The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/30/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you very much, Keith. Nice to see you.
And thank you for staying with us for the next hour. I am in centerfield at a baseball stadium in Sarasota, Florida tonight because Barack Obama was here today and I’m slow moving. I did get an in-depth, one-on-one interview with Senator Obama today and we’ve got that for you, right now.
(voice over): You think your schedule is busy? Try blitzing Florida with speeches all over the state producing and airing a national half hour TV ad to 27 million people, appearing with Bill Clinton at a late night rally, doing a morning rally at a baseball stadium, sitting down with THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.
Wait. Sitting down with THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator, you criticize the Bush administration frequently. But, you almost never criticize the Republican Party itself. Other Democrats.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Much to your (INAUDIBLE).
MADDOW: Well, yes, actually.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Barack Obama sits for his RACHEL MADDOW SHOW interview, about his plans to govern, about the economy, about socialism, about Afghanistan, about Abraham Lincoln, about China kicking our butt in terms of infrastructure, and yes, about the government he hopes to succeed.
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OBAMA: There’s a core hypocrisy to how they have governed over the last several years, that I think has to be reversed.
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MADDOW: The entire interview plus Dan Rather’s review of the candidate tonight.
John McCain is almost as busy as Senator Obama, but not quite-well, as smooth?
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe is with us today. Joe, where are you? Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today? Joe, I thought you were here today. And wherever you are Joe, let’s give him a round of applause for what he’s done for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What he’s done for America? Like seek a country music deals and get a publicist?
We will have the day on the trail.
And it’s Thursday, I’m worried about those early voting numbers. They were supposed to be huge. But things didn’t necessarily get off to a flying start. Where does the actual vote stand right now? Colorado Governor Bill Ritter joins me from his battleground with the update.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
(on camera): Greetings from deep centerfield at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. Normally, this is the home field of the Cincinnati Reds, Minor League team, the Sarasota Reds, and it’s where Senator Barack Obama held a rally today, right over there. Just past second base.
I stood on the third baseline for awhile before I snuck up to the Mister Softee truck that was inexplicably parked inside the secure perimeter in the part of the stadium where only the press and staff could go. Really, a Mister Softee truck.
So, first things first. I do not know who is going to win the election on Tuesday and neither do you. But I, for one, do not think that Barack Obama has this thing in the bag and I don’t think that either of the campaigns think that he has it in the bag, either. With that mind, let’s take a look at a day in the life of our presidential candidates.
John McCain spoke in front of an energetic crowd of 6,000 in Ohio today, which would not be at all embarrassing if it weren’t for the fact that 4,000 of those 6,000 kids bussed in from local schools. The entire student population of the Defiance, Ohio school district was bussed in as well as more than a dozen buses full of school kids from at least three other schools.
Can’t fill out an event in the very important swing state of Ohio less than a week before Election Day? Not a good sign. Do you want an even less good sign? How about having the dude you made into the political version of a zealous celebrity stand you up at the same rally you had to empty several school buildings to fill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Joe is with us today. Joe, where are you? Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today? Joe, I thought you were here today. All right. Well, you’re all Joe the Plumbers, so all of you stand-up and say-I thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, not a banner day for John McCain.
As for Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois was not stood up by his campaign buddy, former President Bill Clinton, who joined Obama and extolled his virtues last night in Kissimmee, Florida. Today, Obama moved on to Sarasota, that’s where I come in.
Arriving at the Obama rally today here at Ed Smith Stadium, here’s what I was struck by. Number one: Sunny, nice day. Good moods, smiles all around. A happy, middle class, working class, diverse, un-angry stadium full of people. Well, not quite full. All the seats were full, but there was plenty of breathing room in the bleachers here today.
Now, keep in mind, this is, after all, Sarasota. I am coming to you from the pulsing, throbbing red heart of Katherine Harris’ old congressional seat.
The one time the crowd did get a little got angry-sounding today is when they booed John McCain, the first mention of John McCain’s name. Here’s how Senator Obama reacted to that.
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OBAMA: You don’t need to boo, you just need to vote.
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MADDOW: Oh, so, that’s the classy way to deal with the crowd that sounds like it could trend toward ugliness.
So, without passing judgment on what might or might not happen on Tuesday, I will say that Barack Obama is having a better day than John McCain. I have the opportunity to sit down with Senator Obama after his Sarasota rally today. Here is the first part of our interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator, you criticize the Bush administration frequently. But you almost never criticize the Republican Party itself. Other Democrats.
