The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/17/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Nice to see you, Keith. Thank you. And thank you for sticking around for the next hour. Apparently Friday night.
(voice over): With the math edging bluer, the McCain campaign says it has in mind-a narrow victory scenario.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got them just where we want them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Narrow like in Florida, 2000? Like in Ohio 2004? Is narrow victory strategy a code for game on? Today, the Supreme Court denies the Republican Party in Ohio. The FBI investigates ACORN. The Obama campaign challenges the FBI investigation. The Ohio secretary of state, Jennifer Bruner on today’s ruling on how she intends to keep the vote fair and true. Jonathan Turley on lawyer war, 2008. Have Democrats learned how to fight one after losing their marbles twice in a row? The McCain-Palin charm offensive is in full swing. And these people are good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him that one. Now is not the time to raise anybody’s taxes except yours. And I guarantee you, when I’m president I’ll do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Sarah Palin hotly rumored for a “Saturday Night Live” cameo, can the funny stuff hides the steamy (ph) stuff they’re trying to do under the radar? The mailers, the nasty ads-the same robocalling that doomed John McCain in 2000?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
Mudcat Saunders on the chocolate-covered razorblade campaign waged (ph) for the narrow victory scenario.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
(on camera): We begin with breaking news. The Obama campaign has asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to order a special prosecutor to investigate whether the McCain campaign and Bush administration’s Justice Department are illegally working together to disseminate, quote, “unsupported spurious allegations of vote fraud.” The aggressive move by the Obama campaign comes after a week in which the McCain camp and Republicans in Congress and the right-wing media have hammered away on the issue of voter fraud-particularly the role of the community group, ACORN. The Bush administration has long been fixated on alleging voter fraud. Remember the U.S. attorneys getting fired scandal? Why do those U.S. attorneys get fired? What’s being investigated by the special prosecutor right now is if those attorneys were fired for resisting partisan pressure to bring voter fraud investigations and prosecutions in places where such actions would provide an excuse to suppress the vote, which would be really handy for beating Democrats in elections. The whole torture thing was not enough to hoist Alberto Gonzales out of office as attorney general. It took the U.S. attorneys gin up the fake voter fraud scandal for us to see the south side of him. And now the outcome of another election may hinge as much on the aggressive practice of law as on the voters’ view of the candidates. I hate this. Consider the rhetoric of the McCain campaign as late. As poll numbers drifted away from them, chief strategists and Karl Rove protege, Steve Schmidt, told the “New York Times” today, quote, “The scenario for winning for us is a narrow victory scenario.” A narrow victory scenario? Plus (ph), consider how Senator McCain might achieve a narrow victory. That might start with the lowest possible turn out by newly registered voters, an overwhelming majority of whom, in many cases, are Democrats, the product of the legendary Obama ground game, and the long Democratic primary. To keep turnout low, prevent votes from being counted, and scare voters in the thinking there are massive voting shenanigans and that their vote won’t count anyway. Start with wild high profile pronouncement like Senator McCain’s extraordinary charge at the last debate, before more than 50 million Americans on Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Follow that up with McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis on a conference call today saying, quote, “A cloud of suspicion seems to right now hang over this election.” Over this election? As opposed to 2000 or 2004?
And how about getting Sarah Palin in on the messaging? Here she was today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think voters are very concerned about voter fraud. And as more and more revelation comes in these 13 states that are now under investigation for potential voter fraud, I think that more American voters are becoming very, very concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Those are the politics at work here. Now, are you ready for the truly scary stuff? The “Associated Press” sources two senior law enforcement officials, speaking anonymously, are saying that the FBI has launched a preliminary investigation into ACORN’s voter registration activities. Why are they speaking anonymously? Because the “AP” notes, Justice Department regulations forbid discussing ongoing investigations, particularly so close to an election. But they are leaking word anyway. Isn’t this the same Justice Department from which those U.S. attorneys got fired for not towing the Republican line for alleging voter fraud? The Obama campaign’s top lawyer responded today, writing Attorney General Mukasey, quote, “I request that Special Prosecutor’s Dannehy’s inquiry include a review of any involvement by Justice Department and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign And the Republican National Committee’s systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud.” Obama campaign counsel, Bob Bauer, the author of that letter, made his charge, this charge on “COUNTDOWN” in the last hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT BAUER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN GENERAL COUNSEL: Less than 24 hours after John McCain thundered (ph) as your opening showed about vote fraud, threatening the very fabric of our democracy, right there after, almost precisely as you would expect the Republican National Committee and the McCain-Palin campaign to plot it, lo and behold., senior department officials admitting they were violating departmental policy, announced that an investigation of fraud was underway. This is an astonishing repeat of the kind of toxic intrusion of politics in lawful administration of justice that we saw during the U.S. attorney scandal. We’re seeing a repeat of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The message: John McCain may not just be a clone of George Bush in terms of policy, but in earth scorching politics as well. What exactly is at stake between the FBI ACORN investigation and the Obama campaign rejoinder? Time to call in Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University. Professor Turley, thanks for you time tonight.
