The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/09/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you very much, Keith. I wore my glasses, too, so nobody will know it’s the same me.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN”: I can’t wait. I’m racing home to TiVo it now.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
And thanks to you for sticking with us for the next hour.
The market is down. The McCain is down and dirty. Troopergate is back. And there’s a sheriff in Chicago who got me all kerflop (ph) today just by attempting decency. There’s lots to get to.
(voice over): Another day-another 678 point crash on the stock market. Another day of rage on the campaign trail about-Bill Ayers?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to know the full extent of the relationship because of whether Senator Obama is telling the truth to the American people or not. That’s the question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he a terrorist?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE). It’s just a bloodline (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that you don’t (ph) think Barack Obama is a terrorist?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can’t afford that kind of erratic, uncertain leadership in these uncertain times. We need a steady hand in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Why is the McCain campaign swinging so hard at Obama’s tenuous associations, careening from attack to attack, could it be no answers on the economy? Or they worried about some dicey association of their own? Fresh reporting on Sarah Palin palling around with Alaskans who want to secede from the United States.
Or maybe it’s to distract us from troopergate with Sarah Palin just called “tasergate” oddly, first dude, Todd Palin, has now testified. You know, what he didn’t mention? Anything that would help his wife defend against the abuse of power allegations she is now facing. The investigator’s report is due out tomorrow. Indications are that Palin is going to have some explaining to do. We’ll go live to Alaska for the latest.
And, it’s the elephant in the electoral living room-the Bradley effect. Do poll numbers for African-American candidate need an asterisk? Are Americans telling the pollsters they will vote for Obama but 26 days from now, they won’t? Melissa Harris-Lacewell Talks Me Down about race and their race.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
(on camera): The only steady thing about the McCain campaign against Barack Obama is its nature-overwhelmingly negative. Beyond that, there actually hadn’t appeared to be a unifying theme in this campaign until Barack Obama offered one. Stand by for that.
Today, one day after sending “first-lady-in-training,” Cindy McCain, out on the stump to attack Barack Obama’s support for the troops, the McCain campaign gave fresh indications that another round of Reverend Wright attacks are lurking just around the corner.
The negatives against Obama have been relentless, but they haven’t been all that focused. Obama is a terrorist sympathizer. Obama dishonors the troops. Obama is a shady liar. Obama’s a liberal. Not a liberal.
Senator Obama today blasted back in Dayton, Ohio doing some labeling of his own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I don’t think we can afford that kind of erratic and uncertain leadership in these uncertain times. We need steady leadership in the White House. We need a president we can trust in times of crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Erratic and uncertain might also be an apt description for the crowds now attending McCain-Palin rallies across the country. From the speaker’s podium, we’re hearing angrier and angrier attacks, wilder and wilder accusations. From the audience, we’re getting-well, at least-we’re getting an impression of more of an angry mob kind of thing rather than a political rally.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? Well, case in point-here’s the town hall event in Wisconsin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m mad. I’m really mad. And what’s going to surprise you is not the economy. It’s a socialist taking over our country.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to have our head examined. It’s time that you two are representing us and we are mad. So, go get them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody in this room is stunned that we are in this position.
MCCAIN: Well, let me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are all a product of our association. Is there not a way to get around this media and line up the people that he has come with?
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator McCain himself stoked the crowd by, again, suggesting Barack Obama needs to explain his relationship with William Ayers, with whom Obama sat on a board of directors alongside a bunch of Republicans for an educational foundation funded by an ambassador appointed by Ronald Reagan.
Why is this Ayers stuff coming up now-not just by right-wing groups but by McCain and Palin themselves? Well, their strategy seems to be, in these last four desperate weeks of probably desperate economic news, to try to shift away from “Obama’s policies just aren’t right for this country” to “Obama is dangerous, he’s scary, he’s an enemy of America who should be arrested and deported to any country that will take him.”
At McCain-Palin rallies, that is the sort of reaction they are inciting from their crowds. Another by-product of running a “throw everything against the wall” campaign is a certain unpredictability with the McCain hammered away at the William Ayers connection in the days leading up to this week’s debate, only for Senator McCain himself to completely ignore it at the actual debate with Obama.
Last night, Obama confessed to ABC News that he was surprise McCain didn’t come out with it at the debate. And today, Joe Biden hit that the same “say it to my face” mean (ph) in Missouri.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of the things that he said about Barack Obama in rallies and on TV before the debate, and all the things that they are saying right now after the debate-John McCain couldn’t bring himself to look Barack Obama in the eye and say at the debate.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
BIDEN: And, folks, in my neighborhood-in my neighborhood -
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
BIDEN: In my neighborhood, where I came from, you got something to say to a man, look him in the eye and say it to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: With or without your jacket on.
