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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/23/11

Guests: Ed Rendell, Richard Engel; Eugene Robinson , P.J. Crowley

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Melissa. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for staying with us tonight. On a typical Tuesday, between 1:30 and 2:00 in the afternoon, the New York City 911 call center gets about 800 calls, about 800. Today, it was 6,900 in that half hour period and another 4,000 calls to the city`s 311 info line. Today`s earthquake was the largest earthquake to hit the east coast of the United States in more than 65 years. The U.S. Geological Survey saying it was a 5.8, its epicenter was near Mineral, Virginia, which is about 80 miles away from Washington, D.C. Although we think of earthquakes as a more West Coast phenomena in this country, when they do hit on the East Coast, the geology of the faults and of the land on the East Coast means that eastern quakes tend to be felt over a wider area than similar- sized quakes would be felt in the West. This one on the East Coast today was felt in 22 different states from Maine to Ohio to New York to South Carolina. There were even reports of shaking in eastern Canada. In Washington, D.C., here`s what an "Associated Press" camera trained on the White House recorded. And here was the subtle rock and roll the camera captured of the U.S. Capitol building. An MSNBC studio in Washington, D.C., you might not have known something was up unless you were watching for it, but here`s what happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST, "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS": You`re watching "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" right here on MSNBC. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Just slight camera wobble, the only indication was amiss there. But the shaking was enough to evacuate those studios, at least for the short run, just to make sure that everything was OK. Very close to the epicenter in Virginia, there was nothing subtle about it. The "Associated Press" says the filming of this commercial, for example, caught the quake live in Chantilly, Virginia. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to take this opportunity to show you my new customer waiting room -- do you feel that? What was that? My God, I think that was an earthquake. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, it was. At the epicenter, in Mineral, Virginia, chimneys were damaged, store front windows were broken. Closer to Washington, D.C., in Tysons Corner, Virginia, a building collapsed and crushed a handful of cars as you see here. In Washington, D.C., itself, the National Cathedral`s tower and several spires were damaged, plaster and paint chipped off -- look at that -- off the U.S. Capitol dome into the rotunda. As the quake hit, dozens of buildings were evacuated, including the U.S. Capitol building and the Pentagon. The Senate is sort of on recess, but technically the Senate is in session so the Republicans can block the president from making recess appointments. After the Capitol was evacuated today, though, the Senate decided to hold its pro forma session at the Postal Square Building, which is right next to D.C. train station, Union Station, about four long blocks from the Capitol. The president is vacationing in Martha`s Vineyard. He says he did not feel it, although some on that Massachusetts island did feel the quake. Hundreds of office workers definitely felt the quake in shore at Boston. In New York City, some buildings, including the federal courthouse, were evacuated. But unless you lived where a giant chunk of building fell or you know someone who got hurt, the wall-to-wall coverage may have seemed a little much. Twitter, for example, was occasionally hilarious today, with people making fun of the outsized media coverage for a relatively minor disaster that happened to strike where a lot of people who work in the media kind, sort of, felt it. This is a map of all the earthquake activity in the continental U.S. over the past seven days. This country of ours is prone to shaking. California shakes all the time. Nevada shakes all the time. Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, they shake all the time. And this fair 5.8 really surprised the Eastern Seaboard -- 5.8 and people from Boston to Richmond, Virginia, run out on the street. Quake surprises eastern U.S. Check this out, this is from "The Wall Street Journal" report last month, revealing that U.S. nuclear officials were working on a new study about how well our country`s nuclear power plants can handle earthquakes. Quote, "We`re concerned about a magnitude-6 earthquake occurring and surprising us in the East." That`s from someone with the U.S. Geological Survey speaking in the context of what our nuclear plants can stand up to. The 5.8 quake we saw today was still a ways from being a 6.0. But if you are concerned about something surprising you and then something pretty close to that thing happens, can you still say that you were surprised? Today`s quake, again, was centered in Mineral, Virginia, which just happens to be home to the decades old North Anna power station, which is a nuclear power plant -- at the epicenter of the quake. Officials at the plant felt the shaking today and powered down both reactors. In the quake, North Anna also lost the source of electricity the electricity the plant brings in to cool the super hot, super dangerous nuclear fuel so it does not overheat and caused a meltdown. When the quake hit and the North Anna plant went off the electrical grid, its diesel generators kicked in. The