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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/20/11

Guests: Chuck Schumer, Carne Ross, Doug Usher

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks a lot. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. This right here is the very famous bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It`s a bronze bust made by American-born sculptor Jacob Epstein in 1946. Fifty-five years after that in 2001, the British government gave this bust to us, lent it to us as a gift. It loaned it to the United States, essentially as a show of solidarity with our new president at the time, with George W. Bush. George W. Bush was so taken with the gifted Winston Churchill bronze bust that he put it right in the Oval Office. He put it on top of a small chest of drawers located right next to the famous resolute desk. You can see it just over President Obama`s head there. Presidents do not all keep the same things in the Oval Office that their predecessors put there. If they did, a lot of them would have accumulated by now. It would be cluttered. Nixon, for example, was notorious for his knickknacks. That`s not true. But when President Obama was sworn in and the Oval Office was redecorated, the Churchill bust went back to the British embassy. It was replaced by some other thing. Now, is that a crisis? No, that is not really a crisis. But that`s only because you are not thinking like John Boehner. Right now, we are in the midst of yet another congressional crisis -- a real and really bad thing urgently needs congressional action to prevent it from happening. The bad thing this time is taxes going up on 160 million Americans in 11 days, unless Congress acts -- unless they act to extend the payroll tax cut which expires at the end of this year. The solution offered by the Democrats in the face of this crisis was, hey, let`s extend the payroll tax cut for a year. That way taxes won`t go up on anybody. Ta-da! Crisis averted. Not that complicated. Democrats in the Senate found a way to do that. It was not easy, but Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans found a bipartisan, broadly popular way to get it done. To extend the payroll tax cut for a couple months then they would seek a longer extension later. That measure passed in this hugely divided Senate by a margin of -- by a vote of 89 to 10. Senate Republicans were so psyched about this deal that this was the scene right after the meeting which they ironed out all the details. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asking for and receiving a high five from fellow Republican John Barrasso. And then that deal that Senate Democrats came up with and Senate Republicans were so psyched about that they were high-fiving, that bipartisan deal got handed off to House Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans, who today with this looming crisis now just 11 days away decided to reject it. Sure, this real and really bad thing is about to happen to the entire country, but they had other stuff to do. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Winston Churchill was the best friend America ever had. I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring his legacy of persistence, determination and resolve. This resolution will honor the former British prime minister by placing a bust of him in the United States Capitol. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Presumably to try to make a political issue out of President Obama not keeping George W. Bush`s Winston Churchill bust in the Oval Office. House Republicans have spent their time in the House this week, among other things, voting to place a bust of Winston Churchill inside the United States capitol instead of the one that was in the oval office. So, America, when your paycheck shrinks substantially on January 1st, at least you can take comfort that we`ll have the Churchill bust to cuddle up to in the Capitol if we need to? Congress did make sure to handle that? Bust? Yes. Looming inexplicable tax hike with bad economic consequences? No. That we cannot do. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The House Republicans say they don`t dispute the need for a payroll tax cut. What they`re really trying to do, what they`re holding out for, is it ring concessions from Democrats on issues that have nothing to do with the payroll tax cut, issues where the parties fundamentally disagree. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: House Speaker John Boehner, even though he reportedly signed off on this payroll tax thing, plan, over the weekend, he is now insisting that passing a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut is not enough. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: A two-month extension is nothing more than kicking the can down the road. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: John Boehner is right. A two-month extension is just kicking the can down the road. But if his House Republicans won`t kick that can down the road anymore, the can will cease to be kicked down the road. And in his metaphor, that means taxes go up on everyone who gets a paycheck in America in 11 days. Rather than averting that crisis, House Republicans have instead decided to use the leverage created by that crisis to try to do a whole host of other things on their agenda. Stuff like pushing states all across the country to do forced drug testing as a condition of getting your unemployment benefits that you`ve paid for because the real unemployment in this problem -- the real unemployment problem in this country is about drugs? Really? They think that`s going to solve the problem? If you just drug test people then all of a sudden we`ll have full