The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript, 8/1/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 1, 2016
Guest: Garry Trudeau
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Chris. Hello, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
In the 1992 presidential election, there was no Lyin` Ted that year or
Crooked Hillary or Little Marco or Crazy Bernie. We didn`t have those
nicknames in the 1992 presidential election.
But we did have Slick Willie, which was sort of the double entendre creepy
nickname that George H.W. Bush came up with for Arkansas Governor Bill
Clinton. Bush called Clinton “Slick Willie” that year, and Clinton called
Bush “Chicken George”. And in terms of the name-calling in that direction,
it wasn`t just the chicken nickname. When Bill Clinton called George H.W.
Bush “Chicken George”, that nickname also came with grown men dressed up in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: A protester made it clear, he thinks Bush is chicken. As
authorities led the chicken away, Bush aides worry that by playing too coy
on debates, they could be playing right into Clinton`s hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is now fairly standard to use characters and props to mock your
political opponent, to try to get a rise out of them.
I remember 2004 George Bush Jr.`s campaign couldn`t decide whether they
wanted to hit John Kerry the flip-flopper by brandishing giant flip-flops
everywhere or whether they wanted to hit him as a flip-flopper by having a
dolphin show up. They were like torn between two symbols, right? There`s
Flipper, the famous dolphin, but there`s also the flip-flops. Is that too
literal? It`s now fairly typical, right? Taunting political stage craft.
But in the summer of 1992, it was seen as pretty novel that the Bill
Clinton campaign had men in chicken suits chasing Vice President George
Bush around every time he did a campaign event. And I think the reason
that it got so much attention in addition to being novel is that it also
seemed to work. It really seemed to bother George H.W. Bush.
By September of that year, he was in fact so bothered by these guys in
chicken suits turning up at all his campaign events, that he started
yelling at them at his events.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: You talk about the environment, take a
look at that Arkansas River and I`ll have more to say about that in a
minute. We`ve even seen some chickens along the way. Here`s one back
here. We`ve got a good record on the environment, far better than this
chicken has in Arkansas. May God bless –
Let the others –
(CROWD CHANTING “FOUR MORE YEARS”)
Let this chicken back here tell you what`s wrong about America. I`ll tell
you what`s great about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Interrupting the “four more years” chant to say, no, no, no,
there`s a guy in a chicken costume back there again.
The awkward thing about the vice president of the United States yelling at
the giant chicken is not just that it indicated that the chicken drove him
to distraction. It`s also that the guy in the chicken suit never spoke.
It was part of the gig of being the chicken.
It wasn`t like the giant chicken was a yelling heckler that the vice
president needed to shout down. It`s not like he got into an argument with
the giant chicken and did great in that argument or did poorly in that
argument. Just by showing up and looking like a chicken and say nothing,
George Bush got totally thrown off his game, was driven to distraction and
started hollering at the man in the chicken suit and driving more attention
to him than would otherwise happen.
And the reason the Clinton campaign did that this year, the impetus for the
whole taunting George Bush with the giant chicken suit thing was that
George H.W. Bush in 1992, he really didn`t want to debate Bill Clinton.
The presidential – the commission on vice presidential debates months
earlier, they had set the presidential debate schedule for 1992. The
Clinton campaign had agreed to it. There was nothing particularly
controversial about what they had set up, but the Bush campaign decided
they didn`t really want to do those debates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The debate issue is becoming a bit of a political albatross, or
even worse around President Bush`s neck.
At Penn State, Wednesday, Bush predicted again there will be debates.
BUSH: And, yes, I want to debate. I want to debate over issues and an
argument over ideas, and I will stand on my record and I won`t let that
Arkansas governor run away from his record either.
REPORTER: But the Bush team insists the debates be on their terms or not
at all. Republican sources now report the chief of staff, Jim Baker, and
campaign chief Bob Teeter thinks no debates may not be so bad. They
believe Bush has everything to lose and Clinton everything to gain in a
But some Bush supporters fear that playing hard to get could backfire, that
over time voters might be convinced Bush is afraid.
Clinton is milking it for all it`s worth.
For the first time some Bush supporters are beginning to worry that there
is a chance, an outside chance, there may be no debates at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, now it seems almost nuts that there wouldn`t be
presidential debates in a presidential election year, right? Like, there`s
a – there are primaries, there`s a convention, there`s debates and there`s
the election, right? That`s – those are the things we can be sure happen
every year in an election year.
