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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/30/11

Guests: David Plouffe, Paul Rieckhoff, Rocky Anderson

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Just a moment ago, just seconds ago, they officially lit the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in midtown Manhattan right outside. Do you want to see it though? Ready? OK. Here we go, ready, and here it goes. Bink. Yay! And the newsroom erupted in cheers. And with that, we now begin the arduous process of making end of the year lists, right? It`s now officially, now that the tree is lit, it is now officially end of the year list making time in America. For everybody who`s making their list about the worst, the best, the most ridiculous, the most amusing moments in American politics this year, I have a pitch I would like to make. I do not want Senator Jon Kyl to be left out. I`m worried he`s going to be forgotten. It was April of this year when the Republicans were threatening to shut down the federal government if they didn`t get their way on defunding Planned Parenthood. That`s what it came down to in the end, remember? Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona got up on the Senate floor and he told a lie. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood and that`s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not true. Very, very not true. Of all the things Planned Parenthood does, abortion is more like 3 percent of what they do. And 3 percent, I`ve checked, is not over 90 percent like he said. Asked to correct the very, very, very bad math that he expounded on the Senate floor, Senator Kyl`s office responded with something I think should be on or at the top of or at least near the top of every year-end list about notable moments in politics this year. I`m just saying. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: You know what? I just want to give it to you verbatim. It says, "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement." (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Ta-da! Even if that were all that happened in that episode, not intended to be a factual statement was already I think in Hall of Fame territory for political moments of this year. But then Stephen Colbert started the "not intended to be a factual statement" hashtag on Twitter. For example, for the past 10 years, Jon Kyl has been two children in a very convincing Jon Kyl suit. Not intended to be a factual statement. Also, once a year, Jon Kyl retreats to the Arizona desert and deposits 2 million egg sacks under the sand. Not intended to be a factual statement. Or Jon Kyl is an accomplished nude hula dancer. He`s not welcomed in Hawaii. Not intended, right? Or this might be my favorite one -- Jon Kyl once ate a badger he hit with his car. Don`t worry, Wisconsin, it`s not intended to be a factual statement. The only off-note in the brilliant humor of the whole not intended to be a factual statement fiasco is that Senator Jon Kyl, himself, never really seemed to get it, which makes it less fun. I mean, he never seemed to understand what everybody was laughing about. He never poked fun at himself about it. He never seemed to realize he had made himself into a bit of a joke. And so, now, seven months later, as the number two Republican in the United States Senate, Jon Kyl, I think in part because he didn`t get it the first time around, is getting himself into the same kind of trouble he was in with the Planned Parenthood thing. He`s walking into essentially the same trap. And you can tell he`s got no self-awareness about it at all, which is kind of a pity. Here`s how he got himself all bollixed up now. In July last year when Republicans wanted to add $700 billion to the deficit by extending the Bush tax cuts, including for the wealthiest Americans, Jon Kyl was the guy they put out to convince the country that doing that would actually be totally free of cost. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: How are you going to pay the $678 billion just on the tax cuts for people over -- making more than $200,000 a year? KYL: You should never raise taxes in order to cut taxes. You do need to offset the cost of increased spending and that`s what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans. ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST: This is Kyl`s statement to reporters in the halls of the Congress. "My view, and I think most of the people in my party, don`t believe that you should ever have to offset a tax cut." (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Now, this is something that is sometimes called believing in the tax fairy. It`s a belief that if you reduce the revenue that government is taking in, the government doesn`t actually take in any less revenue. You reduce the amount that they`re getting, but they don`t get any less. If that sounds magic, it`s because it is. It`s called believing in the tax fairy. Actually in 1980, when Poppy Bush, George H.W. Bush, was running against Ronald Reagan, he did not call it believing in the tax fairy. What he called it was famously, voodoo economics. When George W. Bush, the Bush the son, was president, his chief economist described people who believed in this idea as, quote, "charlatans and cranks." So, when that whole fight was going on last summer about extending the Bush tax cuts, the way that we talked about it on this show, was that if you believed in the tax fairy, you also believed that cats like baths. Hi. Sorry. I think, do we have one more? Do we, OK. I think -- actually that`s not the one I was thinking of. I think there`s one more. That`s the one I was looking for. All right. If you believe in the tax fairy, you probably believe that cats like baths. Thank you blessed Internet. That -- the tax fairy thing has been the Republican mantra for years. Tax fairy, magic, charlatan, cats like baths, that says that cutting taxes, cutting revenue doesn`t actually cut revenue. Cutting taxes doesn`t add to the deficit. It`s free. You don`t have to pay for tax cuts. Tax cuts pay for themselves. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) CARLY FIORINA (R-CA), FORMER U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Let me just propose something that may seem crazy to you. You don`t need to pay for tax cuts. They pay for themselves. SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: You need policies like an extension and making permanent the `01 and `03 tax cuts. They will be paid for because they create economic growth. KYL: You should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: You should never have to pay for tax cuts. Tax cuts pay for themselves. That was Jon Kyl then. Here`s Jon Kyl now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KYL: I`ve never said that all tax cuts always pay for themselves. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And if I did, it would not have been intended to be a factual statement. Also, have you tried the badger? It`s delicious this time of year. Jon Kyl, you are amazing -- even if you don`t understand how amazing you are. The reason that Jon Kyl is now denying he ever believed in the tax fairy, the reason he`s been caught in this new embarrassing thing which he doesn`t seem to get how embarrassing it is, is because what has been the Republican position that tax cuts are free, that you just can freely lard them on to the deficit because they`re magic and it somehow doesn`t apply to the deficit if it`s a tax cut, Republicans have now decided that they no longer believe that, at least not for this year and at least not for one specific kind of tax cut. Last year, President Obama signed into law a cut in taxes we all pay from our paychecks so anybody who gets their income in the form of a paycheck got a tax cut. Now, really, really rich people generally don`t get paid by paycheck, so it`s really something that benefits -- this tax cuts is basically something that benefits people who work for a living and not the rich. It`s a lot of money, too. It`s like $1,500 per year per family. President Obama and the Democrats got that passed last year and want to extend that tax cut now. And the Republicans up until now have said no. The Republicans have said they`d like to see the taxes go back up on anybody who cashes a paycheck. Realizing that is a really off-message place for them to be, the Republicans advocating for a tax hike and at Christmastime, they`ve now started to change their minds a little. But now their line on is it they would consider going along with extending the payroll tax cut thing but they have a condition. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: In all likelihood, we will agree to continue the current payroll tax relief for another year, but we believe it should be paid for. We believe with this kind of deficit, we ought to pay for it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Hold on. What happened to the tax fairy? I mean, you should -- what was that? It was you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates? Republicans don`t believe that you should ever have to offset a tax cut. That`s what they said. That`s what Jon Kyl said back in the day. Did Mitch McConnell disagree with him? No, he did not. Mitch McConnell saying at the time: "I think what Senator McConnell (ph) was expressing was the view of the view of everybody Republican on that subject." So, tax cuts are free, tax cuts are magic fairy dust for everybody, except now, and except when you`re talking about people who get paychecks, except for working people. According to Republicans, the Bush tax cuts for the richest people in the country, those are free. But the ones for everybody else, those are very, very expensive. The big picture is the Democrats are winning on this issue. The Republicans are in the process of caving in a way that unfortunately Jon Kyl doesn`t realize is funny. But the common wisdom about governing in an election year like this, is that because the primary action is on the Republican side, all of the political discussion in the country, all of the atmospherics will be about Republican ideas. And so, it will be really hard for a Democratic president to get anything done in that sort of environment. But on this payroll tax thing, Republicans have not been able to hold it together. They are caving -- somewhat magnificently. It is not over, but it is ending. What does that mean for White House strategy moving forward? Deeper into this election year? And does this strategy they have applied to hit pay dirt here on this issue apply to their other priorities as well? Joining us now is someone who knows. White House senior adviser David Plouffe. Mr. Plouffe, it is good to have you here. Thanks for being with us. DAVID PLOUFFE, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: I`m sorry to make you sit through me teasing Jon Kyl. I hope it does -- everybody knows it does not reflect on you. The extension of the payroll tax cut is obviously not a done deal. Is it your belief, though, that Congress will pass an extension? PLOUFFE: Well, they need to. First of all, there`s a vote in the Senate later this week where all 100 senators have a chance -- it`s a very clarifying vote. We can cut taxes for 160 million Americans, 98 percent of the small businesses giving them incentives to hire long-term unemployed workers and we can actually responsibly pay for that by asking roughly 300,000 people who make over $1 million a year to pay their fair share. I can`t think of a more clarifying vote, a clear vote, about where your priorities stand. And so, the president today in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as he has throughout the fall, is going to make the case that Congress can`t go home without doing something to help the economy, help the middle class. And if we don`t do anything, if Congress goes home without extending the payroll tax, then taxes go up, $1,000 per person. Think about that -- weeks and weeks