PROF. JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: I want to discuss some particular language with you from this challenge. In Bob Bauer’s letter to Attorney General Mukasey, he writes this, quote, “It’s highly likely that the very sort of politically motivated conduct identified in the department’s investigation to date is repeating itself and for the same reason, unwarranted and politically motivated intervention in the upcoming election.”
What is your reaction to that allegation?
TURLEY: Well, there’s no question that there seems to be a large air drop of counsel in a lot of these states. And we certainly saw that in 2004 and 2006. And there is an uncanny similarity in terms of timing, and also, in terms of the specific states involved. I think that it is fair to say that some of these challenges do look like suppression efforts. For example, there’s a reported effort in Michigan to challenge people whose homes have been foreclosed, and efforts to challenge people in Montana change of addresses. Those are types of things that are classic suppression tactics. So, I think that there is grounds, really, to be concerned here. Also, the fact is, we have a special prosecutor who’s looking into very similar facts. And if this was a bank fraud case as opposed to a voting fraud investigation, then the prosecutors would look for ongoing patterns. And I think that you have to fairly say, that this is a pattern that should be looked into. I think it’s true that there is a lot of similarities between what’s happening just before this election and what’s happened before the last two.
MADDOW: We know that the firing of the U.S. attorneys related to rejecting political pressure to pursue unfounded voter registration fraud cases, as you mentioned, that’s what’s being investigated by that special prosecutor. In terms of the way that special prosecutor investigations work, is it hard to expand their remit to include these current election allegations? Is that a decision that would have to be made by the attorney general? Could the special prosecutor make that decision herself?
TURLEY: I actually think she could expand the investigation even without approval from Attorney General Mukasey. It’s actually easier to do it with a special prosecutor than an independent counsel. But the similarities here are so close, what we are talking about is the possibility that what she is investigating from the last election was not an insular or historical event, but an ongoing criminal pattern. And it seems to be that any prosecutor could claim that as a legitimate extension of the investigation.
MADDOW: I am struck that in the “Associated Press” story about the FBI investigation of ACORN. The “AP” notes that the two sources who spoke to them from the Justice Department spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Department of Justice regulations that forbid discussing investigations like this particularly so close to an election. Isn’t part of what we learned about the U.S. attorney scandal that they are not supposed to do stuff like this really close to an election, at all, let alone comment on it to the “AP”?
TURLEY: Yes, this is a very serious violation. Look-Washington literally floats on leaks, as you know. But this type of leak is very destructive. You know, when John McCain talks about tearing at the fabric of democracy, the greatest threat to democracy is even the appearance that the government itself is intervening in suppression tactics. That’s a really “Hugo Chavez” moment. And if you are really concerned about the democratic process, then you have to be careful about these types of allegations. The other interesting the Republicans in 2000 were fighting for the right of state officials like Kathleen Harris to run their shop with the possibility that investigations could follow if there was legality. And this now is the absolute inverse of that position. You saw, with the Supreme Court-the Supreme Court turning back the Republican challenge. And I think in all fairness, I think, many people should be concerned about this democratic process, but I’m much, much more concerned with the notion that the federal government is intervening, yet a again, in the very same way that it’s been found to be abusive in the past.
MADDOW: George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
TURLEY: Thanks, Rachel. Good to see you.