But, you know, there is a reason why the debates were such an open question
at that time. This was 1992. This was 24 years ago. In the 20-plus years
before that election in 1992, there hadn`t always been debates. We all
remember the famous Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960, but four years after
that in 1964 there were no presidential debates. Four years after that in
1968, there were no presidential debates. Four years after that in 1972,
there were no presidential debates.
And, yes, they did happen in `76 and `80 and `84 and `88 and thereafter,
but by the time 1992 rolled around and George H.W. Bush was assessing his
prospects against this young, southern, Slick Willie Arkansas governor, it
wasn`t ancient history that you had to think back to, to think back to a
time when debates didn`t happen.
And the George H.W. Bush campaign decided maybe they didn`t want to debate
this guy from Arkansas. It was a real question as to whether or not Bill
Clinton and George Bush Sr. would ever meet face to face before the
election that year. The commission on presidential debates scheduled the
first debate that year for September 22nd. It didn`t happen, because
George H.W. Bush didn`t agree to it.
That date, that first debate was supposed to happen, Bill Clinton really
did milk it for all that it was worth. Clinton that day, the day they
cancelled debate, he went to the site of where the debate was supposed to
have been. He taunted “Chicken George” for being too afraid to debate him.
It was only later that week, a few days later that George Bush started
yelling at the guy in the chicken suit at that campaign stop in Michigan,
which he really probably shouldn`t have done, it showed that he was rattled
and Clinton kept hitting him on the debate thing over and over and over
again and eventually the Bush campaign did relent. They got goaded into
finally agreeing to debate Bill Clinton.
By then, though, it was really late in the process and that`s why we got a
super strange debate schedule that year. They did in 1992 end up doing all
three presidential debates and a vice presidential debate as well, but they
did all of them in a row, one right after the other. All four of those
debates happened over a period of eight days in October.
And you know what? Bill Clinton was a better debater than George H.W.
Bush. Ross Perot, it turns out, was a better debater than either of them.
And nobody calls Poppy Bush “Chicken George” anymore. The nickname did not
stick. But he really did try to get out of debating Bill Clinton that year
and that November, Bill Clinton ended up taking him to the cleaners and
And now, I don`t know looking back if the Clinton campaign rented those
chicken suits or if they bought them, but if they do still have them
hanging around somewhere in a Clinton family attic, I don`t know if there`s
a storage space at the Clinton presidential library where they have got the
old chicken suits, I don`t know. If they were all still around, if they
were not rented costumes, it might be time to dust them off again and see
if they still fit.
Because once again this year in 2016 there`s a real question as to whether
or not there are going to be presidential debates this year. The
commission on presidential debates, again, bipartisan, bureaucratic,
impartial organization, long before the primaries even started this year,
last September, 2015, they released the dates and locations for this year`s
three debates, three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate.
The debates in and all the information about the schedule has been publicly
available for almost a year now. But on Friday night, just a couple of
days ago, the Trump campaign started talking about the presidential debate
schedule this year as if it was brand new news to them and they were
shocked by it. They apparently had never noticed the debate schedule
before. They are very upset by it. Donald Trump is suggesting that the
debate schedule is somehow rigged to disadvantage him against Hillary
And as of this weekend, the Trump campaign is now demanding that two of
this year`s three presidential debates, the first two, have to be dropped
or rescheduled, changed. They have to be moved. The Trump campaign
doesn`t like those dates anymore, even though, again, they were established
and publicly announced more than a year ago.
Not to be weird, but I have been raising the prospect for several months
now that if he ended up being the nominee, Donald Trump would come up with
some reason why he couldn`t participate in the presidential debates, right?
Think about his personality. One-on-one presidential debate, that`s really
high pressure, one-on-one contest, you cannot hide, you cannot wheedle out
of anything. Failure has a very, very, very steep cost at something like
It has always seemed to be a very high-risk environment for somebody like
Donald Trump whose personality seems at least from a distance like he does
not want to be humiliated. He does not like to publicly lose. He does not
like to do anything that he cannot spin as a victory.
But the candidate himself and his campaign are now laying the groundwork
that they may wheedle out of the debates, that they may not do it. And
again, it wouldn`t be unprecedented. We didn`t have debates `64, `68, `72.
Poppy Bush did his darndest to get out of debating in 1992, even though he
had to do it in the end.
If Donald Trump just tries to get out of the debates it would be the first
time since 1992 that the presidential debates have been at risk, but it
does appear they are at risk. We probably should have seen it coming when
Trump decided to skip the last primary debate before the Iowa caucuses in
January. Remember that?
