Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, Ana Marie Cox, Nicolle Wallace
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Cenk, the house that Olbermann built. You realize we‘ll have to now live in that house forever.
UYGUR: Well, he built it.
MADDOW: In a way we already do.
Cenk, it is great to see you on “COUNTDOWN.” It‘s great to have you here at MSNBC. Thanks a lot, man.
UYGUR: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us for the next hour.
And I got to tell you, the next hour starts as many shows do these late days. It starts with me getting really excited about the election theme music.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: The following program is part of the intensive coverage of election year ‘64 by NBC News.
TV ANCHOR: Results in yesterday‘s general election are still trickling in. The latest figures show President Johnson nearly 41.75 million. Senator Goldwater, nearly $26.25 million. Regardless of where the votes were cast, they underscore that this year, Americans were remarkably uniform in their judgments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually, the 1964 election results from NBC News. Republican Barry Goldwater got clobbered in that election by Lyndon Johnson.
The 1964 presidential election was total destruction. Was the most lopsided loss of that point in a generation. The 1964 presidential election, an unqualified disaster for the Republican Party.
Well, but maybe there is one qualification. Look at the map of results from election night 1964. Look at that map. That map of results that night is not a typical win/loss map.
It‘s sort of funny, right? I mean, overall, Barry Goldwater got completely destroyed except that he won his home state of Arizona. OK. That‘s fairly normal for a candidate to carry their home state.
Where else did he win? He also won the Deep South solidly as a bloc.
That‘s all he won outside his home state.
Look at that. It was a total electoral drubbing for the Republicans, but one that had sort of a silver lining? I mean, Republicans never won the Deep South back then.
Look at the previous elections from around that time. 1960, John Kennedy carried many of the same Southern states for the Democrats. In 1956, the South was just about the only place that voted Democratic. 1952, same thing.
Look at that. Look at that. That was the typical pattern for that time in American history. The Republican Party, in that election, right, 1952, winning everywhere else but not the South, because the South was solidly Democrat.
But 1964 comes along, Barry Goldwater comes along. He can‘t win anywhere else. But he wins the South, convincingly.
What explained that? How did Barry Goldwater flip the South in 1964?
What else was going on in 1964?
Oh, the other big thing happening that year in politics, the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Barry Goldwater was against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ICON: I am compelled to urge Negroes and all people of goodwill to vote against him. His election would be a tragedy and certainly, suicidal almost for the nation and the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Regardless of how conservative hero Barry Goldwater‘s position on civil rights affected his candidacy all across the country, it very clearly branded him in the South in a very specific way. Barry Goldwater won the South. It is the only place he won. And that fact changed Republican politics.
That Southern miracle of anti-civil rights Barry Goldwater got noticed. Four years, later Republican Richard Nixon won the presidency with a strong Republican showing in the South.
And here‘s how his chief political analyst in that election in 1968 explained the Southern Strategy to “The New York Times.” Quote, “From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 percent to 20 percent of the Negro vote. And they don‘t need any more than that. The Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That‘s where the votes are.” That‘s where the votes are, with the whites.
Again, that was not some liberal complaining back then. This was what Republicans were doing. This was—this was Republicans in their own words. Republicans at the time in their own words explaining what they were doing.
It was an overt, debated, deliberate strategy—let us write off the black vote but let us lock up every single white vote. Let us make sure if we get every single white vote, we don‘t go out of our way to ensure that there‘s a lot of black people voting, because if we can do those two things, if we can make sure that there aren‘t too many black people voting and every white person voting is voting for us, then we win. That‘s where the votes are.
This is a strategy about which Republicans, of course, now say they feel bad. Back in 2005, former Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman apologized to the NAACP for his party‘s use of the Southern Strategy in the 1960s and 1970s. The current RNC chairman, Michael Steele, admitted earlier this year that the Republican Party employed the Southern Strategy for more than 40 years. And Mr. Steele was not bragging on that when he said it.
Within the last few years, we‘ve also seen former Republican Senator Trent Lott lose his job as Senate majority leader and essentially get drummed out of public life after he made pro-segregationist comments about Strum Thurmond.
We saw Virginia Republican Governor George Allen careen violently out of potential presidential contention after his bizarre macaca comments on race.
But this year—this year, have you noticed there haven‘t really been any macaca moments? I mean, correction, actually, there have been a ton of macaca moments. There‘s been a ton of moments, ton of instances of people saying and doing shocking things about race.