OBAMA: Much to your chagrin.
MADDOW: Well, yes, actually. I mean, other Democrats, you will hear them talk about the GOP as the party that’s been wrong on all the big stuff. Creating Social Security, civil rights, the war in Iraq. But you don’t really do that.
Do you think there is a stark difference between the parties?
OBAMA: Well, I do think there’s a difference between the parties, but here’s my belief. That I’m talking to voters. And I think there are a lot of Republican voters out there, self-identified, who actually think that what the Bush administration has done, has been damaging to the country.
And what I’m interested in is how do we build a working majority for change? And if I start off with the premise that it’s only self-identified Democrats who I’m speaking to, then I’m not going to get to where we need to go. If I can describe it as not a blanket indictment of the Republican Party, but instead describe it as the Republican Party having been kidnapped by an incompetent, highly ideological subset of the Republican Party, then that means that I can still reach out to a whole bunch of Republican moderates who I think are hungry for change, as well.
MADDOW: Now, they do not see you the same way. When they talk-when John McCain calls you a socialist.
MADDOW: . this redistribute the wealth idea. He calls you soft on national security.
MADDOW: That’s not just an anti-Barack Obama script. That is-he’s reading from an anti-Democrat, and specifically an anti-liberal script.
MADDOW: And so, you have the opportunity to say, John McCain, George Bush, you’re wrong. You also have the opportunity to say, conservatism has been bad for America. But you haven’t gone there either.
OBAMA: Yes, I tell you what, though, Rachel. You notice, I think we’re winning right now so.
OBAMA: . maybe I’m doing something right. I know you’ve been cruising for a bruising for a while here, looking for a fight out there. But I just think people are tired of that kind of back and forth, tit-for-tat, ideological approach to the problems.
Now, there is no doubt that there is a set of premises in the reigning Republican ideology that I just think are wrong. This whole notion, and then it’s been captured by this back and forth about whether I’m a redistributor, I think is a great example. The notion that the progressive income tax, which was instituted by Teddy Roosevelt, supposedly John McCain’s hero, is somehow un-American, I think is an example of how people have gone way off track.
The Republican Party has gone so right when it comes to how we think about our obligations to each other, how we pay for things. And as a consequence, because most people think it’s pretty important to pay for roads, and bridges, and schools, what we’ve ended up doing is tax cuts, no spending cuts, huge national debt. There’s a core hypocrisy to how they have governed over the last several years that I think has to be reversed.
And so we’re going to challenge those things.
The important thing, though, is, I just want to make sure that I’m leaving the door open to people who say to themselves, well, you know, I’m a member of the Republican Party and I remember people like Chuck Percy in Illinois, or Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, a pretty good Republican. That there are some core values that historically have been important to the Republican Party, but just have not been observed over the last several years.
MADDOW: There may be some policy fights ahead, particularly in responding to the economic crisis, that will have both a practical and an ideological component. If we are looking at economic stimulus, is there a possibility that you could see in your first term, if you are elected, that we’d need an economic stimulus program that felt to Americans a little bit like a public works program, a little bit like an FDR-style infrastructure building program?
OBAMA: Well, I’ve actually talked about this. And I haven’t been hiding the ball on this. I think we have to rebuild our infrastructure.
Look at what China’s doing right now. Their trains are faster than us, their ports are better than us. They are preparing for a very competitive 21st century economy, and we’re not.
One of the most frustrating things over the last eight years has been the ability of George Bush to pile up debt and huge deficits and not have anything to show for it, right? So, if you’re going to run deficit spending, then it better be in rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our sewer lines, our water systems, laying broadband lines.
One of I think the most important infrastructure projects that we need is a whole new electricity grid. Because if we’re going to be serious about renewable energy, I want to be able to get wind power from North Dakota to population centers like Chicago. And we’re going to have to have a smart grid if we want to use plug-in hybrids, then we want to be able to have ordinary consumers sell back the electricity that’s generated from those car batteries, back into the grid. That can create 5 million new jobs just in new energy.
But, it’s huge projects that, generally speaking, you’re not going to have private enterprise want to take all those risks. And we’re going to have to be involved in that process.
MADDOW: Also, an issue on something like the electrical grid, that’s an issue of American resilience, even against the threat of terrorism. A lot of times when you look at counter-terrorism, officials, the things that they game out are an Al Qaida attack on the electrical grid.