But this first step of his toward possibly chickening out of the
presidential debates, it happens alongside two other really bad
developments for the Trump campaign and for the prospects of him in this
election overall. And the first is simple. The first is just the polling.
The first round of national polling is out, which reflects the impact of
the Democratic national convention. That first round of polling suggests
that Hillary Clinton did get a pretty good polling bounce out of the
As Nate Silver just told Chris Hayes moments ago on our air, it looks like
the Clinton bounce out of her convention was significantly larger than
Donald Trump`s bounce out of his convention.
Bigger picture than that, all the major electoral map forecasters show
Hillary Clinton winning the election by a pretty easy margin at this point.
“The New York Times” puts Hillary Clinton`s likelihood at winning the
election at 72 percent. Nate Silver`s forecast, FiveThirtyEight.com, his
forecast of just the polls gives Hillary Clinton a 63 percent chance of
winning. What he calls his poll plus forecast has her at nearly a 68
percent chance of winning the election. Nobody who does the electoral map
in terms of swing state polls has Donald Trump forecast to win the election
at this point.
Looks like Hillary Clinton right now is winning. And in terms of their
capability as campaigners, in terms of the Donald Trump campaign`s ability
to turn around a bad forecast like that, in terms of Donald Trump`s ability
to use the process of the campaign to shift things in his direction –
well, that doesn`t look good either.
The qualitative polling on what people thought about Trump`s Republican
convention suggests that he and his campaign maybe don`t have great skills
when it comes to persuading voters that Donald Trump should get their vote.
Every year since 1984, the Gallup organization has called people across the
country after each of the conventions and asked whether that convention
made them more likely or less likely to support that party`s candidate.
And there is a range of responses from year to year. Hillary Clinton`s
result this year was plus 4 was the margin that – 4 percent more people
said the convention would make them more likely to vote for her than less.
That plus 4 is sort of on par with how Obama did in 2012, he was plus 5.
John McCain was also plus 5 in 2008. Mitt Romney was plus 2 in 2012.
Those are sort of normal numbers these days. But this year at the
Republican convention, Donald Trump`s number came in at minus 15. It`s the
first negative number they have ever found in either party in all the years
they have ever polled on the impact of a national party convention.
They have never, ever come up with a negative number, let alone negative
15. But by a 15-point margin, Americans said what they saw or heard about
the Republican convention this year, it made them less likely to vote for
Donald Trump. He`d been better off had he not held a convention. There`s
never been a negative number in this polling before.
So, Donald Trump right now is losing in the polls. When his campaign does
its best to try to persuade Americans to support Donald Trump, it seems to
have the opposite effect. And in the immediate sense, the Trump campaign
is now in day four of a fight that the candidate himself picked with the
parents of an American soldier who was killed in Iraq. The most
sympathetic possible targets you could imagine or conjure.
Dozens of Republican elected officials have now had to put out statements
defending Khizr and Ghazala Khan. Dozens of Republicans had to say they
disagree with Trump, they disagree with their own party`s presidential
nominee and his decision to attack that family, to attack that soldier`s
parents. Reuters reports today that the Trump campaign sent an e-mail to
Senate staffers today, they sent an e-mail to senior Republican Senate
staffers begging for Republican senators to come out and support Donald
Trump in his attack on the Khan family. Quote, “We want to get several
member statements out today on this, and would really appreciate your
help.” Reuters says, “A similar appeal was made to Republicans in the
House of Representatives.”
So the Trump campaign spent today, the first business day after the
conventions circulating talking points on Capitol Hill and requests to
members of Congress and Republican senators that they should please try to
tamp down this controversy of Donald Trump attacking and criticizing the
family of an American soldier who was killed in Iraq.
After the conventions were over, Donald Trump and his running mate took the
weekend off and now the first day back, they`re trying to get members of
Congress to support them in attacking a Gold Star family. Apparently, it`s
not working yet. At this point, no Republican member of Congress, no
Republican senator has come out and said they agree with Donald Trump and
with his attacks on the Khan family.
Then again, for all the criticism that he has gotten from his own side on
that issue, for all the Republicans who have come out and tried to distance
themselves from Donald Trump on that issue, not a single elected Republican
has unendorsed him over this issue either.
