The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/19/12
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: Everywhere you go the Republicans
say, well, it`s about the economy. It`s about jobs.
You`re damn right it is. It`s about Freeport, Illinois.
That`s “THE ED SHOW.” I`m Ed Schultz.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is coming up right now. And, Rachel, the folks
of Freeport want to say this to you tonight.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Ed, if I could teleport my way to Freeport right
now, I would do it. I`m there with you in spirit, man. That`s so awesome.
Hello, Freeport. So great.
Thanks, man. Have a great weekend. Woohoo! Ed has the life, man.
All right. I want to thank you for staying with us this hour. Happy
When Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at last night`s Al
Smith Dinner made one of his jokes about President Obama, that was also
sort of an implicitly a shot at the first lady.
One of the interesting things is the first lady, herself, was not in
the room. Mr. Romney was there with his wife, Ann Romney, but the
president was there without the first lady. Michelle Obama was not in the
room. I think that is what made Mr. Romney`s joke more awkward than it
otherwise might have been.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Campaigns can be grueling,
exhausting. President Obama and I each very lucky to have one person who`s
always in our corner, someone who we can lean on and someone who`s a
comforting presence without whom we wouldn`t be able to go another day. I
have my beautiful wife, Ann. He has Bill Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Which is a funny joke, but he`s also a little bit mean to the
first lady, right? Mr. Romney did go on at the end of his remarks to say
very nice things, very nice and serious things about the whole Obama
family. That sort of softened the blow there a little bit.
Michelle Obama was also the subject of a self-deprecating joke from
President Obama, himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, it`s back to
campaigning. I`ve been to cities and towns across our great country, and I
hear the same everywhere I go. Honestly, we were hoping to see Michelle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was not President Obama`s funniest joke of the night,
but it turns out that what he said there is actually kind of true. At
least the underlying point of it, which is that people apparently really,
really like to see Michelle Obama out on the campaign trail.
This is Mrs. Obama today speaking at a campaign rally in Racine,
Wisconsin. There were something like 2,500 people, capacity crowd crammed
in to see Mrs. Obama. We know it was a capacity crowd because there was
also a line of people several blocks long outside who were trying to get
into see her but who could not get into the room.
So when President Obama says people are sometimes disappointed that
they do not get Michelle, I don`t know about people`s comparative feelings
about seeing the two of them, but the first lady is a very, very effective
campaigner on her husband`s behalf – as she showed today in Wisconsin.
At the Al Smith Dinner, though, the bookend pair of jokes told by both
candidates that was even a weirder pair than the sort of mismatch between
those two mentions of Michelle Obama last night, the even weirder bookend
pair of jokes told by both candidates was the bookend pair of jokes told
about the governor of New York state.
Yes, the Al Smith Dinner takes place in New York. The governor of New
York, Andrew Cuomo, was there. Both candidates took time in their speeches
to make jokes about Andrew Cuomo.
And the weird thing is they both made essentially the exact same joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
OBAMA: Tonight, I am here with man whose father was a popular
governor and who knows what it`s like to run a major northeastern state and
who could very well be president someday, and I`m hoping it is Andrew
ROMNEY: I`m pleased to once again have the chance to see Governor
Cuomo, who`s already being talked about for higher office. A very
impressive fellow, but he may be getting a little ahead of himself.
I mean, let me get this straight. The man has put in one term as a
governor, he has a father who happened to be a governor, and he thinks
that`s enough to run for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Andrew Cuomo sitting right up there on the dais, almost right
next to the candidates as they were giving these speeches seemed to be
enjoying himself greatly as they made fun of him in the most flattering way
One thing that is interesting about Andrew Cuomo, as governor of New
York, he got elected to that job in November 2010. Think about November
2010. That was an election in which basically every other race in the
country went Republican.
And now, people think of New York as a very Democratic state and it
will certainly go blue in the presidential election, but New Yorkers
sometimes elect Republicans to statewide offices. I mean, Republican
Governor George Pataki was not that long ago and given what was going on
around the country in 2010 it is not inconceivable that November 2010 could
have offered a very closely fought race for the New York governorship
between Andrew Cuomo, Democrat, and whoever the Republican was.
It turned out not to be a close race at all. Andrew Cuomo won by a
30-point margin – a 30-point margin. Why did he win by a 30-point margin?