But the effect has not been the same. There has not been the ensuing embarrassment you might expect. Nobody‘s getting in trouble for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN RAESE ®, WEST VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: When you look at, let‘s say, the first—I had a hard time pronouncing her name. It‘s—the first Supreme Court justice that Obama named was what? Starts with an “S.” Starts—I can‘t remember her name. Sarah Morgan or something? Sarah Morgan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah Morgan.
RAESE: No, it‘s not Sarah Morgan. Sonamayer (ph) -- how do you pronounce?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sotomayor.
RAESE: Sotomayor. OK, just let‘s just take her as an example.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: John Raese, Republican Senate candidate in West Virginia letting everybody know that he has no intention of remembering or correctly pronouncing any of them Spanish-sounding names, also Asian names. No matter how easy they are to pronounce.
Here‘s John Raese referring to President Obama‘s energy secretary, Dr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAESE: He just brought to Charleston yesterday, Dr. Chu, or Dr. Chow or Dr. Chow Mein. I don‘t know what his name is.
MADDOW: Dr. Chow Mein. Get it? Get it? Because he‘s—you know, that could have been John Raese‘s macaca moment. Either of those could have been John Raese‘s macaca moment, but apparently not this year. Apparently, that isn‘t happening this year.
Then, in Nevada, there is Sharron Angle who ran this ad showing scary, scary brown people taking away college education from a very, very all white crowd of college student victims. When she was confronted about this by a Hispanic organization at a Nevada high school, this is—see, there‘s the white college student victims—here‘s what happened when she was confronted about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STUDENT: Why is it that all your commercials have the image of Latinos? What do you see when you hear, and I quote, “illegal aliens”?
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: I think that you‘re misinterpreting those commercials. I‘m not sure that those are Latinos in that commercial. What it is is a fence and there are people coming across that fence.
What we know is that our northern border is where the terrorists came through. I don‘t know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me. I don‘t know that.
What we know about—what we know about ourselves is that we are a melting pot in this country. My grandchildren are evidence of that. I‘m evidence of that. I‘ve been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sharron Angle is not Asian. Wants us to know she‘s been called Asian, though. There she was speaking to a group of Hispanic high school students about her racist campaign ad. Sharron Angle told the students that even though it was a Hispanic student group, they looked a little Asian to her.
This could have been Sharron Angle‘s macaca moment. But, apparently, that‘s not happening this year.
And there‘s Carl Paladino, Republican candidate for governor in New York. Mr. Paladino exposed earlier this year for e-mailing out an African tribal dance video to all of his friends under the heading, “Obama inauguration rehearsal.” Or there‘s this one, his e-mail, that‘s President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dressed as a pimp and prostitute—a PhotoShopped image that Mr. Paladino e-mailed out under the heading, “White House ball.”
Either one of those things could have been Carl Paladino‘s macaca moment, but apparently, that‘s not happening this year.
Take also Tom Tancredo, in the running for governor in Colorado. Tom Tancredo, earlier this year, lamented to a Tea Party audience that this country has done away with literacy tests as a requirement to vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRM. REP. TOM TANCREDO ®, COLORADO: Mostly because I think we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TANCREDO: People—people who could not even spell the word “vote” or say it in English—
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TANCREDO: -- put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House.
His name is Barack Hussein Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tom Tancredo recommending bringing back something we did used to have in this country, literacy tests for voting. Usually, when you read about them, they are described in print as Jim Crow era literacy tests for voting, because they were used in the South most prominently to keep the voting rolls white only.
Suggesting a return of Jim Crow era literacy testing for voting could have been Tom Tancredo‘s macaca moment, but I guess that‘s not happening this year.
Some of the latest polling out of Colorado actually shows Tom Tancredo
within five points of the Democrat in the governor‘s race there right now -
suggesting a return to literacy tests wasn‘t going to be a macaca moment for Tom Tancredo in this year.
It wasn‘t going to happen in this year, not with candidates on ballot like Rand Paul of Kentucky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I‘m all in favor of that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But?
PAUL: You had to ask me the “but.” I don‘t like the idea of telling private business owners. I abhor racism, I think it‘s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rand Paul arguing against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, making almost the exact same arguments that Barry Goldwater made against the 1964 Civil Rights Act back in 1964.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRY GOLDWATER ®, FORMER PRES. CANDIDATE: In my home state, we have very few public places that remain segregated. By pointing out to businesspeople that it is morally wrong to practice discrimination and it‘s also economically bad. This type of approach while I know it‘s time consuming, it is having its effect, will have its effect, and I think it will achieve what we want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Eventually, the South will desegregate itself.
