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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, September 7th, 2011, 11pm-12am ET

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Hosts: Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O`Donnell
Guests: Chuck Todd, Eugene Robinson, Herman Cain, Michael Steele, Alex Wagner, Jim Vandehei, Howard
Fineman, Steve Schmidt, Michael Eric Dyson, Melissa Harris-Perry

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: The stakes were high at tonight`s
Republican debate in California, with all eyes, of course, on the new
front-runner. Governor Rick Perry joining his rivals to debate tonight for
the very first time.


the private sector. He did a great job of creating jobs in the private
sector all around the world. But the fact is, when he moved that
experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in
the country.

We created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created
in four years in Massachusetts.

Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right to work state, a Republican
legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in
the ground.

Those are wonderful things. But Governor Perry doesn`t believe that
he created those things. If he tried to say that, why, it would be like Al
Gore saying he invented the Internet.


MADDOW: The policy moment of the night also belonged to Governor
Perry, and to a Mitt Romney confrontation with Governor Perry, this time on
the fact that Americans generally like Social Security. The man who would
be President Perry doubled down on his insistence that Social Security is
nothing less than a criminal con job.


PERRY: It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years
old today, you are paying into a program that`s going to be there. Anybody
that`s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a
monstrous lie to our kids. And it`s not right.


MADDOW: But much of tonight`s fire was directed at President Obama,
the Democrat that only one of them will be facing head-to-head by this time
next year.


a team. Whoever the nominee is, we are all for defeating Barack Obama.


MADDOW: With continuing coverage of tonight`s Republican candidate`s
debate, I`m Rachel Maddow here at MSNBC`s home studios in New York City.
Chris Matthews is in Simi Valley, California, the site of tonight`s debate.
Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O`Donnell and Gene Robinson here with me
on set in New York.

But we`re joined now from the spin room by Republican presidential
candidate Herman Cain, joining us from the Reagan Library.

Mr. Cain, we feel privileged to have your time tonight, sir. Thank
you for joining us.


MADDOW: We`re going to have our first question for you tonight from
the Reverend Al Sharpton. Al?

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Mr. Cain, first of all, I think you did
very well tonight in laying out some of the substance of what you had to
say. But what struck me is both Governor Perry and you seemed to have a
strong emphasis, whether it was on Social Security or other issues, on
states being empowered, states rights.

And the reason that it struck me is wouldn`t you say -- you`re from
Georgia -- that women`s rights and voter rights and civil rights was
largely built by those that wanted to have a strong national government
protect them against states having too much power, that would in fact keep
us in a position where some one like you or I couldn`t even run for

CAIN: Reverend Sharpton, those aren`t the kind of rights that I want
to touch. I am a product of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and --


CAIN: The Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I
don`t want to touch those rights. I`m not talking about those kinds of

Secondly, Governor Perry talked about Social Security. I offered a
solution, the Chilean solution. If you had noticed tonight, on most of my
questions, I tried to put a solution on the table. And the solution that I
put on the table, relative to Social Security, was quite simply the Chilean
model, where we create a personal retirement account option for younger

I didn`t say privatization, because that`s how it was demagogued
before. But things such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting
Rights Act of 1965, I don`t support touching those. I`m talking about
states rights as it relates to dealing with some of the issues as it
relates to the people within the state and some of these dysfunctional
programs being run out of Washington, D.C..

Robinson in New York. I covered South America for the "Washington Post."
I covered Chile. The Chilean model is privatization of the pension system.
What`s the --

CAIN: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

ROBINSON: What`s the difference between privatization and

CAIN: Wait, sir. With all due respect, it is not. It is
personalization. Workers in Chile, they have an account that they retire
with, with their name on it. That`s not privatization. The word
privatization is used to try and kill the idea before it takes off. With
all due respect, sir, it`s personal retirement accounts. And that`s what
I`m proposing.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Herman Cain, this is Lawrence
O`Donnell. Now you`re just drawing a semantic distinction. You don`t want
to use the word privatization for what we all call privatization. You want
to call it personalization. Just because the government sends this
document out to you with your name on it, I get that.

But it is privatization. Gene`s right about that.

Let me move on to a larger focus of the evening. And that is the
frame of Ronald Reagan. You were debating in Ronald Reagan`s house, as it
were. And you all ignored that Ronald Reagan as president raised taxes 11
times, that Ronald Reagan as governor created the single largest state
income tax in history in 1967.

You selected pieces of Ronald Reagan thematically as a group that you
like. But you ignore specifically how he governed, which was often in a
bipartisan way, in agreements with Democrats, including agreements to raise
taxes. Would you advocate governing in that way, the way Ronald Reagan

CAIN: Sir, with all due respect, I want to talk about how we get this
sorry economy moving. It starts with recognizing the business sector. I
am not here to defend everything that Ronald Reagan did right, and
everything that Ronald Reagan may not have done right.

I want to get 14 million people back to work, which is why I have put
a bold solution on the table, OK? 999 Plan is what I have put on the
table. This is what we need to focus on. This is what the American people
are looking for, solutions, not going back and trying to draw parallels
with what was done right or done wrong in the past.

