Guests: Scott Thomas, Peter Stone, Richard Engel
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now, to discuss Christine O‘Donnell is using Rachel Maddow in a fundraising letter—ladies and gentlemen, here is—wait. Hold on. I‘ve got it. Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Keith, you are in it, too.
OLBERMANN: Oh, terrific.
OLBERMANN: What happened to our idea?
MADDOW: That we were going to try to take a cut from all these guys?
OLBERMANN: Right. If they‘re going to do it, let‘s just charge them for it. I mean, look, if Christine O‘Donnell can keep some of her campaign funds, why can‘t we keep some of her campaign funds?
MADDOW: You know, I think the reason we never pursued it before is that it seemed vaguely illegal. But now, nothing‘s illegal in campaign finance.
OLBERMANN: Just as long as nobody touches anybody or themselves, we‘re fine, right?
MADDOW: I‘ll see if I get Bahrain to pick up the tab for it, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
This is a cable news show that talks less about Sarah Palin than most other cable news shows, at least as far as I know. It has to do with the fact that Ms. Palin does not have a job or any sort of formal position in any sort of political entity other than her position at the FOX News Channel. However, in Ms. Palin‘s capacity as conservative celebrity without portfolio, she has done liberals and Democrats a huge favor for this year‘s elections. She has picked a fight that is exactly the kind of fight that liberals and Democrats should want to be having across the country right now. That‘s coming up this hour.
Plus, NBC‘s Richard Angle is here live in studio.
Plus, we have a very, very, very large chart that we are very proud of.
Just lots coming up.
But we begin tonight with the Republican establishment making an unexpected choice today, about how to handle one of its most high-profile races. The Republican establishment has to make some difficult decisions about some of their candidates this year, specifically about some of their more colorful idiosyncratic, unorthodox candidates who have unseated more establishment Republican choices across the country.
For candidates in Republican primaries this year, nothing was beyond
the pale. There was no policy that would make a Republican primary
candidate seem too conservative. This year, there was nothing that
screamed unelectable about arguing that women should be forced to bare
their rapist‘s children, or that we should get rid of our right to elect
senators, or threatening that conservatives will turn to violent
revolution. They will use the right to bear arms to get their way if they
don‘t get their way by voting in this year‘s elections. None of that stuff
was too extreme for candidates competing in Republican primaries this year
not this year.
But now, it‘s no longer the primaries. It is the general election.
They‘re running against Democrats.
And the Republicans powers that be have to assess who‘s viable?
Which of their candidate gets triaged? Who gets cut off?
Who gets left on the side of the road by the Republican Party because as a candidate, that person has no shot at winning? And who still gets party backing? Who might make it?
They‘ve got to decide that and they‘ve also got to decide from which of these candidates the party is going to accept leadership. They have to figure out which of these candidates‘ positions are going to be adopted as the Republican Party‘s own positions—hard decisions to make for the Republicans this year. Hard decisions to make particularly in a year when the candidates, the party chose, didn‘t win.
Well, in the last 24 hours, remarkably, the Republican Party decided to get behind probably their least viable major ticket candidate, a new. They also decided that the party is going to adopt what is arguably the single, craziest position that candidate has taken and what has been a thoroughly crazy campaign.
Here‘s Christine O‘Donnell speaking at a debate during the 2006 Senate primary in Delaware.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I think that in making a statement whether China is a friend or foe, we have to be careful not to label all Chinese. But in terms of the government, I think that there is a very carefully thought out and strategic plan to take over America. I think that China, the Chinese government is definitely a foe. There‘s much that I want to say that I—I wish I wasn‘t privy to some of the classified information that I am privy to because I think that—we can‘t be—
MODERATOR: Can I interrupt you and say, how are you privy to classified information?
O‘DONNELL: Because I‘ve been—I‘ve been working in various, with various non-profit groups—
MODERATOR: Do you have a security clearance? Do you have a security clearance to handle classified information?
O‘DONNELL: -- for over 15 years. And we have been sending missionaries to China for a very long time and these missionaries go to China and—with—risking their lives because you are not allowed to be a Christian over there.
So, a country that forces women to have abortion and mandates that you can only have one child and will not allow you the freedom to read the Bible, you know think they can be our friend? We have to look at our history and realize that if they pretend to be our friend, it‘s because they‘ve got something up their sleeve.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Credit to the poor guy who‘s saying, “You have a security clearance? You have a security clearance to handle classified information?” She‘s like, shut up. I have more to say about China. I can‘t tell you how I know it.
The existence of this argument from Christine O‘Donnell was unearthed by the “Associated Press” earlier this week. It was Greg Sargent at the “Washington Post‘s” Web site, the “Plum Line” blog, that dug up the audio.
