The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/27/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening. And thank you for staying with us for the next hour, after which there will only be something like – 176 hours left until we finally go to the polls. With that in mind, Barack Obama made his closing argument while the McCain campaign-looks like they’re just doing a lot of arguing. It’s the home stretch.
(voice over): And down the stretch they come-Obama ahead in the polls with a week to go. “The Washington Post” says, in Virginia, he’s up by eight. The Marist Polls says, in Iowa, it’s Obama by 10. The “Boston Globe” says, in New Hampshire, it’s Obama by 15. Zogby says that in six of the eight battleground states, Obama is leading. Obama rallies and campaign events sure look like that’s true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can take one more week of John McCain’s attacks, but this country can’t take four more years of the same failed politics and the same failed policies. It’s time to try something new.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On the other side of the aisle, the campaign is like a car crash. You can’t stop looking at even though you know you should. Anonymous infighting (ph) within the McCain camp. The McCain campaign blaming the Republican Party for $150,000 wardrobe-gate, and now the Republican Party is blaming the McCain campaign right back. The vice presidential nominee herself-goes way too maverick on John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I’d like you to response to those suggestions that you are going rogue in your campaign.
GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely, 100 percent false. And that’s kind of a shame. John McCain and I and our camps, we are working together to get John McCain elected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Your camps-plural? A McCain camp and a Palin camp? That does not sound good. Mark McKinnon who once advised the McCain campaign joins us to review the McCain campaign. And DNC Chairman Howard Dean says it’s a home stretch and softer than expected early voter numbers? And Ted Stevens, Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” senator could be on his way to nowhere he wants to be. The big house. The crowbar hotel. The pokey. Ted Stevens: guilty seven times over. The crowned prince of Republican corruption takes a fall a week from the election. What does it mean for next Tuesday and the next four years?
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
(on camera): John McCain is on message, again. That’s good news for his struggling campaign. The bad news for his struggling campaign? He’s managed to stay on that message now for a little over nine hours. The message is a good one. John McCain is not President Bush. John McCain is, in fact, campaigning against President Bush. It’s not rocket science. It’s how you win the election to succeed the least popular president in American history. McCain unveiled the “say-no-to-Bush, say-yes-to-me” line at the final presidential debate earlier this month, he reiterated it last week during an interview with the “Washington Times,” and then he repeated a variation of it today in Cleveland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We both disagree with President Bush on economic policy. The difference is that he thinks taxes have been too low and I think-and I think that spending has been too high.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It may have taken the McCain campaign a few months and a few dozen different messages to get here, but they are here. If you don’t like President Bush, vote for me, John McCain. It’s probably the best possible message for John McCain’s campaign. Good for him for figuring that out.
Bad for him? He keeps undermining it. Here he was just yesterday on “Meet the Press.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”/NBC)
MCCAIN: Do we share a common philosophy of the Republican Party? Of course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Except for those big differences between you, the real Republican, and Bush, the pretender, right? What happened to distancing yourself from President Bush?
Therein lies the underlying problem for the McCain campaign, message discipline. “Obama is a celebrity.” “No, he’s a terrorist.” “No, he’s a socialist.” “The fundamentals of the economy are strong.” “No, we’re in a crisis.” “Suspend the campaign.” “Don’t bail out AIG, bailout AIG.” “Bailout Wall Street.” “Do you believe this awful Wall Street bailout?” We’re now seeing the results of the message careening in the McCain campaign. First, no message has stuck. And second, Republicans think they are going to lose, and so, they are blaming each other. The knives are out. Anonymous GOP officials are telling reporters things like, quote, “The lack of discipline and ability to draft and stick to a coherent message is unreal.” And, “There’s no communication. It drives you crazy.” The critics aren’t just sniping Republicans unhappy about being down double digits eight days out, the public criticism is now increasingly coming from within the McCain campaign. A “Lord of the Flies”-esque split seems to be forming as the McCain faction and the Palin faction square off, dualing (ph) daily dispatches to the media. After Palin mentioned the flap about the $150,000 wardrobe expenditure at a rally in Tampa yesterday, a senior McCain advisor said the comments, quote, “were not the remarks we sent to her plane.” Another aide described it as Palin, quote, “going rogue.” Yet another said, quote, “She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone. She does not have relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else,” end quote. Wow, is that sexist or elitist, just mean? Don’t look at me. It’s McCain campaign sources who are saying this stuff. One McCain aide told the “American Spectator,” quote, “Sarah Palin is a lightweight, she won’t be the first, not even the third, person people will think of when it comes to 2012. The only serious candidate ready to challenge to lead the Republican Party is Mitt Romney. He’s in charge on November 5th.” In charge on November 5th. You guys know you haven’t technically lost this election, right? Even John McCain’s Senate counterpart, Jon Kyl seems to be sort of throwing in the towel. He told the “Arizona Daily Star,” quote, “Unfortunately, I think John McCain might be added to the long list of Arizonans who ran for president but were never elected.” Way to stay positive, senator. Here’s how bad it’s gotten for Team McCain. They are getting mocked at their own rallies now. Performance art is happening around them, behind the podium. You don’t believe me? How about a Sarah Palin impersonator showing up and standing right behind Senator McCain at an event yesterday in Iowa. Note: The fake Palin being gracious in her acknowledgement of the applause when McCain refers to the real Sarah Palin. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: She has inspired millions of Americans with her record of reform, with her family, with the greatness and strength of her character. And thank you for your support of Sarah Palin as well, I’m very grateful for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A Sarah Palin impersonator mugging for the camera, right over his shoulder during the John McCain speech, right behind him. Who would let her stand there? Did she slip out for ticket or something? This is funny, but mostly, this is embarrassing.
