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

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/13/11

Guests: John Yarmuth, Claire McCaskill, Andrew Siff

O`DONNELL: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is up next. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Debunktion Junction, what`s my function? First up. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that -- took that vaccine, that injection and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. It can have very dangerous side effects. The mother was crying when she came up to me last night. I didn`t know who she was before the debate. This is the very real concern. And people have to draw their own conclusions. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on NBC`s "Today Show" this morning following up on her criticism of Texas Governor Rick Perry in last night`s Republican Tea Party debate for having supported vaccination of Texas schoolgirls against the virus that causes cervical cancer. Ms. Bachmann arguing in essence to millions of viewers on the "Today Show" that that vaccine causes mental retardation. Is that claim true or is that false? (BUZZER) MADDOW: False. Despite Michele Bachmann`s clear implications, there is no accepted medical evidence suggesting the vaccine she is describing causes mental retardation. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics put out this statement today. "The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to correct false statements made in the Republican presidential campaign that HPV vaccine is dangerous and can cause mental retardation. There`s absolutely no scientific validity to this statement. Since the vaccine has been introduced, more than 35 million doses have been administered and it has an excellent safety record. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend that girls receive HPV vaccine around age 11 or 12. That`s because this is the age at which the vaccine produces the best immune response in the body and because it`s important to protect girls well before the onset of sexual activity. In the United States, about 6 million people including teenagers become infected with HPV each year and 4,000 women die from cervical cancer. This is a life saving vaccine that can protect girls from cervical cancer." What Michele Bachmann was citing on the "Today Show" was not evidence about side effects of the HPV vaccine but rather just an anecdote from a specific person, who she heard from. In terms of drawing conclusions from that kind of anecdote, NBC`s chief science correspondent Robert Bazell reported, quote, "There is no evidence of an association between this vaccine and mental problems. It`s not impossible the Bachmann story is true. Sometimes B follows A. But A didn`t necessarily cause B." That claim from Michele Bachmann about the HPV vaccine causing mental retardation -- that is false. Next up, true or false -- America`s embassy in Iraq dwarfs the Vatican? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s a little embassy we built over in Baghdad, cost us $1 billion, is bigger than the Vatican. That`s what`s bankrupting this country. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Ron Paul said the U.S. embassy cost $1 billion and is bigger than the Vatican. Is that true or is that false? (BUZZER) MADDOW: False. The price tag for building the U.S. embassy in Iraq is actually hundreds of millions of dollars shy of a billion and the Vatican is, in fact, bigger than said embassy. So, I`m sorry, Ron Paul. I still want you to come back on the show. But what you said about the Vatican embassy thing -- false. During a debate, politicians screw up. Politicians get stuff wrong. That happens in every single debate, right, left and center. But Republican debates these days are particularly fun to fact check, not because of the one-off screw-ups like the Vatican thing and the HPV vaccine conspiracy claim this morning on the "Today Show." But they`re more fun to fact-check than usual because of something much more interesting than the one-off screw-up. What you`re looking for in a debate in normalsville is for a difference of opinion between two candidates on some agreed upon set of facts. We have this problem as a nation, candidate A wants to fix it this way. Candidate B wants to fix it this way. That`s how debates in normalsville typically work. It`s more interesting when candidate A and candidate B don`t agree exactly on the same facts. Social Security is going bankrupt, one of them will say. Actually, no, another one will say. Social Security is not going bankrupt. In normalsville, that`s the kind of debate you have and that you expect. But Republicanland is not normalsville anymore. In Republicanland, what ends up happening in debates now is that we watch candidate A, B, C, D, E, F, and G all debate on the basis on what they all agree to be facts that are not true -- things that are not actually facts at all. They all accept the same untrue premise, something they only think is true because they are Republicans. For example, Ben Bernanke. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Congresswoman Bachmann, you know that Governor Perry has suggested that Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, potentially should be tried for treason for what he`s doing. Do you agree? (CHEERS) BACHMANN: As president of the United States, I would not be reappointing Ben Bernanke. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is one of those issues in which the Republicans are not really debating amongst themselves. They are all in agreement that Ben Bernanke bad. The only division between them is the competition to be more vociferously against bad, bad Ben Bernanke. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Would Ben Bernanke have a job in your administration? MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I`d be looking for somebody new. GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this guy prints more money between now and the election -- I don`t know what y`all would do it him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, will come to the end of his term in 2014. Would you reappoint Ben Bernanke? NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would fire him tomorrow. WILLIAMS: Why? GINGRICH: I think he`s been the most inflationary, dangerous and power-centered chairman of the Fed in the history of the Fed. MADDOW: Ben Bernanke, the most inflationary Fed chairman of all-time. This seems to be their reasoning for why they`re all piling on baldy beardy Ben Bernanke. Ben Bernanke has made U.S. dollars worthless, they say. It`s crazy the inflation that he`s created -- the most inflationary chairman of the Fed in the history of the Fed. Every time Ben Bernanke does something to stimulate the economy, it just makes more inflation. He`s the most inflationary guy ever. Republican candidates seem to agree on that. Here`s what inflation is looked like over the last 40 years. Under Fed Chairman Arthur Burns in the 1970s -- this was inflation. It was right around 6 percent. The very end of the `70s, a guy named William Miller, inflation went way up under Mr. Miller. Then, for most of the `80s, we had Paul Volcker as Fed chairman. As you can see, inflation came down under Paul Volcker. Then, it was Alan Greenspan in the late 1980s. Until 2006, again, inflation stayed pretty low. And now, under Ben Bernanke`s chairmanship, Bernanke, according to Newt Gingrich, is the most inflationary Fed chairman of all-time -- bink. That`s his inflation record. It`s kind of anti-climactic, right? But, again, in normalsville, if you were assessing the inflationary prowess of the guy furthest to the right in red on this graph, he doesn`t really look all that inflationary. In normalsville, that guy does not look like your inflation problem, but in Republicanland, he must be replaced. He must be fired immediately. He must even be treated ugly by an imaginary mob in the great state of Texas because of his horrible, horrible inflationary measures, as represented, again, by -- bink, that tiny little last position on the graph. It`s the same thing with the effect of economic stimulus, with the whole idea of whether government can do anything to create jobs, when we have a really bad unemployment problem. It is held as an article of faith among the Republican candidates. That stimulus spending to create jobs is some kind of Democratic hocus-pocus, some sort of commie con game that they aren`t going to get way with again because everybody`s on to it now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In terms of the stimulus you talked about, it was failed. ROMNEY: He had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs. He has proven for once and for all that government spending will not create one job. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: You know, looked at from one angle it is true. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus package did not create one job. Rather, it, quote, "increased the number of people employed by between 1 million and 2.9 million people." So, Rick Perry is right. It did not create one job. It created many millions more than that. But in Republicanland, that fact, that numerical nonpartisan truth about what real policies have done, it`s not even a hypothetical, that fact does not survive the journey to Republicanland. It burns up in the atmosphere on the way there. It`s not upon re-entry. It`s just upon entry. The fact does not make it. At these debates, and this was the second of what`s going to be five debates in a row now, we are seeing the way that Republicans try to win arguments with one another inside Republicanland. Where there is this alternate set of false facts from which they are all operating, particularly about the economy. And that is, I have to admit that is very entertaining and you do need to understand all of that in order to understand who the Republican Party is going to pick to be their presidential nominee this year. But in the broader context, the election is 14 months away. How do you get things done in the meantime in terms of governing? Given what the Republican presidential candidates contest is showing us about Republicanland, about how Republicans talk to each other and fight with each other, how can there be any treaty of cooperation between normalsville and Republicanland to move forward on anything? I mean, in economic terms, what the Republicans are upset about right now they say is inflation. But the reality is that interest rates are right now, let me round to the nearest number, roughly, you know, nothing. And this is what inflation looks like right now compared to our very recent history of previous Fed chairmen. The idea of Republicans helping to pass a bill to create jobs in this country right now is a little bit like trying to plan the particulars of your round the world trip with somebody who believes the world is flat. But that is what President Obama is up against right now as he tries to push Congress to pass his jobs plan. And you can hear it in his speeches that he`s not only making the case for taking an around the world trip, he`s also having to make the case at the same time that the world is round because apparently we are not all onboard with that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ohio, if you pass this bill then right here in this state, tens of thousands of construction workers will have a job again. This is one of the most common sense ideas out there. All over the country, there are roads and bridges and schools just like Fort Hays in need of repair. There is work to be done. There are workers ready to do it. So let`s tell Congress, pass this bill right away. CROWD: Pass this bill! Pass this bill! Pass this bill! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is just one stop in Ohio today of many on the president`s nationwide trip to promote his jobs legislation. Mr. Obama will be in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, tomorrow. Today`s news from the Census Bureau, however, brought an even further sense of urgency to this issue. You may have seen this today. The news that the U.S. poverty rate is now the highest it has been since the early `90s, nearly one in six Americans now living in poverty. And the specifics are even worse. Child poverty rose from under 21 percent to 22 percent. Poverty among Hispanic Americans went from more than 25 percent to more than 26 percent. Poverty among African-Americans went from just under 26 percent to over 27 percent. Poverty among white people is much lower than those other groups but it is rising, too, and fast. It went up from 9.4 percent to 9.9 percent. The only large segment of the American population that serves as any sort of silver lining in these poverty numbers is older Americans. Poverty among Americans 65 and over is statistically unchanged, even as it is getting so much worse for so many other groups of people. And that, of course, is because we have something in this country that keeps older Americans out of poverty. It`s called Social Security. And the fact that Social Security works, that it is keeping old people out of poverty in America, even as everybody else is slipping into it, the fact that it works means that in Republicanland, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination is someone who says that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and a failure. Is there any hope of a treaty between normalsville and Republicanland? Is there any hope of doing anything constructive for the country that has to involve Republicans when this is the way Republicans talk to one another right now? Joining us now is Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth, who represents Kentucky`s third district. This is the district where the Sherman Minton Bridge was suddenly closed down Friday because of a crack in a load bearing part of the bridge. It`s diverted 80,000 vehicles per day in southern Indiana and Kentucky. With a full diagnosis of the problem still weeks away and fixing the problem months away, the Sherman Minton Bridge is looking like the Louisville region`s version of carmageddon -- one that looks like at least for the time being to be an indefinite challenge. Congressman Yarmuth, thanks very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate your time, sir. REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY: Great to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: Give me an update, first of all, on how people are coping in your district with this big infrastructure challenge that really arose out of nowhere. That decision to close that bridge on Friday happened fast and without warning. YARMUTH: It did, and it`s -- I guess it`s as close as you could have to a disaster. Certainly, every bit as much a disaster as the flooding in New England that we saw the last couple of weeks. A couple hundred thousand people at least are inconvenienced by this. We`ve seen commutes go from 15 minutes to two hours. Commerce has been disrupted throughout the region. We have the intersection of three different interstates in the community, I-64, which goes from Norfolk to St. Louis. And this bridge is part of the I-64 artery. We have I-65 and I-71. They all come together there. So, we have an incredible amount of commerce that goes through our community and this has basically provided gridlock for us now -- again, as you mentioned, with no near-term resolution of it. MADDOW: Congressman Yarmuth, President Obama is traveling the country talking about the need to pass his overall jobs package. And his jobs package includes a lot of different things. But the thing that he is really in particular talking about and talking up on the campaign trail is the need to fix roads and bridges and fix up public schools and do infrastructure work. How do you see your situation with this crisis on the Sherman Minton Bridge in your district, how do you see that fitting into this larger discussion about how to deal with the unemployment crisis in this country? YARMUTH: You know, this is -- you almost wish this had happened a day earlier because the president would have mentioned this situation. This is taking what sounds like abstract theory, I guess to some, to reality. This is not just infrastructure. These are real people trying to move and real commerce trying to flow through a region. And it`s not happening. So, what we`re seeing here is an example of where money spent by the federal government could provide jobs, would keep commerce flowing, would save millions and millions of dollars. Businesses are losing in productivity. Gas being burned. All of the things you think about in theory. But this is reality now. It`s hit us, just as it hit Minneapolis a few years ago. And these are dollars that are -- if you don`t -- if you can talk about jobs without talking about infrastructure, then you really don`t know what you`re talking about. Unless we have highways and bridges and airports that allow commerce to move in this country, we don`t have an economy. So these are jobs that can put many, many millions of people to work. They can