Christine O‘Donnell has not been commenting on this revelation since it was made public. We went ahead and called her campaign today to try to get a comment ourselves. Shockingly , none was offered. But the Republican Party, both the actual Republican Party by way of its current chairman, Michael Steele, and the former chairman who still appears to be not-so-secretly running things there, the guy with some real power there, Ed Gillespie, both within the last 24 hours were asked about Christine O‘Donnell‘s proposition that she had classified information about an impending Chinese takeover of America.
Here‘s how they responded. This is incredible. Start with the Michael Steele clip of him speaking last night with Lawrence O‘Donnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: Do you agree with Christine O‘Donnell? Do you wish she wasn‘t privy to classified information? I mean, America would be safer if she was not privy to classified information, wouldn‘t it?
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Christine O‘Donnell is a fantastic candidate for us for the United States Senate and I can‘t wait to call her senator.
O‘DONNELL: Michael, you know she‘s lying about the classified information, right? I mean, reassure the country, Christine‘s lying about it.
STEELE: I don‘t—do you know that, Lawrence?
O‘DONNELL: She doesn‘t have any classified information. Don‘t worry.
STEELE: Do you know that? Do you know that?
O‘DONNELL: Is it legal for her to have classified information?
STEELE: No, no, no. Let me ask the question: do you know that for to sure?
O‘DONNELL: I know to an absolute certainty. I know to a certainty she is lying.
STEELE: Produce your evidence and then invite me back on the program, we‘ll talk about it.
O‘DONNELL: She is absolutely lying.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Do you think Christine O‘Donnell has classified information?
ED GILLESPIE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: I don‘t know what information Christine O‘Donnell has. I think there‘s a very legitimate concern about the extent to which China controls our debt and the impact that‘s going to have on our economy.
GILLESPIE: And the fact that China, you know—
JANSING: You know that‘s not the question. The question is her
making a statement that she has this—that she has classified information
GILLESPIE: Well, Chris, I don‘t know what information Christine O‘Donnell has or doesn‘t have.
JANSING: Do you think it‘s likely?
GILLESPIE: Whether it‘s classified or not, I don‘t know.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Chris Jansing with Ed Gillespie.
To be clear, Mr. Gillespie says he doesn‘t know. It‘s possible Christine O‘Donnell has classified information about a secret Chinese plot to take over the United States. She had that classified information leaked to her—leaked to her in her capacity back in 2006 as a religious right anti-condom activist.
Do you think that‘s—do you think that‘s right, huh?
Getting a security clearance so as to be privy to classified information is not as easy as you might imagine. It intends to involve stuff like a polygraph test and investigations into your financial background, visits from the FBI. You don‘t get that far unless the government has decided you‘re the kind of person who needs to know secret classified information.
My guess is: conservative PR reps with friends who are missionaries, probably not at the top of the government‘s need-to-know list, even in the Bush administration.
If someone who did have access to classified information did somehow leak classified information to Christine O‘Donnell, that would most likely be an actual crime. Leaking classified information to anti-condom activists or anybody else without a security clearance is punishable by U.S. law, with prison time and everything.
So, if we are actually to the point where people are taking this claim that Christine O‘Donnell was privy to classified information, seriously, if Michael Steele is making that case to Lawrence O‘Donnell and Ed Gillespie is making that case to Chris Jansing, both on this network twice in the last 24 hours, then by rights, there should be calls for a criminal investigation into a leak of classified information to somebody who should not have had it.
But the Republican Party chairman, Michael Steele, and, Ed Gillespie, the former chairman who secretly seems to be running things with Karl Rove, they‘re just going with this.
You know, Christine O‘Donnell today down 17 points in one poll and down 24 in the other. But the Republican Party‘s leaders are with her, on what might be the craziest thing she has ever been found to have said so far. Who knows what Bill Maher will unveil on Friday?
Meanwhile, if there is a secret Chinese plot to take over the United States, maybe they‘re starting with our government. Democrats have apparently decided to use that prospect as a cudgel to beat Republicans over the head this year. You know already about the giant Ed Gillespie-Karl Rove operation that‘s promising to spend over $15 million in this year‘s elections, we‘ll more on Crossroads—American Crossroads coming up in just a moment.
But do you want to know who‘s spending even more on conservative causes and candidates this year? It‘s the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has pledged to spend 75 million bucks this campaign season. There‘s no bigger dog in the dogfight of outside groups funding political ads this year, $75 million.
“Think Progress” at the Center for American Progress yesterday exposed how with the Chambers spending those $75 million on America‘s elections this year, nobody has any idea where that money comes from. Quote, “The Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account which solicits foreign funding.”