of groceries. Most people out there are living in fear of an appliance breaking down. People are living on the edge. And yet the obsession of Republicans in Congress seems to be do everything they can to not ask anything from the wealthy. And clearly, we have an economy that`s imbalanced and as we look to create jobs and produce economic growth, help the middle class, it`s time to ask the wealthiest Americans to do a little bit more. MADDOW: How big do you think the economic impact would be if the Republicans stick with where they have been on this issue at least until recently, if the payroll tax cut isn`t extended and in effect we get a tax hike for Americans in this country? How big is the economic impact? PLOUFFE: It would have a catastrophic effect. First on the macroeconomic side, every economist of any political stripe has looked at this and says this would have a huge impact on growth. It would raise the unemployment rate. And then think about what it means for the average person. Not many people out there in the middle class, people trying to get to middle class, can afford to have $1,000 come out of their paycheck. And again, the vote this week could not be more simple. We can give everybody who`s working out there $1,500 tax cut, the president actually wants to expand it a little bit, give every small business tax incentives to hire new workers, and we can pay for that by asking 300,000 people in this country who make over $1 million a year to pay a little bit more. And that`s the right thing to do for the country. So, that`s where our energy this week. We are glad to see some Republican leaders now at the 11th hour saying, well, maybe it wouldn`t be such a good idea in the holiday season, as you said, to raise taxes. That`s great. But we got to get this done and we ought to get it done in the right way. MADDOW: When you talk about paying for it with the tax on the richest Americans, 300,000 people in the country, I think that there`s two different ways of looking at that in terms of its political impact. On the polling numbers, most Americans say they got no problem with that, that seems like something that seems like a good economic idea, it`s one of the highest polling ideas in terms of its popularity among Americans. But if you look at the first nationwide political ad run by the Karl Rove group, Crossroads group, it attacked President Obama, not on anything else of what he`s done in term in office, attacked him as a tax raiser. They`re banking on the idea, that even though you`re saying you just want to raise taxes by a small amount on millionaires, they think that people will just hear that as Obama wants to raise my taxes. PLOUFFE: We`re very confident and comfortable having this debate. For the working people in America, the middle class, the president, this president, has a remarkable record of continuing to cut taxes. In fact, as he said in Scranton today, if you`re a middle class voter, your taxes are lower than when he came into office. So, we will win this debate. And I think it`s pretty clear in this tough economy, most middle class voters out there believe that the president is looking out for them. He`s trying to make decisions on their behalf. And as we try and boost the economy in the short term, but also do the smart things in the long term we need to do, to get the country on the right track, we`ve got to do this in a fair and balanced way. So, all we`re saying is -- and listen, the president has shown his willingness, cut spending, carefully deal with entitlements, you know, willing to do tough stuff here. The real barrier to progress, creating jobs, cutting taxes, reducing the deficit, really resides with, you know, a few dozen Republicans in Washington, because Republicans around the country, common sense mainstream Republicans, believe that the wealthy ought to be asked to do a little bit more. So, this is really a position only held in Washington and by those Republicans running for president. And it`s a position that`s out of the mainstream, not of the country, but of their own party. MADDOW: That was also true, though, this time last year, or June of last year, spring of last year, when there was an argument going about whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts. The Republicans won that one to the extent that the tax cuts got extended; the president since said he`d never do that again. He will not allow that to happen again. Why did the Republicans win that last time if you are confident now that they will not win it this time? PLOUFFE: Well, I -- listen, I don`t think they won. At the end of 2010, remember, the payroll tax, which you mentioned a few minutes ago, goes primarily to working people. That was part of the agreement, extending unemployment benefits. MADDOW: You definitely got tradeoffs for it, but you did extend the Bush tax cuts. PLOUFFE: Well, for two year, and it was the important thing to do, particularly for a struggling middle class. Where would we be this year, by the way, with high gas prices, with the shocks coming out of Europe, the Japanese earthquake, all the things that are affecting our economy, gas prices higher, food prices higher, if people didn`t have the $1,000 in their paycheck. