Guests: Richard Wolffe, Chris Hayes
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I know you did that early on, but I had to have believed that—I had to have believed that Tim Pawlenty, some of the shine would be with off him a little bit for you, because he hasn‘t gone anywhere in the past few weeks. His numbers were small and getting smaller!
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: Well, it‘s just that it‘s so early now that that doesn‘t matter in my analysis, and I‘m being very patient with that analysis, and I‘m watching Romney get in trouble, Gingrich obviously flaming out, and I just don‘t see who survives this. Mitch Daniels, you know, isn‘t going to do it.
O‘DONNELL: I don‘t think Huntsman‘s going to take off. So, I‘m keeping my one dollar on Pawlenty.
MADDOW: All right. Well, all I‘m saying is, erman-hey, en-kay (ph).
That‘s all I‘m saying.
O‘DONNELL: OK. All right. I‘m going to think about him. OK.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Imagine you are speaker of the House, third in line to the presidency, right, like John Boehner is or Nancy Pelosi was. Imagine you‘ve got that high-powered, that high-profile of a job. An election is coming up, you win, you‘re re-elected to your seat, but a few days later you do this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: It hit like a bombshell. The speaker of the House is deciding to step aside and leave Congress. The former history professor from Georgia will make history by leaving Washington now, having realized he didn‘t have the votes to stay on.
NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: For me, to stay in the House would make it impossible for a new leader to have a chance to grow, to learn, and to do what they need to do. And I think there comes a time when you‘ve got to step out and let a new team take over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The end of Newt Gingrich‘s career in Congress is often misremembered these days—wrongly remembered as a sex scandal. It was not a sex scandal.
The sex scandal about Newt Gingrich having an extramarital affair with a staffer while simultaneously impeaching President Clinton for the president‘s affair, that scandal didn‘t actually break until after Newt Gingrich had already quit and left Washington. The scandal, when Newt Gingrich resigned from Congress, was actually an ethics scandal. In 1996, a bipartisan group in Congress filed an ethics complaint against Newt Gingrich, alleging that he improperly took gifts and contributions from his own political action committee.
As speaker, Mr. Gingrich had received special permission to teach a college course. His political action committee putting up the money for that course, and promoting it, the mass mailings advertising that course, the totally partisan political curriculum of that course—all of those things were violations of the terms by which Mr. Gingrich got special permission to do that course.
So, after those ethics charges were filed against him, Mr. Gingrich did admit that he had violated House rules, and the House Ethics Committee recommended that he face an unprecedented reprimand from his colleagues and pay $300,000 in additional sanctions after concluding that his use of tax-deductible money for political purposes and inaccurate information supplied to investigators represented intentional or reckless disregard of House rules. That‘s how “The Associated Press” put it at the time.
Mr. Gingrich agreed to pay that $300,000 fine. To pay it, he got a loan from Senator Bob Dole, at the time. The IRS eventually cleared Mr. Gingrich and his PAC of wrongdoing and those charges.
But Newt Gingrich would never again have to borrow money from Bob Dole to pay his fines, or to pay anything else. Once he was free of Congress, Newt Gingrich started building up his Newt Gingrich empire—ka-ching! He started the Center for Health Transformation, to which drug companies and insurance companies paid tens of or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to join.
He founded American Solutions for Winning the Future, and a PAC by the same name, starting with a million bucks from a casino millionaire, 1.7 million voter and donor contacts, raising $32 million between 2009 and 2010. American Solutions for Winning the Future was a big dollar operation.
And, of course, Gingrich Productions. Gingrich Productions, which produces and markets DVDs on energy and Ronald Reagan and the threat of radical Islam.
But, really, nothing else in Newt Gingrich‘s empire compares to Newt Gingrich as author. This is where he is the most, literally, prolific. He is his own cottage industry in publishing.
Look at what he‘s done. “Valley Forge: George Washington and the Crucible of Victory,” “To Save America: Stopping Obama‘s Secular-Socialist Machine,” “To Try Men‘s Souls: A Novel George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom ,” “Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War,” “The Gettysburg Trilogy,” “The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own,” “Real Change: The Fight of America‘s Future,” “Real Change:
From the World That Fails to the World that Works,” “Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th,” “Rediscovering God in America,” “A Nation Like No Other,” “Why American Exceptionalism Matters,” “1945,” “Days of Infamy,” “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny,” “Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant, The Final Victory,” “Lessons Learned the Hard Way: A Personal Report,” “5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours,” and out in November of this year, “The Battle of the Crater,” which is his new novel.
Yes, all of those books are Newt Gingrich‘s books. That was not me reading from his library, that‘s the part of the library that‘s under Gingrich, N.
This has all been a big dollar operation for Newt Gingrich. And it has to be noted that his zeal to hawk his wares has known not the boundaries of good taste.
