The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/08/09

Guests:
Joe Trippi, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Caroline Moore
Transcript:

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  I‘m not sure that I should be counted on to restore anyone‘s dignity, even my own.  So, we‘re not going to say nice here.

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Well, then we‘re going to be nice, aren‘t we?

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  People watch that, too.  Won‘t they?

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.  Thank you, Michael Musto.

And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.  We are loaded from tip to tail tonight with a new fake kook end movement to impeach President Obama.  A new, almost unbelievable abortion law, a new fake grassroots campaign from the conservative P.R. man Rick Berman.

We‘ve got news from foreign correspondent Richard Engel making some news about Afghanistan.  We‘ve got a brand new segment on this show called “TMI.”

And we‘ve got the best guest in the whole world to report on tomorrow‘s moon bombing.

Tip to tail—we have a very big show for you.

But we begin tonight with the end game on health care.  Health reform has to get through five committees in total.  It has so far made it through four.  And today, we learn that the fifth one, the last one, the most conservative one by far will finally vote on Tuesday.

The top Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid, announcing that vote and firing a warning shot, today, against opponents of reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER:  There are still those who consider this a zero-sum game and will only declare victory if President Obama concedes defeat.  This country has no place for those who wish for its leaders to fail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell returned fire immediately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, MINORITY LEADER:  Listening to the proponents of these plans, you get the sense they are more concerned about their legacies than what the American people actually want.  But here‘s an idea—how about asking the American people what they want instead?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Important moment there.  How about asking the American people what they want instead.

It‘s the Republican leader tipping his hand that he thinks the polls are with the Republicans, that he thinks the American people just don‘t want health reform and that they support the Republicans in blocking it.

Why would Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans believe that?  One possible explanation is that they‘ve been pouring through lots and lots of polling on the issue of health care.  But if that were the case, frankly, the polls broadly speaking are not really, obviously, on the Republican side.  The polls are pretty favorable to health care reform.

So, Mr. McConnell would therefore be unlikely to bust out with “Hey,

ask the American people what they want” as a Republican talking point

An alternative explanation is that the Republican leadership may have been watching a lot of FOX News lately.

The FOX News Channel released a new poll on health reform this week, along with Opinion Dynamics.  The poll offered some pretty dire numbers for those who are in favor of reform.  According to FOX‘s numbers, only 33 percent of Americans favor health reform legislation, an overwhelming 53 percent oppose it.  It‘s a 20-point gap.  Wow.

So, if you‘re Mitch McConnell watching FOX, of course, ask the American people what they want.  They don‘t want reform.

Here‘s the problem.  As first noticed and reported by polling savant, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com, before any respondents in FOX‘s poll were asked about health reform, they were first asked questions like this:

“Do you think President Obama apologizes too much to the rest of the world for past U.S. Policies?”  Or, “Do you think Barack Obama‘s travel and speaking schedule makes him look more like he‘s a candidate on the campaign trail or more like he‘s the president of the United States?”

How about this one?  “Would you rather cut spending now so future generations don‘t have to pay?  Or keep spending at current levels and let future generations pay.”

Those were the warm-up questions that FOX‘s poll asked, priming their respondents for the question about health care reform.  And perhaps, unsurprisingly, health reform faired quite poorly compared to other, recent, more normal polls.

That flawed figure was treated as news by FOX all day.  And lots of conservatives and Republicans watched FOX News all day.  And perhaps that explains why Republicans ideas about the country thinks about health reform are somewhat out of keeping with what the country mostly really does think about health reform.

If the types of questions that appeared on that FOX poll before the health care question sounded a little familiar to you, it‘s because we have seen this sort of thing before.  The Republican National Committee disguised a fundraising appeal as a poll, asking their potential donors if they were concerned that health reform was a secret plot to base health care on voter registration so Republicans could all be denied care.

We also saw sex scandal-embattled Republican Senator David Vitter put out a fundraising appeal disguised as a poll recently.  He asked his potential donors, quote, “The Obama plan includes free coverage for an estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the United States.  Do you support this?”

You wouldn‘t treat data gleaned from questions like that as news, would you?  It‘s campaigning.  It‘s questioning that is not designed to illicit an opinion, it‘s designed to shape your opinion.  Normal polling isn‘t like that.

When normal news organizations do polling on an issue like health reform, the types of question that precede the “Do you want health care reform or not” question would be stuff like this one from a recent CNN poll: “Do you think the economy is in a recession or not?”  Or this one from an NBC poll: “Do you think the country is headed in the right direction or the wrong direction?  Or this one from an ABC poll: “Which party do you trust to do a better job coping with the nation‘s major problems?”

That‘s what normal polling looks like.

And then there‘s FOX.  “Do you think President Obama apologizes too much to the rest of the world for past U.S. policies?”