provide work that prevents the type of incident that we`re experiencing now in our community, and also can give businesses the confidence that we`re creating an infrastructure that will allow them to do their business. And, right now, we got thousands and thousands of these situations just waiting to happen. MADDOW: Congressman, I tend to think our debates tend to be the most polarized and sometimes the most partisan when they`re the most abstract. But as you`re saying, this is not an abstract problem. This is quite literally a concrete problem. Does that mean that you feel like you`re getting support that you`re on the same page with this problem and dealing with trying to fix this problem with the Republican senators who represent Kentucky, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul? YARMUTH: Well, you know, Mitch McConnell has said that the president`s plan was basically a political agenda. And what he needs to do is he needs to come back to the district. He needs to stand there and talk to the people who are waiting in line and saying, you know, we don`t really need to be investing in infrastructure, we can`t afford it right now, and ask them to make the sacrifice. He`s not willing to do that. And, again, to portray what the president has said as just another political act defies reality. He`s staring in the face of something that is of enormous consequence to hundreds of thousands of his constituents. And Richard Lugar on the other side of the Ohio River is facing the same thing with his constituents. This is no time for partisanship. Clearly, this doesn`t affect just Democrats or Republicans. This affects everybody. And Mitch needs to take a leadership role in the Senate to help get this kind of investment adopted by the Congress. If he doesn`t step forward, I don`t know how we can get it done. But he needs to. These are his people. MADDOW: Congressman John Yarmuth, Democrat representing Kentucky`s third congressional district -- best to luck to you and the frustrated commuters in your district. I appreciate it. YARMUTH: Right. Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: And Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, I`ll just tell you, sir, if you would like to respond to anything Congressman Yarmuth or I said tonight, I would love to have you. Honestly, it would be so much fun. Please, it`d be great. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The punditocracy is divided as to who won last night`s Republican candidate debate. Michele Bachmann for being noticed in this one unlike the last one. Mitt Romney, seeming to know where his sentences would end when he started with them, which was a stark contrast with Governor Rick "smile and nod and grimace and lose the point" Perry. If you watched the debate, it is of course, your call as to who won this thing. But there`s really no debate over who lost last night`s debate. The clear loser of last night`s Republican candidates` debate was a 30-year-old man who has a good job but who does not have health insurance. He is the clear loser of last night`s debate for the stark reason that the audience at the debate wants him dead. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The healthy 30-year-old young man, has a good job, makes a good living but decides, you know what, I`m not going to spend $200, $300 a month for health insurance because I`m healthy, I don`t need it. But something terrible happens. All of a sudden he needs it. Who`s going to pay for if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that? PAUL: In a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him. BLITZER: But what do you want? PAUL: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself. My advice for him would have a major medical policy but not -- BLITZER: But he doesn`t have that. He doesn`t have it and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays? PAUL: That`s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody -- (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) BLITZER: But, Congressman, are you saying the society should just let him die? PAUL: No. CROWD: Yes! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes. America should handle the problem of people who get sick and don`t have health insurance by letting them die, says the audience -- exclamation point. The state with the lowest percentage of people with health insurance in the country is Texas. NBC News this morning asked Texas Governor Rick Perry how he felt last night when the crowd shouted out that uninsured people should be left to die. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Last night, we heard some audience members cheered when a question, I think it was posed to Ron Paul about letting someone die. Did you hear that? What was your reaction? PERRY: I did. I was a bit taken back by it, myself. You know, the fact is we`re the party of life and we ought to be coming up with ways to save lives. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Sounds reasonable in the abstract until you remember that before the Republican debate last night where the audience cheered letting people die if they don`t have health insurance, in the last Republican debate, the audience gave their biggest cheer of the night to executions -- executions specifically in Rick Perry`s Texas. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAMS: Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you -- (APPLAUSE) WILLIAMS: -- have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent? PERRY: In the state of Texas, if you come into sour state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you`re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas. And that is you will be executed. WILLIAMS: What do you make of -- (APPLAUSE) WILLIAMS: What do you make of that dynamic just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause. PERRY: I think Americans understand justice. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The audience was not cheering one specific execution of one specific bad person, in response to one specific bad crime. They were cheering the very idea of execution, specifically the idea of lots of executions, of historically high numbers of executions. Texas is killing two more of its prisoners this week including one that was killed already today, 31-year-old Steven Michael Woods Jr. was killed at 6:22 p.m. local time in Huntsville tonight. That`s the 235th person Rick Perry has put to death in his time as Texas governor -- more than any other governor in modern U.S. history. In Texas, the only interruption to the state`s full-speed-ahead attitude toward killing its prisoners has been the lingering scandal, the lingering question of whether Texas under Rick Perry killed an innocent man in 2004. Cameron Willingham`s conviction was for deliberately setting a fire that killed his daughters in his homes. But the conviction was based on very controversial, contested forensic evidence about the fire. After Cameron Willingham was killed, Texas set up a commission to look at forensic evidence in cases like his. Governor Perry was criticized for replacing the chairman of that commission in the middle of its investigation of the Cameron Willingham case. Perry`s new handpicked chairman sidelined the Willingham investigation. Then, this week, Texas`s Republican attorney general told the same commission that it is not allowed to issue any official conclusion on the evidence in the Cameron Willingham case. It could investigate the gathering and processing of forensic evidence in other arson cases, but not in the Cameron Willingham case. Whatever you think about the death penalty, whatever your position is on the issue and whatever cases like Cameron Willingham say to you about our ethics and our governance, the broader fact is this issue has entered the national discussion because it is an applause line. Hypothetically, if the Texas Forensics Commission was about to announce conclusive proof Rick Perry in Texas did execute an actually innocent man, does anyone believe that would hurt him with this year`s Republican voters? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: Stand by this -- that we need to have a Fed that is working toward sound monetary policy that creates a strong dollar in America and we do not have that today. In Utah, you didn`t want to do that, that`s fine. But in the state of Texas where Mexico -- citizenship in this country rather than -- are we going to tell them, no, we`re going to put you on the government -- in a state of Texas, this is a states right issue, if in Massachusetts, you didn`t want to do that or in Utah you didn`t want to do that, that`s fine. But in the state of Texas where Mexico has a clear and a long relationship with this state, we decided it was in the best -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Last night, at the top of the show, we highlighted how central Vermonters are dealing with the collapse of a major roadway there. With a big volunteer effort to help people divert their commute to include a half mile walk through the woods in order to get around a portion of Vermont Route 4 that collapsed due to tropical storm Irene. We noted last night hopes for fixing that roadway were n part tied up with the vote in the Senate last night on disaster aid. I said last night that if Republicans got over their earlier assertions that they wouldn`t approve disaster aid and they did approve disaster relief for places like central Vermont last night, that money could get appropriated as early as next week. I said that expecting that Senate Republicans would get over it and vote to approve disaster aid last night. They did not do that last night. There was a majority vote in favor of disaster relief funds in the Senate last night. But a majority vote isn`t enough in the Senate if there`s a filibuster. Republicans in the Senate last night successfully filibustered disaster aid for hurricane Irene. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid went back at it again today. And, finally, on the second try, got it through -- 38 Republican senators still voted against it. Here are their names. Just so you know. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This was the scene in central K today as U.S. and International Forces fought back an attack on the U.S. embassy compound in the headquarters of the international military effort in Afghanistan. Both were targeted in a sustained and coordinated attack for which the Taliban claimed credit. That said, the deputy police chief in Kabul says he believes a different group is responsible. He`s blaming the Haqqani Network. This footage is taken from nearby the embassy, from outside a building under construction that overlooks the embassy complex. Afghan officials say they believe that the militants today took positions inside that under construction building as part of their attack on the embassy area because of the clear sight lines they could get for shooting from that high-rise building. Here`s the scene on the streets of Kabul near a military hospital close to the embassy complex. According to the latest count from the "Associated Press," seven Afghans were killed in this attack, 15 were injured. No embassy or NATO staff members were seriously hurt. And look at this video. This video was actually distributed by NATO itself. They sent this out early in the day soon after the shooting stopped. The video is described by