You‘ll recall December 7th, attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Gingrich sends this tweet, “The 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack is a good time to remind folks of our novels, Pearl Harbor and days of infamy, Newt.” Could be a good time. Might also not be.
Beyond the movies and the DVDs and the many, many, many, many books, Mr. Gingrich has also had a paid FOX News gig. He also gives speeches for money. And he has done a ton of what looks like very lucrative work in direct mail scams and fax scams. He gives out fake awards, see?
This coveted prize was sent to the mother of a reporter at “The Huffington Post.” She‘s a doctor. It‘s a casual appearing note, directly from the Newt Gingrich, revealing that reporter Sam Stein‘s mom, the doctor, had, quote, “made the cut,” as one of Newt‘s, quote, “2010 champions of medicine.”
Mr. Gingrich is going to give Sam‘s mom an award, she made the cut. Mr. Gingrich even included a picture of what the award would look like, maybe in her office.
Upon calling for more information about these new laurels, Newt Gingrich‘s suckers—I mean, champions, would discover that in order to accept a prestigious award like, you‘d first have to send Newt Gingrich $5,000.
Another one of Newt Gingrich‘s scams was the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Remember this one? That award also entitles the winner to pay Newt Gingrich $5,000. That scam scurried out into the light when Mr. Gingrich selected as one of his prestigious award winners the very friendly owner of a Dallas strip club, called The Lodge.
Did Mr. Gingrich really think The Lodge was a prestigious business, deserving of having bestowed upon it a prestigious award that bore Newt Gingrich‘s highly monetized name? No, sadly. Although The Lodge was nothing but nice to us when we reported on this story, it seems like Newt Gingrich‘s scam kind of just involved picking businesses at random and trying to scam them out of cash.
The best thing about The Lodge strip club/Newt Gingrich scam, though, after he got called out on that the first time, having realized the awkwardness of being Newt Gingrich giving awards to strip clubs, Newt Gingrich hit The Lodge owner up again the following year. He must have popped in the database again. This time, he hit her up for $2,000, again, to receive a Newt reward.
Now, the success of any direct mail scam, like any good con, depends on the motivation of the mark, the person who is the sucker here, the person who is going to get conned out of their money has to believe that they‘re going to get something out of this whole process, or else they would walk away from it at the outset. They have to believe that in forfeiting their money, or at least in giving the scammer access to their money, they‘re going to get something they want in return. Doesn‘t matter if you‘re talking about three-card Monte on the street or e-mails from a Nigerian prince with a bank account only you can access with your Social Security number, it‘s the same deal for conning people, right?
In the case of the Newt Gingrich scams, the motivation of the mark, the reason people might conceivably participate in these scams, is because they had to believe that something was in it for them. And in the Newt scams, that something that might be in it for them was access to and association with this influential person we‘ve all heard of named Newt Gingrich.
The perception that Newt Gingrich is an important and influential person has been key to his money-making, particularly to his fax scams and his direct mail scams.
So, for Newt Gingrich, that has meant for a long time now flirting with maybe potentially running for president. Not actually running, of course, that might interfere with one‘s ability to make money, but threatening to run, saying that he might run in order to prompt people, especially on TV, to ask him whether he‘s running, so as to further the perception of his importance.
This time around, I think maybe in part because of news coverage of the scammy ways in which he has been scamming people out of money for years, Newt Gingrich decided this year that he really did have to run.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: And we reached a crossroads to say either, I really either believe the things I‘ve said my whole life, or I‘d be a fraud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: People were catching on, maybe, to the faking it all these years, maybe.
So this year, this election cycle, Newt Gingrich did actually try to run, sort of. The announcement itself was a bit of a false start. A spokesperson told an Iowa paper Newt Gingrich would announce his candidacy. But then later that same day, there was news that he would not with announcing his candidacy. It would just be an exploratory committee.
And then nobody could explain why the campaign didn‘t know what it was doing. He did eventually explain the exploratory thing. Remember, NewtExplorer? And then eventually he declared he was running. He declared that on Twitter, and on YouTube, and on FOX News—all in a jumble.
And then, immediately, he had to execute a complicated back-flip on the most important and obvious issues in Republican politics this year, the Paul Ryan/kill Medicare thing. On the first weekend of his announced campaign, Mr. Gingrich came out strongly against the Paul Ryan kill Medicare thing, and then immediately thereafter, he came out strongly for it! And then he got very mad that anyone might have noticed the switch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: You want me to say, on the record, any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Anybody who quotes me verbatim is lying.
At the same time, though, while Mr. Gingrich was making the Paul Ryan kill Medicare confusion not only worse but weirder—remember he was also fighting an odd little scandal about Tiffany‘s at the same time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: You owed between $250,000 and $500,000 to a jewelry company. What was that about, Mr. Speaker?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, it‘s about obeying the law. She filed a disclosure and it‘s been sitting there for five years. We‘re private citizens. I work very hard. We have a reasonably good income.
