The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/02/09
Guests: Chris Hayes, Ned Lamont, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Matt Miller, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you.
And thank you at home for staying with us on election eve! I’m very excited.
Last year at this time, the whole world wondered if President Obama and the Democratic Party would knock the stuffing out of the Republicans. This year, what everybody’s wondering is whether the Republican Party has got its stuff back together.
Between the fringy mcfringerson’s influence in Upstate New York to the Palin effect splintering in New Jersey and Virginia, to the single most inane tea-baggish initiative on ballots tomorrow, the answer is starting to become clear. And that’s not even mentioning today’s fresh new bloody stand in opposition to health reform on the floor of the House or Senator Joe Lieberman’s increasingly lonely quest to kill reform in the Senate.
Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, and Joe Lieberman’s old nemesis Ned Lamont will all be here this hour for our pre-election extravaganza.
We begin tonight, though, with the countdown to Election Day 2009. I will admit that it is early yet. Election day is still three hours away on the east coast. But MSNBC is already prepared to make our first projection.
MADDOW: I love this music.
We can now report with a really, really high degree of confidence that a Republican Party candidate will not win the congressional seat in New York’s 23rd district. For the first time since roughly the Civil War, New York’s 23rd district will not be represented by the Republican Party. This bold projection comes as the result of the stunning news over the weekend that the Republican candidate in that district has withdrawn from the race and then pledged her support to the Democrat she had been running against.
Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava was forced to drop out of the race after facing a challenge from the right, from the conservative party candidate, Doug Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman has become the canvas on to whom the right has projected its hopes of purifying the Republican Party by kicking out Republican moderates like Scozzafava. And in the case of Dede Scozzafava, that is mission accomplished. She is out of the race.
But now comes the prospect of conservative party Congressman Doug Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman doesn’t live in the district he is running to represent. The editorial board of the hometown paper there, “The Watertown Daily Times,” described him as showing no grasp of the bread and butter issues pertinent to district residents. The editorial board said that Mr. Hoffman was flustered and ill at ease to even be asked about local issues.
Despite those shortcomings as a local candidate, Mr. Hoffman has been vaulted to national prominence by a bevy of far-flung conservative celebrities, like Fred Thompson and Dick Armey and Sarah Palin and the hosts of some FOX News programs.
And these conservative celebrities are not just devoted to Doug Hoffman, it turns out the feeling is mutual. In one case, Mr. Hoffman pledged his sacred honor to a FOX News host, Glenn Beck. Literally, he did it in writing. Do you want to see?
Mr. Hoffman pledged his, quote, “sacred honor,” to uphold the nine principles and 12 values of Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project. Mr. Hoffman went a step further even today on Mr. Beck’s radio show.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: See what’s happening?
PAT GRAY: He’s getting stronger every second.
BECK: There it is! That’s what’s happening!
DOUG HOFFMAN, CONSERVATIVE CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I have good mentors here.
BECK: Wait, wait, wait, wait! Are they mentors that will show the…
HOFFMAN: I’m talking about you, Glenn.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I’m talking about you, Glenn. You’re my mentor.
The electoral rise of Doug Hoffman in New York state, the defeat of the locally chosen Republican party candidate in favor of a man who has pledged himself in writing to a FOX News host who he calls his mentor, is a real victory for the tea party infused right-wing of the right-wing, that is ascendant in conservative politics right now.
And despite the fact that their own candidate was forced to withdraw from the race, the national Republican Party has noticed what’s going on here. The national Republican Party has noticed that the tea party tidal wave is crashing over its head and they have apparently decided to grab a surf board. The Republican National Committee has now put its full support behind the third-party candidate who forced their own candidate out of the race.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, RNC RADIO AD)
ANNOUNCER: Let’s tell the liberals, enough is enough. No more bailouts, taxes, and budget-busting spending.
Tell the politicians, no more. We won’t let you bankrupt America.
Fight back. Vote conservative, it matters like never before.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tell the liberals enough is enough. No more bailouts, no more taxes, fight back.
If the language that the RNC is using in that radio ad sounds familiar to you, it may be because you’ve seen it on the side of a tea party express bus rolling through your town. The paint job on the judgment day bus for the tea party express includes calls to end the bailouts, reduce the size of government, stop the out-of-control spending, enough is enough.
The national Republican Party and the tea party movement are starting to become one in the same. And the tea party takeover is now extending beyond just local races. The ostensibly grassroots tea party organizing group, Americans for Prosperity, is teaming up with Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota to call for another round of protests in Washington, D.C., this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: We need you here. You need to come to the nation’s capital. We’re going to have a house call on Congress, and the members of Congress need to see the whites of your eyes and you need to see the whites of the eyes of your member of Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don’t mean to be creepy, but the whites of their eyes
reference, is that you’re supposed to wait until you can see the whites of
someone’s eyes before you shoot at them. That’s where we get that phrase from, from when to shoot at people.
