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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, Rep. Peter Welch, David Brock

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  That is the end of our show here tonight.  You can check out more of my work at  And my Twitter handle is ChrisLHayes.


Good evening, Rachel.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, sir. 

Appreciate it.

HAYES:  Thank you.

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

Heading into this past long weekend on Friday night‘s show, I feel like I need to talk to you about this, we led the show with something that I feel a little bit sorry about.  A little bit sorry.  Honestly, I would probably do it all over again if confronted with the same opportunity.

In case, you didn‘t see it, it was the story of rodeo queen contestants outside of Salt Lake City being forced by adverse circumstances to do something they would otherwise not do.  Instead of riding real horses for their rodeo queen competition, there was a horse problem that resulted in them having to ride hobby horses instead of real horses.  They had to ride little stick ponies.

This is a real story from our NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City.  You can see it again at our Web site.  We have reposted it tonight at

But in watching the C-SPAN coverage tonight of what is going on in Congress, I not only was unable to forget about the stick pony story—it became clear to me to the rodeo queen stick pony story from Salt Lake City on Friday night was both a gift from the news gods for Friday night, but also is the single best explanatory vehicle we have today for the madness going on in Congress right now.

The political stunt of a vote that Republicans just held in D.C and what they admit is their strategy behind that vote.  This strategy and this vote makes the rodeo queen stick pony story seem sane by comparison.

All right.  Here‘s how it goes.  Imagine Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell as a rodeo queen just for a moment.  Little Mitch is 8 years old.  He‘s a rodeo queen competing in a Davis County sheriff‘s mounted posse junior queen contest in Salt Lake City.  One of the grounds on which rodeo queen contestants compete is horseback riding.

I‘m not sure the grounds of competition, looking good, looking poised, being skilled at riding a horse.  I don‘t know.  But Mitch, little Mitch, little metaphorically Mitch McConnell, the rodeo queen, has made a grave mistake.  Mitch has traveled all the way from his home in Kentucky to the Salt Lake City rodeo queen contest without his horse.  He forgot his horse at home.

Little Mitch is therefore going to lose the rodeo queen contest because he has no horse to ride.  But the pageant organizers have offered that little Mitch can—as you see here—ride a stick pony instead.  Little Mitch, you are not going to win, frankly, but you still get to show off some of your skills.

Little Mitch, little metaphorical Mitch McConnell looks at the situation and says, you know, if I have to ride a stick pony, yes, maybe it‘s my mistake.  But if I have to ride a stick pony, I‘m not going to lose because of that mistake.  If I have to ride a stick pony, everybody is going to have to ride a stick pony.

And so, little Mitch McConnell goes out to the stables overnight and lets everyone else‘s horses out of the stables.  Even though it was his mistake, nobody else will have a horse either.  It will be the weirdest rodeo queen competition ever, but at least little Mitch will not be at a competitive disadvantage.  Everybody else will share in his mistake.

Tonight, Republicans in Congress voted to let all of the horses out of the barn.  Late tonight, every single Republican in the House of Representatives voted to tell the rest of the world that America will no longer pay back people from whom we have already borrowed money.

What could be worth doing something that dramatic?  Why would they risk telling the rest of the world that the United States of America should no longer be trusted to borrow money?  We might decide not to pay our bills at any time.  That could happen.

What would drive them to do something that drastic?  It all started here on April 15th of this year when of the 239 Republicans voting that day, 235 of them voted to kill Medicare.  They voted for the Paul Ryan Republican budget to kill Medicare.

We still have no idea why John Boehner let that happen.  Why he let 235 of the 239 Republicans in the House incur that political liability that day.  Hey, I‘m voting to kill Medicare.  Don‘t forget part of my permanent record.

We still had no idea why John Boehner thought that was a good idea, but he did it.  John Boehner set up that plank, 98 percent of House Republicans walked right off of it.

And this, of course, is a political catastrophe for those 235 House Republicans and their leadership who put them up to it.  Medicare is popular.  Killing Medicare is not popular.

Ask your grandma.  Ask your grandma even if she‘s a Republican.  Even if she‘s a Tea Party Republican.  Even if she‘s a Tea Party Republican who thinks Barack Obama is a communist born in Kenya and is maybe from Mars, ask her if she wants to kill Medicare.

Voting to kill Medicare has been a political disaster for the Republicans.  They left their real pony at home.  They made a mistake.  But it was their mistake.  There‘s nothing that can fix that mistake.

“The Huffington Post” reporting today that the Dick Armey corporate-funded fake grassroots Tea Party group known as FreedomWorks is doing training now on how Republicans can talk about killing Medicare.  They‘re circulating talking points trying to save the Republican message on Medicare, to make it sound less like killing Medicare.