Because we have decades of that that we can go back and dig up stuff
on Republican presidents and Democrat presidents. The American people are
ready for solutions. And that`s what I have been putting on the table on
all of these issues.

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR: Mr. Cain, Ed Schultz here tonight. You --
you said that you would replace the tax code with what you call the 999
Plan. You would reduce corporate profits down to nine percent, personal
income down to nine percent, and a national retail sales.

If you do the numbers on this, doesn`t this favor the rich? And
doesn`t it hit lower income people really hard? What`s your math on this
999 Program?

CAIN: It does not favor the rich. It favors everybody. People who
work, everybody`s paying the total of 15.3 percent payroll tax, correct?
Now, that 15.3 percent, even if they aren`t paying any income tax, now goes
to nine percent -- 15.3, nine.

Secondly, this levels the playing field. It does not help the rich
more than it helps the poor. It levels -- it basically collects the same
amount of revenue. By replacing the payroll tax, it eliminates capital
gains tax. Give me a moment.

It replaces the capital gains tax, and it also replaces the death tax.
This is what this economy needs in order to get going. The poor are not
disadvantaged. They are empowered because of this.

Now, there`s one other aspect of this that I didn`t get a chance to
talk about, which is to help the poor, to help these impoverished,
economically depressed cities like a Detroit. You can take that 999 Plan
and use it to create empowerment zones.

When you look at the people who are jobless, especially among black
Americans, they live in areas that need some additional help. Without the
government picking winners and losers, that plan could be -- could be -- we
haven`t defined all the parameters yet -- an 888 Plan. It`s simple and
it`s easy to understand.

SCHULTZ: Well, that would be a government program that you just
created for the city of Detroit, but it would also reduce the wealthiest
American`s tax obligation from 33 percent down to nine percent. I think
you got that pretty well covered. But that`s just my opinion.

CAIN: Well, that`s your opinion. But if you look -- but if you look
at what it`s going to do to help everybody, you might come to a different

MADDOW: Mr. Herman Cain, we`re grateful for your time tonight, sir.
Thank you for joining us. We look forward to seeing you here again on
MSNBC soon.

CAIN: Thank you.

MADDOW: I will just -- the point that I would make about their
argument there about regressive taxation is that poor people proportionally
spend more of their wealth on buying stuff. And so if the great tax in
America is a national sales tax, it disproportionately affects poor people,
because more of their wealth is spent buying stuff, as compared with rich
people, who spend a very small proportion of their wealth on buying stuff.

That`s the whole argument about why a national sales tax has a
disproportionate impact on rich and poor people.

O`DONNELL: He`s also, though, pointing out something very important
about the working poor in particular. They pay more taxation in payroll
taxes, in Social Security taxes than they do in income tax. In fact, 75
percent of our taxpayers pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income

So when the Republicans are out there talking about people who don`t
pay income taxes, he`s right, they`re paying, right off the bat, 15
percent. The employer --

SHARPTON: He`s absolutely right about the 15.3 percent in payroll
tax. But Ed is right that if you go to a 999 --

O`DONNELL: -- doesn`t even --


SHARPTON: He innovated into 888. I don`t know where we were going,
999, 888. In the debate, he said God gets 10 percent. I mean, we`ll
figure it out.

ROBINSON: For the record, Chile, privatization.

MADDOW: It`s a very personal form of privatization. Let`s go back to
the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, and "HARDBALL`s" Chris Matthews. Chris?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thank you, Rachel, very much. Let`s
get away from all of this policy discussion for a minute. I think we`ve
done enough of this tonight. Policy drives me crazy. Just kidding.

Let`s go to who won tonight, in a sense that it looks to me like we
have a couple months to go before the first test in Iowa. Tonight, who did
best in winning Iowa? Who did best in winning South Carolina, doing
decently well in New Hampshire, and moving on to where the Republican
heartland is, the south.

I know I`m dictating the answer. But with Bachmann fading, Romney
doing OK tonight as the leader of the establishment, and clearly Rick Perry
I believe still the leader of the Tea Party people, who`s going to win this
looking right now at it, win the whole thing going forward?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I don`t know that. But looking at
this tonight, Rick Perry had to show that he could be on the stage with
these other people, that he could hold his own, that he could act
presidential. I think he started out that way. I think he lost in
exchange to Mitt Romney on who did what.

But I think overall, at the beginning especially, he looked like a
credible candidate. The Tea Party people like that. They want somebody of
their ilk who they think can win. Looking at it through the eyes of the
Tea Party people, they saw on the issues and in stage presence, even if the
establishment don`t like some of his views on evolution and son on -- they
saw a guy that they think they can sell to the country.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you. Just staying on that point, did the Tea
Party see a leader tonight? Jim Vandehei?

JIM VANDEHEI, "POLITICO": I think they saw a leader that they can
live with. I think they feel like he probably cleared the threshold. I`ll
tell you what struck me.

MATTHEWS: You`re not a Tea Partier?

Did the Tea Party see a leader --

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I believe they did. I believe
they did. Absolutely. I think they saw it tonight in the Perry campaign.
And I think they also saw some other glimmers with respect to Romney on
some other issues.