You can kind of see how maybe Donald Trump might not want to debate this
year, right? I mean, if this was the kind of campaign you were running,
would you want to defend it in a one-on-one debate in front of the whole
Lots more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I`m afraid the election is going
to be rigged, I have to be honest, because I think my side was rigged. If
I didn`t win by massive landslides, I mean, think of what we won in New
York and Indiana, California, 78 percent. That`s with other people in the
But think of it, I hear more and more that the election on November 8th,
can you believe we`re almost there, this started on June 16th of last year.
And I said, wow, let`s go do it.
Takes guts to do this, believe me. And everybody said – no, it takes
guts. I could be having a very nice life right now. I don`t have to be
with you people ranting and raving, right? I could have a very nice life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don`t have to be with you people ranting and raving, I could
have a very nice life.
Donald Trump today lamenting what a drag the campaign has become, even if
he has shown a lot of guts by running. Is it that much of a drag? He and
his running mate did both take the whole weekend off after the conventions
But oddly, there is one strange thing going on with the Donald Trump
campaign right now, which really is legitimately unexplained. His campaign
is now denying responsibility for one thing they really did get done during
their convention. It was something that they did.
They picked something to try for, they fought for it, they had to fight for
it, they won the fight, they accomplished it, but now, they are denying
they had anything to do with it. And nobody really knows why. It is an
inexplicable turn in this campaign and we are going to endeavor to get to
the bottom of it.
That`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Very rarely in politics, do you get a real honest-to-goodness
mystery. One mystery from tonight`s show is why I kept calling George H.W.
Bush “Vice President Bush” when I was talking about him in 1992 when he
already president. I said it twice. That is a mystery. I`m sorry I did
But, we`ve also got a real live mystery that has nothing to do with me in
the current presidential campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?
TRUMP: I wasn`t involved in that. Honestly, I was not involved.
INTERVIEWER: Your people were.
TRUMP: I was not involved in that. I`d like to – I`d have to take a look
at it, but I was not involved.
INTERVIEWER: Do you know what they did?
TRUMP: They softened it I heard, but I was not involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I was not involved. I have to take a look at that.
On Friday night, we reported on a mystery in the Republican party platform
this year, specifically why the Trump campaign while basically ignoring the
whole rest of the platform, letting everything slide, picking no fights on
anything, insisting on nothing, why they really picked just one thing to
When the platform committee met the week before the Republican convention,
there was a proposal on the floor to include in the Republican Party
platform support for providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, to help Ukraine
fend off Russia and Vladimir Putin. This amendment was not especially
controversial. The idea of arming Ukraine against Putin, it`s supported by
virtually the whole Republican foreign policy establishment.
But multiple reports indicated at the time that Trump campaign staffers in
the room, even though they did not care about anything else in the
platform, they cared about that. They actively intervened to strip out
that language on Ukraine. They didn`t fight on gay rights, on taxes, on
abortion, on immigration, on anything. The one thing they fought for was
to ensure the Republican Party platform wouldn`t support providing lethal
weapons to Ukraine.
Multiple sources at that platform meeting have confirmed that that
happened. Multiple sources at the time, multiple reporters covering it at
the time reported this is how it happened. But now, the Trump campaign is
denying that they did that. The candidate himself says it wasn`t him, it
was – might have been his campaign but I`d have to take a look at it, I
was not involved. And now, his campaign says it wasn`t them either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: There`s been some controversy about something
in the Republican Party platform that essentially changed the Republican
Party`s views when it comes to Ukraine. How much influence did you have on
changing that language, sir?
PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I had none. In fact I didn`t even
hear of it until after our convention was over.
TODD: Where did it come from then, because everybody on the platform
committee has said it came from the Trump campaign. If not you, who?
MANAFORT: It absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign. I don`t
know who everybody is, but I guarantee you –
TODD: So no one from the Trump campaign wanted that changed in the
MANAFORT: No one, zero.
(END VIDEOI CLIP)
MADDOW: No one, zero. Delegates who were there in the room at the
platform committee confirmed that the Trump campaign changed the language
or people at least who said they were the Trump campaign. Reporters
covering the platform might say it was the Trump campaign, but Donald Trump
himself says it wasn`t him, his campaign says it wasn`t them.
So, what we know is that Vladimir Putin got his preferred language in the
Republican Party platform this year. Reporters and observers say the Trump
campaign did it. But the Trump campaign now says it wasn`t them. Well, if
it wasn`t them, who was it?
Joining us now is MSNBC political analyst, former State Department
speechwriter in the Bush White House, Elise Jordan.