Ms. Bachmann has also said in the past that she wants her constituents to be armed and dangerous in opposition to the global warming bill. This type of rhetoric, the rhetoric of revolutionary violence is really the currency of tea party folks. And Michele Bachmann’s embrace of that kind of rhetoric is one of the reasons that until now she has, frankly, been seen as part of the wing-nut fringe of the elected Republican Party. She’s not been seen as a mainstream part of Republican politics.
But now, it is getting much harder to tell where the fringe stops and where the center begins. The Michele Bachmann’s, Americans for Prosperity, “confront your congressman” event on Thursday, the “whites of their eyes” things, is now being endorsed by the Republican Party’s congressional leadership.
The tea party takeover of the Republican Party has begun in earnest and every Democrat and liberal in the country wishes them very, very well.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor for “The Nation” magazine.
Chris, it’s good to have you here in person. Thanks for coming in.
CHRIS HAYES, WASHINGTON EDITOR, THE NATION: It’s great to be here.
MADDOW: You’re the only person who’s ever drunk actual water from the actual MSNBC water tank.
HAYES: Oh, I thought it was vodka.
MADDOW: It’s coming down to the wire in Upstate New York. How awkward is it for the national Republican Party to be endorsing the candidate who forced their candidate out of the race?
HAYES: It’s very awkward. I mean, it was-it’s sort of like getting dumped by someone and then pretending you’re still together. I mean, they-this was a repudiation of the Republican Party. And in fact, if you talk to the conservative activists, their ire is focused as much institutionally on the Republican Party as it is on anything else, the liberals, the liberal media.
John Hankey who’s been a guest of this programs was saying on Twitter the other day, this is-the first thing we’re doing is going after the GOP and everything else is sort of secondary right now.
So, it’s very awkward. They’re endorsing the insurgents that have targeted them.
MADDOW: Well, it does feel like they’re trying to figure out a way to co-opt…
MADDOW: … the insurgency. The question is: who has to go within the Republican Party in order to make room for these folks. Obviously, in New York 23, it was Dede Scozzafava, who had to-whose name is very hard to say, I’m sorry-who had to go. But who nationally is at risk with these ascendants of the tea party folks?
HAYES: Well, here’s the irony, is that-is the electoral minority is so intense already. I mean, they’ve already lost so many moderates. It’s very hard to find anyone in that party anymore who isn’t really kind of a tea party sort.
I mean, Mark Kirk comes to mind in Illinois. He’s going to run for Senate in Illinois. And he is-he is one of the few remaining sort of genuine moderate Republicans. It’s going to be very interesting how-if Republicans stage an insurgency there as a primary battle, and he’s someone who actually would have some state viability.
But once you get past him, I mean, you’re really dealing with a party that is already extremely right wing ideologically. I’m not quite sure, like, who even is left to purge.
MADDOW: Well, they’re all-they’re all, for example, turning on Newt Gingrich.
MADDOW: Newt Gingrich made a decision in this race to support the Republican candidate. He very much held his ground the entire time that all-as other conservatives were coming in and endorsing Hoffman. And then he claimed that he was very disappointed when his chosen Republican candidate endorsed the Democrat.
But if Newt Gingrich becomes the enemy here, what does that say about where the Republican Party goes with, say, a 2010 platform? Where do they go policy-wise if even the Gingriches of the world get kicked out?
HAYES: Well, they go full-I mean, first of all, one of the things when you’re running as the opposition is that you have the benefit of not having to articulate a super clear vision of what you want to do. So, there are a certain kind of ideological immaturity even in what’s being called for now. I mean, you saw the “end the bailouts,” “balance the budget,” and also “don’t raise taxes” and taxes haven’t been raised yet, and you can’t get all those things necessarily all together. So, that’s one problem.
But you know what, what they’re thinking is we’re going to run this sort of oppositional insurgent campaign and they’ll sort of deal with policy later. Voters usually do want to see some kind of substance. I mean, if you go back to the Lamont/Lieberman primary, which was kind of the mirror image of this, Lieberman supported the war. The war was an actual disaster and Lamont wanted to get troops out of the war. That’s an actual concrete issue.
You have to go to voters with actual concrete issues. You can’t just go with kind of ideological fervor.
MADDOW: And meanwhile, are Democrats and liberals-is there any bad news for Democrats and liberals in this?
