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

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/29/11

Guests: Ken Burns

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. I`m really glad that you got that interview. That was awesome, man. Congratulations. LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, "THE LAST WORD": She`s really written quite an amazing report. MADDOW: Indeed. Thanks. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. OK, quick visual test. Are you ready? What is this a picture of? Look closely. What is this a picture of? Is this is a picture of a vase or this a picture of two faces staring at each other? Which one do you see? All right. How about this one? What do you see here? Do you see a little cartoony saxophone player guy with a big nose? Or do you see a young woman`s face? Which one do you see? For some reason, I can only see the images in white when I squint at these things. I don`t know that means. This one is a good one. It`s an artsy drawing of a man`s face with kind of big eyes, or is this the word "liar" written in cursive if you look at it on the diagonal? OK, this drove our segment producer Mike Yarvitz absolutely nuts today. He can only see the old woman in this image, the old woman, all right? He can see. The young woman, however, he does not believe me that it`s there. Can you see the young woman in this picture or just the old woman? How did when we put it next to the other version of the young woman, does that help? Mike says he still can`t see it with that. Here`s another one. This one is actually a video. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I hear all this, you know, this is class warfare, whatever. No, there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there. Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers, the rest of us paid to educate. You all were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn`t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against us because of the work the rest of us did. Now, look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea, God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You have seen that video of Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren on this show before. Undoubtedly, you`ve seen it a bunch of times on the Internet before as well. I just today had a friend`s mom send it to me in this format, where the whole quote is printed out in tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny inspirational, kitty hanging from a tree, hang in there form. There is no "I" in team. Elizabeth Warren is one of the nation`s most effective communicators on economic issues and the economic interests of the middle class. And that video of her, that clip of her using that skill, making that argument in whoever`s living room she was in while campaigning for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, that clip, it`s like the economic populist version of dramatic chipmunk. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Never gets old! God, I love that. In the Republican mind, however, that clip of Elizabeth Warren in that living room is not just a viral video sensation. In the Republican mind this year, that clip of Elizabeth Warren making that case you just heard her make, in the Republican mind, that Elizabeth Warren clip is the same thing as this. Sure, some people see a vase but it`s just as likely that you will see this picture as two faces. Sure, some people see the young lady, but people like Mike Yarvitz can`t see the young lady at all, they can only see the old lady. After that clip of Elizabeth Warren explaining in effect the "we`re all in this together" idea of economic populism, after that clip got people standing up and applauding their e-mail and cheering at their TV and making GIF files like this, Republicans also started circulating that clip. But Republicans` idea was that people would see this clip, they would hear this message as articulated by Elizabeth Warren and they would be horrified by it. "Elizabeth Warren puts those villainous job creators in their place," says the conservative Web site "The Daily Caller." "Run-of-the-mill demagoguery from Elizabeth Warren," says the conservative "Boston Herald." Rush Limbaugh: "Elizabeth Warren is a parasite." (BEGIN VDIEO CLIPS) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those people who start those companies and those factors are creating jobs. I mean, aren`t they giving back to the community by creating jobs first? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s nothing in what she says that makes that case. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: FOX News has been playing it over and over and over again. The right seems to think people hearing Elizabeth Warren talk about the middle class and talk about fairness in the American economy, that will somehow hurt her -- might even hurt the whole Democratic cause. Now, even the Republican senator who Elizabeth Warren is trying to unseat in Massachusetts, he is sending around that video of her as a fund- raising thing. Scott Brown`s campaign saying, quote, "Elizabeth Warren and her inflammatory rhetoric will divide our country and our commonwealth." Because nothing divides like a "we`re all in this together" economic message. One of these things is not like the other. Republicans are banking on people being turned off by a pro-middle class economic fairness message. And maybe Rush Limbaugh and the "Boston Herald" and Scott Brown are turned off by that message. But the Elizabeth Warren thing is not so much a vase versus faces thing, where two people can definitely be counted on to see two totally different things when they look at it. Elizabeth Warren`s message, if you look at the polling, is much more like dramatic chipmunk. I mean, everybody is sort of into it, everybody likes it. It is not a polarizing thing. The tax millionaires Buffett Rule, for example, is polling this week at 73 percent support. Seventy-three percent. It`s hard to demagogue a message that popular. But in the Republican mind this year, they think that they can. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee put out a big announcement today that they have already raised $375,000 for Elizabeth Warren`s Senate race in Massachusetts. And while that is exciting news for Elizabeth Warren`s supporters, if you take the big picture view of this, this announcement from the PCCC is sort of the financial equivalent of damming with faint praise, because here`s the big picture. In total, liberal activists say they have raised about $915,000 for Elizabeth Warren. Here`s that in context against what Scott Brown has raised. There`s Elizabeth Warren`s known money on the left there, in the blue bar. And then -- actually, you know, the bar looks like it goes off the top of the screen. I think we have to pull back a little more here. Can we pull back? Yes. OK, I guess we have to pull back a little bit more. A little bit. OK, still just runs off the top of the screen. Pull one more out. Can we -- yes, there we go. All right. See, the problem with getting the graph to scale here is that you can`t even really see the Elizabeth Warren money on here when you pull back to see all of Scott Brown`s money. Maybe if we do it as a pie chart instead. Yes, there we go. See? This is Elizabeth Warren`s known money as compared to Scott Brown`s money. See, it`s that tiny, teeny, tiny little blue sliver. That`s the big picture. Why does Scott Brown have this much money? Why does Scott Brown have rocky mountain high, light your cigars with $100 bills, make furniture out of your cash bundles money like this lying around? He`s got that kind of money because of Wall Street. Among all 100 United States senators, Scott Brown ranks number one right now in contributions, campaign contributions, from hedge funds, as well as the venture capital industry. Scott Brown has taken the second most money of all senators from private equity and investments firms, and the securities and investment industry. Scott Brown ran for Senate as the normal guy who drives a truck, right? But at this point, Scott Brown is essentially a hedge fund who drives a truck. But as long as we are talking big picture here, the very big picture, the globally big picture, is this. When Wall Street imploded at the end of the Bush presidency and our financial system collapsed because of its own malfeasance, because Wall Street made themselves rich playing insane clown casino with other people`s real money -- when all that came crashing down, we were able to keep this country out of Great Depression. But not out of the massive recession from which we have not yet recovered. And the way we kept ourselves out of that great depression was by rescuing Wall Street, which means that we do still have a financial system in this country. We do still have a banking system. But it didn`t exactly fix the problem that got us there in the first place, nor did it stop the repercussions of that collapse that we barely lived through in 2008. In the big, big global picture right now is that the next repercussion, the next thing about to collapse is Europe. Europe is a third of the world`s entire economy. Right now, European banks and European countries are going through the same sort of trauma that we went through in 2008. They do not know if they`re going to be able to save their financial system or if there`s going to be calamitous, uncontrolled defaulting and chaos. The way we saved our banking system, of course, was TARP, the bank bailout. And that did save us from going into a Great Depression and kept us out of calamitous default, but it also let those Wall Street banks, the people who caused the crisis get away effectively scot-free. They quite literally never paid for what they did to the country. And now, those banks are back stronger than ever, behaving essentially just like they did before, and making tons of money, which is why almost all of the TARP money has been paid back because Wall Street is doing so great right now. One of the things they are doing with their not-so hard earned gains right now is that they are pouring money into the American political system to make sure the Elizabeth Warrens of the world never get anywhere. Their investment in Scott Brown last time around, after all, paid off in a Scott Brown brokered deal to keep the banks from paying for the implementation of Wall Street reform. Scott Brown intervened to make sure taxpayers would have to pay that instead of the poor, poor, poor banks. He saved them $19 billion. Goldman Sachs, which has a starring role in the European collapse because Greece is going to be the first country to go, and Greece has paid Goldman Sachs to hide their debt problem, Goldman Sachs here at home, we just learned this week, that they spent over 1 million bucks lobbying in the last quarter alone against Wall Street reform. Wall Street money is flowing hand over fist to the Republican presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney promising a wholesale repeal of any major regulation of Wall Street that has been implemented since the financial collapse. And so, in this big picture, in this environment, frankly, some sort of inchoate, bottom-up, indefinite expression of anger at Wall Street, anger at their control over our lives and our country now, is probably a little overdue. The "occupy Wall Street" protests in New York have been going on for 12 days now. Most of the media attention they have received thus far has been because of violent and rather outrageous police tactics used against the protesters. But the reason this movement is growing, and in fact spreading to other American cities now is not because of some message about police tactics toward protesters. That