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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/26/11

Guests: John Stanton, Barbara Lee

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, and thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Happy Monday. In the summer of 1992, a Texas businessman named Ross Perot was taking the country by storm. He was neither a Democrat nor a Republican but Ross Perot was polling at shockingly high numbers in that year`s presidential race. Mr. Perot was well on his way to qualifying for the ballot in all 50 states in. In June of that year his national polling was better than the sitting president at the time, George H.W. Bush, and significantly better than President Bush`s main Democratic challenger, a man by the name of Bill Clinton. But in mid-July of 1992, with numbers that high and with a path to the nomination for the Reform Party, at least a path to competing, in mid-July of 1992, he`s doing great, sort of out of the blue Ross Perot announced that he was leaving the race. He was quitting the presidential race. Mr. Perot at the time giving the odd explanation that he was dropping out because he did not want the House of Representatives to end up deciding the presidential election if there was a tie in the electoral college. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROSS PEROT, FORMER CANDIDATE: I`m not in this for ego. I`m not in this for fun. I`m not in this for gratification. I`m in this for what`s good for my country, what`s good for our children and our grandchildren, and I`m trying to do the right thing. It`s that simple. Putting this thing in the House of Representatives is negative and disruptive, and it should be. (END OF VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This seemed like sort of a far-fetched thing to be worried about. This House of Representatives is going to have to decide a thing. But Ross Perot did in fact that summer quit the race. Then weeks after he quit, Ross Perot gave a whole different explanation for why he had quit. He told "The Boston Herald" that he had a videotape of somebody from the Bush campaign meeting with someone from the CIA. He told campaign audiences and "60 Minutes" that there was some Republican plan to disrupt his daughter`s wedding. So he had to quit the race, I guess, to save the wedding? Another one of his daughters later explained to "The New York Times" how that Republican disruption was going to happen. Apparently the Perot family believed Republican operatives were going to spread a false rumor bolstered by doctored photographs that Ross Perot`s daughter who was about to be married was secretly a lesbian. And, therefore, Ross Perot had to quit the presidential race? Or something? Yes. In the end, actually, 19 years ago this week Ross Perot did get back into the race. He got back in late, just a month before the election. But on election night 1992 Ross Perot ended up getting about 19 percent of the vote. George H.W. Bush lost, making him a one-term president. And Bill Clinton was elected. But Bill Clinton, because of the whole Ross Perot thing, Bill Clinton was elected with only 43 percent of the vote. Not exactly starting from a position of strength for that new Democratic president. And then when the first midterm elections came around in 1994, two years later, President Clinton`s hand grew even weaker. Republicans picked up 54 seats in that midterm election. They took control of the House for the first time since 1954. And right after that midterm election, magazine covers like this one started gracing the nation`s newsstands. In case that`s not subtle enough. I`ll never let you live this down, "TIME" magazine. Really? You see what`s being crushed under the elephant`s foot? The donkey with the eyeballs squirting out of the donkey`s head? Really the eyeballs have to be extended out of the donkey`s skull? And what are those things the eyeballs are on? Are on those blood vessels? What -- what`s holding the eyeballs in? Really, "TIME" magazine? In the wake of those midterm election results in 1994 it did not look like the Clinton presidency was longed for this world. But then it turned out, it turned out, that it mattered what the Republicans did with the governing authority they won in that big midterm squish the donkey election in 1994. Once they took control of the House, Newt Gingrich and his big Republican majority shut down the federal government which to Republicans I`m sure felt very exciting and very tough. To the rest of the country, it seemed kind of insane. By huge margins the country blamed Newt Gingrich and Republican leaders for the shutdown and they did not like that shutdown. And so by the time Bill Clinton was running for re-election in 1996, yes, technically his opponent was a man named Bob Dole. But as much as he was running against Bob Dole, Bill Clinton ran for re-election against the radical "shut down the government Republicans" who were in control of Congress. In 1996, with his daughter safely married and the CIA nowhere to be seen, Ross Perot went for it again for president. He still got 8 percent of the vote that year but Bill Clinton took the election running away. The Republican Congress shutting down the government in 1995 was the best thing that any American not named Ross Perot ever did for the prospects of electing Bill Clinton president. So that was the 1990s. And the 2000s, there was a reason what we`re going through right now all feels familiar. A Democratic president gets elected, in the first midterm after that -- well, yes, a big Republican win. Big Republican wins in the 2010 midterms. Republicans take the House. And then what does the Republican majority in Congress do with their big new majority? What do they do almost right away? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATE SNOW, NBC NEWS: It is a night for anger and recrimination in Washington and around the country as the clock ticks down to a shutdown of the U.S. government. (END OF VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Shut her down. Just three months after the Republican majority House gets sworn in under John Boehner, they put the country up against the wall for the first near-government shutdown. But that was just the first one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SNOW: In Washington, meantime, the threat of a much larger federal shutdown and what the White House describes as a potential financial catastrophe looms tonight. (END OF VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Shut her down. Again. That was government shutdown attempt number two. A few months later, that time over raising the nation`s debt ceiling. But that was just the second one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even as the campaign rages, so does yet another partisan fight over government spending here in Washington. The latest deadline to come to an agreement and avert a government shutdown, Friday. (END OF VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Since the Republicans have been in control of the House of Representatives this year, which they won in their big midterm elections last November -- since they have been in office, they`ve been in office for about nine months, and we are now up against our third near-government shutdown. And this should not have been a surprise. I mean we did have the test drive of this with Republican control in the 1990s. But then when they were campaigning this time around they essentially told us they would do it again this time around. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: And I`ve got to tell you, most people in my district say shut it down. ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FBN: The American people could see, life would go on without the federal government for a little while. REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: I don`t think it would hurt one bit. REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: Even if it means showing how serious we are. OK, government is going to have to shut down. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So you think even if that were to happen, theoretically, it wouldn`t be as bad as people make it out? REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: No, I don`t think if would be. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think shutdown should be off the table? REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: Everything ought to be on the table. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will do what we have to do to shut down the government if we have to. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and shut down the government instead of making a small down payment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say shut it down. (CHEERS) (END OF VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Cut it or shut it, cut it -- Republicans have been telegraphing that they want another government shutdown for a long, long, long time now. I think the first time that they got really close to shutting the government down after they won the House in 2010, I think the first time they were very excited about it. I think they saw it as a big positive. Then the second time they almost shut down the government was over the debt ceiling thing. I mean that led to the nation`s credit rating getting downgraded, I think they were maybe a little shook up by that. Now we are facing the third possible government shutdown since the Republicans took over. The third possible government shutdown in nine months. But this one it seems like they actually don`t want. At least some of them don`t want it. At least the Republican leadership does not seem to want it. The current government shutdown fight is over a continuing resolution which is just a funding bill to keep the lights on, to keep the government running. Republican House Speaker John Boehner brought the continuing resolution up for a vote last week. In the Republican controlled House where the Democratic minority essentially has no rights at all, John Boehner brings this up in his House and he loses. His own party voted against his bill to keep the government running. How many times do you remember Nancy Pelosi when she was House speaker bringing something up in the House, something that she intended to win and then she would lose it? Do you remember that happening ever? No. That never happened to Nancy Pelosi. But this sort of thing happens to John Boehner all the time. And this appears to be a fight that he really did not want to be fighting. "Roll Call`s" John Stanton reporting today that John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Eric Cantor, the top three Republicans in the House, had all hoped, quote, "Lawmakers would return to Washington, D.C. after the August break willing to work together and avoid dragged out fights." But while the trio stressed the needs to focus on jobs and the economy rather than to fight, one aide acknowledged the GOP, quote, "didn`t have the come-to-Jesus kind of family meeting we needed." Papa Boehner apparently unable to convene those types of meetings with his congressional family. Speaker Boehner even reportedly threatened to strip his own members of their leadership positions in the House if he didn`t vote with him. And in the end, 48 of his own members decided not to vote with him. Why would you defy your own speaker like that? Apparently they believe the speaker has no clothes. Republicans said they voted against John Boehner`s bill despite those threats, quote, "because they did not believe Boehner would go through with his threats." Near-government shutdown number one under John Boehner seemed to be definitely on purpose. Near-government shutdown number two under John Boehner seemingly on purpose but