The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 9/27/2016

Transcript:

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: September 27, 2016

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: And thanks at home for joining us.

The most famous presidential debates of all, of course, are the first ones
that were on television. Nixon/Kennedy, right, 1960.

And everybody knows that story, right? There`s a million different
explanations. There`s a million different nuances and back stories and
bits of history in terms of why those Nixon/Kennedy debates went the way
they did in 1960.

But one of the things I had always thought was interesting about those
debates is they didn`t set a precedent, at least not immediately. After
those 1960 presidential debates, the first once on TV, they did not do
another presidential debate on TV for another 16 years. They did them in
1960. They didn`t do televised presidential debates again until 1976.

And by 1976, it had been so long and the last ones had been such a huge
deal back in 1960 that by the time they decided to do them again in 1976,
everybody was very excited. But if you watch the coverage from the 1976
debate leading up to the first 1976 debate, weirdly, knowing what we know
now about how those went, it`s kind of ominous and eerie. It`s weird, like
they had an inkling of what was about to go wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: The thin man with the blue jacket and searching eyes is Bill
Carruthers, Mr. Ford`s cosmetic advance man. He`s searching for risks,
anything among the lights, the cameras, the podiums, the equipment, the
atmosphere that might distract Mr. Ford. He`s at ford`s podium now
rehearsing the sound system.

BILL CARRUTHERS, FORD COSMETIC ADVANCE MAN: Quiet, please.

REPORTER: Yesterday the stand in candidates could not hear the stand in
panelist or each other and sometimes the loudspeakers howled.

DICK ARONSON, AUDIO ENGINEER: This is a bad mike?

REPORTER: The candidates will walk in with their miniature mikes already
on.

ARONSON: Candidates will be miked – pre-miked by the White House with
lapel mikes and cables coming right down through their jackets and down
their pant legs and hanging outside their pants.

REPORTER: By the time their pants legs are plugged in tonight, the sound
system ought to work right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was before the debate, “Nightly News” 1976. It turns out the
sound system did not work right in that first debate.

It was incredible. This again the first presidential debate on TV in 16
years. It was the first one in color. It was 1976, Jimmy Carter, Gerald
Ford having a presidential debate on TV for the first time since
Nixon/Kennedy.

And something went really, really wrong. It happened right after this sort
of weird little moment where president ford inexplicably called the NSA
NASA, which was weird. That was kind of a weird moment in itself.

And then right after he did that and the moderator turned the it over to
Jimmy Carter, he started in on his answer about intelligence agencies but
then, watch what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT: And I`m glad that we have a good director
in George Bush. We have good executive orders and the CIA and the DIA and
NASA or the NSA are now doing a good job under proper supervision.

DEBATE MODERATOR: Governor Carter?

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: Well, one of the very serious things
that`s happened in our government in recent years and has continued up
until now is a breakdown in the trust among our people in the –

(AUDIO GAP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pool of broadcasters from Philadelphia have
temporarily lost the audio. It`s not a conspiracy against Governor Carter
or President Ford and they`ll fix it as soon as possible.

The pool audio from Philadelphia has been lost momentarily. We hope to
have it back any minute. We don`t know what`s happened to it.

Again, the pool audio from the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia has
been lost. We hope for the moment. We are, needless to say, trying to
restore it. We do not know what has happened to it.

Both candidates have lost a more or less equal number of their words. I
can`t hear them either. So I don`t know what it is we`re not hearing. I
think they have stopped because they have been told the sound has been
lost. I think they`ve stopped talking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The amazing thing about this moment in the 1976 debate, after the
country had waited 16 years since the last televised debate, is that when
they had this sound failure, it really wasn`t a momentary thing. And they
did keep talking for a while but we couldn`t really see their mouths that
clearly so we don`t really know.

The sound drop in that debate lasted for 27 minutes. And for those 27
minutes, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter just stood there, ultimately they
just stood there, not really talking, not really doing anything, not
fidgeting, just holding still for 20 solid minutes while folks worked on
it. Nobody knew what to do.

There`s no precedent at this point. Was this the end of the debate? Are
they going to finish? Carter was in the middle of an answer. Does he get
to finish his – what happened here?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ed Newman is saying something no doubt interesting, but
I haven`t the faintest idea what t is because I can`t hear it.

(INAUDIBLE)

EDWIN NEWMAN, NBC NEWS: It occurred 27 minutes ago and the fault has been
dealt with and we want to thank President Ford and Governor Carter for
being so patient and understanding while this delay went on.

Governor Carter was making his response and had very nearly finished it.
He will conclude that response now, after which President Ford and Governor
Carter will make their closing statements.

