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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

August 16, 2012

Guest: Sherrod Brown


THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Ed, if you`re at all uncomfortable putting the
hat on, please loan it to me. I have none of the same squeamishness.



MADDOW: Thanks, man.

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

When Barack Obama took office in January of 2009 the economy was in
absolute free fall. It was -- the Wall Street collapse and the overall
financial collapse that occurred at the end of the George W. Bush
presidency. Just free fall. I mean, great depression time. Yawning

And so shortly after being sworn in as president, the new president
and the Democrats in Congress pushed through something that used to be a
noncontroversial way of dealing with big economic downturns. When George
W. Bush had had an economic downturn to deal with in 2008, he passed a
stimulus. When Ronald Reagan had an economic downturn to deal with in
1981, he passed a stimulus.

When this new Democratic administration took over in the middle of a
huge economic downturn in 2009, they did the same thing. They passed a

Even though a stimulus had been a noncontroversial bipartisan tool of
economic policy in the past, in 2009, with the new president, Barack Obama,
in office, Republicans decided they were going to be against anything this
new president put forward, even if it was the kind of thing that they had
supported in the past under presidents of both parties. And so they
decided they were against the stimulus. Every single Republican in the
House of Representatives voted no on this stimulus.

But they didn`t just vote against it. They also made a big public
case that the stimulus bill was bad for the country. That it would do harm
to the country. That it wasn`t just a pointless or even worse than
pointless to spend money in this way to try to help the economy, it wasn`t
just a bad idea, it was an immediate evil that was going to make the
country worse off than it already was.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: The president, in tandem
with Democrats in Congress, have pushed through a $787 billion bill full of
pork barrel spending, government waste, and massive borrowing, cleverly
called stimulus.


MADDOW: Government waste, cleverly called stimulus.

Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia there. And that was a
typical example of the kind of things they were saying. And whether or not
you agree with Congressman Cantor`s argument, it is an intellectually
cogent stance if you think about it, right?

I`m voting no on this thing. I think it will be harmful. If this is
done, it not only won`t help anything, it will hurt the economy. So I`m
voting no. It has an internal logic. It makes sense.

It makes sense unless you are the person making that case in public
who is also writing this letter in private to the secretary of
transportation asking for the terrible, horrible stimulus money to come to
your district. Stimulus money that, quote, "will provide much needed new
jobs and economic growth throughout the region."

That`s what Eric Cantor wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
After bashing the stimulus as pointless waste, here`s Eric Cantor touting
the benefits of stimulus money when it made its way to his district.


CANTOR: We can create a lot of jobs, again, the estimates of job
creations are 85,000 to 160,000-some jobs for common wealth, most of that
in this area.


MADDOW: There were a bunch of Republicans who did this, and the issue
here is not that there was going to be this money laying around and they
didn`t want that money to be around at all, but as long as it was there,
you try to get some for your district. That`s not the issue here.

The issue here is that these guys were making a public case that this
money is bad, that it would hurt the economy. But then privately, they
were asking to please get some of that money because of how good it would
be for the economy.

You clearly don`t believe your own public arguments when you`re making
private arguments alongside them like that. You`re just making a totally
craven political case that has nothing to do with what you know to be true.

This happened to dozens of Republicans across the country. This was
Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio saying in public, quote, "I did not
believe that it would create the jobs that were promised. I take little
pleasure in being correct."

But here`s Jean Schmidt in private, writing to the Labor Department
asking for that stimulus money. That, quote, "will not only save jobs but
create multiple jobs within southern Ohio." Well, which is it?

Here`s Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia getting all
publisher`s clearinghouse with a giant check for stimulus money that he not
only voted against but he publicly criticized as a boondoggle, an a dismal

Look how big the check is. Republican Congressman Mike Castle of
Delaware trashed the stimulus. He voted no on the stimulus and then he
went back to Delaware and handed out giant stimulus checks in his district
talking about how good it was going to be for job growth. It was so
embarrassing, right?

One of the Republican congressmen who was making that same public case
at the time was a Republican congressman named Paul Ryan, from Wisconsin.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We can do better than this. This
bill, this economic stimulus package, is unworthy of our new president`s

This is just a long spending wish list from every spending interest
group that`s out there. If you`re going to go out and borrow $825 billion

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So re-craft it for me, Congressman. Re-craft

RYAN: This is not going to work. That`s what our concern is.


MADDOW: This is unworthy of our new president`s signature, this is a
giveaway to special interests, this is not going to work, not going to
work, he says.

A year after the stimulus passed, Paul Ryan went on a local radio show
in Massachusetts where a guy named Joe from Stoughton asked him, hey, you
weren`t one of those Republican congressmen with the giant check, right?
You weren`t one of those Republican congressmen who was a real hypocrite on
the stimulus, were you?

Here`s how that exchange went on that radio show.