Because this is the guy the Republicans had running against him. Crazy
Carl. Remember him? The Republicans ran crazy Carl Paladino as their
gubernatorial nominee against Andrew Cuomo – the guy with the baseball
That`s how we got New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
It is also, that campaign is how we got a legitimate innovation in
American political campaigning. Carl Paladino was such a crazy candidate,
such a crazy out there campaign, that he invented something in American
politics that I think has never been done before, which is scratch and
sniff. A scratch and sniff political flier which even now, two years later
after that election, still sort of smells. We keep the Carl Paladino
scratch and sniff mailer in a sealed box in our office because it still
The Point of this flier, this mailing, was to accuse somebody of being
trashy or something. But the Carl Paladino campaign scented the flier so
it smells like trash. And then they mailed it to people`s homes. Amazing
he lost, right?
Whatever you think of Carl Paladino and the Republican Party for
running him for governor of a real state, this flier was a basic level
innovation in American politicking. I`m not sure why nobody did it before
but I think this was the first ever scratch and sniff political mailing.
Well, now, this week we have had another fundamental innovation in
American politics, something brand new. Carl Paladino invented the first
campaign mailer with a smell. But we now, as of today, have the first
campaign mailer with a sound.
AUTOMATED VOICE: If it`s a legitimate rape the female body has ways
to try to shut that whole thing down.
MADDOW: Not a special effect. Look.
AUTOMATED VOICE: If it`s a legitimate –
MADDOW: You believe it? I can`t believe nobody came up this before
now. We have had greeting cards that sing to you and say where`s the beef,
or whatever for years now.
I think this is the first time we have ever had somebody use this
technology in a political mailer.
AUTOMATED VOICE: If it`s a legitimate rape –
MADDOW: It does go on and on and on. It`s not just the quote. It
goes on and is essentially a full audio ad against Todd Akin. Unlike the
Paladino stink mailer, at least this one when you close it, it stops,
right? This one, the stink goes on.
This talking mailer is being sent out against Todd Akin, who`s the
Republican Senate candidate from Missouri this year. This was not sent out
by his opponent`s campaign by the Claire McCaskill campaign. It was sent
out by a Democratically leaning super PAC. But this is obviously clearly
designed to benefit her in the election.
Claire McCaskill is a very good campaigner. Some of her ads in this
election I should say, other than the talking mailer are among the best ads
I`ve seen a Democrat run anywhere. Whatever you think about her politics,
she`s a very good campaigner.
And even has a very, very good campaigner it was almost impossible to
imagine Senator Claire McCaskill being able to hold on to her senate seat
this year just because she`s the senator from Missouri and Missouri is
trending more and more strongly Republican. This is going to be a
difficult race, right?
The only reason she is not, however, just competing for this race, the
only reason she`s not just competitive for holding on to her seat, she`s
actually pretty far out ahead in her state right now. The only reason is
because Republicans picked a Carl Paladino type to run against her. The
Republicans picked Todd Akin.
And there are a lot of things that are Neanderthal about Todd Akin. I
mean, if you leave this mailer open long enough and listen to the spiel, it
eventual gets to the part where he calls federal support for student loans
a stage 3 cancer of socialism. So, yes, there is a lot that is Neanderthal
about Todd Akin, but it is his Neanderthal-ism specifically about women and
women`s rights that is defining this race in Missouri.
Even after a valiant effort to make it seem like Todd Akin has lots of
female support. Look, I am a women. I`m a women.
Even after this valiant effort to make it seem like ladies love Todd
akin, Mr. Akin is losing women in Missouri by a 27-point margin according
to the right-leaning Rasmussen poll in Missouri – losing women by 27
Gender gap is really important in that senate race and in a number of
Senate races. Republicans are on the losing side of the gender gap in
otherwise competitive Senate races in Virginia, in Wisconsin, in
Massachusetts. Republicans are even on the losing side of a gender gap in
a Senate race where their candidate is the woman, running against a guy, in
Connecticut, which is maybe not surprising. After two years in which
Republican politics have been more aggressively and successfully hostile to
women`s rights, particularly to women`s reproductive choice, than they have
been since Roe versus Wade was decided.
The gender gap is also now an animating feature, of course, of the
presidential campaign. As we saw in the NBC/Marist poll that came out
yesterday for Iowa and Wisconsin, the gender gap in both of those states
where President Obama is leading – the gender gap in both those states is
The Republican side knows it desperately needs to close the gender gap
if they`re going to win this race. The Democrats know they are actually
really dependent on that gender gap. They are dependent on that gender gap
And that as much as anything else in the race is driving what the
candidates and campaigns are doing now 18 days out from the presidential
election. Today, here`s how you could tell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Mr. Severely Conservative wants you to think he was severely
kidding about everything he said over the last year. I mean, he`s changing
up so much and backtracking and sidestepping. We`ve got to – we`ve got to
name this condition that he`s going through. I think – I think it`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, do you notice anything about the visual here? Not what
he just said, but look at the visual.