So $75 million being spent to influence the outcome of U.S. congressional races out of a fund that reportedly accepts contributions from foreign entities. The Chamber has freaked out about this allegation from “Think Progress,” putting out statement after statement. I think it‘s at least five statements at last count attacking “Think Progress” for having made this allegation.
But so far, the only thing they have said to assure us that their $75 million Bigfoot anti-Democratic ad spending binge this year is not being fueled by foreign money by, say, Chinese companies, trying to decide who gets elected in the United States—the only thing the Chamber has said to refute that charge is that they have a system, an internal system, to make sure that the foreign money they solicit into their general fund doesn‘t touch the attack ads that they produce and fund out of their general fund. A system the details they will not disclose but which they promise, they pinky swear, that the foreign money isn‘t really what they‘re spending on their massive ad war against Democrats. They promise.
Are you reassured? Are you reassured by their internal system that they won‘t discose? Are you reassured by their promises?
Democratic candidates are counting on you not being assured by that.
Here‘s what Democrat Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia had to say about a Chamber of Commerce ad being run against him in his home district.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. TOM PERRIELLO (D), VIRGINIA: This latest move is beyond outrageous, to being fundamentally un-American and undemocratic. I‘m just outraged.
I think the Senator Hurt‘s just got to decide at this point whether there is any principles more important than winning, and I would think protecting American democracy and American jobs will up there.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The campaign of Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado also hitting up his opponent—hitting his opponent for letting the Chamber of Commerce fund ads on his behalf. Quote, “Why won‘t Ken Buck stand up against the practices of these shady special interests orchestrating attacks on his behalf and denounce the practice of accepting overseas expenditures to fund smear campaigns. Ken Buck should reject the Chamber‘s support and call them on to immediately stop running ads on his behalf with tainted foreign money.”
The size of the worry about this allegation from “Think Progress,” the size of the worry about this prospect of foreign funding of an effort to shape the U.S. government—the size of the worry about this allegation on the right is evident in the size of the freak-out about these allegations on the right and they are freaking out.
Joining us now is Scott Thomas. He‘s a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission.
Mr. Thomas, thank you very much for being here. It‘s a real pleasure to have you on the show.
SCOTT THOMAS, FORMER FEC CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Rachel. Happy to be here.
MADDOW: Can you help us understand how serious this charge is? If foreign money were making its way into the Chamber‘s political ads, would that be illegal?
THOMAS: Well, most likely, yes. There‘s been a prohibition, a flat prohibition on foreign national contributions and expenditures in connection with federal elections for many, many years. And so, if it turns out that any money, in fact, is being knowingly put into the process from foreign companies or from foreign government sources, that would be a serious problem.
MADDOW: How are—how are you those laws against foreign contributions to American political campaigns—how were they actually enforced? I mean, if so many of these outside groups don‘t have to disclose who their donors are, how do you enforce it?
THOMAS: Well, we do have a very weak disclosure system right now and it makes it much harder, obviously, to track these kinds of things to get the leads that would help people unearth these kinds of connections.
The Federal Election Commission, bless their hearts, they have—they‘ve issued a series of rulings recently that have made the disclosure almost non-existent because in essence, a donor can avoid disclosure by basically not earmarking their money to be used for particular ads, for particular candidates. And so, we are seeing far less disclosure. So, the chances of people picking up on these stories is certainly less these days than it used to be.
MADDOW: At this point, the way that the law is set up with those FEC rulings, with the Citizens United precedent in the Supreme Court, am I right to think that the only real protection that we‘ve got about this is voluntary? It‘s sort of the honor system, that these PACs that don‘t disclose their funders assure us that all of their donors are Americans, that foreign governments and—or state-owned companies, foreign companies, assure us they‘re not trying to influence things in American government. But there‘s—we sort of have to take their word for it.
THOMAS: Well, it‘s an area where there are lots of lawyers and accountants that are busy scurrying about to try to make sure that they can demonstrate, say, that they always had sufficient other kind of money on hand and they didn‘t have to use the foreign money. That‘s what we lawyers do, for example.
But you‘re right. The reality is that you can‘t really know for sure without a thorough system of disclosure. You can‘t blame a lot of these organizations. I represent these kinds of organizations on a daily basis and, as a practical matter, nobody really wants to have the role of donors disclosed if they can avoid it.
But I think, you know, a lot of citizens are becoming to be more and more aware of this gap in our disclosure system and they are getting frustrated not knowing who‘s behind these ads. So, you know, I think there will come a time, not this election cycle, but maybe by the next election cycle, where someone will tighten up on the disclosure system and we‘ll be able to know more.
