Guests: E.J. Dionne, Eugene Robinson, Michael Isikoff
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us
for the next hour as well.
In the last election, in the 2010 election, the Democratic Party faced
the unnerving prospect of seeing their leader in the Senate going down to
defeat. The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid,
faced an uphill climb to get re-election, and that`s putting it mildly.
In addition to fighting through electoral headwinds of a really
particularly bad state economy, Harry Reid also just faced a home state
electorate in Nevada that really seemed to want him out. Most of the polls
out of Nevada looked horrible for Senator Reid. Nevada was just looking
for somebody else to represent them. And all of the Republican Party in
Nevada had to do was pick somebody, and that Republican was likely to win.
Now, everybody assumed that the person that Republicans were going to
pick was this woman, Sue Lowden. Sue Lowden was the former chair of the
Nevada Republican Party, a former state senator. She was by all
appearances a good campaigner.
But, then, sort of inexplicably, Sue Lowden tripped and fell into a
big puddle of chickens for checkups.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUE LOWDEN (R-NV), FORMER U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, before we
all had health care in the olden days, our grandparents would bring a
chicken to the doctor. They would say I`ll paint your house. They would
do -- I mean, that`s the old days of what people would do to get health
care with their doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who needs health insurance? Just bring a chicken to the
Not only did Sue Lowden with a straight face initially suggest
chickens for checkups when she was questioned about this, she doubled down
on chickens for checkups. She did not dial it back. She kept talking
about chickens and their bartering power vis-a-vis the checkups. She was
sticking with it.
Inevitably, that was the end of her senatorial hopes. People started
-- as you see here -- following her around on the campaign trail wearing
chicken outfits. There were music videos made, mocking -- mocking this
apparent gaffe that she was standing by.
The whole chickens for checkups thing was really the undoing of poor
Sue Lowden in Nevada. She did not get the Republican nomination for Senate
in 2010. Instead, Harry Reid got for his Republican opponent this nice
person -- Sharron Angle, who became nationally famous not for chickens for
checkups but for a whole different thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What do you mean Second Amendment remedies? Second
Amendment remedies, anything?
We kept asking into the parking lot but received no answer. Why won`t
you answer what Second Amendment remedies means? Nothing at all? It`s a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When Nevada reporters were desperately trying to get Sharron
Angle to answer for her previous repeated comments about people using guns
to get their way politically in the United States. She said for example,
quote, "Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a
good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a
tyrannical government. You know, if this Congress keeps going the way it
is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and
saying my goodness what can we do turn this country?"
Sharron Angle said variations on the Second Amendment remedies thing a
number of times, but the point was also the same. If conservatives do not
get what they want at the ballot box, you should expect them -- America
should expect them to try to get what they want with their guns instead,
through weaponry, through using their Second Amendment rights by which he
means guns. Conservatives will start shooting if Sharron Angle doesn`t get
In the end, Harry Reid did defeat Sharron Angle. Second Amendment
remedies became something we laughed nervously about. And the whole thing
sort of went down as one of the few unexpected Democratic victories of
2010, and one of the weirdest elements of what in many ways was a very
weird election in 2010.
Well, today, knock me over with a feather, all of a sudden,
unexpectedly, today, chickens for checkups and Second Amendment remedies
both came back.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, he is back home in his
state for the August recess, Tom Coburn engaged a group of his constituents
on the issue of Medicare. Senator Coburn is one of 40 Republicans who
voted for the Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget in the Senate.
And while at home in Oklahoma, this week, "The Tulsa World" newspaper
quotes Senator Coburn as telling his constituents, you can`t tell me the
system is better now than it was before Medicare. So, double negative
there -- oh, Tom Coburn is saying we were better off without Medicare. He
is nostalgic for an America before Medicare, an America without Medicare.
"The Tulsa World" continuing, "Coburn agreed that some people receive
poor care-- or no care -- before Medicare was enacted in the 1960s, but he
said, communities worked together to make sure most people received needed
medical attention. He also conceded that doctors and hospitals often went
unpaid for their efforts or accepted baked goods or chickens in partial
Chickens for checkups, it`s back. Unbelievably, it`s back. Chickens,
specifically -- it couldn`t be some other kind of livestock. Baked goods
helps, but not a lot. It`s still chickens for checkups.
Then weirdly, just to complete the Sharron Angle arc of this whole
thing, Tom Coburn then described to his constituents his frustrations with
the United States Senate.
Coburn described his colleagues as, quote, "A class of career elitists
and cowards." And at one point, talking about his frustrations, the
senator said, quote, "It`s just a good thing I can`t pack a gun on the
Senate floor." The implication being, because then he might shoot the
other senators or use his weapon to scare them, maybe pistol whipping. I
don`t -- what are you -- Second Amendment remedy on the Senate floor, and
chickens for checkups, both back thanks to Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom
And all of that was before he got to the part where he said that
President Obama has the wrong ideas about government because he`s black.