Beyond all these 1964 moments, from top of the ticket Republicans in this election year, there‘s also been a lot of little known Republicans having 1964 moments as well. It‘s the obscure Republican running for Congress in Oregon, who was a guest on this show. He decided to keep in print as part of his home schooling curriculum a racist 19th century book about how childlike and unintelligent the Negro is.
There‘s a gentleman named Jim Russell, a Republican House candidate in New York state who is an overt white supremacist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM RUSSELL ®, NY CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: It‘s not inevitable that the whites become a minority in their own country. I‘d like to ask Jared Taylor if he thinks that as more and more white Americans realize that they‘re becoming outnumbered, whether there will be a rise in white activism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you afraid of? Outnumbered? What is this, a game of sort of choose a side?
RUSSELL: Every group in America stands for its own. It‘s about time we did, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s about time we did, too. That guy‘s running for something this year. He‘s runs for Congress, on the Republican ticket in New York state.
There‘s also Bob McDonnell, the Republican governor of Virginia, putting out the proclamation on Confederate History Month that makes no mention of the fact that slavery had something to do with the Confederate cause.
It‘s that local Republican Party chairman in Virginia who this week got busted for sending out a racist joke about how his dog should be eligible for welfare because his dog is, and I quote, “black, unemployed, lazy, can‘t speak English and has no clue who his daddy is.”
We wanted to do a story tonight. At news meeting today, what we pitched was, what I pitched was a story tonight about whether there‘s anybody calling foul when candidates say bigoted things—whether anyone is saying, whoa, when politics takes a turn toward not really politics at all.
And I thought we would have a couple of examples that we would investigate. We ended up shooting into the double digits of examples and ultimately just stopped taking down new ones in the interest of time. This isn‘t a here and there one-off accidental thing happening in the elections this year. There‘s a ton of this stuff.
The Barry Goldwater experience in 1964, writ large, is still the great modern story of Republicans blowing an election, Republicans losing. Writ Large, that‘s the Barry Goldwater 1964 story.
Writ small though, it is a story of Republicans learning how to lock up the white vote. Republicans learning strategically, mathematically, sometimes it makes sense to turn every minority voter against you and have that be the cost you pay to lock up all the white votes.
As Richard Nixon‘s chief political analyst explained back in 1970, “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. And that‘s where the votes are.”
That‘s where the votes are. Does this work in 2010? Does this work in more than just the South? Does this work in what‘s expected to be a low turnout general election?
The Southern Strategy now means floating the Dr. Chow Mein stuff. It means floating the anti-Civil Rights Act arguments. It means floating the racist jokes, bearing the criticism for it, but locking up the white vote in compensation.
Of course, the other side of it is that you have to hope that not too much of the minority votes and the pro-civil rights white vote turns out against you. A lot more on that ahead.
MADDOW: In looking at how extremism is functioning electorally this
year, today, our staff was researching a potential story about consequences
consequences and repercussions for candidates who say bigoted things or who have a record of saying bigoted things on the campaign trail or in their political life before they got on to the campaign trail. And as we were researching this as a potential story, the list of bigoted statements from candidates running in this year‘s elections got so long that we realized the length of the list, itself, had become the story.
Joining us now is the former Melissa Harris-Lacewell, now Melissa Harris-Perry, who‘s a Princeton professor of politics and African-American studies, as well as an MSNBC contributor.
Melissa Harris-Perry, congratulations on your new last name and the occasion for it.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you. I appreciate that.
MADDOW: Tell me about—I guess my own surprise here. Are we just finding this long list of sort of shocking statements on race because we‘re looking for them? Or does it seem to you like there is an uptick going on here?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I mean, I think we find it shocking because it‘s happening in the aftermath of the 2008 presidential election, right? It‘s happening after the first African-American president is elected, after the first Latina is appointed to the Supreme Court, after the courts are beginning to say things like DADT—excuse me, “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and Prop 8 are potentially unconstitutional.
I mean, it feels bad because it‘s happening right at a moment when things appear to be opening up around politics for marginalized people. And then all of a sudden we feel what feels like this crash in.
But I just want to suggest a couple of things. I mean, the first is that it‘s clearly not just in the South. There—you know, that map is such a powerful one. But remember that both North Carolina and Virginia went blue in 2008.