MADDOW: After the damage is done, as it were, in this election round.
Scott Thomas, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission—it‘s really helpful for us to have your advice to call on tonight. Thank you very much.
THOMAS: Happy to help.
MADDOW: Still to come, a giant adorable chart that moves and maybe shimmies.
There‘s also apparently been a public sighting of Delaware‘s Christine O‘Donnell, the aforementioned Ms. O‘Donnell, who singular devotion to the voters up for the state and their issues has finally begun in a controlled environment, of course. She‘s out there. Highlights—ahead.
MADDOW: Here‘s something I learned from my trip to Delaware yesterday. Two words that the Republican Party thinks can get the base riled up and fat check-writing mode. Two words, two words that rhyme with schmachel schmaddow (ph). Also, schmeith schmolbermann (ph).
More on that in just a moment.
MADDOW: Will Republicans take over the United States Senate in this year‘s elections or will Democrats hold them off and retain their majority? For whatever that‘s worth.
Who gets to decide the control of the U.S. Senate this year? Well, you do. You the voter get to decide.
But to the extent that money helps sway things one way or the other, too, you should know that on the Democratic side, it‘s the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the DSCC, the actual Senate campaign committee of the Democratic Party that‘s doing most of the Senate spending. It‘s about 96 percent -- 96 percent of that spending according to OpenSecrets.org comes from public donors.
OK. That‘s the major Senate spender on that side. It‘s DSCC. Ninety-six percent of their donors are public. We can or at least can find out who those donors are.
And there is a Republican counterpart to this led, of course, by Michael Steele and his “Fire Nancy Pelosi” school bus thing. But on the Republican side, it is no so much the Republican Party doing the funding as it is the private plain crowd. They‘re funding groups like Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie‘s American Crossroads.
As Ken Vogel reported today in Politico.com, Mr. Rove and Mr. Gillespie‘s groups announced a huge, new ad buy, $4.2 million, all of which American Crossroads tells us will be translated into new TV ads in Senate races in eight states by Sunday. That will make it $18 million that American Crossroads and its counterpart Crossroads GPS will have spent thus far to help get Republicans elected to the Senate this year, 18 million bucks -- 18 million bucks trying to get Republicans elected to the Senate.
Where did that 18 million bucks come from? Who‘s trying to buy that much influence in the Senate this year? To explain, we will use pie. Not the delicious kind that if you were on a diet, you just stare at rather than consume, but rather, the delicious kind that you consume simply by staring at it.
This pie chart here—we got it? Yes—represents every bit of American Crossroads‘ new ad buy, about 75 percent of the money, the green part you see there, came through Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie‘s second fundraising arms, the GPS group. Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategy. It‘s Crossroads GPS. That‘s where 75 percent of the funding came from for this new ad buy.
GPS is an ironic moniker because we will never know the global positioning of the people who gave the money. Donors who send their money to Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie through this GPS, through that 75 percent there, those donors remain anonymous—anonymous donors. OK?
So, the DSCC on the Democratic side, 96 percent public. Crossroads GPS is giving Republican candidates a big advantage in ad buys, 75 percent private. Don‘t worry. Though, we may never know, they promise none of those donors is foreign. They‘re secret. We won‘t know about them anytime before the election but Karl Rove‘s group promises us, comforting. Yay, shot a democracy.
Even more interesting is what and who we do know about. The other 25 percent of the money that they are using for this big, new ad buy. It‘s from the regular American Crossroads, not the GPS part. We know who those donors are. They disclose those donors.
And, actually, this 25 percent, because we know who these donors are. I‘d love to talk about this in more detail. They deserve a closer look, sort of small in the (INAUDIBLE) here. Can somebody help me blow this pie up? Can we just explode that little part of the pie there?
Well, hello! It‘s billionaire impersonator.
Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Well, hello.
MADDOW: Hello. Thank you.
JONES: I have here, part of the pie.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. You have exploited the pie.
MADDOW: Thank you very much, Keith.
All right. In Mr. Moneybag, Kent Jones‘ hands here, what you see is the remaining 25 percent, all right, of this funding. An almost all of that, the part that is in gold, that huge chunk comes from three guys, three people.
As we have talked about previously, Justin Elliott of Salon.com reported that these three guys make up 91 percent of that group‘s funding. They‘re Trevor Rees-Jones, Robert Rowling and Carl Linder—represented here by living dollar signs -- 91 percent of American Crossroads‘ donations in August.
So, 75 percent of this big, new ad buy we‘re never going to know who donated it. And most of the rest of it comes from three guys. Ta-da!
