IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/22/11

Guests: Richard Engel, Michael Steele, Thomas Erdbrink, Dan Rather, Steve Clemons, Juan Cole

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Melissa. You see? You could have called it "Sister Citizen," exclamation point, and it would have been on the same shelf with Rick Perry`s book. MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. It`s the exclamation. See, I was going to the academic thing. Oh, well. MADDOW: Sub titles are the death of these things, man. All right. Thank you, Melissa. Good to see you. HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us tonight. At this hour, the situation half the world away in Libya continues to unfold. Things are not resolved conclusively, although it appears that 42 years of Moammar Gadhafi`s dictatorship may be coming to an end, as in right now, as in this evening. Former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather will be with us this hour. But, first, we want to go right to NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who is in Libya tonight. Richard has been covering the uprising from the very beginning, and he joins us tonight from the central square in the Libyan capital city of Tripoli. The square, of course, has been a stronghold, the geographic heart for Gadhafi loyalists since the beginning of this revolution. Richard, what`s the scene tonight? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Rachel. You can probably hear that celebrations are going on in Green Square. This is the square, the center of Tripoli. It was the center of Gadhafi`s personality. I remember coming here and a group of rebels have actually just arrived. If you can zoom in over my shoulder, you can see this is a group of rebels, they are following that car which has the fighters inside, and the rest are just people from the neighborhoods who`ve come out into the streets, come out into the square, to express their support, to express their appreciation for what the rebels have done. Their actual cheering right now is saying that the blood of the martyrs will not be forgotten. So, it`s an amazing turn of events what`s happened over the last 24 hours or so. This was the center of Gadhafi`s power base, now clearly in the hands of the rebels. They`ve already changed the name of this square. It used to be called Green Square. That`s how it`s known across the world. Now, they are calling it Martyr`s Square. Now, there is still an element of danger. There is still something of a war zone here in Tripoli. That`s because Gadhafi`s loyalists -- and I say loyalists because we`re not exactly sure if Gadhafi himself is there -- but at least Gadhafi`s loyalists remain inside Gadhafi`s compound. Now, Gadhafi`s compound is nothing like the White House or another presidential compound, Gadhafi lived on a military base and his forces inside that base are defending it, they are making a final stand, and they were firing rockets and mortars out of that base today and firing them into civilian areas. That`s one reason why we haven`t seen huge crowds here in Green Square or as it`s called now Martyr`s Square. But they are still coming out and the people in this square, the rebels are convinced that their next step has to be an assault on Gadhafi`s compound to finish his last hold on power in Tripoli and across the country -- Rachel. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Thank you, Richard. I talk to Richard Engel far too frequently when there`s gunfire that near him. Again, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reporting from what used to be called Green Square but which has been renamed Martyr`s Square by the anti-Gadhafi forces that have taken over that country and that city. In terms of symbols of the Gadhafi regime, you will see the color green referenced over and over again, and things called green by the Gadhafi regime are among the first things to go as Gadhafi is ousted from power as Richard just described and as you can actually see here, the aforementioned Green Square in the capital of Tripoli has been renamed Martyr`s Square. You can see on Google Maps, the white writing there behind the label. That happened just hours after Libyan rebels took control of the capital. This right here, this is, do not adjust your television, this is the flag of Libya under Moammar Gadhafi. Do not adjust your screen, it is just a green flag. That`s the entire flag. So in addition to renaming green`s square in Tripoli, the anti- Gadhafi forces are also now replacing that Gadhafi era all-green flag with this, the pre-Gadhafi flag that you have been seeing in the news footage out of Libya in this revolution. So, long Green Square, so long green flag. This is Libyan state-run television. For months now, they have been broadcasting Moammar Gadhafi`s almost daily haranguing speeches against the forces who have been rising up against him. In this instance, what you see here, yes, that is one of their news anchors brandishing a gun on television, warning the anti- Gadhafi rebels that they will never win and they will never take control of that state-run television station. The television station is now effectively gone. This was the last thing they were showing before they went off the air, sort of a Libyan version of "The View." But as you see there, it`s a program about women`s issues, then it just ended abruptly, it went black. It was later replaced by this, a pro-rebel news network based in Qatar, a network that was in the process of interviewing a rebel who claimed to be calling into the station from a cell phone from inside the Libyan state TV building. Part of what has happened in Libya over the last 24 hours has been the exulting you would expect from not just ordinary Libyan citizens happy for the toppling of the dictatorship in their country but also from the fighters who have been engaged in the civilian uprising against a militarized state for five months now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know how to express myself, but I can say to everybody who`s free in the world. Libya is free finally, and she`s back after 42 years of kidnapping. UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Do you know where Gadhafi is now, do you care where he is now? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t care where he is. I just want -- I don`t know where he is, because already I feel free. This is the -- this is the most important thing. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-five years now, my life starts now. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom, man, thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: For all the happiness you see and hear being expressed by rebel forces there and supporters of the rebels there, for all the physical changes that have taken root in Libya over the last 24 hours, the situation is not resolved yet. We keep hearing that from everybody we`re in contact with in that country. Even though rebel forces have taken control of much of Libya`s capital, some forces that are still loyal to Moammar Gadhafi continued to put up a fight. BBC News reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes experienced that firsthand today as he traveled with rebel forces into the heart of Tripoli. Watch what happens. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUPERT WINGFIELD-HAYES, BBC NEWS: Here we are, here`s a group of young men on the corner here. Every time we go past, groups of young men celebrating, so far no signs of any fighting in the city, everything looks quiet. (voice-over): A rebel convoy is heading into the city, little do the young men know what fate lies ahead. Up ahead, there are still signs of fighting. Then, suddenly, we run straight into a classic ambush. I can see the muzzle flashes as a gun opens fire directly into the front of the convoy. (GUNFIRE) WINGFIELD-HAYES: We simply don`t know how many of the young men traveling with us survived. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: That was Rupert Wingfield-Hayes of BBC. Even with the capital city that is now reportedly 90 percent controlled by rebel forces, the roughly 10 percent that is still controlled by Gadhafi loyalists means some very scary stuff is going on tonight. This is a fight that does not seem to be yet over. Despite reports that Moammar Gadhafi`s son Saif was in rebel custody, this tape emerged of him tonight showing him apparently still at large and apparently still defiant in a crowd of pro-Gadhafi supporters. Joining us now live on the phone from Zawiya, about 30 miles of Tripoli, is "Washington Post`s" Thomas Erdbrink. Mr. Erdbrink, thank you very much of your time. Can I just ask you first to describe what the situation is like in Zawiya and what you`ve been able to see over the course of the evening? THOMAS ERDBRINK, WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Well, there`s not much going on in Zawiya, apart from someone from the Transitional National Council arriving, that is the rebel council that was based in Benghazi, which is about, you know,1,000 miles to the east here. And this is the first time that one of their representatives have actually come here in the vicinity of Tripoli. MADDOW: In terms of the late reports that we`ve had, we have had reports earlier today that Gadhafi`s son Saif was in rebel custody, that he had been arrested, that, in fact, a traitor among the ranks in the Gadhafi loyalist military had turned him over to rebel forces. We are now seeing footage that appears to be him this evening. Have you heard anything about the voracity of the reports and what we`re seeing tonight? ERDBRINK: Yes, I can confirm that he`s free. I had a talk with a high-level rebel commander today and he already told me earlier that Saif was definitely not in the rebels` hands. And he was actually criticizing the rebel political leaders for bringing out this news. He said if we would have had Saif Gadhafi in our hands, we would have paraded him through town and put him in Libyan court instead of sending him to the international court in The Hague, something that someone within the rebel council apparently said. MADDOW: I know that you spent much of the day with rebel forces in Tripoli today. What happened to the group of rebels that you were with? ERDBRINK: Well, while I was interviewing this commander and he was giving me a line that 90 percent of the city was in their hands, about five minutes later, pro-Gadhafi troops pulled up in front of the compound, opened fire with heavy machine guns and totally took the rebels by surprise. Now, this is a rebel army, these are people who carry a machine gun in their hands and are wearing plastic flip-flops as they go to battle, so they were completely surprised by this well-targeted attack. And even though nobody died, we have been caught up in the crossfire for almost two hours, and it just illustrates the situation here in Tripoli. Tripoli is not 90 percent in the hands of the rebels. I don`t think there`s anybody who is controlling Tripoli at this point. And one thing is for sure, Gadhafi`s forces are fighting back and seems their fights and efforts (ph) are increasing. MADDOW: In terms of Gadhafi`s forces and what you can tell about their remaining strength, do