Among those who recognized that McCain is in dire straights, but don’t want to assign blame to McCain’s campaign, we are hearing the argument that McCain is doing a great job, it’s just that the economic crisis gave him no chance of winning this time. I don’t see it that way. From the message discipline problem, to the infighting, to the bad advance work, to the “electrocute the frog leg,” reflexive, unpredictable decision-making process-I’m not sure this campaign could win anything right now. I’m talking of student council election. I’m talking of fishing contest where you’re the only one with a pole. Blame whoever you want, President Bush, the economy, a young, vibrant opponent. The problem is, the campaign itself. As current and former campaign advisors anonymously air their grievances, one is now coming out and thrashing his former colleagues, writing today, quote, “Steve Schmidt and his colleagues have run a very good campaign and have taken McCain further than he had any reasonable right to, given the political climate.” That former advisor with those kind words is Mark McKinnon, former McCain media advisor. He wrote in defense of the McCain campaign on the Web site, The Daily Beast.
Mr. McKinnon, thank you so much for being on the show tonight.
MARK MCKINNON, FORMER MCCAIN MEDIA ADVISOR: Hey. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Your column at The Daily Beast Web site today criticizes what you call the “McCain mutiny” among Republicans. But I’m guessing that you don’t see the campaign being as dire straights as I see it, in a way that I just laid it out. Do you see any reason for hope on the McCain side?
MVKINNON: Well, it’s not a pretty picture, as you just painted, but I still think we’re going to have an election next Tuesday and let the voters decide this race. It’s not over yet. But, there are some fundamental things going on here.
And let me just point out that-there’s a question we ask in every political poll which is, “Do you think the country is headed in the right direction or the wrong track?” And it’s a pretty good indicator of how the incumbent party is going to do. Right now, 9 percent of the people in this country think we’re headed in the right direction. And I know your question for your viewers is, “Who are those 9 percent?”
MCKINNON: But if you extrapolate that out, John McCain ought to be pulling at about 9 percent, and yet, he’s made this a competitive race. And, in fact, Steve Schmidt and his colleagues at the campaign took this campaign even into the convention and ahead in mid-September. And it wasn’t until the economic collapse that this thing really started to widen out.Now let me first-first of all, say, I give absolute credit to David Axelrod and Barack Obama, his entire campaign for running a really great campaign. But my point is, I know Steve Schmidt, and I’ve worked with him. I know David Axelrod and I’ve worked with him. You could switch places and this race wouldn’t be much different.
MADDOW: Is that because of the quality of the candidates and how good they are at campaigning? Is that purely because of external factors? I feel like I have to point out that if 9 percent is the threshold for average, you’re being-you’re grading on a great curve in terms of what we’ve count as McCain’s success in this election.
MCKINNON: Well, there’s just-there’s a physical law in politics and it’s when you win a presidential campaign, you’re brilliant, and when you lose, you’re an idiot. I’ve been on both sides of that scale and I don’t think I’m either. But, again, the Obama campaign, I give them due credit for a really good campaign. But, it’s been a very uphill and-this is the worst environment that a Republican has run in certainly in my lifetime, and maybe ever. And yet, McCain has run a strong race.
