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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, Oct. 12th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Natalie Morales, Jim Miklaszewski, Celinda Lake


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening and thanks for staying with us for the next hour.

We begin our show tonight with the world‘s eyes on Chile, where 33 miners trapped under half a mile underground at a gold and copper mine for 69 days are right now awaiting imminent rescue.  The plan calls for them to be raised to the surface one by one in a capsule.  It‘s about six feet, four inches tall.  It‘s only about 22 inches wide.

First, though, rescue workers at the surface will climb into that chamber to be sent down to the miners underground to evaluate their condition and prepare them for their journey back to the earth‘s surface.  That part of the process is expected to begin any moment now. It‘s expected to take about 20 minutes to board each miner onto that capsule and another 15 minutes to raise each of those miners to the surface.

They will be wearing special suits, sort of compression suits, akin to the pressure stockings that people sometimes wear on airplanes.  Those are to help with their blood circulation.  They‘ll also be wearing oxygen masks.

Officials will observe each miner throughout his ascent to the earth surface using live cameras, a radio link and monitors on the miner‘s vital signs.

Now, the first miner scheduled for extrication is 31-year-old Florencio Avalos.  He is a father of two.  Then three more men who are considered to be in the fittest physical shape.

The idea is that they will need men in good condition to be able to handle any glitches that may arise in the first few ascents.  So, a few more men who are considered to be the fittest will follow Mr. Avalos.  They will then send up the 10 miners who are considered to be the weakest, men who are suffering medical problems in some cases from their prolonged confinement.

The last miner who was slated for rescue is the group‘s foreman and leader, Luis Urzua.  He managed to keep his fellow miners alive after the initial mine collapse, but by stretching a two-day supply of food for 17 days.  The collapse happened on August 5th.  We‘re hoping and expecting that the first of these men trapped these 69 days underground will emerge from the rescue capsule soon.

Once the first man is out, hopefully, safely, the process of getting all 33 out will not be just a matter of hours.  It could possibly be a matter of days.

NBC‘s Natalie Morales is at the rescue site in Chile for us.  She joins us now with the very latest.

Natalie, thank you so much for joining us.  Can you tell us what‘s happening right now?

NATALIE MORALES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  A lot of excitement here, Rachel, I can tell you that.  The Phoenix 2, which is the first of the test capsules to go down just returned from about 56 meters, which is about 183 feet or so, if you do the math, or rather 65 meters, and that is past the area where they had sealed and cased the mine shaft.  So, the test was—the idea was to send it down a little bit beyond that so they could test the capsule to see if the surface area around the rest of the mine shaft was secure enough.  So, the capsule has returned now to the surface.

I have never seen more people closely analyzing a piece of equipment as they are doing now with the Phoenix 2 capsule.

Chile‘s president also is there on town, Sebastian Pinera.  In fact, before that capsule went down, he gave it a good love tap to give it a good send-off, and it looks like it has come up.  All appears to be OK upon inspection here.

But now, the idea is from here what they‘re going to do is then send it down part of the way once again with a—with a rescue expert, a mine expert, who‘s going to go down part of the way, not entirely.  They‘re going to bring that mine rescue expert back up again so he can then report on the conditions he sees before they then start involving the process and the rescue operation truly begins in earnest here.

But all eyes expectantly watching and waiting every ounce, every ins, every foot that this rescue capsule descends.  And as you can see, everybody evaluating—that capsule, as you can see, is outfitted.  It‘s got the wheels on the side so it can make a very smooth and slow descent and gravity pulls it down on that winch system, it just falls down slower.

Actually it takes about 20 or 30 minutes for it to go down all the way.  And it comes up quickly.  That‘s where the winch engages and pulls it up.  Sort of like a giant fishing rod with a ski cable line.  That‘s what is going to pull the miners up to the surface.  They have two of these Phoenix rescue capsules, 1 and 2, which will be alternating, and bringing those 33 men up.

Now, it is expected to be a very long process.  We were told today it could take up to 48 hours.  So, we could be watching incredible images over the next two days, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Natalie, in terms of the way things are expected to proceed from here on out, you described a mine rescue expert being—expected to be lowered at least part of the way down through that rescue shaft.  Aren‘t we also expecting that other mine rescue experts or paramedics, medical professionals, may go all the way down into the chamber where the miners are before the miners themselves are brought to the surface?

