THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
October 9, 2012
Guest: Nate Silver
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour.
So, there was this moment in 2008, on election night that year. I
know you were watching our coverage here on MSNBC, but on election night in
2008, over on the FOX News Channel, the Republican politics guru Karl Rove
in the middle of FOX`s election night coverage was on TV gaming out John
McCain`s chances of pulling out a win that night.
And he said during their election coverage, quote, "If Senator McCain
loses Ohio, he goes from 286 electoral votes, which the Republicans carried
in `04, down to 266 and that puts him below the 270 need to win the White
House. So, he would not only need to sweep the rest of the states, which
were won by Republicans in `04, he`d also need to pick up something as
And at that exact moment as Karl Rove was saying on FOX News, on
election night, as part of their election night coverage, that John McCain
basically had to win Ohio or else, while Karl Rove was saying that live on
FOX, FOX got word that the state of Ohio had not, in fact, been won by John
McCain. It was won by Barack Obama.
And Mr. Rove was right that night. That was game over for John
McCain. By winning the great state of Ohio, Barack Obama won the
Mr. Obama closed off John McCain`s path to the White House by taking
that one giantly important swing state and it was all over.
In presidential politics, Ohio is a must-win. For Republicans,
winning Ohio, it doesn`t guarantee that you will win the White House, it`s
not enough just to win Ohio, obviously, but it is necessary to win Ohio.
If you lose that state, you will lose the presidency. It is the hinge. It
is the glue.
For every Republican presidential campaign in modern American history,
losing Ohio has meant losing the White House.
In 2004, the Democratic candidate John Kerry -- you might remember
this -- he did not concede on election night. John Kerry and John Edwards
were waiting in part on results from Ohio. When Ohio went to President
Bush, the next day, the day after election night, that is when that race
was over but not a minute before.
Ohio is that important in modern presidential politics. Look at this,
both the Romney and the Obama campaigns are out stumping now tonight in
Ohio. Governor Romney and President Obama have 50 possible states to fight
over, at least theoretically. They`ve got nine or so swing states that
seem to actually be in play.
But, tonight, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are both in just one state.
Mr. Romney appearing with Chris Christie and Rob Portman in Akron, Ohio.
The president showing up with Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas at
Ohio State in Columbus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Buckeyes, we need you.
We need you fired up.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We`re going to do it. Ohio is
going to elect me the next president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Now, all the interest in competing in Ohio, the desperate
need to win the election in Ohio, the dueling rallies and the ground games
and all of that, all that comes from the context of a big surprising
decision in Ohio this afternoon, about how the election is going to be run
there this year.
Back in 2004, the night that the Democratic ticket decided not to
concede the race on election night because they were waiting on these
results from Ohio, part of what was happening in `04 was this -- these
horrendous epic lines for Ohio voters cueing up to vote. They waited 10
hours and more in Ohio in 2004 to cast a vote, especially in precincts used
heavily by African-Americans and college students. The polls were just not
ready for everyone who wanted to vote.
For voters likely to vote Democratic, casting a ballot in Ohio that
year meant waiting all day and into the night in hallways and in the rain,
just waiting and waiting and waiting, if you decided to stick it out. But
maybe you didn`t, or maybe you couldn`t decide to stick it out and that
line is why your vote never got cast and counted in Ohio that year.
After that `04 election, Congress issued a special report about what
had gone so wrong in Ohio. And Ohio responded. Ohio made voting easier.
The state of Ohio expanded early voting starting the next year, starting in
2005. Every single Ohio election since then including the Republican
presidential primary this year, Ohio has offered this expanded early in-
The new system seems to be working just fine. But now, just in time
for this election, specifically Ohio Republicans have been trying to cut
early voting back, to go back to the old system, the way it was in `04 with
the 10-hour lines.
A federal court ruled on Friday that if Ohio has been to handle
expanded early in person voting in every election for the past seven years
since 2005, then Ohio Republicans cannot stop the counties from just using
that same system just in time for this election this year.
Ohio`s Republican secretary of state today said that he`s going to
appeal that decision. He`s going to appeal it all the way up to the U.S.
Supreme Court. He`s so desperate to shut off early voting in this
election, to go back to those 10-hour lines from `04. He`s so desperate to
do that, he`s bypassing the next level of federal court review and he says
he is going right to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The practical result is that nobody knows how the election will be run
now in the crucial beyond crucial swing state of Ohio. As of right now, no
one knows yet how the election is going to be run there, when you`re going
to be allowed to vote. If it`s going to be like it has been for the past
seven years or for going back to the bad old days.
