The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/12/12
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: That`s “THE ED SHOW.” Tomorrow
night, you can catch a special edition of primary coverage here on “THE ED
SHOW” live at 8:00 Eastern. You can follow me on Twitter @EdShow and like
“THE ED SHOW” on Facebook.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. I have a special favor to ask
MADDOW: I think that interview was amazing and totally newsworthy and
cool, and I would like your permission for to us post it at my blog. Can
we post the clip?
SCHULTZ: I`m a team player, whatever – absolutely.
MADDOW: All right. I know it`s a little weird kind of putting you on
the spot, but I would love to let people know about it.
SCHULTZ: I appreciate it. I mean, I think that Janet is very brave
to come out.
SCHULTZ: And speak. Her family has been attacked unwarrantedly, it`s
horrifying. It`s wrong. And I appreciate her being here tonight.
MADDOW: That`s exactly right and to see her standing up in the way
she did is really moving. So, thank you for doing that, man.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for
the next hour. That will be on our blog, soon.
Also, Nicolle Wallace, one of the central characters of this smash HBO
movie “Game Change” is here tonight.
Also, it`s the return of best new thing in the world coming up at the
end of the show. Looking forward to that.
We`re going to be talking also about newfound competition for the
title governor ultrasound.
That is all planned for this hour. It`s going to be a great show.
But we have to start tonight nine years ago. Nine years ago this
week, then-President George W. Bush issued his ultimatum to the government
of Iraq. He told Saddam Hussein and Mr. Hussein`s sons that they needed to
leave their country or face an imminent U.S. military attack. President
Bush e called it a moment of truth for the world. That was nine years ago
Eight years ago this week, eight years ago today, in fact, that war
that President Bush ultimately launched was approaching its first birthday.
It would eventually have many more birthdays.
But that same president was running for reelection, running against a
Democratic senator who is a highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran. And
at this point in that campaign, 2004, eight years ago, the first attack ad
from the George W. Bush reelection campaign was launched against Senator
Kerry. It was an attack ad that hit Senator Kerry for being against the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: He wanted to delay defending America until the United
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The first anti-John Kerry attack ad of the 2004 campaign was
about Iraq, the phantom menace, that we needed to defend America from. And
thank God we started that war when we did. Good thing we didn`t wait.
Now, it all seems crazy looking back on it, because it wasn`t that
long ago. But if you look at public opinion at that time, the president`s
reelection campaign knew an argument like that would be well-received. At
least it would be well-received among Republicans.
Look at how people felt about the Iraq war in 2004 during that
campaign. Your opinion on the Iraq war, look, in – like there is a mirror
in the middle.
Your opinion on the Iraq war in 2004, whether you were for it or
against it was essentially entirely determined by which party you belonged
to. If you were Republican, you liked that war. If you were a Democrat
you did not like that war. Full stop. That`s how it was in 2004.
That is not of course how it is now. President Obama ended the Iraq
war in December, and Americans are very happy that he did so,
overwhelmingly, in very large numbers, in a not very stratified way.
There`s essentially a national near consensus that it is a good thing that
the Iraq war is over.
There`s also essentially a national near consensus right now on the
Afghanistan. The numbers are not as highly partisan the way that the Iraq
war number were back in 2004. A majority of the country says now the
Afghanistan war was not worth fighting, and a majority of the country wants
troops home now, wants troops home now even faster than President Obama`s
2014 time line.
And this is not one of those things where there`s a big partisan
split. Democrats have been and still are more against the Afghanistan war
than Republicans are, but Republicans are really rapidly catching up. Look
at that – this is just the Republicans: 27 point drop in support for the
Afghanistan war among Republicans since President Obama took office in
The American people are against the war in Afghanistan. The numbers
on the Afghanistan war right now look roughly the same as the numbers on
Iraq. The only difference is that the Afghanistan war is a war that is
still going on.
Yesterday in the Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan, a 38-year-
old U.S. Army staff sergeant is said to have gone methodically in the
middle of the night from house-to-house, on his own, searching for and
shooting civilians. He wounded five civilians, he killed 16 – 16 Afghan
civilians killed in their homes, including three adult women, four adult
men, and nine children. The killer then set fire to some of the bodies,
and then walked back toward his U.S. base and surrendered himself. He is
in custody and will face criminal charges.
The shootings came two days after NATO helicopters accidentally shot
and killed four civilians in eastern Kapisa province in eastern
Afghanistan. More than 1,000 Afghans marched in that province in protest
Last month, Afghan workers at a NATO military base in Afghanistan
found partially burned Korans. The Korans have been accidentally burned by
U.S. forces. The discovery touched off days of rioting and reprisals that
killed an estimated 40 people.