MORALES:  Absolutely.  What they‘re going to do first is they‘re going to send the first mine expert, the rescue expert, down into the shaft the first time around.  This is after they do that partway test with him.  They will leave that mine expert there, they will allow the first miner, who, as you mentioned is Florencio Avalos.  He‘s going to then load up in the mine shafts and he‘ll be the first to come out.

And then what they‘re going to do is for the second round, the second, it‘s going to be a navy paramedic, we‘re told, specially trained.  He is going to be going down and then he—the second miner from down below the surface will board and make his way back up, and it‘s going to rotate like that a total of five mine rescue experts.  And we‘re told two medics are among those five are going to be down there to help them and to help load them in.  And that‘s the process that‘s going to work throughout.

The last people to come up out of the mine are not going to be the miners.  It‘s actually going to be those involved in the rescue effort.  And we saw some really incredible footage.  It almost looks like a locker room before the Super Bowl.  We saw 15 mine rescue personal chanting and cheering and singing Chile‘s national anthem, as they were lined up, looking like they were going to jump out of an airplane, all outfitted in their gear.  But only five of them, in fact, are going to go down into the mine to help with the rescue, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Natalie, what are the biggest concerns, the biggest risk associated with this rescue.  Obviously, everybody is concerned about the physical and psychological health of these men who have been trapped underground for so long.  But are there concerns about potential danger associated with the rescue effort itself?  Physical danger associated with this rescue capsule going down there?

MORALES:  Obviously, yes, absolutely.  You know, they had tested it thoroughly, though, at this point.  They‘re not going to send it down with somebody in it or bring somebody back up until they feel that it‘s fully safe and secure.  So, they‘re going to be analyzing all the video.

It is—as I mentioned—the capsule has video and audio capabilities.  They have been checking and testing over the last two days, all systems and all of those feeds before they‘re going to really put anyone in jeopardy there.

But as you mentioned, the biggest risk perhaps is to the men.  Of course, these are guys who have been down there for 69 days, more than 2,000 feet.  And they‘ve spent a lot of time, you know, in conditions that we can‘t even begin to imagine.  So, a lot of concerns about their mental and physical health, although all of the doctors that we‘ve spoken with have assured us—and they speak with them every day, several times a day, they monitor all their vital signs.

They‘ve assured us that they feel that these men are in the best shape right now.  They‘re fine, they‘re capable.

There‘s concern about the anxiety.  On the way up, you can imagine, they haven‘t seen their loved ones in 69 days.  And they‘re going to be feeling a range of emotions.  It will be the longest 10 or 15 minutes, I think, of each of these miners‘ lives, that journey up to the surface.

MADDOW:  NBC‘s Natalie Morales monitoring the rescue operation of those 33 miners near Copiapo, Chile—Natalie, thank you so much.  Really invaluable to have you help us with this.  Thank you.

MORALES:  My pleasure.  Any time.

MADDOW:  We will be monitoring developments from the rescue scene at Chile all night, bringing you details on the rescue live as it happens.  Again, though, what‘s going on right now is that they have put that rescue chamber almost as far down as the miners themselves.  The next thing they‘re expecting to do is to lower a mine safety, mine rescue expert down that chamber.  That‘s going to be the next step in this process.

We will be keeping an eye on this throughout the night here at MSNBC. 

Obviously, the eyes of the world on that scene there in Chile.

Other big news today both politics here in the United States and on civil rights.  A federal judge in California took a sledge hammer to the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy today.  Whether the policy finally collapses depends on the Obama administration and possibly, specifically, on the Pentagon.

We have the very latest news on that from the Pentagon in a moment, plus, the biggest shocker of a political headline in today‘s news proves a fake scientific point we have been trying to prove on this show for a while.  That is all ahead.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  America‘s policy of banning gay people from serving in our military is having a hard couple of years.  At the heart of its problems, a man gets elected in 2008 who says he is committed to getting rid of the policy.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.


MADDOW:  When President Obama is elected, more trouble for “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” as the nation also elects big Democrat majorities in the House and in the Senate.  In the House, an Iraq war veteran, a Blue Dog Democrat named Patrick Murphy takes on the issue and says he‘s going to lobby every single member of the House of Representatives personally until he‘s gotten the votes to get the policy repealed.  Congressman Murphy does it in the House.  The House votes to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

In the Senate, the vote to repeal is stopped only by Republicans filibustering the funding of the entire Pentagon.  Because of that filibuster, as it stands now, Pentagon spending is not authorized by the United States Congress for the first time in 48 years.  That seems rather unsustainable.