Well, Obama and Biden may soon get their wish. With one debate left, next week, Senator McCain may have telegraphed his next move today. During his rally in Wisconsin, McCain seemed to suggest that the words “reverend” and “Wright” may cross his lips during the next debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I believe that in the next coming debate, it is absolutely vital that you take it to Obama. We have (INAUDIBLE) Reverend Wright, we have Pfleger, we have all these shady characters that have surrounded him. I am begging you, sir. I am begging you. Take it to him.
MCCAIN: Can I just say quickly, yes, I’ll do that. But, I’ll also, my friends, want to address the greatest financial challenge of our lifetime with the positive plan for action, so we’ll do both. And I thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, I’ll do that. So, essentially, that’s where we are going, says John McCain. Next stop, once again, Jeremiah Wright. If you can’t associate him with a reformed, bungling domestic terrorist, associate him with a disavowed former pastor? Can somebody in the office grab the Pastor Hagee tape from the archive while you’re back there, while I’m thinking of it?
Joining us now to assess the downward spiral and to pure negative personal politics is MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O’Donnell.
Lawrence, thanks for joining us here tonight.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Welcome to L.A., Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you. It’s lovely to be here.
We just heard Senator McCain suggests he’s going to bring up Reverend Wright in the next debate. If the moderator doesn’t ask about it directly, can McCain bring it up on his own? Does he have to be careful about the way he does it?
O’DONNELL: He can bring it up. We saw Hillary Clinton, in effect, do that in the primaries. But because McCain has said he’s going to do it, that slightly increases the likelihood that he won’t, given his erratic nature in terms of campaign promises of “This is what I’m going to do next week.”
You know, this is the same candidate who said, “I’m going back to Washington and I’m not leaving until we have a deal on the bailout.” And then he left before there was a deal on the bailout. He wasn’t going to debate unless they had a deal on the bailout and then he debated without deal. So, you know, him saying it just makes it a toss-up as to whether he’s going to do it or not.
MADDOW: The McCain-Palin rallies have gotten increasingly ugly over the past few days. It’s not just-it’s the aggressive questioning from people in the stand, you can sort of, I don’t think you can hold a candidate accountable for what their supporters say or want.
O’DONNELL: Unless they agree with what the supporter has just said.
MADDOW: Unless they say they agree with it, or unless they are sort of overtly inciting it. When people have yelled things like “terrorist” or “kill him” from the audience, in the midst of McCain and Palin speeches, shouldn’t they be stepping in and responding back, acknowledging that it’s happening, pointing out that that’s inappropriate, it’s not a good idea, directing the Secret Service to those folks?
O’DONNELL: Well, that would be one strategy. The other is to say, I didn’t hear it, I don’t believe that happened.
O’DONNELL: . which is basically what the campaign is saying. They are denying that these things are being said in their audiences.
But, what this is really indicative just in terms of pure campaign analysis is that the McCain campaign seems now, to have polls that indicate his standing is worse in the polls than what we’re getting on the publicly released polls. Meaning, this is a campaign that is playing now entirely to its base. It’s playing to the rally.
Now, when you are at this stage in the campaign are playing to the rally audience, that means you are in tremendous trouble. You need to be playing to the swing voters, the independent voters who have not yet decided. They want to hear about the financial crisis, their own personal financial crisis. And that’s not being addressed by this campaign. It indicates, they think, the bottom may be falling out on their base. So, they are trying to energize the base.
MADDOW: They are trying to energize the base, but when they’ve got, for example, former Oklahoma governor, McCain campaign co-chair, Frank Keating, out doing radio interviews today saying, “Obama is a guy of the street,” and that they got people introducing Sarah Palin twice with the span of two days, calling him Barack Hussein Obama. And the campaign did say they were against that.
But you can see the trend happening here. They maybe energizing their base, but it’s got to not only, not be speaking to the people in the middle, it’s got to be turning off people in the middle.
O’DONNELL: It is. Sarah Palin’s negatives are skyrocketing in the polls.
O’DONNELL: And so, we have plenty of poll information that says, so far, this absolutely is not working. McCain will abandon it. He’s a very impatient candidate. He will abandon this strategy as soon as their polls prove to him that this is not working. So far, their polls indicate, you know, they’re on a slide, and if they can slow down the slide, then McCain will stay with this.
But, I think, actually, by a week from now, if there’s no traction on this, McCain is going to leave it behind and try to get back to the economy but that maybe way too late for that move.
MADDOW: And he may need a new policy to unveil at that point in order to do it.
Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC political analyst, nice to see you in person. Thanks for being here.
O’DONNELL: Nice to see you.
