IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday,October 21st, 2014

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

October 21, 2014

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks a lot, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. This is
one of those big news nights where all the news has been breaking late in
the day, all tonight just within the last couple of hours.

In just the last hour, we have learned that long-time "Washington Post"
editor Ben Bradlee has died. That legendary editor helped turn that paper
into the world renowned power house that it is today. He guided the paper,
famously, as it broke the news on Watergate. He helped redefine what it
meant to be a journalist in America.

We`re going to have much more ahead on Ben Bradlee`s life and his work.
Including talking shortly with somebody who worked with him at the "Post"
for decades.

But we begin tonight with current politics. And with bribery allegations.
The guy on the left side of your screen is the Republican nominee for
governor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. His name is Charlie Baker.
The guy on the right side of your screen is a person who wanted to be the
Republican nominee for governor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. His
name is Mark Fisher.

And he was the Tea Party candidate, essentially, in the Republican primary
in Massachusetts. He ran against Charlie Baker in that primary. And
honestly, the first time either of these guys got any national media
attention at all was when their names appeared in effectively dueling
bribery allegations.

Established Republicans in Massachusetts this year really wanted Charlie
Baker to be their guy. And they did not want him to have to deal with
primary challenger against the Tea Party guy, right?

Running in a Republican primary means running to the right. And in blue
state Massachusetts, the last thing Republicans wanted was to how their
candidate have had to run to the right in a primary that everybody could
see. So the Republican Party in Massachusetts, they try to keep that Tea
Party challenger off the primary ballot.

Mark Fisher, the Tea Party guy, he was having none of it. He eventually
sued the state Republican Party in Massachusetts in order to get himself on
the primary ballot and challenge Charlie Baker for the party`s nomination
for governor. And that is where the very strange bribery allegations
started to come in.

First, the Massachusetts Republican Party alleged that the Tea Party guy,
Mark Fisher, had told them he would drop his lawsuit and stop trying to get
on the ballot if the Massachusetts Republican Party agreed to give him $1

Two days later, that Tea Party challenger came out to announce via a
hastily called press conference that no, he didn`t ask for $1 million, he
said the state Republican Party actually offered him $1 million to drop his
lawsuit, to stop trying to get on the ballot and to just go away.


Mass GOP came to me and offered me $1 million to drop out of the race for
governor. My first reaction was, this is a bribe. This is illegal. This
can`t be done. And my second reaction was, they have no clue why I`m
running. There`s no amount of money that`s going to get me out of this


MADDOW: So that happened. Ultimately the way it worked out is that the
Tea Party guy did stay on the ballot, ended up being no big wolf, he lost
to Charlie Baker in the primary by 50 points. Nobody really understood why
Massachusetts Republicans have worked themselves into this bribery pretzel
over that guy.

So that was the first set of bribery allegations around the campaign for
governor in Massachusetts. That one ended weirdly but at least it did end.
There`s another set of unrelated but thematically similar allegations
involving Charlie Baker, and those ones, they have not ended. Those ones
are ongoing and in fact there is some news on this yesterday and today.

The guy on the left is still Charlie Baker. But the scandal involves a
different guy on the right. This involves Chris Christie, the governor of
New Jersey. The gist of the allegations in this scandal is that a few
years back, Charlie Baker made a personal $10,000 donation to the New
Jersey Republican Party. Thereafter, the state of New Jersey had its
pension funds turned around and make a $15 million investment in a firm in
Massachusetts where Charlie Baker worked.

So is that Kosher? It actually remains to be seen if Massachusetts is
going to investigate whether there was something fishy about that exchange
of money, the personal donation and then the big state of investment.

So who knows on the Massachusetts side. On the New Jersey side, they are
investigating. New Jersey, of all places, they have strict rules when it
comes to campaign donations and not paying out state funds in exchange for
those donations. And so, in New Jersey, the state treasurer`s office
announced that they would investigate the Charlie Baker-New Jersey- Chris
Christie campaign donation in exchange for state business allegation. They
said they`re going to investigate that. They have to under state law.

Now, though, the update, the state of New Jersey have announced that they
will not make public the results of that investigation until, hmm, check
your watch, late November at the earliest. Definitely after the election.

Let`s hope no one did anything wrong here that you might want to make the
basis of casting your vote.

So Charlie Baker has had his share of trouble. As the Republican candidate
for governor of Massachusetts this year. He just -- he also -- honestly,
he`s just not been a great candidate for Republicans in several other ways
that have nothing to do with these various salacious bribery allegations
and stuff.