Of course in January of this year, there was the public surfacing of a
video showing four U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of what we`re said
to be dead Taliban fighters.
Since the Koran burnings last month, there have been a number of
incidents in which American troops and other foreign troops were killed by
Afghans who they were working alongside, who they were training. But even
though that is being reported as a response to the Koran burning, frankly,
these kind of pseudo-fraggings were happening before the Koran burnings.
In January, four French soldiers killed by an Afghan soldier who they were
supposedly working alongside.
The day before the Koran burnings became public in late February, an
Albanian soldier was shot and killed by Afghan police officers who, again,
he thought he was working with.
Two days after the Koran burning was made public, two U.S. soldiers
were killed by an Afghan soldier in the eastern part of the country. And
then two ranking U.S. officers were killed by an Afghan worker at interior
ministry while those officers were inside their own office at that
ministry. That was a lieutenant colonel and a major who were killed.
On March 1st, the man hired to teach soldiers how to read killed two
U.S. troops and wounded a third in Sari, in Kandahar province. Not far
from yesterday`s massacre.
Last week, an Afghan policeman in a unit that had been set up by and
armed by and trained by U.S. Special Forces, deliberately let Taliban
insurgents sneak in his own police compound to kill nine other police
officers as they slept in their beds.
A lot of U.S. troops who are being killed and wounded in Afghanistan
are doing the things we imagine them to be doing when they are in most
danger. They`re out on patrol and frontier fire bases. They`re dealing
with the dangers of IEDs. They are confronting enemy fighters.
But at this point, something like one in five NATO fatalities in
Afghanistan this year – one in five – are at the hands of what is
supposed to be our own side: the Afghan forces that we are arming and
training as the core justification for our continued presence in the
Nobody was under the illusion that there were not horrible costs to
this war, as there are to any war. But this news this weekend out of
Panjwai, coming out of the accumulated horrors of recent months in
Afghanistan, makes it crystal clear how horrible the human cost of being in
Afghanistan for this long continues to be – and therefore, how solid, how
worthwhile the justification has to be for staying, given this enormous
When you talk to policy makers about issues of war and peace, they
never admit to you that there is anything other than pure military
strategic calculation behind their decisions. But in the real world, we
all understand that politics play a role. Politics can push you to do the
right thing. Politics can also make it really costly for you to do the
Right now, without anybody talking about it too much, I think
something kind of remarkable has happened in American politics and American
war and peace. We seem to have arrived at a relatively non-partisan moment
in war politics.
Here is the view on Afghanistan for the Republican front-runner for
the Republican presidential nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s time for to us bring
the troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that
comes from our generals. We`ve learned that our troops have to go off and
try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis
can win Afghanistan`s independence from the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Mitt Romney speaking back in June. You think of Ron
Paul as being the anti-war candidate among the Republicans, right? But it
is politically important to know that it is not just Ron Paul who has been
speaking out against the Afghanistan war, among the Republican candidates.
I mean, frankly, even the bloodthirsty, hooting and stomping crowds, the
audience at the Republican debates, they have been applauding Republican
candidates when they say we ought to get out of Afghanistan. War politics
do not necessarily have a partisan divide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Forget about the border
between Pakistan and Afghanistan and deal with our border. Put the
resources on this border. It`s what we need.
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think 10 years later, we
look at the situation, and we say, we have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.
This is not about nation-building in Afghanistan. This is about nation-
building at home.
Our core is broken. We are weak. We have got to strengthen
ourselves. I say we`ve got to bring those troops home.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s going to get
substantially worse, not better, and I think that we are risking the lives
of young men and women in a mission that may, frankly, not be doable.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Are you saying the U.S. needs to just – you
know, we fought, bravely and with all good intent, for more than 10 years.
Is it time to just say enough?
GINGRICH: I think it`s very likely we have lost – tragically lost
the lives and suffered injuries to a considerable number of young Americans
on a mission that we will discover is not doable.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Any time you have such a
shocking development, I think it`s important to take a look and see, you
know, what the situation is, and whether it`s possible to continue on.
Given all of these additional problems, we have to either make the decision
to make a full commitment, which this president has not done, or we have to
decide to get out and probably get out sooner, given the president`s
decision to get out in 2014.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: The other candidates there are being fairly straightforward
about saying it`s time to get out of Afghanistan. I should note: Rick
Santorum simultaneously suggesting he wants to get out of Afghanistan and
saying that when President Obama tripled the number of troops there, that
showed insufficient commitment to the Afghan war cause. What, triple
wasn`t enough? If it`s not quadruple it`s nothing?
Putting aside Rick Santorum`s signature vehement incoherence, even
Rick Santorum knows that where he has to land at the end of that little
gymnastics routine is on, “hey, we ought to come home now.”
