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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, Oct. 1st, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Craig Varoga, Jill Lepore

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  And now to discuss why the Democrats need to work on offense—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, coach.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Have you been reading my phonetic pronunciations on the teleprompter, offense and defense?

OLBERMANN:  Oh, no, you just sounded very hockey-esque right there.

MADDOW:  Thanks, man-ey (ph).  Have a good weekend, Keith.


MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

Like most Americans, I am extremely skeptical of sequels with the obvious exceptions of “Godfather Part II” and Astrodome sequence in the bad news bears in breaking training.  However, thanks to pair of Republican congressmen who shall remained nameless until a few minutes from now.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is tonight proud to present “Bacon Police II.”  If you missed the original “Bacon Police,” we will catch you up in about 45 seconds and then present the sequel, which we believe will be fattening, salty, delicious smash hit just like “Bacon Police I.”

Between that and vindication of my “Carl Paladino is a performance artist” theory and the most interesting thing yet written about the Tea Party after the barrels of ink that have been spilled on that subject, we are rather loaded up for a Friday night show.  I‘m very excited about it.

But, we begin tonight with the continuing fail of this year‘s political common wisdom.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So many Democrats who don‘t even say they‘re Democrats in their ads, number one, and who certainly don‘t say that they voted for health care or stimulus.


MADDOW:  Common wisdom about this year‘s elections is that Democrats can only compete this year.  They are only competing this year by running away from the Democratic record.  Common wisdom is that Democrats can only get elected this year if voters can be bamboozled into thinking that they might maybe be Republicans or at least that they are Republican-lite.


NARRATOR:  Earl joined Republicans to fight Internet predators protecting kids.


MADDOW:  Earl Pomeroy, right, from North Dakota—the only member of Congress from North Dakota.  Common wisdom this year is that all Democrats have to do what Earl Pomeroy is doing, that to run essentially as fake Republicans, or if they are going to cite Democratic accomplishments in the campaign, it‘s only because they‘re going to run against those accomplishments.  That is this year‘s Beltway common wisdom.  And it is pretty much bullpuckey.

Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold is running for re-election this year.  He is banking on the fact that that common wisdom is bullpuckey.  Senator Feingold has a difficult race this year, facing an uphill battle against a very, very, very, very, very conservative rich opponent.  But he‘s not playing to common wisdom and for good reason.

Senator Feingold spoke before the president did at a barn burner of a rally earlier this week in Madison, Wisconsin.  The president‘s speech did not include a pause for applause where his speech got to the part about health reform.  But, lo and behold, when the president did mention health reform, the 26,000-plus people in the audience roared with cheers and applause.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We passed health care reform that will stop insurance companies from denying you coverage or dropping you coverage because you are sick.



MADDOW:  That cheering spontaneously for health reform.

So, common wisdom be damned.  Senator Russ Feingold is campaigning on health reform as an accomplishment that Democrats are proud of.  And an accomplishment that Republicans want to screw up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Russ fought to stop insurance companies from denying Wisconsin children health care due to preexisting conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Johnson would put insurance companies back in control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Letting them raise premiums and increase our costs whenever they want.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ron Johnson, hands off my health care.


MADDOW:  The other side of the anti-Democrat common wisdom this year is that not only can‘t Democrats run on the Democratic record.  But they also always have to be on defense.  You got—you have to be on defense, just wait for and then try vaguely to fend off Republican attacks.  Republicans get to play offense.

And whatever you do, for the love of God, make as little noise and take up as little space as possible, and maybe people won‘t notice you‘re there and that‘s how you‘ll get reelected or elected.

It‘s the Republicans‘ turf this year and you, Democrats, you‘re going to play on Republican territory and just shut up about it.  Please, sir, may I have another.

That is the common wisdom this year.  It‘s also bullpuckey.  And I can show you why and how.

Not only can Democrats play offense this year, but we have examples. 

We have really good examples of what it looks like when they do so.

We‘re about to play for you now something you have never seen before. 

We obtained this today from the “St. Petersburg Times” and “Miami Herald.”  It has never before been shown on TV.  It is from an event in Tallahassee, Florida, in January, at which Senate candidate Marco Rubio is asked how he would fix Social Security.



MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), NOMINEE FOR U.S. SENATE:  I do think that the retirement age issue is going to have to be confronted at some point as part of a measure to reform Social Security.  The other is giving people the option of taking some of their Social Security money, at least a portion thereof, and investing in an alternative to the Social Security system itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But you‘ve had people that, you know, have made terrible mistakes and lost everything in their 401(k).  Wouldn‘t they do the same thing with Social Security?

RUBIO:  Potentially.  But it‘s their money.


MADDOW:  It‘s their money.  (INAUDIBLE) is not expensive.  Cardboard is cheap.

That was Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio speaking to reporters in Tallahassee in January about privatizing Social Security.  That exclusive video again courtesy of the “St. Petersburg Times” and “Miami Herald.”  I thank them for getting it to us today.  Technically, it was quite a challenge and we‘re glad they did.