MADDOW: So, the McCain camp is playing the association game for all it is worth, whatever it’s worth, but inspecting the other guy’s pals is a double-edged moose hunting sword if your vice presidential nominee has spent years palling around with “fringe” Alaskans who are pushing to secede from the United States.
According to a brand new story on Salon.com, Sarah Palin’s ties to the “fringe” Alaska Independence Party are deeper than previously reported. Want to know what the party’s founder, Joe Vogler was all about? Try these quotes.
Quote, “I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.” That’s one from the party’s Web site.
From a 1991 interview, quote, “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government.” Wow. “And I won’t be buried under their damn flag.”
Now, in the same way Barack Obama was not a member of the Weather Underground, Sarah Palin was never a member of the Alaska Independence Party. However, non-member Palin has attended party conventions, has addressed the convention, as recently as this year in 2008, saying, quote, “Keep up the good work.” Does that constitute palling around? Is there more to the story?
Joining us now is Max Blumenthal, a fellow at the Nation Institute. He has just reported and written a brand new story about Palin’s connections to the Alaska Independence Party for Salon.com.
Max, thanks for joining us.
MAX BLUMENTHAL, NATION INSTITUTE: Yes, great to be here.
MADDOW: For people unfamiliar with Alaska politics, what’s the Alaska Independence Party all about? Is there anything in the politics of the lower 48 to compare them to?
BLUMENTHAL: There is. In the lower 48, there is neoconfederates, secessionist movement that reveres the confederacy, the lost cause, and they are intimately linked with the Alaskan Independence Party. So is the Constitution Party, a theocratic party that wants to put the United States under control of biblical law.
The Alaskan Independence Party, since it was founded by Joe Vogler, has been a haven for anti-government extremists, anti-government militia members, and conspiratorial figures who believe that the United States government plans to implement a new world order.
And when my co-author, the co-author, David Neiwert, an investigative journalist who’s been covering the anti-government militia movement since the ’90s, when we took our separate trips to Alaska, when we interviewed the former head of the Alaskan Independence Party, Mark Chryson, when we talked to the people who served on the city council with Sarah Palin, and talked to different people around the city of Wasilla, what we found is that Sarah Palin is far more intimately-associated with the extreme right-wing fringe of Alaska than the media has acknowledged or that she is willing to acknowledge.
MADDOW: Well, how strong are those connections and how are they made manifest? I mean, I know that she was close with that former chair of the party who you interviewed when she first got into politics. But what are the exact connections between her and this group?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, she used the former head of Alaskan Independence Party, Mark Chryson, and his friend, the John Birch Society activist named Steven Stoll to advance her political career. And then, once she was elected mayor and then governor, she used her position to advance their agenda on a local and state level and she sought to reward them with plum political appointments.
For example, the guy I mentioned, Steven Stoll, he’s known around Wasilla as “Black Helicopter Steve,” that’s because there’s a rumor he had taken several high powered automatic weapons and wrapped them in plastic and buried them in his front yard in the expectation of the federal government bringing on the new world order. He wanted to be ready.
These characters used to hold regular protests outside the office of Sarah Palin’s predecessor John Stein. And when she declared her campaign against him at their urging, they demanded that he produce a marriage certificate proving that he was legally married to his wife.
So, they were creating the negative back (INAUDIBLE) of Sarah Palin’s mayoral campaign. Steve Stoll donated $1,000 to Sarah Palin’s mayoral campaign. And as soon as she became mayor, she sought to appoint Steve Stoll to the city council seat that she had just vacated. This appointed was blocked by a city councilmember me and David Neiwert interviewed named Nick Carney because he considered Steve Stoll a, quote, “violent influence.”
John stein, the former mayor said and I’m paraphrasing here, that Steve Stoll is the kind of guy who if he disagreed with you, he’d take you out in a parking lot and beat you up. You know, people around Wasilla consider this character menacing and extreme figure. But Sarah Palin sought to appoint him to city council.
MADDOW: Max Blumenthal, a fellow at the Nation Institute, contributor of Salon.com, we advice our listeners or viewers who are interested in checking out more about this to check out Max’s very detailed article at Salon.com about this associations today.
Thanks, Max. Thanks for joining us.
BLUMENTHAL: Yes, thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Obama leads McCain by an impressive 11 points, again, in today’s Gallup tracking poll. But come November 4th, will some Obama supporters step into the privacy of the voting booth and change their minds because of Obama’s race? It’s called the Bradley effect. No one knows its influence. And it throws into question everything we think we know about how this is all going to end. Melissa Harris-Lacewell will try to Talk Me Down about this next.
And, nobody wants to talk about General David Petraeus more than John McCain. I wonder if he is going to talk about what Petraeus has to say about McCain’s plans for Afghanistan. It turns out, senator, he’s just not that into you.
