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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/06/12

Guests: Steve Kornacki, Amardeep Kaleka

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening. And welcome back, my friend. SCHULTZ: It`s good to be back. And thank you for your kind and wonderful communication. I appreciate it so much, Rachel. MADDOW: Of course. You know -- SCHULTZ: So does Wendy obviously. MADDOW: And you know, while you guys are in New York and while you guys are back home, our company is you and your are our company. We`re all tailored. SCHULTZ: Well, thank you. I appreciate that very much, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks, Ed. I appreciate it. All right. And thanks to you for staying with us for the next hour. For the second time in just over two weeks, there has been a mass shooting with multiple casualties in an American town. Two weeks ago, it was in Aurora, Colorado, of course. Twelve people killed there, almost 60 people wounded there, in an apparently random mass shooting at a movie theater in the middle of the night. Yesterday, yesterday morning, another mass shooting. This time in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of Milwaukee. But this time, because of the location of the shooting, because of who was killed, and frankly because of what is known so far about the apparent gunman who was killed in the assault, we are now grappling with the possibility that the targeting here was not random. It was deliberate. In Wisconsin, six people were murdered plus the gunman himself being killed. It happened at about 10:15 yesterday morning. A man entered the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. There were about three dozen people there. Services were not scheduled to start for another hour. Eyewitnesses say the stranger started shooting within moments of arriving. First at a group of priests who had gathered in the lobby. Police say the shooter was armed with a 9 millimeter handgun and multiple rounds of ammunition. By 10:25 a.m., about 10 minutes into the assault, the first calls to 911 started pouring in. At first, dispatchers said there was a lot of noise. The calls coming in were garbled. Police did not know how serious the situation was. They just knew the calls were coming in. But nevertheless, police were on the scene just three minutes later, three minutes after those first calls started coming in. Lt. Bryan Murphy was one of the first police officers to arrive on the scene. A more than 20-year police veteran, Lt. Murphy was the emergency management liaison for Oak Creek. When he arrived at the temple, the lieutenant tended to a person he found in the parking lot who had been wounded. And while he was tending to that person, that`s when the gunman shot Lt. Murphy, too. The gunman was apparently hiding in an ambush nearby. He shot the lieutenant at least eight times at close range. The lieutenant`s bullet- proof vest may have saved his life, but he was reportedly shot in the neck and the cheek as well as the bullets that hit his chest. Officers say after he was shot and they rushed to tend to him, Lt. Murphy waved them off and sent the other officers and responders not to help him but to help the other victims on the scene. Police officers ultimately found the shooter in the parking lot. They ordered him to drop his gun. He did not. He fired back at the other police officers, hitting at least one police car. Officers returned fire and the shooter was killed. Police say they believe the shooter in this incident acted alone. He is a 40-year-old male with known neo-Nazi ties. He`s reported to have played in a number of lousy white supremacist punk bands. He once served in the U.S. Army in the 1990s but he was not a combat vet. He was reportedly discharged with reduced rank for bad behavior. Of the six people that he reportedly killed, five were men, one was a woman. They ranged in age from 39 years old to 84 years old. Four of the bodies were found inside the Sikh temple. Another two were found in the parking lot where the gunman himself was shot down. Three additional people were wounded, including Lt. Murphy. He had surgery and is expected to recover, although he is still in critical condition. Now, the FBI, we`re told, is taking the lead on the investigation into this incident. It`s being described by law enforcement sources as an incident of domestic terrorism. President Obama today ordered all flags in the United States to fly at half staff. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of us are heartbroken by what`s happened, and I offered the thoughts and prayers not only of myself and Michelle but also of the country as a whole. I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible tragic events are happening with too much regularity. For us not to do some soul searching and to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence. If it turns out, as some early reports indicate, that it may have been motivated in some way by the ethnicity of those who were attending the temple, I think the American people immediately recoil against those kinds of attitudes. And I think it will be very important for us to reaffirm once again that in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another and we respect one another. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama speaking about the tragic shooting at the Sikh temple yesterday in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. As the president said, we do not yet know more about the shooter`s motivation. But we have seen a huge outpouring of support in particular from various religious communities. The Wisconsin Council of Churches is calling for a day of prayer at their services this Sunday. The director of the Action Center for Reform Judaism and the head of the Catholic University issued statements expressing condolences and support, and last night, hundreds of people attended a vigil for the victims in Milwaukee. Satwant Singh Kaleka Kaleka was the president of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek. He was one of the six people killed in that mass shooting yesterday morning. Joining us now is his son, Amardeep Kaleka. Amardeep, thank you for joining us at this difficult time for you and your family. I`m so sorry for your loss. AMARDEEP KALEKA, SIKH SHOOTING VICTIM`S SON: Thank you so much for having me here. MADDOW: How would you say the Sikh community in Oak Creek and Oak Creek in general, your community there, is coping with what happened at the temple yesterday? How have you spent your day and how are people treating one another? KALEKA: I mean I think it`s a day for heroes because the more of the story is uncovered, and the more I walk around and I see people, a lot of people did a lot of good work that day in order to, I guess, bring the situation to a halt and kind of safe haven the people inside, including my mother who every minute now I go home and try to thank her and, you know, love on her and comfort her. So I think we`re coping well because we`re all looking towards the positive in the situation. MADDOW: We`re trying to piece together what might have been motivation for the shooter in this utterly senseless act. There`s been more biographical information released about the shooter over the course of today. Do you know if the temple or the Sikh community in Wisconsin there has ever faced any threats in the past? Have there ever been any incidents of violence or hostility that could be in any way linked to what`s happened here? KALEKA: Rachel, let me tell you, like, I think there`s a lot of soft attacks that happened on immigrants. And by soft, I mean things that kind of go unnoticed or like you get a broken window or somebody slashes your tires. I was in Georgia and somebody hit me from behind and then wrapped around me and then started whipping their middle finger, and told me to get out of this country, and that was just post 9/11. In a sense, these soft attacks, I thought it`s just happening to me once in a while. We had a congregation at our house of well over 200 people that came to pay their respects to my father. And the more stories I would hear from them of these soft attacks where people thought, it`s not something we should tell people, it`s not something we should just let -- you know, push it out there, they wouldn`t even tell their friends and family. I didn`t tell mine until they started telling their stories. And I started thinking to myself, oh, my god, how many soft attacks are actually happening out there? I mean this is obviously like critical attack. But what is happening out there right now? What`s the pulse of our nation? How is immigration and immigrants, how are they doing right now? Because 99 percent of us are immigrants on this -- on this land. And we all have to look at each other and figure out each other`s culture and background. MADDOW: In terms of trying to remedy that situation and that epiphany that you have had just in the past 24 hours, do you feel like there`s leadership or policy actions or anything else that you could look -- that you`re looking to the country for, that you`re looking to Wisconsin for in terms of trying to remedy that? Is there more coming out about that issue that you want to see from your own community? What would you -- what do you want to happen? KALEKA: First and foremost, we had a great discussions with the leadership here in terms of governmental leadership. But I absolutely at this point look to the people. The government`s always going to give you the missing gap information. They`re going to actually leave a bunch of information out like such as these soft attacks or anything that you give them. The people know the pulse of their own community. The people know the pulse of their neighborhoods. If your neighbor is new, if your neighbor doesn`t look like you, approach that person, create a conversation, create a dialogue. If you don`t look like other people in your area, if you are Punjabi or Chinese or of immigration descent, go out, be an emissary, be -- you know, an embassy to yourself. Go out and contact people in the community and make sure that they know you and make sure that they understand you. And my father, I thought, I mean, he did a tremendous job of doing that in Milwaukee, whether it be the Latino community or the African-American community, or every alderman knew him by first name, and it was amazing how much he did. And I`m not saying that all that stuff is for naught. I actually think that`s why we`re having such an outpouring of support. It`s because he did those things and he planted those seeds, in a form of protection for us when he built this temple. MADDOW: Hearing that you are receiving that support now is some comfort in this horrible aftermath, but Amardeep Kaleka, again, we`re so sorry for what you`ve been through, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us tonight. I really appreciate it. KALEKA: Thank you so much, Rachel. MADDOW: Good luck. Thank you. KALEKA: God bless. MADDOW: All right. We will be right back with much more news. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Much more going on in the news tonight including Senate majority leader Harry Reid acting out in a way that is uncharacteristic for him and that seems to have unnerved the entire Republican Party. That`s coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So I think we did something on the show recently that had some unintended consequences. I`m not 100 percent sure that we`re to blame here, but I think it`s possible that we might be. Back in June, we did a segment on the show about congressional Republicans and their single-minded focus on all things jobs, jobs, jobs, by which I mean abortion. That particular day, their abortion obsession was particularly remarkable because Republicans were holding up the Flood Insurance Bill by attaching an abortion amendment to it. They were holding up a bipartisan flood insurance bill at a time when the American southeast was being flooded by tropical storm Debbie. It turns out this act to block the flood bill by attaching anti-abortion stuff to it, it was too much for Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Harry Reid just lost it. You want to see? Ready for some emotional c catharsis? You ready to feel the rage, America? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HARRY REID (R), MAJORITY LEADER: On flood insurance, I am not going to put up with that on the flood insurance. I can be condemned by outside sources, my friends can say let them have a vote on it. There will not be a vote on that on flood insurance. After all the work that has been put in this bill, this is ridiculous. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: See, when you read the transcript, when you look at the words in print, you can tell he is mad. It just doesn`t sound very mad when it comes out of Harry Reid`s mouth. So that day in June, to convey the fact that he really was mad, on this show, we ran Harry Reid`s words through a rage producing device by the name of Kent Jones. So it`s Harry`s words but Kent`s rage. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENT JONES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I am not going to put up with that on the flood insurance. I can be condemned by outside forces. My friends can say, let them have a vote on it. There will not be a vote on that in flood insurance. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: All right. Here`s the problem. Ever since we did that segment, essentially sending up Harry Reid for being insufficiently demonstrative about his rage, ever since then, Harry Reid has been transformed into a one-man rage bot. I don`t know if it was us, but something seems to have activated a major case of Reid rage. The first sign after we did that segment was what happened when Senator Reid found out that the uniforms for U.S. Olympians had been made in China. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REID: I am so upset that I think the Olympic Committee should be ashamed of themselves. I think they should be embarrassed. I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them, and start all over again. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Suddenly, Harry Reid who usually sets an incredibly mild mannered person, saying even when he`s saying very angry things, he usually doesn`t even sound angry, but suddenly, Harry Reid sounds angry. Then last week, more. Senator Reid let this gem fly on the Senate floor in the middle of a debate on taxes. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REID: We haven`t done the appropriation bill. Do you think -- stop and think just a minute. IF you think 85 filibusters had a thing to do with that? Eighty-five. We haven`t done a budget. That is poppycock. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Senate majority leader Harry Reid using sarcasm in both words and tone and leaning way over the podium and using the word poppycock in a sentence. A very angry sentence. Then more, a few days later, during an interview, Senator Reid called one of the members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, quote, "One of the most unethical, prevaricating incompetent people I`ve ever dealt with." Not to mention a, quote, "treacherous, miserable liar." A, quote, "first class rat, a tool of the nuclear industry, and an expletive stirrer." Wow. Reid rage activated. And that was apparently still just a warm-up act because last week, the new 100 percent more rage Harry Reid really went off the rails. The big story in the presidential campaign right now is of course Mitt Romney`s tax returns and why nobody is allowed to see them except for John McCain. On Tuesday of last week, Harry Reid decided to offer his own totally unsubstantiated theory that the reason Mr. Romney`s tax returns are being kept under lock and key is because Mr. Romney did not pay any taxes over a 10-year stretch. None at all. Senator Reid offered no evidence for that claim whatsoever. Other than saying a Bain investor told him so over the phone. Now who knows, maybe Harry Reid is right. But he has not produced any evidence. It is just a wild allegation. It is hearsay. And yet, the next day, the newly activated Harry Reid man of rage not only didn`t dial it back. He cranked it up to 11, saying when he was pressed for evidence to back up his claim, saying, quote, "I don`t think the burden should be on me. The burden should be on him. He`s the one I`ve alleged has not paid any taxes." He truly said that. He said the burden is on Mitt Romney, not because it`s traditional for presidential candidates to release their tax returns, not because President Obama has released his, not because even other Republicans are calling on Mr. Romney to release their returns. Not only because -- not because he, Mitt Romney, has attacked his opponent in the past for not releasing their tax returns. Now Harry Reid says the burden is on Mitt Romney because he`s the one I have alleged has not paid any taxes. And then the next day, he dug in further. He took his idea for a guilty until proven innocent system along with his new propensity for both anger and hearsay right to the Senate floor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REID: The word`s out that he hasn`t paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove that he has paid taxes because he hasn`t. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, Senator Reid, the word is in fact out that Mitt Romney has not paid taxes for 10 years. If by "the word" you mean your own accusation. That day, Senator Reid put out a press release on the subject, saying, quote, "It`s clear Romney is hiding something. The American people deserve to know what it is. He followed that up the next day with another press release on the occasion of Mitt Romney heading to Harry Reid`s home state in Nevada to campaign, saying, Mr. Romney couldn`t be confirmed as a Cabinet secretary let alone anything higher without releasing more of those taxes. People are understandably being judgmental about raging Harry`s tactics here. But as a matter of form, it is also worth noting that nobody has disproven him. I mean he may be wildly irresponsible here, but no one can say whether what he is saying is true or not. You may not like that he`s saying it, but you can`t say whether it`s true or false. Not unless you`re John McCain or Mitt Romney. Not even Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus who apparently has some healthy rage issues of his own. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: As far as Harry Reid is concerned, listen, I know you might want to go down that road. I`m not going to respond to a dirty liar. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, ABC`S "THIS WEEK": You think Harry Reid is a dirty liar? PRIEBUS: I just said it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Reince Priebus for all his righteous indignation has offered no proof that Harry Reid is a liar, clean, dirty, or otherwise. Neither for that matter has PolitiFact which says that Harry Reid is definitely lying. Pants on fire lying. But they produced exactly zero evidence to support their claim that Harry Reid is lying. But you know, that`s PolitiFact. And that`s actually par for the course for PolitiFact which is why it`s OK to not take them seriously on anything. Ever. What`s also worth noting is how Senator Harry Reid continues to comport himself on this issue. He`s taking criticism from left, right, and center, and stupid in the form of PolitiFact for the way he has been pursuing this allegation. He gets trashed on the Sunday shows, he gets called a dirty liar, and how does he respond? He digs in deeper, telling reporters today, quote, "The whole controversy would end very quickly if he would just release his income tax returns just like everybody else who runs for president." So, on the one hand, this has felt like an emotional outburst from a guy who maybe had some pent up emotions ready to burst out, but whether or not it seems to be uncharacteristically emotional from Harry Reid, it does not seem to be a stunt. Even though the way he`s gone about it has been kind of embarrassing. Harry Reid is not embarrassed by this. He is not backing down. He didn`t do this accidentally and he`s not being intimidated out of pursuing it. Maybe it took unleashing the rage bot to get this genie out of the Harry Reid bottle, but now that it is out, it is not going back in. Whether or not you like him when he`s angry. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In May of last year, our awesome producer Trisha McKinney was selected via a NASA Twitter contest to get to go witness the launch of a space shuttle in person. Trisha`s reaction to that incredible event was without question the best new thing in the world that day. That`s Trisha on the right in the little box down there. And she`s so genuinely and sincerely and un-cynically overwhelmed by what she is seeing happening, by what NASA is achieving on behalf of human kind that honestly, I could watch her watch that all day long. Tonight, a different moment that happened in the midst of a whole new outburst of pride and joy in spaceville. I mean you`ve seen today, right, how happy everybody at NASA was to have landed the Curiosity on Mars? You have seen how happy everybody was, but you have not seen this particular part of it, that is the best new thing in the world today. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today`s August 6th. Today is the first Monday in August, which means that this is supposed to be a totally dead time in politics, and specifically in the presidential campaign. When that death were so. Common wisdom says that nobody cares about politics or the presidential campaign until a month from now. Until not the first Monday in August but the first Monday in September, until Labor Day. Labor day is supposed to be where people start to make up their minds and pay attention to the campaign. And maybe that used to be true. That is no longer true. In the latest polling on the presidential race, whether or not you like how your favorite candidate is looking in the polling, probably the most telling, the most noble being picture thing about the polls right now is that almost nobody is undecided. There`s only a teeny, teeny, teeny portion of the electorate that has yet to make up its mind between President Obama and Mitt Romney. And yes, that teeny, teeny, teeny tiny slice of the population will be fought over like the last piece of kibble at community puppy feeding time, but there`s just not much there. There`s just not that many people who are likely to vote in November who do not yet know who they are going to vote for. So that turns old ideas about campaigning on their head. By and large, here to the election is not -- no longer about persuading people who don`t know how they`re going to vote. The campaigns are still trying to persuade people to their side, but mostly they`re trying to get people who they already know or already on their side to actually prove it, to register to vote, to get out and vote, and to