And although we‘ve seen some regression to red in those states, you
know, I think we have to give the South some credit. It‘s got some
interesting different politics going on. And the spread of this kind of
racial discourse in this America where the racial discourse is also against
anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim, anti-Latino immigration, anti-woman on reproductive choice, it‘s just so big that it can‘t be sort of contained in one regional story.
MADDOW: And I think that‘s I think that‘s exactly right and it‘s a very important point. We call it the Southern Strategy because that‘s how it was understood in the ‘60s and that‘s how the Republicans described it amongst themselves even in the 1960s and the 1970s.
But, now, it essentially—at least my understanding of it—is employing bigotry, employing racism for electoral gain. You risk being seen as a bigot and you expect to pay some electoral price for that, but you gain bigoted votes and compensation. You gain votes from people who feel threatened by minority groups and minority groups‘ gains in compensation.
Even if the geography doesn‘t necessarily define this strategy anymore, does the strategy, itself, still work?
HARRIS-PERRY: But here‘s the point, right? Neither party has a clean slate historically and ideologically on race. I mean, the reason that the Southern Strategy had to be employed by Republicans is because it used to be that the South was solidly Democrat because that was the party of the right primary. That was the party of massive resistance.
And, by the way, it‘s the party in the contemporary area of end of welfare on the backs of black women and massive incarceration of black and brown men under Bill Clinton.
So, neither party has clean racial slate. So the question is: why employ as an electoral strategy—and it seems to me it‘s because there‘s a belief that it will work. Parties only do what they think will work. So, why is it if the Republicans believe that you could go hard on bigotry and get sufficient white votes, given the demographic realities in this country, why don‘t Democrats go hard to get another winning coalition? Why don‘t Democrats go in a strong way for African-American, Latino, green voters, for those voters who are, in fact, what would constitute a core—racial minorities, progressive environmentalists and labor? Instead, the party has consistently attempted to try to hold on to sort of their segment of what they perceive to be the bigoted vote.
Now, what I think that means is there‘s both an underestimation of who white voters are and what they‘re capable of. I think it almost means that there‘s a kind of cowardice on the side of the Democratic Party in its unwillingness to stand firmly on the side of policy and discursive strategies that would pull together a community of LGBT, black, brown, environmental and labor voters—exactly those voters who need something to be excited about in 2010.
So, this is the moment when they need to do that.
MADDOW: But does specifically targeting that kind of a coalition mean calling out this strategy on the other side saying, listen, you know what, when we talk about extremism in the Republican Party, we‘re just not talk about privatizing Social Security, we‘re talking about eliminating reproductive rights, we‘re talking about racist jokes by candidates in order to appeal to white voters who are looking for that sort of thing from a candidate? Does it calling out bigotry?
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, it could be that that will be part of it, but that‘s going to be insufficient. The fact is that this new coalition also wants real policy initiatives.
I mean, you just can‘t say, “Oh, the right is racist,” and then you sit there as a set of policy initiatives and say, the reason we need—for example, infrastructure is because big bad China is coming after us.
You can‘t just say, “Oh, the right is racist,” and then go after unionized teachers that primarily teach black and brown and poor students in this country.
You can‘t just say, “Oh, the right is racist,” and then fail to sort of set up a real policy initiative.
And by the way, progressives on the left have to have a real clarity about the fact that we are in a two-party system. And a two-party system that often doesn‘t offer all the options we want and this kind of hand-wringing anxiety that it‘s not perfect on the left—now, that‘s a problem of progressive voters. But it‘s a problem of the party, itself, when it does not offer a platform, substance that, in fact, challenges the racism on the right.
MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Perry, Princeton professor and MSNBC contributor and person from whom I most regularly learn the most by talking to on TV—Melissa, thank you so much for your insight. I really appreciate it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Last night, Delaware Republican Christine O‘Donnell‘s comments on the separation of church and state made the audience with which she thought she was connecting gasp audibly. Typically, people gasp for two reasons, because they are stunned by the transcendent genius of something that was just said, or they are stunned by whatever the exact opposite of that is.
Ana Marie Cox helps us with this bit of multiple choice analysis—coming up next. Please stick around.
MADDOW: Sometimes things happen on tape that cannot quite be captured by the transcript. Sometimes things happen on tape that you have to see on tape to really understand what they are.
Por ejemplo, Democrat Chris Coons and Republican Christine O‘Donnell are running for Senate in Delaware. They participated in a debate this morning in which they had an exchange that‘s already been written up everywhere but the penny saver.
It‘s been written up and transcribed and verbated everywhere. It was about the First Amendment, about what‘s in the Constitution.