Governor?

CARTER: There has been too much government secrecy and not enough respect
for the personal privacy of American citizens.

NEWMAN: It is now time for the closing statements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Go ahead and finish your thought, Governor. It was 27 minutes ago
that you started this thought and we don`t really know where it cut out so
we don`t know how far you got in your thoughts before people couldn`t hear
you and you`ve been standing here for 27 minutes and nothing is like this.
But go ahead and wrap up. Complete your thought.

It was really weird, right? It`s really strange. But sometimes at
debates, at presidential debates weird things happen. That was the first
debate in 1976.

Jimmy Carter, of course, won the election. Four years later, in 1980, he
was the incumbent facing off against Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.
That was the most watched debate of all time until the 1980 record was
broken last night. More on that in a moment.

But that 1980 debate also had something crazy happen. Nobody knew about it
in the time, but in a lead-up to that debate, somehow the Reagan camp got
hold of Jimmy Carter`s debate prep materials. And again, nobody knew it at
the time, but that`s nuts, right?

They only had one debate. Reagan clearly won that debate and he won that
election. It was not until three years into his time in office that his
campaign somehow getting the sitting president`s debate prep materials
ahead of the last debate became a real scandal. It actually became a
criminal investigation in the Reagan administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Now, the FBI is involved. The Justice
Department announced today that there will be a full criminal investigation
of just how the staff of President Reagan acquired Jimmy Carter`s campaign
briefing papers during the `80 campaign. At the same time, President
Reagan says he has nothing to apologize for.

CHRIS WALLACE, NBC NEWS REPORTER: The president was in California today
talking about education, but questions about the briefing material shadowed
him. What did he think of the criminal investigation?

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: What I need to say. I asked this and
they`re doing it.

WALLACE: Will you apologize to Jimmy Carter?

REAGAN: I haven`t said anything to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: “Will you apologize to Jimmy Carter? I haven`t said anything to
him,” he says there.

Well, ultimately, the FBI investigated. There was a congressional
investigation as well, but nobody was ever prosecuted for the Ronald Reagan
campaign apparently stealing Jimmy Carter`s notes ahead of that debate, the
one debate they held in the 1980 campaign.

Something similar happened 20 years later in 2000. George W. Bush and Al
Gore were debating in 2000. Somebody working for George W. Bush`s media
adviser was caught and was convicted after she packed up a videotape of one
of George W. Bush`s debate practice sessions and mailed the videotape to
the Al Gore campaign. When the Al Gore campaign received it, they did the
right thing and handed it right over to the FBI. A woman did a year in
prison for that one.

Weird stuff happens at debate. And not just in the ancient history ones.

In the last election cycle in 2012, you might remember that first debate
between Mitt Romney and President Obama marked by an abnormally terrible
performance by President Obama. President Obama is usually a very good
debater. He`s good at everything involving public speaking. He`s a
particularly good debater.

But that first debate against Romney in 2012, you all remember, right, he
just didn`t seem into it. His heart didn`t seem like he was in it. Mitt
Romney was super-aggressive. President Obama was laid back to the point of
barely being present. It was really like his mind was elsewhere.

It turns out the Obama campaign in 2012 had agreed to that first debate of
the 2012 campaign being held on the night of Barack and Michelle Obama`s
20th wedding anniversary. So, yes, maybe his mind was elsewhere.

Weird stuff happens in debates. Weird circumstances intrude on debates
sometimes. But even when an appreciation for that rich weird history that
we`ve got as a country, last night`s record breaking debate between Hillary
Clinton and Donald Trump I think will go down in history not for the
weirdness of any circumstances surrounding the debate or any technical
failures or criminal scandals. Last night`s debate will go down in the
history of weird American debates just for the sheer amount of weirdness
that happened on stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She`s saying Russia, Russia,
Russia, but I don`t – maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it
could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could
be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?

We have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is – it is
a huge problem. I have a son. He`s 10 years old. He has computers. He
is so good with these computers, it`s unbelievable. The security aspect of
cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it`s hardly doable.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I have a feeling by the end of
this evening, I`m going to be blamed for everything that`s ever happened.

TRUMP: Why not?

CLINTON: Why not? Yes, why not?

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Somebody who`s been very vicious to me, Rosie O`Donnell, I said
very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she
deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.

LESTER HOLT, DEBATE MODERATOR: We`re talking about racial healing in this
segment. What do you say to Americans, people of color who –

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, it was very – I say nothing.

