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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/27/11

Guests: David Yepsen, Anita Kumar, Josh Rogin

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. I love that talk about the people of Wisconsin as angry badgers. Only people from Wisconsin can say that. But you take it seriously when they do, man. SCHULTZ: They sure do. MADDOW: Thanks a lot, Ed. All right. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Tonight`s the night that most political observers thought could never happen. Tonight`s the night we have been anticipating for weeks. December 27th is a date marked on political calendar as not only with a big red X for important day, but in many cases, at least to people who are observers of politics. Today is the date that has been marked in the calendar with a big red X and then a big red question mark right beside it, because today was the day -- tonight was the night that the Republican candidates for president were to participate in a debate in Iowa moderated by a man named Donald J. Trump, a debate where the whole format was essentially a competition for Donald Trump`s love and affection where he was supposedly going to endorse a candidate upon the conclusion of the debate, right there while the candidates stood there, while they are still on stage. The Donald Trump debate was supposed to take place this evening in Des Moines, Iowa. And for a few weeks, it really seemed like it was actually going to happen. Then the drugs finally wore off and that date which we`d all marked in our calendars with stars and question marks was suddenly cast in doubt. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both did say they would be willing to participate. But none of the other candidates got on board. And Mr. Trump ultimately offered up a couple excuses and decided not to go through with it. For a while, even after Mr. Trump backed out, the sponsor of the debate, a conservative Web site, said that the debate would still go on tonight with or without Donald Trump. In the end, though, the Web site was forced to postpone its own debate to a date still uncertain. I don`t actually know what ended up airing in place of the Donald Trump/Newsmax debate tonight. I don`t have Ion TV, so I can`t tell you. But had the other Republican candidates agreed to participate, had the Republican Party gone ahead with a presidential debate moderated by Donald Trump, this race might actually have had a slightly different dynamic with a week to go until Iowa. And I mean that seriously. It`s in part because the biggest strength of Newt Gingrich`s strategy has been his performance at debates. And Gingrich has not had a debate to perform in for a couple of weeks now. And he will not have another debate to perform in between now and next week when the Iowa caucusgoers will be making their decisions on Tuesday night. So, had that Donald Trump debate gone forward as scheduled, as ridiculous that would have been, the dynamic might have been a little bit different with a week to go. But in some ways, the cancellation of the Trump debate has given the dynamic of the overall Republican race a chance to go back to square one because what did Donald Trump do right after he dropped out of the Newsmax debate? Out of this debate that even a candidate like Michele Bachmann was too embarrassed to go to? What Mr. Trump do after he pulled out of that? He very publicly left the Republican Party. He unregistered as a Republican and reregistered as an independent, thus trying to stoke once again the idea that he himself, Donald Trump, might become a third party candidate for president between now and November. Mr. Trump was sort of running for president back all the way in April, he was actually a frontrunner for awhile. He was in fact the first real non-Mitt Romney bubble candidacy of the Republican race this year. Eventually, Donald Trump`s bubble yielded to the Rick Perry bubble, which then yielded to the Herman Cain bubble, which then yielded to the Gingrich bubble, which has now sort of yielded at least a little to the emergence of a new Ron Paul bubble at least in Iowa. But again, the resurfacing of Donald Trump on the margins of this race, his attempt to be seen as a potential late entry third party candidate, that is I think a sign of how much things are back to where they were at the beginning of this whole race. The Iowa caucuses are one week from today. And yet, today, the conservative magazine "The Weekly Standard" is once again editorializing in purple prose that somebody who`s not running already, some Republican who isn`t yet in the race should, quote, "come to the aid of our country." The conservative establishment is still trying to woo new candidates to join the race one week before Iowa. And while it is possible that there could be a third party candidacy at some point, there really can`t be a late entry Republican into the race. I mean, there could be, but the important ballot deadlines are over. And even some of the declared candidates who really are running are having some trouble getting on the ballot. We`ll have a little bit more on that later in the show. So, we`re left with this Republican Party establishment being very dissatisfied with all of the Republican candidates. And that`s manifested in part by the Republican establishment`s TV network falling ostentatiously in and out of love with each successive bubble candidacy. FOX News Channel loved the idea of a Donald Trump candidacy earlier this year. You could not get him off that network. And then that was over. FOX News Channel loved the prospect of Texas Governor Rick Perry entering the race. And then that was over. FOX News Channel loved the idea of a plain-spoken outsider like Herman Cain surging to the top. You could not get Herman Cain off the FOX News Channel. But then Herman Cain managed to end that flirtation rather abruptly in a sort of messy fashion. The Murdoch primary has been as volatile as the Iowa polls this year. Maybe even more so because it should be said that FOX News has never really seemed to like Newt Gingrich all that much. And they really, really, really seem to hate the current Iowa front runner, Ron Paul. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Ron Paul is not going to be elected president. He`s not. He has a very strong core of fanatical believers, but they do not represent the mainstream of America. ANDREA TANTAROS, FOX NEWS: There`s a percentage of this country that`s crazy. And the crazy people, they`re going to have somewhere to go in Ron Paul. DICK MORRIS, FOX NEWS: He`s really by far the most liberal radical candidate of the bunch. GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: The assumption is this guy is your crazy uncle. But you never expected your crazy uncle to get this far. DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS: Nobody attacked him because nobody thought he was going anywhere. Now, he`s possibly in the lead. GUTFELD: Crazy uncle`s driving the car. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: That`s your Republican front runner in Iowa right now. That`s how he`s getting talked about on Republican TV. Rightly or wrongly, Ron Paul is hated on the FOX News Channel. And if you can`t win the FOX News channel, it is hard to believe that a Republican candidate can win anything approaching the nomination. I mean, he can have a bit of a bubble without having FOX on your side -- see Newt Gingrich. But without winning on Republican Party TV, which is what FOX News is, it is very hard to sustain a lead among Republican Party voters. Republican Party voters watch FOX. And they watch very little else. And if FOX says no, it is hard for them to say yes in defiance of FOX. At least it`s hard for them to defy FOX for long. That`s part of the reason I think why the Newt Gingrich surge has been wobbly and short lived. That`s why even if Ron Paul is able to hold on to his lead and win in Iowa a week from tonight, no one believes that will translate into electoral. It will just go down in history as one of the weird things that Iowa Republicans do every four years -- like when they picked Mike Huckabee, or when Pat Robertson or Pat Buchanan came in second. No offense to either Pat. Maybe a little to Mr. Robertson. And so week out of Iowa, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have surges there. But the surges are sort of weak. And neither one of those candidates has FOX News in their corner. And so there remains only one candidate who nobody has tried on yet, one candidate who might not have a FOX News problem and who has the great asset of being very, very explicitly underestimated -- particularly here on this set on this TV show. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Are all of these guys really in play? Do they all really have a shot? Apparently they do. I mean, if Newt Gingrich does, they all do. OK, not Rick Santorum obviously, but the rest of them. We have gone through this with Donald Trump now and Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry and Herman Cain. We sort of expect them to do this with everybody in the field -- I mean, except for Rick Santorum. Nobody`s going to vote for Rick Santorum. Come on. Rick Santorum, bless him, said today that he will have a big announcement tomorrow in Iowa. There are no indications that the big announcement is that he`s quitting. But it`s never a good sign that when you say you are having a big announcement, the first thing everybody asks is, are you quitting? Rick Santorum also has role in this year`s race. And his role is -- I`m sorry that was actually my own typo. Rick Santorum does not have a role. He`s just Rick Santorum. It has never been more clear that Mitt Romney will get the nomination and it has never been more clear that Republican voters prefer almost anyone over him. I mean, not Rick Santorum obviously but aside from that, really, anyone. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Rick Santorum. Rick Santorum in the past few weeks and the past few days have gotten a bunch of endorsements from social conservative leaders in Iowa. Today, the founders of a group calling itself Huck`s Army who are Mike Huckabee supporters the last time around in Iowa when Mike Huckabee won Iowa -- today, Huck`s Army declared Rick Santorum is their man. It`s true. I have been totally wrong. Rick Santorum is getting his bubble. Google it. Joining us now is a man who has covered every Iowa presidential caucus campaign since 1976. David Yepsen is the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and a former chief political reporter for "The Des Moines Register." Mr. Yepsen, thank you again for joining us tonight. DAVID YEPSEN, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY: Good to be with you. MADDOW: Have there been other years in which things have been this unsettled in the field just a week out from the caucuses? YEPSEN: You know, I was thinking about that earlier today, Rachel, and I don`t think so. I mean, we`ve had times where we weren`t sure who was going to win, but nothing on this scale, this much in flux. The polls, they`re pretty much out of date now. I would be expecting pollsters went back into the field right after Christmas to get a new sense of where this race is. But no, it`s a great race because media people can`t figure it out. MADDOW: Which makes it fun to talk about. When people talk about the polls in Iowa, you always hear from observers, even if the polls are timely, that you shouldn`t trust them anyway. That Iowa is notoriously difficult to poll. Why is that? YEPSEN: Well, pollsters simply just mechanically have to drill pretty deep into the electorate to find likely caucusgoers. I mean, it`s 3 million people. It`s about 600,000 Republicans. And, you know, down here below that is 120,000 likely caucusgoers. So, they can be hard to find. And, secondly, there`s a lot of new people. You were talking about this