One of these things is not like the other, OK?  It‘s fine if FOX wants to do this, honestly, knock yourself out.  It is probably somewhat effective as a campaign tactic against health reform.  But the sort of information that you get from poll respondents after you have pushed them like this should probably not be taken as a real data point about where Americans actually stand on reform.

Doing this sort of polling makes good business sense for FOX News, I imagine.  They get to report to their conservative audience exactly what that audience wants to hear.  That keeps the audience happy, that keeps them tuned in.  I‘m sure it is great for ratings.  FOX‘s ratings, frankly, are through the roof.  I totally understand why they would want to do something like this.

The flawed data being broadcast by FOX is probably also very exciting for elected Republicans to hear.  But because it is made to look like it is genuine news, that it is made to look like it is real information, it‘s possible that it is messing Republicans up.  It is giving them bad information for which to make strategic policy decisions.

Businessmen and women who are Republicans, like the people who run FOX News, may benefit from this sort of thing because it‘s probably a good business move for the FOX News Channel.  But elected Republicans in Congress who are taking this stuff as if it‘s real, as if it‘s actual news, and allowing it to inform their policy potions may be being grossly ill-served by it.

Joining us now is Democratic strategist Joe Trippi.  He‘s no stranger to polls, having worked on presidential campaigns of Howard Dean and John Edwards and Walter Mondale, and even the late Ted Kennedy.

Mr. Trippi, thanks very much for being here.

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Good to be here.

MADDOW:  Do you think that it could skew the answer to the health care question, to lead up to it with a whole bunch of other question that are essentially just sort of Republican talking points?

TRIPPI:  You know, I don‘t—I don‘t know.  I mean—I think some of the questions were actually interesting.  I mean, if you asked the question, “Is Barack Obama more of a campaigner or president,” if more of Americans say he‘s president and said he‘s campaigning, then it doesn‘t.  I mean, in other words, it‘s one of these things that it‘s sort in the eye of the beholder.

If progressives—if the answer progressives want, actually want, he‘s the president, not a campaigner then, that‘s—that would lead people the right way.  So, what I‘m saying is, you know, Opinion Dynamics doesn‘t have a reputation—I know it‘s interesting because Nate Silver points this out, is that on the president‘s approval rating, they are actually better than the other polls.  I can‘t remember, but on some other factors, they are better.

So, when you actually look at these questions, I‘m not sure—in fact, I don‘t know that I buy into this argument.  “A.P.” had the president up 10 points in his approval, and had health care up big.  But there were more Democrats in the poll.  And so, what I‘m saying is, you know, my own view of this is, let‘s view this as fact.

MADDOW:  Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  Well, this is why—this is why I wanted to have you on though, because I know, because this is my—my thesis on this is that this is essentially—I mean, push pulling is a term that gets an exclamation point.

TRIPPI:  Sure.

MADDOW:  . on it when you‘re talking about polling firms—and Opinion Dynamics is not FOX News.  And so, their reputation is a bit on the line here.

TRIPPI:  Right.

MADDOW:  But if FOX is paying them to ask questions like, “Don‘t you think the president is apologizing for America abroad,” it‘s not a—it‘s not a question that you can ask in a loaded—without.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  Or you ask the question, “Is the president apologizing too much?”

MADDOW:  Yes.

TRIPPI:  And a majority say yes or a majority say no.  I mean, if the majority said no, we‘re all like.

MADDOW:  Is this “Haven‘t you stop—when did you stop beating your wife” sort of question?

TRIPPI:  Well, my point is that, it is—is the country is in the wrong direction or the right direction?

MADDOW:  Right.

TRIPPI:  Well, me, I think it‘s in the wrong direction right now.  Not because of anything Barack Obama‘s done, you know, I think we‘re living with Bush problems that gone handed to him.  But I think it‘s the wrong direction right now.

So, all I‘m saying is, here‘s where I am from a progressive.  I think take Opinion Dynamics as real, because if they are right, we have a lot of work to do.  White House, progressives dig in, let‘s fight even harder.  And if they‘re wrong, we‘re going to win anyway.

So, you know, my point is, I‘m not really sure whether it affects much

and actually, when you look at their track record, they‘re not—I‘m not -

Opinion Dynamics is not known for cooking the books.

           

MADDOW:  Right.

TRIPPI:  They‘re actually been pretty accurate.  So.

MADDOW:  Which is—which is why I think this is an important story. 

But I do think it‘s what.

TRIPPI:  Well, I think.

MADDOW:  But let me just ask you one question about it.

TRIPPI:  Sure.

MADDOW:  And I think that polling well is really hard, like when you cite that “A.P.” example.  That was a sampling problem.

TRIPPI:  Right.

MADDOW:  They had a skewed sample and that‘s why they got a skewed result.  But if polling companies are being paid by opinion media to ask questions that are “When did you stop beating your wife” questions, do they have a responsibility to not do that?  If polling is being used as a form of campaigning, do they have a responsibility to say, “No, we‘re not going to ask that”?

TRIPPI:  Yes, I think absolutely.