I then spoke to Sean Hannity, which everybody refuses to call Sean Hannity.
I had numerous conversations with Sean Hannity at Fox. But nobody called
Sean Hannity. If somebody would call up Sean Hannity –

CLINTON: Negotiate down the national debt of the United States.

TRUMP: No, you`re wrong. You`re wrong.

CLINTON: No, I`m not.

TRUMP: Murders are up. All right. You check it.

CLINTON: New York – New York has done an excellent job.

But Putin is playing a really tough, long game here.

The invasion of Iraq.

TRUMP: Wrong.

CLINTON: That is absolutely proved over and over again.

TRUMP: Wrong. Wrong.

CLINTON: He actually advocated for the actions we took in Libya.

I hoped it would be a good deal, but when it was negotiated –

TRUMP: Not.

CLINTON: – which I was not responsible for, I concluded it wasn`t.

Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latina. Donald,
she has a name.

TRUMP: Where did you find this? Where did you find this?

CLINTON: Her name is Alicia Machado.

TRUMP: Where did you find this?

CLINTON: And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet –

TRUMP: Oh, really?

CLINTON: – she`s going to vote this November.

TRUMP: OK, good.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: All debates are a little bit weird. But just take it at face
value – the number of interruptions, verbal outbursts, uncontrolled
noises. Not! Shouted out individual words. Wrong! By one of the two
people on stage.

It was just something we have not seen before in a presidential debate. My
single favorite uncontrolled verbal tick moment, it`s hard to narrow it
down. I mean, yelling wrong, wrong, wrong, like he was a button on a sound
board at an a.m. radio show. That was amazing.

That moment where he just yelled not like there was suddenly a heckler at
the back of the seventh grade classroom. Not. I mean, it was hard to
narrow it down, right?

I think, seriously, though, the best one was where he just said, ugh. When
Hillary Clinton started talking about African-American and Latino
communities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We need law and order. And we need law and order in the inner
cities, because the people that are most affected by what`s happening are
African-American and Hispanic people. And it`s very unfair to them what
our politicians are allowing to happen.

HOLT: Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, I`ve heard – I`ve heard Donald say this at his rallies,
and it`s really unfortunate that he paints such a dire negative picture of
black communities in our country.

TRUMP: Ugh.

CLINTON: You know, the vibrancy of the black church.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Black communities in our country. Ugh!

What do you have to say to people of color – I say nothing. I say
nothing. Black communities in this country. Ugh!

Mr. Trump also at one point bragged that he gets tons of credit and he`s
very proud of the fact that he allows Muslims and black people to golf at
one of clubs. He said he gets incredible credit for that. He`s proud of
that.

This was a strange, strange, strange debate. Everybody thought that the
challenge for Hillary Clinton and for the moderator, Lester Holt, and for
the media covering it was going to be raw fact checking, right, the number
of untrue things that Donald Trump has said on the campaign trail that he`s
not used to getting called on live and in real-time.

He did say a lot of untrue things. Bill Clinton did not sign NAFTA.
George Bush signed NAFTA. Donald Trump did, in fact, say that climate
change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Donald Trump did not drop his
allegation that President Obama is secretly foreign after the president
published his long form birth certificate in 2011. He kept up with it for
five years.

The murder rate in New York City is not going up. It hasn`t gone down.
Donald Trump was in favor of the Iraq war before the Iraq war started.

Hillary Clinton has not been fighting ISIS all her adult life not unless
ISIS is something other than ISIS. Hillary Clinton was not the originator
or the proponent of the idea that President Obama`s birth certificate was
fake. Stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional. Trump did, in fact, once
suggest that he would try to negotiate down the national debt of the United
States.

The fact checking certainly could be done. I mean, most people can do it
off the top of their heads. But the fact-checking didn`t end up being the
hard part of how to process this or understand what just happened and what
was unusual about last night.

The hard part of this ended up being, you know, the random aside about his
10-year-old son and how good he is with computers in the cyber war and
nobody calling Sean Hannity and nobody has sympathy for Rosie O`Donnell and
this mysterious 400-pound person in a bed, who ought to be – in a bed? He
ought to be blamed instead of poor Russia who probably did nothing wrong.

I mean, what has ended up being hard to get, hard to put in context because
there is no historical precedent for it, is the randomness, the bizarreness
of the pronouncements from the stage. The insecure ping-ponging around
every sentence like every comma offers a new alternative and a new option
for a different direction to go in because this sentence was heading
nowhere from the top.

That said, in some ways, there is a case to be made that we did see it
coming. That the American people as a whole appear to have had some
inkling that something unusual was going to happen last night in this
debate. A lot of people watched.