CALLER: I assume you voted against the stimulus, and I`m just curious
if you accepted any money in your district?

RYAN: No, I`m not one of those people who votes for something and
writes the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any
stimulus money.


MADDOW: I did not request new stimulus money. I`m not one of those

Yes, in fact, he is one of those people. He did that exact thing that
he denied right there. And his hypocrisy on this issue criticizing it
publicly then privately asking for it for himself, it did get some
attention at the time. But, frankly, Paul Ryan was just a back bench
Wisconsin Republican. I mean, granted he was one who wanted to be known as
somebody who`s very serious about government spending but he just wasn`t
all that famous and the issue of his hypocrisy on the stimulus eventually
blew over for a while.

But, now, Paul Ryan is not just a back bench congressman from
Wisconsin. Now, he`s about to be the vice presidential nominee of the
Republican Party. So, now, his record is getting a little renewed

"The Associated Press" and the "Boston Globe" this week dug up further
evidence that despite what Paul Ryan told Joe from Stoughton, the
congressman had, in fact, requested stimulus money while he was saying
publicly that it was a horrible, awful thing that would hurt the economy --
which means he was lying in that local radio interview in 2010. He lied to
good old Joe from Stoughton.

Now that it is the national media, though, that is nailing him for
having been a hypocrite on the stimulus and not just being a hypocrite, but
lying about it, I mean, saying in public it would be horrible for the
economy and saying in private that it would be great for the economy.
Saying publicly that it was a disaster and privately that he would please
like some of it because it looked great, now that he`s getting nailed for
that publicly, he`s not just lying to Joe from Stoughton, now he is lying
to the entire country that is trying to vet him as to whether or not he`s
qualified to be vice president.


REPORTER: A report came out again today in the "A.P." It was a
repeat of that "Wall Street Journal" article from couple of years ago where
you had asked for stimulus money for your district. Is that accurate? Is
that report accurate?

RYAN: I never asked for stimulus. I don`t recall. I haven`t seen
this report, so I really can`t comment on it.

I oppose the stimulus because it doesn`t work. It didn`t work.


MADDOW: No, I never asked for stimulus, he says. Yes, you did.

"The Wall Street Journal" reported on you doing it. The "A.P."
reported on you doing it. "The Boston Globe" reported on you doing it.

If you want to see the letters, here`s Paul Ryan in October 2009
writing to the secretary of labor, Mr. Romney not only asking for stimulus
money but noting it would help place 1,000 workers in green jobs.

Here`s Paul Ryan that same month writing the secretary of energy,
asking for stimulus money that would help, quote, "develop a workforce" in
Wisconsin to make commercial buildings energy efficient.

Here`s Paul Ryan, 2009, writing to the Energy Department for funds to,
quote, "stimulate the local and area economy by creating new jobs."

I thought stimulus can`t do that.

He said the stimulus funding would create or retain approximately
7,600 new jobs. This company he`s writing on their behalf here actually
got $20 million thanks in part to Paul Ryan`s fulsome praise of how much
stimulus money for that company would create jobs in his district -- $20
million of that wasteful pointless money that would do nothing to create
jobs, but you nevertheless begged for it because of your private argument
about how much good it would do.

Your private argument that apparently you thought you would never have
to answer for on the national stage.


REPORTER: A report came out again today in the "A.P." It was a
repeat of that "Wall Street Journal" article from couple of years ago where
you had asked for stimulus money for your district. Is that accurate? Is
that report accurate?

RYAN: I never asked for stimulus. I don`t recall.


MADDOW: I never asked for stimulus. So that was today.

It`s one thing to not answer for it, to Joe from Stoughton, right, on
a local radio show that you`re pretty sure nobody in your home district,
let alone national political circles was expected to have archived no
matter how great the Dan Rea Show is on WBZ.

It`s another thing to lie blatantly in the face of black and white
evidence that proves you are lying, that proves you are lying about your
own record.

Do you believe the game-change account of the 2008 presidential
campaign? This kind of thing happening with John McCain`s vice
presidential nominee, with Sarah Palin, was the cause of crisis in that
campaign. Do you remember how that played out in the "Game Change" movie?
Remember this scene?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why haven`t you released a statement saying Todd
was never a member of the Alaska Independence Party?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because that would be untrue. He was a member.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He checked the wrong box. He registered by
accident and rectified the error immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a member for seven years. I`m sorry,
Governor, but there is only a few weeks left in this campaign. You have
got to stop saying things to the press that are blatantly untrue. That is
not the kind of campaign that we are running here.


MADDOW: "You have to stop saying things to the press that are
blatantly untrue. There`s only a few weeks left in the campaign."

Late tonight, after being confronted with the reams of evidence that
he did, in fact, request stimulus money, Paul Ryan released a new statement
acknowledging the truth.