But just one more thing, from the erratic styling of John McCain’s campaign, do you remember when McCain dared Obama to go to Iraq and then after Obama did just that, and met with leaders in Afghanistan and the Middle East and Europe, McCain mocked Obama as a globe-trotting celebrity? Well, McCain is back in the condescending, hypocritical travel agent business. This time, because he says Barack Obama doesn’t understand nuclear power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I hope he takes one of his infrequent trips to another country and see-and see what the French were doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know what? If I had John McCain’s poll numbers right now, I’d probably be urging Barack Obama to go to France, too-maybe around the world trip on a very slow boat.
MADDOW: The Obama campaign is going primetime and wreaking havoc on the viewing schedules of millions of Americans. The candidate has bought up 30 minutes of air time to run a-half-hour-long special on CBS, NBC, and FOX, if there’s no World Series. The ad buy is for 8 p.m. on October 29th, about six days before the election.
Fans of “The New Adventures of Old Christine” will have to wait half an hour for their show. No word yet on whether the new “Knight Rider” will be pushed back as well or preempted, risking alienating the new “Knight Rider” audience? Do you really thought this through, senator?
MADDOW: As you may have noticed, there’s a really scary economic meltdown happening in much of the world right now. As you may also have noticed the Republican presidential ticket seems more frightened of Barack Obama than it is of consecutive 700-point stock market drops and whole country is turning up bankrupt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am just so fearful that this is not a man who sees America the way that you and I see America.
MCCAIN: In short, who is-who is the real Barack Obama?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrorist.
PALIN: Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Why are the Republicans going after Obama as a scary, somehow foreign, not-one-of-us terrorist lover? Why those specific lines of attack?
Well, Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks, who is an African-American, told the “New York Observer” this, quote, “They are trying to throw out these codes. He’s not one of us. That’s racial. That’s fear.”
Congressman Ed Towns, also an African-American Democrat, says, quote, “Racism is alive and well in this country, and McCain and Palin are trying to appeal to that.”
Barack Obama leads John McCain in today’s Gallup daily tracking poll by 11 points for the second straight day. But a question among polling nerds, like me, remains debatable until Election Day.
Is there such a thing as the Bradley effect? The Bradley effect is a political science concept that’s named for Tom Bradley, the mayor here in Los Angeles, who, a generation ago, lost the 1982 governor’s race in California despite polling that showed him far ahead of his white opponent before the election. Bradley was practically writing his acceptance speech until the moment that he lost.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC NEWS, OCTOBER 19, 1982)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Bradley does not believe that he’ll lose the race simply because he is black.
Does that question, however, ever enter into your private thoughts?
TOM BRADLEY, FORMER L.A. MAYOR: Not once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How different is America right now than California was in 1982? For all the surveys suggesting that Barack Obama is ahead and polling further ahead, could we see racism unspoken and maybe even unconscious until November 4th change the election in the privacy of voting booths across the country? Do polling numbers for black candidates, in other words, need big Bradley effects asterisks?
I could use a talking down on this one. Joining us now to do her best to try to Talk Me Down is Melissa Harris-Lacewell. She’s an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.
Melissa, great to have you back on the show, thanks for being here.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Oh, yes. It’s great to be here. I wish I was in L.A. with you.
MADDOW: Well, it’s very nice here, I have to say.
MADDOW: Can you Talk Me Down on this? Is the Bradley effect a Pol-Sci (ph) myth or is there evidence that it’s real?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Are you suggesting there are political science myths? I can’t believe that.
No, of course it’s real. There’s every reason to believe that African-American candidates probably need to be ahead by four or five points to actually be dead even. And this is true when African-American candidates are running against white candidates in sort of statewide elections or districts that are not predominantly African-American.
But the deal is, that actually doesn’t happen very frequently. Most African-American elected representatives are in majority, minority districts. So, we don’t have a lot of data on this over time. What I will say is that we’ve seen Barack Obama be a state senator from Hyde Park, be a senator from Illinois, and there doesn’t appear to be any Bradley effect that follows Barack Obama around.
MADDOW: What about in the Democratic primaries this year? I know there was a recent study from the University of Washington that found some evidence of the Bradley effect in some states, but they also found evidence of a reverse Bradley effect. Can you explain how that study worked?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Sure. Well, I know this study pretty well, in part, because I know one of the brilliant social scientists who is a part of it, my friend and colleague Bethany Albertson. And she actually talked about this study over the course of the weekend. And what this work shows is that there was some evidence, in some states, that white Americans were seemed to be polling a little bit higher and Barack was underperforming with those white Americans.
