The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/05/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you.
And thank you for sticking around for this hour. We, of course, have planned an entire hour of in-depth footage on the life of ring-tailed lemur and we’ll finish with ornamental horticulture.
(voice over): Day one, or rather page one of a new volume of American victory. The last chapter of volume one was the Bush administration, 63 million Americans voted to close that book and start volume two last night. Welcome to history, President-elect Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At 11:00 o’clock Eastern Time last night, what in American politics, what in America ended along with John McCain’s presidential hopes? And what’s here now to take its place? African-American leadership in a changing, hopeful world. Rising political star, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark joins us live.
Obama is going to have a bipartisan cabinet. But Republican foreign policy expert Dick Lugar reportedly already said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Presidential historian Michael Beschloss puts the promise of a new administration in perspective.
Obama doubles McCain in the Electoral College. The House and Senate get way more blue. And the right-wing immediately proclaims: no mandate. Who’s in charge in the Republican Party now, anyway, and what direction are they going? Former Republican and former senator, Lincoln Chafee joins us on the dangers of badly beaten GOP.
Two Joes, Biden and Lieberman both predicted our adversaries would test a new president early in the game. But this is ridiculously early. Mr. President-elect, the Russian’s just put new missiles on the Polish border. Senator Jim Webb is here to talk foreign policy in this day-old new age.
All that, plus the pundits who got it right, the first day of John McCain’s former and future life and kitschy (ph) music beyond Bush.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts (INAUDIBLE).
(on camera): Elections have consequences. Elections are not just the end of a campaign. The concession speech, the victory speech-these are the sounds of a starting pistol for what the voters had signaled may now begin. Elections aren’t just about picking someone who we would like to win a contest, we are hiring someone to start work. Elections have consequences, remember?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 4, 2004)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I learned capital in the campaign, political capital and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. It’s what happened after the 2000 election. I earned some capital. I earned capital in this election and I’m going to spend it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If Bush had capital and his election had consequences, how much capital does Barack Obama have now and what are the consequences of his lopsided victory? Senator Obama himself is not talking in these terms. His tone could not have contrasted more with how President Bush approached this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that poisoned our politics for so long. Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party of the White House. A party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity. Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Humility and healing are the touchstones of a gracious acceptance speech. But elections, as I say, have consequences. The idea that America is too flawed, too scarred by racism to elect a black president? That idea is over. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said back in April that neither a woman nor black man could ever get elected in a country like this? How satisfying is it to prove that guy wrong?
The idea the white voters in Pennsylvania and Indiana could be counted on to vote for a woman, but never a black man? That idea is over. The idea that the Democratic Party is a regional party, it only appeals in the northeast and on the west coast and part of the upper Midwest? That’s over. The 50-state strategy with all its risks, signed, sealed, and delivered last night’s blue map.
The idea that the Republican Party has an indestructible, unbeatable get-out-to-vote efforts? That idea is over. The idea that 527 groups will dominate any election or any candidate they want to-that’s over. The idea that liberals can’t succeed on television-that’s over. Yes, we can.
The idea, I confess, my idea that the parties were so unfairly branded on national security that we couldn’t elect a Democrat in wartime anymore -that idea is over. The Bradley effect, over.
For all of those assumptions and theories, I welcome you to obsolescence. All of that is finished. That’s all old world.
Barack Obama, from who he is to how he ran, he extinguished the old world. If you hear someone suggests those old world assumptions about politics, race, and what the USA is or is not capable of, if you hear it at work, you hear it at party, or at a press conference, or at a United Nations speech or the Thanksgiving table-you are now licensed to laugh out loud at that person. Today is a new world and it is a new world about which we know very little.
The question tonight is not what just ended. We know what just ended.
The question is: What happens now?
Joining us now is a friend, who I think may know more about what’s in the future of American politics than anybody else I know-Mayor Corey Booker of Newark.
Cory, it’s great to see you again. Thanks for being here.
MAYOR CORY BOOKER, (D) NEWARK, NJ: Nice to see you again.
MADDOW: We know for sure that Barack Obama is good at winning things.
MADDOW: We have seen that in action. The question is: How is he going to lead? Does he spend this massive political capital in order to show that he knows how to do that? Or is this a time for caution and for restraint?