HAYES: There is, actually. And I think-I think we should be wary to sort of cheer too loudly, because the fact of the matter is they’re doing the first thing they need to do to become stronger on the right, which is to chase the energy to begin with. I mean, they’re already very pared down, OK? And so, what you do first is you organize, and if you look at what happened on the left, when it sort of wilderness years, the first thing it did was it sort of organized the base.
And what I’m very worried about in the midterms is that those are base elections. Those are turnout elections in 2010, as a special election and as a 2009 election is going to be, and there is a very big gap between how activated the right-wing base is, and how activated the left base is right now. And that should concern Democrats.
MADDOW: Chris Hayes, Washington editor for “The Nation” magazine-thank you for coming in, braving the water cut (ph) and everything.
HAYES: It’s good to see you.
MADDOW: It’s good to see you, Chris.
So, the off-year election, that was supposed to be about President Obama, turns out to be a lot more about the Republican Party than it is about him. The most famous person in the Republican Party is Sarah Palin and the Republican candidates for governor in Virginia and New Jersey would rather she either stay out of those races all together or at least please not mention the Republican candidates by name. I’m not making that up.
We will talk with Virginia native and current New Jersey resident, Melissa Harris-Lacewell in a moment.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: On the eve of election day, on the two coasts, two different battles concerning rights for same-sex couples. In the state of Maine, voters will decide whether to repeal a law that allows same-sex couples to marry. It’s on the ballot as Question 1. The latest polling puts the anti-gay marriage forces, those favoring Question 1, ahead by four percentage points, although that is pretty close to the poll’s margin of error.
Meanwhile, voters in the state of Washington will be asked to accept or reject a recent expansion of domestic partnership rights for same-sex couples. The latest polling there shows that 57 percent of Washington voters support the domestic partnerships, 38 percent oppose. So the big difference between the Maine and Washington ballot questions is that Maine would allow same-sex couples to marry while Washington state would give them separate but supposedly equal rights.
The loss of same-sex marriage rights due to Prop 8 in California last year is thought to have awoken the proverbial sleeping giant among gay rights supporters. All eyes on Washington and Maine tomorrow night to see how well that wide awake giant turns out the vote.
MADDOW: Just when it appeared that Republican opposition to health reform couldn’t go anymore mindless or over the top, Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina decided to step into the breach. In a jaw-dropping speech on the House floor, Ms. Foxx dragged the Republicans round the bend, from the “party of no” to the “party of oh, no.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA: I believe that the greatest fear that we all should have to our freedom comes from this room, this very room, and what may happen later this week in terms of a tax increase bill masquerading as a health care bill. I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You hear that, al Qaeda? You hear that, Haqqani network? You hear that nihilist dirt bag terrorist trying to steal nuclear material somewhere in the world right now?
If Congresswoman Virginia Foxx had a choice between your worst attack on America and health care reform, for America’s sake, she’d pick the terrorist attack. Yes. Virginia Foxx offers living, breathing evidence of the effect of inefficacy on the Republican Party. When you don’t really matter politically, you can afford to go nutso.
But in terms of why we actually may not get health care reform, the living, breathing evidence remains Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: The government going into the health insurance business, I think it’s such a mistake that I would use the power I have as a single senator to stop a final vote.
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: But, is-what you’re also saying is, nothing is better than a government health insurance-or a health insurance reform that includes a public option? Nothing is better than that?
LIEBERMAN: Well, the truth is that nothing is better than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Lieberman is threatening to make history by standing with Republicans to filibuster health reform. Democratic leverage to get him to not do that may depend on whether he’s on his own or whether he persuades any other conservative Democrats to go along with him.
So far, Senator Lieberman is on his own. We broke news on this show last week when Democratic Senator Evan Bayh told us that it is extraordinarily unlikely that he would join Senator Lieberman’s filibuster. That leaves two other conservative Democratic senators as potential candidates to join Mr. Lieberman. They are Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
Well, tonight, we’re going to make a little more news about the character of opposition to health reform. You may know that on Friday, a Research 2000 Poll conducted for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee found out that the people of Arkansas, Senator Lincoln’s state, want the public option. And Senator Lincoln could face campaign troubles if she opposes the public option.
Tonight, we can report exclusively that a new poll from the same group, along with the Democracy for America, shows that standing with Joe Lieberman would also be a suicidal political move for Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson.
Beltway common wisdom is that Senator Nelson might have to oppose health care reform and the public option specifically in order to keep his constituents happy. Beltway common wisdom in this case is wrong. The new polling showing that Nebraska voters not only want the public option in health reform, it also shows that if Senator Nelson filibusters the public option, independents and Democrats in his state will be less likely to support him when he is up for re-election.
And this is the kicker: Nebraska voters think that Senator Nelson’s reported $2 million in contributions from health and insurance interests hurt his judgment when it comes to his voting on health issues.