OBAMA: That’s exactly right.
MADDOW: Well, you know, at this point, a snow storm is an attack on our electrical grid.
OBAMA: That’s exactly right.
MADDOW: Are there homeland security vulnerabilities that you think are fixable in ways that would also be good for the economy?
OBAMA: Well, you mentioned one. The electricity grid I think is important. I think that chemical plant security is another, where the chemical industry has been resistant to mandates when it comes to hardening their sites. But you know what? If you’ve got a chemical plant that threatens 100,000 or a million people in New Jersey, we better have some say in terms of how serious they are about guarding that facility.
MADDOW: Why hasn’t that been fixed already?
OBAMA: Well, I think it’s a classic example of special interests lobbying. There has been resistance from the chemical industry. And it is this-again, an ideological predisposition that says regulation’s always bad. So, stay out of the marketplace.
Well, look, I am a strong believer in the free market. I am a strong believer in capitalism. But I am also a strong believer that there are certain common goods that, you know-our air, our water, making sure that people are safe-that require us to have some regulation. Now, it has to be well designed.
But the financial system is a classic example of a deregulation philosophy run amuck. And now you see the consequences, and ironically, had we had some sensible regulation, we would not have now, actually, a much closer approximation to socialism when it comes to the banking system, then anything that any Democrats have been proposing over the last several years.
When you don’t guard against excess, then a lot of times government ends up having to step in anyway, in a much more burdensome way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Still ahead, part two of my interview with Barack Obama. We will turn to the thorny issue of Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan, is actually deal with Pakistan. We’ve got to say to the Pakistani people, we’re not just going to fund a dictator in order for us to feel comfortable with who we’re dealing with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But do we deal more effectively with Pakistan by having tens of thousands of our troops occupying the country next door? Is sending more troops the best way to win in Afghanistan? And what’s winning in Afghanistan, exactly, anyway?
And some of Obama staffers tried to Talk Me Down today about my feeling that early voting has been a little soft in some places.
Coming up next: Governor Bill Ritter of the battleground state of Colorado will try to do the same.
But first, just one more thing about the Sunshine State. On the heels of Bill Clinton’s high-octane appearance with Barack Obama last night, the almost Al Gore makes his debut on the endless Florida push for Obama tomorrow. That rally is in West Palm Beach in Fort Lauderdale.
Gore hasn’t campaigned for a presidential candidate in Florida since 2000 when he quote, “lost,” to George W. Bush by the slim margin of three chads, 400 lawyers and angry mob of Republican congressional staffers. Gore’s return to the scene of his electoral nightmare is scheduled for Halloween. What’s your bet on his costume? I’m thinking maybe, Sandra Day O’Connor?
MADDOW: Warming up the crowd for a Sarah Palin rally today in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, home of Rush Limbaugh, if radio host trivia is your thing? Missouri Senator Kit Bond tried to tie Barack Obama to that greatest Republican hit of the ’90s-activist judges. Bond misconstrued a statement Barack Obama made last year, saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIT BOND, ® MISSOURI: He said, “I’m tired of these judges who want us followed like the founding fathers said in the Constitution. I want judges who have a heart, have an empathy for the teenage mom, the minority, the gay, the disabled.
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MADDOW: A couple things, first, Republican complaining about mistreatment of the Constitution after these last eight years? Kind of like Colonel Sanders arguing for chicken rights. Second, if a judge has empathy, that’s not legal? And third, forgive me here but, the gay? Senator Kit Bond warning us off of compassion for the gay? You know it’s not catching, right? It’s not like the measles.
MADDOW: For at least 16 million voters so far, the 2008 election is all over but the sitting around Tuesday night watching the results come in part. And then, in the 31 states that allow you to vote early, no questions asked, that number will probably go up.
According to Dr. Michael McDonald at George Mason University, our guest last night, somewhere between ¼ and 1/3 of the electorate will have already cast their ballots by Election Day this year. That’s up from just 7 percent when Bill Clinton first got elected in 1992.
You’re probably thinking there’s a big “but” coming and there is. But, early voting problems continue sprouting up all over the country. I’m standing right now, well, right now, I’m at a baseball field. But this baseball field is the pulsing, throbbing red heart of Katherine Harris’ old congressional seat, Sarasota, Florida, where I met today with Senator Obama after his rally here.