Elise, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
ELISE JORDAN, FORMER ADVISOR TO SEN. RAND PAUL: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Do you believe the Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort, when he
says nobody from the Trump campaign was involved in this?
JORDAN: I don`t believe him because I myself have spoken to multiple
delegates who directly contradict his – what he`s saying. And I think
that the problem here less than even the appearance of a lobbyist at the
top of the campaign is that this is the one thing they actually cared
about. And so it is a problem when it`s a lobbyist to the former Ukrainian
president and he really cares about this one plank in the platform.
MADDOW: There is sort of a whodunit about this, though. We talked to
delegates today as well. We sort of ran down everybody`s reporting on this
at the time. It didn`t seem like a controversial thing at the time to
assert that the Trump campaign was doing this because it was plain to
everybody involved. But now that the Trump campaign is saying it wasn`t
them, is there an effort to blame it on somebody else? I mean you can`t
have had this change in the platform without anybody having authored it.
JORDAN: Well, it`s problematic because either they didn`t know what was
going on at all, and so, they`re just running wild campaign staffers are
freelancing the policy, or they do actually care and why did they care so
much about this one specific plank. So, no matter what, there is a huge
problem here in that they can`t manage the campaign or that lobbyists are
having a lot of influence.
MADDOW: You wrote about this in “Time” magazine. You wrote, “A leading
theory in leading Republican policy circles is Trump is so disengaged from
policy that the platform change was all Manafort`s doing.”
The reason that is intriguing to me is because the way that power can
function secretly in a vacuum, if you believe that a president is taking up
space with decision-making, if you believe that the people who are
nominally in charge of something are in charge of it and they`re not, other
people who are more motivated about those topics can then get in and steer
American policy in a direction that without people really seeing the
fingerprints. Is that what you think is going on here?
JORDAN: Well, I think Donald Trump does have genuine affection for
Vladimir Putin and pro-Russia policies. He said in 2014 that he thought he
was great that Putin went in and took Crimea. That he thought that Putin
was helping pro-Russian people in the Ukraine.
So, that has been Donald Trump`s talking point for a while. He hasn`t
backed away from his love and admiration of Vladimir Putin, so I think that
this could have – this could happen because Trump isn`t really in control
of his campaign but also because he does have this genuine affection.
MADDOW: Elise, I wonder as a Republican, as somebody who`s been involved
in national security and foreign policy stuff, do you have a sense of who
would sort of helm foreign policy in a Trump White House?
JORDAN: I have no idea. I feel like plenty of people would probably just
jump at the chance to have some power. I think that it`s been disgusting
to watch how a lot of the Republicans have responded to Trump, his
candidacy this year and plenty of people have shown that they will endorse
him, even if they disagree with basically everything that comes out of his
So, yes, he probably would be able to fill a cabinet. I hope that he could
fill with it some semi-responsible people, but at this point I just wonder
what the wreckage of the Republican Party, if we have absolutely no
MADDOW: Not to put it too starkly.
JORDAN: I`m not depressed at all about this.
MADDOW: No, I can tell you`re fine.
JORDAN: Totally cool with what`s happening in the country.
MADDOW: Elise Jordan, MSNBC political analyst and speechwriter on the Bush
White House, former State Department speechwriter – Elise, I feel like I
want to apologize. I have nothing to apologize for, but I hope you feel
MADDOW: All right. Coming up tonight, the world`s most famous political
cartoonist has been moonlighting as a prophet. The great Garry Trudeau of
Doonesbury is going to join us tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: “Sesame Street” has been on the air since 1969. When it premiered
it was called the most ambitious experiment ever in children`s television.
You can watch “Sesame Street” in more than 120 different countries today, 8
million people tune in to watch it every week to this day. It`s a huge
deal, “Sesame Street.”
And in between all the counting to ten and alphabet learning songs,
sometimes you get particularly political moments, like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARACTER: The grump is coming to Sesame Street!
CHARACTERS: Grump, grump, grump, grump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The grump?
CHARACTER: Donald grump!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh. Grump.
CHARACTERS (singing): Who`s got more trash than nip does, grump, grump,
grump who has the best rubbish grump, grump, grump he`s got so much
trash it spills out of his cans, and that`s why we are his biggest fans
Here he comes!
CHARACTER: Who`s got more trash than any of yous?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, you can get away thinking maybe this wasn`t a political moment
or a cultural reference of some specificity until you saw animal`s hairdo.
Donald Trump has been fodder for satire of various kinds, even of the
children`s programming variety for a long time. Long before he was the
Republican Party`s nominee for president of the United States. But some of
the very best Trump satire has actually taken decades to cultivate.