do both of those things in a way that makes sure their vote is counted. We`re already at that part of the campaign. And it`s not -- it`s true, not just for the candidates themselves, but also for the activist groups and the interest groups and funders who are increasingly now doing what the political parties used to do. Nobody is waiting until Labor Day. Everybody has hit their stride already. We are in primetime right now. And you see it just in the weekend schedules, even. This past weekend, the Koch brothers founded Americans for prosperity folks. They held their big compound in Washington which included phone banking sessions and shuttle buses to their anti-health reform rally and screening of an anti-Obama movie and sessions like battle for Wisconsin, what worked and how to repeat it. The Koch brothers have pledged to spend $200 million in this election cycle against President Obama. Remember though, the head of Americans for prosperity is a guy named Tim Phillips. Remember him? Tim Phillips is a longtime Republican activist. The last time we had him on the show, I tried to talk to him about his previous career in Republican politics. Before, he was at Americans for prosperity. He was a partner in a PR firm called century strategies along with Ralph Reed. Ralph Reed, the right hand of God. Century strategies had an instrumental role in one of the more disgusting parts of the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal. Tim Phillips and Ralph Reed working on behalf of Jack Abramoff, they got American Christians to write letters in support of keeping the made in the USA label on clothes that were being made in the Marianna Islands, which is a U.S. commonwealth that Jack Abramoff lobbied for. How did that get Christians to support that? They mailed them material that said these workers in the Mariana Islands were being exposed to the teachings of Jesus while they were working there. But they didn`t mention in those mailings is that there are workers who are being forced to work in near slaver slot condition, conditions that include things like - include the things like forced to abortion and forced to prostitution. Nice. So, that is Tim Phillips from Century strategies. He now runs the Koch brother funded Americans for prosperity which had its big beat Obama $200 million this year confab this weekend. Also this weekend, not in Washington but in Arlington, Texas, Tim Phillips` old business partner from Century Strategies, Ralph Reed, he was doing his big beat Obama confab. Now, Ralph Reed never got indicted in any of the Jack Abramoff scandal stuff. But given what he got caught for in that scandal, it is almost impossible to believe that Ralph Reed got to rejoin polite political society, especially as a super pious guy. I mean, it wasn`t just the Mariana Islands thing. Ralph Reed`s whole role in the Abramoff scandal was as the guy who was willing to cynically use his connections with Christian voters and his perceives personal piate (ph) as a way to, as he put it, start humping in corporate accounts. The Senate investigation into the Abramoff scandal, quote, "shows that Reed who once branded gambling a cancer on society, reaped millions of dollars in tribal casino proceeds that Abramoff secretly routed to him through various nonprofit front groups. Abramoff, a lobbyist for the tribes, paid Ralph Reed to whip up grassroots Christian opposition to prevent rival tribes from opening casinos." It`s interesting, though, that that`s from a description of Ralph Reed`s role in the scandal written in the Washington Post in 2008. That was written back during the last presidential campaign, when John McCain was running against Barack Obama. The Washington Post noted at the time in the same article. Ralph Reed`s much publicized role in at Abramoff scandal cost him the 2006 Republican primary for Georgia lieutenant governor. Now, Ralph Reed is on the sidelines, handicapping McCain`s prospects. So, think about this. In 1998, he`s humping in corporate accounts. By 2006, the Senate is issuing its report on the fact that he was humping in corporate accounts. He`s getting paid by gambling interests to secretly trick anti-gambling Christians into un-wittingly helped casinos paying him for the privilege. He tries to run for office that year in 2006. He gets laughed off the ballot because of the scandal. By 2008, by the next presidential race, he is on the sidelines. He`s this disgraced figure. But now, by 2012, he`s no longer on the sidelines. Now, look. There he is. He`s back. And as ostentatiously pious as ever. Only now the corporate accounts he`s humping in are apparently the $10 million checks from some of the country`s wealthiest conservatives. $10 million bank roll to presumably convince Christians to vote for Mitt Romney and against Barack Obama. The same Christians he once tricked on behalf of Jack Abramoff`s clients. Jack Abramoff himself is out of jail. He`s marketing himself now as a truth teller who may have been repellant once but he is now repentance. He`s now learned the error of his ways. As Jack Abramoff has a radio show on satellite radio now. But all of the other people from the Jack Abramoff`s scandal who you thought would have been drummed out of public life, not only are they not repentant, they are now in this election in the middle of Republican politics. They`re in the middle of the presidential race. Tim Phillips is helping to run a $200 million effort on behalf of the Koch brothers. Ralph Reed is sunning an at least $10 million effort as a faith and values guy despite his faith and values con man past. And as all of these outside groups and the campaigns themselves and the political parties turn now to what is going to decide the election, which is whether or not people get registered to vote, whether