Guests: Melanie Sloan, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Doug Heye
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Have a great weekend.
Thanks a lot.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Whether or not former Republican Senator John Ensign is going to go to prison may ultimately turn on the question of how much he lied to his own dad. That is what it may come down to for the disgraced former senator from Nevada. John Ensign implicating his own parents in the cover up and ethics scandal around his extramarital affair is one of the human factors that comes into the sharpest relief with the new details that have just emerged from the special counsel investigation into Mr. Ensign‘s actions.
But Mr. Ensign implicating his own parents is also legally one of the most important aspects of this whole thing. Without going into every detail of it, the bottom line here is that when John Ensign paid his mistress $96,000 in what very much looked like hush money, he may have been breaking the law. If that was severance, if that was money he was paying to her as part of the process of firing her, that would be illegal.
What John Ensign tried to say instead was that the $96,000 he paid her was just a present, a gift. It was a present from his mom and dad to his mistress. Yes.
And because he knew that would sound exactly as not credible as it sounds to you hearing it right now, John Ensign had to concoct a strange story to support it. He had his lawyer put out an official statement about it saying the reason Senator Ensign‘s mom and dad were paying his mistress $96,000 was because they were always doing stuff like that. It was a pattern of generosity. They loved giving presents like, say, $96,000 checks to John Ensign‘s mistress and her family. They did stuff like that all the time. It was just part of a pattern.
Convincing people of that story—however farfetched it may be—is sort of key to keeping John Ensign out of jail. My mom and dad, I can‘t stop them from giving $96,000 checks to my mistress. They‘re doing that constantly.
As part of selling that story, John Ensign had his parents sign legal affidavits swearing that paying the mistress $96,000 was not uncommon. They had done stuff like that before. According to the affidavits they had previously purchased an all expense paid trip to Hawaii for the mistress and her family.
John Ensign‘s lawyer drew up those statements. Mr. Ensign had his parents sign them. And then those statements became part of the official investigation into the John Ensign ethics scandal.
And what we now know is John Ensign may have implicated his parents legally by having them sign their names to that. John Ensign‘s mom who signed the affidavit was not even consulted before it was drawn up and put in front of her.
When investigators got John Ensign‘s father, stepfather under oath and started asking him questions about the thing his son had had him sign, the dad denied all of it. He said, quote, “That‘s absolutely false. This payment for these things in Hawaii, that‘s absolutely false. We never paid for anything. No, none of that, paid nothing.”
But remember, if this Hawaii story isn‘t true, if this wasn‘t the kind of present John Ensign‘s mom and dad were always giving to Senator Ensign‘s mistress, then John Ensign maybe goes to jail. I don‘t know where you go for putting your parents in a situation like that, but maybe he goes there, too.
Even though John Ensign resigned from the United States Senate, the reason the Ensign sex and ethics scandal is not over yet is in part because of this brutal evidence which has now been handed over to the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department, because even if the Senate can‘t kick him out for something like this anymore, this is bad enough that he may end up going to jail for it.
So, the next big thing we are waiting for in this story is the decision about whether or not the Federal Election Commission or the Justice Department are going to pursue John Ensign on the basis of this new evidence. That is what we are waiting to hear next.
But do you want to know what else we are waiting to hear?
There is still a senator who is still in the United States Senate who is up to his eyeballs in this scandal and who is not John Ensign. It is Dr. Tom Coburn, Republican senator from the great state of Oklahoma. We‘ve known for a long time that Senator Coburn was wrapped up in this sex and ethics scandal.
But we now seem to have an answer to the question or at least a potential answer to why he had been so squirrely about this for so long. Why he has changed his story so many times. What‘s in this new report suggests that the John Ensign scandal is not only morally egregious than we have previously known. The extent of what‘s described as Senator Ensign‘s sexual harassment, for example, is way worse than we have known it before.
But it could also involve more potentially legal jeopardy than we have previously known. And that could explain why during this entire affair, Senator Tom Coburn has been making so many utterly contradictory statements about it, implicating himself, un-implicating himself, denying it, un-denying it, saying he won‘t talk about it, talking about it—as everybody else in this situation sees their lives burn down.
If Tom Coburn is going to be the guy who has no consequences from this, who just stays in the U.S. Senate and keeps, you know, sponsoring family values legislation because he knows best about those matters, certainly better than you, then Tom Coburn coming clean about his role in this John Ensign sex and ethics scandal cover up is probably the other next big thing that we are all waiting for.
From the minute this scandal broke and it was clear that Senator Coburn was tied up in it somehow—he has been all over the map in terms of explaining his involvement. What we now know, what we learned this week, is that it was Senator Coburn who personally negotiated the amount for a settle element payout to the family of Senator Ensign‘s mistress, the Hamptons.