We do not know how the election is going to be run in Ohio and we are
exactly four weeks out from election night.
Today is the last day to register to vote in Ohio before the election.
Along with all these other states, today is deadline to register for all of
these states. But in Ohio, Republicans say they are going to fight down to
the wire, down to the bloody end, to stop Ohio voters from being able to
early vote in the last few days before the election, which I should tell
you is when nearly 100,000 people voted in Ohio last time. More than a
third of the overall margin of victory by which President Obama won that
state in 2008 were votes that were cast in those last three days.
And honestly, it is not subtle why the Republicans are trying to do
this, right? I mean, the chairman of the Republican Party in the county
where Columbus, Ohio, is, he said he didn`t have an interest in, quote,
"accommodating the urban -- read African-American -- voter-turnout machine
in Ohio." He`s the one who said read African-American. I didn`t insert
And this guy is not just the chairman of the Republican Party in the
Columbus area. He is on the county election board for the Columbus area.
He will be running the elections there, all the while resenting the
African-American turnout machine.
In the city of Cleveland, Ohio, African-American voters are 26 times
more likely than white voters to use early in-person voting as their
preferred way of voting. So, for this election in particular, even though
it`s been fine for every election in the past seven years, for this
election in particularly, early in-person voting must be stopped -- to the
point of taking it to the Supreme Court of the United States with 28 days
left before the election and meanwhile leaving the whole state`s voting
As Ohio hits its voter registration deadline today and so many other
states do as well, what we know about how the parties have done on voter
registration in the swing states actually opens a real interesting window
into how the two parties are contesting these important states.
And this is apparently a matter not just of national but of
international importance. You can tell because, look, the "Guardian"
newspaper from the U.K. has published a deep look into swing state voter
registration numbers this past week. You can see their headline here.
Democrats struggle to repeat 2008 voter surge despite registration push.
In swing state Florida, where Republicans pass new rules making it
much harder to register people to vote before those got blocked by the
courts, they were in place for a long time, and you can see the results in
Florida. New Democratic registrations are about a quarter of what they
were in `08.
Republicans in Florida, meanwhile, have registered about as many as
they did the last time.
In swing state Iowa, another example, the number of registered
Republicans has grown by about the same amount in this election season as
during the last. But the number of registered Democrats in Iowa has
dropped by a jaw-rattling 45,000-plus.
The Iowa Democratic Party is missing more than 45,000 voters as
compared to 2008 -- if found wandering, please return to Big Bird.
Where did those Iowa Democratic voters go? Were they purged from the
roles? Did they move to another state? Did they change their
registrations to being Republican or independent or another party?
We do not know. Just as we do not know yet how the final registration
numbers are going to shake out. It is a mystery, as yet.
Ultimately, how things stand right now, four weeks exactly before
election night is this -- Gallup`s daily tracking poll, this is their
national poll, Gallup has President Obama up by 3 points among registered
voters. But among the smaller group of people who are likely voters, not
just registered but likely to vote, President Obama is not leading. It`s
Romney leading by two points.
The Pew Research Center has a similar result. Mr. Romney up
nationally among likely voters by four points in the Pew poll.
In the swing states, Mr. Romney leading in Colorado by four. Mr.
Obama leading in Pennsylvania by two. The right-leaning Rasmussen poll
showing a tie right now in Nevada. The president up in New Hampshire by
And really the one poll we waited on all day, the one poll that might
matter more than any other single piece of data just in terms of political
strategy, the one piece we got today, President Obama holding on to a four-
point lead in Ohio.
Let`s poll this one out because of its importance. This is a CNN
number from this afternoon. Barack Obama with an edge of four points in
Ohio, which is just outside the margin of error. It`s four-point lead, but
it`s far less than the nine and 10-point leads he held there in this survey
not long ago.
I should say to Democrats and Obama supporters, I`m sorry if I
unleashed those numbers on you without a mature content warning label.
But my friend E.J. Dionne is going to be with us later on this hour
today. He shares this from another friend of his. He says, "I was talking
with an old friend who was with one of the nonpartisan polling outfits. We
were discussing the large shifts in some of the polls on the presidential
election and the feedback he receives whenever he puts out new numbers that
make one side or the other unhappy. He offered an observation so priceless
it needs to be shared."
"He said, quote, `When you give conservatives bad news in your polls,
they want to kill you. When you give liberals bad news in your polls, they
want to kill themselves.`"
Whatever your political persuasion, let that be a metaphor for you and
also maybe a lesson. Information is always your friend.
