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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/28/11

Guests: Joe Sonka, Carl Hiaasen

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Texas Governor Rick Perry currently jockeying with Mitt Romney for frontrunner status in the Republican presidential race. Rick Perry has never lost an election in his 26 years in elected office. Not one. And that is not because he hasn`t had hard fights, not because he hasn`t had serious well-funded, high-profile, big-name challengers. Just last year, for example, he was challenged in his re-election bid for Texas governor by Texas` long-serving popular Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. And there were two things that I found surprising that the Hutchison for governor campaign tried to use against Rick Perry. The first was the more or less famous Rick Perry gay hidden text in the Kay Bailey Hutchison campaign Web site. Remember this story? A reporter for the "Austin American-Statesman" found in the summer of 2009 that the Kay Bailey Hutchison campaign Web site included a huge long list of terms that seemed designs to make her Web site pop on search engines. You have how sometimes when you Google something and you click on one of the search results, but the Web site that comes up doesn`t actually contain the terms that you searched for? That sometimes happens because Web sites have this hidden text that you don`t see as a user but that hidden text does get read and indexed by search engines. Search engines hate the hidden text trick on Web sites. But people do it anyway. In the case of the Kay Bailey Hutchison campaign Web site, when she was running for Texas governor against Rick Perry, among the hidden text she had hidden on her Web site was the phrase, "Rick Perry gay." She actually had "Rick Perry gay" up on the hidden text of her Web site twice. When asked by the "Austin American-Statesman" about this the Hutchison campaign said they had not done it on purpose, they said it was a computer generated result of the fact a lot of people were searching the phrase "Rick Perry gay." Even in saying, they would make sure that hidden text was going to be taken down right away, the campaign made sure to get this quote into the newspaper. Listen to this. "We did not know these offensive word associations were being searched for by hundreds of thousands of Texans every day nor do we condone the computer generated existence on our Web site. They will be removed promptly." So, in other words, we`re not saying Rick Perry is gay, we would never say that. We find the whole idea offensive. But, apparently, a lot of people want to know. It is not unheard of for candidates to launch whisper campaigns and insinuate that their opponents are gay. It happened in 1994 when George W. Bush ran successfully against Ann Richards in Texas for governor. It happened again in the Republican Senate primary last year in Delaware when Christine O`Donnell weirdly tried to insinuate over and over again that Congressman Mike Castle was gay. Insinuations that a candidate is gay, those insinuations turning up in a gubernatorial campaign is not an unprecedented thing in American politics. But even though it is not unprecedented, I think it was still a surprising gambit from the Kay Bailey Hutchison campaign. The other surprising thing she tried to use against Rick Perry was the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed by the state of Texas in 2004 despite a lot of rather troubling flaws and the evidence used to convict him. And despite his protestations to the very end that he was innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a supporter of the death penalty. She raised in her campaign against Rick Perry, though, the fact Perry had intervened in a panel looking into the evidence against Cameron Todd Willingham. Hutchison said that in messing with that panel, Rick Perry both made a mistake and was, quote, "trying to ramrod a covering up." Again, this was not in the general election. This is not Rick Perry running against a Democrat or running against somebody who is anti-death penalty. This was a race of two vehemently pro-death penalty Republican candidates in Texas. Which made it a surprising choice for the Kay Bailey Hutchison campaign that they would go after him on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham and whether or not he should have been executed. That said, neither of those surprising choices worked out for Kay Bailey Hutchison. Ultimately in the primary, she lost to Rick Perry by 20 points, and neither of those attacks by her seemed to have carried over into Rick Perry`s next campaign which is the one he`s in now trying to win the Republican presidential nomination. The other candidates he`s up against in this race are throwing a million things at Rick Perry in terms of his record, but they are neither explicitly nor implicitly accusing him of being gay and the Cameron Todd Willingham case -- in that case, frankly Rick Perry is all but wearing that one like a badge of honor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you -- (APPLAUSE) WILLIAMS: -- have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent? GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, sir, I`ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States if that`s required. But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you`re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas. And that is you will be executed. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not only is Governor Perry not losing sleep over executing prisoners, but he rather expertly turns even a question about it around into an opportunity to get the crowd to root for him -- to root for him essentially in unison against these kinds of monsters who are coming into Texas and doing monstrous things to find themselves on death row. It`s the same way Governor Perry handled it during the Kay Bailey Hutchison race when she brought up the Willingham race, when she accused him of the covering up, his campaign responded like this. It said, if you, quote, "oppose the death penalty for someone who murdered his three children, beat his wife while she was pregnant with twins in an effort to force an abortion, repeatedly changed his story, who confessed and whose last words were an obscenity laced tirade aimed at his ex-wife and whose conviction was upheld numerous times over the courts of more than a decade, including nine times by federal courts, then they should just say so." So, the idea was, you know, what are you, on his side? This monster? You`re worried about this guy`s execution? That`s why you`re on this monster`s side. This is why it is hard for anybody to make political hay, to get politically attraction out of alleged bad treatment of allegedly bad guys. This is why when politicians get involved in crime and justice issues, the policy always changes in one direction. It almost always becomes more conservative than it was before the politicians got involved. The political defense against claims that you are badly treating criminals or suspects or protesters or prisoners has always been to point at those people and say, you`re taking these guys` side? These are the bad guys. You`re going to take their side? So, these debates always go in the same direction and it has always been true and may always be true that nobody has ever lost a race for governor in Texas or a Republican primary because they mistreated a bad guy. That has never been used successfully against somebody in American politics. At least it very rarely is. And that will be comforting to the governors of Florida and Georgia, frankly. Today in Florida, yet another delay in an execution -- there have been seven this month nationwide. Florida kills its prisoners with a lethal drug cocktail that includes a new drug something called pentobarbital. Makers of the previous drug in the cocktail stopped making it so it could not be used to kill prisoners. The maker of the drug, the new drug, a Danish company, does not want their drug to be used to kill people. And they have said so over and over and over again. But the states have gone on killing their prisoners with it. So, the company announced this summer it would no longer sell pentobarbital to prisons in death penalty states. Nevertheless, Florida has a stock pile. Today, hours before Florida was scheduled to carry out the execution of this man, Manuel Valle, the execution was delayed pending a review by the Supreme Court of request for a stay in part because the man`s lawyer said the new death penalty drug would cause him substantial harm. The Supreme Court decided not to block the execution and the state of Florida went ahead with it. Manuel Valle was declared dead at 7:14 p.m. Eastern. Also today, it was announced that a memorial service would be held Friday and funeral on Saturday in Savannah, Georgia, for Troy Davis. Mr. Davis, of course, was executed by the state of Georgia last week despite the fact the seven of the nine witnesses against him recanted their testimony and three jurors who sentenced him to death now say or who voted to convict him now say they have significant doubt in the verdict. And today also, the largest jail in the world, which naturally is in America, also ended up in the news. Did you ever see the movie "The Hangover"? I personally have not seen the movie "The Hangover," but it is very, very popular among THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff. I know that because I asked today if people had favorite clips and it was like a giant fight, people fighting over what we should show from "The Hangover." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked everywhere. Nobody`s seen Doug. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think I`ve ever been this hung over. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s on your arm? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were in the hospital last night. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only important thing now is we find Doug. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put (INAUDIBLE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: One of the executive producers of that very popular movie, one of the executive producers of "The Hangover" is a guy named Scott Budnick. And Scott Budnick, in addition to being a big deal Hollywood producer, he does something ultraistic and civic-minded and self- sacrificing and very cool. He volunteers teaching writing to people in jail in L.A. He`s done it for years. And about five years ago he actually won Los Angeles Volunteer of the Year Award in the district in L.A. in which he lives because he does this work. Today in Los Angeles, Mr. Volunteer of the Year, the man who was the producer of "The Hangover" had a sworn legal declaration released by the ACLU in which he describes the multiple times he was in Los Angeles jails and saw sheriffs deputies beating people up -- people who were imprisoned there, people who were not fighting, not resisting, not provoking anything, not doing anything to deserve getting beaten up. But getting beaten up and getting, in some cases, getting beaten up badly. Mr. Budnick in his declaration says things