The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/31/12
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for staying us with for the next hour.
Today was a weird day in politics – in part because of some
unexpected and some still unexplained news from the ghosts of vice
presidents and would-be vice president`s pasts. We`re talking about this
later on in the show.
But in the middle of the afternoon today, we got this news that there
was going to be a verdict in the John Edwards sex scandal/campaign finance
scandal. That verdict ended up being a delayed verdict and then a partial
verdict and then a deliberate verdict, but the long afternoon of
uncertainty about that sort of brought the news world to a halt today.
While everybody was trying to figure out what was happening in that sorted
case when it was going to happen and then ultimately once it did happen,
what it meant.
Meanwhile, though, as that saga was playing out and every newsroom in
the country was riveted to that in confusion, while that was happening,
today at the White House, former Republican President George W. Bush and
his wife Laura were at the White House being hosted by President Obama and
Mrs. Obama. They were there for the unveiling of the Bush`s official White
There was one strange thing about this ceremony and this event. Did
you actually see any of this as it happened?
And it was weird because the news day ended up being so unexpected in
following all the contours that nobody knew it was going to follow that,
event ended up being kind of a comedy show. I said there was a strange
thing about it and I`ll tell you what the strange was in just a moment.
But did you see any of the footage of this today? It ended up being very
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Mr. President, thank you for
your warm hospitality. Madam first lady, thank you so much for inviting
our rowdy friends to my hanging.
I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the
White House collection. It now starts and ends with a George W.
When the British burn the White House as Fred mentioned in 1814, Dolly
Madison famously saved this portrait of the first George W.
Now, Michelle, if anything happens, there`s your man.
I`m also pleased, Mr. President, that when you are wandering the halls
as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this
portrait and ask, “What would George do?”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Even his wife throws back her head and laughed at that one.
Whatever former President George W. Bush and current President Obama
think about each other as politicians, everybody, including the president
and the first lady and the former president and the former first lady all
seemed to have a really good time at the White House today for the
unveiling of these portraits.
What would George do?
Here`s the strange thing about that very, very pleasant event today,
though. You know when George Bush said thanks for letting me bring my
rowdy friends. The people who you brought, the people there to witness the
portrait unveiling, the people who came with George W. Bush to this event
today included his wife, obviously, his family, Karl Rove was there, Colin
Powell was there, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld.
Conspicuously absent with no explanation as to why was his vice
president. No Dick Cheney and no explanation as to why.
And it`s not like Vice President Cheney is in seclusion after his
heart transplant. This is him post-heart transplant. He is giving
speeches. He has been doing specifically political speeches. He`s been
making public appearances and public comments. He is preparing to host a
fund-raiser for Mitt Romney this summer.
But even as every other boldface name from the George W. Bush
administration turned up at the White House today for the comedic stylings
of G.W. 43, there was no Vice President Cheney.
Mr. Cheney, if you`d like to talk about it? Any time. I`m happy to
have you here. Please call me. It`s never going to happen.
All right. But regardless of that what I think is a very interesting
palace intrigue about who turned up and who didn`t turn up today, I do have
to say it`s nice to see people from completely opposed political places be
respectful toward each other, be appreciative of each other and find
something nice to say about each other. It is particularly nice to see
that when something as fraught as a new presidential campaign is underway.
Especially this particular presidential campaign which not only seems
line it`s going to be a very hard fought one. But it started off in the
very, very beginning in a very nasty and very inauspicious way.
Do you remember the very first campaign ad of the general election
this year? I mean, Mitt Romney technically clinched enough delegates for
the nomination now this week. But the first ad he ran that wasn`t against
one of his Republican opponents but was against President Obama, do you
remember that first ad? And what the big scandal was about it?
It was this ad. It was way back in November. Mr. Romney still a
month and a half away from the Iowa caucuses but he was already going after
President Obama in November 2011 ad. In this first anti-Obama ad, he went
after President Obama in a way that was really blatantly flagrantly untrue.
It wasn`t just some politics lie. It wasn`t like a very
interpretation (ph) of some contested event or nuance about something which
liberals and conservatives disagree. It was a flat out, run of the mill,
unambiguous lie. Here`s the Romney ad.
