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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/25/11

Guests: Wayne Slater, Eric Schneiderman, Glenn Greenwald

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Not all true. But thank you, Ed. I love having you at 8:00 and Lawrence at 10:00. This is a lot of fun, man. Thanks. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us the next hour. Listen -- Rick Perry, I don`t mean to be blunt about this or anything, but Rick Perry is tanking as a presidential candidate. Honestly, I really thought Rick Perry would be better than this. But he`s been bad at the debates. He does not seem to be good as talking about his record as Texas governor and he seems to have the likability factor of a small, sharp rock that you know is in your shoe, it`s killing you every time you take a step, but you just can`t find it to get it out of there. In the latest national CBS/"New York Times" poll, Governor Perry has fallen off a cliff. Herman Cain is in the national lead followed pretty closely by Mitt Romney. Rick Perry is down at fifth. Soon after Rick Perry got into the race, he was winning that same poll with 23 percent of the vote in mid-September. By mid-October that was down to 12 percent of the vote. Now, he is down to 6 percent of the vote. Rick Perry is tanking as a candidate. And so, time for a Rick Perry comeback, probably. At least that seems to be the idea. Rick Perry, this week, unveiling a "kitchen sink" strategy of trying everything all at once. Since Mitt Romney has been doing well by being the establishment candidate, tanking Rick Perry went and got himself some establishment Republicans to be his new staffers. There are frankly not that be many establishment Republican staffers out there and still available at this point. But there was one guy left over from the first George W. Bush run who was still available and still willing to talk to Rick Perry. So, Perry snatched him up. Then, other than that, Perry picked himself up old Bob Dole staffers from when Bob Dole -- remember him -- from when he ran 15 years ago. So, tanking Rick Perry has got himself some old school Republican staff help this week. Also, there`s that Herman Cain who seems to be doing well with his 9-9-9 version of a flat tax. So, tanking Rick Perry has come up with his own version of a flat tax that accomplishes the same goal of huge tax cuts for rich people and big tax hikes for everyone else. So, tanking Rick Perry has all of a sudden this week got himself some old school establishment Republican staff like Mitt Romney has and he`s got himself a flat tax sort of like Herman Cain has. But when time is short and you are really tanking and you are really desperate, a kitchen sink strategy really does mean trying everything all at once. And so, from the flash in the pan candidacy of Donald Trump, the reality TV person, tanking Rick Perry is also now going with questioning the president`s birth certificate. Seriously. Raising the birth certificate issue in "Parade" magazine this weekend and then doubling down on the birth certificate thing in an interview with John Harwood at CNBC. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Mitt Romney, after the president released his birth certificate earlier this year, said that issue`s done and settled. I accept it. You chose to keep it alive in your interview with "Parade" magazine over the weekend. Why did you do that? GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s a good issue to keep alive. Just, you know, Donald`s got to have some fun, so -- HARWOOD: But are you saying that your comments about that are kind of a joke? Or do you seriously have an unresolved question like Donald Trump has about this? PERRY: I don`t have a clue about where the president and what this birth certificate says. But it`s also a great distraction. I`m not distracted by it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`m not distracted by it but rather stoking it for all it`s worth. What is it worth at this point anyway? A few votes maybe? Dredging up the birther conspiracy again is not a distraction for tanking Rick Perry. This is not an inadvertent eddy into which he`s accidentally gotten himself stuck while he was really trying to get people to pay attention to his tax plan. This whole birth certificate thing he`s doing now is on purpose. This is the filthy little drain hole in his kitchen sink strategy, this conspiracy theory about whether or not President Obama is secretly foreign. Governor Perry today announced that he, he, Governor Perry, will show his birth certificate in order to keep alive the fervent guttural fantasies of the baked on crust of the Republican base that President Obama is secretly not really the president at all, that he`s secretly from a foreign country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: Somebody want to see my birth certificate, I`d be happy to show it to them. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: As he tanks in the polls, Texas Governor Rick Perry says he for one will happily release his birth. Everybody understands that when you are tanking as badly as Rick Perry is tanking, when you are Rick Perry and have never lost an election and you are losing this one this badly, you have got to try everything at once. You have got to try a kitchen sink strategy. And everybody knows that every kitchen sink does have a filthy little drain hole in it, a filthy little drain hole personified by Donald Trump this year and Rick Perry climbed into that hole with him. The reason there`s even room for Rick Perry to try to make a comeback in the case is the same reason there was room for him to get into the race in the first place -- overwhelming Republican dissatisfaction, overwhelming dissatisfaction among Republican base voters with this guy, with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney has maintained his sort of frontrunner status. He appears to have hit a ceiling in terms of support for him among Republicans. When polling on this Republican presidential field started about a year ago, Mitt Romney sat at about 23 percent support. Now, a year later, Mitt Romney sits at about 23 percent support. Mitt Romney is Mr. 23 percent. He cannot seem to get above that no matter how many other candidates rise and fall around him. Among the things holding Mitt Romney back as a candidate, if you listen to what Republican voters say about him, is the perception of Mitt Romney -- it`s frankly well-earned perception of him -- of having a substance problem. Not having a substance abuse problem, but having the problem that he does not seem to have substance. He seems unsubstantial. He seems willing to take any position on any issue. Particularly on things that are supposed to reflect core values, core moral beliefs, Mitt Romney seems to say whatever he thinks his audience might like to hear that day. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since Roe V. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it. And I sustain and support that law and the right of the woman to make that choice. It`s long past time for the Supreme Court to return the issue of abortion back to the states by overturning Roe V. Wade. Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan/Bush. I`m not trying to return to Reagan/Bush. Well, you can learn some lessons from Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan rallied America with peace through strength. I`ll actually establish something I`m going to call the Reagan economic zone. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: When he ran for Senate, he was for abortion rights. Now, he`s against abortion rights when he ran for Senate. He distanced himself from Ronald Reagan. Now, he is an acolyte of St. Ronald. In that same other Romney era back in 1996, Mitt Romney also derided the idea of a flat tax as a, quote, "tax cut for fat cats." Mitt Romney was anti-flat tax in the 1990s. Now, Mitt Romney says and, I quote, "I love a flat tax." This is not a bad habit Mitt Romney left behind from an earlier stage in his career. It`s not just him disavowing positions that he took back in the roaring `90s. Mitt Romney is also now disavowing positions that he took in June of this year. In June of this year, Mitt Romney came out in full support of the Republican union-stripping effort in Ohio. Republicans there passed an anti-union bill called SB-5. And Mitt Romney endorsed it. He said, quote, "My friends in Ohio are fighting to defend crucial reforms that the state has put in place to limit the power of union bosses. I stand with John Kasich and Ohio`s leaders." Mitt Romney came out for the union stripping thing in Ohio. Since then, the union-stripping thing has proven to be incredibly, incredibly unpopular among the people of Ohio. A new poll out today shows Iowa residents, excuse me -- Ohio residents by a 25-point margin want to repeal the union-stripping thing when it is on the ballot next month. Fifty-seven percent of registered voters in Ohio say they are against the union- stripping thing, 32 percent are for it. That is a 25 percent margin against it. With the unpopularity of that new union-stripping law looming, Mitt Romney went to Ohio today having endorsed John Kasich and the union- stripping thing, having scheduled a campaign stop to go buck up and encourage and give a pep talk to the people making phone calls to defend that union stripping thing. But when Mitt Romney actually got to Ohio, he decided not to take a position on the union stripping thing today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I`m not -- I`m not speaking about the particular ballot issues. Those are up to the people of Ohio, but I certainly support the effort of the government to rein in the scale of the government. So I`m not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`m not terribly familiar with the things I endorsed two months ago that is now wildly unpopular. Before the last few weeks the worry about Mitt Romney`s candidacy was pretty clear. Social conservatives are going to have a problem with him because he`s flip-flopped a lot on social conservative issues. But the Beltway wisdom was that was not going to an insurmountable problem for Romney this year because this year`s election is not about the economy, not about social issues. And on the economy, Mitt Romney was supposed to be rock solid. Except now, Mitt Romney is showing he`s got that same famous Mitt Romney gummy worm spine on economic issues the same way he does on social issues -- just telling people what they want to hear in the moment, forgetting what are supposed to be his core beliefs on issues like this year`s Republican fad flat tax and busting unions. Whatever you think of those issues substantively, this is the reason why Mitt Romney`s polling has looked like this for a year and why every other Republican candidate is not only banking on Mitt Romney`s polling never going like this, but it probably eventually going like this. So, yes, Rick Perry may be tanking badly, and yes, Herman Cain may be unbelievable as a candidate, but days like today are why we know there will be a non-Romney candidate resurgence. Days like this also remind us of the fundamentals of why Mitt Romney is such a bad candidate for Republicans. And sadly, days like this also tell us what that non-Romney candidate resurgence is likely to look like. Hi, Orly. Hi, Rick. Joining us now is Wayne Slater, senior political writer for the "Dallas Morning News." Wayne, thanks