From page 37 of the report, “The Hamptons‘ lawyer tried to get a
ballpark estimate from Senator Coburn as to the amount he would be
comfortable with. The lawyer proposed $8 million. Senator Coburn said
that the figure was, quote, ‘absolutely ridiculous.‘ Mr. Hampton then came
back with some figures an estimated $1.2 million for their home and another
$1.6 million to get started somewhere new. Senator Coburn responded by
stating that, quote, ‘OK, that‘s what I had in mind and I think is fair.‘”
That is straight from the special counsel investigation. Senator Coburn personally negotiating a financial settlement to keep the affair under wraps.
But when he was asked back in July 2009 if he had done anything like that, asked if he had any kind of negotiating role in this scandal, Senator Coburn denied it. He said, quote, “I never made any assessment of paying anybody anything. Those are untruths. Those are absolute untruths.”
After the scandal broke wide open. Doug Hampton told Nevada reporter Jon Ralston that Tom Coburn had played an intermediary role in trying to come up with a settlement for the family. Tom Coburn had tried to work out a settlement for the Hampton family to essentially bring the affair to a close quietly by keeping them happy.
After Doug Hampton said that, Senator Coburn told “Roll Call” newspaper, quote, “I categorically deny everything he said.”
We now have the details know that Tom Coburn had multiple phone calls with Doug Hampton‘s lawyer, in addition to haggling for an overall lower payout amount to the Hamptons, quote, “Senator Coburn then stated that the Ensigns should buy the Hamptons home because it is so close to the Ensigns and the Hamptons should receive an amount of money above and beyond that to start over.”
Despite having played that negotiating role in the cover up of the affair—here‘s what Tom Coburn told ABC‘s George Stephanopoulos about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA: There was no negotiations. There was “I‘ll pass it along,” or, “Yes, I won‘t.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There was no negotiations.
In keeping with Senator Coburn‘s ostentatious self-declared piety, which has always been his political brand, how religious and upstandingly ethical he is, Tom Coburn told reporters after the scandal broke, quote, “I was counseling Senator Ensign as a physician and as an ordained deacon. That is privileged communication that I will never reveal to anybody not to the ethics committee, not to a court of law, not to anybody.”
Mr. Coburn, apparently, providing mistress payoff haggling services in his capacity as a deacon. In his capacity as a physician, Tom Coburn, I guess, providing obstetrical and gynecological advice to John Ensign since that his specialty, bravely refusing to disclose any of those conversations because of his religious and professional obligations. He would not disclose any of those things to anyone, not to a court of law. Not to the ethics committee. Not to anybody.
What we know is that shortly after saying that, Tom Coburn did secretly start cooperating with FBI agents, turning over thousands of pages of documents to federal prosecutors, and sitting for interviews with the Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee, which, of course, he said he would never do.
There‘s one thing that is still unresolved. According to the special counsel, as part of Senator Coburn‘s role as mistress payout negotiator, the senator personally called John Ensign‘s dad at one point to try to get the senior Mr. Ensign involved in the process of covering up the affair, or at least ending it. One witness swears—sworn testimony—gives sworn testimony that this phone call happened. Senator Ensign‘s dad says he doesn‘t necessarily remember, but he acknowledges it may have happened.
As for Mr. Coburn, he absolutely denies it.
Given everything else that Tom Coburn has explained already about his involvement in this scandal, do you believe him?
Joining us now is Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Her group‘s complaint to the ethics committee about Senator Ensign led to the special counsel report released yesterday. CREW also has filed a separate complaint to the ethics committee about Senator Coburn‘s involvement in the scandal.
Melanie Sloan, thanks very much for being here.
MELANIE SLOAN, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:
Nice to be with you.
MADDOW: Why did your organization file the complaint about Senator Coburn specifically? What potential rules violations or criminal violations are you—do you think should be concerned in terms of Senator Coburn?
SLOAN: Well, at the time Mr. Coburn had been changing his story dramatically. And as we can see, he‘s changed it even through today. But in addition to the constantly changing story, which didn‘t reflect credibility on the Senate, there was also a question about whether he conspired with Doug Hampton to help Doug Hampton violate the lobbying ban. There was some evidence that, including Mr. Coburn‘s own words to “The New York Times,” that Mr. Hampton brought in the head of Allegiant Air, a Nevada company, to come and see Mr. Coburn. And Senator Coburn, just like Mr. Hampton and Mr. Ensign, was well aware of the Senate lobbying restrictions would have forbidden that.
And so, he, too, may have aided and abetted Mr. Hampton and violating the lobbying ban.
Listening to you go through all of that, you know, what strikes me is that it seems quite possible that the Justice Department gave Senator Coburn immunity. In the specials counsel‘s report, it says that John Lopez got immunity and that other people did as well. And Senator Coburn, who clearly had some legal liability issues here, may well have been another person to get immunity in order to tell everything he knew and to provide all these documents to the FBI.