I mean, even his businessman pedigree has turned out to work against him.
It turns out what kind of businessman you are when you`re running for
office on the basis of your business career. Like, say, if you wore a
tuxedo to accept your outsourcing excellent award from something called the
outsourcing seller. That businessman-ish past might not be helpful to your
bid for governor because you won awards for shipping American jobs to other

So Charlie Baker at least on paper has not been a great candidate. Either
in terms of the specifics of his resume or strategically when it comes to
dealing with other Republicans who were contending against him and around
this issue about the donation and the Chris Christie -- yes.

Honestly, he also has not performed all that well when he`s had a
microphone stuck in his face like when he said this umprompted to a female
reporter at an event that was supposed to be all about how Charlie Baker is
the right candidate for Massachusetts women.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democrats are saying -- they just put out an e-mail a
couple of minutes ago?

BAKER: OK, is this going to be the last one, sweetheart.


BAKER: I`m kidding.


MADDOW: I`m kidding. Can`t you take a joke, babe? Pat, pat, pat.

That was at a Women for Charlie event.

The race for Massachusetts governor has been unexpectedly fascinating this
year. And not just because it started with the crazy "They offered me a
million dollars, no, you demanded a million dollars" bribery debacle. It
has been fascinating to watch because you would think that for Charlie
Baker to win as a Republican in blue, blue, blue state of Massachusetts, he
would have to run just a spectacular mistake-free campaign. Right?

You think about the math in a place like Massachusetts Charlie Baker would
have to win every single conservative vote, he`d have to attract a ton of
crossover voters, he would basically have to run a flawless campaign in
order to be in contention as a Republican in such a blue place. Or not.
That`s one way to success.

The other way to success is you could get lucky in your opponent. This is
what the polls have looked like over time in that Massachusetts race. Look
at that. Overt your eyes, Massachusetts liberals. Charlie Baker`s
Democratic opponent is Martha Coakley. And the biggest story about Martha
Coakley in the campaign in the last week was that she made a decision to
decline to participate in a debate scheduled for Thursday this week.

She wouldn`t tell anybody why. She just said she had a scheduling
conflict. The result of that decision, though, would have been that
Charlie Baker would get the stage to himself at that event for an entire
hour. Basically, to put on the uncontested Charlie Baker show for voters
for an hour for free on television two weeks before the election.

And Martha Coakley, yes, go ahead, let Charlie do that. I`ve got a
scheduling conflict. That`s how she left it for several days until finally
she relented, changed her mind as we were the first TV show to report last
night that Martha Coakley reversed her decision. She will appear at that
western Massachusetts debate at WWLP Channel 22, Western Mass on Thursday
of this week.

That`s in addition to the debate that the two candidates had tonight in
eastern Mass. There`s going to be another one on Thursday and Martha
Coakley has changed her mind, she is going to show up to that one so it`s
going to feature both of the candidates. But lest you think the whole
refusing to debate phenomenon and giving your opponent an uncontested solo
show of their own, to do without you, lest you think that is unique to
Massachusetts Democratic strategy, no, no, it also happened tonight, just a
couple of hours ago, during a debate in the race for a Senate seat that is
virtually tied in a different state. Watch.


TIM BOYUM, NC SENATE DEBATE MODERATOR: You`re watching "Capital Tonight."
We`re in conversation with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis.
Time Warner Cable invited Speaker Tillis, incumbent Democratic Senator Kay
Hagan and a libertarian candidate Sean Haugh to participate in this
program. Haugh did not meet polling criteria established by Time Warner
Cable News. Senator Hagan declined our invitation to appear.


MADDOW: See the empty chair there? The moderator explained that Thom
Tillis` answers wouldn`t be timed, they`re otherwise planning on timing
them, because nobody else needs to talk because the Democratic incumbent
senator, Kay Hagan, would not be attending that debate. So for you,
voters, we present this hour-long conversation with just the Republican
candidate on TV for an hour, uncontested, so we can tell you what he thinks
without any time constraints and without anybody rudely interrupting.

Two weeks before Election Day. Did I mention this race is basically tied?
I did mention that. Of course, none of this candidate debating themselves
ridiculousness will ever be as famous to what happened during the Florida
gubernatorial debate last week when Florida`s Republican Governor Rick
Scott refused to take the stage for a long time at the start of the debate
because his opponent Democrat Charlie Crist had a fan inside his podium.

After seven minutes, Governor Scott apparently decided that maybe the fan
was not worth skipping the whole debate over and he did end up belatedly
joining that debate after Charlie Crist had had a few minutes on his own to
explain his feelings to the voters.