That‘s your Senate this year. The grassroots anti-incumbent tidal wave as financed by, well, 75 percent by people you‘ll never know the names of and 25 percent by mostly three guys. Democracy.
Joining us to discuss the cowardly new world of American campaign finance is Peter Stone, from the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit organization specializing in investigative journalism.
Appreciate your time, sir. Thanks for joining us.
PETER STONE, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: Thanks very much. It‘s a pleasure.
MADDOW: Can you put this new American Crossroads/GPS ad buy into some sort of historical perspective? How big a deal is this?
STONE: Well, what we are seeing this year on the Republican side is really could be quite unprecedented. I mean, they‘ve already raised tens of millions of dollars. American Crossroads and its ally GPS have raised $32 million thus far, and they seem on track to reach their goal of $52 million. The Chamber of Commerce, as you mentioned before, is trying to raise $75 million. They have spent about $20 million thus far.
They have really stepped in, as you indicated before, to avoid. They have taken over much of the function that used to be done by the Republican National Committee. And they moved in, they started thinking about this seriously late last year when the Republican National Committee was beset with one problem at another, management problems, fundraising problems, image problems, over expense problems.
And Gillespie and Rove started meeting with others and they really
had a game plan for putting together American Crossroads, which they were
the top outside advisers to, informal advisers, how they started raising
money for it. And the Supreme Court decision came along in January and it
was a Godsend. It was a blessing basically, because it allowed these
groups to accept unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals
something that they could not do before, and spend them directly on ads advocating for and against individual candidates.
MADDOW: When we look at the disclosure rules now, some of them seem not just loose—not just like they‘ve changed and become more laissez-faire, they seem strange. For example, trying to figure out who the donors are, this vast majority of anonymous donors, to this big, Republican ad buy for the Senate right now, the news on this is essentially that those donors might be disclosed next year. But the money is going to be spent in this year, in this—for this election cycle and that we may eventually find out who those donors are. They may eventually be required to disclose who they are, but it could happen as late as November 2011.
Why does that even make sense?
STONE: Well, right now, under the IRS rules, they never have to disclose their donors. You have to file reports on their spending and other activities sometime next year. But the IRS now grants groups like GPS, a 501©4 code and the Chamber of Commerce, they grant them total freedom into not to disclose their donors. And most of the new groups that have set up this year have been set up purposefully as 501©4s to protect the identity of large donors who are nervous about the climate this year.
They‘re nervous because the Supreme Court decision just came down several months ago. They‘re nervous because 80 percent of the populace originally said in polls they oppose the decision. Even a large number of Republicans were critical of the decision initially.
So, many corporate donors have decided safer to go with groups that, you know, will protect our identity, safer to go with groups that are under the radar basically.
MADDOW: And we all have to pay the price. It‘s amazing.
Peter Stone of the Center for Public Integrity, thank you very much for joining us and helping us sort this out. Have a good night. Thanks.
MADDOW: It turns out that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and I agree on what maybe should be the biggie national issue for this year‘s elections. It‘s the careful what you get paid lots and lots of money to wish for story of 2010 -- coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): The biggest advance of the abortion industry in America truly has been, as of late, the passage of Obama-care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The abortion industry. She says the abortion industry. You know, it‘s kind of like the defense industry, or even the military industrial complex, but for abortion. You know, the abortion industrial complex.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: The Biggest advance of the abortion industry in America truly has been, as of late, the passage of Obama-care. That‘s why it‘s essential that we use the 2010 midterms to elect a Congress that will make undoing the damage of Obama care its first priority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Because of the abortion industry. Former Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin speaking at a west Houston mega-church last night for money. It was a paid speech. Her reported speaking fee is $100,000.
Last night, it is apparently - that fee was apparently paid by a conservative media group that runs anti-abortion ads. I don‘t really know what she means by “the abortion industry,” but clearly, the anti-abortion industry is paying very well this year.
The idea that there‘s government-funding for abortion services in the health reform bill is, of course, bull-pucky. But in the fundraising juggernaut of the anti-abortion world, that‘s sort of beside the point.
The profoundly, profoundly profane and excellent long-time political blog, “Wonkette” probably put the finest point on this today when it wrote about Palin‘s for-profit anti-abortion speech.
Quote, “Of course, the pro-choice folks were angry about health care reform precisely because the administration created the hoops to make sure that no federal money was spent on abortions, specifically to not anger pro-life Democrats.”
“Apparently they shouldn‘t have bothered and should have just instituted a “big money for your fetus” program instead because the Republicans are going to complain about it anyway.” God bless “Wonkette.” Big dollars for your fetus.