It says, quote, "After having these letters called to my attention, I
checked into them and they were treated as constituent service requests in
the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are
handled. This is why I didn`t recall the letters earlier. But they should
have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that.

Regardless, it`s clear that the Obama stimulus did nothing to
stimulate the economy and now the president is asking to do it all over

It did nothing to stimulate the economy, even though I wrote letters
saying please give me this money, it will help stimulate the economy. And
then I signed my name at the bottom of those letters. If I did request all
that stimulus money, which I did, by the way, I did it by mistake, my staff
did it. I signed it, yes, but it was my staff.

Paul Ryan is not Sarah Palin. At least he`s not Sarah Palin yet.
We`ll see how it goes at the convention. But this is a problem for the
Romney/Ryan campaign and it gets at a bigger problem for Mr. Ryan`s running
mate, that the Romney campaign still has not solved which also came to a
sort of very difficult head today.

And that is that Mr. Romney`s answer for why he won`t release his tax
returns is that we`re supposed to trust him when he tells us what is in
them. Today, Mr. Romney said he looked back at his last decade of tax
returns and wants to assure us we should trust him. He looked at it and it
turns out he never paid zero taxes. Never paid less than 13 percent in
taxes, we should trust him. He`s not going to show the evidence of that.
He wants us to believe it when he says it.

Mr. Romney says he never paid zero. Paul Ryan says he never requested
stimulus money.

Yes, this is about the effectiveness of government efforts to
stimulate the economy and, yes, this is about the low, low tax burden of
the truly rich and famous in this country. But at a more basic level, it
is also about how comfortable you are with just looking people in the eye
and saying something even about yourself that is not true. Something
checkable about yourself that you know you may get caught on, and just
saying it anyway.

Joining now is, Ezra Klein, who`s columnist for "The Washington Post"
and MSNBC policy analyst.

Ezra, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.


MADDOW: Which Paul Ryan is right? The private Paul Ryan who said
stimulus money would help his home district, or the public Paul Ryan who
said it was a waste of money at the time, and who now says looking back
those letters were a mistake, it really was all a waste, it didn`t help?

KLEIN: Look, I have no way of knowing how these letters were handled
internally to his office. Constituents services seems plausible to me. I
just don`t know.

It`s the second part of his statement, the one where it says, we know
it failed, we know it didn`t work.

We know it is not true. We just know that. I mean, number one, just
take the practical case. Here`s what the stimulus included in it, right?
Tax cuts. That was about a third of it.

Paul Ryan, if he believes anything in this entire world, believes tax
cuts create jobs. He`s been very clear on that.

Another big part of it was infrastructure, getting people to build
roads and bridges. I don`t know what the theory of the economy is under
which when you hire somebody when you give them money to build a road or a
bridge, it doesn`t create a job. But it`s not one that anybody I`ve
actually ever met hues to. And then the third part of the stimulus, one of
the big other parts was you gave money to state and local governments in
order to keep teachers and firemen and other public employees on the job.

And if you`re curious about whether or not that is a real thing,
whether or not those jobs are real, over the last two years, we have lost
600,000 of them. They show up in the Bureau of Labor Statistics report
every single month. Paul Ryan releases a press release about it every
single month. Everyone is aware those jobs have been going away.

It is really unclear how you can stand with a straight face and say
not that you don`t think the stimulus was the absolute best way to do that,
because that`s an argument that could be had, but that it just doesn`t
work. The stimulus, itself, is a failed economic theory. It`s ridiculous.

MADDOW: Did Republicans used to accept the idea of stimulus? I
mentioned, you know, a George W. Bush stimulus, a Ronald Reagan stimulus.
There were many others. I picked those out to make a point.

But it does seem like an economic tool that isn`t the least
controversial thing in the world, but at least used to have the logic of it
accepted in a bipartisan way, right?

KLEIN: Including by Paul Ryan. So in 2001, there`s a great debate,
there`s a great hearing between Paul Ryan and an economist named Kevin
Hassett, who`s currently affiliated with the Romney campaign. They`re out
there and sort of talking about the Bush tax cuts.

The Bush tax cuts, remember, were originally there to pay down a big
surplus. We had all this money, needed to do something with it, we`ll give
it to you in a tax cut.

Then the economy began to break down, we were going into a recession.
Suddenly, we didn`t have this clear, large surplus anymore. So, the
conversation, the rationale for tax cuts flipped instantly. It went from
we need to pay down the surplus to -- hey, this would be a great way to
stimulate the economy, too. We need it in order to be recession proof.

And Kevin Hassett and Paul Ryan have this exchange in this debate
about, you know, the problem was before they just didn`t do their stimulus
fast enough. You need to do it deeper.

And there are some differences between doing a permanent tax cut and
doing a temporary tax cut, which are relevant and worth talking about,
again. But Paul Ryan pretty clearly says there the problem with past
stimulus is we needed more.