As folks were streaming into the rally today, Obama’s campaign workers were asking people whether they had voted. What I heard was people answering either “yes,” or they said the name of the county they lived in, as if that was explanation enough for why they hadn’t been able to vote yet, as if I needed a reminder that I was in Katherine Harris’ country, whether or not you’re able to vote early in this election depends on whether or not election officials where you live had made it feasible for you to vote.
Talking with Obama senior staffers here, before and after today’s rally, I learned this-Obama brain trust people are outwardly relaxed, quietly confident about their hopes, but when I asked them about the signs I’m seeing of softness in some turnout, trans-demographic, long lines, specific states, they were all over those details, like a plastic sofa cover on the shunts (ph). They knew and had an explanation for, had a counter example for, and had an argument to explain a way every single worrying detail for them that I brought up.
So, do I believe that there’s really nothing for Obama to worry about in this election? No. I don’t half believe that. But do I believe that at the highest levels of the Obama campaign, they are acutely, intensely, and comprehensively all over any potential weaknesses they’ve got? Yes, I do believe that. They are not coasting and they shouldn’t be.
One source for worry: the freedom and fairness of the vote itself. In West Virginia, for example, several counties have reported that touch screen voting machines were flipping votes for Barack Obama to John McCain and actually down the list flipping votes from Democratic to Republican. The secretary of state there, Betty Ireland, held a press conference to address the problem, directing counties to recalibrate the machines every morning. We’ll see.
In battleground state of Colorado, the number of early votes cast already equals slightly more than half of the total number of votes that were cast last time around in 2004. That is good news in terms of turnout but as of Tuesday, here’s a weak spot. Only 1/3 of the people who requested mail-in ballots in Colorado have returned them. That’s the number that seems worrying for Obama’s campaign that’s counting on turnout.
Shall we see if I can be talked down about this or will I continue to be admittedly anxious until Wednesday morning?
Joining us now to try and talk me down is the Democratic governor of the great state of Colorado, Bill Ritter.
Governor Ritter, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
GOV. BILL RITTER, JR., (D) COLORADO: Thank you, Rachel. I appreciate the opportunity to be here. I want to tell you what we have seen in the last couple days. I think it’s about 800,000 people in Colorado have now voted by mail. There were about 1.6 million who requested an absentee ballot. That’s 50 percent of the people.
I know that, you know, they can vote by mail all the way through as long as they bring it on Election Day to the ballot or to the polling place. They could actually submit there and put it in to a holder. So, that’s 50 percent of the people.
We also have early voting, if you take the total between mail-in voting and early voting, you get to, I think, something like 1.1 million or 1.2 million. That’s a significant number of people to have voted in one way or the other. The whole state only has 3.6 million total voters if we vote at 100 percent. So, 30 percent of the people of all registered voters have already voted either by mail or by early voting.
MADDOW: Governor Ritter, we did get some last-some good voting news last night out of Colorado, a federal judge accepting an agreement that will essentially protect the vote for about 30,000 people who might otherwise have been purged off of the rolls in Colorado this year. Why would those people have been purged in the first place?
RITTER: The secretary of state here, Mike Coffman, made some decisions about purging. He consulted the attorney general’s office and they had apparently backed him up. There was a group of people who challenged the purging and especially, I think, the purging that went on within a defined time limit where you are not supposed to purge after a certain date prior to the election.
And so, the judge decided that the people whose names have been purged can actually cast what’s called a provisional ballot. If this legal argument is settled in their favor of those people whose names have been purged, their vote counts. If it’s not settled in their favor, it doesn’t count. But it really was a positive sign for us who are trying to make sure every vote gets to count. And certainly, every vote, you know, of people who attempted to register or have been registered.
MADDOW: Do you think that that initial effort, that effect was partially remedied last night by that federal court ruling? Do you think that indicate that there is a partisan effort to control the number of people who are effectively allowed to vote or who have their votes cast in Colorado? Do you feel like you are fighting a partisan war for the sanctity of the vote?
RITTER: Actually, I don’t. I mean, the secretary of state is a Republican and the attorney general is a Republican, but knowing both of them, I don’t think it’s been partisan so much as just to how they’ve interpreted the law and there are places where we disagreed with either their interpretation or where they’ve communicated particularly the secretary of state miscommunicated information and we asked him to correct it and he did.