MADDOW: I know that it is politically impossible for this financial crisis to have worked as an asset for the McCain campaign. But I don’t think it was the kudagra (ph) that it’s being made out to be. I don’t think it was inevitable to pick a V.P. with financial creed to, have made the big “suspend the campaign, cancel the debate” gambit, to put out the dualing messages for and against the bailout.
I think it’s not just the crisis, I think Senator McCain has kind of blown his response to the crisis. Do you disagree with that?
MCKINNON: Listen, I’m not here to defend all the tactics or strategies of the campaign. I just think that there are fundamentals in place that make this reality what it is. And that they’ve made a much closer race than they have any right to be, considering the environment that he’s running in.
MADDOW: I know that you or somebody who worked inside the campaign, you’re somebody who’s been very close to Senator McCain for a long time. You decided not to stay with the campaign when it became evident that Senator Obama was going to be his opponent. I wonder from your familiarity with the personalities and the, I guess, the experienced people involved here, if you were surprised that the knives are coming out so obviously and so viciously now before the election, I would have expected this after a loss-I am surprised that it is happening now.
MCKINNON: Yes, it is a concern to me, Rachel. You know, it’s one thing to see the bloody harpooning from the chattering class. What really concerns me is about the internal sort of strife that’s going on right now and that’s painting a very ugly picture and it’s not a happy place there right now. You know, there’s some solid people over there and they’ve done a really, you know, they’ve done hard work and a long campaign. And it hasn’t been decided yet. And McCain has been in tougher places. I remember being in a similar place just a few weeks out from New Hampshire, about a year ago. So, let’s let the voters decide this thing.
MADDOW: It’s a good point. I am one of these people who believes that it absolutely could still-could still be decided. So, Mark McKinnon.
MCKINNON: The Democrats have found ways to throw it away before (INAUDIBLE).
MADDOW: They certainly have. Mark McKinnon, nice to have you on the show. Thanks for being with us. I appreciate it.
MCKINNON: Carry on. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Mr. McKinnon is a former advisor to Senator McCain and he is writing now at The Daily Beast online.
All right. Here’s what the game plan for the Obama campaign. A flood of freshly registered Democrats in states like Colorado, who were supposed to cast early ballots, ticking off a wave of support that would propel them through November 4th.
So, are they turning out in expected numbers? Is there a chance that Obama’s base is believing the hype to their own peril? Next: DNC Chairman Howard Dean will try to Talk Me Down about that. And a jury found Alaska Senator Ted Stevens guilty, seven times today. As of this moment, Ted Stevens could still win re-election next week. Even though I think he would not be allowed to vote for himself. That felon thing-very awkward. Hey, if you have been downloading our video podcast, and it turns a lot of you have been, thank you very much-you may be under the impression that this show is only 13 minutes long. That’s not the case. Starting tonight, our entire show will be available. Go to iTunes or Rachel.MSNBC.com to download the whole enchilada. We are delighted to have you watching. Thank you so much for doing so. Lastly, one more thing about the McCain campaign’s self-inflicted problems: a week after Sarah Palin campaign’s fabulous adventure at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus became national news, the intra-party finger-pointing burns on like a tire fire. Speaking for the McCain, Nancy Pfotenhauer gave this explanation of who paid for the $150,000 worth of fancy duds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PFOTENHAUER, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISOR: I actually don’t know who at the RNC made the decision, but it was obviously the RNC’s call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh. So, it’s the RNC’s fault. Let’s verify that with RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, you know, for accounting purposes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE DUNCAN, RNC CHAIRMAN: We are working with the campaign. This was a coordinated expense that the campaign asked us to pay for and we paid for that expense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wait. So, who is to blame now? Was there really no way to pin this stupid shopping spree on the media, the communists, celebrities, maybe?
MADDOW: At several key moments on this part of the campaign, the McCain folks have play the “We make no sense and we’re proud it” card. The repetition of mindless, three-word phrases that really get the crowds going something fierce: “Drill, baby, drill,” “Joe the Plumber.” Senator McCain took it to a new level today with his-this weekend, excuse me-with his analysis of nuclear power safety.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: We talked about offshore drilling and he said he would, quote, “consider offshore drilling.” We talked about nuclear power. Well, it has to be safe environmental blah, blah, blah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Blah, blah, blah? Worries about radioactive fuel and hazards of those nuclear wasted gets blah, blah, blah? Even the weird thing is that the crowd loves it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: We talked about nuclear power. Well, it has to be safe environmental blah, blah, blah. And the fact is-the fact is.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The crowd goes wild for blah, blah, blah, to Chernobyl? To nuclear terrorism? It actually makes this “drill, baby, drill” seem like well-developed policy.