is not the larger point. The larger point is the basic message, the basic point about who caused the mess the country is in right now. Who has figured out how to benefit from it and who is stopping us from fixing it? And again, attention to that feels a little overdue. Joining us now is Chris Hayes, host of the new and already great "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES" airing weekend mornings on MSNBC. Chris is also editor- at-large of "The Nation." And, Chris, I have never seen your sailor shirt before. It`s adorable. CHRIS HAYES, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": Thank you. Adorable is what I was going for. MADDOW: It is. It`s fetching, is that better? HAYES: That`s great. MADDOW: All right. Whether or not most people agree with direct action as a political tactic and I think that`s something you either are inclined toward or you`re not, do you think the occupy Wall Street folks are tapping into what is in effect a very mainstream sentiment that hasn`t had a political outlet yet? HAYES: Yes, that`s exactly what I think what they`re doing. I think that the part of the kind of cognitive dissidence people experience for seeing occupy Wall Street, and I saw it myself, was the disconnect between the way we couch these issues in mainstream American politics, middle class, et cetera, and the image of direct action, of kids sleeping in sleeping bags in a park. And those two have somehow become desperate in our imaginations because we have this sort of political discourse about middle class and Main Street is getting screwed. And we have lost I think in some ways the conception of politics outside of those channels. And I think what is exciting about occupy Wall Street and I think what has captured people`s imagination is the feeling that the normal channels don`t feel like they`re working. That I think is really the thing that is most powerful about it. And the thing people share is that people feel like the normal challenges -- the normal channels of sort of feedback into the system aren`t working. Their voices are being ignored. And that they don`t have control. And even if this is credo core (ph), even if this is inchoate or unfocused, it feels like some sort of voice in the wilderness saying, look, everything is broken right now. And I feel that way every day waking up and coming into this building to go read the Internet or talk to people as a reporter, things are not working. And just the basic truth of that and the basic unfairness in the disparate impact of the way things are not working is so essential to our experience of Americans at this moment that I think there`s something powerful about it. MADDOW: And within the system -- I mean, most of what we cover as political news is actors by people who are within the political system. And right now, one of the two parties in the form of President Obama and this high profile Senate candidate, Elizabeth Warren, in particular, are trying to say the system shouldn`t be so broken. The system can be fixed so that it does address mainstream Americans concerns and not just the concerns of the people who are doing great right now and the people who screwed us over, i.e., Wall Street. Is the message itself important that they are even trying or do they need to be offering something very concrete that will make a difference in people`s lives in order to connect people back to the political system? HAYES: That`s it. I go really back and forth on this, right? Because at a certain level, that message is diluted because we know Barack Obama raises tons of money from Wall Street. And Nancy Pelosi, God bless her, who love, I think he`s a great politician and has great politics, also raises a lot of money from Wall Street. They all do. They all have to. That`s the way the system works. MADDOW: That`s where all the money is. HAYES: That is where the money is. And the point that you made actually in the opening is a really important one. The very perverse and vicious cycle of the disparate sort of recoveries we have is that they`re even more money in Wall Street now and politicians are growing more dependent on fundraising from Wall Street, which is really, really perverse. So, I think that that message is diluted by the campaign finance system we have where it is harder for people to credibly believe the distinction is as great as they want it to be and then it`s partially a product of the fact that Republicans are able to obstruct and subvert and destroy a lot of the initiatives that really would help working class people. MADDOW: What`s going do happen with this protest movement? It`s starting to spread around the country. It is starting to -- people are starting to move beyond, I think, the frustration, the perceived, I think, impotence of direct action politics which I think is just a class -- which just -- about that as a political tactic as a class, as it doesn`t go away and as it spreads to other movements, do you see the political movement on the left embracing it all? Or do you think it stays outside the system? HAYES: I think, you know, so there was a report today about a bunch of New York City unions going to join the protest on Wednesday, which I think was a major step, the transit workers, in particular, the transit workers, militant union, they had a strike in New York a few years ago. So, I do think people understand that even if they felt some misgivings at the beginning or these -- I don`t know what the demands are. I understand those. I mean, I have those same feelings in the beginning. There is some genuine energy here. And you know what? At the end of the day, I was having this conversation with somebody else, what else is working right now? MADDOW: Yes. HAYES: Honestly, look around you, what else is working? What`s -- you know, people feel like, well, let`s take a fire in something else. MADDOW: Direct action for all the