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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Jimmy Carter

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you very much for

And thanks to you at home for sticking with us this hour. I`m coming
to you live from Atlanta, Georgia, tonight because I had the honor today of
speaking with our nation`s 39th president, Jimmy Carter. We`ll have that
interview coming up for you a little bit later on in the show, including
his prediction for President Obama`s re-election chances.

Also, the connection between former President Jimmy Carter and Michele
Bachmann. But before we get there, imagine you were relaxing at home,
getting ready to take a drive to the mall or drive to work perhaps, when
all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this happened.


TV ANCHOR: From our Manatee County newsroom, a Bradenton woman gets a
six-foot surprise in her garage. A Burmese python had wrapped itself
around the engine of the woman`s SUV. It took trappers two hours to remove
the snake.


MADDOW: Two hours to remove the snake. A six-foot-long Burmese
python wrapped around your car`s engine. What do you do in a situation
like that? Presumably, after you are done freaking out, you call in the
professionals to come take care of the six-foot-long Burmese python wrapped
around your engine block.

Unfortunately, for the snakeophobes among us this problem of enormous
snakes turning up where they are not supposed to be is not a problem that
is confined to that one Florida woman and her one garage.


TV ANCHOR: It was big enough to hunt down prey the size of an 8-year-
old child. A massive python was captured this weekend after being spotted
near a Bradenton strip mall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It lunged at me twice. It was hissing the whole
time. I hated to do it but I did have to hit him upside the head a couple

REPORTER: A professional trapper, Evan Matthews (ph), needed backup
when he came face to face with this 107-pound python in this drainage ditch
curled up and ready to strike.


MADDOW: Pythons in your garage, pythons in your local drainage ditch.
Big exotic snakes being found with relatively alarming frequency in places
where big exotic snakes should not necessarily be.


REPORTER: Now that this 12-foot, 100-pound anaconda was found and
captured, curled up in a storm drain next to that pond, it seems to be the
one with the appetite for water fowl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ain`t really afraid of snakes, but that was a
big snake. It would have easily ate a 100-pound dog, which I`ve got two
dogs. So --


MADDOW: Yes, it`s not just pythons turning up in Florida
neighborhoods, ponds and things. It`s also -- it`s not just pythons. It`s
also anacondas.

What you are looking at here is three police officers battling a 14
1/2-foot, 200-pound African rock python spotted near a Florida apartment
complex. The African rock python is the largest snake in Africa. They eat
stuff like goats, warthogs and crocodiles. And they eat those things

So, this is a job that exists in America now, wrangling exotic
invasive species snakes. Trapping snakes. Removing snakes from places
where snakes should not be.

As you might imagine, it`s not necessarily a safe job. According to
the Humane Society, most of the people who have been killed recently in the
United States by reticulated and Burmese pythons have been adults who have
experience handling giant reptiles.

But still, it is a job nonetheless. And one of the reasons that job
exists is because those snakes are being imported to the United States.
They are being shipped in, bought and sold, and even bred right here in
America, which I guess means that that could also be your job. You could
be the person whose job it is to get this anaconda pregnant.
Congratulations. It`s a zillion baby anacondas.

I mention all of this because yesterday in the Republican-controlled
United States House of Representatives, the Republicans called in a snake
breeder to testify against plans by the Obama administration to make
invasive species, giant foreign snakes, more difficult to import into this
country. There are nine species on the list, snakes like the Burmese
python, the reticulated python, and the yellow anaconda.

Under something called the Lacy Act, the Interior Department is
supposed to regulate importing and interstate sale of species determined to
be injurious to humans, to the interests of agriculture, to horticulture or
forestry, or to the welfare and survival of wildlife resources of the
United States.

This is what they`re supposed to be doing. And they`re not saying you
can`t have a yellow anaconda pet anymore. They`re not banning these snakes
outright. It`s just that you can`t import them or transfer them across
state lines. It`s putting these snakes in the same category as other
controlled animals like, say, the mongoose or the Indian wild dog.

The Republicans` snakes on a plane hearing made national news this
week when Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia started
publicizing the snakes on a plane hearing, mocking the Republicans first on
their big idea that liberating the anacondas from onerous regulations is
somehow a good idea, if only regulations like this went away, then the
business climate in America would be awesome.

In Congressman Connolly`s words, quote, "If regulations and economic
growth were inversely related, then sub-Saharan Africa would have the most
productive economy on earth." Good point.