So, I think, you know, this is not necessarily a partisan deal where they’re trying to suppress the vote. I think they’ve just been wrong in some of their interpretations or in the way that-particularly, again, the secretary of state communicated with them and we were quick to correct them and hopefully, that has made the difference for people who, you know, somehow were either purged or told they had to correct any error in their registration within a certain date and that information turned out to be wrong.
MADDOW: Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado, from the heart of the very important swing state of Colorado, thanks you so much for making time to talk to us tonight.
RITTER: Thank you, Rachel. It’s a pleasure to be on with you. Thank you.
MADDOW: We’ll have more of my interview with Barack Obama today, a little later, including our conversation about what sounds like his quasi-marshal plan idea for Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And I think the most important thing that we’re going to have to do, in addition to having more troops, providing alternatives to farmers for the poppy trade, making sure that services were actually being delivered to the Afghan people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That and more. We will be right back.
MADDOW: Coming up from here in Sarasota, Florida, if you feel like Tuesday’s election is above all about competent government, Barack Obama has a pitch for you.
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OBAMA: So, some of it’s just getting the right people. Some of it is using technology in intelligent ways. One of the things that I’m excited about is to transfer what we’ve learned from this campaign in using technology, into government. I mean, there are huge areas where we can open things up, make things more transparent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: More of my interview with Senator Obama, coming up in just a minute. First, though, it’s time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in today’s news.
Twenty-year-old McCain campaign volunteer, Ashley Todd, is out of jail. She was the young woman who was robbed and attacked at a Pittsburgh ATM by a 6’4” imaginary black man in her mind. Todd said this fake assailant punched her and carved a back ward letter “B” on her face because he noticed a McCain sticker on her car.
She’s been in jail since she admitted last week that she made up the incident, telling detectives she believes she cut the “B” into her own cheek, but she doesn’t remember doing it.
Ashley Todd was jailed last Friday. She was released today after being charged with a misdemeanor count of making a false police report. The charge carries a maximum two-year jail sentence, but Todd was able to receive a get-out-of-jail free card to attend mental health treatment. I if she stays out of trouble and keeps authorities apprised of her whereabouts, the whole thing will be expunged from her record. Well, thank goodness, she’s out in time for the start of the Republican 72-hour get out to vote program.
Out of all the myriad things that Americans have needed to learn about Pakistan in the past seven years or so, one that’s hard to remember, until all of a sudden, it’s really not is that Pakistan is very earthquake prone. It’s where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates hit each other. And they have lots of what is euphemistically known as seismic activity.
The latest large earthquake in Pakistan hit Baluchistan near the Afghan border just before dawn yesterday. At least 215 killed, at least 15,000 people are homeless. Many people in the worst affected areas are camped out in freezing weather.
Here is where the politics and national security stuff hit the tragedy here. The local people are in such desperate straits after this earthquake. They say they are receiving very little help from the central government in Pakistan. Kids are begging for food as trucks pass through the quake zone.
Just as in 2005, when the epic earthquake in northern Pakistan that year killed tens of thousands of people. Groups providing immediate help to the victims this time are in many cases hard-line Islamist political parties and extremist groups including one that is listed by our State Department as a terrorist organization. That, of course, strengthens their perceived legitimacy and their ties to the everyday people in that region.
When you hear about arguments about nation-building, making government work better in countries that are hostile to us, this stuff is part of the reason why.
And finally, heavy metal returned to Iraq. After we invaded in 2003, the Iraqi metal band Acrassicauda played the last live metal show in Baghdad before the band fled to Turkey.
Now, heavy metal is back. In the first live metal concert since 2003 in Iraq, “USA Today” reports that the bands Brutal Impact and Dog-Faced Corpse jammed out in front of 250 head-bangers at a private dinner club on the banks of the Tigris. Tables were broken, lyrics were screamed, amps were maxed out.
Joining Iraq’s war-driven, metal moratorium, fans said Sunnis accused them of supporting the Mahdi army because they wore black like members of that Shiite militia. And Shiites suspected them of being al-Qaeda because their goatees look like the scraggly, no-mustache beards worn by some hard-line Sunni guys.
“USA Today” quotes one of the fans, an 18-year-old girl in glasses and a head scarf, rocking out to a Metallica cover, making the universal metal sign, in hands bearing black nail polish. They quote her saying, “There’s nothing wrong with wearing a veil and listening to metal.” Amen to that. Rock on.