In the military, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the defense secretary have both said they are against the policy.  The chairman of the joint chiefs putting his opposition in passionate and personal terms.


MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  It goes to the terms of the fundamental principle with me which is, everybody counts, and part of the struggle back to the institutional integrity aspect of this—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I know, I‘m privy to your views—

MULLEN:  And putting individuals in a position that every single day they wonder whether today‘s going to be the day and devaluing them in that regard just as inconsistent with us as an institution.

I have served with homosexuals since 1968.  Senator McCain spoke to that in his statement.  Everybody in the military has.  And we understand that.  So, it is a number of things which cumulatively for me, personally, get me to this position.

Senator Sessions, for me, this is about—this is not about command influence.  This is about leadership.  And I take that very seriously.


MADDOW:  The “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy has had a hard couple of years because of all that happening in Washington.

But perhaps the bigger reason America‘s policy of banning gay people from the military is having a hard couple of years is because the country keeps meeting these honorable and incredibly impressive, dedicated Americans in uniform who the policy says must be fired from military service.  They are the faces of the policy.  They are activists against the policy, and in some cases, they are plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging the policy.

Today, another landmark blow against “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” in a lawsuit brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group within the GOP, a permanent injunction against the policy was today issued by a California federal judge.

Now, this is not an unexpected development in this case, but it is a big deal.  Now, within 60 days, the Justice Department must decide whether or not to appeal.  Tick tock, tick tock.

Even though the Obama administration is technically on record against “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” they could, in fact, appeal this ruling if only for procedure rulings.  That said, they got definitely political cover for letting this thing go if they decide to.  Almost 70 Democrats in the House asked the Obama administration to not appeal the ruling, to just let the judge strike down the policy back in September.  Today, 21 senators asked again that the Obama administration let this judge‘s ruling stand.

And in what seems like an important development, a Pentagon official gave a comment to NBC News tonight that suggest that the military may, as a practical matter, just stop implementing the policy now.  Quote, “It‘s important to point out that today‘s federal court order comes less than two months before the Pentagon is to provide Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with a plan on how, not if, but how to implement the repeal of ‘don‘t ask, don‘t tell‘ in the military.”

Joining us now to help us understand what that might mean is Jim Miklaszewski, NBC‘s chief Pentagon correspondent.

Mik, really appreciate your help with this.  Thank you.


MADDOW:  So, what is the reaction at the Pentagon today, in civilian and in military circles, to today‘s ruling?  How are they greeting this?

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Well, it‘s actually pretty surprising that officials here at the Pentagon, both military and civilians, and even over at the Justice Department, appear to have been caught flat-footed by this ruling and court order issued today out there in California.

I can tell you, however, that the Pentagon has pretty much kicked this over to the Justice Department for the time being, saying only that they would leave any remarks or decisions about any further legal litigation up to the Justice Department.  The Justice Department for its part simply said no comment as to whether they in fact would appeal this decision.

MADDOW:  And the Justice Department, being in charge of the litigation side of this, makes sense.  Of course, the Pentagon in charge of the implementation side of this.  One of the sort of sleeper issues as this policy is debated is that Pentagon enforcement of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” seems to have really slowed down since the Obama administration has been in power.

What other sort of considerations the Pentagon needs to make about whether or not to effectively halt the enforcement of this policy even before it‘s repealed?

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Well, the reality is that enforcement of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is pretty much come to a halt already.  And it was because of Secretary Robert Gates, Defense Secretary Robert Gates‘ decision to enforce what he called a more humane method of enforcing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  He, for example, is against the involuntary outing of gays or lesbians in the military, and then forcing them out of service under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

And because he decided on his own, and he has the authority to do that, to lift that provision or ease enforcement of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” enforcement has pretty much come to a halt for the time being.  Nevertheless, Secretary Gates has said he and the Pentagon are still obliged to follow the law and enforce “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” at least for the time being.

But it‘s interesting that in this court ruling today, the judge gave the Justice Department, the federal government, the Obama administration, 60 days in which to file this appeal.  And if you look at the clock, that means the midterm elections will be over, a lame duck session in which Democrats promise to again bring up the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” will already be in session and may be near completion.  And, of course, that 60-day deadline will also be beyond the time when Secretary Gates set the deadline for the package—the report from the military on not how to implement “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” or rather how, rather than if to implement “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” seemingly putting it on a road to inevitability.

