The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/21/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 21, 2016
Guest: Rebekah Sanders, Frank Rich
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: And that is “ALL IN” for this evening.
Check this out – we will be live from Phoenix, Arizona, tomorrow night at
8:00 Eastern covering the primaries. And before that, you can catch a
special live bonus hour of yours truly at 3:00 p.m. Eastern if all the
travel tomorrow goes according to plan. So, definitely tune in for that.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: So, you`re the guy who got the magic carpet
checked out today.
HAYES: That`s right. I`m about to hop on it.
MADDOW: Thanks, my friend. Safe travels.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt died several months into his fourth term in
office, his vice president, Harry Truman, assumed the presidency. That was
Harry Truman was then elected president in his own right in 1948. But at
the end of that term in office, Harry Truman had a decision to make because
the United States ratified be the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which
said that henceforth, a president could only serve two terms in office.
There`d be no more FDRs, right?
When the 22nd Amendment was ratified, though, it effectively had a
grandfather clause, so it wouldn`t apply to the current holder of the job.
In effect, Harry Truman was the last U.S. president who would theoretically
be allowed to seek term after term in office before being limited by that
So, it wouldn`t have been his third full term but Harry Truman could have
run again in 1952. And as that date approach, as the decision approached,
Harry Truman did test the waters a bit about maybe running for a third
term. But he soon realized that he was just too unpopular. He was never
going to make it.
Now, interestingly, Truman at one point, he had approached General
Eisenhower, he approached the five-star general who led the allies to
victory in Europe and World War II, this incredible war hero. Truman had
approached Eisenhower and had tried to persuade him, tried to persuade
Eisenhower to run for president as a Democrat.
Truman had even offered Ike that he would scoot down from the presidency to
the vice presidency if Ike would only run as a Democrat for president.
It`s an amazing offer, if you think about it, from the president of the
United States. Him offering to step aside if you`ll step in in order to
run for the job that he had.
But Eisenhower decided not to. He decided not to run for president as a
Democrat. And instead in 1952, he ran as a Republican, which was uh-uh
territory for the Democrats.
So, Truman has just finished his second term. He is a Democrat. He`s
really unpopular. Eisenhower is running as the Republican in 1952.
I don`t know if the Democrats could see it coming. I don`t know if they
could see how badly they could get clobbered that year, but whether or not
they saw it coming, the man they decided to nominate to run against Ike in
1952 was a man named Adlai Stevenson. And Adlai Stevenson in 1952 just got
clobbered by Eisenhower. Eisenhower just steam rolled him in 1952.
Then four years later, it was 1956. Eisenhower was running for re-
election. The Democrats looked around for a nominee to run against
Eisenhower and for a second straight time, they decided that, again, they
would run Adlai Stevenson.
And again, Adlai Stevenson got completely clobbered. Just land slide
destroyed by Eisenhower.
So, then, it came time to try again. All right? That had been 1952, 1956.
Now, it`s 1960 and thanks to the 22nd Amendment, Eisenhower cannot run
again. The Republicans decide to run Eisenhower as vice president in 1960.
Who did the Democrat decide to run against the vice president? Well, how
about Adlai Stevenson? Sure, why not?
Adlai Stevenson did not actually compete in the primaries in 1960 on the
Democratic side, but it doesn`t mean that he wasn`t in contention for the
nomination. See, at that time running in the primaries was kind of
optional. Lots of states didn`t have primaries.
Everybody knew that the parties really picked their nominees at their
national conventions. So, yes, there were some state contests in 1960.
Candidates like John F. Kennedy from Massachusetts and Hubert Humphrey from
Minnesota, you know, they did campaign and compete in some primaries around
But old Adlai Stevenson, he was really competing just for the nomination.
He decided to just cut to the chase. Like most of the other potential
candidates that year, Adlai Stevenson didn`t bother with these little
primaries in these few states here and there. Now, he just got busy
preparing for the Democratic National Convention, which is where the
candidate was picked.
Adlai Stevenson in the spring of 1960 having run in 1952 and lost, having
run in 1956 and lost. In 1960, he had staffers working on a speech for him
for the convention.
He was basically getting ready in case his party would turn to him again to
be the Democratic presidential nominee for a third straight cycle. He was
going to be ready in the event they couldn`t decide between the other
candidates. Maybe the convention got deadlocked or maybe there was going
to be a tie or maybe the party elders would decide the nomination shouldn`t
go to the front running Democrat that year, this upstart senator from
Massachusetts who many of them thought was too young, too untested and
maybe too Catholic, and definitely not Stevenson enough to be a Democratic
nominee for president.