Joining us now is Nate Silver. He`s the founder and editor of "The
New York Times`" "FiveThirtyEight" blog. He`s the author of the really
excellent new book, "The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail --
But Some Don`t," which everybody I know who`s reading books right now is
Nate, congratulations on the book. Thanks for being here.
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT BLOG: Yes. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: This afternoon, you tweeted that we might be -- might be --
in the middle of one of the largest one-day swings in the polls all year.
Did it work out that way?
SILVER: Well, today, we had about 15 or 20 polls between national
polls and state polls, although there were a few isolated good numbers for
Obama, like that Ohio poll for instance. It`s becoming more and more clear
that Romney got a big bounce from his convention, probably a three or four-
point bounce, and really erased the convention bounce that Obama had gotten
MADDOW: So you mean to sigh he got a big bounce from his debate
performance akin to the bounce that President Obama got from the
SILVER: That`s right. So, the whole good month that Obama had in
September between the debates -- excuse me, between the conventions and the
47 percent tape, you`re now seeing the race really as close as it`s been
I`m a little skeptical that`s actually tied right now based on the
fact that Obama still seems to have a lead in the majority of swing state
polls that we have seen. But Romney who looked like his campaign might be
dead in the water, you need an October surprise, now it`s very, very close.
Maybe the debate was the October surprise -- although it wouldn`t be the
first time a challenger did really well in the first televised debate.
MADDOW: What about the size and the speed of the swings that you`re
seeing right now? Can you -- what can you tell us about the volatility in
the race right now compared to what we`ve seen in previous elections?
SILVER: So, there`s a lot of disagreement among the pollsters based
in part on what their turnout models look like. Like the Gallup poll, for
instance, has Romney doing five points better among likely voters than
among registered voters. Others have that a little bit smaller.
So it seems like Obama would even today win an election if everyone
who are registered to vote turned out or certainly all adults. But based
on the Republican enthusiasm advantage and, frankly, some Democrats I think
feeling a little despondent after the president`s performance in Denver
last week, that alone might be enough to push Romney over the top.
MADDOW: Your -- the special way that you sort of I guess distill is
the right way - distill the candidate`s chances at "FiveThirtyEight", your
now cast, factors in not just polling but also economic data and other
measures that you think give you essentially a percentage chance that one
of the two candidates will win the election.
What`s the percentage chance that you have right now for each of the
candidates and has that changed less than we`re seeing in the national
SILVER: So, the percentage right now is about a 70/30 advantage for
Obama, which by the way if you go to Vegas or offshore, versions of Vegas,
you can bet at about those odds. Obama is about a 70 percent favorite.
But my site and the bookies had Obama as an 85 percent favorite before
the debate. Meaning Romney has gone from having a 15 percent chance to a
30 percent chance. So, double. I think people maybe read a little too
much into the national polls.
But even in the state polls, even in the cases where Obama was ahead
by seven or eight points in the state before, that lead has been cut to
three or four. In cases where he was ahead by smaller lead, maybe you have
a tie now, or Romney ahead.
There`s a sign that Obama`s problems were worse just after the debate
on Thursday and Friday and he`s perking back up a bit.
But we`ll see. This next round of swing state polls from NBC/Marist
and their polls show the swing states tied. Then Democrats really will --
it will be appropriate for them to panic a little bit. Right now, I think
trepidation is the most appropriate emotion for Democrats. But if you see
Obama`s lead in the swing states evaporating as well, then it really is, I
think, a toss up heading into the last couple of debates.
MADDOW: Nate Silver, editor of "The New York Times`"
"FiveThirtyEight" blog and author of the new book, as I said, "The Signal
and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail -- But Some Don`t", which is in
part about politics, but more broadly about the whole statistical universe
and how to understand it and be better at predicting things. Nate, again,
congratulations. And thanks for your time tonight.
SILVER: Thank you, Rachel.
All right. Pop quiz: Paul Ryan has either, (a), just helped President
Obama with the NRA, or (b), just destroyed President Obama with the NRA, or
(c), both? Could he have done both? I think he just did both. That`s
MADDOW: The campaign now has lots of references to Big Bird in it.
Big Bird, like every day, every hour.
But today, I think it`s possible that the campaign veered from
mentions of Big Bird to what I think might have been a reference to Elmo
and the O.J. Simpson case. I`m not sure, but hold on. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: With just a few day to go before the first and only vice
presidential debate this year, Republican nominee Paul Ryan has been in
Michigan. Michigan rapper, ex-husband of Pamela Anderson and now
conservative activist Kid Rock introduced Paul Ryan at a rally in
Rochester, Michigan, yesterday.