Senator Evan Bayh isn’t going with Senator Lieberman. Senator Blanche Lincoln’s political self-interest is to not go with Senator Lieberman. Senator Ben Nelson’s political self-interest is to not go with Senator Lieberman.
Mr. Lieberman opened the door to killing health reform and he invited other Democrats to come through. So far, it’s lonely for him on the other side of that threshold.
Joining us now is Ned Lamont. He ran as a Democrat against Joe Lieberman in 2006. He’s also a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics.
Mr. Lamont, thank you for joining us.
NED LAMONT, RAN AGAINST LIEBERMAN IN 2006 CT. SEN. RACE: Hey, Rachel.
It’s nice to be here with you.
MADDOW: I have a feeling you’re going to say, “Yes, I told you so,” but I still have to ask: does it surprise you that Senator Lieberman would join Republicans to filibuster health reform?
LAMONT: It surprises me in this sense. Everyone thought our race three years ago was just about the war in Iraq, whether it was a good idea to invade or not, but we spent an awful lot of time talking about health care reform. And during that race, I accused Senator Lieberman of dithering and after 20 years in the Senate, not doing anything on fundamental health care reform. And he was the one that came back and said unilaterally, “I support universal health insurance for all Americans and I’m going to fight for it.”
So, I’m surprised that a few years later, he is dithering again.
MADDOW: I know-I went back and looked at some of the contemporaneous coverage from your race and I know back in September of 2006, during that fight, Senator Lieberman told reporters on a conference call, “I have long supported the goal of universal health care. Ned Lamont can talk about it, I’ve been doing something about it all the time I’ve been here.”
If he does end up being the one guy who stops it, if it is his filibuster, what do you think the political costs will be of that?
LAMONT: Look, the people of Connecticut are ready to have a vote. They want to have a vote on fundamental health care reform and they want the choice of a public option. Senator Chris Dodd, all of our congressionals are on board with that. And again, it’s Senator Lieberman who’s the outlier.
So, I think there will be political consequences if it’s Senator Lieberman who’s the one person who stands in the way, who obstructs our opportunity to have a fundamental vote on health care reform.
MADDOW: What do you think those consequences will be, though? One of the things we have to think about is what happens in Washington, whether or not the Democrats in the Senate allow him to keep his chairmanship of the homeland security committee. There’s also the question of whether or not he faces political consequences at home. He seems to be planning to run again.
LAMONT: I believe, I would know, I’d probably be the last guy in Connecticut to know whether he’s going to run again, but I can tell you there’s an awful lot of folks here who are looking forward to the opportunity of challenging Senator Lieberman.
You know, during our race a few years ago, he said, “Nobody wants to have a Democrat elected president as much as I do.” He supported health care reform. Nobody wanted to get the troops home more than he did.
Three years is a long time. I think there are a fair number of folks, independents, moderates, Republicans, and Democrats who are disappointed with the words aren’t matching the action. And I think they’re looking for a change.
MADDOW: Why do you think he doesn’t just become a Republican?
LAMONT: I think he’s been a Democrat for an awful long time. But I think tactically, he’s probably looking at his options right now. I’ve got to believe, when you walk away from health care reform, when you deny your fellow senators a right to vote on health care reform, that seems to be somebody who knows that he was elected in 2006 with overall whelming Republican support and I think that’s his base.
MADDOW: Ned Lamont, who ran as a Democrat against Joe Lieberman and beat him in the primary in 2006 – Mr. Lamont, thanks very much for taking time to join us tonight.
LAMONT: Rachel, thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
So, how did you feel when Barack Obama won the election last year-meaning President Bush’s term was finally ending? A fresh reminder from former President Bush of why you felt the way you did and it’s a doozy. That’s coming up.
And, Melissa Harris-Lacewell will be here next to explain how the governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia turned into a snapshot of the Republican Party and not the Obama administration.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Despite the predictable drum beat of reporting that tomorrow’s off-year elections for governor in New Jersey and Virginia would be a referendum on President Obama’s first year in office, they don’t really seem to be shaping up that way.
In New Jersey, incumbent Democrat and former Wall Street baron Jon Corzine faces more of a referendum on the way he’s governed for the past four years. And his race against Republican Chris Christie is just about a toss-up.
The Virginia race between Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds appears to be less about President Obama and more about Mr. McDonnell’s ability to steer hard to the center, away from his extra super-socially conservative past, as well as Mr. Deeds’ ability to get anyone excited about him at all. Mr. McDonnell appears to be winning in that race in Virginia.
What has been illustrated by these two races is the state of fracture within the Republican Party. As usual, in 2009, the fracture can be seen through the prism of the Facebook fanatical former Republican governor and vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. Via a parallel Internet version of herself, Mrs. Palin endorsed both Republicans running for governor, McDonnell in Virginia and Christie in New Jersey. But, curiously, she has not been seen on the campaign trail in either of those states.