BOOKER: I think it’s a time to get aggressive, frankly, and it’s now a time to spend political capital; it’s time to put politics aside and reach out to the nation. If people think that we can just elect a president and he’s going to solve all our problems, are wrong. And what I think he needs to start sending a message to is we need all Americans to get in this game, democracy has never been a spectator sport. It’s a participatory effort and we all need to play.
And so, it’s a time for a president or a politician period, to change the game a little bit. To stop talking about what I’m going to do for you, but really ask people to do for their country right now.
MADDOW: Well, one of the ways when people get involved in what their country needs and what they want to do for their country is they get involved in party politics. And Obama won, sort of by building his own machine. He didn’t typically go through the Democratic Party channels.
MADDOW: So, he did his own thing. And so, does this 50-state registration, get-out-the-vote canvassing operation that he built that was so impressive, across the country, border to border. Does that become the firmament of a new Democratic Party, that he starts something new?
BOOKER: Again, I hope that it’s not just about party politics, I really don’t.
BOOKER: And if it becomes just about let’s get our guys altogether so we could beat them, that’s fine and that’s the way we’ve been running things for at least the eight years. But this has got to be about something different. We have really challenging problems. And the Democratic Party alone cannot solve them, whether it’s Social Security, a crashed economy, whether it’s the foreign issues abroad, he has got to say that this is not right, left, this is about all of us. Let’s get in the game.
MADDOW: When George Bush talked about this is not right, left, let’s all get in the game, let’s have a bipartisan approach to these things, what he meant was-let’s get all the Democrats to vote for this Republican idea?
MADDOW: And depending on the idea, the Democrats happily did so. Should we hear that-should we at least worry about that when we hear Barack Obama say the same things?
BOOKER: No, because I’ve already seeing him start to float names out there. You’re seeing and hearing people talked about who are not your traditional picks, that I think are going to surprise Americans.
BOOKER: And I think he’s going to reach across the aisle a little bit and bring people into his administration. They’re going to show that some of the greatest ideas in America have come from the Democratic side, but you know what? Ideas that have from the Republican side, like empowerment zones have helped cities like mine. We are a country that should be firmed about outcomes, results. Not our party and not about posturing.
And I’ve seen an Obama reach out and that’s why, even in my state, I met Republicans who were so excited about voting for Barack Obama, not because he was a Democrat, not because he’s a black guy, but because they thought that he was going to bring something. He was going to lift our country finally above its particularistic concerns to our highest aspirations for ourselves.
So, I’m hoping he reinvents politics as a whole. And the America that I’m seeing, especially in our generation, and the millennium is coming behind us, they are not as loyal to party politics. This is the first time in our country’s history, I think, there’s more independents, than there are Republicans or Democrats.
BOOKER: This is where we have to start governing-governing around consensus, governing on our values and ideals, not necessarily about partisan politics. I am sick and tired of people trying to find wedge issues and excite their base but are really just false issues, whether it’s affirmative action, whether it’s issues that often were used to excite people’s anger and their lesser angels, as opposed to those issues that are substantive and real, that the people of my city care about, that appeal to our highest angels or highest aspirations.
MADDOW: If there are things that he wants to get done now, that have an ideological component, essentially, you need to fight a little ideological warfare in order to get there, I’m thinking about things like massive infrastructure investment, which might be the smartest thing, the smartest way to get out of the economic crisis that we are in. It might be the best thing the government, a single thing the Obama government can do.
That’s going to take an ideologically sales pitch that he may not be able to get to, he may not be able to get through in two years, but he might be able to get through now at the very start of what he’s doing when he’s got this honeymoon, right?
BOOKER: Look-I was told that about one of the biggest problems in America right now, is that we are wasting blood and treasure in the prison industrial complex. And people told me this was a left issue, you can’t talk about reducing the number of prisons or helping guys when they come back.
I’m now a mayor in a majority of African-American city that has a Manhattan Institute partnering with me on exit and re-entry (ph), because I didn’t sell it as ideological, I sold it as an American issue, that we are wasting billions of dollars in the state of New Jersey, we’re housing people. What if we do simple basic things to empower their lives? Not only do we lessen our prison population because of that, but we create taxpayers.
So, I think Obama has a pragmatism about him, that he will explain ideas to the American people, not using tired old, liberal, or conservative parlance, he’ll be explaining it to people in a way that touches people’s hearts and compels them to act and work with us.
MADDOW: So, you’re saying left, right doesn’t look the same tomorrow as it did yesterday.
BOOKER: I think that America is not about left or right, it’s about forward and backward.