I currently owe nothing except—I owe one mortgage on a house that‘s rental property in Wisconsin. Everything else is totally paid for. My home is paid for, my cars are paid for. We don‘t have a second house, we don‘t do—you know, we don‘t elaborate things.
SCHIEFFER: Did you owe $500,000 to a jewelry company at one point?
GINGRICH: We had a revolving fund.
SCHIEFFER: Well, what does that mean?
GINGRICH: It means that we had a revolving fund. That it was a --
SCHIEFFER: I mean, who buys $500,000 worth of jewelry on credit?
GINGRICH: No, it‘s a—go talk to Tiffany‘s. It‘s a standard, no-interest account.
SCHIEFFER: How long did you owe it?
GINGRICH: I have no idea. But it was paid off automatically. We paid no interest on it. There was no problem with it. It‘s a normal way of doing business.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I—I mean, it‘s very odd to me that someone would run up $500,000 bill at a jewelry store.
GINGRICH: Well, go talk to Tiffany‘s. All I‘m telling you is, we are very frugal. We, in fact, live within our budget. We owe nothing.
SCHIEFFER: What did you buy?
GINGRICH: We owe nothing. Well, it‘s a—it‘s my private life.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I understand.
GINGRICH: I understand, I‘m just suggesting to you --
SCHIEFFER: I mean, you‘re running for president.
SCHIEFFER: You‘re going to be the guy in charge of the Treasury Department, and it just sticks out like a sore thumb.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This wasn‘t so much a scandal, the Tiffany‘s thing, as it was amazing that Newt Gingrich had no answer to this. “Go talk to Tiffany‘s”? “We‘re very frugal. Go talk to Tiffany‘s,” he says again.
Mr. Gingrich didn‘t do anything wrong by having a $500,000 revolving charge account at a diamond store, but he did not have a way to explain it except by insisting that he‘s frugal. So, this was not a scandal so much as it was an image problem. But it was kind of big image problem.
How do you go about mending that image problem if you‘re Newt Gingrich? If you‘re Newt Gingrich, you decide to go on a two-week luxury cruise liner vacation to the Greek islands, and that apparently was the straw that broke the camel‘s back.
That issue specifically cited in the news coverage today of Newt Gingrich‘s bombshell—his entire staff at Newt headquarters, at Newt New Hampshire, at Newt Iowa, all resigning, all at once.
Quote, “Among the issues leading to the resignations, according to knowledgeable sources, was the two-week vacation that Gingrich and his wife, Callista, insisted upon taking, against the advice of his top political staff, coming, as it did, after one of the most disastrous campaign launches in recent memory, it raised question.”
Mr. Gingrich‘s Iowa campaign director told us this today, quote, “The vision for the campaign was different. It came down to the fact that we thought there needed to be more of an investment of campaign resources and time from the candidate to make this happen, to be successful in Iowa and New Hampshire. We didn‘t see this commitment to this path to success. He seemed to have a different vision.
We felt it best that he surround himself with folks who agreed with his vision of where the campaign needed to go. In order to be successful, you have to devote the time, energy, and resources. He had one path and his team had another.”
So, his entire staff quit, en mass masse, everywhere today.
Is Newt Gingrich‘s presidential campaign dead? Who knows? Anything could happen.
Mr. Gingrich posted a Facebook message today saying he would re-launch his campaign on Sunday. And to be fair, for perspective, at this point in the 2008 campaign, John McCain had lost a lot of his campaign advisers, too. And a lot of people thought that he was a dead politician walking. So, maybe Newt Gingrich‘s sort of fake campaign is totally dead now. Or maybe Newt Gingrich is just like John McCain. Does anybody believe that?
MADDOW: We just got in some big new news about the Republican presidential race. Guess who is not going to Iowa for the big Iowa straw poll that all the candidates usually do back-flips over? That news is next.
MADDOW: Mitt Romney will not be a candidate this August in the Iowa straw poll. The straw poll is the precursor to the Iowa caucuses in January. It is the first actual contest of the presidential primaries every year. And, therefore, even though it is not an actual election, but rather a straw poll, it is traditionally treated as something just shy of the Holy Grail by people running for president every year.
But this year, Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican front-runner, the former governor of Massachusetts, will be skipping it.
His campaign manager telling NBC News tonight, quote, “Our campaign has made the decision to not participate in any straw polls, whether it‘s in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, or some place else. We respect the straw poll process. We will focus our energy and resources on winning primaries and caucuses. We look forward to bringing Mitt Romney‘s strong pro-jobs message to every part of the country.”