MATTHEWS: They think he might be acceptable?

VANDEHEI: We also saw how thin he is on these answers. I`ll tell
you, having sat down there four years ago versus today, Mitt Romney is an
exponentially better candidate today than he was four years ago.

The way he handled that opening sequence, he actually showed -- God
forbid -- passion. He actually showed like some real command of the issue,
in a way where I think he could connect with the people. And he made -- I
thought he made Perry look small.


MATTHEWS: Was he an anti-government conservative tonight?

VANDEHEI: He wasn`t as conservative as Rick Perry is. But when it
comes to jobs --


STEELE: I think he upped the presidential quotient for himself
tonight. I think a more people, beyond the base itself, looking to the
general, saw something in Perry -- in Romney that they hadn`t seen before.


FINEMAN: The lines have now sharply been drawn, OK? Over Social
Security, the most fundamental federal program of the last 75 years. Rick
Perry wants to abolish it.

MATTHEWS: What does that mean? Does that mean he takes away the
federal responsibility?

FINEMAN: Take away the federal responsibility for it. But Stewart
Stevens (ph), who`s the top strategist for Mitt Romney, was down in the
spin room, couldn`t contain his glee, saying you cannot win a federal
election saying you want to abolish Social Security. And no Republican
candidate is going to run on the ticket --

MATTHEWS: Let`s listen to what Perry said, because it was played just
a moment ago. Perry said, "you cannot say to the 25-year-old today that
this system works, that it`s not a Ponzi Scheme." Because the 25-year-old
young woman and young male, who has a family in many cases, is paying into
something, dollar for dollar, they don`t believe they will get back, dollar
for dollar.

Is that an unfair indictment?

VANDEHEI: It`s a totally true indictment. I think what he said is
absolutely true about Social Security. He handled Social Security, the
answer terribly, because it`s going to get all -- it`s going to get the
Karl Rove crowd. It`s going to get these outside donors. They`re going to
find Mitt Romney a hell of a lot more appealing tomorrow than they did --

FINEMAN: The key thing he didn`t do was say, I`m going to find a way
to fix it for the next generation.

MATTHEWS: Can he do that tomorrow night?


FINEMAN: He`s got to fix it. They didn`t do it tonight, that`s for

STEELE: With Herman Cain and the Chilean model sitting out there,
then I think, you know -- in other words, there are dynamics on this
question with respect to Social Security. Republicans don`t want to
abolish it, by the way.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think --

STEELE: No one`s going to come out --

MATTHEWS: What I liked about it, as a person, like we all do, who
tries to understand American political debate, it was the first hard
indictment of the establishment. It was an indictment. He said it was a
Ponzi scheme, a crime.

I mean, he`s basically saying something that the Tea Partiers, at
their most vicious, if you will, believe.

FINEMAN: Rick Perry uses very tough, accusatory language. You know,
he talks about Ben Bernanke being treated ugly down in Texas. Ben Bernanke
might be treasonous.

He used the word liar here several times.

MATTHEWS: Abject liar.

FINEMAN: The president might be an abject liar. That is --for better
or worse, is the mood of a lot of the country. Look at the NBC poll; 82
percent of the American people hate the Congress, 54 percent of the
American people want to vote out every member of Congress right now.

STEELE: He`s not talking to Howard. He`s not talking to you. He`s
talking to folks beyond this audience.


MADDOW: Everybody, thank you so much. Everybody -- Jim Vandehei,
thank you. Thank you, Howard, as always. Thank you, Michael. Now back to

MADDOW: Thank you, Chris. Thank you, guys. I will just say that as
we are talking about this as the great distinction in tonight`s debate,
Rick Perry being against -- for lack of a better term, against Social
Security, and Mitt Romney standing up for it, Democrats have taken great
advantage over the idea that Republicans want to kill Medicare, because
Republicans all voted for a Republican budget that would privatize
Medicare, voucherize it.

That was the Paul Ryan plan. Mitt Romney is very firmly on the record
of being in favor of privatizing Social Security. Mitt Romney, speaking in
2007, talking about President Bush, said "the president said let`s have
private accounts, take that surplus money that`s being gathered now in
Social Security and put that into private accounts." Mitt Romney said,
"that works."

So if Mitt Romney wants to be the champion of Social Security and the
dude wants to privatize it, they`re going to have to make an argument that
privatizing Social Security is a way of saving it. George W. Bush tried
that really, really, really hard after he was re-elected, to really great
effect for Democrats.

We`ll have much more from our panel. Plus we`ll be checking in on
some of the truthfulness of what we heard from the Republican candidates
tonight in our Department of Corrections. That`s coming up right around
the corner.

You`re watching MSNBC`s coverage of the Republican presidential
candidate`s debate. We`ll be right back.


from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But I know it firsthand
from speaking to people. Obama-care is clearly leading to job killing
regulations, not job creating regulations.