Mr. Connolly is also drawing attention to the "snakes on a plane"
hearing as a way of pointing out that the Republicans are not really
working on jobs right now in Congress. They are instead working on stuff
like this and calling it jobs. And while I`m sure it is a cool perk of
being a congressman that you can have the snake breeding guy with the
amazing hair in your hearing room, that is in fact what the Republican-
controlled House is convening hearings about right now while the president,
on the other hand, is touring the country promoting his $450 billion
comprehensive jobs legislation.

So far, the response from the House Republican leadership to the
president`s big jobs proposal has not taken the form of legislative action
or hearings like the ones they held on the snake guy. It`s rather taken
the form of speeches like the one House Speaker John Boehner gave today,
where he derided the United States Senate as if the Senate is the place
where they are really working -- the Senate is not the ones working on jobs
while the House is. The Senate hasn`t been doing anything and the House --
well, the House has just been Johnny on the spot.


Senate needs to act, too. The Senate can`t sit idle on jobs and the


MADDOW: Yes, not when the House is doing so much work on liberating
the anacondas.

John Boehner`s speech on the economy today took a few remarkable
turns. For example, there was this line.


BOEHNER: Another thing we can do in this area would be in the area of
transportation and infrastructure. I`m not opposed to responsible
spending, to repair and improve our infrastructure.


MADDOW: Awesome. John Boehner is for infrastructure spending.
However, he says there`s one condition attached to that.


BOEHNER: But if we want to do it in a way that truly supports long-
term economic growth and job creation, let`s link the next highway bill to
an expansion of American-made energy production.


MADDOW: John Boehner, speaker of the House, is saying that in theory
he likes infrastructure spending, but Republicans are only going to approve
infrastructure spending if "drill, baby, drill."

What is the connection between infrastructure spending and "drill,
baby, drill"? John Boehner has a theory about that. He says there is a
"natural link" between the two. Listen.


BOEHNER: As we develop new sources of American energy, we`re going to
need modern infrastructure to bring that energy to market.

MADDOW: That`s the link. Which I guess means oil tankers can`t get
through if the bridges have collapsed into the water? What is the
connection between "drill, baby, drill" and infrastructure spending? Why
are these things naturally connected?

Speaker Boehner also said today coming off a debt ceiling fight in
which Republicans walked away from the table too many times to count that,
quote, "politicians of all stripes can leave the my way or the highway
philosophy behind" -- sort of like getting advice from Bugs Bunny to stop
being rascally.

John Boehner`s speech on the economy was a lesson in head-on desk
hypocritical inexplicability.

But because President Obama belongs to something called the Democratic
Party, President Obama is also dealing with headwinds on his jobs proposal
from his own side of the aisle and some of those headwinds are just as
inexplicable as the one coming from Mr. Boehner.

Today, for example, Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania told
"The New York Times" in an interview that he is opposed to the president`s
jobs legislation, too. Why is he opposed to it? Because the bill is long.
Seriously. It`s too long as a piece of legislation. There are too many
pieces of paper.

Quoting Senator Casey, "I think the American people are very skeptical
of big pieces of legislation. For that reason alone, I think we should
break it up."

For that reason alone? Really? The objection to the bill is how long
it is?

What if we changed the font, sir? Would that be better for you?
Widen the margins maybe? How about if we put the whole thing in comic
sans? That`s kind of a compact font. Would that help?

The problem is too long? Are you serious?

But through this bid competition for the most inane response to the
president`s jobs proposal, the president`s proposal to do something about
the economy, there is actually a little bit of hope today. Part of that
hope was spotted and diagnosed today by former President Jimmy Carter, who
I spoke with in an exclusive interview here this morning in Atlanta at the
Carter Center. His take on the president`s jobs bill is that it will pass.
He believes it will pass, at least parts of it will, because of the way
that President Obama is pursuing this legislation.

I asked President Carter today how in an obstructionist political
climate and against entrenched interests a president could win a big fight
like this. This was his answer.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The only way to do that, if
there is a way, is to draft what the president thinks is the right proposal
and then completely override the Congress in taking that proposal to the
people directly and use a powerful influence, the bully pulpit of the White
House, to prevail if you can prevail. And I think -- I think reluctantly
and maybe not too late but quite late, President Obama has learned that.

For the first time with his jobs proposal that was drafted in the
White House, and he made the proposal to Congress in a very effective
speech -- one of his best ones -- and now he`s taken his case to the public
to say, OK, this is what I propose, this is what the Congress is likely to
do, choose between me and the Congress in the upcoming election in 2012.


MADDOW: We will have more on President Carter and his surprisingly
optimistic assessment of how President Obama is doing right now
politically, also his rather harsh words for the religious right and his
pick for who should win the Republican nomination. That is all coming up
this hour.

