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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/17/12

Guests: David Corn, Frank Rich

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Essentially, even before you knew about Ed being back from back surgery this quickly and back without pain, even before you knew that, I could have told you that the news today is essentially rolling out in double time right now. I mean, today was a day of major presidential campaign news, possibly the worst day the Mitt Romney for president campaign has had in politics since Mr. Romney got the nomination. But that was even before the news broke late today of something that`s likely to make things considerably worse for Mr. Romney and for his campaign. We have got a very, very full hour of news ahead, including Frank Rich being here tonight for the interview. But we need to start with tonight`s breaking news. Secretly-recorded video from a private Mitt Romney for president fundraiser appears to show the Republican nominee for president characterizing half of the electorate as dependent on the government and unwilling to take personal responsibility and care for their lives. The candidate says that is the proportion of the electorate that he will not bother with, that he doesn`t need to be concerned with, because that`s the proportion of the electorate who will vote for President Obama. Now, in the interest of full disclosure and also of understanding the importance of this news and where this video came from, I first need to explain to you that there`s a "Rachel Maddow Show" connection to this. OK. Late last month, somebody, we don`t know who, posted a clip of Mr. Romney talking that appears to come from the same speech in the same place from the same back-behind-the-crowd vantage point as the footage published today by David Corn at "Mother Jones" magazine. It looks the same, with the salient difference that the clip posted last month did not have the visual filtering on it. That was added today by "Mother Jones." It also did not appear to be of the same resolution overall. In the clip posted last month, Mr. Romney talks about going to China to maybe buy an appliance factory there with his firm, Bain Capital. He talks about touring the factory where young women worked for what he described as a pittance. He says they lived in dormitories with bunks that were three beds high. In the clip, Mr. Romney says the factory had a big barbed wire fence around it and guard towers to keep people out -- not to keep people in, but to keep people out -- because so many people wanted to work there. And then he says that 95 percent of life is settled if you`re born in America. That clip was posted to Youtube last month by an account that had the name "Rachel Maddow" on it. Somebody made it look as if I had posted that video to Youtube. I had not done that. We notified Youtube that somebody was pretending to be me with this account, and the account was taken down. In terms of somebody impersonating me, that was easy. We knew it wasn`t me. In terms of the content, though, we were not able to authenticate anything about the origin of the video at that time. That was what happened in late August. A few days after all of that happened, a different Youtube account went up, a Youtube account with a different name, posted 10 different excerpts of Governor Romney`s speech at what appeared to be this fundraiser. So that`s twice it gets posted in August, and it turns out that back in May, another Youtube account had posted even more excerpts from what also seemed to be the same speech, including that original clip that I just described about the Chinese factory. But even though all those videos were posted on the Web weeks, if not months ago, the story went nowhere. The quality of the video was really poor. You really couldn`t see if it was Mitt Romney or not. And nobody could verify the source of the legitimacy of the tape. And so nothing happened, even though this was technically out there in the bowels of Youtube. Nothing happened with it until now. Some reporters started moving copy on the story over the weekend, and then today we`re told the same person who had posted the clips in May and in August under my name and later in August under a different name, that same person gave the entire hour-long video of the Romney fundraiser to "Mother Jones" magazine, apparently at higher resolution, possibly. The story was written up by David Corn, who you know here from MSNBC. He`s a highly respected and experienced D.C. journalist. And three and a half minutes of high-quality video from that speech were embedded with the story. It is video where you can clearly see and not just hear the Republican nominee, and everyone else in the footage is blurred. "Mother Jones" credits James Carter with giving them research assistance on the story. Mr. Carter tells us tonight that he first found the video from the person who posted it on Youtube under my name last month when it wasn`t actually me. He hooked that person up with "Mother Jones." And he hooked up with "Mother Jones" the person who was the original source of the video. He also says the speech by Mr. Romney lasted about an hour, and that there are yet more clips to be released, and that is all -- that all could be released at this point. What`s already available could prove to be problematic enough for the Romney campaign, especially this portion. And I have to tell you, this portion was also obtained and verified by NBC`s Michael Isikoff. The video you`ll see here begins with the question from someone in the audience. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: For the past three years, all everybody`s been told is, "don`t worry, we`ll take care of you." How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody, you`ve got to take care of yourself? ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are depending upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that`s an entitlement, and the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts of with 48, 49, 47 (ph), he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn`t connect. So he`ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that`s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I`ll convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. My job is not to worry about those people, I`ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. Tonight, the Romney campaign is not disputing that that video is of Governor Romney. His communications director instead issuing a statement prompted by the recording you just heard. The statement reads as follows, quote, "Mr. Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he`s concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps. Nearly one in six Americans in poverty and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney`s plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy, and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs." Also Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus is not only defending the remarks tonight, he`s saying that Mitt Romney was on message when he made these remarks. The Obama campaign also issued its own statement tonight in which Obama campaign manager Jim Messina says it is, quote, "hard to serve as president for all Americans when you have disdainfully written off half the nation." So in terms of how we got this information today, got this footage of Mitt Romney talking about 47 percent of the country who believes that they are victims and who are dependent upon the government and who he does not worry about. In terms of how we got this, different variations of this speech, different variations of this footage have been bouncing around the Internet for months in a sort of unverified way. Well, today, the story was all of a sudden everywhere. It can no longer be ignored by either side. Joining us now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones." His book "Showdown" comes out in paperback tomorrow. David, congratulations on the scoop. And thank you for being here. DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: I`m glad to be with you, Rachel. And I have to say the source apologizes for impersonating you early on. MADDOW: Is that so? CORN: Quite seriously. Yes. I was asked to convey that message. MADDOW: OK. Thank you. I will say, because that`s the way that I learned about the video, I -- we tried to authenticate it. We tried to figure out if that was what it purported to be, but it seemed to emerge from a place that was so strange and unknowable to me that I did not know that anybody would ever be able to verify it. Are you quite sure that it is what it purports to be? Are you satisfied with the backup? CORN: Oh, yes, 100 percent sure, and I watched the whole videotape, which is, you know, very -- there are a lot of internal statements that Mitt Romney makes about where this happened. And initially I was under the obligation not to reveal those details, but if you care to know, I can tell you now whose house this was at, and when it happened. MADDOW: Please. CORN: It was at the home of Marc Leder. He`s a private equity manager and a quite controversial fellow. His Sun Capital fund has about $8 billion in it, and the "New York Times" did a pretty good story on him earlier this year, knowing that he was a very big supporter of Mitt Romney. In fact, he got into the private equity game because he once visited Bain Capital and it kind of turned him on. And that "New York Times" story reports that many of his deals have gone south and been controversial. Yet, as we`ve learned with private equity, he still made a lot of money. And he also has sort of a -- you can`t call it a side business, but a side pursuit. He has very lavish parties, particularly at his estate in Bridgehampton. In fact, one he had in August 2011 was called an orgy by the "New York Post," and there were people there performing sexual acts at the party itself. This is who Mitt Romney is raising money with. MADDOW: Was this at the Bridgehampton or the home of -- CORN: Actually, actually, this fundraiser happened in his Boca Raton home on May 17th of this year. MADDOW: May 17th, OK. And in terms of the origin of it, obviously I`m not pressuring you to release your sources, and you have to be protective of your source, but are you confident that the source is not motivated by anti-Romney animus in a way that would mean this should be suspected of being taken out of context? CORN: I would say, you saw the Romney statement today. They are not challenging a single word, anything about the authenticity of this. So that there should sort of close the argument. But I have seen the whole tape. And none of this is taken out of context. You just played that long clip. I don`t know what context there could be other than, hey, I want to tell you something I don`t really believe, which he doesn`t say. So it`s fully in context. And I`ve confirmed the authenticity by -- what`s been in the tape, and I have no doubts about it. The source has assured me. And the way it sort of came about indicates to me this is true, that this person is not connected to any political (ph) campaign, wasn`t there as an infiltrator. It wasn`t a dirty trick, so to speak. But nevertheless, put that all aside, I don`t want to be