Yet, Pentagon officials will tell you there are all sorts of roadblocks ahead, particularly up in Congress, if the Republicans should seize control of either or both of the houses up there in the Capitol Hill.

MADDOW:  And certainly, even with enforcement stalled, still sort of a sword of Damocles hanging over the head of any gay service personnel right now, wondering how this is all going to end.  At this point, the Obama administration really having to decide whether to finalize this thing or whether they will let it continue to peter out through the political process.  This is turning out to be not the way anybody expected it would stand, I think.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  And, Rachel, some officials here at the Pentagon believe that, you know, it wouldn‘t be advisable for any gay or lesbian in the military to walk out on the front steps of their barracks tonight and openly declare their sexual preference.  But at the same time, you get the sense that they feel—that the gays and lesbians now in the military should be less threatened over the prospect of being forced out of the military any time soon, in the foreseeable future, under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

MADDOW:  Very important point.  Jim Miklaszewski, NBC‘s chief Pentagon correspondent—thank you so much for your time tonight, Mik.  Really appreciate it.


MADDOW:  One programming note on this issue.  As Jim mentioned, the anti-“don‘t ask, don‘t tell” group, Service Members United today, like some people in the  Pentagon who were speaking with Mik today, Service Members United today reacted to this ruling by cautioning gay service members, people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered in the military right now to not come out just yet.

Tomorrow, on this show, we will have exclusive interviews with two members of the military who are heeding that advice.  They are not coming out, but their stories have never been told before.  This is a story with which we are taking great caution and which we think will add a new and important dimension to understanding this policy and how it perhaps inevitably will end.

So, that is tomorrow night, exclusively here on this show.  We‘re working very hard on that story.  We‘re very proud to bring it to you.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  The state of California recently passed the toughest energy legislation in the country.  It‘s a law to reduce emissions and promote alternative energy.  Three Tuesdays from now, on Election Day, California voters will get to decide whether or not to scrap that law, to essentially get rid of it.

At the California secretary of state‘s Web site, you will find that 91 percent of the money that‘s been raised to kill the state‘s energy law comes from oil companies—many of which are out-of-state oil companies.  In other words, people who make a lot of money when their emissions are not restricted are funding the effort to kill California‘s law to restrict their emissions.  And also to come up with alternative energy that competes with them.

What‘s remarkable, what‘s worth preserving an amber, what‘s worth imprinting on as a Democratic norm about this is that figuring out who‘s paying to kill California‘s new energy law is a knowable thing.  Proposition 23 to kill that energy law may indeed pass.  Those in favor of killing that law have dumped a ton of money into this effort.

But Californians can at least know that it‘s essentially all out of state oil companies who are trying to kill California‘s law.  Those oil companies can try to make themselves look like just a California housewife when they‘re running their TV ads, but in the end, they do have to disclose their donations.

When you as a viewer see a yes on prop 23 ad, you can go online and find out that yes on prop 23 is not actually this nice, personable California housewife.  It‘s Valero Energy and Occidental Petroleum and Marathon Energy and Frontier Oil, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  It‘s oil companies.  But at least you get to know that.  It is a knowable thing.

And that, this year, counts as a good news story about the small “d” democratic nature of America‘s democracy, because at least in California politicians from Arnold Schwarzenegger, to Gavin Newsom and every everybody in between, people who want to protect California‘s environmental laws, they‘re at least able to say we‘re protecting California‘s environmental laws from an effort that is 91 percent funded by mostly out-of-state oil companies who are trying to gut our state‘s efforts to protect our own environment.  At least they can say that.  At least they can make that argument.  At least voters can know who‘s on each team.

That is the exception and not the rule this year.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I challenge Karl Rove to tell me that this money isn‘t coming from billionaires and millionaires, insurance companies, oil companies, major executives who have about as much in common and concern with the people of northeast Pennsylvania as I don‘t know what does.


MADDOW:  Vice President Joe Biden talking there about a conservative group American Crossroads, headed by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, two of the men who were running the Republican Party under George W. Bush and who apparently now still are regardless of who‘s name is on the door at RNC.

American Crossroads originally set a fundraising goal of $52 million for this election cycle.  They have reportedly already passed that the goal.  They‘re now on track to raise and spend $70 million on anti-Democrat campaign ads.