Now, the Democrat in that race, Kendrick Meek, has used that statement, used Marco Rubio‘s position in favor of privatizing Social Security in a campaign ad against Marco Rubio.


KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m Kendrick Meek, the Democrat for Senate.  And with three of us running, you should know what makes me different.  I‘m the only one against privatizing Social Security.




Marco Rubio has what amounts to a politically indefensible position on Social Security in a state that has demographics like Florida does—indefensible position.  So the Democrat running against him hits him on that politically indefensible position.  The result is that the Republican runs from his own position.


RUBIO:  No, I do not believe it should be privatized and I do not believe it‘s outlived its usefulness.  On the contrary, I think Social Security is extremely important program and it should be preserved and saved.


MADDOW:  That tape of me saying otherwise is going to be really hard to find, isn‘t it?  What?  Privatized Social Security?  Did I ever say that?  Not that I think anybody can fine.  Me?  No, never.  That‘s crazy talk.


RUBIO:  The other is giving people the option of taking some of their Social Security money, at least a portion thereof, and investing it in an alternative to the Social Security itself.


MADDOW:  Like the stock market.  And if they lose it—hey, dummies.

Marco Rubio—Marco Rubio, you have no idea what to say you believe about this now, do you?  You are lying about your old position, or you at least—you are at least flip-flopping on it.  You‘re denying your own beliefs.  Man, you‘re a mess on this!  In Florida, you‘re a mess on Social Security.  That sounds like trouble.

Not only can Democrats fight on offense.  It works when they do—every year, even this year.

Want another example?  V.A. privatization.  Privatizing the V.A.? 


As crazy as it sounds, this is an actual position taken by a number of Republicans this year, including Senate candidate Sharron Angle in Nevada.  In a radio interview, Ms. Angle said this when she was talking about her father who is a veteran.


SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I know he pays over $800 a month in prescription drugs that we can‘t get through his V.A. nor through Medicare.  They just won‘t cover those things.  And I know lots of seniors—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Should they cover those things?

ANGLE:  No, not if you‘re working toward a privatized system.


MADDOW:  What is this privatized system of which you speak?

A privatized V.A., an idea that veterans groups immediately went through the roof about—and an easy target that Ms. Angle‘s Democratic opponent Harry Reid took a shot at.


NARRATOR:  Now, in another extreme proposal, Sharron Angle says privatize it, end the V.A. as we know it.  When she was asked whether veterans benefits like prescriptions and doctor visits would be covered if she had her way—

ANGLE: No, not if you‘re working toward a privatized system.

NARRATOR:  End our promise to veterans?  Sharron Angle, dangerous ideas that put veterans at risk.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  I‘m Harry Reid and I approve this message.


MADDOW:  Democrat on offense against a Republican‘s totally politically indefensibility unpopular position.  Result?  Republican runs from that position falling all over herself along the way.  Sharron Angle, I yield the floor.


ANGLE:  I said that they could do a better job, that‘s all I said, is the V.A. could do a better job for our veterans.


MADDOW:  That‘s all I said, I hope.  That the V.A. could do better by privatizing itself.  That‘s all.  Did I say privatize?  I meant personalize.  I just meant everybody should get monogrammed V.A. stuff.  Oh, God, why did I say?

Also forced to play defense was Ken Buck, the Republican running for Senate in Colorado.  After supporting legislation that declares a fertilized egg has the same rights as you and I have, his Democratic opponent Michael Bennet came out swinging with this searing attack ad.


DR. ELIZA BUYERS, OB/GYN:  As a doctor, I try to protect the health of women.  That‘s what I do.  That‘s why I‘m very disturbed by Ken Buck.

Ken buck would ban common forms of birth control.  And Ken Buck wants to make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest.  But that should be a woman‘s decision, not a politician‘s.

As far as I‘m concerned, Ken Buck is just too extreme for Colorado.


MADDOW:  Since originally supporting the “birth control pills are murder” legislation, Ken Buck has changed his position, sort of.  Quoting “The Denver Post” this week: “During the primary, he—Ken Buck—said he supported the measure.  Last weekend, his campaign said he would vote against it because he doesn‘t believe in banning birth control.  Then on Monday, he said at a Jewish voters‘ forum that he is not taking a position on the amendment at all.”

So, it‘s Ken Buck flip-flopping, falling over backwards, running from his record not sure what his new record should be.

This is what it looks like when Democrats are on offense.  This is what it looks like when Democrats commit politics.  This is what happens when Democrats try to win.  Sometimes it works.

This year‘s anti-Democratic common wisdom is bullpuckey.  When we come back, the strategy behind one of the hardest-hitting ads of the election, so far.


NARRATOR:  Every four minutes in America, a woman is sexually assaulted.  Almost half are teenage or younger.  But for a victim of rape or incest, Sharron Angle would force her to have the baby.  Angle says—

ANGLE:  Two wrongs don‘t make a right.

NARRATOR:  For girls raped by a relative, Angle says they should just make—

ANGLE:  -- a lemon situation into lemonade.