Here`s the way "The Tulsa World" wrote that part of it up.
Responding to a man in Langley, Oklahoma, who asked if Obama wants to
destroy America, Coburn said that the president is very bright and loves
his country but has a political philosophy that is goofy and wrong.
Obama`s intent is not to destroy, his intent to create dependency because
it worked so well for him, he said.
Quote, "as an African-American male," Coburn said, "Obama received
tremendous advantage from a lot of these programs."
Through Greg Sargent at "The Washington Post," "The Tulsa World"
reporter who wrote this account later released the full context of Senator
Coburn`s remarks. And the full context does not help. It does not soften
these remarks. Quote, "His intent isn`t to destroy, it`s to create
dependency because it worked so well for him. As an African-American male
coming through the progress of everything he experienced, he got tremendous
benefit through a lot of these programs so he believes in them."
See, if he wasn`t black, he wouldn`t believe so much in government
programs? He`s a black person and black people have dependency, so that`s
-- yes, yes.
In a week when the newest entrant into the Republican presidential
race Rick Perry said that he does not know if President Obama loves America
and good reporters should start asking the president that, in a week when
the "Wall Street Journal" resurrected 2008`s favorite storyline that Barack
Obama cannot possibly win over white voters, despite the fact that he has
since won a landslide over a white Republican opponent in 2008, I think it
is understandable that the part of Tom Coburn`s remarks that`s getting the
most attention today is the part where he says that Barack Obama is wrong
about government, but it`s understandable because President Obama is black.
That does deserve some attention for Senator Coburn, who I have to say
has a mysterious Teflon quality so that none of his myriad ethical scandals
never really seem to stick to him. But, you know, conservatives taking
inadvertent or clumsy or dog whistle or flat out on purpose blunt shots at
the president on the basis of his race is a phenomenon that has ebbed and
flowed over President Obama`s national political career. It should always
get covered when it happens. It should be a scandal for Coburn, frankly.
But Mr. Obama himself, since his great single race speech during the
campaign, Mr. Obama has chosen to deal with this recurring issue by mostly
letting other people deal with. The White House does not tend to take it
on head-on, and I do not really expect them to in this case either. We
will see what other Democrats do about Senator Coburn`s comment. But in
the long run, what may get more of a political reaction from the reelect
Obama forces -- from the White House even, believe it or not, I think may
be the chickens for checkups part.
I mean, yes, it harks back to Sue Lowden. We all remember that. But
what Tom Coburn is essentially saying, and why that is more important, when
he says that he is nostalgic for an America without Medicare, that is
something that Republicans are working on -- 98 percent of the Republicans
in the House voted to end Medicare this year. Tom Coburn was one of the 85
percent of Republicans in the Senate who voted to end Medicare.
Presidential candidate Rick Perry says that both Social Security and
Medicare are Ponzi schemes.
Aside from Ron Paul, all of the presidential candidates who anybody
has thought to ask about it, including Mitt Romney, have also said they too
would have voted for the Republican plan to kill Medicare this year.
Author Rick Perlstein wrote about this at "Time" magazine today, I
should say, amid rumors that President Obama is reading Rick`s brilliant
Rick Perlstein wrote about how exactly JFK beat Richard Nixon in 1960.
He beat him in part by making Richard Nixon sweat, literally, over the hard
truth that Democrats created Medicare over Republican objections, that the
American people love Medicare and Social Security, don`t want anybody
messing with them, that Republicans continually try to mess with them or
abolish them, and that Democrats are the ones who can be counted on to
So, there are two things going on right now in what is effectively the
national campaign to either re-elect President Obama or to elect a
Republican to replace him. One is that the president has been proposing a
series of small bore job creation ideas. He`s been talking about a lot of
them for weeks if not months. But he really hit them over and over again
on his not-a-campaign bus tour this week.
Couple of the things he talked about this week were wanting trade
deals approved, also wanting patent reform. Both of those things, just to
take two examples, both of those things are directly from the Republicans
jobs plan, directly from what the Republicans have been touting all year as
their jobs plan.
When the president proposed those things this week, did the
Republicans say, hey, those are our ideas? Those are from our tiny
booklet. We`re glad you`re onboard, sir. Let`s get those done.
No, of course, they did not say that.
President Obama has been proposing what the Republicans have asked
for. He said there`s more coming in September, right? But this has been
From Speaker Boehner`s office, quote, "We really don`t need another
speech -- just a plan like on paper. Seriously, just drop it in the mail."
I`m adding the snark. The snark is in the original.
From Republican Iowa frontrunner Michele Bachmann, quote, "Mr.