(BEGIN VIDSEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You need to provide
relief for homeowners. It`s going to take a new direction. If we keep
talking about the economy, we`re going to lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s what the first anti-Obama Mitt Romney ad of the
general election campaign quoted the president as saying. If we keep
talking about the economy, we`re going to lose. Here`s what President
Obama actually said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Senator McCain`s campaign actually said, and I quote, “If we
keep talking about the economy, we`re going to lose.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s not politics. That – that`s a lie. He was quoting
somebody else. He was reading somebody else`s words in order to criticize
them and Mitt Romney in his camp edited the sound to make it seem like it
was something that President Obama said for himself.
That is not just standard political slime. That is an outright
schoolyard lie. And it`s kind of crazy to think that you would get away
with that, right?
When the ad first came out in November, the initial response, even in
the beltway is this must be a mistake. They have to correct it, right?
But, no. Mitt Romney meant it.
The ad is still up, still running at Mitt Romney`s YouTube page. They
never corrected it even after they got caught.
And when Mr. Romney was asked about why his first ad was blatantly
lying like this, he was not embarrassed about it. He insisted that his
campaign meant to edit the ad like that. It was on purpose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was no hidden effort
on the part of our campaign. It was instead to point out what is sauce for
the goose is now sauce for the gander.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Online idiom dictionaries say that the sauce for the goose
thing is the old fashioned version of the saying what`s good for the goose
is good for the gander – which you might have heard in normal life. He
says the old school way about the goose having a sauce.
In any case, that`s how he responded when he got called out on the
very first anti-Obama ad when this huge lie and he never apologized. He
never corrected it. He is still running it and he said that weird thing
about the goose and a sauce. That was his first anti-Obama attack in
But today, Mr. Romney went back to the goose and the sauce thing
again. This is David Axelrod on the steps of the state capital in
Massachusetts. He is trying to give a press conference about the Obama
campaign`s new focus on Mitt Romney`s tenure as governor of Massachusetts
in the early 2000-ies seats.
Mr. Romney criticized the Obama campaign for previously focusing on
his time at Bain Capital, his time in the private sector. And so the Obama
campaign is essentially saying, fine. You don`t want us to talk about Bain
Capital. We won`t talk about Bain Capital for a while. Let`s talk about
what your public sector experience. Let`s talk about what you were like as
I know that`s what the Obama campaign is trying to do now because I
saw the ad that the Obama folks put out today. I saw the written press
materials saying this was their Obama campaign message today.
But anybody who just went to hear David Axelrod talk about it in
Boston today instead did not hear any of that. Instead, what they heard
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs?
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN: You can`t handle the truth, my
friends. That`s the problem. You can handle the truth, then quiet down.
(END VDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was not an organic grassroots spontaneous pro-Romney
crowd there yelling at David Axelrod. They later have (INAUDIBLE) soccer
stadiums. They were blowing bubbles. They were just doing the chanting
together and the screaming.
It wasn`t an organic thing that happened. It wouldn`t in Boston.
The Romney campaign actually admits that it sent those people down
there from the campaign to drown out David Axelrod at the press conference.
Mr. Romney personally admitted to that today. And that`s when he went
back to the goose and sauce thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: At some point you say, you know, what is sauce for the goose
is sauce for the gander. If they`re going to heckle us, we`re not going to
sit back and play by different rules. If the president has his people come
into my rallies and heckling, then we`ll show them that, you know, we
conservatives have the same capacity he does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again with the sauce. The idea of the sauce that tastes good
on all of the geese. It is delicious goose sauce for many geese. I love
The Obama campaign has let everybody know in advance that they were
going to be pivoting broadly to this issue of Mr. Romney`s tenure as
Massachusetts governor, but they let people know in advance that David
Axelrod was going to be at the specific press conference at the
Massachusetts state capitol today
And the Romney campaign – they knew this was coming. They knew this
was going to happen. The Romney campaign cooked up two strategies for
trying to distract what the Obama folks were doing today. Their first
strategy was literally just to drown out David Axelrod so people could not
hear him speak over the din. It`s a mini-Brooks Brothers riot on the steps
of the Massachusetts state capitol.
The Romney campaign had a second strategy, distract from what the
Obama campaign is doing today, to not really respond but to hopefully
change the narrative and do their own thing. Their other strategy today
besides trying to drown out David Axelrod is they sent their own candidate
himself to do a simultaneous stunt on West Coast.