I mean, today is the day to have some sympathy for the poor Atlanta
Falcons. Last night, the Falcons absolutely crushed the New Orleans Saint
in an away game. They played at New Orleans. The Falcons beat them 45-32,
and nobody noticed. Last night`s Monday night football game had roughly 8
million viewers, which was the lowest for a Monday night football game in
over a decade.

So, Pity the Falcon, I guess, because Americans knew enough to tune in last
night to see that spectacle. Eight million people were watching football,
84 million people were watching last night`s debate. That`s not only a
record, that`s not even counting the number of people streaming online.
That`s just television viewers.

In a lopsided performance of the two contenders of the debate, it did lead
to some strange follow-up news today. Donald Trump initially praised the
moderator, Lester Holt, of NBC News as doing a, quote, “great job” and
being, quote, “very fair”. Today, the Trump campaign started denouncing
Lester Holt as if he somehow skewed the debate against Trump.

The Trump campaign and the candidate himself also today repeatedly raised
the prospect that Trump`s microphone was somehow tampered with. The
candidate apparently believes that he couldn`t be heard last night. I`m
not sure anybody who actually watched that debate would believe that was a
problem.

Initially last night immediately following the debate, Clinton campaign
chair John Podesta raised the prospect I think jokingly, that Donald
Trump`s performance was so bad last night that maybe he`d skip the next two
debates. I think everybody initially thought that was either joking or
maybe some partisan trash talk on the part of the Clinton campaign chair.

But by this morning, a top Donald Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani was saying
is on the record that if it were him, he would, in fact, refuse to
participate in the next two presidential debates because this one was so
unfair. He said he wasn`t necessarily advising Trump to skip the next two
debates but he said if he were the candidate, he sure would.

Trump himself tonight telling NBC`s Ali Vitali that, yes, sure, he does
plan to participate in the next two debates. That was his word exactly, he
said, sure.

That said, his campaign has now raised the prospect that that won`t happen.
So, are there going to be two more debates? We`ll see.

If the two additional debates do happen, if this was not the one
presidential debate of the 2016 presidential election that we saw last
night, I think there is an important question, that is hard to answer,
genuinely open question, in terms of what`s about to happen next. And the
question is this – does stuff this weird start to seem normal once we get
to see it more than once?

All right. We have never before seen a presidential candidate act as
strangely or speak as strangely or behave as strangely as Donald Trump did
last night in this at times surreal truly weird debate. He interrupted
Hillary Clinton more than 50 times. He told dozens of very easily
disprovable lies.

I`m not counting like complicated policy lies where it really is just a
disagreement about how things are likely to work out if somebody implements
their blah, blah, blah policy. I mean really simple lies. Over and over,
saying things like I never said that when he`s on record on tape saying
just that.

It was such a weird performance with the grunting and the sighing and the
sniffing and the yelling out, not and wrong like a heckler at your own
event. It was weird. And the question is, will it still seem weird if and
when he does it again and then again if we have two more debates where this
candidate continues to behave that way? Does that become part of our
normal expectation for how candidates are expected to behave at
presidential debates?

Because his strangeness is a mixed bag for us as a country and as a
participatory democracy. I mean, his strangeness is, in fact, riveting.
There`s a reason 84 million people knew to tune in and watch this thing
last night. More people than watched any other presidential debate in U.S.
history.

It`s a mixed bag, though because, yes, it does get people to pay attention.
But the most important stuff that we said last night was not the
hilariously strange stuff, that was not the stuff that made you point at
the TV and laugh out loud, or spit out your beer and lose a drinking game.
The stuff that was the most important stuff last night was stuff that was
deeply, scarily, seriously wrong.

It was not him sniffling through the debate. It was not him advertising
his Trump Hotel in Washington. It was not the random aside about Rosie
O`Donnell or the computer skills of his son. It really wasn`t that stuff.
It was bigger than that and it was worst than that.

And that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In a normal year, in normal politics, this would be what`s usually
described as a teachable moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGH HEWITT, DEBATE MODERATOR: Mr. Trump, Dr. Carson just referenced a
single-most important job of the president. The command, the control and
the care of our nuclear forces and he mentioned the triad. The B-52s are
older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out.
It`s an executive order. It`s a commander-in-chief decision, what`s your
priority among our nuclear triad?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can
trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is
doing. That`s so powerful and so important.

HEWITT: The three legs of the triad, do you have a priority? Because I
want to go to Senator Rubio –

TRUMP: I think to me nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very
important to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The power, the devastation is very important to me.