President, America is ready for a plan."
From Republican Congressman Tim Walberg of Michigan, class of the
birthers, quote, "You could wait for September, or you could just read our
plan for jobs now."
That would be the plan that includes the stuff that President Obama
has already been proposing this week to which Republicans have responded by
going, hmm, we hate your bus.
So, to the extent that there is an argument that the president should
try to work cooperatively with Republicans, to come up with some consensus
solutions, him proposing their ideas and them saying no, should probably
end that argument. How do you negotiate with people who refuse to take yes
for an answer?
And yet, this my favorite thing in the political press for the entire
week -- some anonymous Democratic senator told "The Los Angeles Times" this
week that President Obama better not be confrontational with Republicans.
He needs to keep trying to work with them.
The senator said, quote, or "The L.A. Times" says, quote, "One Senate
Democrat says voters are tired of the partisan back and forth, and it would
be a mistake for Obama to present Congress with a large-scale high stakes
jobs bill and challenge them to pass it. A more sensible approach would be
for Obama to roll out a series of smaller proposals, the senator said,
adding that the public has very little patience for anything that looks
like you are beating up on the other side."
How exactly do you work with people who refuse to accept you giving
them what they want? By virtue of the fact that you are giving it to them,
they no longer want it.
What do you suggest, anonymous Democratic senator? I mean, Senator,
if on your planet the solution to a political problem like this is that the
president should be more conciliatory so they can work it out together,
your planet sounds like a very nice place to visit, but it is not this
As I said, there are two main political things going on here. There`s
the president proposing relatively small bore stuff that Republicans
themselves have proposed, and them still saying no -- kind of demonstrating
the futility of trying to work it out with these guys.
And then there`s President Obama reportedly reading "Nixonland" and
standing up for Social Security and Medicare, which the Republicans are
calling a Ponzi scheme and trying to dismantle.
There`s the president doing stuff like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What some of the folks
on the other side are proposing is actually to turn Medicare into a voucher
program. So, instead of fixing the system, they would just completely
overhaul it. It was estimated that under their plan, the average senior
would pay about $6,000 more per year for their Medicare.
I think that`s a bad idea. I think there are better ways for us to
manage the Medicare problem than to put a burden on seniors.
They passed a budget that basically called for voucherizing the
Medicare system. There`s the Republicans and the House of Representatives.
And basically what they say is here is a flat rate that you get for
Medicare. And you know what? If it turns out it doesn`t buy you enough
insurance, that`s your problem. That`s not our problem.
But I think that`s the wrong approach to take. I think that`s the
wrong approach to take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If Democrats get to frame elections, this is how they get
framed. Democrats, creators and defenders of Medicare. If Democrats
opponents, the kill Medicare, chicken for checkups people.
If Democrats get to decide it, this is how they decide it.
Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, Washington, "Washington Post"
columnist, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and MSNBC contributor
-- E.J., you are far too dignified person to have to endure going -- now
four times in this segment. So, pre-pologize.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: I will try to cluck good answers to
MADDOW: Who is this Democratic senator telling "The Los Angeles
Times" that President Obama shouldn`t be too confrontational with
Republicans? Who is still arguing for that in this day and age?
DIONNE: Bernie Sanders. No, just kidding.
You know, I think it`s anybody up for re-election in certain states,
Senator Nelson comes to mind on certain days -- Senator McCaskill.
But listening to all of that, maybe President Obama should call for
lower taxes on the rich, and then the Republicans would raise taxes on the
rich and then we`d have that issue out of the way.
But I think there is something very weird about what they`re doing,
patent reform. I mean, they have worked for a long time on that. That`s a
totally bipartisan thing. Most of the arguments don`t even cross party
The notion that they`re going to block that -- I mean, if Obama wanted
to give everyone, you know, a hot fudge sundae, they`d attack him because
they would say it will raise cholesterol, even if he gave them Lipitor,
too. I mean, it`s very strange.
MADDOW: Well, I don`t know that anybody -- I haven`t seen anybody
pointing out that patent reform and the trade deals, that the president is
advocating for now, really are directly there the Republican jobs plan. I
mean, the Republican jobs plan is not much. It`s 10 pages, including a lot
of really big font and one page that`s just a picture and another page that
half the page is a picture.
There`s not a lot there. It`s a pamphlet. But at least a couple of
these things are directly from that pamphlet.
Does that mean that we should expect these things to pass, even if
nobody`s really noticing that they are Republican ideas?
DIONNE: Yes. I think some of them actually could pass. But I think
the real challenge for the president is to propose something big because
the moment requires it. I have been watching CNBC more than I ever did in
my life. It`s like watching the ESPN during the World Series with this
And what`s really struck is some very sort of serious big time
capitalists. These left wingers are saying there`s a real problem now
because governments around the world are withdrawing money from the
economy. They are having all of these austerity budgets. Anytime when the
world economy needs to be goosed -- these aren`t Democrats or liberals.