Nobody admits that political breathing room affects decisions about
war and peace. But everybody knows, everybody knows that it does. There
is political breathing room in America to end America`s longest war.
And, yes, there are a few John McCain`s out there who want more
Afghanistan war as much as they can get forever and ever. John McCain
frankly also wishes the Iraq war was still going on, but that has become a
rump minority view even in his own party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ROMNEY: It`s time for us to bring the troops home as soon as we
GINGRICH: I think that we are risking the lives of young men and
women in a mission that may frankly not be doable.
SANTORUM: Any time you have such a shocking development, I think it`s
important to take a look and see, you know, what the situation is and
whether it`s possible to continue on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this doesn`t make you more inclined to move us
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it makes me more
determined to make sure we`re getting the troops home. It`s time. It`s
been a decade, and frankly, now that we`ve gotten bin Laden and that
weakened al Qaeda, we are in a stronger position to transition than we
would have been two or three years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: It`s time. It`s been a decade and now we`ve gotten bin
Laden, now that we`ve weakened al Qaeda, we are in a stronger position to
transition than we would have been two or three years ago.
So, plans made two or three year ago could maybe speed up. The
politics of that are different than first glance at American partisanship
would have you think they are.
Joining us now, Josh Rogin, who covers national security issues for
“Foreign Policy” magazine. He writes their indispensable blog, “The
Cable.” Josh, incidentally, is the man who Lindsey Graham, the hawkiest of
hawks told last week that that maybe it`s time to, quote, “pull the plug”
on the Afghanistan war.
Josh, thanks so much for being with us tonight.
JOSH ROGIN, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Great to be with you, as always.
MADDOW: So, Lindsey Graham did tell you maybe it`s time to pull the
plug on the Afghanistan war, which was an astonishing comment, that to be
clear – didn`t he sort of take it back after he initially told you that?
ROGIN: Right. So, interesting, because you played the clip of Mitt
Romney speaking last June. And now, if you listen to his comments today,
he`s come full circle after being totally for it, now, he`s back around to
the very same position, hey, it`s time to get the heck out of there.
And the difference between this time and last June is that people like
Lindsey Graham are not willing to hammer Mitt Romney for calling for an
extended period of troop presence in Afghanistan. And Lindsey Graham`s
issues are with the Karzai government and they are playing with
negotiations over a follow-on agreement with the United States.
I mean, there are just so many things wrong with this Afghanistan war.
There`s a lack of trust at the local level. There`s lack of the trust at
political level. And so many people are frustrated in so many ways, that
it`s becoming harder and harder for any Republican to stand up and defend
But the bottom line here is that Obama has made the decision, we are
leaving. It`s been decided we are getting out.
So, now, the debate is the margins of how much should we do – until
we leave, how much can we do, how many more lives should be lost in the
effort to do as much as we can. And that`s a much smaller and much
narrower than the debate we were having this time last year.
MADDOW: Yes. And, you know, listening to – thinking about Lindsey
Graham making that really inflammatory – not inflammatory, but at least an
exclamation point-worthy comment to you and then dialing it back, and
looking at all those clips of those various candidates, making comments on
this, one of sort of intangibles about it is that none of these comments
seem ready for prime time. This is not the sort of thing that Republicans
are getting briefed on and prepped on, and are, you know, coming up with
pointy ways of phrasing it and bumper sticker-worthy phrases of describing
This is not something on which there is a Republican position, let
alone a Republican attack line. And I guess my question is whether you
think it ever will be or if the issues from here on out will never be
worthy of that kind of partisan fight?
ROGIN: Right. What we`re witnessing here is the internal struggle in
the Republican Party to resume its national security identity, right. The
Republicans are supposed to be the daddy party, the tough party, the party
that`s willing to make sacrifices on behalf of defending freedom, et
cetera, and onward.
But the wars in Libya, the wars in Afghanistan, the drone wars –
these are all divided the Republican Party and there are people on both
sides, and they are confused and there is no messaging, nor do they feel
it`s in their direct political advantage to take a stance one way or the
other less the war go badly or one way or the other and then they are
forced to change it over and over again.
So, the basic stance is avoid these issues in the Republican primary
debate, as long as possible, hoping that the American people are not really
tuned in to what is going on in Syria, what`s going on in Afghanistan,
what`s going on in Pakistan. That`s an untenable position in the long run,
when we get to the general election I hope, I think, I believe they have to
come to a party position on what we should do in all these foreign
interventions and what that means for identity of the party and their
But we`re not just there yet. And until more people start to demand
that the Republicans come to a unified position on these things, then they
really are going to avoid it as much as possible. I think that`s a lot of
what we`re seeing.