Her adviser said, quote, “The governor offered her assistance with both races. The ball is in their court.”
In Virginia, Bob McDonnell took the ball and dribbled as far as away from Sarah Palin as he could without going out of bounds. He said, quote, “There was a time earlier on when she was governor when I thought she would come here. But I think she seems to be busy with books and other things like that.”
Ms. Palin did squeeze in time to record this robocall, notable mainly for the absence of two very important words. Check it out.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: Virginia, hello, this is Sarah Palin, calling to urge you to go to the polls Tuesday and vote to share our principles. The eyes of America will be on Virginia and make no mistake about it, every vote counts. So, don’t take anything for granted, vote your values on Tuesday, and urge your friends and family to vote, too.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a robocall paid for by the Virginia Faith and Freedom Coalition, a Ralph Reed joint. It was not paid for by the McDonnell campaign.
Still, you might have noticed that neither the word “Bob” nor the word “McDonnell” were actually said by Ms. Palin in the call. In other words, most recognizable person on the conservative fringe right, please don’t mention the Republican candidate by name.
In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie hasn’t shared a stage with Palin either. He did say in an interview over the summer, quote, “I don’t think having Governor Palin here would me, or frankly the state, a whole lot of good in the sense that we need to talk and focus on what the New Jersey issues are.”
But over the weekend, the independent candidate running for governor in New Jersey as well, Chris Daggett, took aim at Sarah Palin and other Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS DAGGETT (I), NJ GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: And I have had Republicans come in from Rudy Giuliani to Sarah Palin to Christy Meehost, who’s running for governor in Massachusetts. People in the New Jersey Republican Party. And to be honest with you, they don’t understand. I’m not running as a disgruntled Republican.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After that, Sarah Palin, naturally, social networked her response. She said, quote, “Please know that Daggett’s claims are false. I’ve never even suggested that he should drop out of the race. But come to think of it,” dot dot dot.
A Daggett spokesman acknowledged that Palin did not ask Daggett to drop out previously, they had made a mistake, though Palin’s response does suggest that he do so now.
Folks may have hoped that tomorrow’s elections would be a big feedback loop for President Obama’s first year in office. But so far, it feels like we’re learning a lot more about the opposition to President Obama than we are learning about him.
Joining me now to break down these races is Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.
Melissa, it’s good to see you. Thanks for being here.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIV. POLITICS PROFESSOR:
Absolutely. Good to be here.
MADDOW: Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial candidates keeping their distance from Sarah Palin, but in the special election in New York, Palin and other conservatives successfully forced the moderate Republican out of the race.
What do you see as the difference between these two different kinds of races?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, certainly, the fact that we’re dealing with state-wide races and state-wide races in very-at least for the moment, purple states. So you know the thing about Sarah Palin, I suspect that both of these Republican candidates are moving against in both New Jersey and Virginia, is not even so much her far-right credentials, but the fact that she’s someone who is so ill-suited for governing, so unwilling to do the difficult work, take the hard hits, make the compromises required for governing that she quit her job before her term was out.
And these are both Republican candidates who, for whatever their problems, want to be taken seriously as, you know, potential lawmakers, governors, administrators, chiefs of their state. They don’t want to run next to someone who when they-when she had the job they had, governor of a state, she couldn’t hack it, she couldn’t finish.
So I think that’s really very different than the kind of quirky, local politics that you see in, you know, in congressional races. Those tend to be, you know, sort of more full of local flavor. State-wide races, a little more serious.
MADDOW: The New Jersey race, of course, features a third party candidate as well, Chris Daggett is running as an independent. He says he’s not a disgruntled Republican. Is his presence evidence further of the sort of Republican fracture or is it different than that?
Can you shed-help us understand any more how that might be either helping or hurting the candidate-the other candidates in New Jersey?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: You know, it’s certainly true that in a state like New Jersey when many voters think of themselves as independent minded, you know, a candidate like Daggett makes a difference. He can actually, you know, be there, make a real showing.
But he’s certainly not going to win. He recognizes that he’s not going to win. And it’s pretty clear that he’s going to be a spoiler for Chris Christie, not for Jon Corzine. So Jon Corzine wins tomorrow, it will be in part because Daggett didn’t leave.
Look, Newt Gingrich said very early and consistently that a vote for Daggett is a vote for Jon Corzine. So, you know, it’s clear that although he’s claiming not to be a disgruntled Republican, to instead be simply independent minded of these kind of, you know, quirky New Jersey politics, he’s operating as a disgruntled Republican.