they seem to have withdrawn to hardened targets they are defending or are they mounting ambushes and setting up sniper positions and doing other things to be on the offensive? ERDBRINK: Yes, definitely. I think what they are doing is have a pre-planned certain attacks, they have melted into society, not given up their weapons, something the rebels have been hoping for, but also planning these attacks, organizing among each other, actually forming their own rebel army now against the rebels that invaded Tripoli. MADDOW: Let me ask you one last question. We showed footage a moment ago of a reporter on state television brandishing a gun on television saying state TV would never been taken. I understand you witnessed her arrest? ERDBRINK: Well, I witnessed her, actually, being brought -- she was brought into a compound where they brought also journalists in to see her. Now, this woman, Hala Misrati, the same woman brandishing that gun was there, and we could hear her scream "I am innocent," then we heard a loud man`s voice saying, accusing her basically that she was a traitor, and then afterwards we were not allowed to see her. But the rebel commander came out saying she was in good hands and sees the errors of her ways. MADDOW: Just chilling. "Washington Post" reporter Thomas Erdbrink, thank you very much for your time tonight. I realize that you have been very much in the crossfire -- please, stay safe. ERDBRINK: Thank you. MADDOW: We will be right back with Dan Rather. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When the famous basketball player Charles Barkley famously said that he was misquoted n his own autobiography, that was a very funny moment in American culture. When increasingly famous Texas Governor Rick Perry says the same thing, it is also funny -- but in a different this guy could be president sort of way. That story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Senator John McCain of Arizona has had a Twitter account for a really long time. He started tweeting in January 2009. John McCain was an early adopter. Right at the top of his Twitter feed today, you can see his tweets about Libya, including his link to a statement he put out with his friend Senator Lindsey Graham. The statement congratulates all the other NATO countries involved in the support mission for the rebels in Libya. But as for the U.S., Senators McCain and Graham just say, quote, "We regret the success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our air power." One interesting thing about Twitter is it can be a time machine. So, if you have the patience, you can just scroll down, down, down the page of John McCain`s tweets going back in time until you get to, say, two years ago this week when the same bellicose John McCain today criticizing President Obama for not waging enough of a war on Gadhafi, even as Gadhafi appears to being overthrown. Two years ago this week, John McCain was instead tweeting about his, and I quote, "late evening with Colonel Gadhafi at his ranch in Libya. Interesting meeting with an interesting man." The war in Libya does not knit neatly into American politics. Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to look like the most anti-Gadhafi people around, in contrast with this wimpy president, but there`s that darn footage of them effectively cuddling up with Gadhafi two summers ago in Gadhafi`s tent no less. But it`s not just Senator McCain and Senator Graham. This is a military intervention that was multilateral, where America did not take the lead, in which there were no Americans killed, but the U.S. either did or is about to, it seems, get what it wants. The Republican-led House voted to defund the war. But the vote was taken in the way sure to be toothless. The administration tried to get away with not calling it a war. The voices left, right, and center that denounced NATO and Libya as a quagmire and a standoff and a morass have tonight at least seemingly been proven wrong. And at this hour, with Libya and its capital city almost entirely in rebel hands, but Gadhafi himself is still unaccounted for. The question is not only how America assesses our role in what has just happened, but how we chose our role in what happens next. Joining us now is Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of HD Net "Dan Rather Reports." Mr. Rather, it is very good to have you here. Thank you for making the time. DAN RATHER, HD NET`S "DAN RATHER REPORTS": Well, great to be here on a night like tonight. What an exciting and interesting inspirational time. This is a transforming year and a transformational decade. We had the Arab spring, which extended now into the Arab summer. And with Syria and Yemen still out there, perhaps, perhaps to extend into an Arab winter. The echoes of this will reverberate through history for a very, very long time to come. MADDOW: I know that you have personally interviewed Moammar Gadhafi three times, is that right? RATHER: Yes. MADDOW: I`m sure it`s hard to get into his head. But based on what you know about him and those conversations that you`ve had, do you feel like you know what to expect from him at this point of extreme pressure in Tripoli? RATHER: Well, the straight honest answer is no. However, based on what little I know about him, I have been -- I evolved with him. He must be going through some version of on the one hand saying death before dishonor, I`ll go down fighting, I`ll go down in flames, I`ll be a martyr. But say what you want about Moammar Gadhafi, a very strange and dangerous man, but he cares about his family. He`s got to be worried about his family. I would think on the one hand -- it`s fight to the finish, never give in, whatever it takes. On the other hand, saying maybe just maybe I can get away to Russia and maybe negotiate some way that my family will be taken care of. He must be struggling with that or have struggled with in the last 24 hours. You said something earlier when the program first came on which is important. This situation has not resolved. MADDOW: Absolutely. RATHER: It`s a great moment. The regime has fallen. But the question, and I think it`s a question in the viewer`s mind, what now, what next? Answer: we don`t know and the Libyans themselves don`t know. MADDOW: The transitional government has been recognized -- internationally recognized by the United States in mid-July, recognized, for example, by Egypt yesterday upon present circumstances. Do we know enough about them to know whether or not they can credibly form a government? I mean, forming a government anywhere where there`s been a dictatorship for decades is hard because the institutions have all been so contingent on the autocratic will of one man. Do we know if this government is going to be capable of serving the people? RATHER: No. And I don`t think the people of Libya -- credit cannot be given to them, but I don`t think they know. It may be, unscrewing the word "may," it may be they`ll need some help in making a transition, say the European Union under the auspices of the U.N. and with the help of the Arab League and the African Union, could help them through the transition period, because keep in mind, unlike Egypt, unlike Iraq, Libya has no institutions, has no governmental infrastructure other than Gadhafi. Gadhafi is not gone. He`s not gone as far as we know yet, but his regime is gone. And so, there`s a prospect of chaos, great disorder. Libya is a sparsely populated country, size of Arizona but it only has about 6.5 million people, very sparsely populated. They`re going to need some help and I`m not sure that the European Union working under the U.N. and bringing the Arab League and the African Union could help, but something like that. And help from the United States -- yes, will continue to be necessary, particularly humanitarian aide. In a situation like this, for example, what happens to the electricity, what happens to garbage collection and what happens to the day-to-day things that people expect to keep going. It`s going to be difficult to keep going without American help and help of others. By the way, we have spent in Libya over the last six months, the official figure I think is $1.1 billion over the last six months. That`s military and everything. My suspicion is it costs a whole lot more than that because we`ve used mercenary help and contractors and that sort of thing. But that cost $1.1 billion over the last six months is what we spend in a day in Iraq or in Afghanistan. MADDOW: Yes. It`s incredible. And what you`re talking there about institutions and people depending on institutions for their daily life, to avoid both dissatisfaction in order just to live -- that is behind why the U.S. government has been stressing so much that the institutions that do exist shouldn`t be torn down, that they should be protected. They are not just talking about looting, they are talking about keeping the traffic cops as they were, keep the traffic cops on the corner, to the extent that -- RATHER: Exactly. And as we learned in Iraq, electricity is so important. MADDOW: Yes. RATHER: And if electricity doesn`t get provided, big trouble ahead. But let`s be optimistic, because this is a moment to be optimistic, that you know, there`s an old song you may remember from Kris Kristofferson that Janis Joplin (ph) used to sing, one line: freedom is just a word for nothing left to lose. Well, up to now, rebels had nothing to lose. It`s now or never and nothing to lose. Beginning today, they have a lot to lose, and that would be their future. So much depends on this long and bound to be turbulent transition period. MADDOW: Dan Rather is anchor and managing editor of HD Net`s "Dan Rather Reports." He will be hosting a special "Dan Rather Remembers" on Sunday, September 11th, on HD Net. Sir, it`s always a real honor to have you here. Thank you so much for coming. RATHER: Thanks so much, Rachel. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. More ahead, including the virtually unknown and frankly, rather shocking fact about this helicopter in the war that may or may not be ending tonight in Libya. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Among the most memorable and frankly sort of perplexing news reports out of these past five month in Libya were reports by NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel about the rebels as essentially the gang that couldn`t shoot straight. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ENGEL (voice-over): "We have light weapons, he has tanks," complained one man. Another rebel showed me he isn`t actually armed at all. (on camera): It`s a toy gun. This is amazing, he just handed me his gun. I didn`t realize until he put it in his hands, it`s just actually made of plastic, it`s a toy. On the frontline, we saw some of the rebels try and fire a mortar without securing it so it went wildly off in the wrong direction. And I couldn`t believe it, we saw them aim a rocket at Gadhafi`s forces, but instead it was pointed the wrong way and went in the opposite direction towards a civilian city and they fired a rocket in the wrong direction. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: But, yet, it`s those forces, kids with the plastic gun, and the guy aiming the rocket in the wrong direction that five months into this fight seem to be on the precipice of prevailing. What happens next in Tripoli and around the country is not at all clear, but how we got here is a combination of civilians fighting it out inch by inch on the ground and 20,000 NATO air sorties, 7,500 strike sorties, 18 countries, 13,000 troops, though not troops on the ground, Tomahawk missiles, constant airborne surveillance mostly by the U.S., American surveillance and armed drones. But in no way was this an American-led war. It has truly been a multi-lateral support mission for a Libyan ground war, one in which the sole NATO causality we know of in the conflict is this guy, a robotic, unmanned helicopter shot down in Libya -- unmanned as in no pilot. Joining us now is Steve Clemons from the New America Foundation. You can find him writing at his blog, "The Washington Note," and "The Atlantic" magazine where he is now the Washington editor at large. Steve, it`s great to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight. STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Sure thing, Rachel. MADDOW: You were skeptical from the beginning about whether or not outside countries getting involved militarily in Libya would produce a positive outcome. And we talked about this in March. You said that you`re worried the western footprint is too large and this needs to be the Libyan people who take control of their own destiny. Now, with what`s going on in Tripoli night, was that footprint too large? Is this ending as a Libyan outcome? How do you feel about this? CLEMONS: Well, I think two things. One, I think President Obama, you know, watched your show and he created an intervention that actually despite the sorties and the various kinds of presence we had, he nonetheless kept this intervention from becoming a slippery slope, to a much deeper, broader ownership of the outcome. I think, you know, to build on the theme of tonight`s show, he had a tipping point strategy to help tilt the odds towards the rebels, given what they were facing, but this thing could have still gone very badly. And we didn`t own the outcome. And I think if you listen to President Obama`s remarks tonight, he ended them exactly with where we were talking before, that this had to remain a Libyan story, their control, and we had to be supportive but on the periphery of things. I think that`s exactly the right tone. MADDOW: Steve, I`m cognizant this is not over. We had a live report from just outside Tripoli tonight that said that the rebels claim that they control 90 percent of the city should be viewed with a lot of skepticism. That there are quite a lot of pro-Gadhafi forces still left and fighting inside Tripoli. If this does continue to tip, if this does not turn into a long, protracted battle in Tripoli, what do you expect next from this new transitional would be post-Gadhafi government. CLEMONS: Well, I think one of the key things and the real change in the status quo was that the troops in the villages and mountains to the west came down and basically closed off Gadhafi`s western flank. And I think that put Tripoli in a vice. And so, I think whatever may happened and it could continue to be quite bloody and we may not get the kind of straight information that we would all like to get, that nonetheless, I think that we`re seeing the real end of the Gadhafi regime, and that means Benghazi and the Benghazi crowd have to find the new heroes of the revolution that helped out else where and not only create tribal balance and inclusion but to deal with the very many pockets of resistance that came together to bring down the regime. And that`s going to be a complicated affair. When Dan Rather was speaking earlier on the show about water and infrastructure and waste collection, the government in Benghazi has done a very good job of creating a model where people in their provisional councils have functional responsibilities looking at exactly those issues and they`ve been simulating over the last couple of months what success or government under the Gadhafi regime would look like. That doesn`t mean it`s going to be easy. But I think it`s been impressive to see what they have put in place. MADDOW: Steve Clemons from the New America Foundation, his blog is "The Washington Note" and he`s also with "The Atlantic" magazine now -- Steve, thank you so much tonight. I was looking forward to talk about this with you. Appreciate it. CLEMONS: Appreciate it. MADDOW: Joining us now is Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan and author of engaging the Muslim world. He also blogs at Professor Cole, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being with us tonight. JUAN COLE, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Thanks for having me on, Rachel. MADDOW: I know that you have been in Egypt and around the region this summer. Do you think that the involvement of NATO in this makes this a complicated outcome when this finally ends? Or is this in a relatively uncomplicated way really the Libyan`s own uprising? COLE: Well, the involvement of NATO was controversial, and there were some groups like the Muslim party in Tunisia that said we`re with the rebels, but we can`t support an effort where NATO is involved. But there, I think, minority voices, I think most people in the region in Egypt and Tunisia were very happy to see someone rescue the revolutionaries from being bombed to death, and I think that the way that this ended with the uprising in the capital, you know, puts a Libyan stamp on the whole thing pretty firmly. MADDOW: Juan, I don`t know if things are happening in the region like dominoes, if that metaphor