MADDOW: Briefly, Josh, in terms of this recent incident this weekend,
I think it should be seen in context. There`s been a lot of horrible
things that have happened on all sides of this war and it`s more than a
decade and you can do an atrocity list in terms of civilians being impacted
and crimes committed on the battlefield in addition just to the
horribleness of war. It just – you could go on and on.
But this latest atrocity this weekend in southern Afghanistan, it`s so
awful, and the description of it is so – gets so much worse the more
detail you read about it. Do you think it will have an impact on how
Washington looks at the war?
ROGIN: Well, I think you framed it right. This is the latest in a
long string of these incidents. It shows a total lack of trust and
confidence between the Afghan people, and the boys and girls we sent over
there to protect them.
President Obama says this justifies our withdrawing quickly. Hillary
Clinton said that we`re not going to change anything in the way we`re doing
The bottom line here is that the Afghan people know we`re leaving.
The Taliban know we`re leaving. Hamid Karzai knows we`re leaving.
And they`re all thinking about what are they going to do to survive
once we`re gone. And the argument that we`re going to be there to protect
them and shape the future of Afghanistan gets less and less believable and
credible as that date approaches.
MADDOW: Josh Rogin of “Foreign Policy” magazine – Josh, thanks for
your help in talking about this tonight. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. Here in America, what`s worse – the government
forcing women to get an unnecessary medical procedure for political
reasons? Or a comic strip that points that out? One that turns out is
easier to stop than the other. That`s coming up next.
Plus, a little later on, the best new thing in the world returns, with
a special Republican romance edition.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: It has been almost two months since Rick Perry announced he
was dropping out of the presidential race and endorsing Newt Gingrich,
which is to say it`s been almost two months since Rick Perry came within
shouting distance of a national news headlines.
But, suddenly, things are turning around for Rick Perry. Today, Rick
Perry is all over the news, making headlines for a couple of reasons. The
first big new Rick Perry is back in the news headlines started at FOX News
last night. With reporting from sources close to the Gingrich campaign,
saying that what if conversations were underway and a Newt Gingrich-Rick
Perry ticket could be announced before the Republican convention in August.
Today, both the Gingrich and Perry camps are officially denying any
official talks. But headlines about a Gingrich-Perry ticket abound. So,
losing big in the first two contests and exiting stage right in January,
Rick Perry is back in the news as a potential vice presidential candidate.
Rick Perry is also in the news today as the guy forcing vaginal probe
ultrasounds on Texas women seeking abortions. This panel from this week`s
“Doonesbury” series by the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Gary Trudeau.
As you can see, we have a woman being told by her doctor who`s reading
a script, “On behalf of Governor Rick Perry, may I welcome you to your
compulsory transvaginal exam.”
With so much attention on Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and the
anti-abortion ultrasound bill he signed into law last week after hemming
and hawing and freaking out and amending it to make it seem less invasive,
it was frankly easy to overlook, that Texas Governor Rick Perry had signed
his forced ultrasound bill into law last May.
Forced vaginal probing is already the law of the land in Texas and the
law is in effect. And anybody who didn`t know that about Texas and about
Governor Rick Perry will know that by the end of the week.
The great Gary Trudeau says he, quote, “chose the topic of compulsory
sonograms because it was in the news,” thanks to Virginia Governor Bob
“ultrasound” McDonnell, “and because of its relevance to the broader battle
over women`s health currently being waged in several states.”
He goes on, “For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to relitigate
reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why Rick
Santorum, Rush Limbaugh, et al, thought this would be a good time to
declare war on half the electorate I cannot say. But to ignore it would
have been comedy malpractice.”
Gary Trudeau may have been inspired by watching the Virginia
ultrasound debate unfold. But this week`s series, which is set to run
right through Saturday is specifically set in Texas. Where arguably the
strictest ultrasound law in the country is in law and is already being
This panel I showed you before, this one specifically invoking
Governor Perry by name, that panel will be running later this week, here is
today`s strip. Here it is. You see a woman at a clinic asking if this is
where she gets her sonogram. And she gets told, “You need to fill out the
form. Please take a seat in the shaming room. A middle-aged male state
legislator will be with you in a moment.”
This whole business of talking about and satirizing the new trend in
conservative state policy of mandating vaginal penetrations for political
reasons for women seeking abortions has cause quite a stir in the funny
pages business. Some newspapers decided not to publish “Doonesbury” this
week at all, at least a handful of newspapers made that call last week in
advance of this strips running. Some papers carried the strip but remove
it from the comic section and transplanted it to the opinion pages or to
online only exile.
“The Houston Chronicle,” for example, fell into that middle ground.
They moved this week`s “Doonesbury” out of the funny pages, saying, quote,
“We believe this topic is more appropriate for the editorial page.”