employment? They`re doing things like blocking millionaires from receiving unemployment insurance or food stamps. How many millionaires do you think receive unemployment insurance or food stamps? Here`s how "The New York Times" puts it when they looked into the proposal. Quote, "Millionaires on food stamps is as rare as petunias in January." This is a problem that doesn`t exist and trying to solve problems that don`t exist has become a specialty among John Boehner`s House Republicans this year. As Steve Benen at "The Washington Monthly" put it recently, quote, "The list of policy initiatives launched by Republicans to address problems that don`t exist keeps growing. GOP officials are passing measures to combat voter fraud without instances of actual voter fraud. House Republicans voted to eliminate a proposed EPA farm dust regulation, despite the fact that the EPA has no proposed farm dust regulation. GOP officials recently passed a resolution to affirm `In God we trust` as the national motto, but `In God we trust` was already the national motto. Now they are tackling benefits for millionaires that hardly ever go to millionaires." Right now, even with a real crisis going unattended to, there are a whole lot of big, aggressive Republican solutions coming out of the House for problems that do not actually exist. And that is always a way to serve some other agenda that is unspoken to by the fake problem. So saying you are fixing a nonexistent voter I.D. problem, that turns out to be actually a convenient way to change voting rules, to make it harder for likely Democratic voters to register or to vote. This EPA bogeyman fake dust regulation freak-out, it turns out is a handy way to try to bolster business interests, regulations kill jobs ideology. It`s a way to make regulation, itself, sound crazy. They want to regulate dust. Can you believe it? Regulation must always be stupid. The "In God we trust" thing is a way to create a wedge issue for Christian Democrats. It`s a way to try to make Democrats feel like if they are Christians, maybe they ought to vote Republican? And the idea of ending unemployment benefits for millionaires is that you fundamentally change a program in order to eventually break it apart. One economist is telling "The New York Times" this about the Republican proposal. Quote, "This is the way of trying to put an income test on the unemployment system that has never existed in the past." This is a really important point. Why are they going off on this millionaires unemployment insurance, millionaires food stamp thing? Take the unemployment program. This is about making the unemployment insurance program a program that is not for everybody. It`s not for everybody anymore. Instead, it`s just for poor people. And that is the first big step toward undermining for that sort of program for everybody. Now, in part, that`s because when only people with not very many resources are the beneficiaries of a particular program, those people don`t have very many resources and that also means they don`t have very much political power to protect that program once politicians try to tear it apart. It`s also because when a program is seen as just being for poor people, that program is susceptible to losing broad public support when it inevitably gets attacked from the right as waste. We have certainty entitlements in this country that have been around for generations and remained intact -- Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance. These are programs that work politically in part because they apply to all of us. They are for all Americans. When you`re 65, you get Medicare. You get Social Security. When you lose your job, if you have paid into the unemployment insurance program, you get unemployment insurance. You are by definition entitled to these things, and these things have been a huge success in the story of America. They are our social safety net. They have kept people out of poverty. They have kept food on the table. They`ve allowed us to retire one day instead of working our entire lives until we die. But the thing about them is that they are entitlements. And that is as important to what they mean to us as Americans as it is to their political survival. You get these things if you`re rich or if you`re poor. We do not discriminate by class. As Americans we get them. But when you try to change those programs so instead of benefiting everybody, they just benefit, say, poorer Americans, you set the stage to break those programs apart because the right has come up with really great politics for making the rest of the country resent programs that only serve poor people. So, suddenly means testing unemployment insurance. That may seem like a throw-away line in a Republican proposal. That`s not a real problem, why are they working on that? Well, it is a way to dismantle that as an entitlement. To make us think of unemployment insurance that only applies to poor people. And that`s why the Paul Ryan kill Medicare thing really isn`t a lie. Today, the self-proclaimed but quickly becoming irrelevant Web site PolitiFact declared the idea that Republicans voted to end Medicare their lie of the year for 2011. That comes after lots of lobbying by Paul Ryan for that to be declared a lie. But make no mistake. What the Republicans have proposed is actually ending Medicare. I mean, the whole idea of Medicare is that everybody gets it. It`s not something that divides America. It doesn`t matter if you`re rich or poor. You as an American citizen are entitled to Medicare once you turn 65. The Paul Ryan plan would end Medicare. It would make Medicare something that not all Americans get anymore, which means it`s not Medicare. This is about changing the social safety net to make its politics more