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: I don`t have any doubt you couldn`t get other good tradeoffs for doing it again. But why won`t they get the Bush tax cut extended? PLOUFFE: It`s not going to happen, OK? The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are going away at the end of next year. And that`s why, really, if Congress was responsible, because you both have the Bush tax cuts and you have this sequester looming. So, why don`t you control your own destiny here and reduce the deficit in a balanced way, do smart tax reform that can actually be both fairer and simpler, but also be something that`s more progressive? So, listen, this debate has been clarifying this fall about whose side are you on, what`s your view about how to help the economy? And the president is focused each and every day what are the things to help the middle class -- put teachers back to work, rebuild schools, rebuild roads and bridges, give tax cuts to middle class, to small business owners. The job creators Republicans like to talk about, we`re the ones trying to cut their taxes. MADDOW: David Plouffe, White House senior adviser, I can tell that you`re the guy who`s in part in charge of clarifying by the way you talk about this stuff. It`s good to have you here, sir. Thanks for your time. Appreciate it. PLOUFFE: Thank you very much. MADDOW: All right. The Tea Party revolution, remember that? That was supposed to change everything. Throw the bums out, a whole new Republican Party. Don`t tread on me. It turns out it`s turned into more of a "don`t retread on me". Details on that coming next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When Herman Cain first started having trouble with questions about foreign countries and foreign policy on the campaign trail, his campaign tried to reassure Mr. Cain`s supporters through an interview with "The Daily Caller" saying that Mr. Cain henceforth would be getting regular foreign policy briefings almost every day. Almost every day the campaign told "The Daily Caller." Mr. Cain was to be handed a one-page briefing from his chief foreign policy adviser on news from around the world. I don`t know if that was full time providing Herman Cain with one page of information about the world almost every day. But as the Cain campaign seems to be fading from political relevance now, perhaps the Rick Perry campaign should think about snapping that staffer up, to give Governor Perry one-page briefings almost every day on our country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And that`s exactly what I`m going to bring to Washington when I go there in November. Those of you that will be 21 by November the 12th, I ask for you support and your vote. Those of you who won`t be, just work hard. We`re going to be talking about it in harsh and strong terms over the course of the next four to five weeks as we get ready for those New Hampshire caucuses. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: See, if it could be somebody`s job to keep Governor Perry up to speed on the America things. New Hampshire, for example, not a caucus. When you think caucus, think corn cob, Governor. Think Iowa. Iowa, it`s a larger state than New Hampshire. Shorter name, it`s over to the left. New Hampshire has a primary. Also, the presidential election, the one you`re running in, not actually scheduled for November 12th but rather for November 6th. Also, the voting age in the United States of America is 18. And if, when Rick Perry is elected president, Rick Perry`s presence will be required in Washington actually the following January. Election in the fall, inauguration in the -- Rick Perry`s "latest who am I, what am I doing" moment came again in New Hampshire today which does seem to be where he has way more fun than success in his campaign these days. All right. Here`s how it`s going to go. Can we put the big calendar up here? All right. All right. Here is the calendar. New Year`s Day is on a Sunday this year. New Year`s Day also known as hangover day is a Sunday. Two days after hangover day is the Iowa caucuses, on Tuesday the 3rd. Right now, here is the latest polling in Iowa. Insider Advantage poll out this week has Newt Gingrich in first and Ron Paul in second and Mitt Romney in third. Couple of weeks ago, Rasmussen also had Gingrich in first in Iowa, but Romney in second and Cain in third. Then the next week, January 10th, right, that`s the New Hampshire primary. They do a primary in New Hampshire. Not caucus, Governor. They do a primary in New Hampshire where Rasmussen`s polling this week has Romney in first, Gingrich in second and then Ron Paul in third. And a week and a half after that, on a Saturday, you`ve got the South Carolina primary. Now, right now, the polling in South Carolina looks like this. Insider Advantage this week has Newt Gingrich in first, Mitt Romney in second and Herman Cain in third. Earlier this month the polling company also had Gingrich in first, but Cain in second and Romney in third. And then the last one for January, the very end of January, on the 31st, that`s Florida. In Florida, the Insider Advantage poll this week has Newt Gingrich in first, Mitt Romney in second and Cain in third place. That`s how it stacks up through the month of January. I should also say Public Policy Polling this week also had in Florida, Gingrich in first, Romney in second and Cain in third. So this is what January looks like in terms of the standings. Those are the one, two, three for all of those important dates in order the way it`s going to happen in January. We`re less than five weeks from Iowa right now, which means we are close enough to the start of the voting process that honestly you really should not be looking at national polling right now. Just look at what`s going to happen in these individual states, because the order matters. This is the order in which the voting happens. And each time somebody wins or somebody comes in a surprising second in one of these early states, that will actually re-jigger the race for the next contest. There will not be the same number of candidates at the end of January that are in there at the beginning of January. This is like the civic`s dork version of when you get to start opening the advent calendar, right? We are down to the point of time when it`s time to just start paying attention to state by state polls, everybody. It`s very exciting. But now, five weeks -- I mean, is still five weeks. Five weeks until all this starts happening. In five weeks, it should be noted it about the length of time that the other non-Mitt Romney candidates have been allowed to surge in the polls so far this week. The Rick Perry surge started at the end of August. It was over by the beginning of October. So roughly about five weeks. Similarly, the