One newspaper, `The Athens, Georgia Banner Herald` decided not to run
this week`s “Doonesbury” series at all because the editor thought readers
might confuse the Texas anti-abortion story that`s featured in the strip
with anti-abortion legislation that`s actually pending right now in
No, really, that`s what he said. That`s how he explained it. Quote,
“Given the Georgia general assembly is considering an abortion bill, House
Bill 954, which would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy,
I made a unilateral decision not to publish the “Doonesbury” strips
intended for publication this week. Quite simply, I thought this was a
possibility that readers might confuse the topic of this week`s
“Doonesbury:” with Georgia`s proposed abortion legislation,” wouldn`t want
the hurt the chances for that legislation.
If all the newspapers and all the states with super extreme anti-
abortion measures pending in there legislators and decided not to run the
transvaginal ultrasound “Doonesbury” strip to avoid confusion with their
own state`s real anti-abortion bills, this strip would have been seen by
practically no one. As it is, the strip is being run all over the place.
Censorship tends to have that effect in America. It gets you more
attention than you would have had if you published it in the first place,
like you weren`t cowardly.
Rick Perry, because this strip and because of the new attention to it,
is becoming newly if belatedly fame us for his vaginal probe ultrasound
Bob McDonnell did not want to be fame us for his ultrasound law,
probably in part because as people started asking him about vaginal probing
in the great state of Virginia, they mostly stopped asking about his
prospects as potential vice presidential nominee. I mean, this used to be
Bob McDonnell`s life, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: I could be looking at the next running mate
JOHN KING, CNN: Some people say the guy sitting across from me would
be a good number two on the ticket.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC: So, you would be open to it?
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R) ,VIRGINIA: Look, if someone called appeared
said you could help our country and help our ticket, I think any of us
would think about it.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: That used to be what it was like to be Bob McDonnell in an
Here`s what it`s like now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: I have to ask you about the red hot story that`s
gotten so much ink, so many women in particular fired up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were in favor of the transvaginal ultrasound?
MCDONNELL: Virginia drew national attention for the proposal –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they?
MCDONNELL: My understanding is that they did.
GREGORY: You backed an abortion bill initially that included a very
invasive procedure as part of the ultrasound that the state would have
required. Then you backed off of that. Were you wrong to support that
initially or did you simply back off because the political heat got turned
MCDONNELL: No, I –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were educating yourself on this bill, did
you originally not realize that it might mandate –
MCDONNELL: It wasn`t my procedure. You have to realize this wasn`t
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: My bill. I just signed it in law.
Clearly, Bob McDonnell does not want to be governor ultrasound. He
wants to be governor vice president.
But what about Rick Perry? I think Rick Perry does the math
differently here. Governor Perry is in the headlines as potential vice
presidential pick and new governor vaginal probe on the same day. And it
should be noted Governor Perry was enthusiastic about getting down to
business with the Texas vaginal probe idea. Governor Perry announced plans
to personally fast track the legislation at an anti-abortion rally in
January of last year. He announced that to roaring applause at that rally.
And here`s what he said during a signing of the bill in May of last
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Very proud to sign this piece of
legislation today. This House bill 15 requires a physician to perform a
sonogram on a woman before an abortion. For many that are dealing with
this issue, dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, the concept of choice can
really be a fallacy, because you can`t make the right choice without
knowing the true impact of what you`re deciding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See, a lot of women getting abortions don`t have any idea
they are pregnant. That`s why they`re – Rick Perry could not wait to sign
the mandatory vaginal probe ultrasound in law in Texas and to tell women
that the concept of choice can be a fallacy, unless you`re making the
choice he personally agrees with.
Today, Rick Perry press secretary denounced this week`s “Doonesbury”
strip, saying, quote, “The decision to end of life isn`t funny. There is
nothing comic about this tasteless interpretation of legislation we have
passed in Texas to insure that women have all the facts when making a life-
So, who knows, we have been thinking that Bob McDonnell of Virginia
will be governor ultrasound, governor vaginal probe vice president pick.
But he doesn`t want to be known as governor vaginal probe.
I think it`s possible that maybe Rick Perry wants to be known as
governor vaginal probe. I`m not sure he would see that as a bad thing.
Let`s say Newt Gingrich does awesome in Mississippi and Alabama tomorrow.
And before you know it, we will be looking at a Newt Gingrich V.P., V.P.
Rick Perry ticket.
Stranger things have happened. Even in the last couple days in
MADDOW: Almost as soon as they picked her in 2008, the John McCain
for president campaign realized that choosing Sarah Palin as John McCain`s
running mate was a disaster. The book “Game Change” about the campaign is
about a lot more than that single decision. But the movie “Game Change”
which is just out, is all about the Palin choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIANNE MOORE, ACTRESS (as Sarah Palin): Why do we have to do Katie
Are you there? Are you listen to me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMAE: Yes, Governor, I`m here. Katie was a logical
choice. She`s been very fair to us this entire campaign.