MADDOW: Remember Barack Obama’s speeches from January and February? Lost the oratory that had the crowds in the tens of thousands all melty as the senator reeled off a decisive string of 11 whopping primary wins in a row? Then critics suggested he was all spine-tingle and no spine. Obama speeches became wonkier, smaller, less aspirational. Well, now, Senator Obama’s got eight days to go until Election Day, and the soaring stuff is back. And it’s working in those big crowds again. Today, in Ohio, Obama unveiled a speech informally called the “closing argument.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election, that tries to pit region against region, and city against town, Republican against Democrat, that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope. The change we need isn’t just about new programs and policies, it’s about a new attitude. It’s about new politics-a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts. One that reminds us of the obligations we have to ourselves and one another. In one week, we can choose hope over fear and unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo. In one week, we could come together as one nation and one people. And once more choose our better history. That’s what at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On Saturday, Barack Obama and John McCain both rallied on the same day in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Obama’s rally turned out 45,000 people. McCain’s rally – 1,400. McCain rallied 4,000 supporters in Denver on Friday. Yesterday, Obama came to the same town, and the crowd topped 100,000. But do the monstrous crowds, even a crowd 100,000-strong translate to votes? Do they inaccurately suggest a run away race when in reality it might be quite close? Obama doesn’t appear to be taking chances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: How many people early voted?
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
OBAMA: That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I’m talking about. No point in waiting in lines, if you don’t have to. You know who you’re going to vote for. Go to the polls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A smart, specific, play by the candidate there. But according to the “Denver Post,” quote, “The rally drew a huge crowd, but after it broke up, few, stopped at the Wellington Webb Building where about 50 voting booths waited nearby.” In Ohio, early this month, the turnout was also surprisingly for the week-long period in which Ohio residents could register to vote and immediately cast a ballot, only about 3,000 voters in Ohio’s four largest counties took advantage of that opportunity. And in the battleground states of Florida, Colorado and Iowa, early voting numbers are still below 2004 early voting final statistics. Yes, we do still have another week to go, but, is this the complacency that Obama keeps warning about? Is the threat here not a stronger-than-he-seems opponent, not a lack of Democratic enthusiasm, but rather, evident excitement and enthusiasm that’s not necessarily translating into votes? Joining us now to try to Talk Me Down is Howard Dean, who, of course, is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Governor Dean, many thanks to your time, sir.
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIR: Rachel, thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: I’m feeling like things are mostly good news for the Democratic Party generally right now, for Senator Obama specifically. But I am seeing some clouds in the silver linings, too, because I’m that kind of person. We had 100,000 people rally for Senator Obama in Colorado this weekend, but it did not translate, at least immediately into a surge in early voting in Colorado this weekend.
Is it possible that there is a risk that some of the demonstrated enthusiasm for Senator Obama may not translate into actual votes? How do you work on something like that?
DEAN: Well, you just work like crazy. And we’re all working like crazy right now. I’m going to be in North Dakota before this week is over because we think we got some opportunities there. And I’m, you know, going to be active at some Senate campaigns and New Hampshire and Minnesota and Oregon and so forth. We’re all working as hard as we can to get every vote out. I will say, though, that I’ve just looked at the numbers-the early voting numbers from Colorado, they’re very, very good.
MADDOW: On the issue of the mechanics of voting, it seems to me that it’s not really articulated all that often, but there seems to be a Democratic strategy of not talking all that much about long lines in the polling places, about efforts to disenfranchise voters, about chaos at the polls. Not to talk about it because of the risk of discouraging voters who might otherwise turnout if they think there’s a chance their vote won’t count or that it’s going to be difficult or going to take a long time to vote. The idea is that you might suppress turnout by talking about those things. Is that the strategic way of thinking about it? And, do you think that voters should be warned that it might be difficult to vote this year?
DEAN: Well, I think there will be lines, for sure. So, that’s why we are working so hard to encourage people to vote early because why go and worry about standing in a snowstorm or your professor just gave you an exam, or your boss told you had to work a double shift, or there’s a long line, why just go and cast your vote early and have it be done. So, we are pushing that very hard. Look, the truth of the matter is, that we’ve fixed a lot of the problems that started in 2000. We still have a way to go, we do need to outlaw those Diebold and black box voting machines, and we did in some states, but not on others. And that’s something that Congress is going to have to address. They didn’t do it the last time. But the fact is, things have gotten a lot better since 2000.