like welfare politics, and less like Social Security and Medicare politics. Ask Americans how they feel about Social Security and Medicare. Those programs are more popular than a cold drink on a hot day. Look at that. Now, if you make those programs just for some people, see how popular they become. Right now, House Republicans are playing chicken again. This time it`s not the debt ceiling or looming government shutdown. This time it`s almost every adult American getting substantially less money in their paycheck as of January 1st, courtesy of a Republican tax hike on working people. Merry Christmas. And Republicans are willing to bear the political cost of doing that for the prize of starting to rip our social safety net around the edges. For the prize of making the American people see the social safety net not as something that we all have, but instead seeing it as something that other people might need some day. Something that other people might use some day but never us. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The mystery at the heart of my Jeb Bush 2012 conspiracy theory has been solved. It took less than 24 hours. It turns out I`m not off my rocker, at least not about Jeb Bush. Yay. That`s straight ahead. Plus, please stay tuned for New York Senator Chuck Schumer who joins us live next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: It`s become clear that what the Senate did pass is going to cause job creators all kinds of problems. As we saw a report that came out today by those who actually run payroll systems that there is great confusion about the way the Senate bill is put together. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us is New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who is vice chair of the Democratic Conference, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. We`re hoping he can help clear up some of that alleged great confusion. Senator, thank you for being here. SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Nice to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: What can you tell us is about to happen next? Are we actually heading toward 11 days from now that tax going up? SCHUMER: Well, it`s possible but it may not happen. Look, the Republicans have had bad day after bad day after bad day. Today was a terrible day for them. First, you know, Speaker Boehner promised to put the bipartisan 89-10 passed Senate bill on the floor of the House. He couldn`t, because he knew it would pass. He knew there were 50, 60, 70 Republicans who would join all 190 Democrats to vote for it and it would pass by a large margin. So, he puts together the subterfuge, which is send it to a committee. You don`t have to be in Washington to know if you want to kill something without fingerprints, you send it to a committee. Republicans continue to desert Boehner. Today, three more major Senate Republicans said he ought to pass our bill, the Senate bill. Grassley and Wicker, conservatives from the heartland, Iowa and Mississippi. And Senator McCain said this is hurting the Republican Party. And third and worst of all for them, I think they were hoping President Obama would sit down and say, yes, let`s negotiate. But the president saw what we`re all seeing, that this is a sham, that they really don`t want to pass a payroll tax cut but don`t want their fingerprints on it. So, he broke into the press briefing that his press man John Carney was giving and was very unequivocal. So, the bottom line is they`re stuck. And we have a solution for them, very simple solution. That is, pass the two-month extension that 89 senators, majority of Democrats and Republicans have agreed to, then we`ll talk about, we`ll negotiate -- seriously negotiate the rest. And how can anyone believe that they want a one-year extension when they`re unwilling to pass a two-month extension? Particularly in light of the fact we just found out that the eight of the eight members of this conference committee, the sham conference committee, that Speaker Boehner appointed, five have issued statements against any payroll tax cut. MADDOW: A majority of the -- SCHUMER: A majority of the committee. So, you know, Speaker Boehner, who I think is fundamentally a decent guy, but he`s letting, you know, the people at the extreme edge of his caucus lead him over a cliff. He`s not leading them. They`re leading him. He`s in such a box. He`s tying himself in a pretzel. He has two choices, as a Republican leader was reported saying, he can either get a fat lip now. You know, they said, that`s colloquially term. He can suffer some damage now by agreeing to a two-month extension immediately and then we`ll go try to, and I think we`d get a one-year extension. Or he can hold out, as you said, 160 million Americans lose their tax cut, and he`ll just get clobbered. The public is seeing through his shams. "The Washington Post" poll today said 50 to 35, the public supports Democrats, on a tax issue, which is usually not our strongest suit. MADDOW: What do you think accounts for the difference between the political situation in the Senate and the political situation in the House for the Republicans? Because you did get a big majority of Senate Republicans voting for this. You`ve got Senate Republicans openly criticizing House Republicans on this. And yet the House Republicans seem stymie and unable to move forward, unable to even allow it to come up for a vote. SCHUMER: You know, I mean, there are some Tea Party types in the Senate, too, but they`re not as large a number. Far more importantly than that, Speaker Boehner has basically done whatever they have wanted. You have a small group who probably represent the 5 percent of America at the most extreme right sort of trying to run the country and