MOORE: You call that interview fair?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Governor. I do.
MOORE: I certainly don`t. She`s out to get me from the get-go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, she wasn`t. The interview sucked because
you didn`t try.
MOORE: What do you mean I didn`t try?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You didn`t fight back like you did in the
Charlie Gibson interview, you didn`t know the answers, you clawed back and
it went fine. You just gave up.
MOORE: Nicolle, it wasn`t my fault. I wasn`t properly prepped.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were properly prepped because you wouldn`t
listen to us. You never listen to your advisors.
MOORE: Because you`re overwhelming me with too much information. I
don`t want to do these interviews. I want to do what I want to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re just trying to help you get through this,
Governor. All we want is for you to succeed.
MOORE: You`re not helping me. You`re screwing me up, telling me what
to say, what to wear, how to talk. I am not your puppet. Now, you
understand Hillary meant when she said get to find your own voice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, because you`re just like Hillary.
MOORE: You have ruined me. You have ruined my reputation. I am
ruined in Alaska.
VOICE: This is Steve Schmidt, leave a message.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Steve, it`s Nicolle. I will gladly resign if
you want to blame me for Couric. But if you want me to stay, then I`m back
on McCain`s bus tomorrow because I never want to deal with that woman ever
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The popularity and huge roll out of HBO`s new movie “Game
Change” will cement forever the narrative that frankly was not the
consensus view while the McCain-Palin campaign was under way. But it was
the truth learned the hard way by Nicolle Wallace and by Steve Schmidt
during the campaign. The truth that John McCain`s first presidency level
decision, the choice of his party`s vice presidential nominee was a
disaster and nightmare.
In real life, after the campaign, Sarah Palin wrote a book with her
tell-all version how awful the campaign had been. And in real life, after
the campaign, the advisor, Nicolle Wallace, wrote a novel about a
Republican woman who becomes president and makes a terrible, terrible
choice for vice president.
The advisor who you saw her calling in this scene, Steve Schmidt, is
now an analyst for MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What would either of you say to Sarah Palin getting in the
race? I have a feeling that neither of you would support her as a
candidate. But what would you say?
NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER MCCAIN-PALIN CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Well, further,
I don`t think she would take either of our calls.
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No.
MADDOW: Do, I don`t think she`d be calling you to run.
WALLACE: You know, I think if she were to step back in the arena,
she`d have to play by some of the normal conventions, then I think that
would enrage her base of supporters. But the truth is the times are too
dire to run as the man or woman for the right or the left.
My advice for anyone but particularly for her, and she has a whole
nest of problems that would – you know, that she`d have to confront. But
the first one would be to resist her most partisan and most polarizing
instincts, because that would make her the wrong candidate for the moment.
MADDOW: Does she have anything to offer beyond that?
WALLACE: Look, I was inspired by her to write a book about someone
who is cuckoo for cocoa puffs. So, don`t ask me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I think she`s kidding, but only a little bit.
Nicolle Wallace`s second book really is about a vice presidential
nominee whose cuckoo for cocoa puffs and the incredible damage that almost
does to the country.
Nicolle Wallace is here to talk about what she learned from the Sarah
Palin debacle, and now that everybody agrees that the Palin debacle was a
debacle, what today`s Republican Party has learned from that. That`s when
we get back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we try to get through just a few questions?
I know you`re upset, Governor. So why don`t you get a good night`s sleep I
will come back first thing in the morning to prep you when you`re feeling
I`m going to leave this for you, to look over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just another great day at the office for Nicolle Wallace,
senior advisor to the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008, and the author since
them of a couple of terrific political novels, “18 Acres,” plus, what I
think of as the – what if Sarah Palin had actually been elected vice
president novel, which is terrifying. It`s called, “It`s Classified.”
Nicolle Wallace, thank you for being here.
WALLACE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you with this huge roll out for “Game
Change.” I mean, you knew what was in the book and you know what happened.
But has the impact of the movie changed your life? Has it been weird?
WALLACE: I mean, it hasn`t changed my life and it`s not a movie about
staffers. It`s a movie about – I mean, as you`ve said, and you`re the
first person to tie what I wrote about it in a fictional sense to what I
experienced in real life, it`s a movie about how close we came to having
somebody one heartbeat away from the presidency, who was so fundamentally
unprepared and unsuited for the job.
And there are a lot of people throwing around this term PTSD and, you
know, and it`s really inappropriate at a time when there are so many people
coming back from war with real PTSD. But in a political sense, this is
about the most traumatic revelation I think someone can have, to realize
that they were working on behalf of someone who, you know, really, it`s an
open question – whether or not she was fit to serve. I personally didn`t
think she was, and I talked about it last fall.