It`s President Obama speaking at a rally in northern Virginia today.
And we checked and it was not a 100 percent female audience at the rally,
but that is a 100 percent female array of very, very, very happy Obama
supporters positioned behind the candidate for the camera shot at that
event today. And that is not an accident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you say you`re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep
refusing to say whether or not you`d sign a bill that protects equal pay
for equal work, you might have Romnesia.
If you say women should have access to contraceptive care but you
support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive
care, you might have a case of Romnesia.
If you say you`ll protect a woman`s right to choose, but you stand up
at a primary debate and said that you`d be delighted to sign a law
outlawing that right to choose in all cases – man, you definitely got
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In addition to that campaign event in Virginia today, the
Obama campaign also released yet another new ad on the subject of Mitt
Romney`s abortion position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seeing this from Mitt Romney, then take a look
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: If Roe v. Wade was overturned, Congress passed
a federal ban on all abortions and it came to your desk, would you sign it?
ROMNEY: Let me say it, I`d be delighted to sign that bill.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Banning all abortions?
ROMNEY: I`d be delighted to sign that bill.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to mislead us – that`s wrong.
But ban all abortions? Only if you vote for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is the seventh ad that the Obama campaign put out on
this subject. What you saw at the beginning of the ad, what they`re
referencing there when they say see this, right? What they`re referencing
there is that for the first time, even though the Obama campaign has been
hammering them on this issue all year long, for the first time, the Romney
campaign, the other side, has finally put out one of its own ads defending
Mr. Romney on this issue – sort of defending him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, those ads saying Mitt Romney would ban
all abortions and contraceptions seemed a bit extreme. So I looked into
it. Turns out, Romney doesn`t oppose contraception at all.
In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape,
incest, or to save a mother`s life.
This issue`s important to me, but I`m more concerned about the debt
our children will be left with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So she goes on to say, I voted for Obama, but I`m going to
not vote for him this time because Romney is not so bad, right?
The message here is this is not at important an issue. Debt is a real
issue, that`s something to really vote on, but don`t vote on this because:
(a) this is not a real issue, and even if it is an important issue for you,
be assured that Mitt Romney does not have an extreme position on the
subject. Sure, what you might have heard may sound extreme, but he`s not
really extreme. Not when you really look into it and type on your computer
and ask “PolitiFact”. No comment from me on the “PolitiFact” part of that.
We know why the Romney campaign thinks it needs to say that Mitt
Romney doesn`t oppose contraception at all – which you saw them say in
that ad. Mr. Romney`s aides told “The New York Times” about this ad that
they are trying to change the perception among undecided women that Mr.
Romney holds very conservative positions on social issues. The Romney
campaign says its own polling and focus groups are finding undecided voters
are troubled by whether Mr. Romney`s positions on issues like abortion and
contraception were too unyielding.
So, they say they want to make it sound like his positions aren`t that
extreme, they have to make it sound like Mr. Romney has not taken extreme
positions on these issues. But Mr. Romney really has taken very, very,
very, very conservative positions on these issues – including
That is why in the second debate this week, Mr. Romney went out of his
way to make himself sound like he hasn`t taken the position that he really
has actually taken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I don`t believe employers should tell someone whether they
could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have
access to contraceptives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually when you say “I don`t believe that,” you totally do
believe that. You do. You do.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RADIO HOST: Listen, I got to ask you here about – there`s a – “The
Washington Post” has got a blog out here saying Jim Heath, a reporter for a
TV station in Ohio, just tweeted a remarkable piece of news: Mitt Romney
told him he does not support the Blunt Amendment that would empower
employers and insurers to provide health coverage they find morally
objectionable. What happened here?
ROMNEY: I didn`t understand his question. Of course I support the
Blunt Amendment. I thought it was talking about some state law that
prevented people from getting contraception. So I was simply, I
misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt Amendment.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: What does the Blunt Amendment do? It lets your boss
determine whether or not you get access to contraception through your
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I don`t believe employers should tell someone whether they
could have contraceptive care or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, yes, you do. Yes, you do, because you support the Blunt
Amendment which does exactly that.
I`ve had two competing instincts about this issue for a long time
during this campaign. I`ve been conflicted about whether the Romney
campaign and the candidate, himself, does not understand his own position
or whether they`re purposely misrepresenting his position. I have been
conflicted about this up until today.