I think we`ve got a shot of them here sort of hugging it out, right?
Oh, yes, there we go.
This was Paul Ryan`s second trip to the state of Michigan as the
Republican vice presidential nominee. And even though Mitt Romney, the guy
at the top of the Republican ticket has not visited Michigan since late
August and the Republican Party has yet to run a single ad in Michigan, at
this rally there yesterday, Paul Ryan was very enthusiastic and very
optimistic about his Republican side`s chances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It`s getting closer
in Michigan. You can help push us over the top. You can deliver this. We
can do it here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If that was the high point of Paul Ryan`s day in Michigan,
the low point definitely came earlier that same day in an interview with an
award-winning local report from Flint, Michigan.
It`s a reporter named Terry Camp, and Mr. Camp introduced his
interview with Paul Ryan like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY CAMP, REPORTER: I wanted to ask him about the gun violence in
our cities. Cities like Flint and Saginaw. Let`s listen. This did not
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Gun violence and gun policy have not been big issues in the
presidential campaign thus far. And that probably makes sense. I mean,
the incumbent president`s entire record on gun control legislation is
signing a bill that allowed people to carry guns in national parks and
another allowing people to carry guns on Amtrak, which might come in handy
when you decide to go hunting in the quiet car for an Amdog. But other
than that, it`s not been a policy focus of this president.
And because of that, it has not been contested ground in the
presidential race thus far. Despite that, though, this reporter in Flint,
Michigan, really wanted to ask Paul Ryan about gun violence.
And it makes sense. Last year, Flint, Michigan, was ranked the most
violent city in the United States of America. Today, 70 miles south in
Detroit, police staged a rally telling people to enter of Detroit at their
own risk. Police saying they are understaffed, underpaid and the police
themselves are in fear for their lives because of the city`s crime
So, this reporter in Flint, Michigan, sitting down with the vice
presidential nominee of the Republican Party decided to ask Paul Ryan about
whether or not the country has a gun problem. And as the reporter said, it
did not go well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMP: Does this country have a gun problem?
RYAN: This country has a crime problem.
CAMP: Not a gun problem?
RYAN: No. If you take a look at the gun laws we have, I don`t even
think President Obama is proposing more gun laws. We have good, strong gun
RYAN: We have to make sure we enforce our laws. We have lots of laws
that aren`t being properly enforced. We need to make sure we enforce these
But the best thing to help prevent violent crime in inner cities is to
bring opportunity in inner cities, is to help people get out of poverty in
the inner cities, is to help teach people good discipline, good character.
That is civil society. That`s what charities and civic groups and churches
do to help one another make sure that they can realize the value in one
CAMP: You can do that by cutting taxes?
RYAN: Those are your words, not mine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, sir.
RYAN: That was kind of strange, you`re trying to stuff words in
CAMP: Well, I don`t know if it`s strange.
RYAN: It sounds like you`re trying to put answer to questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ryan folks putting the paper in front of the camera and
everything. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan getting annoyed in this
interview with reporter Terry Camp in Flint, Michigan, yesterday.
The Ryan-Romney campaign even after the interview was over still went
out of their way to trash the reporter that Paul Ryan walked out of that
interview on. The campaign giving on-the-record quotes, calling the
reporter an embarrassment.
The city where that reporter works and where that interview took place
does have the worst violent crime rate in the nation. God bless Flint,
Michigan. So that line of questioning here for Mr. Ryan was
understandable, maybe even predictable.
But beyond the newsworthiness of Paul Ryan getting up and taking off
his microphone and ending the interview that way when the questions went
that direction and beyond the newsworthiness of the campaign going after
this local reporter the way they have, there was also what that reporter
was able to elicit from Paul Ryan, which is really newsworthy.
I mean, first, there`s Mr. Ryan`s prescription for what it takes to
get out of poverty if you live in the inner city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: The best thing to help prevent violent crime in the inner
cities is to bring opportunity in the inner cities, is to help people get
out of poverty, is to help teach people good discipline, good character.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are all people who are poor only poor because they have not
been taught good character? Or only poor people in the inner cities who
are poor because they don`t have good character? They don`t have good
discipline. They need to be taught that.
You watching at home right now, do you not make a lot of money? Was
there a time in your live when you did not have a lot of money? Is that
because you have bad character?