MADDOW: For Democrats, the most upsetting political phrase in the entire English language aside from maybe-President Palin-is Florida 2000. Eight years later, with the Democratic candidate leading in every national poll, and an angry Republican Party desperate to avoid a landslide defeat, Florida 2000 is once again the elephant in the punch bowl. Is it happening again? Can Democrats do anything to stop it?I need to be talked down about this, badly. And later, the McCain-Palin campaign turned to Plan B, the charm offensive. Watch John and Sarah crack lies on “Saturday Night Live” and Letterman, at the Al Smith Dinner, while continuing to sling mud at Obama in a way that they hope will stay under the radar and off of national TV. This is a funny politics story, just not ha-ha kind of funny. One more thing on voting for you, we aren’t talking about voting in the abstract anymore. More than 100,000 voters in North Carolina went to the polls on the first day of early voting today. Polls in that state which no Democratic presidential nominee has carried since I was three, in 1976, the polls are surprising close. There are reports of some people waiting as long as three hours to cast a ballot. So, if you are thinking that decision 2008 was going to be an orderly and efficient affair, after all the problems in the last two elections, you probably thought wrong. Early voting starts on Monday in Florida. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: What began as a Republican effort to paint Barack Obama as a scary “palling terrorist,” has landed us in McCarthyism territory. Earlier tonight on “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota, not only defended using Bill Ayers as a political tactic, she always remarkably called on the media to investigate members of Congress to find out who is patriotic and who’s not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, ® MINNESOTA: I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How would that work? Should we ask for a loyalty oaths (ph) maybe? There is a bright side to the congresswoman’s paranoia for at least one Democrat. In just the few hours that had passed since her comments on “HARDBALL,” Bachmann’s opponent, Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg has received more than $30,000 in campaign contributions from people outraged by Michele Bachmann’s remarks.
MADDOW: How will the 2008 presidential election be different from 2000 and 2004? Well, for one thing, the Supreme Court is already involved 18 days before the election, getting a jump on things this year. Another difference? The Supreme Court’s decision this go around, favored the Democrats, probably. The High Court today overturned a lower court order that would have directed the state of Ohio to challenge the registration of some 200,000 new voters on Election Day – 200,000. But the Supreme Court agreed with the Ohio secretary of state that systems to safeguard the vote from fraud already exists, and that the cross-checking of voter registration information against databases never intended for that purpose, will have the effect of flagging and making problems for voters who really shouldn’t have trouble voting. So, Democrats can breathe slightly easier about Ohio-for now. But Republicans in other states are already making noises about challenging new voters. Ohio appears to be the opening battle of a broader conflict, in the balance (ph), is voter turn out and, of course, maybe the winner of the election. How did the state of Ohio protect each vote from voter suppression while making sure the new voter rolls were legitimate? Well, joining us now is Jennifer Bruner, who is the Ohio secretary of state. Secretary Bruner, thanks very much for joining us.
JENNIFER BRUNER, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, thank you, Rachel.
Glad to be here.
MADDOW: How important was this Supreme Court ruling today in your favor? I know the timing was rather dramatic.
BRUNER: Well, this was immensely important. We look at it as a victory for Ohio voters.
What the Ohio Republican Party was seeking to do was to have us prepare targeted lists of people whose insularly (ph) data was subject to a mismatch by databases that our office has no control over, and that really were subject to things like data entry errors, matching issues, computer glitches. And we think that a lot of innocent people would have been subjected to being pushed into provisional ballots. And that would have not only caused them anxiety but clogged booths, the voting places on Election Day, causing chaos and confusion. And just what we didn’t want to happen in Ohio in 2008.
MADDOW: Do you think that the legal battle, in which you have been engaged in Ohio, is essentially a partisan war? Do you think that it is an effort to try to reduce the number of Democratic votes that will ultimately be counted on Election Day?
BRUNER: I think very much so because the formula for winning an election is generally 50 percent plus one. If you can’t give a good enough message to convince enough voters to go your way, the other way is either to increase the number of voters who vote with you or decrease the number of voters who vote against you. And by forcing these folks, or trying to force these folks into provisional ballots, that means they don’t get counted on election night, they get set aside. And then the legal maneuvering starts after the election, it picks them off one by one. And that is not democracy.
MADDOW: Today, Rick Davis, the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign manager said this, in reaction to what’s been going on in your state, quote, “What is no longer in question is the partisan nature of Jennifer Bruner’s effort to minimize the level of fairness and transparency in this election.” I know you all in Ohio have thick skins about these issues, but I have to ask you, how you feel about being singled out as a villain in this case by the Republican Party?