And when you read the text about their exchange about it, it‘s remarkable enough - it‘s remarkable enough that Christine O‘Donnell seems to be challenging Chris Coons‘ true assertion that the separation of church and state is laid out in the First Amendment to the Constitution, the part where it says religion and government have to be different things.
That is a true statement about what happened in the debate. Reading the transcript of what happened, that describes it. But when you look at the tape it is clear there was so much going on here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS COONS (D), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE IN DELAWARE: One of those indispensable principles is the separation of church and state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. With that, very good dialogue. We appreciate that. Let‘s move on so we can get to all the panelists and cover a number of areas. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if you could ask the last question, please?
CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE IN DELAWARE: Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?
COONS: The First Amendment. The First Amendment establishes the
separation, the fact that the Federal Government shall not establish any
religion and decisional law by the Supreme Court over many, many decades
clarifies and enshrines -
C. O‘DONNELL: The First Amendment does?
COONS: Clarifies and enshrines that there is a separation of church
and state that our courts and our laws must respect -
C. O‘DONNELL: So you‘re telling me that the separation of church and state, the phrase station of church and state is found in the First Amendment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The thing you don‘t get from just reading that exchange, that you do get from the tape, is that she thinks she‘s just won. She thinks she‘s got one over on Chris Coons there. She just scored a giant political touchdown. She nailed him. Stick a fork in Chris Coons. He is done-zo. The First Amendment has something about religion in it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
C. O‘DONNELL: Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Turn and smile at the crowd. The crowd is laughing at you. Christine O‘Donnell is hearing that and thinking, “Yes, I know, my goodness, that guy.” She doesn‘t understand that the crowd is laughing at her because she doesn‘t really believe that he knows what he‘s talking about.
She thinks she has nailed her opponent on this point, that‘s why she repeated it, that‘s why she went back to it. In Christine O‘Donnell‘s mind Chris Coons is wrong. The First Amendment doesn‘t say anything about religion and government being separate.
For the record, this is what the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The top, once again, for emphasis, “no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That is what we now call the separation of church and state. What‘s clear here is that to Christine O‘Donnell, having been a lifelong conservative activist and perennial far-right candidate, this is news.
And that is why this is more than somebody just getting something wrong about the Constitution or having an awkward exchange with an audience who thinks it‘s laughing about something the candidate doesn‘t think she‘s laughing about.
This is a window into right-wing world. It‘s also Glen Urquhart, the Republican candidate for Delaware‘s open House seat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLEN URQUHART®, CANDIDATE FOR DELAWARE‘S OPEN HOUSE SEAT: Do you know where the phrase “separation of church and state” comes from? Anybody know? Actually, that exact phrase was not in Jefferson‘s letter to the Danbury Baptists.
He was reassuring them that the federal government wouldn‘t trample on their religion. The exact phrase “separation of church and state” came out of Adolf Hitler‘s mouth. That‘s where it comes from. So the next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of church and state, ask them why they‘re Nazis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ask them why they‘re Nazis. It‘s also Republican Sharron Angle running for Senate in Nevada. She also attends the same schools.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The separation of church and state arises out of the Constitution.
SHARRON ANGLE ®, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE IN NEVADA: No, it doesn‘t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it doesn‘t? The founding fathers didn‘t believe in the separation of church and state? The establishment clause? The First Amendment?
ANGLE: Actually, Thomas Jefferson has been misquoted, like I‘ve been misquoted out of context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thomas Jefferson actually not misquoted enough for some conservatives. You‘ll remember that this spring Texas conservatives managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone because they were upset about Jefferson and the whole separation of church and state thing.
You know, it‘s not that some people can‘t remember what is in the Constitution. It‘s not that we have a disagreement about interpretation. It is that in right wing America and in the rest of America, we are now working with two different sets of facts.
Joining us now is Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for “GQ” magazine. Ana Marie, it‘s delightful to have you back. Thanks for being here.
ANA MARIE COX, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “GQ” MAGAZINE: It‘s good to be here. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: The Christine O‘Donnell exchange was striking to me because she was making meaningful eye contact with audience that was audibly gasping and laughing and sort of snickering at her assertions about the Constitution.
COX: Right. She didn‘t quite do a wink. But it was almost a wink.
MADDOW: It was an implied wink.
MADDOW: But are there enough people who agree with her about what the facts are, about separation of church and state, that this will be a net positive somehow?