MADDOW: That said, some people who are turning out to vote early in Florida are facing five hour lines. That’s not been unheard of in Florida. And it’s my view, looking back at the legislative history of how early voting has been legislated in Florida, the reason that people are waiting five hours to vote in some parts of Florida is because the Republican-nominated legislature passed a bill which said, “We can’t have things open for 12 hours, we can only have things open for eight hours.”
DEAN: I agree.
DEAN: There are things where this stuff has not yet been fixed. Florida took a step forward in getting rid of the black box voting machines, but there’s, you know, there’s a very strong right-wing majority in Florida that makes things tougher. But again, the people of Florida are responding. They want change. They are going out to vote and they are standing in line when necessary. Some counties have lines, some don’t.
MADDOW: I’m pressing you on this but it’s because it’s been sort of keeping me up at night. I wonder if it’s time for you or for Senator Obama or Senator Biden to issue essentially an inspirational call about difficulties in voting. I know that you don’t want to discourage people from going out, but the fact is, that there are going to be a lot of lines in places. And to be able to say, “You know what? There may be lines. There maybe people challenging you. There may be, you know, efforts to disenfranchise people in your precinct but, you know, you owe it to your country as an American to do this. And don’t be pushed around and don’t be – don’t allow anybody to intimidate you out of voting.”
DEAN: We think Americans want to vote. The numbers-the early numbers are extraordinary. People are getting out to vote in huge numbers. And we think people already get that. They don’t-we don’t think we need to remind everybody how important this election is.
MADDOW: Governor Dean, one last question: Is there anything that’s keeping you up at night, these days in terms of what you are worried about heading into this final eight days of the election?
DEAN: Everything keeps me up at night. It’s my job, especially in the last eight days. But, look, we’ve done everything we can. We’ve got a great candidate. We’ve prepared for this, for 3 ½ years. We’ve got a unified party. I just-I can’t help but thank President Clinton and Hillary Clinton for going out and working so hard for this ticket. We’ve got legions and legions of young people who really want change in America and have great idealism.
We’re going to-this is about renewing America. You know, this is a great country. And now, we are about to have a leader, I hope, who is as great as the American people are. We need to restore America to its greatness and I think we can do that by electing Barack Obama.
MADDOW: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who, of course, is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. I know you are very busy. Governor, thank you for joining us.
DEAN: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Two days that have been long time in coming, November 4th, Election Day, and the day Reverend Wright returns to the air waves. November 4th is still eight days away but Jeremiah Wright day-was today.
Back with that in just a bit.
MADDOW: Northernmost member of the indicted Republican club? Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, everybody. Sen. Stevens was found guilty today of lying about hundreds of thousands of dollars for some gifts and renovations for his house. We will have more on that a little later. First though, it’s time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in today’s news. Do you Twitter? A draft army intelligence report recently posted on the Web raises the possibility that Twitter, the online micro-blogging tool that we enjoy very much here at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, could become a terrorist tool - kind of. The army report is online at the Web site of the Federation of American Scientists. It looks at how mobile and Web technologies could potentially be turned to nefarious ends. GPS cell phone services could be used for surveillance or for terrorist attack targeting. Voice modification software could be used to do the voice modification thing that bad guys always do in movies when they call in their ransom demands. And Twitter - how does poor little Twitter fit in to all of this? Well, according to the report, quote, “Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, activists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences. Kind of sounds like a Maddow family reunion, frankly. The army’s worry is that all of this communicating could ultimately shift toward surveillance and terrorist targeting, because Twitter happens in real time. Terrorists could use it to plan ambushes or detonate explosives. They point to the near-real time communications of the RNC where protestors used Twitter to update one another on law enforcement activities, helping them elude police as examples of what officials are fearing. I personally do not fear the Twitter, but we must use its awesome power only for good. And holy mackerel, we invaded Syria. U.S. officials confirm today that U.S. Special Forces killed the head of a Syrian network that allegedly funneled fighter’s weapons and cash into Iraq. And a local office says U.S. troops grabbed two men and took them away by helicopter during a cross-border attack four to five miles across the Iraqi border inside Syria. Syria’s foreign minister said the raid was an act of criminal and terrorist aggression. He warned that if there was a repeat attack on Syria, quote, “We would defend our territories. You want scary? OK. You don’t want scary, but we’ve got it here. The U.S. is now launching military raids across the borders of Iraq into Syria and from Afghanistan into Pakistan - sovereign countries. Is President Bush trying to start another war as some sort of grim parting gift?