BRUNER: Well, my first concern is for the boards of election because they are on the ground, in the trenches, doing the work with the voters. And if I have to be the lightning rod for the boards of election so that they be left alone undisturbed, then so be it-because my first concern is for the voters of this state, for a fair election, and for each individual to have the right to express their voice and to express their vote. So, if that’s the way they want to play it, I’ll withstand it. We have 18 days. And it will last until after the election. But Ohio is going to do a good job in its election this year. And I’m going to see that that happens.
MADDOW: One last quick note, I know we hear from a lot of viewers from Ohio in our show e-mail all the time. If you want to speak to the voters of Ohio who are watching right now, I wanted to know if you have any encouraging words for them, in case they are going to be facing long lines or-essentially a long day or difficult day at the polls given that you are expecting, I believe, 80 percent voter turnout.
BRUNER: We have done a lot of preparations with our boards of election. So, in the counties, and there are 53 of them where we are using touchscreen machines, we have some alternatives for them. They can request a paper ballot and they can vote it. It will be counted on election night. And they’ll have the opportunity in most of the polling places to go in one of two lines. So, we think that’s going to move the lines much more quickly. We’ve been planning, we’ve been using common sense, and we provide poll record (ph) training that’s consistent all over the state of Ohio. So, we think voters will be confident this year.
MADDOW: Thank you, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Bruner. I really appreciate your joining us tonight.
BRUNER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Don’t look now, but the McCain campaign is trying to clean up its negative, angry, hostile image with the charm offensive. By night, John McCain and Sarah Palin are out doing the comedy shows because they are scripted, they are funny, and nobody asks any boring questions about the economy.
But by day, they are still in the “smearing Obama” business, using mailers involving food stamps and fried chicken. Charming or just offensive?
MADDOW: Remember when certain people-freaked out about the Bush administration’s wiretapping American citizens? Remember how we were told that the wiretapping would only be about possible terrorists? If al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know. Well, it turns out we were lied to. Surprise. A little later, we’re going to be talking with a U.S. Army reservist who is blowing the whistle on the administration’s spying on Americans illegally. Stick around for that. First, though, it’s time for a couple of underreported holy mackerel stories in today’s news. First up, one thing that Constitution huggers like me, actually find sort of lovable about John McCain as compared with Barack Obama is McCain’s insistence that he would not issue signing statements. Obama says he would if the need arose. A quick refresher on signing statements, that it’s when a president signs a bill into law but issues a statement to go along with it saying he doesn’t plan on enforcing some parts of that law because he is the president and he said so. It sounds Bushy, right? Well, it is. Before George W. Bush, all presidents combined, issued about 600 of these things in all of American history. George W. Bush has almost doubled that total personally. On Tuesday, Bush issued two more signing statements. One weakened a new law to protect independent watchdog inspectors at federal agencies from political interference. That’s nice. Who wouldn’t want that?
The other one took Congress’ idea for an Iraq policy and stole its soul. The last military spending bill Congress passed said, the U.S. government could not use any of that funding to, quote, “exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.” That’s what Bush’s signing statement overrode. Congress said, even though we are occupying Iraq, we can’t steal their oil. And Bush said, I’m the president and I’ll do what I want with Iraq’s oil. Signing statements. Set yourself a Google news alert on that little bit of power-grapping imperial evil. And good on John McCain for saying he would never issue one. Honestly. Also, the Iranian people are nothing, if not ambitious. Sure, the nuclear program gets all the attention. But meanwhile, Iran also has its sights set on the world record for the world’s largest sandwich. In an effort to promote heart-healthy Iranian ostrich meat, the Iranian set out this week to break the giantest (ph) sandwich record which was previously held by Italy. Fifteen hundred cooks assembled in Tehran to attempt to build the nearly 5,000-foot-long sandwich using 2,200 pounds of ostrich meat. But as the sandwich was being measured by Guinness World Record’s officials, chaos ensued, people rushed forward and began eating the would-be record-breaking sandwich before it was measured. Oh, no. Event organizers are now hoping the video footage of the sandwich will be enough to secure the record. I’m hoping that our two nations can channel this previously unknown shared love of grotesquely-oversized food portions into a foundation for international peace, or, at least, share diet tips.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Barack Obama joked last night at the Al Smith dinner that he was born on the planet Krypton, fathered by a man named Jor-el(ph). Superman. If we’re going to cast the candidates in fiction, that means what we need to know next is how Superman would fare in a battle against Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The current McCain strategy, to the extent that there is one, seems to be to put on the charm offensive in public and to play down and dirty in private. Use the charm as a sort of, “hey, look over there” technique to hide the offensive. First, here is the charm part of it. Sen. McCain, by most accounts, killed last night at the Al Smith dinner in New York City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It began so long ago, with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as “the one.” Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I called him “that one.”