NARRATOR:  If that‘s not extreme, what is?

Sharron Angle, too dangerous to have real power over real people.

Patriot Majority PAC is responsible for the content of this advertising.


MADDOW:  More on that when we come back.


MADDOW:  For better or worse, I frequently find my own understanding of things to be at odds with the prevailing narratives in the Beltway media.  That said, does anybody else get the feeling that New York‘s Tea Party-backed Republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino, isn‘t actually running a political campaign?

I‘m telling you, Carl Paladino is an art project.  I‘m almost not kidding.  Carl Paladino is, I believe, performance art.  But he is performance art that could conceivably be elected governor of New York State.

The evidence of his performance art-ness is hiding in plain sight.  We have assembled it.  It was really fun to do.

Hear me out.  I have an argument about this.  That‘s coming up.



NARRATOR:  Every four minutes in America, a woman is sexually assaulted.  Almost half are teenage or younger.  But for a victim of rape or incest, Sharron Angle would force her to have the baby.


MADDOW:  That may be the toughest, most pointed campaign ad of this election, and it is on a subject that the conventional wisdom says Democrats, at least pro-choice people, are not allowed to campaign on.

Joining us is Craig Varoga.  He is president of the Patriot Majority PAC, which is the group that put that ad together and is running it now.

Mr. Varoga, thanks very much for your time.


MADDOW:  Patriot—sorry—Patriot Majority PAC is not specifically an abortion rights group.  I know that you‘re generally a progressive PAC.

Can you tell me about the strategic thinking behind why you made that ad?

VAROGA:  Sure, absolutely.  And let me—let me say that we agree with you 100 percent that Democrats and progressives need to fight back.  The reason why we did that ad is that Sharron Angle is basically trying to punish crime victims.  People who have been victimized by brutal crimes, she‘s trying to make them suffer more.  And we think that that‘s wrong.

And you‘re correct.  It‘s tough and it‘s pointed, but it‘s also factual because it‘s based on her own words.  And we want to take the fight to her and we‘re going to do that over the next 30 days.

MADDOW:  How do you know if your ads are effective?  What kind of metrics do you look at?

VAROGA:  We look at, you know—I mean, you know—I mean, you know, one, we follow the polls very closely.  Two, we see what the responses on Facebook are.  And we see, you know, what happens with online traffic.

And so far—I mean, this ad has only been up for half a day and we‘ve gotten a bigger response to this than anything that we‘ve done all year.

MADDOW:  Are you getting—are you having negative and positive response or only positive response?

VAROGA:  Well, I mean, I think that, you know, from Democrats it‘s very positive, and from people who are in favor of protecting victims, it‘s very positive.  And I think usually, what will probably happen is that tomorrow, you know, Angle supporters will fight back.  But, you know, we take in stride because we think that you need to tell the truth here.

MADDOW:  Craig, tell me a little bit about Patriot Majority.  What is your group?  How long have you been around?  Who funds you?

VAROGA:  Patriot Majority has been around since 2005.  We were here before the Tea Party.  We‘ll be here after it.  And we‘ll be here after this election.

We‘re funded by, you know, I mean, individuals all across the country.  You know, our Web site—you know, we seek individual contributions.  You know, and we‘re funded by people who think that, you know, we need to, you know, draw a line in the sand and fight these radicals, you know, who are actually, you know—you know, trying to, you know, undo the progress that we‘ve made as a country.

MADDOW:  The common wisdom is that pro-choice people do not campaign on that issue.  Pro-choice politicians don‘t campaign on that issue.  You almost never hear it come up during elections unless it‘s brought up by people who are anti-abortion, people who are in the pro-life camp.

You have shown with this out that that doesn‘t have to be the case.  I see this as a very effective ad.  It will be interesting to see what effect it has on the race there.

Given that you‘ve sort of broken the mold on this, are there other issues that the common wisdom says progressives can‘t campaign on but you think they can?

VAROGA:  Well, when you look at what‘s going on in the election this year, the Republican Party not only has been taken over by the Tea Party, it‘s been taken over by people who want to get rid of Social Security, who want to get rid of Medicare.  And some people, including Sharron Angle, basically have said that there should be an armed insurrection in case if they lose the election—which we think that they will.

I mean, we‘re going to take all of those things on because we think that—I mean, you know, one, we think a majority of Americans agree with the position that we have.  And we think they disagree with these candidates, you know, who, in fact, are actually very radical.

MADDOW:  Are there other candidates—other races that you‘re specifically planning on focusing on for these elections?

VAROGA:  Well, you know, we‘re looking at a lot of races.  And I think, certainly, that—I mean, you know, people have seen some of the, you know, extreme candidates, you know, like Christine O‘Donnell and others, you know, who—I mean, in any other election, in any other year they wouldn‘t even have a seat at the table.  And they‘re actually, you know—they‘re at the doorstep of the nation‘s Capitol.