What‘s important about this speech is not just that conservatives are running on supposedly pro-choice, in their terms, pro-abortion policy that isn‘t real, that they have made something up about abortion rights to rile up their anti-abortion base.
That is not news. That‘s Tuesday. That‘s any other day of the week that ends in Y. That is not a novel thing. What is important and novel about this for this year‘s elections is that Sarah Palin, influential conservative celebrity without portfolio is using her inexplicable but giant platform as a conservative celebrity to argue that the right wants this year‘s elections to be about abortion rights.
You really want to have a national debate about abortion rights? This year, the year that Republicans are running the most extreme anti-abortion crusading candidates that have ever run in one year for national office - you want to have a national debate about abortion rights when Republicans are running all of these candidates whose position on abortion rights is that the government should force girls and women who have been raped to bear the child of the rapist or of the relative who impregnated them through incest?
This year - this year you really want to have a national debate about abortion rights? That is a Sarah Palin for-profit invitation that every Democrat in the country should be very excited to RSVP to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against the al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The time difference between the Eastern United States time zone and Afghanistan is 8 ½ hours. They‘re 8 ½ hours ahead there, which means tonight, it is already tomorrow in Afghanistan, which means it is nine years ago that we invaded Afghanistan.
If the war were over, we would call that an anniversary. Because the war is not over, instead, what we have to say is that tomorrow is day one of year 10 of America‘s war in Afghanistan.
Joining us tonight for the interview is NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. Richard, it‘s great to see you. Thanks for coming in.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It‘s good to see you.
How are you?
MADDOW: I‘m good, but weirded out by 10 years starting in Afghanistan.
ENGEL: Well, you want to hear something even stranger?
ENGEL: I speak with military commanders, as you know, a lot, and I ask them, well, how things are going in Afghanistan. And some recently say, “Well, you know, we are still trying to get our handle around the cultural significance and the ramifications of Afghanistan now, recently.”
This is nine years in and they are still trying to figure out the cultural nuances and how the different tribal politics work, in the start of year ten.
MADDOW: While we‘re doing - while our military strategy hinges on this incredibly culturally-sensitive counterinsurgency idea that we‘re essentially going through a military force to create a space for them to build a government.
ENGEL: Well, first, it was counterterrorism. And then, it was - we‘re going to make hearts and minds and make friends. And now, the idea is, well, we‘ll come up with some sort of a peace deal with the insurgents.
So there‘s been a lot of strategies and I think the U.S. is still searching for what to do in Afghanistan. What is it trying to accomplish there?
MADDOW: Well, Gen. Petraeus told the “New York Times” last week, quote, “This is how you end these kinds of insurgencies.” Essentially, he‘s saying this is how the war ends, talking about the fact that the Karzai government is negotiating with the Taliban, I think sort of prepping - trying to prep the American media for the idea that the Afghanistan war will end and it will end by talking.
ENGEL: That‘s the ending.
ENGEL: And that is what he wants to do. Remember, Gen. Petraeus didn‘t want to be there. He didn‘t want this job. He had a better job, if you will, at CentCom. And when the previous general pretty much imploded, he was drafted in.
And by all accounts, he wants to be there for a year and wants to wrap this conflict up. The only way you‘re going to do that is to come up with a negotiated settlement and to come up with a smaller objective.
What was the objective? Was it to get rid of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? You can do that if you make a deal with the militants and say, “OK. We will give you some sort of an arrangement but get rid of al-Qaeda.”
And I‘ve spoken with Taliban leaders and they say they‘re willing to do that. You just have to find a consensus and find a way that gets everyone on board.
MADDOW: So how far along are these talks and how involved is the United States?
ENGEL: The talks are probably not as far along as “The Washington Post” implied today.
ENGEL: But they are pretty far along. The Taliban is a divided organization. And I‘ve spoke within senior U.S. military intelligence officials. And they say that the top leadership of the Taliban living in Pakistan want a deal. They want to go home. They‘ve had enough of this.
They‘re losing control of their own organization, that some of the more radical leaders on the ground who are fighting in eastern Afghanistan or southern Afghanistan no longer listen to them, and that this older generation of the Taliban may have learned something from its experience deeply regrets defending Osama Bin Laden and would like to come back to the party.
The question is, can you trust them? Can you make a deal? And are they still relevant when the people who are on the ground fighting, carrying the AK-47s, don‘t necessarily listen to their older leadership?
So that‘s what Petraeus wants to do. Classic divide and conquer. Make a deal with the people willing to make a deal. Eliminate and ostracize those who won‘t. It‘s what he did in Iraq and that is the way you end this conflict.