Those two candidates met again tonight in Jacksonville, Florida. There was
lots of media coverage about the rules governor electronics before
tonight`s debate but apparently the fan only came up obliquely, almost sort
of passively aggressively when one of the moderators asked, "Everybody
comfortable?" before the debate started.

Political debates are supposed to be newsworthy only if something
newsworthy happens at the debate. Right? The fact of the debate itself is
not supposed to be the thing that makes news. But that`s what`s been
happening in this election. And it`s been, at times, hilarious and at
times frustrating and amazing to watch.

And speaking of amazing, there was one more debate tonight, just within the
last hour, in the great state of New Hampshire. For that state U.S. Senate
seat, that is of course the always amazing Republican Scott Brown running
against Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen for the Senate. That debate
was hosted by NBC News` Chuck Todd tonight.

Jeanne Shaheen is currently ahead of Scott Brown in that Senate race in New
Hampshire. Scott Brown, you may remember, got to be in the United States
Senate in the first place in the state of Massachusetts when he beat Martha
Coakley for that seat in 2010. Thereafter, he lost that same Senate seat
to Elizabeth Warren in 2012.

And as I mentioned, according to the current polls, he`s right now losing
in the Senate race in New Hampshire to Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

I should tell you trivia wise that if Scott Brown does lose to Senator
Jeanne Shaheen two weeks from tonight, he would become a historic figure in
feminist history. If he loses Jeanne Shaheen tonight, I believe Scott
Brown would become the first person in the history of the United States and
thereby the history of the world, to have lost a U.S. Senate race to two
different women.

Perhaps that could be something of a silver lining. Scott Brown as
feminist icon.

Joining us now from Concord, New Hampshire, where he`s just finished
moderating the debate between Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown, is NBC News
political director and moderator of "Meet the Press" Chuck Todd.

A busy night for you, Chuck. Thanks for being here.

love the fact that you`re talking about candidates that skip debates.
Doesn`t matter if you don`t like it. Just show up and debate. Don`t start
worrying about sponsors and all this stuff. Debate. It seems I don`t get
the strategy, either.

MADDOW: I will -- I`ve got to say, I`ve seen candidates make strange
decisions and very contentious decisions about whether to be in debates.
The RNC made it a big, institutional issue for the Republican Party, how
many primary debates there would be in the presidential contest or

But one thing I haven`t seen before is candidates not being in a debate
even though they know it means their opponent will get the whole stage to
themselves for an hour.

TODD: Right.

MADDOW: Is that something new or is this just TV stations sort of turning
up the heat?

TODD: I think it is the media turning up the heat a little bit because,
there`s some -- look, and think about this especially you have more and
more sort of local and regional all-news stations. So they feel more than
comfortable being able to offer up the time. It`s, like, OK, if you don`t
come, then we`ll do it, we`ll do it empty-chair style. We`re going to
offer -- you know, offer this 30 minutes. It`s a way of calling a bluff
and seeing if they`ll show.

And, as you see, some of these guys are calling the media`s bluff thinking
that they won`t do it. But in an all news station, it`s news programming.
So the --

MADDOW: Right.

TODD: You know, if they think -- you know, I think before they thought,
well, an affiliate of a broadcast network isn`t going to do that. They`re
not going to risk, you know, preempting "Wheel of Fortune" or preempting
the primetime line-up. It`s different with all news channels. I think
candidates are miscalculating here.

MADDOW: Tonight in New Hampshire -- tonight, Chuck, obviously Senator
Scott Brown is not your typical incumbent challenging outsider in this
race. He`s a newcomer sort of to New Hampshire. I`m not sure how much the
corporate bagging allegation actually plays, how much that plays in New

I`ve spent a lot of time in New Hampshire. I know there`s a lot of people
there who are from other places.

TODD: Right.

MADDOW: He`s an atypical challenger. Jeanne Shaheen is a pretty strong
contender. But this is not probably going to be the Democrats` year. What
was the dynamic like between them tonight?

TODD: Well, I thought it was interesting was they both honestly seemed a
little nervous at the beginning. I think they both realized that the race
is, OK, it`s not in our fist five of the most competitive, but it is moving
up fast. I mean, look at the history of New Hampshire in the last decade,
where the wind is -- whichever way the wind is blowing, it seems to gusts.
The political wind seemed to gust in New Hampshire. So if it`s a good year
for one party nationally, it seems to be a great year for that party in New
Hampshire. And we`ve seen that affected.

You can just sort of see the tentativeness a little bit at the beginning.
But I thought what was interesting as they really got into it, over energy.
It certainly wasn`t over abortion, it wasn`t over or carpet bagging. It
wasn`t over, you know, some of the -- it wasn`t even over health care.
Some of that stuff has been -- energy seemed to be the newer issue that
they both were fighting over back and forth, having to do with -- who is
for nuclear, the energy tax.

