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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/17/12

Guests: Dan Rather, Shannon O`Brien

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: And I want to say that I had no problems sleeping last night. How about you? (LAUGHTER) RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I slept very soundly last night. In part because I was so wrung out. It was fun to watch, wasn`t it? As a debate? SCHULTZ: It was fun to watch. It was -- you know, the look of the president last night was so totally different. The look in his eye, his demeanor, his intensity, very impressive in his game, no doubt. MADDOW: Your intensity today, when you sung out the word "fumble" in your E-block tonight, I was like, oh, yes, I`m still feeling it. It`s great, man. Thanks, Ed. It`s great. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. You know, winning a debate is not the same as winning an election. And common wisdom holds that winning even all the debates doesn`t necessarily guarantee that you will win the elections. It may not even help you very much at all. But after the big bump in the polls that Mitt Romney got after his dominant performance in the first presidential debate this year, all eyes right now are on whether last night`s debate win by President Obama will similarly move the needle. We are three weeks out from Election Day. But people are voting now, right? People are voting early and by absentee ballot, across the country, including in the swing states. And the early word is pretty good for the president. I mean, every snap poll taken after last night`s debate showed President Obama as the winner of the debate. The polling outfit PPP even did a swing state specific snap poll in Colorado. PPP is generally seen as a slightly Democratic leaning firm, but their sample for their Colorado voters watching the debate last night actually skewed a little bit conservative. And those Colorado voters overall thought President Obama won. Even better for the Obama campaign, the margin of victory for the president was particularly large among the independents who were watching that debate, which is exactly who the president wants to be winning over. You know, it`s funny, one of the things we have learned over the course of this campaign is that Mr. Romney doesn`t like to do stuff the morning after big events. At least, they don`t like to have big, public events planned for Mr. Romney after big events. I mean, traditionally, candidates see, and campaigns see big marquis events like debates or conventions as springboards for the next day`s public attention and momentum. But the Romney campaign is not like that. After his convention, Mr. Romney did not do a traditional bus tour or barn storming campaign trip. After his convention, you will recall that Mr. Romney went on vacation. Mr. Romney, even after he had such a big win at the first presidential debate, he did not have any big, morning after the debate rallies or anything. He went and did an event that was off his public schedule, but nobody knew for sure he would be anywhere, and there wasn`t a big crowd of people around him while he was rallying the troops to his big win. It was a very quiet morning. And then again today, after the second presidential debate, Mr. Romney did no public events in the morning. I mean, I don`t know if it means anything important, but it is an unusual choice for this candidate that no other modern candidate has done. And Mr. Romney, it wasn`t just a fluke. He keeps doing it after big events. That said, Mr. Romney did not take the whole day off today. This afternoon, he did a rally in Virginia and then he stayed in Virginia for the day to do another Virginia rally tonight. On the Democratic side, Vice President Joe Biden did an early afternoon rally in Greeley, Colorado, today. He was very fired up at that rally. Vice President Biden is campaigning tonight at an event in Reno, Nevada. The Republican side, the vice presidential nominee there, Paul Ryan, he was out and about in the morning today. They put him out well before they put Mitt Romney out. And specifically, they put Paul Ryan out at a photo op and at a rally, with Condoleezza Rice. You know, there are a lot of former George W. Bush administration officials advising the Romney campaign. But even they, you would think, would be sort of cognizant of how people view that administration, right? You think they would recognize that there is a little political peril in trying to underscore to a country that is really paying attention right now that everybody should expect a lot of continuity between the George W. Bush years and a Romney presidency. If you like the George W. Bush years and you miss all those folks, like Condoleezza Rice, don`t worry, if you elect Romney, you`ll see more of them again. This came up last night in what I thought was a brilliant question from one of the audience members at that debate at Hofstra, and it got right at the central problem that the Republicans have been coping with now for the better part of the decade, since the country`s support for Bush and Cheney just cratered during the George W. Bush second term. I mean, the greatest show on earth has been the Republican Party figuring out who it is after Bush and Cheney. The Republican Party figuring out if they are like Bush and Cheney or if there`s something they learned from those years they don`t want to do anymore. Are they any different from Bush and Cheney? Who`s the new leadership of the party and what do they stand for that`s different than the Bush and Cheney years? It`s a really vexing political quandary for the Republicans. It`s been amazing to watch them try to work it out. They still haven`t totally worked it out. But that all made for a very good pointed question at last night`s debate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CANDY CROWLEY, DEBATE MODERATOR: I want to move us along to Susan Katz, who has a question. And, Governor, it`s for you. SUSAN KATZ, UNDECIDED VOTER: Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter because I`m disappointed with the lack of progress I`ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America`s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration. Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes. Great question. A question that nobody had any idea how Romney was going to answer it. This is why town hall is such a great format. You get real people asking direct questions, that the campaigns do not want to talk about, and that the Beltway press maybe hasn`t been focused on, but they are questions that are really on regular people`s minds. And to Mr. Romney`s credit, he did not try to evade that question. He did try to answer this question by pointing out differences between himself and President Bush. He said that the first difference between him and George W. Bush is that he, Mitt Romney, would make us, he said, North America, actually. He said, he would make us energy independent. He, Mitt Romney, unlike George W. Bush, would promise to get America totally independent from foreign sources of oil. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We`ve got to become independent from foreign sources of oil. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mr. Romney also distinguished himself from George W. Bush by saying, unlike President Bush, he, Mitt Romney, would expand trade in Latin America. He said, unlike President Bush, he, Mitt Romney, could promise more free trade with nations in Latin America. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: Our goal will be free trade agreements with all the nations of Latin America. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: See, that`s what Mitt Romney is promising, which is totally different from George W. Bush promising the exact same thing. The kicker, though, and this one really has to sting a little bit for the Republicans, is that Mitt Romney said last night that he would promise to balance the budget. Something President Bush never did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: First, we must balance the federal budget. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: See, Susan Katz of Hempstead, New York, doesn`t that set your mind at ease about how Mitt Romney is going nothing like George W. Bush? It is -- I realize this is not a question the Beltway press has been asking, but do you really think that nobody in the country, nobody at the town hall debate was going to ask this? This wasn`t on people`s minds. It is hard to believe that the Romney for president campaign has yet to think about something that they might say, that might hold up to any scrutiny at all to distinguish themselves from Bush. To distinguish what they`re offering from what the last Republican to hold the office of president to offer the country. The Bush/Cheney overhang is so ominous in Republican politics, in terms of the country being willing to trust a Republican again in the White House, that you think they would have had to come up with some explanation for how Mitt Romney would be different than Bush, other than Mitt Romney pledging to do all the same things that Bush pledged to do. And then after Mr. Romney got his turn, President Obama took hold of that knife that Mr. Romney had shoved between his own shoulder blades and the president turned that knife 90 degrees. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, there are some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. Heck, George Bush didn`t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform. He didn`t call for self- deportation. George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. So, there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they`re not on economic policy. In some ways, he`s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy. And I think that`s a mistake. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Any further discussion, gentleman? No. From there, they moved on. The George W. Bush question, settled. For undecided voters, who very reasonably might be worrying about putting another Republican in the White House, since the last guy was George W. Bush, this is what was ringing in your ears last night if you`ve ever thought about that problem. And actually, in terms of the day two coverage, or even the late, late night coverage after the debate wrapped up last night, in terms of fact- checking that whole exchange, George W. Bush in turns out did hint at privatizing Medicare, which the president referenced there. George W. Bush did hint at that, but he did not go as far as Mitt Romney did, which is to put the guy responsible for the kill Medicare budget on the ticket as his vice presidential nominee. So, think about that as a political point. The fact check just twists the knife further, for Romney, it just makes it worse. All the promises you say differentiate yourself from Bush are things that Bush promised too. And the president points out, all the places that you say you are actually worse, all the places where you are actually worse than Bush on social policy. But then the second day story is that, actual, Bush is even worse than we remember him being on social policy and Romney turns out to be worse