In the event that something else happened and the party needed him, Adlai
Stevenson that spring was getting his speech ready for the convention. He
had a bright young man working on the speech for him that spring. And that
young man who was working on that speech for Stevenson, in June of 1960, he
found himself invited to a dinner party at the home of legendary
“Washington Post” publisher Ben Bradley.
And this young man was friends with Ben Bradley and it was not out of
ordinary for him to socialize with this particular set in Washington, D.C.
But the specific reason for this dinner in June 1960, was that the front-
runner for the Democratic nomination, this young, upstart Massachusetts
senator, John Kennedy, he wanted to have that dinner party at Ben Bradley`s
house June of 1960 because he wanted a word with this young man who was
writing this speech for Stevenson for the convention. He wanted a little
word about whatever scheme was being hatched for the Democratic convention
that summer that might try to keep him from getting the nomination he was
And from all accounts, that dinner in June of 1960 seems to have started
with a big tense fight about that subject. Apparently, it ended well. By
the end of the evening, Senator Kennedy was, quote, “practicing chip shots
with the golf club on the rug” and chatting with his dinner companions
about who might make the best secretary of state in what he expected to be
his new administration.
By the end of that very same evening, with the golf game on the rug and
everything, JFK had also asked that young man who he argued with about his
Adlai Stevenson convention speech, by the end of the night, he had asked
that young man at that dinner party if that young man might want to be a
part of the Kennedy administration someday after Kennedy got himself
nominated and elected president of the United States.
It turns out the answer was yes. And that young man`s name was William
Attwood. And once JFK was nominated by the Democratic Party and then
elected president of the United States in 1960, William Attwood was made an
ambassador by President Kennedy. William Attwood also worked as part of
the U.S. delegation at the United Nations.
In 1963, days before John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, William
Attwood became kind of a secret agent for JFK. Now, this is at a time when
things were as bad as they would ever be between the United States and
Cuba. I mean, sure, it was one thing for Cuba to have its local
revolution, it was another thing for Cuba to become an outpost an
instrument of the Soviet Union just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
And so, Eisenhower, in the closing days of his presidency, he had broken
off diplomatic relations with Cuba. President Kennedy had formalized not
just the diplomatic break between the U.S. and Cuba but also the economic
break our two countries and the embargo. We had the disastrous Bay of Pigs
failed invasion in 1961. We had the missile crisis which almost brought
about a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1962.
It was a really, really, really bad time.
But in the middle of all that, in the fall of 1963, Fidel Castro apparently
decided that he wanted peace with the United States or at least that he
wanted talks about peace with the United States. Either of which seemed
basically equally unimaginable at the time, either peace or just talking
But at this shaking nuclear pinnacle of one of the Cold War, when Cuba was
as much the “Great Satan” to us as we were to them, at the time, at the
worst of all times, Castro put out a feeler, to find out if the U.S. and
Cuba could maybe start a secret line of communication. If he and John F.
Kennedy could possibly have a secret backchannel line of communication.
Obviously, nothing was going to happen in public. In public, these two
countries could not have been more at each other`s throats. In public, we
were still basically on the brink of war, but would apply a secret
backchannel discussion between these two men, at least start us toward
William Attwood, the guy from the dinner party received this overture when
he was working at the U.N. It first came from the Cuban ambassador to the
U.N. It later came from the top aide, the senior advisor to Fidel Castro
in Cuba. Attwood received this overture from the Cuban government. He
immediately reported the overture up the chain of command inside the U.S.
On November 5th, 1963, we have these amazing scratchy tape recordings. The
new taping system in the Oval Office under President Kennedy. President
Kennedy is talking with his national security advisors, November 5th, 1963,
about the possibility of using this guy, William Attwood, as an
intermediary, as a go-between. Could they send him to Cuba to start a
conversation between John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MCGEORGE BUNDY, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: Will Attwood has
partly generated and partly responded (INAUDIBLE) Castro and now has an
invitation to go down to Havana on the Qt and talk with Fidel about terms
and conditions on which he would be interested in a change in the relations
with the United States.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDEDENT: We would have to have an
explanation why Attwood was there. Otherwise –
BUNDY: We would have to have – we would – the only cover plan that makes
any sense to me is that this was the Cuban initiative. (INAUDIBLE) to see
what that terms and conditions of surrender were.