MADDOW: Is that the sort of thing that somebody would have to own up to if they were asked, or is that the sort of thing that the Justice Department—or the, excuse me, the ethics committee or Senator Coburn himself could reasonably keep secret if he had immunity?
SLOAN: Well, I think whether he could keep it secret and whether he should are obviously two separate questions. I think Senator Coburn owes the American people an explanation of his full role in this scandal, to answer questions about all of it. And if he indeed got immunity from the Department of Justice, I think he should share that.
It was clear from the special counsel‘s report that the special counsel did not believe Senator Coburn about whether or not he had called Michael Ensign, Senator Ensign‘s father, because Michael Ensign then contacts John Ensign, and John Ensign calls Tim Coe, his spiritual advisor, furious that his father has been contacted. And Tim Coe was quite certain the person that contacted Senator Ensign‘s father was, in fact, Senator Coburn.
So, given all this circumstance, I think it is incumbent upon Senator Coburn who is still a sitting senator, by the way, to lay out exactly what he did in this case.
MADDOW: What is the status of this complaint? Have you ever heard anything back from the ethics committee about your complaint about Senator Coburn in particular?
SLOAN: No, we haven‘t heard anything. It is referenced in is the special counsel‘s report. But I imagine because this was a report about Senator Ensign they didn‘t address that. But it seems incumbent upon the Senate Ethics Committee to advise us of its findings related to Tom Coburn so we can know all the facts in this case.
MADDOW: As I mentioned in the introduction, that the Ensign investigation has been turned over both to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission. How confident are you that either of those agencies will proceed against Senator Ensign now given this additional evidence that was put forth in the special counsel report?
SLOAN: Well, Rachel, as I‘m sure you know, the FEC is an entirely dysfunctional agency and so, no one should ever be waiting for the FEC to do anything no matter how egregious the situation before it. The Justice Department has also previously passed on the Ensign matter. And they would have had an awful lot of the evidence that was in the special counsel‘s report already. So, you have to wonder if they‘ll reconsider.
The new facts for them might be the obstruction of justice that Senator Ensign was, in fact, destroying evidence and emails in order to avoid having all of the situation come to light. So that could cause some additional charges. Also, as you mentioned, there could be charges against senator Ensign, but against Michael and Sharon Ensign for the false affidavits to the FEC.
So, it‘s possible they‘ll reopen it. But, really, the Justice Department hasn‘t been particularly aggressive with going after high level political officials ever since they bungled the Ted Stevens prosecution.
MADDOW: Melanie, can I ask you about one former senator that turns up in the special counsel report. He‘s now a presidential hopeful once again. He‘s a former senator. It‘s Rick Santorum.
He turns up in the report I believe it‘s page 42, because I‘ve been reading it over and over and over again as the man who tipped off Senator Ensign that the Hampton family might be ready to bring the affair to public attention, thus giving Senator Ensign to get out ahead of the story and announce it himself.
Does Rick Santorum have any potential liability or things that he should further explain in your view about his role in this scandal?
SLOAN: He absolutely owes us an explanation. Senator Santorum received an email from Doug Hampton, a desperate email, when Doug Hampton was trying to sort his way out of this mess. And Doug Hampton sent Senator Santorum an email explaining the whole thing and asking for his help. And what did Senator Santorum do with that information? He just passed it along to Senator Ensign and then shut up about it.
And this is another guy, who like Tom Coburn, is constantly preaching of how he‘s of a higher morality, he‘s better than the rest of us. And here he is covering up for a fellow senator, a fellow family values senator, and hiding the most sordid kind of affair. You can‘t imagine that he would have done the same thing, say, had he learned such facts about a Democratic senator.
MADDOW: Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington—I have a feeling that we‘ll be talking to you about this again as this continues to unfold, Melanie. Thanks very much.
MADDOW: We are finding out so much about our nation‘s declared enemies since Osama bin Laden‘s death. For instance, we learned a lot today about the al Qaeda porn habit. That disclosure not only makes David Letterman‘s job a lot easier for the next job or so, it also undercuts their whole celibate masterminds waging a righteous holy war image.
That‘s coming up. That‘s next—you know what I mean.
MADDOW: Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, my friend Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican Party, and today‘s best new thing in the world—all still to come.
MADDOW: Today is the day that the phrases bin Laden and porn stash got put into the same headlines all over the Internet and all over the news. “Reuters” broke the story first. The reporters Mark Hosenball and Tabassum Zakaria citing current and former U.S. officials who told them that a fairly extensive pornography collection was recovered from the Osama bin Laden compound in Pakistan.
Everybody else picked up the story by headlining the phrase, “Porn Stash”—which made for a very confusing discussion in our newsroom before I figured out what everybody else was talking about. This story has a homonym problem, a very confusing homonym problem. It is very important to know that this is not porn stash as in as in apostrophe, S-T-A-C-H-E, stache as in mustache. It is important to know that it is not that kind of porn stash, but rather porn stash as in S-T-A-S-H as in a lot of it, as in a pile of porn this high.