These are capitalists saying, my God, we face a second recession.
And so, I think President Obama should not be afraid to come out and
say, you can do two things at the same time. You can sort of deal with the
budget deficit in the long-term, but right now we have got an emergency.
And if our government can`t handle an idea that is really pretty simple,
then we have bigger problems than we even imagine.
MADDOW: E.J., on the specific issue of Tom Coburn`s comments --
again, I think that probably the most damning thing is him raising the
chickens for checkups, raising the Medicare thing -- again, just because of
the salience of that issue coast-to-coast for all Democrats running for
But on the race stuff, does the White House just ignore that? Do you
ever see them responding again? You know, I wouldn`t even ask if we hadn`t
also had this week Rick Perry telling reporters they need to ask the
president if he loves America.
DIONNE: Well, first of all, on the Rick Perry thing, if he loves the
country so much, why did he talk so loosely about seceding from it? I
mean, it`s very -- that is really quite remarkable.
But on the Coburn thing, I think when you looked at the transcript
that Greg Sargent looked at, I really think that Coburn was trying to
defend Obama and say he really loves his country.
But there are two problems with what he said. One is this creating
dependency. I mean, when widows get help from Social Security after their
husbands die because the family income goes down, that`s not creating
dependency. Government programs oftentimes just help people through so
they`re not dependent.
But the other thing is, why do we so often turn to race? When Bill
Clinton was president, he had a lot of critics. When George W. Bush was
president, he had a lot of critics.
I don`t remember people saying, well, they are doing that because
they`re white guys. I mean, we just really ought to face up to the fact
that we talk about this a whole lot more because we have an African-
American president. And I think that`s a problem for us all.
MADDOW: E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist, MSNBC contributor
and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution -- E.J., thank you for being
with us tonight.
DIONNE: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. Still to come, I got to tell you, people are
messing with the wrong bus. Seriously, leave the bus alone. You`re
literally confused. It is the wrong bus that you are talking about. I can
help you. That`s next.
MADDOW: Here`s what I did on my summer vacation. Hi, dad!
And here`s what Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin did on theirs. You know what? Beat you!
More competitive vacationing by world leaders and those who would be,
coming up next.
MADDOW: Lots of presidents have vacation homes.
Ronald Reagan had Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, California.
The first President Bush had the family`s grand estate in
The second President Bush -- George W. Bush -- had a vacation home in
Crawford, Texas. It was often described as home or his ranch. But it
didn`t have any animal. So, it wasn`t a ranch.
And Mr. Bush only bought when he started to run for president in 1999.
And when his presidency was over, he bought a totally different house to
live in, in a rich suburb of Dallas. So, it was more like a vacation home.
A lot of presidents have vacation homes.
But the Obama family does not own a vacation home, which means that
when they go on vacation, they rent a place.
Starting today, they are renting a place in Martha`s Vineyard in
Massachusetts. Now, the Massachusetts Republican Party responded to this
news of President Obama and his family visiting their state with as much
furious snark as they could muster. They released a sarcastic welcome
message that starts, "Dear Prez-O," then it trashes President Obama for
talking about the economy and for having a bus tour to the Midwest and for
having general idea as having temerity to visit Massachusetts. The
Republican Party is then signed, "The people of the Massachusetts."
As a reminder, here`s the composition of the state legislature in
Massachusetts. So, the Republican Party of the state claiming that they
can sign for all the people of that state is a bit of an overexcited
But in the Massachusetts Republican Party`s "we wish the president
wouldn`t vacation here" sarcastic letter, it ends with this P.S. "P.S.,
Aerosmith wants their tour bus back." Oh, touche! The Aerosmith tour bus.
The Massachusetts Republican Party just nailed the Obama
administration for using the Aerosmith tour bus, except the Aerosmith tour
bus was actually the one that was used by the Bush administration when they
sent President Bush`s treasury secretary and labor secretary and commerce
secretary out on a six-city Midwest bus tour in July 2003 to give political
speeches trying to build support for Bush tax cuts.
They did actually rent out the Aerosmith tour bus for that Bush
administration, yea, tax cuts tour, quote, "complete with black leather
sofas and a mirrored ceiling." Ew!
So the Massachusetts Republican Party, while it is hilarious to mock
public officials for taking the Aerosmith bus out on political tours, if
Aerosmith is calling anybody in politics to get their bus back, they are
calling Elaine Chow and the Bush administration to get it back.
For the record, the big black bus that President Obama was using this
week in the Midwest, was a purchase made by and a decision made by the
United States Secret Service. The Secret Service bought two of these
armored buses. One to be used by the president and one to be used by the
Republican Party`s eventual nominee on the campaign trail next year.