Ron Paul phenomenon. He`s attracting new people. About a third of the likely caucusgoers say they`re first time caucusgoers. Those people get awfully hard to find. So, what it means is this is going to be difficult, impossible to predict. And it`s great because we`re going to have a race in a week. MADDOW: Thinking back on previous Republican caucuses, in 1996, of course, Bob Dole won the Republican nomination that year and Bob Dole won the Iowa caucuses that year as well. But right on his heels in Iowa, a very close second was Pat Buchanan. Do you see -- in talking about those Ron Paul supporters, do you see any echoes of the support that Pat Buchanan got in Iowa in the Ron Paul candidacy this year? Could his isolationism, for example, be appealing to the same block of Iowa Republicans? YEPSEN: I think so. I think Ron Paul is on to something. There is an anger in the electorate. You know, you see the same thing on the far left-hand side of the spectrum with the Occupy movement. People are angry throughout the political spectrum. And so, I think it`s easy to dismiss Ron Paul. I certainly agree with those who say he`s not going to be the Republican nominee for president, but I think he`s on to something. Pat Buchanan was on to something. Pat Robertson was on to something. And so, you have to read these results as something more than who comes in first and second. You have to ask, what are voters saying? What`s the Republican Party saying? What are Republican activists saying? And I think, clearly a lot of them are upset. And isolationism as you know has been a streak throughout the Republican Party since about 1912. And so, it`s very real. It`s there. And at a time of national deficits, Americans -- a lot of Americans on the right and on the left are tired of these wars. They want to turn inward and focus on our problems at home. And Ron Paul is giving voice to that. MADDOW: You heard my thesis in the introduction here about the Murdoch primary. That FOX News Channel, whether you like it or hate it, sort of does function as Republican Party TV. So many Republican voters watch FOX and watch FOX almost to the exclusion of a lot of other sources of information. And so, it`s hard to sustain national support at least if you`ve got FOX News constantly talking smack at about you all day long. I don`t expect you to agree with every part of that thesis, but I wonder if you think it does apply differently in Iowa than it might anywhere else? We know it`s real activists that turn out for the caucuses. So, are they less or more affected by the FOX News primary? YEPSEN: You know, I think activists, the ones I`ve watched in both parties over the years, their news consumption rates are very high. They read a lot. They watch a lot of television. They listen to a lot of different radio stations. And so I wouldn`t -- these people are -- they`re activists. I mean, their level of political motivation is high. You think about it, Rachel. Going out to caucus is more highly motivated political act that writing a check to a candidate. And so, these people in both parties who go to caucuses, I think a lot of them are sophisticated. MADDOW: In terms of the Rick Santorum maybe bubble, Rick Santorum basically has no money, but as you and I have talked about before, he has spent essentially a year in Iowa, a ton of time on the ground. What do you think is the maximum ratio of time in the state to money that can still pay off in terms of the real organization that you need to win on caucus night? YEPSEN: You know, spending time in the state is only part of the puzzle. I`ve seen candidates who`ve spend a lot of time in the state over the years who didn`t win. Lamar Alexander is a good example. I think a candidate has to have several things. A candidate has to have a good message. You have to have something to sell. They have to be an attractive candidate. They have to be somebody who people see as electable. Yes. And then they have to spend time on task and a little money helps too. While Rick Santorum, I don`t think a lot of Republicans have taken him seriously from the beginning simply because he lost a big U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania. And if he can`t win in Pennsylvania, a lot of Republicans are saying, we`re not going to make you our standard pick. We might like what he has to say and he`s a nice guy. But just a matter of, you know, you can do -- you can spend time here and that`s a prerequisite. But there are other things there too that have to be included. And, you know, you talked about social conservatives. And he certainly has an appeal to social conservatives. But if you drill down into those poll numbers, Rachel, you`ll see that even among social conservatives, it`s the issue of jobs and the economy more important to social conservatives in Iowa than things like abortion and gay marriage. There`s a lot of talk about abortion and gay marriage, but they`re not the big drivers of the electorate that they may have been in the past elections. MADDOW: David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, former chief political reporter for the "Des Moines Register" -- it is just invaluable to be able to talk to you about this tonight, sir. Thank you so much. YEPSEN: Thank you. MADDOW: I got to say I still think -- I think we are going to see -- we`ve got six days, right, six nights left until the Iowa caucuses, a week from tonight. I think that we are going to see a FOX News-driven attempt to create more of a Santorum bubble. I think FOX is going to push Mr. Santorum. I could be wrong. I`m always wrong about Rick Santorum. But I can feel it. Anyway, you heard over the holiday how almost none of the Republican candidates got on the ballot in Virginia. It turns out that`s the least of their worries in Virginia. That story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: All right. Best new thing in the world today: ambitious island edition. First time ever. Best new thing in the world coming up right at the end of the show. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The 12th Amendment to the Constitution is not the most plainly worded of the amendments. It sets out the rules for the Electoral College, a process that can seem opaque even on a clear day. But this little bit of legal algebra -- the part about not being an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. That at least has a clear outcome anyway. It means that the candidates for president and vice president cannot live in the same state. You can`t be president and vice president on the same ticket if you`re from the same state. So, if Newt Gingrich, just imagine, becomes the Republican Party nominee this year, Newt Gingrich would have had a really hard time nominating one of the more obvious choices for a Republican vice presidential nominee. That would be Virginia`s very, very, very ambitious Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, who`s made it clear that he would like somebody to pick him, please. Governor McDonnell would have a hard time becoming Newt Gingrich`s running mate because they both are declared residents of the great commonwealth of Virginia. Now, it is customary in politics to sort of demur when once name is floated for a vice presidential spot. That has not been Bob McDonnell`s custom. He said, quote, "I`d be very interested. It is a swing state. I`m not asking for the call. I`m not looking for the call. As I`ve said many times, I`ve got the best job in America, but I think anybody who`s in public life, if a presidential nominee called him and said, I need your help to win, well, it would be a tremendous honor." Please call me. Call collect. Anytime. You have my cell number. Don`t keep (INAUDIBLE). Virginia`s governor has been a very, very, very enthusiastic supporter of his own candidacy for vice president if someone will only ask him. But thanks to the 12th Amendment, he can`t be Newt Gingrich`s vice presidential nominee. The meeting of Governor McDonnell`s blind ambition and the 12th Amendment provides relevant context for the big political news out of Virginia this week. Newt Gingrich failed to qualify for the Republican primary ballot in Virginia. The Virginia Republican Party announced this in a tweet Christmas Eve. Now, on the surface, this looks like another hilarious story about the Newt Gingrich campaign being a complete mess. I mean, Newt Gingrich is polling first in Virginia and he lives in Virginia and he pledges to deliver vastly more signatures than required to get on the ballot in Virginia. And he did not get his name on the ballot. Fail. And even on the second read, it still looks like a hilarious, colossal Newt Gingrich fail. The guy who is polling first on his own state and can`t get on the ballot there responds to not getting on the ballot there by letting his campaign compare the situation to December 1941. He compared not getting on the ballot in Virginia to Pearl Harbor. You cannot get more fail on the head of this pin. No more fail will fit. Except it`s worse here, because we`re not just talking about Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich is not the only Republican candidate who failed to make the ballot in Virginia. Although nobody else compared it to Pearl Harbor. It`s not only Newt Gingrich. It is also Michele Bachmann. It is also Rick Perry. It is also Jon Huntsman. It`s also Rick Santorum. None of them qualified to be on the ballot in Virginia. The only choices for Virginia Republicans next year in their primary will be Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, because Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are the only two who turned in enough signatures to qualify. Whatever you think of the Republican candidates or Republican politics this year, are these two guys a reasonable approximation of the Republican field? No, these two guys are not. Given what`s just happened in Virginia, I think it`s worth understanding a little bit about the state`s Republican politics right now. It`s worth knowing, as I just mentioned, that Governor Bob McDonnell would surely love to be the vice presidential nominee. And it`s really hard for him to be the pick of Newt Gingrich if Gingrich wins the nomination. It`s also worth noting that Governor McDonnell`s hand-picked successor is Virginia`s Lieutenant Governor Bob Bolling. Bob Bolling is so happens is running the campaign for Mitt Romney in Virginia, where Mr. Romney is thrilling Mr. Gingrich in the polls. But Mr. Romney did manage to get his name on the ballot. In addition to trying to get Mitt Romney elected, Lieutenant Governor Bolling is being challenged in his own race to succeed Bob McDonnell. His own race to be governor is being challenged by this guy, this guy who used to be just another really radical Republican state senator until he grew up and became Virginia`s really radical attorney general. Ken Cuccinelli wants to be governor. He was elected on the same Republican ticket with Governor McDonnell and Bill Bolling. And he is as ambitious as Governor McDonnell on his own terms and he is now challenging Bill Bolling for something everybody thought Bolling was going to get. So, in this high stakes stew of backstabbery and mixed metaphors, into this stew swims the Republican presidential nominating process, with Virginia`s 50 Republican nominating delegates bobbing along up for grabs at least between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Joining us now is Anita Kumar, who covers Virginia politics and government for "The Washington Post," out of the Richmond bureau. Ms. Kumar, thanks very much for your time. It`s nice to have you here. ANITA KUMAR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: I find Virginia politics fascinating but I don`t follow it nearly as closely as you do. Let me just ask if I got anything wrong there in what I just explained about what`s happening in Virginia. KUMAR: No, that was a good summary of what`s going on right