NATO as showing ISAF soldiers inside military headquarters in Kabul fighting back against the attack on the embassy compound and the headquarters itself. The interesting that happen here, though, is you see the soldiers coming down here in their gear and then -- wait, who are those other guys not in soldier gear at all? Maybe they`re soldiers just not in uniforms or maybe they`re contractors whose de facto uniforms in places like this do tend to be polo shirts and khakis even when they`re armed to the teeth. Just a few days into his role as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus on Capitol Hill today told a joint house intelligence hearing he`s looking to use contractors less as the means of the intelligence community saving money. The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, saying unequivocally at today`s hearing that there should be fewer contractors doing intelligence work, that there was a commitment to reduce the numbers of contractors in intelligence and that that committed reduction is not happening fast enough. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Contractors were tasked to conduct intelligence operations, collection, exploitation and analysis. And all are critical tasks for the intelligence community and include, I would argue, inherently governmental functions that should be done by government employees at two-thirds less cost per employee. The overall number of contractors is in the tens of thousands. The numbers across intelligence, defense and homeland security is in the hundreds of thousands. We had an agreement in 2009 to reduce I.C. contractor numbers by 5 percent a year. But it`s clear that progress has not been maintained and sufficient cuts are not being made. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: For those of you keeping track at home, both David Petraeus and Senator Feinstein, mentioned saving money as a reason to use fewer contractors. The Project on Government Oversight released a study on the cost of employing contractors, compared with the cost of employing government workers. Quote, "Our findings were shocking -- POGO estimates the government pays billions more annually in taxpayer dollars to hire contractors than it would to hire federal employees to perform comparable services." Specifically, the study found that government approves contract rates nearly twice what it pays federal employees to do the same work. So, trimming the contractor ranks is an issue for the intelligence community. That`s what David Petraeus is saying. And now, he`s head of the CIA. That`s why he`s wearing a suit, not a uniform. It`s also an issue in Afghanistan, where we still got about 100,000 troops and we still will have tens of thousands of troops rather indefinitely. But, of course, it`s also an issue in the places where we are leaving. Camp Victory, the United States military headquarters in Iraq, is getting ready to close. It is literally being packed up to be closed down. One U.S. lieutenant colonel telling "The Washington Post" this week, quote, "This whole place is becoming a ghost town." Which says most importantly that U.S. troops are leaving Iraq. But how many of the armed polo shirt guys are going to be staying? Joining us now for the interview is Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, the ranking member of the Senate Government Oversight Subcommittee on Contracting and co-creator of the bipartisan commission on wartime contracting. Senator McCaskill, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here. SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Your committee has found that U.S. has lost tens of billions of dollars in contracts and grants in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why are we losing that money? Is it oversight? Is that we`re paying too much to contractors to begin with? Is it that we`re not keeping track of the money once we`ve handed it out? MCCASKILL: I think what has happened is we have become so reliant on contractors in a conflict situation and the military really, frankly, wasn`t equipped to oversee, to scope these contracts, to pay attention as to how they were spending the money. It was contracting gone wild in theater. There have been some modest improvements made, but the commission, the contracting commission that finished its work last week has come out with some pretty bold recommendations and some pretty jaw dropping statistics. Clearly, we`ve lost close to $60 billion just in fraud and waste in Iraq and Afghanistan and we got some issues that we have to really get to work on if we`re going look at trimming our sales in terms of the deficit. MADDOW: Is putting a price tag on the contractors issue giving you anymore traction with it in a bipartisan way? Is telling people that it`s costing us $30 billion, $40 billion, $50 billion, $60 billion more than it ought to be gaining you political ground in terms of really trying to wrangle this problem under control? MCCASKILL: I think it is because, you know, I`m an auditor. I want to do the math. And when you do the math on this, it`s not working for the taxpayer. The notion was that we want to keep federal employees down. And, therefore, hire outside contractors that`s cheaper. But no one ever bothered to check to see if, in fact, it was cheaper. And what the report that came out today says, and by the way, POGO is a great nonpartisan group. It is -- they call balls and strikes. They said, we have now checked and it`s not cheaper. So let`s do the math and let`s get the most value for the taxpayer dollar which in this instant means less contractors, not more. MADDOW: Senator, I know that your history as an auditor as you mentioned there. And I also know that -- I`ve had enough conversations with you to know that you`re also sort of a broad thinker about these things. One of the things I`ve been thinking about since the 9/11 anniversary is how it could have been different for the country to have felt more connected to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? So many members of the military who I have spoken to, so many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, feel like they fought those wars on their own and that the country proceed as if the nation wasn`t at war. Just the military was. Do you think that the use of -- heavy use of contractors is one of the factors that`s made us keep the war at a distance, that it doesn`t feel like it involves every American? MCCASKILL: I think, clearly, we didn`t have enough ground strength to go into Iraq when President Bush made that decision. The only way they could make it work was through the use of contractors. My dad was a brave soldier in World War II. He peeled potatoes as part of his duty. We never had American soldiers peeling potatoes. We had third world nationals peeling potatoes in Iraq as part of a contracting force. And this giant logistics contract that supported our troops and continues to support our troops in Afghanistan has allowed us to successfully complete the military missions without really having the boots on the ground that maybe would have connected these conflicts with the American people more closely. MADDOW: What do you think it`s going to take to change the way both the military and the intelligence community deals with the overall contractor situation? I mean, it hasn`t always been this way. It really took a turn, especially with those logistics contracts you`re describing, in the Balkans. That`s within this generation. It hasn`t always been this way. Could we actually make a decision to change this and see things turn around relatively soon? MCCASKILL: I think, first of all, you know, Washington has a bad habit of a very short attention span. We lurched from one topic to the next. Sustained attention span in this area is essentially. It`s not the sexiest topic. It`s the one I`m incredibly interested in and want to stay at. We`ve got to get out of the inherently governmental functions -- security, intelligence. We have got to quit hiring contractors to do those security needs that we have at our embassies to do our intelligence gathering. And then we`ve got to look at the oversight of contracting and realize it is a very wise investment of taxpayer dollars to make sure that every contract has somebody watching it to make sure we`re getting value and that we`re not giving these guys performance bonuses when they`ve behaved badly during their contract which has been commonplace in Iraq and Afghanistan and frankly throughout government. MADDOW: Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri -- Senator McCaskill, we have not always agreed on all sorts of policy things. I think we do agree on this. But I have to tell you, I`ve never had a conversation with you in which I didn`t think you were one of the most thoughtful people in the whole legislature. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. MCCASKILL: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. There`s big news in the high profile Massachusetts Senate race wherein Republican Senator Scott Brown will be defending his seat in deep blue Massachusetts. There`s slightly smaller news, but exciting news about the big Massachusetts Senate news and this show. That announcement is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Tonight is hopefully the least sordid new chapter in two very sordid political sex scandals. One Republican. One Democrat. Two names their parties wish they had never heard of. Let`s start in Nevada where this spring, Republican Senator John Ensign resigned all of a sudden, nearly two years after admitting that he had been shtupping a staffer of his who was married to another staffer of his. Senator Ensign quit just before the Senate Ethics Committee reported on the affair. That report said Senator Ensign may have violated the law when his parents wrote a check for $96,000 to the husband`s staffer of the wife`s staffer he had been shtupping. After the Ensign resignation, Republican Congressman Dean Heller was appointed to fill Ensign`s seat. Mr. Heller had represented Nevada`s second district as a member of Congress. And that led briefly to the exciting prospect that Republican Sharron Angle might run for the newly open House seat to replace Dean Heller. But she didn`t get a chance at it. Through some wrangling in court, the Nevada Republican Party won the right to name their candidate for that seat without a primary. The Nevada Republican primary, Nevada Republican Party, surprise, named Nevada Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei. National Republicans have spent $600,000 trying to hold this district in the Republican column. It has only ever been held by a Republican. On top of the official Republican Party money, Karl Rove`s conservative PAC American Crossroads also kicked in another quarter million bucks to help Amodei. The Democrat in the race is Nevada state treasurer Kate Marshall. She is trailing in the latest polls by double digits. Voting in this one will not close for another few minutes. But we can tell you that in early voting before today, Republicans did appear to be winning the battle for turnout by 19 percent. Now, unto New York where voters are choosing a replacement for Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner. Congressman Weiner stepped down in June after tweeting naked pictures of himself and then lying about that. The seat Mr. Weiner held, New York`s 9th, that seat