MADDOW:  OK.

TRIPPI:  Absolutely.  But I would say that when I looked at the some of those questions, I thought they were among some of the more interesting questions I‘ve seen asked in a while.  I‘m not sure—in other words, was there a bunch of folks saying, “Hey, let‘s ask these interesting questions that lead in.”  No, no, and I mean that.  I mean, like I really think it is an interesting question, “Is President Obama campaigning too much or is he president, you see him as a campaigner or president?”  I think that‘s a very interesting question.

Should it have been right in front of the health care question?  I don‘t know I‘m not a pollster, but my point is, that‘s more like the “A.P.,” should they—how did they get their samples wrong.

MADDOW:  Yes.

TRIPPI:  I mean, I‘m not prepared—I know we‘re all FOX this, you know, all that.  I just don‘t—I have a very high opinion of Opinion Dynamics and I don‘t the FOX News organization necessarily went there.  I don‘t think that‘s what happened here.

And again, I think, the message to progressives should be: who cares?  Let‘s dig in.  Let the White House—let‘s get the votes, let‘s organize for a public option.  Let‘s do the things that we think are right.  And who gives—who cares whether there was something wrong in the “A.P.” poll or the way FOX asked its questions.

MADDOW:  Right.  Well, I think—and that‘s why—that‘s why I wanted to have you on about it, because to me, it seems like this is—this sort of comes with a fog horn on it in terms of Republicans being cautionary about it.  I‘m not saying—I don‘t—you are saying we are all supposed to be FOX‘s.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  You sort of cast dispersion on me.

TRIPPI:  No, I did not.

MADDOW:  No, you did by saying we‘re all supposed to say that FOX News is X.  I actually don‘t have that sort of opinion about FOX.

TRIPPI:  Right.

MADDOW:  I think they are a fairly diverse organization.

TRIPPI:  Right.

MADDOW:  But in this case, I think that, the fact that they have become the de facto news organization of the Republican Party, that the Republican Party takes their information disproportionately from FOX.

TRIPPI:  Well.

MADDOW:  Wait.

TRIPPI:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Is a problem if what FOX is doing is telling a conservative audience what they want to hear.

TRIPPI:  Two things I would say, from being in this business for a long time.

MADDOW:  Yes.

TRIPPI:  Democrats and Joe Trippi will be pumping the “A.P.” polls to high heaven for the next week.

MADDOW:  Sure.

TRIPPI:  Republicans will be screaming about how great the FOX poll was and Opinion Dynamics.  And it wouldn‘t matter, it would be switched, if “A.P.” had it the other way, and FOX had—and Opinion Dynamics had it the other way, both—we both grab on to which ever poll makes our argument to the American people.

MADDOW:  Right.

TRIPPI:  So, we‘re all going to do that.  The other thing I‘d say is, this is the most complex issue I‘ve seen in my career in politics.

MADDOW:  Health care.

TRIPPI:  Oh.

MADDOW:  Not push poll.

TRIPPI:  I have—yes, yes—I have—I have - right, you know, I have seen polls for people I‘m working for in which it‘s impossible to tell them what—I mean, just as a without malpractice here, what the hell they should do.  I‘m talking about Democrats because there really are in these districts, there are—it‘s complex.  There are people who want public option and they‘re going to vote against you.

MADDOW:  Yes.

TRIPPI:  . if you are not for it.  And there are people in that district, Democrats, who are going to vote against you, if you vote for public option.  And I‘m talking about people who really are in a bubble here.  So, I‘m talking Democrats.  So, you‘ve got—I‘ve seen, it doesn‘t matter where the poll is coming from, I‘ve seen data in Democratic races.

MADDOW:  Sure.  And all I would say, if you ask somebody, “Is the president an apologizer when he goes abroad,” and then you‘re asking before that health care.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  I understand.  Rachel, I totally understand what you are saying about that.  And I don‘t—I don‘t know—I don‘t know that Nate knows for sure what that battery of questions actually did.

MADDOW:  Yes.

TRIPPI:  . as you come in, because when you look at them, some of them were actually interesting questions, beyond the implied bias that I think you or I might see.  I don‘t—I‘m not sure it‘s there.  I think it‘s—the question.

MADDOW:  Yes.

TRIPPI:  “Is he a campaigner or is he president” is a very, if a majority—let me put it—if a majority.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  But if majority of people think it‘s campaigner, that‘s something the White House should listen to.

MADDOW:  Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  You may be done here, but what I‘ve learned in this business is, when you hear an argument that works against you, that‘s an argument that‘s real.  In other words.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  So, you got to go work harder to knock that argument down. 

That‘s what we need to do.

MADDOW:  And push polling is a dangerous form of campaigning that makes us distrust these forms of surveys.  And I think the fact that we are seeing it from the RNC, from senators like David Vitter, this has become a direct mail tactic on the right and on the left to a certain extent as well.  But more on the right in a way that makes people distrust these things, I think it‘s bad for the (INAUDIBLE).