Republican candidate Donald Trump during the Republican primary, he had no
idea what the nuclear triad is. Now, nuclear triad is admittedly a kind of
annoying Washington phrase, right? But it`s not that obscure phrase. It`s
not like terrible jargon.

Even if you never participated in a conversation about it or read a
briefing on it or even just read about the nuclear triad. You can almost
sound it out, right? Use your words. Tri means three. So you can kind of
almost figure it out even if you didn`t know, right?

What`s something about nuclear weapons where there`s like three options,
like a trio of option. You can almost make it up even if you don`t know
it, right?

The nuclear triad is the three ways we can launch nuclear weapons as a
country. We can launch them from the air, the airplanes, from the sea,
from submarines, and we can launch them from the land, from land-based
nuclear missiles. That`s the nuclear triad – land, sea and air.

Not everybody knows that off the top of their head, but surely like just as
surely, everybody running for president should know that because that`s the
potentially humanity-ending part of your presidential responsibilities.
Presumably, if you want to be president, you take that a priority if you
can`t spell it, or sound it out if you can`t do that, count it off on your
fingers.

But that scary bad answer having no idea what the nuclear triad was, that
was in December. Donald Trump has had nine months to bone up, has some
kind of answer ready the next time someone asked him about nuclear weapons.
Last night, he got his chance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLT: On nuclear weapons, President Obama reportedly considered changing
the nation`s longstanding policy on first use. Do you support the current
policy? Mr. Trump, you have two minutes on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The first use policy.

Our country, the United States, is the only country to have used nuclear
weapons in war. We launched two nuclear bombs against Japan 1945. Nobody
has used nuclear weapons in war since then. I mean, if you know one
nuclear thing other than the fact that the United States has a bunch of
nuclear weapons, you should probably also know that we have used them.

And even though President Obama considered changing U.S. policy this year
to say that, actually, we never again will use nuclear weapons first.
We`ll only use them if somebody else uses them against us, he did consider
that change, but U.S. nuclear policy famously, forever, since we did
actually drop the bomb on Japan twice, we do have a first use policy.

Obviously. Obviously. We would use nuclear weapons first before somebody
used them on us. Obviously, look at what we did with it.

So, that`s the question, right? Do we keep that first use policy or do we
change it as President Obama has been considering? Do we change it and
promise to never again launch a first nuclear strike? Do we keep it or do
we change it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLT: On nuclear weapons, President Obama reportedly considered changing
the nation`s longstanding policy on first use. Do you support the current
policy? Mr. Trump, you have two minutes on that.

TRUMP: Well, I have to say that, you know, for what Secretary Clinton was
saying about nuclear with Russia, she`s very cavalier in the way she talks
about various countries. But Russia has been expanding their – they have
a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new
standpoint.

I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, they`re old enough that your
father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not – we are not
keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just
get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike.

I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it`s over. At the same
time, we have to be prepared. I can`t take anything off the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I would certainly not do first strike. I can`t take anything off
the table. Saying you certainly would not do first strike is by definition
taking something off the table. You get that, right?

I mean, Donald Trump last night was pledging simultaneously to keep first
use of nuclear weapons as U.S. policy, keep it on the table, and he also
simultaneously pledged to get rid of first use of nuclear weapons as U.S.
policy. He promised both that he would keep it and he would get rid of it.

Does he know which is the policy right now? Does he know that it is a
policy that is currently in place and has been in place for decades and
that he is pledging to keep it while simultaneously proposing to reverse
it, which make no sense and is a big deal if a would be, could be U.S.
president doesn`t make sense on nuclear weapons.

After complete whiffing the nuclear triad thing in December, either Donald
Trump did no research on this topic because he wasn`t worried about his
ignorance on the subject or worse, maybe he did try to learn about it but
he learned it wrong. He tried and still that`s the way it came out.

I mean, lots of presidential debates have weird unprecedented moment. But
we`ve never seen anybody get this close to controlling America`s nuclear
arsenal who so clearly has either no interest in or no aptitude for
learning the most basic things about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. Here`s what did it – a capacitor, a
tiny electronic component costing less than a dollar. A capacitor broke
out last night in an amplifier they were using to feed the pool sound to
all the networks plunging President Ford and Jimmy Carter into unaccustomed
silence for 27 minutes and irritating maybe 90 million people. That`s why.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Weird stuff happens at presidential debates all the time,
including in 1976 when they lost sound for 27 minutes. And we now know it
was that less than a dollar capacitor and that blew out in an amplifier.
Weird stuff happens all the time.

Joining us now, though, is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential
historian to talk about what we should see as truly weird, truly
unprecedented about last night`s debate.

