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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/14/12

Guests: Charniele Herring

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: That is "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ezra Klein, in for Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ezra. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for joining us this Friday night. There`s a lot going on. The biggest story in the country remains exactly what you think it is. It`s American embassies being targeted all over the world and the continuing aftermath of our ambassador being murdered this week in Libya along with three other Americans There`s a lot else that happened today in the news. There`s a ton to get to in tonight`s show. Including a surprise ruling out of Wisconsin that has overturned Republican Governor Scott Walker`s union stripping law there. And surprise ruling in Virginia on Republican efforts to effectively ban abortion in the state of Virginia. And another surprise ruling today shutting down a big voter purge planned by a Republican secretary of state in one of the nine swing states that both presidential campaigns believe is going to decide this election. That is all ahead this hour, all from today`s news. It is a very big show. But we start with tonight`s top story and with a decision made in March 2003, which is when then-President George W. Bush ordered the U.S.- led invasion of Iraq, March 2003. It was also the month when it was ordered that the flag-draped coffins of American service members killed abroad could not be photographed when those coffins got back to the United States. That change in policy under George W. Bush was a source of anger and controversy. It is why coffins were sometimes used in anti-Iraq war protests to visually represent those real caskets of Americans killed in the war that the Bush administration would not allow the country to see. The Bush administration banned the media from showing those dignified transfer ceremonies as the invasion of Iraq started in 2003. And they kept the policy in place throughout George W. Bush`s time in office, as the country waged two of the longest wars in our history. It was not until the new president replaced George W. Bush that the ban was rescinded. On Thursday, February 26th, 2009, just five weeks after President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the Defense Department lifted the ban and one week after the ban was lifted, the following Thursday, the media was allowed to cover that solemn return ceremony for the first time in a long time. And maybe it is because we did go so long as a country without seeing images like this that we are a little rocked back on our heels when we do see these images. Today was the transfer ceremony at Andrews Air Force base just outside Washington, D.C., at which the bodies of the four Americans killed in Libya this week were brought home. It was the middle of the afternoon on an unusually busy news day with a million other things going on in American news and politics, but it was like time just stopped. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We will wipe away our tears, stiffen our spines, and face the future undaunted, and we will do it together. Protecting and helping one another just like Sean, Tyrone, Glen, and Chris always did. May God bless them and grant their families peace and solace, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. The flag they served under now carries them home. May God bless the memory of these men who laid down their lives for us all. May God watch over your families and all who loved them. And may God bless these United States of America. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: At this incredibly somber ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base today, remarks from both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama at a time when both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton as head of the State Department, when they have to do things like addressing the nation while also managing in a hands-on way what is an ongoing and significant crisis for the country. Protests at U.S. embassies grew and spread today -- in Egypt, in Iraq, in India, in Bangladesh, in Turkey, in Pakistan, in Kuwait, in Syria, where you might think they`d have other things on their minds. In Afghanistan, in Malaysia, in Nigeria, in Lebanon -- where a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant was torched. In Tunisia where the U.S. embassy compound was breached by protesters but no personnel were hurt in Tunisia. In Qatar, in Bahrain, in Sudan. Here`s Richard Engel reporting for NBC. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. diplomatic outposts now appear to be easy targets. In Yemen for the second day, furious protesters tried to storm the embassy in Sana`a, burning American flags, as riot police fire water cannons. Gunshots can be heard. Why? Because they say the U.S. isn`t doing enough against the makers of that now infamous anti-Islam Internet video. In Tunisia, demonstrators set fires by the U.S. embassy gate. And in Sudan, protesters turned their rage on the British and German embassies. Those countries had nothing to do with the video, but they`re foreign Western powers and for the mob, that`s close enough. In Cairo, the government called off massive planned demonstrations. The president went on television to urge calm. But clashes near the U.S. embassy continue. Authorities had to build a wall to block an access road. (on camera): This has clearly moved beyond demonstrations against an offensive Internet video. It`s become an opportunity for radicals in many countries to express their anger with the United States. And they`ve learned from watching each other that U.S. diplomatic facilities overseas aren`t as protected as they thought. (voice-over): I asked a group why the clashes are continuing, even though U.S. officials have criticized the video. Not enough, they say. (on camera): That the response from the United States was late. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, Hillary Clinton, Obama, all of your government, it was very late. ENGEL: So all of this is because the response was late? (voice-over): But there was little time for interviews. (on camera): We should turn around here. The police are charging. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see what happened? The Egyptian government is doing with the Egyptian people because? Because of the Americans. ENGEL (voice-over): There were demonstrations today in nearly 40 cities across the region and beyond. But as bad as it looks, the demonstrations were generally small. But in what will have implications for NBC security worldwide, extremists have found a weak spot to attack a superpower they believe is responsible for an offense against Islam. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: That was Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent today reporting from Cairo. President Obama earlier this week had ordered a detachment of 50 U.S. Marines to go shore up security at the American embassy in Libya, in Tripoli. Now the administration says it`s also going to send a similar sized detachment of Marines to our embassy in Sudan and to our embassy in Yemen. The president sent a statement about the deployment to Congress today which he`s supposed to do under the War Powers resolution. The statement was sent early in the day. It was about Libya and Yemen then, but now that the decision has been made to also send Marines to Sudan, presumably the statement will be amended to also include that third country. The statement says, "Although these security forces are equipped for combat, these movements have been undertaken solely for the purpose of protecting American citizens and property." It also says, "These newly deployed marines will stay deployed, "until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer need." For now, of course, that means indefinitely. We should also point out that aside from these fast deploying units of Marines fanning out to these three countries, FBI are being sent to Libya to investigate the murder of the American ambassador there and three other Americans who were killed. The FBI. We think of the FBI as a domestic agency, it`s the FBI that`s part of the U.S. government that has the authority to investigate deaths of Americans in all other parts of the world. FBI did it in the embassy bombings in Kenya, in Tanzania in 1998, and the USS Cole bombing in 2000 and Mumbai bombings in India in 2008 and now the FBI is investigating in Libya -- or at least we`re told they are on their way. The FBI being dispatched to Libya is yet another reminder what happened in Libya appears to be a different kettle of fish than what is happening at all the other embassies and other U.S. sites around the world today. The attack that killed the U.S. ambassador appears to be a coordinated military assault by well-armed men who arrived at the scene quite separately from any civilian protest. Given the militant groups known to operate in the area of Benghazi and the types of attacks for which those groups have claimed credit in the past, intelligence officials tell the "Washington Post" the FBI`s tentative conclusion, their working hypothesis about what happened in Libya is that that assault that killed our ambassador there, quote, "was carried out by a group aligned with al Qaeda." And that is in contrast to the angry mobs of irate civilians who are menacing U.S. embassies around the world today. They have been riled up by reports of this crude anti-Muslim video that turned up on YouTube purporting to be a trailer for a longer anti-Muslim film. The origins of murky, no one is claiming credit to the film. YouTube restricted access to it in countries where anti-Muslim speech is restricted. And the U.S. continues to try to convince the world that just because some wing nut in America made this offensive thing, that does not mean that the U.S. government has anything to do with it. Nor does it mean that the government approves of it. Nor does it mean that the government should be blamed for its existence. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: We`ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless. And it is totally unacceptable. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You can hear the frustration in Secretary of State Clinton`s voice. She has reiterated this over and over and over again this week and you can hear it every time she says it. How do you convince people of the truth here? Where do these conspiracy theories come from? And that brings us, weirdly, to what Paul Ryan did with his day today. In the midst of this worldwide conflagration targeting American interest and American personnel abroad, because of insane conspiracy theories about the U.S. government and Islam, in the midst of that today, while it is ongoing, the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States decided that today that was the day to give a speech at an event called the Values Voter Summit. Now, for context here, the last time there were violent protests in Egypt targeting American diplomatic personnel in Egypt, the target was Hillary Clinton, herself. Her motorcade was pelted by protesters in Alexandria in July. Pelted by protesters