BOOKER: We’ve been moving backward, it’s time to go forward.
MADDOW: Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, it’s great to see you.
Thanks for being here.
BOOKER: Thank you.
MADDOW: George W. Bush said he wanted to bring bipartisanship to Washington. Remember that? And I do believe that what he meant is that he wanted both parties to come together and vote Republican.
Well, President-elect Barack Obama, which has kind of a nice ring (ph) to it, he also says he wants bipartisanship, doesn’t sound like he means that Bush-style. It sounds like he means that for real. Will the Republicans play along? Presidential historian Michael Beschloss will be here in just a moment, to talk about new presidents and the promises that they made.
And even though the Republicans just got crushed electorally, to hear the conservative pundits talk about it, you would think Obama barely squeaked by, like Bush in 2000. Reality smacks the conservative movement in the face with an electoral two by four, but these guys just kept talking.
First, though, we’ve got one more thing. Coming up in second in a presidential election is kind of a bummer compared to coming in first. Your chance to rule the world-gone. Screaming crowd and adoring fans-gone. Millions of people hanging on your every word-gone. And then there’s the details or rather the lack of a detail. You lose your Secret Service protection. Agents protecting John McCain were apparently gone by 6:00 o’clock this morning.
And so, earlier today, just a regular old senator now, McCain left his condo in Phoenix, and drove himself in a gold Toyota Sequoia with no escort, no Secret Service. The one person along for the ride was McCain’s best political man friend, recently re-elected Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
What a difference a day makes. If this were yesterday, I’d be making a joke about how he chose the gold Sequoia from among his fleet of a dozen vehicles. Today, maybe in politics don’t make the car joke, or maybe something about leaving the turn signal on, Lindsey Graham having to read the map, maybe a short guy, big car inference.
MADDOW: The election is over, but President-elect Obama will not be sworn in until January 20th. So, what’s President Bush up to in the meantime? During his extended period of lameducky-tude (ph)? Well, here’s our first indication. President Bush’s latest executive act, appointing country singer Lee Greenwood to the National Council on the Arts. You know, “God Bless the USA” Lee Greenwood, that you will remember for his moving patriotic serenades of Sarah Palin on the campaign trail. National Arts Council, baby.
Mr. Greenwood assumes a six-year term on the council, which makes him the only one of President Bush’s appointments that will serve through Obama’s first term on that particular board. Bush legacy one, change, zero, so far.
MADDOW: Meet the new bosses, America. Not the same as the old bosses. It was not technically a landslide, but the political terra firma certainly shook a little last night, leaving the Republicans with less desirable turf and less of it. Barack Obama’s sweep into the executive branch means that the faces of power in the federal government, or an African-American man, a woman, Nancy Pelosi, and a Mormon from Nevada, Harry Reid.
On the Republican side, who’s roughly in charge there now? Oh, the Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, political titans. More on the Republicans later.
You know who else wound up on higher political ground after last night? DNC Chair Howard Dean who’s over-the-top-tude in 2004 made people laugh at him. But, he’s laughing all the way to the political bank now. His patented 50-state strategy not only formed the strategic foundation of Obama’s victory, it also reseeded the Democratic Party into fertile ground, from coast to coast and border to border.
So, what will the new bosses, particularly President-elect Obama, do with their new power? Well, one thing seems clear, Obama will act quickly. NBC News has confirmed that 2 ½ hours before he won the election, an hour before NBC News could project that he had won Ohio, Obama had already to Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel the job of White House chief of staff. Emanuel has reportedly not accepted the job, at least not yet. But the story indicates the pace at which Obama will move.
Rumored front-runners for the new cabinet? John Kerry, Bill Richardson, Janet Napolitano, and Robert Kennedy, Jr. They’ve all made the rounds in conversation and in reporting. And Lawrence Summers is reportedly a possibility for treasury chief, though there is particular urgency to fill that post to get on the economy.
And it’s hard to imagine the Obama administration wanting to have to devote the time necessary to sell the country on the idea of a guy who made himself famous at Harvard by suggesting that girls can’t do math.
It’s not unusual for new presidents to suggest that they are going to govern in a bipartisanship way. But is it likely that they will? Does it usually happen? Does it ever happen? And is Obama moving unusually fast to put his team together here?
Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Mr. Beschloss, thanks for coming back to the show.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Hi, Rachel. My pleasure. Good to see you.
MADDOW: You, too.