There really were geniuses among us who saw the Donald Trump presidential
candidacy specifically. They saw it coming 30 years before it happened.
And it is genius. And that`s next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARACTER: Go ahead, take it. I have more.
CHARACTER: Oh, yeah!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s 3:00 a.m. and ringing in the White House. Who do
you want to answer that call, Hillary Clinton?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello? The Situation Room. I`ll be right there. Oh,
it`s for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, from now on it`s always for me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or Donald Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not now, I`m on Twitter. And Elizabeth Warren tweets
too damn much. Glad I exiled her. Send. And put my name on the Lincoln
Memorial, make Chris Christie eat a worm just for laughs, disband NATO, and
make me some scrambled eggs on a gold plate.
What? Fine, I`ll be right there.
We`re too late? The Chinese fleet is advancing? Just build another wall.
Yes, in the ocean, loser.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paid for by Americans who are really starting to miss
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Simpsons released that parody this weekend. A Simpsons
version of the 3:00 a.m. phone call ad from 2008.
For the artists among us whose job it is to make fun of our politicians and
to make fun of us for hiring those politicians, Donald Trump`s run for the
presidency has been a time of rich harvest. But it still takes a
particular kind of genius to have seen this coming 30 years in advance.
In 1987, Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in a number of newspapers
saying that the world was laughing at American politicians and the U.S. was
not on the right course. Shortly thereafter, the great Garry Trudeau,
Pulitzer prize-winning creator of “Doonesbury”, gave us this.
A reporter asks, “Mr. Trump, your denials notwithstanding, don`t the ads
you took out suggest a testing of the political waters?” Mr. Trump
responds, “As I said before, I was simply acting as a concerned citizen.
At this time I have no, repeat, no political ambitions whatsoever.”
Then the reporter follows up. “OK, but if you did run for Congress” – and
Trump interrupts and says, “President, think president.”
That was September 17th, 1987. I was 14 years old. In 1989, 15 years
before Donald Trump starred the TV show “The Apprentice”, Garry Trudeau of
“Doonesbury”, showcased Donald Trump entering the world of game shows and
In 1999, way before there was any serious talk about Donald Trump running
for president, Garry Trudeau and “Doonesbury” caricatured him running.
“As you know there`s been this amazing, amazing, amazing response to my
candidacy. It`s unbelievable how amazing it`s been. As long as I`m a
candidate, you have to cover me which is good for the Trump brand which
just gets bigger and bigger and bigger.” That`s November 14th, 1999.
Look at this one, look at this one. This is from December, 1999. “A lot
of people have been asking what this election is really about. Well, it`s
not about the economy, stupid. And it`s not character, stupid. And it`s
not, authenticity, stupid. It`s not even about the issues, stupid.”
“You want to know what this election is about?” The reporter says, “You,
stupid?” And Trump says, “Exactly! People are begging me to run, begging
me.” That was December, 1999.
Garry Trudeau didn`t just see this whole thing coming, he saw this coming
so clearly that he basically ended up scripting a portion of this year`s
political events decades in advance. That is – that is really good
satire, but it`s also really spookily accurate prediction, which makes me
desperately want to ask Garry Trudeau what`s about to happen next.
Joining us now for the interview is Garry Trudeau, Pulitzer Prize-winning
cartoonist of “Doonesbury” and author of the new book “Yuge!: 30 years of
Doonesbury on Trump”.
Garry, it`s great to see you.
GARRY TRUDEAU, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING CARTOONIST: It`s great to see you.
MADDOW: You know – you know that I am a huge “Doonesbury” fan anyway, but
I did not realize how much you saw this coming. Were you the only person
who wasn`t surprise?
TRUDEAU: You`re giving me far more credit, I think.
MADDOW: It`s creepy, though, the stuff from `97 and `99. I mean, you kind
TRUDEAU: Well, `87 –
TRUDEAU: `87, we in New York had been entertained by this man for years,
starting when he ran and invaded a hotel in Grand Central Station called
The Hyatt, were turned into Hyatt.
MADDOW: The Commodore. That`s right.
TRUDEAU: The Commodore turned into the Hyatt. We didn`t know what we
deserved – how we came to deserve such an in-your-face guy, this minor
league real estate developer who was just out there day after day after
day. Now, he did hire a couple of imaginary press agents to help him do
that, so he didn`t do it all by himself.