who shouted at her and who called her -- look at this sign here that we`ve isolated. Look, Clinton. See what it says? Clinton is the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. Huh? A "Wall Street Journal" reporter trying at the time to track down what exactly made these Egyptian protesters so angry at Hillary Clinton back in July was directed by protesters and bloggers to go look at transcripts from American right wing media. Transcripts of a guy named Jerry Boykin, retired general and a guy named Frank Gaffney explaining their cockamamie conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton had secretly rigged the Egyptian elections to favor the Muslim brotherhood. People in Egypt read that. They did not know the people who were talking were wing nut right wing conspiracy theorists. They believed what they were reading. They believed what they read and they then attacked Hillary Clinton`s motorcade in Egypt two months ago, while calling her the supreme guide of the Muslim brotherhood. Well, today while American diplomats were again under siege in Egypt, Paul Ryan spoke at an event that also featured those right wing conspiracy wing nut theorists -- conspiracy theorist wing nuts who got Hillary Clinton attacked in Egypt in July. See, there`s Paul Ryan on the speaker list. Same event, also featuring Jerry Boykin, the former retired general, and Frank Gaffney. Frank Gaffney has a 10-part DVD series called "The Muslim brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within." these were saying Secretary of State Clinton`s chief Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner`s wife, remember when they were saying they were part of a plot to destroy America, that`s these guys. That`s the event vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan spoke at today. Paul Ryan is featured right next to a man whose occupation, look at this occupation, see there, author, comma, former terrorist. Oh, OK. It`s true. It`s alphabetical is the way they lined up the speakers. So, Paul Ryan is at the end of the R`s and he`s right there alongside the guy who`s at the start of the S`s, a guy named Kamal Saleem, former terrorist. As our embassies burned today, Paul Ryan spoke today at this event just a little while before Kamal Saleem did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KAMAL SALEEM: How do you change a terrorist? Introduce him to Jesus. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: How do you change a terrorist? Introduce him to Jesus. Journalist who have looked into Kamal Saleem uniformly do not believe this guy is actually a former terrorist. One giveaway is that the FBI seems not at all interested in him. But he makes his living by telling right wing Christian groups that he is a former terrorist. He also says President Obama is se secretly praying Islamic prayers when it looks like President Obama is pledging allegiance to the flag. He`s not really pledging allegiance, he`s secretary saying Islamic prayers. So, he also says President Obama is right now legalizing terrorism in America. He says if the United States passes immigration reform, I`m quoting him here, "We`ll be wearing rag heads." He says Roe v. Wade is how the United States is getting taken over by Sharia law. Roe v. Wade is Sharia law, that`s what the man says. And that`s where the Republican Party put its vice presidential nominee to speak today. That`s how they decided to clean up after their presidential nominee this week denounced the U.S. embassy in Cairo while the U.S. embassy in Cairo was being attacked. I don`t know if the Republican presidential campaign sees this kind of thing as winning or not, maybe they do. Maybe they see this as their way to the White House. But whether or not it is winning, it is not helping. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On days like this with one giant story in the news, understandably sucking up all the attention, on days like this, even important other stories that are off that main story line can sometimes get swamped. Coming up next, we`re going to un-swamp a very big story about a very important swing state and a governor whose nickname involves the word ultrasound or sometimes the word probe, depending. These guys are at it again. That story is next. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The news coming out of Libya and Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and north Africa this week has understandably pushed almost everything out of the headlines. But even with all that is going on abroad, we are still in the homestretch of the presidential campaign. And there is a lot going on. The Obama campaign this week quietly released its fifth ad focused on women`s health and reproductive choice. Ad number five. And it`s not just an ad that they put up on the Web somewhere. This is an ad that is airing on TV in the swing states. This new ad argues like the previous ones did that both Mr. Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan say they would overturn Roe v. Wade and both have supported banning abortion even without exceptions for women who get pregnant because of rape or incest. The ad is airing in five states. All of which are swing states that the president and the Romney campaign are fighting hard to win. It`s airing in Colorado, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and Virginia. The Obama campaign is essentially showing with all these ads how seriously they are taking the women`s vote in this election and how they are appealing for the women`s vote by talking policy. But, hey, the Romney campaign is serious about the women`s vote, too. And here`s how you can tell. I want you to look at the crowd staged behind Mitt Romney at a rally yesterday in Fairfax, Virginia. What do almost all of the people standing behind Mitt Romney at this rally have in common? If you said matched chromosomes, ding, ding, ding! It seems like there are a couple of "y" chromosomes in the back row maybe, but right next to Romney, it is lady time all the time. When I saw this yesterday, I was watching this with the sound off and I thought he was speaking at some sort of women-only event. I thought, how many women-only events are there in the world and why would they invite a presidential candidate? But he wasn`t speaking at a woman-only event. They just moved all the women at the event so that they were standing right next to him and behind him. Well, judging by the latest polling out of Virginia, it looks like the Obama campaign strategy of highlighting Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan`s records on women`s health may be trumping the Romney campaign`s strategy of just standing the candidate up next to a lot of women. President Obama`s beating Mitt Romney among Virginia women by 14 points right now. And it was in this political environment that something happened in the state of Virginia today, that is not necessarily being billed as relevant to the presidential race, but boy, howdy, is it relevant to the presidential race. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell who spent a lifetime as an antiabortion activist and his attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, who also spent a lifetime as an antiabortion activist, these two aggressively have engineered a meeting of the state`s health board that happened today. They aggressively engineered that meeting toward a decision that could have the effect of shutting down most of the abortion clinics in Virginia. Last year, bob McDonnell signed a new law calling for special regulations just for abortion clinics -- targeted regulations designed to make it economically impossible to operate an abortion clinic in the state of Virginia. It`s the same thing the Republicans did in Mississippi this year. These are called trap laws -- targeted regulations. These do not apply to any other form of medical facility at all. The law would not apply for dental surgeons or for outpatient plastic surgery clinics. It`s just for abortion clinics and it`s very obviously designed to shut them down. And it is expected to shut down a majority of abortion clinics in the state. Informed estimates are it could shut down at least is15 of Virginia`s 20 clinics. But when it came down to implement the new special abortion clinic- only red tape plans in Virginia, the state`s health board voted that they would exempt existing clinics from the most onerous new regulations, from the regulations that were designed to force most of these clinics to close. So these targeted regulations would only be likely to prevent new abortion clinics from opening in the state. They would not necessarily shut down the clinics that were already operating there. That, it turned out, was not enough for Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli. They refused to accept the new rules from the Health Department, refused to certify them unless the board of health changed its ruling to get rid of the grandfathering in, to make all of the new red tape apply to all of the existing clinics in Virginia. Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli leaned on the board of health to go back and overturn their previous ruling and today, the Board of Health did what they wanted. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Motion passed. (CHANTING) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli told the board of health and the state how to vote, told them they were not allowed to exempt existing clinics from the new regulations that are designed to shut them down, the Virginia board of health voted to go along with the governor today. They voted to impose those targeted new regulations on all of Virginia`s 20 abortion clinics. That is the vote Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli told them to make and that vote is seen is likely to shut down most of the state`s clinics. This is not being sold really as a national political issue. But in a really important swing state, this is Republican governance at work. It`s not exactly a triumph of small "C" conservatism, right? I mean, this is really big government purposely using mountains of red tape in a targeted way to shut down specific private businesses in order to get the government`s chosen outcome in a medical decision that you are supposed to be able to make yourself in conjunction with your doctor. But now the government is going to make that decision for you. Virginia women right now, you have 20 options in the state if you ever need to terminate a pregnancy. Nobody can guarantee you are going to have any options in the state once these new regulations are enforced. This is how Republican governance is being modeled in the swing state of Virginia. The women of Virginia and the men of Virginia are being shown what Republicans will do if you vote them into office. So the implicit question here is, hey, Virginia, do you like what Ken Cuccinelli and governor ultrasound have done to your state and to your rights? How about those forced ultrasounds? How are those going for you? Is the government closing clinics and making medical decisions for you your kind of thing? Do you want that for the whole country? You want the federal government to be like that, too? Because that can be arranged. Joining us now is Virginia House Delegate Charniele Herring. She`s the Democratic minority whip. She`s the chair of