But there‘s nothing that makes you un-leave that pony at home.  You cannot undo that mistake.  You cannot round up the corners of that and call it a smiley face.  Voting to kill Medicare was a capital M mistake for the Republicans.  It‘s the kind of mistake that sends a deep red Republican R-plus-six district near Buffalo into the welcoming arms of the Democratic Party.

Faced with their grade A Hall of Fame political error in taking that vote to kill Medicare, congressional Republicans have decided that since they cannot fix it, they will try to eliminate the competitive disadvantage that mistake puts them at.  They will try to make everybody else in politics commit to making that mistake, too.

If they can‘t ride a pony, nobody can ride a pony.  Everybody must ride stick ponies.

First, it was the poor saps of the 2012 Republican presidential field so far.  Congressional Republicans were not going to let Republican candidates of any stripe build up their own national credibility, their own national popularity by criticizing the congressional Republicans‘ mistake.  No Republican would be allowed to even make self-aggrandizing noises about running for president unless they too committed to killing Medicare, unless they too rode the stick pony.  They would not be allowed to make themselves look good by contrasting themselves with the mistake that the congressional Republicans made.

The only major candidate who is still dodging the question of whether he would vote for the Paul Ryan/kill Medicare plan or sign it if it crossed his desk as president is Mitt Romney.  Mitt Romney, who incidentally I think I saw on Eighth Avenue today.  Is that possible?  Around 45th Street?  Jeans, lightly colored pressed plaid shirt, walking very fast, skinnier than you think?  Was he here?  Was that really him?  Anyway.

So, first, congressional Republicans made the mistake of saying they wanted to kill Medicare.  Then to eliminate any competitive disadvantage that might put them at within Republican Party politics, they got all the Republican presidential candidates to sign on for that mistake, too, except for Mitt Romney so far.  Along the way, they also got almost all of the Republicans in the Senate to vote for the kill Medicare thing as well.

But, of course, the most potent political disadvantage that the kill Medicare vote causes for the Republicans is not interparty Republican stuff.  It‘s with the Democratic Party.  Every Democrat in the country—from school board to dogcatcher to state legislature to Congress to Senate to the presidency—any Democrat in the country can run against any Republican for any position now by saying, you want to vote for the Republican Party that wants to kill Medicare?  This is the people—this is the people who want to kill people.

The only way Republicans can undo that problem for every single election up and down the ticket in every state in America in 2012 is to somehow force the Democrats into making the same mistake they did, too.  Somehow force the Democrats into having to ride a stick pony, too.  Somehow force the Democrats into saying that they would kill Medicare, too—or at least to force the Democrats into voting to hurt Medicare if not kill it.

And that is what‘s going on in Washington right now, trying to make Democrats commit the same mistake that Republicans did so as to level the political playing field that is what Republicans are trying to pull off right now.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS:  Are you confident that the debt ceiling will ultimately be raised?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  I‘m confident that unless we do something really significant about debt and deficit, it‘s not going to be raised.  I can assure you, David, that to get my vote to raise the debt ceiling, for whatever that‘s worth, my one vote, Medicare will be a part of it.


MADDOW:  Medicare will be a part of it.

In the House, which is one part of Congress that Republicans control outright, Republicans voted unanimously tonight that they wouldn‘t raise the debt ceiling.  They voted unanimously to tell everybody who America borrows money from that we‘re just not going to pay it back anymore.  To potentially crater not only the U.S. economy, but also the global economy in such a way that when it is rebuilt, the U.S. will no longer be a cornerstone of it.

What do they say is the price for making them change their votes on this?  What is the price for making them vote against global and American irreversible economic catastrophe?

They say the price is that Democrats must make the same political mistake that they did.  Democrats must cover up the Republicans‘ mistake.  Democrats must do the same thing so Democrats cannot kill Republicans with that kill Medicare vote at the next election.  Democrats will lose the horse and ride a stick pony, too, or the economy gets it.


MCCONNELL:  To get my vote to raise the debt ceiling, for whatever that‘s worth, my one vote, Medicare will be a part of it.


MADDOW:  Medicare will be a part of it.  Republicans are now trying to make Democrats vote to kill Medicare, just like they did, thus erasing the huge competitive advantage Democrats hope have over the Republicans now because Republicans made the egregiously stupid political mistake of voting to kill Medicare.  It is a nifty, nifty, little trap.

How will Democrats react?

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont, one of 97 Democrats in voted in favor of raising the debt ceiling tonight.

Congressman Welch, thank you for your time tonight.

REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT:  Good to be here.

MADDOW:  This vote in the House tonight seems to me designed to prove one thing, that Republicans are willing to let the country hit the debt ceiling if they don‘t get their demands met.  That is how it seems too me in New York looking at the politics here.

From your vantage point in Congress in Washington, do you think that was the point of this vote tonight?