Herman Cain surge started at the beginning of October. It was over probably a couple weeks ago. So, again, roughly five weeks long. Newt Gingrich`s surge started a couple of weeks ago and it`s five weeks yet until Iowa. And so, you know, maybe Newt Gingrich will be more durable. Maybe the more Republicans get to know Newt Gingrich between now and Iowa on January 3rd, the more they will love him. Or maybe this will just be a bubble like all the others. But from this point on in the process, there`s one thing to watch and one conclusion I think you can draw already. The thing to watch is -- as I said -- the polling in the early primary states. You can ignore what`s happening in the rest of the country. All that stuff will become relevant after these early primary states but you don`t need to pay attention to them until then. Similarly, the serious candidates between now and January will not spend any time campaigning anywhere except in early primary states. And so, when you see a candidate like Newt Gingrich scheduling for this weekend a book signing in Staten Island, as in New York City, that is a sign of a lack of seriousness in Mr. Gingrich`s campaign even as he leads in lots of early states right now. But I think you can draw one conclusion at this point in the campaign and I think the one conclusion to draw at this point in the campaign is that barring some miraculous out of the blue surge from nowhere that no one can see coming from someone who nobody even knows is running, more on that later in the show tonight, barring something unexpected, everybody who said that the Tea Party thing was changing Republican politics forever over these last couple of years, everybody who said that was wrong. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our moment. This is our morning in America. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to stand up and we`re going to speak out. It may take some renegades going rogue to get us there. It may take folks shaking it up to get there. We`ve got to do this together. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The public is going to have to say, I am so angry with Washington that I want a novice in office rather than someone who has experience. SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This awakening of the American people, the citizen activism, I think that`s realigning politics in America today. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Realigning politics in America today. All of the ink spilled and all of the hot air blown over the last three years about the Tea Party changing everything, about Republicans having reinvented themselves, about Republicans now wanting only fresh blood and new ideas, all this idea that because of the Tea Party this is not your father`s Republican Party anymore? Turns out when it comes time to choose a presidential candidate - - this is your father`s Republican Party. Exactly. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: About a 45-second walk from where I sit right now, they have just lit the amazing and iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tonight and that has brought tens of thousands of people who aren`t normally here, here. At President Obama`s traffic stopping fund-raiser a few blocks away from here, and you`ve got gridlock the likes of which New York City felt compelled to warn people about days in advance. It`s the kind of gridlock that even includes the sidewalks. Well, thanks to some artistic geniuses, that uncomfortable cramming together of pedestrians in crowds and cars has begotten the "Best New Thing in the World Today." That`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGI9N VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every American business out there, if you want somebody who knows how to handle pressure, who knows how to handle billions of dollars worth of equipment, who knows how to operate under fire, hire a veteran. We have an obligation. They fought over here. They`ve gone through these God-awful sands and deserts in the middle of a war. They`re in Godforsaken places out in Afghanistan. They shouldn`t have to come home and fight for a job. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Vice President Joe Biden speaking to NBC`s Ann Curry today in Iraq. Mr. Biden is in Iraq for the eighth time since he has been vice president. More than a million Americans have fought in the Iraq war in its nine years and counting, but we`re now down to about 13,000 American troops there as of today and they`re now leaving at a rate of 500 a day. In just a couple of weeks, they will all have left. And the Iraq war will not just be over, but our last American troops there will have come home. Merry Christmas. In recent days, we got some new information as well about what to expect about the Afghanistan war. From a peak of about 100,000 American troops there this summer, 10,000 are ordered home by the end of this year and 23,000 are due to come home next year. The U.S. Marine corps saying its combat responsibilities in Afghanistan will end next year altogether. Of course, as two of the longest wars in American history end in the case of Iraq, or maybe start to end in the case of Afghanistan, nothing ends, nothing changes about our responsibility to keep the promises our country has made to the people who have been fighting these wars in our name. One of those promises was made in 2003 when President George W. Bush signed into law something called the Service Members Civil Relief Act. Among its provisions, it told mortgage companies that if a mortgage company wanted to foreclose on the home of a service member who was on active duty, that mortgage company had to do some special precautions. They had to follow some special procedures like, say, not using a default judgment to steal somebody`s house out from under them because they didn`t show up for a court hearing about it, because maybe it was hard to be at that court hearing in Pittsburgh while at the same time