Some of what they raise requires no disclosure whatsoever.  What has been disclosed, however, is hilarious.  As of the last period for which we have disclosure reports, in the part of their funds that they disclose, more than 90 percent of their money came from three people, three—count them—three individual billionaires.  “The New York Times” reporting today that last week, Mr. Rove and Mr. Gillespie, quote, “received a check for several million dollars from a single donor whom they declined to identify,” naturally.  Nor are they required to identify this person.

This anonymous funding thing is the same charge that the Obama administration is levying right now against the Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber of Commerce not only does not disclose their donors, but they are known to receive foreign money.

And so far, the only assurance they‘ve offered about their foreign money doesn‘t end up paying for the ads they‘re running.  It‘s just their assertion that it doesn‘t.  Trust us.  We say that‘s not happening.  Trust us, or don‘t. 

Last night, Vice President Joe Biden made clear that he‘s on the “or don‘t” side.  He said, quote, “I challenge the Chamber of Commerce to tell us how much of the money they‘re investing is from foreign sources.”

Responding to that challenge the Chamber answered, saying, quote, “Zero, as in ‘not a single cent.‘”  You know, trust us.  That got a double-barreled response from the White House, first, from Vice President Biden who shot back, “I‘m not taking their word for it.  Show me.”  And then from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. 


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  If there are organizations raising tens of millions of dollars who won‘t tell us who their donors are, my guess is they‘re not telling us for a reason, because they have something to hide. 


MADDOW:  The end result of this sustained White House campaign against the Chamber of Commerce, against this anonymous funding stuff came in a letter from the Chamber obtained by the “New York Times” today, quote, “The Chamber will not be silenced.  In fact, for the next three weeks leading up to Election Day you will see us ramp up our efforts.” 

You say that we are not using foreign money to influence the elections.  And if you keep saying that we are, in other words, we‘ll influence the elections even more with money from who knows where.  Tremble before us, American dogs.  No word on whether the new round of ads from the Chamber of Commerce will be in Mandarin. 

This is one of those moments where you can watch the beltway common wisdom calcify before your very eyes as the president makes an issue out of this.  As the vice president makes an issue out of this.  As the White House spokesman makes an issue out of this.  As the Democratic Party runs ads making an issue of this. 

As, in my case, random senior citizens in Delaware raised this issue with me when I‘m at a campaign event that doesn‘t address this issue at all.  As Democrats really start to make an issue out of this, about this thing that is new in American elections. 

You can see the beltway common wisdom about it forming.  You can see it right now today.  You can see this common wisdom forming - actually, this really isn‘t an issue that Democrats should be talking about.  This isn‘t something that voters care about. 

This isn‘t a good thing for Democrats to talk about in this election.  Keep hearing that today from beltway pundits.  And you know, sometimes when people are giving that advice, it‘s not because they think the punch being thrown against them won‘t hurt them.  It‘s because they just want to stop being punched. 

Last night, in Wisconsin, in a very hard-fought Senate race, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold ignored this rapidly calcifying, stupid “disarm the Democrats” common wisdom and went ahead and hit his Republican opponent Ron Johnson on this issue over and over again. 

Ron Johnson initially defended what he called the free speech rights of these anonymous donors running ads in support of him before he finally was forced to admit that, yes, maybe people voting in Wisconsin this year have a right to know who‘s trying to lacquer the election there with their money. 


SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WS):  You say you don‘t want them?  Will you call on them to stop? 


FEINGOLD:  Will you ask them to stop? 

JOHNSON:  That‘s part of the problem.  You have no control over -

FEINGOLD:  Will you ask them to stop. 

JOHNSON:  That‘s the right of free speech.  You want to be able to select who could have free speech and who doesn‘t. 


FEINGOLD: I want everyone to have free speech but I want to be able to - as you just said, they ought to disclose.  You haven‘t even called on these people to disclose.  You just said you‘re for disclosure.  You won‘t even call on them to disclose. 

JOHNSON:  I‘d be happy to have them disclose - 

FEINGOLD:  Why don‘t you ask them to do it? 

JOHNSON:  Disclose. 

FEINGOLD:  I want - I want disclosure. 

JOHNSON:  Let‘s see. 


MADDOW:  But don‘t forget, word on the street in Washington, Democrats don‘t bother with this issue.  Nothing to see here.  People don‘t care.  Never mind those cheering people in the audience happy about their Republicans caving on this issue and having no way to defend their earlier position.  Pay no attention. 