is appropriate. If they are, this particular domino took about five months to fall, with a lot of people saying it never would. Do you think this has wider repercussions in the region, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya? I mean, is Syria -- is Syria more worried tonight than they were yesterday? COLE: Oh, absolutely. The Baathist government in Syria is absolutely petrified by what happened in Libya and has been attempting to down play it. Look, you know, we`ve had three long-serving dictators fall this year. The rulers in the region are on notice that their people can rise up against them and get rid of them. And the leaders are scrambling to find a response. In Syria, they`ve gone the Gadhafi route. They started rolling tanks against the demonstrators. In Morocco and Jordan, they`ve started announcing at least baby steps towards constitutional monarchy. But the region is being shaken up by the revolts. MADDOW: Juan, one of the things that has gone relatively unremarked upon when we talked about international involvement here is how involved the Arab nations of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were in this intervention. How important was it strategically but also in terms of the political impact here? COLE: Yes, well, with regard to image, it was important this intervention in Libya not be seen in the region as solely a Western one, I think it wasn`t. It should be remembered that Turkey is a NATO member, and it`s a major Muslim country of over 70 million, and did play an important role in Libya. Likewise, as you say, in the Arab League, the most active members with regard to the intervention were Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Qatar supplied weaponry. It flew some missions. It supplied aide. So, it`s very important. MADDOW: Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan, author of "Engaging the Muslim World," he blogs at Juan, your post today about the 10 myths about the Libya world is required reading for everybody within the sound of my voice. Thank you for doing that and thanks for making time to join us tonight. Appreciate it. All right. If you have any doubt why there has been quite a bit of jubilation in Libya these past couple of days, we have a good reminder on tape of why out of all the dastardly dictators in the world, Libya`s dictator was a really famously dastardly one. But before that, Texas Governor Rick Perry strikes back at Texas Governor Perry. For all that stuff Texas Governor Perry wrote in Texas Governor Rick Perry`s book -- a man losing an argument with himself, in public, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Texas Governor Rick Perry launched his presidential campaign in South Carolina just over a week ago, on a Saturday. So, this is Rick Perry, Republican presidential candidate, day one. The next day, Mr. Perry, being a presidential candidate, of course, went to Iowa. This, the interwebs will forever record is Rick Perry, presidential candidate day two. He`s answering a question about Social Security here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let the whole, the whole issue of -- have you read my book, "Fed Up"? Get a copy of it, read it. It is, because I talk about the entitlement programs in there. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Have you read my book, "Fed Up"? Governor Perry released the book called "Fed Up!" in November, as in November nine months ago. The book was meant to introduce him on the national political stage. It was one of the first big hints he might be running for president this year. And if you do want to know about what Rick Perry thinks about entitlement programs, as he said there, "Fed Up!" will give you an earful, an eyeful, whatever. Quote, "Certain of these programs massively altered the relationship between Americans and their government, violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles of federalism and limited government. By far, the best example of this is Social Security." Social Security, Rick Perry, is saying -- "Fed Up!" -- is not just un-American, but violently un-American, And it`s not just Social Security. That same month, Governor Perry told "Newsweek," quote, "I don`t think our Founding Fathers when they were putting the term `general welfare,`" in the Constitution that is, "I don`t think they were thinking about a federally-operated program of pensions, nor a federally-operated program of health care. What they clearly said was those were issues the state needs to address, not the federal government. I stand very clear on that." Very clear. Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional in Rick Perry`s America. But in the rest of America, Social Security and Medicare are what you might call very popular, the kind of government programs people are willing to stand out on a street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for so they can yell at you, Rick Perry, better keep your darn hands off of them. These voters last week called Mr. Perry a threat to America for his view that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional. When one of them challenged him about that stand, he reportedly, according to ABC News, took a giant bite out of a pop-over and said he couldn`t answer because he had a big mouthful. Now, Governor Rick Perry is trying another approach. His campaign has started disavowing the things he said about Social Security and Medicare in his book, "Fed Up!" Things he wrote in this book in November - - he said these things, he wrote them down, they are in print. But he didn`t mean them. A Rick Perry spokesman telling "The Wall Street Journal" that although Rick Perry`s book does seem to dog him on the campaign trail, we should all get over it. The book is supposed to be, quote, "a look back, not a path forward." It`s a, quote, "review and critique of federal excesses, not in any way a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto." It`s a review, a critic. It`s ancient story, this "Fed Up!" book thing. Somebody needs to tell Rick Perry that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: Have you read my book, "Fed Up"? Get a copy of it, read it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I mean, don`t -- former RNC chairman Michael Steele joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: Let the whole issue of -- have you read my book, "Fed Up"? Get a copy of it, read it. It is, because I talk about the entitlement programs in there. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So Rick Perry the person says you can find his positions in here on entitlement programs. His campaign today, though, saying nothing in here about entitlement programs should be taken as what he believes anymore. The book is, after all, a full nine months old. Joining us now is Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican Party, now an MSNBC contributor. Do you feel I teed you up on here? MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Teed it up nicely. Good to be back with you, Rachel. MADDOW: Nice to see you, particularly given this news. STEELE: Yes. MADDOW: Rick Perry says we should read his book for answers about entitlements. His campaign telling "The Wall Street Journal" what`s in here has nothing to do with his real position. STEELE: Right, rock and a sticky place. MADDOW: Yes. STEELE: Yes. MADDOW: But is this how we should expect him to operate broadly speaking, or is this just a screw up? STEELE: I wouldn`t say it`s a screw up. I think it`s kind of get caught flatfooted, almost forgetting the book was out there, you know, because nine months ago in politics is a long time, not making excuses, but that`s certainly how this campaign -- once you lock and load you go, you go and then all of a sudden you realize oh, I did say that, yes. I wrote that. MADDOW: But he hasn`t forgotten it`s in there because he brings it up? STEELE: But he brings it up, he brings it up. But I think that he, definitely, used to what he`s written, he`s not going to say I didn`t believe what I wrote at the time. I think what they are trying to do is sort of finesse the answer in a way that doesn`t come off as if he`s anti these programs and he wants to abolish, which is all kind of the wonderful hype from the left about what the Republicans think and feel about -- MADDOW: No, no, if you say it`s unconstitutional, unless you are proposing that America become a different country that doesn`t have the Constitution, you are proposing getting rid of it. STEELE: Well, I don`t think he actually said it`s unconstitutional. I do remember reading the passage. I think he referred to the question of its constitutionality. MADDOW: Yes, yes, no. STEELE: You`re not buying that one either? MADDOW: No, I`m sorry. Let me ask you bottom line what you think Rick Perry`s chances are. STEELE: I think his chances are good. I think, though, that there`s a whole lot of trail to be covered on this campaign. We`re hearing telltale signs others are getting in this thing, whether it`s a Pataki or Palin. So, there`s still movement here, I think largely the campaign is set, I think you`re going to begin to see some elbow room clearing -- as we saw this past weekend with Mr. Huntsman, who did the big smack down on the team that he`s running with. MADDOW: Which Democrats are very excited about. STEELE: Of course. MADDOW: Yes, somebody`s finally telling the truth about the Republicans. STEELE: That was like in the Obama/Clinton race, people on our side were very happy with some of the stuff that was going back and forth. That`s the give and take of politics. MADDOW: But do you think what Huntsman says does resonate with a significant number of Republican voters. STEELE: It does resonate with the significant number of Republican voters and that`s going to be the real test for him at that debate in California at the Reagan library with those gentlemen and Ms. Bachmann on the stage and doesn`t pull a Pawlenty where when confronted with the very people he`s talking about, he goes, well, my bad, time out, you know? MADDOW: I have to say it to your face? STEELE: Yes, kind of really? You`re here. So, I don`t think that`s going to be the case though. I think he`s made a conscious decision to really draw very bright line. He sounded as if he was a Republican fed up with the party pulling its evil elf in the direction where the American people aren`t right now. And so, how this works, particularly given that you`re talking about a very conservative base that goes to the polls in a number of states. They have open primary states that could, you know, make a big difference. But if he gets -- if Huntsman survives the first four states and gets into Florida, whole different ball game. MADDOW: And he could self-finance. STEELE: Self-finance, absolutely. MADDOW: We got some news tonight that George Pataki who you mentioned is going to be, I know, America is now scooting to the edge of their chairs, Polk County GOP picnic, Polk County, New York, on Saturday. I think it`s Polk County, New York. He will be attending on Saturday and a local Republican saying there may be a major announcement there. You think the Republican America is waiting for George Pataki? STEELE: Yes, it could. Could be. Could be. I don`t know. We`ve been waiting for a