frustration it causes very often gets the goods. It really does -- HAYES: Yes. MADDOW: -- in a way that doesn`t get much credit. Chris Hayes, editor-at-large of "The Nation," host of MSNBC`s new weekend morning show "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES," which is great and I think everybody should watch it no matter what time you go to bed on Friday or Saturday. Chris, congratulations thus far. And thanks for being here. HAYES: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. There are events in history about which one can know all of one`s life and still sort of struggle to comprehend. A man walked on the moon, for example. Man on the moon, up there. You know? Like, wow! America`s unofficial documentary laureate Ken Burns has tackled one such eternal gobsmacker. It`s not walking on the moon, but it`s rather prohibition. And it is just as gob-smacking. America once outlawed booze for a really long time. And then we un-outlawed it and survived to tell the tell. Ken Burns is here tonight for the interview. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should gay marriage be banned in North Carolina? It could be up to you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voters will decide if a ban on gay marriage should go into North Carolina`s constitution. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: North Carolina is a very sexy destination for transplants, just not same sexy -- at least not yet. The N.C. House passed the bill to ban same sex marriage. Today, the state Senate followed suit and the end result, you and I will make the final decision inside the voting booth next May. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: That may be the year`s nominee for most unexpected moment in a local news lead-in. The FOX affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, lamenting while North Carolina is undeniably sexy, it is not necessarily same sexy. That`s the chyron up there, same sexy, on local news, all hail the WCVB in Charlotte, North Carolina. You win. In terms of North Carolina`s same sexiness, gay couples marrying is illegal in North Carolina, just as it is in 44 other states. But at the moment, same sex marriage is nothing more than illegal in North Carolina. It`s just against state law. It`s not unconstitutional. North Carolina, the only state in the south that has not amended its state Constitution to ban gay marriage over and above the ban on it in just normal state law. After the big conservative sweep of the 2010 midterm elections, which in North Carolina meant Republicans taking control of the legislature for the first time in more than a century, the new Republican majority in North Carolina`s legislature decided that this was the year they would add to their existing legal ban on same-sex marriage by trying to doubly, constitutionally, extra-ban it. And so thanks to the legislature`s actions this month, citizens of North Carolina will be asked during next year`s primary to vote on whether or not to change their state`s constitution -- to doubly, constitutionally, extra ban same-sex marriage that`s already banned. We, of course, don`t know what North Carolina voters will decide on this issue, but more than two dozen other states have put gay rights to a vote in the last decade, and every single one of those more than two dozen other states has voted to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage. When we vote on minority rights of many, if not all stripes in this country, we tend to vote no. It`s part of the whole concept of rights. They are not supposed to be up for a vote. They are supposed inalienable, even by majority vote, inalienable, or as the Declaration of Independence put it unalienable. All men endowed by their Creator, unalienable rights. Among them, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- even if your particular brand of happiness is same sexy happiness. In Mississippi, this number a different right will be up for vote. Voters there will be deciding if they want to change their state`s constitution as a person starting at, quote, "the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." Obviously, the intended effect of this legislation is about abortion. It`s to take away women`s right to have an abortion. And again, when you vote on rights, anywhere in this country, generally you get reminded of why there is a need to call some things rights to protect those rights from a vote, to protect them from majority rule. But particularly in Mississippi, when you poll Mississippians on social issues, you get fairly predictable answers. In 2004, for example, when Mississippi voted on an amendment to their state constitution to ban gay marriage, it won with 86 percent of the vote. It won in every single county in Mississippi. In 2001, Mississippi voters were asked if they wanted a new flag, one without an image of the Confederate emblem on it. Mississippi voted to keep the Confederate flag by more than two to one. In March of this year, Mississippi Republicans were polled on whether interracial marriage should be legal. This is in 2011. Mississippi Republicans saying interracial marriage should be illegal, 46 percent. Another 14 percent say they are not sure. So, if you ask Mississippi Republicans about interracial marriage in 2011, 60 percent of them think interracial marriage should be illegal or they`re not sure. Only 40 percent think it definitely should be legal. This is the political environment in which abortion rights are going to be voted on in November in Mississippi. But here`s the thing: it is not necessarily a sure thing that this will pass in Mississippi. Not necessarily. Here`s why. Here again is that language they`ll be voting on, changing the state constitution to define a person as starting at the "moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." The way the most widely used forms of birth