WELCH:  Well, it was.  I mean, you know, this is taking Washington double speak to Washington triple speak.  You had the advocates of the proposal saying, as they introduced it, that they were going to vote to kill it.

And then they went back to their offices and quietly called Wall Street to re-assure them that they didn‘t mean it.  They‘re just kidding.  And, in fact, what they voted against, they ultimately will support—some time under some conditions they‘ll vote to increase the debt ceiling.  So, it‘s no wonder.

Now, the other thing is that the Republicans said something that sounds on its face reasonable.  They want to pair long-term deficit reduction with this vote.  But the fact is they had a chance to bring a bill to the floor to do it.

But they brought a stick pony to use your analogy because if they had a plan that they could pass, they had an opportunity today to present it.  Their failure to bring it up indicates, (a), they didn‘t have the votes to pass it, or what they would present, essentially the Ryan budget that does kill Medicare, because that‘s where their big, quote, “savings” comes from, the American people wouldn‘t support.

So, this was a dodge and duck, three-card Monte kind of a scam presented to the American Congress.  And I think the American people get it.

MADDOW:  Those assurances from congressional Republicans to Wall Street after the vote that you‘re describing, assurances to Wall Street that they didn‘t really mean it—do you think they don‘t really mean it?  You think if it comes to August 2nd, which is really the drop dead date here, and the vote hasn‘t happened, that they really would vote no?

WELCH:  You know what?  I take them deadly seriously when they say that they will take money out of Medicare.  They‘ve done it.  You know, the Ryan budget, to give them credit, was explicit.

And he said what he have to do in order to save money is do two things: one we have to cut taxes for wealthy people—he claims and believes that will create jobs despite the fact evidence shows that‘s not the case.  And then, secondly, in order to pay for those tax cuts, he had to increase the cost of health care for seniors by taking away Medicare.  Anybody 55 and under would not have Medicare today.  They wouldn‘t have it.

So, that‘s—now, they‘re trying to back away from the reality of that even though they fully embrace:(a), the tax cut philosophy for the wealthy and, (b), having Medicare pay paid for so losers lose Medicare.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about Democratic strategy here.  I know that you are—I would consider you both a progressive and a pragmatist.  You can certainly take issue with me on either of those if you like.

WELCH:  I deny it.


MADDOW:  I understand.

As far as I can see, Democrats have been willing to pass and discuss reforms to Medicare in the past.

WELCH:  Absolutely.

MADDOW:  But now that Republicans are voting by 98 percent to just get rid of Medicare, to privatize it out of existence—does that call for a sharper defense of the program as it exists now from Democrats?  If nothing else to make clear the Democrats will keep Medicare safe in an environment in which it is really threatened.

WELCH:  Well, see, I think we are making a very spirited defense of Medicare.  It is extremely popular and it works.  And I think the Democrats are drawing lines in the sand about defending Medicare.

Now, a lot of us who are—for instance, I‘m from Vermont, we‘re pushing the single-payer there.  We understand that the health care system has to have reform to bring cost under control.

In the issue here that is important is how do you get health care costs under control?  Well, it‘s delivery system reforms, it‘s payment system reforms, it‘s accountable care organizations.  It‘s getting away from fee for service.

If we do those things, what you‘re going to do is make health care sustainable and affordable.

But the approach that the Ryan budget takes is basically to slash and eliminate Medicare altogether.  It doesn‘t reform it.  It eliminates it.

MADDOW:  Congressman Welch, I want to thank you for being with us tonight.  I want to ask you if you wouldn‘t mind here on national TV making a date with me for another time.  I know you‘ve been doing a lot of interesting sort of relationship-building and bridge-building in the House on the issue of Afghanistan and the drawdown in Afghanistan.  I‘m hoping you‘ll join us in the next few days to talk about those politics.

WELCH:  Bring the real pony.  Not the stick pony.

MADDOW:  Exactly.  Thank you, sir.  Appreciate it.

WELCH:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont.

OK.  Republican maybe candidate Sarah Palin gets approximately 75 metric tons of news coverage for almost everything she does.  And a lot of those tons don‘t weigh very much if you know what I mean.

But there is one thing going on in Palin-olitics right now—an important thing that affects the whole 2012 field and that has very little to do with her personally as a candidate.  I think it‘s important, and that‘s coming up.

Plus, some big news and some good news has just broken from the Army news service.  I will have that for you in just a moment.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor awarded by the United States of America.  Of the 2 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan over this past decade of war, there have been only been eight Medals of Honor awarded.  Seven of those eight were awarded posthumously, to men who were killed in the action for which they were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Tonight, Army news service has announced that the ninth post-9/11 Medal of Honor recipient has been named.  And it is not a posthumous award this time.  It will go to an Army Ranger, Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In combat in Paktia Province, Afghanistan on May 26th, 2008, Sergeant Petry had been shot through both legs when a grenade landed just a few feet from two other wounded Army Rangers.  Sergeant Petry grabbed the live grenade and threw it away from the wounded men.  It detonated as he threw it and he lost his right arm.