MADDOW: Welcome back to our coverage of tonight`s Republican
presidential candidates debate. We want to check the truthfulness of some
of what we heard tonight from some of the candidates. For that, we`ll go
to our Department of Corrections for the evening, and the "Huffington
Post`s" Alex Wagner.

Alex, what do you got?

ALEX WAGNER, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Thanks, Rachel. It`s good to be
a corrections officer.

Let`s start with immigration. Here`s what Texas Governor Rick Perry
said tonight about the safety along the U.S./Mexico boarder.


PERRY: For the president of the United States to go to El Paso,
Texas, and say that the border is safer than it`s ever been, either he has
some of the poorest intel of a president in the history of this country or
he was an abject liar to the American people. It is not safe on that


WAGNER: Home of the whopper, that is where Rick Perry is living.
Government data obtained by the Associated Press shows it actually isn`t so
dangerous after all. The top four big cities in America with the lowest
rates of violent crime are all actually in border states. That would be
San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin, according to a new FBI report.

An in house Customs and Border Protection report shows that border
patrol agents face far less danger than street cops in U.S. cities.

Jobs was also a major topic for debate earlier tonight. Here`s what
Mitt Romney had to say about his jobs record as Massachusetts governor.


ROMNEY: At the end of four years, we had our unemployment rate down
to 4.7 percent. That`s a record I think the president would like to see.
As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this
president has created in the entire country.


WAGNER: OK, the distinction here is Romney was not referring to net
jobs, but total jobs created. While Mitt Romney was governor, from January
2003 to January 2007, 48,500 jobs were created in Massachusetts. According
do the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, President Obama`s stimulus
program alone increased the number of people employed by between 1.0 to 2.9

He also increased the number of full time equivalent jobs from 1.4 to
4.0 -- that`s million.

And then tonight, there was Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who made
one of those claims about policies from the past based more on (INAUDIBLE)
nostalgia than actual fact.


BACHMANN: Our immigration law worked beautifully back in the 1950s,
up until the early 1960s, when people had to demonstrate that they had
money in their pocket, they had no contagious diseases, they weren`t a
felon. they had to agree to learn to speak the English language. They had
to learn American history and the Constitution.

The one thing they had to promise is that they would not become a
burden on the American taxpayer.


WAGNER: The rules that Michele Bachmann describes here are actually
pretty darn close to exactly what already exists. To become a U.S.
citizen, you have to show that you can read, speak and write basic English.
You need to have a basic understanding of U.S. history and the form of the
U.S. government. You cannot have a criminal record. You have to have
filed your income tax return every single year. You must have, quote
unquote, "good moral character." And if you apply for a visa or admission
into the country, you`re rejected if you have a significant communicable

That`s it from the home of the whopper.

MADDOW: Thank you, Alex Wagner, in our Department of Corrections,
which also sounds delicious. Appreciate it.

We`re going to get back to our panel, and to Republican strategist
Steve Schmidt, of course, a senior strategist with the McCain/Palin
campaign in 2008. Steve, I wanted to bring you in on this, specifically on
that first point that Alex just addressed there, Rick Perry calling
President Obama either a person who had bad intel or a person who was an
abject liar for having traveled to El Paso, Texas, and intimated that El
Paso was a relatively safe U.S. city.

His choice of language there, abject liar; is that politically
important for him tonight?

distinction between his approach, calling the president an abject liar, and
Governor Romney`s approach. You got to that point in the debate where
Governor Romney says, look, the president`s a nice man, but I don`t think
he has a clue what he`s doing on the economy, and he has to move on.

I think when you look at the poll numbers, the American people don`t
dislike the president personally. I think a lot of Americans are worried
about his economic acumen and about his policies. But going out and name
calling the president like that I don`t think is a tactic that`s going to
have a lot of effectiveness, particularly when you look at it in a general
election context.

I think some of the criticisms that Karl Rove has offered on this
front are exactly dead on. National politics is an unforgiving business.
You look at Al Gore saying I invented the Internet or John Kerry saying I
voted for it before I voted against it, or John McCain saying the
fundamentals of the economy are strong.

When you`re explaining controversial statements, you`re losing.
That`s what the problem with the Ponzi scheme statement is. There`s no
constituency in the Republican party to abolish Social Security. Lawrence
O`Donnell pointed this out correctly before.

President Bush tried to privatize Social Security in `05. There was
no Republican congressional support, because they know the constituents
don`t support it. I think it`s going to be very problematic for Governor
Perry, as you look at Horry (ph) County on the South Carolina coast, where
there`s a lot of retirees, when the campaign moves into Florida.

I think that Stewart Stevens is exactly right. You can`t win a
national campaign when you are on the record calling for the dismantling of
Social Security and then exacerbating it with statements like he did
tonight. It`s very problematic for him. And I think it`s something that
Democrats have a lot of glee over obviously.

MADDOW: Steve, you identify I think that key moment when Mitt Romney
chose to really tonally differentiate himself from Governor Perry. As you
pointed out, he said, listen, President Obama seems like a nice guy, but he
doesn`t have a clue about the economy.