Even with the Romney campaign admitting that they were trying to make
him appear less conservative than he is on these issues, even with them
admitting that, I had not been sure, right, I couldn`t shake the feeling, I
still suspected that he really just doesn`t focus on this issue enough to
understand what his position is and so he keeps misstating it. That it`s
just a big mistake that he keeps making over and over again.
I think he is a good actor because I`ve been feeling like, oh, he`s
just flubbing it, it`s nothing deliberate. I kept thinking it could not
have been deliberate, until today, until this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Well, let me just take the
Blunt Amendment and contraception. I think that what Mitt Romney is saying
now is the same as he has said, that women should have access to birth
control of their choice. The Blunt Amendment dealt with a religious
exception. If it is a religious-based hospital or charity, and –
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: You know, it`s also employers.
HUTCHISON: Do not want to offer that – the employers of those
charities and those hospitals that are religious-based should have the
option of not covering that with insurance. That doesn`t mean they
wouldn`t still have access and –
MITCHELL: If they could afford it, but that`s a big expense outside
of their employee-based insurance.
HUTCHISON: Well, I think that if they choose to work, if they`re,
say, Catholic and choose to work in a Catholic hospital, I think the
Catholic hospital should have the right to exercise something that`s so
much a part of their religious beliefs. And that`s what the Blunt
And I don`t think Mitt Romney has changed his view on that at all.
And I think he does believe in that access and would stand up for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Absolutely, blatantly, fundamentally untrue from a U.S.
senator acting as a surrogate for Mitt Romney.
What she just described there is not what the Blunt Amendment is.
Mitt Romney really does support a policy that`s not just about religious
employers. It`s not just about Catholic hospitals. It is about any
employer anywhere in the country being able to block their employees from
getting birth control through their health insurance. Sounds awful, right?
That`s why it keeps coming up.
Picture your boss. Does your boss want you to have the pill? Do you
not know? Do you want to find out?
Because that is actually one of the choices you have in this election
between your boss deciding whether you get the pill under your health
insurance or that not being your boss` business. That really is the
choice, because Mitt Romney really does support the Blunt Amendment and the
Blunt Amendment really does give your boss the choice about whether or not
your contraception is covered by your insurance.
And the Romney campaign and the Romney campaign surrogates, including
U.S. senators and the candidate, himself, Mitt Romney, are just flat-out,
repeatedly, over and over again lying about this bluntly. Hoping that
people do not understand the truth and that people vote for Mitt Romney
because they believe something that is not true about what he stands for
and what he would do as president.
Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, host of MSNBC`s “ANDREA MITCHELL
REPORTS” who pointed out to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison that what she was
saying was not true, even if the senator keeps saying it over and over
again. Andrea tweeted after the interview, clarifying what the Blunt
Amendment actually does.
Andrea Mitchell, thank you for being here tonight.
MITCHELL: Thank you for the opportunity to further clarify.
MADDOW: When – sorry, go ahead.
MITCHELL: Rachel, I think there`s even a moral as well as a religious
exception for the blunt amendment. So it`s rather ambiguous, and it is, as
you point out, correctly, and thanks for bringing that to everyone`s
attention, it`s not only religious institutions. Religious institutions
also have non-Catholic employees.
MADDOW: Also there is the repeated problem here with the Republicans
who support the Blunt Amendment, including Mr. Romney, describing it
repeatedly as not at all that. And I wonder what your take is on why
they`re doing that, Andrea.
My instinct for a very long time really until I saw that interview you
did today with Senator Hutchison is they were doing it out of ignorance
and, honestly, I was bothered they didn`t care enough about the subject to
get their own policy right on it. Now I sort of feel like they are – it`s
a concerted effort to hide the facts of what the stance really is.
Do you have any – is there any way we can know that? Do you have
instinct on it?
MITCHELL: Well, my instinct watching the debate is certainly that
something`s going on here. We know from the polling data that they do
think they had some advantage after Denver and were narrowing the gap in at
least some of the polls, not in our NBC News/Marist/”Wall Street Journal”
polls today in Wisconsin and in Iowa. But they are in some of the polls
seeing a narrowing of the gender gap among the – you know, college
educated white women who are the targets of both campaigns now.