Can we get Attwood off the payroll? Before he goes?
I think we ought to have him off the payroll because otherwise, it`s much
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Kennedy in the Oval Office November 5th, 1963. He`s
talking about the payroll there. He brings it up a few times. He`s
talking about whether they can get William Attwood not just down to Cuba to
meet secretly with Fidel Castro, but can they get him down to Cuba with
such secrecy, such deniability that they`re actually going to try to make
him no longer a U.S. government employee. They want him off the payroll so
he appears to be going to Cuba as a private citizen.
So, that means if anything gets found out about this, if any of think leaks
or if it somehow goes south, they can deny having anything to do with it.
I mean, think about the timing here, right? JFK is going to be running for
re-election in the following year in 1964. This comes after the Bay of
Pigs fiasco. This comes after the Cuban missile crisis, which is the
closest we have ever been to nuclear war.
I mean, he cannot seem to be soft on Cuba. That could be politically fatal
for him. But still, even knowing that, the prospect of peace or at least
the prospect of talking about peace, it`s too tempting to walk away from.
It`s too important to walk away from.
Within two weeks of that conversation in the Oval Office that we have a
tape of, within two weeks, this was JFK, look, in black tie in Miami giving
a formal speech about Cuba. He`s speaking to a very anti-Castro audience.
And on the surface, this speech is what you might expect from him to that
audience at that time. All the tough talk, all the denunciations of the
Soviet using Cuba to advance its imperialist evil aims.
But then in the speech in Miami, at one point, there`s this discordant
note, there`s a note that discordant because in the midst of this tough
speech denouncing the evil of the Soviet Union, there was this hopeful
note. It just seemed different. It stuck out. It seemed like maybe an
opening, an overture. That was apparently on purpose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: It is important to restate what now divides Cuba from my country
and the other countries of this hemisphere. It is the fact that a small
band of conspirators have stripped Cuban people of their freedom and handed
over the independence and sovereignty of the Cuban nation. The force is
beyond the hemisphere. They have made a Cuba a victim of foreign
imperialism, an instrument of the policy of others, a weapon in an effort
dictated by external powers to subvert the other American republics.
This and this alone divides us. As long as this is true, nothing is
possible. Without it, everything is possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Everything is possible.
That was not the kind of thing, even in the midst of all that tough talk,
everything is possible. That was not the kind of thing that American
leaders, at that time, said about Cuba. That was a signal. That was an
opening. It was a coded signal delivered in public but in private, we now
know the plans for these secret talks were on.
Will Attwood had been given the go ahead to start the process of talking
directly to Fidel Castro? He had not the logistical arrangements of how he
would get to Havana, but he had sent word to Havana that what they needed
in order to get those talks started was a clear statement from Fidel Castro
of what exactly he wanted to talk about. They need to know his agenda for
what we would be discussed, and William Attwood would go. At the behest of
President Kennedy, and those secret talks could start, the backchannel
And Fidel Castro came back to Will Attwood with what he asked, with his
proposed agenda, for what he wanted to talk about at their first secret
talk in Havana. That reply from Fidel Castro arrived for Will Attwood in
the United States on November 23rd, 1963, which is five days after John K.
Kennedy gave that speech in Miami and one day after John F. Kennedy was
shot and killed in Dallas.
Will Attwood did an interview, sort of an oral history with JFK
presidential library after Kennedy died, in which he explained this whole
sequence of events. His role as the secret intermediary, the secret
messenger between Fidel Castro and John Kennedy. The negotiations and
machinations around that, leading up right up until the day that President
Kennedy was killed as the arrangements were being made and then as Attwood
told JFK`s library, quote, “nothing ever came of it.”
He says he did write it up at the time. He wrote up a memo of what he had
done and what had been left hanging from Castro, at a time of Kennedy`s
death. He wrote it up in a memo that he gave to Adlai Stevenson, who by
then was U.N. ambassador. And all of that happened more than 50 years ago
And now today, look at these images of President Obama and his family
arriving in Havana. It is almost unbelievable that it`s been nearly 90
years since an American president has set foot in Cuba. I mean, that`s
astonishing given just how physically close Cuba is to our country even if
you know nothing else about our two nations.
But the intrigue and political effort that it took to make this happen is
multigenerational. I mean, even this breakthrough that President Obama has
engineered, even just over the last few years it still took secret
meetings, negotiations brokered in part personally by the pope. Undercover
talks between Cuban and U.S. officials at random anonymous office buildings
in Ottawa, in Canada.