plant is now running on those back up generators. In a statement today, the power company that owns North Anna said no major damage has been reported at the plant and that, quote, "No release of radioactive materials has occurred beyond the minor releases associated with normal station operations." After the earthquake, a dozen nuclear plants from North Carolina to Michigan declared what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls unusual events. But those plants are continuing to operate. A year ago this month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released new estimates for the risk of devastating earthquakes at our country`s 104 commercial nuclear reactors. Of the top 10 list of greatest risk for serious damage from an earthquake, nine of the 10 of the top 10 list are in the eastern half of the United States. Where, remember, they are worried a 6.0 quake might come along and surprise us all. North Anna located at the epicenter of today`s quake is number seven on the top 10 list. Its risk factor went up in the last survey by 38 percent -- not because that nuclear power plant is necessarily more dangerous, but because we know now more about how earthquakes work and the risk they pose to nuclear plants. We started getting more reporting and more reports on the worst risks to America`s nuclear power plants starting, of course, in March when an earthquake and tsunami knocked out power to Japan`s Fukushima nuclear plant. Months later, the Japanese government acknowledged that fuel in three of Fukushima`s reactors didn`t just meltdown. It melted through the super strong containment vessels at the plant. That disaster is still not over. Coincidentally, Vice President Joe Biden was in Japan today. Remember the scenes of devastation at Sendai airport in Japan after the quake and tsunami there? U.S. troops actually had a large part to play in the clearing and opening up the Sendai airport. That`s part of why the vice president visited Sendai today, reviewing the damage and rebuilding and promising the United States will stand with Japan for as long as it takes. That could turn out to be a very, very long time. "The New York Times" reporting this week that the Japanese government may have to declare land within 12 miles of the Fukushima reactor as a no-go zone for decades. In some places, radiation exceeds the acceptable limits for humans by a factor of 25. One catastrophe quake and loss of power and Japan now has its own Chernobyl. Japan is set to declare land off-limits probably for decades, a dead zone, because it is too dangerous to be there. You know, even when it`s done perfectly, nuclear power is a high wire act. Mistakes in the nuclear power field can be catastrophic. Already in the U.S. this year, we have watched nuclear plants in Nebraska battle weeks of record flooding where inches mattered and where the aqua dams they put up as an extra line of defense failed and water got into the plant. When we reported on the Nebraska story in June, we discovered a couple of unsettling things. First that when the Fort Calhoun plant was built, someone miscalculated how ready that plant was to handle a serious flood. That error was noticed two years ago, and this year`s flooding was the first test of whether they got the re-working right. The other thing we learned came by way of a landmark investigative piece from "The Associated Press" this year which found that the owners of nuclear power plants that were designed to last for 40 years are now asking to keep their 40-year-old plants around for up to a century. These plants are getting old. When President Obama makes his speech next month about how the country can take action now to create jobs, maybe this time he can get really granular about his plan, really specific. Maybe instead of saying we need to get investing in our nation`s future or whatever, maybe instead of saying something big picture like that, maybe he can go really small picture. Maybe he can say the nation needs to seismically retrofit all of our nuclear power plants so they are ready for earthquakes like the one that hit the Eastern Seaboard on August 23rd, we`ll do this as a public/private partnership and, by the way, we will create jobs while doing it. The August 23rd earthquake, he could say, did not come with a warning and neither will the next test of our resilience as a nation. So, that means we`re going to be retrofitting all our nation`s critical infrastructure and we`re going to be doing it now, because we need it, because it`s critical infrastructure and because doing it now we`ll create the jobs that the economy desperately needs now. He could say that. We keep getting surprised by disasters. By the markets going nuts. By a ratings agency downgrading the United States on the basis of our dumb politics and brinksmanship about our debt. Is one of these shocks or all of these shocks enough to change what is possible for our country? Are they enough to change our minds? Joining us now is Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and NBC News political analyst. Governor Rendell, thank you so much for your time tonight. ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: My pleasure, Rachel. MADDOW: This quake obviously was not the big one. But could this quake be a wake-up call? Does it give us the chance to start a serious discussion about the dangerousness of our, in some cases, pretty lousy and pretty old infrastructure? RENDELL: It should, but it won`t. If we can take any lesson from the bridge collapse in Minnesota, the pipelines in northern California blowing up, all the disasters we had, the levees breaking in New Orleans and Cedar Rapids because they weren`t properly maintained, the impetus will last for a week or 10 days. And then we`ll be back to the same old thing, we don`t have the money. We don`t have the money. We can`t do it. We can`t invest, we can`t change things in America -- which is pure B.S., but that`s what we`ll hear. MADDOW: Is the fact we need it economically too any different now? I mean, we are as a country poised for the president to take the bully pulpit, which he says he`s going to do and put forward a bold economic plan, a bold jobs plan to create jobs. And one way to do that is through infrastructure spending. He has talked about the need for new infrastructure. Does his political will make this more possible than if we didn`t have his political will on this? RENDELL: Yes, and I think, clearly, infrastructure is always important for public safety for the quality of our lives and for long-run economic competitiveness. But what makes infrastructure, I think, tantalizingly possible, if everyone e listens is it is the single best job creator we can do. Rachel, your example, I know this because we just had work done on one of our reactors at Three Mile Island and it employed over 1,000 construction workers for six months -- for six months doing that work. We can, for a decent infrastructure investment program, we can put a million - - not a million, millions of Americans to work in well-paying jobs both as the construction sites and back at manufacturing plants, producing the steel and the concrete and the asphalt and all the things that are necessary. It`s the single best remedy we have. But it can`t be done for six months or one year. It has to be a long-term -- in my judgment -- a decade-long commitment. MADDOW: You can`t get up there though, as President Obama and say we need to do something different for a decade, because the Republicans are not willing to say yes to their own ideas as long as they are hearing them out of President Obama`s mouth. Is he likely to get more done if he actually goes very specific and granular? And he doesn`t say we need to change our approach to infrastructure and do something different for a decade. Let`s go fix this bridge. Let`s go fix that plant. I mean, this earthquake today was -- the epicenter of it was in Eric Cantor`s district, as was this nuclear plant that was, frankly, shut down today because of the danger about this quake, even though they say there was no damage. Doesn`t that put Eric Cantor on the spot as majority leader in the House? RENDELL: No question, and if he`s honest, he`ll say we do need to invest in our infrastructure. Look, Jim Inhofe, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, do you remember during the stimulus debate, Jim Inhofe and Barbara Boxer combined to try to put an amendment in which it would triple infrastructure spending in the original stimulus. Unfortunately, it was beaten back. But there is Republican support for infrastructure spending. And what we would have to do, look, specific projects, you`re right, people love specific projects because they can point to and say, yes, I get that, we need that. And we can do that in the short run, but in the long run, and I`ve seen it when you do your promos standing at the base of the Hoover Dam, we`ve got to do big things with the American infrastructure. Big things can`t be done in six months, can`t be done a year. But if we committed ourselves to a decade-long program, like building America`s future as advocated, that`s going to produce millions of jobs, not just for one year or for 18 months, but for 10 years straight. And it will revitalize American manufacturing and get this economy back working. MADDOW: For a plan like that, though, who`s lobbying Republicans for support on that and what Republicans are coming along? RENDELL: Well, you have to build a consensus for a plan like that. And every little thing helps. And clearly this episode helps today. There`s no doubt about it. And the good news about nuclear plants, it`s not good news for the public, but you can order new plants to be built or plants to be totally modernized and torn apart, and some of that can costs can be worn by the rate payers over a long period of time and some of it could be born by the private sector as well. So, there are ways to get this done. You could spend $200 billion a year more on infrastructure than we`re spending now, and the total cost to the federal government would be around $40 billion, Rachel, and they get about $18 or $20 billion back in the additional taxes that would be generated by 4 million or 5 million people working who wouldn`t otherwise be working. MADDOW: Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor, former head of the DNC, NBC News analyst and the only person who I can always count on to be super enthusiastic to talk infrastructure with me, even when I`m not sure anybody else would be. RENDELL: And, Rachel, for the record, myself and my little band of three people who worked with me, we stayed in our office, we saw it shaking and rattled, but we weren`t wussies, hung in there and stayed at work. MADDOW: I know. Who would ever call you a wussy? RENDELL: Never, never. MADDOW: It would never happen. Thanks, Gov. I appreciate it. All right, the pictures for the battle of Tripoli have been incredibly dramatic, including this man who claims to be wearing Moammar Gadhafi`s accessories, look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was like oh, my God. I`m in Gadhafi`s room, oh, my God. But then this thing happened. I found this -- I was like oh, my goodness, I`m happy now I`m having this thing. And I`m happy for Libyans. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is not us making up a guy dressed up in a Moammar Gadhafi suit saying he stole it out of Gadhafi`s bedroom. That in real life is a guy wearing Gadhafi`s clothing. So, he says that he says he stole out of Gadhafi`s bedroom. Whether this man is telling the truth or not, whether or not the hat and necklace and scepter thing really do belong to Gadhafi or they not, we cannot say, but I do know that happened on film today. And we do know that the battle to oust Moammar Gadhafi from Libya is not over. We`ve got lot developments from NBC`s Richard Engel, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A man named Sherwood Schwartz died last month after an extremely productive life as a TV producer. Among his legacies were the "Brady Bunch," also "Gilligan`s Islands." But in his wildest imaginations, Mr. Schwartz could never have anticipated that one of his all-time most excellent TV characters would come to shape a leading presidential campaign in 2012. But it has. And no, it`s not Sam the Butcher or Marsha Marsha Marsha. I will explain the unexpected arrival of Thurston Howell III in this year`s presidential race, coming up in just moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS: Gadhafi effectively lived on a military base, and there were tanks inside this complex, if you -- it`s effectively like the White House but he put the White House inside a military barracks. It is surrounded by high walls, the walls are built to be defended militarily, when you drive around the complex, there are small holes in the walls with little metal gates on the holes, little metal latches on them so the people inside can put guns out of them and fire to defend the complex. So, it was built for defensive purposes. And it has many buildings inside. It has intelligence buildings. It has command and control buildings. Gadhafi`s private residences in there. Bunkers and tunnels underneath the complex. So, it is a very elaborate structure but it was built with the idea that something like this could happen and that it would come under attack. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent, finally wearing a helmet, reporting throughout the day from outside Moammar Gadhafi`s compound in Tripoli, in the capital city of Libya. Later in the day, the rebel forces in Libya did, of course, force their way into Gadhafi`s compound. This is what Richard filed about that for today`s "NBC Nightly News." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ENGEL (voice-over): The battle began early this morning with NATO air strikes and rebel rockets fired from afar, to weaken the defenses of Gadhafi`s compound. (on camera): There`s a lot of stray fire in this area as is running gun battle is continuing. (voice-over): As the compound burned, the rebels advance. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is for Gadhafi. (GUNFIRE) ENGEL: Gunfire ripped across Tripoli. A barrage of bullets fired from inside the compound. Loyalists are defending their ground. And then nearly five hours after the battle began, Tripoli suddenly changed. We`re hearing something we haven`t heard all day, which is silence coming out of the compound. (on camera): If you listen to it, there`s really not much going on right now, and that itself is significant. (voice-over): There`s no Internet in Tripoli, phone service is down, state TV is off the air, so the news was spread from loud speakers from mosques. We approached the compound, unsure if it really had fallen. (on camera): This is one of the main gates of Gadhafi`s compound, the rebels are going inside. There`s bullet holes, clearly been a fight here. They are even moving in their heavy weapons. (voice-over): The rebels had taken Gadhafi`s forbidden city. The loyalists inside apparently ran away. (on camera): The rebels are now looting Gadhafi`s compound, they are taking out everything they can carry, these men have automatic weapons taken from inside the complex. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) ENGEL: It`s an FN automatic rifle, a Berretta, this is ammunition, or this all pistol. So, this is a pistol taken from the armory inside. (voice-over): At the center of the compound, what may be Libya`s most iconic symbol, a statue of a fist crushing an American fighter jet. In front of it today, rebels sang, kissed the ground in prayer, and fired celebratory gunfire, at times, dangerously close to other rebelers. But where was Gadhafi? Rebels scoured the grounds, and think they spot Gadhafi loyalists. They fire. But the loyalists are gone. And Gadhafi remains at large. The leader of Libya for 42 years is now a fugitive, wanted by international courts and no longer considered in command by his people. Today, Gadhafi lost his compound and also his country. (on camera): But amid these celebrations, there was still one place, the Rixos Hotel, that remains under the control of Gadhafi loyalists. In that hotel, there are 30 western journalists being held by armed Gadhafi loyalists against their will and the fate of these journalists remains unknown. Richard Engel, NBC News, in Green Square. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Colonel Gadhafi was not in his compound when the rebels seized it, as Richard said there. According to "Reuters," though, tonight, Gadhafi has made a statement on Libyan radio, saying that withdrawing from that compound was a tactical move in response to NATO air strikes. A government spokesman for Gadhafi then threatened to turn Libya into volcanoes, lava, and fire. Joining us now is P.J. Crowley, former assistant secretary of state for public affairs and a 26-year veteran at the United States Air Force. He`s now the Omar Bradley chair at Dickenson College, Penn State University and the Army War College. Mr. Crowley, thanks very much for joining us tonight. P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Hello, Rachel. MADDOW: How significant tactically and psychologically is the capture of Gadhafi`s compound, do you think? CROWLEY: Well, I think, from a tactical point, being able to assume an essence full command of Tripoli is important strategically and a huge psychological boost for the Transitional National Council, particularly given the embarrassment 24 hours ago of having Gadhafi`s sons so visible. So, this is a very significant move. In the short-term now, they have the challenge of security, making sure that, you know, the streets are controlled and conditions return to normal, and also politics. Now, demonstrating that as a regional power center, they can now credibly lead the country towards this transition. MADDOW: The National Transitional Council, the government force which is now succeeding Gadhafi, even as he has not yet been found, they said today they will move their headquarters from the stronghold in the East, from Benghazi to Tripoli in the next few days. If that happens, do you think that actually will make a difference to the people of Libya in terms of seeing the physical central power in their country as staying the same even as Gadhafi is gone? CROWLEY: I think it will be a very important moment and a very important popular move. Obviously, Libya`s a tribal society, so there will be some politicking both at the wholesale level and also at retail level. But these are groups that have done business with each other for a long time, but there`s going to be some jockeying as we forward. I think maybe a second challenge for Libya is the matter of oil. Now, getting oil back flowing again will generate revenue for the country, but as we`ve seen with the resource curse in many countries, the fact there`s now something to fight over, it`s no longer under the command of Gadhafi means that`s an enticing irritant or splinter that could, you know, pick at the unity that we hope Libya will achieve. MADDOW: Do you have any sense of how unified the country is behind - - behind the rebels? I mean, that seems to me it may be an important part of how bright the country`s future is at this point, not just how together the National Transitional Council is in terms of holding basic governance together or establishing basic governance, whether or not there`s going to be an insurgency? Whether or not there are going to be loyalists continuing a fight or somebody else who tries to overthrow this government that`s trying to find its legs? CROWLEY: And that`s why the fate of Gadhafi does matter. If he`s still in the country somewhere and he`s still protected, that means that he can potentially lead an insurgency, although I think his effective command of any resistance, I think, is very, very limited. You know, then again if he`s left the country, that`s a different matter entirely. But -- so resolving the issue of Gadhafi will tell us a lot about the basic security situation will be for the foreseeable future. But as we`ve seen with many movements and prior revolutions, it`s one thing they are unified by an opposition to Gadhafi, it`s another they`d have to create a common vision for a country and then effectively move in that direction. That`s where national assistance is going to be vital. MADDOW: You have operated at the highest levels of diplomacy during the Obama administration. Your role at the State Department, I know you were not just a spokesperson but a hands-on person at the senior levels of that organization. Tell me what you think will happen if some country somewhere, whether it`s Russia or somebody closer to home, somebody decide to take in Gadhafi personally and shelter him from any international efforts to bring him before The Hague or anyplace else where he might face justice. How will the United States react to some country that makes a decision like that? CROWLEY: Well, obviously, it`s a very limited circle I think, and Gadhafi has probably made some arrangements to have an escape hatch in the event this happen. And there are lots of rogue leaders, Mugabe, (INAUDIBLE) else where that are, themselves, pariahs around the world that may well be willing to welcome Gadhafi and the billions he`s squared away somewhere in the world. And this is where the credibility of the international system of justice is vitally important and critical. And this is very difficult. We see next door to Libya in Sudan where Bashir is under an indictment from the ICC. But so far, no country has been willing to execute, you know, that writ and move him to The Hague. So, this will be a challenge going forward in terms of the credibility of the ICC and the willingness of the international community to enforce its dictate. But then again, the good news here is that Gadhafi has very, very few friends. There`s only a handful of leaders who -- you know, Hugo Chavez is another in this hemisphere that potentially would be willing to take him in and as the United States and others would exert a heavy price politically and economically for anyone who shelters him. MADDOW: P.J. Crowley, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for public affairs -- thank you very much for helping us understand this. I really appreciate your time. CROWLEY: OK, Rachel. MADDOW: Thank you. The Thurston Howell III factor surfaces in this year`s presidential politics. That my lovey is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, indulge me, please, in a throwback popcorn commercial. There`s a reason we are showing this. This is actually an exercise in 2012 presidential campaign analysis. Do you remember who Orville Redenbacher is? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is gourmet popping corn. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can pop all this for the price of two bags of chips. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call my broker, we`ll corner the market. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. Now, would you vote for somebody like popcorn magnate Orville Redenbacher? Seems honest and wholesome and sincere, a big success in the private sector, but he lacks a certain, doesn`t seem to be that presidential or inspiring. That, of course, is a moot question this year because Mr. Redenbacher`s 2012 facsimile dropped out of the presidential race when he finished third in the Iowa straw poll. So, if you vote for him, you would have to wait for the choice o to vote for him for vice president this year. But would you vote for the other guy in this ad? Would you vote for not Lovey, but Thurston Howell III? The country clubbing millionaire who for some reason brought a bunch of ascots and a smoking jacket on a three- hour boat tour in 1965? When voting for president, would you vote for Thurston? Not a moot question, America, you may have that opportunity in this year`s presidential race. The story of one candidate embracing the full Thurston as a campaign strategy, it`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When President Obama announced he`ll unveil his jobs plan at the beginning of September, among the first to pounce on that announcement, among the first to go on the attack is the current frontrunner of the Republican presidential nomination. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s going to come out on November 6th with his jobs plan, why hasn`t he come out with it already? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: September, not November. But still, why hasn`t he come with it already? September 6th is way too late, why even bother? The punch line on that attempted attack from Mitt Romney, though, was his line that came next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I`m also in Nevada on the September 6th, and I will be coming out with my jobs plan, and it`s going to be very different from his. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mitt Romney says the September 6th is way too late to come out with a jobs plan, he also says that his own jobs plan will come out on the September 6th. That`s like death by palindrome. But beyond Mitt Romney`s inherent awkwardness ruining another attempted attack by him on the president, there`s also the substantive matter of jobs, the substantive question of whether or not Mitt Romney`s campaign is connecting with the American people on what they want to be the central issue of their campaign, the economy. When people think about Mitt Romney, Republican frontrunner, when people think about Mitt Romney and jobs, what exactly do they think about? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I`m also unemployed. (LAUGHTER) ROMNEY: I`m not working. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`ve got it a lot better than what we`ve got. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mitt Romney prompting giggles and cringes around the country and table he was sitting at when he tells a group of unemployed Florida residents that he too is unemployed. And it is true, Mitt Romney is technically an unemployed multi-millionaire private equity executive running for president by saying things like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend. Of course, they are. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The "I`m also unemployed" moment and the corporations are people moment, both seems like Mitt Romney gaffes when he did those things. I mean, some of the major baggage he brings to this race is that the money he has that he didn`t inherit is what he made as a private equity mogul shutting down companies, liquidating their assets and firing their American workers. So, he can`t really afford to be showcasing on the campaign trail the corporations are people, heartless zillionaire side of his personality. In what seemed like an effort to course correct after those errors, Mitt Romney has recently tried to pivot. He tried on a man of the people line recently when he attacked President Obama for vacationing in Martha`s Vineyard. That line of attack quickly deflated however once we all figure out that Mitt Romney`s own schedule showed him to be going to Martha`s Vineyard at the exact same time that President Obama is going to be there. Mr. Romney going straight from the Vineyard to the Hamptons -- no, I`m not kidding. Mr. Romney`s foray into every man make fun of the rich people blue collar populism did not go very well, and he now appears to be over that already. In fact, Mitt Romney now appears to be just embracing the zillionaire thing. He`s going with it now. This is a campaign strategy that around our office we have been calling going for the full Thurston. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole thing sounds so darn democratic. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You understand the principle involved, after all, you`re a man of ethics. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You sure know how to cut a man, don`t you? All right, I hereby officially place myself under house arrest. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thurston, you`re a convict. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lovey, I`ve been framed, I`ll appeal, I`ll take it to the Supreme Court, I`ll take it higher, the rules committee of the Newport Country Club. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Thurston Howell III, the millionaire from "Gilligan`s Island" who stole every scene he was in. My best guess is that Mitt Romney`s campaign figured out that Mitt Romney is going to keep saying things on the campaign trail like corporations are people and sort of joking with unemployed people that he too is unemployed. Mitt Romney can`t be totally scripted. He has to be let out in the wild every once in awhile, and he keeps saying stuff like that. I believe the campaign has decided that instead of covering those things up when they happen one by one, they are just going to run with this. They`re just going to go for the full Thurston. Instead of backing off the whole corporations are people thing, for example, the Romney campaign has decided to turn the corporations for people line into a campaign ad as if this may be a good slogan for him. News leaked yesterday that the Romney family has decided to apply for a permit to quadruple the size of their $12 million beach front mansion outside San Diego. The reason given by the Romney campaign for quadrupling the size of the mansion, the current 3,000 square foot mansion is, quote, "inadequate for their needs." That was the statement from the campaign. I`m telling you, I think this is a deliberate strategy. When the "Washington Post" reported a guesstimate of Mitt Romney`s net worth, the Romney campaign wrote to them to correct the "Washington Post`s" guess and said they wanted it to be made clear that an accurate range is between $190 million and $250 million. They`d like to be on the record about that, please. And then this strange story popped up in "The Hill" newspaper yesterday, a story about Mitt Romney stealing all of Barack Obama`s big dollar Wall Street donors. The people that usually tip off a news outlet about that sort of thing is the campaign that`s doing the stealing, not the campaign being stolen from. There`s no direct evidence that this is a Romney campaign planted story in "The Hill," but it is a pro-Romney story about Romney donors and it does come complete with this blind quote from one of those donors, quote, "It`s not healthy for rich people to feel maligned," the executive said. The executive said, of course. But then after all this happens, this is why I think this has to be deliberate. All right, Mitt Romney went on FOX News yesterday, he`s out on the campaign trail so FOX has to put him on a satellite feed. What is the image the Romney handlers allow to be used for the back drop for their candidate in the studio? Look, there`s Mitt Romney positioned in front of a whole row of yachts. I`m telling you, this has to be a strategy. You can`t do this many things by accident. Mitt Romney is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. This kind of thing cannot happen by accident over and over again. For awhile, I think all of these things maybe were just gaffes. But now it really does seems they are doing it deliberately. The Romney campaign is going for the full Thurston. If he starts insisting that we call him Willard instead of Mitt from now on, then we will have full confirmation. Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst -- Willard, thank you for being here tonight. Mind if I all call you Willard? EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I do mind, absolutely, Rachel. MADDOW: I take it back. ROBINSON: But, listen, here, before we start, I have a question. OK. So, Mitt Romney is Thurston Howell III, right? MADDOW: Yes. ROBINSON: So, does that mean Jon Huntsman is the professor, even though he has a lot of money because he believes in global warming and he believes in evolution? Then Michele Bachmann could be Maryann, Sarah Palin, of course, is Ginger. MADDOW: Wait, wait, wait. You`ve got Ginger and Maryann backwards. ROBINSON: Do you think so? I`m going with Bachmann as Maryann and Palin as Ginger. MADDOW: Oh, I totally see Bachmann as Ginger, but, OK, keep going. ROBINSON: No, but there it ends. Who`s the captain, who`s Gilligan? MADDOW: Well, the skipper is hard to say, because the skipper is an usual -- the thing is, that if you think -- if you`re thinking about this in terms of pure impression, Ron Paul is the skipper, don`t you think? ROBINSON: Yes, I was thinking Ron Paul for Gilligan and Newt Gingrich for skipper. MADDOW: Gingrich is a little skipper. All right. Then Gilligan -- I mean , that does put Rick Perry in the position of being Gilligan, I`m prefer for Gilligan to be Rick Santorum, but I`m afraid Rick Santorum will sue me for even saying that of some obscure of what I`ve said that he`ll reveal as religiously offensive. ROBINSON: That`s a given, so we won`t go there. MADDOW: A three-hour tour. Now we`ve done it. Can a candidate turn a rich guy caricature into a strength by embracing the heartless rich guy caricature? ROBINSON: I don`t think so, but why not try it? I mean, he is who he is, after all. And, you know, I had doubts as to whether they was deliberate, but when you look at the expansion of the $12 million mansion, for example, the stories go on to say he`s not even planning to do work until after the campaign. So, why apply for the permit now, why make it public now if you`re not even planning to move into your 10,000 or 17,000 or however big the new mansion is going to be? So, maybe he just wants to embrace himself. It`s not good for the rich to feel maligned, Rachel. MADDOW: When the campaign put out their statement in response to the mansion thing, they obviously could have delayed responding for as long as they wanted, they didn`t respond instantly, they had a little time to come up with something, and what they come up with is the existing $12 million mansion was inadequate for