So while the George W. Bush portrait veiling thing was going on and
being unexpectedly hilarious and charming, and while the nation`s news
rooms were riveted to the prospect of this John Edwards verdict that nobody
understood, and what the David Axelrod thing was being drowned out by
Romney campaign aides and staffers, I guess, who were sent there, while all
that was going on, what the Romney campaign was trying to get people to
also pay attention to was their big campaign stunt of the day.
The Romney campaign told reporters that they needed to get on a bus
because they were going to be going somewhere with Mitt Romney. But the
campaign would not say where they were going. When the bus finally arrived
at its destination, it turns out they were at Solyndra. Solyndra, the
solar energy firmed that received a loan from the George W. Bush era Energy
Department investment program to try to incubate alternative energy
technology, but then the company went bust.
Republicans tried for more than a year to make the Solyndra story into
a scandal for President Obama. But it didn`t really work. Even their top
attack dog in the House on this subject, Congressman Darrell Issa of
California, he eventually concluded that there seems to have been no real
criminal or political wrongdoing in this case and congressional Republicans
have sort of dropped it
They tried to make this a big deal. They tried really hard for a long
time. They had a lot of help on the subject from FOX News. But they
really never got anywhere with it.
Now, Mitt Romney is trying again. He tried it again today. He`s been
– had this is the message of the week. They tried it in a big way with
the stunt, with the reporters in tow.
They did kind of blow it. They blew it in two ways. First, they did
this on the day that Obama campaign is spending all of its resources to
highlight Mitt Romney`s time as governor. And the big substantive problem
with Mitt Romney trying to push the Solyndra story is that Mitt Romney
himself did the exact same thing in Massachusetts while he was the governor
of that state.
His Solyndra, his company is that got taxpayer money to try to build
them up and create jobs and invest in important new technologies but then
they went bust, his companies like that in Massachusetts, his Solyndras
were called Acusphere and Spherics Inc. It was also one called Evergreen
Solar. These companies got millions of taxpayer dollars from Mitt Romney
as governor of Massachusetts and then they went bust. And, yes, some of
the companies were run by big Mitt Romney campaign donors.
You probably have not heard a lot about this part of Mitt Romney`s
time as governor because everybody was wondering whether he was really
going to try to push the Solyndra thing all that hard. Now that
Republicans have given up on it and we know he has such a bad hypocrisy
problem on the issue.
But he is running it with. You`re going to hear about all the
companies in Massachusetts that he shoveled taxpayer money into and they
went bust. You`re going to hear all about how Mitt Romney did exactly what
he says President Obama did. And, oh, by the way, here`s a nice reminder
implicitly that Mitt Romney was not particularly successfully – not
particularly successful governor of Massachusetts and not just a rich
So it`s kind of a mess for him to be pushing this at all. That`s
Here`s the bigger problem though. It is the problem of the lying. At
that Solyndra stunty photo op thing today, Mitt Romney told a bald faced
lie right off the bat. It was the first thing that he said. It was blunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Two years ago, President Obama was here to tout this building
and this business as a symbol of the success of his stimulus. Well, you
can see that it`s a symbol of something very different today. It`s a
symbol not of success but of failure.
It`s also a symbol of a serious conflict of interest. An independent
inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the
administration had steered money to friends and family to campaign
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is not true. And inspector general did not look into
the investment in Solyndra and conclude that administration had steered
money to friends and family. That did not happen. That is a lie.
Michael Greenwald writes at “Time” magazine and he`s been writing a
book about the stimulus. He wrote about this turn in the Mitt Romney
campaign today. But it hasn`t really been picked up anywhere else. I`m
surprised this is not a bigger story.
No real reporter who`s ever followed this Solyndra story as
Republicans have tried to make it a big deal would have missed that damning
detail. I mean, had there been an I.G. investigation that concluded there
was corruption here, that would be a big deal. But that didn`t happen.
When the Romney campaign started claiming this in an ad this week,
their ad this week said the inspector general concluded that there had been
this steering of money to friends and family, “Time” magazine`s Michael
Greenwald started asking questions of the campaign. He says, quote, “I
asked the Romney campaign for documentation, and it produced a `Newsweek`
article asserting that Energy Department inspector general Gregory Friedman
testified that contracts have been steered to friends and family.”