TRIPPI:  Absolutely, push polling is bad.

MADDOW:  Yes.

TRIPPI:  I‘m not—I‘m not willing to say that‘s where Opinion Dynamics is now.

MADDOW:  And that‘s where we have to leave it.  I‘m really glad you are here, Joe.  Thank you.  Appreciate it.  Good to see you.

TRIPPI:  Very good to see you.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Joe Trippi, of course, is a veteran Democratic campaign strategist.  Thanks for your time tonight, Joe.

All right.  The conservatives who brought the birther movement and the claim that the Obama administration has a secret plan to put everyone in concentration camps, has a new crusade now.  Pass the popcorn.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The unofficial home page of the ultra-right conservative movement has taken their loathing of President Obama to the legal limit.  Quickly, just to review, the extra right-wing Web site WorldNetDaily has loudly banged the birther drum baselessly claiming that President Obama is secretly a Kenyan.  He‘s a Manchurian candidate whose technically not really president.

They also sounded the “health reform is a secret plot to kill your grandmother” alarm.  They warned that the White House is spying on your Facebook page—spooky, also, unfounded.

WorldNetDaily also implied that the president‘s speech to school kids was part of the plan to form the equivalent of the “Hitler Youth Brigade” and they suggested that a Democratic proposal to beef up relief efforts during natural disasters was actually a plan to round up and imprison the president‘s critics, calling the secret plot an opportunity to form, and I quote, “concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany.”

Once you have gone all those places, where can you still legally go that‘s further?

Well, Sam Stein of “Huffington Post” reported today that WorldNetDaily.com has added to its repertoire the idea that President Obama should be impeached now.  Their exact claim goes, quote, “The ground swell of calls for the impeachment of Barack Hussein Obama is swelling.”  Can you feel the ground swell?

This latest claim, like all of the preceding nonsensical charges from WorldNetDaily would be purely dismissible—except, the Republican National Committee appears to have recently paid for access to the WorldNetDaily e-mail list.  The Republican Party sees these guys as their pips.

And the guy leading the recent “Impeach Obama” campaign is not a teenage Karl Rove wannabe working on a frank on his Commodore 64.  It‘s a man named Floyd Brown.  Floyd Brown is a Republican operation who has served on the Republican National Convention Platform Committee.  His resume includes the famous race-baiting Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential campaign and the independent campaign ad attempting to tie then-Senator Obama to gang violence in Chicago.

The Willie Horton and Obama-gang violence ad-making Republican activist also credits himself with saving President Reagan‘s ranch for posterity, and overseeing the building of the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, California.  He was also the Midwest director for Senator Bob Dole‘s presidential campaign.

In other words, he‘s not a nobody trying to make his bones in the conservative movement by doing something outrageous to the point of being funny.  This guy is Republican establishment with a capital R and capital E, and he‘s running the “Impeach Obama Now” movement.

Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.  She‘s also a contributor to “The Nation.”

It‘s good to see you, Melissa.  Thanks for joining us.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY:  Absolutely.  Good to be here.

MADDOW:  So, WorldNetDaily has already turned the “Impeach Obama” idea into a merchandising opportunity.  For just $5.95, you can get an “Impeach Obama” bumper sticker at their superstore.

Do you think they are a little premature here?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, you know, it‘s as though they forget that we have elections.  I mean, it really is fine to disagree with the president.  It‘s even fine to disagree vehemently with the president.  It‘s even OK to believe that the president is lying or passing bad policy.

But we do, in fact, have a regular process in this country for coping with these kinds of concerns.  It‘s called elections.  We‘ll have a midterm election where the Republicans can run candidates from their party against the Democrats all across the country, in congressional races, in Senate races, and mayoral campaigns and gubernatorial campaigns.  I mean, we don‘t actually have to impeach the people we disagree with.  We can simply actually engage as Americans in the democratic process and vote against them.

MADDOW:  I think that we ought to impeach people when they act unconstitutionally and there aren‘t other remedies against them.  It‘s one of those things that I think it‘s one of sort of the beautiful things among our constitutional powers.  The questions is, whether or not President Obama has really led the country to the point where impeachment proceedings should be ready to begin.  And what it says about the conservative movement and, really, the Republican Party that they‘ve gone right to impeachment in month 10 of the Obama administration.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, you know, it occurred to me, because a lot of folks will ask me, “I‘m sorry; why do Americans believe this?  Why do ordinary people believe that, you know, Barack Obama is somehow associated the Nazis or with fascism or with socialism?”

And it is possible that members of the Republican Party have grown used to experiencing things that seem outrageous and then it turns that they‘re absolutely true.  Take for example a member of Congress sending lewd e-mails to underage congressional pages or a Republican governor claiming to be hiking the Appalachian Trail when in fact he‘s in Argentina with his girlfriend.  Or imagine something as insane as the secretary of state telling us that there‘s an enemy state with weapons of mass destruction and that we have a national interest in invading that sovereign nation.