And, you know, the message that we have, if you go back to the ad is that these people are too dangerous to have real power over real power.  And we‘re taking a real close look in the last 30 days in order to—in order to, you know, take this fight to where it needs to be.

MADDOW:  Craig Varoga, president of the Patriot Majority PAC, which as a progressive PAC has a deliberately right-wing sounding name, I‘m guessing to make a point about patriotism.

VAROGA:  No, no.  I mean, it‘s—it‘s not right wing at all.  We actually think that patriotism is something which, you know, that not only is mainstream, it‘s the tradition of America and we think what has made this country strong is embracing, you know, our heritage, is embracing all the people who, you know, can make this country stronger in the coming years.  And it‘s—you know, whether it‘s schools, whether it‘s health care, whether it‘s jobs—I mean, our patriotic duty is to advance those things and it‘s not—it is not, you know, to undo Social Security and health care and all those other radical ideas that Sharron Angle and others have.

MADDOW:  Craig Varoga, president of the Patriot Majority PAC—Craig, thanks very much for joining us.  Nice to meet you.

VAROGA:  Thank you.  I‘m very happy to be here.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

Nancy Pelosi defied two centuries of American history to become the first woman speaker of the House.  Barack Obama did what many thought was impossible, being elected the first African-American president of the United States.

And now, New York State‘s Carl Paladino attempts something so rare, nobody has ever even considered it before.  New York‘s Carl Paladino could become the first example of performance art winning statewide office in America.  I am way less than half joking.  That‘s next.





PALADINO:  And we‘re not going to take it anymore.

Hi.  I‘m Carl Paladino.  And I‘m mad as hell.

Yes, we are mad as hell.

I am angry.

I‘m mad as hell.

Well, I‘m mad as hell.  And I‘m not going to take it anymore.


MADDOW:  And now, a brief history—a very brief visual history of iconic 1990s era American urban street art.  And why I think we cannot understand the phenomenon of angry, angry, angry Carl Paladino without it.

Can we dim the lights, please?  OK.  Can we dim the lights, please? 

Thank you.  Can we have the first slide, please?  It‘s labeled “Twist.”

For people like me who grew up in California, our iconic visual street art included artists like Twist.

Other San Francisco icons—next slide please—include the famously oddly wistful horses painted by Reminisque (ph), particularly stark in black and white when viewed in a sea of multicolored gang tags.

Next slide.

New York City‘s iconic ‘90s street art was, of course, very much reflected by subway graffiti styles like these classics from the world famous Iz the Wiz.  Iz the Wiz died last June, prompting major obituaries not only in the art press but in New York newspapers.

Next slide, please.

But if in the 1990s, you weren‘t in the two most urbanized areas of the U.S., you weren‘t in New York City or San Francisco, if you were anywhere in the U.S., even in the burbs, you probably came across this, Shepard Fairey‘s “Andre the Giant Has a Posse.”  It was everywhere, right?  At least everywhere anyone skateboarded.

And as Mr. Fairey morphed other icons, it became more nationally ubiquitous.  You know why the Obama “Hope” poster had a powerful resonance with anyone remotely near my age group?  It‘s in part because we all had Shepard Fairey‘s art in our veins already way before we‘d ever heard of a politician named Barack Obama.

OK.  Last slide please.

In the category of nearly ubiquitous iconic 1990s era American urban street art, art that was so iconic and so ubiquitous it doesn‘t really count as urban anymore because it turned up everywhere, you also have to include Bob Dobbs.  Bob Dobbs, the icon of the Church of SubGenius, which itself is a subject for another day.

But admit it—you have seen this guy‘s face stickered or stenciled somewhere, haven‘t you?  Or a t-shirt or something?

OK, we can bring the lights back up now.

Bob Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius certainly in the top tier of nearly ubiquitous iconic 1990s era American urban street art, all right?

Now, back to Carl Paladino.  I am telling you, I think I have finally figured this out.  Carl Paladino is the Republican nominee for governor of New York who I think maybe isn‘t running a campaign, who I think is maybe doing an art project.

Here‘s my evidence: First, the one thing voters mostly knew about him before he was chosen to be the gubernatorial nominee was the super racist videos and pictures and hard core pornography that he e-mailed out, none of which he denies.

Second, his first campaign act once he got the Republican nomination was sending out a campaign mailer that I am not allowed to take out of the UPS mailer that they sent it to us in because it is scented with trash.

Third, one of his official platforms is a proposal to send welfare recipients to renovated prisons.

The revelation this week that at least four of his campaign aides either have criminal records or are accused of criminal behavior also didn‘t help things.  His campaign manager owes thousands in federal taxes.  One of his political strategists is accused of stealing $1 million from Michael Bloomberg.  And his driver served jail time for missing a court hearing—a court hearing on charges of driving under the influence and a hit-and-run on a suspended license.  That‘s Carl Paladino‘s driver, a guy with a DUI and a hit-and-run, his driver.