And, by the way, the Romney campaign this morning, including by Kevin
Hassett, had this op-ed in which they said, if you believe these two
economists who are fairly important in these discussions, Carmen Reinhart
and Ken Rogoff, you should know -- the Obama administration should know in
a long recession, in a long recovery like the one we`re in, stimulus is

So, I went back and look. How much did Ken Rogoff think we should
have in stimulus? A trillion dollars over two years. And what did Carmen
Reinhart say about stimulus? That she would tattoo it on her forehead that
it had done an enormous amount to help.

So, even the economists, they rely and they cite -- don`t say, don`t
believe the things they claim to believe right now.

MADDOW: Ezra Klein, columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC
policy analyst. Knowing that I could talk about the raw politics of this
on my own and turn to you to talk to the policy about -- talk about the
policy on this made me very happy today. I`m really glad that you`re able

KLEIN: It made me very happy as well. Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks a lot, man. I appreciate it.

All right. Senator Sherrod Brown is here tonight. That is still to
come. Amid just election chaos in the state of Ohio.

And the terrifically awkward new thing we just learned about what the
Romney/Ryan ticket is about to do next. The worst vice presidential
rollout in modern American political history continues, a pace, it turns
out, right into the weekend. That story is ahead.


MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is here tonight for the
interview. That`s coming up.


MADDOW: We have just learned Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is going
to be celebrating his one-week anniversary as the Republican Party`s vice
presidential pick by taking a trip to the great state of Florida on
Saturday. Specifically, Mr. Ryan will be campaigning in a place called The
Villages. The Villages is a sort of jumbo-sized retirement community,
about 90 miles west of -- about 90 miles from Tampa Bay.

And The Villages is as close to a mandatory campaign stop for
Republican candidates as it gets. And here`s why. As the "Tampa Bay
Times" notes, there are 61,000 registered voters in the villages. It`s one
retirement community. It`s located in a crucial swing region of a crucial
swing state that Republicans really need to win.

And here`s the thing about those 61,000 registered voters in The
Villages. The Villages are really, really, really Republican. There are
twice as many Republicans in this place as there are Democrats. And they
are super serious about voting. The average turnout in the villages is 80
percent -- 80 percent. Remember, there`s more than 60,000 voters there.

So, all of that has made the villages a perennial stop on the
Republican campaign trail. It`s where Florida`s Republican governor, Rick
Scott, you might remember, where he went to do a big, elaborate, tightly-
choreographed ceremonial budget signing last year. Remember this? It was
the event that had people in Florida calling him "Kim Jong-Rick" for a

It was the event where Governor Scott was inexplicably surrounded by
smiling schoolchildren.

What are all those grimacing schoolchildren doing in the middle of a
giant retirement home? Well, according to the "Tampa Bay Times," quote,
"Charter school students were bused in to surround Scott for the signing.
They were handed signs to wave, and when Rick Scott was done with the
signing a man in a Tea Party t-shirt started encouraging the students to
chant Rick Scott`s campaign slogan. And the Kim Jong-Rick staged
enthusiasm staged with the schoolchildren thing didn`t happen until after
the Scott administration had scoured the area for Democrats and dissenters
and had them removed from the scene.

Look at this. At the urging of Scott officials, Sumter County
authorities escorted a group of more than a dozen Democrats, mainly
retirees who live in The Villages, from the event. Staffers and Republican
operatives searched the crowd of about 200 looking for people holding anti-
Scott signs. They are noted and asked to leave. Those with pro-Scott
signs were allowed to stay.

That`s The Villages. That`s why and how Republican Democrats always
do vote opts there. Romney has been to The Villages twice this campaign
season. In fact, The Villages is where Mr. Romney became so moved about
his own thoughts about how awesome America is that he awkwardly burst into


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s a song that captures
that for me. O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for
purple mountains majesty across the fruited plain.

Can you sing that song? I love that song. You know that song?

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple
mountains majesty above the fruited plain. America, America --


MADDOW: That`s The Villages in Florida. See, I think he thought the
crowd was going to stand up and join in like a choir and then they didn`t
really, at least not enough of them did. But, you know, they did clap for
him when he was finished through all that.

I mean, they like Republicans at the villages, even the ones who try
unsuccessfully to lead them in impromptu patriotic sin sing-a-longs.
That`s where they`re sending Paul Ryan Saturday morning, a guaranteed
Republican win because it`s absolutely chockfull of Republicans.

But don`t forget, it`s chockfull of older people. Apart from a
specific exception, you`re not allowed to buy a house in The Villages
unless you`re age 55 and older, and Paul Ryan is the kill Medicare guy from
this Republican Congress. So, who knows?

Mr. Ryan might find a tougher crowd at The Villages than other
Republicans have found, but my guess is it will be pretty tightly stage
managed. At least one would expect it would be tightly stage managed.