COX: It will be a net positive for her in I think she‘ll have a career after she loses this election badly, and she shouldn‘t. But we are looking at baby Palin in the making right here.
This is an embryonic form of Palin. She‘s not yet winking, but is doing the dog whistles. She is making the right sounds, the right noises. And I think what‘s sad about this particular example, as you point out, she does seem to take the audience‘s reaction as a positive one.
I think for people who are bullies and for people who are preaching kind of ignorance, there‘s no reaction you can give that they won‘t take as a positive one. And I think the only reaction that they don‘t like is no reaction at all.
If the audience had cat-called her, I think she would have taken it as a positive. And the sad thing is the kinds of people who agree with her would have taken it as a badge of honor to be shamed by the people in the audience.
MADDOW: And that‘s the foundation for future political growth, that you wear the derision as a badge of honor, and so the more derision, the better.
COX: And so I think that - she might have been slightly confused. Obviously, she‘s very confused about a lot of things. Mice with men‘s brains, the Constitution, pleasuring one‘s self, however you might want to do that. She‘s very, very confused by a lot of things.
I think that she might have been confused that the audience was laughing with her. And I think she probably assumed that would be - have a negative reaction. But it didn‘t matter to her.
Again, she‘s doing these things for attention and she believes so deeply in what she‘s doing the facts don‘t matter. I think that‘s the point you‘re trying to make. This is a widespread meme on the right, and this idea that the separation of church and state is not something the Founding Fathers believed in.
And it‘s true. The exact words do not appear in the Constitution. The exact words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the Constitution. However, it‘s been enshrined in decision after decision after decision. It is part of our national heritage. And to misread it like this, I was going to call it a willful misreading of the Constitution, but that gives them too much credit.
MADDOW: We‘re also in a point though where there is - there are different sets of facts that it‘s not just taken as an argument about the Constitution. It‘s taken as a set of facts that conservatives believe. Then, there is a set of facts liberals believe and never the twain shall meet.
So therefore you can‘t debate. You can make assertions. You can be cat-called or hooted at or applauded for your assertions, but there‘s no grounds on which we can find the truth.
COX: Right. You can‘t even go back to the original document and talk
about that -
COX: Because even interpretation, you‘re right, is not an argument about what the Founders intended. It‘s a complete perversion of what the Founders intended.
I mean, as I‘m sure you know, there‘s legitimate arguing about the Second Amendment, about what the Founders intended about the Second Amendment. The article itself can be kind of vague. This article, the First Amendment, is not vague.
MADDOW: Right. Right. Exactly.
COX: There‘s very little to interpret about the First Amendment.
MADDOW: It‘s the sort of things that a lot of people have memorized, at least the top part, you know - yes.
COX: Yes. She - at least, to her credit, she admits she had not
memorized it. She said senators are not required to. Although, now, I
think maybe -
MADDOW: Maybe we could start that.
COX: Maybe we should start that, yes.
MADDOW: Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for “GQ” magazine, it is really nice to see you, my friend. Thank you for coming in.
COX: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: We love to have conservatives on this show. We really, really, really do. Last night, Meghan McCain was nice enough to come by. And incredibly, nobody was injured or even angered.
Tonight, we are very excited to have Nicolle Wallace as our guest. Nicolle Wallace was President Bush‘s communications chief and a senior adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign. She has done something very interesting and very, very, very entertaining with her post-politics life.
We‘ll have more about that and everything else with the living, breathing Republican. This won‘t hurt a bit. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: It was 10 days before the election, and on one side, the losing side, things were falling apart. Ben Smith of “Politico.com” and Dana Bash at CNN reported that the Republican‘s vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, was running what they called an insurgency against the rest of the campaign.
It was the battle of the anonymous sources. One says Palin was going rogue. Another says she‘d like to go more rogue. Another calls Palin out as a diva, quote, “She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else. She is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.”
This is during the campaign. The Palin-affiliated anonymous sources all dump on McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt and, in particular, on the campaign senior adviser, Bush administration veteran Nicolle Wallace.
“Politico” wrote, quote, “Palin‘s partisans blame Wallace in particular for Palin‘s avoiding of the media for days and then giving a high stakes interview to CBS News‘ Katie Couric.
“Politico” also described Palin as particularly disenchanted with Nicolle Wallace. When the McCain campaign imploded in those last 10 or 12 days before the election with this stuff, I remember thinking at the time that that Nicolle Wallace, of the people involved in this thing, had the most interesting stories to tell, because here‘s how she responded when all these blew up, when these whole Palin insurgency thing blew up in the end and all these folks started blaming for Nicolle Wallace for everything.