they turn out to vote on Election Day, whether their vote is counted, it turns out that all of the Jack Abramoff scandal sleaze balls are in the middle of that, that, that, that, that specifically. When the group Alec, the corporate funded secretive network that essentially spoon feed corporate friendly legislation that Republican lawmakers all across the country, when Alec announced earlier this year under pressure of a major boycott effort that they would stop pushing voter suppression efforts through the states, through the Republican state legislatures. The group that said they would take up the mantel after Alec dropped it was this group. The National Center for Public Policy Research. You may remember them getting famous in the Jack Abramoff scandal as their role as a pass through for Mr. Abramoff, for par through to various perks that Jack Abramoff wanted to spreads around on behalf of his corporate lobbying clients. Here`s how the Washington Post reported on their involvement in the scandal at the time. Quote, "as far back as 1996, Abramoff was using the national center for public policy research to hide the source of funding for trips and other ventures intended to boost the interests of his lobbying clients." That group still exists. And even though they acknowledged their role in the Abramoff scandal at the time, they now get very upset when anyone tries to link them to the Abramoff scandal. And so, they just published their first paper on voting laws. Remember, they were going to take off this missile after Alec dropped it. There is published their first big paper on this on why voter ID is actually secretly awesome for African-American voters. They say secretly, voter ID is great news for black voters. And even though they don`t want to be linked to the Abramoff scandal anymore, the author of their new paper on voter ID happens to be a guy who pled guilty in the Jack Abramoff scandal. The Web site talking points memo reported on this last week. This group that does not want to be associated at all with the Abramoff scandal, just put out their big report authored by a man quote, "indicted in 2009 on five public corruption charges, charged with exchanging favors for gifts from Jack Abramoff. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of falsifying a disclosure report and was sentenced to 36 months of probation." But pay no attention to the Jack Abramoff scandal. Jack Abramoff himself at least has the decency to be embarrassed. The people who helped him out in his legendary Republican corruption and bribery scandal, though, apparently do not have that same decency. Nor do we as a society have the decency to remember scandals like this, long enough to shame people like this out of our politics when they try to come back in this lifetime. In the long run, we have to grapple ethically and practically with the fact as a society, Ralph Reed walks onto a high profile political stage in the year 2012 and people do not laugh and throw proverbial tomatoes. That`s about us. And the short run, though, the thing all of these Abramoff scandal sleaze balls have in common in addition to being Abramoff scandal sleaze balls is that they`re all working very hard right now on the practical, it starts early this year election end game of getting one side`s voters to the polls and keeping the other side`s voters away from the polls. Today, we saw the emergence of essentially hand to hand political combat over the issue of early voting in Ohio. There`s an underappreciated role of the hundreds and millions of dollars that are going to spent by outside groups on both get out the vote for their own side and voter suppression of the other side. And what is unknown now but will be answered between now and the November, election, is which side`s political professionals, which side`s pros are better. Which side is better prepared and which side has the more aggressive posture on the thing we used to not do until after labor day but this year we`re doing already, which is getting souls to the polls. The underground shoe leather house by house voter ground game. Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, co-host MSNBC`s 3:00 p.m. Eastern show "the Cycle." He`s also senior writer for Steve, thank you for being here. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Happy to be here. MADDOW: So, does the fact that voters have mostly decided earlier on their preference in the presidential campaign this year, does it mean that it`s more of a mobilization battle than a persuasion battle? KORNACKI: Yes. I think so. I wouldn`t underestimate the persuasion aspect of it because part of the Romney four mil years basically, they are counting on at the very end of the election, whatever swing voters are out there are going to turn against Obama because of where the economy is. So, that`s part of it. But I think, you know, the parallel has been drawn to 2004 because 2004 ended up being very much a turnout election. Bush versus Kerry. It will be a lot of people say this is sort of 2004 election sort of in reverse. Reverse the basic dynamics. You know, what was working in Bush`s favor is now working in Obama`s favor, what was working in Kerry`s favor is for the working in Romney`s favor. And sort the liabilities are flipped around, too. I think there`s something to that. and I think there is an extra twist to Romney which is he really, really needs the Republican base to turn out a big numbers this year and the Republican base is not going to turn out for Mitt Romney. They`re going to turn out against Barack Obama. So Mitt Romney himself is not going to inspire these people, but when you talk about Ralph Reed there, for instance. Ralph Reed is going to play a critical role for the Republicans in the turnout strategy because Ralph