MADDOW: You may know him as the “bridge to nowhere” guy, but he’s also famous for his deep, complicated understanding of the Internet and trucks.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. TED STEVENS (R-AK): The Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Indeed. Sen. Ted Stevens, a man who has represented Alaska in the Senate for more than 40 years, is running for re-election. And as of tonight, he’s also a convicted felon. That’s a rare daily double and it’s kind of inconvenient a week before Election Day. Ted Stevens was found guilty today on seven counts of making false statements on Senate financial documents about gifts that he received from an Alaskan oil company. The word “gift” is a nice euphemism, isn’t it? The government accuses him of paying only half the cost of renovating his house, doubling its size and adding upper and lower decks and a garage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sen. Stevens committed this crime to hide from the public and from his constituents the fact that he had received hundreds of thousands of dollars of freebies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Senate’s longest serving Republican now faces up to five years in prison on each of the seven counts. You do the math.
Despite the new entry on Sen. Stevens’ resume, he is not required to drop his re-election bid or to resign from his job. There’s no rule barring felons from serving in the United States Senate. That seems like an oversight. Sen. Stevens’ colleagues could vote to expel him on a two-thirds vote, but that may not be necessary. Before the guilty verdict, Ted Stevens was in a statistical dead heat with his Democratic challenger, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. And there aren’t many voting blocks to whom felony convictions would be seen as an asset. If Begich now defeats Stevens to become the first Democratic senator from Alaska since Mike Gravel, the party would be one unlikely step closer to a supermajority of 60 Democratic senators. Among the rare opportunities for the Democrats this year, in North Carolina Democratic State Senator Kay Hagan is leading freshman Republican Elizabeth Dole. In Kentucky, Senate minority leader, the top ranking Republican in the whole Senate, Mitch McConnell - he’s only three points ahead of his Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford.
And in Minnesota, former comedian turned Air America host - my colleague at Air America - turned politician, Al Franken. He has a narrow lead on the Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. So just how many seats will the Democrats pick up in the Senate? And is Ted Stevens’ seat now certainly one of them? Joining us now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief from “Mother Jones” magazine. Mr. Corn, thank you very much for being here.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES” MAGAZINE: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Sen. Stevens asked for an unusually speedy trial. He was hoping he would be exonerated in time to return to Alaska and win re-election next Tuesday. But obviously, it turned out to be a strategic error. An appeal will not happen before Election Day. Do you see any chance that Ted Stevens could pull out a victory next week?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES” MAGAZINE: You can put that down in the “be careful what you ask for” department. He was one point behind in the poll before conviction. And I would say that in most conventional views of politics, being convicted of a felony usually is not a boost. So one has to, you know, put the chances even less than they were two days ago. We could be in the middle of what the plurality call a wave election, which sweeps Obama into office, sweeps Democrats into office. And if you’re going up against the wave election, you don’t want to have a big “F” on your forehead right at that time.
MADDOW: “F” for felon, presumably, not for “fool” about the Internet.
MADDOW: David, is there a sense in which Ted Stevens, such a long standing member of the Senate, seen as such an eccentric character. Is there a sense in which his conviction doesn’t apply to the Republican brand, but it’s not seen as another thing wrong with the Republicans this year? It’s just seen as an isolated Ted Stevens problem?
CORN: Oh, that cute Ted Stevens. He’s always doing things like that. I think that’s a real hard sell right now. I mean - but the problem is the Republican Party is almost so demoralized at this point. And already, you see the fighting that you talked about coming out of the McCain-Palin camp that I don’t think at this stage, another conviction of this sort is going to create even more of morale problems with that, or even less than the brand. The brand is kind of at a market low coinciding with the Dow Jones. Right now, there are 12 seats that are at risk for the Senate for the Republicans, and really, not a single seat at risk for the Democrats. Maybe Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, you might put at risk, but most people don’t. So they’re defending 12 seats, and of those 12, counting Stevens, I would say that the Democrats have a pretty good shot at seven of them. Then the two that you mentioned in North Carolina and in Kentucky, you add those two to those seven and you get to the magic 60 number. So it really depends on how big the wave is. Really, I think individual senators perform on their own because these guys are not running as Republicans. In fact, in Oregon, Gordon Smith has put up ads with him and John Kerry, Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy. Last time I checked, all three were all Democrats, and usually not the key to Republican electoral success.
MADDOW: Gordon Smith trying to sort of pass himself off -
CORN: So the numbers are very bad for the Republicans right now. But gaining 60 still might be a little bit of a tough stretch for the Democrats.