being in a foxhole in Fallujah. But as reported in the "Financial Times" this week, a watchdog at the Treasury reported mortgage companies have basically been doing just that, illegally foreclosing on the houses of more than 5,000 active duty members of the U.S. military. The banks say they are looking into it. But so far, the estimates are Bank of America may have illegally taken the homes of 2,000 active duty U.S. soldiers, Wells Fargo nearly 900, Citigroup, 700. And the list goes on. These are the ten largest. We posted a list at today if you want to check it out. JPMorgan is not included in the particular round but JPMorgan had to pay a multimillion dollar settlement this spring when they got caught for doing this. They illegally seized the homes of 27 active servicemen and women. The reason we got this data is because of part of the Treasury, the federal government that oversees these banks and is responsible for enforcing this law. But now there`s the word that the crusading attorney general of New York state, Eric Schneiderman, is also going after this because of a powerful state law in New York that gives New York as a state the jurisdiction to punish these banks in a case like this, too. Joining us now is Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a veteran of the Iraq war himself. Paul, it`s good to see you. Thanks for being here. PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Good to see you. My pleasure. MADDOW: Obviously, this law was supposed to keep people in active duty from having their houses seized illegally in the first place. But is this after the fact enforcement now at least a step in the right direction? RIECKHOFF: It is, but this is crazy. This is absolutely outrageous. The idea you`re serving in Fallujah while your house is being foreclosed back home is just outrageous. I mean, it`s disgusting. And it could be as many as 5,000 people. And what`s important to note is you also can`t take their house when they get home. The original provision was for 90 days. And we fought hard at IAVA in 2008 to make that now nine months. MADDOW: OK. RIECKHOFF: So, you`ve got another nine months after you come home where you`re supposed to be protected as well. So, if these banks did this, they broke the law, and they really put these folks in a bad position, potentially thousands. MADDOW: We know from the rest of the mortgage crisis that a lot of the way the foreclosures happen with robo-signing and all the rest of it is just fragrantly irresponsible by the lenders and essentially, this law was designed to give veterans a little extra protection. RIECKHOFF: Right. MADDOW: Do you feel like taking an intensely punitive action, attitude toward this would be something that would make them take everybody more seriously? RIECKHOFF: They should. MADDOW: Yes. RIECKHOFF: I mean, if they`re doing this to veterans, what are they doing to other people? MADDOW: Yes. RIECKHOFF: Right? That`s the big question here. And that should be the question around unemployment, around mental health. I mean, we`re in many ways kind of like a canary in a coal mine for our society. And if we`re the folks that are America`s heroes and we`re getting treated like this, I think it should force all Americans to ask hard questions. MADDOW: Yes. RIECKHOFF: You know? And I think this foreclosure issue -- it runs deeper than that, too, because folks are coming home and then they also have to move pretty frequently. We have a veteran in Sergeant Steve (ph), in our organization who came home from Afghanistan. His baby was born while he was there. Got home and found out he had two months to move to Japan. He has to sell his house, sell his car, his wife is also pregnant, and move to Japan, right? So, that guy needs protection. MADDOW: Yes. RIECKHOFF: People like that need protection. And there are thousands of them serving in harms way and shouldn`t have to worry about the bank is bolting their house while they`re gone. MADDOW: Paul, you have had -- IAVA has a lot of success legislatively since you were founded. But in particular, this year, when nobody else has been able to get anything done in Washington, the only jobs bill that has passed this Congress was the veterans jobs bill. The president, today, was in Scranton and he was talking about overall legislative strategy and he said that he thought he was finally getting to Republicans. And his example for that was your bill, was the veterans jobs bill. What`s your reaction to that? RIECKHOFF: I think he`s right. I mean, it was the rare example of everybody in Washington getting along on something other than naming a post office, right? We had Republican chair of the veterans committee, Jeff Miller, on stage with Patty Murray, the Senate leader from the Democrats, on stage together. They issued a joint press release about this bill. And we`ve been fighting for this bill going back two years, to provide urgent tax cuts, it`s going to improve the transitional programs coming home. It`s going to expand the G.I. bill for veterans. It`s a really critical bill and it eventually went through unanimously, but it took a long time. And it was a hard fight. It will be -- right now, it`s the only jobs bill that went through. It`s the only portion of the president`s jobs package that`s gone through and it might be one of the only things they get done all year. So, I think it is significant. Maybe it provides us some headway but it also shows the power of veterans, like we`re uniting, we`re mobilizing. We`ve got the American people behind us. And if folks are looking in the coming years for places to cut, stay away from the V.A. MADDOW: Yes. RIECKHOFF: Stay away from our staff because we`re going to fight hard and we`re pretty good at fighting. MADDOW: That case that Joe Biden was just making about all the reasons to hire veterans, also the reasons to watch how veterans get stuff done in Washington, because you guys are good at it. RIECKHOFF: Oh, we`re trying. And I think it`s a sign for what`s to come out of this community, not just in Washington but in business and community activism. There are a lot of incredible dynamic leaders that are coming out of this community. MADDOW: I agree. I agree. You`re one of them. RIECKHOFF: Thank you. MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America -- I have to say, you`re looking excellent. Very trim these days, Paul. RIECKHOFF: Thank you. It was a lot of effort to get through all the security downstairs. MADDOW: I understand. Paul actually lit the tree, himself. He just went like this, bink. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Long you have waited for the best new thing today. Your reward comes soon. Yes. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Here`s the striking thing about this little "Des Moines Register" story today. It`s not the headline, although the Romney campaign has been so scarce in Iowa that it`s kind of news he will be at the next Iowa debates. But here`s the really striking thing. Seven candidates have met the criteria for participation in the December 10th Iowa debate. OK. So, seven -- Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, Santorum and, of course, Mitt Romney. That`s seven. So, who didn`t make the cut? Quote, an eighth major Republican candidate, Jon Huntsman, has not yet met the criteria for participation. That criteria would be a 5 percent showing in a national candidate poll or "The Des Moines Register`s" Iowa poll between October 1st and December 5th of this year. To be clear, Rick Santorum is meeting the criteria, barely, but he did. Rick Santorum, he made it. But Jon Huntsman did not. In this election in particular, the debates have been the focal point of the campaign season. Not being allowed to participate in a debate is a blow even to a last placed candidate. So this terrible, horrible, no good very bad news for Jon Huntsman today arrives amid speculation that maybe Governor Huntsman might ditch the Republican race altogether but still run. Maybe he`d run as an independent. Maybe he`d run as a third party guy. Governor Huntsman has signaled in a very politiciany roundabout non- denial denial way he`s not ruling out the possibilities. "The Boston Globe" reporter named Glen Johnson (ph) asked Mr. Huntsman yesterday, quote, "Is there any situation you would run for president as an independent?" Huntsman replied, "I don`t think so." The reporter then asked Huntsman if he would flatly deny the rumors, to which Mr. Huntsman replied, quote, "I`m a lifelong Republican. I`m running as a Republican and I fully anticipate that`s where we`re going to be." For a politician, that does not count as a denial. I don`t know what it is about the Republican primary process this year, but it`s sparked a lot of third party ditch the party kind of talk recently. On Monday, you may recall, we have presidential candidate here on the show, former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer. Governor Roemer is a Republican. If you didn`t know, he`s in the race. You`re not alone. By his own estimation, he`s never risen above 2 percent in the polls nor has he qualified to participate in any of the Republican debates. He says that`s because he doesn`t have the money behind him other candidates have. Mr. Roemer announced on this show this week, that having not been able to make tracks in his bid to seek the Republican nomination for president, he is setting his sights on becoming the candidate for a new kind of party formed this year called Americans Elect. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUDDY ROEMER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m looking at Americans Elect, a unity group outside the Republican Party who would go right to independents and Republicans and liberals and conservatives who put their country first. I plan on announcing as a candidate for that ticket. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Americans Elect describes themselves as a second way of nominating a president rather than a third party. That`s because they plan to do away with any primary voting in order to hold a political convention online that would treat registered voters like fans of "American Idol," giving everyone a shot at picking a favorite candidate. Rather than just run as the Americans Elect party, they`re welcoming Democrats or Republicans to compete in their process, but then they`d require the candidate to run a mixed party ticket. So, requiring the presidential candidate to pick a running mate from the different party. There`s more exciting third party news today -- more exciting even than that. The former Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, the fire brand Rocky Anderson, announced this week that he is planning to run for president and he will make up his own party to do it. Mr. Anderson`s party got a name today -- thanks to voters on his Facebook page. They are calling it the Justice Party. If you want to get a handle on Rocky Anderson`s politics, I`m here to tell you happily it`s not easy. He`s been known as a progressive Democrat. As the mayor of Salt Lake City, in deep red Utah, he enthusiastically the impeachment of President George W. Bush. But then, again, the last time we had Mr. Anderson on the show back in the night he was here to sing the prizes of none other than conservative Republican Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROCKY ANDERSON (D), FORMER SALT LAKE CITY MAYOR: I just think that he is so down to earth. I can tell you, it`s not a show. This isn`t a guy who likes to look folksy while he`s campaigning and doesn`t really live his life that way. He lives his life like that every day. And people who know him, who know his wife have tremendous regard for them, whether in their personal lives or their politics. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And now, Rocky Anderson himself is throwing his own Justice Party hat into the presidential race. Perhaps he and Governor Huntsman could make some beautiful music there together. Joining us now for the interview is Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City. Mr. Anderson, thank you so much for being with us tonight. It`s really nice to have you here. ANDERSON: Great to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, why form a new party and why run for president as soon as you form it? ANDERSON: Because the American people want this option. They need a choice. What we have seen from the Democratic and Republican parties, where they have brought this country, is absolutely tragic. And the polls show that there is a huge desire, a vast majority of people in this country that want a different choice and we stand for something so entirely different than what the Republicans and the Democrats have brought this country. MADDOW: What`s the most salient difference between the Justice Party and the Democrats and Republicans? ANDERSON: Well, for one thing, we will do everything we can, even if it means a constitutional amendment to get the corrupting influence of corporate and other concentrated wealth out of politics because Congress and the White House have been conducting themselves as if they are on retainer with Wall Street. We are in a new Gilded Age in this country with the greatest disparity of wealth since the 1920s. And people are suffering, the lack of a decent jobs program. This party, the Justice Party, will fight for the people. We`ll stand for leadership in the area of climate change. We know that regardless of whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in power, we will not see the necessary international leadership that`s required if we are ever going to get a handle on this problem. And then, of course, there is the question of whether we are going to be a country that continues going around the world kidnapping and disappearing people, not requiring accountability for war criminals. We have a two-tier system of justice, just as we have now a two-tier economy, where there are those very few rich, powerful people who get all of the favors, including immunity from the law, and everybody else who are suffering financially now are bound by the law, and sometimes, in very vicious ways. We`ve got a young man here from Utah, he is serving 55 years on three counts of selling marijuana. And after the fact, after the three sells, the informant said, oh, yes, he had gun in each of these sells. Minimum mandatory sentence, the judge didn`t want to impose it. This is a kind of skewed justice we have when felons that engage in illegal surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, we know that there were numerous felonies committed by them. In the Bush administration, not one prosecution of any of these people and then the telecom companies who colluded with the Bush administration violated the law. And there was some telecom companies like Qwest, who refused to do it. They knew it was against the law. Those who violated the law hired their lobbyist, spent $12 million and three months on their lobbyist, and they get Congress, including then- Senator Obama to vote for retroactive immunity for these people. By the way, Senator Obama promised before he got the Democratic nomination for president that he would join in a filibuster against that immunity. So, this two-tiered system of justice that we have in this country, where the courts are taken out of the equation as checks on abuses of executive power, we are seeing the undermining of the very core of our republic and it has got to change. And I think the American people want to see those changes. They want an end to wars of aggression. They want an end to the human rights abuses. They want an end to this enormous disparity economically in this country, and they want to see jobs. There`s so much better -- so much more that we can do for the American people and that`s exactly what the Justice Department -- excuse me, the Justice Party will fight for and that`s what we are going to be campaigning on, Rachel. MADDOW: Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, founder of the Justice Party and its declared presidential candidate -- sir, I hope we can stay in touch with you as this journey is just starting really today. We`d love to be in touch with you as this goes on in terms of what support you get. Thank you. ANDERSON: Look forward to it, Rachel. Thank you. MADDOW: All right. "The Best New Thing in the World Today" that you have been waiting for since seventh grade English class, you`ve waited this long. Wait another two minutes. I promise. I swear to God (ph). (COMMERCILA BREAK) MADDOW: Today in New York, a perfect storm of gridlock. Let me count the ways. The president`s -- the president`s here to do some campaign events, it`s matinee day. It`s also the night they light the 30 Rock tree to jumpstart Christmas. Then there`s the rumor that Justin Bieber`s in town, adding to the crush. There are lots of signs warning drivers of gridlock all around New York. Tonight`s best new thing combines both art and traffic in one neat package. It is a campaign to make pedestrians think before crossing streets. Some artful road signs with messages in haiku, for example, this. Oncoming cars rush, each a three-ton bullet and you, flesh and bone. Or this one: Too averse to risk, to chance the lottery, yet steps into traffic. Or this one: a sudden car door, cyclist`s story rewritten, fractured narrative. Poet John Morse is the guy who thought these signs up, some are in Spanish. Haiku signs are now installed at busy corners all around New York. If I sound funny, it`s because I`m trying to count my syllables. You know, a story about haiku done in the same poetic form. How am I doing? I will not do this again. I have hurt my brain. I think I prefer iambic pentameter, more like normal speech. Road sign haiku, art in the big, mean old city, best new thing in the -- it`s really hard. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Please print this out. You`ll enjoy it more that way. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END