distracted, I`m happy to answer those questions so people know that it`s legitimate -- the fact that Mitt Romney has not challenged a word here shows you that this is what he said. This is what he said behind closed doors with a bunch of other millionaires who he felt very comfortable with. MADDOW: And that pivot I want to make with you now from where this came from to what it means. We have seen some remarkable talking points, apparently, from the right on this today, essentially saying they like the sound of this. That they think that this is on message, that this is the sort of thing that Mitt Romney is happy to run on, and that there`s no revelation here that the campaign feels uncomfortable about. I wonder what your reaction is to that. I find it, just in raw terms, just hearing him dismiss half the country as victims who are dependent on the government, who he`s not worried about, I find it to be like raw and grating, but the campaign is trying to spin it in a different way. CORN: I can see, if you want to sort of say, like Paul Ryan, he has an Ayn Rand view of the world and he wants, you know, to help the poor, but also break them from the chains of entitlement. That`s one thing. But what he`s saying on this video, it doesn`t take a close listen, is that everybody, not just some, but everybody who voted for Barack Obama comes from this part of America where they believe they are entitled to health care and food and you name it, and they don`t believe in personal responsibility, they don`t take care of themselves. And they don`t pay taxes. So he`s equating half of the electorate with a sort of -- with a band -- a mass of parasitic moochers, who believe they are victims of society. I mean, it`s simply not true. I mean, just demonstrably not true. I don`t think everyone who votes for Obama doesn`t pay income taxes. But nevertheless, it shows a certain mind-set in which he`s casting this election as that between the forces of parasitism, if that`s a word, and strivers like us in this room, people who believe in personal initiative and make our own success. And I mean, people can judge for themselves what level of disdain and contempt that shows, but I think the spinners who are trying to protect Mitt Romney are really not dealing with the words he actually said. MADDOW: David, should we expect further footage that you have seen to be made publicly available? CORN: At the end of this story today, which people can go see at, it does say coming soon, more. So there will be more very soon on Mitt Romney and what he told those people at that fundraiser. MADDOW: Wow. Incredible reporting. And please convey to your source that the apology is accepted. I was super-weirded out, but now that I understand, I feel less bad about it. David, congratulations again on the scoop. Thanks a lot. CORN: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine, and again, his reporting and that footage you can see at All right, Frank Rich is here tonight for the interview. There`s a lot still coming. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Do you remember Elaine Chao? Elaine Chao is labor secretary under George W. Bush. Incidentally, she`s also married to the top Republican in the Senate, Senate Mitch McConnell. They are a major Republican power couple in Washington as these things go. These days, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao works at FOX News as an on-air contributor. She was also recently nominated to serve on the board of directors at FOX. A few weeks ago during an appearance on FOX, she talked about what a - - in her words -- stunning abuse of power it was for President Obama to strip the work requirement out of welfare. That is not true. President Obama did not strip the work requirement out of welfare. Quite the contrary. But Elaine Chao, as a FOX News contributor, went on TV and said it was true and also that it is a terrible, terrible thing. Here she is a couple of weeks ago telling Lou Dobbs about how Mitt Romney will save the day with his super awesome jobs plan if he is elected. Elaine Chao is not just a FOX News contributor now. I should also mention that she is a national chair of the Mitt Romney for President campaign. So when she appears on FOX News to offer economic analysis, she is implicitly doing it as both a FOX News contributor and as a member of the Mitt Romney campaign, which is probably very convenient for the Mitt Romney campaign. This is Walid Phares. Walid Phares also works at FOX News. He serves as a Middle East and terrorism expert on FOX. This was him last week talking about how attacks on American embassies in Libya and Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa were caused by the Obama administration. Mr. Phares is not just a Middle East and terrorism analyst for FOX News. He`s also an advisor on foreign policy and national security to the Mitt Romney campaign. So when he appears on FOX News he gets to do both of those jobs, which is probably convenient for the Mitt Romney for President campaign. Here`s a guy named Jay Sekulow. He`s a regular on FOX News. He appears frequently on the network to talk about legal news. Here he is last month talking on FOX about what a great intellectual leader Paul Ryan is and how his and Mitt Romney`s position in the economy is the moral position on the economy. But Jay Sekulow is not just a FOX News regular. He`s also an advisor to Mitt Romney, who according to the folks at Politico, serves as liaison between Mr. Romney and movement conservatives. Chances are you remember John Bolton as the ambassador to the U.N. who basically did not believe the U.N. should exist and for him from the George W. Bush