MADDOW: Melissa, when the country looks at these races tomorrow, obviously, most of the country is not voting. There’s interesting mayors’ races in some places, there’s these couple of gubernatorial races, a couple of special elections, some interesting ballot measures.
But most of the country won’t be voting. When we look at-when we look to the national import of Election Day 2009, what do you think these races will tell us about either how the Obama administration is doing politically or how the Republican Party is defining itself in the minority?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Look, there’s no doubt that these races are going to make a difference, particularly for the 2010 midterms. Particularly in Virginia where, you know, Deeds has not been a strong candidate. Whatever votes he gets is probably because he is a Democrat in a state that went hard for Barack Obama.
But part of the question was whether or not the Obama candidacy actually created machines in new places. And Virginia was particularly important. A state that had been red for 44 years in the presidential elections, that had all of these demographic changes.
A strong, new South Asian voting bloc in northern Virginia, some important liberal blocs in places like Charlottesville. And whether or not you could actually turn that into something that had legs beyond simply the personality of the president.
And it looks as though that’s not happening in Virginia, in part because this campaign was not well run, the president didn’t spend much time there stumping for this candidate. Now, in New Jersey, you’ve got someone who is, in certain ways, more progressive than Barack Obama, clear on his support for marriage equality, aggressive on questions of extension of health care.
And if he can’t pull it out here in New Jersey, I think there would be ways that many could suggest that people don’t want a progressive agenda in the state of New Jersey and also that the Obama machine can’t operate in Virginia. These could potentially be very, very important challenges to Obama’s sort of machine, to Obama’s administration.
So if there are losses for the Democrats in either of these states, I hope the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are ready to talk about how these are local elections and spin this away from what could potentially be very troubling for the Democratic Party.
MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton…
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Go, Saints.
MADDOW: Thank you for coming on the show tonight and for doing your first ever stunt. This is excellent. I really appreciate it.
All right, back in 2001, when talking like a tough guy seemed like a good idea. George W. Bush went all new sheriff in town about Osama bin Laden, you might recall. Well, now that the sheriff has turned in his badge, he’s lost the bravado in favor of infuriating weakness.
Stand by for cut one on President Bush’s greatest hits, volume 2.
That’s coming up.
MADDOW: As a trick or treating kid, I would know that Halloween season was over every year when I got down in my candy bag to nothing left but Necco wafers. For some people, it was black jelly beans. For some people, it was those orange puffed peanut things.
For me, it was Necco wafers. I just (INAUDIBLE). Well, tomorrow, among the governors’ races and special elections and mayoral races, there is an initiative on a couple of state ballots that is the Necco wafer of ballot measures. It has been rejected time and time and time again. The one place that passed it found it to be a disaster and repealed it, but this really demonstrably bad idea is still around.
Matt Miller, who wrote the book, “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas,” helps us figure out why they are still trying to get us to choke this chalky thing down. That’s coming up.
But first, a couple of holy mackerel stories in today’s news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I don’t know whether we’re going to get him tomorrow or a month from now or a year from now. I really don’t know. But we’re going to get him. I don’t care, dead or alive, either way. It doesn’t matter to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was George W. Bush almost eight years ago speaking about Osama bin Laden. And since we didn’t get him dead or alive, Mr. bin Laden probably lives somewhere within the borders of our ally, on this land, we are fighting an unmanned, undeclared war, Pakistan. That’s where bin Laden produces his occasional propaganda tape with the help of al Qaeda’s AV club, Assi Sahad (ph).
Eight years after putting the get-em-dead-or-alive bounty on Osama bin Laden’s head and fresh off his motivational speaking debut in Texas, former president Bush went to India this past weekend to attend a business conference. There he gave an interview to “The Times of India” which broached the subject of Mr. bin Laden with Mr. Bush.
Quoting from the “Times,” asked whether al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden could be alive, Bush said, quote, ‘I guess he is not dead.’ He, however, noted that bin Laden is hiding and not leading victory parades or espousing his cause on TV.”
Except, of course, when he is espousing his cause on TV because he is still alive and at large and making propaganda videotapes. And we’re still fighting the war that Mr. Bush started eight years ago to supposedly go get-em, dead or alive.
And Mr. Bush is now a professional motivational speaker.
Just making sure we’re all on the same page here about how this all turned out.
Finally, we also have a follow-up for you. We reported last week on a proposed fundraiser to be held by supporters of Scott Roeder, the man accused of murdering abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. In an effort to raise money for a legal defense fund, these supporters announced plans to auction off radical anti-abortion Efemora and souvenirs on eBay.
The Tiller family’s lawyer, Lee Thompson, said on this show a week or two ago that if such a fundraiser occurred, he would ask Kansas’ attorney general to seize those funds to use them to support crime victims.