Is it unusual to get the presidential transition into such high gear the day after the election?
BESCHLOSS: It is and it’s a really good thing because, you know, you got a president coming in, President-elect Obama with all these problems. You know, crucial decisions have to be made in the next 2 ½ months on the war in Iraq, other national security problems, but especially on this and the financial crisis. If he doesn’t get involved, many of those decisions may be made by George W. Bush, a very lame duck.
MADDOW: What kind of presidential history lessons do you think the Obama folks should be studying right now to try to avoid mistakes made by other presidents in their first days and in their transition planning?
BESCHLOSS: Well, I think they’ve learned one, already. And that is to get going quickly because given the crisis that we’re in, Rachel, he’s got to function almost as a sitting president beginning this week. If you’re going to be a sitting president, making decisions about the economy and national security, in consulting with President Bush about them, you’ve got to have at least a staff.
And so, he’s begun appointing a staff. Rahm Emanuel is probably a very good choice. And President-elect Obama is benefiting from the mistakes that Bill Clinton says that he made. He says that he spent most of the time between his election and the inauguration worrying about diversity in his cabinet rather than choosing a staff. He says he did that at the end, he says, “I made a real mistake.” And I’m sure he’s told Barack Obama, “Don’t do the same thing.”
MADDOW: President-elect Obama has talked about having a bipartisan cabinet, speaking of diversity in the cabinet. Is there real history of working bipartisanship in presidential cabinets, more than just tokens?
BESCHLOSS: Yes. It usually has been tokens.
For instance, Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 appointed a cabinet that was all Republican except for one guy, the secretary of labor who was, I guess, he was ahead of his time. The guy was a plumber. It was not Joe the Plumber, it was Martin the Plumber. And he didn’t feel very comfortable because it was a cabinet called “eight millionaires and a plumber.” He resigned pretty fast. That sort of what usually happens.
But John F. Kennedy, for instance, when he came in on ‘61, he appointed a treasury secretary, Douglas Deland (ph), who was a Republican. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, also a Republican, outgoing president of Ford Motor Company.
MADDOW: He is-Senator Obama, President-elect Obama is coming into power not just with the resounding popular vote victory, there’s sort of an emotional mandate around his election, I think, I hope it’s not going out too far on the limb to say that. I mean, Americans have never turned out for an election like they did for this one. But it’s more just the turnout, there is something emotional about the way in which he is being swept in, partly because of his race, I think, partly because of such-the Bush administration being in such disfavor.
What other presidents have faced that kind of a start? And does it afford them any sort of slack, any sort of cushion at all in terms of how they are treated initially?
BESCHLOSS: It does. When Franklin Roosevelt came in on 1933, he was seen almost as a leader on a white horse at a time that Herbert Hoover was stuck (ph), the economy was crushing, people were suffering, but the one thing that FDR and Barack Obama have so much in common, they spoke so beautifully. They could persuade.
You know, in March of ‘33 when Roosevelt became president, there was an awful lot to fear. The banks were falling apart. A lot of people in this country wanted fascism. But Roosevelt says, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It gave people a lot of self-assurance. Barack Obama certainly has that same gift.
MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, some invaluable insight. Thanks for taking time to be with us tonight.
BESCHLOSS: My pleasure, Rachel. Be well.
Coming up: Congratulations to our president-elect poured in from around the world. The Russian leader? His welcome to the world stage for Barack Obama consisted of a threat to position missiles on the border with Poland. Happy Election Day to you, too, Dmitry.
Later, I will speak with Virginia Senator Jim Webb about the testing of Barack Obama and whether his hope for a bipartisan foreign policy is likely to come to fruition.
MADDOW: OK. So, Obama gets more than twice as many electoral votes as John McCain. Democrats pick up seats in the House and the Senate. And what’s the first thing the right wing does? They say Obama doesn’t have a mandate. What’s that? The audacity of muff? Where is the Republican Party heading now? Former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee will be joining us live with some guidance.
First, though, it’s time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in today’s news. November 4th, 2008 will be remembered for the history made last night. History many thought we would never see – a candidate overcoming some voters’ biases to rule triumphantly into Washington. Yes, for the first time in our 232-year history as a nation, a convicted felon may have been elected to the United States Senate. You stay classy, Alaska.