Don‘t say porn stash. Say pornography in large quantities. Say enough adult content to fill a mansion full of bunnies. Say it turns out Osama bin Laden‘s favorite music went wakka chikka, wakka chikka, wakka chikka—just don‘t say porn stash.
Homonyms will be the death of the republic. The Osama bin Laden‘s other favorite use of the Internet story today was fold up by furthering reporting, including by NBC‘s Michael Isikoff that lots of al Qaeda sites and suspects have been found to have porn—so much so that some U.S. officials wondered if al Qaeda were using pornography to transmit messages to each other. Secret messages embedded in the porn.
Oh, the not safe for work conversations that that reporting incited this afternoon at work. You guys are in so much trouble.
Whether al Qaeda were using the porn for ulterior motives or just for the normal porn motives, frankly, it‘s a good news cycle for anybody who wants to make al Qaeda seem ridiculous. Al Qaeda, of course, wants their leadership to be seen as pious and all-knowing and all powerful and very scary. They are dependent on that reputation, particularly the pious part, in order to get followers around the world and to get money.
And that is probably why the U.S. released that funny video. Remember this one of the al Qaeda in Iraq guy trying to look tough shooting a weapon, but not really knowing how to do it and getting help from a friend. It‘s also why they released the bloopers reel of bin Laden sort of pitifully watching himself on TV and in these shots apparently flubbing his lines and taking instruction from someone as he prepared to make one of his “I am all scary and all knowing” videos.
And why President Obama‘s chief counterterrorism advisor has been characterizing to the news media how dumpy and uncharismatic and caddy and hated bin Laden‘s second in command is as Ayman al-Zawahiri maybe takes over bin Laden‘s old job.
The more stupid and hypocritical and pitiful and divided they look, the less powerful they might be in real life.
So, bin Laden porn stash day is a good day in the fight against al Qaeda.
On the other hand, the House of Representatives yesterday voted out of committee a re-declaration of the war on terror. Unlike the last declaration in September 2001, which authorized force against those responsible for 9/11, this new declaration does not even mention 9/11. The week after the U.S. killed bin Laden when al Qaeda has never looked weaker and lamer and more on the ropes, the Republican chair of the House Armed Services Committee has decided to re-elevate al Qaeda to be America‘s adversary—in a freshly re-declared and apparently permanent war, because just when the whole world was starting to think of them as pitiful, as the butt of the joke, now Congress is telling us to think of them as all powerful again.
Joining us now is the U.S. senator from the great state of Ohio, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.
Senator, thanks very much for your time tonight.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be with you. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I will not ask you to talk about al Qaeda around pornography.
BROWN: Thank you.
MADDOW: But I will ask you about the U.S. politics here. Do you expect that it may not be more politically feasible to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan than it was before Osama bin Laden was killed?
BROWN: Yes. We start with that resolution in the House of Representatives. Republicans always play on people‘s fears. They play on fear of immigration and fear on race and fear of terrorism and that they just play on people‘s fears. That‘s how they typically win elections. They‘re not going to let this one go.
But more to the point of your question, I think the president was staying with the July—beginning in July timetable for withdrawal of our troops in Afghanistan, anyway. I think this makes his case stronger and makes all of us hold the line in a—I think in a stronger way in terms of beginning to take the troops out in July.
I know that those particularly like John McCain that really want to keep our troops there longer want this sort of long-term war on terrorism to in some cases accelerate. I think they will be on the other side. I think the president will get some pressure from some of its military advisors.
But withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is right for two reasons. It‘s right because it makes us safer, I think, and takes our troops out of harm‘s way and helps us deal with domestic issues on terrorism. And second, it‘s a huge cost savings. We‘re spending so much money for so little gain in Afghanistan that it‘s time to bring the troops home in that way, too.
MADDOW: You highlighted Senator John McCain there. In my
introduction, I highlighted Buck McKeon, the House Armed Services Committee
chairman, as people who might be on the other side of that sort of debate -
particularly about Afghanistan. I wonder if—I wonder if there is a potential for those guys aside, for there to actually be a real bipartisan conversation about this.
Nancy Pelosi told me last year the next time there was a full scale debate on Afghanistan, it would not fall along party lines. I‘m starting to believe that. I feel like I‘m starting to hear more people taking what has been, in effect, the Ron Paul line in the Republican Party that American ought to be more isolationist in general and specifically that Afghanistan might be over.
Do you think there are more Republican voices who‘d be willing to participate in that discussion?
BROWN: I think there can be. The problem is that their dislike of Barack Obama in so many cases is so intense, that if he‘s for withdrawal of troops, many of them reflexively a little Pavlovian sometimes are on the other side. So—and particularly as the presidential race is upon us.