years? Well, these days Mr. Bolton has a gig as a contributor on FOX News. In this clip you can see here he`s explaining how the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya last week that killed the U.S. ambassador and three others, how that was caused by the weakness and fecklessness of the Obama administration. But John Bolton is not just a FOX News TV guy. He is also a Romney campaign foreign policy advisor. So he gets to work for the Romney campaign while he works on FOX News. In fact, Mr. Bolton actually announced his endorsement of Mitt Romney during an appearance on FOX News. The folks at Media Matters have been tracking all of the overlap among FOX News contributors or analysts and the Romney campaign. A spokesperson for John Bolton told them that his joint role as a FOX News contributor and a Romney campaign advisor is totally OK and super ethical because Mr. Bolton is, quote, "not paid by the campaign," and he gives foreign policy advice to lots of people. But probably the most amazing example of a FOX News contributor making efficient use of air time is Karl Rove. Now Karl Rove does not work for the Romney campaign, of course, but he is the founder of the massive, massive pro-Romney anti-Obama super PAC, right? And as a FOX News political analyst, he gets to go on TV, like for example, earlier this year when he went on TV and analyze his own campaign ad. For FOX. Spoiler alert here is that he thought his own campaign ad was awesome and totally effective. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": Your PAC, American Crossroads, again, I`m sorry, super PAC. Not just a regular PAC. This is a super PAC. All right? Put out a recent video. KARL ROVE, AMERICAN CROSSROADS: Super PAC. O`REILLY: You bet. All right. So that`s aimed at younger voters obviously saying that you were sold a bill of goods. Didn`t happen. That`s where you`re going with that. ROVE: Yes, good. That`s -- I`m glad you got the message. It`s always good when -- (CROSSTALK) O`REILLY: And if I got it -- you know, if I got it -- everybody gets it. ROVE: Everybody gets it. Yes. There we go. O`REILLY: That`s right. That`s right. ROVE: There we go. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Karl Rove in his role as FOX News political analyst and as a major financial player in the 2012 election. Analyzing his own effect on the election. Now there are a few different ways to object to this phenomenon. All right? You can object to the idea that a purported news organization is paying people to report on and analyze their own work. They are working for a campaign and they`re also analyzing that campaign for an organization that at least still has the word news in its name and that can sometimes seem cockamamie. But you don`t have to be a liberal to be annoyed with that, right? You don`t have to be an independent news-minded person to be annoyed with that. I mean, OK, if you come from the left, there are lots of reasons you might object two things at FOX News. The fact that they are a subsidiary of the Romney campaign is surely one of the many things that could bother you about FOX News. But if you come from the right, here`s why you might object to this from the right. If you come from the right, then your network, the television network of the right, is not just having conservative-leaning news analysis. They are having the Romney campaign on TV and they are calling it conservative-leaning news analysis. Frank Rich of "New York" magazine spent the week at the Republican convention absorbing a diet of pure, unadulterated conservative media, and he came back with some surprising news from the right. Turns out that FOX News right now is as frustrating to the right as it is to the left. And the brave "we`re all behind Mitt Romney" facade of the Republican establishment does not at all reflect the conservative grassroots. Quote, "If you ventured beyond both the mainstream media and FOX, you learned it bore little resemblance to the mood of much of the right. You also learned that many in the grassroots were infuriated by the media airbrushing to put it mildly. Away from the convention stage and from the mainstream media`s coverage of it, dissension of various stripes was rife throughout the GOP coalition. If FOX doesn`t speak for the right anymore, who do they speak for? And where does the right go without FOX? Frank Rich joins us next with more insights from his weeklong embed in conservative media. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Our guest for "The Interview" tonight is our friend, Frank Rich, from "New York" magazine. Frank spent the week of the Republican convention this year immersed in conservative media to try to find out what people are really thinking and feeling and talking about right now on the right. And if you are not a hardcore conservative and you think from the outside of the conservative movement that FOX News must represent the way conservatives are talking to each other and what conservative politics are like right now and where conservatives are at in this election on how they feel about Mitt Romney, Frank`s assessment is that you would be wrong. What FOX News represents right now is the Romney campaign. Sometimes literally the Romney campaign. The campaign advisors like those you see here are on the payroll at FOX, giving you analysis of the campaign that they work for, which is very, very tidy. But the tone of the conservative more grassroots media -- big rate wing talk radio, for example -- is not just not supportive of Mitt Romney. At times it is downright nasty. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL SAVAGE, "THE SAVAGE NATION": The issue that`s troubling me is Ann Romney. I don`t like the prominence that she is taking. She is enjoying herself a little too much. She thinks she is running for office. She is not doing him a service, as far as I am concerned, by playing such a prominent role. The country club woman. You know, I`ve been around women like that all my life. I don`t like them. To be frank with you. If I don`t like him, you could just imagine what poor people are feeling. You know, Miss Perfect. DANA LOESCH, "THE DANA SHOW": As someone who`s grassroots, I really get ticked off whenever I talk about the battle between the establishment and grassroots and I`m constantly told that it doesn`t exist. I`m constantly told that no, you`re just being a drama queen. I`m told, oh no, you`re just making stuff up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. LOESCH: This -- you know, no, it`s happy, and we`re all getting along and you need to stop talking about crap like this because we`re supposed to have unity. I am told that every single week. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is a sample of what right-wing talk radio sounds like right now. Which is not at all what FOX News sounds like right now. That was Dana Loesch and Michael Savage there. This is the sort of stuff that Frank Rich is writing about today at "New York" magazine after his weeklong embed in conservative media, his piece on this is called "My Embed in Red." Frank Rich, it`s great to see you here tonight. Thanks for being here. FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Great to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: Do you feel like those were fair samples to select the terms of talking about the difference in tone you`re getting from those two different parts of the right? RICH: Completely fair. It was absolutely fascinating to me because the way I did it is I listened to all the radio all day. I watched FOX at night. And I looked at every Web sites, including some really good high- brow (INAUDIBLE) conservative Web sites, and FOX, you nailed it when -- talking about these people have double employment. FOX really is an arm of the Romney campaign. What you find listening to the grassroots is a lot of suspicion about both Romney and the GOP establishment, in general, a fury about the rules changes that were pushed through about delegate selection. Hardly covering the mainstream media early in the convention. MADDOW: We covered it but the right media didn`t -- RICH: Right. MADDOW: Didn`t like to -- right. RICH: FOX didn`t cover it. But it -- it was not just about Ron Paul people, it was across the board. And you find that there are tremendous amount of complaints. For instance, if you listen to FOX, you`d think that the only people who were criticizing Clint Eastwood were lefties and Hollywood types and Democrats. In fact, Glenn Beck did really an intentionally hilarious monologue making fun of Clint Eastwood and the idiocy of the Romney campaign to let their big night be stepped on by that 15-minute improv. You also learn that there`s a lot of skepticism about Romney and Ryan`s foreign policy. And you know a lot of what`s happened in the past since the Republican convention was predicted by conservative commentators in places like the American Conservative while the convention was going on. You find a lot of enthusiasm for Ryan, Paul Ryan as the purist of Avatar of minimal government, you know, basically, you know, fundamental conservative ideology. But fury about the fact that he dumbed-down his message at the convention. That if the left was complaining about him fudging facts or lying in his big convention speech, the right`s complaint was that Ryan was fudging conservative principles, not talking about the big ideas that they attribute to him and like. The religious right was furious about the establishment`s abandonment of Todd Akin. People like Bryan Fischer who has (INAUDIBLE) of the American Family Association. And then people were fighting with Mike Huckabee who took the same stand sort of supporting Akin. And -- so this is -- what you just played is completely typical of what I was hearing. And by the way, I would say to your audience, it`s worth listening to. Some of these people you may completely disagree with them, but they are honest. They are not spinning for like a Karl Rove on FOX or Frank Luntz on FOX. They have contempt for Frank Luntz, saying every day that every focus group likes the Republican ad better than the Democratic ad. They know it`s nonsense. They were concerned about the bad ratings the convention was getting. It`s -- I learned more about the Republicans and harsher criticisms of Republicans from the conservative media than I would from a lot of the liberal press. MADDOW: And so we -- I feel like we saw this insurgency in Republican politics, right, when the Tea Party movement became a generator of right- wing primary challengers to establishment Republican candidates. The Republican Party essentially just shifted to incorporate the right-wing protest movement which was happy to play electoral politics, and so you`ve got Jesse Benton who was, you know, Rand Paul`s campaign manager, against Mitt McConnell`s handpicked successor for that Senate seat -- RICH: Right. MADDOW: Candidate for that Senate seat in Kentucky. Now Mitch McConnell is bringing Jesse Benton on board. They just brought all those folks right on board. But that seems to not be happening in the commentary yet. And so aren`t people like the folks at FOX News risking the situation in which they are seen as the establishment and they lose all of the energy on their own side in the same way that the National Republican