And in each one of those cases, those things that seem completely outrageous that that could happen, in fact, it turns out that it—that it does happen.  So, maybe the Republicans are sort of primed for believing that the outrageous is true?

MADDOW:  And so, we‘ve sort of one-upped ourselves in terms of our credulity, right?  That you have to—we have to keep copping ourselves in terms of our allegations, in terms of making an impact.  And so, you should go right to impeachment and who knows what comes after that in order to get people to pay attention.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, I mean, part of this here is that what the right is trying to do is regain a particular space for telling what the American story is.  You know, one thing that the Obama candidacy did beautifully that the Obama administration hasn‘t done as well is to frame their agenda within kind of a longer tradition of the American story.

So, we remember it best in the Obama campaign as being that “Yes, we can” speech where he talks about westward movement and the end of slavery and sort of women getting the right to vote and laborers getting fair labor practices.  And he sets his own campaign within that context so that Americans can say, “Oh, this is part of the American story.”

What‘s happened now is that the right is trying to regain that foothold, being able to tell sort of a different American narrative.  And so, the story they want to tell is a story of kind of populist revolt against totalitarian regimes.  And so, in this story, they‘re framing the Obama presidency, the Obama administration as the totalitarian regime, and themselves as the leaders of a populist revolt.

So, part of what the left has to is to really regain that capacity to tell a different American story.

MADDOW:  Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, you‘re wicked smart.  Thanks for joining us, Melissa.  It‘s great to see you.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  So, you want to know what it looks like when the government actually comes between you and your doctor.  Stand by for an unbelievable new law that concerns abortion in the great state of Oklahoma.

And later, our moment of geeking tomorrow‘s bombing of the moon with the one expert we would have done anything to get on the show to talk about it.  Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  New developments to report tonight on the story that we broke last night on this show.  We reported last night that two progressive power brokers are supporting a strategy in which Senate Democratic leadership would revoke the leadership positions including chairmanships of any Democratic senator who helps Republicans block a vote on health reform. 

Within hours of that reporting, two things happened.  On the left, the political action committee, Progressive Change Committee, started a petition urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to adopt that very strategy, quote, “Any Democratic senators who support a Republican attempt to block a vote on healthcare reform should be stripped of their leadership titles.  Americans deserve a clean up-or-down vote on health care.” So far, according to the PAC, they say they have more than 29,000 signatures. 

But the right is taking action, too.  Dick Armey, the former Republican congressman turned fake grassroots organizer, blasted out a mass E-mail today about his new project as chairman of Freedom Works. 

Mr. Armey‘s recent work, you‘ll recall, has included the distribution of action kits that suggested methods for how to disrupt town hall congressional meetings.  But Dick Armey‘s new Freedom Works project is the “Online War Room,” which he says is designed to, quote, “To stop the liberal left from sneaking their hostile takeover of America‘s healthcare system through the U.S. Senate.” 

As part of the “Online War Room,” you‘ll find a list of call targets, mostly moderate Democratic senators whose offices you are urged to call with the message that, quote, “A vote for cloture -“ in other words, a vote to end a Republican filibuster, “equals a vote for government-run health care.” 

So according to Dick Armey‘s logic, if you‘re in favor of letting everyone in Congress vote either for or against health reform, you‘re really just in favor of health reform.  And if you‘re in favor of health reform, that just means that you‘re in favor of a public insurance option to compete with private insurance. 

And if you‘re in favor of a public option, you are actually in favor of letting the government take over health care.  So by that simple logic, cloture equals communism.

But even as Mr. Armey gets lost in the maze of his own conditional statements and leaps of logic, we do have a real life example of what it looks when government really does get involved in Americans‘ health care. 

In the state of Oklahoma, there is now a law which has not yet taken effect, that would require physicians to collect specific, detailed personal information from any woman who gets an abortion. 

The 37 questions suggested in the legislation include the date and location of the abortion, the patient‘s age, marital status, race, education, state or county of residency and history of pregnancies.  Also, the reason the patient is seeking an abortion, the method of payment that the patient uses, whether the patient was an employee at the time of the abortion. 

But the law doesn‘t just stipulate that physicians ask questions like those.  They‘re then required to send the completed questionnaires to the state where the Health Department will use the information from each woman‘s form to create an annual abortion report to be posted online. 

They want to post this stuff online.  A former Democratic state rep is challenging the law in court.  But to be clear, the State of Oklahoma is trying to mandate the collection and online publication of this personal medical information about abortions.  We should probably notify Dick Armey.  He will want to add some Oklahoma state legislators to that call targets list if he‘s really campaigning against a government takeover of health care.

Joining us now is Megan Carpentier.  She‘s editor of news and politics at Air America where, full disclosure, I also work.  Megan, thanks for coming on the show.  