If I were the Romney/Ryan campaign I, too, would probably try to trash
the reporter who got my candidate to admit on camera that he thinks inner
city poor people need to be taught good character, and that`s what will get
them out of poverty.
But that wasn`t all that happened here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: If you take a look at the gun laws we have, I don`t think
President Obama is proposing more gun laws. We have strong gun laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, that`s news too. It`s especially news in light of the
fact that the NRA is currently running these ads in a bunch of swing
states. It`s a huge ad buy too.
Chipping -- where they say chipping away at your rights, chipping away
at your freedom. Now, they are attacking our Second Amendment rights. You
can stop them right now. Defend freedom. Defeat Obama.
That`s what the ads say. But then there`s Paul Ryan, the Republican
vice presidential nominee, saying, yes, President Obama is not proposing
any attack on gun rights. He`s not proposing anymore gun laws.
And that is true. The only gun-related changes in law that we have
had from President Obama have been expansions of gun rights. But the
Republicans are not supposed to admit that. Not when the NRA is running
this scary ad campaign saying otherwise. It`s multimillion dollar ad buy.
And not when the Republicans own candidate has a gun rights record
that is so schizophrenic, it makes his policies on abortion look like a
model of consistency. This is the assault weapons ban that Mitt Romney
signed as Massachusetts governor. But apparently, the NRA doesn`t mind
that because they are too busy endorsing this gun-banning guy over the
other guy who has done no such thing but who happens to be a Democrat.
So, yes, it is remarkable that the vice presidential nominee of the
Republican Party sort of stormed out of this interview in Michigan this
week. But, no, him storming out does not seem to have been because of the
question about cutting taxes or this reporter embarrassing himself, which
is the way the campaign tried to put it.
This reporter from Flint, Michigan, Terry Camp, this reporter has
nothing to be embarrassed about. He got a scoop here. He got two scoops
After he got Paul Ryan to admit that he thinks poor people are poor
because they have bad character and teaching poor people to have better
character is how they can get out of poverty and after he got Paul Ryan to
admit that President Obama is not actually taking away anyone`s guns
despite all of the Republican campaigning to the contrary right this
second, with those scoops -- I mean, isn`t it possible that the campaign
pulled the plug because they were worried this interview was going to keep
making this kind of news?
MADDOW: Yesterday, a British stem cell researcher named Sir John
Gurdon won the Nobel Prize in medicine, which is an amazing thing for
researcher, right? I mean, it is the apex of international recognition and
honor for your work.
Sometimes, it`s also a chance to get back at that high school teacher
who said you would never make it, who you have been holding a grudge
against ever since for 60 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIR JOHN GURDON, NOBEL PRIZE LAUREATE: The main gist of it was that
he heard that Gurdon was interested in doing science and that this was a
completely ridiculous idea because there was no hope whatever of my doing
science and any time spent on it would be a total waste of time, both on my
part and the part of the person having to teach him.
So that terminated my -- completely terminated my science at school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He wins a Nobel Prize in medicine, but his high school
teacher says he shouldn`t bother with science.
Do you want more than just anecdotal for this? Of course, you do.
This is science.
Sir John is also now provided a picture of his school report card from
1949, which reads in part, quote, "His work has been far from satisfactory.
Several times he`s been in trouble because he will not listen but will
insist on doing his work in his own way. I believe he has ideas about
becoming a scientist. On his present showing, this is quite ridiculous.
It would be a shear waste of time both on his part and those who have to
And then he becomes the first scientist ever to clone an animal and
then he won the Nobel Prize in medicine. And that report card is now the
picture in the dictionary next to the word P-O-W-N, which you have seen on
the Internet but never before truly deeply understood before now.
You know what? Stories about people who are bad at science do not
always end this way. Sometimes people stay bad at science. And sometimes
those people become congressmen. It turns out that has national
That story is coming up.
MADDOW: It is probably the single most iconic piece of political
campaign imagery in the last generation, the 2008 Barack Obama Hope poster.
This very famous and at a time very ubiquitous Hope poster was created by
the great Los Angeles-based artist Shepard Fairey during the `08
Shepard Fairey ultimately got into some legal trouble for that poster
when the "Associated Press" got assertive about the original copyright on
the photo that they said was the basis for the image.
But even though the image cost him lots of legal headaches, what
Shepard Fairey created with that photo will go down in the history books as
one of the most memorable pieces of political art ever.
And after the `08 election that Hope poster, look, became sort of a
generic treatment that you could do to anything. So, you can go to the
Apple iTunes store and you can download the app for your iPhone that will
Hope-posterize whatever picture you want. It`s essentially a photo filter
for any portrait that you want to put in there.