So it was -- I would say, if there was new ground broken by these two
candidates tonight, and ended up being on energy, I can tell you, I didn`t
expect it to be one of those --


TODD: All right. I`m going to let it go, let them go back and forth and
they were basically saying no, you got my record wrong, no, you got my
record wrong. So it`s going to be a busy night for the local reporters to
do a little fact-checking.

MADDOW: Fascinating.

Chuck, I also just -- because I have you. Now not just with NBC News, but
also "Meet the Press" right now, an American journalistic institution, I
just have to ask your reaction tonight. This is -- we`ve just had in the
past hour that Ben Bradlee, the legendary editor at the "Washington post"
has died. I just wanted to know if you had any reaction you wanted to
share with us on that?

TODD: Other than, I think, you know, and I think Ben Bradlee is sort of
America`s newspaper editor. You know, for some people they`ll think it`s
Jason Robards, since he played the character, of course, in "All the
President`s Men." But he is a reminder that as good as -- job as reporters
do, an editor sometimes or, in our case, Rachel, a producer, an executive
producer, that we work with, you know, or a news president, they have to
make that tougher call sometimes.

Reporter can do the groundwork but they got to make that call, whether to
go or not, or do they trust their reporter? How well do they know their
reporter? How well do they trust their sources? And, you know, Ben
Bradlee had to go out on a limb in many ways. There are a lot of newspaper
editors that might not have the guts to do that.

At the time, think about that time period then, the "Washington Post" going
after a sitting president. That`s what it was perceived to be. It is a
unique -- now, it seems like something -- well, of course he went after.
And everything that we know. It was a tough call for a newspaper. The
pressures you would get from a publisher, from advertisers, the political

I mean, that is -- talk about a man who had a steel spine. And I think
served as a role model for editors, news presidents, producers all around,
because, you know, they`re the ones that end up making that call, giving
the resources to the reporters or to the folks that are on air, and it`s --
you know, he`s in a class by himself and he`s been just an incredible for
so many editors, I think. They should aspire to have his steel spine.

NBC News political director and moderator of "Meet the Press" Chuck Todd.

Chuck, thank you so much for being here on this -- on this busy night.
Appreciate having you here. Thank you.

TODD: You got it, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right.

What Chuck said there is exactly right. I mean, the thing that inflected,
the way that Ben Bradlee`s decisions inflected journalistic history is that
he set a new standard for how you wanted history to look at you when it
came to your institutional decisions about how brave to be and how much you
had to trust your sources and how much you had to trust your reporters so
you could make that decision to go even when it took a lot of bravery to do

He changed the benchmark in terms of what it was you ought to strive to be
proud of in your work, in journalism.

It`s a big, big deal in our country what his career. I will be talking
more about Bradlee -- Ben Bradlee coming up. Stay with us.


MADDOW: As you will mentioned at the top of the show, there`s some
breaking news to get to this hour. Tonight, we can report that one of the
titans of American journalism, former "Washington Post" editor Ben Bradlee,
has died tonight at the age of 93.

For an entire generation that did not grow up during the Watergate era,
what they may know of Ben Bradlee was we all saw on the big screen, in the
Hollywood portrayal of Ben Bradlee by actor Jason Robards, sharing the
screen with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.


JASON ROBARDS, ACTOR: How much can you tell me about Deep Throat?

ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: How much do you need to know?

ROBARDS: Do you trust him.


ROBARDS: I can`t do the report reporting for my reporters, which means I
have to trust them. And I hate trusting anybody. Run that baby.


MADDOW: It was a scene from "All the President`s Men." The story about
the story. "Washington Post`s" relentless and fearless reporting on
Watergate, reporting that of course ultimately ended the presidency of
Richard Nixon.

The character in the tux played by actor Jason Robards was legendary
"Washington Post" executive, Ben Bradlee. Although the film is about
"Post" reporters Woodward and Bernstein, it is the exacting standards of
their boss, Ben Bradlee, that pushes them to dig further and dig deeper and
get more confirmation until they can definitively, unassailably connect
those brutal dots between the Watergate burglars and the White House

Ben Bradlee held the top editorial spot at the "Washington Post" for 23
years starting in 1968. Within the first few years of his tenure, Ben
Bradlee and his paper became synonymous with two huge world-changing
stories. Watergate, of course. But before that, also, the Pentagon
papers. In 1971, the "New York Times" has scooped the "Washington Post" on
the Pentagon papers, the top secret documents leaked by Daniel Ellsberg
that revealed the breadth and scope of the U.S. war in Vietnam.