President Obama will award Sergeant Petry with the Medal of Honor on July 12th.  Petry is still serving in the Army now after recovering from his wounds.  He has deployed eight times since 9/11.  He has done eight tours—two tours to Iraq and six to Afghanistan.

We will tell you more as we learn more.  And we‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  This is not something that is from American politics.  But it is helpful, I think right now for understanding something in American politics.

This is the prime minister of Russia and his cartoonishly macho stage managed political persona.  Here‘s Vladimir Putin playing the part of judo master.  Here is same man as biker stud.  Here is the same man inexplicably as a hip-hop teenager in a turtle neck.  Here‘s the same man as a tranquilizer of endangered mammals.

There‘s nobody like Vladimir Putin in American politics.  We do not have a system that would allow for the whole president and prime minister switch role (ph) permanently leader thing.  There isn‘t an allegory for this shirtless man on a horse in American politics.

But we have noticed since the last presidential election, roughly, that there is someone in American politics who is kind of taking Putin‘s approach to their image.  There is an American politician who‘s getting pretty good, who‘s maybe even approaching Putin levels of raarr (ph) in the photo-op department.  Will Village People-esque trying too hard machismo work on the American public the way it apparently really does for Putin in Russia?  We don‘t know.

But I think that‘s going on here in American politics.  See if you agree.  Can we have the first slide here?

The fishing.  OK.  Next one—the ATV riding.  Next one—the chain saw and the big tree thing.  OK.

Next one—jogging outdoors perilously near water.  More.  Next one -

dead thing, cameo.  You got the point.


One more.  Do we have one more?  Oh, yes, that speaks for itself.

And one more, I think there‘s one more.  Next slide, last slide?  Oh, yes, that was this weekend.

Governor Sarah Palin not taking questions from the press but stumping all over Mitt Romney‘s presidential announcement week by leading reporters on a three-day long photo-op that was designed purely to produce Putin-esque shots like this one.

Does this sort of ostentatiously macho image-making play as well here as it does for the public in Russia?  I think Americans thought when we saw like Putin doing stuff like this that it would look like a parody if anybody tried to pull off here.  From our house, this Russia stuff seemed a little bit nuts.  But it is happening here now.  And the way people run for president in our country is about to change because of it.

That story is next.


MADDOW:  The FOX News host Glenn Beck is leaving FOX News and he‘s starting his own network.  It is maybe going to be on the Internet, I think, instead of TV.  I‘m not sure.  But I heard it‘s going to be called GBTV for Glenn Beck Television, which makes sense, of course.

We also know since his big “Restoring Honor” rally on the National Mall last summer, Mr. Beck‘s TV ratings on FOX News have slid.  He‘s lost more than 1/3 of his audience, which may be giving investors in his new Internet kingdom something of a shiver.  He still does have a giant audience, of course.  But it is sliding.

An interestingly, so are the ratings of conservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.  They are the number one and number two talkers in conservative talk radio.  Their ratings, like Mr. Beck‘s, have also been sliding.  Mr. Limbaugh‘s are down by 33 percent from last year.  Mr. Hannity‘s are off by 28 percent from the fall.

And I don‘t say this as a point of competition.  I don‘t mean that in terms of, you know, vis-a-vis—MSNBC vis-a-vis other networks.  I don‘t mean that in terms of liberals versus conservative and talk radio.  I just mean that in terms of its political implications.

Those numbers about the ratings slipping on the right, those are the kinds of things that I‘m sure give liberals a little bit of glee (ph).  But honestly, to keep in perspective, that sort of thing probably does not worry these hosts very much.  It probably doesn‘t worry conservatives all that much broadly speaking.

Even with a 33 percent ratings drop, Mr. Limbaugh still has giant ratings.  He has had giant ratings since I was a kid.  He has remade the radio universe in the image of his success.  Still, to this day, a quarter century after Mr. Limbaugh started his program, almost all of talk radio and all of right wing talk radio, which is still almost all there is, and almost all of conservative TV now, it‘s al directly derivative from one really part of Rush Limbaugh‘s formula for talking to conservatives and for getting really big ratings out of a conservative audience.

The formula for conservative media is Rush Limbaugh‘s formula.  It is Rush Limbaugh.  I think this formula, this special Rush necessity (ph) is an underappreciated ingredient in his success and in the success of conservative media more broadly.

I also think it explains why the big supposedly confusing thing in presidential politics right now, the only campaign story that anybody wants to talk about is not actually confusing.  I think it makes sense.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  There just has to be a backlash against the drive-by media.  Mikhail Gorbachev, Lenin, Stalin never got this kind of coverage from their media and they owned it.  And they dictated to it.