Reed is back organizing and mobilizing Christian conservatives. That`s what he did for Pat Robertson and what he`s doing again. With Mitt Romney, there was no group in the Republican coalition that was more resistance to Mitt Romney than Republican presidential primaries that evangelical Christians. And he had the nomination locked up and they were still voting for Rick Santorum in primaries. So, this is a group that is a huge group, it is about 44 percent of the entire Republican party, they`re very hostile to Mitt Romney but equally -- much more hostile, I should say, to Barack Obama. So, Romney himself can`t go to the group with much credibility, but a guy like Ralph Reed, believe it or not, after all you said, still can. MADDOW: I mean, I look at -- to see Ralph Reed and Tim Phillips and the anti-voting rights people at the same time, to me, it`s like the rats who survived the sinking Abramoff. I can`t believe they`re in public life at all. But their very survival maybe ought to be seen as testament to how good they are playing the game. I mean, I think as a liberal, I tend to look at the real cretins of the right like that and think, wow, liberals can`t match anything like that in terms of sheer, hard-nosed, you know, survival instincts, hard ball politics stuff. Am I just being liberal about that or, I mean, is the left just as good at playing the games? KORNACKI: I think there are some four season real differences, you know, between the two parties. Voter ID really gets to it, when we talk about the effect that could have this fall. Because there`s sort of -- I don`t know the right way to say it, but a tradition in American politics where look, not everybody is going to vote in every election. So, both sides look at it and say OK, this is the group we really need to gin up turnout among. Maybe it would be better if this group didn`t vote, you know, eight is big numbers. There`s messaging strategies involved, there are some tactical strategies involve, and both sides are equally guilty of that. But it`s been taken to a completely different level this year in the last couple years with the Republicans saying, OK, these are the groups we need to vote. These are the groups we don`t need voting. Now we`re going to build laws, we`re going to etch into law, you know, provisions that will help our people and hurt their people. That`s completely different. That is not an equal opportunity. That`s not one side. That`s not both sides. That`s one side doing it and the other side isn`t. And Republicans as we`re seeing are good at it because they have the network establishes where you have these sort of bogus studies and you have, you know, all of this grassroots organization. They get control of the state houses in the 2010 elections. And suddenly, they are in position to implement the laws in all of the states. And that could have a huge impact. MADDOW: And they have a long history of trying to do that, lot of ways, but it`s happening more systematically that we have seen. KORNACKI: Yes. MADDOW: In the generations. Steve Kornacki, the co-host of MSNBC`s "the Cycle," senior writer for and the owner of the best tie in Rockefeller center. I tell you, it is getting -- KORNACKI: I rarely am complimented on my wardrobe, so thank you. MADDOW: As a person who never is, take it for what it`s worth. That is spectacular tie. KORNACKI: Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. All right, if it wasn`t surreal enough to be having political fights over the issue of contraception in the 21st century, it`s just become all the more surreal. Surreal enough to maybe even be funny if we`re allowed to have a sense of humor about thesis things, and I think we are. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: All right, this is a doozy. Did you hear about this? There`s an evangelical university in the great state of Illinois called Wheaton College. When the Obama administration unveiled the new insurance regulation that requires health insurance plans to cover birth control, Wheaton College said it was outraged, outraged at the idea of having to include emergency contraception in the college`s health plans. They said as a college, they believe emergency contraception is morally wrong. They said being forced to include it in the health plans would be a violation of their freedom, it would trample on their rights. So the first step for Wheaton College before trying to sue the pants off the Obama administration for this whole birth control travesty being upon the school, the first step was to apply for a one-year exemption to the new birth control rule. Remember, the Obama administration was offering an exemption from the requirement to any religiously for any religiously affiliated institution who objected to the requirement on religious grounds. So Wheaton went to apply for that exception. But when they went to apply for that exemption, they, you know, this thing that they vigorously and piously opposed, right, because covering emergency contraception was so offensive to them. When Wheaton went to apply for an exemption from that policy, they found out they had a problem. Their problem it turns out is that the health plans at Wheaton College already covered emergency contraception. The thing they couldn`t possibly be expected to do, the thing that they were going fight, the thing they claimed violated their religious freedom was something they were already doing of their own accord. "The Huffington Post" reporting this out, confirming what the spokesman for the school, which we also confirmed today, that despite trying to appear morally outraged, Wheaton was already voluntary complying with the emergency contraception coverage requirement when the new rule was announced, which made their objection to that new rule, the one they