I mean, the Romney/Ryan ticket is only a few days old now but their
campaign has been had a hard time explaining what they`re doing on
Medicare, whether to turn it into a discount coupon program for buying
insurance or whether they`re going to run away from the Paul/r Ryan kill
Medicare budget and say whether there`s another reason they wanted him on
the ticket.

I mean, despite the fact this had to be concern number one for the
Romney campaign when they were thinking about picking Mr. Ryan in the first
place, the Romney campaign really seems to not have figured out which way
they`re going on this issue yet which is astonishing.

I mean, in his first big interview after announcing Paul Ryan as his
running mate, Mitt Romney right away started to try to run away from the
kill Medicare Paul Ryan plan.


BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Your campaign has been trying to make this
election a referendum on Barack Obama. Now, some people are saying you are
making it a referendum on Paul Ryan`s budget plan.

ROMNEY: Well, I have my budget plan, as you know, that I`ve put out,
and that`s the budget plan that we`re going to run on.


MADDOW: Ryan who? Budget? I have my own plan.

That was Sunday. Then the very next day, Mr. Romney started running
on the Paul Ryan budget. Even specifically on the kill Medicare part of
the Paul Ryan budget.


ROMNEY: The items that we agree on I think outweigh any differences
there might be. My plan for Medicare is very similar to his plan for


MADDOW: Ah-ha. So, Sunday, it`s my plan, not his plan. Monday, our
plans are the same. Then, Tuesday, it turns out once again they`re totally
different. Watch.


SOLEDAD O`BRIEN, CNN: This is from


O`BRIEN: It sounds awfully like the Paul Ryan Medicare plan.

SUNUNU: But it`s very different.


MADDOW: OK. So, Sunday, it`s my plan, not his plan. Monday, the
plans are the same. Tuesday, the plans are very different.

Wednesday? On Wednesday, a local reporter in Wisconsin asked Mr.
Romney why he was running away from his running mate`s plan. So, Mr.
Romney then started running on the Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why now are you distancing yourself, at least from
the Medicare portion of the Ryan budget?

ROMNEY: Actually, Paul Ryan and my plan for Medicare I think is the
same, if not identical, it`s probably close to identical.


MADDOW: Yay! So that`s four days. Two totally separate plans.
They`re the same plan. They`re totally different plans. They`re identical
plans. It has been hard to keep up.

They picked the Republican budget guy, but they are not running on his
budget. They`re running on Mitt Romney`s budget which is either exactly
like the Paul Ryan budget or completely different than the Paul Ryan budget
depending on -- I don`t know, what time of day it is? And when you ask
them about the overall budget that they are running on, not just on
Medicare, when you ask them about the overall economic plan they`ve got,
about what it does and when.

Look at what happens.


RYAN: I don`t know exactly when it balances because we haven`t -- I
don`t want to get wonky on you, but we haven`t run the numbers on that
specific plan.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: How many years would it take for the Romney
budget to result in a balanced budget?

ED GILLESPIE, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Wolf, I`m not sure of that myself,

SCHIEFFER: When are you going to tell us where you`re going to get
the revenue?

ROMNEY: Well, we`ll go through that process with Congress.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Will we soon see a plan that`s specific about
which loopholes to close?

RYAN: That is something we think we should do in the light of day,
through Congress.


MADDOW: The Romney/Ryan campaign -- not only cannot tell you whether
or not they are running on a budget similar to or different from Paul
Ryan`s kill Medicare budget. They also cannot tell you the most very basic
bottom line of their own supposed plan, whatever it is.


RYAN: We have to run the numbers on that specific plan.


MADDOW: We haven`t run the numbers, says the Republican budget guy
who they tapped to be vice president about the campaign`s budget.

Paul Ryan was supposed to be the serious numbers guy. That presumably
is why the Romney campaign picked him to be the vice presidential nominee.
That`s the image that he had -- the numbers guy, the specific guy, the
clear policy choice guy.

Whether or not he ever deserved that image, the campaign is now doing
its very best to ruin that image.


MADDOW: Lost in all the Paul Ryan hoopla late on Friday night were a
few news items. Among them, the new CNN poll that showed 63 percent of
Americans think Mitt Romney should show the public more of his income tax

Mitt Romney has heard the voice of the people on this subject. I
mean, I assume he has. He has people monitoring that stuff, wouldn`t you

His response to the country`s plea for transparency may surprise you.
It`s coming up.


MADDOW: We have been showing these images lately on the show. People
queuing up to vote in Ohio in 2004. That year in Ohio, voters waited in
line for eight hours or more just to get a ballot. The problems were
especially bad in Ohio cities where voters tend to support Democrats.

And where in 2004, voters discovered polling places were really just
not ready for everybody who wanted to vote. That night, that night of the
long lines, George W. Bush, of course, won the state of Ohio, and Mr. Bush
won a second term as president.