Still, though, Karl Rove`s American Crossroads group says, quote,
"We`re going to make a star out of Obama`s million dollar campaign bus."
And then what, when the Republican nominee uses it too? Seriously,
what are you going to say then?
I mean, self righteousness about normal things presidents do is
perhaps to be expected in any administration. But it has also gone sort of
horribly wrong for another Massachusetts Republican this week.
Presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, who said this week that he did
not think that President Obama should be going to a place like Martha`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just going to be going on a
vacation to Martha`s Vineyard for 10 days. There`s a lot of Democrats on
Martha`s Vineyard, I don`t know why. But I wish the president were in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is not the only time he said it this week. It`s sort of
his theme this week, it`s one of the themes he kept hitting over again.
President Obama going to Martha`s Vineyard, and that`s bad.
Mitt Romney making clear that this is no time to be going to Martha`s
Vineyard. He certainly wouldn`t be going to Martha`s Vineyard. While
President Obama will be in Martha`s Vineyard, Mitt Romney will also be in
As noted here by the "Boston Herald," Mr. Romney will be having a
fundraiser in a nice part of Martha`s Vineyard across the island from the
Obamas in a place called Eggertown. By this point in his presidency, after
31 months in office, Ronald Reagan had taken 112 vacation days. President
Bush had taken 180. President Obama has taken 61 -- 61! Outrage! He`s
I know hypocrisy is the crime that has no punishment in politics. I
know that the Republican Party of Massachusetts denouncing President Obama
for something that President Bush actually did is not something they will
feel embarrassed about. I know that Karl Rove attacking President Obama
for a Secret Service decision that redounds to both parties is not
something that he will feel embarrass about. I know that Mitt Romney
attacking President Obama for going to a place that he himself is also
going is not something that Mitt Romney will feel embarrassed about.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Thursday, I realize this is par for the
But when the criticism of a president for going on vacation or riding
in a Secret Service vehicle, for God`s sakes, when the criticism is this
hypocritical, this easily seen as hypocritical, is it the job of the
Beltway press to just write the criticism down and forward it to the
American people without comment, as if that counts as news? Or could maybe
some context about the bare hypocrisy here help?
Help me here.
Joining us now to help me is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning
columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor.
Gene, can you help me with this?
EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Take a deep breath. You and me,
we`ll find the Aerosmith tour bus and we`ll take a trip. We`ll take a nice
drive, and it will be beautiful and it will be fine, Rachel.
MADDOW: Even though I trust you and love you, Gene, I am not getting
on a bus with a mirrored ceiling and leather sofas. It`s just -- it`s not
going to happen.
ROBINSON: Oh, darn! OK.
MADDOW: I know that the criticism -- I know that the criticism of the
bus is stupid. But I`m wondering here if there is something salient in how
brazenly stupid it is. I mean, does this reflect sort of a new cockiness
of being sure you`ll never get called out for something?
ROBINSON: You know, but they`re being called out for it, right? So,
I think it reflects what we`ve seen since President Obama took office,
which is attack, attack, attack, on everything, everything, everything --
even if all of the presidents did it, even if somebody else made the
decision. Attack him. And, you know, just chip away, chip away.
And frankly they haven`t mattered -- it hasn`t mattered yet that you
call them out on it and right, but it was a lie. Or but it was
hypocritical. That doesn`t seem to penetrate.
Look, if President Obama takes less vacation than recent Republicans
have taken, a little bit more than President Clinton did, he is in the kind
of low to medium range of vacation, absolutely legitimate for him to take a
And for Mitt Romney, who swans from mansion to mansion as a lifestyle
to criticize him, or for Sarah Palin to criticize him, his work ethic as
she quit as governor of Alaska halfway through her term because it was
inconvenient, you know, that is -- it must be Thursday.
MADDOW: Yes. Exactly. And that`s exactly right. Hypocrisy, thy
name is Thursday. This is just how it goes.
And I mean, I suppose I ask this question in one way or another on
just about every show that I do, provided we`re not talking about nuclear
power or something. But whenever we`re talking about American politics,
this is sort of always one of the baseline questions. Does hypocrisy ever
hurt? Do you ever have your own credibility damaged, your own political
capital damaged, by flinging mud like this that you could not stand
By doing what Mitt Romney is doing, for example, about Martha`s
Vineyard when he himself is going to be there?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, does it ever hurt? It probably does
sometimes. But I think you`d have to conclude that as a general rule, you
don`t lose as much as potentially you gain by hypocritical attacks.
So, yes, some people will realize, boy, that was -- really, you know,
that was hypocritical. I don`t like that guy. But other people won`t get
that follow-up. And so I think the calculation is that you come out net
Now, on the more general vacation question, though, I think you could
ask a legitimate political question about whether this vacation has the
right optics for this moment. But that`s a different kind of question.