Ms. Wallace gave the same quote to CNN and “Politico” at the time. I don‘t think I‘ve really seen anything like it and I still think it‘s remarkable. She said, quote, “If someone wants to throw me under the bus, my personal belief is that the most graceful thing to do is to lie there.”
And metaphorically speaking she did. Sarah Palin and Palin‘s anonymous source partisans trashed her up and down, blamed her for the RNC buying Palin‘s wardrobe thing. They blamed her for the Katie Couric interview. They blamed her for everything bad about Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live.”
And Nicolle Wallace, as she said she would, kept her counsel. When Gov. Palin‘s book came out, celebrating that insurgency against the rest of the campaign, she called the book “Going Rogue.”
Ms. Palin, again, blamed it on Nicolle Wallace, by name, over and over again. And Nicolle Wallace, again, true to her word, kept her counsel. Well, now, Nicolle Wallace has a new book. It‘s a novel. It is fiction about the nation‘s first female president, a Republican with the nation‘s first female chief-of-staff running a re-election campaign against a female Democratic opponent.
And the wrench that the Republican president throws in the works at the last minute is picking a new vice presidential running mate, also a woman, who happens to be a Democrat who seems familiar.
In this story, the running mate is named Tara. She was described as the president‘s eccentric running mate who hijacked the campaign. Our hero in the book, chief-of-staff,-said, she, quote, “disliked everything about Tara. She was loud, tacky and rude. She seemed to calculate the least presidential approach to every situation and pursue it with vigor.”
Tara is a surprise pick. She goes rogue frequently. The press can‘t get enough of her. She draws large crowds. Our hero, the campaign manager - chief-of-staff person worries mightily about her inappropriate campaign trail wardrobe. And it is finally time to talk to Nicolle Wallace about this new book. She‘s the interview, next.
MADDOW: Nicolle Wallace was President Bush‘s communications chief and a senior adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign. I‘ve been looking forward to a chance to talk with her on television for, oh, roughly two years. That‘s next.
MADDOW: Nicolle Wallace, there‘s a lot of stuff we would all really like to know, having served President George W. Bush as White House communications director and McCain-Palin campaign as a senior adviser.
Admit it. You would like to know what she knows about lots of stuff. Nicolle Wallace‘s new book is called “Eighteen Acres.” It‘s a novel, but it‘s a thriller about life in and around the White House in D.C. It is great. I read it in one sitting. It is really a very good book. Nicolle, thanks for being here. Congratulations.
NICOLE WALLACE, FMR. SENIOR ADVISER, MCCAIN-PALIN CAMPAIGN: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Sure. I know it‘s fiction, but the surprise electrifying, folksy vice presidential pick, Tara Myers. Am I wrong to see you trying to tell the story of Sarah Palin through that character?
WALLACE: Look, I would be lying if I said there wasn‘t any of my emotional reaction to this very traumatic campaign. I mean, just losing is traumatic.
WALLACE: But being thrown under the bus and left for dead is extra traumatic. So I was definitely working some things out when I was writing this book. And you and I talked around the time that Palin‘s book came out.
But I try to resist the temptation to subject any of my characters, all three of these women who I became attached to in writing the book to the same indignities that I suffered.
So it is a totally different story. And I think you and I talked also about the sequel. We learn a lot more about Tara Myers in the sequel.
MADDOW: It‘s way juicy, the Tara Myers sequel.
WALLACE: I think the story in its entirety will not remind people about Sarah Palin specifically. But certainly, this violent collision of establishment candidates, of an incumbent president running for re-election and someone from outside the beltway is playing out all over the country.
And that‘s what - you know, you have some of the uglier moments, you know, in sharp focus every night. And they make us all cringe. But this is this collision that‘s happening.
You know, I think that ‘08 was about change. This year is about upheaval and it‘s happening all over the country. And I just - I wanted to capture some of how messy and ugly and personal that can become.
MADDOW: The violence of that collision is the store. It‘s not the story of the post-McCain campaign Republican Party, but it is the story of this campaign season. Nobody really knew if somebody was going to emerge as the leader of the Republican Party.
MADDOW: Nobody did. And instead, we have this sort of leaderless constant crashing in every jurisdiction.
WALLACE: Right. And some conservatives believe that that serves the Republican Party best. I don‘t agree. I mean, I think that there is - you know, I actually admire some of the establishment Republicans like Haley Barbour and Jeb Bush who - and I wish they would do what you were talking - I wish they would serve as referees.