At that same time, Governor Romney sort of took what I took to be a
patronizing hand around the shoulder approach toward Governor Perry, by
saying, aw, look, the guy sort of screwed up on that HPV vaccine thing. I
think if he could take a mulligan on that, he would, right. Sort of
looking at him as if he was almost sort of a wayward kid or maybe an
irresponsible person, who an adult like Mitt Romney could forgive.

Is that -- I wonder, I may be sensitive to that because Mitt Romney
was my governor in Massachusetts. I felt that way about him personally
when he was governor. I`m wondering if that came across more broadly and
if you think that was politically significant.

SCHMIDT: I watched Jim Vandehei earlier hit the nail on the head.
And I watched Mitt Romney debate I would say 20 times in 2008, and how
exponentially better he is. He didn`t back up on the health care attacks.
And I thought no one laid a glove on him on that.

You saw him, when he was asked whether he was a member of the Tea
Party -- he didn`t try to hedge and equivocate and pander to that question.
He answered it directly. And I think you`ve seen a lot of growth with him
in a candidate.

I thought that Rick Perry had a good first 45 minutes in this debate.
But he was almost like a boxer who ran out of steam in the middle to late
rounds. And I thought he was very unsteady in the back half of the debate.

I don`t think that he did anything that knocks him out of the race or
dislodges him for his front-runner status. But I thought he entered
tonight as a soft front-runner, and I think he leaves the debate tonight as
a soft front-runner. He certainly didn`t harden his position with his
performance tonight.

O`DONNELL: Steve, it`s Lawrence O`Donnell. If you`re in the Obama
campaign tonight, who do you want to face out of those two in the general
election? It looked to me like Mitt Romney is much more dangerous to the
Obama campaign in a general election, if he can get there, than Perry could

SCHMIDT: Yeah, I mean, judging on this performance tonight, I think
there`s no question about that, that they would be hanging up Rick Perry
signs over in the West Wing, rooting for him in the Republican primary.
Mitt Romney`s a far more dangerous candidate, judging from this debate,
judging from this debate performance alone. There`s no question about that
in my mind.

SCHULTZ: Steve, I want to ask you. I think Rick Perry is going to be
able to recover from this Ponzi scheme comment, I do. Because he talked
straight to young people tonight. He basically said, you know what, if we
keep going the status quo, you`re going to get screwed; you`re never going
to get that money.

And as simple as it is, that`s what the Tea Party understands. They
make government the boogie man and they run on that. And so are we being a
little too critical on Mr. Perry? I mean, I think he`s throwing red meat
at the crowd. He threw red meat at the crowd when he talked about
executions and justice in Texas.

He talked about red meat when he said taxes, regulation and freedom.
I mean, this guy came to the plate tonight, and he did exactly what
everybody thought he was going to do.

SCHMIDT: Look, he`s an authentic conservative. That`s why he`s leapt
out to the front of the pack in this campaign. But I do think that
electability is going to be a key determinative issue for Republican
primary vote as we move through the process.

If there`s an effective campaign waged against him from outside
groups, which maybe there will be, or from the Romney campaign, that, you
know, go after this Social Security issue and render him in the eyes of
Republican primary voters, vulnerable to attacks from the Democrats, from
Barack Obama in a way that would cause Republicans to lose what Republicans
generally believe to be an imminently winnable election -- I think it`s
going to be enter into the decision making.

I do think it is a -- I think he`s made a series of highly problematic
comments on this. That would obviously be a big part of any general
election. But I think they`re going to be a big part in a Republican

ROBINSON: Steve, this is Gene Robinson. Was there anybody else in
the debate -- any other performance that you saw that could rise perhaps to
the level of Perry and Romney? Or is that the dynamic we`re going to be
looking at? Is it a two-man race at this point.

SCHMIDT: I thought that Jon Huntsman had a very strong performance
tonight. I thought he had a weak performance in the previous debate. I`m
not sure that there`s enough oxygen in the race for him to make a move. I
do think his campaign is focused squarely in the state of New Hampshire. I
think that when you look at a Romney/Perry contest in New Hampshire, when
the campaign starts in earnest, I think that there is room for movement
once the race becomes dynamic.

We`ll see if Jon Huntsman has any potential to move there. The polls
right now are not promising, but I think he had a good debate performance.
But I really thought one of the big news out of the debate tonight was the
elimination really of Michele Bachmann from the top tier.

There`s not enough room for both her and Rick Perry in the race. And
I think Rick Perry is the person who`s now occupied that space. I expect
you`ll start to see her fade away.

MADDOW: Steve Schmidt, a man who knows of what he speaks, thank you
so much for joining us tonight, Steve. It`s been great to have you here.

SCHMIDT: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: We will have more from our panel. Plus, a look ahead to what
President Obama will say when he makes his big jobs speech before a joint
session of Congress tomorrow night. You`re watching MSNBC`s coverage of
the Republican presidential candidates debate at the Reagan Library. We`ll
be right back.



PERRY: It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years
old today, you are paying into a program that`s going to be there. Anybody
that`s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a
monstrous lie to our kids. And it`s not right.

ROMNEY: Our nominee has to be someone who isn`t committed to
abolishing Social Security, but is committed to saving Social Security.