it also seems to have scared them. Near- government shutdown number three under John Boehner, I do not think this one is even on purpose. What does that mean? Republicans do actually have governing responsibilities because they control the House of Representatives. And under John Boehner, it looks like they may just not be technically capable of doing the basic things that need to be done to keep the lights on even when they want to. They can`t keep the lights on. Almost literally. They do not seem capable of doing just the basic things that need to be done to keep government going and the electricity bill paid. It appears that John Boehner did not really want this fight that he is now waging. He just could not avoid it. He cannot control his own party to avoid fights he doesn`t want to be in. Sort of like the difference between using your car as a roadblock and just doing that by accident because you have flat tires. I`m not trying to be a barricade here, I just can`t go anywhere. Joining us now is John Stanton, reporter for the newspaper "Roll Call". John, I have been looking forward to talking to you about all this. How are you? JOHN STANTON, ROLL CALL: I`m good. It`s good to be here. MADDOW: At this hour, it looks like there may be some resolution to the shutdown fight. The Senate has reportedly reached kind of a last- minute agreement to fund the government temporarily and avoid the shutdown that was threatened. Is that your understanding of what`s happened tonight? STANTON: Yes, that`s right. The Senate voted -- I think 79 senators voted for it. So about 24, 25 Republicans voted for essentially a clean CR because it looks like now FEMA has used some accounting tricks to make sure it has money through the end of the week. So this continuing resolution will get them through -- technically through November and there was a short-term one that they also passed through October 4th in case the House needs to come back and actually vote on the -- on the short-term CR. MADDOW: In terms of John Boehner and what we can predict out of the House and what this whole process recently says about how John Boehner is doing as speaker, you have been reporting on House Speaker Boehner has been privately counseling Republican members about how they`re being perceived by the public. What is he saying to them? STANTON: Right. Well, you know, after the debt limit vote, they felt like -- you know, the polling showed, the public polling showed that they were doing very poorly with voters. That even though they won that debate -- they really did, they got pretty much everything they asked for when they went into the negotiations with the Obama administration -- the public still viewed them as less able to govern than even Obama. And, you know, his numbers are not doing very well. Their own internal polling apparently also shows it being at least that bad if not worse than what we`ve seen in public. And there was this hope amongst leaders that the rank and file would go home. They feel this anger from the public. They`d feel the pressure from the public to try to actually legislate and govern, and come home and not have this fight over the CR. They have a big omnibus bill fight that`s going to happen in November. The debt committee fight is coming up. They want to try to focus on jobs and not just constantly on spending and his hope and what he explicitly told them in meetings was, look, let`s not have these fights anymore, it doesn`t do us any good. And the message that came back to him sort of was, well, we don`t really care, we want to fight, you know this is sort of what we came to Washington to do, is to fight over spending and cut spend and we don`t really care about anything else. And -- MADDOW: Is that minority that`s telling him, that sizable enough minority to thwart anything that he -- anything else that he wants to do with the House? STANTON: It is. And you know, it`s not just freshmen. A lot of people have put it just on the front of this sort of new group of freshmen Republicans. A lot of them are the freshmen but there are also some older rank and file members like Jeff Flake and others who`ve been around a long time who are using this as a moment to try to force the GOP and Congress into a much more conservative position on spending. You know as we saw last week, after they voted it down, the next day they essentially re-voted the same bill. And he was able to convince 26 of the 48 members that voted against him to then vote with him and pass the bill. So there are -- there are some indications that some of his members are beginning to sort of get the point, but it seems clear, at least right now, that this is sort of going to be the pattern we`re going to see for the foreseeable future with Republican controlled House. MADDOW: John Stanton, reporter for the newspaper "Roll Call." John, thanks very much for your time and your reporting on this tonight. Really appreciate it. STANTON: Any time. MADDOW: Think about those Republican members that had to change their votes there under pressure from John Boehner. That means that if they felt like their constituents at home wanted them to vote one way or the other and that gave them support in standing up to John Boehner on that, John Boehner has now just forced them to vote both ways on that bill. Thanks, Speaker. All right. President Obama this weekend gave a speech that the beltway media reported so wrongly. I think it is possible that the reporting was designed to cause the president trouble. Maybe not. But the evidence is weird and I think it is damning. You can decide for yourself right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Sunday night, DNC fundraiser, San Francisco Bay area. Quote, "I`m going to need you to be out there talking to your friends, talking to your neighbors, talking to your co-workers. And I`m going to need you to be advocates for what we believe in. It`s