And a few months later, a congressional committee called out Ohio for
the way it had run that election. Congress called on Ohio to reform its
elections to make things work better.

But it was not just Ohio where people waited if line in 2004. In
Florida, that year, people also waited in long hours in lines at the polls.
We went back to look for old footage of those lines in Ohio, we also found
these images, people lined up at the polls in the great state of Florida
waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for the
chance to vote. That night, George W. Bush, of course, won the state of
Florida as well.

After the debacle of the `04 election, officials in the states took
another look at early voting. At whether offering more days and more hours
for early voting might help more voters vote without it taking all day, and
lots of people leaving the polls in frustration without voting because they
just didn`t have the time to wait.

Voters also decided maybe there was something to that early voter
thing. Maybe they`d be -- they`d better get their ballots in early,
wherever they could the next time around. This is the percentage of people
who voted ahead of time, who voted early in some key states in 2004.

And here is the percentage of people who voted early in 2008. The
additional percentage is that blue bit there, right? Each of these states
is considered a swing state now for this next election in 2012. Look at
that list.

Where early voting went up in 2008, when it grew, all of these states
flipped from red to blue, from choosing the Republican nominee in `04 to
choosing the Democratic one in 2008. The percentage of people voting early
went up and perhaps coincidentally Mr. Obama won. In Colorado, in Florida,
in Iowa, in Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, all these states
who had gone for George Bush in the previous election, when early voting
increased, the Democrat running for president won.

Empirically, it would appear that early voting is at least correlated
with Democrats doing well. You cannot say that early voting causes
Democrats to do well, but it is apparently linked by circumstance. And
empirically, the link would make sense because early voting, in particular,
is popular with voters who tend to support Democrats.

Consider Florida. In the last election in Florida, a clear majority
of the African-Americans who cast a ballot cast their ballot early. More
than half the African-Americans in Florida who voted, voted early. A
million-plus African-American voters, they voted in person and early. By
percentage in Florida, only half as many white voters did that.

So, early voting mattered to African-American voters in Florida more
than it did to other voters. And early voting was crucial to Barack
Obama`s victory in Florida.

Likewise, in Ohio, African-Americans in the Cleveland area make up
just over a quarter of the population. But they cast more than half that
county`s early ballots in 2008. Barack Obama won Cleveland by 39 points.

In the Columbus area, African-Americans make up just a fifth of the
population, but they were a third of that county`s early voters. Barack
Obama won Columbus by 20 points and he won Ohio to go along with Florida.
And, of course, he won the presidency.

Did early voting, and in particular, African-American voters, and
other minority voters taking advantage of early voting opportunities in
great numbers, did that cause Democrats to win the White House in 2008?

Again, the link may merely be correlated and not causative. It could
just be coincidence. But you know who else noticed there was a link
between early voting and Democratic success? Republicans noticed.

In Florida, Rick Scott signed a bill that cuts early voting from 14
days to eight days. It also takes away voting on the Sunday before the
election when many African-American churches carpool to the polls.

And in Ohio, Republicans tried to cut early voting in half. They
eventually had to settle for cutting just the last three days, when almost
100,000 Ohioans voted in 2008. Then Ohio Republicans tried to offer more
time for early voting in Republican counties than in Democratic counties.
So you really could vote more easily if you live in a red county. Ohio
Republicans tried that and it almost worked -- until yesterday.

Under public pressure and I think maybe some embarrassment, Ohio`s
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted finally announced that he was
cutting back early voting equally for everyone. He caved on having more
early voting hours in the Republican counties than in the Democratic
counties, but the rule in Ohio now, he says, will be less early voting for
everyone. What that means for Democrats running in Ohio, from the
president and from our next guest, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, is in one of
the hottest races in the country, is just ahead.



RICHARD LUI, MSNBC ANCHOR: You look back on 2008, blacks -- the black
voters, rather, they cast 56 percent of all early in-person ballots,
according to the "Columbus Dispatch". So the perception could become very
difficult and people might say, this is disproportionately affecting

JON HUSTED, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, let`s understand, those
last three days, that`s out of my hands. That`s in state law.


MADDOW: State law passed by the Republican legislature in Ohio,
signed into law by the Republican governor since the last election.

That was my colleague, Richard Lui, with Ohio Secretary of State Jon
Houston this morning, pointing out in 2008 that a majority of African-
American voters in Cuyahoga County, which is where Cleveland is, voted
early in person in the weekends prior to the election.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Jon Husted announced all 88 counties in
Ohio will have same hours for early voting. There will be moderately
extended hours beyond business hours during the week but no voting on
weekends at all.

Joining us now for "The Interview," Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown
of Ohio, running for election this year. His opponent is a man named Josh

Senator Brown, thanks for being here. It`s nice to see you.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be back. Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: The secretary of state in Ohio said he opposed these new
rules because he wants to level the playing field. Do you think he has
succeeded in that? Do you think everybody has equal access to the polls
now in Ohio?