control works that sometimes they stop the fertilization of an egg. Sometimes they stop the implantation of an egg that has been fertilized. So, if a fertilized egg is now going to be a person in Mississippi, does that mean using birth control is going to be committing murder in Mississippi? Birth control is going to be illegal? The folks behind this personhood bill have said right on their Web site, they have explained that, yes, they are, in fact, opposed to certain forms of birth control, including the forms of birth control that, statistically speaking, you probably use. The folks behind the proposed by the way control ban and total abortion ban, they have edited the FAQ section on their Web site since we took this screen shot, this excerpt, about two weeks ago. They`re now a lot more careful about it. Now, instead of listing all the different kinds of birth control methods they are opposed to, they just say, well, we don`t advocate the use of contraceptives. Maybe somebody got to them with some of the numbers on popularity of birth control in the 21st century. The campaign appears to be adopting its message to something in any case. Maybe it was the comparatively smaller group that has formed to campaign against this personhood amendment in Mississippi. They`re called Mississippians for healthy families. Their Web site calls the amendment, quote, "out of control government that puts the health and safety of Mississippi women and families at risk." The number one potential consequence they list is that it could ban commonly used forms of contraception, which it very well could. Whatever the reason, it appears the ban birth control and ban abortion folks in Mississippi are trying to get people to stop talking about the banned birth control part of their campaign. It does remain a very aggressive campaign. They`re going all out for their kickoff banquet. They got former Arkansas governor and FOX News TV personality Mike Huckabee to be their keynote speaker. They also got the wife of football player Brett Favre to sign on. And the people behind the Mississippi birth control ban and total abortion ban, they`re also the people who campaigned earlier this year using something called the Conceived in Rape tour. The message for their proposal, for -- not against -- is that they would be forcing women who have been raped to bear the child of their rapist against the will of the rape victim. That is the case they are making for the personhood bill in Mississippi. The personhood bill is not native to Mississippi. The folks who helped get this measure on the ballot have efforts under way to get it on the ballot in all 50 states. The only place they`ve actually got it on the ballot other than Mississippi, so far, is Colorado. And even though, as they say, Americans generally love to vote against rights, particularly controversial rights, this thing tanked when they got it on the ballot in Colorado. Colorado voted this thing down 73 to 27 back in 2008. Then they got it back on the ballot in 2010 and Colorado rejected it again, 71-29. But, remember, they`re going after all 50 states. The quest for conservative government control of every uterus and fallopian tube in America continues. The same anti-birth control activists and anti-abortion activists behind the Mississippi thing and the Colorado thing say they are gathering signatures right now to put it on the ballot in Ohio. In Nevada last year, they tried to get it on the ballot but they couldn`t get enough signatures. Now, another group is trying again in Nevada this year. In Alaska this year, the state rejected a petition to get a personhood-style abortion ban on the ballot before the signatures were even collected because the state`s Republican attorney general found it to be unconstitutional. In Iowa and in Maryland, conservatives in the legislature tried to get the birth control and abortion ban on the ballot, but they didn`t get anywhere with it yet. In Montana, a plan to put the birth control and abortion ban up for a vote actually passed the Montana house, but then didn`t come up for a vote in the Senate. So, even in a country that loves to vote against each other`s rights, anti-abortion activists trying to ban the pill, these personhood bills, so far, these things are not flying. They`re not flying anywhere. In November, we will find out if that anywhere extends also to Mississippi. And tonight, America`s preeminent documentarian, Ken Burns, is here to talk about the most successful campaign ever in American history to convince Americans to vote to take away their own rights. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: In mid- 1920s, the pace of change in America was steadily accelerating. Big cities grew relentlessly bigger. Women found themselves going places they had never gone before. An unprecedented, unbroken winning streak on Wall Street seemed to suggest that the good times would go on forever. And then exciting new music seemed to capture it all. Prohibition had been enacted to forestall change, to put an end to alcoholism, to safeguard the American family, to re-establish the moral supremacy of small town Protestant America. Instead, it had helped fuel the very transformation its champions feared. Somehow the same country that had banned the sale of alcohol had become the biggest importer of cocktail shakers in the world. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: As host of the only cable news show in the history of anything, to have its own branded cocktail shakers, I am delighted to welcome to the show the great Ken Burns, America`s documentarian. He`s here for "The Interview" about his new documentary on prohibition. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Men and women almost never drank together for prohibition, maybe occasional dinner parties, and because the saloon was a male-only institution. But the speakeasy, where there was no law enforced of any kind, became different than if you have a little jazz band and somebody`s -- you know, they play the Charleston, you`ll have men and women together. There`s a real liberation for women and liberation of behavior that takes place then. And independents have said, you know, if he can drink, I can drink, too. That wouldn`t have happened before prohibition. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview is the great Ken Burns. His new documentary "Prohibition" premieres this Sunday, October 2nd, on PBS. Ken, it is so great to have you back here. Thank you for coming in. KEN BURNS, DOCUMENTARIAN: It`s my pleasure. Thanks for having me. MADDOW: You know -- you know from our off-line relationship that I`m vaguely obsessed with "Carry Nation." BURNS: Exactly. MADDOW: "Carry Nation" and "Prohibition," this idea that there could be a big, successful American political movement based around their supposed superior morality and everybody else in America having bad morality. How do you win a majoritarian fight when that`s your basic message? BURNS: Well, you start off with a real social problem, which is drunkenness, alcoholism we call it today, and we were drinking five, six times more than then than we did now. People would drink it for breakfast like John Adams and it was a big social problem. People wanted it. It was agency for women outside the home that they could talk about it. But then it got hijacked by this incredible organization called the Anti-Saloon League. And they are the single greatest lobbying organization in the history of the United States. They make the NRA look like they`re still in short pants and need a lesson or two. It`s a phenomenal thing. We`re not told about that. We`re distracted by flappers dancing on table tops. We`re distracted by an interest in the gangsters. When, in fact, this was the first culture war. And they amassed this strange alliance so that by the time prohibition went into effect, there were progressives as well as conservatives supporting it for all sorts of reason -- the NAACP, but also the Ku Klux Klan, the Wobblies and the industrialists. And what they all saw was that banning alcohol would be this panacea, this magic bullet that would cure all of society`s ills. And, of course, it wasn`t -- the exact opposite thing. Billy Sunday, the evangelist, said that if we pass this thing, if he gets pass, hell will forever be for rent. And, in fact, they were lining up SRO to go into hell as a result of that. I mean, I think it was always prohibition for somebody else, as our film begins with this great quote from Mark Twain, "Nothing so needs reforming as other people`s habits." MADDOW: As other people`s habits. And there are two sides to this. One of the interesting things about the political dynamics here is that nobody is standing up for the bad -- the people of bad morals, right? BURNS: Right. MADDOW: People who want to drink in as powerful a ways to people who are standing up as the moralists here, as the dries. There are, of course, like the brewers association -- BURNS: Yes. MADDOW: -- who are trying to make a case for their own industry. It`s clearly self-interested case. BURNS: That`s the problem when you have moral authority on one side saying, let`s improve society, let`s get rid of the evil drink, the evil saloons and you`re saying, I kind of like to take a drink now and then. And this is my business; don`t take it away from me. And for a while, the brewers held their own because upwards of 70 percent of internal federal revenues to Uncle Sam came from taxing beer and liquor. And so, the conservative Anti-Saloon League shrewdly aligns themselves with the progressive movement who are seeking a redistribution of wealth because of the imbalance to pass an income tax amendment. And then all of a sudden, you disconnected Uncle Sam from the booze industry. And then if you got the convenience of World War I where all Germans are enemies, beer equals treason, we change the name of sauerkraut to liberty cabbage. Sound familiar? MADDOW: I was going to say, freedom toast. I can feel it right now. Yes. BURNS: It`s just -- it`s what happens. And it tumbles in. And we have it, and we wake up and it`s -- we wake up with a hangover because most people think, well, I`ll still have my beer and wine. I`ll be able to do that. But the draconian law that was passed, the Volstead Act, to administer the amendment was defining alcohol as one-half of 1 percent, and then it had other places where there were loopholes that gave the opportunities to criminals who were disorganized until prohibition to become organized and create the worst unintended consequence of this all, which is the existence of organized crime. MADDOW: On the issue of organized crime -- I mean, I feel like when we talk about prohibition now -- there has been more talk about it recently because I think there`s been a cocktail renaissance and it`s a popular time in American history right now. BURNS: It`s fashion. Yes. MADDOW: But everybody who always tries to make prohibition of alcohol an allegory for some other things that it bans now, but if you take on its own terms without making it a metaphor -- BURNS: That`s right, for marijuana or anything. MADDOW: Taken it on its own terms, are there things now in our culture and our politics that are direct legacies of prohibition itself? I mean, you mentioned organized crime. BURNS: Yes. I think organized crime is the biggest and loudest one. I think female alcoholism, because women, as you said in your lead, you know, didn`t drink in saloons. And so, all of a sudden, they were certainly drinking in speakeasy and alcohol consumption in women went up significantly in the course of it and stayed up. So, these are the pernicious legacies. The good thing that came out of this is that we have a healthy suspicion of that group that`s saying, hey, I`ve got