the legislature`s reproductive health caucus. Delegate Herring, it`s great to have you here tonight. Thank you for joining us. STATE DEL. CHARNIELE HERRING (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are trying to win over female voters in Virginia. Yesterday, we saw Mr. Romney was campaigning against a backdrop of all women in Fairfax. Paul Ryan was in Virginia today. How do you think what`s happening in Virginia in terms of women`s health at the state level, how do you think that`s going to play into the presidential race there if at all? HERRING: I think it`s going to play heavily, Rachel. I mean, Virginia women are seeing time and time again Republicans cling to an extreme right and bully an independent agency like they did today, the board of health, where these are independent people who have medical degrees and who understand what is necessary to deliver services to individuals in a safe manner. And what they saw was the Attorney General Cuccinelli bullying them sending them a letter saying, if you don`t vote the way I want you to vote, I might not represent you, you may have to incur legal fees. So, this is going to affect the presidential race because I`m hearing from women from both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, saying the Republican Party has gone too far, I cannot vote for Mitt Romney, I cannot vote for Paul Ryan. We have a Senate race, I cannot vote for George Allen because he, too, clings to these extreme social agendas that are over to the right. MADDOW: The reproductive health issue in Virginia came to national prominence around Governor Bob McDonnell signing a law -- forcing women to have medically unnecessary ultrasound, even if it was against their doctor`s orders, forcing women to pay for that privilege. When you are hearing people talk about presidential politics in the state of Virginia, is it widely known that the vice presidential nominee on the Republican ticket, Paul Ryan proposed a forced ultrasound bill just like Virginia`s for the whole country? Is that connection being made by people in the state? HERRING: It is. I think voters are starting to focus and the Republicans keep just delivering gifts to us Democrats because they keep going to this extreme agenda and people are digging a little bit farther. They know that Paul Ryan has had a history of extreme agenda. That`s against women`s reproductive health and does not trust a woman for what she does to her body and her health. MADDOW: In terms of what`s going to happen on the ground in Virginia, what do you see as the outcome here? We`ve talked to people who are observers of how trap laws work and are designed to work. In Mississippi, we saw regulations targeted in which people sponsoring that legislation openly admitted they were trying to ban abortion in Mississippi by shutting down all the clinics. Is it clear that that`s what they`re trying to do in Virginia and do you think that`s going to be the effect of these laws? HERRING: Absolutely. I think it`s very clear that that`s what they`re trying to do. Again, when the board of health said we`re going to grandfather in clinics and then the attorney general says, well, I`m not going to accept that, you go back and you do what I want you to do, I think it`s very clear that they`re trying to close clinics and, you know, the Attorney General Cuccinelli, he`s running for governor next year and he`s using this as his platform. And, you know, it`s one thing to use a bully pulpit. It`s another thing to be a bully. That`s exactly what happened. MADDOW: Were there protests today -- when there were protests today after this board of health ruling, were they reminiscent of the same kind of protests we saw after the forced ultra -- during the debate over the forced ultrasound thing, or are there more people being drawn into this debate now than maybe even were paying attention before? HERRING: I think more people are being drawn into the debate and they are, you know, down in Richmond, there was protests. And unfortunately, let me tell you, the American public needs to know -- the public comment period was cut down to one hour. Last time, it was two hours. Only a limited number of people were allowed to be in the hearing room. So they actually had to have a hearing, advocates and people who were just concerned that it may not -- pro-choice advocates with their concern of the overreach of government that`s happening in Virginia. They had their own hearing outside and the public comment period outside of the hearing room in the parking lot is my understanding of what happened. So, we`re seeing a broad reaction in Virginia on the social media and just outrage about what happened because we`re seeing Republicans with their heavy-hand of government reaching into the private lives of women without any exception. Not any exception for rape or incest. Just an out and out blanket, we`re going to close down clinics. Rachel, what`s important, people must know these clinics provide health care. They provide preventative service, cancer screenings. That`s things that keep us women alive and keep our bodies healthy so we can care for our families. MADDOW: Virginia House Delegate Charniele Herring, thank you for joining us. We`re going to obviously be staying on this story. We`ve been on it for a long time it seems. But I hope you`ll come back and talk to us again as the story unfolds. HERRING: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it. MADDOW: All right. According to the president`s rivals, he and former President Ronald Reagan share something very important in common. And his rivals are against that thing that President Obama shares with President Reagan. That