Michael, it`s great to see you again. Thank you for being here.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you, Rachel. I
think you`ve been doing great on that.

MADDOW: Well, what`s – judging this from a historian`s perspective,
obviously, it was a bit of a spectacle last night and there was, I think,
an unusual contrast in demeanor between the two candidates and just sort of
on-set behavior.

But as a historian, when you look at the clash last night, is there
anything about it that seems unprecedented to you?

BESCHLOSS: Well, the biggest one is the one that you mention which is
Donald Trump asking to be the first president of the United States elected
since 1789 and George Washington with no military experience, no political
experience at the national level, no government experience, and so, you
would think that that being true, the first thing he would make an enormous
effort to do is to educate himself about what you rightly call the most
important power a president has, which is to launch nuclear weapons against
another country.

That`s not only the most important power the president has, it`s almost the
only one he can do immediately without a check by Congress or the Supreme
Court. So, when you have them make a statement such as the one he made
last night about no first use, contradicting himself, you sort of wonder,
you know, does he not take this seriously? You know, was he briefed, he
didn`t remember it. Why was he so unprepared.

MADDOW: Has there been either in modern times or historically speaking
more broadly, I guess, have there have been other very serious national
security gaffes or screw-ups or professed misunderstandings at debates?

BESCHLOSS: Yes, the biggest one was also you were talking about `76 Carter
versus Ford. That was the first debate with the audio problem.

And the second one, that`s when Gerald Ford said the United States – there
will never be a Soviet domination of Eastern Europe under a Ford
administration. He had his head handed to him within about 48 hours. His
polls began to drop. He had been going up.

That was one of the closest elections in history. And I think it`s very
fair to say that if Ford had not made that one statement, if you deleted
that from history, Ford would have been elected that fall rather than Jimmy
Carter. But that was a gaffe, that was an offense of much smaller
magnitude than the one we`re talking about last night.

MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian – thank you
for giving us your perspective on this, Michael. I really appreciate
having you here. Thank you.

BESCHLOSS: We`ll stay tuned. Won`t we?

MADDOW: Yes. I know, hopefully, it won`t be for more nuclear news
tonight.

BESCHLOSS: Yes. Be well.

MADDOW: Much more ahead. Stay with us tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: One of the most powerful surrogates the Hillary Clinton campaign
has right now is first lady Michelle Obama. Well-received appearances at
the Democratic Convention and earlier this month in Virginia. She`s now
going to be out tomorrow headlining two Hillary Clinton events, both of
which will be in Pennsylvania.

And we have also just learned that First Lady Michelle Obama is about to
take her case for Hillary Clinton nationwide. It`s a TV spot by the first
lady that this TV show got ahold of exclusively tonight. We`ll show you
that new ad in just a minute. We got it before anybody else did. That`s
ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: If you grew up as a Catholic kid, particularly a Catholic kid who
didn`t go to Catholic school, you may remember spending one afternoon a
week after school going to a kind of a weekday version of Sunday school to
get you ready for your confirmation, which happens in the Catholic Church
in this country when you`re around 14 or something like that.

As a not particularly good Catholic kid, I once got thrown out of my
Wednesday afternoon CCD class for wearing a shirt to that class that said
on the front of it “Jesus is coming. Look busy”, which I thought was
hilarious at the time. Sister Jacinta did not agree.

But in poly-sci or sociological terms, “Jesus is coming, look busy,” that`s
an actual thing. It`s called the Hawthorne effect. And it`s an usual
important in today`s news, and that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The Hawthorne effect. That`s a term that was coined in the 1950s
by a researcher named Henry A. Landsberger. It was named after a series of
industrial experiments carried in the `20s and `30s, at a factory outside
Chicago called the Hawthorne Works. They`re trying to boost worker
productivity and the company carried out studies to increase or decrease
the amount of light that workers were getting to see what effect that would
have on their performance. They also changed their working hours, their
break times, a whole bunch of other stuff.

What they found was that every time a change was made to the workers`
conditions, productivity improved. And it doesn`t matter what the change
was. More light, less light, early breaks, late breaks, didn`t matter.
Short-term productivity just went up when they made the change.

What they concluded, to their surprise, was that workers` productive wasn`t
increasing because of their varying physical changes to their surroundings.
Productivity was increasing because workers knew they were being watched by
these people who were studying them. They essentially became more
productive for the simple reason that they knew they were being monitored.
That`s the Hawthorne effect.

People improve their behavior just for the fact they know they`re being
observed. So Jesus is coming, look busy. That`s a version of the
Hawthorne Effect.