And that`s asking it, I think, in a different way.
MADDOW: The Republican Congress under John Boehner, one of the
changes they made to their own rules once Boehner took over, is that they
take a week off. They take a week`s vacation for every two weeks that they
work. Democrats have chosen to sort of leave this one on the cutting room
floor. They have not chosen to take on the Congress, on this matter.
Is this being -- is this sort of criticism of the president, from all
of the Republican presidential candidates and from Republicans in Congress,
sort of signal that it`s ok to go after John Boehner for the House
Republicans` work ethic, or do Democrats unilaterally disarm on this?
ROBINSON: You know, Democrats unilaterally disarm -- boy, we`ve never
seen that before, you know, why not? Why not go after Boehner for the
congressional work ethic?
I`d love to see that. I`d love to hear that. I`d love to have that
in the next MSNBC contract.
However, I don`t see it coming. You know, one week off for every two
MADDOW: You know, although, you are giving me ideas. You`re giving
Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize columnist for "The Washington Post,"
MSNBC contributor, and, man, I take it back actually, I`ll go on any bus
tour with you anywhere, no matter how cheesy the bus. Anytime.
ROBINSON: Rev it up. Pedal to the metal. I`ll see you later.
MADDOW: All right. Here`s the Web site for a brand-new campaign
raising thing called Make Us Great Again. Because campaign fundraising
things like this must be independent from specific candidates, Make Us
Great Again is clearly independent, right? No individual candidate there -
- legally and clearly independent of the rule that says they have to be
independent from specific candidates.
How the Supreme Court has made great strides in American money
laundering. That`s ahead.
MADDOW: If you have ever aspired to comedic genius, Stephen Colbert
has recently made you feel either very jealous or inadequate or both.
First, there was his exquisite, impossibly funny and biting line between
satire and reality blurring super PAC in support of Rick Parry, parry with
A as in Iowa -- P-A-R-R-Y, genius.
But the true mark of Stephen Colbert`s genius is always the punch
line, the conclusion, the comedic button -- which isn`t really Stephen
Colbert`s direct doing in this case. It is residual hilarity to his
original hilarity -- a bit that is so perfect that things that happen as a
result of it are also perfect.
All of that, coming up.
MADDOW: Rick Perry`s campaign manager owns an island. Actually, he
co-owns an island. It`s this island. It`s called Parker Island, there in
Lake Winnipesauke in the great state of New Hampshire.
Rick Perry`s campaign manager, David Carney, co-owns that island with
this guy, Mike Toomey, who is a lobbyist who used to be Rick Perry`s chief
of staff. Mike and Dave together own the whole island.
And you know, it`s not like there`s a line down the middle of the
island. What would that look like? I mean, I don`t think they divide the
island like that, Mike`s side, you keep out, Dave. Dave`s side! You keep
out, Mike. I think they just share ownership of this island.
And Dave is the guy who is running the campaign to elect Rick Perry
president. And Mike is the guy to whom you give your money if you want to
elect Rick Perry president. See? There`s a difference. I mean, you can
give money to the campaign itself.
If you do that, if you go to Rick Perry for president Web site --
don`t be fooled, it does look sort of Obama-ish. But this is it, Perry
donation page. They point out you can make a maximum contribution of
$5,000. You have to attest literally that you`re making the donation with
your credit card, out of your personal funds, that you are not using a
business card, that you are not using the general treasury funds of a
corporation, labor union, national bank, or entity that say federal
You legally attest that you will not be reimbursed by any other
individual or entity for this contribution. You agree that the first
$2,500 of your contribution shall be designated to the 2012 primary
election, and that any donation in excess of $2,500 will either be refunded
to you or redesignated to your spouse.
You also legally attest that nothing you give here will be for the
So, you can give money that way. That`s if you want to give money to
Dave, to the actual campaign.
But if you want to avoid that hassle, you can just give your money to
Mike instead, the guy who owns the other half of the island in New
Hampshire. Over at Mike`s Rick Perry operation, there are not any limits
on how much you can give. You`re not going to have to sign all the legal
affidavits saying where the money came from and that nobody give it to you,
for you to give it away and all that other intimidating stuff.
Give whatever you want. There`s no limits. Give whatever you want,
ACME pollution corps, or Joe Schmo, whatever. They can take any amount of
anybody from any amount of money from anybody.
But when you go to makeusgreatagain.com, which is the site for Mike`s
group, they want to be very clear that even though here is the picture of
Rick Perry, right, and here`s the Rick Perry can make America great again
slogan, and if you click here, all the explanations for why Rick Perry
should be the next president of the United States, this group, this Web
site, this operation, wants you to know they are not authorized by any
candidate or any candidate`s committee.