his needs. That made me just wonder whether or not this was deliberate and whether or not the idea was to try to sort of get an aspirational vote. You get to try to get a Steve Forbes style vote because I`m rich, you can be rich too. ROBINSON: Steve Forbes did so well, though. President Forbes, no. So, I think that only takes you so far. But that is an odd phrasing. Isn`t it inadequate to his needs, as if of course we all need more than a 3,000 square foot sea front mansion, we all need more than that. MADDOW: How do you think that a line like that -- I mean, you`re from Orangeburg, South Carolina, how is the full Thurston going to play in South Carolina? I mean, if this is deliberate and this isn`t just sort of gaffe -- a multiplied gaffe now compounded by the campaign, if they are really doing this, can you imagine -- I mean, he`s going to have to deal with the South Carolina electorate sooner rather than later? ROBINSON: He is, I don`t think it will play particularly well in South Carolina and he has to deal with that electorate because he`s not going to win Iowa, he`s going to perhaps win New Hampshire. Then you get to South Carolina which has a record of choosing the eventual nominee, he does well there. And the heavily Republican sort of rock-ribbed parts of the state, they don`t have even 3,000 square foot seaside mansions. They are just not that common, and so I don`t know if that`s going to play well at all. MADDOW: All right. Eugene Robinson, "The Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC analyst. Gene, I have to tell you, since we`ve been on the air, the Gingrich campaign called us demanding that he`d be the professor. So, we`re going to have to consider how we reply my friend. Thank you, Gene. ROBINSON: OK, we can reconsider. MADDOW: All right. Amid all today`s literally earth shaking events, Michele Bachmann thinks she has a magic solution to make gas prices drop below $2 a gallon. Had we not just made the whole "Gilligan`s Island" analogy, I would make a bewitched one about doing noting you`re your nose. Ed Schultz has the magic details about that coming up right after the show. And here, if you liked no pants subway rides, and who doesn`t like pants subway rides, you`re going to love the best new thing in the world today, which is right at the end of the show. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When the Arab Spring began earlier this year in Tunisia and then in Egypt, we are fortunate to spend a lot of time talking to this man, al Jazeera Middle East correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin. Ayman`s reporting not only helped us understand what was unfolding in Cairo and elsewhere, it also helped his network find greater prominence in the United States. You can now watch al Jazeera English on some cable systems in the U.S. that you could not watch on before. Soon, you`re going to be able to see a lot more of Ayman Mohyeldin right here, when he joins NBC News as a foreign correspondent based in Cairo. We`re all very, very excited about this. He`s a great reporter. He`s already been a great asset to us as a guest. And we`re delighted to have him onboard in a full time capacity. Also today, MSNBC made this official. Reverend Al Sharpton will be the new permanent host of the 6:00 hour which is going to be called "POLITICS NATION." We were kind of hoping it was going to be called "reved up." Whatever the name, we will not only take it, we will watch it. Congratulations to Ayman and to Reverend Sharpton on their new gigs here. I think it is great news for both of them. But I`m telling you, it is even better news for those of us who are all the more to work here because of really, really impressive new colleagues like this. It`s very exciting here. I`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today is an act of kindness from Improv Everywhere. Improv Everywhere are the people that threw a wedding reception for a random couple getting married in New York City. The group who ahs organized mass high fives to amuse bombed out subway riders and who famously brought the no pants subway tried cities around the world every January. When 200 people froze in place inside New York`s Grand Central terminal. Yes, that was Improv Everywhere. They also do MP3 experiments where hundreds of people download instructions into their iPods, gather in a prearranged location and press play simultaneously and then do whatever the voice in their ear buds tells them to do. Their latest gig in connection with Guggenheim Museum in New York is called Say Something Nice. They put up a podium with the megaphone on it and moved around a few public spaces in New York. The podium had a sign on it that said, "Say something nice." And then they left it alone. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a great day, everybody. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all look wonderful. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome back to New York. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love everybody that is out here. I love you all. Yes! UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Hey, you in the umbrella. I really like it. It`s pretty. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES: We`re from Dallas, Texas, and we love New York (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is cool to be asked to play in public, to be encouraged to have fun and be nice while doing it especially because people did. So, Improv Everywhere, let me return the favor, excellent job. Best new thing in the world today, definitely. It`s time for "THE ED SHOW." I`m still keeping this. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END