MEGAN CARPENTIER, EDITOR OF NEWS AND POLITICS., AIR AMERICA:  Thanks for having me. 

MADDOW:  Is there any reason, besides trying to intimidate women who might seek an abortion, that you would want to post this kind of information online?

CARPENTIER:  Well, they‘ve been very specific that that their end goal is to keep women from having abortions.  They think by posting the information online that somehow this will turn into some sort of public health strategy to keep women from obtaining abortions in the State of Oklahoma. 

They consider women seeking a legal medical procedure that is actually the most common medical procedure in the country is a public health problem. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the specific types of information they‘re asking

are you a state employee?  What‘s your age?  What‘s your race?  What county do you live in?  How did you pay?  What‘s your pregnancy and your abortion history? 

That information is so specific that it seems like it would go beyond purely statistical use and could be used or at least be seen by a lot of women as potentially being used to identify people.  I mean, it‘s not like there‘s that many people in Oklahoma.

CARPENTIER:  Well, and particularly, if you work in the State Health Department, you could actually be in a position where you - that your doctor fills out the form and then submit it to one of your colleagues, that has our very specific medical information on there. 

So then, they know you‘re a state employee.  They know what race you are, what age you are, how many pregnancies you‘ve had, how many miscarriages you‘ve had - so just releasing this personal information. 

And in fact, there‘s been a history of doing this.  There was a lawsuit in Kansas in 2003 where the then state attorney general tried to get this very similar information out of Planned Parenthood and eventually prevailed.  Planned Parenthood was forced to turn over the data.  And then, somehow, they made it twice to Bill O‘Reilly‘s show.

MADDOW:  Wow.

CARPENTIER:  Individual medical reports with major doctors was given by the state attorney someone in the state attorney general leaked to Bill O‘Reilly‘s show.

MADDOW:  The overall politics of abortion is well-worn territory in the United States and has been for my entire life as a person who was born in 1973, which is a big important year in abortion rights. 

But it seems like what‘s emerged in recent years is a strategy among those who are opposed to abortion rights to not try to - well, not as a replacement for trying to just make abortion illegal, because they‘re still trying to do that, too - but as a supplement to that, to try to make it a horrible thing for women to try to get, to make a harder thing to obtain and to make it a more intimidating process.  Do you think that‘s right? 

CARPENTIER:  I think that‘s exactly what they‘re doing.  Having realized that they can‘t strictly go to court and overturned Roe versus Wade, having been turned down time and time again, having failed to pass amendments, standing in the states. 

What they are doing and what they are saying that they are doing is they‘re trying to make it as difficult as possible, that if they can‘t change your mind, they can‘t make you believe as they believe about abortion, if they can‘t government policy and your rights and your constitutional rights under Roe versus Wade.  And then what they‘ll do is they‘ll just make it so difficult that for many people, it becomes a series of impossible hurdles.  

MADDOW:  Not just difficult but intimidating? 

CARPENTIER:  Very intimidating, so that you have to go to the doctor twice.  You have to go through these gauntlets of protesters twice.  When you have a notification and you have a doctor who, under an Oklahoma law that just thrown out, would have had to describe in detail the fetus that you were about to abort in order to try to get you not to.  It‘s a very common tactic.

MADDOW:  That kind of strategy is called “thuggery” when you‘re talking about things other than politics.  Megan Carpentier, editor of news and politics at Air America, thanks for joining us tonight.  I appreciate it.

CARPENTIER:  Thanks. 

MADDOW:  We are counting down T minus a little bit from now to the amazing bombing the moon story with the greatest astronomy guest ever.  All systems go.  Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Right now, I am trying to contain my excitement about tonight‘s “Moment of Geek” story - emphasis on “trying.”  It‘s bombing the moon with the best guest possible soon, very soon.  That is coming up. 

But, first, we‘ve got a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  If you watched the show on Tuesday night, you met Rick Berman, a pro-business public relations pro who‘s many, many, many, purportedly grassroots, purportedly non-profit campaigns, have dismissed things like mercury levels in fish and the dangers of trans fats and the righteousness of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. 

And that‘s not to mention his shots at ACORN and labor unions.  As Mr. Berman was leaving the studio on Tuesday once the interview was over, he said to me that he was starting a new entity, something he said was called, “Defeat the Debt.”

And then, as if on cue, today, “Defeat the Debt,” Rick Berman‘s new joint ended up in the news when “Talking Points Memo” revealed that one of Mr. Berman‘s grassroot-ish groups hired actors this week to portray anti-debt protesters on the streets of Washington, D.C.

It‘s the Employment Policies Institute and they are paying actors $30 an hour to dress up as Uncle Sam and hold signs as if they are protestors against the national debt and not just actors. 

This guy told “Talking Points Memo” that he was paid $150 to quote, “stand with his sign for five hours,” and that he was, quote, “given instructions not to annoy people.”