When you‘ve watched 2 ½ years, their opposition to this president on darn near anything as a party is overwhelming numbers. So, I would agree with that you say, I think there‘s a little bit—a lot of that going on. That being said, I think people like Ron Paul clearly have touched—clearly represent a significant sort of isolationist streak in the long—in the sort of libertarian traditions of the Republican Party.
I would not call our side who is against—who is against further troop involvement, who oppose the Iraq war, I would not call us isolationists. I think we‘re pretty internationalists. But don‘t think these wars have served our country well.
The Ron Paul group that agrees with us, he and I both voted against the war in Iraq, six, seven, eight, nine years ago are coming from it from a more isolationist sort of traditional libertarian Republican view point.
So, we come down to the same place, but in many ways for different reasons. As Ron Paul and I both have opposed bad trade agreements and both a posed a give away to the drug and insurance companies in the name of Medicare privatization.
MADDOW: Is there anything else that you see as changing in U.S. politics? Any debates that change or any places where the debates actually break down in a partisan way differently than they might have before because of bin Laden‘s death? Is there anything in U.S. policy that you think we should keep an eye on as going differently now because of that major development in the fight against al Qaeda?
BROWN: Well, I guess from the initial Republican—reaction from leading Republicans, I mean, it‘s always good to look out for that. I would say probably, no. I found it so interesting that as soon as the president announced this, many Republicans congratulated President Bush and President Obama for getting Osama bin Laden, but it‘s still Barack Obama‘s fault for the problems in the economy.
So, President Bush helped get Osama bin Laden, but the bad economy‘s
all Barack Obama‘s fault. I mean, they just can‘t resist that. It‘s just
it‘s just such a natural overreaction to them to do that that I‘m hopeful that this brings some clarity to our involvement. And to our protecting our country in whatever we do internationally. I don‘t—I don‘t see it yet.
MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, I like talking to you about these things. Thanks for—thanks for being here. I really appreciate it.
BROWN: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: A special election in Upstate New York started with the congressman resigning because he got caught sending a shirtless picture of himself to someone he met on Craigslist. It turns out that is the least interesting part of the story and that election. It keeps getting weirder.
That is ahead.
MADDOW: Monica Goodling had a pretty fancy high level gig in the Bush administration Justice Department. She worked directly for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez as his senior counsel and as the White House liaison. Monica Goodling had that job for about a year until she was forced to resign in the wake of what would come to be known as the U.S. attorneys scandal.
The U.S. attorneys scandal went like this—Monica Goodling and many others were accused of politicizing law enforcement, of basing hiring decisions for nonpolitical Justice Department jobs on politics and political affiliation. That‘s not just bad form. That‘s illegal, because hiring for those kinds of jobs on the basis of political affiliation violates federal civil service laws.
And so, the Virginia State Bar publicly reprimanded Monica Goodling, this former Bush administration official. They publicly reprimanded her for violating the legal profession‘s rules of professional conduct by committing a criminal or deliberately wrongful act. That ruling was issued in March, but it was only made public last week.
And then, this week, Monica Goodling popped again on our news radar in a place and in the way that we did not expect. There‘s that special election in New York right now, right? The seat where the congressman resigned after everyone saw this muscleness (ph) picture from him which he had been sending to ladies on the Internet.
Monica Goodling is weirdly in the middle of that special election to replace that congressman. Quoting from TalkingPointsMemo.com, “William Hochul, whom Monica Goodling passed over for a key counterterrorism role solely on the basis of his wife‘s political party affiliation, is now the U.S. attorney for the western district of New York. His wife, Kathy Hochul, is running in a special election in New York‘s 26th district.”
Monica Goodling publicly reprimanded by the Virginia bar for, among other things, not promoting this guy at the Justice Department because his wife was a Democrat—specifically, his wife is not the Democrat candidate who is running an unexpectedly close race for shirtless Congressman Christopher Lee‘s old district in a very red district in Upstate New York. Tada!
The news gods work in mysterious ways. We need flowcharts.
Although everything about this special election is turning out to be frankly a little bit mysterious. It has to be said, or at least surprising.
You may remember old Carl Paladino, right, Republican nominee for New York governor last year. Mr. Paladino made himself famous not only for carrying around a baseball bat a lot of the time, but also for sending out emails that were so racist and sexually explicit we could not blur some of them enough to put them on basic cable. Carl Paladino was the most eccentric candidate for New York governor who did not form and name his own political party after the damn highness of the rent.
Now, this week, in a letter dated simply Wednesday morning, Carl Paladino announced he is getting in on this special election in New York 26 as well. He will be appearing in the district on Monday to endorse Jane Corwin, the Republican candidate.