But interestingly, in southern states and states where there were high proportions of white folks, white Americans were actually over-performing at the polls relative to what they have been telling public opinion researchers. So, in fact, Barack was getting more white votes or a greater percentage of white votes than we thought he would get going into it.
I’m not sure that’s reverse Bradley effect. But it clearly does demonstrate that, at least, when running against a white woman, there wasn’t any particularly racial impact for Barack Obama.
MADDOW: Well, if the McCain campaign wanted to try to strategize around the idea that there might be a Bradley effect for Obama, what would the McCain campaign do? What would be the contours of how they would run against Obama that would try to maximize this effect?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: That’s right. I mean, if you are a Republican running against Barack at this moment, or you’re a white ticket running against a ticket that has an African-American on it, you might as well try the Bradley effect to try to win.
And so, what I’ve seen the McCain-Palin camp doing is two really important things. One, kind of a mixing of anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim sentiment with an anti-black sentiment, calling him an outsider and calling him a terrorist, or implying that he may have terrorist connections as a way of sort of upping the ante on his outsider status.
The other interesting thing is more interesting, is around the economy. And there’s this claim that somehow it was ACORN and Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and to the loans to low income African-Americans that caused this economic crisis.
Now, clearly, that’s just scapegoating when poor black people living in the inner city are being claimed, you know, and blamed for an entire international destruction of the economy. But it’s exactly the sort of thing that if you were going to try to initiate the Bradley effect, it would be one strategy that you could use. And they seem to be doing it.
MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University, thank you for joining us and not really talking me down at all. But, thanks for your time.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: No, no, no. Come down, it’s going to be OK.
MADDOW: Thank you, Melissa. Nice to see you.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Nice to see you.
MADDOW: It looks like the plan to keep the troopergate, Sarah Palin abuse of power investigation on the down low has been foiled by the Alaska Supreme Court. Late today, the Alaska Supreme Court refused to shut down that investigation. The court’s decision could result in a real October surprise tomorrow. That’s when a report on the investigation is due to be released.
Has Palin told the truth? Did she improperly use her office to settle a personal score? Could this be an impeachable offense for her in Alaska? How would that affect her place on the Republican ticket?
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: The first dude of Alaska is finally on record in trooper-gate saying, “You know, my wife didn’t fire the public safety commissioner because I spent years telling any state official would listen that he was a bad guy. Maybe she fired him because he accused her of not putting our baby in a car seat and he wouldn’t let her use the state trooper airplane when she wanted it.”
Maybe Todd Palin likes that story better than the old one. But it’s not going to help with the whole abuse-of-power investigation. We’ve got the Alaska state senator live from the Great North to tell us the latest on trooper-gate and what bombshells are expected to drop in tomorrow’s news.
First, though, it’s time for some underreported holy mackerel stories in today’s news. The National Security Agency collected private calls of Americans living abroad - U.S. troops, military officers, aid workers, even just ordinary Americans living abroad calling home.
That is according to investigative journalist Jim Banford (ph). He has a new book out about the National Security Agency. He’s going to be on this program discussing that book tomorrow night. Former intercept operators at the NSA admitted to eavesdropping on hundreds of American citizens - people who are calling friends and families back home, including phone calls made by soldiers stationed in Iraq.
Some of these calls were intimate phone calls to spouses and girlfriends back in the States. Operators saved the audio and passed it around to their officemates, as in, “Hey, check this out. Good phone sex over here. Pull up this call.”
Wow. Gross. You may remember President Bush saying about government spying on us back in February, that, quote, “There is a constant check to make sure our civil liberties were treated with respect,” and as a staffer is goofing on other people’s phone sex qualifies as respect? You stay classy, Bush administration.
And finally, because humane instincts are surviving these terribly hard times, I need to tell you about the sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Tom Dart. He was on pace to make 4500 eviction calls this year. The number of eviction calls the sheriff’s department is handling has more than doubled in just over two years.
Many of the calls they’re going out on are for renters whose landlords haven’t made mortgages. In an act of defiance and, as far as I’m concerned, an act of decency, Sheriff Dart has suspended evictions in and around Chicago. He says he’s hoping that by doing so, he will force banks to change their policies so he’s not sending deputies out to evict tenants who are not actually on the mortgage, people who have been paying their rent on time and had no idea their landlord was in foreclosure.
Sheriff Dart is risking violating court orders. He says he recognizes he could be found in contempt, but he says he’s not going to be a part of something so unjust. It’s important to not feel lousy about every story we come across in tough times. So, Sheriff Dart, thanks for doing the humane thing.
MADDOW: Remember trooper-gate, that abuse-of-power investigation of Sarah Palin about whether she fired the public safety commissioner over a personal grudge against her never-do-well brother-in-law, the state trooper? Remember that Palin said she fired the guy over a budget dispute or maybe a lobbying trip?