PERRY: You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it
anything other than a Ponzi scheme. It is. That is what it is.


MADDOW: Tonight`s Republican presidential candidates debate at the
Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. Let`s bring in Georgetown
University Professor Michael Eric Dyson and Tulane professor Melissa

Thank you both so much for joining us. I want to give you the
opportunity, both of you, to just tell me what you think was the most
important outcome of tonight`s debate or the most important issue

Melissa, I`d love to start with you?

all of these moments. I guess for me the most important moment actually
just happened, which was Alex Wagner fact checking so much of what was
said. I was live Tweeting it and watching it and feeling a great deal of
angst, in part because Jon Huntsman kept sounding very reasonable and
making good points backed up by facts and data.

And yet there was -- obviously we`re not talking about Huntsman and
whatever it was he was saying, because clearly his positions, which -- at
some point I think I Tweeted, he looks like he`d actually be a reasonable
primary challenger for the president.

I mean, he -- the way that he was talking, the sort of expressiveness
with which he was trying to take on really complicated questions, certainly
from the right, to the right of where I, for the most part, stand
politically, but with a lot of thoughtfulness. That, for the most part,
has fallen out of our conversation in the sort of postmortem on the debate.

MADDOW: Professor Michael Eric Dyson, what do you think was the most
important either issue discussed or political outcome tonight?

the Ponzi scheme some would say faux pas, others would say badge of honor.
It is true that Perry appealed to his base. But, you know, you`ve got to
get beyond that base if you`re going to win an election. Of course, he`s
got to win the Republican primary first.

And I think that here he looks a little bit less presidential tonight
than did Mitt Romney. If Michele Bachmann lost her Tea Party enthusiasts
to Perry, then I think Huntsman, in a sense, as Professor Harris-Perry
indicated, though reasonable, though articulate, lost that to Mitt Romney.

And earlier, Rachel, when you talked about the kind of condescension,
and the hell fellow, well met, and sticking his arm around Perry, that may
seem as an act -- a gesture of condescension, but it turns out to be the
performance of a presidential persona.

And I think in that way, along with the reasoned judgements he made,
and the way he didn`t cede too much ground to Perry -- Perry had to come in
and knock him out of the box. He didn`t do so. He wasn`t overwhelming.
He was whelming. As a result of that, the reality is that Mitt Romney
gained ground.

I think the Ponzi scheme stuff will come to bite him again, to
boomerang back on him. And I think the fact that Michele Bachmann, as you
all have indicated, descended from a higher register to a faded out arena,
where she no longer has the hole card when it comes to the Tea Party,
suggest that there`s a two-man race going on between Romney and Perry.

MADDOW: One of the dynamics I thought was most interesting, sort of -
- forgive me, but sort of between the tiers of candidates tonight, was the
way that Ron Paul went after Rick Perry, over and over and over again,
particularly on that issue in the end of the HPV vaccine for young women,
for teens and preteen girls in Texas.

Melissa, what do you think is the overall outcome of that?

HARRIS-PERRY: I`m distressed by that particular line of questioning
on Perry. I`m distressed by it, because I think there is an important line
of questioning there. I think it`s about why would, in fact, a supposedly
small government governor make this choice? I don`t think that it`s the
sort of I hate cancer discourse that Perry gives us.

I don`t think that it`s suddenly, in this one moment, he looks at
scientific evidence; he adjudicates the question of public health and he
comes out with a decision that is to impose a government order on parents.
It just -- it`s so out of step with everything else he said.

So I think the answer, though, isn`t to sort of push him back into the
corner of small government and parental rights, unless, of course, you`re a
parent who wants to terminate a pregnancy. But not pushing him into that
corner, but instead really asking about the kind of financial interests in
relationship with Merck and other large corporations.

Ron Paul is capable of that kind of line questioning, but he didn`t go
there. And instead he really pushes Perry to become more extreme. And
that I think is distressing. You know, that and the kind of constant
refrain that Social Security is irreparably broken in its funding stream,
which was repeated both by Perry and by Romney. Because Social Security is
not irreparably broken.

It`s so -- it`s actually one of the most easily fixed issues in sort
of the American political system, that every time I hear that repeated and
repeated with the refrain, we all agree that, of course, it`s irreparably
damaged -- I think, for me, that`s the only thing that allows a Rick Perry,
for example, to get a foothold with young people who don`t know that it
could be actually quite easily fixed by simply withholding payroll tax from
a higher percentage of income from earning Americans.

It could be fixed tomorrow.

MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Eric Dyson, thank you so
much for sharing your insight with us tonight. Very happy to have you both
with us. Thanks.

DYSON: Thank you.

MADDOW: Coming up, the other big political story of the week. And
frankly, what is the great context for the debate, the prebuttal that all
the candidates were trying to give tonight to President Obama`s big jobs
speech tomorrow night before a joint session of Congress. This is MSNBC`s
coverage of the Republican presidential candidates debate. Stay with us.


to sign a pledge to take no pledges. I have pledge to my wife, and I
pledge allegiance to my country. But beyond that, no pledges. I think it
diminishes the political discussion. I think it jeopardizes your ability
to lead once you get there.