Now, the Tea Party candidate in the race, a man named Jack Davis, has said that he plans to spend as much as $3 million on his third party campaign. Jane Corwin, the Republican, has now loaned her campaign more than $2.46 million, her own money. And then there‘s the avalanche of outside money coming into the race—the National Republican Congressional Committee spending $400,000 there. American Crossroads, the Karl Rove conceived group, also supporting the Republican candidate. They‘ve received $650,000 in ad time there.
As for outside spending for the Democratic candidate, the Democratic congressional campaign committee is spending $250,000, plus a new Democratic group called the House Majority PAC says it will start airing TV ads next week. They haven‘t said how much they will be spending. And also, the folks at MoveOn.org have sent out a fundraising blast email.
So, in terms of outside spending in this deep red district, we‘ve got more than $1 million for the Republican candidate. For the Democrat, a quarter of that, plus a promise and a blast email.
But given all that, in a super red district, the Democrat, the one who‘s been fundraised—out-fundraised by outside groups by a 4-1 ratio, the polls show her right there in the running neck in neck in this bright red district.
And you can blame that on the Tea Party candidate splitting the vote on the right. Or you can blame that on the Republican candidate saying she would vote for the Republican House budget to kill Medicare, or you could blame it on Katie Hochul, the Democrat, being an unexpectedly really good candidate in that district.
Or you can be like me—and you can blame Monica Goodling‘s really, really bad Republican karma.
Whatever you blame, this is turning out to be a very, very special election indeed.
MADDOW: Since this show went on the air about 2 ½ years ago, the one segment we did that got the most attention of everything we have ever done was my interview a year ago this month of the man who had just won the Republican nomination for Senate in the great commonwealth of Kentucky, Rand Paul. What I had intended to be a wide-ranging interview wound up instead being a single topic conversation about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Rand Paul had expressed misgivings about the Civil Rights Act in a previous interview with “The Louisville Courier Journal.”
I thought he would clear it up one way or the other, and we would move on. But he would not answer—question after question after question about a private business‘s right to discriminate on the basis of race when something like this one toward the end of the segment.
(BEGIN VIDEO LCIP)
MADDOW: And should Woolworth lunch counters should have been allowed to stay segregated? Sir, just yes or no.
SEN. RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY: What I think would happen—what I‘m saying is, is that I don‘t believe in any discrimination. I don‘t believe that any private property should discriminate either. And I wouldn‘t attend, wouldn‘t support, wouldn‘t go to. But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up, but if you want to answer, you have to say then that you decide the rules for all restaurants and then do you decide that you want to allow them to carry weapons into restaurants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The weapons things I never quite got. But it went on and on and on and on.
Basically, Rand Paul told me he would not have felt comfortable voting for the one part of the Civil Rights Act that says businesses can‘t discriminate. He said in that interview, he would have tried to modify that part of it because he thinks business owners basically have the right to do what they want. The implication in this context was that it should be legal for an American business to say we don‘t serve black people. That implication got lots of attention for obvious reasons, again about a year ago.
But then Rand Paul put out a statement saying, OK, OK, I would have voted for the Civil Rights Act. And then, of course, he was elected to the United States Senate. And he is now a serving senator.
Cut to today, literally today, about four hours ago. And the very fine “HARDBALL” program hosted by my friend, Chris Matthews here on MSNBC. Chris‘ guest was Congressman Ron Paul, Senator Rand Paul‘s father, and as of this morning, officially, a candidate again for the Republican nomination for president.
And that same Civil Rights Act of 1964 question came up. And, frankly, you should see this. We pick up the action somewhere in the middle. And we do encourage you to watch the whole thing on the Internet. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: You would have voted against that law? You wouldn‘t have voted for the ‘64 Civil Rights Bill.
REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS: Yes, I wouldn‘t have voted against getting Jim Crow laws.
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on. Honestly, Congressman, you were not for the‘ 64 Civil Rights Bill.
PAUL: Because of the prosecute rights element, not because it got rid of the Jim Crow law.
MATTHEWS: Right. The guy who owns the bar says no blacks allowed and you say that‘s fine.
PAUL: No. Chris, you‘re demagoguing it now. You know that isn‘t what I‘m saying.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m not saying—what is the answer—what‘s your answer?
PAUL: You know, segregation was created by government laws. Slavery was created by government laws. Segregation—let me go, the segregation in the military by government laws. So what we want to do as libertarians is to repeal all those laws and honor and respect people with—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ron Paul would have opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because he believes people have the right to choose whatever they want to choose and let nature take its course. It ought to be legal for a business to put up a sign that says we do not serve black people today in America. Ron Paul is not saying he is in favor of that, but he says it is not government‘s job to stop discrimination. Just let it play out. It will be OK. Not the government‘s job.
Rand Paul, the senator, used to hold that position, too, but he changed his mind when pressed. Congressman Ron Paul still believes it, is not afraid to say it, and is now as of today running for president.