And then, then there‘s Carl Paladino‘s out of the blue assertion that his opponent had an extramarital affair.  On Wednesday, Carl said to, quote, “Has anybody asked Andrew Cuomo about his paramours?  When he was married!  Has anybody ever done that?”

To “Newsday,” the Long Island newspaper, Mr. Paladino said, “Do we know what caused Cuomo to break up with his wife?  These are the questions the public wants to know.”

Asked by “The New York Post” on Wednesday if he had any evidence to back up these accusations about Andrew Cuomo having paramours, Mr. Paladino said, “Of course I do.  You‘ll get it at the appropriate time.”

And today, Mr. Paladino denied any of that ever happened, telling “The Buffalo News”: “It‘s not that I was accusing him.”  Dude, yes, you were.

Then before that bizarre statement could even sink in, Carl Paladino was back to insisting that he is accusing that guy and there‘s evidence maybe coming maybe.  Don‘t know.


PALADINO:  We will at the appropriate time, OK, say whatever we have in our box—in our box at the appropriate time.  Yes.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  So you‘re not backing off that allegation.  It is—you do believe that Andrew Cuomo has had or did have extramarital affairs when he was married?

PALADINO:  What I—what I believe and what is factual out there, we will at the appropriate time put out.  Yes.


MADDOW:  In our box.

Does this make any sense?  No, this does not make any sense. None of this makes any sense.  But on top of all of that, Carl Paladino for good measure for just the pure artistic and surreal joy of it all, Carl Paladino has inexplicably started denying that he ever had an affair outside his marriage.  Why do we care?  Only because it‘s so weird because Carl Paladino has long admitted to fathering a now 10-year-old daughter outside of his marriage. 


PALADINO:  What affairs has he had?  Obviously, I haven‘t had any. 


MADDOW:  Obviously, I haven‘t—because the now 10-year-old daughter you had with another woman while you were married is Jesus or something?  I find it impossible to believe that these are gaffes, that these are errors committed by an actual candidate, a real well meaning candidate.  It‘s not possible.  My brain cannot expand far enough to account for a politician this bad.  Instead, I choose to believe that Carl Paladino is an art project.  My proof is here.  There is a tag line that goes along with Bob Dobbs, with the iconic ‘90s street art stenciled guy with the pipe smiling at you.  What is the tag line that gets into your sub consciousness for Bob Dobbs for the church of the sub genius? 

It‘s “I‘m mad too, Bob.”  And what‘s on Carl Paladino‘s lawn sign?  “I‘m mad too, Carl.”  I‘m telling you, this is an art project!  Carl Paladino is not yet a stencil on a skate park, but he will be.  And when he is, it will be so for years and years and years.  He will be. 


MADDOW:  In 1974, two years before America turned 200, lefties started a Tea Party movement.  A lefty group called the people‘s bicentennial commission published what they called a planning and activity guide for citizens‘ participation during the bicentennial years.  And in that guide, in 1974, they suggested that people form Tea Parties because they said the country needed, quote, “A new party, a movement that will treat tax reform as one aspect of a fight for genuine equality of property and power.”  Equality of property?  Hmm.  Yes, the lefty Tea Party idea from the ‘70s, was that the T, the T in Tea Party should stand for tax equity for Americans.  Equity as in equality. 

They made some suggestions for lefty Tea Partiers including, quote, “How about a King George exhibit of tax avoiders in some public park with pictures and charts of the loopholes they used?”  Why not use the example of the Boston Tea Party to highlight all the loopholes and tricks that rich people and corporations use to avoid paying their fair share of taxes!  Why not?  The people‘s bicentennial commission again, this is 1974 also suggested that left wing Tea Partiers of the 1970s use the slogan, “Don‘t Tread on Me.”  Doesn‘t that just burn you up, conservative Tea Partiers that just one generation ago a bunch of dirty hippies looked at the same Gadsden flag, the same chapter in the history of book about throwing the tea in the Boston harbor and they took exactly the opposite political message from it for today?  Doesn‘t that burn you up? 

I thought it would.  Which is why if you guys really want to get your blood pressure going, you should read the book I got that out of.  It‘s called “The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party‘s Revolution and the Battle over American History,” it‘s written by Harvard American History professor Jill Lepore who joins us now for the interview. 

Professor Lepore, thank you very much for being here.  Congratulations on this book.


MADDOW:  I enjoyed it very much.  And I think that, it is a book about American history and the Tea Party both for critics of the Tea Party and for Tea Partiers.  It seems like you actually really enjoyed your interactions with the movement. 

LEPORE:  Yes, I thought, I did.  So, you know, I teach a research seminar at Harvard on the revolution every spring and the Tea Party was forming.  We would do field trips in Boston.  We would bump into people from the Tea Party and, you know, here we are doing a field trip trying to go down to the ship or go down to the harbor and study the events of the 18th century.  And there were also deeply interested in the 18th century.  And I think the interest in most ordinary people involved in Tea Party movement in the revolution is quite passionate and deeply felt. 