In terms of the strategy at play here, Mitt Romney, of course, spent lavishly in Iowa before the caucuses last time around, in the 2008 primaries. He was casting himself that time around as a social conservative. When former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee out-socially conservatived him, Mr. Romney ended up finishing second in Iowa, which given how much he had invested there, given how lavishly he had spent there, how obvious his campaign was trying to win it, and how many resources they had devoted toward trying to, when Mitt Romney came in second in Iowa in 2008, it constituted a major blow to his hopes of gaining his party‘s nomination.
This time around, Mitt Romney is not trying to run as the socially conservative guy, he‘s trying to run as the economic turnaround guy, the private sector job creating guy—making an appeal to the very extreme conservatives who participate in Iowa Republican Party politics, maybe a muddling (ph) factor for the jobs, jobs, jobs image that Mr. Romney is trying to craft this time around.
According to 2008 Election Day survey cited by “The Wall Street Journal” tonight, fully 60 percent of Iowa caucus-goers call themselves evangelical or born-again Christians.
Tonight, Newt Gingrich made news involuntarily with a campaign implosion like nothing anybody has ever really seen before.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, made news by making a move, a move away from Iowa. A move that suggests that his run for the Republican nomination starts in New Hampshire, not in Iowa at all, and represents a total rejection of the way he tried to run last time around, as well as a total rejection of Iowa Republican voters.
Joining us now, MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe.
Richard, thank you for being here. It‘s nice to have you here.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: My pleasure, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Why is the Romney campaign skipping the Iowa straw poll, and does this mean he‘s going to really skip campaigning for the Iowa caucuses?
WOLFFE: No, it doesn‘t. And, look, he spent a couple million bucks on this last time, and still lost in Iowa. And, by the way, I know there‘s a lot of respect paid, mostly by political reporters to the straw poll.
As someone who saw it in ‘99, when there was a Governor Bush and Steve Forbes duking it out in the Iowa straw poll, let me just say that the Iowa straw poll is the most corrupt part of the early presidential process in this country, and, by the way, there‘s a lot of competition for that prize. You have to bus people in, you pay their tickets, you feed them, you water them, and you do everything but sign the check to get their votes.
So, it worked for him last time. He won the straw poll, that didn‘t mean anything about his organization. The Bush people say it‘s a way of building organization in Iowa, that‘s what it did for them.
But, honestly, if you can just buy it, what‘s the value of it? You‘re just getting media attention. He‘s downgrading his prospects in Iowa without walking away from it completely. But it‘s not a place for him. And honestly, the straw poll is incredibly corrupt and meaningless.
MADDOW: It‘s starting to feel like Iowa—there‘s a lot of downside for a lot of candidates, and not very much upside for anyone. When you look at the sort of large scale public events that are being organized in Iowa right now, ahead of the straw poll, and leading up to the caucuses, they are, by the very, very far edge of the social conservative wing of the Republican Party.
And while there are a lot of candidates fighting it out for that territory, it doesn‘t seem like have many of them are going to benefit from having one of them chosen in Iowa. I just wonder if Iowa itself is going to be skipped by some of the candidates who think they can‘t compete with the Michele Bachmanns and the Herman Cains and the Rick Santorums on the abortion stuff.
WOLFFE: Well, in the current field, I think that‘s right, but, you know, people tried to say the same thing about the Democratic caucuses in Iowa in ‘07 and ‘08 and then this guy Barack Obama won, and suddenly you get this slingshot into the early states. There is nothing like winning early on.
And I think the dynamic for Republicans now is actually not dissimilar to what Democrats faced in that period, or the voters are totally different. The dynamic is: do you want to get this populist, insurgent character, or you want the establishment guys?
The establishment guys are finding it difficult. They can see all the downside. But if you get the right populist there, and I‘m not talking about Michele Bachmann, but say it was a Rick Perry or a Sarah Palin, you do get this momentum that you can take into these other states, and these primaries are still too close together for someone to block that momentum.
So, you may get tripped up in New Hampshire, but South Carolina‘s pretty close behind that, and the electorate isn‘t all that different.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the other big news, with Newt Gingrich‘s campaign disappearing around him today. This coordinated en masse resignation that Newt Gingrich‘s campaign suffered today. Some people today are pointing out that several of Newt‘s top-ranking staffers have their history with Rick Perry.
Do you see this resignation today, this implosion of Newt‘s campaign, as being a sign that Rick Perry himself might be getting in?
WOLFFE: I think it‘s certainly a sign that the staffers realize, (a), they were signed up to the wrong horse, and (b), are looking elsewhere.
And there are certain weasel words in this story that kind of give them away. When they start blaming the candidate‘s wife, for instance, it‘s a way of saying, I made a character judgment, it was a mistake, and I want to blame it on the Lady Macbeth figure. It‘s always a mistake and it reflects on their own judgment.