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
My friends, he doesn’t mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me - George Bush.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
MADDOW: Personally, I thought that Sen. McCain’s speech was pretty funny, except for the part where he stopped joking and went off on that awkward tangent about all the bad things he wants to do to our colleague, Keith Olbermann. Shots at the press, totally expected. Unfunny, “I want to hurt that one guy” stuff. I thought that was weird. Anyway, McCain also appeared on David Letterman’s couch last night, trying to make nice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: It’s been a tough campaign and I’m sure the next 19 days will be even tougher.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”: Pretty close.
MCCAIN: Just think of all the material that it gives you for the next 19 days. It’s going to be kind of a sad feeling around here when the election finally takes place.
LETTERMAN: We’re going off the air, John.
MCCAIN: Look, now is not the time to raise anybody’s taxes except yours. And I guarantee you, when I’m president, I’ll do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are you still doubting that the McCain campaign is engaged in a high stakes charm offensive? Well, I present to you Exhibit C - Cindy McCain handing out candy to reporters aboard the straight talk air express thing. lso Exhibit D will appear on your television set tomorrow night when Sarah Palin make as cameo on “Saturday Night Live.” Here’s what she said today about that upcoming appearance.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to be there to show Americans that we’ll rise above the political shots that we take.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We all rise above the political shots that we take. Does somebody sometimes have a hard time understanding what she means? Is it just me? Anyway, so I said this with a charm offensive. This is the part the charm of the in-public comedy late-night shock-test portion of our programming gives way to the under the radar offensive. Have you seen the mailers the Republicans are distributing in the battleground states? Like this one - sent by the Nevada Republican Party, once again, trying to tie Barack Obama to William Ayers including the ominous tag line “Barack Obama, not who you think he is.” Or this one, claiming, quote, “During a Wall Street meltdown, Obama put Hollywood above America,” which is kind of a remarkable charge coming from the McCain campaign when McCain announced he was running for president on David Letterman’s couch. Then there’s the robo-calls that the McCain campaign has become so fond of lately. My guess is that most people will find this robo-call more offensive than charming.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to know that Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in the Illinois Senate opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after surviving attempted abortions.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That’s right. They are telling people, “Don’t vote for Barack Obama because he wants to kill infants. He’s against caring for babies.”
You know, it was only nine months ago that John McCain has robo-calls running against him in the Republican primary that said he wanted to kill babies. McCain at that time denounced those calls just as he did back in 2000 when it was robo-calls that spread the charge that he fathered an interracial child and that went after Cindy McCain for her past drug problem. When those robo-calls were used against him in 2000, McCain called robo-calls like that, “hate calls.” But then again, John McCain lost in 2000. So apparently, the lesson he learned from them was not that they are a cowardly vehicle for expressing hate that you don’t want to be held accountable for, he also learned they work. So, do they? And will they this time? Time to bring in my friend, Mudcat Saunders. He’s a former senior advisor to the John Edwards campaign. Mudcat specializes in political strategies for reaching the world voters. Mr. Saunders, it is great to see you. Thank you for being on the show.
MUDCAT SAUNDERS, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE JOHN EDWARDS CAMPAIGN:
Rachel, I love it.
MADDOW: What does it tell you about where the McCain campaign thinks they stand right now? If they are trying to pull off this dual strategy of being charming and respectful and generous and funny in public, but they’re also running these vicious robo-calls, these direct mailers were they just trying to tear Obama apart? What does that say about where they think they stand?