MADDOW: Well, isn‘t Pakistan then the most important wild card? I mean, Pakistan right now - the government blocking those crossing points in anger of military helicopters shooting people in Pakistani territory. Logistically, how important that is and politically, how important is that?
ENGEL: Look back at exactly what happened in Pakistan. And there‘s been drone attacks. There‘s been this shadow war going on in Pakistan for sometime now. And everyone in Pakistan knows that it happens, but the Pakistani government doesn‘t talk about it very much and it‘s been drone attacks in remote areas.
What happened over the last two weeks has been significantly different. Last week, first, helicopters crossed in and attacked, killing about 50 people, a lot of them insurgents according to the U.S. military. Then, last week, helicopters again crossed over and killed two or three - Pakistan says three - of its border guards.
Now, that is an act of war, when you have helicopters crossing into an allied country and attacking the - your friendly forces there. So Pakistan went very - they got very upset. They were insulted.
They thought their sovereignty was violated. And they responded which in a draconian way, cutting off the supply lines. So now, you have hundreds of tankers going through Pakistan that can‘t get into Afghanistan that are literally stuck by the side of the road.
MADDOW: Sitting ducks.
ENGEL: Sitting ducks. And a lot of them are getting set on fire. And that‘s the situation right now. Today, the ambassador, the U.S. ambassador in Pakistan apologized.
ENGEL: That apology could unblock this crisis, but it is a real crisis. And it also shows how - to understand what‘s going on in Pakistan right now, you also have to understand the political situation in the country. The government is weak.
MADDOW: Very weak, yes.
ENGEL: And the media in that country is very, very aggressive. So when everyone saw that helicopters were coming in, it became a media frenzy in Pakistan and the government had to react to placate its own people.
MADDOW: Incredible stuff. I mean, it‘s America‘s war - Afghanistan. As declared, it‘s America‘s war in some sense in Pakistan, whether or not we talk about it as a war but it‘s pretty incredible to think about year 10 in Afghanistan starting tomorrow.
Richard, thanks for helping us cover it. I appreciate it.
ENGEL: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Great to see you, my friend.
ENGEL: One thing to remember -
ENGEL: This, I think - this sums it all up in terms - there was an opinion poll recently and it said that six in 10 Pakistanis believe that the U.S. is an enemy and only one in 10 called the U.S. a partner.
ENGEL: That‘s a real troubling number.
MADDOW: But remember, it‘s not a war. Coming up on “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell. Hillary Clinton as vice president in 2012? What about Joe Biden? Carl Bernstein is Lawrence‘s guest. And on this show, what happens before a campaign kicks you out of its headquarters? Here‘s a hint, kaching! Please stay with us.
MADDOW: It is a strange campaign syndrome this year. Raise money off of this show. Campaign against this show. Criticize this show‘s reporting. But never come on this show.
There is a growing caucus of politicians who are endorsing the strategy. We‘ll both document that and whine about it, coming up in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL WOLFF, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: We walked in. There was nobody at the reception desk. And we said, “We‘re here. We‘d like to speak with Ms. O‘Donnell or any representative of the campaign.” And they said, “Well, hang on just a second.” And then, over came a third gentleman, who was the less happy to see us.
MADDOW (on camera): Oh.
WOLFF: And he said, “What show are you representing?” I said, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.” And he said, “That‘s unacceptable.”
MADDOW: “That‘s unacceptable” was his response to you saying the name of the show?
WOLFF: Yes. And then, so I was getting the feeling it wasn‘t going to happen like that. And then he said that you had been classless, that you had - I can‘t remember the word, the verb he used to talk about what you had done to Christine, like slammed her, ripped her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trashing or something like that.
WOLFF: Essentially - I remember “classless” for sure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MADDOW: We can‘t find the O‘Donnell campaign. And when we did find them, they insulted us and told us to leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Within moments of that happening, within moments of us getting booted out of Christine O‘Donnell‘s headquarters in Delaware yesterday, the great Oliver Willis popped up on our show‘s self-serving RSS feed when he blogged about this fundraising E-mail from the O‘Donnell campaign.
It reads, quote, “Dear patriot, the charade is over. We all knew that my opponent couldn‘t hide behind the failed policies of Obama, Pelosi and Reid forever. Even the liberal media led by Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann can‘t cover up the truth. Help me lead the charge against liberals in Washington by donating $100, $75, $50, or $35.”
You know, it‘s oddly flattering to learn that the O‘Donnell campaign thinks we are important enough to raise money off of, to raise money off of me and Keith as liberal villains, to complain about the way that we‘re covering news in politics?