So, yes, there‘s a marketplace for these people with especially on the ground experience in those early states. Is it Rick Perry? Is it someone else? Is it just a sign that the guy could not run his way out of a paper bag? All of those things may be true.
We do have to be careful. John McCain‘s campaign did collapse, as you pointed out, earlier on. I was one of the many people who wrote the story saying his campaign was over. And it wasn‘t my judgment. The people who left his campaign said it was over.
So, he has time to come back I don‘t think he has the personal qualities to come back, like John McCain did. But, yes, there are clearly other people who can come in at this stage and get that ticket, that place on the ticket for social conservatives, an iconoclast, someone who‘s going to come out and say, “I‘m the insurgent, I‘m coming to take back the party.”
MADDOW: Is there anybody in particular who benefits the most from Newt Gingrich being out, or were his unfavorables so high and his campaign going so poorly that there‘s no scraps to pick up from him leaving if this is the end of his campaign?
WOLFFE: I don‘t think any of the current field does. But this slot, that Perry/Palin slot, is out there. And Gingrich clearly isn‘t going to fill it. I don‘t think Michele Bachmann is going to fill it.
But what you have in Gingrich or what you had in Gingrich was somebody who could say, I have experience, which Bachmann clearly doesn‘t have, but I‘m also the iconoclast, the different thinker who‘s going to change the way things are done.
Clearly, going on a luxury cruise to the Greek islands is not the right way to change the way business is done in Washington. Someone else is going to make that argument. And that‘ll make you more convincing than Gingrich ever could.
MADDOW: When he does drop out, mark my words, there will be a way to send him money to mark the occasion, that you‘ll make very clear to everyone who cares.
WOLFFE: And maybe Romney should do that in Iowa.
MADDOW: Yes, although Mitt Romney can—sort of has the money going for him already. We‘ll have to see.
Richard Wolffe, MSNBC political analyst—Richard, it‘s great to have you here on the show. Thanks a lot.
WOLFFE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Maybe Congressman Anthony Weiner should resign, maybe he should not. But a presidential wannabe who did the wrong thing when he was hip-deep in a sex scandal, way skuzzier, way more unethical, and way more impeachable, a presidential wannabe with that on his resume frankly ought to put a cork in it about Anthony Weiner. That story is coming up.
MADDOW: We had two nominees in-house today for “Best New Thing in the World.” The first was straight out of what, at first, looked like breaking news. “Reuters” this afternoon ran a story saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was angling not only to leave the administration, but to get a new job as head of the World Bank. Wow! Scoop, “Reuters.”
Don‘t get too excited, though. Clinton‘s spokesman Phillippe Reines told NBC News in response, quote, “It‘s 100 percent untrue. ‘Reuters‘ is wrong. That‘s on the record.”
OK. But the candidate for “The Best New Thing in the World Today” was not his comment—although that was very clear. It was not his comment. It was the comment on the Hillary Clinton story from a member of the Clinton camp, as they say, someone speaking anonymously to ABC‘s Jack Tapper—Jake Tapper, excuse me.
The quote, I want to be exactly here, the quote in response to “Reuters” saying Hillary Clinton is going to the World Bank, the quote from Hillary Clinton‘s camp, and I quote—“total crappola.” Crappola, apparently a technical term, and not one that comes up in the news all that often.
That was one candidate for “Best New Thing in the World Today.” It is not what won. What won is, of course, coming up right at the end of the show tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I had done what congressman Weiner had done, I‘d be worried about my family and be getting my life back together and not trying to go out and be a congressman and try to profess to be a leader of this country. I think that, you know, I would have taken different steps, I would have stepped down and done what‘s best for the people that I love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum, weighing in with his thoughts on the Anthony Weiner scandal. As an ostentatiously upstanding family values guy, Mr. Santorum says the right thing to do, the moral, family-loving thing to do, what he would do if he‘d been caught sending dirty pictures to ladies on the Interwebs, would be to step down, would be to resign from Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: I‘d be worried about my family. I would have taken different steps. I would have stepped down and done what‘s best for the people that I love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, based on his superior family values and love of his family, Mr. Santorum would have handled this whole thing quite differently if this had been his sex scandal.
It turns out this is less hypothetical than you think. This is sort of an empirical question as to what Rick Santorum would do in this situation. Rick Santorum does not have an Internet sex scandal of his own, but he was involved in a sex scandal. He was very deeply involved in someone else‘s sex scandal.
In fact, it was because he was known as an ostentatiously pious family values guy that he got caught up in his friend, John Ensign‘s sex scandal. John Ensign, you‘ll remember, is the now former Nevada senator who was shtooping one of his staffers, his wife‘s best friends, who was married to another one of his staffers. Senator Ensign ultimately saw fire the woman he was sleeping with from his staff and to fire her husband from his staff, and to have his parents pay off with $96,000 and to set the husband up in a lobbying job in apparent violation of ethics rules.