has not been occupied by a Republican since before the Great Depression. Democrats picked State Assemblyman David Weprin to run for it. He`s the white guy in the white shirt trying to dance under the campaign sign in this old video. The Republican in the race, former TV executive Bob Turner has been selling himself as the antidote to President Obama`s policy on Israel which apparently has played well in the heavy orthodox Jewish district even though Mr. Weprin, the Democrat, is also a real hawk on Israel. Mr. Turner has also criticized the Democrat in the race saying he backed the right of an Islamic community center to build in downtown Manhattan, the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Seeing the Republican candidate ahead in the polls in this race has had national Democrats spending half a million bucks in recent days trying to save the seat from becoming a casualty of Anthony Weiner`s nudismo. I made that word up, nudismo. Polls in New York closed not quite an hour ago in this race. We are eagerly awaiting the first returns. Joining us now from Queens, New York, is Andrew Siff, reporter for WNBC. Andrew, thanks for being with us. I know you`re at Republican Bob Turner`s campaign. How do things seem there? And how excited are people? ANDREW SIFF, WNBC REPORTER: People are pretty excited, Rachel. Former Mayor Ed Koch is on his way. He`s a Democrat who crossed party lines to vote for Bob Turner. He was one of the voices who, at least according to the polls, has been successful in convincing voters along this Queens/Brooklyn border, this quirky area, to send a message to President Obama by voting against David Weprin, who has been a loyal Democrat in the city council, in the state assembly. As you mentioned, the polls showed Bob Turner ahead by six points, but then the Democratic money kicked in. So, there was a lot of spending over the weekend. And the turn out the vote machine was out in force today with 1,000 Democratic volunteers knocking on doors, sweeping across Brooklyn and Queens. A lot of people expected to be a lot closer than that final poll number. And we could be looking at some very, very late results in this race to replace Anthony Weiner -- Rachel. MADDOW: Andrew, do either of the candidates in this race have a real claim to having been a particularly good or particularly bad candidate? Were there major gaffes or major successes that marked either campaign in this race? SIFF: I think Democrats privately will say that David Weprin was a very weak candidate, but candidly, they`ll also say that they thought they could probably almost rubber stamp the win. Republicans haven`t won a seat her since 1920. So, it seemed like almost any name they picked would win. It quickly became apparent that wasn`t necessarily the case. And then, over the last few days, it became apparent that might not be the case at all. So, I think there might be some hand wringing about could they have picked a better candidate, a more prominent candidate, a more politically disciplined candidate? David Weprin didn`t particularly make any flubs, but he doesn`t have a charisma factor which might overcome some of the high profile endorsements that Turner got, notably Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch. MADDOW: Andrew, I understand the Turner campaign alleged voter fraud and they got a judge`s order impounding the absentee ballots in this race. What`s that about? SIFF: Well, that, to some degree, is insurance just in case things are too close to call or if Weprin ends up with a very, very small lead late tonight. That would allow Turner to not concede at all. There are about 3,000 absentee ballots out there and they`re alleging that some of them got sent to people who had passed away or no longer lived at their addresses. That happens in almost every election. But in this case since the possibility exists it will be really, really close, why not impound those ballots? They did get a judge to do that. That means that the final tally can`t be certified if the total is within that margin of 3,000. So, it`s sort of insurance just in case they don`t have to concede if it`s really close tonight -- Rachel. MADDOW: Andrew Siff, reporter for WNBC -- that was very clarifying in an otherwise very confusing situation. Thanks very much tonight. Appreciate it. SIFF: Sure. MADDOW: Again, two special elections tonight. One in Nevada. One in New York City. Nevada polls close in a few minutes. In New York the polls are closed. But we are still awaiting first results. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Scott Brown of Massachusetts had been a senator for less than two months last year before he became convinced of the identity of his 2012 Democratic challenger or at least convinced enough that he thought he could fund raise off the idea he would be running against me, me, the 9:00 p.m. lady on the cable news. As you may recall, Senator Brown later tried the same thing with Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor credited as being the principal architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and was probably the country`s eloquent national spokesperson and advocate for the economic plight of the middle class. Well, as Senator Scott Brown feared, one of us will be running against him in 2012. It isn`t me. A month after launching her exploratory committee, Elizabeth Warren will officially announce her candidacy for the U.S. Senate tomorrow. Her first live national interview after tomorrow`s announcement will be tomorrow night exclusively here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, which is very cool. I hope you will tune in for that. "THE ED SHOW" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END