But President Carter`s assessment there that President Obama will get
his jobs bill passed because of the way he`s pursuing it in this
barnstorming tour he`s doing across the country about it, President Carter
sees that as a positive -- both for Mr. Obama politically but also for the
country, for the economy if the jobs bill passes.

The other ray of hope was something that was tucked into House Speaker
John Boehner`s aforementioned rather remarkable speech today. Listen to


BOEHNER: Tax reform should include closing loopholes. Not for the
purposes of bringing more money to the government, but because it`s the
right thing to do and it`s the fair thing to do.


MADDOW: Tax reform should include closing loopholes.

OK. What exactly counts as a loophole to Speaker John Boehner? Well,
President Obama`s been proposing this stuff like no more tax subsidies for
big oil companies. That`s not the oil company`s tax rate. That is a
loophole through which they get taxpayer money.

How about the tax subsidy for corporate jets? That`s a loophole. How
about the individual deductions on income that only rich people earn, that
only rich people claim? Those are loopholes. Can those all be closed?
Because those are many of the pay-fors that President Obama has been
proposing for his jobs plan that Republicans, at least before today, were
likely making lots of noises about rejecting out of hand.

For all that was astonishing and at times laugh-out-loud funny about
John Boehner`s economy speech today, is there actually a ray of hope here?
Is he doing what Jimmy Carter said today that Republicans would end up
doing about this, which is that they would take on some of this jobs plan
and go with it? Could some of this stuff pass?

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC`s newest show, which is
called "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES." Chris` new show debuts this Saturday
morning. Chris will be starting out with a major guest, House Minority
Nancy Pelosi. It will be on at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday.

Congratulations again the show, Chris. It is good to see you.

CHRIS HAYES, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" HOST: I have another amazing guest
on Sunday.



MADDOW: I was going to put on an ill-fitting blazer and just hang
around the studio and hope you`d ask me to sit down. But now, I will take
that as an invitation. That`s excellent. Thank you.

HAYES: That would be great.

MADDOW: I have to tell you, Chris, that I have done 2/3 of this
segment with no teleprompter tonight.


MADDOW: Which is I have been looking, not making eye contact with

HAYES: That is amazing.

MADDOW: So I am warming up the technical failures for you.

HAYES: That was a long read without a prompter.

MADDOW: Exactly. I`m getting all of the technical failures out of
the system so that by the time you roll in on Saturday, stuff is going to
be clean.

HAYES: That is -- that is kind of you. On the other hand, you have
now seeded a new nightmare for me to have in the next 48 hours.

MADDOW: Ta-da!

All right. John Boehner`s speech today -- a lot of people are
reacting to John Boehner`s speech today by saying he`s being so snarky and
negative and obstructionist about the Republicans` proposal. I feel like
he left some wiggle room maybe on infrastructure, but sort of maybe
definitely on what he`s calling tax loopholes.

Did you see any sort of little ray of sunshine here in terms of hope
for a jobs bill?

HAYES: I think yes. I mean, I do think there`s going to be some --
there are going to be some items that they can find to agree with -- on.
My worry is that the Venn diagram, the intersection of those two sets, the
president`s bill on the one side and what John Boehner can get his caucus
to agree to on the other are going to be the least effective parts of the

So, for instance, there`s this tax credit -- this sort of tax credit
incentive to employers that hire workers off unemployment. And I think,
you know -- I don`t think it`s terrible policy, but it`s not the most
effective part of the bill. The most effective is the unemployment
insurance extension, I think. And so, the question is do the things they
agree upon end up as being the worst part substantively of the bill which
if I had to bet now is probably where things are headed.

MADDOW: Well, if the president introduced this as a single piece of
legislation, I think it gave him mostly the opportunity to talk about all
of the different things it does all of the time so we can give big stump
speeches about it where he gets a lot of applause lines and gets people
motivated behind the idea that he could do something.

The other reason to propose a big package of legislation is that then
you can pass pieces of it. Do you feel like it is substantively important
whether or not this is pushed for by the White House as a single unified
piece of legislation that can`t be broken apart?

HAYES: I do in so far as the parts that would be broken out are very
important parts like unemployment insurance. So, and the school -- and the
stuff they want to do on school refurbishing, which is about $35 billion of
actual hiring people to go do construction, that is very useful, useful
construction, long term, represents a long-term investment. There`s a lot
of -- there are a lot of parts of this bill that I think fall on the more
kind of Democratic spectrum of things and more progressive spectrum of
things, and I worry about those being sort of thrown by the wayside if it
is broken into parts.

If you break it up into parts, first of all, we`ve got to remember, we
are dealing, we continue to deal with a massive what`s called -- what
economists call an output gap, which is the difference between what this
economy could produce and what it is producing. It remains huge. And $450
billion is not big enough to plug it.