Republican presidential nominees, discuss.
Republican Party‘s former communications director joins us next.
MADDOW: Because it‘s Friday and because you deserve it, the former communications for the Republican Party joins us next. Yay! We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Last week, the week after the Obama administration announced the death of Osama bin Laden, the guest list on the Sunday political talk shows was 3-1, Bush administration and Republican officials to Democrats. If you thought or perhaps hope that that ratio might have been an aberration, the good news is you‘re right.
This week is ratio is no longer Republican to Democrat 3-1. This week, the ratio is Republican to Democrat, 8-1.
This is the guest lineup for this weekend‘s Sunday morning shows, as reported this morning by “The Associated Press”: Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, a Republican. Sheila Bair, chair of the FDIC, appointed of that job five years ago by President George W. Bush. She‘s a former Republican Senate staffer and a Republican—and Republican congressional candidate.
Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, now running for the Republican nomination for president. Current speaker of the House, John Boehner, obviously a Republican. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, now reportedly contemplating a run for Senate.
Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell. Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, who just announced he too is running for president. And last but the least, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.
So, what‘s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine announced marquee guests. And of those nine, one of them is a Democrat, Dick Durbin. Dick Durbin, this weekend in American politics—Dick Durbin, you are holding up half the sky.
Turn on the television Sunday morning, it would be easy to believe that the whole world is Republican, that the only people worth listening to about American politics are Republicans, that all political leadership in Washington, all politicians of any consequence are Republicans.
But ask Republicans themselves what they think about their own politicians right now and they say something different. They say what their own party is offering the country right now in terms of leadership does not leave them psyched.
And I‘m just not talking about how much Republicans seem to hate Mitt Romney. Have you ever heard their reactions to their health care speech? Wow.
But beyond Mitt Romney and his unpopularity in his own party, I‘m talking about how Republicans—professional Republicans, Republicans whose job it is to know these things, they think the whole field of Republicans for president is kind of a bummer so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: That reality show where we have all manner of candidates, the Donald Trumps, for example, spouting this mosaic of nonsense day in, day out, is trivializing serious issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Steve Schmidt, John McCain‘s ‘08 campaign manager talking with Lawrence O‘Donnell earlier this week. It is Steve Schmidt‘s job to get Republicans elected to jobs like president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHMIDT: I do think the field as it has been presently constituted is driving demand for other candidates to get in the race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At last week‘s first Republican candidates debate, this is how another Republican pro sized up the field, quote, “As we all know, there are numerous other candidates that are looking at it and thank God because we have a country that needs to get straightened out.”
The person who said that: Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus.
It is his job to raise money and sell people on the Republican candidate.
And then there‘s John Weaver, Republican strategist, the only guy in Republican politics today who is not Karl Rove but who is like Karl Rove. Weaver is expected to be Jon Huntsman‘s campaign manager if the former Utah governor decides to run. John Weaver told “Time” magazine this week, quote, “This is the weakest Republican field since Wendell Wilkie won nomination on the sixth ballot in 1940.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There‘s a lot of talk that it‘s a weak field, frankly.
RICK SANTORUM ®, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It‘s a weak field in the eyes of the punditry here in Washington, D.C.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a weak field right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There‘s a lot of disgruntlement among a lot of the members of the GOP, saying, you know, we don‘t have a strong candidate -- you know, that the field is weak.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Republican professional operatives, their home field announcers at FOX News, even some of the candidates themselves, don‘t seem to be psyched about who the Republican Party has to offer the country in terms of its important voices right now. Thank goodness there‘s Sunday morning to buck up their self-esteem.
Joining us now is Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee.
Doug, it is nice to see you again. Thanks for being here.
DOUG HEYE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Thank you.
MADDOW: You are a professional Republican. Have you noticed this trend of other professional Republicans and pundits saying that this is a weak field of presidential candidates?
HEYE: What I‘ve noticed is—and the clips certainly speak to that -
a lot of pundits and colleagues of mine who are responding to questions about this, and what we‘ve seen is a real trend that this is the soup of the day, that Republicans are going to be asked when they‘re on television or by print reporters specifically about this.
I can tell you, I spoke to one senior elected official who was quoted on this issue a couple weeks ago who said, well, this is what people are asking me after I take a vote. You know, it‘s what the flavor of the day, the soup of the day, is. And last week it was Donald Trump. And before that it was the birther nonsense.
And if the press continues to ask the same question, we will get some answers like that, absolutely.
MADDOW: You know, I think of Republicans as the real disciplined message folks in politics. And even if the—if the question is being asked and it‘s not a good political idea to answer it, or if people are thinking it and it‘s a not good idea to say it out loud, why aren‘t people keeping their concerns to themselves? Isn‘t calling the field weak making the field, in fact, weaker?