So it was probably inevitable that earlier this year, when Paul Ryan
was tapped by Mitt Romney to be his vice presidential nominee, somebody
immediately launched a poster of Paul Ryan in the look of the `08 Obama
Hope poster. Except underneath Paul Ryan, it did not say H-O-P-E. It
instead said M-A-T-H, math. Paul Ryan equals math.
It`s kind of genius, right? The message is we understand the
emotional importance of your hope thing, but we do not need that kind of
soft, naive, hopey-changey thing as a country. We need math.
If you know nothing else about the Republican side, this is the thing
they want you to know, particularly about their vice presidential choice.
Look at this big debate on Thursday night.
They want you to think we need math. We need hard-nosed, practical
numbers. This is not an ideological statement. It`s a technocratic one.
They`re saying this country`s technocratic need is, of course, cutting
spending. Let`s get real about cutting spending.
OK, let`s get real then. Last night, we started talking about this
startling new graph that was published on the Web site of "Foreign Policy"
magazine. The blue line shows what we as a country have been spending on
our military overtime. This is the overall defense budget.
Over the last 60 years, our military spending has spiked during times
of conflict. During the Korean War in the 1950s, during the Vietnam War in
the late `60s, the arms race build up for the Cold War, and, of course, the
war on terror over the last decade.
This does not -- the post-9/11 spending here does not include spending
for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan specifically because that was done as
emergency spending. So, this is just the base military budget.
But minus those two big wars, the blue line right there is where U.S.
military spending is right now.
The Obama plan, when it comes to the Pentagon, what the president has
campaigned on is to have military spending go like this from here on out.
He would essentially maintain our current level of defense spending over
the next eight years. He would spend way more than a Cold War-style
drawdown. He would spend way more than the sequester, but he would
essentially treat today`s budget as the new normal with slight increases
That`s the Obama plan, spending-wise, for the biggest single thing on
which we spend discretionary money.
Now, Mr. Obama`s opponents, on the other hand, the math ticket, right,
the hard-nosed, practical numbers guys who want to cut everything -- their
plan for defense spending looks like this. Tada! Boing!
That`s what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are proposing when it comes to
military spending, an otherwise enormous amount of money, right? But this
is what they are planning on doing. The highest level of military spending
since the Korean War. Because, you know, forget your hope and change.
What the country needs right now is math, math, math.
How does the Romney-Ryan ticket plan to balance this giant plus sign
that is contained in their plan -- this massive increase in government
spending? Where exactly does the minus come from to make the math work if
they want to increase spending by that much?
Well, this was the scene today in a place called Van Meter, Iowa, just
outside Des Moines. This is what greeted Mitt Romney today as he
campaigned in Van Meter. You see the signs there. "Fight big banks, not
Big Bird," "99 percent of cookies are eaten by 1 percent of monsters,"
"Make Wall Street pay, not Sesame Street."
Members of an Iowa citizens group dressed in Sesame Street costumes.
They were in Romney even today to protest. Actually, more to just laugh at
Mitt Romney`s suggestion during last week`s presidential debate that his
plan to cut the deficit is to cut off funding for PBS.
This has become a full-fledged, forgive me, a full-fledged thing in
the campaign now -- the Obama campaign today releasing this 30-second ad
specifically on the issue of Big Bird. It`s kind of a sarcastic ad hitting
Mitt Romney for being tough enough to take on this yellow-feathered fellow.
And then President Obama has now fully incorporated the Big Bird line
into his stump speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For all you moms and kids out there, you should have
confidence that finally somebody is cracking down on Big Bird. Elmo is --
has been seen in a white suburban. He`s driving for the border. Oscar is
hiding out in his trash can. We`re cracking down on them. Governor
Romney`s plan is to let Wall Street run wild again, but he`s going to bring
the hammer down on Sesame Street.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama now having lots of fun with this out on the
But as a policy matter, it`s sort of a serious thing. I mean, when
Mr. Romney was asked during the debate how he would make the math work, he
wants to be seen as the math ticket, right? Well, how would you make the
math work? How would you pay for the massive increase in defense spending
that he`s proposing? How would you pay for this huge round of new
expensive tax cuts that would be even more expensive than the defense
And when he was asked for ways that he would pay for that in the
budget, he gave two examples. First, he said he would repeal Obamacare.
Repealing Obamacare, it should be noted, would actually add more than $100
billion to the deficit. That would not make things better, it would make
So Mitt Romney says he`ll cut the deficit by doing something that will
actually add to the deficit. That`s not a great start.