So, we are already dealing with a sort of plug that`s too small for
the hole. If you start to pare that down, you start to end up in a
situation where the final impact, while it has actual definitive positive
results in real people`s lives, at the macro level isn`t doing what you
want it to do in terms of the growth rate and unemployment.

MADDOW: In terms of the president`s options here and his means of
moving forward, how important is it that Senator Bob Casey, Democratic
senator ostensibly, Jim Webb, Mary Landrieu, other Democrats are
complaining about the jobs act in public, to the press, by name, including
complaining about the president`s perceived motives on the jobs act?

HAYES: I thought those -- I thought those quotes were really shocking
that were in the "New York Times."

And I think they were shocking for a few reasons. One, Tom Carper in
Delaware had this quote where he basically parroted a completely
ahistorical, empirically ignorant and economically ignorant theory of the
case in which we have to have long-range deficit reduction in order --
that`s what a real jobs bill looks like.

I mean, that is what extreme right-wing senators say. Here is a
Democrat from a safe state of Delaware saying that kind of thing. It is

And the only reason I think he`s saying it is because they believe it.
They all believe -- they have all bought this big lie of the fact that
long-term deficit reduction is actually what is going to get the economy
going in the short term. And there is essentially no evidence for that.

So, the hope is that Barack Obama can get all these Democratic
politicians in a room and convince them that their political fates are tied
to two things -- the president of the United States` political performance
and the substantive performance of the economy and their best bet on both
scores is the American Jobs Act.

MADDOW: Chris Hayes, host of the new show "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES,"
which starts this weekend. Chris, thank you very much for joining us and
not making fun of me for not being able to make eye contact.

HAYES: You did splendidly as always, Rachel. I`ll see you this

MADDOW: Indeed. Thanks.

A reminder, Chris` show debuts this weekend, this Saturday morning.
His special guest will be house minority leader Nancy Pelosi, joining him
at 8:00 a.m. And I am going to get up extra early on Sunday and come down
there and loom, especially because as Chris said I am allowed to be on the
show on Sunday. I`m really looking forward to that.

All right. I`ve been waiting for this for a long time. This morning,
I had the honor into the view the 39th president of the United States,
Jimmy Carter, at the Carter Center here in Atlanta.


CARTER: I refer to Gerald Ford, who was incumbent president, as my
distinguished opponent. And he did refer to me that way. I did the same
thing four years later with Ronald Reagan. And we didn`t even accept any
campaign contributions.


MADDOW: My distinguished opponent and no campaign contributions. My
exclusive interview with President Jimmy Carter, which has a lot of
surprises in it -- it`s coming up next.


MADDOW: Tonight, President Obama is speaking at two events, two fund-
raisers in Washington, D.C. This, week the president spent most of his
time traveling the country, promoting his new big jobs bill.

But tonight`s schedule had to be fund-raising, for obvious reasons.
The number being thrown around for how much each party`s candidate will
raise and spend in the 2012 elections this next year is $1 billion -- $1
billion for each campaign, which is frankly hard to believe.

In 1976, the president was Gerald Ford. Which itself is a little hard
to believe. Gerald Ford got to be president because President Nixon`s vice
president who he ran with, Spiro Agnew, he had to resign after being
charged with bribery. And then Nixon himself had to resign because of
Watergate. And so, the president ended up being a man who had never run
for president or even for vice president.

Gerald Ford got appointed in scandal to be vice in 1973 and then got
elevated from vice in scandal to be president in 1974. And he never had to
run for those offices, never had to run for president certainly until two
years later, in 1976.

And when he ran to keep that office, he had bizarrely found himself in
in 1976, his own party almost didn`t let him keep that job. Gerald Ford
faced a ferocious primary in the Republican Party from Ronald Reagan.
Gerald Ford did beat Ronald Reagan in that primary that year, but the
primary was brutal enough that he essentially stumbled into the general
election, as best demonstrated here by the Chevy Chase impersonation of a
very, very stumbly Gerry Ford on "Saturday Night Live."

And so, in 1976, Gerald Ford faced off against Democrat Jimmy Carter
in the general election. You want to know as their parties` nominees how
much money Ford and Carter raised to run against each other? They raised
nothing. Zero dollars. Their general election campaign was funded instead
by money from that little check-off on your tax returns, about whether you
want your one or two or three bucks to publicly finance campaigns.

In the next election, too, in 1980, when then President Jimmy Carter
ran against the man who had taken so much skin off Ford`s hide the last
time around, when he ran against Ronald Reagan, in that epic battle, with
the presidency having just righted itself after the Watergate nightmare,
how much money did Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan raise for their campaigns
against each other that year? They raised zero. They did not raise
campaign donations for that general election.