HEYE: Well, there could be a lot of reasons. If you supported Haley Barbour or wanted him to get in the race and he didn‘t, you may be a little disappointed. If you support Mitch Daniels and you want him to get in the race, you may say that. John Weaver with Jon Huntsman, for instance.
But, you know, I‘d also take you back to about this time in 1991, or this time in 1976. I bet if you asked a lot of Democrats if they were happy with the field, they‘d tell you no. But the reality is the Democrats elected Bill Clinton in ‘92 and Jimmy Carter in 1976. People with the American public had never even heard of at that point.
So, for me, I‘m optimistic. We may get more candidates in. I think we‘re going to make some real gains in 2012. I‘m optimistic.
MADDOW: When you say you are optimistic and then you say right after that, comma, we might get some more candidates in—does that mean you are optimistic because you might get some more candidates in because you, too, think the field is weak and you think that the strength lies among candidates who are not yet declared?
HEYE: No, I think the strength is that we‘ve got Barack Obama‘s record to run against. I‘ll point to two battleground states that Obama won last time, Wisconsin. Since Obama won Wisconsin in 2008, the Democrats have lost a governor‘s mansion, a Senate seat, two House seats and today, Herb Kohl, Democrat from Wisconsin, said that he wasn‘t going to run.
My home state of North Carolina, the Obama campaign is not going to have a real key—they were in a brilliant campaign, I can‘t praise what the president and his team and that great organization did on tobacco road enough, but they‘re not going to have a one-key element that they had last time. That‘s the element of surprise. Republicans were caught flat-footed in 2008. My home state will not let it happen this time.
And so, those are two battleground states that I think we can win.
And certainly Virginia and Indiana are two other states.
MADDOW: Doug, seriously, though, on Wisconsin, did you notice the 100,000 people out in the streets of Wisconsin hating on the Republicans week after week after week after week?
HEYE: I noticed—I noticed a lot of buses that were taking people into Wisconsin.
MADDOW: Oh, seriously? Doug, seriously? Those were all out-of-staters?
HEYE: I don‘t—I don‘t think they all were but certainly a good portion of them.
MADDOW: Really? Wow!
HEYE: You mentioned my friend, Reince Priebus. He is from Wisconsin.
HEYE: I know that he‘s going to make sure that we have every resource in Wisconsin that we can. And, again, if this groundswell of Democrats wanting to push the Democratic agenda in Wisconsin were real and true and something we‘re going to take hold in 2012, maybe Herb Kohl wouldn‘t have announced his retirement.
MADDOW: You think that Herb Kohl looked at all those people out in the streets of Wisconsin and thought, oh, boy, the Republicans are going to have a good year?
Doug, you—come on. On Wisconsin, you‘ve got to admit that Scott Walker has had a backlash. You look at Republican senators facing recalls, you look at the prospect of the Senate turning Democrat in the middle of its term because people are so mad at Scott Walker—you look at Scott Walker‘s poll numbers, and what people think of what he‘s done and you really think Wisconsin is a good-news story for Republicans this year?
HEYE: I think—I think Wisconsin is a great news year.
HEYE: Again, we‘ve picked up a governor‘s mansion, a Senate seat, two House seats and Herb Kohl announced his retirement today. That means it‘s yet another state—remember Patty Murray, the DSCC chair, said two weeks ago, she didn‘t expect there would be any more retirements. So, this caught the Democrats by surprise. They‘re playing defense in yet another state.
My friends at the NRSC are already targeting it, and we‘re optimistic.
MADDOW: Doug, if you come to Wisconsin with me sometime in July, around those recall elections, I will bet you a beer that you are wrong, my friend. Is that a deal?
HEYE: You know, you always bet those things and you always lose. The first time I was on your program, I said that Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell would have a unity event, and three days later they sure did. So, I‘ll take you up on this. I like my odds.
MADDOW: All right. I‘ll pay up. You know I pay up.
HEYE: You do. I‘ll stand by that.
MADDOW: Doug Heye, former communications director of the RNC, and good sport, Doug, thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.
HEYE: Thank you. Take care.
MADDOW: We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: “The Best New Thing in the World” today was inspired by Clippy, the annoying paper clip that pops up to offer help when you‘re using Microsoft Office.
In reporting on Mike Huckabee‘s latest venture to sell animated videos of revisionist conservative U.S. history, last night, we showed how Mr. Huckabee pops up on his Web site to say “Click now, operators are standing by.” That pop-up reminded one of our viewers, Sara Kennedy (ph), of Clippy. So, she made one today that pops up and says, “It looks like you‘re rewriting history. Would you like to help?” And then you can pick, “Yes, autocorrect with truthiness.” Or you pick something else that‘s funnier.
So, happy Friday. And thank you, Sara Kennedy, that is “The Best New Thing in the World” today.
Have a great weekend.
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