now. MADDOW: OK. Tonight, as we were just getting ready to go on the air, we learned that Texas Governor Rick Perry has sued Virginia. They`re suing the Virginia board of elections and the state Republican Party, saying that the way the Republicans are running the primary this year is unconstitutional. He`s trying to force the federal court in Richmond to put him on the ballot. What do you think is going to be the impact of this lawsuit if anything? KUMAR: Well, it`s unclear. The state board of elections meets tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. to decide or to officially certify the results from the Republican Party. So, I don`t think there`s a lot of time left to do that. They`ll actually determine tomorrow also which names will be first. Will it be Romney? Will it be Ron Paul? So, I`m not sure there`s a whole lot of time. But you`re correct. Governor Perry did sue really late today. I talked to both the chairman of the state board of elections and the executive director of the Republican Party and they had not been served yet. They weren`t even aware of the lawsuit or that it was coming. MADDOW: If the Virginia Republican Party decided to pull an all nighter and do something, if they wanted to do something by tomorrow morning in terms of getting these results certified, do they have any flexibility here? Is there anything that they could do to change the rules and let more candidates appear on the ballot? Or is -- or is this really done, legally done? KUMAR: Well, I think, first of all, it`s too late, because those signatures, the certification was due today to the state board of elections. It was due Tuesday, today, December 27th. They`ve sent the results to the state board of elections. So, that part is over. But they`re actually not in charge. They don`t make the rules. This is the law of Virginia. So, the law would need to change. Virginia as you know has one of the hardest, most difficult processes to get on the ballot. And to change the general assembly, the Virginia legislature would have to change that. MADDOW: Is there anything Governor Bob McDonnell could do? Could he do anything by executive order or through persuasion with the legislature in order to get them to pass some sort of emergency change? KUMAR: I don`t think so. There`s a lot of talk in Richmond in these last few days about who could do what and what the legislature could do, but even the legislators and both -- you know, they are controlled or will be in January controlled by Republicans don`t seem to want to do that. The governor could ask them to do it. He put in his own bill. He could use his influence to do it, but there are no signs that the governor wants to do that. As far as I know, no one has called him to ask him to do something. He has not indicated he doesn`t want to do anything. And as you know, he has not endorsed anyone. And he very much doesn`t want to play favorites here. MADDOW: I got to say, big picture here -- this is a crazy situation. I mean, Virginia Republican -- if I were a Virginia Republican, this decision that has just been made now essentially takes me off the board in terms of anybody competing for my vote. Fifty delegates from Virginia is a lot. But with only Ron Paul and Mitt Romney on the ballot, there`s no reason for any candidate, including the two of them to compete there. Nobody will see it as definitive in any way and at the same time you`ve got the lieutenant governor leading the Mitt Romney campaign in Virginia and you`ve got Bob McDonnell having said he wants to be picked to be vice president, and he can`t be picked by Newt Gingrich. So, who does that leave? Aren`t they opening themselves up to charges that they are handing Virginia to Mitt Romney on the platter for their own gain? KUMAR: Well, they are. But, again, you have to remember that they didn`t -- the Republican Party didn`t make the rules. The Democratic Party didn`t make the rules. These are the rules that are legally binding. But yes, it does leave them very few options if you`re a Republican and you`re voting. You`ve got two options, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul. And actually, interesting, Virginia is one of the places where we don`t register by party. So, I`m not a Republican, I`m not a Democrat. I`m anything and I can vote in a primary. So, it`s interesting to see how many Democrats might come out to vote or non-Republicans who might come out on March 6th to vote. Because they could do that and they could change the election. MADDOW: And there won`t be a Democratic primary because Barack Obama is the only one qualified on the Democratic side. KUMAR: Right. MADDOW: So, that means no election there. KUMAR: Right. That`s right. MADDOW: Incredible. Anita Kumar, Virginia politics reporter for "The Washington Post," you have an enviable job at a time like this because everybody in the country wants to know what`s going on there. Thank you so much. KUMAR: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. You know what are awesome? Ticker tape parades are awesome. They are loud and messy and great. And they`re all about to hear now and they are also enshrined in the forever. But just which contemporary American heroes get ticker tape parades and when they get them? Is it open? And a difficult question for our country right now, the data on that and the debate on that, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Fridays are good. Friday`s just a great day of the week. Every week, 52 times a year, there`s probably actually data to support this thesis. But the most compelling evidence is visual. You ever see this lady cut loose? Stand by. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Donna Summer did not sing a disco classic and Debra Winger and Jeff Goldblum did not have roles in a disco-based motion picture in 1978 because it was Tuesday. No. It was Friday. "Thank God It Was Friday." That brought out the world of boogie in Jimmy Carter America. Friday means roller boogie and jeans at work for everybody not just me. Friday means you can do what you want after work and sleep it off the next day. Friday is practically a weekend day without the actual burning of a whole weekend day. But you know, if you list your house for sale on a Friday, it has a 12 percent better chance of selling within 90 days. Oh, Friday, let me count the ways. So, if as a country we could all just decide that we were going to cancel a day, just skip that day and get on to the next day, you know if we could do that. If you could bag one day of the week, why in the name of half priced appetizers would you cancel Friday? Of all the days, you`d cancel Friday? Stay tuned for that. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In 1938, an American pilot named Douglas Corrigan flew from Southern California, from Long Beach, California, to Brooklyn, New York. When he landed at Brooklyn, his flight plan said his next stop was he was supposed to fly back west, back to California. Instead, he took off pointing east. He didn`t touch ground again until he landed in Dublin, Ireland. Thus earning himself the nickname "Wrong Way" Corrigan. When "Wrong Way" Corrigan got back to New York, that exploit also earned him a ticker tape parade in Lower Manhattan. The first ticker parade was held in Lower Manhattan in 1886 for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. And the 125 years since that first one, there`s been 203 more ticker tape parades up Broadway. The stretch of Broadway between Battery Park and City Hall is called the Canyon of Heroes. It`s hosted parades for everyone from visiting heads of state, to American Olympic teams, to New York pro sports teams who win champions, to astronauts, to even the pilot in the homemade plane who got famous for flying the wrong direction. There`s a special historic resonance of an idea of New York City ticker tape parade welcoming American soldiers home, marking the end of a war. But even that history is complicated. At the end of World War II in 1945, as you know, Germany surrendered in May, Japan surrendered in August. But there were ticker tape parades welcoming home war heroes that year, often in honor of specific generals in June, in September, in October, and again in December. Plus, two more in August and October, for the president of France and for President Truman respectively. Even though General Douglas MacArthur got a huge parade to welcome him back to the U.S. after President Truman fired him, other veterans of the Korean War were not honored in a ticker tape parade until the early 1990s, two weeks after this parade marking the end of Gulf War I. So, should there be a ticker tape parade to mark the end of the Iraq war now? Two New York City council members have proposed to the city of New York. They proposed that the city hosts a parade to mark the end of the nearly nine-year-long Iraq war this month. Mayor Bloomberg says his office has reached out to the Pentagon to discuss the matter. The Pentagon says essentially it`s New York City`s call. Is it wrong or appropriate to mark the end of one war while another large-scale deadly war is still ongoing in Afghanistan? It isn`t like there`s been a separate group of Americans fighting each of those wars. Even troops home from Iraq now are looking at the indefinite and long future ahead in Pakistan expecting further deployments. The 4th Brigade Combat Team of the First Armor Division was told as they were coming home from Iraq in time for Christmas that they would be shipping out to Afghanistan by early summer. These two wars started by the George W. Bush administration have been unrelated wars, fought for different reasons and in different places. But it has been the same tiny proportion of Americans who have fought both of them. Is it wrong to take a day to commemorate the end of one of those wars while the other one is still raging? Is that a bad idea? Should we wait? If the answer is to wait, how long do we wait? How long do we wait to have some showing of national appreciation for the people who have fought the long, long Iraq war on our behalf? If we do not mark the end of Iraq now as it`s ending, does this end up like Korea where some other generation finally gets around to recognizing these men and women 40 years down the road, 40 years after we didn`t do it. As I said right now, this appears to be a politically hot potato. The Pentagon said it is not their call. New York City says it would like to hear from the Pentagon. My own reporting anecdotally and unofficially from veterans groups and from active duty servicemembers is that there are mixed emotions about commemorating the end of Iraq while Afghanistan is ongoing. But as we shrug toward a decision on whether or not to do this, those 204 graphite strips laid into the pavement on lower Broadway to show the occasions for all the other ticker tape parades in New York history, that record embedded physically in the street shows that not every Canyon of Heroes New York City ticker tape parade is a straight up victory parade. As Americans, for 125 years, we have done this as a sign of appreciation and a hooray. And we do it collectively and in person with all the emotion that brings to bear. And if we decide that there will be no parade to appreciate and hooray our troops this year in person outside with confetti for the end of the Iraq war, then how else are we going to show that appreciation? Open question. Discuss. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: America behold. The Strait of Hormuz. This is why your car is able to start up when you turn the key. This channel there is how oil from the Persian Gulf gets out to the ocean where it`s transited all over is the world and sold on the international market. A third of all the oil transited by sea goes through that tiny little spot. Now, on the south side of the Strait of Hormuz is the nation of Oman. Tiny country, popular clue in "New York Times" crossroads, particularly early in the week. On the other side of the Strait of Hormuz is Iran. Oh, Iran. Today, Iran said they will completely halt the flow of all oil through the Strait of Hormuz. According to state media, Iran`s first vice president said today that, quote, "If the West imposes sanctions on Iran oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz." If that`s the case, that means not just oil from Iran, it`s the oil from Saudi Arabia, the oil from Kuwait, the oil from Iraq, the oil from the UAE. Most of the liquefied natural gas in the world gets exported out of Qatar. That too will not be able to get through. Say goodbye. The reason Iran is freaking out and threatening to do this very dramatic thing is because of European and American threats against Iran. The European Union is considering an all-out embargo, a ban on anybody buying oil from Iran. They want to do that for the 27 nations of the European Union. And they`re working to convince their allies around the world to do the same. If that happens, it would be like flicking the light switch off on Iran`s economy, complete and fast economic disaster. And so, Iran is doing a 10-day war games exercise right in the Strait of Hormuz. They are saying they`re willing to shut down the Strait of Hormuz completely. Shutdown a third of the world`s oil that is transported by sea. Goodbye, Persian Gulf. Now, if there are threats going back between Iran an the West, it must be a day that ends in Y. Saber rattling and threats between Iran and the West are nothing new. What is new, though, is how big and severe the sanctions threat is against Iran to try to get it to stop what most of the rest of the world believes is its nuclear weapons program. The U.N. Security Council has slapped Iran with four rounds of sanctions. Before Congress went on Christmas vacation, the House of Representatives passed something called the Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011. When was the last time something passed the House by a winning margin of 399 votes? That House bill involves sanctions on Iran`s central bank. Any country buying oil from Iran is doing business with Iran`s central bank. Congressman Howard Berman explained this to "The Hill. He said, quote, "This measure would cut Iran entirely off from the world`s banking system." It would also mean that American officials could not hold talks with corresponding officials in Iran. Think about that for a second. That means -- well, as Dennis Kucinich explained when he voted against this bill with this huge 400-vote margin. As Dennis Kucinich explained when he voted against it, this means that if you had hoped that diplomacy would be a way to end this situation peacefully, it is a pretty big deal that the House essentially just voted to ban diplomacy as a means of trying to resolve differences between our country and Iran. Already, the turmoil has caused Iran`s own currency, which is called the rial, to lose about a third of its value in the last few months. That`s inspired average Iranians to rush to buy gold and to buy dollars. If the money you normally have is losing value rapidly, you want to preserve your wealth in something that is not losing value. So ordinary Iranians have been lining up at banks, sleeping in line even in order to buy any currency other than their own, anything but the rial. Here at home, another version of sanctions on Iran`s central bank made their way into the defense bill that President Obama signed into law last week. The administration was against it. He was against that amendment. But Congress passed it and President Obama did sign it into law anyway. So, now, Iran is showing off its military right in the Strait of Hormuz. That is a threat both to Europe and to us and to anybody who ever wants to buy oil. And if you still got anyone on your list for whom you have not yet bought a Christmas present, have you considered a barrel of oil? It might be good for paying off somebody`s college education some day, or buying a small island somewhere. Joining us is Josh Rogin, staff writer for "Foreign Policy" magazine and author of "The Cable Blog." Josh, thanks for being here. JOSH ROGIN, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Always a pleasure. MADDOW: So, there are threats flying back and forth between the U.S. and Iran, between the Europeans and Iran. That in and of itself is not new. Both sides regularly threatening each other. But is there something different about what`s going on right now between Iran and the West? Are the stakes actually higher somehow? ROGIN: Yes, you hit it perfectly. The Obama administration has been trying to avoid ramping up the confrontational tone with Iran, especially in an election year. The last thing they want to do is provoke a crisis. And unfortunately, they`ve been forced into signing this new sanctions bill. It`s the Kirk-Menendez bill which puts crippling sanctions on the central bank of Iran. And not only that, it forces the U.S. to sanction third countries who do business. We`re talking about any country around the world. That`s every country, including allies like Japan and South Korea. The administration is in a tough spot here. They have to enforce the sanctions. They have some leeway. But now is the battle over these third countries. And that`s what Iran is doing here. They`re sending a message to all these countries around the world, if you follow these U.S. sanctions, we`re going to punish you. If you don`t follow these U.S. sanctions, the U.S. is going to punish you. It puts all these countries into a horrible situation, a lose/lose scenario. And that`s exactly what the administration was trying to avoid. MADDOW: Is this a scenario in which the Europeans and the Americans could end up split from China and Russia, where China and Russia say, you know what, we`re big enough and don`t need you and we`re willing to continue to do business with Iran? The rest of you guys are opting out. We`ll happily make the difference up? ROGIN: I