Last week, Senator Ted Stevens was convicted of seven felonies in a corruption scandal. And with all but three of Alaska’s 438 precincts counted, Alaska’s most powerful and popular felon maintains a two-point lead, 4,000 votes separate him and his opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. But twice that number of early votes still needs to be counted, and 10 times that number of absentee votes still needs to be counted. So, this race could go on maybe for another two weeks.
Polls have showed Stevens down by at least eight points the day before the election. Down by eight? We need some sort of new name like a Bradley effect for when you tell pollsters that you won’t vote for the felon, but you really will.
If reelected, Ted Stevens faces resistance to his return to the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid says there’s no doubt the Senate should kick him out, though, it would take a 2/3 vote to expel him. Even Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Ted Stevens should resign if the felony charge stands through the appeals process.
But if Stevens is truly reelected and he is then forced out of the Senate, you know who gets to choose his replacement? That would be the governor of Alaska. Remember her? And no, before you ask, she cannot appoint herself. But, she could resign as governor and then have her lieutenant governor appoint her to the Senate. You betcha.
Former Kentucky Governor Happy Chandler (ph), he did that in 1939. He resigned as governor which elevated his lieutenant governor to be the new governor and then that guy in turn appointed Happy to the Senate. So, thanks or no thanks or whatever, also.
Also, this was a 21-month campaign which means 21 months of polls and punditry and predictions. So, who among us got the national election polls right? If you take me out of the mix because I was awful, the predictors and polls were generally accurate. The unofficial results are, was Obama with 52.4 percent and McCain with 46.3 percent.
Who gets the gold star for being the most accurate predictor? The award for best prediction goes to Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight.com, who predicted Obama would get 52.3 percent and McCain would have 46.3 percent. Way to go, Nate.
The best individual poll award goes to Pew Research and Rasmussen Reports. Both called it almost exactly with 52-46 percentage points, giving Obama a six-point spread.
And the pundit who got the electoral votes right? Mark Halperin from “Time” magazine who predicted on Sunday that Obama would get 349 electoral votes, which is correct for now, unless North Carolina adds to his total.
So congratulations, you guys. Overall, the “Real Clear Politics” average of a whole bunch of polls - that was 52.1 and McCain 44.5. It’s really close for the averages.
There was a lot of neurosis about accuracy this year after the New Hampshire primary. But the pollsters did pretty well ultimately, except for me who was totally insistently wrong, all the time.
And finally, the American public and Barack Obama have already been married for almost a day. So is it too early for us to give him a to-do list, a “honey-do” list of things that should be tackled immediately?
My picks - the election system, infrastructure, veterans’ care, nuclear proliferation, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan.
You know, we’re all in this together. So do me a favor - go to Rachel.MSNBC.com. You can click on “presidential priorities” over on the left-hand side for the President Obama to-do list. Tell us what you want to be on the to-do list for the Obama administration. And then after we get the list all put together, we’ll start nagging.
MADDOW: Have you ever boiled lobster? As the delicious crustacean descends into the lethal bubbles, air escapes the lobster’s shell and it sounds like a scream. It’s not nice, but it is part of the process of preparing pleasurable nourishment.
I’m very sorry to my vegetarian and lobster-loving viewers. I’m sorry. But still, the analogy is useful, and it brings us to the Republican Party today. Trust me, it will all make sense in a minute.
First, the facts as we know them. Did Barack Obama win last night? Yes. Did he get more than 50 percent of the popular vote? Yes. Was it an electoral landslide? Sort of. If not a landslide, then a very serious mud slide. Did his party’s control of both Houses of Congress grow? Sure did.
So what’s the take-away from all this? Well, obviously, it’s that Barack Obama has no mandate to govern at all. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) just like the political party that he just defeated, because obviously, they were the real winners.
That was a scream of a lobster in scalding hot water. As the pillars of the Republicanism claimed that the Obama administration has no political latitude to start with. Conservative columnist Bob Novak wrote about it today. He said, quote, “Obama neither received a broad mandate from the public nor the needed large congressional majorities.”
He didn’t? You know, Bob, actually, we’re all talking about last night’s election. What election are you talking about? When President Bush barely won reelection, the first thing he bragged about was having earned political capital that he planned to spend. If his 2.5 point spread in the popular vote gave him capital to spend, how is Obama’s 6 percent win not a mandate?
Here’s how my colleague and pal Pat Buchanan interpreted the results last night as they were happening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Barack Obama has got some very serious problems ahead of him. And I think he’s going to have to try to go down the center of the road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Go down the center of the road? That was the lesson of last night? Really? If President-elect Obama did want to reach across the aisle, who and what would he be reaching toward? And who would want to be reaching back exactly?