But soon after the "Times" published its first story on the documents, Ben
Bradlee`s paper had its own copy. And when the Justice Department
succeeded in getting a restraining order that squelched any further stories
about the leaked Pentagon papers documents, Ben Bradlee and his publisher,
Katharine Graham, fought that order all the way to the Supreme Court and
they won.

During his time at the "Washington Post," Ben Bradlee was known to relish
the blood and guts reporting on the powerful in Washington. He was
suspicious of all government spin.

Here`s how he described a fight that he tried to wage with official
Washington, telling NBC`s John Chancellor in 1985 about his decision to
have "Washington Post" reporters boycott, so-called background briefings,
that government officials often hold with reporters. Briefings for
reporters can use the information that`s given to them from officials, but
they can`t name the officials giving the information. Watch.


while and then the reporters started whining and -- because, especially the
Defense Department people and the State Department people. State most of
all. Couldn`t get all of those nuances that they really love. And of
course, the secretary of state couldn`t load you up with exactly the right

So we started not getting -- I called and "The New York Times" started, you
know, beating us over the shoulders with stories. And the reporters came
and begged us to call --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that was a noble effort but it didn`t work.

BRADLEE: Well, it didn`t work and I tried to get "The New York Times" to
go along and I think if the AP and the "New York Times" and the "Post" got
together on it, we could bust it now.


MADDOW: "We could bust it now."

Ben Bradlee retired from the "Washington Post" in 1991 but he did stay
active as a vice president at large for the paper.

This is today`s edition of the "Washington Post." You can see Ben
Bradlee`s name still appears in that role on the newspaper`s masthead.

In recent years, Mr. Bradlee`s sharp mind and his memory did start to fail
him at public events. He suffered from Alzheimer`s disease. But as
recently as November 2013, he was honored at the White House with a
Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Obama releasing a statement
tonight honoring Ben Bradlee on the occasion of his death and talking about
the decision to award him that Presidential Medal of Freedom.

But, again, the breaking news tonight, the "Washington Post" confirms that
their legendary editor Ben Bradlee has passed away at the age of 93. They
say he died at his home in Washington of natural causes. He`s survived by
his wife of 36 years, the writer Sally Quinn, and four children.

Joining us now is my friend, Gene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer
Prize-winning columnist for the "Washington Post." I should say that
Eugene has been at the "Post" for 34 years and he knew Ben Bradlee for
longer than that.

Gene, thank you for being with us tonight. I really appreciate it.

Rachel. Where else could I be on this night?


ROBINSON: I mean, it is, you know, Ben was the great American newspaper
editor certainly of his time, I believe of our time. Your report -- you`ve
said those words, those few words that define his place in history. You
know, Pentagon papers, Watergate, Woodward, Bernstein, Nixon, courage. You
say that, you put Ben in the history books.

Almost as an aside, he revolutionized the way newspaper reporters can write
their stories in this country. In 1969, he took a section that was called
"For and About Women." It was a women -- traditional women section. And
he turned it into style and made it a place for narrative magazine writing
in a daily newspaper.

That was revolutionary. Nobody had ever done that before. Changed the way
newspapers are written in this country and that`s just a footnote to this
amazing career and this amazing life. But he was not just a great
newspaper editor, he was a great man. He -- I guess one of his few
mistakes was he hired me at the "Washington Post" in 1980 to cover Marion

I could tell personal stories all evening, including the embarrassing job
interview lunch I had when he waited until I had had a full -- a mouthful
of a really, really dry roast beef sandwich to lean over and say, kid, city
hall is a tough job. Are you tough? And, you know, I could barely kind of
choke out a squeak. Yes, Mr. Bradlee.


ROBINSON: But he was -- he was such a leader. I`ve never -- I`ve
certainly never worked for anybody like him. And I`ve never really met
anybody like him. And I`ve worked for some really good people. But it`s
no exaggeration to say that those of us who were hired with -- by Ben and
who worked with Ben, would today, right now, walk through fire for Ben
Bradlee. He was that amazing a person.

MADDOW: Gene, one of the things that Chuck Todd said earlier this hour,
and I was sort of reflecting on, I think, without much eloquence, was the
idea that Ben Bradlee`s legacy wasn`t just about his skill as an editor.
It was that he sort of set the benchmark for bravery. For -- not just
about being brave in a foolhardy way, but for earning it, by knowing your
reporters enough, by being involved enough in what they`re doing, to
knowing enough about your sources and about the people who are being
reported on, to know whether or not to go with something, to make
decisions, not just as gut decisions, but as well-informed, brave decisions
from a position of strength.