LEPORE:  So, I thought, you know, I got to go hang out with these people and see why, you know, why—it‘s really actually kind of a hard sell in class trying to get people to come take a class.  Everyone takes like 1968 to the present.  It‘s the most popular American history.

MADDOW:  I want to know why my dad is so weird. 

LEPORE:  Yes, you know, and you just, come on, the revolution is so interesting.  And then, finally all of a sudden all of these people are so interested in the revolution.  It was really fun to go and hear what fascinated them about the revolution.  I mean, it was discordant because it‘s completely different from what I think about the revolution and how I teach it but really interesting to hear those views. 

MADDOW:  When you say it‘s discordant and it‘s different from what you know about history as an American history professor, is it that people are telling stories that aren‘t true or that people are being so invested in coming up with lessons for today‘s politics from American history they have skewed stuff?

LEPORE:  Well, I think there‘s a variety of different ways that people

I mean, there‘s obviously a quite cynical kind of poaching of the past like, let‘s just hunt through history to find something that buttresses our own political argument. 


LEPORE:  And people do as a long standing political tradition.  People did that, you know, two years after the revolution was over, right?  That‘s kind of how politics works.  And that sometimes that‘s cynical and sometimes that‘s not.  But I think that for most of the people I used to hang out within the Tea Party, what the revolution meant to them was something that I might think more of as kind of folklore.  Like, you know, they have the kind of—I don‘t know here in New York but in Massachusetts, kids learn about the American Revolution in elementary school and then they actually don‘t learn about it again.  So, most people when they think about the revolution—you know, before I went to graduate school, I thought about, I think, Johnny Tremain or now just like the American girl doll. 

MADDOW:  Great.

LEPORE:  Like a revolution.  Like, if you have a kind of something juvenilia, it‘s almost like a kind of, almost child-like nostalgia for how heroic those tales are and this larger than life figures.  And I think that‘s, you know, that‘s actually part of our civic heritage.  It‘s not how historians think about the past.  So what‘s kind of odd about the Tea Party is this, you know, civic-minded folklore that we cherish that are sort of kind of stories we tell about the past being deployed to make political arguments that are completely inflexible. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Well, you describe it as a form of historical fundamentalism, this sort of, you know, this thing that a lot of different people have done from a lot of different perspectives, commodification and almost like merchandising of the revolution and the founding fathers.  You describe the way it‘s being used now as a fundamentalism.  And what do you mean by that?

LEPORE:  Well, I think that what‘s kind of, a bunch of different things come together.  And you know, as the Tea Party is vast and diffuse and some are confused in a lot of ways.  All sorts of elements planned.  But one of the things that I think that‘s really happened is that originalism as a mode of jurisprudence, as an argument of how to interpret the constitution and the courts contributes to how we think about the 18th century especially people on the far  right as does fundamentalism.  Since the Reagan revolution you think about the roles of evangelicals and their influence in American political culture.  And originalism and fundamentalism, Religious fundamentalism share a set of ideas about the past that are completely opposed to how historians think about the past.  We want to investigate it and question it and uncover it and explore and interrogate the past.  They actually want us to reveal the past and we want to understand the past as having a finality to it. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  So questioning is a form of blasphemy then?

LEPORE:  Questioning, right, right.  So, if you make a political argument, let‘s say, I disagree with the bailout and I say to you, OK, here‘s my disagreement with the bailout.  I don‘t think the tax structure is effective, looking forward, I don‘t think it‘s sustainable.  I‘m worried about the debt, et cetera.  If I say to you, the founding fathers would have been opposed to the bailout and I‘ve also said to you, the founding fathers are divinely inspired and the constitution is a sacred document and speaks to us the way the gospel speaks to us, the way Jesus is alive today, if he was alive as he was the day he died.  That‘s an important truth for many people.  And to think about the people who drafted the constitution in that same way, that‘s what I mean by historical fundamentalism, because then how can we actually debate the bailout.  Because if I say to you, no, I actually don‘t think, I actually support the bailout.

MADDOW:  Then, I‘m going to burn you at the stake. 

LEPORE: .then I‘m a heretic. 



LEPORE:  You know, this is obviously, this is not where we‘re at but this is what‘s worrisome to me because that‘s actually not a political conversation.  That‘s where civility ends. 


LEPORE:  That‘s actually where a part of conversations breaks down.

MADDOW:  And that‘s why you have to be invested in evidence having no meaning in order to always be sure that your interpretation of history will win the day. 

LEPORE:  Right. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Jill Lepore, author of “The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party‘s Revolution and the Battle over American History,” American History professor at Harvard.  This is a great read and I really enjoyed it.  And it‘s nice of you to come in.  Thanks a lot.

LEPORE:  All right.  Thanks a lot.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  Thanks to the courage and vision of one brave conservative Texas congressman, we are already aware as Americans that the federal government is arming a squad of bacon police to prevent you from enjoying delicious and fatty and salty pork products.  Now, an equally intrepid conservative congressman from Georgia has revealed the next move in the administration‘s para-culinary offensive against our food freedom.  The sequel to bacon police opens tonight.  It‘s Friday night.  Please stay tuned.