The GOP is at square one right now. Who is their leadership? What are their guiding principles? Outside of John McCain’s conciliatory and, I thought, grand concession speech, all we have heard so far is a ramping up of the anti-Obama stuff. We heard it even during the concession speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had the
honor of calling Sen. Barack Obama to congratulate him -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Lesson for trying to stop it - when the crowd was not booing Obama, they were chanting Sarah, Sarah. Sarah Palin? She’s the new Republican Party? Not much bipartisanship there. Just more scorched earth politics, or so it appears.
“Newsweek” magazine revealed today, quote, “Palin launched her attack on Obama’s association with William Ayers before the campaign had finalized a plan to raise the issue. McCain had not signed off on it.”
Apparently, Sarah Palin rogue-ness knew no bounds. And if she’s not the new leadership of the Republican Party, who will be? Can you name any of these guys? Look at them. Take a second. Recognize them? Give up? That’s the new power structure.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell who barely, barely, barely, barely survived his reelection bid in Kentucky. House minority leader John Boehner and House minority whip Roy Blunt.
Did you write those names down? Could you say those names back to me right now, if you had to? After successive electoral routes by the Democrats, the current Republican Party is sort of back to square one. If the Democratic Party is now the big tent led by an African-American, a woman and a Mormon, then what is the Republican Party?
Right now, it’s a leaky lean-to, and much like a country left in defeat after a war. I wonder if a political party left in defeat, after an electoral defeat like this, can be a dangerous thing for a country, as well, especially in a time of national turmoil like we are facing now with two wars at hand and an economic crisis in full effect.
Joining us now is former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. He has had a complicated relationship with the Republican Party. After losing his reelection bid in 2006, he officially left the party to become an independent. He endorsed Barack Obama earlier this year.
Sen. Chafee, thank you for taking time to join us tonight.
FMR. SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE, FORMER SENATOR OF RHODE ISLAND: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: It seems to me that the lesson the Republican Party is may be taking from the presidential defeat is that they weren’t ruthless enough. Sen. McCain didn’t play the Rev. Wright card early enough, often enough or at all at the end. They didn’t make Sen. Obama scary enough? Do you get the sense that the GOP thinks that is the lesson to learn from last night and are you concerned about that if that’s the case?
CHAFEE: Yes, and I’m not surprised. I expect some of the right-wing talk show people you mentioned, and even the Rush Limbaughs, the Bill O’Reillys, the Sean Hannitys to get - immediately start out on this. And that strategy, the Karl Rove strategy, if you will, of energizing the base, motivating the base, actually divides the country.
And in the past, it’s been good at winning elections for Republicans, but terrible at governing. The Republicans have failed at governing. They’ve been great at winning elections by dividing the country and energizing the base. But then they have been in utter failure at governing because once you divide the country, it’s so difficult to govern. But now, they can’t even win elections. So they are bankrupt on both cases. They fail to govern, and now they fail to win elections.
MADDOW: In looking at the reasons for Sen. McCain’s defeat, a lot of people on the right have said, well, it’s really about the economy. If we hadn’t had this economic collapse, he would have won this, or at least would have had a shot.
It strikes me that that is a weird thing to call on as an excuse for electoral defeat. The idea that you would accept that you can’t win when the issue is the economy, and not even try to sell the idea that your party does have the right answers on the economy.
Do you feel like there is an economic vision around which the Republican Party will re-coalesce?
CHAFEE: Well, don’t forget that the Bush-Cheney and the Republican Congress inherited a surplus - historic surplus - and squandered it in eight short years. So I blame a lot of this economic meltdown on the lack of discipline the Republican Party showed in their leadership.
We took a surplus and we squandered it with tax cuts which cut our revenue and watched our expenditures, whether it’s the wars that we have overseas or whether it’s the farm(ph) subsidies that came back or there’s the prescription drug benefit to Medicare - all very, very expensive. And of course, a whole new Homeland Security federal bureaucracies - these are all un-Republican type of initiatives.
And that’s, I think, the reason we’re in this economic meltdown right now, because we lost all fiscal discipline. I used to argue in my Republican caucus when I was in the Senate - it breaks my heart to hear the Democrats talking about fiscal discipline. That used to be such a Republican virtue. And it completely has been torn to shreds under the Bush-Cheney administration.