Speaker Boehner lets the House of Representatives, which can block anything that happens, follow them. And it makes no sense. But, you know, there is some justice in politics. I know the frustration we all have. And sooner or later it catches up with you. It began to catch up with them when the debt ceiling emerged. And after that, Americans were beginning to smell why these folks are extreme. Now, it`s coming home in even much, much stronger colors because this is a tax cut. And Republicans have always been for tax cuts. Well, if you`re for a tax cut, just be for it. And this idea that, oh, two weeks ago, we were against the tax cut, and now, we`re against it because it`s not long enough? It doesn`t pass the laugh test. MADDOW: In terms of the damage that might be done here, let`s say that John Boehner is not able to get his conference to move forward on this. He now says they want the tax cut, but let`s say they cannot get it together. And on January 1st, people`s livelihood changes. People start getting taxes taken out of their check that are not being taken out now. The idea the payroll tax wouldn`t be extended at all has been estimated to have a very large economic impact. SCHUMER: And that is, by the way, why the Tea Party folks really don`t want the payroll tax cut extended -- MADDOW: You think they want to hurt the economy. SCHUMER: Well, I think anything, it`s almost, it seems anything the president`s for, they`re against. If it hurts the economy, they think it might help their electoral chances. The problem with their argument is that it`s so transparent that they`re getting the blame. And when people favor, as the "Washington Post" poll showed, favor Democrats on tax issues over Republicans, that`s in part because we pushed hard on the tax on incomes over a million and in part because of this issue. They`re going to lose out and their strategy is not going to work. MADDOW: There is a school of thought that when things don`t work in Washington, when a payroll tax that everybody says should be extended doesn`t get extended, that there is a broad brush with which blame is applied. That people will just think Washington is broken, President Obama is in charge in Washington. Therefore, I blame him. The people won`t distinguish between the two parties on this. SCHUMER: That has -- for the first six months or so when they were being extreme, I think that kind of thinking was predominant in the media and even among the American people, but because they keep doing it and doing it and doing it on such things as debt ceiling, payroll tax cut, it`s not going to continue. And the president, starting in September, instead of just blaming all of Congress, he started blaming the Republicans where it belongs. And that`s had a real effect. Here`s an example that affects us in the Senate since that has happened. In June, if you asked people, who do you prefer, Democrats or Republicans to run the Congress? Forty-seven, forty-one, Republican. Now, it`s 46-43, Democrat. That`s a huge change in six months. All because I think people are realizing that these hard right, hardball tactics are hurting the country. MADDOW: Senator Chuck Schumer of New York -- it`s always nice to have you here, sir. Thank you. Appreciate it. SCHUMER: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. How does a felt-tip pen become the best new thing in the world today? It becomes that very, very slowly. A true story and a highly sophisticated re-enactment at the end of the show. It involves a man in a wig. I`ll explain after the senator`s gone. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Last night on this show I asked a pointed question. See, that`s me -- that`s me last night. Better hair I think last night. Anyway -- last night, I posited my Jeb Bush conspiracy theory that the possibility of Jeb Bush, son of Poppy Bush and brother of George W. Bush might make a late entry into the presidential race this year. Maybe on the Americans Elect line on the ballot now that it looks like Americans Elect will have a line on the ballot in all 50 states. Fueling my conspiracy theory about this last night is the fact that somebody has been polling in New Hampshire on the question of Jeb Bush versus President Obama for the presidency. Someone`s polling on Jeb Bush in New Hampshire. Who is funding those calls in New Hampshire? Or as I asked on the show last night -- who`s funding those call in New Hampshire? Right. It turns out tonight we have an answer. We know who has been polling New Hampshire on Jeb Bush as a potential presidential candidate. We know where else they have been doing it. We know who they are. And in just a moment, I`m hoping they`re going to tell us why they`re doing it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Late last month, a woman went into the city hall building in Iowa City, Iowa, and paid her water bill. And then she paid the water bills for 17 other people in Iowa City. According to the Iowa city "Press Citizen," that one anonymous donor forked over $1,640 to pay off delinquent balances for 17 other local water accounts -- 17 families who hadn`t been able to pay their water bill who were facing having no running water for the Thanksgiving holiday if they hadn`t lost it already. Eleven of those accounts already had had their water turned off. Remaining six were scheduled to be shut down by the end of that day. Last week in San Jose, California, Maria Vargas, was battling stage 4 cancer, discovered somebody left a bag of avocados on her doorstep. Inside the bag of avocados she found also a check for $10,000 from an anonymous donor. He daughter told KNTV in the Bay Area that Maria Vargas has spent her entire life savings on cancer treatment. This money means her mom will be able to keep