for your time tonight. Nice to see you. WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Great to be with you, again, Rachel. MADDOW: From what you have seen on the campaign trail of how Mitt Romney is approaching -- trying to win the nomination, how do you explain the about-face/face plant on the union issue in Ohio? Denying his own position on the issue at a phone bank in Ohio that was organized around that issue? SLATER: Yes. I mean, it seems like that would have been a slam dunk Republican primary, somebody who`s had union issue, you vote against it, you`ve been against it, you say today you`re against it. He didn`t. The only way I think to understand this is to understand that Mitt Romney is not running in the Republican primary. He is actually thinks that he is running in the general election. And that realizing how unpopular this Senate Bill 5 is on the ballot, that he doesn`t want to hurt his opportunities with independent voters, including some moderate Republican votes who must be among the constituencies who are going to vote for this. The problem for Romney is not only that he flip-flop on this issue, which is a big problem, it is that he`s running in the wrong election I think because Rick Perry and others are running in the primary where they`re trying to gather the farthest right wing of the party around them and the issues that will congeal them around his candidacy, while Mitt Romney just sits there at 23 percent to 24 percent to 25 percent. MADDOW: Wayne, part of the reason that I have thought that Rick Perry would be a stronger candidate, and why I still expect a comeback from him at some point, is because of reporting out of Texas, including your reporting out of Texas, about how Rick Perry has never lost an election, how he shouldn`t be underestimated in any political contest. What do you think is going on with him embracing the birth certificate thing of all things? Why has he brought that back when everybody thought it was dead? SLATER: It looks crazy. And I talked to people here in Austin, some of whom say why is he doing this? He`s stepping on his jobs message. He knows exactly what he`s doing in this regard. He`s trying to have it both ways. He`s both suggesting as he did with the interview with John Harwood this morning that it`s kind of a joke and he`s kind of kidding around at the same time. He will continue to not say whether he believes the president was born in the country. What that allows him to do is both appeal to the, as I say, the marginalia of the radical Republican right, the birthers, the Birchers, the secessionists, the militias, the folks who actually believe that Barack Obama was born in Africa. But also -- that`s only about 14 percent now in the polls -- but also appeal to other Republicans who like his style. Again, these are not Romney voters. These are Republican voters who may be with Herman Cain right now or Michele Bachmann, still with her. They like it that Perry -- at least Perry people hope they do -- they like it that Perry is not afraid of Obama. That he`s going to poke Obama. That he`s the guy that will go after Obama. And that really is a more fundamental message in this birther -- this birther kind of clown show, frankly. MADDOW: In terms of what you have seen from him in previous campaigns, "Politico" is reporting that Texas Republicans are slow even to endorse Perry this time around. Of course, he is way down at 6 percent. Have you ever seen Perry this far behind in a race with so little support from his party? Is there any way to know how he will react? SLATER: No. He finished 39 percent in the election six, eight years ago. But I have never really seen him that far behind. The only time I`ve seen him really an underdog in a statewide election was 1990 against Jim Hightower, very popular Republican. Next thing he with Karl Rove`s help on Rick Perry`s side, you had Karl Rove leaking to newspapers, including our own, information and testimony from a secret grand jury investigating the Agriculture Department, raising questions about corruption. Stories in the newspaper. Hightower was playing defense and ultimately Rick Perry won that race. 2002, Rick Perry went against a Democrat, Tony Sanchez, a banker, a billionaire banker from Laredo and the attack, a rather scathing attack at the close of the campaign on television suggested the Democratic opponent was involved in some way in the death of drug merchants and drug dealers, also was laundering drug money across the Texas border. None of this was true, but Perry has shown an ability with the folks around him to go after an opponent hammer and tong. So, even though he is behind, if I`m Mitt Romney, just like Kay Bailey Hutchison, one year ago here, I wouldn`t let my guard down. He is a terrific campaigner. MADDOW: Terrific in the sense of willing to do anything even if the stuff isn`t true. Wayne Slater -- SLATER: Absolutely. MADDOW: -- senior political writer for "The Dallas Morning News" -- you`re living history of Rick Perry as a politician gets more and more valuable every day, Wayne. Thank you. SLATER: Thank you. MADDOEW: All right. Have you seen this today? You have definitely seen this today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need you to get involved because together we could do this. We can take this country back. (MUSIC) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Of course, you`ve seen this today, right? Republicans are great at creating buzz-worthy if inexplicable political ads. Democrats -- oh, Democrats, Democrats, Democrats. Well, Democrats generally have not been as good as Republicans at campaign ads that are buzz worthy recently. Democrats kind of sort of finally got a really good one together, something pretty effective about something really important, from Democrats. Seriously. Coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Imagine the biggest, scariest pile of lethal technology in the history of man kind -- the biggest bomb in the whole wide world ever in history. Now imagine dismantling it piece by delicate piece. That is coming up on the show tonight. It`s not even a metaphor. It really is just the giantest freaking bomb in the whole world. It`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I`ve seen a lot of weird campaign ads. This one ranks up there. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herman Cain releases a new ad that features his chief of staff smoking a cigarette. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s an ad on Cain`s official YouTube page that`s causing a bit of a stir. TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: This online campaign ad for Herman Cain is sparking controversy. BLITZER: This is an official Herman Cain campaign ad. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Lots of politics chatter today about Herman Cain`s suddenly viral super weird web video ad-ish thing. The one starring his chief of staff, the head of Koch brothers funded group Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin, talking about Mr. Cain apparently during a smoke break. Whether you think this is super weird on purpose or not, this super weird thing, the inexplicable smoke break ad, is having the desired effect, in the sense that everybody is talking about it in Mr. Cain`s candidacy because of it. And that kind of thing usually doesn`t happen with Democratic ads. Nobody really ever talks about Democratic ads. Not recently at least because generally speaking, Democratic ads are not that good. I`m sorry. Be mad at me. My e-mail is Send me hate mail. I read it. I love it. But it`s true. Democratic ads right now, for whatever reason, they try but they tend to look like this one. I mean, there is a funny visual metaphor here going on, but the metaphor is also very confusing. The idea is that there is an elderly man who is maybe a firefighter or maybe he is dressed up like a firefighter. He is dancing for women who do not want him to be dancing for them. This is supposed to be an ad about Medicare. So, yes, there`s that. Or there`s this one which attempts to call Mitt Romney out on a pretty simple straightforward Mitt Romney-style flip- flop. One time, Mitt Romney said Barack Obama had made the recession worse. Then he denied he said that. So, in that instance, your job, Democrats, is pretty simple -- just point out the flip-flop. But Democrats can`t let it be simple. They go on and on and on with lots of long sound bites until you forgotten what it that Mitt Romney was even supposed to be flip-flopping on and essentially produced a really long ad -- a long, long ad of long Mitt Romney sound bites of him talking smack about the president and put a Democratic label on it. Ta-da! There`s also this one, an ad about Mitt Romney having a meeting with Donald Trump which is a great negative ad opportunity. The Democrats managed to put the photos up over playful music then end with this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP: If I -- if I -- if I -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the punch line. But you know what? The Democrats have, despite that recent track record, actually just made a good ad, on a good issue. Check it out. Here`s this anti-Romney ad from the DNC on an issue that`s hard to get into in a 30-second ad, the housing crisis. But they did it and they did it well. This totally works. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: Almost half of Arizona homeowners under water. Foreclosures everywhere. And what`s Mitt Romney`s plan? MITT: Don`t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. NARRATOR: Let Arizonans hit the bottom? ROMNEY: Don`t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. NARRATOR: Mitt Romney`s message to Arizona: you`re on your own. ROMENY: Let hit the bottom. NARRATOR: The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this ad. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: They did it. That made sense. And it was 30 seconds. And that ad has the added bonus of not only being true and well done for once but it is an issue on which the Democrats are actually doing something right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can`t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won`t act, I will. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama in Las Vegas yesterday announcing a rules change at the federal level essentially to help allow people, allow more people to refinance their mortgages, to make them more affordable. A change he will make even without cooperation from Congress. But some way, way, way more aggressive action on mortgages, and specifically on holding Wall Street accountable for using mortgages to blow up our economy, is happening not at the federal level but at the state level where New York state`s progressive attorney general has thrown a wrench in the works of a planned settlement with big banks over their worst practices that led to the financial meltdown. Instead, pushing forward with a wide-ranging investigation into the big questions here, like what the banks did, what they knew, when they knew it and how criminally liable they might be for their actions. Joining us now is attorney general for the great state of New York, Eric Schneiderman. Mr. Attorney General, thank you for being here. I know you don`t do a lot of interviews about this. ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW YORK: I`m glad to be here, Rachel. MADDOW: The big picture issue of housing and the continuing reverberations of the fiscal crash of 2008, are the biggest economic issues facing the country. They`re also very obtuse partisan politics around these things. Do you think that Democrats have done well in responding to the mortgage crisis and misbehavior of the banks? SCHNEIDERMAN: Well, I think we`ve done some things. I think the president`s move this week was a good step. I`m a prosecutor and I took office in January, and Beau Biden, who`s the attorney general of Delaware, and I, thought we really needed to dig in a little bit deeper. And we were doing an investigation into what caused the bubble and the crash in the housing market. And it`s really not all that obtuse. I mean, there are a lot of folks who are trying to rewrite history and paint it like it was a volcano or an earthquake and that now we can move on to the problem of paying too much to cops and teachers and firefighters. This was a manmade crisis. It was created by regulatory neglect and greed. I assure you, without telling you about secrets of our investigation, we have not found a trace of evidence that a cop, firefighter, teacher, or sanitation worker contributed to blowing up the American economy. So, we`re digging in and think we can do more. We think we`re going to be able to obtain real meaningful relief. There are 11 million whose homes are underwater not just in Arizona but all across the country. We think we have to hold accountable to people who caused this disaster. And just as important, as I say, we got to get this out in the open so they can`t rewrite history. I mean, Mr. Romney`s comments, we should just let things hit bottom -- this is the same sort of deregulatory mania that they were dishing out in 2005 and 2006. That didn`t work so well for the economy. MADDOW: Did this catastrophe happen because -- as far as what you have been able to determine so far, because deregulation proceeded to a part -- to a point where banks could act legally in a way that was nevertheless, dramatically, fiscally irresponsible or are we looking at a case of potential illegal behavior -- behavior that was against the law despite the fact that they had been so deregulated? SCHNEIDERMAN: Well, that`s why you have an investigation. There may well have been a combination of the two. There`s no question that they dismantled a lot of the safety mechanisms that have protected our markets for a long time. But, you know, we`re also looking at the conduct of individual institutions and individuals to see if there were misrepresentations made, to see if there was fraud committed, to see if criminal acts were also a part of this. And that`s what Beau and I are looking at and we`re determined to follow it through until we get the relief the homeowners need and hold accountable the people who caused this. MADDOW: That issue of holding people accountable is a guttural instinct in American politics now because we know the fiscal crisis was a manmade crisis. We know that this was something that people did the wrong thing and thereby hurt the entire country. And the country is still paying but nobody paid for what they did. That is -- that`s just a base raw feeling that`s driving "Occupy Wall Street" protests right now -- but I think it`s also driving a lot of anger in the country, left, right and center. You and Beau Biden have jurisdictional opportunities here because of where institutions are incorporated that had a lot to do with these problems. Is there more that could be done at the federal level right now, starting now in 2011 that hasn`t been done? Are there demands that should be made both of the administration and the Congress in terms of ways they can hold Wall Street accountable? SCHNEIDERMAN: Well, it`s challenging for the president because the Republicans in Congress have essentially openly declared they`ll do things that they know hurt the American people just to prevent him from getting a win. But as you say, we do have jurisdiction, because the mortgage-backed securities that brought down the country were all issued out of New York trust or Delaware trust. We`re pursuing it. And you`re absolutely right. A lot of folks look at "Occupy Wall Street" and the other occupations and think they`re fringe characters. I hear the same sense that we don`t have one set of rules for everyone anymore, that people are not held accountable for misconduct. From every average American you run into, anywhere else, in a community hall meeting, in a diner, all over New York state, I`m sure all over America -- there is a sense that equal justice under law is no longer the rule for this country. And we got to get that back. I mean, as much as the economic damage is terrible, for Americans to lose the sense that this is a country where law governs and you`re not above the law and you`re not below the law -- I mean, you know, the law applies to everyone. The sense of accountability is one of the key motivators for our investigation and there are other A.G.s who are coming our way. I think there are actually going to be quite a few investigations before this is over. MADDOW: As New York state`s attorney general, am I right that your office is quite near the Lower Manhattan "Occupy Wall Street" encampment? SCHNEIDERMAN: It is, right across the park. MADDOW: When you -- when you look -- from what I hear you saying right now, my sense is when you look at the folks out there protesting every day, you have some sympathy for what they`re doing? SCHNEIDERMAN: I, you know, I see them as part of a -- they`re the tip of a much bigger iceberg. I spend a lot time traveling around the state. I have 13 regional offices. And I assure you that if anyone who thinks the American people have gotten over their anger at the bubble and the crash, over their sense of betrayal that the