the solution again. If you just do this blankety-blank amendment, everything will be all right. The sun will shine and everything will be fine again. And we don`t do that because we know, we`ve got this built-in memory of this time. But if you think about prohibition, it just -- it echoes with everything single issue campaigns -- demonization of immigrants, loss of civil discourse, smear campaigns and presidential election cycles, a whole group of people who feel like they`ve lost control of their country and want to take it back, warrantless wiretaps. What`s the correct role of government? I mean, stop me. You can go on and on and on. And this is not a rehearsal. This is human nature. We are imbedded in us this impulse to control. But in our country, in which most amendments, all amendments, are expanding human freedom, besides the ones that tinker with the mechanics of the Constitution, how long you can serve, you know, when you take office, this one is the only one that narrowed it, that restricted it and the only one, thank goodness, that got repealed. I mean, the good news is, 13 years, almost 14 years sounds like a long time. And everyone was stunned as how quickly the ratification of prohibition came in. But it went out even faster. The repeal was just even more swift because we just had run up against the inherent hypocrisy of people who believed in absolute moral certainty. It may have worked at the edges in the single issue wedge campaign because that`s the purpose of a wedge issue is to divide. But once it`s practically applied, then the emperor has no clothes anymore. It`s the poor and the working class that are -- and the recent immigrants that are being unfairly targeted. The rich can stockpile their own booze and have it for as long as they want. People are being killed with shootouts with federal agents, innocent passers by. There`s organized crime and all the attendant corruption that comes from that. The president of the United States, Warren G. Harding, who`s for it, nevertheless has a bootlegger coming to the White House. So, you know, at the end, the combination of the depression and hypocrisy we said, so why did we end the fifth largest industry? MADDOW: It is such a radical -- such a radical social experiment to even conceive about this country but to have done it for 13 years -- BURNS: Yes. MADDOW: -- is astonishing. Now we know more about it than we ever otherwise would had you, Ken Burns, not decided to take this on. Thank you for doing this documentary on this subject. I`m so fascinated by it. I couldn`t be happier that you`ve done it. I think it`s great and so entertaining. Thank you. BURNS: Well, you know, I also have to shout out, Lynn Novick, who`s the co-director and co-producer in this, who`s been my long-time collaborator. And this is equally hers. And she added an interesting dimension trying to tell this story and getting it right. This a kind of fever dream of 14 years of, this is us? MADDOW: Seriously. Ken Burns, director and producer of the new documentary "Prohibition," the first episode airs this Sunday 8 p.m. on PBS. I can personally recommend it. It`s awesome. Ken, thanks very much. Good luck. BURNS: My pleasure. Thank you. MADDOW: All right. When info bunk needs debunking, it is time for a trip, naturally, to "Debunktion Junction." That is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We`ve raised this ugly unfortunate incident to the highest levels of the Syrian government. We continue to call for an end to the violence and we`ll continue to speak out. And I think Ambassador Ford`s courage and clarity is, you know, making the point that the United States cannot and will not stand idly by when this kind of violence continues. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: When countries have really serious disagreements over really serious issues, one of the ways countries will resolve those issues is war. We fight it out physically. But if we`re not going to fight it out physically, the other means by which our governments try to get our way in the world, other than by using force, is by using diplomacy -- or should I say, diplomacy, hi-yaa! In 2005, after years of conflict with the nation of Syria, the Bush administration got so angry with Syria that they decided to call home America`s ambassador. When the Obama administration took over, they were no less angry with Syria and had no fewer disagreements with that country. But the Obama administration decided to deal with their disagreements, they would send an ambassador back there, an am-badass-ador actually back to Syria. The Senate would not confirm him. So, President Obama had to give him a recess appointment. But we did send this man, Robert Ford, to be America`s man in Syria. And the American position toward the government in Syria right now is roughly that we are against it. This summer, President Obama called on the president of Syria to step down saying, quote, "We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside." Now, if the president says that and you`re America`s guy in Syria, you`re America`s man in charge of staying in touch with President Assad at a time like that, what do you do? Well, if you are Robert Ford, America`s am-badass-ador, you defy the Syria government telling you that you need their permission to leave the capital city and you instead just go on your own, to go see the anti-government protesters where they`re able to protest outside the state`s capital, like he did in July. Ambassador Ford and the French ambassador went to the city of Hama. The protesters there are greeting the ambassadors, as you can see, with rose petals. The tree limbs you see them carrying, you can see that, those are olive branches, yes, as in the metaphor. After Ambassador Ford took that visit in July to the central Syrian city of Hama, a major focal point of the anti-government protest movement, he