That`s how I`ve always viewed his legacy. Is that fair from having worked
with him?

ROBINSON: You know, I think that`s fair, but I don`t think that`s the way
he would have described it. I think he would have said it was doing his
job, and doing it well. And he knew he did his job well.

He had -- people always talked about his instincts. He had a great
instinct for story, could sometimes almost appeared -- see around corners.

But it wasn`t just instinct. It was intelligent. It was a rigor. It was
a rigor to the way he approached -- he approached reporters and stories and
news, and where`s the next story?

That people don`t really talk about, but we all should appreciate. He was
a really, really smart man, who did his job and wanted to be the best and
follow the story where it led, and if it led to the taking down of the
sitting president, which was not an easy thing for Ben Bradlee.

This was a man who fought in World War II, who was deeply, deeply
patriotic, who -- so that had to tear him up. But that`s where the story
led and that`s where he was going on.

MADDOW: Gene Robinson, long-time "Washington Post" columnist and reporter
-- thank you for your time tonight. I know this isn`t the easiest thing to
talk about. But I`m really glad you`re here, Gene. Thanks a lot.

ROBINSON: Well, it`s a great life to celebrate. He said he never had a
bad day and I believe him.

MADDOW: Wonderful to have you here. Gene, thanks. Appreciate it.

Again, breaking news tonight, confirmed by "The Washington Post", that
legendary editor Ben Bradlee has died tonight at the age of 93.

All right. Much more ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: This is the USS George H.W. Bush. It`s an aircraft carrier.
Aircraft carriers never go anywhere alone. The George H.W. Bush, when it
deploys, it goes with a carrier strike group that includes a carrier air
wing, a destroyer squadron, a guided missile cruiser and two guided missile
destroyers. The George H.W. Bush carrier group right now is on its way
home after a four-month deployment to the Persian Gulf, which included that
aircraft carrier basically being the main aircraft carrier launching pad
for the new U.S. air war in Iraq and Syria.

George H.W. Bush is its on its way home to is home base naval station in
Norfolk, Virginia.

That carrier group will be replaced at sea by the USS Carl Vinson, which is
based on the West Coast. It`s based in San Diego, California. It has
already headed out with its carrier air wing, which includes 67 aircraft,
destroyers squadron, a guided missile cruiser. So, now, the USS Carl
Vinson and its compliment of supporting vessels which essentially become
the offshore airport supporting this U.S. air war in Iraq and Syria.

There isn`t very much coverage in the U.S. media about what is happening in
that war. But we do get these daily U.S. press releases from the military
about what`s going on.

This Sunday, for example, they announced quietly and without much fanfare
that the military is doing something new in the war. They are delivering
weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters in Syria. So,
in addition to bombing stuff, we`re dropping weapons and medical supplies.
That was Sunday.

And then on Monday, there was a slightly little alarming follow up. One of
things they bombed on Monday -- so they did the drop of weapons on Sunday.
One of the things they bombed on Monday was one of the weapons shipments
that they had dropped the day before. Apparently, it did not go where it
was intended to go.

So, Sunday they dropped it. Monday, they said they had to go back and blow
it up because it landed in the wrong place.

Today, though, the ISIS terrorist group released this video. .


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS: In all wars, there are uncontrollable factors,
like wind. And this time, it seemed to blow in ISIS` favor. An American-
delivered bundle intended to help fight ISIS in Kobani apparently landed in
the hands of the militants. Old grenades, some RPGs, newer grenades. ISIS
called them spoils of war in this propaganda video.

But they`re unlikely to change the course of month-long battle for Kobani.
The U.S. military says it`s trying to verify the video. It acknowledges
that one of the dozens of bundles it dropped this weekend did go off
course, but was later destroyed by an air strike.

In this war by remote control, some mishaps are probably unavoidable. But
the alternatives are doing nothing or sending in ground troops, both of
which the administration has ruled out.

The fact is, ISIS is already well-armed, with weapons and equipment stolen
from the Iraqi army. Most of it, American-made.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Istanbul.


MADDOW: NBC`s Richard Engel reporting from Turkey on that new ISIS video
which reportedly shows them with appears to be one of those air drops of
weapons that was intended for the people fighting them, but they appear to
have captured. Again, it`s propaganda video. You can never verify what
exactly they are saying. But that`s what they are claiming has happened

Some of nose weapons they dropped to fight them, they, instead collected

It`s kind of amazing that we are two weeks away from a national election in
this country and the fact that we are waging a brand new and really
controversial war is not factoring into the political debate at home right
now at all. But to American citizens who are concerned about the chances
of success in that war, also the risk to U.S. military personnel who are
participating in that war, there are three pretty important strategic
things that just happened that may be worth knowing about beyond that
question of whether or not a stray air drop of weapons accidently went to
the enemy.