Joining us now is Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.  Ms. Lake, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Nice to have you on the show.


MADDOW:  As a Democratic pollster, do you think that contrary to rapidly calcifying beltway wisdom, this is a good issue for Democrats on the campaign trail. 

LAKE:  I think it‘s a terrific issue for the candidates on the campaign trail.  And this just shows how wrong beltway wisdom is.  This is an issue that is a good October surprise for the Democrats and the progressives. 

It‘s a way of really raising a fundamental question about whose side you‘re on.  It ties into an economic narrative who we‘ve had a hard time getting off the ground and the 22 Congressional districts where the Chamber is running its ads with foreign money, 148,000 jobs have been outsourced to many of these very same foreign corporations. 

These people aren‘t putting up their money for nothing.  What are they buying?  And this isn‘t free speech.  It‘s bought speech.  And the Republicans have a right to know who‘s trying to buy their candidates. 

MADDOW:  Well, you‘ve raised the issue of outsourcing, connecting not just to the idea that there may be foreign influences - foreign sources trying to influence American elections, but that they may be self-interested foreign sources that want to influence the elections because they want more outsourcing of American jobs and they want to support candidates who will do that. 

That‘s an important next piece of this in terms of the messaging. 

Are you hearing that from Democrats? 

LAKE:  I think you will hear it from Democrats and you‘ll hear it in terms of being - questions being raised about trade policies.  I mean, you don‘t get something for nothing. 

When a deal - when people put up campaign contributions, they want something in return.  When foreign corporations are trying to influence the American elections, you can bet they want something in return. 

This should be illegal.  It should be disclosed and it should be illegal.  And this is a great issue for Democrats to end this election because it talks about whose side you‘re on.  It gives an economic message.  And it‘s something that ordinary people can understand. 

It cuts through all this back-and-forth stuff and says, you know, just as Feingold was saying clearly, get them to disclose, tell them to stop.  This isn‘t free speech.  It‘s bought speech. 

MADDOW:  Is there a difference in the types of districts, the types of states that this would work and this would not work?  Is this something that will resonate in more liberal districts or more conservative districts?

LAKE:  Actually, it‘s going to resonate and it is more blue-collar districts, in the Midwest, some of the districts, frankly, that the Democrats are having the hardest time with. 

This is a great issue to unite blue collar voters of all kinds, Democratic-leaning union workers and tea party people, all of them against foreign corporate influence.  All of them say that we‘re - our economic system is being undermined by these policies.  And these corporations are trying to pay for a Congress that will keep these policies going. 

MADDOW:  Let me just ask you one process question here, and that is all of the polling data that I have seen, all of the descriptions I have seen, even the focus group data on what messages most resonate with the elector for this election shows - is in line with what you‘re saying, is essentially saying this is a good issue for Democrats.

And yet, the reason that I observe reaching against the beltway common wisdom here is that it really is calcifying common wisdom in Washington right now that Democrats shouldn‘t do this, that they shouldn‘t talk about this, that it doesn‘t resonate. 

As far as I can tell, that‘s totally contradicted by the data.  So does that mean the sort of pundit-o-cracy just wants Democrats to not talk about this because it makes them uncomfortable?  Why is that the default position?

LAKE:  Well, I think, you know, there‘s all kinds of insanity in Washington and this is just yet another example.  And some of this is Republicans, of course, who don‘t want to talk about it. 

I mean, when Karl Rove says don‘t talk about it, we have to double up the volume.  If Rachel Maddow said don‘t talk about it, that would be something entirely different. 

But the other thing I think is that people do not, in this town, understand what the economy is like out there.  People are out of touch with what the economy is like and how people are feeling and how Americans want to stand up for America again.

And this is a very strong issue in Main Street, in Middle America.  I know you‘re going to see a lot of Democratic candidates who say, “Common sense - I don‘t need polling on this.  Common sense tells me this is a good issue.”

MADDOW:  Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake, it‘s nice to have you on the show.  Thanks very much for your time. 

LAKE:  Thank you.  It‘s nice to be here. 

MADDOW:  So any candidate raising $14 million in a quarter for Senate race is really impressive.  $14 million, one quarter?  But when that candidate is Sharron Angle, what do you call that? 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW has constructed a special graph in an effort to explain this phenomenon.  It‘s not science, but it‘s a start. 