Our party would be so much better off if, in addition to all this great chaos and grassroots energy, we had some adults rise up and referee some of our debates. It would bring out the best in our party. It would help - I think it‘s hard for the good stuff to come up. And so all you have is the muck.
WALLACE: And so I think it‘s ugly. I think, at the end, the Republican Party may be strengthened by reconnecting with our grassroots. But what I right about and what I was so deeply affected by in the campaign was just how violent this collision of the establishment and the outside can be for everybody.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, let me - and I want to ask you about that and
your character‘s decisions and your own decisions on that. But on that
idea somebody being adult, somebody being the referee, especially around
this issue of downtown New York City, the Park 51 Mosque, Cordova Center
Mosque thing, a lot of the really vicious Islamophobia stuff -
MADDOW: A lot of people, I think, even on the left, expected that George W. Bush might be the adult to do that, because even somebody in the most politicized - even somebody who served through the most politicized times, he was a person who was a sort of voice of reason against Islamophobia on the right and the left and the center, and he didn‘t do it.
And there isn‘t anybody else who rose up to do that. Do you have
any insight into why he‘s not -
WALLACE: Yes. Look, I think that would have been a great place to hear his voice for first time since leaving the presidency.
WALLACE: and I think we‘ll get to see. You know, his book comes out soon. And I hope he‘s asked about that because he was an incredible voice. I remember in the 24 hours after 9/11, when we were all summoned back to the White House, back to work. The White House was open for business.
And the first thing he went about doing was going to a mosque in Washington, D.C. There‘s one on Massachusetts Avenue on the way to the observatory place. And Karen Hughes took on the role at the State Department of, you know, bringing a, you know, more even and reasonable message about America and the world.
And I want think of the great disappointments was he didn‘t make more progress. In fact, I think it would be really interesting to find out what he thinks about this today. I think - this is a country we live in.
MADDOW: I wish we would have heard it already, though.
MADDOW: That‘s the thing - a need for sort of a moderator in the small sense of it.
MADDOW: Somebody to sort of pull the brakes on. I have to ask you, when everybody in Palin-ville did start throwing you under the bus, you said, “If people want to throw me under the bus, my belief is the most honorable thing is to lie there.” I wanted to meet you as soon as you said that, and it took a long time. Why did you say that? What did you mean?
WALLACE: I mean, frankly, it was really the logistics, you know. I mean, on a campaign, you‘re so harried. It‘s like I can‘t spend - I‘ve got to catch a plane. I can‘t spend 40 minutes explaining to you that I would never do anything to harm the candidates I work for.
Just ask the last six I worked for. You know, I served as Jeb Bush‘s press secretary. I‘ve been White House communications director. It really - I didn‘t say it to, you know, to duck the questions. I just thought it was - you know, I think the first - the only thing the campaign staff is truly needed for is logistically moving a candidate around.
You know, the people that are really vital are the schedulers and the travel people. The rest of us, you know, if the highest calling is to be thrown under the bus, to take a fall, that‘s what you sign up for.
WALLACE: I mean, you know, ask the claim guys. I mean, you have to be willing to take the fall. So I didn‘t - I wasn‘t fazed by that. But what became extraordinary was just this climate of chaos and dysfunction that just kind of erupted.
And it was - at the time, it was really hurtful and, you know, as I said, you and I talked when Palin‘s book came out and I took it personally. But as a writer of fiction, I was so thrilled that I had experienced, you know, true humiliation and that I had the whole range of emotions.
Because my characters are so much better for really knowing what the triumphs feel like and really knowing what the, you know, more degrading parts of being a woman at the highest level of any profession feels like. And so I think I wrote better characters because of everything I‘d been through.
MADDOW: You also got in - you got to give them all of the best lines to give. There‘s nothing you think of after the fact. I got through precisely two of my 11 questions that I wrote for you. So I hope you‘ll come back, Nicolle.
MADDOW: Thank you so much.
WALLACE: Thank you. Thank you.
MADDOW: Congratulations on the book.
WALLACE: Thank you. Thank you.
MADDOW: The book is called “Eighteen Acres.” I read it when it was galleries which is why I have the paperback. But this is what it looks like in the hardback version of it. We‘ll be right back. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Thank you for being with us tonight. Now, it‘s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell. Good evening Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE LAST WORD”: Rachel, you know what you need? More Republican novelists on your show.
MADDOW: You know, I‘m working on it.
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