It seems impossible now, but it is not that long since we did it that
way. Today, I came here to Atlanta to interview former President Jimmy
Carter on the occasion of the paperback release of his "White House

I went to the Carter Center. I was very excited to moat with former
First Lady Rosalynn Carter. I saw the museum there, which was cool and
sort of unexpectedly high-tech. But the reason I came to Atlanta, the
reason I came to the Carter Center, was to figure out if for the billion-
dollar election era we are in now, there are lessons that we should
remember and learn from the zero-dollar election era, which is not that
long ago.

I would not have expected it before I spoke with him today, but former
President Carter, it turns out, is optimistic and optimistic for sharply
analytical reasons right now about how the presidency of Barack Obama is
going. Watch.


MADDOW: Reading your "White House Diary," one of the -- one of the
things about this diary that actually does seem like a time capsule is that
you reflect on your dealings with Congress and specifically on how on some
issues, like the deficit you mention, and on national security, members of
Congress make decisions without regard to partisanship, that these are
things on which people vote their consciences and what they believe is best
for their constituencies, party doesn`t really figure into it.


MADDOW: There are no issues like that anymore, it seems, in


MADDOW: And as that environment has changed, do you feel like you
have any insight into how to actually govern well in an environment that is
so much more partisan than it was when you were in office?

CARTER: Well, this is completely different, as you said. I had
excellent results in dealing with a Republican and a Democratic majority in
the House and Senate, and had an outstanding batting average because of
that. In fact, it was a better batting average than any president except
Lyndon Johnson since the Second World War. But the last two years I was in
office I had the partisanship in the Democratic Party because at that time,
Senator Ted Kennedy had decided to run against me and some of the more
liberal Democrats didn`t want to see me have successes.

So I experienced a little bit of what President Obama experiences
every day. That is, an almost total reluctance on the part of any
Republican in the House or Senate to give him any support that would bring
credit to his administration. So, he has a difficult, almost
insurmountable problem in dealing with Congress. And so, it`s totally

And I think the whole episode that we just described in Washington,
the environment, is mirrored in the country. The country was not polarized
when I was in the White House, or when I ran for office, either. And
that`s been brought about by the unlimited infusion of enormous amounts of
money into the political process. Not only during the campaign itself but
after the campaigns over, the lobbyists have unlimited funds to pay, you
might say, for votes in the House and Senate, which makes it possible for
the environment -- for the groups that are special interest to prevail over
the interest of the general public.

And we never had -- a lot of that extra money is spent on just the
technique and campaigns of tearing down the reputation of your opponent,
negative advertising. I never knew that. You know, I referred to Gerald
Ford, who was the incumbent president, as my distinguished opponent. And
he referred to me that way. I did the same thing four years later with
Ronald Reagan.

And we didn`t even accept any campaign contributions. It`s hard to
believe. But we just took the $2 per person on income tax returns, and
that`s all we spent on our general election. So, it`s a total environment.

MADDOW: When you mentioned the interest of funds -- of campaign funds
but also lobbyist funds -- one of the things I marked to talk to you about
today was when you noted in 1977, you`re working on your energy legislation
and you are getting a lot done, as you say, a great batting average. But
you`re frustrated that the energy piece is not moving forward, and you say,
"It`s become obvious to me," this is on October 13th, 1977.

"It`s become obvious to me that we`ve had too much of my own
involvement in different matters simultaneously. I need to concentrate on
energy and fight for passage of an acceptable plan. We`ve not been able to
do it in a quiet, unobtrusive, private way with the members of the senate.
The oil lobbies are too strong."

You elsewhere described the oil and gas lobby as having unbelievable
influence. What`s the right way to fight that influence? What did you

CARTER: The only way to do that, if there is a way, is to draft what
the president thinks is the right proposal, and then completely override
the Congress in taking that proposal to the people directly and use a
powerful influence, a bully pulpit of the White House to prevail if you can

And I think reluctantly and maybe not too late but quite late,
President Obama has learned that for the first time with his jobs proposal
that was drafted in the White House, and he made the proposal to Congress
in a very effective speech -- one of his best ones -- and now, he`s taken
his case to the public to say, OK, this is what I propose, this is what the
congress is likely to do, choose between me and the Congress in the
upcoming election in 2012.

I`m not bragging on myself to anybody else`s detriment, but every
major legislation that was introduced in the Congress when I was president
was drafted in the White House, with my staff under the leadership of Stu
Eizenstat. And we would bring in the top leaders of Congress from the
House and Senate to sit down with us in drafting the legislation. And if
the chairman couldn`t come, then their staff could come.