MADDOW: Let`s go back to Simi Valley, California, the site of
tonight`s Reagan Presidential Library Republican Candidates Debate.
Joining us now from Simi Valley is Chuck Todd, the political director for
NBC News.

Chuck, does the -- does the campaign for this nomination change
because of tonight`s debate? Is it on a different trajectory now than it
was before a few hours ago?

-- insiders knew this was turning into a two-person race between Romney and
Perry. What both candidates confirmed tonight is they`re ready to have
that two person race. I think the most stunning development is this,
Rachel -- and I challenge you or anybody listening tonight. If I had come
to you four months ago and said, you know what, when this Republican
primary gets down to two candidates, the single most contentious issue is
going to be the future of Social Security, and I think people would have
said what, really, that would be it?

I think it`s stunning right now that that`s what we`re looking at. I
talked to both Romney folks and Perry folks in the spin room tonight. That
is what the Romney campaign is 100 percent focused on. They believe if
they win this nomination, they do so because they hang the phrase Ponzi
scheme around the neck of Rick Perry.

They believe Republican primary voters -- and Rachel, we dig way into
all these numbers, but Republican primary voters are, by average, older
than Democratic primary voters. They like Social Security, whether it`s --
as one Romney strategist put it to me, they like Social Security in West
Texas. But they also like it in Florida. And oh, by the way, Florida is
an early primary state.

MADDOW: Chuck, two strategic questions for you on that. Does the
Rick Perry side of things think that they have got a winning issue with the
Ponzi scheme thing? Or are they just back on their heels about this? And
does the Romney campaign acknowledge that they have a little bit of a
problem with their candidate being on record in favor of privatizing Social

TODD: Well, I think what you have is the Perry folks kind of like the
idea that Romney, in trying to fight him on Ponzi scheme, made an
electability argument. Because what the Perry campaign will tell you, the
base of the Republican party isn`t interested electability. They`re
interested in passion. They`re interested in principles. They`re
interested in specifics on issues.

So they believe while Romney may look like to those in the media of
getting the better of him for a general election, and that Romney may have
made the analytical argument -- like you have no idea what you may be doing
to the Republican party in a general election -- that that isn`t what the
Republican primary electorate wants to hear.

That would be one thing. I think we learned something about Rick
Perry. Rick Perry is not going to run away from his words. That`s
something that they believe separates him from a Mitt Romney, who they can
say, you know what, when the tough gets going on various things, he tries
to find a way out of it. He tries to backtrack a little bit.

Sometimes it`s a complete flip-flop. Sometimes it`s like health care,
where he tries to have two answers, right. Well, the mandate`s good in
Massachusetts, but it`s bad everywhere else.

MADDOW: In terms of the overall context here, obviously the biggest
event in politics is not tonight`s debate, but tomorrow night`s address to
a joint session of Congress, the president due to give his big speech on
jobs. What are you expecting in terms of that address? And how are the
candidates and the campaigns viewing that as either a sounding board or a
chance to go after the president in a new way?

TODD: Well, I think the candidates feel as if they think they know
everything that`s coming out. We all think we know everything that the
president is proposing, that he isn`t -- this isn`t going to be, quote
unquote, the big plan that some of the president`s supporters, particularly
those members of Congress who believe you have to do more than just a 300
billion dollar plan. You heard Deval Patrick this morning saying, I still
think it`s going to be a bigger plan that he rolls out.

I think we`ll see. The Republicans know what their primary electorate
wants to hear, which is no more spending, don`t do that. So they think
that no matter what the president puts out, they`ll have an easy time
opposing it. The question is, what is the tone? What I`m curious about is
less on some of these specifics. What is the tone the president takes with
Congress tomorrow night?

Is tomorrow the beginning of the presidential campaign? Or is
tomorrow the start of what -- I`ve had other people argue to me that the
president does have about two more months of true governing ability left in
him in dealing with Congress, that there`s a way he can fight Congress and
say, we have to govern, guys; we have two months to do this before the
political campaign really takes off?

Or does he make the calculation, you know what, they`re not going to
work with me. Let`s start the contrast now?

SCHULTZ: Do you think -- Chuck this is Ed. Do you think that
President Obama is going to ever get to that point where he says, no,
they`re not going to work with me? It`s time now to go to re-election? It
just seems that he has that insurmountable feeling that he just has to cut
a deal on something.

TODD: I mean, Ed, I think the evidence is clear. Yeah, we have not
seen -- he always tries to find something -- another person described to me
tomorrow night as this way: he`s got to propose some things that he can get
passed. The trade agreements are probably the easiest lift. The payroll
tax cuts, extending that should be a fairly easy lift at that point.

But they know that they have to propose some things that is both part
of the president`s core belief -- and by the way, I`ve had some Obama --
some folks close to sort of -- I`d say the second circle of Team Obama say,
you know what, he needs to do a better job outlining what his core beliefs
are, what he`s willing to fight for at the end of the day, that he needs to
have something in his speech that he has a fight with, that maybe he loses
legislatively, but is able to take it to the campaign trail.