MADDOW:  Coming up, new hat.  Return of the bacon police.  That‘s all I can say now. 


MADDOW:  Bacon police!  Put your frying pan in the air where I can see it. 


I‘m so unexpectedly, I‘m turning out to love this election season.  Bacon police!  Never look at pictures of yourself in hat.  You may recall who inspired my brief very intense return as Officer Oscar Mayer (ph) this summer.  A very happy night here when the news Gods managed to deliver both politics and breakfast meet in the very same story.  It was Congressman Louie Gohmert, republican of Texas took to the house floor in July to warn that the federal government might soon be monitoring your cholesterol level and keeping track of exactly how much bacon you‘ve been buying at the grocery store.  The better to calculate just how much you irresponsible high cholesterol having bacon eater, how much more you are going to have to pay in taxes to fund evil government health care.  You know, the bacon police state.  Thank God, Congressman Gohmert is there to warn us.  Today the sequel of the bacon police came out, it‘s called Bacon Police II, naturally, Bacon Police II.  This time it‘s vegetables. 


REP. PAUL BROUN ®, GEORGIA:  Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said people in America are not eating enough fruits and vegetables.  They want to get all the power of the federal government to force you to eat more fruits and vegetables.  This is what the federal, CDC—they‘re going to be calling people and finding out how many fruits and vegetables you eat today.  This is a Socialism of the highest order. 


MADDOW:  Republican Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia campaigning for

re-election at a town hall in Elberton, Georgia on the platform that the

Centers for Disease Control will call you every day to find out how many vegetables you ate today.  How many?  Count them!  And once you‘re done taking that daily phone call, you will need to go answer the doorbell because there will be First Lady Michelle Obama on that crusade  that Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have been warning you about.  She‘ll be there to take away your French fries.  See, first they came for the bacon.  Then they came for the French fries.  We‘re vegetable police, man.  Put your (inaudible) items where we could see them.  Everybody freak out.


MADDOW:  We have found this surprising consistency in the wave of scandals that have hit top of the ticket big name republican candidates in the last few days.  It‘s an odd but noticeable commonalty.  Almost every politician out there preaches about the idea of personal responsibility, right?  It‘s time to bring personal responsibility back to America, it‘s time to bring personal responsibility back to Washington.  The term personal responsibility is a focus group approved tagline for all sorts of politicians.  But it‘s the Republican Party that‘s really essentially tried to make personal responsibility its brands of late.  


GEORGE W. BUSH (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I believe this nation is on the cusp of welcoming in a period of personal responsibility.  A responsibility era.  An era that says each of us are responsible for the decisions we make of life.  


MADDOW:  Pure unadulterated generic politics right there.  President Bush speaking to a Republican Party gathering in 2002.  Eight years later, the Republican Party still trying to claim that whole personal responsibility thing as their party‘s brand.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, OHIO:  Leaders overreach, because the rules allow them to.  Legislators adduct their responsibilities, because the rules help them to.  There‘s no accountability, there are no consequences.  


MADDOW:  No accountability, no consequences, it‘s time for some personal responsibility.  Well, personal responsibility as a republican brand, it‘s in a run for its life right now.  Republican Meg Whitman in California, for example, why is Meg Whitman in trouble right now?  Because a big part of her political platform, what she has been campaigning on for months now is her plan to crack down on illegal immigrants, specifically workplaces suspected of employing undocumented workers.  Any employer employing an illegal immigrant will be slapped with fines and will have their business licenses suspended under a Meg Whitman administration. 

Meg Whitman envying against people who employ illegal immigrants.  That got sort of awkward this week, when an illegal immigrant who Meg Whitman employed for nine years as her housekeeper came out to say, not only that Meg Whitman treat me poorly as an employee but she knew I was here in the country  illegally.  Meg Whitman response to that allegation was to deny it, she said, she didn‘t know the woman was an illegal immigrant.  She will be high-priced lawyer, unveiling the giant blowup of the letter from the federal government that warned Meg Whitman that her maid appeared to be undocumented, complete with Meg Whitman‘s husband‘s signature on it. 


UNIDENTIFIED HOST:  Do you have any reason to believe that that is not your husband‘s signature?

MEG WHITMAN ®, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, I haven‘t seen it, but I suspect it probably is his signature and I suspect, you know, what he said is he doesn‘t remember ever receiving this letter.  


MADDOW:  I suspect what he doesn‘t remember.  Who me?  Couldn‘t be? 

Blame my husband.  I mean, it was his handwriting in the letter not mine.  In fact, I barely know the guy to be honest with you.  I‘m sorry, I‘ve got to go. 