Except that “Newsweek” article was an excerpt from the book “Throw
Them All Out,” written by peter Schweitzer. Peter Schweitzer served as an
adviser to Sarah Palin`s PAC. He edited one of Andrew Breitbart`s Web
sites and he`s written a slew of books portraying liberals as pond scum.”
I actually checked what Greenwald said about the pond scum thing. He
is sort of right. One of this guy`s books is literally how conservatives
work harder and hug their children more than liberals do. Not kidding.
Not making that up.
This guy wrote a whole book on profiles in liberal hypocrisy. He also
wrote “The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty.”
But here`s the important thing: it`s not just that this guy is kind of
sketch as the source for this empirical claim by a presidential campaign.
Remember, what Mitt Romney says, what Mr. Romney himself says is that the
inspector general looked into Solyndra and concluded that the Obama
administration steered taxpayer money to its friends and family. They cite
this guy as the source of that claim.
But it is a checkable claim. Did it actually happen? Quote, “It
turns out that inspector general never testified that stimulus contracts
were steered to friends and family. He said his office was investigating
whether stimulus contracts were steered to friends and family. So far, it
has not confirmed that anywhere.”
So just like Mitt Romney lied in his very first ad, in a really blunt,
schoolyard kind of way. They`re now lying in the new ad that is about
Solyndra and Mitt Romney is lying about it personally out of his face at
his big campaign stunt today.
Even if you do not don`t care that Mitt Romney has his own Solyndras,
when he was governor of Massachusetts, what he is saying about this scandal
that he is hypocritically trying to lay on the Obama administration is just
blatantly not true. It is a lie. It is a checkable thing.
He says something was concluded by a inspector general that was never
concluded by a inspector general. It is not true. That seems important
given that he`s running for president.
Even on a busy news day, even after you`ve been driven to the
candidate`s photo op at a blindfold on or something, or so maybe you`re
little confuse as to where you are, even on a crazy day in American
politics like today, with the return of George Bush, but the inexplicable
non-return of Dick Cheney, even in a day like this with the totally
confusing John Edwards verdict in the middle of it and nobody knew what it
meant – even in this nuts day in American politics, don`t you think that
candidate telling a big, blatant lie in the middle of the news cycle
deserves a little follow up?
“The Washington Post`s” E.J. Dionne joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: An independent inspector general looked at this investment
and concluded that the Obama administration has steered money to friends
and family, to campaign contributors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not true. Checkable, easily checkable. Not true. Actually,
But Mr. Romney keeps repeating it nonetheless. He did so personally
today on the campaign trail in California. He has also done so this week
in an ad. It`s not true.
Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC
contributor: He`s a Brookings Institution senior fellow and he`s author of
the blockbuster new book, `Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the
American Idea in an Age of Discontent”.
E.J., thank you so much for being here.
E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So good to be with you, and playing
my usual role as pond scum, to quote your earlier Mr. Schweitzer, I guess.
MADDOW: Who does not hug children adequately, nor do you work hard,
because you`re a liberal.
DIONNE: I actually like to hug my kids.
MADDOW: Sshhh. You`re ruining the stereotype, E.J.
OK. So what happened today is we have a presidential candidate
telling an easily checkable, very obvious, very overt cut and dry lie.
He`s put it in an ad and he said it himself to assembled reporters today.
When that happens if a general election campaign for president, what`s
supposed to happen next?
DIONNE: You`re supposed to turn on Rachel Maddow at 9:00 and watch
her call out the lie.
I think actually I say that. I think that is exactly what media are
supposed to do. I think we may be in this disturbing time of double or
triple realities where somebody`s lie is taken to be as good as somebody`s
truth because it was in a book somewhere, or it was on FOX or it was on
some website. And that becomes sufficient to back up something that if you
check just a little further is blatantly untrue.
And I think it`s going to be a real challenge to all media but
particularly the mainstream media. I`ve been in the old media all my life.
I think that our function has to be to try to create a level playing field
where the conversation is based on fact. People can have all kinds of
But candidates aren`t supposed to lie. Romney I think is really in
dangerous territory but I think we have heard the word “lie” used about him
more than I heard used about a candidate in a very long time. There were
the two you called out in your piece.
There is the famous Obama apologizes for America. He repeated that
over and over when it wasn`t true.
So, I think this is going to be a real challenge for all of us this
kind of campaign.