And so, when the legislation was introduced in the House or Senate,
the Congress was already deeply involved in the process. They modified it,
obviously. We had amendments.

So, I had to accept then either to accept the amendments, try to
change the amendments, or if it got too close, which very rare, then I
threatened to veto the legislation.

But President Obama has not done that at all. He`s basically said,
OK, like on health care let the five different committees in Congress
develop their own proposals and we`ll see what comes out of that and then
we`ll support what they come out with. And in my opinion, it was the
lowest common denominator.

MADDOW: On the jobs act that he is pushing for now, that he is using
the bully pulpit for now, he has drafted legislation, this American Jobs
Act. Do you think he`s doing it the right way with this?

CARTER: I do, and I think he`s going to succeed. For the reasons I
just described I think the public is going to reside that he is right and
the Republican opposition is wrong. That`s one thing.

The other thing is that he has very wisely put in his $450 billion
package -- over half of it is tax reductions or tax grants to private
individuals or to corporations. And that`s something that appeals to
Republicans inherently.

And the other part, you know, to repair school buildings and roads and
bridges I think is also something that Republicans might want to buy. But
in an election year environment even, I think they`ll take over half of a
total package of what President Obama has proposed in his jobs bill, and I
think if they don`t take the rest of it, it`s going to be to the
disadvantage of the Republicans in the election next year.

MADDOW: Substantively, do you think that the policy will work to
improve the economy?

CARTER: I think it will have a minimal impact but a positive impact -
- limited but positive, yes. Ultimately, we`ve got to deal with the
enormous debt. I basically had a balanced budget, very slight deficit.
And, of course, President Bill Clinton had a positive budget as well.

But when Ronald Reagan came into office, he spent like a profligate
and developed an enormous indebtedness, a deficit, and other presidents
have done the same except for Bill Clinton.

So, now, we owe about I think $14 trillion to American investors in
bonds and also to foreigners like the Chinese in particular. And that`s --
and it`s destined now if nothing changes to go up to more than $20 trillion
in the next 10 years. That`s almost an unbearable burden of debt and
interest payments on the debt. So, something`s got to be done about that.

But eventually, I think the Congress will come to its senses, working
with the president, and have a package both of increased revenue and also
increased reduction in some of the privileges that have gone with the
social programs. And that`s not -- that ought to be sacrosanct, you know?

For instance, just look at me personally and Social Security. I`ve
earned a good bit of money in my life and I have a very substantial monthly
Social Security check. You know, I could do without it. I could do
without part of it. I could pay taxes on it.

So, those are some of the things that could be done and the flexible
arrangement that I think would not be deleterious to the president or to
the Congress in the long run and would be beneficial to the country.

MADDOW: As Democrats look ahead to what`s going to be a difficult
year, really I think for any incumbent, including the incumbent president
running just because of the economy, should they be drawing battle lines
over Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, and saying "we will protect
them and the Republicans shouldn`t be trusted with them"?

CARTER: I think so. Social Security is a treasure for our country,
and precious to people like me, whether they are affluent or not. And it`s
an inheritance, you know, from back in the New Deal days, 1930s, during the
Great Depression.

And I think that one of the serious mistakes Governor Perry has made
is ostentatiously condemning in effect the Social Security system. And
he`s been jumped on by Romney and others because of that. I think if he is
a nominee, and that looks to me like the most likely prospect on the
Republican side so far, I think that will really cost him a lot in the
general election next year.

And I think if the Republican candidates continue to do things like
that and appeal to the most conservative elements within the Republican
Party, they`re going to lose their support in the general election next
year for president among the independents and among even the more moderate
and I would say sensible Republicans.


MADDOW: One thing to note about President Carter that he mentioned
there but that bears a little explaining is what he called his batting
average. The successfulness of Mr. Carter`s presidency, and this is also
true of the first President Bush, the success of those administrations is
frequently assessed purely on the basis of the fact that they didn`t win a
second term, which is true. But it is also true that in the post-war era,
the two presidents who were most successful in getting their own
legislation passed by Congress were Lyndon Johnson, naturally, master of
the Senate, right? And Jimmy Carter.

Does President Carter think that President Obama is going to win a
second term?


CARTER: I don`t think anybody`s going to beat Obama next year.


MADDOW: That`s next. Please stay with us.



STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Rick Perry endorsed you in 1988. All


COLBERT: Will you return the favor? Right now and endorse Rick

GORE: Well, it would hurt him a lot --


GORE: -- in the Republican primary.

COLBERT: So, is that an endorsement?

GORE: No, it`s not.

COLBERT: So, because an endorsement would hurt him and you won`t
endorse him, isn`t that in itself an endorsement?