MADDOW: I am concerned, I have to say, moving forward and thinking about the specific policy challenges that lay ahead for the Obama administration. I’m concerned what the Republican Party might try to coalesce around.
It’s not just fiscal discipline, but specifically, anti-spending, that they’ll become a force - sort of a Herbert Hoover-style response to the economic crisis, that they will oppose any spending that might be seen as a countercyclical force to try to save the economy. Do you see any risk that that is what the party will become, particularly around the issue like backlash to the bailout?
CHAFEE: Yes, I do - exactly as you mentioned, the backlash, the bailout, the House voting against particularly the Republican caucus at a time that maybe we needed to have that investment. But I do think it would be difficult for the Republican Party to turn on a dime, if you will. The party that was the “spend, spend, spend party” over the last eight years that went through all those programs adding to the federal spending program, at the same time, cutting our revenues, to all of a sudden, turn on a dime and say that we’re going to be a party that’s not going to be in favor of any kind of spending.
MADDOW: Sen. Lincoln Chafee, former senator from Rhode Island, became a political independent in 2007. Thank you so much for your time tonight, sir. I appreciate it.
CHAFEE: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Next, we will talk about President-elect Obama’s plan to put some Republicans, possibly in his administration which may be a bit of sticky wicket, seeing as how the first Republican speculatively being considered for a job in the State Department has already said no before he was even asked. Is a bipartisan foreign policy really possible? Democratic Senator Jim Webb from Virginia is up next with his opinion.
But first, one more thing about last night’s public euphoria after Barack Obama’s victory. We saw a lot of spontaneous gathering in the streets last night. But it wasn’t all celebration. Viewers watching MSNBC saw this shot of San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood where folks were almost certainly elated about Obama’s victory.
It wasn’t all good in the Castro, however. California’s Proposition 8, the amendment to the California constitution to ban same-sex marriage, it passed in the early morning hours. The amendment does not just prohibit gay rights. It takes away rights previously enjoyed. Same-sex marriages entered into since June will be still honored by the state. But forgive some San Franciscans - even some very liberal San Franciscans that they weren’t just 100 percent jubilant in the streets last night.
MADDOW: A quick look around the world to see the response to the Obama victory. You’ll see expected jubilation. This election, whatever it means to us as Americans, essentially hits the reset button for the way the rest of the world views us.
After 9/11, countries around the world set aside any beefs they had with us in the past and stood with us shoulder to shoulder. Before last night, I doubt that even another 9/11 could have had that effect again because of the mosh pit, pointless destructive idiocy of our government’s conduct these past eight years.
But last night, Sen. Obama’s election, I think, hits the reset button for our place in the world once again. You don’t get too many second chances in the world. President-elect Obama will get his presidential daily brief tomorrow, the top secret daily intelligence rundown that starts every president’s every day. That means the spy world, tonight, as we speak is probably figuring out what to lay on him first. What he needs to know most urgently from there, not for public consumption, secret inside dirt on our enemies and our allies.
In the meantime, the president-elect is getting welcome notes from his fellow world leaders. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, sends his congratulatory gift -an announcement, just hours after the election was called, that he’s deploying missiles to Russia’s border with Poland as a show of force in response to a planned American missile defense system.
And what was Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s heartwarming message? Congrats, looking forward to working with you? Yes, but also, he said this, quote, “Our demand is that there will be no civilian casualties in Afghanistan. We cannot win the fight against terrorism with air strikes. This is my first demand of the new president of the United States to put an end to civilian casualties.”
This is a demand President Karzai has made of the Bush administration before. As soon as the race was called here in America, it seems President Karzai decided to redirect his demands to the new administration. Now, from his part, President-elect Obama has touted plans for a bipartisan foreign policy approach.
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT-ELECT: It is important for us, particularly, when it comes to national security, to return to a tradition of nonpartisan national security. You know, we have politicized our foreign policy in a way that I think has done us great damage. And I want to return to a tradition that says, you know, our differences ended the waters (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nice to hear. There is, however, already an extra to that plan. Responding not to an offer, but just to rumors that he would be asked to be part of the Obama administration’s State Department, Republican Senator Richard Lugar made it known that he doesn’t want the job. So what will become of President-elect Obama’s bipartisan plans? Is bipartisan foreign policy even possible?
Joining us now, Sen. Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia. Sen. Webb, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA): Nice to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: First of all, let me congratulate you on a very deep blue Virginia. You must be proud as a Virginia Democrat today.