Senate Committee and Mitch McConnell and all these guys had to bare the brunt of their own insurgent wing in electoral politics? RICH: I think you`re right, but I think FOX -- you`re actually hitting the conundrum about FOX. In the end, it is not the Tea Party organization. It is the establishment -- MADDOW: Yes. RICH: -- of the Republican Party, it is owned by Rupert Murdoch, more or less. And so therefore, when the chips are down, they are going to go with Romney. I`m -- you know, Murdoch himself has been somewhat contemptuous of Romney on Twitter. But that`s where their economic interests are. They think -- I think the Tea Party people, the base, the grassroots have nowhere to go. I think the grassroots people would say, we have some place to go, possibly some day a third party, which of course is quixotic. But I think if Romney loses, which increasingly seems likely to me, and even if he wins, they are going to be a real night of the long knives as people fight this out. Because it is a -- it`s a really interesting story. MADDOW: Let me ask you just before we go about the Mitt Romney tape tonight. You saw us play it at the top of the hour. RICH: Yes. MADDOW: Forty-seven percent of the country who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you name it, that that`s an entitlement and the government should give it to them, and they will vote for this president no matter what. My job is not to worry about those people. I`ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. President Romney? RICH: All you can think of is that polling question they always ask, who cares more about people like you? MADDOW: Yes. (LAUGHTER) RICH: Can you wait for the next number in that matchup with Obama? MADDOW: And I will just mention, people are already voting. As of today, ballots have already been cast in North Carolina. RICH: Good timing. MADDOW: Yes. Frank Rich, writer at large for "New York" magazine, the article is called "My Embed in Red" out in the latest magazine. Frank, thanks for joining us. It`s a lot of fun to reading it. It`s super insightful. Thanks for -- RICH: Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thanks. All right, there`s one big critical area of policy that is screaming for the Mitt Romney campaign to offer a better alternative to the Obama administrations. Like the country needs a better alternative. How about something from the challenger? If only the Romney campaign could present one. That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Have you ever been inclined to vote for a Democrat? Is it because you are dependent on the government and you refuse to take personal responsibility and care for your life? When politics gets tough, sometimes politics gets weird. That is what`s going on right now. Hold on. There`s more. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: After a late night and an early morning of very bad press essentially alleging that the wheels are coming off the Mitt Romney for President campaign, today the campaign told reporters that it was changing strategy. Right. If you are seen to be in crisis, make it look like you`re taking charge, making it look like you`re moving in a whole new direction. It is important, though, to pick just one new direction to move in. Even in cleanup mode today, the Romney campaign was rudderless and chaotic telling some reporters that the new strategy was to go hard right, to talk to base voters about patriotism and god, and then telling all the reporters that the new plan is not to go hard right, but to go very specific. They won`t be talking about patriotism and god. They`ll be talking about policy. Will they offer any new specifics to show how this new Romney campaign would operate? No, no, new specifics today, but we promise we`re going to get specific or we`re going to go non-specific and very right-wring. Or whatever, we have no idea. Ideally, elections are a way we solve problems in this country. The country has challenges, candidates put forward competing ideas for how to address those challenges and then we the people decide between those choices. It is a crude form of decision-making for how to move forward as a country, but it is what we`ve got. And when real national life or death challenges get ignored or skipped in an election, we lose out as a country on the chance to debate competing ideas for how to fix those problems. And right now, we really need to have a debate between real and robust and serious and well-informed competing ideas about how to solve a big problem that we have as a country because it`s a big problem and what we are doing right now is not working. On Friday in southern Afghanistan three coordinated teams of insurgents wearing American army uniforms infiltrated a heavily fortified NATO military base called Camp Bastion. It`s received more press than these things usually do because Britain`s Prince Harry was on that base at the time of the attack. But regardless of the freaking royalty, consider that it was a big group of insurgents, reportedly more than a dozen. They were not wearing Afghan uniforms, they were reportedly wearing American uniforms. They killed two U.S. Marines, they wounded nine other personnel, eventually 14 of the attackers were killed, but not before they caused all of that human damage and not before they destroyed what`s said to be $200 million worth of equipment. Six Harrier jets destroyed, two damaged, six aircraft hangars and six fueling stations all destroyed. $200 million worth of equipment. They were reportedly armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers and explosives. That attack happened on Friday. Again, on a very well-fortified NATO base. Also on Friday, separate incident, an Afghan police officer shot and killed two British soldiers. And on Sunday, another incident in Zabul Province. A group of Afghan police officers shot and killed four American soldiers. Four. Eight coalition troops killed in three day days. At least six of them killed by the Afghan Security forces whose training is the justification for our continued presence in that war. Today U.S. military officials telling NBC News that most joint U.S.