But then there was the other thing he suggested. The other thing he
brought up unprompted, PBS -- the only specific that Mitt Romney gave in
terms of how he will cut the deficit. The only detail he provided was that
he would eliminate 1/100th of 1 percent of the budget that goes to public
There have been lots of attempts over the past week to put the number
in perspective. Here`s some more perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The federal share of the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting is about $450 million this year. That $450 million
is about what the Pentagon spends every six hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Six hours. So, to be clear, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan`s big
idea when it comes to the deficit, their big idea to save the country from
impending fiscal disaster and to pay for all of the stuff they want to do
that`s really expensive that they haven`t figured out a way to pay for,
their plan is to eliminate six hour`s worth of defense spending. One-
fourth of one day`s worth of defense spending. At the same time, to make
overall defense spending go like this -- because, you know, they are the
numbers guys. Math.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN MADDEN, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: I just find it troubling that the
president`s message -- the president`s focus -- 28 days from Election Day
is Big Bird.
ROMNEY: These are tough times, with real serious issues. So you have
to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about
saving Big Bird.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, dude, you`re the one who brought it up.
When asked at the presidential debate how you`d cut enough out of the
federal budget to accommodate the trillions of dollars in new spending and
tax cuts that you say you are planning, you are the one who brought up Big
Bird by name. If you did not intend for that to be your answer, if you be
had a better answer, you should have used it.
But now, you`re troubled by people talking about Big Bird?
Joining us is now E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist, senior
fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of "Our Divided Political
Heart: The Battle for the American Ideal in an Age of Discontent."
E.J., it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: So, E.J., you write today, traveling the swing states,
talking to people on both sides who are very focused on how that first
debate went. The Big Bird detail is a strange detail. It sort of seemed
like at first it was going to a pop culture reference. It has turned into
a larger thing.
Is that actually the line from the debate that people are quoting back
DIONNE: People aren`t quoting that back to me. I mean, in a lot of
cases, I was talking to moderately or very disheartened Obama supporters on
those states who wish it would have gone better. I think the Big Bird line
is effective against Romney if you put it in the context you put it in.
That it`s 1/100th of 1 percent of the budget.
But I think the fact that we`re focusing on that underscores the
things that weren`t picked up in what Romney said. In preparing for this
show, I notice the something that I hadn`t noticed before. Romney said in
the debate, I`m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income
people. Now, that`s exactly what George W. Bush said in the 2000 debate.
You can cut rich people`s taxes by a whole lot of money and still have
them pay the same share of the total. So that`s what he was really saying.
He was also -- he said he`s going to cut everybody`s taxes by 20
percent. And then he said in the debate, we`re not going to have tax cuts
that add to the deficit.
Now, if this is math, it`s math on meth. I mean, it just doesn`t add
up at all. And I think that`s the issue that has to be raised over and
And then Big Bird is really a good illustration of how -- in addition
to all these tax cuts, in addition to all the military spending, all he
talks about is Big Bird, and it`s got to be turned on him.
MADDOW: In terms of the way the president tried to make that case
during the first debate, that is what the president returned to over and
over and over again. That`s why he kept saying $5 trillion, talking about
the extra trillion of dollars in defense spending and how expensive the tax
cuts were going to be. The president, I think, was trying to make that
case but wasn`t able to connect with it.
Is there a way that he -- in your view, he should go back trying to
make that case about the bad math here, but doing it in a way that will
DIONNE: Well, you know, they did it -- they were doing it in their
campaign and in the commercials, which is -- you can`t make any of this add
up unless you cut an awful lot of very popular deductions. And that you`ve
got to force Romney and Ryan, and I hope Biden does this, to say, all
right, what deductions will you get rid of?
My friend Bill Gale, a colleague at Brookings, had a great analogy.
He said, it`s as if Mitt Romney said I`m going to drive from Washington,
D.C., to California in 15 hours. That means you`ll have to go 200 hundred
miles an hour. And Romney said, I`m not going to break the law. But then
how do you square these numbers?
So, you`ve got to throw the math word back at them, maybe with the
pretty colors if you want.
MADDOW: Do you think that -- do you expect Joe Biden to be able to
make that point or to do anything else that`s going to significantly change
the Democrats` prospects from these debates so far. Do you have high hopes
for Biden`s capacity?
DIONNE: I do have high hopes for Biden. I mean, I watched the
debates in the 2007-2008 campaign and Biden beat both Hillary Clinton and
Barack Obama in a number of debates.