MADDOW: We are seeing Gordon Smith trying to pass himself off essentially as a Democrat. We’ve seen Elizabeth Dole running ads that assume that John McCain loses and make the case for her on the basis that she would be great in the minority. I mean, if, to a certain extent, you are advising a Republican senator - if you are a Republican senator, looking at a potential wave election, is the only way to save yourself to run against your own party maybe even to run against your own nominee?
CORN: Switch parties - I mean, basically, all you have is yourself and you try to make the election a very personal thing so that you forge a personal bond with the voters that is separate from the party and ideological and partisan splits that sometimes define elections.
But, you know, the real issue here is how big the wave is, and we can’t measure it, of course, until after it hits. So you know, the fact that Liddy Dole and Mitch McConnell, the highest ranking senator on the Republican side are running scared. It shows you that they think there’s a big wave out there.
MADDOW: David Corn, Washington bureau chief of “Mother Jones” magazine and a blogger at “Congressional Quarterly,” thanks for your time tonight, David.
CORN: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: It was only a question of when, and it turns out the answer is right now. A right-wing pact puts Rev. Jeremiah Wright back on the front burner with a multimillion dollar battleground blitz a week from the election. Jennifer Granholm, the governor of Michigan will be joining us from the testing ground for the most negative ads. But first, one more thing, it seems there’s a new election year indicator forecasting an Obama victory, but in a weird way. What you may ask is this high tech, fortunetelling mechanism? Gun sales. Gun sales are up eight to 10 percent this year. That’s according to today’s “Washington Post.” They say that gun enthusiasts perceive Obama to be antigun so they are buying up guns and ammo while they still can. And it’s especially ironic today that according to various blogs, NASCAR legend Junior Johnson sent an E-mail to Obama supporters in North Carolina saying Obama will, quote, “defend the Second Amendment to protect the hunters’ way of life.” You know, Junior Johnson, heads up.
MADDOW: Want to take a look at some 100 percent pure political desperation? Take it away, non-threatening female voice over lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OVER: For 20 years, Barack Obama followed a preacher of hate and said nothing as Wright raged against our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, they are going there. Rev. Wright is resurrected tonight in this ad airing in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, courtesy of a right-wing pact called the National Republican Trust. With an increasingly impossible electoral math staring them in the face and a candidate limping and flailing toward Election Day. The Republican pacts are pulling out the bag of tricks that’s marked last resort.
And they’re not always so carefully discriminating about where they use these. In Michigan, early this month, John McCain abandoned ship and left his down-ballot Republican cohorts to fend for themselves, taking campaign ads, his money and his coattails to states he might actually win. That’s left Barack Obama with an average lead of 17 points in the Michigan polls. But stripped of the swing state status with no virtually no candidate present, Michigan is still turning out to be a laboratory for some of the nastiest campaign messaging that’s out there today. The “Stop Obama Bus Tour” brought to you by right-wing pact, is winding its way through Michigan right now, spreading the “Obama is a commy smear.” The same group is running ads in Michigan linking Obama to Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Is the idea to try to keep Barack Obama from being elected? Or is the idea to destroy Obama, even in the event he does win? Are we seeing the first act of a permanent campaign against a President Obama? Joining us now, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Gov. Granholm, thank you so much for joining us.
GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D-MI): Rachel, it is so great to be on. Thanks so much for having me on.
MADDOW: Sure. When the Republicans and the McCain campaign moved out of Michigan, as a Democratic governor, I imagine you might have had mixed feelings - I mean, no longer subject to the attention that a swing state gets but that being so for the best possible reason which is that the Democrats were really trouncing the Republicans in your state. The question I have, though, is whether you knew that the exit of the Republicans and the McCain campaign officially would create an opening for these third-party, independent, right-wing groups to stay in Michigan or just start in Michigan, running some of these very, very nasty ads in your state.
GRANHOLM: Well, Rachel, they were negative before they pulled out. You know, we know that George Bush pulled out of Michigan eight years ago. We are the poster child of a state with - that has suffered under the Bush administration. And so they’ve tried for a long time to try to distract Michigan citizens. But you know what? The reason why he’s doing so well - Barack Obama is doing so well is because we understand what is really important here. We are all about jobs. I just left a County - Livingston County - which is a fairly conservative county. And by the way, they made sure that I told you hello, that they love you. It was a packed Democratic kickoff. They were wall-to-wall. And this county should never be up for grabs or at least certainly that we shouldn’t have any Democratic House seats that are in play.
But, you know what? They pulled out the - the McCain people. They left with only these negative attempts and it’s just not working.