On June 15th, 2009, Doug Hampton, the husband of the woman Senator Ensign had been shtooping, Doug Hampton sent this e-mail to the senator‘s friend, Rick Santorum.
It said, quote, “I am reaching out to you because I would like your help. I do know about you and your relationship with John Ensign. I‘m also aware of the man you profess to be and the positions you have taken publicly with regards to family, integrity, and ethics. I am sending this note along to you because of your affiliation with FOX News, and what I have put in motion with the letter I have sent Megyn Kelly at FOX News. I have tried for one year with John and others to resolve an unbelievable set of actions that John initiated and perpetuated bringing great destruction to me and my family.”
Doug Hampton attached to that e-mail to Rick Santorum the letter he had sent to FOX News host Megyn Kelly, and that told the story of Senator Ensign‘s pursuit of and affair with Doug‘s wife, and of Senator Ensign firing both Doug and his wife.
So, what do you think Rick Santorum did with this information? I mean, what would be the family values thing to do in this situation? Apparently, if you‘re Rick Santorum, it‘s to tip off your pal who has this sex scandal, to let him know that he‘s about to be exposed.
Rick Santorum got that e-mail from Doug Hampton on June 15th. The very next day, June 16th, Senator Ensign called a press conference and admitted to the affair, not to all the other stuff, just to the affair, and he said he would not be stepping down. That timing, that one day between the e-mail and the press conference had long caused Doug Hampton to speculate that maybe Rick Santorum has been the source of the tip-off to Ensign, that this was all about to come out.
Indeed, Doug Hampton‘s suspicions were confirmed by an exhaustive and damning report released last month by the ethics committee. Listen to this, quote, “On June 15th, 2009, Mr. Hampton forwarded a copy of the letter he had rain to FOX News in an e-mail to former Senator Rick Santorum. He asked Senator Santorum for help with the matter. Senator Santorum”—get this—“Senator Santorum forwarded Mr. Hampton‘s e-mail and the letter to Senator Ensign‘s at his Gmail address that evening at approximately 10:20 p.m.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: I‘d be worried about my family and I would have taken a different step. I would have stepped down and done what‘s the best for the people that I love.
(END VIDEO CILP)
MADDOW: According to Mr. Santorum‘s ostentatiously pious family values, for which you, of course, should elect him president so he can protect the country from your bad family values, according to Rick Santorum, when faced with a Democratic sex scandal, the obvious, moral solution is—immediate shameful resignation for your family‘s sake.
But when faced with a Republican sex and lobbying and cover-up and payoff and abuse of power and harassment scandal, the solution is a swift and quiet tip to let the bad guy get ahead of any bad press, to go let the bad guy contain the scandal for a while anyway, and let him refuse steadfastly to resign for years until he was about to be thrown out of office.
Rick Santorum never called for John Ensign to resign. For what it‘s worth, he also never called for David Vitter to resign—but Anthony Weiner with must resign.
So, we can surmise that presidential candidate Rick Santorum‘s guide to sex scandal etiquette appears to be one sentence long: It‘s OK if you are a Republican. Amen.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine and a MSNBC contributor.
Chris, it‘s good to see you. Thanks for being here.
you too. >> can you run as the family values guy for president after you tipped off John Ensign to help him get ahead of the press on your sex scandal?
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Great to see you, too, Rachel.
MADDOW: Can you run as the family values guy for president after you tipped off John Ensign, to help get ahead of the press on his sex scandal?
HAYES: Yes, because I think you‘re overlooking one of the canonical family values as found in Leviticus, is that bros should look out for fellow bros. This is something that like that‘s overlooked a lot, but it‘s in there somewhere that you got to, you know, you got to look out for your homey when he‘s mired in a scandal.
No, look, it‘s obviously preposterous. I mean, I think that—I generally think that there‘s principle here and this is just rank opportunism and Santorum is a preposterous marginal candidate and he‘s trying to get his name in the headlines.
But I also think what rankles about this, it reminds me a lot of the Clinton years also which is that the kind of cheapest ways to score a family values point, right, the most kind of cost-free way of doing it is just to parachute in with some censorious statement about someone else‘s problems. I mean, it doesn‘t cost anything. You don‘t have to do anything.
When you are faced with tough moral choices, that is where these sorts of values that you profess actually come to bear. The easiest thing in the world is to look—is to look at this sort of awful situation that‘s developing and score a cheap point. And I think that‘s what‘s sort of maddening about that statement.
MADDOW: See, I feel like I understand why Republicans are calling for Anthony Weiner‘s resignation, while David Vitter and John Ensign get to stay. I mean, I think, as you say, it‘s just opportunism, it‘s just hypocrisy.