Now, eBay said publicly that such an auction would violate eBay’s policy prohibiting the sale of offensive items, and yet, this weekend, nine items went up for sale on the auction site. That included a megaphone autographed by Regina Dinwiddie, who has supported the use of force on anti-abortion activism.
Also a manual for the so-called Army of God, an organization that called Roeder an American hero. A book written by Paul Hill, who murdered an abortion provider and was executed for having done so. An original drawing that is signed by Scott Roeder.
Did I say Paul-what did I say? Paul Hill. What did I say? I said Scott Roeder. Paul Hill. Excuse me. Sorry about that. A cookbook of recipes you can make in prison, written by the woman who shot Dr. Tiller in 1993 before Scott Roeder allegedly killed him this year.
Another book which promotes violence abortion providers and facilities. Some anti-abortion bumper stickers. This inexplicable painting of a red fox-I don’t know why that should benefit Scott Roeder. And of course more creepy fanatical anti-abortion drawings that are signed by Mr. Roeder.
We took these screen grabs from eBay earlier this morning. Since then, a representative from the auction site confirmed that each and every one of these auctions has been taken down.
They told us, quote, “Today eBay removed several listings on our site that violated several of our policies, including our offensive materials’ policy. This policy prohibits items that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.”
Though it is clear now by the fact that these things went up this weekend that these folks trying to support Scott Roeder are going to do whatever they can to get around the ban.
MADDOW: Killed before it even reached the ballot in Missouri, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Oklahoma in 2006. Killed at the ballot in Maine, Oregon, and Nebraska the same year. The one time it passed in Colorado back in 1992, the results for the state were so disastrous that succeeding votes and executive acts rolled it back.
They repealed it. It’s called TABOR. It means the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. It has a really snappy name, but it’s sort of a bad idea. And it’s back now. In Maine tomorrow, voters will be asked, do you want to change the existing formulas that limit state and local government spending and require voter approval by referendum for spending over those limits and for increases in state taxes?
The question made it on the ballot thanks in large part to a conservative nonprofit group called Maine Leads. It was started two years ago, courtesy of funds from the National Taxpayers’ Union, the National Tax Limitation Committee, and the Sam Adams Alliance. None of which are actually from Maine.
The initiative has also got the support of the grand pappy of TABOR, Grover Norquist, who says that the Maine TABOR will sort of be a spark to other states and if it passes, quote, “it becomes a stronger sell in Arizona and Washington and Oregon and Florida.”
They want to try to pass these all over the country. Washington state has already had its own TABOR style measure on the ballot for tomorrow, it’s I-1033. It would limit state revenues so they, quote, “do not exceed inflation and population growth.”
Initiative 1033 is mainly sponsored by long-time local right-wing activist Tim Eyman. The man who funded these measures in many states in 2006 – well, we don’t know if he’s funding this year until campaign disclosures are made at the end of the year-is a guy named Howie Rich.
Howie Rich? Good question. Here’s Rich from New York City real estate. That’s how. And according to “The Oregonian” Mr. Rich funneled more than $7.3 million into various ballot measures in various states, mainly pro property rights, antigovernment initiatives.
The return on his investment in TABOR so far has been bumpkins.
Voters have rejected all of these proposals.
Joining us is Matt Miller, a senior fellow at the Center of American Progress and author of the book, “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity.”
Matt, thanks very much for joining us.
MATT MILLER, AUTHOR, “THE TYRANNY OF DEAD IDEAS”: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: So things like TABOR interest me because there’s an obvious interest here by the people who keep funding them. I know why libertarian millionaires like Howie Rich want the country to run this way. What I don’t understand is how they keep getting back on the ballot over and over again and we keep being asked to vote on them over and over again even when voters always say no.
MILLER: Well, you know, unfortunately, Rachel, the fact that an idea is proven as a disaster doesn’t mean it dies in American politics. One of the perverse things of our federal system is that there’s dozens of states that the advocates of these kind of lunatic measures can continue to funnel money into to try and get them on the ballot.
And as you know, basically to get things on the ballot you just need enough money to get the paid signature gatherers in the state to qualify for these ballot measures and so as a result if you’ve got a fringe group of kind of anti-tax radicals, even when you’ve seen it gut a state like Colorado on health care, on education, so much more, they can get this stuff on the ballot and bring it to a vote.
MADDOW: They can keep bringing it up as long as they can keep paying for it as you say. What’s the, I guess, group psychological process that we need to go through so that measures like this do get sort of laughed out of the realm of reasonable policy proposals? They have been disproven over and over and over again but it’s a fight every time.