The story the s the drive-by media turning on its favorite maverick trying to take it out.  I‘ll tell you, it‘s one thing to deal with the liberalism of the drive-bys, but their stupidity is what‘s really frustrating.

The point is, the drive-bys, they don‘t sit around and report, and they‘re not just biased, and they‘re not just liberals.  They are trying to influence the outcome of events—in ways, of course, in which they choose.

The drive-by media has cast aside any, any pretense of objectivity. 

They have taken one the Democrat Party and they are both going to go down.


MADDOW:  Go down.  The drive-by media is not just reporting the story, the drive-by media is influencing events.  Thank God Almighty you made your way to the safety of this show.  We‘re not the drive-by media.

The message implicitly is that Rush Limbaugh is speaking to you, for you.  Rush Limbaugh understands the world.  Rush Limbaugh understands you.  You may think there‘s no one left to trust in all the world, you certainly can‘t trust anybody else in the media—but you can trust Rush Limbaugh because he‘s on to them.

This is a very specific formula that has made conservative media successful for a quarter of a century now.  It is locking up your audience in their way that excludes their participation in any other form of media.  It‘s an implicit message.  It‘s pervasive in right wing media.

It‘s complete.  You cannot trust anyone else.  Trust me.  Trust us. 

Don‘t touch that dial.

Rush Limbaugh‘s audience is filled with people who swear of listening to the lamestream liberal drive-by media and instead give themselves other wholly to him.  His audience calls themselves ditto heads, right, because listening to him, belonging to him, it‘s part of who you are.

FOX News took the Rush Limbaugh formula and adapted it for television in 1996.  The FOX News slogan of “fair and balanced” when what they‘re mostly doing is right wing commentary has always seemed to the rest of the world like an affront—fair and balanced?  It‘s like a mockery of the terms fair and balanced.

But to the FOX audience, it is really the core of what they are offering.  You cannot trust anyone else to talk to you.  Everyone else is out to get you.

Ask somebody who is a FOX News aficionado what they think about the fair and balanced slogan.  You will hear them use it without irony and with criticism because they believe that the only place they can get fairness and balance is from FOX, that the rest of the media is biased and only FOX is the truth.  They‘re selling their audience grievance, resentment and belonging.

And it‘s really effective.  The success of that formula and far right media made it inevitable I believe that we would get this weekend‘s spectacle of a presidential hopeful overtly proclaiming avoidance of the lamestream media as a central part of her political platform.  It has seemed inevitable enough in fact, that I predicted a few weeks ago that this would happen.


MADDOW:  I predict that there will be a candidate from the right side of the Republican Party, it may be Sarah Palin or somebody else, that they will establish a new litmus test for Republican candidates, which is that they do not do mainstream media interviews.  That doing a mainstream media interview is itself a capitulation that only conservative media should be engaged with.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  You mean, FOX and Limbaugh radio.

MADDOW:  That‘s right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, if I‘m on a GOP bus, that is a depressing prediction.


MADDOW:  I‘m always wrong.


MADDOW:  OK.  So, this time, not wrong.

By the way, I don‘t know exactly know why we‘re showing this picture except to say that one of our producers was on the street in New York when Donald Palin and Sarah Trump were seen—Donald Palin and Sarah Trump—

Donald Trump and Sarah Palin were seen out on the street.

I wish I could say that it was an accident or dumb luck that I said that somebody would start running for president, maybe Sarah Palin, by saying that she would run for president by not speaking to the mainstream media.  But I think this is the Rush Limbaugh/FOX News model of running against the media, to maximize your adherence.

I think when we stop being able to tell politicians from celebrities on the right, the “I won‘t talk to reporters” presidential campaign, however farfetched it seems, was probably inevitable.

Joining us now is a combatant in the media wars in America.  One who probably causes the conservative media more agitate than anyone else in the entire country, he is David Brock, founder of the media watchdog group, Media Matters, and author of “The New York Times” bestseller, “Blinded by the Right.”

David Brock, thanks very much for your time.  It‘s nice to have you here.

DAVID BROCK, MEDIA MATTERS:  Thanks for having me on, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Let me ask, first of all, your reaction just to that piece that I laid out, that part of the reason that conservative media succeeds commercially to the extent that it does, is that they get their audiences only to listen only to them to the exclusion of all their competitors.

BROCK:  I think that‘s right.  And I think you could take it even further, that there was a strategy in place by the conservative movement that goes back 20 years before Rush Limbaugh with the founding of an organization like Accuracy in Media that was designed to stigmatize the press as liberal, to tell the conservative base that they couldn‘t trust a publication like “The New York Times.”