GORE: You could put it that way.


MADDOW: Wait one second, though. Texas governor and former Texas Al
Gore campaign chair Rick Perry is not the only former Democrat on the
Republican presidential candidates roster this year.


MADDOW: Among the Republican candidates this year is someone who
volunteered for your presidential campaign, Michele Bachmann.

CARTER: I know. And I appreciate that she helped me out.

MADDOW: She`s -- I would wonder -- I would love to overhear you two
getting the chance to talk now, given how her politics have evolved.


MADDOW: President Carter on Michele Bachmann, on Rick Perry, on Mitt
Romney, and on President Obama`s chances for getting re-elected. That`s


MADDOW: Republican House Speaker John Boehner today gave his big
speech on the economy at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. -- perhaps
in part so he could do some name dropping about where he was.


BOEHNER: This building`s named in memory of former President Ronald


MADDOW: Drink. First page of the speech, name check for Ronald

At the Republican candidates` debate last week, conveniently held at
the Reagan Library, candidate Newt Gingrich, who incidentally as a
congressman threw Reagan under the bus during the Iran-Contra scandal, Newt
Gingrich took the occasion of the Reagan Library debate to invoke Ronald
Reagan by name not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, not
five times, not six times -- actually just hit it.


campaign --

Under Ronald Reagan.

Reagan jobs program.

The Reagan unemployment.

The Reagan Library.

The Ronald Reagan technique.

President Reagan.

President Reagan.

I`m with President Reagan.


MADDOW: But it`s not just Mr. Gingrich. This is what it`s like to
run a Republican office now. You have to light a Reagan candle and incant
Reagan, Reagan, Reagan. You have to give speeches in buildings named
Reagan. You have to propose a policy named Reagan. You should consider a
pet or a child named Reagan maybe.

What`s it like to see the Republican Party`s decision to elevate
Ronald Reagan as if he is a saint when you are the former president who sat
on the inaugural stage with Reagan in 1980 and wrote this about him in your
diary that day?

On the day President Reagan was inaugurated, President Carter wrote
this, quote, "I consider him to have an affable and decent man. His life
seems to be governed by a few anecdotes and vignettes that he has
memorized. He doesn`t seem to like to listen -- excuse me. He doesn`t
seem to listen when anybody talks to him."

Here`s former President Jimmy Carter today on the Republican
candidates, the religious right, President Obama`s re-election chances, and
the elevation of Republican sainthood of Ronald Reagan.


MADDOW: Among the Republican candidates this year is someone who
volunteered for your presidential campaign, Michele Bachmann.

CARTER: I know. And I appreciate that she helped me out.

MADDOW: She`s -- I would wonder -- I would love to overhear you two
getting the chance to talk now, given how her politics have evolved. But I
was thinking about that in reading in the paperback edition of the diary
that`s just out, you talk about teaching Sunday school while you were
serving as president. And your Christian faith was one of the main things
that America knew about you when they were introduced to you as the
governor of Georgia when you were running.


MADDOW: And now, the profession of faith in politics is something
that Democrats sometimes try to do. But it has essentially become almost a
Republican marker with this rise of the religious right. How did the
evangelical Christian world, from which you come from, turn into the
religious right?

CARTER: They turned against me when I was in office.


CARTER: You know, and the so-called "moral majority" and so forth.
That was their birth, was in 1976, I didn`t even know about them at the
time. They were minuscule -- had a minuscule effect on my campaign. But
they got increasingly strong.

And when I was going out of office as a result of the 1980 election
against Reagan, they said at the Southern Baptist Convention and other very
conservative evangelists -- evangelists, and I consider myself evangelical,
too, they decided to go with the Republican Party. So, they formed an
alliance that`s unbroken since then with extremely conservative elements in
the Republican Party and extremely conservative elements in the Christian
evangelical community.

And I don`t think that`s a good thing for our country. I separated
very -- totally any relationship between government and religion. Just for
instance, Billy Graham had been a normal visitor to the White House before
I was in office, for Lyndon Johnson and for Richard Nixon and for others.
I didn`t -- he would hold religious services in the White House. I never
did invite him to do so.

And the times when I did teach Sunday school in a local Baptist
church, it was a completely secret thing in advance. Nobody knew it in
advance. So, I separated my religious beliefs totally from any aspects of
statehood or governance.

MADDOW: Do you think that -- do you think it is troubling now to see
people running for president doing so by essentially preaching sermons, by
talking about their faith as if that is a qualification for office?