But he was on the covers of magazines. The big problem with taking a local
figure and putting him in a comic strip is that you can really lard up the
script with way too much exposition and trying to position him and make him
seem real to people.
But by then, he had gotten on enough magazine covers so that when those ads
broke and they got commented on a lot. And when we first learned that the
world was laughing at us 30 years ago, it just seemed to be comedy
malpractice not to actually push him into the strip and move forward.
MADDOW: I think the other thing that makes – the other thing that is
surprising looking at this, as, you know, not something that`s just funny
but a document of social criticism at the time is that part of the reason
it`s so prescient is he hasn`t changed at all. The way you have him
talking 20 years ago is almost literally some of the stuff that he says now
that he`s the Republican nominee.
Do you see other consistencies?
TRUDEAU: Well, absolutely. I mean, not just on those broad issues but
just the underlying personality disorder has been consistent through those
30 years, that narcissism was bubbling up big-time or big league as he
MADDOW: Big league.
TRUDEAU: Big league way back in the mid-`80s when he didn`t have anything
really to boast about. I mean, he had done this one hotel renovation and
put up a few class and brass buildings, but he wasn`t anywhere near in the
league of his peers.
MADDOW: The only thing that struck me not as discordant but as something
that didn`t predict what`s going on right now is the series of strips you
did where he was going bankrupt and the bankers were parading in and out of
Trump Tower –
TRUDEAU: Who knew?
MADDOW: Yes, exactly.
MADDOW: And you had all those sort of regular New Yorkers on the street
like there to cheer his downfall and having all these schadenfreude with
things going poorly.
TRUDEAU: That was wishful thinking. The bankers were getting rolled one
after the other. There was no way to know that at the time.
MADDOW: Given – again, I don`t want to make you uncomfortable, but given
what you did sort of see coming or what you thought about him was true at
the time, do you feel like you know what happens next?
TRUDEAU: No. No, I don`t think anybody does. I mean it`s been part of
the difficulty of getting through this year is that as Mrs. Clinton said
today, just when you think you know where bottom is, he goes deeper. He
And no one could have foreseen what he did to the Khans. I mean, I watched
the Khans on TV and it just took your breath away.
TRUDEAU: The dignity and the calmness and the heart-breaking figure of his
wife trying to keep it together. I mean you just couldn`t fail to be moved
by that. And I thought finally, something he can`t touch, something he
can`t attack. Wrong.
MADDOW: Yes. Right.
And if you see the entire world through the lens of how am I viewed,
somebody criticizing me is de facto a terrible person because they have
criticized me, then that makes more sense.
I have one other aspect of this to ask you about, which is usually on books
of all stripes, the sort of pull quotes and blushes of people saying nice
things about you and complimenting you, in this case you`ve listed like 15
different insults against you levied by Donald Trump?
TRUDEAU: Yes, it`s a very curated collection. We couldn`t put them all
MADDOW: It`s too bad he`s allowed to write this garbage. I don`t read his
stuff. You know, I did well in school but for the life of me, I still
can`t understand what “Doonesbury” is all about.
This is badge of honor territory?
TRUDEAU: Well, yes. At first, he said everyone has been telling me I
should be flattered. But then he got confused about that because there was
nothing actually flattering about the strips I was doing. So, then, he was
ambivalent and if you read the final ones there, a jerk, a total loser.
MADDOW: A third-rate talent who got lucky.
TRUDEAU: Yes. So, you know, I think I`m off his radar now. He`s got, you
know, much bigger targets to aim at.
MADDOW: Oh, you`d be surprised on how small the targets are he can aim at.
You`d be surprised at what bugs him.
Well, Garry Trudeau, “30 years of Doonesbury on Trump,” it is a remarkable
document and it`s also “Doonesbury” which means it`s wonderful and it`s
nice to have you here.
TRUDEAU: Oh, thank you. It`s such a pleasure.
MADDOW: It`s great to see you. Thanks.
We`ll be right back. We have something intriguing going on in tomorrow`s
news that you don`t know about and I will tell you what that is next. Stay
MADDOW: The one surefire way to get elected to Congress in the United
States of America is to already be elected to Congress in the United States
of America. Be an incumbent, that`s the only way you can be assured that
you`ll go back.
Take for example Washington state Congressman Jim McDermott, beloved
Democratic congressman. He`s represented the larger Seattle area since
1988. He`s currently serving his 14th term in the House. Some people call
him Seattle`s congressman for life because he`s had that seat for so long.