The top U.S. negotiators, two of them, two U.S. negotiators involved in
initial opening of discussions, they were told to come up with cover
stories for those meetings in Canada even for members of their own
immediate families. They were not allowed to tell their own families what
they were doing on these trips to Canada where they were secretly meeting
with Cuban officials. They were reporting directly to the president.
The pathway to today`s visit by President Obama and opening of relations
between our countries, it involved spy swaps on both sides and prisoner
releases. It took utmost political intrigue and secrecy. And you know
what, the results after all of this for this first visit very awkward,
including physically awkward.
I mean, today, look at this – at the press conference between President
Castro and President Obama, you know, physically awkward, personally
awkward, and obviously politically difficult. There were moments of
legitimate suspense and confusion and anger today when American political
reporters put Raul Castro on the spot about political prisoners being held
in Cuba. He processed that there were none and that anybody – if anybody
knows of any they should give them the names and those political prisoners
would be released within a day.
Yes, this is difficult and it is strange and the Cuban government and its
economy, if not its people, have been trapped in a time capsule for nearly
half a century now and nobody knows quite what will happen to the Cuban
economy or the Cuban government now that the time capsule has been cracked.
President Bill Clinton tried to open up relations with Cuba and failed.
President Carter tried to open up relations with Cuba and failed.
President Kennedy was in the act of trying to find a way to open up Cuba,
literally as one of his last active if covert international efforts at the
time that he was killed. That was he was working on the week that he died.
This is hard. There`s maybe a reason that it took 50 years to get this
done. But when the Castro brothers die and when Cuba opens and becomes a
new iteration of itself, no longer trapped in the politics of the 1950s and
before, nobody knows who will get to write the history of this moment in
Cuban history, but in American history, we know, in American history, we
know that President Barack Obama will be forever the American leader who
got done what every other Democrat since Jack Kennedy tried and failed to
do. He got it done.
(BAND PLAYING STAR SPANGLED BANNER)
MADDOW: If I don`t do that, the symphony doesn`t sound quite right.
It`s Monday. We`re not used to hearing election music on Monday. But we
do have new results to report. If you`re a U.S. citizen and you are a
registered voter, and you are a Democrat but for whatever reason, you do
not live in the United States right now, you can still vote in your
presidential primary, but where do you vote?
Turns out, you vote in an abstract concept of a primary called “Democrats
abroad”. Look, you`re everywhere and also nowhere. But nearly 35,000
Americans cast votes in the Democrats abroad primary: 35,000 Americans
living overseas in more than 170 countries cast votes in this primary and
it turns out those Democrats living abroad really like Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders, the projected winner of the Democrats abroad primary by a
margin of 69 to 31. That`s huge. More than lapping Secretary Clinton in
this particularly field.
That`s big enough lead of the 13 delegates apportioned to this contest,
Senator Sanders will get nine of the thirteen delegates. Secretary Clinton
will get the remaining four.
Now, the next big prize is Arizona, where on the Democratic side, there are
75 delegates up tomorrow. We`ve got more on that ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Behold the Mormons and how are the Mormons vote.
The four states in the United States with the highest concentration of
Mormon voters in the Republican primary are Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and
Let`s start with Wyoming. Wyoming has the third largest Mormon population
in the country, proportionally speaking.
Donald Trump, obviously, is winning mostly everywhere, all over the
country, but when it came time for the Wyoming Republican caucus, Donald
Trump did not do well. He came in third. He came in 59 points behind the
front-runner, Ted Cruz in Wyoming.
OK. Now, take Idaho. Idaho has the second largest Mormon population in
the country proportionally speaking. Donald Trump is winning again.
Mostly everywhere all over the country, but he also did not do well in
Idaho. He came in second place in Idaho. Seventeen points behind Ted
So, Wyoming has the third most heavily Mormon population in the country.
Idaho is second. Utah, obviously, is first. So, when Utah votes tomorrow,
that will be the most heavily Mormon population we`ve had in any primary or
caucus so far, and that`s part of why lots of people expect Donald Trump to
not be able to work his Trump magic in Utah tomorrow, given how poorly he
did in Wyoming and Idaho.
I mean, even if he`s expected to do well in other states tomorrow, it`s
pretty much the common wisdom that Donald Trump will get crushed tomorrow
in Utah. It`s the Mormon voting preferences thesis that explains why.