So, by the time Rush Limbaugh came into syndication 20 years later, what you had was a press that had abandoned the notion of objectivity and went with what the right was demanding, which was balanced, which allowed the flat earth society into the conversation.  So, one, they achieved balance.

And, two, I think on their alternative media, they built up a very powerful alternative media starting really with Rush Limbaugh in 1988.  And I think what they were able to do there two different things.  One, allow conservatives to dismiss news stories they don‘t like, and two, as you said, it‘s been a brilliant marketing strategy—that you can‘t trust “The New York Times,” so you have to come here for your alternative news source.  It‘s the only place you can get real information.

Now, unfortunately, it ends up often being misinformation.

MADDOW:  Why can a politician on the right say they will not talk to the press while running for president even while a politician on the left could not?  Certainly, we‘ve all heard criticism of the corporate media from the left as well.  Certainly, there have been efforts on the left to build alternative media institutions—even sometimes making the claim that you can‘t trust the mainstream media and you have to come here.

Why has the right been so much more successful with it?

BROCK:  Well, I think that first of all they‘ve been organized around this, as I said, since the late 1960s.  And so, you know, the anti-press strategies date back to Richard Nixon and to the Bushes.

And so, what Sarah Palin is doing here is taking it a step further.  And I think she‘s succeeding, partly on the basis that she has—the relationship she has with FOX News, which is an unusual one for a presidential candidate, and one that she is hide behind in I believe.

MADDOW:  What do you think about the different levels of interaction that the Republican presidential candidates at this point have with FOX News?  We‘ve seen Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum lose their gigs there.  We‘ve seen Sarah Palin not lose her gig there.  We have seen Herman Cain who is not paid a contributor, but makes frequent appearances there, get mistakenly billed in the press as is he is a paid contributor.

What do you think the interaction is between the Republican nominating process and the FOX News payroll right now?

BROCK:  Well, one, I think if Roger Ailes was trying to field an A-list of Republican candidates and sign them up—he‘s clearly failed.  Two, as you noted, Gingrich and Santorum were subject to one kind of standard when they announced that they were exploring this race.  And it‘s a question of whether Sarah Palin is coming close to that or not.

But I honestly, Rachel, don‘t think that they really take all these rules seriously.  You have Karl Rove on the FOX News Channel.  And Karl Rove is running the most important and the biggest political enterprise in the right wing right now.  And he is still on their payroll.

MADDOW:  In terms of the overall general election politics of the 2012 presidential election—it seems to me to be a smart move, for all the reasons I explained in the introduction during the Republican primaries to say, as a matter of principle, I refuse to speak to mainstream media outlet, I refuse to speak anybody other than FOX and talk radio and conservative Internet outlets.  That seems to me smart for the Republican primaries.

How does that change once we‘re part the primaries and into the general?

BROCK:  Well, that depends on whether Sarah Palin actually makes it.  Now, the other Republican presidential candidates are not adopting as clear cut refusal to engage with the mainstream media.

Now, if Sarah Palin were the nominee, I don‘t think—I don‘t think it would change.  We see what she went through the last time and how poorly she was handling her mainstream media interviews.  And so, this could—this works for her.  And it works with the conservative base.

And as we‘ve seen, the conservative base is the only folks she‘s interested in talking to and they‘ve been inculcated into this notion that the media—the media to some extent is a stand in here, Rachel, for all political elites.  And so, she‘s able to position here‘s with her politics of grievance and resentment against the press which in some way is a stand in for all pretty elites in her ideology.

MADDOW:  David Brock, founder of Media Matters and author of “Blinded by the Right”—David, thanks for your time tonight.  It‘s nice to have you here on the show.

BROCK:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  I am still hoping at some point in my life, it will come true what was once suggested to me by a certain someone that maybe Sarah Palin could do an interview with me here on the show and we could simulcast it on FOX.  I would be down with that.

We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  Two years ago today, on May 31st, 2009, Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed inside his church by an anti-abortion extremist named Scott Roeder.  Dr. Tiller had been practicing medicine in Wichita for nearly 40 years when he was murdered.

Because he provided abortions, he had long been a target for the anti-abortion movement for anti-abortion media and for anti-abortion terrorists.  His clinic was bombed in 1986.  It was blockaded by protesters in the massive Summer of Mercy demonstrations in 1991.  His photo and address were put on wanted posters.

Dr. Tiller had even been shot once before.  An anti-abortion extremist named Shelley Shannon shot him in both arms in 1993.  The doctor survived that attack.  He was back at work the following day.

But two years ago today, another anti-abortion extremist, a man who had befriended Shelley Shannon, who shot him before while she was in prison -- this time, he went to Dr. Tiller‘s church and he finished the job.  Scott Roeder shot the doctor point blank in the head and killed him instantly.