getting treatment. I should also note throughout the past few weeks across the country apparently, people have been walking into K-Marts and Wal-Marts across the country and anonymously paying for stuff that other people have put on layaway. If you`ve never paid for something on layaway, it sort of works as a form of in-store credit. If you can`t afford to pay for your items all at once, but you also can`t and you don`t want to use a credit card, putting it on layaway means you make a down payment and then you pay an installment. So, strangers have been anonymously pays other strangers` layaway accounts at big box stores to cover the cost of gifts. "The Associated Press" even compiled this map of layaway Santa sightings. Coincidentally, a group called the Charities Aid Foundation released their yearly survey of charitable giving today. They surveyed more than 150,000 people in 153 different countries. And they found that despite global economic turmoil, the world is giving more. They also found that the United States is the most charitable country in the world as of last year. That does not happen every year. The United States is not always first. But this past year, even with the economy stuck in neutral, Americans found even new and creative ways to give. And to give in many cases not to people seeking help, but to people who were getting help anyway from Americans taking on an angel role in anonymity. Americans are giving right now, even as we are struggling. Not everybody is struggling, of course. Here`s another economic snapshot of America right now. There are about 307 million Americans total. So doing a little TV math, 10 percent of 307 million is roughly 31 million people. So if you want to come up with 30 percent of America, just take three times 10. We get to about 93 million people -- 93 million people are about 30 percent of our country`s population. And 93 million people have the same amount of money collectively as six members of the Walton family, which owns Wal-Mart. According to a U.C.-Berkeley economist named Sylvia Allegrezo (ph) who recently analyzed the wealth of the richest people in the country, six members of the Walton family, six individual Waltons, have the same amount of money as 93 million other Americans. It`s 30 percent of the country. So Americans are struggling. Americans are giving even though we`re struggling. Six members of one family control as much wealth as 93 million other Americans. Also, when Americans are asked if they think money and wealth are distributed fairly in this country, two-thirds of Americans say no. It should be more even. More fair. Is what we`ve got now really the only way the American economy could be right now? Big picture. Is this our only option? Are there people working on imagining better, fairer ways for the institutions in our economy to work? Joining us tonight from the interview is somebody who`s been thinking about those things with a very specific part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. His name is Carne Ross. He`s author of the forthcoming book, "The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century." Mr. Ross is probably best known as the diplomat who quit his post in the British government in protest of the Iraq war. He now runs a non- profit group called Independent Diplomat. On this banking stuff, he is working with a part of the Occupy Wall Street movement that calls itself the Alternative Banking Working Group. Carne Ross, thank you for joining us. It`s nice to have you here. CARNE ROSS, AUTHOR, "THE LEADERLESS REVOLUTION": Thanks for having me. MADDOW: What is the overall idea of there being an Alternative Banking Working Group? ROSS: Well, I think the idea is that clearly banking was part of the problem, perhaps is the problem at the heart of our economy. Of course, the credit crunch. It`s an unequal, unfair system that`s prone to risk. So, if you solved banking, maybe you`d solve bigger problems in the economy. And that`s the idea behind the Alternative Banking Working Group. We`re trying to think about alternative systems that carry attributes, characteristics which are much better. That they`re democratic, they`re transparent, they`re accessible to everybody. The current banking system, for instance, is very hard for poor people, often excludes the most marginalized people in our society. That is more equal. A banking system that`s fairer, transparent, more accessible. These things are possible if we can imagine a bank that does that through the Occupy movement. MADDOW: Through the Occupy movement is the part of this that is so important. I think, because I think when we think about the Occupy movement, it is hard to imagine that there would be people who have expertise and experience, in some cases, deep experience of the financial system and of the high finance, who might want to be part of imagining a new way forward. But, in fact, you`re working with hedge funders and private equity people and people very deep in the Wall Street machine. ROSS: It`s probably because Zuccotti Park is located so near Wall Street. A lot of Wall Street people came through Zuccotti Park to see what was going on and signed up for some of the working groups, including the Alternative Banking Working Group, So, we got professors of financial law, we`ve got former derivatives traders. We`ve got former SEC regulators, as well as the young and other ordinary people who are interested and concerned about the nature of the financial system. So, we`ve got real expertise, as well as real conviction. A lot of these people much to my surprise are really disgusted by the current system and really want to see it changed. MADDOW: Not just because it has produced unfair outcomes or in some cases dangerous outcomes