There are three things that have happened strategically just in the last 48
hours or so that may be worth knowing about.

First one is that ISIS is apparently still having not much trouble
recruiting from across the globe. We`re learning today that three young
American women, three American female teenagers were stopped in an airport
in Germany while reportedly on their way to join ISIS in Syria. They were
stopped in Germany. They were returned to their families in Denver,
Colorado, by the FBI. We are now told they are being closely watched. So,
to the extent that ISIS` success as a group depends on them being able to
attract worldwide recruits, they are apparently still attracting worldwide
records, even from this country. That`s one development.

Number two, in terms of what ISIS is capable of, there have been reports
within the past week that ISIS fighters might be flying fighter jets,
Russian fighter jets that they have taken from Syrian military

Well, the U.S. Pentagon now is -- for lack of a better term -- shooting
down those reports. They`re saying that they have no information that ISIS
fighters have actually been able to get fighter jets or that they are
flying them.

So, despite those early reports, the Pentagon says they`re not hearing
anything about it.

Here`s the thing, though, part of the Pentagon shooting down those reports
included the Pentagon also may be making some other news. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral, (INAUDIBLE) to ISIS. First of all, we hear
that ISIS may have gotten control of fighter jets. What can you tell us?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We don`t have any indication
that them the capability to fly them. And we don`t have any indications
that they have any air defense or anti-air capability at all right now.
But we`re watching it very, very closely.


MADDOW: Pentagon spokesman saying, not only, as far as they know, ISIS is
not flying any fighter jets. The Pentagon also doesn`t think they have any
anti-aircraft capability. We don`t have any indications they have any air
defense or anti-air capability at all right now.

Kind of threw that in as an aside, but that`s really important. And that`s
new. I mean, as recently as a few weeks ago, over and over again, we saw
in the CentCom releases about the airstrikes that the U.S. was waging in
Iraq and Syria, right, that they were targeting ISIS` anti-aircraft

And, yes, they`ve got a lot of different weapons and that`s what they`re
trying to blow up. But the idea of ISIS having anti-aircraft weapons,
anti-aircraft capacity, that is particularly worrying to those of us who
are concerned about the safety of U.S. air personnel who are flying air
missions over ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria.

It`s a very basic worry when you`re waging an air war, right? Could our
pilots be shot down?

We reached out to the Pentagon tonight with this question, just confirming
that they`re making this claim now, that they don`t have anti-aircraft
capacity after they`ve been saying for weeks that they were bombing their
anti-aircraft weapons.

A U.S. defense official told us tonight that the Pentagon does not now
believe that ISIS has anti-aircraft capability right now. So, maybe all
those airstrikes against their anti-aircraft capability were worth

If the Pentagon believes that U.S. personnel cannot be shot down by ISIS,
that is an important statement to the American public about how much risk
American troops are in. And it would be, honestly, the first time the U.S.
air war has actually hurt ISIS in some material way as they continued to
basically maraud through parts of Iraq and Syria, seemingly taking
territory at will.

In the absence of a real political debate about this war in the country, it
sometimes hard to know how the war is going. But we have just had a flurry
of concrete information about that for the first time in a while. Hold
that thought.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral, (INAUDIBLE) to ISIS. First of all, we hear
that ISIS may have gotten control of fighter jets. What can you tell us?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We don`t have any indication
that them the capability to fly them. And we don`t have any indications
that they have any air defense or anti-air capability at all right now.
But we`re watching it very, very closely.


MADDOW: We don`t have any indications that they have anti-aircraft

Joining us now live from London is NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman

Ayman, it`s really nice to see you. I know it`s very early over there
right now. Thanks for staying up with us.


MADDOW: So, we`ve been reading for weeks about U.S. airstrikes targeting
ISIS` anti-aircraft weapons. That seems like an important if you`re
worried about the possibility of U.S. pilots being shot down over there.

So, how do you read the Pentagon statement now that ISIS doesn`t have anti-
aircraft capability at all?

MOHYELDIN: Well, I would look at it with the United States -- obviously,
the United States has an ability to assess what`s happening on the ground.
I think for all of us who have been watching this conflict, that doesn`t
necessarily surprise us as much. I don`t think that ISIS, over the course,
of the last several months, that it has acquired some of these weapons from
these bases that it has taken control over, demonstrated that it had kind
of fire power.