Nine days later, Dr. Tiller‘s family announced that his clinic would be closing.  Today, there is no abortion provider in Wichita or anywhere else in south central Kansas.

The first doctor to announce her intentions to provide abortions in Wichita, Dr. Mila Means, has had protesters gathered outside her family practice in Wichita, as well as outside her home, which is well outside the city.  She‘s been sued by her landlord to stop her from providing abortions where she currently practices.

She‘s had wanted-style posters emailed around targeting her.  They include her photo, her office address and her phone number.  They tell people that should provoke Dr. Means, calling her a mass murder, advising people to visit her at her home or office.

In January, Dr. Means got a letter telling her, quote, “You will be checking under your car every day because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it.  We will not let this abomination continue without doing everything we can to stop it.”

That letter came from an abortion activist who befriended Dr. Tiller‘s murder in jail and told the “Associated Press” that she admired what he had done.

Dr. George Tiller was murdered on May 31st, 2009, by an anti-abortion extremist whose goal was to make abortion less available.  And today, two years later, there is no abortion provider in Wichita.


MADDOW:  The Republican presidential primary field for 2012 is not what you think it is.  Yes, it‘s almost certainly Mitt Romney and Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin in whatever capacity she chooses.  But trust me—the presidential primary field for 2012 is probably not what you think it is.

This evening, we can exclusively report that a new poll out tomorrow will show that in Iowa where the presidential caucuses are scheduled for February, of the three clear front runners in the Republican primary contest, one of them is someone a lot of Americans have never heard of.

Republican voters in Ohio y were asked, “Who is your top pick for the Republican nomination in 2012?”  They were given these choices you see here, Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, and Herman Cain.  The full results for this poll will be released tomorrow.

But Public Policy Polling reveals to us exclusively tonight that the top picks were Mitt Romney with 21 percent and tied for second place with 15 percent are Sarah Palin and Herman Cain.

Herman Cain, the former CEO of a mob-themed pizza chain called Godfather‘s.  Herman Cain, the man who has only ever run for office once and he lost.  Herman Cain whose name recognition is campaign endingly low, fewer than one in three people has heard of this guy.

Expect tomorrow‘s headlines about this Iowa poll to be something along the lines of Herman Cain?  Huh?

That said, Mr. Cain‘s popularity among Republicans in Iowa is not without foreshadowing.  FOX News Channel hosted the first Republican presidential candidates‘ debate earlier this month.  When the debate was over, FOX‘s resident pollster language guy asked a focus group what they thought at the candidates at that debate—Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Gary Johnston, Rick Santorum.  No one—not even the FOX News pollster expected this reaction from the focus group.


FRANK LUNTZ, FOX NEWS POLLSTER:  Sean, we got 29 of the most important people in America sitting right behind me right now.  Let‘s go right to them.

Who won the debate?  Let‘s go now in alphabetical order.  How many of you think Herman Cain won the debate?

Well, we can stop right there.


MADDOW:  Because there aren‘t any other hands left to go up for the other guys.

Since then—since that debate, Herman Cain has had double digit levels of support in three national polls -- 10 percent in a CNN poll, 13 percent in a “Daily Caller” poll, and 14 percent in a Zogby poll.

As Nate Silver points out at “The New York Times,” other than Herman Cain, there are just three other candidates in modern political history who had 10 percent or more of the vote in any early primary poll despite having name recognition below 50 percent.  Just three of them in modern history:

Michael Dukakis in ‘87, John Edwards in ‘03, and John McCain in 1999.

Mr. Dukakis went on to become the Democratic nominee for president.  John Edwards came in second and became John Kerry‘s running mate.  John McCain also came in second and then went on to be the Republican nominee the next time around.

So, if past is any prologue, holy molly, get to know Herman Cain.

Herman Cain is running for president.  He is a former CEO and self-made man.  He‘s announced his candidacy, attended the only Republican debate so far, and he made this nifty campaign music video which we were watching all day at the office.  It has very good lighting.

His poll numbers are also way more than respectable—way more respectable, say, than Tim Pawlenty‘s.  Sorry, Governor.

So why isn‘t Herman Cain the darling of the Sunday political talk shows?  Why hasn‘t he been booked on any of them other than “FOX News Sunday”?  Why isn‘t Herman Cain‘s name mentioned in the same breath as a Pawlenty or a Gingrich or even a Bachmann, all of whom are, according to the latest polling less popular than Herman Cain is in Iowa?

Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Perry, professor of political science at Tulane University, and also an MSNBC contributor.

Professor Harris-Perry, congratulations on your Tulane gig.  That‘s very exciting.


Well, the most exciting thing is that the chair I am sitting in here in New Orleans, Mr. Herman Cain has been sitting in a great deal over the course of the last week.  So, I feel very close to the center of GOP power at the moment.