And you`ve seen the rhetoric from both campaigns and you pointed out
the women who were surrounding President Obama at George Mason University
in Virginia today. So this is clearly the target audience. They are very
narrow groups of people they have to appeal to. When I heard him say that
he believed women have the right to access to contraception and that
employers should not intervene, that`s when I began to look into this a
little bit further and just wonder about all of the rhetoric and about the
moderating of his comments on these reproductive health issues since the
MADDOW: Do – if he were just moderating his position, if he were
saying, listen, there are Republicans who tried to let – the people in my
own party who tried to let a boss decide whether or not his or her
employees were going to have access to contraception under insurance. I
understand why people believe that. I don`t. I`ve changed my position on
that. I have seen the light.
That would be moderating his position. In this case, he is not
moderating his position. When the campaign was asked directly about this
if this reflects a change, they insist that this isn`t a change. They`re
just not describing the position accurately. And I don`t actually know
what the political corrective is for that.
MITCHELL: Well, we do our fact checks after, you know, after these
debates and we pore through the documents. We don`t have all that much
time, especially after the last debate because the debate went longer than
90 minutes. At least into, you know, our deadline when we went off the air
at 11:00 on the network side. You, of course, on MSNBC and your colleagues
and Ezra Klein were still doing fact checking.
But it tended to be focused on the economic issues and a lot of people
didn`t get to these reproductive issues.
Now the foreign policy debate will clearly not be focusing on that
although there will be economic – global economic concerns I think raised
by both sides. So these reproductive questions now have – it`s basically
your reporting, my reporting, other people who bring this to the attention
because there`s no opportunity to ask questions of either of the
candidates. They are not accessible for any kind of news conference or
even rope line interviews at this stage in the game.
MADDOW: That`s amazing. It`s all going to be played out really in
ads and reporting from here on out.
NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent, the host of MSNBC`s “ANDREA
MITCHELL REPORTS” – Andrea, it is always great to have you here. Thank
you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Ahead of Monday`s foreign policy debate, we have
a truly incredible guest at the exact perfect moment. Here tonight is the
former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Seriously.
MADDOW: Want to see the difference between Democrats and Republicans
in one chart? Look, what we have on the left there are the top five
campaign fund-raisers for President Obama. On the right the top five
campaign fund-raisers for Mitt Romney.
Don`t look so much at the names. I want you to look here at the
President Obama`s top fund-raisers have raised $2.6 million, $2.1
million, $2.1 million, $2.1 million, $2 million. Those are his top five
most ginormous donors. All in the $2 million range. That`s the Democrats.
Here`s the Republicans – $34 million, $16 million, $15 million, $4
million, $3 million. Behold the difference between two parties. This is
put together by the “A.P.” today.
From their top five donors the Democrats raise, like, 10 million bucks
combined. The Republicans get that three times over from just one guy.
Over this final two weeks of the campaign, cash is critical – for
ads, for get out the vote, for staffing field offices, for the organization
on the ground. The Republicans are taking in that cash from their
conservative billionaire pool as if that cash were being shot out of a fire
hose. On the other side, though, the comparatively pitiful one little
puddle of rich Democrats it turns out is not the only place the Obama
campaign is turning for help.
It turns out the Obama campaign is raising tons of money from the non-
billionaires among us. Today the Obama campaign said that on Wednesday of
this week, the day after the second presidential debate, that was the
single biggest fund-raising day Barack Obama has ever had – ever. And
that includes the entire `08 presidential campaign.
He`s never in his career, not even in 2008, raised more money in one
day than he raised the day after the debate this week on Wednesday. How
much did they raise? They are not yet saying but we can sleuth it out a
little bit. One of the Obama campaign`s previous biggest fund-raising days
ever was September 4th, 2008.
On that single day we know they raised $10 million. What happened the
day before that in order to cause the $10 million inflow? Oh, right. So
two of the things that ha exercised Democratic wallets the most in American
history have been the national debut of an Alaska governor named Sarah
Palin. That was four years ago at the Republican convention. And also a
strong debate performance by President Obama this week in New York.
Something tells me that somewhere right now, there is a Democratic
operative trying to figure out how to get Sarah Palin on a flight to
Florida in time for the debate. Some Democrat right now is trying to
arrange a direct flight from Wasilla to Boca.
MADDOW: It`s been too long since we had a best new thing on this
show. But you know what we all need? A best new thing in the world. And
we`ve got a great one tonight coming up at the end of the show. Hang on.
It is very good news.