So Mike and Dave, the guys who own this island together in New
Hampshire, they are not coordinating. They don`t even know each other.
They don`t even talk. It`s a big island. They probably don`t even run
into each other, even at high season.
What about the Roberts Supreme Court did to our campaign system was to
say the whole justification for what they did essentially was that while it
be corrupting for a candidate, like Rick Perry or anybody else, to take
unlimited from anybody, it`s not corrupting for somebody else to take
unlimited money from anybody and just do something nice for a candidate
that they happen to like.
Let`s say you could give Rick Perry $10 billion. That, of course,
would be corrupting that kind of scratch. But giving that kind of scratch
to the guy who co-owns the island with Rick Perry`s campaign manager who
promises that he has no association with Rick Perry whatsoever, that is not
corrupting at all -- so says the Supreme Court. Because clearly that money
doesn`t go to Rick Perry or help get him elected -- as you can tell from
here. It just gets politically expended in a Rick Perry election in an
uncoordinated kind of way to help Rick Perry.
That`s the legal justification for the destruction of campaign finance
laws that the Roberts Court has enacted over the past few years. That`s
the legal justification. That idea is what`s going to bring us this year`s
campaign and its rules.
And all of the candidates have these things. If you want to launder
the money you`re donating to Mitt Romney`s company, you can launder it
through Restore Our Future.
If you want to launder the money you`re donating to Michele Bachmann`s
campaign, you can launder it through Keep Conservatives United.
If you want to launder the money you`re donating to purist Ron Paul,
you can launder it through the Revolution super PAC.
If you want to launder the money you are donating to President Obama`s
campaign, you can launder it through Priorities USA Action.
It is unarguable that these organizations exist for no other purpose
but to elect the candidates that they are associated with.
At least when you go to the one that`s clearly designed to launder
money to Barack Obama, though, there`s not a picture of Barack Obama there.
Same thing with the Mitt Romney one -- Mitt Romney just has clip art and a
stock photo eagle. Yes, it`s nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we`ll launder the
money to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but at least they are nudging and
The Rick Perry people aren`t even nudging and winking. Look at their
Web site, Rick Perry. If that`s too difficult to understand -- here is a
picture, and another picture. Want to give the some money to elect
somebody different than Barack Obama as president? Rick Perry, Rick Perry,
This is perhaps the larger role of Rick Perry in our national politics
today, to make stuff obvious. And maybe that is a metaphor for his broader
role in the campaign.
But is Rick Perry`s being this blatant about this any different
legally than anybody else going around and nudging and winking about their
Joining us now is the man who did all the digging on this on the Rick
Perry fundraising apparatus and told us about Mike and Dave`s shared island
-- Michael Isikoff, NBC News national investigative correspondent.
Mike, thanks very much for joining us.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: You are a much temperate person than I am and more
experienced in these matters. You probably do not see this as money
laundering. But in what ways is it not money laundering?
ISIKOFF: Well, one person`s money laundering is another`s free
speech. And it happens in this case -- the other people who saw it that
way was the Supreme Court. So, that`s the law.
The problem is, you know, what you`ve really laid out pretty well is
just how far back we`ve come from where we were nine years ago, 2002,
McCain/Feingold, which was the result of years of pushing about -- and
underscoring the role of special interest and big money in American
politics. And let`s not forget, it was the champion cause of the last
Republican presidential candidate, John McCain. And look where we have
I mean, it`s not that we`re one or two steps back. We`re nine steps
back from where we were at the time of McCain/Feingold, that banned soft
money, large contributions to the political parties. Now, they can go to
these super PACs. Now, they can come directly from corporate coffers.
And in many cases, we haven`t mentioned this, they can also -- all of
-- many of these operations like Priorities USA, the Obama one, and
certainly Crossroads on the Republican side, have secret money arms, 501c4
where the same money can be donated unrestricted and it won`t even be
disclosed. It won`t even be reported.
So we are truly back to the days of before Watergate, where special
interest and big money have more influence than ever before in American
MADDOW: In terms of the whole wide political landscape here, Mike, is
Rick Perry doing something qualitatively legally different than everybody
else here by being so affront about the fact that his supposedly
uncoordinated super PAC so obviously only supports him?
ISIKOFF: He is just being a little bit more explicit about it. Look,
you pointed the Mike Toomey-Dave Carney relationship as we reported in the
piece. Restore Our Future was founded by three former Mitt Romney
political aides who said quite openly when they formed the group, we are
about electing Mitt Romney president.
And Mitt Romney has been speaking at their fund raising dinners. In
fact, when we were on a couple of weeks ago, we talked about that funny
mystery million dollar corporation from the Bain Capital guy. That really
was closer to money laundering.