We haven`t seen it appear in videos. We haven`t seen appear in any of
their attacks on the Syrian regime. I think there was concern that perhaps
they may have actually overtaken air bases that had air capacities, meaning
like fighter jets or helicopters. I think the initial part of Admiral
Kirby`s statement was certainly one that that was more important, that they
are not flying these fighter jets as has been reported by some of these
Syrian opposition groups.

MADDOW: ISIS has released footage that they are in possession of some
American weapons that U.S. planes had dropped in the region, meant for
Kurdish fighters who were fighting against ISIS. Obviously, it`s a
propaganda coup for them to be able to say, you were trying to arm our
enemies, but you ended arming us. So, it`s a propaganda coup for them.

But is it strategically important, do we know?

MOHYELDIN: It is strategically important for another important reason that
came out of the U.S. State Department yesterday, which is that despite the
fact that U.S. was targeting ISIS, and despite the fact that the U.S. was
trying to send weapons and did send weapons to Kurdish fighters fighting
ISIS, the U.S. State Department acknowledges that ISIS may still control
Kobani by the end of all of this, that in fact, Kobani may fall into the
hands of ISIS.

So, I think that we are seeing on the ground a very fluid situation that is
not yet in favor of one side or the other. And I think that is going to be
the test in the next couple of days, and certainly going to be very
problematic if the United States with all this firepower, resupplying the
Kurdish fighters, is still unable to deter ISIS from fighting.

Keep in mind, ISIS is fighting two fronts. They`re fighting on the
outskirts of Baghdad and they`re fighting Kobani. They`re a very resilient
group so far.

MADDOW: Yes, and seeing the way that they responded or not responded to
the show of force by the U.S. and allies is sobering. It`s the sort of
thing we`d have a great debate about if we debated these things in this

Ayman, NBC News foreign correspondent -- Ayman, again, thank you for
staying up so late for us. I really appreciate.

MOHYELDIN: My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. We`ve got much more ahead, including a best new thing in the
world brought to you by math. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Behold, the simplest ballot ever. One question: should Scotland
be an independent country? Yes or no?

And yet many ballots were turned in looking like this. Both, please? Some
people where are either too excited or too confused or maybe just operating
at a higher plane that they picked both.

Now, something similar is happening in the United States. It`s great. It
is, in fact, the best new thing in the world, and that is next.


MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today brought to you by the letter

So, Scotland did not secede from Britain, right? In the course of learning
that information, we had the cool experience of hearing a lot of people
with awesome Scottish accents explained how people voted on the
independence referendum in all the different parts of Scotland.

Remember, it wasn`t a very hard ballot. The question was, should Scotland
be an independent country? Yes or no? Yes or no, that`s it.

Some people have a hard time narrowing it down.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were 3,429 rejected papers. The reasons for
rejection are as follows -- want of an official mark, 16 papers. Voting in
favor of both answers, 691 papers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Voting in favor of both answers, 7.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voting in favor of both answers, two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventeen for voting for both answers.


MADDOW: Want to be independent? Yes. Also no. Both?

That same phenomenon is now happening in the great state of Washington.
Two weeks from tonight, Washington state voters will be asked to say yes or
no on two ballot measures, two closely related ballot measures on the issue
of guns.

One of the ballot measures would require background checks on everybody
buying a gun in the state. The other one would ban that. The other one
would ban the state from implementing any background checks except the ones
mandated by federal law.

So, you see the problem here. Two separate ballot measures. They look a
lot like each other, but they have the exact opposite effect.

Here`s the amazing thing. When asked how they will vote on these two
diametrically opposed things, one of which who says, "let`s do a thing",
and the other one says, "we should never, ever do that thing", more than
one in five Washington state voters say yes to both. Ta-da!

Twenty-two percent of Washington voters right now are down with both
banning background checks and mandating background checks. Both.

Now that`s compassion for both side of the argument in a way that makes no
sense at all.

But here is the best new thing in the world. That 22 percent of voters who
said they would vote yes on both, that number is dropping. It`s 22 percent
now. In July, it was 30 percent. Before that in April, it was 40 percent.

So, the trend is good in terms of the triumph of math. Regardless of how
you feel about either of these measures we are, I`m pretty sure, watching
the Washington state electorate get smarter week by week by week.

They`re now nearly 50 percent smarter than they were just six weeks ago
when first asked this basic logic question. Basic logic and progress,
taking hold in America -- best new thing in the world.

That does it for us to night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH


Content and programming copyright 2014 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2014 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.