Here is a wrench in the works for that. The pattern holds in Wyoming and
Idaho. Those were third and second in terms of proportional Mormon
But the fourth most heavily Mormon population in the country is in Nevada.
And you know what? Donald Trump won Nevada. So, maybe the Donald Trump
can`t win Mormon states hypothesis is bunk. We`ve had two states that seem
to prove it and one state that seems to disprove it. We may find out in a
definitive way tomorrow night in Utah.
Tomorrow, we`ve got the caucuses in Utah, for both the Democrats and the
Republicans. Polling is generally sort of impossible in caucus states.
But on the Republican side, the polling shows that Ted Cruz is favored in
that Utah caucus.
And on the Democrat side, in the Democratic caucus in Utah, we`ve got
precisely one poll this month and it shows Bernie Sanders up by eight
points. Senator Sanders generally does pretty well in caucus states.
There`s also a Democratic caucus tomorrow in Idaho where there`s been
precisely zero recent public polling but where Senator Sanders is expected
Both the Sanders campaign and the Clinton campaign say that they expect
Senator Sanders to win both Democratic caucuses tomorrow in Idaho and Utah.
We won`t know until we know but those are the expectations.
The big prize, though on both sides tomorrow is Arizona. Arizona has long
been seen as friendly territory for Hillary Clinton. She beat Barack Obama
in the Arizona primary in 2008 by nearly 10 points. Bill Clinton also won
Arizona in the 1996 general election.
To this day, that`s the only time a Democratic presidential candidate has
won Arizona in a general election since Harry Truman. And this time around
the polls look good for Clinton in Arizona. The most recent poll in the
state has her up by 26 points over Senator Sanders.
Then again, I should tell you, there have only been two polls of the
Democratic race in the past five months in Arizona. The number crunchers
over at FiveThirtyEight.com say they won`t even forecast what`s going to
happen in the Arizona primary because there`s just not enough data to base
any forecast on.
So, it should also be noted that Bernie Sanders is making a very serious
play for the state of Arizona. He`s held a bunch of events across the
state last week. And, I mean, look at the time right now. Look at how
late it is right now as I speak to you.
Bernie Sanders still has yet another rally planned for later tonight in
Flagstaff, Arizona. You might also remember on the night of last Tuesday`
primaries, as Bernie was getting swept in five straight states, do you
remember where he was that night? He wasn`t in any of the five states
where he got beat last week. He`s already last week in Phoenix, Arizona,
rallying a crowd of 7,000 people that night.
So, the Sanders campaign is going for it in Arizona. They made a $1.5
million ad buy in the state, including a bunch of Spanish language ads,
some of which feature the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, the
beloved Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva.
Those odds are now battling it out on the air waves with Hillary Clinton
spots featuring beloved former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
So, Arizona is the big contest tomorrow. On the Democratic side, both
candidates are fighting really, really hard for Arizona. And yes, I know
what the polls say but two polls in five months, eh, I don`t think anybody
knows what`s going to happen in Arizona on the Democratic side tomorrow for
sure. We won`t know until we see it.
On the Republican side, winning Arizona is a huge deal because whoever wins
Arizona in the Republican contest will get all the delegates from that
state. It`s winner-take-all. The conventional wisdom and some scant
polling in the Arizona Republican races says that Donald Trump is the
favorite, but maybe Ted Cruz`s internal polling is telling him something
different, because in a winner-take-all state, there`s no use campaigning
to come in a strong second place. You wouldn`t waste your breath until you
think you have a chance to win, because the only thing that counts in a
winner-take-all state is winning.
Knowing that, Senator Ted Cruz really has been making a serious play for
Arizona. He spent Friday in Arizona. He campaign there with Rick Perry
and Carly Fiorina. He held a big rally at Arizona Christian University
where some of the state`s congressional delegation joined him.
The Cruz campaign has also made a six-figure ad buy in the state. So,
something about Ted Cruz`s campaign, something about Arizona tells him it`s
worth trying for first. We`ll see.
Here`s one underappreciated thing about Arizona, though. Any effort now to
come from behind and try to put that state in play might be too late almost
structurally. And that`s because of early voting in the state, early
voting in Arizona started in late February, and it ended last week. It
ended on Friday. In state`s two most populous counties, a majority of
eligible voters on those counties requested early voting, a majority. Over
50 percent of those ballots have already been received and more are in the
mail, which means that candidates who are still competing in the state of
Arizona, they are competing now for a slice of the electorate that is
narrowing by the day.