MADDOW: What is going on with the, what is it, nine or 10 Democrats now who are also calling on Anthony Weiner to resign? They don‘t have the same “David Vitter shouldn‘t go” problem.
HAYES: Yes, sure.
MADDOW: But they‘re all calling for Weiner to go.
HAYES: I think it‘s two things. I think, one is that Anthony Weiner is not the most popular member of the Democratic Caucus amongst his colleagues. He is, obviously, highly visible, very brash—extremely, extremely ambitious. Everyone knows this.
He‘s not the kind of person who has a ton of sort of close relationships, I think, on the Hill. And so, I think that‘s part of it.
The other part is that, I think, it‘s just this calculation of, either this should end or he should shut up or we should just move on. I think the impulse is to stop talking about Anthony Weiner, which I think is an impulse that, Lord, I share, and I hope most of the country does at this point, that that, you know, just can cut it of and maybe we‘ll move on to something else.
MADDOW: Well, what explains the media blitz over Anthony Weiner that will not stop? I mean, we have—again, this is an empirical question. We have a source of comparison. Comparatively, nothing about John Ensign and even David Vitter, those scandals, as salacious as they were, and much more complicated, interesting, salacious, evil, arguably than this, got almost nothing. But the Anthony Weiner saga will not end.
HAYES: You know, I‘ve been thinking about this a lot over the past week. I think there‘s a few things. One is that I think we have -- (a), there‘s just a titillation factor, right? These photos are out there, we see the photos, and there‘s some photo that Andrew Breitbart is withholding and then it gets circulated around. There‘s just this sort of really gross kind of feeding frenzy over the raw titillation of the thing.
And then I also think there‘s kind of a pro found level at which both the political observers, the media, and the country at large doesn‘t have any kind of set canonical list of what kind of—what sort of overstepping of boundaries brings what sanctions. And so, it‘s easy to kind of obsess over this because no one can read in the law book, oh, you did this, and now this is the result.
MADDOW: I don‘t know. The whole hookers thing with David Vitter, you know?
HAYES: I know! I know! The Vitter thing—but let me just say one more thing. And quickly—is that the lesson of Vitter and the lesson of Donald Rumsfeld and Abu Ghraib is that if you just don‘t resign, it goes away. That‘s the lesson. Just don‘t resign and it goes away.
MADDOW: That‘s true. Scandals of all kind.
HAYES: Yes, absolutely. That is the lesson.
MADDOW: Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine and MSNBC contributor—thank you, my friend. Appreciate it.
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: “Best New Thing in the World Today” still to come.
And a Florida car dealership teaches the single scariest story in all of today‘s election news. It is definitely not about Anthony Weiner, it is not about Iowa, it is not about New Hampshire, it is not about—well, you know, it‘s about a Hyundai dealership in Florida. But it is an incredible story. And that‘s next.
MADDOW: Mea culpa. We have to take a trip to the Department of Corrections. A few minutes ago in telling the history of Newt Gingrich‘s career implosion in the House of Representatives, I said that newt had accepted a $300,000 loan from Bob Dole in order to pay his big ethics charges fine. However, after, indeed, arranging that loan, Mr. Gingrich was told by the ethics committee that he could not pay the whole fine via a loan by Bob Dole. Mr. Gingrich then ultimately decided to turn down that loan and pay the fine with his own money.
As reported by “The Washington Post,” though, at the time, he also, by that point, conveniently no longer needed the loan from Mr. Dole, because by that point, Newt was raking in so much money off of his book sales.
So, the Bob Dole loan, while it was arranged, ultimately did not end up being the Bob Dole loan paid to the ethics committee for those charges. That was my error. I am sorry for having misstated it. I apologize.
And we will be right back.
MADDOW: In 2006, employees at three different car dealerships in Florida, one in Venice, one in Sarasota, and one in Jacksonville, they all decided that they all wanted to contribute money to one particular congressional campaign. Employees of those dealerships, their spouses, their relatives, their business partners all struck with the same idea at roughly the same time.
The Federal Election Commission is now asking a court to impose a fine of almost $68,000 on one of those dealerships, the one in Jacksonville, the one that used to be called Buchanan Jenkins Hyundai. The FEC alleging that the employees at that dealership weren‘t all just struck at the same time with the same idea to donate to that congressional campaign. They were actually pushed, forced to make those campaign donations and then the dealership reimbursed them.
So, in effect, the dealership was sending tens of thousands of dollars to a congressional campaign, but it was forcing its employees to be middlemen, to let the dealership launder that corporate donation through the employees, which is gross. Whose congressional campaign was this? A man named Vern Buchanan. Buchanan as in Buchanan Jenkins Hyundai, the name of that dealership in Jacksonville.
Mr. Buchanan owned a stake in that dealership. He has since sold it. The dealership changed its names. But at the time of the donations, he was the muckety-muck there.