BROWN: No, he acts like that`s a nod to good government by taking
away the advantages that overwhelmingly white suburban upper, more higher
income Republican counties have.

But what he`s done is -- I mean, it`s happening on both ends. We`re
seeing on the one hand billionaires put huge amounts of money into
political campaigns, overwhelmingly on the Republican side, they want tax
breaks, they want weaker environmental laws. They want more Wall Street
involvement in government instead of less.

And on the other end, they`re keeping -- they`re tightening up voter
rules to the point of keeping people away from the polls. What you point
out at the beginning of this show, the beginning of this segment, Rachel,
is after 2004, even Republicans in Ohio and Ken Blackwell, were embarrassed
about what Ken Blackwell did, the secretary of state in those days, and
they bipartisanly, they were in the majority, Democrats assisted them on
this, set up early voting and made it much more accessible.

So they basically are rolling back reforms they made, and in no time
really in our lifetimes have we seen us go backwards on access to the
ballot. This is just morally reprehensible to allow more and more big
money on one end and shut people down on the other end that would like to
vote early.

MADDOW: What explains, in your mind, that abandonment of that
consensus that we used to have in this country about the expansion of
voting rights, about the idea that partisanship didn`t have a role in the
administration of elections? Obviously, there`s been crooked elections
officials here and there throughout American history.

But in recent history, we all used to think we were all sort of
polling in the same direction, particularly after there had been some
national embarrassments. How did it change so fast and go so far?

BROWN: I think these -- I think they feel so threatened by Barack
Obama, so threatened, the far right and some of their large corporate
interests, particularly Wall Street and the oil industry feel so threatened
by Democrats winning, by Barack Obama, that they are willing to change the

The rules on campaign finance were pretty much agreed to. Full
disclosure, put limits on outside -- try to ban outside money, put limits
on what people were contributing on voter laws, make them more accessible
as long as we did them fairly and honestly and transparently.

On both ends of that, they`ve really betrayed what -- they betrayed
the national interest and betrayed our values of what we stand for as a
country. They also really undermined their own agreed to reforms of less
than a decade ago. And they should be ashamed of themselves for that.

MADDOW: Ohio voting rules and access to the polls is obviously
critical, dead critical for your re-election effort in this campaign. Also
for the president`s re-election effort, Ohio as always, incredibly
important part of the campaign. But one of the things that we are seeing
nationwide and particularly in all of the swing states is that Democratic
voter registration efforts are not keeping pace with Republican
registration efforts this year. We`ve had a couple pieces of new data this
week saying however much concern Democrats are expressing about this,
Republicans are registering more voters since the last election.

What do you think about that, and does it apply in Ohio?

BROWN: I don`t see that in Ohio. I`ve heard some of those stories
outside Ohio. We have such momentum last year from Issue 2, the collective
bargaining legislative -- collective bargaining bill, first time in
American history when collective bargaining rights were put on a statewide
ballot. We won with 61 percent of the vote, beating back the efforts to
take away collective bargaining rights. We have momentum that way. I
think that will continue, but it`s all about organizing.

I asked people on your show before to come to, sign
up to help us fight back on the big money in these campaigns. To help us
fight back on Citizens United. To help us organize. And that really is a
key to winning, to winning for the president and for my re-election.

MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio -- thanks for your
time tonight, sir.

BROWN: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Remember that old Ronald Reagan saying, trust but
verify? That old saying got a workout today. Please stay with us. More


MADDOW: Housekeeping here. Senator Sherrod Brown just gave out his
web address on this show, which I do not begrudge him.

But in the Interest of fairness, I should mention that his Republican
opponent in this election has a web address, too, which is
M-a-n-d-e-l. All right?

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Son of Boss was a criminal tax avoidance seem for
corporations in the 1990s. The Marriott Corporation was one of the
companies that got nailed for avoiding taxes illegally using that scheme.
Mitt Romney was on the board of Marriott Corporation. He was the head of
the audit committee on the board when her Marriott engaged in the tax
avoidance scheme, for which they got caught, and for which they have to pay
tens of millions of dollars in fines. Son of Boss.

The Cayman Islands is an island sort of catty-corner from Cuba and
Jamaica, an island where there are lots and lots of post office boxes that
attend to people who do not live in the Cayman Islands. That`s because
pretending your money lives in the Cayman Islands is a famous scheme for
avoiding paying taxes on that money in, say, the United States.

The one year of tax returns we do have for presidential candidate Mitt
Romney shows holdings of his in the Cayman Islands.