In conjunction with the paid actor Uncle Sam scam, Mr. Berman‘s group also ran this full-page ad in the “Wall Street Journal,” all of which cost a lot of money.  And no, Rick Berman is not revealing who‘s paying for this stuff.  And yes, we‘re presumably supposed to believe this is a grassroots uprising of outraged regular Joes who really happen to be actors paid by a conservative PR guy who doesn‘t reveal who funds him.  Ah, democracy. 

And in the eight years plus, the entire eight years plus of our war in Afghanistan, the single deadliest attack to ever hit Kabul, Afghanistan‘s capital city, was a bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul which killed 58 people.  That was last year. 

Well, today, that embassy was bombed again, the Taliban claiming responsibility - at least 12 people killed.  Today, in Washington, President Obama met individually to talk about the war with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Those meetings are just a day after Obama met with Mr. Biden, Mrs. Clinton and his senior military and political advisers on the same subject.  Now, the White House is cautioning to not expect the troop levels announcement immediately. 

A senior adviser confirming to MSNBC that such an announcement is probably still weeks away and telling us that Defense Secretary Robert Gates supports the president‘s decision-making process on the war effort. 

And thinking about that decision process, consider this.  Consider that Vice President Biden, in today‘s meeting, got the president‘s ear, alone, 24 hours before the president‘s full national security team will meet with him about the war tomorrow again.

And if the zillions of anonymous leaks from the White House are to be believed, Mr. Biden opposes Gen. McChrystal‘s reported requested for up to 40,000 more troops, instead arguing for an increased use of drones and special forces attacks on al-Qaeda in a counterterrorism-focused strategy. 

In the meantime, NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, who was just back from the war zone in Afghanistan, today went on the record on MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe” with his observation that the U.S. does not have a winning strategy in Afghanistan and that the best option appears to be withdrawal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NBC ANCHOR:  What did you find in Afghanistan? 

RICHARD ENGEL, CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, NBC:  I honestly think that it‘s probably time to start leaving the country.  I really don‘t see how this is going to end in anything but tears. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  This afternoon, that statement became part of Sen. Russ Feingold‘s case against the war in a separate television interview. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WS):  Richard Engel, one of your competitors, is a guy is that certainly has not shied away from talking about the need for military action.  He said today in an interview that it is time, honestly, to start thinking about leaving Afghanistan.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Tomorrow night, right here, Richard Engel joins us live in the studio.  We hope you will tune in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  OK.  Do you have one of these or something like it?  If so, you are in luck.  Set the alarm now while you‘re thinking about it, because at 7:30 Eastern Time tomorrow morning, NASA is bombing the moon.  They say that if you‘ve got a telescope of roughly ten inches or larger and it‘s not cloudy, you should be able to see the giant six-mile cloud of debris that will kick up when the Centaur rocket hits the moon. 

Now, if you don‘t have a telescope, you are still in luck and you still need to set the alarm, because at 7:30 Eastern tomorrow, when the bomb-the-moon mission culminates in that power-right-in-the-kisser punch to the man on the moon, you will be able to watch it live. 

“Morning Joe” will of course cover it right here on MSNBC.  You can also fire up NASA TV online.  The link is at our Web site right now.  NASA TV‘s coverage starts at 6:15 Eastern, tomorrow morning.  And for the hour and a bit that they‘re going to be online before the impact, NASA is promising expert commentary status requests from mission control, cam reviews from the spacecraft and, my favorite, telemetry-based animations.  Oh, yes. 

The spectacle of this rocket hitting the moon, which will be followed four minutes later by a whole spacecraft hitting the moon is expected to be so cool that planetariums and observatories and colleges and museums have organized parties all across the country and beyond for people to get together very early tomorrow morning and watch. 

In Kentucky, for example, at the University of Louisville‘s planetarium, they are promising to serve moon rocks at their public event - moon rocks a.k.a. doughnut holes. 

Folks east of San Diego and at Lucerne Valley in California are expecting to camp out all night in order to watch.  In Bridgeport, Connecticut, it‘s bomb-the-moon watching at the planetarium there featuring a light breakfast and a celebratory toast when it‘s all over.  Watch parties are being organized in Canada and Mexico and as far away as India. 

A few months, you might remember that we hosted on this show a 14-year-old who was the youngest person ever to have discovered a supernova.  Last night, that accomplished amateur astronomer, now 15 years old, got a much, much swankier gig. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  Caroline Moore and her dad Robert - raise your hand.  Where‘s dad?  Where‘s Robert?  They looked at the stars together in New York.  And last year, think about this, when she was only 14 years old, she became the youngest person ever to discover a supernova. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Joining us now is Caroline Moore, the official but unpaid teenage amateur astronomy czar of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.  Your Excellency, thank you for joining us again. 

CAROLINE MOORE, ASTRONOMER:  You‘re welcome.  Glad to be here. 

MADDOW:  All right.  So you‘re our astronomy czar, so I have to ask you this.  I know you live in New York State.  Do you think that you are going to be able to see this tomorrow?  Or do you think it will be too light for people on the east coast to see it? 