And we‘ll have a live update from the scene of the drama in Chile where tonight rescuers are working to free 33 miners who have been underground since August 5th.  We‘ll stay with that story throughout the night.  Please do stay with us.


MADDOW:  In talking politics, it is really easy, and frankly, it is really fun to talk about candidates for office who have a high whack factor, candidates who redline the cuckoo meter, the kook-o-meter.  I‘m never sure which one it is. 

It is easy to talk about them.  It is hard and it is less fun to

talk about money in politics.  But this year, the thing that is hard to

talk about, money, and the thing that is very easy to talk about, kookiness

those two things are inexplicably related. 

You cannot have one of these things without the other.  You cannot understand the kookiness of this year‘s slate of candidates without also understanding how cash is working in this year‘s election. 

In order to help facilitate that understanding, we invented a graph last week.  We call it our “not a scientific graph of kookiness and electoral viability.”  Now, since first putting this graph on the air last week, we‘ve realized that we were inadvertently aping the hot crazy scale from the TV show from “How I Met Your Mother.”


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Wait, hot crazy scale? 

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, ACTOR:  Let me demonstrate.  A girl is allowed to be crazy as long as she is equally hot.  Thus, if she is this crazy, she has to be this hot.  If she‘s this crazy, she has to be this hot.  We want a girl to be above this line. 


MADDOW:  OK.  We were not trying to have anything to do with Barney‘s hot crazy scale from that TV show, from “How I Met Your Mother.”  But it turns out THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s “not a scientific graphs of kookiness and electoral viability” works on exactly the same principle, thank you, Mr. Harris. 

In terms of electoral viability, the kookiness of a candidate can be compensated for by the amount of money spent on their campaign.  The overall point is that the viability of any given kook is unlimited.  You can have the kookiest candidate in the entire world still be viable as long as you have all the money in the world to make that kooky candidate seem viable.

And that‘s what explains the biggest shocker headline in politics today that is Sharron Angle - Sharron Angle who is against fluoride.  Sharron Angle who says conservatives should be expected to take up arms, as in guns, if they don‘t get their way in this next election. 

Sharron Angle raised $14 million last quarter in her race against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  I know, I know, it‘s just a number.  $14 million.  There are lots of numbers with dollar signs being talked about in this year‘s elections. 

But $14 million for one Senate candidate in one quarter is a lot.  It is a ton of money.  It is a nearly record-setting amount of money.  So it is one thing to talk about our friend, Art Robinson from Oregon with his theories about AIDS being a government conspiracy and low-level radiation being good for you so you should sprinkle nuclear waste into the oceans. 

Yes.  Art Robinson‘s kookiness is being offset by about $150,000 being spent on his behalf by unknown donors.  And that does make Art Robison seem way more viable than he would otherwise seem.  Art Robinson, $150,000, still not likely to be a viable, still on the downside of viable. 

But Sharron Angle - $14 million.  That compensates for a lot of kookiness.  So Sharron Angle may be way, way out there on the kooky scale with the whole Second Amendment remedy thing that you read.  It makes her even kookier than Art Robinson, but she‘s still electorally viable because she has so much money. 

Armed with her high kookiness factor, but a compensating massive infusion of cash, the latest polling shows Sharron Angle roughly tied with Harry Reid in Nevada, which means that on our graph, she‘s sort of right on that line of viability. 

And sure, it‘s taking almost unprecedented fundraising to get her there.  But apparently, $14 million is about what it costs to turn a Sharron Angle into something resembling a feasible candidate in the United States of America. 

But, again, the most important thing to remember about the kookiness graph, not a scientific graph, is that it does go on forever.  So if Sharron Angle can figure out how to raise an infinite amount of money by going on the Fox News and talking about her awesome Web site of whatever, her kookiness can theoretically extend infinitely as well and she can remain a viable candidate. 

If she could double her latest quarterly cash haul, she could raise $28 millions who knows what sort of kookiness she could get away with and stay viable.  You watch.  When she banks $50 million, she will admit on the campaign trail that she‘s really a four-headed space alien here to take over earth by chewing through her abdominal cavities human by human by human.  And she‘ll be tied with Harry Reid, and then with a bigger graph.