like, quote, "I then saw the deputy grab the inmate`s head and smash his head into the wall hard. It was so hard I could hear an audible crack when the deputy slammed his head against the wall. At no point did I see the inmate do anything to any of the other prisoners or deputy. In fact, the inmate was very respectful to the deputy. After I saw this, I quickly went back inside the classroom." The biggest jail in the world, the biggest jail in the country and the biggest jail in the world is now in trouble. The FBI has been investigating the L.A. County jail system in secret for months now. Part of the reason the jail found out that the FBI was investigating them in secret is that people in the jail, people who work in the jail, found that a prisoner inside the jail had a cell phone. They`re not supposed to have cell phones. It turns out the FBI had allegedly paid a bribe to a sheriff`s deputy 1,500 bucks to give that cell phone to the FBI`s informant inside the jail so the informant could use the phone to call out to the FBI and tell them what he was seeing for their investigation. One local Los Angeles news station, KTLA, has also done an exclusive report earlier this year on a gang in that prison. Not a gang of prisoners, but a gang among the jail guards -- a gang among the prison sheriff deputies. That gang stands accused of among other things assaulting this former prisoner, a man named Evans Tutt. According to Mr. Tutt, he was beaten with flashlights and kicked repeatedly by deputies despite complying with their orders. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: At least three deputies involved in Tutt`s case are part of the group who call themselves the 3,000 Boys, named after the third or 3,000th floor of men`s central jail where they`re assigned. The group works hard and they play hard. As a symbol of their bond, they flash gang-like hand signs, three fingers for 3,000. They sport similar tattoos. One even has their number inked onto his neck. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a distinct line drawn between inked and non-inked deputies. REPORTER: The ink that this current active L.A. County sheriffs deputy is talking about are the tattoos worn by groups of deputies as symbols of their allegiance to deputy-affiliated gangs within the department. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call them subgroups, secret societies. REPORTER: Do you think these groups breed propensity for violence? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They brag about it. You know, they brag about kills and deputy-involved shootings. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The sheriff in charge of the Los Angeles County jail system acknowledges these groups exist within his department but he denies they`re responsible for any sort of violence. Regardless because of what they describe as hundreds of reports of unprovoked assaults and beatings, including specifically on that 3,000 floor of the jail you just heard about, the ACLU of southern California is asking the attorney general of the United States and the federal Justice Department to get involved here. They`re asking the FBI -- excuse me, they`re asking the Justice Department to bring a criminal investigation into how the largest jail in the country is being run. They`re also asking for the sheriff who is in charge of the facility to resign. His name is Lee Baca. Whether or not Sheriff Baca does resign, whether or not the Justice Department does turn this into a criminal investigation, if past is any prologue, no one else other than the sheriff is likely to win or lose an election because of this issue. This is politics but it is politics of a different kind. This is values politics, about who we are as a country. It is a specific kind of political work to fix problems like this, to get attention to problems with the way we are doing the death penalty these days, for example, and sometimes to get attention to the death penalty as a problem, itself. It is political work to raise enough of a ruckus to convince the Catholic chaplains and the people like a Hollywood producer visiting as a writing tutor, to convince people like that to speak out against the jail they`re working in even though they are definitely not there to make waves, because the ruckus has to be loud enough to get people to notice and care that the biggest jail in the world probably ought to be torn down -- even the sheriff admits that. To get people to notice and care that the people for whom they probably don`t have too much sympathy, still should not be beaten with impunity. Because it is not about whether or not you like the person who the guy in the uniform is beating up, but this is about the fact that the guy in the uniform is us, that that is in our name. This is a democracy -- government of, by and for the people. What sheriff deputies did to this visitor, a visitor to the L.A. County jail, that`s us. That`s us. Killing Cameron Todd Willingham, that`s us. No one really loses an election over stuff like this. It`s true, especially on the right. There really is no compassionate conservative voting bloc holding politicians accountable on issues like this. Kay Bailey Hutchison tried it against Rick Perry and lost to him by 20. These political fights do not decide elections. But these political fights, every bit as much as who we elect in the next election will write what history says about who we are as a country. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Last week folks in Clark County, Kentucky, were woken up in the middle of the night by what sounded like a huge explosion, giant, middle of the night explosion just east of Lexington, Kentucky, turned out to be a gas pipeline rupture. Local news stations were flooded with calls about it. So, they sent the crews out, as you can see, to cover the incident overnight. According to those local news reports, there had been another explosion in this same area along the same set of gas lines about four years ago. After last week`s gas line scare in central Kentucky, we have word this week from the "Associated Press" that Kentucky`s junior senator is taking a principled stand now on gas pipeline safety. His principled stand is that he`s against it. He`s blocking gas pipeline safety measures. The safety bill the "A.P." notes has support from both parties and from the gas industry, which after all, has been having a problem with its pipelines blowing up. Quoting the "A.P.," a deadly gas line explosion near San Francisco last year and other gas explosions and oil pipeline spills has created consensus in Congress, as well as the industry, that there are gaps in federal safety regulations." There is a consensus -- consensus -- that something needs to be done. A consensus except for Senator Rand Paul, who is blocking it from being done. Quote, "Officials familiar with Senator Paul`s objections said he has told lobbyists and company officials that he`s not opposed to any specific part of the bill, just to the notion of additional federal regulation." The notion. Gas pipeline safety equals government regulation, which according to Rand Paul is bad in the abstract even if it makes sense in the specific. A gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, in September of last year spit out a 300 foot tall flame that burned for an hour and a half until workers were able to shut off gas valves feeding the pipeline manually. That explosion killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes. In December, a gas line apparently exploded in Wayne, Michigan. It destroyed a furniture store and killed two people. In January of this year, a gas pipeline exploded in Philadelphia and killed a city utility worker and injured six people including two firefighters. About a week later, several buildings were destroyed in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, in a gas line explosion and series of fires. The gas line explosion in February in Allentown, Pennsylvania, leveled two row houses and killed five people including a 4-month-old child. The pipeline safety bill that is being supported right now by Democrats and Republicans and the gas industry, itself, could mean things like automatic shutoff valves on new pipelines and confirmation that records about how much pressure pipelines can take are, in fact, accurate records. It could mean more inspections of old pipelines for safety. But even after the last year we`ve had with deadly -- with fatal, giant gas pipeline explosions in this country, even after last week in which Rand Paul`s own constituents lived through a catastrophic gas pipeline rupture, Senator Rand Paul is the one solid U.S. senator who`s willing to stand up and block gas pipeline safety for the whole country. He says it`s on principle. President Obama is now squaring off against Republicans like he has never done before in his presidency, drawing out the contrast between himself and Republicans, between he says the whole country and Republicans on issues like that principle. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people requires. Every rule should meet that common sense test. (APPLAUSE) OBAMA: But what we can`t do, what I will not do is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. (APPLAUSE) OBAMA: In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody`s money and let everyone write their own rules and tell everyone they`re on their own, it`s not who we are. It`s not the story of America. No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been and always will be one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all -- a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. And members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: To put it more succinctly and without the applause lines: government equals bad. Not an answer to America`s problems. And when one of America`s problems is exploding gas pipelines, a certain junior senator from Kentucky may have picked a fight against fixing those pipelines on principle, but the people on the other side of that fight are fighting on principle, too, and doing it out loud. The president`s campaign for his jobs bill is happening alongside the beginnings of his campaign for re-election. And to make both cases for his re-election and for his jobs bill, the president is talking more and more now about principles, about values, more than ever he seems very happy to contrast his values and what he argues are American values with the values that the Republican Party is showing right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Middle class families shouldn`t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Warren Buffett`s secretary shouldn`t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. A teacher or a nurse or a construction worker making $50,000 a year shouldn`t pay higher tax rates than somebody making $50 million. That`s just common sense. (APPLAUSE) OBAMA: And keep in mind: I`m not saying this because we should be punishing success. This is the land of opportunity, but what`s also a quintessentially American idea is that those of us who have done well should pay our fair share to contribute to the upkeep of the nation that made our success possible. I`ve talked to, and most wealthy Americans agree with this. Of course, the Republicans in Congress, they call this class warfare. You know what? If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that. I will wear that charge as a badge of honor. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You want to know why the president says he is willing to wear that charge, the charge of being a class warrior as a badge of honor, a warrior for the working class, a warrior for the middle class? It`s because in this country what he`s describing, what he is doing, what he is fighting for in these speeches is a very, very popular thing. A poll out this week from Public Policy Polling shows 73 percent of Americans agree with the president on the Warren Buffett rule that the president just laid out: changing the tax code so people who make more than 1 million bucks a year pay at least the same tax rates as people who make less than that. You should not have your taxes lower than everybody else because you`re a zillionaire. Look at that, 73 percent of Americans support that -- 73 percent of Americans don`t support the idea of puppies. Seventy-three percent -- that is a really, really popular idea. That I dare say is a mainstream idea. Even conservatives like this. When you pull out just Republicans from the polling here, you still have 66 percent support for the Buffett rule -- 66 percent of Republicans are with the president on this one. Social conservatives are always talking about wanting to make elections values elections. And what they mean is that they want the election to be about gay rights and abortion and stuff like that. It turns out it is Democrats this year who want this to be a values election, except the values they want to talk about are things like rich people shouldn`t get special treatment and bridges shouldn`t be left to rot and fall down. Also, gas pipeline explosion -- bad. It`s not as catchy as guns, gods and gays, but it is something. Joining us now is Joe Sonka, founder and owner of the blog "Barefoot and Progressive," and staff writer at "Leo," which is weekly paper based in Louisville, Kentucky. Mr. Sonka, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to see you. JOE SONKA, BAREFOOTANDPROGRESSIVE.COM: Thanks for having me on, Rachel. MADDOW: Is it resonating in Kentucky after last week`s pipeline rupture and everything, -- is it resonating in Kentucky that Rand Paul is holding up the pipeline safety bill here? SONKA: Well, the "A.P." broke the news on Tuesday and people are just now starting to realize what Rand Paul is doing. But that`s basically what his Tea Party base wants. The Tea Party has a really strong base in Kentucky and they elected Rand Paul to come in and dismantle government and shrink it as much as possible. And that`s exactly what he`s doing this week, even on this pipeline safety bill which even the industry, itself, has no problem with and thinks it`s reasonable. MADDOW: So, you don`t -- Rand Paul absolutely campaigned as an anti- government candidate. I had a very long awkward interview with him in which he was so anti-government he wouldn`t say that he thought that government intervening in terms of civil rights laws even was necessarily a good thing. Do you think that that Kentuckians knew that this is -- this is the kind of thing he meant by this? That pipeline safety would be one of the things that he`d be opposed to? Do you think that isn`t a surprise? SONKA: I don`t think it`s much of a surprise. If you consider during his Senate campaign he was saying there should be less safety regulation from the federal government when it comes to mining, and he said that, well, if there`s a mining accident and a bunch of miners die, well people can just take their labor and their rational self-interest over to another mine and work there. And I guess they would also hope that the lack of regulations also didn`t kill them at that mine, too. So I think Rand Paul pretty much laid it out straight in the Senate campaign that he was going to come to Washington and get rid of as many regulations as he can and shrink government and apparently 55 percent of voters in Kentucky went along with that. MADDOW: In terms of how Rand Paul`s Senate campaign is going to evolve over time, if at all, I wonder what you think about -- I mean, your vantage point being closer up to him and dealing with his constituents all the time, what do you think he`s going to do about pressure from his own party? Congressman Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania, said he was saddened but not surprised by Senator Paul putting this hold on the pipeline safety thing. Do you think that pressure from other Republicans will make any difference to him either in the short run or over time? SONKA: Well, it`s really fascinating his relationship with Mitch McConnell. Rand Paul ran basically against establishment Republicans like Mitch McConnell blaming them for increasing the national debt and the bank bailout. What you`ve seen over the past year is that Mitch McConnell doesn`t really call out Rand Paul and Rand Paul doesn`t really call out Mitch McConnell. So I don`t think you`re going to find it from Mitch McConnell because they seem to have a mutually beneficial relationship, but you could see other Republicans pointing to Rand Paul and saying, hey, that`s Rand Paul and the Tea Party, that`s not necessarily me. But in terms of the Tea Party base here in Kentucky, that`s what Rand Paul really cares about. And it`s not just the base. He`s a true believer. He comes from -- his intellectual heroes are libertarians like Lew Rockwell and Ayn Rand and people from the Von Misses