Many, if not most Arizonans made up their mind well before the candidates
had their fully formed thought about the state. In a context like that, is
it even possible to pull off an Arizona upset in either party?
Joining us now is Rebekah Sanders, congressional reporter for “The Arizona
Ms. Sanders, thanks very much for being here. I really appreciate your
REBEKAH SANDERS, THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: There has been very little polling in the state. There`s been
some here and there, but it feels like it`s not enough to extrapolate from.
You`ve seen some of these candidates` ground games. You`ve seen their
events close up. What`s your sense of who`s running the best campaign, who
has the best shot in each party?
SANDERS: I`d agree with your assessment. I don`t think that an upset is
possible here just from watching the ground games here and also talking to
voters, and just knowing the kind of temperament of voters here. I would
say that Clinton and Trump have the best chance here.
But as you said, the polling has been very sparse. In terms of events,
Cruz did come through with rally on Friday and a surprise visit to a church
on Sunday morning. But I hear that even the campaign of supporters who are
trying to get an upset for him just haven`t been given the resources from
the national campaign that they need. And I think it`s going to be too
little too late.
MADDOW: On the Democratic side one of the things that just me in Nevada is
that the Sanders campaign in Nevada went in all in, campaigned there
heavily. They had a lot of volunteers there, a lot of enthusiasm there.
The observation by veteran political reporters in that state, though, was
that it was a little bit ragtag. That there was a lot of enthusiasm, a lot
of effort, but not necessarily being channeled in an efficient way.
Obviously, Arizona and Nevada are two different things, but we know how
things turned out in Nevada. We know that Hillary Clinton ultimately won
that contest. Are you seeing the same kind of pattern in Arizona right now
in terms of the enthusiasm for the Sanders campaign but not necessarily
being channeled properly?
SANDERS: I think that`s exactly it. The rallies here, barn storming that
he`s done across the state from north to south across this week, they have
been huge crowds, extremely passionate.
But, you know, one of the problems is a lot of his supporters are young and
independent. This is a closed presidential primary in Arizona. And I`ve
spoken with young voters who didn`t even know they need to re-register with
the Democratic Party to participate.
And then, also, right, Clinton`s campaign has been very well-mobilized for
weeks now. They`ve just been much more disciplined, bigger staff and,
well, you know, it does look like the grass roots support for Sanders with
this being a state with a long history of relationships with the Clintons,
I just don`t see him overcoming here.
MADDOW: Rebekah Sanders, reporter for “The Arizona Republic”, that`s
invaluable perspective. Thanks for being with us tonight.
SANDERS: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. Lots more ahead this primary eve. My friend Frank Rich is
here. Lots to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, Marco Rubio saying that Donald Trump had small hands. That
Flooding this great state of Florida with $15 million of anti-Donald Trump
ads. That did not work.
Mitt Romney calling Donald Trump a dangerous con man. That didn`t work.
But now, now, there`s a new plan by anti-Donald Trump Republicans to defeat
their own party`s presidential front-runner. This will work perfectly.
And Frank Rich is here. We`ve got a big show still to come.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I love coffee. I drink way too much coffee. Can you tell?
Every sip of even bad coffee, like truck stop coffee, makes me marginally
more happy than before I took that sip. I love coffee. That said, coffee
feels terrible when it comes up the other way, like when it comes flying
out of your nose and splatters over the new iPad of which you`re reading
the Sunday edition of “The New York Times”.
Like, for example, when you`re reading this story. Headline, “Republican
leaders map strategy to derail Donald Trump.” Oh, really. Sip. At last,
sip, what is this strategy? Sip. What will they do?
They are, quote, “preparing a 100-day campaign to deny him the presidential
nomination starting with an aggressive battle in Wisconsin`s April 5th
primary. Starting April 5th? Starting April 5th because why not wait
until the Wisconsin primary to get started. Obviously, they got nothing
but time between now and then.
Friendly heads up, you guys, early voting in Wisconsin started today. “The
Associated Press” reported this guy voted today wearing a Superman
sweatshirt and comparing his presidential pick to the superhero, Andrew
Powell of Madison, Wisconsin, was first in a line of nine people waiting to
vote when doors in Madison. He got there 45 minutes early so he could cast
a ballot for Republican Donald Trump.