WALLACE: That it inspired this exploration in a creative sense to
write about what might have happened.
MADDOW: Well, I think that there has been a change in sort of Beltway
common wisdom about Palin on the campaign, and her role in the campaign.
And now, I think with the very big roll out of the movie, this has cemented
a new common wisdom the choice of Palin was a disaster.
I don`t actually think that was a consensus narrative beforehand. I
think that you and Steve Schmidt and some other people have been talking
about from an insider`s perspective some of the real problems, but I`m not
sure that Republicans by and large believed you before and I think they do
WALLACE: Yes, look. And there was a question about loyalty and in
politics – loyalty means keeping the secrets of the people that you serve
of. But I think that when loyalty and honesty collide, and when loyalty
means keeping secrets such as the ones about how fundamentally off base the
decision was to pick someone about whom we knew nothing, I think it just –
it`s different than – I mean, Washington is a town where there is a new
tell-all out once a month. And there is very little appetite I think for
turncoats or people who have this privilege, like I had, for many years of
having a front row to history and then spilling the beans about it.
But it`s something totally different when you are part of something
dysfunctional, when you admit your culpability ands being part of something
dysfunctional and then you walk away from politics and leave the lessons on
the table for others to learn. And I think that`s what happened here, and
I think it`s interesting that she`s been – to use one of her words –
unshackled from what she considered her moronic advisors for three and a
half years now, and she`s not gone on to use the national and international
platform she had to advance issues she cared about. She talks a lot about
She`s not become a leading voice in this country for energy
independence. She`s not taken on policy positions. She`s not really
advanced the Republican Party. In fact, it`s probably an open question as
to the damage she`s done to the Republican Party.
So I think there is now a larger body of her actions and her impact to
the party and to the country for people to chew on than the 10 weeks that I
witnessed her as a candidate.
MADDOW: In terms of the lessons left on the table, do you think that
the Republican Party will approach the selection of a vice presidential
nominee this year in a way that is informed by what went wrong last time?
WALLACE: I think both parties will forever avoid a Palin choice. I
mean, I think she has forever changed the equation on picking – there`s
always pressure to pick someone outside the box. It`s not just on a
campaign, when Supreme Court – I mean, there is always a conversation, you
know, inside the White House or inside a campaign to do something outside
the box to shake things up, to change your narrative.
There are very few opportunities in politics to reshuffle the deck.
You know, a narrative gets set, like Romney is dealing with now, there`s
this narrative out there that he`s dorky and awkward and says funny things.
So, everyday, the media can find a new example of him doing something dorky
or awkward. And there you go.
MADDOW: But he talked about his football fan –
WALLACE: And yesterday, grits.
MADDOW: Friends with football team owners. Stop saying owners.
WALLACE: So, once you`re snuck in a narrative, there`s always a
temptation to try to shake things up and to be bold and this kind of high
risk/high reward. The people that come up with the ideas of when they go
well, they are celebrated. People write books, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, the
people that come up with the outside-the-box ideas that go well and deliver
political wins for their politicians are heroes in politics.
But I think that Palin will forever make picking someone un-vetted
something that campaigns will avoid doing.
MADDOW: The – I am fascinated by the vetting process in that there
was an idea that five days and no trip to Alaska would be doable for her.
I mean, obviously, it was made in pressure of time.
But thank you for talking about this. I mean, thank you for talking
about this and being here tonight. But in your decision to sort of bare
your heart about this and be open about what you think went wrong that you
were part of, I think it`s a very noble thing that you have done and I
really respect you for it.
WALLACE: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, thank you.
All right. Nicolle Wallace, former White House communications
director, author of “18 Acres” and “It`s Classified,” and, of course, the
senior advisor (INAUDIBLE) of trying to prep Sarah Palin for debates and
All right. How perfect is this? Right after this show on “THE LAST
WORD,” guess who Lawrence O`Donnell`s guest will be? A guy named Steve
Schmidt. Ha! We mention him, he appears. Don`t miss that.
And here, the segment we were going to call in Newterloo, as in
combining Newt and Waterloo, I think I realize that combining Newt and
Waterloo into Newterloo does rather prominently land you right in the word
“neuter,” which is never appropriate. So, still no title but combined of
idea of Newt and Waterloo is next.
MADDOW: This weekend, there were caucuses in the U.S. Virgin Islands
and in Guam and in the Northern Mariana Islands and in Kansas. This year,
it all matters. The Republican race is still not decided.
So it matters that Rick Santorum won Kansas and Mitt Romney won all
the other places I just mentioned.
