurian candidate, alien plant.  The decision that serious Republicans didn‘t want to compete on those terms, that there wasn‘t a room for that kind of race-baiting, conspiracy-theorizing in Republican politics came from the top, from the party standard bearers, from the McCain-Palin campaign. 

As politics gets rough - gets rough-and-tumble again as we close in on these new elections, it‘s maybe not surprising that the Hussein tactic is back in play.  Now, the people who once said, “Enough, we‘re not doing this,” are themselves doing it. 


PALIN:  Barack Hussein Obama -


MADDOW:  Whatever held her back before apparently now is too hard to resist.  And now, two years after she and John McCain played leader in the Republican Party, who is there now to tell her now? 

That does it for us tonight.  Now, it‘s time for the “Last Word” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Tonight, Lawrence interviews Vice President Joe Biden.  Lawrence, congratulations.  Hi.  



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