MADDOW: Next big event in the campaign is the third and final
presidential debate on Monday. The debate is always a big deal. This one
is a bigger than usual deal for two reasons. The first reason is Mitt
Romney clearly won the first one. President Obama clearly won the second
The race overall could not be closer so this third and final debate is
a rematch between two candidates who not only think they can win this
debate, they think they must win this debate. Just the horse race impact,
who`s winning this thing impact of Monday`s debate really cannot be
But the other reason Monday`s debate is a bigger than usual deal for
this race at this time between these two men is because of the topic. The
first one was just about domestic policy. The second one was a mix after
everything. The questions were from voters. That was good.
But this next debate, the last one, is totally focused on foreign
policy. Whether or not foreign policy is your particular issue for this
election the fact that the president and Mr. Romney are finally going to be
forced to compete on that subject means that one of the things that has
stunk about this election is about to be fixed, just in time.
The most interesting question in American politics, to me, still, is
what it`s going to take for the Republican Party to recover from the
disaster of the Bush/Cheney years. Did they learn anything from that
disaster? Did it change them? How did it change them? Who is the new
face of the party after George W. Bush and how is that person different
They are trying to make the new face of the party Mitt Romney, but
because Mr. Romney has no experience at all on foreign policy and no
apparent deep interest in it, either, his foreign policy advisers have been
telling reporters they don`t even think he reads their briefing papers on
foreign policy, because Mr. Romney said even the war we are currently
fighting was not important enough to him to make it into his convention
speech, because the Republicans have nominated somebody with no foreign
policy chops whatsoever, the Republican presidential campaign this year
just carried over the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney foreign policy core
I mean, they`ve got Paul Ryan out on the campaign trail this week with
Condoleezza Rice. Really? What, Dick Cheney wasn`t available? Oh,
actually, Dick Cheney is available. He will be fund-raising for Mitt
Romney in Dallas right after the foreign policy debate.
They have 24 named foreign policy advisers, 17 of the 24 are from the
You know, this guy who was attached by a three-foot-long invisible
bungee cord to Paul Ryan? He is Dan Senor. He`s who the Republican
assigned to be Paul Ryan`s top staffer on the Romney/Ryan campaign. Dan
Senor was also the George W. Bush administration Iraq war spokesman in
Baghdad. That is who is heading up the Paul Ryan part of the Romney/Ryan
Dan Senor also sits on the board of directors as something called the
Foreign Policy Initiative. They`ve got four people on their board. One is
Dan Senor. Two of the other four people are special advisers to the Romney
campaign, these guys.
And yesterday, that group headed by the top staffer to Paul Ryan and
two other Romney/Ryan advisers called for an American war in Syria.
Are you ready for another American war in the Middle East?
This is a presidential campaign that neither side wants to be about
foreign policy. Even President Obama does not want that because there are
hard questions to be asked of him about why we`re still in Afghanistan and
the kill list and drone strikes and all the rest.
But the Romney/Ryan campaign has not been capable of asking those
questions. They haven`t even bothered to come up with a legible policy on
the war we are already in.
So, anybody who wants hard questions asked of President Obama on
foreign policy, it just hasn`t happened yet. And anybody who was freaked
out that Romney and Ryan are such empty vessels on this subject that they
would let all the Bush/Cheney people back in to bring us another term of
that foreign policy, frankly those questions have not been asked, either.
But by virtue of the final debate, we are finally going to get those
questions asked. And how the candidates will answer those questions is
totally unpredictable, because they have not answered to any of this stuff
yet. And so, Monday`s debate is going to be very suspenseful. Anything
could happen. Anything could happen. And that makes for great TV. And
good politics. And it`s awesome.
And to prepare us for that debate, here for the interview tonight is
Kofi Annan, who used to run a thing you might have heard of called the
United Nations. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Mr. Speaker, not since Hitler have we
seen so much evil delivered by one man. This tyrant has amassed a large
cache of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and is
aggressively seeking nuclear weapons. I urge a yes vote and I urge passage
of this resolution.
DEBATE MODERATOR: Governor Romney, was the war in Iraq a good idea
worth the cost in blood and treasure we have spent?
ROMNEY: It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at
the time. I support it now.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: We all agree now as a country starting the Iraq war was a bad
idea. Specifically, I`m curious as to whether the party of George W. Bush
is onboard with that assessment. Did the Republican Party learn anything
from the Iraq war disaster? What did they learn if anything? Did that
experience change the party at all? If so, how?
That`s the most important series of questions I know to ask about
American politics right now, why I`m so interested in the Republican Party
trying to find itself and pick its new leaders in the post-Bush and post-
The one man who probably did more than any single human on earth to
stop the U.S. from starting the disastrous war in Iraq is our guest tonight
for the interview.