Trooper-gate is getting really interesting again. First, the formalities. The Alaska Supreme Court today refused to shut down the legislature’s investigation into whether Sarah Palin abused her power as governor, when she fired Alaska’s top cop, Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan for refusing her ex-brother-in-law, state trooper Michael Wooten.
So the case is going to go on. And now, the good stuff. Todd Palin’s account of what got Walt Monegan fired by his wife. Alaska’s first dude is now officially on record with a 25-page statement in response to questions from investigators. From someone who spent weeks resisting subpoenas on the subject, Mr. Palin sure did have a lot to say.
As for his former brother-in-law, Trooper Wooten, Todd Palin offers - accuses him of everything from domestic violence, to drinking and driving, to irresponsible spending, and permitless moose hunting.
The first dude makes no apologies for going after Wooten, saying, quote, “I had hundreds of conversations about Trooper Wooten over the last several years with my family, with friends, with colleagues and with just about everyone I could, including government officials. In fact, I talked about Wooten so much over the years that my wife told me to stop talking about it with her.”
As for the firing of Commissioner Monegan, Todd Palin denies that it was related to Monegan’s refusal to fire the trooper. He backs up his wife’s claim that the firing was a professional dispute over budget issues and staffing problems. But then, he goes on to re-dig the credibility hole.
According to the first dude, quote, “Monegan stated that he had heard a rumor from an unnamed source that Sarah was supposedly driving Trig, then around nine weeks old, in her car without ‘an approved infant car seat’ and that this situation could be ‘awkward.’ Sarah responded that ‘I’ve never driven Trig anywhere without a new, approved car seat. I want to know who said otherwise - please provide me that info now.’”
Mr. Palin also recalls a tug-of-war with Monegan over use of the state-owned plane that was managed by Monegan’s department. He says, quote, “There were some discussions about Monegan related to travel and the lack of availability of the plane. It seems like whenever Sarah needed this plane, it was unavailable. We were concerned that the Department of Public Safety was retaliating against Sarah for selling the Murkowski jet that the Department of Public Safety officials enjoyed using.
But wait. The reason he was fired was the budget dispute thingy, right? That one wasn’t actually helping your case, Sir.
Joining us now, Alaska Senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Wielechowski, thanks for joining us.
SEN. BILL WIELECHOWSKI (D-AK), MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you.
MADDOW: The statement released by Todd Palin seems to bolster the allegations being made against the governor. Why would Mr. Palin admit to this long-time grudge against Trooper Wooten or to these problems with Commissioner Monegan if the point is to prove that they didn’t fire Monegan because of this personal grudge or issues with Monegan?
WIELECHOWSKI: It’s really a strange turn of events because or the last two months now, we have been hearing from the governor, and from Todd Palin himself, that they had very little to no interaction with Walt Monegan on this issue at all. And we also heard the governor herself come out and say point-blank that any claims that I or my family tried to impact Walt Monegan’s - have him fired or try to have any discipline taken against Trooper Wooten are, quote, “absolutely outrageous.”
And what we are seeing now is a concerted effort, at least by her husband, who spent the last couple of years trying to get Trooper Wooten fired.
MADDOW: It seems like just yesterday, the Republican Party, the McCain-Palin campaign - they were trying to get quash this investigation or at least get it put off until after the election. We had seen the resistance to subpoenas from state employees as well as from Todd Palin. Why do you think they have changed tact on that and voluntarily released this statement from Todd Palin? Do you think they’re trying to get out ahead of the story?
WIELECHOWSKI: I think so. They have lost every effort that they have made to try to kill this investigation. The governor needs to be - people need to be reminded this investigation started with a committee of 10 Republicans and four Democrats. And that committee voted unanimously to go forward.
The governor welcomed the investigation. She said so on repeated occasions and instructed her staff to cooperate with this investigation. It was only after she was nominated as vice president that everything changed and she began to - She went out and hired her own personal attorney and tried to stop the investigation.
There have been three lawsuits filed. All of them have been dismissed. The attorney general was working with the McCain campaign, admittedly.
The McCain campaign was working with various other attorneys to file lawsuits. There were lawsuits filed by Texas law firms, outside law firms in an attempt to kill this investigation. Every attempt has been forwarded. And so now, they really have no other option. The report should be released tomorrow. And I think they are trying to get in front of it and get their side of the story out in un-contradicted way at this point.
MADDOW: We are just receiving word, literally, since I have been talking to you tonight, that on the eve of that legislative abuse-of-power investigation report expected out tomorrow, Gov. Palin has released her own report, clearing her of any wrong doing.