MADDOW:  Well, tell me about what Herman Cain is at the center of.  He is polling great.  He is not being taken seriously by the commentariat.  Even now as a sort of right wing blog aggregators and right wing thought sites like “Red State,” “Daily Caller” and “National Review” and all these places are starting to give him some glowing coverage.  It‘s not being picked up in the beltway.

What do you think makes sense right now about Herman Cain?

HARRIS-PERRY:  Well, I tell you what—nothing is better for Herman

Cain than not being picked up by the inside the Beltway folks.  That‘s

exactly his base,

As you were talking about earlier with the kind of FOX News watchers, they respect precisely the people who are most either disrespected, made fun of, or ignored by mainstream media and typical kingmakers.  So, to the extent that he actually stays away from that, he actually has the capacity to build this sort of interesting base.

So, actually for now, for him, being ignored is probably campaign strategy number one.

MADDOW:  If Mr. Cain continues to poll as well as he has been polling

can that dynamic that you described actually end up being sort of a fissure in the party?  We‘ve seen a little bit of this in the phenomenon of Sarah Palin‘s candidacy, a sort of split between the grassroots and between the kingmakers and so-called elite of the party.  Could this exacerbate that?


HARRIS-PERRY:  It could.  And, look, I want you to hear what you just said for a second.  You said with Mr. Cain, say that five times fast—Mr.  Cain Mr. Cain Mr. Cain and Sarah Palin.

The fact is that I know Herman Cain doesn‘t have good name recognition, but there was a Mr. McCain who just ran for president with Sarah Palin, and I know it sounds like how could people be getting that wrong on a poll.  But the fact is having this Cain rhythm in the back of his last name is going to help push polls—pushing polls will continue to, you know, sort of keep this coverage moving.

And the fact is, the more that you watch those Herman Cain videos where he‘s got this great back story and interesting music and this, you know, rugged individualism—all of those are things that eventually can turn into probably not a presidential win, but certainly, a primetime spot in the GOP convention next summer and maybe, right, as you‘ve seen with those earlier numbers, maybe even a vice presidential bid.

MADDOW:  You seriously think people are hearing Herman Cain and thinking John McCain?  I just—I -- 

HARRIS-PERRY:  I know.  I know it sounds like that is impossible, but I‘ll tell you, you know, part of what went on early on with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is the early polls where you got strange racial results is that people were hearing Clinton and they weren‘t necessarily distinguishing between Bill and Hillary, and they were hearing Obama and thinking, who?  And in fact, maybe even thinking some other name that is more distressing.  And it really took some learning.

The issue here is for Cain getting this learning, just getting enough of the story.  I mean, what if it was only two points?  But those two points put him in double digits.  Those double digits make it a story.  It‘s not a bad strategy.

MADDOW:  And watching what happens with those poll numbers as his name recognition increases is going to be fascinating.

Melissa Harris-Perry—

HARRIS-PERRY:  The whole thing is fascinating.

MADDOW:  I know.  It‘s a whole year of it.

Political science professor at Tulane, MSNBC contributor—thank you very much.  Melissa, it‘s great to see you.


MADDOW:  Picture something bigger than a baseball diamond and slower than a turtle.  It is “The Best New Thing in the World Today.”  It‘s awesome.  That‘s next.


MADDOW:  “The Best New Thing in the World Today” is about giganticness and it is something we will never see again.

You ever known anybody who had a flat bed truck?  Imagine a flat bed truck where the flat bed is the size of a baseball diamond.  That is how they move space shuttles.  This is the space shuttle Atlantis getting set to fly the very last mission of the space shuttle program.

About an hour and 15 minutes ago, Atlantis began to leave the vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  The shuttle has to go from there to the launch pad.  It‘s not very far, about three and a half miles.

But how do you move something that big on ground?  How do you transport it?

Well, it goes on the largest self-powered land vehicle in the world.  They call it “The Crawler.”  The whole stack, the rocket boosters and everything is standing upright on the back of “The Crawler” and it crawls more slowly than you can possibly imagine.  It takes half the night to go three and a half miles.

NASA has two crawlers.  They‘ve been transporting rockets to the launch pad along a specially-built giant road called “The Crawler Way” since 1966.  The Crawler is not only super slow and super big, biggest in the world, it is super precise.  Crawler drivers have to keep the shuttle stack level on top of this baseball diamond sized deck by operating a complex system of 16 hydraulic cylinders.

NASA says the leveling system is so precise that the tip of the shuttle nose barely moves even when the Crawler goes up and incline to the launch pad—the top speed of two miles an hour, gas mileage of 32 feet per gallon.

As the shuttle program comes to an end this last image of the amazing Crawler is “The Best New Thing in the World Today.”

Now, it‘s time for THE ED SHOW.  Have a good night.



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