MOORE:  You know, I‘m hoping we‘re going to see it.  I don‘t know.  It‘s 7:00 o‘clock in the morning.  Let‘s see.  I‘m getting ready for school about then.  There are still some stars out around that time, so we‘ll see.  We‘ll see.  I‘m hoping.

MADDOW:  So it‘s sort of hit or miss on the east coast. 

MOORE:  Definitely. 

MADDOW:  The people west of the Mississippi, certainly like people in Hawaii - they‘re going to get a great view? 

MOORE:  Oh, yes.  I think so.  For sure.

MADDOW:  What do you think it‘s going to look like? 

MOORE:  You know, I don‘t know.  I think that you‘re probably going to be able to see some of the debris.  I think you‘re definitely going to see the impact.  And I think it‘s going to be really an amazing event.  Even if you don‘t get to see much of what it actually looks like, it‘s just an amazing event in general. 

MADDOW:  I know this is a little bit weird, but I spent a lot of the day today reading the blog of the flight director of the mission, which goes on for a long time.  And he‘s obviously really excited.  But he‘s also kind of sad. 

I mean, this spacecraft has been orbiting for 112 days.  And then, tomorrow, at 7:31 in the morning, they are slamming it into the moon and it will be destroyed.  In terms of the relative value of what we are going to learn by destroying the spacecraft, do you think I should sort of get over feeling sad for the spacecraft? 

MOORE:  Yes, I think you should, because that‘s what it‘s meant to do.  It was built to further investigate, you know, science on the moon.  I think that that‘s what they intended for it to do, even with all the millions of dollars they spent building it. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  I mean, they‘ve just been extending all this data.  And especially once the rocket goes in, the first plume comes up and the spacecraft flies through the debris field and sends back all the data about what it finds. 

MOORE:  Right.

MADDOW:  And then, it just goes silent.  I mean, I can imagine - no, shouldn‘t feel sad for the spaceship, but I do. 

One of the reasons that NASA says they want so many amateur astronomers to be watching is because they want as many eyes possible on this.  And that made me think about when I interviewed you about the supernova, because you discovered the supernova because of data the bigger observatories disseminate to amateurs in order to find what‘s out there, right? 

MOORE:  Right.  Right.  Yes.  For supernova hunting, we each grab our own data.  And I‘m thinking - you know, I haven‘t actually heard that myself, but I‘m thinking maybe they just want - first of all, it‘s a great opportunity for the amateurs to see something quite amazing that‘s happened in science. 

And also, maybe there will be some great event that, you know - the debris might be an amazing view.  Who knows, really?  I think it‘s just amazing event in general. 

MADDOW:  It‘s going to make people excited about it. 

MOORE:  Oh, yes, for sure.  And when my dad was growing up, you know, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, we had all the moonwalk and things like that helped encouraged the kids to kind of get into science and math and to stay in school. 

And I think that this is just the beginning of a start of opportunities for kids to really get interested in science and math, especially with this being in the media. 

MADDOW:  With the big event at the White House that you went to?

MOORE:  Right.  Exactly.  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Must have been very cool.  Sally Ride said the reason the

White House invited middle-schoolers specifically is because that‘s the age

that‘s the time when American kids face a lot of peer pressure to abandon science.  And so they want to sort of like highlight middle school kids.  Do you think it makes sense to try to target people in middle school to get them to stick with science? 

MOORE:  Absolutely.  In elementary school - I mean, maybe not for every children.  But I think like in elementary school, you are just too young.  For the most part, you don‘t really have a total grasp on what‘s really out in the universe. 

And I think that in high school, it‘s almost the point where it‘s too late, where maybe you‘ve already explored other career options, so you know, you have moved on and you don‘t want to look back. 

And so middle school is the perfect time in between to really - you have an open mind, you still look with fresh eyes at the world.  And that‘s really when I got started in fifth grade, so just going to the beginning of middle school. 

MADDOW:  And if anybody wants to beat your record and find a supernova

when they‘re younger 14 -

MOORE:  They should start now.

MADDOW:  They need to start. 

MOORE:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Caroline Moore, the unpaid but official RACHEL MADDOW SHOW amateur teenage astronomy czar.  Thank you for coming in.  It‘s great to see you.

MOORE:  Thank you so much. 

MADDOW:  Congratulations on all your success. 

MOORE:  Thanks.

MADDOW:  OK.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith has more coming up on how you can get health care to people in need, and how you can, in the process, change the debate on Capitol Hill.  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  So we had an hour and five minutes of television show tonight.  But sadly, we were only given an hour of time in which to do it.  My moon bombing exuberance runneth over. 

We do have a brand-new awesome segment starring Kent Jones that‘s called TMI.  It will wait for another day to experience its fabulous debut.  We hope you will tune in tomorrow to check that out. 

In the meantime, “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Have a great night.

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