Institute, and, obviously, his father. So, he`s definitely a true believer when it comes to that and he`s typically very stubborn. So, I`m not sure how much pressure from other Republicans is going to do. MADDOW: In the meantime, the whole country doesn`t get improved gas pipelines. Joe Sonka, founder and owner of "The Barefoot and Progressive" blog, and staff writer at the Louisville Alt Weekly, "Leo" -- thanks very much for joining us. Nice to have you here. SONKA: Thanks for having me on, Rachel. MADDOW: On last night`s show we ran out of time because of the breaking non-Chris Christie news before we could show you our "Best New Thing in the World." While I like the happy stories and the weird stories, the ones I really, really love are the stories that are happy and period and also a little weepy. So, I`m pleased to report that we`ve got a deluxe three hankie heart tugger coming up. "Best New Thing in the World" right at the end of the show tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The latest episode in the free wheeling reality show called the state of Florida is a battle over who should be forcibly tested for illegal drug use. People applying for welfare, state employees? Yes. Members of the Florida legislature? No, apparently. The great Carl Hiaasen is here for the interview tonight. That`s just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today, the great state of South Carolina began leading America out of our long national funk. South Carolina is leading by example and by the force of its Palmetto will. From now on, from Charleston, to Long Creek, from Beaufort to Columbia, to Greenville, every day is going to be a great day. A doggone great day every day and don`t you forget it because from now on by order of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, your call to the state parks department or the prison system or any of the other fine South Carolina agencies you might call for any reason will be answered by someone saying, by gubernatorial mandate, and I quote, "It`s a great day in South Carolina." Not hello. You have to answer the day by saying, "It`s a great day in South Carolina." Order of the governor. Governor Haley is a rookie Republican elected last year on a small government, business-friendly platform. She says she needs all the positivity that she can get in South Carolina. This month at a local rotary club, she repeated a story she said she`s told a million times, that at one South Carolina employer, half the people applying for a job failed a drug test, half the people. And that`s why the governor said she wants to drug test everyone who applies for unemployment benefits in the state. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I so want drug testing. I so want it. The problem is, I`ve got to make sure the numbers work. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governor Haley so wants drug testing. She says she just has to make sure the numbers work. Like, say, those numbers she just mentioned about half the people applying for a particular job in South Carolina being on drugs. It turns out those numbers don`t work. Executives at the employer she cited by name say, in fact, they don`t even test all job applicants, only the ones who accept a job offer. And of those the company says, quote, "We have less than 1 percent of those hired test positive" -- which does not mean half. Even -- not even close. Not even within 50. But it looks so attractive when Florida tried it, this whole mandatory drug testing thing. Governor Haley likes it anyway. Governor Haley`s rookie Republican counterpart in Florida, Rick Scott, also ran as a small government, business-friendly conservative. Governor Scott also pushed for mandatory drug testing -- in his case, for anyone who applies for welfare. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: People that are on welfare are higher users of drugs than people not on welfare. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not true, sir. Let`s make sure those numbers work. We do have some data now because the Florida legislature passed Governor Rick Scott`s bill and he signed it. The law went into effect in July. The "A.P." reporting that so far, about 2.5 percent of welfare applicants failed the drug test. On top of that, 2 percent of all applicants declined to take the test. So, let`s call that 4.5 percent at most all together, if you damned everybody who just didn`t take the test. Again, from "A.P.," quote, "The Justice Department estimates that 6 percent of Americans 12 and older use illegal drugs which means Florida welfare recipients hire some rather clean living folks by comparison to everybody else. Not only are Governor Rick Scott and the state lawmakers wrong about who uses drugs, they are costing the Florida taxpayers money because the state pays the cost of every test that someone passes. In his most recent column at "The Miami Herald," author Carl Hiaasen noted the shortcomings of Governor Scott`s plan, saying, quote, "Interestingly, the governor`s pee-in-the-cup mandate doesn`t apply to the one bunch that whizzes away more tax dollars than anyone else -- the legislators who pass such useless laws. I say line up all 160 of them for a patriotic whiz fest at the Capitol clinic. You think more than 2.5 percent might test positive? Let`s find out. And I will pay for it out of my own pocket. Seriously," he says. Joining us now for the interview is Carl Hiaasen, "Miami Herald" columnist, best-selling author, South Florida native, and the one person I most wanted to talk to about this tonight. Mr. Hiaasen, thank you for being here. CARL HIAASEN, MIAMI