weird story is ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. So big surprising news. When it happens it makes a sound and the relatively quiet RACHEL MADDOW SHOW newsroom. A story crosses a wire or an e-mail goes out with new news and then from the quiet -- with everybody working away -- you hear these exclamations and it`s usually people doing it under their breath but you know it`s a big story when you hear multiple people do it. It usually goes like this, wow, did you see this? That`s what it sounded like tonight when this crossed. The thing that made Governor Scott Walker famous is Wisconsin law stripping union rights ruled today by a Wisconsin circuit court judge to be a violation of the state Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. The judge declared Scott Walker`s year-old union stripping law to be null and void. Whoa! Wow! Did you see that? That`s what it was like. There was an appeal. Maybe people in Wisconsin don`t get their rights back right away because of that appeal. It`s not clear yet. But wow, right? And what is equally stunning is that that ruling from Wisconsin was only the second-most surprising court ruling of the day today, involving the incredibly politically charged and contested rights of people who happen to live in the swing states. The ruling that was even bigger news than that Wisconsin ruling and that was also totally out of the blue today is what`s coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It has been three days since violent protests began in the Middle East and North Africa which resulted in dozens of injuries and the deaths of people in Tunisia and Sudan and Libya, and the murders of four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, including the U.S. ambassador there, Chris Stevens, three days. For Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, those three days began with the Romney campaign ineptly and falsely accusing the Obama administration of apologizing for American values, and even going so far as to say that the president of the United States sympathizes with those attacking our diplomatic outposts, and saying that while those outposts were still being attacked. On Wednesday, lots of people in the Republican Party expressed real discomfort with both the timing and the substance of Mr. Romney`s remarks. But by yesterday, the shock of what he had said and done eventually, I guess, wore off, and Republicans started lining up behind him again. After all, he`s running for office, for Pete`s sake. Well, today, on this third day since the first attacks in Cairo and Benghazi, the argument from Mr. Romney`s defenders went to a whole new place -- a whole new place that I`m not sure anybody expected it to go. Richard Williamson is this guy here, a top Romney foreign policy adviser, a veteran of the Bush/Cheney administration. And consider that fact when you see what Mr. Williamson told the "Washington Post" today. He told the "Post" if Mitt Romney were president there wouldn`t be any protests at U.S. embassies in the Middle East and Africa because the rioters would have too much respect for the United States. He says, quote, "There`s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you`d be in a different situation." Mr. Williamson told "The Post," quote, "In Egypt and Libya and Yemen, again, demonstrations, the respect for America has gone down. There`s not a sense of American resolve." So there wouldn`t be unrest among Muslims in the region, over a blasphemous video on the internet and wouldn`t be terrorist attacks on U.S. targets and personnel if only the so-called Arab Street respected the U.S. president`s resolve. In this Republican vision, a Mitt Romney presidency, by the power of its mere presence, would make anti-American unrest disappear around the globe because attacks on American installations and diplomatic posts worldwide only happen when a sitting American president lacks resolve. That`s the Romney campaign`s new attack on the U.S. government and the president. That`s how they are explaining now the demonstrations at the embassies and the attack in Benghazi that killed our ambassador. Those are all a sign of President Obama having a lack of resolve, so says the former Bush administration official who is speaking for Mr. Romney on this subject. During the administration in which that official served, there were fatal attacks on U.S. diplomatic sites in places like Yemen and Syria and Pakistan. By some counts there were more attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad under George W. Bush than by any other U.S. president. Not to mention 9/11. Were those attacks because George W. Bush didn`t have resolve? When there were terrorist attacks during, say, the Reagan administration, say, the horrible Beirut bombing in 1983, was that a reflection of a lack of resolve on the part of President Reagan? Under the Romney campaign`s new argument for understanding international unrest, Presidents Reagan and Bush lacked resolve. President Obama similarly lacks resolve. And the country`s only hope for security lies in the unprecedented toughness and scary awesomeness of an unpopular former one-term governor of Massachusetts, under whom there won`t be any more anti-American unrest. I do not think that`s an argument the Romney campaign wants to have but it is the argument they are making in public, to reporters who are writing down what they say. And then after that, as a country, we get to vote. Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC policy analyst. Gene, thank you for being here. EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Rachel, great to be here tonight. MADDOW: Isn`t this a weird variant on blaming the victim but one which they make themselves look really bad, too? ROBINSON: Well, this makes absolutely no sense first of all. Let`s get that straight. I mean, this is a kind of late and halfhearted and amateurish, frankly, attempt to make lemonade out of lemons or chicken salad out of something else, because it really doesn`t make sense on any level. I mean, do you really set your foreign policy as the criterion on which you judge and set your foreign policy, whether irrational mobs and determined terrorists attack U.S. diplomatic outposts or not? That doesn`t seem to be really a comprehensive world view that takes you very far. It`s just ridiculous. MADDOW: You know, my feeling about the Romney response this week, and this is just my personal feeling about it, was that I was upset by the bad temperament that it showed, essentially, the inappropriate temperament for somebody who is really close to being in a really, really sensitive job, at a really, really sensitive time in world affairs. And I just thought it made me feel like, whoa, I`m not sure our American vetting system is good enough if you can be one of the last two candidates for president of the United States and treat sensitive and deadly international affairs in this reckless a manner. In your later column, Gene, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you today is that you wrote about Romney`s ignorance. You said, Romney`s ignorance of foreign policy more profound and potentially dangerous than anyone could have suspected. Why did you focus in there on the issue of ignorance? ROBINSON: Well, I, too, saw the temperament issue, and that, I thought, was genuinely frightening. But I have seen no indication from Romney, including in his "No Apology" book that he`s done any serious thinking about American policy, about America`s place in the world, about diplomacy, about how we proceed in a very different world from a world in which we grew up. I just don`t see it. And I think this is -- this is an example, temperamentally he didn`t realize this was a potentially dangerous moment for him to be spouting off in this sort of pandering way that he does. But beyond that, there was -- there was no analysis there. There was no -- you know, is he critical of the way President Obama handled the Arab Spring? Does he have a better idea? Does he compare this geopolitical transition, for example, to the fall of the Eastern Bloc, say, the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc where it worked out in some countries, didn`t work out in others? Is there anything we learned from that we can apply here? Anything? Is there anything in there? I haven`t seen it. MADDOW: Everybody has been saying all year, OK, yes, Mitt Romney maybe doesn`t have much to offer on foreign policy, but it doesn`t matter because the election won`t be about foreign policy. And maybe that is why he didn`t bother coming up with theories that he could repeat about the sort of things you were just questioning him there. But is that operating assumption sort of still true? Is it still clear that foreign policy isn`t going to play a role when people vote November 6th? ROBINSON: Well, number one, I don`t think that`s true about the vote, and it`s never true about a presidency. Remember, George W. Bush was going to be a domestic president. Foreign policy wasn`t going to feature in the George W. Bush administration. And then it overtook the George W. Bush administration, became all about foreign policy. So that can happen. There will be crises in the next four years. There will be perilous moments for the United States, for Americans abroad, for our diplomats, for our troops, for us. And you need somebody who can guide us through those shoals, to use an overused metaphor, and Mitt Romney really, really, I think, contrary to what he was trying to do, I think he convinced some people this week that he is not the man to guide us. MADDOW: There is always the possibility he will retroactively become statesmanlike. You never know. Gene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the "Washington Post" and MSNBC policy analyst -- I love talking to you about this stuff, Gene. Thanks for being here. ROBINSON: Great to be here. MADDOW: One of the world`s leading birthers, the birther laureate, you might call him, has moved on. Now, apparently, it no longer matters as much where the president was born as how he was born. Seriously. This is incredible. These people never give up. What the birther in your life is going to start ranting about next. It`s coming up right at the end of the show tonight. If you don`t already know the story, there`s no way you can predict it. It`s amazing. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have news tonight about voting in the swing state of Iowa. We`re not used to thinking of Iowa as a swing state but it is one of the nine states included in the Romney campaign`s first big multimillion dollar ad buy after the conventions. So, this is the 2012 playing field as defined by where the challenger has chosen to compete. The race right now in Iowa is essentially tied when you look at the polls. President Obama in the lead by a smidge. Well, this year, swing states that have the Republican holding down the top job of being the top elections in the state, all of the states that have Republican secretaries of state, all of those swing states have at least tried to make voting harder for the election. Alone among them, Iowa has been getting no where with those efforts. Iowa`s Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz started the year by asking the state`s bipartisan legislature to pass a new law requiring Iowa voters to show documentation