MADDOW: Substantively, the Obama campaign is pivoting right now to
Mr. Romney`s time as governor of Massachusetts. They previously were
focusing on his time in the private sector which is what Mr. Romney says he
would like you to focus on.
But if you were him, you would rather be former one term governor of
Massachusetts running for president or would you rather be zillion air
former private equity executive running for president if he gets a choice
in the matter, which does he pick?
DIONNE: I find it hard to put myself in Mitt Romney`s shoes, I have
to say. But personally, I`d rather run as former governor of Massachusetts
in a general election than as business guy in the Republican primary. But
then I would run defending the health care plan that he signed in
Massachusetts which he is clearly not ready to do. If he did run on his
record as governor, he`d have an easier time pivoting to appeal to moderate
voters. But we have gone through this story before.
There was another governor of Massachusetts who had actually a rather
good record as governor who ran for president in 1988. And after all of
the attacks on that record, he didn`t fair too well.
The 1988 campaign is going to sue the 2012 campaign for plagiarism.
But I think we`re about to see a rerun of some of that campaign.
MADDOW: E.J., on another subject that you wrote about in the
“Washington Post” today, the Wisconsin recall election for the governor
there is Tuesday. We learn today that former president bill Clinton is
going to Wisconsin to campaign for the Democrat, for Tom Barrett, again
Republican Governor Scott Walker there now.
Do you think that Democrats have done enough nationally to try to
defeat Scott Walker in Wisconsin?
DIONNE: I think probably not. Because I do think this is a very
important race. I`m not big on recalls or impeachments.
But I think what you`re looking at in Wisconsin is a party and a
governor who were really trying to tilt the system. You take office and
then change the rules so it`s harder to throw you out of office. You do
all that voter suppression stuff that you`ve been talking about and then
you try to weaken the political organizations that are at the heart of your
opponent`s political operations, the trade unions.
So I think it`s a big deal. But I don`t know if it does this much
good to talk about did the Democrats do enough. A lot of depend on energy
on the ground. And I think Bill Clinton being there – he is very good at
provoking energy on the ground. I think it`s a powerful symbol the
Democrats that are on the fence. It looks like from the polls that
President Obama is running ahead of Tom Barrett in that state.
And so Bill Clinton will be a good guy to convert on the fence
MADDOW: E.J. Dionne, the author of the new book, “Our Divided
Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea In an Age of Discontent,”
which is great.
E.J., congratulations on this successful launch of the book.
DIONNE: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Thanks for being here, man. Appreciate it.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: We have big developments to night in the state of Florida`s
attempt to make it harder to vote. This is something we have been talking
about on the show for the last few nights. My colleague Ed Schultz is
covering this in even more depth for longer.
But we`ve got brand new developments tonight that I do not think
you`ve heard anywhere else. Big news on that, coming up next.
MADDOW: OK, Florida. High school. New Smyrna Beach. Civics class.
The teacher in the civics class, Mrs. Cicciarelli. And as part of
teaching civics to her high school seniors in New Smyrna Beach, Florida,
Mrs. Cicciarelli – her name Jill, but this is high school and she`s Mrs.
Cicciarelli – she distributed voter registration forms to her seniors who
would be old enough to vote in the next election. The seniors who wanted
to register to vote learned how to do so, how to fill out the form and then
Mrs. Cicciarelli took the completed forms to the local elections office and
thereby registered her students to vote.
She`s a civics teacher. She does this every year. She`s been doing
this for years.
But this school year the state of Florida did something different
after she handed in the student`s forms. The state threatened to charge
her as a criminal for turning in voter registration forms just like she did
Now the state of Florida says Jill Cicciarelli has violated the
state`s strict new voting law signed by the new Republican governor of
Florida Rick Scott, Mrs. Cicciarelli facing thousands of dollars in fines
for the temerity of trying to register her students to vote. The state
also threatened to prosecute her on a felony count all because she was a
teacher carrying out the same, regular, annual part of her lesson plan in
this is how voting works.
Now, it`s a whole different lesson in this is how voting used to work
but not anymore. Last spring, Governor Rick Scott of Florida changed his
state`s laws to roll back early voting in the state. Also to make it
harder to register. The new law requires among other things that anyone
who registers voters in the state has to hand in all completed forms no
later than 48 hours to the minute after the applicants have originally
filled them out.