After a debate like last night, obviously, everybody tries to figure out
who won the debate. There`s this immediate need for data, any data who
might tell us who won, who lost.

Even in that vacuum, you get a ton of quick online snap polls that are
unscientific, right? The samples aren`t weighted. Anybody can vote. You
can vote as many times as you want. Those polls are garbage. I mean,
they`re fun, but they are garbage.

There was one scientific poll that was taken last night, CNN poll. That
poll showed Hillary Clinton winning the debate, 62 percent among – 27
percent among registered voters who watched the debate. Real poll, real
data, statistically significant results.

Caveat though, the Hawthorne effect. All the people in the CNN survey, the
one scientific poll that was taken after the debate, all were called ahead
of time and asked to watch the debate and then called after the debate to
find out who they thought won.

There`s a reason CNN did this. They weren`t wrong to do it. There`s a
rule that says that pollsters aren`t allowed to call late at night. So,
they had to set it up this way to get people`s permission to call them
after the debate.

Those people knew they had to watch the debate and they`d get a late call
and asked questions about it. Knowing that, knowing you`re going to be
observed in terms of your opinion about this, that can change your
behavior. They may have watched the debate in a different way because they
knew they were going to be asked about it, afterwards, right?

But for now, that CNN poll is the best piece, maybe the only piece of hard
data on last night`s debate.

We did also see at least two focus groups of undecided voters also
suggesting that Hillary Clinton won the debate. The mainstream press by
and large seems to think that Hillary Clinton showed a superior command of
the issues, that she dominated the debate.

But until more real polls come out in the days ahead, real, statistically
significant scientific polls, not online garbage, vote as many times as you
want – we won`t really know for sure what if any effect the debate is
going to have on real voters` opinions. You may have watched the debate
and thought like a lot of people it wasn`t even close, it was a complete
wipeout.

Right now, there is only one poll to support that these. So we don`t
really know. And that`s especially true because in some quarters Hillary
Clinton winning the debate was not the consensus at all. In that world,
Donald Trump at worst fought it to a draw and at best Donald Trump
delivered a stunning knockout performance. And a trip to that alternate
reality is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You know how you`ve heard all day how Hillary Clinton cleaned
Donald Trump`s clock in that in that debate? You were not watching FOX
News, were you?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was an enormous, historic victory for Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Clinton scored by staying in offense. But Mr.
Trump hardly disqualified himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think in the end, it was something like a draw. But
I do believe that the draw goes to the challenger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She had to prove she was likable. And he had to
prove that he wasn`t a lunatic. And in the end, he proved that he was
pretty solid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I think Trump won because he didn`t meltdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s so robotic. She`s so plastic. She came in with
a prepared little words and lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was all about the temperament, did he have the
temperament to be commander in chief? That`s what a lot of people were
wondering, you kind of go, yeah, kind of looked like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: FOX News Channel on last night`s debate, seriously. I swear I did
not make that up. That was not bad editing. That was not something from a
different time. That`s what they said about last night.

Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, MSNBC host and political correspondent.

Steve, thanks for being here.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Happy it to be here.

MADDOW: I wanted to show the alternate reality of FOX News, because it`s
inherently funny, but also because I think it highlights the fact that we
don`t really have data on who won the debate, or do we?

KORNACKI: There`s a couple snap polls. CNN`s the one that`s been doing it
the longest. They take a poll in the hour right after the debate. They
call people up and ask who won. They came back last night with a poll that
said 62 percent Clinton, 27 percent Trump.

Now, couple of things to note in that one is they even said you`re doing
this “on the fly.” they probably had too many Democrats in this. They take
it with a little grain of salt. You see a 35-point margin, probably in
reality, it`s a little less than that.

There`s also a YouGov poll out though, they have one come back with a 27
percent margin for Hillary Clinton.

So, I do think that based on those two polls out there, they`re the closest
things we have to purely scientific readings on this, that Clinton in the
eyes of people watching, their snap judgment, and that judgment can always
change, but in the snap judgment, Hillary Clinton was the winner last
night.

It also comes to the other catch there is four years ago, the snap judgment
after the first debate was overwhelming that Mitt Romney had won over
Barack Obama, and obviously that didn`t end up being the result of the
election. So, you have to keep that in mind as well. But –

MADDOW: Right. The initial impression ultimately only is important to the
extent that it foreshadows if it`s going to change people`s voting
behavior. How – when would something like this, if it was a clear win in
either direction, I would think it would more likely be a clear win in
Hillary Clinton`s direction, when would that start showing up in swing
state polls and national polls?