SAUNDERS: Well, in most campaigns, when you get started, the first thing you want to do is to define yourself and lay down a positive base. Then, you know, you go and define your opponent, which is, you know, a political term for peeling the hide off your opponent. And then you move back to positive at the end. And I think they are in a transition mode and they’re trying to figure out how to get back, you know, to positive. I don’t think these robo-calls work. Anybody, you know, watching tonight would say - I’d say 99 percent of them, they don’t like robo-calls. Most people hang up, and especially if the robo-call is negative. They hang up with a very negative impression. And the reason they are doing robo-calls now is because they are cheap. You can do robo-calls in any congressional district in America for $7,500 or less. But they are ineffective.
MADDOW: I wonder if the “charm in public, attack in private” strategy is less viable than it was back in 2000. You can try to stay under the radar with things like direct mail and these robo-calls. But ultimately, now, bloggers are going to call you out on that stuff. They are going to post the audio online. They’re going to scan the flyers and post them online. You sort of can’t get away with doing that on the sly anymore, can you?
SAUNDERS: Well, you know, of course not. But, see, John McCain’s problem is this. And I agree with James Carville, something he said six months ago. John McCain, in reality, may be the most insignificant presidential campaign in the history of American presidential campaigns. This is a referendum on Barack Obama, and that’s why he’s pulling this off. The Republicans are a bruised brand. And you know, the only way that they feel like they can get anywhere is by chipping away at his numbers. Personally, I don’t know where John McCain is going to go with this strategy. I thought about it and thought about it. But you know, as we’re all aware, momentum trumps everything in politics. I don’t know how - nothing short of a kryptonite is going to get him there.
MADDOW: Stepping back from the strategy here for a second. John McCain has been well known to all of us. He’s been running for president for a long time. He’s been in Washington for 26 years. And we all sort of felt like we knew who he was. He’s on record calling robo-calls like this, “hate calls” when they were used against him. Are you surprised that he has decided to run a campaign like this, or was it inevitable?
SAUNDERS: The robo-calls - the best they can hope to get out of it is to start some kind of whisper campaign. And there now are some whisper campaigns going on out here. And there is a lot of misinformation out here. I was, you know, at a beer joint the other day, eating lunch. And a guy comes up to me and tells me that, you know, Barack Obama is a Muslim and has a crazy preacher. And I said, “Which one is it?” He couldn’t obviously answer the question. But he said, “You know, Mudcat, you don’t understand. Their book,” meaning the Koran, “says we are a bunch of infidels.” I said, “Hell, our book says we’re a bunch of infidels.” And you know, this strategy is of just attack, attack, attack - at some point in time, they are going to have to give back positives like they never have - you know, like it’s never been shown in this campaign so far because you’ve got to lay a positive bed in the end. You can’t end on a negative night and expect to win. It’s not going to happen.
MADDOW: Mudcat Saunders, former senior advisor to John Edwards. It’s great to see you, Mudcat. I’m looking forward to having you back soon.
SAUNDERS: All right, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: If anything happened on the way to the NSA taping phone calls to intercept secret overseas communications by al-Qaeda, the snoops decided instead to waste their time listening to Americans call home to talk about mortgage payments and sweet nothings and lots of personal calls by American citizens that have nothing to do with national security. And a funny thing just happened to the Bush administration. Somebody blew the whistle on them for it. The Fourth Amendment gets its revenge. Coming up. But first, one more thing about the McCain-Palin charm offensive. Beware of who you are charming and who’s listening. Campaigning in North Carolina last night, Gov. Palin told a group of donors, quote, “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns, being here with all you, hard-working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.” Pro-America areas of this nation? What are the not pro-America areas of this nation? And can you recognize them by the fact that governors in those places send messages of support to political parties that want states secede from the United States? Did that catch like Sarah Palin did for the Alaska Independence Party? Is that what you mean?