fundamental American idea of equal justice under law has, you know, really been let go by the wayside -- they`re wrong. People are mad. People want -- not because they`re hostile or vicious, they just want to know there`s one set of rules for everyone. I don`t hear that much different in most of the "Occupy Wall Street" folks from what I hear everywhere else in the state as I travel around. MADDOW: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman -- thank you for taking the time to talk to us tonight. Again, I know you don`t do this often. I really appreciate it. SCHNEIDERMAN: Thank you. MADDOW: And I would just say that in terms of looking at accountability issues and Wall Street and where "Occupy Wall Street" goes and that feeling in the country -- keep an eye on New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and also Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. Set Google alert on these guys. Just watch what they do. That`s all I`m saying. Glenn Greenwald joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It was a giant earthquake that spawned a giant tsunami that knocked out electricity, melted down reactors, that caused a near apocalyptic nuclear crisis. It was this past March in Japan. And the earthquake that begat the tidal wave that begat the meltdown, also begat between 5 million and 20 million tons of trash, debris that washed into the Pacific Ocean. Japan, of course, is on the west side of the Pacific Ocean. We`re on the Pacific Ocean`s east side. The people keeping track of this floating mass of trash stew now said they have a pretty good idea of when it will float over the Pacific Ocean to the United States. According to new forecasts from researchers at University of Hawaii, these 20 tons of debris will hit Hawaiian shores sometime in the winter of spring of 2013. The trash will then proceed further east and slosh over to the Pacific Northwest, hitting the coast of Washington and Oregon around the start of 2014. Now, the massive release of radioactivity from the melted down reactors at Fukushima, that took place in a slow-motion disaster after the quake and tsunami washed that debris into the ocean. So, there`s not that much of a worry that a giant field of floating Japanese tsunami is radioactive. A Russian ship passed by the debris last month and found no abnormal levels of radiation in the trash. Our own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, my beloved NOAA agrees that whatever risk the giant 20 million-ton slick of floating trash poses, it is not a radioactive risk. So, yes, giant trash problem in the sea, yes. However, not a radioactive giant trash problem. So, that`s your first instance of good nuclear news today -- only the first. We have more happy news about radioactivity ahead. Seriously. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996, that made him the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to be re-elected to a second term. That said, Republicans do not have that great a presidential track record either. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were the only two to serve two terms since Ike. Richard Nixon was a Republican and he did get elected twice. But Nixon, of course, had to quit during his second term because he was a crook. Richard Nixon`s first vice president, Spiro Agnew, also turned out to be a crook. So, when he had to resign even before Nixon did, Nixon appointed a new vice president named Gerald Ford. That was an appointment, not an election. So when Nixon then had to quit, too, this man who was never elected president and who was never elected vice president, a man who had been appointed to that position and then only got to the Oval Office because the two crooks ahead of him in line got caught and had to quit, Gerald Ford inexplicably became president of the United States. And then less than one month after taking office in the rather gangster sort of way, Gerald Ford said that Richard Nixon -- according to him -- was off the hook, scot-free. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GERALD R. FORD, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans, whatever their station or former station. The law, whether human or divine, is no respecter of persons but the law is a respecter of reality. Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, president of the United States, do grant a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in. (END VDIEO CLIP) MADDOW: And so, Richard Nixon had to quit the presidency, but he never otherwise had to play what he did. The nation turfed the guy who pardoned Nixon out of office the first chance they had to vote on him on him in 1976. But over time, Gerald Ford`s decision to retroactively excuse everything Nixon did for the sake of the nation and moving on and not looking back, that became a lauded decision, a patriotic move, for the reasons that Ford argued when he let Nixon off the hook. That the country would be better off not deal with this anymore, that we needed our long national nightmare of finding out what a crook our president was to be over. In his new book, constitutional Lawyer and principle provocateur Glenn Greenwald argues that the American public was right the first time when we reacted to the pardoning of Richard Nixon with revulsion and anger. But the precedent of that pardon, of important people getting away with crimes because it is disruptive and upsetting to our institutions, if they don`t get away with it, Glenn argued that that precedent set us up for four straight decades, lousy with important people being allowed to commit crimes simply because they`re important people. And that has led us to this moment, where an America that has long been divided between rich and poor, where the 1 