MADDOW: From Hillary Clinton, back in the good old days of the primaries to John McCain in this month’s debates, Barack Obama’s critics have held his oratorical skills in contempt. That Obama - he’s such a good public speaker. That’s so suspicious. Is that really what you want in your president?
Here was Senator Obama today here in Sarasota with more of that insidious, suspicious oratory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The men and women who serve in our battlefields, some are Democrats, some Republicans and some are independent. But they fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a blue America or a red America. They have served the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wouldn’t it be awful to have to listen to inspiring speeches like that from the president all the time? Now, the real accusation from Obama’s opponents, of course, is that he’s good with words, but light on substance, that he’s shy on specific policy plans.
Now, given the relative brevity of his national political career, these are, of course, fair questions to ask. His position on Pakistan and al-Qaeda, that the U.S. should act unilaterally, if need be, on good intelligence to strike terrorists in countries, if Pakistan, for example, wouldn’t. That has been test-run by the Bush administration.
The results so far? Well, in Pakistan, we’re having sporadic shooting wars with Pakistani troops. So what, specifically, would Barack Obama do on the various crises here and abroad? Having talked thus far about politics and the race for the presidency, we turned this afternoon’s interview toward specifics and what kind of presidency he’d like to have. First, I asked about federal agencies and about setting high expectations for how well government gets stuff done.
OBAMA: There’s a great example in FEMA. Now, they’ve gotten better since Katrina. But the idea that our basic emergency management functions had been under the leadership of a guy whose only expertise was, you know, the Arabian Horses Association, that’s a problem.
So, some of it is just getting the right people. Some of it is using technology in intelligent ways. One of the things that I’m excited about is to transfer what we’ve learned from this campaign in using technology, into government. I mean, there are huge areas where we can open things up, make things more transparent.
I passed a bill working with a Republican, Tom Coburn, called the Google for Government bill, where now you can go to a single site and you can pull up a searchable database of every dollar of federal spending that’s out there, which means now you’ve got a lot greater accountability.
Well, there are examples of that all throughout our government that can remove bureaucracy, eliminate red tape, make the whole process more customer friendly. You know, anybody’s who’s gone to the post office and wants to buy some stamps and you’re trying to figure out the machine-it’s not working properly, the lines are long. There’s no reason why we can’t make operations like that more efficient and work better. They do it in the private sector all the time.
MADDOW: I have a national security question for you about Afghanistan. You have argued, as has John McCain argued and now the Bush administration agrees, that we need more troops in Afghanistan.
MADDOW: Why do more troops in Afghanistan equal a higher likelihood of success? What’s the exit strategy for Afghanistan? How long are we going to be there?
OBAMA: Well, unfortunately, I think Afghanistan’s going to be tough. I don’t think there is a quick fix to what’s happening there, because we have a combination of a government that is not seen as fully legitimate all throughout Afghanistan. It’s not particularly capable in terms of delivering services right now. You’ve got a very powerful narco-terrorism or intersection of narco-trafficking with terrorism.
Just the terrain is terrible for trying to root out the Taliban and Al Qaida. And then you’ve got Pakistan, and a border that is porous and very difficult. So it’s not going to be easy.
But here’s what I know, that we can’t allow bin Laden and Al Qaida to establish safe havens where they are plotting to kill Americans and training troops. And there’s no dispute that that’s taking place right now.
And so, we’ve got to make Afghanistan enough-stable enough and focused enough on controlling its own borders that we’re not seeing the Taliban and Al Qaida return.
In the meantime, I think the most important thing that we’re going to have to do, in addition to adding more troops, providing alternatives to farmers for the poppy trade, making sure that services are actually being delivered to the Afghan people-the most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan is actually deal with Pakistan. And we’ve got to work with the newly elected government there in a coherent way that says terrorism is now a threat to you, extremism is a threat to you.
We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants.
And, we’ve got to say to the Pakistani people, we’re not just going to fund a dictator in order for us to feel comfortable with who we’re dealing with. We’re going to respect democracy, but we do have expectations in terms of being a partner against terrorism.
MADDOW: But you don’t think having a larger military footprint interferes with their ability to do that stuff, to work with the Pakistani government, to work with the Afghan government?
OBAMA: Oh, look, I mean, we’re part of a coalition force that right now is undermanned. I mean, we have-we-up until fairly recently, had one quarter of the troops in Afghanistan that we had in Iraq. And so, we’re not looking to duplicate 150,000 troops in Afghanistan.