MADDOW: I think what we’re seeing with these sort of nasty smear-style campaigns from the right is an effort to try to really to pick scapegoats, to get people to turn their anger about economic conditions on people who would be politically convenient to blame. You think Michiganders are not falling for it. How would you assess the mood of people in your state?
GRANHOLM: Well, I think we’re mad as hell. I can tell you that we are mad as hell that the president of the United States has engaged in strategies that have - I mean, really, he’s ignored us, ignored manufacturing sector. If we had a president who would stand up for manufacturing, then we wouldn’t be seeing the jobs go to China, India, and Mexico. We’re interested in fair trade. We’re not afraid of trade. Bring it on. But we want fair trade policies. When McCain keeps trotting out the same policies as the Bush administration, well, no matter how many negative ads you run, you cannot pull the wool over people’s eyes who have seen this firsthand.
MADDOW: Gov. Granholm, one last question for you. I know that you helped Joe Biden prep for his vice presidential debate against Sarah Palin by portraying Sarah Palin in sort of mock debates in debate prep for him. Has she actually turned out to be the kind of candidate you expected her to be when you had to study up on her and her record and her political tactics for portraying her in that debate?
GRANHOLM: You know, I would say, no, she has not. When we first went into this debate prep, I believe that she was qualified but just not quite ready yet. And we - in fact, after that debate - and I think Joe Biden did a great job. We talked to each other and said, “Yes, we really had it down.” But I think that we’ve all seen and watched her evolution as a candidate and that she would be a heartbeat away I think gives a lot of people pause on both sides. And so she hasn’t quite turned out the way we initially thought she was going to be.
MADDOW: Does that mean that you no longer that think she’s qualified? Or you think that she’s just less ready than you even thought before?
GRANHOLM: Well, I think that a governor - you know, a governor is qualified. A governor is a credential. Governors - you know, we handle a lot of stuff in our states. However, you know, the question is can you be qualified and not quite ready for primetime? And I think that’s probably more where she is. The reality is I think people need to look very carefully at these candidates. And are they ready to step into the most powerful position in the world? And I think that she has demonstrated over time that that’s not quite where she is. Not that she’s not qualified as a governor, but that she’s not quite ready in terms of the number of years she’s been in the position.
MADDOW: Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm, thank you so much for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
GRANHOLM: Rachel, thanks for having me on. I sure appreciate it.
MADDOW: Coming up next, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. Will some stupid old ethics law get in the way of Sarah Palin’s future TV career?
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. Hello, Mr. Jones. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Now, last Friday, I reported that some Hollywood types were stoked about the prospect Sarah Palin may be hosting a talk show or news show should the election maybe not go her way. Well, time to un-stoke. “Politico” reports that something called the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act could disallow Gov. Palin from accepting a salary for TV appearances while she’s serving in state government. According to Section 39.52170 of the Ethics Law, “The head of a principal executive department of the state may not accept employment for compensation outside the agency that the executive head serves.” Well, if there’s one thing we learned about Sarah Palin, just because Alaska’s got an ethics law against something, that doesn’t make it a law-law - more of a suggestion, helpful hint. Next, you know those warning labels on the sides of cigarette packs? Kind of scary, right? Well, Ad Aids reports that a three-year study in England found that when smokers were flashed images of warning labels, it made them want to smoke more. Apparently, those images activated craving spots in their brains. So people see something and they know it’s not good for them but go for it anyway. I think I finally understand the 2004 election. And finally, speaking of our outgoing administration, Condoleezza Rice is being discussed for an interesting job. The NFL network reported that the San Francisco 49ers just might be interested, maybe, in the secretary of state for a high level position within their organization. Maybe even as president.
A serious football junkie, Rice has said she wants to be the NFL commissioner but added, quote, “I’ve decided it would be all right to run a team as well.” Bay area sports fans are worried that Condie’s strategy for the Niners would be the same as the Bush administration’s - fall way behind for three quarters and then run out the clock. Rachel.
MADDOW: You know, if we could just go back in time and have made her NFL commissioner and have made Bush baseball commissioner -
JONES: Aggregate happiness blooming. Blooming. Look, everyone is doing what they want.
MADDOW: Exactly. We don’t have to have them elsewhere where they can do more harm. Thank you, Kent.
Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you tomorrow night. Until then, you can E-mail us at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>. We do read your E-mails. And check out our new full-length podcast. That’s the entire show. Go to iTunes or Rachel.MSNBC.com. You can also hear my Air America radio show 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast to coast. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN STARTS NOW.”
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