whole lot of folks, parentally. MADDOW: But, George -- STEELE: Let`s stop the waiting. Whoever is in is in. And go do your thing, run, make your argument to the American people for goodness sake and stop all this dog and pony nonsense about getting in the race. It`s September for goodness sakes. MADDOW: It`s Polk County, Iowa, I should say. STEELE: Oh, Iowa, that is even more telling. MADDOW: Yes, of course. What exactly would George Pataki be doing in Iowa at this point? But the idea that George Pataki who has cultivated this sort of aura of moderation and un-headline worthiness -- I mean, really he`s more Tim Pawlenty than Tim Pawlenty. STEELE: He`s a solid guy with a number of issues that are important to the party, particularly on the fiscal side. He ran the state well. I mean, there`s just -- you know, everybody has the oranges you can pull out from time to time that don`t look right or smell right. But the reality is, by and large, he`s done well. The question is how does the base take him and how will he be perceived entering this race now? Is a Palin still out there? Who knows? Don`t know. What kind of traction can he get on the heels of Rick Perry? Because that will be an immediate comparison -- and on the heels of a Huntsman? MADDOW: He would love it to be compared with Perry. STEELE: I know. MADDOW: He`s the sweet spot between John Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty. STEELE: You took the words out of my mouth. MADDOW: Which is not a very sweet spot. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Michael Steele, this was not a very pro-Republican discussion, I have to say. But you handled it. You parodied very well on this. STEELE: Look, you know, my parody, your trust. What can I say? MADDOW: Thank you. STEELE: I was offensive, don`t forget. MADDOW: Really? STEELE: Yes. MADDOW: On guard. (INAUDIBLE) All right. At this crucial point in Libya`s history, guess which American would say something like all those rebels are going to be richer than the people in this country because they`re going to take all the oil? Yes, "THE ED SHOW" gets to the very weird overlap between Donald Trump and foreign policy. That is coming up right after this show. And here, we take a video look back at the long, strange, scary regime of Gadhafi in his own threatening bizarre unhinged words on tape. We will never see his like again if we are lucky. Stay tuned for that. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our decisions have been driven by Gadhafi`s refusal to respect the rights of his people and the potential for mass murder of innocent civilians. Just yesterday speaking of the city of Benghazi, a city of roughly 700,000 people, he threatened and I quote, "We will have no mercy and no pity." No mercy on his own citizens. Today, I authorize the arms forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: To protect Libyan civilians. That was the stated rational behind the last five months of the U.S. participating in military decisions in Libya. It was not to depose Moammar Gadhafi after 42 years in power, it wasn`t to liberate the rebels in Eastern Libya. It was specifically to protect Libyan civilians from what Gadhafi said would be an imminent massacre. The U.N. Security Council authorized all necessary measures to protect civilians and the U.S. and NATO started bombing Libya because of Moammar Gadhafi specifically promising a bloodbath in Benghazi. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Prepare yourselves for tonight. The traitors, the heretics, there will be no mercy, no compassion. We`ll tumble walls on top of you, wall to wall. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: After that initial threat about Benghazi, Gadhafi made it clear throughout this year just what he thought of his fellow country men as they rebelled against his regime. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) GADHAFI (through translator): Come out of your homes. Just attack them in their dens. These gangs like cockroaches. They don`t represent anything. They were drugged. They were given orders. These are cockroaches. It`s al Qaeda, al Qaeda, al Qaeda, not my people. It`s Al Qaeda, al Qaeda, al Qaeda, yes. Put on the Libyan channel you son of dogs, you cowards, you crusaders. Put on the Libyan channel. You traitors. You servants of the colonizer (ph). How can the armed people allow a group of mercenaries, traitors, and rats to open the way for colonialism in the city of Tripoli? This is rejected. Where are you going? To hell fire? What did you leave you traitors? You dirty people who make mosques filthy. You go into mosques and make calls. You are sons of dogs. You go into mosques and un-purify them, you filthy people. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: A leader striving and discussing ands talking to his own people. And this hour, we are told Gadhafi`s compound in Tripoli is surrounded by rebel troops. His actual whereabouts are still unknown, as are the locations of his sons. Libyan opposition said earlier today that it had at least two sons in custody including his heir apparent Saif who was reportedly arrested while trying to flee Tripoli disguised as a woman. But just hours ago, Saif showed up at a hotel in Tripoli that`s mainly occupied by journalists. He told the BBC that his father is alive and well. And another son reportedly escaped house arrest and a fourth son was reportedly killed, but none of that in confirmed. MSNBC will keep bringing the very latest on this still very volatile and undecided in Libya, starting with "THE ED SHOW," which starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END