Switzerland is very far away from the Cayman Island. It is sandwiched
between France and Germany and Italy. It is famous for being neutral in
war time. It`s famous for the Swiss Alps, for fancy watches and pocket

And it`s famous for its bank accounts. If you get a Swiss bank
account, the Swiss will ask no questions. Their banking secrecy laws make
Swiss bank accounts very convenient if you are seeking to hide money that
would be somehow embarrassing, say, money that represents the proceeds from
some shady business, or money that you were trying to shield from taxes.

The one year of tax returns we do have for presidential candidate Mitt
Romney shows him having a Swiss bank account.

Herein the good old US of A, we have something called an IRA, an
individual retirement account system. IRAs were set up as a savings and
investment vehicle for regular, middle class Americans. In exchange for
their being a limit on how much you can suck away into one of these
accounts each year, the government shields the money in that account from

One of the great mysteries of Mitt Romney`s taxes is that even though
there`s basically a $6,000 a year limit on what you can put into your IRA,
the one year of his tax returns that we have seen shows that his IRA
contains more than $100 million.

How did that get there? No idea. But putting it there in some ways
shield it from taxes.

"The New York Times" did a quirky little front page story a couple of
weeks ago about this house in Missouri City, Texas, on which Mitt Romney
owns the mortgage. He doesn`t live in the house. He doesn`t know
apparently know the people who do, but the people who do live there send
their mortgage payments every month personally to Mitt Romney. They
refinanced with him as if he were a bank, but he`s just a guy. They
refinance with him personally just a couple of months ago while he was
running for president.

The reason he owns that couple`s mortgage is that he bought it in the
1980s as part of a tax avoidance scheme.

We know very little about Mitt Romney`s massive and complicated
financial history. Michael Moore said on this show the oh day, we know
less about Mitt Romney`s finances than we do about the surface of Mars now.

But we do know a little bit about Mitt Romney`s finances and what we
know is all these exotic and picayune and aggressive and occasionally shady
tactics that he has used to avoid paying taxes. Today, after telling ABC
News a couple of weeks ago he would go back and look at his taxes to see
what tax rate he has been paying. Today, Mr. Romney said that he finally
did go back and look and it turns out, he says, he has never paid less than
13 percent in taxes.

He will not elaborate on what he means by that. He will not prove it.
He will not release any documentation to back up that claim. He just wants
us to trust him that if he were to show his taxes, that`s what they would


ROMNEY: I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past ten
year, I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the recent year was 13.6,
or something like that. I paid taxes every single year.


MADDOW: In 2002, 10 years ago, when Mitt Romney was running for
governor of Massachusetts, his taxes were relevant then, not just on the
question of whether he was actually paying any taxes, specifically in that
race, there was a question about whether Mr. Romney would be allowed to
even run for governor. It was not clear he had been living in the state
for the seven years that was required for the Massachusetts Constitution in
order to run for governor. His defense at the time was that he had been
filing his taxes as a Massachusetts resident an that showed he was legally
qualified to run for governor.

But then, just like now, he would not prove it. He would not release
his tax returns to show this I think this he was claiming about them. His
spokesman then, who is still his spokesman now, Eric Fehrnstrom, told "The
Boston globe" in 2002, 10 years ago, when he was running for governor, that
the Romney campaign did not have to prove anything. We should just trust

Eric Fehrnstrom insisted to "The Globe" that, quote, "The GOP
candidate, Mr. Romney, had filed his returns as a Massachusetts resident."
But he told "The Globe" reporter, "You`re going to have to take my word for

Anyone who took Mitt Romney and Eric Fehrnstrom`s word for it back in
2002 got played for a sucker, because those tax returns did not say what
they said they did. Mr. Romney had not filed as a Massachusetts resident.
Despite all the "trust me, trust me, take my word for it, you don`t have to
see them, trust me."


REPORTER: The Democrats point to Romney`s house in Utah ,which was
listed as his primary residence to support a challenge. They also want to
see his tax returns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now learned from his own lips this afternoon
that Mr. Romney lied yesterday when he said he had filed resident tax
returns in both Massachusetts and Utah.

REPORTER: Romney acknowledged he amended his 1999 and 2000
Massachusetts state tax returns to make him a resident here.


MADDOW: He went back and did it retroactively.

Everything we know today about Mr. Romney`s tax history is his
Herculean and mostly successful efforts to avoid taxes. He just named
somebody as his running mate whose budget would have resulted in Mr. Romney
paying less than 1 percent in taxes in the one year of his tax returns that
we have seen when he made tens of millions of dollars.

Nevertheless, Mr. Romney today insisted that we should trust him when
he tells us he`s never avoided taxes altogether. He`s never paid less than
13 percent. He won`t prove it, but he wants us to take his word for it.

The last time he and Eric Fehrnstrom were up against a wall like this
and he said to trust him, it turned out he was not telling the truth. Do
you think he`s telling the truth now? Do you trust him? Do you trust him
enough to be comfortable with him as president of the United States?

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.


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