His old business partner, the majority owner of the dealership, says he admits the company reimbursed the employees for those donations but he said they only did so because Vern Buchanan told them to. He said it was a directive issued by Buchanan.
Congressman Buchanan, he‘s now a congressman, because he won the election with the help of all those donations, a spokesman for Congressman Vern Buchanan calls the forcing the employee donations allegation false. He says the dealership owner, his ex-business partner, is just lashing out because he owes him money.
Vern Buchanan is also denying similar allegations raised in 2008 about two more car dealerships he owned, the ones in Venice and Sarasota. Two former employees from those businesses saying they were also pressured to donate to Vern Buchanan‘s campaign. And then they were offered reimbursement by the dealership for their donations. The congressman calls both of those people disgruntled employees.
The congressman‘s office also has no comment when Vern Buchanan conveniently failed to file in a timely fashion the required federal paperwork that showed he had refunded $5,000 in contributions to five more employees who, you guessed it, claimed they had been pressured to contribute to his campaign. Delaying that filing meant that voters didn‘t learn about that unpleasantness until seven months after they had re-elected him in 2008, seven months after.
Congressman Vern Buchanan is the finance guy for the Republican Party‘s House Campaign Committee this year. That means he is responsible for fundraising for Republican House candidates.
So, a scandal like this, allegations like this from the FEC, are a mess for Vern Buchanan and for the Republican Party counting on him to not be a scandal for every other House Republican—even though he is now accused of shaking down employees from one end of his state to the other, forcing them to be a pass through for corporate donations that would look as illegal as they were if there weren‘t these employees in the middle being forced to pretend it was their money and not the company‘s.
So, Vern Buchanan and the Republican House Campaign Committee have a scandal on their hands, accused of covering up illegal corporate donations.
Do you want to know what the bigger scandal is? The bigger scandal is that at the state level in Florida, what this congressman is accused of doing illegally has just been legalized. You no longer have to go through this whole song and dance if you serve at the state house in Tallahassee. Corporations now can just make unlimited payments to state legislators in Florida through something called leadership funds.
The Republican-led legislature passed this unlimited corporate donations thing. When Charlie Crist used to be governor, and he vetoed it. But Charlie Crist is now gone.
“The St. Petersburg Times” denouncing this as legalized bribery in the state of Florida.
They‘ve also just done something similar in Tennessee. Tennessee‘s Republican governor this week signing a new law that lets corporations in Tennessee contribute directly to state and local political campaigns. He signed that into law that bill on the same day he stripped Tennessee teachers of their union rights and banned their existing unions from making campaign donations.
So, corporations cannot—excuse me, corporations can donate but unions cannot. Corporations can donate but unions cannot. So, we can‘t have unions donating money like that. That would be very, very corrupting.
MADDOW: At the Google.com homepage today, you may have seen this reworking of the Google logo, a doodle that sort of looks like a guitar. They put this up in honor of Les Paul‘s birthday. You can play the strings on this either by using your mouse to strum the strings or typing on the keyboard. Different keys you type strum different strings, which produce different notes.
Simple idea, mind bending implications. If you give yourself some time with it in your office.
First, there‘s the fact that if you type this—G-D, D-G-H-S, S-D-F, K. All right. Yes. That‘s how you play “Hey Jude” really poorly and slowly if you‘re me.
But it also gives you this whole idea, gives you a musical interpretation of anything that you can type. So, you can figure out what songs translate to in terms of your keyboard but you can also hear what things you type on your keyboard come out sounding like. And that creates a magic 8-ball opportunity, again, if you waste all day in your office playing with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Like the most direct thing we can ask it, which is sort of treat it like a magic 8-ball but where the answers are --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Melodiousness is what I said before I ran—I cut myself off. If you can use this thing as a political prognostication musical, magical eight balls, what I‘m wondering here. Which of the 2012 presidential hopefuls‘ names wins for being the most musical? Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, here‘s Barack. That‘s sort of a nice little song. So, that‘s who the Republicans are up against in the next election.
Actually sounds like it could be a jingle for an oil company. Not bad.
All right. So who—in terms of sheer melodiousness can face off against that?
Mitt? It‘s not bad.
Newt? Those both work. They both sort of sound like a bummer though.
All right. Timothy. No.
Sarah. Not a pleasant sound.
All right. It‘s Thaddeus or Mitt Romney. Thaddeus.
See? I think that sort of has a ‘90s grunge vibe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
All right. Here‘s Mitt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy. It‘s like Superman.
MADDOW: I still think that you know who‘s going to win?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To be clear, I think he‘s going to win the most melodious name contest of the presidential contenders for 2012. “The Best New Thing in the World Today”—the Les Paul birthday Google strum thing. It was at least the most distracting thing in the world today.
Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Good night.
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