But he -- they`ve got to acquire a win or two. And it seems to me
they`ve outlined what they think they`re going to, quote, win on, or at
least work with Congress on, the three trade agreement and you have the
power -- the payroll tax cut.

MADDOW: I will say this, it seems like a landmark moment right now,
because you talk to the White House a lot. And you`re able to always
report in a really reliable way, Chuck, what it is that the White House is
willing to admit about their internal negotiations. That`s about the only
time in this first term of President Obama that I`ve heard that the advice
from the White House is the same advice as the liberal base has been
screaming at the White House.

It`s been a very long time. Chuck Todd, thank you very much for
staying up late and joining us. I really appreciate it.

TODD: You got it, guys.

MADDOW: All right. Our panel is staying with us. This is MSNBC`s
coverage of the Republican presidential candidates debate at the Reagan
Library. We`ll be right back.



of Ronald Reagan. The message was great. But the consequence -- we have
to be honest with ourselves, it was not all that great. Huge deficits
during the 1980s. And that is what my criticism was for, not for Ronald
Reagan`s message. His message is a great message.


MADDOW: Ronald Reagan, in the abstract, thumbs up. Ronald Reagan in
reality, Ron Paul having a hard time with that one tonight. Here`s my
question for our panel tonight. Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton, Lawrence
O`Donnell, Eugene Robinson, there is definitely two clear tiers or maybe
even three clear tiers of candidates.

We have Romney and Perry and then we`ve sort of got everybody else.
But the everybody else`s in a big field like this and on a big stage like
we had tonight sometimes can play an important role, by highlighting a key
issue, by confronting one of the leading candidates in a way they wouldn`t
have otherwise been confronted, by shifting the debate in a direction it
ought to go, that it wouldn`t otherwise go.

Did any of the second and third tier candidates tonight have that
clarifying --


O`DONNELL: -- disappointed me, though, because I though he had -- he
had better ammunition than he used. So -- for example, on Perry, Perry
challenged Ron Paul on Ron Paul`s historic support for Reagan, which was
actually pretty consistent for Ron Paul.

What Ron Paul could have said is when I was supporting Reagan, you
were a Democrat. He left out the extra punch that he has. He has used it
in other places. He kind of ran out of time. He disappointed me as a


ROBINSON: We -- maybe I`m just being clouded by my affection for Ron
Paul as a political character. I mean, he did go after Perry on the HPV
vaccine in a tough way.

MADDOW: In a traditional conservative way, though, not very much a
libertarian way.

ROBINSON: He also said it`s bad medicine. He`s a doctor. So also
from that standpoint. Second, where else are you going to find a candidate
who`s going to go off on a riff about how you build a border fence and they
might use it to keep us in. That was one of the moments of the debate --
you know, I`m really missing --

SHARPTON: I think where they did make the mark, as someone who ran
who was called an also ran, is they made the attacks personal. If you know
that you`re running and you may not win, then you want to bring the debate
where it wouldn`t ordinarily go.

And when -- in `04, Kucinich and I brought it on the war in Iraq where
the other candidates really didn`t want to go, and brought it on racial
justice and other issues. No one did that tonight. It was even with Ron
Paul. It was personal; Perry, you did this. It was nowhere that they had
to address the issues they wouldn`t have normally addressed. That`s what I
would have done.

O`DONNELL: You`re saying they kind of have to ignore the question and
just go with the --

SHARPTON: You have to ignore the question if you`re being ignored and
you can make --

MADDOW: Reframe it.

SHARPTON: You train the debate, since no one thinks you`re going to
win anyway. So what are you debating --

MADDOW: Briefly, last 30 seconds, did any of the candidates who are
not Romney or Perry materially affect the course of the debate tonight?

SCHULTZ: No, I don`t think so. But I thought the Newtster -- I
thought Newt Gingrich clearly, in my opinion, head and shoulders, when it
comes to the facts, putting it into perspective, where the Republican party
is, what their history is, where they are now, where they want to go --
he`s a sour old shoe and he`s not going to get it done, but I think he
might be the smartest one in the bunch.

O`DONNELL: He too lies about Ronald Reagan as much as the rest of

MADDOW: My favorite is going back and finding Newt Gingrich`s quotes
around Iran Contra, of him throwing Reagan under the bus. And now he
describes himself as an apostle.

All right, that`s going to do it for us tonight. Lawrence O`Donnell,
Al Sharpton, Eugene Robinson, Ed Schultz, all of our colleagues who joined
us tonight, it has been a great night of coverage.

I maintain that the greatest loser tonight was Jon Huntsman because he
did not move up and he needed to. A lot of different opinions tonight
about who the biggest winner was. The Romney campaign certainly feels like
they won because of Rick Perry doubling down on Social Security as a Ponzi

In case you missed any of the debate tonight, the Republican
presidential debate, in its entirety, is coming up in about ten seconds.

But remember, of course, tomorrow night, in a joint address to
Congress, President Obama`s big and long awaited jobs speech.

Weeks in September aren`t supposed to be this full of political news,
but we`re lucky they are. Have a great one.


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