but because it`s not a very good banking system? ROSS: I think it`s partly that. I think it`s a more social concern of fundamental inequality and the exposure to risk the banking system put us through and remains despite legislation to control the banking sector. That systemic risk remains because banks can still innovate new financial products, in fact, driven by profit to innovate new financial products, which no legislator can necessarily foresee or legislate again. So, I think there`s an intrinsic risk in the way the banking system currently works. If you make it transparent, if you make it non-profit, if you actually build into the structure of the bank certain characteristics like, for instance, mutualizing all liabilities of the bank and making it completely transparent, then you would not only mitigate these risks, you`d actually eradicate them. So, there`s a chance to do something that`s actually systemic. There`s also a kind of broader political project to this which is, if you can change banking, if you change the nervous system of the economy, you can actually promote values like equality, democracy and transparency throughout the economy and thus through society. So, there`s a kind of deeper politics about this. Not just reforming and changing the financial system. MADDOW: In reading some of the, just the documentation that`s come out of the Alternative Banking Working Group, reading some of the things you`ve been writing about this, I know you`ve described your expectation of change here as not being something you will be requested of policymakers. We`re not going to ask Washington. The way to change things is to build things better and then to show that it can be done in a better way. Can you give us some sense of what might be the type of reform, change, development that you could reasonably understand the banking system moving to, so that you could show it was a better way? ROSS: Well, I think there are two strands of thoughts in the banking group. One is that you can actually press for Washington to legislate for the banking system to reform itself. And I think there`s some of us in the group who are rather skeptical of that given the political sway and the lobbying power the banks have in Washington. So, the idea of a sort of subgroup is we set up an alternative system that would eventually replace the current system. Obviously, it would be legal, it would be permitted within existing federal law. But it would embody many of the characteristics you can already see in credit unions, community banks, things like this. But it just would take it up a notch. We`d use the energy and momentum of Occupy to build something really extraordinary and big. And also something that is actually attractive to ordinary customers. You know, I personally think the banking services offered by mainstream banks here are pretty awful. I mean, coming from the U.K. 20 years ago, U.K. banks were offering better services than I get today in America. And so, I think it`s plausible to design something that by being non- profit, by being up to date with technology could actually provide a more attractive alternative to the current banks and also a better alternative - - a fairer one. MADDOW: Does the direct action side give momentum to the sort of thing you`re doing? Or are you essentially on divergent paths? ROSS: I don`t think we`re divergent at all. I think we want the same thing. I think we`re driven by the same concerns about inequality and the fundamental problems of our society and economy. I think those are very much shared. And I think the protests and the direct action have opened the political space perhaps for more substantive work of the kind we`re doing. But I think the thing I`ve noticed about Occupy is that it is many things. It is not one thing. I don`t think anybody can claim to speak for it. It doesn`t have a single agenda. There are lots and lots of things going on under that broad umbrella, including our work, including the work of many other working groups. I hope that some of them will succeed. MADDOW: Carne Ross, representing another world is possible school of politics on this show tonight. Mr. Ross heads the non-profit group, Independent Diplomat. He`s currently advising the Occupy Wall Street working group on alternative banking. Thank you for explaining this tonight. It`s nice to have you here. ROSS: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. It was last night, it was the Jeb Bush 2012 conspiracy theory. And tonight, I can reveal the truth at the core of the conspiracy. Seriously. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: All right. This week`s political conspiracy theory entertained by moi on last night`s show, it starts here -- with news that someone, someone is mysteriously asking voters in New Hampshire for their opinion about Jeb Bush. The phone poll first reported by Dave Weigel Thursday at asks about Obama versus Mitt Romney, Obama versus Newt Gingrich and Obama versus Jeb Bush -- who appears not to be running for anything anywhere. The deadline for getting on the ballot for the New Hampshire Republican primary was back in October. Jeb Bush could not get on the ballot now no matter what dynasty he`s from, no matter how unhappy Republicans are with their current choices. No matter what. So who is polling about Jeb Bush in New Hampshire? Karl Rove said that he asked Jeb Bush and Mr. Bush, himself, said no. I guess that would rule out both Karl Rove and Jeb Bush being behind this. Last night I floated the crazy, crazy idea that a new group called Americans Elect might be doing it. Americans Elect is on the ballot in 12 states already and in all likelihood will be on the ballot in every state come November. So, if Jeb Bush wanted to get into the