So, in case this plan waiting for a week into April before starting their
100-day plan, in case that doesn`t work, and hey, why would it not? It
turns out there`s also another backup option for trying to stop Donald
Trump within the Republican Party.
Also reported by “The Times” this weekend. Leading conservatives including
“The Weekly Standard`s” Bill Kristol very excited about the idea now of
fielding an independent candidate in the general election to run against
Mr. Trump once he gets the Republican nomination. They have two names in
I`ll tell you more. Sip.
The first is former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn who recently retired from
the Senate for health reasons. The same Tom Coburn famous in the
Republican circles for his friendship with President Obama, saying that
he`s proud the U.S. elected President Obama in 2008, who said of President
Obama, quote, “I just love him as a man. I think he`s a neat man.”
If you cannot hear the clamor of Republicans excitedly rallying around Tom
Coburn for president, it`s because it is a very, very quiet clamor.
The other white knight waiting in the wings is apparently Rick Perry. Yes,
close observers of the political process will note that Rick Perry already
ran a 100-day campaign to stop Donald Trump. It was called the Rick Perry
presidential campaign. Rick Perry announced he was running for president
on June 4th of last year, 100 days later, he was gone. It was over. It`s
not like the idea of Rick Perry for president has yet to be thunk as an
In response to Rick Perry`s name being floated in this weekend`s “Times”
story, thus ruining my new iPad, the campaign manager for that very short-
lived effort said, quote, “With all due respect to Bill Kristol and donors
who have called, where were you when Governor Perry was actually running
for president of the United States?”
Today, Donald Trump predicted he will easily get enough delegates to get
the nomination ahead of the Republican convention in Cleveland. He says he
may get over 1,400 delegates. He only needs 1,200 something in order to
lock up the nomination.
Launching a 100-day effort to stop him starting a week into this month in
Wisconsin because everybody should take a vacation and think about it
first, it just, it – it gives you some idea of why the man is still
winning in that party.
We got more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s more going on around here than you might realize.
Por ejemplo, tonight, Lawrence O`Donnell tonight is going to host two hours
of “THE LAST WORD” starting right after this show. Two straight hours,
including live coverage of a big Bernie Sanders rally that`s coming up in
Flagstaff, Arizona, later on this evening.
As for tomorrow, it would not be a Tuesday night if it did not involve you,
me, everybody else I know who works here, and a bunch of state parties
voting a for a presidential nominee.
Here`s what you need to know for tomorrow`s big night. It`s a little
different than usual. Tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, we`ll still have
this show, a very special edition of this show.
And then after my show, I will be joined by Brian Williams and Chris
Matthews and the whole rest of the team for full coverage of the primaries
and caucuses in Arizona, Idaho and Utah.
It all kicks off tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern with this show and goes on
We still have lots more tonight including Frank Rich. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, we`re doing very well.
It looks like we`re doing very well in Arizona and very well pretty much
every place else. And I think we`re going to maybe easily make that number
of the 1,237. We should make it pretty easily, based on what I`m seeing.
So we won`t have to worry about fighting at a convention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He might be right.
Joining us now is Frank Rich, “New York Magazine`s” writer at large. His
latest piece is on how Donald Trump is actually quite representative of
today`s Republican Party. It`s out in this week`s “New York” magazine.
Thank you for being here.
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE WRITER-AT-LARGE: Delighted to be here, as
MADDOW: My feeling about Donald Trump vis-a-vis the Republican Party is
that it says nothing about the Republican Party that they like Donald Trump
so much, other than they like Donald Trump a lot. I don`t think it means
that this is a fundamentally different type of party than it used to be.
RICH: No, exactly. I mean, my point about the so-called establishment,
very frail, as you`ve been saying, is that Trump isn`t hijacking the party
from them. They`re trying to hijack the party from the voters who are
voting for Donald Trump and whose second choice seems to be Ted Cruz, a man
who called Mitch McConnell a liar on the floor of the Senate.
MADDOW: If there isn`t a Republican establishment that represents the will
of the voters in that party, what do they represent? Are they just a
separate Republican political class?
RICH: The country club.
MADDOW: I mean, is it? Is that what it is?
RICH: It`s like Green Acres.
MADDOW: With less good outfits.
RICH: With less good outfits, although they do have a sort of – anyway.
Gabor sisters going on there.
But, anyway, I think that, I think what they represent is the donor class,
the rich – you know, particularly the corporate Wall Street types who
routinely have financed the Republican Party, and they represent, you know,
the old school, the old past officeholders, Romney, has-beens, losers, as
Trump would say.