And when Mitt Romney was asked about it, he talked about how, of
course, he knew it came from Ed Conard, his former Bain Capital buddy, and
he said I was expecting the contribution to the super PAC. So Mitt Romney
seemed to be saying he was well aware this money was coming.
And Priorities USA, the Obama one, you know, Bill Burton, Obama`s
former campaign spokesman, is running it. Does anybody really think that
Bill Burton is operating independently from David Axelrod, the campaign
strategist for the Obama campaign?
I mean, the -- we really are in a make-believe "Alice in Wonderland"
world on these matters.
MADDOW: Michael Isikoff, NBC News national investigative
correspondent -- Mike, thank you for your excellent work on this and taking
time to be with us tonight about it. Appreciate it
ISIKOFF: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: When the Supreme Court makes people laugh at the law, the
Supreme Court is not doing an awesome job of being a Supreme Court.
All right. It not my usual practice to do stories about other people
in the media, because usually we media types are not news that matters --
usually. Tonight, a rare and excellent exception in praise of Stephen
MADDOW: A quick trip to the department of corrections. Earlier in
the show, I mentioned Rick Perlstein`s great new piece in "Time" magazine
about how Democrats win and have always won elections by defending the
social safety net, by defending programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Rick Perlstein used the example of JFK beating Richard Nixon in 1960.
And when I described that campaign earlier, I said that JFK won in
part by making Richard Nixon sweat over the fact that it was Democrats who
created Medicare and Social Security over Republican objections. What I
should have said is that during that campaign, JFK was defending the legacy
of Social Security and promising Medicare. Medicare, of course, came five
As Mr. Perlstein notes, JFK enhanced New Deal programs like Social
Security and a promise to extend that legacy with Medicare. So to be
specific: and I`m sorry for the overreaching adlib, but do I make
corrections when I make them, no matter how embarrassing it is to make
corrections, I still do it.
JFK was a remarkable politician but he was not defending a program
that did not yet exist.
We will be right back.
MADDOW: This past month in Iowa, the fake news but real politics
genius that is Comedy Central`s Stephen Colbert -- Stephen Colbert ran
political ads in Iowa ahead of the Iowa straw poll. The Colbert ads sort
of seemed like, sort of looked like they might be for Texas Governor Rick
Perry. But the Stephen Colbert ads encouraged the straw poll attendees to
write in Rick Parry -- Parry spelled with an "A" and not with an "E."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Out of state groups like Grow PAC and Jobs for Iowa PAC are
flooding the Iowa airwaves, telling you to vote Rick Perry at the Ames
straw poll. Outside groups like Job for Iowa super PAC are trying to
pander to Iowans with pro Perry ads featuring cheap pornography.
They think they can buy your vote with their unlimited super PAC
But Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow ask: what about our
unlimited super PAC money? We want to you vote for Rick Parry, too, but
not their Rick Perry, our Rick Parry.
We`re getting all up in those nibblets. Oh, yes!
On august 13th, write in Rick Parry. That`s Parry with an "A" for
America, with an "A" for Iowa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Iowa! Rick Perry did pretty well at the Ames, Iowa straw
poll, for what it`s worth. He beat Mitt Romney. That`s for sure. He also
beat Newt Gingrich. He also beat Jon Huntsman.
Governor Perry received 718 votes at the Ames, Iowa straw poll. That
earned him a sixth place finish which is not bad for a guy who was only
entering the presidential race that day and for a guy who was not actually
on the ballot at the Ames, Iowa straw poll.
But, today, thanks for reporting from O. Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa,
we learned that maybe Stephen Colbert should be getting credit for some of
Rick Perry`s success.
The Iowa secretary of state is a man named Matt Schultz. He is a
Republican and he oversaw the straw poll balloting. He now tells Radio
Iowa that some of the votes were counted for Rick Perry were actually cast
for Rick Parry, spelled with an "A." And they were all write-in votes.
Quoting the secretary of state, "To be honest with you, I don`t
exactly know how many parry votes there were," Parry spelled with an A,
"but I know they were all given to the governor."
So, Rick Perry`s strong showing at Ames may have been numerically in
part thanks to Stephen Colbert making fun of him so hard in Iowa, which is
like if there`s a Venn diagram. One of them is just and one of them is
fantastic. This is right in the middle.
MADDOW: Here`s how Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin spins the
employment figures in his state. When job numbers in Wisconsin are up,
it`s because of his policies, obviously. But when the job figures go down,
who, me? Then it`s obviously national economy that`s to blame and poor
Scott Walker had nothing to do with it.
Do you know who really hates that kind of nonsense especially out of
Wisconsin? My friend Ed Schultz. And that`s story is coming up right now
on "THE ED SHOW." Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND
MAY BE UPDATED.
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