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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/15/11

Guests: Jimmy Carter

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you very much for that. And thanks to you at home for sticking with us this hour. I`m coming to you live from Atlanta, Georgia, tonight because I had the honor today of speaking with our nation`s 39th president, Jimmy Carter. We`ll have that interview coming up for you a little bit later on in the show, including his prediction for President Obama`s re-election chances. Also, the connection between former President Jimmy Carter and Michele Bachmann. But before we get there, imagine you were relaxing at home, getting ready to take a drive to the mall or drive to work perhaps, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TV ANCHOR: From our Manatee County newsroom, a Bradenton woman gets a six-foot surprise in her garage. A Burmese python had wrapped itself around the engine of the woman`s SUV. It took trappers two hours to remove the snake. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Two hours to remove the snake. A six-foot-long Burmese python wrapped around your car`s engine. What do you do in a situation like that? Presumably, after you are done freaking out, you call in the professionals to come take care of the six-foot-long Burmese python wrapped around your engine block. Unfortunately, for the snakeophobes among us this problem of enormous snakes turning up where they are not supposed to be is not a problem that is confined to that one Florida woman and her one garage. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TV ANCHOR: It was big enough to hunt down prey the size of an 8-year- old child. A massive python was captured this weekend after being spotted near a Bradenton strip mall. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It lunged at me twice. It was hissing the whole time. I hated to do it but I did have to hit him upside the head a couple times. REPORTER: A professional trapper, Evan Matthews (ph), needed backup when he came face to face with this 107-pound python in this drainage ditch curled up and ready to strike. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Pythons in your garage, pythons in your local drainage ditch. Big exotic snakes being found with relatively alarming frequency in places where big exotic snakes should not necessarily be. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Now that this 12-foot, 100-pound anaconda was found and captured, curled up in a storm drain next to that pond, it seems to be the one with the appetite for water fowl. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ain`t really afraid of snakes, but that was a big snake. It would have easily ate a 100-pound dog, which I`ve got two dogs. So -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, it`s not just pythons turning up in Florida neighborhoods, ponds and things. It`s also -- it`s not just pythons. It`s also anacondas. What you are looking at here is three police officers battling a 14 1/2-foot, 200-pound African rock python spotted near a Florida apartment complex. The African rock python is the largest snake in Africa. They eat stuff like goats, warthogs and crocodiles. And they eat those things whole. So, this is a job that exists in America now, wrangling exotic invasive species snakes. Trapping snakes. Removing snakes from places where snakes should not be. As you might imagine, it`s not necessarily a safe job. According to the Humane Society, most of the people who have been killed recently in the United States by reticulated and Burmese pythons have been adults who have experience handling giant reptiles. But still, it is a job nonetheless. And one of the reasons that job exists is because those snakes are being imported to the United States. They are being shipped in, bought and sold, and even bred right here in America, which I guess means that that could also be your job. You could be the person whose job it is to get this anaconda pregnant. Congratulations. It`s a zillion baby anacondas. I mention all of this because yesterday in the Republican-controlled United States House of Representatives, the Republicans called in a snake breeder to testify against plans by the Obama administration to make invasive species, giant foreign snakes, more difficult to import into this country. There are nine species on the list, snakes like the Burmese python, the reticulated python, and the yellow anaconda. Under something called the Lacy Act, the Interior Department is supposed to regulate importing and interstate sale of species determined to be injurious to humans, to the interests of agriculture, to horticulture or forestry, or to the welfare and survival of wildlife resources of the United States. This is what they`re supposed to be doing. And they`re not saying you can`t have a yellow anaconda pet anymore. They`re not banning these snakes outright. It`s just that you can`t import them or transfer them across state lines. It`s putting these snakes in the same category as other controlled animals like, say, the mongoose or the Indian wild dog. The Republicans` snakes on a plane hearing made national news this week when Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia started publicizing the snakes on a plane hearing, mocking the Republicans first on their big idea that liberating the anacondas from onerous regulations is somehow a good idea, if only regulations like this went away, then the business climate in America would be awesome. In Congressman Connolly`s words, quote, "If regulations and economic growth were inversely related, then sub-Saharan Africa would have the most productive economy on earth." Good point. Mr. Connolly is also drawing attention to the "snakes on a plane" hearing as a way of pointing out that the Republicans are not really working on jobs right now in Congress. They