Kofi Annan served two terms as secretary general of the United Nations
from 1997 to 2006. His new book “Interventions: A Life in War and Peace.”
Mr. Annan, it`s a real honor to have you here. Thank you.
KOFI ANNAN, FORMER SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS: Happy to
MADDOW: I wanted to start on the Iraq war, because we are on the eve
of the foreign policy debate in our presidential election. You say, “By
behaving as it did, the U.S. invited the perception it was become a greater
threat to global security than anything Saddam could muster, which is a
self-inflicted wound, that did immense and possibly lasting damage to U.S.
standing in the world.”
Why do you bookend your own book, start and end your book with a
discussion of the Iraq war? Why is it of such outsized importance?
ANNAN: It is important because the Iraq war brought divisions within
the U.N. and the world that we hadn`t seen for a long time. And as I said
at the beginning of the war, that when a country`s attacked it has a right
to defend itself. But when it`s a broader question of security for all of
us, you cannot do without the security – the legitimacy of the Security
Council can confer.
And in this case, the war was – the war took place without the
consent of the Security Council. And we did not find the weapons of mass
destruction which ostensibly we went there for. And the U.N. inspectors
were not given the time to do their work.
MADDOW: You talk – the theme of the book is interventions. You talk
a lot about the responsibility to protect.
MADDOW: And how important it is to protect the sanctity of the idea
of humanitarian intervention. To protect the idea of the – that it is a
legitimate use of force to stop gross human rights abuses and genocide.
Has the sanctity of that idea, the legitimacy of that idea, been
undermined in the past decade because of the Iraq war and because of other
ANNAN: I think the responsibility to protect norm (ph) came up after
the Iraq war. I know it`s something that had been discussed for a long
time. But the general assembly endorsed it in 2005.
And, in fact, it was one of the reasons why I felt we need rules as to
when we intervene and when we don`t. But what was important with the
responsibility to protect is we were telling potential dictators that you
cannot use sovereignty as a shield behind which you brutalize your own
people, but that norm (ph) also puts responsibility on those of us outside
the country to intervene, to act.
But intervention does not necessarily mean use of force. It can be
political, diplomatic, economic, fiscal sanctions, and use of force as a
last resort. And if we are going to use force, we have to be certain or
have a clear idea that it would improve the situation and not make it
MADDOW: Do you feel like the United States` turn with the election of
Barack Obama toward a more respectfully multilateralist approach to
international affairs is a substantive change, and has it had any
ANNAN: I think it is a substantive change which was appreciated by
the world, the rest of the world, is the sense that you have a powerful
U.S. which was ready to work with other countries, which is ready to
listen, ready to talk and ready to put his views across but open to other
sect. And that change I think was very good for the U.S. Obviously, there
are those who would object to that sort of non-assertion as a sea of U.S.
power, but the rest of the world appreciated the new mood.
MADDOW: You write at the very beginning of the book that in your
years as secretary general – I mean, you write generally about the
challenge of the United Nations in an era of American dominance, right?
But you said that in your years of secretary general, you found yourself
playing the role of a global interpreter – explaining the United States to
the world and the world to the United States.
What are the things that American government and the American people
have the hardest time understanding about the rest of the world? What was
hardest to translate?
ANNAN: No, there were many were many situations. For example, I can
give you an example. I was going to Iran. And I discuss with senior
people in Washington that in the dialogue and the exchanges with the
Iranians, one has to be careful not always to react to what the Iranians
say, senior Iranians, because sometimes it`s not meant for us.
Because I had to come from Iran earlier and President Ahmadinejad told
me about how he`s traveled around the country, explaining the nuclear
research, the Iranian nuclear research to the farmers, and I could imagine
the language he would use to explain this complicated scientific research
to the farmers. And, of course he may use words we are developing the most
powerful whatever. You know? Washington may react.
And vice versa, you know? Somebody may say something in Washington,
throwing red meat to supporters, and they react.
So I was trying to tell both sides that you have to listen to what is
being said by the other side. And some of the messages are not meant for
you and you don`t have to react.
MADDOW: The idea that something is not meant for an American audience
is absolutely impossible for an American to understand.
ANNAN: You know, because I said, so you shouldn`t even react. You
know? And, of course, Washington this is important. They say the Iranians
should hear this.
Then the Iranians asked me, have you shared with this Americans? It`s
very important you tell them. You know, just to give you a simple example.
MADDOW: That`s the scariest game of telephone in the world. You have
been trying to broker a peaceful resolution in the tragic situation in
Syria. You stepped down as specialist envoy there in August.