percent have long outpaced the rest of the country economically, that has led to a country where the 99 percent are starting to look at the 1 percent and starting to look at the political elites not just as lucky, not just as elite, but as beneficiaries of a system that is not fair. And that hasn`t been fair for a long time now. Joining us now is my friend Glenn Greenwald, he is a contributing writer at "Salon." And his latest book, "With Liberty And Justice For Some" is out today. And I cant tell you, I liked it so much I blurbed it on the back. And I don`t go around blurbing willy-nilly. Glenn, congratulations on this. GLENN GREENWALD, AUTHOR, "WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME": Thank you very much, Rachel. MADDOW: What is the -- you highlighted the pardon of Nixon as an important sort of political inflection point in modern American politics. What of that rationale do you still see surviving in American politics? GREENWALD: Look at the last decade of -- when you see enormous numbers of crimes being committed, egregious crimes by the most powerful people in the society -- the creation of a worldwide torture regimes, spying on American citizens without the warrants required by criminal law and aggressive attack on Iraq, various aspects of obstruction of Department of Justice, the destruction of evidence, the courts and the 9/11 Commission ordered to be preserved. And the private sector, you see massive fraud precipitating the financial crisis, mortgage fraud on a systemic level, telecoms participating in the illegal spying -- none of those, they are not bad policy decisions. They are not immoral acts. Those are crimes. None of them have led to meaningful criminal investigations, yet alone criminal prosecutions or accountability. And the reason is because we know are a country that explicitly argues that political elites and financial elites, private sector elites, should be immunized from the rule of law because all the things you pointed out were argued by Gerald Ford to justify the pardon of Richard Nixon. It created this precedent and this mindset that is now seeped into the private sector as well that the rule of law is only for what "Occupy Wall Street" calls the 99 percent. MADDOW: And that is an important -- that last transition point, that it became not just something -- not just an unpleasantness to be avoided, but it became an active political good to insulate elites from accountability for the good of the institutions that they represent, for the good of the nation`s stability, that justified all of the pardons of the Reagan administration officials after Iran Contra. It`s what you say - - you name a chapter, "Too Big to Jail" as opposed to "too big to fail," coming after our discussion with Eric Schneiderman, New York`s attorney general who does not believe in too big to jail. How did it become an active political good to excuse wrongdoing rather than just bad to be avoided? GREENWALD: Well, keep in mind, there`s a big split on this question between media and political elites on the one hand and ordinary Americans on the other. So, as you pointed out, the pardon of Richard Nixon was something that triggered revulsion among the American population. You even listen to it now and you recoil at the idea that this criminal, this clearly fragrantly criminal individual, Richard Nixon, was simply protected by virtue of a status, at the same time that hundreds of thousands of Americans were being prosecuted for trivial offenses. And so, what you see is that there`s an elite class that supported that pardon and it continues to say, we cannot have investigations of the Bush torture regime. It was good that Casper Weinberger was pardoned because he`s a good man who doesn`t belong in prison. And so, you see this elite class whose interest it is to maintain this elite immunity constantly arguing for it, whereas if you look at polls, it`s not just the pardon of Nixon that triggers revulsion. At the beginning of the Obama presidency, large numbers, large percentages of American, majorities, wanted investigations into what the Bush torture scheme, whether the eavesdropping program, whether the obstruction of justice were criminal and illegal because inculcated in the American mind is the idea that we are all equal before the law. And it`s because we`re not you see citizen anger and loss of faith and legitimacy of political institutions. MADDOW: And the reason we have faith in those institutions is not just because they are institutions and they are stable, but because we want to believe they are just. Now, it`s, I think, a transient point and a confrontational point, and I think you make it beautifully, Glenn. So, thank you for writing this book. I think it`s a really big deal and I think it`s really important. GREENWALD: Thank you for having me, Rachel. I appreciate it. MADDOW: Glenn`s new book is called "With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful." And it`s really, really good. Recommend it. All right. Giant, scary nukes neutered. "A Moment of Geek" straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Two years ago, the great state of New Hampshire became the first state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage entirely through its legislature. No court decisions involved. Live free or die. Then, last year, in the great red tide of the 2010 election, New Hampshire`s legislature changed hands -- Democrats out, Republicans in. And the Republican majority pledged to take away that right of New Hampshire same-sex couples to get married. Republicans on the judiciary committee today recommended rescinding same-sex marriage rights. By a big majority, the people of New Hampshire said same-sex marriage has had no impact on their