MADDOW: That’s good to hear.
OBAMA: But, on the other hand, if we’ve only got 30,000, or 35,000, on a huge terrain and we’re asking people to do a lot-I don’t want a situation in which our troops continue to be under stop-loss, or they are on the kinds of rotations that they’ve been under, or they don’t have the basic support services that will allow them to consolidate any gains that they make.
Right now, it’s just a little too scattershot an operation for them to secure and then build in these areas. And that’s something that I think we can improve on. But military power alone is not sufficient. It’s necessary, but not sufficient.
MADDOW: Barack Obama, speaking with me today in Sarasota, Florida. Coming up next, I’ll talk live with Dan Rather and get his take on what Sen. Obama had to say today.
But first, we’ve got just one more thing. Since I am standing in a stadium, I felt like I had to do a baseball story. At a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania today, Sarah Palin tried to earn some points by giving a shout-out to the Philadelphia Phillies who clinched the World Series last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am thrilled to be here in the home state of the world champion, Philadelphia Phillies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, that’s booing that you are hearing. Governor, Pennsylvania is really big and Erie is way up in the northwest corner, like near Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Pirates’ turf.
Maybe this map will help. You’ve got your Phillies over here and you’ve got your Pirates over here. And after saying what you said, 21 electoral votes could go right here.
MADDOW: There are low-down, sleazy, unfair illegitimate political smears. And then there’s stuff that’s so low-down, so sleazy, so unfair and so illegitimate that it crosses the line into stupid, like laugh out loud ridiculous.
Exhibit A - this direct mail piece which says Barack Obama would not save a baby stranded on railroad tracks. I am not reading a typo in the teleprompter machine. I did not make that at home on Photoshop as a joke. Barack Obama, father of two girls is now a subhuman, mustache-twisting baby killer villain from the 1800s.
A group called the Susan B. Anthony List takes credit for this mailing apparently sent to anti-abortion voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and elsewhere. Congratulations, Susan B. Anthony List, your mailer says more about you than about the person you are ridiculously slandering.
MADDOW: So, I was granted an in-person audience with Barack Obama here in Sarasota, Florida this afternoon, just five days out from Election Day and several points about Sen. Barack Obama and his ideas, sort of more striking to me from that interview.
For one, there are a couple hundred million people freaking out about this election. Barack Obama does not seem to be one of them. He seemed to me to be supernaturally relaxed. Also, noteworthy, hints of a quasi-new deal possibly brewing for the 21st century, a lot of talk about reinvesting in America’s infrastructure.
He was also blunt about the severe problems in Afghanistan, a fight that will extend way beyond the battlefields, in his words. And Obama explained why he sometimes seems to pull punches on the Republicans Party and conservatism. He will blast the policies of George W. Bush and John McCain in one breath, but steer clear of criticizing the party generally.
You get the feeling that we wants to govern in sort of the 62-38 way, not in the 51-49 way. So what to make of the candidate on the verge of the biggest day of his professional life still cooler than the other side of the pillow?
Probably wise to solicit analysis from the man who called the 2004 Gore-Bush race, quote, shakier than cafeteria Jell-O. Joining us now, Dan Rather who is the managing editor and host of “Dan Rather Reports” on HD Net. Mr. Rather, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you for being here.
DAN RATHER, MANAGING EDITOR AND HOST, “DAN RATHER REPORTS” Thank you, so much, Rachel. Glad to be here.
MADDOW: Did any of Barack Obama’s responses in this interview tonight strike you as remarkable?
RATHER: Yes, Rachel. I thought the whole interview was remarkable in his on way to get a candidate this late in the campaign to appear that relaxed, that much in control of himself and frankly, to give more direct answers than is normal this late in the campaign.
I want to note that John McCain in his more recent interviews has been more like the McCain of 2000 than any other time during this race. But when he talked of the need of doing something about the electric grid problem in this country, which has been a big issue in the Silicon Valley and a lot of other people in recent days, I mark that.
Also his understanding of the Afghanistan situation, at least to the extent that there’s no way that we can accomplish our overall mission in Afghanistan without reducing the poppy - opium production in that country. That is the absolute key to Afghanistan. We’re not talking about eliminating opium production, but a significant reduction. There’s no way that we can make much headway in Afghanistan without doing that, and he expressed that he understood that.