If you fail to do that, hand in your voter registration forms more
than 48 hours later, like teacher Jill Cicciarelli did and you`re a
potential felon. If that sounds unreasonable to you, if that sounds hash
much and impractical and serves little if no purpose, then, as of today,
there is a federal judge in the northern district of Florida, in
Tallahassee, who agrees with you. Congratulations.
This afternoon, Judge Robert Hinkle issued an injunction barring the
state of Florida from enforcing the new Rick Scott 48-hour deadline part of
its election law. Judge Hinkle called the arbitrary two-day deadline,
quote, “harsh and impractical.” Writing in his 27-page ruling, quote, the
state has little if any legitimate interest in setting the deadline at 48
The short deadline coupled with substantial penalties for
noncompliance make voter registration drives a risky business. If the goal
is to discourage voter registration drives and that`s also to make it
harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed.
But if the goal is to further the state`s legitimate interests without
unduly burdening the rights of voters and voter registration organizations,
then 48 hours is a bad choice,” end quote.
Despite the leap off the top rope body slam language of that ruling,
despite striking down the part of Republican Governor Rick Scott`s law that
made Mrs. Cicciarelli her a potential felon and shut down the age-old good
government nonpartisan little old lady voter registration drives to the
legal women voters in Florida, despite all that, Judge Hinkle leave intact
the other part of Rick Scott`s voter suppression law.
Early voting is still slashed in half from 15 days in Florida down to
only eight days. Even though you won`t have to avoid – won`t have to
abide by the random 48-hour time frame on turning in voter registration
forms. If you do want to do a voter registration drive in Florida, you
want to help somebody else register to vote, Rick Scott`s law will still
force you to register yourself with the state as if you`re a sex offender
And as we have been reporting, Governor Rick Scott is trying to purge
thousands of eligible Florida voters off the states` voter rolls. A move
that is consistently being resisted by Florida county elections officials
around the state. First, the state sent over 2,000 names to the counties
to be purged alleging that voters were noncitizens even though that doesn`t
seem to be the case in a lot of cases.
The state has also upped the purge with a follow up list not 26,000
names but of 53,000 names, that the state wants the counties to purge off
the voter rolls. Civil rights groups are asking the Justice Department to
intervene in Florida again to stop what the Republicans and the state
government are doing there in advance of the election.
Here is brand new news on the subject. The Justice Department tonight
sent the state of Florida a letter asking that it stop purging its voter
In the letter which we have obtained tonight at MSNBC, the Justice
Department says that Florida has not asked for federal clearance under the
Voting Rights Act and that the state may be violating the National Voter
Registration Act – again this letter going from the justice department to
Florida as to have night. We are reporting it exclusively here.
Take this in some, this ruling by the judge in Tallahassee, you take
the increasingly outspoken resistance by county election officials to what
their state is telling them to do and now this new intervention from the
Justice Department – all this means that this thing in Florida is heating
up really fast.
Everybody thinks this is a slow news time right now. It is not.
MADDOW: Whatever you might think of John Edwards` personal conduct,
from a legal perspective, there is one thing that John Edwards is not
guilty of and it is count called number three. Count number three was
accepted and received illegal campaign donations from Rachel “Bunny”
Today, the jury in John Edwards` campaign finance fraud case returned
a not guilty verdict on that one charge. The jury was split on five other
counts and so the judge declared a mistrial on them. Prosecutors can retry
the case if they like but most legal experts say that is unlikely. So
today is win for John Edwards.
If found guilty, which he was not, he might have faced 30 years in
prison, $1.5 million in fines.
John Edwards` legal trouble stem not from his 2004 campaign when he
was the vice-presidential nominee as amazing as that now seems. No, the
donation that`s we`re talking about here, the ones that prosecutors
amounted to fraud, these donations were made during John Edwards` very
serious bid for the presidential nomination 2008, when he finished third
behind Obama and Hillary Clinton.
There were a lot of flaws in that campaign, but it was Mr. Edwards`
personal flaws that were his own undoing. Unbeknownst to everyone at the
time, John Edwards, this guy with this seemingly story book marriage was
secretly carrying on a rather salacious affair during the campaign.
Before he had admitted to the affair and while he was still running
for president, some of his wealthy donors stepped in with cash to keep Mr.