Look at – look at the establishment. They backed Jeb Bush, Chris
Christie, Marco Rubio. They all fell apart, and so will I think John
Kasich, I think, their last establishment choice. So, they really
represent themselves. A very, you know, 5 percent economic upper class
niche within the party, I think.
MADDOW: One of the things that I think is – I agree with you on and I
think it`s a provocative point, and you argue it much better than I have
been able to. Which is, there`s all these people saying, listen, if Donald
Trump is picked, the Republican Party implodes, it falls apart, it will be
unrecognizable, there won`t be a Republican party anymore.
There were those kinds of warnings about nominating Barry Goldwater in
1964. What happened is they lost an election in 1964 and came back as
basically the same party, a little more right wing thereafter.
I feel like the Donald Trump nomination is something the Republican Party
will acclimate to. I don`t necessarily think it`s going to do anything
disastrous to that party.
RICH: No, I think it`s a going to make a little bit more to the right,
have a new cast of characters that are not the old establishment. Just as,
after Goldwater lost in a landslide to Johnson, Arthur Schlesinger, “The
New York Times” said, we need a two-party system. This system is gone.
Two years later, Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California.
RICH: Here, we have a situation where there`ll be a new establishment. It
will be Trump people and the people who are already cottoning up to him,
Jeff Sessions, even Karl Rove, Bill Kristol will leave by the highway, so
So I think there`ll be a new establishment of these people, but it will be
fundamentally the same, very conservative party that`s gotten much more
conservative in the past 20 years.
MADDOW: What do you – in terms of who`s on the roadside there, that`s
also an intriguing point, because we do have like “The National Review,”
conservative magazine, putting out an anti-Trump opus. We do have some
Republican operatives and some Republican leaders, one Republican senator,
at least, saying, no, no, never Trump, and I mean it, I`ll never vote for
him, I`m never do this.
If and when he wins the nomination and he becomes the leader of the
Republican Party, what happens to those people who have been intransigent
in their resistance to him?
RICH: Well, I think they`ll make “The Art of the Deal” with him. They`ll
try to make a deal with him. They want to keep power.
What you notice about a lot of these people, and Kristol is typical of it,
is they were people in the neocon foreign policy wing of the Republican
party, who are essentially discredited by the Iraq war. They, you know,
Jeb Bush used much of them as his foreign policy team. They were rejected
by Republican voters.
They`ll find a way to crawl back in, because in the end, they want power.
And Trump, probably, will be magnanimous, because he`s happy to take
anything from anybody, and exploit it to his own advantage.
MADDOW: He has been willing. He represents himself as a counter puncher,
which is true, in a kinetic sense when he`s embattled with somebody. But
he`s also shown an incredible willingness to get over any sort of grudge to
the extent it can help him again in the future.
RICH: Exactly. And Karl Rove, who has been involved in various anti-Trump
activities, he had a column last week that said, how Trump can make himself
more presidential. They`re already, you know, kissing up to him, waiting
for exactly that moment you said, when he`s in power and they may have to
MADDOW: Democrats are excited about the prospect of him being the nominee.
To the extent that Democrats are excited about that, it`s because they
think he might lose, and even if he does win, it will blow up the
Republican Party. I don`t think there`s any reason to believe that he
would, A, lose, or blow up the party.
RICH: I agree. Careful what you wish for.
MADDOW: Exactly. Frank Rich, “New York” magazine`s writer at large, just
great to see you, Frank. Thanks.
RICH: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: These are the USA Freedom Kids. The USA Freedom Kids perform
patriotic choreographed musical numbers. We were first introduced to them
at a Donald Trump rally in Pensacola, Florida, last year. Obviously, they
are a treasure. Very cute, super talented.
This is just one of the many incredible things that we have seen at Donald
Trump rallies. But, with the Freedom Kids, we sort of thought we`d seen
the apex of this as a musical phenomenon, right? I sort of felt like this
was the brightest, this particular type of star could shine.
But the Trump campaign, you know what, they keep going back to Florida.
So, it turns out there`s more.
And now I think we really have reached a new apex, or nadir, whichever one
I can`t tell. But without further ado, here is a thing that happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, darling, darling, it`s Donald, Donald.
That is a thing that happened. That does it for us tonight. We will see
you again tomorrow.
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence. I know you have a big night tonight.
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