HERALD COLUMNIST: Hi, Rachel. How are you? It`s a great night in Florida, by the way. MADDOW: You know, I was really worried that might spread and that you couldn`t say hello to anybody from South Carolina without them saying that back to you like an automaton. That would be cause for a new civil war. In terms of your offering to pay for state lawmakers to be drug tested, any reaction so far? Anybody thinking about taking you up on it? HIASSEN: I heard that two of them had agreed to do it. So, that only leaves I think 158 more. I`m holding my breath. MADDOW: What is the justification for testing welfare recipients and state employees but not anybody else who receives state funds? Like lawmakers, as you suggest, like state contractors, lottery winners, why just people on welfare and state employees? HIAASEN: It`s an easy target. This is class warfare. This is picking on the folks who happen to be unemployed especially ones with children. And they`re testing at a lower rate than the general population. The most recent federal drug survey shows national drug use at 8.9 percent, almost 9 percent. These people are living like monks compared to them. But it`s very easy and it`s very popular to go after the poor and the disabled, and those who are struggling to get work right now. And that`s what they did. My point was that these legislators control $70 billion in -- that`s the size of our state budget. They should be first in line for any drug testing, immediately. And it would be a public service. MADDOW: In terms of how we got to this place, obviously Rick Scott campaigned in Florida as a small government conservative, somebody who wanted to shrink both the role and the size of government. HIAASEN: Right. MADDOW: How do you -- why don`t we have any sort of mental disconnect? Any sort of, like, cognitive friction over the idea that government is now intrusive enough to be forcibly demanding urine samples or hair samples from anybody who wants to do something as simple as apply for benefits? HIAASEN: And all you have to do is walk in the door. You don`t have to show any signs of drug use. Just -- it`s completely without suspicion, without basis and fact. These are the guys that preached small government, that ranted and raved about small -- about government reaching its hands into people`s private lives and the first thing they do when they get into office is go after the poor and unemployed. So, it`s full of hypocrisy. But they were an easy target. Obviously, it`s a condescending and prejudicial attitude. You heard the governor`s sound byte where he just announced blindly that welfare applicants used drugs at a higher rate than the rest of us. It`s not, by the way, the first time that Rick Scott has gotten his facts messed up and I`m sure it won`t be the last. MADDOW: One of the things you`ve written about on this subject recently is the fact what Rick Scott is doing with the mandatory drug testing thing, however hard it is to justify and however screwed up his facts may be in explaining it, it`s pretty popular. HIAASEN: It is. Yes. MADDOW: Go ahead, sir. HIAASEN: Well, I mean, the idea is that it sounds great. There`s a very reasonable assumption that people who are struggling to find work and who are unemployed shouldn`t be spending their money on dope. We can all say, yes, that would be a very bad idea. Can you legislate that? No. And is this helping or hurting the problem? And the big issue also is the cost to taxpayers. The expense of not just the drug test but administering this law and fighting all the legal battles to preserve the law, which by the way has been challenged successfully in other states. And in one case the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997 threw out a law that Georgia briefly had saying that all candidates for political office had to undergo drug testing. By an 8-1 vote the U.S. Supreme Court said that was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. So, all these costs are accrued now to Florida taxpayers, to all of us by a governor who promised us less expense, less government, and now we have a whole other layer of bureaucracy thanks to him. And I should say the lawmakers who cheered and pushed this thing forward overwhelmingly. MADDOW: Carl Hiaasen, "Miami Herald" columnist, best-selling author and man who is offering to pay for the drug tests of all of Florida`s legislators -- if you get a majority -- if we`re getting close to a majority saying yes, I would please like to be there along with a camera crew if you don`t mind. HIAASEN: Yes, but the deal is all or nothing. This is what they do to the applicants for the welfare funds. It`s all or nothing. Everybody`s got to do it. So, all 160 of these folks have to stand there with their little cup and do the deed. And if the lab sends me the bill, I`ll send a check the next day. MADDOW: It`s a deal. You will send a check and I will send a crew and I will be there. I promise. All right. Thank you very much, Carl. It`s nice to see you. We got the "Best New Thing in the World Today" coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Chris Christie is not running for president. That means for Republicans unhappy with their choices, the last maybe candidate on the sidelines who might still get in is former Alaska governor and former vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. Governor Palin has been doing campaign- like things for months now, resulting on her polling further fourth among Republican contenders in national polls even though she has not technically entered the race. There is so much snark and so much speculation anytime anybody talks