According to the Associated Press, the report says -it’s a report from the McCain-Palin campaign. It was released tonight. And it says the firing was based on a budget dispute. Since then, the report says, the matter has been muddled with innuendo, rumor and politics.
So I guess we have the answer to that question. We’ve got this list of answers to questions released from Todd Palin. We’ve now got a preemptive, clearing-themselves report from McCain-Palin tonight, all in advance of what we’re due to hear tomorrow from the investigator on this case, Branchflower, appointed by the state legislature. All of that would seem to indicate that they think that the Branchflower report coming out tomorrow is going to be a drag for them.
WIELECHOWSKI: Well, Mr. Branchflower is a respected prosecutor. He’s really held his cards close to his vest. I don’t think there’s anyone in the state, quite frankly, who knows what the results of the report will be. I don’t know the results. I haven’t seen the report. I talked to Mr.
Branchflower maybe twice in my whole life.
But the governor had her attorney general conduct his own internal investigation on this. And so I suspect that they know a lot more than the rest of America and the rest of Alaska knows. And they are concerned about the results of the report.
MADDOW: Alaska State Senator Bill Wielechowski, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
WIELECHOWSKI: Thank you.
MADDOW: John McCain has hung much of his war policy on the judgments of Gen. David Petraeus. Bad news for John McCain? Gen. Petraeus now describes the Afghanistan challenge a lot like Barack Obama describes it, and not exactly the way John McCain does. Details in a second and I’ll be speaking with someone who was in Afghanistan, fighting in the hills of Tora Bora, the man who was there when Osama Bin Laden got away.
But first, just one more thing, everyone’s favorite easily disprovable, previously debunked political claim made a comeback on the campaign trail today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we’ve had a bridge to nowhere, $233 million bridge in Alaska, which I’m happy to say, this governor stood up against.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The fact they are still repeating this whopper after nearly six weeks of being proven dead wrong by facts, photos and quotes, makes me wonder, do we even call it lying at this point?
MADDOW: Sen. John McCain loves to gush about Gen. David Petraeus as the man who salvaged Iraq and will salvage Afghanistan the same way, the exact same way. McCain may be right and righteous about his man-crush on Petraeus. But Petraeus indicated yesterday at the Heritage Foundation that McCain might not be right about Afghanistan and the Iraq-style surge policy that McCain advocating there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER OF U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ: Some of the concepts used in Iraq are transplantable; others, perhaps are not. And what you have to do in every case, the biggest lesson of the insurgency is that every situation is unique.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sounds a little like Obama’s stance more than McCain’s, no? Petraeus also seems to side with Obama when it comes to speaking with America’s adversaries, a position that McCain attacked as naive and reckless.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETRAEUS: I do think you have to talk to enemies. What we did do in Iraq ultimately was sit down with some of those that were shooting at us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Petraeus’ comments come as American intelligence agencies conclude that Afghanistan is in a, quote, “downward spiral.” The leaked portion of the next NIE cast serious doubt on the ability of the Afghan government to quash the Taliban’s influence. Whoever becomes is our 44th president, they’re going to inherit this dire situation which includes the as-yet fruitless hunt for Osama Bin Laden.
Sen. McCain says he knows how to get Bin Laden and promises he will with his secret plan that he won’t share with anyone including the current president apparently unless and until he and himself is elected. Nice.
But for all the bluster of America’s politicians, Bin Laden remains at large, presumably alive, probably in northwest Pakistan or Afghanistan. The closest U.S. forces got to public enemy number one was just weeks after the president’s Bin Laden dead-or-alive ultimatum.
America’s top secret Delta Force was dispatched to Tora Bora, a mountainous region in Afghanistan near the border of Pakistan. The CIA said it had hard intelligence that Bin Laden was hiding out there in a cave complex.
In the subsequent military operation, 40 or so Delta Force soldiers coordinated with CIA operatives, some green berets, British commandos and Afghan fighters to stalk their target. According to a first person account of a Delta Force leader in the new book “Kill Bin Laden” American soldiers were within 2000 meters of Osama, only to pull back from an assault in favor of air strikes. As the world knows now, the air strikes did not get Bin Laden.
Earlier, I spoke with the officer who led the army’s Delta Force mission to kill Bin Laden after 9/11, the man whose forces were within 2,000 meters of Bin Laden before he escaped. We can’t tell you his real name or show you his face but his nom de plume is Dalton Fury, and he’s the author of “Kill Bin Laden” which is out this week.