WEBB: I think it was really a great day for the country and I - hopefully, this is going to drive a stake into the heart of the Karl Rove type of politics that is really taking country in the wrong direction over the last eight years.
When I look back on this election, what I saw out of John McCain last night is the John McCain that I’ve known for 30 years. He was gracious. He was funny. He’s self-deprecating. And once the Karl Rove machine moved into his campaign in June, that, plus his nomination of Sarah Palin, I think, ruined his campaign.
So this is a good day. It was a good day in Virginia. And it was a good day in the country. And we need to now go forward and solve the country’s problems and have ourselves be held accountable in a couple years.
MADDOW: Do you see a future for bipartisan foreign policy? Do you think that foreign policy has been irretrievably politicized in the last eight years in a way that we won’t be able to treat it in the way that we did in the years before the Bush administration?
WEBB: The last eight years has been - has given us two different types of problems. One is the very partisan nature of the administration and the way that it required many Republicans to align themselves with an administration that was off base.
And then, the second part of it was this incredible transfer of power after 9/11 to the executive branch, away from the legislative branch. This is a much different Congress than it was 30 years ago when I was a young committee counsel up here.
MADDOW: Between now and the end of the year, something needs to be sorted out in Iraq in terms of the legal framework that governs the presence of our troops there. The Status of Forces Agreement that’s being worked on right now does not seem to be coming to a place where it’s going to be tightly wrapped up by New Year’s Eve and if it’s not wrapped up by New Year’s Eve when that U.N. mandate expires at midnight, it will be essentially illegal for our troops to leave their bases in Iraq?
What do you think will happen there? What do you think should happen there? And has Sen. Obama telegraphed what he wants to do about that issue?
WEBB: What I would suggest - and it looks like from the Iraqi side, this is starting to move forward - is that we extend the authority under the security council of the United Nations for a sufficient period of time that the Obama administration can come forward, go through this agreement and then bring it to the Congress so that we can give our proper constitutional approval of the document.
And it’s a very serious issue, as you said, because as of December 31st, we have no authority under international law to be operating in Iraq.
MADDOW: Last night, in his first speech as president-elect, Barack Obama said, “To those who would tear this world down, we will defeat you.” He said it bluntly and with a sort of calmness that is the characteristic of his oratory. I wonder if you feel like President-elect Obama needs to convey a sense of toughness? A sense of national security focus and interest, in a way, not just for domestic political purposes because he’s won the election, but internationally.
If there is a sense that the rest of the world is looking to the new president to find out if we should be tested, if he could be tested, if the American - if we could be pushed around in a way that we couldn’t before.
WEBB: Well, I think that he should and will bring strong people around him and he doesn’t need to proceed forward with any sense of false bravado anymore than he need to during the campaign. I thought he conducted himself in a very remarkable way during the campaign but we will have these issues and the best thing to do as a leader is to get good people around you who can give you the right sort of the counsel and to make the right decisions and that’s what we’re going to be looking for from President Obama.
MADDOW: Virginia Senator Jim Webb, thank you so much for joining us today. And again, congratulations on your success in Virginia.
WEBB: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
MADDOW: Coming up next, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. There’s Zydeco(ph) in my politics.
MADDOW: Now, it’s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones.
Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. Since everything in life is better when you add Zydeco music to it, our team put together some images from yesterday’s amazing events using, “Oui, on peut.” “Yes we can,” the song written especially for the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. Voila!
(VIDEO CLIP OF MUSIC VIDEO OF ZYDECO MUSICIANS PLAYING “OUI, ON
MADDOW: That was awesome.
JONES: Everybody was danced. It was fantastic.
MADDOW: I love that. Kent, when you were here last night when you were in the control room …
MADDOW: … what was the feeling like in the control room? Because out here, it was very, very serious.
JONES: It was pretty serious in the control room, too.
JONES: The weight of history doesn’t sit down that often, but it did last night and it was something.
MADDOW: I mean, I just couldn’t have anticipated that we would have - you just really felt the gravity of what was happening.
JONES: Absolutely, and it was beautiful.
MADDOW: It’s great to have you here. All right. Well, thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. Until then, you can E-mail us email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>. Check out our new, full-length podcast, the entire show, iTunes, at Rachel.MSNBC.com. You can also hear my radio show on Air America Radio, coast to coast at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts now. Good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.