about Governor Palin doing anything now that I think it is sometimes hard to recognize it when there is important, real news about her role in politics. But I think that important real news about Sarah Palin of her potential candidacy happened here on this show last night. In July 2008, Steve Schmidt took over running John McCain`s presidential campaign. The following month, in August, the campaign announced that Sarah Palin would be Mr. McCain`s running mate. Steve Schmidt last night on this program described the choice of Sarah Palin for the Republican Party`s vice presidential nominee as a mistake. As someone who took part in the decision, he said Governor Palin being chosen for that nomination was a failure of the vetting process to arrive at a nominee who was a person qualified to be president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there have been failures in the vice presidential vetting process and I was involved in one of them. And I think both parties have had failures in the vetting process. You know, John Edwards, clearly, and the nominee in 2008. And I think, you know, that there are rooms -- that there is substantial room for improvement about how the vice president is selected. It`s a process that is marked by, you know, fundamentally a lack of transparency in the selection. It`s marked by, you know, tactical considerations, it`s too political, it`s about how do we step out of bounds, how do we get a couple points here, how do we reshape the race? And the first and foremost consideration should be: is this person qualified to be president in chief. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Steve Schmidt who ran the McCain-Palin campaign saying that Sarah Palin`s selection as the vice presidential nominee in `08, as someone ostensibly qualified to be commander in chief was a failure of the vetting process. Is Sarah Palin thinking about running again this year? This seems about an important assertion from somebody who should be in a position to know. Also who sat here last night with Steve Schmidt was Nicolle Wallace, another senior staffer to the McCain-Palin campaign, who worked closely and directly with Governor Palin on that campaign. Now, for context here, Nicolle has just published a book about someone very much like Sarah Palin who is elected vice president and who then turns out to be very seriously mentally ill. Here is Nicole Wallace of the McCain-Palin campaign, here is Nicole Wallace`s take now on the thought of Sarah Palin getting into the race for president this year. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER STAFFER, MCCAIN-PALIN CAMPAIGN: So, my advice for anyone, but particular formal her, and she has a whole nest of problems that would -- you know, that she`d have to confront. But the first one would be to resist her most partisan and most polarizing instincts because that would make her a bad candidate for the moment. MADDOW: And does she have anything to offer beyond that? WALLACE: Look, you know, I was inspired by her to write a book about someone who was coo coo for cocoa puffs, so don`t ask me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Two of the most senior people from Sarah Palin`s vice presidential campaign in 2008 say she is the living proof that the vetting process sometimes doesn`t weed out people who aren`t qualified to be president and that she is the inspiration for a terrifying book of fiction about someone who gets all the way into the White House before they are revealed to be seriously mentally ill. We are not usually a show that breaks important political news about Sarah Palin, but that is important political news about Sarah Palin. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "Best New Thing in the World" has to do with the Friday night lights of Rogers, Arkansas, which is way up in the northwest corner of that fair state. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: This was the scene at Rogers Heritage High School when the Rogers Heritage High School War Eagle marching band made its season debut earlier this month. Eighty-five-year-old Martie Barrett lives in Rogers, Arkansas and she would have loved to be there. Her grandson Anthony plays trumpet in the band. But Mrs. Barrett was not in her regular seat in the bleachers that night to see the band play. That`s because Martie Barrett has cancer. She is in hospice care at home and she is not feeling well enough to get to the games right now as much as she wants to. And so, these are pictures of two buses chockfull of marching band members unloading instruments Monday morning in marching not onto some opposing team`s football field, but on to Martie Barrett`s front lawn. Her grandson Anthony was front and center, naturally, so Martie could see him from her window. Watch. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Mrs. Barrett loved it. She told our local NBC affiliate, quote, "It was jazzy," and then she said this about her grandson. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARTIE BARRETT, GRANDMOTHER: I`m very proud of this boy. I try to go wherever he`s playing, and I`m not sure I`ll be able to from now on. So, I just mentioned I don`t think I`ll ever be able to hear him play again, and this happened. Isn`t that wonderful? It`s like a miracle. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Rogers Heritage High School War Eagles marching band showing up on Martie Barrett`s front lawn so she can hear him play again -- "Best Thing in the World Today" and forever. Well-played you guys. Now, it`s time for "THE ED SHOW." THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END