And everybody talks about Biden`s gaffes. They forget that he is a
good debater and he has a capacity for empathy with average people, I guess
we`re all average people. And, you know, he can just explain stuff quite
So I think he will put Ryan on the griddle and really take the
interview with Chris Wallace and say look, you`ve got time. You said the
math is too complicated. Don`t give us talk about base lines. Tell us how
you`re going to do this.
MADDOW: E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist, senior fellow at
Brookings, and an MSNBC contributor -- E.J., thanks for being here. I
appreciate it, man.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. Up next, the grave international implications of
having people in our American Congress who hold elaborate conspiracy
theories about dinosaur farts. I`m sorry. That`s next. Seriously.
MADDOW: This time every year, it`s the same good news/bad news,
high/low kind of feeling. It`s the day that we learn there are super smart
people in the world winning Nobel Prizes for their super smartness. But
most of the time, we also learn that we are not smart enough to really get
exactly what it is they are winning for.
So, this year, it`s a French physicist and an American physicist who
won the Nobel Price in physics for work that, quote, "enable scientists to
directly observe some of the most bizarre effects like the sub-atomic
analogue of cats who are alive and dead at the same time - predicted by the
quantum laws that prevail in the microcosm and could lead eventually to
quantum computers and super accurate clocks."
In between dead cats make clocks more accurate. If that is not
working for you -- me neither.
Here`s the Nobel Committee explaining why these guys won.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This year`s Nobel Prize in physics is about
interaction between light and matter, for groundbreaking, experimental
methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. When you take cats who are alive and dead at the same
time out of the equation, that explanation for the prize in physics this
year is closer to graspable. And that is one level of science that is
going on in the world and being recognized right now.
Here is another.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL BROUN (R), GEORGIA: I`ve come to understand that all the
stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology, and the Big Bang Theory
-- all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it`s lies to try to
keep me and all the folks who are told that from understanding that they
need a savior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. The pit of hell guy there is Congressman Paul Broun. He
represents the 10th district in Georgia. And in the House of
Representatives in Washington, the Republican leadership there saw fit to
put Congressman Broun on the committee that is responsible for science, the
Committee for Science, Space and Technology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROUN: I`ve come to understand that all the stuff I was taught about
evolution and embryology, and the Big Bang Theory -- all that is lies
straight from the pit of hell. And it`s lies to try to keep me and all the
folks who are told that from understanding that they need a savior.
You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I found out as a
scientist that actually showed that this is really a young Earth. I don`t
believe that the earth`s but been 9,000 years old. I believe it was
created in six days as we know them. That`s what the Bible says.
And that`s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as
being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and
I`ll continue to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is a person who is actively involved in shaping science
policy in America.
Congressman Broun`s office responded to this video being circulated
this week by saying, quote, "Dr. Broun was speaking off the record to a
church group about his personal beliefs regarding religious issues."
It is the office`s statement, but that actually what you heard the
congressman say there was that those personal religious beliefs are
determinative of how he votes in Washington as a congressman.
Salon.com had a nice feature on this today, on who else the
Republicans have serving on the House Science Committee, along side Paul
Broun. Like, for example, there`s Missouri Congressman Todd Akin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female
body has ways to try and shut the whole thing down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Legitimate rape Todd Akin is not just running for Senate in
Missouri against Claire McCaskill, in the meantime, while he`s doing that,
House Republicans have assigned him to make federal U.S. policy concerning
Also on the Science Committee, Maryland Republican Roscoe Bartlett who
insisted earlier this year, ala Todd Akin, that rape really doesn`t get you
pregnant, almost never.
Also on the Science Committee for the Republicans is Texas Congressman
Randy Neugebauer, sponsor of House Resolution 254 which sought to ease the
drought in America through prayer. He`s on the Science Committee.
And for the win, there`s California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who
once suggested that the Earth`s temperature fluctuated millions of years
ago because of dinosaurs farting. He`s on the Science Committee, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: We don`t know what those other
cycles were caused by in the past. It could be dinosaur flatulence, you
know, or who knows, you know? But we do know the CO2 in the past had its
time when it was greater as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who knows? Maybe it was dinosaur farts. We don`t know. How
could it be?
Today, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded scientists for discoveries in
physics. Tomorrow, they`ll announce the winners of awards for chemistry.
Meanwhile, our American elected federal officials on the Republican side of
the House Committee on Science will keep our nation on the cutting edge of
scientific and technological breakthroughs through the magic of farting and
the pits of hell.
Now it`s s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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