MADDOW:  We end our hour of coverage tonight where we began, in Chile, where 33 men, 33 miners, trapped half a mile underground for 69 days are awaiting rescue tonight.  The vehicle for their rescue, a capsule that‘s about 6‘4” tall and 22” wide.  It has already been tested twice without anyone in it within the last hour. 

But soon, rescue workers are planning to travel all the way down that shaft to evaluate the miners before loading them one at a time into the rescue capsule.  It is expected to take about 20 minutes to board each miner into the capsule and another 15 minutes or so to bring each man to the surface. 

NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders is with the families of miners waiting for their rescue.  He joins us now live with the very latest.  Kerry, I have to ask you, first, how are these family members holding up right now? 

They‘re doing remarkably well.  I‘m here with Alicia Campos.  Her son Daniel, 27 years old, is down there.  She‘s up here and she‘s nervously passing the time making some bread on the fire here. 

(SPEAKING SPANISH) What number will your son be in the list coming up?  He‘s number 17 coming up.  (SPEAKING SPANISH) How do you feel right now? 

She goes, “I feel well.”  Yes, as she says, she‘s making some bread, passing the time, waiting for the moment.  Gracias.  (SPEAKING SPANISH ).  Everybody here is with you.  OK. 

So let‘s take you up, if we can, to what‘s taking place right now, and now that the actual capsule itself has had a little bit of a problem tonight with the door, the door that opens and closes. 

They took it down about 183 feet.  That is the length of the steel-encased pipe that they have placed inside this hole for the first portion of the 2,040 foot shaft.  It went down and came up without anybody in it.  And then, they had a little problem with the door.  So they‘re checking it yet one more time. 

It doesn‘t appear that the door is going to cause a delay to the point that they won‘t be able to begin the rescues tonight.  But it certainly is something that‘s had their attention.  The reason that they put that steel casing in that first 183 feet is because, at the top of the shaft where the rocks are, it‘s slightly fractured. 

And the fear is that the capsule going down and then coming up may have caused some of the rocks to let loose.  And the last thing they want are any rocks tumbling down on top of the capsule. 

After 183 feet, they think the rock is solid, although, remember, this shaft is not straight.  It‘s not as if you can go to the bottom and look up and see the people up top with the lights. 

It kind of does little S-turns.  And as we look at the capsule and you see the little wheels protruding from the side from time to time, that is designed so that the capsule can negotiate those S-degree turns of about no more than a 10-degree turn there, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Kerry, what‘s the expected timeframe on the rescue effort starting - the first miner starting to make the first ascent and how long the overall rescue might take?  What‘s the expected range? 

SANDERS:  Well, the longest that they believe they can get this all done in is in 48 hours.  It may be more like 35, maybe 42 hours.  They‘re not really sure.  And they won‘t really fully understand how rapidly they can do this until they actually execute the first five or six because they‘re going to move extremely cautiously on every one of them. 

But the first five or six will be the learning process, as it were.  Once it gets down there and they actually get the first miner to get in, Florencio Avalos - he‘ll get in and they believe it will take about 15 minutes for him to ascend up the shaft and come out to the top.  

He was chosen to be the first one at 31 years old, because they say he‘s in good health.  He‘s an expert miner, so he is somebody who, in the event that there is a problem, will not only inform them of the problem, but may actually offer a solution to how to overcome the problem. 

I think it‘s interesting because he has a younger brother, 29-year-old Renan(ph) who is also down in the mine.  And he will be departing as his brother remains behind.  And then, of course, eventually reuniting, if everything goes as planned, as they all come to the surface. 

MADDOW:  Kerry, in about the 30 seconds that we have left, let me just ask you if there is a Plan B if this approach doesn‘t work.  Do they know what else they might try? 

SANDERS:  If there is a need for a plan b, it will take some time.  And that is, they have two other holes that they were digging, two other shafts, but those shafts were not completed.  And they stopped drilling them out of fear that the vibrations could affect the shaft that they did complete. 

They have a high degree of confidence that this is going to work.  But again, we‘re seeing slight delays here tonight.  Although I believe in the next hour or so, this may actually be the first successful of hopefully 33 rescues over the next 24, 48, 33, we‘ll see how many hours this really takes, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  NBC‘s Kerry Sanders monitoring rescue operations of these 33 miners near Copiapo, Chile.  Kerry, thanks so much.  We will be covering this ongoing rescue.  It‘s on throughout the night.  Please stay with MSNBC for the very latest.  Now, it‘s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Hi, Lawrence. 



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