KORNACKI: Yes, we`d see it over the next week. And you can look back a
the last three elections, where you can really start tracking the movement
more precisely.

So, go to 2004 I think is really a good example. Kerry came into the
debate with George W. Bush, the first debate, it was September 30, 2004,
John Kerry was actually in danger of being blown out in that election. The
average was about a 7-point Bush lead going into that debate.

And if you remember, John Kerry was widely seen in the snap poll showed as
the clear winner of the first debate. And the result was he gained nearly
five points. The margin basically shrunk by about five points over the
next week.

MADDOW: (INAUDIBLE)

KORNACKI: And the rest of that race was a dog fight, you know? It was
looking like a blowout at the end of September. Obviously, Bush won. But
that debate made it a close race.

So, you saw in had that first week and even four years ago you saw it with
Romney and Obama. Obama came in about four or five points ahead of Mitt
Romney, came out of it about a point and a half, to points ahead. So,
there was movement. Again, it didn`t went the election for Romney, but it
made it a much more close and competitive election.

So, that`s sort of the wildcard here. I know a lot of people sort of the
Trump side say even if Donald Trump didn`t win the first debate, hey,
neither did Mitt Romney – neither did Barack Obama, neither did George W.
Bush.

The difference is Donald Trump didn`t come in to this debate last night
ahead.

MADDOW: Right.

KORNACKI: George W. Bush in `04, you came in ahead. You can take a loss.
When you`re Obama in `12, you could take a loss. When you come in behind,
I`m not so sure you can take a loss. That hasn`t been established in
modern times.

MADDOW: So, we`ll watch to see what the effect is on the polls and then
its durability. But he`s in a worst spot heading into it than she is.

Steve Kornacki clarifying as always, thank you, my friend.

KORNACKI: Sure.

MADDOW: Good to see you.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Are you registered to vote? Do you know for sure? Do you
definitely remember if you`re registered?

Also, what state do you live in?

I`m going to put in four slides here. They`re alphabetically. So, if your
state begins with A through F, it`s listed here. And the date that`s
listed alongside the state, that`s the date by which you have to be
registered if you want to vote in this year`s presidential election. As
you can see, time is getting short.

Now, here`s the next sets. These are states G through L, Georgia through
Louisiana. You see registration deadlines. Generally, this is the date in
which a registration has to be postmarked. In some cases, though, it`s a
date by which it has to be received.

Here`s the third. These are states that begin with M and N.
Alphabetically, we have a lot of those in this country. But if one of
these states is where you live, there is your registration deadline. It`s
coming up.

And here`s O through W, Ohio through Wyoming. These are the registration
deadlines in each of these states. If you want to be registered in time to
vote for president this year.

Today is national voter registration day, which is conveniently timed to
remind people, right now ahead of all these deadlines, that it`s time to
get yourself registered. And in a bunch of states, you can register
online. In some states, you can go through the process of registering in
person, and voting in person on the same day, on election day.

But you know what? It`s better to be safe than sorry and get registered
now when you`re thinking of it, than hoping you`ll remember to do it some
other later time. Just do it.

Now, the Trump campaign doesn`t appear to be doing something special for
voter registration day. The Clinton campaign though is basically going hog
wild with it today. Vice President Biden did a big rollicking event in
Philly today, pegged to National Voter Registration Day, in front a young
audience. They`re pegging all their candidate and some surrogate
appearances to National Voter Registration Day.

And they`ve done something that we`ve got exclusively. This is the first
time this has been seen anywhere. For the first time, Michelle Obama has
cut an ad for Hillary Clinton, pegged to National Voter Registration Day.
You`ll see what pops up at the end.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Our children watch everything we do. And the
person we elect as president has the power to shape their lives for years
to come. Hillary has spent her entire career bringing folks together on
behalf of our kids, because she believes every child deserves a chance to
succeed.

Hillary will be a president our kids can look up to, a president who
believes in our kids and will fight for them every day. That`s why I
believe in her. I hope you`ll join me.

CLINTON: I`m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: We got that exclusively tonight. It`s the first time it`s aired
anywhere. But it`s due to start airing tomorrow in national cable and
battleground states. That push at the end, IwillVote.com is their effort
to get everybody to register to vote by the deadline in each state, you can
go to that website in order to get voter registered in every state.

Alternatively, you can watch THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW during one of our
patented clip and save moments. Take a poster of this, cut it out and
stick it to your fridge. If you are not registered by the deadline in your
state, none of us are going to listen to you whine about it and you`re
going to have to suffer in silence for the next four years. So, really,
don`t suffer in silence. Check your registration.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

Hello, Lawrence.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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