are instead working on stuff like this and calling it jobs. And while I`m sure it is a cool perk of being a congressman that you can have the snake breeding guy with the amazing hair in your hearing room, that is in fact what the Republican- controlled House is convening hearings about right now while the president, on the other hand, is touring the country promoting his $450 billion comprehensive jobs legislation. So far, the response from the House Republican leadership to the president`s big jobs proposal has not taken the form of legislative action or hearings like the ones they held on the snake guy. It`s rather taken the form of speeches like the one House Speaker John Boehner gave today, where he derided the United States Senate as if the Senate is the place where they are really working -- the Senate is not the ones working on jobs while the House is. The Senate hasn`t been doing anything and the House -- well, the House has just been Johnny on the spot. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The United States Senate needs to act, too. The Senate can`t sit idle on jobs and the budget. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, not when the House is doing so much work on liberating the anacondas. John Boehner`s speech on the economy today took a few remarkable turns. For example, there was this line. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: Another thing we can do in this area would be in the area of transportation and infrastructure. I`m not opposed to responsible spending, to repair and improve our infrastructure. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Awesome. John Boehner is for infrastructure spending. However, he says there`s one condition attached to that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: But if we want to do it in a way that truly supports long- term economic growth and job creation, let`s link the next highway bill to an expansion of American-made energy production. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: John Boehner, speaker of the House, is saying that in theory he likes infrastructure spending, but Republicans are only going to approve infrastructure spending if "drill, baby, drill." What is the connection between infrastructure spending and "drill, baby, drill"? John Boehner has a theory about that. He says there is a "natural link" between the two. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: As we develop new sources of American energy, we`re going to need modern infrastructure to bring that energy to market. MADDOW: That`s the link. Which I guess means oil tankers can`t get through if the bridges have collapsed into the water? What is the connection between "drill, baby, drill" and infrastructure spending? Why are these things naturally connected? Speaker Boehner also said today coming off a debt ceiling fight in which Republicans walked away from the table too many times to count that, quote, "politicians of all stripes can leave the my way or the highway philosophy behind" -- sort of like getting advice from Bugs Bunny to stop being rascally. John Boehner`s speech on the economy was a lesson in head-on desk hypocritical inexplicability. But because President Obama belongs to something called the Democratic Party, President Obama is also dealing with headwinds on his jobs proposal from his own side of the aisle and some of those headwinds are just as inexplicable as the one coming from Mr. Boehner. Today, for example, Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania told "The New York Times" in an interview that he is opposed to the president`s jobs legislation, too. Why is he opposed to it? Because the bill is long. Seriously. It`s too long as a piece of legislation. There are too many pieces of paper. Quoting Senator Casey, "I think the American people are very skeptical of big pieces of legislation. For that reason alone, I think we should break it up." For that reason alone? Really? The objection to the bill is how long it is? What if we changed the font, sir? Would that be better for you? Widen the margins maybe? How about if we put the whole thing in comic sans? That`s kind of a compact font. Would that help? The problem is too long? Are you serious? But through this bid competition for the most inane response to the president`s jobs proposal, the president`s proposal to do something about the economy, there is actually a little bit of hope today. Part of that hope was spotted and diagnosed today by former President Jimmy Carter, who I spoke with in an exclusive interview here this morning in Atlanta at the Carter Center. His take on the president`s jobs bill is that it will pass. He believes it will pass, at least parts of it will, because of the way that President Obama is pursuing this legislation. I asked President Carter today how in an obstructionist political climate and against entrenched interests a president could win a big fight like this. This was his answer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The only way to do that, if there is a way, is to draft what the president thinks is the right proposal and then completely override the Congress in taking that proposal to the people directly and use a powerful influence, the bully pulpit of the White House, to prevail if you can prevail. And I think -- I think reluctantly and maybe not too late but quite late, President Obama has learned that. For the first time with his jobs proposal that was drafted in the White House, and he made the proposal to Congress in a very effective speech -- one of his best ones -- and now he`s taken his case to the public to say, OK, this is what I propose, this is what the Congress is likely to do, choose between me and the Congress in the upcoming election in 2012. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We will have more on President Carter and his surprisingly optimistic assessment of how President Obama is doing right now politically, also his rather harsh words for the religious right and his pick for who should win the Republican nomination. That is all coming up this hour. But President Carter`s assessment there that President Obama will get his jobs bill passed because of the way he`s pursuing it in this barnstorming tour he`s doing across the country about it, President Carter sees that as a positive -- both for Mr. Obama politically but also for the country, for the economy if the jobs bill passes. The other ray of hope was something that was tucked into House Speaker John Boehner`s aforementioned rather remarkable speech today. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: Tax reform should include closing loopholes. Not for the purposes of bringing more money to the government, but because it`s the right thing to do and it`s the fair thing to do. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Tax reform should include closing loopholes. OK. What exactly counts as a loophole to Speaker John Boehner? Well, President Obama`s been proposing this stuff like no more tax subsidies for big oil companies. That`s not the oil company`s tax rate. That is a loophole through which they get taxpayer money. How about the tax subsidy for corporate jets? That`s a loophole. How about the individual deductions on income that only rich people earn, that only rich people claim? Those are loopholes. Can those all be closed? Because those are many of the pay-fors that President Obama has been proposing for his jobs plan that Republicans, at least before today, were likely making lots of noises about rejecting out of hand. For all that was astonishing and at times laugh-out-loud funny about John Boehner`s economy speech today, is there actually a ray of hope here? Is he doing what Jimmy Carter said today that Republicans would end up doing about this, which is that they would take on some of this jobs plan and go with it? Could some of this stuff pass? Joining us now is Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC`s newest show, which is called "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES." Chris` new show debuts this Saturday morning. Chris will be starting out with a major guest, House Minority Nancy Pelosi. It will be on at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday. Congratulations again the show, Chris. It is good to see you. CHRIS HAYES, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" HOST: I have another amazing guest on Sunday. MADDOW: Who? HAYES: Rachel Maddow, host THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW on MSNBC. MADDOW: I was going to put on an ill-fitting blazer and just hang around the studio and hope you`d ask me to sit down. But now, I will take that as an invitation. That`s excellent. Thank you. HAYES: That would be great. MADDOW: I have to tell you, Chris, that I have done 2/3 of this segment with no teleprompter tonight. HAYES: No. MADDOW: Which is I have been looking, not making eye contact with anybody. HAYES: That is amazing. MADDOW: So I am warming up the technical failures for you. HAYES: That was a long read without a prompter. MADDOW: Exactly. I`m getting all of the technical failures out of the system so that by the time you roll in on Saturday, stuff is going to be clean. HAYES: That is -- that is kind of you. On the other hand, you have now seeded a new nightmare for me to have in the next 48 hours. MADDOW: Ta-da! All right. John Boehner`s speech today -- a lot of people are reacting to John Boehner`s speech today by saying he`s being so snarky and negative and obstructionist about the Republicans` proposal. I feel like he left some wiggle room maybe on infrastructure, but sort of maybe definitely on what he`s calling tax loopholes. Did you see any sort of little ray of sunshine here in terms of hope for a jobs bill? HAYES: I think yes. I mean, I do think there`s going to be some -- there are going to be some items that they can find to agree with -- on. My worry is that the Venn diagram, the intersection of those two sets, the president`s bill on the one side and what John Boehner can get his caucus to agree to on the other are going to be the least effective parts of the legislation. So, for instance, there`s this tax credit -- this sort of tax credit incentive to employers that hire workers off unemployment. And I think, you know -- I don`t think it`s terrible policy, but it`s not the most effective part of the bill. The most effective is the unemployment insurance extension, I think. And so, the question is do the things they agree upon end up as being the worst part substantively of the bill which if I had to bet now is probably where things are headed. MADDOW: Well, if the president introduced this as a single piece of legislation, I think it gave him mostly the opportunity to talk about all of the different things it does all of the time so we can give big stump speeches about it where he gets a lot of applause lines and gets people motivated behind the idea that he could do something. The other reason to propose a big package of legislation is that then you can pass pieces of it. Do you feel like it is substantively important whether or not this is pushed for by the White House as a single unified piece of legislation that can`t be broken apart? HAYES: I do in so far as the parts that would be broken out are very important parts like unemployment insurance. So, and the school -- and the stuff they want to do on school refurbishing, which is about $35 billion of actual hiring people to go do construction, that is very useful, useful construction, long term, represents a long-term investment. There`s a lot of -- there are a lot of parts of this bill that I think fall on the more kind of Democratic spectrum of things and more progressive spectrum of things, and I worry about those being sort of thrown by the wayside if it is broken