already complied, rather difficult to sell. So what do you do when you get called out in something like this? Do you give up? Do you admit the fact you`ve already been offering birth control in the health plans, and that means, by definition, a rule making you offer birth control doesn`t exactly trample on your rights? Of course you don`t admit that. Wheaton College, instead, scrambled to get rid of their emergency birth control coverage as quickly as they could, so then they could claim that if they covered emergency birth control, that would trample their rights and destroy America. So Wheaton College, having just scrambled to get rid of that birth control coverage, is now asking a federal judge for an emergency ruling, exempting them from the birth control coverage they used to provide. Saying quote, "Wheaton otherwise faces the imminent prospect of irreparable harm to its religious freedom, its integrity, and its employees` well-being," which of course were all fine when the college was happily providing birth control coverage. But now they`re all threatened because -- did I mention how irreparable the harm is here? Obama care! Bogeyman! Genius. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. It is related to some exclamations of joy that you may have seen a little of today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. Touchdown confirmed. We`re safe on Mars! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we`ll see where Curiosity will take us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was a control room full of rocket scientists at NASA`s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, geeking out over the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity rover. And it is safe to say that their intense celebration is directly proportional to the aerospace engineering feat that they are celebrating here. The rover is the size of a car. It weighs about a ton, which means it`s too big and too heavy to land using the only ways we have successfully ever put anything on Mars before. So engineers had to come up with a really novel and sort of crazy plan for how to do this. The rover wouldn`t just plummet down to the surface of Mars. They came up with a plan in which it would start to plummet to the surface of Mars, but then at the last minute, it would essentially stop and it would dangle from a rocket-powered platform. The rockets would control the descent, until the rover touched the ground gently. Then, even more crazy, the platform`s rockets would fire again after the rover had landed, which would send the rocket part to crash land at a safe distance away from the rover, so it didn`t just crash down right on top of it. It may have been crazy, it is a crazy idea, but it could work. And it did work. And right after landing, Curiosity sent back its first pictures of the surface of Mars. So those were the stakes, right? But I want to get back to the tense moments right before the landing, right before the celebration. But this time, I want you to take a look at one specific guy in the back row. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. Touchdown confirmed. We`re safe on mars! MADDOW: So that guy is the one guy in mission control -- look at him, before anybody else. The one guy in mission control who did not wait for the head of the descent team to declare, touchdown confirmed, mission accomplished, something that guy heard or saw on his screen made him get all excited, just a few seconds earlier than everybody else in the room. I have to give a hat tip to Dan O`Meara of "New York" magazine who first pointed this guy out to us today. But Dan pointing it out was not enough for us here at the show. We had to figure out who this guy was and what he knows and why he popped off earlier than everybody else did. So a couple of our producers scrutinized the video and the stills of the scene and figured out that he probably works in avionics. And we called NASA and we called around and we were able to get the guy`s name, and it`s true, he`s an avionics system engineer, named Jonathan Grinblat. So, that`s one mystery solved. We know who he is. But the other mystery is, why did he react first before everyone else reacted? Well, after a really fun day`s effort, we reached Mr. Grinblat at NASA today to asked him. And he explained it to us. He told us that everybody knew that there were several landing criteria, right? And he calls them checkpoints. These landing criteria checkpoints. And everybody knew that if they were met, that meant the landing was successful. He says when he saw the rover`s sky crane, the rocket thing that eases the rover on to Mars, and then fires itself away so it doesn`t crash land on to the rover, when he saw that thing successfully fire and fly away to leave the rover safely on the ground on its own, he said, that was the checkpoint he was waiting for. He knew the landing was successful. Mr. Grinblat says, he also heard a little animated chatter in his head set from engineers not in that room with him, but in nearby rooms, meaning that the other engineers felt it was a success too. But our guy was apparently too excited to wait to cheer with everybody else which I totally get. That totally would have been me. So to all of the amazing scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Lab, you have done something wonderful and we salute you. The whole country salutes you. But to the early celebrator, Jonathan Grinblat, you are the man I most identify with this scene. You, sir, and your uncontrollable and unbridled enthusiasm are the best new thing in the world today. You are maybe even the best new thing in the solar system. That does it for us tonight. I needed that today. See you again tomorrow night. 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