race even at this late date, he wanted to be a choice for New Hampshire voters this fall, he could make a bid for the Americans Elect nomination and get on the ballot that way. But Americans Elect told us, no, they are not the ones polling about Jeb Bush in New Hampshire. Also, Jeb Bush told us directly that, no, he is not only not doing the polling. He`s really truly not running for president in 2012. We got that from a spokesperson yesterday. So, I`m striking out, right? It`s not Karl Rove. It`s not Jeb Bush. It`s not Americans Elect. So who would spend time and money polling New Hampshire voters about Jeb Bush for president? It is enough to keep me awake at night. Who is doing this polling and why? Well, tonight, I can report exclusively that I expect to sleep tonight like I`ve been knocked out with a bullpen hammer. Now I have the answer to my question. It`s thanks to you, thanks to a viewer of this show. A policy wonk in Georgia named James Carter who found the answer by searches for it on Twitter. Why didn`t I think of that? He sent us the link he found about it and happy Hanukkah, up pops this poll from a firm called Purple Strategies, for political red plus political blue, equals political purple. Purple Strategies is a bipartisan political consulting firm, and they have been running this thing called the Purple Poll. The Purple Poll looks at the 12 swing states that they think could hold the key to the 2012 election including New Hampshire and Iowa. And this month it was the Purple Poll that asked voters what they think about Obama versus not just Mitt Romney, not just Obama versus Newt Gingrich, but, yes, Obama versus Jeb Bush, who is not running. So now we know who did it. Now we know who`s been polling on Jeb Bush. Next question is why they`ve been polling on Jeb Bush? Joining us now is Doug Usher, managing director for polling at Purple Strategies who I think has the answer to all my questions. Mr. Usher, thank you so much for being here. DOUG USHER, PURPLE STRATEGIES: Thanks, Rachel. I`ll be happy to answer all your questions. MADDOW: All right. Well, Jeb Bush says he is not running, so why did you guys poll on Jeb Bush? USHER: We had the poll in the field last week. We polled people all around the country. That is, those in purple states, the states that will swing this election. And we tested Jeb Bush just to test another Republican. To see what would happen if he did jump into the race and if he were the Republican nominee. I think as you saw what happened in this case was we happened to call a mayor of a small town in New Hampshire who tweeted about it. As you also know, about half of the citizens of New Hampshire are, in fact, mayors of cities in New Hampshire. So we should have predicted something like this might have happened. MADDOW: But to be clear, you were not just polling on them in New Hampshire, you did poll of Jeb Bush versus Barack Obama and Jeb Bush favorability in all 12 of your swing states, right? USHER: That`s exactly right. And what we found a couple pieces of news. First is that Jeb Bush is not a panacea for the Republican Party right now. He carries some baggage as well as benefits of the Bush name but he tests as well of the other candidates we tested trailing Obama at this point by about four to six points. MADDOW: But why do you think he could conceivably be a panacea? I mean, is there somebody who has a strategic interest in promoting the idea of him as a potential candidate? Is there somebody who strategically wants you to be getting his name out there? Or you just thought he`s as reasonable, an establishment Republican who`s not running, as anybody? USHER: Absolutely. And people have been talking about Bush on the right as a very viable candidate, as a real answer. We didn`t do this to try to correct the perception but to give a better sense of what`s going on in the race. There are dozens of polls out there. A lot of them are focused specifically on the Republican race in Iowa and New Hampshire. We want to give voters a better look and the public a better look at what would happen to him in a general election race. And right now, there`s no easy answers for Republicans, but also, it still looks like President Obama has got a steep hill to climb. MADDOW: Are you going to poll on like Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Sarah Palin? I mean -- do you think it would be helpful in terms of what you`re trying to discern about the electorate and what your clients want you to discern about the electorate to poll on everybody who`s reasonable or everybody who`s not in but might be? USHER: Well, at this point, it`s getting clear that it`s going to be too late for somebody else to run. But in future polls we would definitely consider looking at a three-way race with a potential candidate. As you saw right now, Gary Johnson, a Republican candidate who hasn`t gotten any press has decided to run on the libertarian line. So, we`re starting to believe that a third-party candidate from the right may be a real possibility. MADDOW: And believing that`s a real possibility is driven by dissatisfaction with the existing options among the mainstream Republican candidates? USHER: I think that`s part of it. I also think you`re seeing a lot of instability on the Republican side. You`re seeing it within Congress, with what you were reporting on before. And depending on who`s nominated, there would be somebody who would be willing to go out on the limb and do that. It certainly wouldn`t be somebody like Jeb Bush who is very mainstream from the Republican standpoint but I think it could be somebody more extreme that doesn`t expect to win but wants to get some press for themselves and maybe a good talk show down the road. MADDOW: Can you explain -- I