into parts. If you break it up into parts, first of all, we`ve got to remember, we are dealing, we continue to deal with a massive what`s called -- what economists call an output gap, which is the difference between what this economy could produce and what it is producing. It remains huge. And $450 billion is not big enough to plug it. So, we are already dealing with a sort of plug that`s too small for the hole. If you start to pare that down, you start to end up in a situation where the final impact, while it has actual definitive positive results in real people`s lives, at the macro level isn`t doing what you want it to do in terms of the growth rate and unemployment. MADDOW: In terms of the president`s options here and his means of moving forward, how important is it that Senator Bob Casey, Democratic senator ostensibly, Jim Webb, Mary Landrieu, other Democrats are complaining about the jobs act in public, to the press, by name, including complaining about the president`s perceived motives on the jobs act? HAYES: I thought those -- I thought those quotes were really shocking that were in the "New York Times." And I think they were shocking for a few reasons. One, Tom Carper in Delaware had this quote where he basically parroted a completely ahistorical, empirically ignorant and economically ignorant theory of the case in which we have to have long-range deficit reduction in order -- that`s what a real jobs bill looks like. I mean, that is what extreme right-wing senators say. Here is a Democrat from a safe state of Delaware saying that kind of thing. It is craziness. And the only reason I think he`s saying it is because they believe it. They all believe -- they have all bought this big lie of the fact that long-term deficit reduction is actually what is going to get the economy going in the short term. And there is essentially no evidence for that. So, the hope is that Barack Obama can get all these Democratic politicians in a room and convince them that their political fates are tied to two things -- the president of the United States` political performance and the substantive performance of the economy and their best bet on both scores is the American Jobs Act. MADDOW: Chris Hayes, host of the new show "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES," which starts this weekend. Chris, thank you very much for joining us and not making fun of me for not being able to make eye contact. HAYES: You did splendidly as always, Rachel. I`ll see you this weekend. MADDOW: Indeed. Thanks. A reminder, Chris` show debuts this weekend, this Saturday morning. His special guest will be house minority leader Nancy Pelosi, joining him at 8:00 a.m. And I am going to get up extra early on Sunday and come down there and loom, especially because as Chris said I am allowed to be on the show on Sunday. I`m really looking forward to that. All right. I`ve been waiting for this for a long time. This morning, I had the honor into the view the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, at the Carter Center here in Atlanta. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARTER: I refer to Gerald Ford, who was incumbent president, as my distinguished opponent. And he did refer to me that way. I did the same thing four years later with Ronald Reagan. And we didn`t even accept any campaign contributions. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: My distinguished opponent and no campaign contributions. My exclusive interview with President Jimmy Carter, which has a lot of surprises in it -- it`s coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Tonight, President Obama is speaking at two events, two fund- raisers in Washington, D.C. This, week the president spent most of his time traveling the country, promoting his new big jobs bill. But tonight`s schedule had to be fund-raising, for obvious reasons. The number being thrown around for how much each party`s candidate will raise and spend in the 2012 elections this next year is $1 billion -- $1 billion for each campaign, which is frankly hard to believe. In 1976, the president was Gerald Ford. Which itself is a little hard to believe. Gerald Ford got to be president because President Nixon`s vice president who he ran with, Spiro Agnew, he had to resign after being charged with bribery. And then Nixon himself had to resign because of Watergate. And so, the president ended up being a man who had never run for president or even for vice president. Gerald Ford got appointed in scandal to be vice in 1973 and then got elevated from vice in scandal to be president in 1974. And he never had to run for those offices, never had to run for president certainly until two years later, in 1976. And when he ran to keep that office, he had bizarrely found himself in in 1976, his own party almost didn`t let him keep that job. Gerald Ford faced a ferocious primary in the Republican Party from Ronald Reagan. Gerald Ford did beat Ronald Reagan in that primary that year, but the primary was brutal enough that he essentially stumbled into the general election, as best demonstrated here by the Chevy Chase impersonation of a very, very stumbly Gerry Ford on "Saturday Night Live." And so, in 1976, Gerald Ford faced off against Democrat Jimmy Carter in the general election. You want to know as their parties` nominees how much money Ford and Carter raised to run against each other? They raised nothing. Zero dollars. Their general election campaign was funded instead by money from that little check-off on your tax returns, about whether you want your one or two or three bucks to publicly finance campaigns. In the next election, too, in 1980, when then President Jimmy Carter ran against the man who had taken so much skin off Ford`s hide the last time around, when he ran against Ronald Reagan, in that epic battle, with the presidency having just righted itself after the Watergate nightmare, how much money did Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan raise for their campaigns against each other that year? They raised zero. They did not raise campaign donations for that general election. It seems impossible now, but it is not that long since we did it that way. Today, I came here to Atlanta to interview former President Jimmy Carter on the occasion of the paperback release of his "White House Diaries." I went to the Carter Center. I was very excited to moat with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. I saw the museum there, which was cool and sort of unexpectedly high-tech. But the reason I came to Atlanta, the reason I came to the Carter Center, was to figure out if for the billion- dollar election era we are in now, there are lessons that we should remember and learn from the zero-dollar election era, which is not that long ago. I would not have expected it before I spoke with him today, but former President Carter, it turns out, is optimistic and optimistic for sharply analytical reasons right now about how the presidency of Barack Obama is going. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Reading your "White House Diary," one of the -- one of the things about this diary that actually does seem like a time capsule is that you reflect on your dealings with Congress and specifically on how on some issues, like the deficit you mention, and on national security, members of Congress make decisions without regard to partisanship, that these are things on which people vote their consciences and what they believe is best for their constituencies, party doesn`t really figure into it. CARTER: Sure. MADDOW: There are no issues like that anymore, it seems, in Washington. CARTER: No. MADDOW: And as that environment has changed, do you feel like you have any insight into how to actually govern well in an environment that is so much more partisan than it was when you were in office? CARTER: Well, this is completely different, as you said. I had excellent results in dealing with a Republican and a Democratic majority in the House and Senate, and had an outstanding batting average because of that. In fact, it was a better batting average than any president except Lyndon Johnson since the Second World War. But the last two years I was in office I had the partisanship in the Democratic Party because at that time, Senator Ted Kennedy had decided to run against me and some of the more liberal Democrats didn`t want to see me have successes. So I experienced a little bit of what President Obama experiences every day. That is, an almost total reluctance on the part of any Republican in the House or Senate to give him any support that would bring credit to his administration. So, he has a difficult, almost insurmountable problem in dealing with Congress. And so, it`s totally different. And I think the whole episode that we just described in Washington, the environment, is mirrored in the country. The country was not polarized when I was in the White House, or when I ran for office, either. And that`s been brought about by the unlimited infusion of enormous amounts of money into the political process. Not only during the campaign itself but after the campaigns over, the lobbyists have unlimited funds to pay, you might say, for votes in the House and Senate, which makes it possible for the environment -- for the groups that are special interest to prevail over the interest of the general public. And we never had -- a lot of that extra money is spent on just the technique and campaigns of tearing down the reputation of your opponent, negative advertising. I never knew that. You know, I referred to Gerald Ford, who was the incumbent president, as my distinguished opponent. And he referred to me that way. I did the same thing four years later with Ronald Reagan. And we didn`t even accept any campaign contributions. It`s hard to believe. But we just took the $2 per person on income tax returns, and that`s all we spent on our general election. So, it`s a total environment. MADDOW: When you mentioned the interest of funds -- of campaign funds but also lobbyist funds -- one of the things I marked to talk to you about today was when you noted in 1977, you`re working on your energy legislation and you are getting a lot done, as you say, a great batting average. But you`re frustrated that the energy piece is not moving forward, and you say, "It`s become obvious to me," this is on October 13th, 1977. "It`s become obvious to me that we`ve had too much of my own involvement in different matters simultaneously. I need to concentrate on energy and fight for passage of an acceptable plan. We`ve not been able to do it in a quiet, unobtrusive, private way with the members of the senate. The oil lobbies are too strong." You elsewhere described the oil and gas lobby as having unbelievable influence. What`s the right way to fight that influence? What did you learn? CARTER: The only way to do that, if there is a way, is to draft what the president thinks is the right proposal, and then completely override the Congress in taking that proposal to the people directly and use a powerful influence, a bully pulpit of the White House to prevail if you can prevail. And I think reluctantly and maybe not too late but quite late, President Obama has learned that for the first time with his jobs proposal that was drafted in the White House, and he made the proposal to Congress in a very effective speech -- one of his best ones -- and now, he`s taken his case to the public to say, OK, this is what I propose, this is what the congress is likely to do, choose between me and the Congress in the upcoming election in 2012. I`m not bragging on myself to anybody else`s detriment, but every major legislation that was introduced in the Congress when I was president was drafted in the White House, with my staff under the leadership of Stu Eizenstat. And we would bring