Edwards` mistress out of the public eye. They paid to fly her all over the
country and put her up in hotels. They paid for her medical care which
became particularly important when it emerged that she was pregnant with
Mr. Edwards` child.
In total, they shelled out $900,000 for the purpose of hiding John
Edwards` mistress during and eventually after the campaign. According to
federal prosecutors, this $900,000 amounted to an illegal campaign
contribution because it was meant to preserve John Edwards` image as a
family man and thus preserve his candidacy. He was charged with six counts
of campaign finance fraud.
Now, John Edwards denied that these were campaign contributions. His
lawyer said that the money was used to protect not his presidential hopes,
not his political reputation, but rather his wife, Elizabeth.
In fact, one of the checks in question was not cashed until after John
Edwards had already dropped out of the race. That payment was at the heart
of count number three for which John Edwards was found not guilty. If he
got the money after he wasn`t running for president, then it couldn`t have
been money to help him run for president, right? Not guilty on that count.
But all rest were a mistrial.
In a brief statement today, John Edwards thanked the jury for hard
work. He thanked his family and then he stated the obvious. That he was
the only person responsible for this whole mess.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to make sure
that everyone hears from me and from my voice that while I do not believe I
did anything illegal or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an
awful, awful lot that was wrong. And there is no one else responsible for
my sins, none of the people who came to court and testified are
responsible, nobody working for the government is responsible. I am
And if I want to find the person who should be held accountable for my
sins – honestly, I don`t have to go any further than a mirror. It`s me.
It is me and me alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: John Edwards standing there with his daughter and with his
There`s no shortage of uncomfortable facts in this case, even
disgusting facts in this case. But from a policy standpoint, one
unsettling thing here is when you realize the John Edwards trial was about
a period of time before Citizens United. Back when $900,000 might be a lot
of money in a campaign.
Now, now you have a billionaire whose family spent just on Newt
Gingrich`s campaign 16 times as much money as is at issue in this case –
16 times legally. The legal part of that is the crazy part of that.
The man who ran for the Republican nomination for president this year
who focused his whole effort on screaming about money and politics and
trying to fix it has dropped out of the race as of today. He joins us next
for the interview.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: While I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever
thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was
wrong. And there is no one else responsible for my sins. None of the
people who came to court and testified are responsible. Nobody working for
the government is responsible. I am responsible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us tonight for the interview is as of today, former
Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, for whom campaign finance
reform was the centerpiece of his campaign.
Governor, it is great to see you again. Thanks for being here.
BUDDY ROEMER (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is good to see
MADDOW: I`m not going to ask you why you dropped out of the race
because I think I know. But I want to know if running for president –
this experience gave you new insight into how to fix the problem that you
ran to address, this problem of money and politics?
ROEMER: Yes. I realize we now live in the worst of both worlds, the
old debate between the liberals or progressives and conservatives, or we`re
between full disclosure and limits. Liberal wanted broad limits.
Conservatives wanted disclosure. They both said.
We have neither now. Neither. It`s wide open. I mean today`s case
with John Edwards was about personal integrity and corruption.
We`re talking systematic corruption now, where policy, whether it is
military, trade policy, budget policy with earmarks, a tax code you cannot
read, Rachel. These issues, these policy issues are moved by cash and big
They`re not moved by debate anymore. In fact, when one side is
speaking on the floor of the House, the other side is not even there.
We`ve quit talking to and with each other. We`re just talking at each
And I think the driving force, Rachel, is the power of money. It`s
gone berserk. We had it periodically in our nation`s history, in reading
Robert Caro`s book about Lyndon Johnson and his beginnings he talked about
the turn of the 20th century when Roosevelt and others were trying to bust
the trust, the big corporations were running American politics, and running
the country in the ground and the populist stood up and there was a
movement in this country.
I think the same thing is going to happen here. I`m not talking
personal corruption now. The John Edwards story is a different story. I`m
talking systematic corruption where a president will spend more time on
fund-raising in 21st century than any president in the history of the
country and I`m not blaming him. He thinks he has to do it to get re-
elected, because we have a system where there are no limits broad or narrow
and there`s not full disclosure.
MADDOW: The reason I think the John Edwards benchmark is so
interesting in such an unexpected way because it makes 2008 seem quaint. I
mean, there`s always been money in politics. The John Edwards money is
particularly disgusting for its own reasons.