- Afghan military operations are now suspended until further notice. It had previously been reported that they be suspended for a couple of days, but now we`re told that the suspension is indefinite. One U.S. official telling NBC, quote, "It could be three days or three months." A senior military official explaining the change by telling NBC, quote, "We`re to the point now where we can`t trust these people. And we`re not willing to take a chance right now." The reason that young American men and women, talented, ambitious, accomplished American men and women in the prime of their lives are tonight, right now, risking being killed thousands of miles away is because of the value that American policymakers have put on the mission to train Afghan forces and those joint combat patrols that have all now been called off indefinitely. If there`s a need for a debate about anything in American politics right now, it would seem that there is a need for a debate about that. You`re looking for something to get specific about, Mr. Romney? How about trying to get specific about this? I know. Fat chance. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There was some great news for the Mitt Romney campaign today. It was a great news day for them. You want to know why? A Tea Party linked group is now in the process of challenging the eligibility of nearly 800,000 voters in the swing state in Ohio. We`ll have more on that in just a second but that is the big news for the Romney campaign today and it may be all the good news that they can get on a day when everything else is as much against them as it has ever been since this campaign started. We are now officially at the point in the campaign where some errors cannot be reversed. Where each day`s news cycle can be decisive for some voters. Because each day from here on out some voters are voting. As of right now people are casting their votes for president by mail. North Carolina, obviously an important swing state this year, North Carolina is first this year in terms of allowing their residents to vote. "The Hill" reporting today that several hundred North Carolina ballots have already been returned to local elections officials there. But voters in Indiana and Kentucky will also now start to get their ballots which means that people can start voting in those states now as well. While the headlines about the Mitt Romney for President campaign looked like this. "Politico," "Inside the Campaign, How Mitt Romney Stumbled." The "New York Times," "Amid Discord Romney Seeks to Sharpen Message." "The Hill," "Republican Lawmakers Say Romney Campaign Needs to Change Course.", "Romney in Panic Mode.", "Romney Campaign in Disarray, Says Romney Campaign." More from "Politico," "Mitt Romney Abruptly Shifts Strategy. Blogs Pounced on Mitt Romney`s Stumbles." The "Washington Post", "The Romney Campaign is in Trouble." It`s not like the Mitt Romney campaign didn`t look like it was in trouble before today. But what is driving this particularly, overwhelmingly viciously negative news cycle for them is that now people who work on the campaign are talking to reporters. Most notably in that "Politico" story. They`re talking to reporters about each other and about Mitt Romney. Explaining who it is that they blame for the fact that they are losing so badly right now. One Romney campaign advisor telling "Politico" this about Mitt Romney`s top strategist Stuart Stevens, quote, "I always have this impression Stuart must save his best stuff for meetings I`m not important enough to attend." The campaign is filled with people who spend a lot of their time either avoiding him or resisting him. Then there`s the criticism of the candidate himself. Quote, "Romney associates are baffled that such a successful cooperate leader has created a team with so few lines of authority or accountability." You would expect a little of this from political professionals when their campaign is running behind. They sort of work the press against each other a little bit so that they don`t get blamed for the failure. But you do not expect the candidate himself to get attacked by his staffers who are still working as his staffers. And you do not expect so much of the fire to be trained on the top guy in the campaign who is not being fired by the campaign. He`s being kept in place. You`re supposed to pick a scapegoat who`s leaving. So is this just the kind of thing that happens in every campaign? Is this a non- substantive process freak-out being driven by the beltway press or is this something real? Well, 50 days out from the election, the headlines make it seems like the wheels have completely come off Mitt Romney and he`s losing badly. But the longer view is usually the wiser view in politics. And looking at the data, looking at the fundamentals, there`s usually a better way to grasp the longer view than just looking at one catastrophic day of headlines and one tough news cycle. So look at this. Here`s the swing state and the maybe swing state map, and here`s the latest polling that we have from the last few days in each of these swing states. In New Hampshire President Obama now leading by five points. In Virginia