in the top leaders of Congress from the House and Senate to sit down with us in drafting the legislation. And if the chairman couldn`t come, then their staff could come. And so, when the legislation was introduced in the House or Senate, the Congress was already deeply involved in the process. They modified it, obviously. We had amendments. So, I had to accept then either to accept the amendments, try to change the amendments, or if it got too close, which very rare, then I threatened to veto the legislation. But President Obama has not done that at all. He`s basically said, OK, like on health care let the five different committees in Congress develop their own proposals and we`ll see what comes out of that and then we`ll support what they come out with. And in my opinion, it was the lowest common denominator. MADDOW: On the jobs act that he is pushing for now, that he is using the bully pulpit for now, he has drafted legislation, this American Jobs Act. Do you think he`s doing it the right way with this? CARTER: I do, and I think he`s going to succeed. For the reasons I just described I think the public is going to reside that he is right and the Republican opposition is wrong. That`s one thing. The other thing is that he has very wisely put in his $450 billion package -- over half of it is tax reductions or tax grants to private individuals or to corporations. And that`s something that appeals to Republicans inherently. And the other part, you know, to repair school buildings and roads and bridges I think is also something that Republicans might want to buy. But in an election year environment even, I think they`ll take over half of a total package of what President Obama has proposed in his jobs bill, and I think if they don`t take the rest of it, it`s going to be to the disadvantage of the Republicans in the election next year. MADDOW: Substantively, do you think that the policy will work to improve the economy? CARTER: I think it will have a minimal impact but a positive impact - - limited but positive, yes. Ultimately, we`ve got to deal with the enormous debt. I basically had a balanced budget, very slight deficit. And, of course, President Bill Clinton had a positive budget as well. But when Ronald Reagan came into office, he spent like a profligate and developed an enormous indebtedness, a deficit, and other presidents have done the same except for Bill Clinton. So, now, we owe about I think $14 trillion to American investors in bonds and also to foreigners like the Chinese in particular. And that`s -- and it`s destined now if nothing changes to go up to more than $20 trillion in the next 10 years. That`s almost an unbearable burden of debt and interest payments on the debt. So, something`s got to be done about that. But eventually, I think the Congress will come to its senses, working with the president, and have a package both of increased revenue and also increased reduction in some of the privileges that have gone with the social programs. And that`s not -- that ought to be sacrosanct, you know? For instance, just look at me personally and Social Security. I`ve earned a good bit of money in my life and I have a very substantial monthly Social Security check. You know, I could do without it. I could do without part of it. I could pay taxes on it. So, those are some of the things that could be done and the flexible arrangement that I think would not be deleterious to the president or to the Congress in the long run and would be beneficial to the country. MADDOW: As Democrats look ahead to what`s going to be a difficult year, really I think for any incumbent, including the incumbent president running just because of the economy, should they be drawing battle lines over Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, and saying "we will protect them and the Republicans shouldn`t be trusted with them"? CARTER: I think so. Social Security is a treasure for our country, and precious to people like me, whether they are affluent or not. And it`s an inheritance, you know, from back in the New Deal days, 1930s, during the Great Depression. And I think that one of the serious mistakes Governor Perry has made is ostentatiously condemning in effect the Social Security system. And he`s been jumped on by Romney and others because of that. I think if he is a nominee, and that looks to me like the most likely prospect on the Republican side so far, I think that will really cost him a lot in the general election next year. And I think if the Republican candidates continue to do things like that and appeal to the most conservative elements within the Republican Party, they`re going to lose their support in the general election next year for president among the independents and among even the more moderate and I would say sensible Republicans. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: One thing to note about President Carter that he mentioned there but that bears a little explaining is what he called his batting average. The successfulness of Mr. Carter`s presidency, and this is also true of the first President Bush, the success of those administrations is frequently assessed purely on the basis of the fact that they didn`t win a second term, which is true. But it is also true that in the post-war era, the two presidents who were most successful in getting their own legislation passed by Congress were Lyndon Johnson, naturally, master of the Senate, right? And Jimmy Carter. Does President Carter think that President Obama is going to win a second term? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARTER: I don`t think anybody`s going to beat Obama next year. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s next. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Rick Perry endorsed you in 1988. All right. AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. COLBERT: Will you return the favor? Right now and endorse Rick Perry. GORE: Well, it would hurt him a lot -- COLBERT: Yes. GORE: -- in the Republican primary. COLBERT: So, is that an endorsement? GORE: No, it`s not. COLBERT: So, because an endorsement would hurt him and you won`t endorse him, isn`t that in itself an endorsement? GORE: You could put it that way. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Wait one second, though. Texas governor and former Texas Al Gore campaign chair Rick Perry is not the only former Democrat on the Republican presidential candidates roster this year. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Among the Republican candidates this year is someone who volunteered for your presidential campaign, Michele Bachmann. CARTER: I know. And I appreciate that she helped me out. MADDOW: She`s -- I would wonder -- I would love to overhear you two getting the chance to talk now, given how her politics have evolved. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Carter on Michele Bachmann, on Rick Perry, on Mitt Romney, and on President Obama`s chances for getting re-elected. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Republican House Speaker John Boehner today gave his big speech on the economy at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. -- perhaps in part so he could do some name dropping about where he was. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: This building`s named in memory of former President Ronald Reagan. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Drink. First page of the speech, name check for Ronald Reagan. At the Republican candidates` debate last week, conveniently held at the Reagan Library, candidate Newt Gingrich, who incidentally as a congressman threw Reagan under the bus during the Iran-Contra scandal, Newt Gingrich took the occasion of the Reagan Library debate to invoke Ronald Reagan by name not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, not five times, not six times -- actually just hit it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I served during the Reagan campaign -- Under Ronald Reagan. Reagan jobs program. The Reagan unemployment. The Reagan Library. The Ronald Reagan technique. President Reagan. President Reagan. I`m with President Reagan. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: But it`s not just Mr. Gingrich. This is what it`s like to run a Republican office now. You have to light a Reagan candle and incant Reagan, Reagan, Reagan. You have to give speeches in buildings named Reagan. You have to propose a policy named Reagan. You should consider a pet or a child named Reagan maybe. What`s it like to see the Republican Party`s decision to elevate Ronald Reagan as if he is a saint when you are the former president who sat on the inaugural stage with Reagan in 1980 and wrote this about him in your diary that day? On the day President Reagan was inaugurated, President Carter wrote this, quote, "I consider him to have an affable and decent man. His life seems to be governed by a few anecdotes and vignettes that he has memorized. He doesn`t seem to like to listen -- excuse me. He doesn`t seem to listen when anybody talks to him." Here`s former President Jimmy Carter today on the Republican candidates, the religious right, President Obama`s re-election chances, and the elevation of Republican sainthood of Ronald Reagan. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Among the Republican candidates this year is someone who volunteered for your presidential campaign, Michele Bachmann. CARTER: I know. And I appreciate that she helped me out. MADDOW: She`s -- I would wonder -- I would love to overhear you two getting the chance to talk now, given how her politics have evolved. But I was thinking about that in reading in the paperback edition of the diary that`s just out, you talk about teaching Sunday school while you were serving as president. And your Christian faith was one of the main things that America knew about you when they were introduced to you as the governor of Georgia when you were running. CARTER: Sure. MADDOW: And now, the profession of faith in politics is something that Democrats sometimes try to do. But it has essentially become almost a Republican marker with this rise of the religious right. How did the evangelical Christian world, from which you come from, turn into the religious right? CARTER: They turned against me when I was in office. MADDOW: Yes. CARTER: You know, and the so-called "moral majority" and so forth. That was their birth, was in 1976, I didn`t even know about them at the time. They were minuscule -- had a minuscule effect on my campaign. But they got increasingly strong. And when I was going out of office as a result of the 1980 election against Reagan, they said at the Southern Baptist Convention and other very conservative evangelists -- evangelists, and I consider myself evangelical, too, they decided to go with the Republican Party. So, they formed an alliance that`s unbroken since then with extremely conservative elements in the Republican Party and extremely conservative elements in the Christian evangelical community. And I don`t think that`s a good thing for our country. I separated very -- totally any relationship between government and religion. Just for instance, Billy Graham had been a normal visitor to the White House before I was in office, for Lyndon Johnson and for Richard Nixon and for others. I didn`t -- he would hold religious services in the White House. I never did invite him to do so. And the times when I did teach Sunday school in a local Baptist church, it was a completely secret thing in advance. Nobody knew it in advance. So, I separated my religious beliefs totally from any aspects of statehood or governance. MADDOW: Do you think that -- do you think it is troubling now to see people running for president doing so by essentially preaching sermons, by talking about their faith as if