introduced what Purple Strategies is a little bit, since a lot of people, me included, are meeting you for the first time tonight. Can you explain a little bit more about your firm? I understand you include Republicans and Democratic consultants? USHER: That`s absolutely right. We felt there was a vacuum in Washington, a firm that was solely made up of both parties, not one that was a Democratic firm or a Republican firm but one where we can come together and find bipartisan solutions for our clients. That`s not to say that it`s nonpartisan. We come to this firm with strong leanings. I come from the Democratic side and Democratic pollings. We have all kinds of folks on the Republican side that are there. And in our firm, it`s actually a lot of fun. We get to have good arguments but we also help our clients understand how best to speak to both sides of the aisle when they are finding solutions. MADDOW: I just have to ask you flat out and bluntly so that I can sleep tonight. Let me just be totally clear -- you`re not polling on Jeb Bush as a stocking horse for a Jeb Bush third-party candidacy. This is not designed to get Jeb Bush`s name out there. That`s not what this is about. This is just to see what might happen, right? USHER: Absolutely. Try to help you sleep tonight, Rachel. We did it. We sat in our offices, a couple of Republicans, a couple of Democrats, thought about a couple interesting things to run. I`ll tell you off-air who are some of the things, or some of the people we decided not to test, but we ended up with Jeb Bush. MADDOW: All right. Fair enough. My tinfoil hat is clear now. So, I can so people can`t see it on television, but it`s still firmly affixed. Doug Usher, managing director for polling at Purple Strategies -- thank you for coming on the show. I really appreciate you explaining this tonight. Thank you. USHER: It`s my pleasure, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Right after the show, on "THE LAST WORD," Lawrence O`Donnell has his guest, Newt Gingrich supporter and former Iowa congressman, Fred Grandy. Congressman Grandy also played golfer on "The Love Boat," which means I will be watching "THE LAST WORD" tonight from the Aloha deck. And here, the best new thing in the world, it`s an astounding tale of gastrointestinal resilience 25 years in the making. We reenact these group saga using a wig, next. But, first, "One More Thing," about the man who solved the great Jeb Bush conspiracy theory polling mystery, it`s treasured viewer and policy wonk James Carter of Georgia. Incidentally, I should tell you, he is actually James Earl Carter IV. James Earl Carter IV. He is the grandson of President James Earl Carter. And as a kiddo he was the yawner of this epic yawn. Mr. Carter, we thank you. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Ready? Best new thing in the world today comes courtesy of the "British Medical Journal." Today, a 76-year-old woman was having stomach aches and unexplained weight loss. She goes to the doctor. She had been diagnosed previously with having diverticulosis which is both a very real disease and a very close relative to the funniest line that wasn`t technically punch line ever repeatedly uttered on "Saturday Night Live". (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CROWD: We got diverticulosis. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, unlike Bob and Wendy Whiner, this woman in our story was diagnosed with diverticulosis, in the same stomach disease family. So, she`s got diverticulosis as her diagnosis. She`s 76 years old. She has been losing weight. She goes to the doctor, and the doctor decides to do a scan of her stomach to see if there`s anything unexpected going on in her stomach. And then, boy, howdy, yes, OK, what`s that? Look at that picture. What could that be? Then, our 76-year-old patient remembers, actually, this is sort of really hard to imagine. But the woman remembers, that 25 years ago, so in about 1986, when she was in her early 50s she had been interrogating a spot on her tonsil with the pen. That`s according to the "British Medical Journal" case report. So, she was using an uncapped pen to try to poke at her own tonsil. In fact, it also reported that she was actually standing on her stairs while holding a hand mirror while poking at her tonsil with an uncapped pen. While doing all this, she slipped and fell and swallowed the pen. Now, when this happened 25 years ago, her husband and doctor did not believe her. X-rays at the time showed there was no pen. So, yes, she said she swallowed the pen but they couldn`t see one. So end of story for 25 years. Until the pen shows up on this much better new scan of her stomach at a hospital. So, the woman remembers swallowing the pen 25 years ago. Doctors see it on the scan. Doctors were able to retrieve. Stomachache be gone. She is feeling better. She no longer has a giant pen sitting in her stomach. But that`s not the best new thing in the world. The best new thing in the world today is that after doctors removed the pen, somebody thought, this would make a great case report. We should write this down. Anybody have a pen? Somebody thought to try to write with the pen, with the uncapped pen they had just taken out of that woman`s stomach where it had been sitting for 25 years and after 25 years, it turns out it writes fine. Do you want evidence? They wrote with it. Look. And then they took a picture of what they wrote with it and they published it in case reports. And that is the best new thing in the world today. It turns a black felt tip pen can be kept fresh for 25 years if you uncapped it, swallow it and keep it in your stomach acid. In case that`s ever hand. That`s it for us tonight. It`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END