He won his last re-election campaign by a margin of 81-19, and that`s
pretty much standard for him. He always wins by like a 60-point margin.
Bottom line is if you want to get elected from Congress from that Seattle
area district, you should build your campaign around being Congressman
McDermott or conceivably having the same last name. Because now
Congressman Jim McDermott is retiring after his term, and this man, not Jim
McDermott but Joe McDermott is running to replace him in tomorrow`s
Democratic congressional primary.
Joe McDermott is a long-time state and local legislator in the area, but
he`s not related to Jim McDermott, they have the same last name. They are
not related at all.
And that makes the common name thing a weird enough coincidence. Here is
the other part of this thing between Jim McDermott and Joe McDermott,
that`s the name they go by, but technically they also have the same first
name. Joe McDermott`s full name is James Joseph McDermott. So, he could
if he wanted to also go by Jim McDermott, instead he goes by his middle
name, Joe. Because of that saying he won`t be trying to fool Seattle
voters into thinking he`s the incumbent guy by running under his real first
name which is, Jim.
So, that`s one name to watch in that primary race that`s going to happen
tomorrow in Washington state. One of the other leading contenders for that
same seat for Congressman Jim McDermott`s seat is a Washington state
senator named Pramila Jayapal. She is one of the down ballot candidates
that Senator Bernie Sanders threw his support behind this year, that
support appears to have a big impact on this race, at least from a money
standpoint. Ms. Jayapal is better funded than her opponents. At least a
third of her fundraising dollars have come from outside of Washington
state, presumably from Bernie Sanders` fans around the country.
So, that will be one interesting primary to watch heading into tomorrow.
There`s also contest going on tomorrow, primaries in Kansas, in Missouri,
In Kansas, incumbent Tea Party Congressman Tim Huelskamp is going to be in
a very tough primary against more establishment Republican challenger.
Outside conservative groups Koch brothers have poured more than a million
and a half dollars into this race to try to save Congressman Huelskamp.
So, there`s a lot to keep an eye on in terms of politics tomorrow. Nobody
is thinking about today as tomorrow is election day, but it is. And we`ll
tell you tomorrow how it all goes.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: You might remember, on Friday night, we did this show here, and
then right after this show live, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on Friday night,
Lawrence O`Donnell had an absolutely remarkable interview with Khizr and
Ghazala Khan, the couple who lost their son in Iraq 12 years ago who then
absolutely transfixed the country at the Democratic convention last week.
Lawrence did an interview with them on Friday night, that was – to say it
was must-see TV would be to under state matters.
Well, tonight after this show, Lawrence is going to have a follow-up
conversation with them. Since that conversation, Donald Trump has attacked
Khizr and Ghazala Khan multiple times. It has started a serious crisis
within the Republican Party. They`re going to sit down again tonight for a
follow-up conversation with Lawrence O`Donnell right here at 10:00 p.m.
Eastern on MSNBC. You must watch.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Have you ever seen a Flyboard? I have never seen a Flyboard
before today. It`s essentially two boots like you find on snowboards or
water skis. The boots are bolted on to a little board and affixed to that
board is a set of water jets with nozzles that point down away from your
feet, down toward the water.
A hose attaches your board to an engine on, usually, a jet ski and the jet
ski engine basically forces water through the hose and then down from the
Flyboard. And if you do it right, that pushes the Flyboard rider up into
The effect is like a dude riding a pair of fire hoses, basically. I have
watched these video a few times today. I`m terrified that these people are
going to be rocketed up into orbit or somehow they`re going to fall down
into the earth`s core. But this is what a Flyboard looks like riding these
water jets up in the air. I learned all this today.
With that in mind, now, here is the thing – this weekend in Minnesota,
about 150 miles north of Minneapolis, at a place called Cross Lake, a boat
caught fire. People who were on board they jumped over board they were
rescued by a passing pontoon boat.
But the boat itself kept burning until it get rescued by a couple of guys
with a Flyboard. They spotted the boat fire from across the lake at their
cabin, they decided to use their Flyboard, which is really like a giant
hose attached to your feet. And they literally put out the boat fire from
above. It took about two minutes. And that`s the whole story.
Basically, this has no impact on your life and mind other than seeing these
pictures. But my mind is blown and I needed to share it with somebody.
And hey, there you are. They put out the boat fire with a Flyboard. It`s
like “Back to the Future” meets “Backdraft”. That`s all. Now, here is the
That does it for us tonight. Thank you for being with us tonight.
Now stay tuned, please, for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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