that is a qualification for office? CARTER: I do. I think in a slight way it`s even unconstitutional for an incumbent president to claim that his own faith should prevail and that other faiths are not warranting equal treatment under the laws or under the president`s policies. I think that`s -- you know, it may not be a legal violation of the Constitution but I think it violates the First Amendment, separation. And the other thing is that we have seen the -- what I consider to be an unwarranted intrusion of the religious community into the political campaigns. So I think both the president`s using his power to promote Christianity and Christians to use their power to try to get their particular chosen person to be in the White House, both violate the principles that I tried to observe when I was in the White House. MADDOW: Do you think that one of the leading contenders for the Republican nomination is Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon, he would be the first Mormon nominee for president. CARTER: Yes. MADDOW: Do you think that we have progressed far enough as a country in terms of recognizing religion as no barrier to public office, that he could be nominated, he could win as a Mormon? CARTER: I hope so. I hope he wins -- I`m not taking any position. But I would be very pleased to see him win the Republican nomination. I don`t think anybody`s going to beat Obama next year. But my preference obviously would be for his religious faith not to be an adverse factor in the choices made about who should be representing the Republican Party. MADDOW: In terms of the election that you ran against Ronald Reagan in 1980, looking back at that election, it is -- it`s not lost to history, but it is good to be reminded what a huge deal he made of the Panama Canal Treaty. CARTER: I know. MADDOW: And the way that was a major foreign policy issue at the time, a major foreign policy achievement of yours. He demagogued that as if Panama was the 51st state and you were trying to give it away because you were a godless communist -- CARTER: He did that. MADDOW: He really did demagogue it. CARTER: And that wasn`t the only thing he demagogued. He demagogued also my normalizing diplomatic relations with China. MADDOW: Yes. CARTER: He still felt that Taiwan should be the China when he was running for campaign. And he also demagogued my Mideast peace agreement. He maintained that I gave away Israel`s Sinai Desert back to Egypt and so forth. So -- and to a major degree, much more than my predecessors or successors, I lost the support of the Jewish community to my grief. But -- so, the things that I did that I think in retrospect were achievements were looked upon then as both controversial and had a negative political impact. MADDOW: Do you have any feelings one way or another about the way that president Reagan has been really elevated by the modern Republican Party as their greatest president since Lincoln, as one of the pantheons, a man who should be on Rushmore. They really celebrate his legacy in a way that they do like no other Republican other than Lincoln, I believe. CARTER: Although I don`t agree with that assessment of his administration, I certainly don`t begrudge their right to choose whomever they choose as an icon for reverence. MADDOW: That`s diplomatic and beautifully put. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: We`ll have more of my interview with President Carter here tomorrow night. Also coming up tonight, the "Best New Thing in the World" today is infrastructural resilience, taped evidence of it right here at the end of the show. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you have not been watching the Ed Schultz show recently, you might want to think about rethinking that decision. I have to tell you, Ed has been doing sort of a jobs tour of his own. Last night, he was in Toledo, Ohio. It was such compelling television room. I stood in the makeup room and watched it. I didn`t want to walk down the hallway to my office to watch it because I thought I would miss something. Tonight, he`s doing a follow-up tour on this jobs tour that he`s doing. He`s in Columbus, Ohio. He`s going to be joined by Senator Sherrod Brown, by the mayor, obviously, by that incredible crowd that he`s got there. Ed is on an incredible roll right now and I really think you ought to check it out if you have not. Thanks for hearing me out. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "Best New Thing in the World Today" is from Vermont, where tropical storm Irene swept away a bunch of Vermont Route 4 recently. Since August 29th, this half-mile path through the woods has been the highway for about a thousand Vermonters a day going to work and going to school. Now, thankfully, well before the first snowfall could test their resolve to keep doing that, things are getting better in central Vermont. Today, two and a half weeks after Route 4 was wiped out by Irene, the road is open again, one way, and with a police escort, but it`s open. Tomorrow, Route 4 will be opening for real two-way traffic. We found out about this because the ski resort town of Killington posted this video today showing brand-new pavement on Route 4. We looked at it and we thought, can`t be. But wait, that looks really familiar. And it does. And it matches almost exactly the video we showed just a couple of days ago of Route 4 right after Irene hit when repairs were just beginning. The video on the left was shot two weeks ago. The video on the bottom right was what the Killington resort posted on their Facebook today. Same stretch of roadway, two weeks apart -- if you can believe that. I love engineers and construction crews. "Best New Thing in the World Today." Now, it is time for "THE ED SHOW" -- live tonight from Columbus, Ohio. I urge you to stick with Ed tonight. He`s doing amazing work right now. Good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END