got slapped with travel restrictions from the Syrian government. Then, regime loyalists in the capital attacked the American and French embassies. And then, "The New York Times" reporting it was not just the embassy that was attacked, but also Robert Ford`s house several blocks away. How does Robert Ford respond to all this? He leaves Damascus again and goes to another city that had been central to the anti-protest movement. He traveled to the city of Jasum (ph) in August. Then this month, he attended the funeral of a Syrian human rights activist who was killed while in Syrian security force custody. That funeral not long after Ambassador Ford was there was itself attacked violently by Syrian security forces. Today, when Robert Ford went to meet with an opposition leader in Damascus, Robert Ford`s convoy was attacked, physically attacked by regime loyalists. Pro-government activists reportedly stoned his convoy. The "A.P." saying they pelted him with eggs and tomatoes and then tried to break into the building where his meeting was being held. "The New York Times" reporting that Ambassador Ford was then essentially trapped inside that building for about 90 minutes. U.S. government officials now say that Ambassador Ford is fine. He`s physically OK after today`s attack on him. Robert Ford`s boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is not happy about the attack. And also, she clearly understands that Robert Ford is not just an ambassador. He is an am-badass-ador even if she put on exactly those terms. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: Ambassador Ford has shown admirable courage, putting himself on the line to bear witness to the situation on the ground in Syria. He is a vital advocate for the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, now under siege by the Assad regime. I encourage the United States Senate to show our support for Ambassador Ford by confirming him as soon as possible, so he can continue fully confirmed his critical and courageous work. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, right, right, after all this guy`s been through, after all this guy has done, after everything he`s doing in Syria -- Republicans in the United States Senate have not been able to bring themselves to allow him to be confirmed. Seriously? No, really? Seriously? Come on! (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "Debunktion Junction" -- what`s my function? All right. True or false -- Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is polling so low right now that he is at risk at getting cut from the future debates. He could be locked out. Is that true or is that false? False, at least for now it`s false. The next debate is going to be on October 11th. That`s "The Washington Post"/Bloomberg debate in Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Now, weirdly, "The Washington Post" and Bloomberg are not saying what the criteria are for being included in their debate. So, I can`t speak to that. But the next debate after that is on CNN, October 18th. And CNN has made their criteria known publicly and well in advance. And according to their criteria for who can be in their debate, Jon Huntsman for most of this month was actually in danger of getting cut. Their criteria, quote, "A person must receive an average of at least 2 percent in at least three national polls released between September 1st and October 16th." Dave Weigel of has dubbed this the Gary Johnson rule after the former New Mexico governor was only been allowed on stage for one of the debates so far. Keeping in mind the exacting stands of that rule, here`s how Jon Huntsman did in the first six national polls conducted in that time frame starting September 1st. The most recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, Huntsman got 1 percent. "USA Today"/Gallup, 1 percent. McClatchy/Marist, 1 percent. CBS/"New York Times," 1 percent. Bloomberg, 1 percent. Trouble for Jon Huntsman here, right? One percent is not enough. You need to get an average of at least 2 percent in at least three polls. But he has been saved by the bell. In the previous CNN poll conducted earlier in September, Mr. Huntsman did get the required 2 percent. And in the new FOX News poll released just last night, he spiked and saved his average. He was up to 4 percent in the FOX poll which means it is possible to come up with an average of three polls that put Huntsman above the 2 percent cutoff, right? Four plus two plus one is seven, divide that by three -- that is more than two. And that is not exactly crack open the champagne news for the Jon Huntsman for president campaign. But it`s not turn out the lights news for that campaign either. Next up, in the 2008 presidential election, the first nominating contest was held in Iowa on January 3rd, right after the New Year, which means we spent a full 11 months voting in order to pick a new president in `08. As weird as that was, that is the new normal. So, true or false, the astonishingly early start to the primary calendar in 2008 is about to happen again for 2012? Is that true or is that false? True. Looks like it at least. Florida poised to move its presidential primary to the last day of January. The speaker of the Florida statehouse telling NBC News he expects the 31st to be the date when Florida formalizes it tomorrow. If that happens, it means South Carolina will move its primary date up, which means Nevada will move up its caucus state, which means New Hampshire will move up its primary, which means Iowa will be holding the Iowa caucuses just after the New Year again. And there would be five nominating contests just in the month of January, which would be just like 2008 but way more boring. Do it later, you guys. Come on. That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for "THE ED SHOW." Have a good one. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END