not enough just to support me. I need you to go out there and if other folks have been reading `The Wall Street Journal` page or watching FOX News, and they`re full of inadequate information, I need you to push back." Quote, "In some cases I may need you to have arguments with our progressive friends. Because let`s face it, the fact of the matter is that over the last 2 1/2 years, even as we`ve gotten a huge amount done, there`s a lot of folks on our side who get dispirited because we didn`t get it all done in 2 1/2 years." Sunday night. Sunday afternoon, DNC fund-raiser, Seattle. "I know there are times, there are moments when folks feel discouraged. You may still have the old hope poster in the back somewhere but you`re thinking, man, we`re struggling and the unemployment rate is still high and the politics in Washington seem just as polarized as ever. So you feel frustrated. But I tell you what, if we had that attitude back in 2008, we never would have won. And more importantly, if we had that attitude throughout our history, then America wouldn`t be what it is today." Quote, "I need you guys to shake off any doldrums. I need you to decide right here and right now. I need you to talk to your friends and your neighbors and your co-workers. You need to tell them, you know what, we`re not finished yet, we`ve got more work to do." That was Sunday afternoon in Seattle. Sunday lunchtime at a DNC fundraiser in Medina, Washington, quote, "A lot of people are discouraged and a lot of people are disillusioned about the capacity of their leadership in government to make significant changes." Quote, "But I am determined because there`s too much at stake. I`m going to need all of you to help mobilize people and push back against arguments that say that somehow if we`re only -- if we`ve only gotten 80 percent of what we wanted to get done that that`s a failure. No, that`s a success. That should be an inspiration for us getting re-elected so I can do the other 20 percent." President Obama campaigning and fundraising triple time this weekend with a consistent message to his supporters that this is not the time for grumbling, it is the time to get to work. He put that same message in pound the podium terms and in on-camera address to the Congressional Black Caucus. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Throughout our history, change has often come slowly, progress often takes time. We take a step forward, sometimes we take two steps back. Sometimes we get two steps forward and one step back. But it`s never a straight line. It`s never easy. And I never promised easy. Easy has never been promised to us. Even when folks are hitting you over the head, you can`t stop marching. Even when they`re turning the hoes hoses on you, you can`t stop. Even when somebody fires you for speaking out, you can`t stop. Even when it looks like there`s no way, you find a way. You can`t stop. Through the mud and the muck and the driving rain, we don`t stop. Because we know the rightness of our cause. Widening the circle of opportunity. Standing up for everybody`s opportunities. Increasing each other`s prosperity. We know our cause is just. It`s a righteous cause. It`s on the face of troopers and tear gas. Folks stood unafraid. Let somebody like John Lewis to wake up after getting beat within an inch of his life on Sunday. He wakes up on Monday. We`re going to go march. (APPLAUSE) OBAMA: Dr. King once said, "Before we reach the majestic shores of the promise land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. We must still face prodigious hill tops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance, but with patient and firm determination, we will press on." So I don`t know about you, CBC, but the future rewards those who press on. With patient and firm determination, I`m going to press on for jobs. I`m going to press on for equality. I`m going to press on for the sake of our children. I`m going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now. I don`t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don`t have time to complain. I`m going to press on. I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We`ve got work to do. CBC, God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (END OF VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, with those parting words and this thundering applause in mind, you may be surprised at the way the president`s speech was headlined for the consumption of the beltway. There`s this from the "Associated Press." The headline, "Obama Tells Blacks to Stop Complain` and Fight." Or this from Mediaite. "Obama to Congressional Black Caucus, Stop Complaining, Stop Grumbling, Stop Whining." Reading those headlines you might think the president gave a chiding, lectury, finger-wagging speech to members of the Congressional Black Caucus of whom he very much disapproved. What he actually gave was what you just heard. A "let`s get up and go" campaign style speech that brought on thunderous ovations from the crowd he was addressing. But that is not the way the beltway wants to see it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVE BRIGGS, FOX NEWS: If you listen to what he said to the Congressional Black Caucus on Saturday, stop whining. BOB SCHIEFFER, "FACE THE NATION": Last night, at a big dinner here in Washington sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, the president responded, did he ever. BRIGGS: The president clearly striking a different chord to the Congressional Black Caucus on Saturday. Listen to how he told them to stop whining. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I think he`s complaining about you among others, right? (END OF VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Did it sound like he was complaining? Over at Yahoo! News you have this, "Obama Pushes Back against the Congressional Black Caucus." I`m no expert, but pushing back is not exactly what this sounds like to me. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We are going to press on. We`ve got work to do. CBC, God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (END OF VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: With the thump on the podium for emphasis. Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as the founder and current co-chair of the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus. She was in attendance when the president addressed the CBC this weekend. Congresswoman Lee, it`s great to see you again. Thank you for being here. REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Thank you so much for having me with you tonight, Rachel. MADDOW: I am -- I am not much of a media critic. I think that probably I`m as damnable as anybody else in the media at any given day. But this really struck me as being very differently represented in the media than it was when I saw it on tape. You were there in the room. Do you think the president`s remarks are being fairly represented? LEE: Well, let me say, it was a very lengthy and comprehensive speech, Rachel, at least 35 to 45 minutes. Also I know, you know, some of the controversial comments that have been picked up by the media. They couldn`t have been directed to the Congressional Black Caucus and members of the caucus because as a former member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the president knows how much these great members who have sacrificed so much throughout their lives have made our country better and will continue to fight for justice and for jobs and for equality. And also I was very pleased in the president`s speech, he did talk about the huge numbers of African-Americans who are unemployed as it relates to the black unemployment rates. He talked about black children living in poverty, nearly 40 percent. Unconscionable. And so I think that what he said, of course, you know, could have been off script. He could have, you know, in terms of the controversial parts of his speech, for whatever reason, but I do have to say that he knows that we hear the suffering and the cries of the American people who need jobs. Who are anxious about jobs. He`s heard that. As a former member of the Congressional Black Caucus, he knows what we`re doing each and every day. And so we want to work with him to make sure that this American Jobs Act gets passed because this is the first step toward creating jobs and clearly in the black community, that`s what our cry is and our voices are pleading for Congress and the White House to get together to create some jobs, so people can get to work. MADDOW: With your work in Congress, specifically your work with the Out of Poverty Caucus, as founder and current co-chair of that caucus, you`ve done as much as anybody to try to bring attention to that aspect of our national economic woes. Do you feel like the president is substantively telling something -- telling you something that is going to make a difference, that he`s talking about his economic agenda, his jobs agenda and his understanding of poverty issues in a way that resonates with you and that you think is substantive? LEE: I think the president is talking about jobs. Why this country has a moral obligation, first of all, to create jobs. We can`t have a country that`s secure with people -- with so many people unemployed. And I`m very happy, as I said earlier, that he mentioned childhood poverty. Forty percent of African-American children live in poverty. And, Rachel, I have to say, the reason that I formed the Out of Poverty caucus when the Bush administration was in because I knew then that the Bush administration policies and these wars would lead to where we are today unfortunately. So we have 39 members of the Out of Poverty Caucus. We`ve been working with the White House on our Out of Poverty agenda. And our jobs agenda. Because clearly the best pathway out of poverty is a job. And so that`s what we`re working on and I think that the president has heard us and I`m very proud of Congresswoman Waters and Chairman Clyburn in the Congressional Black Caucus. When you look at what was taking place -- what took place in August with the black caucus, five cities, a jobs tour. What we did was get the jobs debate on the agenda where now the president has the space and the wherewithal to be able to use his platform, the bully pulpit to say, look, we have to work together to create jobs. MADDOW: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat of California. I want to thank you very much for your work on this continuing issue and thank you for joining us tonight, ma`am. It`s always a real pleasure to have you here. LEE: Thank you. It was so good to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thank you. A government program, a policy so effective that it is funny, or at least it made for a really funny graphics meeting in the office today. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Of all the things you can say about the Republican field for the 2012 presidential nomination, and there are lots of things you can say, one truth is that they really are a big bunch of winners. Mitt Romney, winner. Ron Paul, winner. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum winner, winner, winner. But that says about what winning means right now in politics and the substance of the real race for the Republican presidential nomination, is coming up now with 100 percent more winning. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The rural electrification administration. First of all, that would pick an excellent band name. They could open up for the old pro medicine show or Guillen Welsh (ph). They`d have a stand-up bass and somebody who play wash board. Now bearded hipsters and modern American costume soundtrack editors, it`s the rural electrification administration. Hit it up. I would love that. The rural electrification administration is not just an excellent Brooklyn band name. It`s also a real thing. It was created by FDR in the spring of 1935 to quite literally turn the lights on all over America. Specifically, the mission was to get electricity to American farms most of which had no electricity at the time and little hope of getting any ever. It simply cost too much to run wires to every far flung family with a few acres. It cost too much for private industry to profit from doing it. And yet the nation had an interest in it happening. And making it happen would make some jobs. So the government intervened. First, in providing electricity to rural places and later in providing phone service. When President Roosevelt acted in the `30s we were in the middle of the great depression. The nation was flat broke with bread lines and shantytowns and hobos on trains crossing the country and the desperate search for work, for any work. And there, in our darkest hour when times are as tough as they`d ever been, the rural electrification administration worked. In 1982, Mississippi Congressman Jaime L. Whitten. He was the chair of the house of appropriation committee. He had grown up in our nation`s poorest state in those tough times. Congressman Whitten asked for a record of the agency`s accomplishment. The report that Congressman Whitten notes in the second paragraph that rural electrification was "part of a general program of unemployment relief." Reports also includes this chart showing the incredible climb our nation`s loneliest places made from very few people have lighting or telephones to most people have them. This graph shows our country basically from when we were China, right? Young and rapidly developing, with government investments making infrastructure possible. It`s kind of amazing. We did not get to 90 percent of farms having phones until 1976 during the carter administration. These days we still invest in rural electrification but on a smaller scale and with different types of technology and different goals. We do it through something called the rural energy for America program. R-E-A-P. Reap, part of the 2008 farm bill. This month the federal government announced it`s giving out $27 million in rural energy loans and grants for farms and small town businesses. Some of that to help farmers become energy efficient or make energy from unusual sources like something they like to call bio mass which most people call poop. But some of the funding is going to help farms and little shops make the switch to solar like Pete`s cafe in Belen, New Mexico. They got a grant for solar. Or this Christmas tree farm in Upstate New York. They got a grant for solar. This computer company in Mississippi made the list too, with $167,000 grant for solar energy. Another 500 grants are expected soon under the rural energy for America program. The federal government is quietly investing in renewable energy and making energy more affordable and more renewable. Happens in ways you don`t hear about much unless you read local business pages where federal money coming to town makes a big deal, makes a big difference. To the extent that Washington is talking about alternative energy right now at all, the talk has to do with a failed government loan to a company called Solyndra, a maker of solar panels. In 2009, Solyndra got a loan for more than half a billion dollars from the U.S. government. This month the company closed its plant, laid off more than 1,000 people and went bankrupt. Congress called its top executives to testify last week on Capitol Hill. The executives took the fifth. You can argue the Solyndra case any number of ways, whether President Bush was responsible for it since the loan started under him or whether you want to blame President Obama. Whether any administration should have known better to lend the Solyndra or whether this is just a bad bet in one of those public-private partnership that are never a sure thing but nevertheless elected officials are always saying, we need more of. Solyndra made headlines in the latest round of funding for electrification. Of course the dirty word of clean energy anymore. And this week, the conservative weekly, "The Weekly Standard" put President Obama on its cover as President Solyndra, that what they want to call him trying to reduce his own presidency to one loan to one failed maker of solar panels. But even as national conservatives want to make you feel bad about public investment in electricity, in energy, even some conservatives are pouring on the dollars for it in the states. The solar thing in particular makes sense to a lot of conservatives back home. Investing in infrastructure back home remains a core value. The same way it was a core value when the nation first started wiring our far flung farms. Just this month the Mississippi state legislature approved a $75 million loan to bring one maker of solar equipment to the state of Mississippi. Another solar company opened its doors in Mississippi this month with another 75 million bucks in loans and tax breaks from the state. The Republicans of Mississippi are very proud of this, very, very proud. Republican Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant reported from the ribbon cutting. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LT. GOV. PHIL BRYANT ( R), MISSISSIPPI: Going to see new high-tech energy moving ahead. The green type energy that we all believe will be part of the future. But don`t worry, we`re still going to drill for oil, we`re still going to use CO2. We`re still going to use coal in our clean coal plant. Our energy policy is all of the above and more jobs for Mississippi. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Lieutenant governor of Mississippi so excited about solar that he reassures Mississippians they will still use CO2, which is actually just the pollution part of energy. It`s not the fuel. He is excited about solar. He`s excited about jobs. He is excited, dare I say, about the greener, brighter future of Mississippi. Made possible if comes to pass by the collective will of the taxpayers to invest in it facilitated by Republican politicians like him. There has not yet been a major Obama administration scandal, at least one that the Republicans like to harp on too much. They really want Solyndra to be a big Obama administration scandal. For that to work however, the country sort has to believe that investing in better electricity ideas is always a scam and that it feels like one to the American people. With our history, I think that is a tough sell. Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, columnist for "Washington Post" and senior fellow at Brookings Institution and an MSNBC contributor. E.J., thanks for talking to us about this tonight. E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Great to be with you. MADDOW: So, Republicans at the national level attacking investment in solar as if that`s the sort of thing you ought to know is going to be corrupt from the beginning. As if that`s something government should never be used for. Then at the state level, we are actually seeing public coffers are being used to bring solar in. Is there even tension there or do these things co-exist totally independent of each other? DIONNE: Well, I think the sun is clearly a socialist. That must be it. You know, I think what you`re seeing here is how governors are judged versus members of congress. Governors are judged by results, by jobs created, governors are judged by practical things on the ground. And Republican governors like democratic governors know we have a great history in our country of cooperation between private initiative and public enterprise. I mean, if you go all the way back to Hamilton who wanted the federal government to encourage us to become a manufacturing nation, to Henry Clay who had what he called the American system. Yes, the American system. It was about a whole lot of things to build a country including building the canals and the roads that bound us together as a nation. So this notion that government never had anything to do with American economic growth is just untrue to our history. The American system, as Clay said, is about exactly these kinds of partnerships and Republican governors seem to know it or most of them. MADDOW: How does that history translate to politics today though? Do you think there is, across the polity, is there a widely held American value, public investment to build up the country or have we lost that sense to now it`s a liberal thing and people in the center and the right don`t share that anymore? DIONNE: Well. I think our friends in the tea party have done a good job, depending on your point of view, of reinterpreting or rewriting the American story to turn us into an entirely individualistic anti-government nation. And I think we progressives have defaulted by not sort of celebrating our own history and grabbing our own history and saying, no, this is not who we are as Americans. Americans have always seen that cooperation and individual success go together. And so I think there is this concerted effort to rewrite the history books and do that in order to change our politics so we give up on these partnerships that actually made us a great country. MADDOW: E.J., I wonder if we are I think the way that I tend to think about what you`re describing off the top about the difference between governors and members of congress, people who are in executive authority and people who participate in group discussions in legislatures is sometimes the difference between politicking and actually governing. And I read this quote tonight about the current almost shutting down the government standoff in Washington. It`s from a Republican congressman named Charlie Dent. He said quote "I think its ill advised to bring the government to the brink of closure every three months. We have a fundamental basic responsibility to affirmatively govern the country. And the public loses confidence and everyone working here in Washington when we fail to meet our most basic responsibilities." Republican congressman challenging his own party I think on the latest almost shutdown of the government. Is there a little ray of governing sunshine in his frustration there? DIONNE: Well, I think there is. Although, you know, it`s remarkable that it`s remarkable at all to quote a Republican saying our job is to govern when we`re elected to govern. Yet it is quite something. But I think that the Republicans looked at the polls after the debt ceiling fight and said, well, we may be bringing down Obama pretty well, because his numbers came down, but theirs went down even more. And this was more aggressiveness and less governing than the Americans who elected them counted on. The people who voted them into office were not ideologues. The swing voters were just people who were upset about the state of the country, very unhappy about high unemployment. They didn`t count on three shutdown threats in a year and I think some of the Republicans know that. MADDOW: E.J. Dionne, columnist for "Washington Post," senior fellow at Brookings Institution and MSNBC contributor. E.J., appreciate you talk to us about this. You`re a wise, wise man. It`s always nice to talk to you about this stuff. DIONNE: Thank you. I love shows that talk about rural electrification. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: I know we`re just pandering for the ratings. You know us. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Alright, the great Rick Santorum and the great Ed Schultz have one thing in common today. They are both on "The Ed Show" tonight, together. Yes. The Rick Santorum. I swear. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The front-runner for the Republican nomination for president is of course Herman Cain, former CEO of a mafia-themed pizza chain called Godfather`s. If you ask the Republican Party activist who have hugely disproportionate say who wins their party nomination for president, Herman Cain is very clearly out front and in the lead. He is followed pretty closely by Ron Paul. Herman Cain first, Ron Paul second. A distant third place behind the front runner`s Herman Cain and Ron Paul is a little-known former Massachusetts governor, name of Romney. Close behind Mister Romney is Rick Santorum, former senator. And then there`s Michele Bachmann behind him in fifth place. There are rumors there is a Texas governor named Rick Perry running for this nomination as well but you would have no way of knowing that if you were just looking at the polling if you were just looking at the straw polling. This weekend, Herman Cain won yet another Republican activist straw poll, a big one in Florida. This round out a string of big Republican straw poll victories for Herman Cain. In May, he won in Washington State. In July, he won in Colorado, the western conservative summit there. In August, he won in Georgia. And then this weekend, in Florida. Ron Paul has won a number of smaller straw polls like the New Hampshire young Republicans and the CPAC won in February. But in terms of big statewide GOP straw polls, Ron Paul`s big kahuna was California, which he won hugely last weekend. Mitt Romney won a Michigan straw poll this weekend. He won Ohio in July. And in New Hampshire he won back in January. Mr. Santorum won his home state of Pennsylvania, as well as one in South Carolina. And of course Michele Bachmann won the straw poll in Ames, Iowa. If straw polls actually meant winning that state, if he meant Electoral College votes, these would be the standings among the Republican presidential contenders right now. And you know what, maybe that`s the way it is. Maybe that`s exactly how the Republican nomination contest is going to play out. Ron Paul and Herman Cain ducking it out down to the wire. If you believe that, keep using up all that shoe leather and all that newspaper rings and all those pixels and all that breathe covering Republican Party fund-raisers, I mean, straw polls. Because of their great predictive value and all the important information they give bus the presidential race. Or, we could all agree to treat these things as what we all know they are. Cooked-up totally non-predictive publicity stunts design purely to get media attention and to use that media attention as leverage to force the candidates to pander to the most manipulative and cynical activists in the political system. Oh, and to raise money for Republican parties and activists groups. We could call them embarrassing political pandering stunts. Or we could call them straw polls, same difference. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: That`s the tree things in the world today and some that would keep you occupied while you are hunting for bits of dead satellite. Last week, we are tracking the progress of the more than six tons of atmosphere research satellite trying to figure out when and where was going to break apart in a hundreds of pieces. The biggest one of which was supposed to make it all the way down to where people are. NASA says, the satellite did fall back to earth late on Friday or early on Saturday but it`s still not clear exactly when or where. NASA is saying it was sometime between 11:23 Eastern Friday night and 1:09 Eastern on Saturday morning which means it probably thought somewhere along this green line. NASA thinks it`s probably in the Pacific Ocean. However, at the same time, NASA came up empty on then giant out of control space debris. That`s also brought something awesome into the world that is really easy to find. They put out a bunch of audio clips from their apparently infinite archive of space related sound. They put them out as ring tone. So now, when your phone fumbling around in your bag trying to gets your call, instead of sounding like an austenian (ph) disco, you can sound like one of the Saturn`s moon. Moon`s make noise or the space shuttle. Remember when we had a space shuttle? This is the sound of the shuttle "discovery" lifting off. Could be your ring tone. Might get you funny looks on the bus. For the traditionalists in the crowd, raise your hands, I know you`re out there. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five - all three engines up and burning - two, one, zero and liftoff! MADDOW: You would never answer before the guy said "liftoff" you know or this one, short and classic. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) The eagle has landed. MADDOW: Oh, yes. Also file this one under classic, although I think this one`s a little controversial for ring tone use. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we have a problem here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Houston, say again, please. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, we have a problem. MADDOW: You`re standing there talking to somebody and your pocket starts yelling, Houston, we have a problem here. You know whose number you should assign that ring tone to, right? That is not my business. That is personal to you, Houston, we`ve got a problem. We`ve put a link to NASA`s new ring tone collection on our blog. You can get them there, they are all free. Personally, I have to tell you, I have chosen the sound of sputnik just personably beeping at me. (BEEPING) MADDOW: I can warn you though, if you choose the sputnik beep, the problem is you will never actually answer the phone. It will start beeping at you like a little extinct trend, and it will turn you into a human bubblehead. That`s right, sputnik, I`m here. Thanks so much for watching. Don`t forget on "The Ed Show" tonight, Rick Santorum, for real. That`s next. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END