MADDOW: But this idea that in a pre-Citizens United, what we were
worried about was how less than a million dollars might have been a
corrupting or fraudulent influence in that race. We`re talking about – I
mean two brothers from an oil and chemical conglomerate that they inherited
from their dad say they are together as two people are going to spend $400
million in this election this year.
ROEMER: I just read a book about outsourcing in the military. Good
At one point the author writes that in Iraq, in 2011, there were
45,000 soldiers and 65,000 private contractors. We`ve made war painless.
We`re doing that to politics now.
John Edwards outsourced this diversion of money and we`re beginning to
see it in so many ways now where politicians hide the source of their money
and yet it influences how they vote. I`ve been on your show before and
talked about banking.
It`s too big to fail still the law? Yes, it is. How many millions of
dollars did that take from the banks to buy off the Congress?
MADDOW: But in terms of how bad it is now and how quickly it has
gotten this bad, one of the things you said in your statement about leaving
the campaign today was that 98 percent of people in America do not give a
ROEMER: Not a penny.
MADDOW: – when it comes to making political donations. I`m not sure
that I want to try to inspire everybody to give political donations, but
does that – doesn`t that mean people are so demoralized about their
ability to have any influence amid this sea of corporate and massive mega-
donor money that it`s real hard to imagine fixing this.
ROEMER: Well, here`s the jury today. If you could talk to him, I bet
here`s what they said – one of the reasons they found not guilty on
indictment number three. Everybody does it. You can hear them talking
like that and that`s what America feels now. I`ve been across America for
17 months, and I`ve learned so much.
You ask a good first question, what have you learned, Buddy? What do
we need to do? We need to tell the stories of corruption and how it
affects us and the power of money in this.
Right now, the average American doesn`t give a penny, is a spectator
on the couch, watches a few debates then makes a decision. I tried to run
an approach of $100 limit and I needed 3 million people. If I could get 3
million people at $100, that`s $300 million and, Rachel, I`ll be president
of the United States.
It can be done. And I think it`s possible.
What I thought, though, was the issue of credibility. Buddy, you`re
not credible if you don`t take the big checks. Buddy, you`re not credible
if you`re not on the debate.
Well, they decided not to put me on any of the 23 debates. What I`m
going to do now going forward is work on the issue of reform, not as a
candidate, but as a citizen and I`m going to try to pull the forces
together, left and right – Larry Lessig, Mark McKinnon – all the people I
work with, we`re going to try to make this issue on the floor of Congress
and in the corridors of the White House. And the issue is this, is this a
republic where the representatives represent people or is this an oligarchy
where representatives represent big checks? That`s the issue.
You pointed out in your book in the military, I pointed out in my life
on the political trail. Somewhere, somehow, we`ve got to get this
together, Rachel, and I failed. But you know two weeks ago in a national
poll, I had 7 percent, and only 15 percent of the people knew who I were
and the 15 that knew, half of them were going to vote for me for president.
This issue is alive, and the two parties are joined at the billfold.
I was 20 years a Democrat, 20 years a Republican. I know their strengths
and they have strengths, but I know their weakness, it`s the big check.
That`s going to be the issue.
I make a prediction. In elections forward in the 21st century, there
will be multiple parties, not two. There will be multiple issues, not just
one and we will handle money and politics like it`s never been handled
By the way, you know what the law is now, you know what the law is
when John Edwards ran? Twenty-five hundred dollars was the limit on
individual giving. Is that a joke?
MADDOW: Buddy Roemer, you did not go far as a presidential potential
nominee in the Republican Party but you are capable as a Republican of
talking to people on the left and right about this issue.
So as you continue to – as you continue to stick with this issue, I
hope you`ll keep the dialogue open with me and with our friends on the
ROEMER: Yes, Madam Vice President.
MADDOW: Now, that`s a sure losing bet.
ROEMER: All right. We would have been powerful.
MADDOW: We will be right back.
MADDOW: If the money in politics Citizens United eccentric
billionaires have been deciding elections has been bumming you out, like I
just talking about with Buddy Roemer, in one really interesting and
specific way, one way out of this mess for our country might go through the
state of Montana. It is maybe the only hope and it is possible. And
that`s what we`ve got set for tomorrow night`s RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. I hope
you will join us then.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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