Do you – what it feels like is just a layman following it in the
news, is that both sides think they`re going to win and that is the reason
that neither side wants to talk. Is that your assessment and do you have
any optimism about it ending?
ANNAN: I think both sides got into the logic of war, and both sides
think they could win and their supporters think they could win. And this
is the tragic part. I don`t think there`s a military solution after this.
You look at the mosaic that is Syria. Syria is a very complex
society. It`s an ancient civilization. It`s a society that is not made up
of Alawites and Sunnis. You have Christians, you have the Druze, you have
Turkmen, you have the Syrians, you have Ismailis, and they all have
interest to be protected.
And these people who are caught in the middle of war neither
necessarily supporting what the government is doing or the opposition are
the ones who are in a very difficult situation. And even those who started
the grassroots movement for democracy for better governance have lost their
voice. They`ve been squeezed out by the two military camps. And we are
all focusing on them.
And what I believe is required is really very serious attempt to get a
political settlement, but that should begin with international community
coming together, the council finding a will, bridging its differences and
working with the countries who are also divided, and moving in to help the
protagonists on the ground.
MADDOW: Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations,
winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The new book is called “Interventions: A
Life in War and Peace,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. I would have read if
it was not my excuse to get you here on the show. Thank you for being
here. I appreciate it.
ANNAN: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got the best new thing in the world coming
up that will make you very happy. At least it makes me happy. That`s
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. OK, we`ve had three
debates so far – presidential and vice presidential. The candidates
collectively have spent the better part of five hours arguing about
Medicare and Social Security and taxes and China and immigration and jobs.
They`ve argued over the rules of the debate. They have argued over
freaking Big Bird.
But you know what? There`s been no talk at all about how we are
treating veterans – the people coming home from fighting our long wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan. There`s been no talk at all yet about how we are
doing as a country at keeping our promises to them. No mention of our
veterans at all yet in the debates, and the way we are handling their needs
and the promises we made to them as a country.
But the bottomless willingness of the D.C. Beltway to not talk about
that as an issue, I have to tell you, is not shared by the rest of the
country. Outside the Beltway, in a totally nonpartisan way across the
country, lots and lots and lots of Americans have been thinking about what
happens to this new generations of veterans when they come home –
sometimes with injuries and trauma and almost always in need of a new job.
Ordinary Americans are holding their own parades, welcome home troops,
love, St. Louis. Welcome home troops, love Houston. Welcome home, love,
Richmond, Virginia. Also, welcome home, love, Little Melbourne, Florida,
and Tucson and New England, Coastal Portsmouth, New Hampshire, all over the
country, citizens taking things into their own hands to mark the end of the
Iraq war, to say thank you and welcome home.
And, look at this. We just got this. We just got the new poster for
a new welcome home parade for post-9/11 veterans in the great big city of
Chicago on December 15th. Welcome home.
The Pentagon for reasons that I do not start to understand still says
they do not want New York City to hold a parade to mark the end of the Iraq
war and welcome home the troops. And New York City is where we`ve always
done this sort of thing as a nation. New York did throw one ticker tape
parade this year, for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
And that in their parade, the football parade, we met the Willis
family. Mom Glenda with her grandson Josiah (ph), they brought with them a
picture of Army Staff Sergeant Dannel Willis (ph), Glenda`s son, Josiah`s
uncle, and not incidentally a huge Giants fan.
Sergeant Willis had sent a message from Afghanistan before the big
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STAFF SGT. DANNEL WILLIS (ph), U.S. ARMY: Hi. How are you doing?
I`m Staff Sergeant Dannel Willis from Task Force Wolf Pack. I`m originally
from Brooklyn, New York and I want to say hi to my family back in Brooklyn
and go, big blue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: His mom told us that she promised that she would go to the
practice raid if the Giants won and she would bring his picture. Well, the
Giants won, and New York held the parade and Glenda kept her promise. And
she told us it would be compassioned to have a parade for veterans like her
son and her daughter in New York.
Well, tonight, as yet, there`s still no parade at works for New York
City to welcome home the troops to mark the end of the Iraq war. But I can
tell you that Sergeant Willis is home from Iraq and Afghanistan and he and
his family are here tonight with us watching this show in this very room.
So, welcome home, Sergeant Willis – look, you`re on TV. It is really
cool to have you guys here and it is the best new thing in our world today.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night.
Now it`s time for Friday night election edition of “THE LAST WORD WITH
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”. Have a great night.
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