But here‘s the thing. If you are unhappy with our coverage of you, Ms. O‘Donnell, if you think we intentionally cover up the truth as you said in your fundraising letter, I can assure you that our reporting on you would be so much better informed if you were actually in it, if you would actually talk to us, instead of having your staffers call us names and getting some angry man to yell, “Get off my lawn,” just because we asked for an interview.
We know you‘re very busy. We would have been happy just to talk with anybody from your campaign. We would like to get your side of things. We would love to improve our coverage of you by adding your campaign‘s perspective on the race to our coverage, and you won‘t let that happen.
And now, you‘re complaining to your supporters that you don‘t like the results. For those of us who work here at MSNBC, one of the most surreal things about this particular election year has been conservative politicians‘ efforts to make us, to make MSNBC, part of the elections.
Republican, politician or conservative activist X complains that they‘re not represented in our coverage, and then refuses to be represented in our coverage, claiming we‘re afraid to bring you their point of view, and then refusing to share their point of view with us.
You might remember earlier this year when Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts did this. Scott Brown sent out a fundraising E-mail to all of his supporters complaining about me, “Rachel Maddow has a nightly platform to push her far-left agenda. What about you?”
Would you, Scott Brown, like to push your whatever agenda on my nightly platform? Because you are very much invited to do so. You don‘t like what I‘m doing with my nightly platform? Please, sir, help me change it. Participate in it. Be on the show.
Every time we‘ve asked Scott Brown to come on the show, he has said no, you know, and that is his prerogative. Complain, you know, about you not being here all you want or refuse our invitations to be here, but you can‘t simultaneously complain about not being here, and also refuse our invitations to be here.
You can‘t. I mean, you are, of course, but it‘s craven and it‘s pathetic. Come on. Remember this scary ad from Liz Cheney‘s new conservative group, Keep America Safe?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: What are they so afraid of? Why don‘t they want to talk substance? Why are they panicked? Why don‘t they want to debate the issues?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ms. Cheney, you could totally run that ad if we here at MSNBC actually were afraid to debate you. But when we asked you to come on and debate over and over and over again and you‘re the one who says nom then you can‘t complain that we‘re afraid to debate.
There‘s also the phenomenon this year of Republicans using either my name or the name of somebody else here at the network to raise money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: On Tuesday, Marco Rubio announced 12 simple ideas to grow the economy and create jobs. How can you know the plan is right? Rachel Maddow thinks it‘s wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Proud moment there. That was part of a fundraising ad put out by Republican Senate candidate, Marco Rubio of Florida. Marco Rubio must be right because Rachel Maddow says he‘s wrong.
Even if I‘m inherently wrong about everything, to date, Marco Rubio has declined every single one of our requests to interview him. Likewise, Sarah Palin.
Here‘s the new piece of red meat she‘s throwing to her fans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: He looked up and asked where I was from. I said Alaska. Then, all of a sudden, the clerk turns beet red, the veins pop out of her neck, kind of like Rachel Maddow sometimes. Watch - that clip is going to be on the air for her show now.
MADDOW: For all the things I thought might change in my life when I got a job in TV, I did not foresee becoming a stump speech applause line for politicians who won‘t agree to do interviews with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We have asked Sarah Palin to come on this show, I don‘t know how many times. She has never agreed to come on. Happy to use me in one of her moneymaking stump speeches, unhappy to tell me why, like, to my face.
It has been a weird year for those of us here at MSNBC as conservatives have tried to run against us, instead of running against their actual opponents.
But here‘s the deal. We have big egos, those of us in this TV business. We all love seeing our faces caricatured in political ads and getting mentioned in speeches. We love seeing our names in black and white in these fundraising E-mails.
But you cannot simultaneously complain that you are not being allowed access to the liberal media juggernaut that is MSNBC‘s primetime airwaves, and then refuse to come on when we offer you access.
So say yes, Christine O‘Donnell. It will be fun, I promise. Say yes, Sharron Angle. You will get a fair shake, pinkie swear. Say yes, Sarah Palin. You have our number, I know you do. Ken Buck, come on. Joe Miller, I would love to talk to you. Liz Cheney, the door is always open, to anybody in your family, actually. Any Cheney, any time.
It will be fair, it will be fun, and then, then, then you can brag about not being afraid to actually talk to the liberals that you complain about as a means of raising money. Come on, you guys. Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Meanwhile, lots to add on what you see on the show. We‘re very proud of our excellent blog at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.” Now, it‘s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE LAST WORD”: Well, I‘ve been a guest on your show. And I want to assure everyone you‘ve just invited on this show that it‘s really fun.
MADDOW: Thank you. I‘m so jealous that you got Michael Steele yesterday I
almost feel angry. But you do such a great job getting these guys to come
on the program
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