Then, there‘s this Republican Senate candidate Christine O‘Donnell of Delaware.  Ms. O‘Donnell also attempted the “who me” defense this week after reporters started turning up some funny inconsistencies in her record.  And here‘s Christine O‘Donnell‘s profile under website LinkedIn in that profile of having education.  Mr. O‘Donnell‘s claims to have attended the University of Oxford in England.  See, it‘s right there.  University of Oxford.  Christine O‘Donnell claims to have studied post-modernism in the new millennium in Oxford.  The problem is Greg Sargent of the “Washington Post” first reported this week, quote, “It turns out that was just a course conducted by an institution known as the Phoenix Institute, which merely rented space at Oxford.” 

Instead of just acknowledging the exaggeration, maybe apologizing, Christine O‘Donnell threw a republican pr company decided to double-down on this.  She released this statement, quote, “There have been reports that I have released false information on a LinkedIn profile under my name.  This is categorically untrue.  I never established a LinkedIn profile or authorized anyone to do so, on my behalf.”  Who me?  Couldn‘t be me.  Somebody else must have written that bio page without my knowledge, which is a neat excuse, except for the fact that the claim and question here, the I attended Oxford claim did not just appear on Christine O‘Donnell‘s LinkedIn profile. 

It also turned up on her profile page at another online resume sharing

that would even include the official note that all of the information there was user verified.  The I attended Oxford thing also appeared on a resume that Christine O‘Donnell submitted to a think tank called the Claremont Institute back in 2002.  Who me?  I‘m not responsible for any of those either, I promise.  Sorry, I‘ve got to go.  The who me defense also put on full display this week in Connecticut. 


Republican Linda McMahon, a former executive with World Wrestling Entertainment, is now vying to become that next state‘s U.S. senator.  Ms.  McMahon faced this question at a Tea Party event in Waterbury, Connecticut.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Linda, you have—through your company, made many contributions to special interests, put forward to try to get your point of view supported.  Haven‘t you made over a million in contributions and lobbying efforts to the Congress?


MADDOW:  OK, think, think, I‘ve raid against special interests and lobbying in this campaign.  How do I answer this question?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Haven‘t you made over a million dollars in contributions and lobbying efforts to the Congress?

LINDA MCMAHON ®, US SENATE CANDIDATE:  In terms of lobbying dollars in Washington, I have not spent lobbying dollars in Washington. 


MADDOW:  Who me?  I never lobbied Congress.  You must have me mistaken with somebody else.  The problem is Rock Call newspaper revealed today, quote, “McMahon Video Contradicts Lobbying Record.  Between 2001 and 2008, McMahon‘s company paid at least $680,000 to lobby Congress and federal agencies on which such issues as the defense authorization bills of ‘02 and ‘03.  In ‘07 and ‘08, the WWE paid $340,000 to Washington lobbying firm K&L Gates to help the company navigate a Congressional Investigation of steroids use in sports.”  


MCMAHON:  In terms of lobbying dollars in Washington, I‘ve not spend lobbying dollars in Washington.  


MADDOW:  Dollars, we think of them more as Euros.  The who me defense is also being employed in probably the status of all these scandals right now, in the one currently surrounding Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller of Alaska.  Mr. Miller took a trip to D.C. this week, at which point, the following messages appeared in succession on his twitter account.  “Think, I‘ll do some house hunting while I‘m in D.C., guess I should pick up some office furniture as well, while in D.C.  Then there‘s the matter of a name block for the door and finally, my sincere appreciation for the warm welcome, including from future colleagues in D.C.” 

After one of Joe Miller‘s opponents whacked him for that dripped measuring bit of hubris all of those tweets magically disappeared from Mr.  Millers twitter account.  Not only did they disappear, Mr. Miller campaign spokesman blamed the tweets on a volunteer, who will no longer have access to the account.  I didn‘t write those tweets, who me?  Must have been some volunteer?  Now, it may very well have been a rogue Joe Miller volunteer has been secretly tweeting as if he‘s Joe Miller.  If so, maybe Rick Sanchez can draft that same volunteer to say he did anti-Semitic radio interviews for him. 

But at this point, it sort of seems like all of these top tier republican candidates are getting the same advice on these things.  Blame someone else.  I mean, the Republican Party has invested a lot in all of these races.  Is there somebody at republican headquarters or some political straps steering all these campaigns, telling them all to say, don‘t blame me, blame a staffer?  Is that the advice they‘re all getting?  It is essentially the strategy they‘re all following.  Maybe there‘s a puppet master, maybe they‘re all just learning from the master, though. 


BUSH:  I believe this nation is on the cusp of welcoming in a period of personal responsibility, a responsibility era, an era which says each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life.  

CHARLIE GIBSON, JOURNALIST:  You‘ve always said there‘s no do-overs as president, if you had one?

BUSH:  The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq.  A lot of people put their reputations on the line and, you know, that‘s not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess. 


MADDOW:  Who me?  It wasn‘t me.  It was the intelligence people.  Who me?  They‘re to blame.  Got to go and listen.

Can‘t swing a dead cat in politics without interrupting somebody in the process of praising Harry Truman for that whole buck stops here thing, but you show what it is you believed and what you value by your behavior.  That‘s the whole leader thing.




MADDOW:  That does it for us tonight.  Have a great weekend.   



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