MILLER: Well, I think it’s because when you’ve got people feeling the pinch in a recession it sounds reasonable when the advocates of these ideas say, why should government grow faster than population and inflation?
If you think about it for a minute, though, when everyone knows that health costs are rising three times faster than inflation, and health care is one of the biggest things that happens at the state level through programs like Medicaid, it means that essentially in this recession when states have already had to kind of cut their arm off to cope with the dramatic budget cuts and revenue shortfalls these measures would essentially say that even when times get good again you can’t grow that arm back.
You can’t make tuition more affordable at community colleges. You can’t put back the health care cuts you’ve put in place. And I think progressives need to do a better job defining the stakes and showing why this reasonable sounding thing at 30,000 feet is actually disaster for the things they care about.
MADDOW: Does it come down in the end to marketing? To coming up with the best slogan, to coming up with the best nickname like the taxpayer bill of rights for your policy proposal? Is it about making it simple enough so that it seems dumb and is it just dumb when you look at the details?
MILLER: I think it’s a combination of better marketing and better messaging but I think there also has to be a full attack on the Republican denial about taxes. You know, Grover Norquist, the big tax-o-phobic nihilist who is behind a lot of this stuff, he and a lot of his Republican colleagues don’t understand that we’re about to retire the baby boomers so we’re going to have twice as many people on Social Security and Medicare.
They’re still clinging to the days of 1980 when they could keep promising deep cuts and marginal income tax rates. Those days are gone. Every thoughtful Republican behind closed doors knows it. And until you expose the Norquists of the world for being the kind of lunatic fringe and just in deep denial of the facts on these issues we won’t make the headway we need to.
MADDOW: Matt Miller, the author of “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas,” thanks very much for joining us tonight. It’s a real pleasure to have you here.
MILLER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN” Keith asks Nixon White House counsel John Dean whether Dick Cheney committed perjury in his FBI interview.
And speaking of shady activities, did the Republican candidate for New Jersey governor just rip off Monty Python? Plus, an error to rival Dewey defeats Truman, at least if you’re a Phillies fan. That’s next. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: We turn now to our spam-a-lot correspondent Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel. You know you mentioned earlier Chris Christie.
JONES: Who’s in a big tough race against Jon Corzine in New Jersey right now. Well, now he faces a more formidable opponent, Christie does, the ministry of silly walks. Here it comes.
JONES (voice-over): Christie is in hot water copyright wise over this campaign ad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. Tonight on “Extra Mind,” we examine the phenomenon of deja vu. That strange feeling we sometimes get that we’ve lived through something before.
JONES: Does it seem familiar? Nudge. Nudge. Know what I mean? Say no more. Say no more. He could be facing legal action from the members of Monty Python who say Christie is one lumber jack who is not OK, said Michael Palin, quote, “He’s clearly made a terrible mistake. It was the endorsement of Sarah Palin he was after, not that of Michael Palin.”
Colleague Terry Jones added, quote, “It is totally outrageous that a former U.S. attorney knows so little about the law that he thinks he can rip off people. On the other hand another of Bush’s legal appointees was Alberto Gonzalez and he didn’t seem to know that much about the law either.”
Christie has pulled the ad from YouTube and said he was sorry if the Monty Python members were upset, saying, quote, “I’m sure we’ll be willing to work that out.” The Pythons haven’t responded, but for Christine, the punishment could be severe.
MADDOW: Very nice. You know, if you’re going to rip stuff off you should make sure that the people who you’re ripping it off from like you.
MADDOW: You know? This (INAUDIBLE) could make a difference as to whether or not they come after you.
JONES: (INAUDIBLE). Yes.
MADDOW: All right. So I have a cocktail moment for you, Kent.
MADDOW: That concerns the World Series. Game five?
JONES: Game five.
MADDOW: Being played tonight?
MADDOW: This is today’s “Philadelphia Inquirer.”
JONES: It certainly is.
MADDOW: There was also a World Series game yesterday. Last night.
As you know.
JONES: There was.
MADDOW: And this morning on the back page of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” they ran this ad, which says, “Congratulations, Phillies, back-to-back champs. Show your Phillies pride and celebrate their World Series win with championship gear from blah, blah, blah, new styles arriving daily.”
MADDOW: They also spelled David Axelrod’s name on the same page Alexrod.
JONES: Not. No.
MADDOW: No. That’s awkward.
JONES: Right. Yes. Yes.
MADDOW: Anyway, thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: Thank you for watching tonight. We’ll see you again tomorrow night when MSNBC is live all night with special election coverage including a live edition of this show at 11:00 Eastern followed by a live “HARDBALL” at midnight.
“COUNTDOWN” starts right now. Good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, 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 CQ Transcriptions, LLC’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, 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 CQ Transcriptions, LLC’s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>