think that split is already there. I think that`s pretty evident. Let`s remember, there are lots of sanctions against Iran, as you mentioned. China and Russia are largely believed to be ignoring those sanctions. That gives Iran some leeway but not enough leeway. And the Europeans are really the key ones here. I mean, if they go through with that oil embargo, that will have a huge effect. And the Obama administration will then be, quote-unquote, "leading from behind" but that is the operative point in the debate right now. It`s not only about China and Russia too, countries like Japan and South Korea are hugely dependent on Iranian oil and they`re huge American allies. The Japanese foreign minister came to town and told Secretary Clinton, we can`t do this. We really don`t want to cut off our oil imports from Iran. And the secretary of state said to him, well, listen, we`ll work it out somehow. But how they`ll work out is not clear. Meanwhile, tensions continue to rise. Brinksmanship goes on. And we`re all headed towards some sort of the either diplomatic and hopefully not a military confrontation. MADDOW: In terms of the European decision which you`re identifying as sort of the key turning points here, when do you expect that to be made, and what do you think that`s going to be? Is there any doubt that Europe`s going to go through with it? ROGIN: Yes, we don`t know what their decision is going to be. The bottom line here is that the precedent for this is, Europe`s oil embargo on Syria which is an Iran-inclined state, which is going through horrendous violence right now. And that is having a really deep effect on the Syrian government`s ability to do business. But if Syria is double A team, Iran is the Major Leagues here. They have a much bigger economy. They control much more of the world oil market. And European countries would suffer if their governments go through with this. And that`s a very serious political consideration. Back here in Washington, the American economy will suffer if we put crippling sanctions on Iran that poised of course, world oil markets into disarray, that raise gas prices, and the Obama administration doesn`t trust that the average voter is going to draw the distinction between the benefits of delaying Iran`s nuclear program and the higher prices at the gas tank. It`s really a tough one to explain and it`s really a discussion they don`t want to have heading into their presidential election. It`s just not a good idea for them. MADDOW: Josh Rogin, staff writer for "Foreign Policy" magazine, author of "The Cable blog" at -- Josh, thanks for being here. Appreciate it. ROGIN: Thank you. MADDOW: We`ll say that right before Christmas, Richard Engel came by the news meeting for our show and the question from the floor of our news meeting was: Richard, as we`re all going home for Christmas, what should we be reading about to prep for 2012? And he said read every day about Iran. Read something every day about Iran because that`s what you`re going to need to know about the world in 2012 -- Iran, Iran, Iran. All right. Right after the show, on "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell, Lawrence will be exploring Ron Paul`s passionate defense of unpasteurized milk. Drink free or die. And here, best new thing in the world coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Best new thing in the world. This is the International Date Line, imaginary line at roughly 180 degrees longitude although it zigzags around for political convenience. When you`re on the east side of the date line, it`s today. When you`re on the west side of the dateline, it`s tomorrow. The island nation of Samoa is on the today side. But the government of Samoa has decided that they want to be on the tomorrow side. So, if you bought tickets to go to Samoa this week, check the date, because Samoa is canceling Friday. Friday, December 30th will not happen in Samoa. It will be 11:59 p.m. on Thursday the 29th and one minute later, it will be midnight Friday, it will be midnight Saturday. The start of your blink can be Thursday night and the end of your blink can be Saturday morning, which is an ambitious technical and logistical reorganization, right? The only more ambitious technical and logistical reorganization I think a country has taken recently was also Samoa couple years ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Two-thirds of the world roughly drives on the right. The other third drives on the left. In the past 40 years or so, three countries have decided to change sides. Sweden and Iceland and Burma all had been British-style left side drivers. And they all decided to switch to the right. But no country has switched since Burma did it way back in 1970. And no country in modern times, as far as I can tell, has ever switched in the other direction. Nobody has tried to make right side American-style drivers switch to driving on the left. Until now, until Samoa. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, two years ago, Samoa`s same prime minister decided to change the side of the road that Samoans drive on from the right side, the American side, to the British-style, left side of the road. The reason for that switch is similar to the reason for the date switch they`re making this week, it`s because Samoa`s biggest trading partners are Australia and New Zealand, where they drive on the left and where it`s already tomorrow. So, it makes sense. It`s a hard thing for a country to do, but it makes sense these changes. The only thing that doesn`t make sense about it to me, is this: if you were going to make a decision to get rid of one day of the week to wipe it off the calendar forever, you wouldn`t pick Monday? Seriously? I mean, Samoa you have the chance to kill any day of the week and you killed Friday? Samoa`s logistical ambition, best new thing in the world today. Choosing to kill Friday, I got to say, that`s kind of weird. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END