MADDOW: Last week, we hosted author James Bamford on this show in an all-too-short interview that frankly has been keeping me up nights worrying ever since. Mr. Bamford is considered to be the nations leading civilian authority on something civilians sort of aren’t supposed to know very much about - that would be the NSA, the National Security Agency. And it is thanks to James Bamford new book, “The Shadow Factory,” that we know now about allegations that our government was paying NSA personnel to listen in on Americans most private, personal, intimate conversations. And by using the word “intimate,” yes, I am deliberately vaguely implying that they were listening in on stuff like phone sex - American troops calling home to their spouses and girlfriends and boyfriends, American journalists and aide workers calling home. Since 9/11, we have learned most of the things we know about, what and who our government is spying on, after the fact and in vague terms, and always with dead-eye assurances, that really, if you’re not al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda is not calling you, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Now, most of us sort of sensed, because Americans are healthily, naturally suspicious of the idea of Big Brother, most of us sort of sense that that was bull puck-y(ph) and that our government was probably doing something new and big and worrying that we were all getting swept up in. Now, we know for sure. Joining us now is investigative journalist James Bamford, author, as I mentioned, of the new book “The Shadow Factory” about the National Security Agency after 9/11. We’re also joined by Adrienne Kinne, who is a former U.S. Army Reserve’s Arabic linguist who was assigned to a special military program at the NSA. She’s one of two whistleblowers who went on the record with Mr. Bamford, detailing how she and other intercept operators listened in on private calls between Americans which is supposed to be illegal. I thank you both for being here. I really appreciate it.
JAMES BAMFORD, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR OF “THE SHADOW FACTORY”: My pleasure, Rachel.
ADRIENNE KINNE, NSA WHISTLEBLOWER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Adrienne, let me start with you. You started - you worked as an intercept operator listening to phone calls for years before 9/11 and afterwards. Is it that job what it sounds like to somebody who doesn’t know? Is it listening to lots and lots of phone calls?
KINNE: It is. Actually, before 9/11, I was a radio interceptor. So it was military radio communications in the Middle East. After 9/11, they had started out a new program where they were intercepting satellite phone communications and relaying back to us for recording.
MADDOW: You have said that your job was - essentially, in the big picture, your job is like trying to find a needle in a hay stack and that the volume of calls and the wide variety of different types of calls and the wide variety of different types of people who are being listened to made that haystack bigger, thereby making the job harder. How did your job change? In addition to changing the targets, how did your job change before and after 9/11?
KINNE: I was told that after 9/11, particularly with the fact that we were listening to satellite phone communications, rather than targeting military entities in the Middle East, they were actually listening to a lot of every day, ordinary people who really, in many ways, had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.
MADDOW: James, United States Signals Intelligence Directive No. 18 is the kind of thing I curl up with at night to make me feel better about what government I’ve got. That directive says that our government essentially can’t spy on American citizens abroad, right? Is that supposed to be provable good cause to allow our government to spy on Americans abroad?
BAMFORD: Well, they’re not supposed to spy on Americans just for the sake of spying. They’re supposed to spy them only if they can show that there’s some connection to terrorism or some valid reason for it.
MADDOW: Adrienne, you’re at the NSA. You’re listening to satellite phone calls from all over the Middle East. It is clear to you as you’re listening that these are not military calls. Or if they are - in some cases, they are military personnel making personal calls to folks at home, could you technically have said, “Let’s kick this one out. Let’s delete this. Let’s not eavesdrop on this?”
KINNE: Well, that was something that I thought about a lot over the course of our mobilization. Early on, I heard a conversation between two aide workers. One was a British aide worker and another, an American. They were talking about everyday, ordinary office goings-on. And at one point in time, the British aide worker said to the American, “Be careful what you say. The Americans are listening to us.” And the American responded really indignantly and he said, “No, I’m an American citizen. I am protected by USSID 18. They can’t spy on me.” And so when I brought that cut to the attention of my officer in charge and kind of questioning what we are doing and if we should be doing it, it was shortly thereafter that we were told we had a waiver that allowed us to spy on Americans.
MADDOW: You were told that there was some sort of waiver of this well-understood rule, a rule so well-understood that not only did you guys know it in-house, but people who are potentially subject to spying knew it.
MADDOW: Was there any such waiver - I mean, did you ever see anything? Do you know for a fact that there was one?
KINNE: No, and that’s something they never showed us in writing. It was just a verbal waiver. Speaking to other people who I’ve met, who also worked in that building - they have also said that they were told about a waiver but it’s something that I’ve never seen in writing.
MADDOW: Do you believe a waiver like this exists?
BAMFORD: Well, the only waiver is where President Bush came out and said, “We are no longer going to go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They’re going to bypass the court. So it’s this warrantless surveillance.
What should be happening is that as soon as they pick up an American, especially an American talking to her wife or husband, girlfriend or whatever, they should turn it off and they should not record anything.