I started by asking him whether a ground assault on Bin Laden would have had a better chance than air strikes of actually getting him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DALTON FURY, FMR. DELTA FORCE COMMANDER: No, it wouldn’t have had a better chance. To understand the geography we faced at Tora Bora, at the center of the battlefield, you’re looking sat 10,000 foot peaks that are covered in about three or four feet of snow. And you’re moving down roughly 6,000 feet down to 4,000 in the bottom of the valley. So a ground assault by conventional unit wouldn’t have gotten the job done.
MADDOW (on camera): We do think that we know what happened at Tora Bora. Americans broadly feel like we know what happened there. It’s been fought over politically in the last two presidential campaigns. Do you think that Americans misunderstand what you did and what happened at Tora Bora?
FURY: I think they do. And I think in the presidential run-up in 2004, the comments were made that the United States relied on Afghan proxies alone, utilizing American air power from above. That’s not the case.
The administration committed, as you spoke earlier, roughly 40 American Delta Force operators, half a dozen green berets and of course, the CIA as well. It wasn’t just Afghanis moving up the hill. It was Americans having to conjure them up there and pay them off to move up there with a rifle.
MADDOW: Was the reliance on Afghan forces part of the problem, though?
FURY: I think in hindsight it clearly was in the Tora Bora area. We were very successful with that template on the western side of Afghanistan with the small Special Forces Teams, the CIA and northern alliance. But you have to realize they were fighting the Taliban.
In Tora Bora, they were fighting Al-Qaeda and it was Osama Bin Laden out there and of course the head. Bin Laden, very well known, a hero in the neighborhood, had paid off all the families in the area going back to the Soviet jihad. So the only incentive they had to go up there and fight an Al-Qaeda fighter and Bin Laden himself was money.
MADDOW: In the book, you write about how delta force was denied permission to attack Bin Laden’s cave where you thought Bin Laden was, essentially from the backside coming over from Pakistan over the summits of the mountains you were in, rather than coming up from Afghanistan. (A) Do I understand that correctly? And (B) Do you know why that permission was denied or who denied it?
FURY: Well (A), you do understand that correctly. Our original plan that we submitted to the higher headquarters was to come in from the backside of Pakistan. Now, realizing the mountains on the border are 14,000 feet covered in snow but smaller pass is at a lower altitude that we could have gotten through.
The idea was to come across 14,000-foot peaks. We believe Bin Laden was roughly at 9,000 or 10,000 feet coming behind him where he wouldn’t expect it. That plan was denied at some level above us and I was never given the reason why.
MADDOW: Gen. Tommy Franks was essentially the war’s operational commander at the time of this offensive and he has said that he doesn’t think that Bin Laden was there at Tora Bora. Also, the man who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, Gen. Richard Myers, says getting Bin Laden was never a goal.
He said, quote, “The goal there was never after specific individuals.” He said that just about four months after your operation there. It sounds to me like they’re telling a very different story than you are. Do you think they’re full of it?
FURY: No, I’m not sure they’re full of it but I can tell you what my direct order was. My direct order was to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, point blank.
MADDOW: Do you think that Gen. Franks should have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
FURY: I have no comment on that. I can tell you thought that Bin Laden certainly was there. I listened to him myself on the radio, and not just myself but every mujahideen that was on the battlefield that listened.
The military analysts that were with us listening had been studying his voice for years as well as the key (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the CIA who had been listening to Bin Laden for the last six years stood next to me and confirmed it was Bin Laden.
MADDOW: Retired Delta Force Commander Dalton Fury, author of “Kill Bin Laden.” Thank you for your service to the country and thanks for joining us tonight. Good luck to you.
FURY: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Next, I get just enough pop culture from my pal Kent Jones. A Barack Obama comic book? I’m in. I’m so, so in.
MADDOW: Now, it’s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel in L.A. I know you like the comic books. IDW Publishing has just produced two timely biographical comic books - one of John McCain and one of Barack Obama. Check it out.
MADDOW: Nice. Nice.
JONES: There’s John McCain after being shot down in Vietnam. And there’s Obama studying hard at Harvard Law School. Now, if these are successful, publishers say they plan to update the comics to include this election season, especially McCain’s late campaign transformation into a bitter, passive aggressive, supervillain called the Gray Smear. Scary.
And finally, a certain host on MSNBC of an eponymous program appeared on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno this evening. Rachel, very nice. What was that like? I’ve got to know.
MADDOW: I was very nervous. It was very fun. Thank you, Kent, though, I appreciate it.
JONES: Yes? Good time?
MADDOW: Yes. I was just nervous. I don’t know.
JONES: I know.
MADDOW: Well, watch and see. Thanks, Kent.
Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you from Seattle tomorrow night. As Kent just told you, you can see me tonight, very nervous on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno at 11:35 Eastern, 10:35 Central on NBC. You can hear my radio show 6:00 p.m. coast to coast on Air America Radio. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Good night.
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