But there are two notable things that you should understand about
those results. First, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Ron Paul got the most
votes, but Mitt Romney is getting the most delegates. It`s apparently the
way that system was designed, and no, it makes no sense to me either, but
that is how the delegate math works out in the U.S. Virgin Islands. So
Mitt Romney wins there by losing to Ron Paul.
The other interesting result is the one out of Kansas where Rick
Santorum not only won, but he won by 30 points – 30?
At the start of an election season, you look at the calendar to plan
your coverage, right? And there`s certain dates that leap off the page.
Obviously Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Super Tuesday is a
big deal. You know what the highlights are going to be.
I don`t think anybody in the planning of the election season ever
thought we`d be talking about the delegate math of the vote in the Virgin
Islands or about the fact that the Alabama and Mississippi primaries a week
after Super Tuesday were going to be determinative, very relevant. But, in
fact, they are.
They are in part relevant because the most recent polling in those two
states is essentially tied right now. It`s not just tied between Romney
and Santorum, it`s tied between Romney and Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who
spent the past couple of weeks saying that Alabama and Mississippi were
This is the exchange between Gingrich`s spokesman R.C. Hammond and a
“Wall Street Journal” reporter last week. Question: does he have to win
Alabama and Mississippi to remain a credible candidate? Answer: yes, he
has to win.
Yes. Thus setting up Mr. Gingrich to end his campaign if he didn`t
win either Alabama or Mississippi. So, Alabama and Mississippi, hugely
important this year. As long as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are both
in the race, it seems clear that neither of them can beat Mitt Romney.
But if Gingrich loses Alabama or Mississippi and thereby gets out
tomorrow, then maybe Rick Santorum can beat Mitt Romney, or maybe there`s
some reason for Santorum to get out and Mr. Gingrich can beat Mr. Romney.
Of course, now Gingrich itself is saying he`ll never get out. He said
that on Friday, and he said it again over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve got a little competition shaping up in
Alabama and Mississippi. Are these must-win states for you, Mr. Speaker?
GINGRICH: Well, they`re states I want to win. I`m committed to going
all the way to Tampa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One of the best indicators that a candidate will soon drop
out of the race is that candidate`s strongly worded vow that he will not
drop out of the race. Like in mid-January, Rick Perry made an ad out of
not quitting. The ad was called the champion, and the whole point was ad
was that he would never, ever quit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: I`ve never quit a day in my life. I have never quit in the
face of adversity, and I`m not just about to quit on the future of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But, in fact, a week later he did quit on the future of
Here`s a Google activity you can try at home. It`s not dangerous to
your computer like Googling Santorum. Pick any GOP candidate, say Michele
Bachmann, Google their name with the words “vows to stay in the race.”
Vows to stay in the race.
How about Herman Cain, vows to stay in the race? Can we do that?
Cain vows to say in the race.
They all vow to stay in the race, right? Until they`re not in the
race anymore, right up until the moment they drop out, what you`re supposed
to do is vow to stay in the race.
So, tomorrow, we got primaries in Mississippi and Alabama and caucuses
in Hawaii and in American Samoa. All the candidates have vowed to stay in
the race which usually means somebody`s about to quit. It`s going to be a
fascinating night to watch.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: In American political history, when you want to talk about a
politician`s odiousness, you rate him on a scale of one to Nixon – Richard
Nixon, the Watergate break-in guy, the “I`m not a crook guy,” the “when the
president does it, that means it is not illegal” guy.
But even knowing that, prepare to fall in love with Richard Nixon.
Listen to this. “Somehow on Tuesday, there was something electric in the
usually almost stifling air of Whittier, and now I know, an Irish gypsy who
radiates all that is happy and beautiful was there. She left behind a note
addressed with a struggling barrister who looks from a window and dreams.
And in the note, he found sunshine and flowers and a great spirit,
which only great ladies can inspire. He knew why he felt so many fine
things for this girl he had learned to know and though he is a prosaic
person, his heart was filled with that grand poetic music, which makes us
wish for those we love, the realization of great dreams, the fulfillment of
all they desire. And though he knew he should not bore her with his
thoughts, he sent them to her.”
This week, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library celebrating what
would have been First Lady Pat Nixon`s 100th birthday by displaying six
letters that the couple wrote to each other from back when they were
Quote, “When the winds blow and the rains fall and the sun shines
through the clouds, as it is now, he still resolves as he did then that
nothing so fine ever happened to him or anyone else as falling in love with
thee, my dearest heart.”
These letters do not erase some of the bleakest episodes of modern
political history, but look at this postscript. “Someday let me see you
again? In September? Maybe? You`re pretty swell regardless.”
Come on, if I can get misty-eyed about Richard Nixon`s sweetheartiness
– politics schmolitics – anything is humanely possible between Americans
who disagree – the best new thing in the world today.
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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