President Obama also leading by five points. In North Carolina it`s Mitt Romney by six points. In Florida it`s President Obama with a two-point lead. In Pennsylvania, President Obama with an 11-point lead. In Ohio, President Obama leading by seven points. In Wisconsin it`s Mr. Obama by two points. In Colorado it`s Mr. Obama by one point. In Nevada, the president leading by three points. Are you noticing a trend? How about this? In terms of the issues on which voters are now deciding this race, those also look good for the president. A brand new "New York Times"/CBS poll shows that President Obama is erasing Mitt Romney`s edge when it comes to who voters trust more on the economy. Among Latino voters, Mr. Romney had been at 26 percent among Latino voters then he went up to 30 percent after the Republican convention, now he is back down to 26 percent. President Obama has a 42-point lead right now among Latino voters. Forty-two. When you look at the biggest possible picture, the national Gallup Daily Tracking poll, President Obama is now up by three points nationally. So when you look at all of those things together, you can understand why people who want President Obama to be re-elected are feeling like things are going their way. But if you want to be realistic about this, you want a real, not just gut check, but a well-informed perspective on what`s going on here, there`s one dynamic and two numbers that you need to sort of get your head around. The dynamic is that those polls do say one thing when you look at them as a snapshot, just a moment in time. But it really makes more sense to look at them in motion. To look at how they`re changing over time. To look at the trends they represent. And that Gallup poll, that national number right now, sure, it does have President Obama leading by three points, but over the last few days that number has shrunk. It was a six-point lead late last week and now it is a three-point lead. So yes, he has still got a lead but it is a lead that is contracting, not a lead that is expanding. Now that`s the dynamic that is at work right now nationally in the Gallup poll. Now I said there was a dynamic and two numbers. I`ve got two numbers for you. The first one is about money. We reported a couple of weeks ago that Mitt Romney and the Republicans have raised more money in the month of May than Obama and the Democrats did. Romney and the Republican did that again in June and they did that again in July. And in August, they did not do that. They did not. President Obama and the Democrats outraised Mitt Romney and the Republicans in August which was unexpected development and one that made Obama supporters feel very good. But NBC News today looked at the data of what money is actually being spent and by whom, and it turns out that actually most of the money that is being spent to try to elect Mitt Romney president is not being spent by Mitt Romney`s campaign or by the Republicans. Most of the money that`s being spent to elect Mitt Romney is being spent by outside groups. Most of what`s being spent for Mitt Romney is outside money and most of the outside money overall in the whole country is pro-Romney. Here`s the number. Look. Seventy-five percent. Of all of the outside money being spent in the election so far, 75 percent of it is pro-Romney money. Seventy-five percent. So yes, compare the campaigns, but don`t miss the big picture. If you believe that money makes a difference as to who wins elections, that is bottomless mostly untraceable money from deep-pocketed donors who can give infinitely again and again and again. And when those kinds of donors are giving, 75 percent of that money is pro-Romney. One last number in terms of realistically assessing the state of the race right now. Getting real about this. It is the number I mentioned at the top of this segment, 730,000. A Tea Party linked group called the Ohio Voter Integrity Project says it will challenge the eligibility of 730,000 registered voters in Ohio. Nearly one out of every 10 voters in Ohio is going to have their registration challenged by this Tea Party associated group. The "Cincinnati Inquirer" now reporting on how the group has been testing the waters by trying to get voters thrown off the rolls in Butler County and in Hamilton County in Ohio. But the group says that nationwide they`re moving statewide against more than 700,000 people in Ohio to keep them from voting. So, realistically. Today was probably the worst day ever in terms of press and in terms of panic in the Mitt Romney campaign. And that was all before David Corn and "Mother Jones" and Huffington Post and then NBC News and all sorts of people posted the video of Mitt Romney saying that 47 percent of the country are dependent on the government and looking for a handout essentially and he`s not concerned about them because they can`t be persuaded to vote for anybody other than Barack Obama because they can`t be persuaded to take personal responsibility for their lives. That was before all that happened. It was already their worst day yet. And now we are 50 days out. And people are already voting. And there`s President Obama today in Ohio and there`s Mitt Romney talking to a Latino audience under the shadow of a 42-point gap by which he is losing Latino voters right now. It all looks really bad for the Republicans right now. But not that bad. And not bad at all if likely Democratic voters in the swing states just don`t get to vote this year. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Now it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell who has been on a tear lately. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END