lives. Because this right to get married has been making life better for a few of their neighbors or not affecting them much at all, New Hampshire voted say they would just keep this existing, right, rather than having the legislature go out of its way to take it away. From the polling, quote, "Strong opponents of repealing same-sex marriage continue to out- number proponents by more than 2 to 1." In other words, the people who want to repeal same-sex marriage rights are clearly out-numbered here. But not if they fake some more supporters. This is the Web site for the National Organization for Marriage, the organization for straight people only marriage in New Hampshire. You can see the big crowd gathered. They are cheering. There`s Brian Brown, the president of the straight people only marriage group. He`s firing them up. And see this kid here on somebody`s shoulders. He`s really, really into to. And this person here in the pink shirt with their arm way up, who you calling outnumber 2 to 1? New Hampshire has got thousands of people rallying for their lawmakers to take away an existing right. Unless those people are not actually there in New Hampshire cheering to take away gay people`s rights, unless that fired up crowd is actually in some other place, like, say, at a speech for then-candidate Barack Obama in downtown Columbus, Ohio, before the 2008 election. And yes, there`s that kid on someone`s shoulder and, yes, there`s that woman in the pink shirt and she`s still totally into it. But this is what she`s into. What they are all in to this guy who`s about to be elected president in 2008, the people watching him that day in Columbus had no idea through the magic of uncredited anti-gay PhotoShopping, they would be part of a campaign against gay rights in a state 600 miles away in 2011. The blog Good As You connected these dots today for the world to see. The National Organization for Marriage is just making it up. They and the Republicans in the New Hampshire legislature do not actually have popular support to take a nice picture of for taking away marriage rights currently enjoyed in New Hampshire. So, because they don`t have it, they are faking it instead. Caught you. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS, "DR. STRANGELOVE") MADDOW: That iconic fetish scene from the 1964 film "Dr. Strangelove," it`s never exactly clear what weapon Major Kong is riding all the way to his Russian target. But that was loaded on a B-52, part of force of bombers, according to the film that were armed with 50 megatons of nuclear weapons and kept airborne 24 hours a day in case of attack. All of which means that "Dr. Strangelove`s" fictional Major Kong bomb was probably based on the B-53 which was made two years before "Dr. Strangelove" came out. The B-53 was so enormous only a B-52 bomber was big enough to carry it. This bomb was the size of a mini-bus. It weighed 10,000 pounds, slated to deliver an explosion 600 times the explosion in Hiroshima. It was designed as the first bunker buster. They equipped it with parachutes and a timer so it would land softly on the ground and then explode with enough power to collapse shelters up to 750 feet under ground. And like "Dr. Strangelove`s" bombs, B-53 were loaded onboard bombers that remained airborne 24 hours a day in case of nuclear attack. More than 300 of these bombs, these 53s, were made in the early `60s. Dozens of them were still in U.S. active stockpiles for decades. Even though, according to "The Washington Post," quote, "They were considered so dangerous that only dummies were used when crews practiced loading an unloading them on B-52s. As early as 1993, the Department of Energy was recommending that these bombs be retired as soon as possible, saying that the bomb had, quote, "no assured level of nuclear safety in a broad range of multiple abnormal environments." Ek! There`s only one place the United States has that`s built to assemble and disassemble nuclear weapons. It`s the Pantex plant in Amarillo, Texas. Thousands of warheads are slated to be dismantled there. More than half of the plant`s work consists of updating our current nuclear arsenal. But, Rachel, this is a moment of geek, this seems like a moment of eke. What is so geeky about this? Here`s what`s so geeky about this? Here is your geek you fellow geeks. The B-53 was so old and unsafe it took Pantex three years just to figure out how to take it apart, three years. And even then, after taking three years to take it apart it wasn`t until April of last year, a week after President Obama signed a landmark agreement with Russia to cut both of our country`s nuclear arsenals by a third that the National Nuclear Security Administration announced that they finally had the safety systems in place to speed up disassembling these things. And today, their work was finally completed. We are talking about nuclear physics and mechanics so geeky, so dangerous that it took half a generation to arrive at today. For the first time in nearly 50 years, there is not a single active B-53 bomb in existence. The final active bomb was nicknamed "The Last of the Big Dogs." Today, Pantex workers physically separated its high explosives from the nuclear material inside the bomb thus rendering it unusable as a nuclear weapon. The remaining components will be disassembled in Oakridge, Tennessee, which is nice. And we still have thousands of active nuclear weapons in our stockpile, including the B-53 replacement, the B-6111 nuclear bunker booster designed to penetrate the ground up to 20 feet with a nuclear yield of 300 kilo tons. Yahoo! That does it for us tonight. Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell at its new time. Please have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END