CARTER: I do. I think in a slight way it`s even unconstitutional for
an incumbent president to claim that his own faith should prevail and that
other faiths are not warranting equal treatment under the laws or under the
president`s policies. I think that`s -- you know, it may not be a legal
violation of the Constitution but I think it violates the First Amendment,

And the other thing is that we have seen the -- what I consider to be
an unwarranted intrusion of the religious community into the political
campaigns. So I think both the president`s using his power to promote
Christianity and Christians to use their power to try to get their
particular chosen person to be in the White House, both violate the
principles that I tried to observe when I was in the White House.

MADDOW: Do you think that one of the leading contenders for the
Republican nomination is Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon, he would be the
first Mormon nominee for president.


MADDOW: Do you think that we have progressed far enough as a country
in terms of recognizing religion as no barrier to public office, that he
could be nominated, he could win as a Mormon?

CARTER: I hope so. I hope he wins -- I`m not taking any position.
But I would be very pleased to see him win the Republican nomination. I
don`t think anybody`s going to beat Obama next year.

But my preference obviously would be for his religious faith not to be
an adverse factor in the choices made about who should be representing the
Republican Party.

MADDOW: In terms of the election that you ran against Ronald Reagan
in 1980, looking back at that election, it is -- it`s not lost to history,
but it is good to be reminded what a huge deal he made of the Panama Canal

CARTER: I know.

MADDOW: And the way that was a major foreign policy issue at the
time, a major foreign policy achievement of yours. He demagogued that as
if Panama was the 51st state and you were trying to give it away because
you were a godless communist --

CARTER: He did that.

MADDOW: He really did demagogue it.

CARTER: And that wasn`t the only thing he demagogued. He demagogued
also my normalizing diplomatic relations with China.


CARTER: He still felt that Taiwan should be the China when he was
running for campaign. And he also demagogued my Mideast peace agreement.
He maintained that I gave away Israel`s Sinai Desert back to Egypt and so

So -- and to a major degree, much more than my predecessors or
successors, I lost the support of the Jewish community to my grief.

But -- so, the things that I did that I think in retrospect were
achievements were looked upon then as both controversial and had a negative
political impact.

MADDOW: Do you have any feelings one way or another about the way
that president Reagan has been really elevated by the modern Republican
Party as their greatest president since Lincoln, as one of the pantheons, a
man who should be on Rushmore. They really celebrate his legacy in a way
that they do like no other Republican other than Lincoln, I believe.

CARTER: Although I don`t agree with that assessment of his
administration, I certainly don`t begrudge their right to choose whomever
they choose as an icon for reverence.

MADDOW: That`s diplomatic and beautifully put.


MADDOW: We`ll have more of my interview with President Carter here
tomorrow night.

Also coming up tonight, the "Best New Thing in the World" today is
infrastructural resilience, taped evidence of it right here at the end of
the show. Stay with us.


MADDOW: If you have not been watching the Ed Schultz show recently,
you might want to think about rethinking that decision. I have to tell
you, Ed has been doing sort of a jobs tour of his own.

Last night, he was in Toledo, Ohio. It was such compelling television
room. I stood in the makeup room and watched it. I didn`t want to walk
down the hallway to my office to watch it because I thought I would miss

Tonight, he`s doing a follow-up tour on this jobs tour that he`s
doing. He`s in Columbus, Ohio. He`s going to be joined by Senator Sherrod
Brown, by the mayor, obviously, by that incredible crowd that he`s got

Ed is on an incredible roll right now and I really think you ought to
check it out if you have not. Thanks for hearing me out.


MADDOW: "Best New Thing in the World Today" is from Vermont, where
tropical storm Irene swept away a bunch of Vermont Route 4 recently. Since
August 29th, this half-mile path through the woods has been the highway for
about a thousand Vermonters a day going to work and going to school.

Now, thankfully, well before the first snowfall could test their
resolve to keep doing that, things are getting better in central Vermont.
Today, two and a half weeks after Route 4 was wiped out by Irene, the road
is open again, one way, and with a police escort, but it`s open.

Tomorrow, Route 4 will be opening for real two-way traffic. We found
out about this because the ski resort town of Killington posted this video
today showing brand-new pavement on Route 4. We looked at it and we
thought, can`t be. But wait, that looks really familiar.

And it does. And it matches almost exactly the video we showed just a
couple of days ago of Route 4 right after Irene hit when repairs were just
beginning. The video on the left was shot two weeks ago.

The video on the bottom right was what the Killington resort posted on
their Facebook today. Same stretch of roadway, two weeks apart -- if you
can believe that. I love engineers and construction crews. "Best New
Thing in the World Today."

Now, it is time for "THE ED SHOW" -- live tonight from Columbus, Ohio.
I urge you to stick with Ed tonight. He`s doing amazing work right now.
Good night.


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