Those two things stood out to me, plus the fact that he continues very much on his basic message, which is, “I’m normal. I’m OK. You’ll be safe with me,” and directly appealing to the independent and swing voters who, what they decide to do over this weekend, when the late deciders decide, may indeed decide this race. For all those reasons, I thought it was a remarkable interview.
MADDOW: He did really deliberately refuse to take my bait about talking about the Republican Party …
RATHER: That’s true.
MADDOW: … and conservatism in general as a problem for the United States, as something that ought to be sort of discredited so that America can move on from conservative politics. He deliberately left that aside.
I wondered if you saw in his acknowledgement of the difficulties in some of the things he wants to work with in the electric grid, with Afghanistan, with Pakistan, with some of these other issues. If you saw a hint of confidence that he is going to be president, that he ought not try to crusade on these issue, but rather be sober and a little humble about what could be accomplished because he’s going to be the guy trying to accomplish things in those fields.
RATHER: Rachel, that’s insightful, and I think all true. It’s no secret that he and his staff have been studying the early days of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration in the early 1930s. And what he obviously has in mind is a combination of FDR’s new deal and John F. Kennedy’s new frontier.
And I thought one of the things that stood out to me was his understanding that by, for example, developing infrastructure projects, these are construction projects that will create jobs. But also people can see them and the late Lyndon Johnson - President Johnson, once said to aspiring political candidates, “Listen, when you get in, build something that people can see when they drive past a park or a schoolyard or a new bridge or a road. People see it. They know you had a hand in developing it and they’ll have it in mind the next election.”
All of that, I think showed once again that in Barack Obama, whether you agree with these policies or not, that he’s on top of his game. Let’s face it, Rachel, we have in this campaign - you may disagree - two people who are qualified to be president, clearly qualified to be president in John McCain and Barack Obama.
Obama starting from way behind in being an unknown has had this constant problem of convincing people that he’s up to the challenge of being president. And I think every time he appears on a program such as this, particularly with an interview such as you conducted with him, he helps himself get across that message, “I’m safe. I’m all right. I will be OK as president, and I do have some fresh ideas.”
MADDOW: Dan Rather, managing editor and host of “Dan Rather Reports” on HD Net. Thank you very much for coming on and happy birthday as of midnight tonight, Dan.
RATHER: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: Coming up from Sarasota, I’m going to get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. Tonight’s topic, me and Barack Obama.
MADDOW: Now it’s time for “Just Enough” with my friend Kent Jones.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel in Sarasota. Because it’s my job to embarrass you, let me just say congratulations on the interview with Sen. Obama. Phenomenal, absolutely great.
MADDOW: Thank you.
JONES: So you’ve been on the “Tonight Show” next to Mark Wahlberg and you chatted with him. Now, Barack Obama. Discuss.
MADDOW: Oh, Barack Obama, much taller.
JONES: Yes. Yes.
MADDOW: I would describe him as wearing similar suits. And Barack Obama, the big behind-the-scene scoop for today, he complimented my pants.
JONES: Oh, very nice.
MADDOW: That’s the big scoop from today.
MADDOW: That was it.
JONES: Now, Daniel Craig said recently that Obama could play James Bond. What do you think? Could he?
MADDOW: Oh, you know, it’s a good question as to which Bond he would be.
JONES: Yes. Daniel Craig? Pierce Brosnan? Sean Connery?
MADDOW: He was a cross between Daniel Craig and Roger Moore.
JONES: Oh, very nice. Very nice.
MADDOW: I think so.
JONES: OK. Is there anything you wish you would have asked him?
Like oh, why didn’t I ask him that?
MADDOW: I was going to ask him if there was a place for John McCain or Sarah Palin in his cabinet because he was like Mr. Bipartisan Pants, but we did not get there. So maybe I will send him an E-mail with that as a follow-up, I guess.
JONES: Yes. Oh, you know, I have one more thing. Can you - oh, send him an E-mail. Did anything surprise you at all about him, just talking back and forth?
MADDOW: It was he was so casual and relaxed and seemingly having such a good time. It was a pleasure actually, and that was a surprise to me.
JONES: I thought it was terrific. Congratulations again, fantastic.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent, I appreciate it. And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. Actually I’ll be back in New York, but you know what I mean. Until then, you can also hear me at 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast to coast on Air America Radio. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Good night.
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