in order to vote that voters never had to show before and that many Iowans do not have. He did not get his new law, in part because Mr. Schultz himself was forced to agree that there have been no real votes of voter fraud in Iowa, at all. Let alone the kind that would be hampered by blocking people from voting in this particular new way he wanted to block people from voting. After that, Mr. Schultz promised Republicans that he was turning over every stone to find some fraud in Iowa. When he still didn`t find any, he brought in an agent from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to help him look at the cost of tax fairs up to $250,000. At least report, Mr. Schultz was still looking for voter fraud in Iowa, but he gave up looking for the legislature. In late July, Schultz personally ordered a new set of rules about voting in Iowa. He called them emergency rules. Rules he needed right away before the November election. Rules he could not wait for any elected legislature to give him. The new emergency rules would let Mr. Schultz conduct a last-minute purge of Iowa`s voter rolls before November voting. Mr. Schultz gave himself the authority to kick voters that he considers suspect off the rolls. To force them to prove just weeks before the election that they are rightfully registered and if they don`t prove it, onus is on them, no voting. The second emergency rule made it easier for people to allege that other people are on the roles when they are not supposed to be. So, that`s how the Iowa secretary of state was going to purge the rolls under thee emergency rules that he ordered up himself -- until today. Late today, a judge in Polk County, Iowa, put the rules on ice. She said those rules can wait. A judge ruled that the only emergency here is the one that Matt Schultz created for himself. Rules could fall heavily on newly admitted citizen or lower income individuals. She said the rules created fears that new citizens would lose their right to vote and/or be charged with a felony and caused some qualified voters to feel deterred from even registering to vote." An injunction in Iowa today is temporary. The case continues. Mr. Schultz said tonight that he is disappointed by the decision and he said he will continue to fight. We will stay on the story. I`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is one of my favorite places on the interwebs, the Web site, "World Net Daily," sometimes referred to as world nut daily. It`s the ultra-conservative, super right wing conspiracy theory Web site that has made a cottage industry out of investigating whether President Obama is maybe secretly foreign. "World Net Daily" is birther central. The Web site store has made money pushing at discounts the book "Where`s the Birth Certificate." The author of "Where`s the Birth Certificate," is named Jerome Corsi and he`s essentially the in-house birther on the "World Net Daily" writing`s staff. Last spring when the president released a copy of his long-form birth certificate, it essentially gutted the thin credibility of the "World Net Daily`s" central mission. And that meant that Jerome Corsi needed a new reason to get out of bed every morning. Jerome Corsi has now found one -- oh, yes. Corsi did. You think they would give up on this? In recent weeks, Jerome Corsi has written a handful of articles alleging that Barack Obama the secretly Kenyan, secretly Muslim, only maybe the president guy, is also secretly gay. Yes, of course. Look at this -- this is amazing. "A prominent member of Chicago`s homosexual community claims Barack Obama`s participation in the gay bar and bathhouse scene was well known that many who were aware of his lifestyle were shocked when he ran for president and finally won the White House. And of course, he won the White House because he had one of his former gay lovers killed and another one paid off to buy his silence. Birtherism, it`s not just for geography anymore. Here`s what Jerome Corsi and World Net Daily now say is their evidence that President Obama secretly has the gay. They say long before he married Michelle Obama, he used to wear a ring on the fourth finger of his left hand. Since that finger can only ring, not means he was secretly married. And that means he was secretly, well, it must mean he was secretly gay married? OK. One source telling "World Net Daily" that when he met Barack Obama at Occidental College in 1980, his gaydar went off. He believed Mr. Obama and his college roommate were lovers. Gay! Just look at this photo of Obama and his roommate that`s been posted on the Web site of another one of "World Net Daily`s" main sources. Straight males don`t sit on sofas together like this. Gay! Straight men also don`t like Florida pizza shop owners pick them up like this. Gay! Straight men do play gulf, in foursomes. But when Barack Obama does it young male staffers? Gay! Every president of the United States in the modern era has mad a male personal assistant, buddy man, but when President Obama has a buddy man, that`s code for boyfriend. Gay! Kal Penn, the actor who used to work at the White House, they say he was another one of President Obama`s secret gay boyfriends. I mean, why else would anybody else leave Hollywood, probably West Hollywood, to go work at the White House? Gay, gay, gay, gay! "World Net Daily" said so. Now the president is going to have to unveil his straight certificate. The long form one. I love these people. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again Monday night. Now it`s time for "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews, which is not prison. Have a great weekend. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END