MADDOW: Laws and rules in this area seem sort of fungible, because everything is secret. So do you think the political implication of your reporting is that we ought to see the secret actions of our government as relatively lawless? And if that’s the case, is the only way to rein in government power, when it’s the kind of power that’ s exerted secretly - is the only way to rein in government power essentially to deny the government the ability to do stuff? Because we need to hobble them to keep them from doing this stuff? We can’t expect them to obey laws and rules about these things?
BAMFORD: Well, you know, what we’ve done here is basically what they did with the financial industry. They deregulated eavesdropping.
BAMFORD: And this is what happens. Before this, prior to 9/11, prior to the changes the warrantless eavesdropping, the eavesdropping that Adrienne was doing was done properly, and they were doing it the right way. And I think if they go back to an old system where, you know, you want to listen to an American, you get a FISA warrant, a warrant from this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. That worked before and should work again. But this new legislation just sort of bypasses the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court.
MADDOW: Adrienne, having been on the front lines, do you agree?
KINNE: Most definitely. Just seeing the difference of the relaxation of rules in the military intelligence community, it was really concerning to me while I was mobilized 2001 to 2003. But then, since getting out of this system, I don’t know what’s going on in those buildings. And it makes me very uncomfortable to think somebody might be listening to my phone calls.
MADDOW: Yes, you’re not alone. Well, thank you both. James Bamford is an investigative journalist, the author of “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.” And Adrienne Kinne was an Arabic linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA. I imagine it was a big decision to come out and put your name to your story here. So thank you for your service to your country. Thank you both.
KINNE: Thank you.
BAMFORD: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up next, I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. All the latest news about Vladimir Putin’s dog.
MADDOW: Now, it’s time for “Just Enough” with my friend Kent Jones, who force feeds me just enough pop culture so I can be allowed out in public. Hi, Mr. Jones. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Well, the possibility of a President Barack Obama has given some in the right-wing media a case of the willies(ph). For instance, Obama gave a speech in Toledo recently in front of a row of flags. But radio talk show host Bob Grant seemed very upset by this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BOB GRANT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Did you notice Obama is not content with just having several American flags, plain old American flags with the 50 states represented by 50 stars? He has the “O” flag. Now, these are symptoms - these things are symptomatic of a person who would like to be a potentate - a dictator.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
JONES: Bob, Sen. Obama was standing in front of the state flag of Ohio, which looks like this. It’s not the Obama potentate flag, which you probably saw flying over the courthouse in crazy town, where you live.
Next up, in Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin received a present for his dog, Koni. It’s a satellite tracking collar which uses the latest cutting-edge technology to tell Puti-put(ph) where his dog is at all times. It’s for the control freak who has everything. As the collar was being put on Koni(ph), one of his ministers said, quote, “She looks sad. It’s the end of her freedom.” Putin replied, quote, “She’s wagging her tail. That means she likes it.” Now, when the former head of the KGB says the dog likes the collar, the dog likes the collar. Are we clear? And finally, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth visited the London headquarters of Google yesterday and uploaded a clip to YouTube for the very first time. She and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, had a little look around and then the queen posted a video of the 1968 reception for British Olympians on YouTube. Just watch that puppy go viral. Now, before her visit, insiders say the tech-savvy monarch Googled the world “saucy green hat” and hit the “I’m feeling lucky” button. She does rule with that hat.
MADDOW: I cannot believe the Obama flag, Ohio flag story.
JONES: Oh, yes. Apparently, he had a logo and had flags made. I had flags made because I am like that.
MADDOW: You know, Ohio is sort of tied right now in the polls. How do you think the people of Ohio like being denounced as, you know, Obama potentate subjects.
JONES: A potentate is a dictator. Yes.
MADDOW: Just incredible.
JONES: Not so much.
MADDOW: Incredible. Thank you, Kent. Appreciate it.
JONES: You’re welcome.
MADDOW: Have a good weekend.
JONES: And you.
MADDOW: Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you back here on Monday night. Until then, you can always E-mail us at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>. We do read your E-mail. And you can hear me at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, coast to coast, on Air America Radio. “COUNTDOWN” with our friend Keith Olbermann starts right now. I hope you have a great weekend. Thanks for being with us. Good night.
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