even then that. So if you are among the roughly 3,000 percent of American who is do not remember the Bush/Cheney years fondly, then what happened last night, in front of 65 million people, in terms of knitting Mitt Romney to George W. Bush, in ways that he self-inflicted, and ways that were further inflicted upon him by the president without rebuttal, it`s just disastrous. Big picture question, do we want another Republican president after George W. Bush? That was the answer last night. I`m proposing all the same things. I`m worse on social policy. Some of the stuff you forgot that wasn`t that bad about Bush, we are going to remind you about that now, and I am worse than that. And what`s the big next event in the campaign? Foreign policy debate -- where Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have precisely zero experience between them combined and 17 of the campaign`s 24 announced advisers on foreign policy are Bush foreign policy people. And President Obama has frankly not even hit Mitt Romney yet for the way his foreign policy apes the catastrophic foreign policy of the Bush/Cheney years. I mean, the Romney campaign knows that punch is coming, right? How do they inoculate themselves against that? How does the Romney/Ryan campaign protect itself against the other shoe that everybody knows is about to drop, which is the withering allegation that if you squint at Romney and Ryan on foreign policy, what you know you`re going to get is act two of the Bush and Cheney foreign policy. What`s their defense on that? Really? Paul Ryan does a photo op today with Condoleezza Rice? Was Paul Wolfowitz not available? Yes, they had Paul Ryan go to a Cleveland Brown football practice with Condoleezza Rice today in Ohio, a practice at which Paul Ryan misidentified the Cleveland Browns quarterback and called him by the wrong name in front of a whole bunch of reporters. That the Cleveland paper noted, quote, "Ryan pleaded for mercy when he realized his mistake." But look, I`m here with the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud lady from the Bush-Cheney years. Remember the war in Iraq? McCoy, is that your name? President Obama today, for his post-debate campaigning, went first to Iowa, where thanks to last night, he was able to add to his standard stump speech a whole new riff about women and why women should vote Democratic. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: When young women graduate, they should get equal pay for equal work. That should be a simple question to answer. (APPLAUSE) When Governor Romney was asked about it, his campaign said, "We`ll get back to you". That shouldn`t be a complicated question, equal pay for equal work. I want my daughters paid just like somebody else`s sons are paid for the same job. That`s straight forward. (APPLAUSE) Now, I`ve got to say, last night, Governor Romney`s top adviser finally admitted, no, the governor didn`t really support that bill. You don`t have to wait for an answer from me. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill I signed into law as president, the first bill. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, an update on that riff, actually. What the president just said there about Mitt Romney`s top adviser, admitting last night that Mitt Romney was actually against the fair pay act for women. That is true. Ed Gillespie said that on Mitt Romney`s behalf last night. But then, update, today the campaign changed its mind and said, never mind, no, no, no, Mitt Romney is not against fair pay for women. Of course, Paul Ryan voted against it in Congress. The Romney campaign used to say it did not know Mr. Romney`s position on the subject. Last night, Mr. Romney himself refused to give a position, then the campaign said last night that he was against it, now today, they say that he`s not against it, but he wouldn`t repeal it. So maybe that means he`s fine with it. Everybody clear on that? The president went on today to talk about Mr. Romney`s policies on contraception, another area where Mr. Romney`s campaign is just an impenetrable mess. He got a big round of applause last night for saying -- sorry, Mr. Obama got a big round of applause at his speech today for saying that nobody should be able to interfere with a woman`s access to contraception. Again, like the connection between Romney and George W. Bush, and like the basic question of supporting or not supporting fair pay for women, the most amazing thing is not that the Romney campaign`s position on this subject is any particular thing. But the fact that it`s not any particular thing. The fact that mapping their position on this relatively straightforward subject looks like a Jackson Pollack painting -- I mean, this is not drip art. This is a simple issue. Tens of millions of American women right now, who have health insurance, do not have to pay extra for contraceptives under their health plans. And insurance regulation says if contraception something you want, you do not have to pay extra for it, above your premiums. It`s covered under what you pay for your premiums. Millions of American women are covered by that. That is because of President Obama. What is the Mitt Romney position on that? Well, I`m glad you asked. Do you have a second or an hour? When Republicans decided to make this new regulation an issue back in the spring, Mitt Romney was asked then, do you think your boss should be able to block you from having access to contraception? And Mr. Romney recoiled from that question. He said, no, he was not for that bill. That very same day, though, later on, he was reminded that, actually, it was his Republican Party that was promoting this legislation that says, your boss really should be able to block your access to contraception, and he was supposed to be all on board with that. So then he said, oh, of course, I`m in favor of your boss being able to block your birth control access. I didn`t understand the question. But then President Obama last night pointed out that that was Mitt Romney`s position, and Mitt Romney totally denied that that was his position. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured, because this is not just a health issue, it`s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family`s pocket. Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that, in fact, employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That`s not the kind of advocacy that women need. ROMNEY: I don`t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don`t believe employers should tell someone whether they should have contraceptive care or not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, you do believe that. At least that is your policy position. Remember? I mean, you can see the wheels turning in his head. Man, that sounds awful. I would never support that. Would I? Would I support that? Yes, governor. Yes, you would support that. This is your policy position. Your boss decides whether or not you get access to contraceptions under your health insurance. And the fact that you can`t remember it or that you can remember it, but you don`t understand that not only is that your position, but it`s the kind of position that people pay attention to, because it freaks people out, and a lot of people are focused on it in this election, and maybe you ought to figure out how to say one thing or the other about it, and not both things all at once, denying your positions. I mean, this is the incredible thing about the Romney campaign. That is what is so strange. In this campaign at this late date, everybody can understand the concept of two people, running against each other, on an issue on which they disagree. Everybody can grasp a politician holding, for some reason or another, a political view that is unpopular and that is going to be difficult to defend. But he or she is going to learn to defend it anyway. What is new and weird and hard to believe and that I don`t think we have much precedent for, in fact, it is hard to believe it`s true, until you see it in motion, and in an incredible debate, like we had last night, what is new and true and strange is a campaign and a politician that cannot be bothered to come up with real positions that the candidate believes. That the campaign admits to, and that everybody, at least, pretends to understand. Dan Rather joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The one and only Dan Rather joins us here live, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) OBAMA: Let`s recap what we learned last night. His tax plan doesn`t add up. His jobs plan doesn`t create jobs. His deficit reduction plan adds to the deficit. So Iowa, you know, everybody here has heard of the New Deal. You`ve heard of the fair deal. You`ve heard of the square deal. Mitt Romney`s trying to sell you a sketchy deal. ROMNEY: I just think that the American people had expected that the president of the United States would be able to describe what he`s going to do in the next four years, but he can`t. He can`t even explain what he`s done in the last four years. I mean, he spends most of his time trying to talking about how my plan won`t work. Well, what about his plan? (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: That`s President Barack Obama in Iowa and Mitt Romney in Virginia at campaign rallies today, continuing the fight from last night -- or trying to. Joining us tonight is Dan Rather, the host of "Dan Rather Reports" on AXS TV. Thank you for being here. It`s nice to have you here. DAN RATHER, AXS TV: Always glad to be here. MADDOW: The first debate was a big and consequential win for Governor Romney. That tracks with the history of challengers beating incumbents in first debates. How do you think President Obama`s sort of rebound performance last night stacks up historically? RATHER: The very impressive part for no other reason, this reason -- I can`t think of another president who has demonstrated that he could absorb criticism, accept it, and say, "You know, they`re right." And then study what it takes to come back and then come back strongly with optimism and strength, as President Obama did last night. You have to go back, at least as far as President Eisenhower to find a president who publicly did that. I think he has a hard time finding anyone who did it privately. MADDOW: You know, it strikes me hearing you say that before and I have not thought of this. But in early interviews that President Obama did, as president-elect and in the first year of his presidency, one of the things that he would use as a criticism of the Bush administration was that there was no critical feedback loop. That there was no way for them to change based on criticism. And he kept referencing that when interviewers weren`t bringing it up as a way of saying what he thought was wrong with the previous administration. I think we`re seeing it now. (CROSSTALK) RATHER: And I think he can do it, he did it here. I don`t think that his win last night, I cast it this way, that President Obama won more than Mitt Romney lost. Mitt Romney had his moments, and didn`t do all that badly. We`ll see what the polls say. But I don`t expect -- Romney got about a four to six-point bounce out of what the newspapers say the drubbing in Denver. But this heavy night at Hofstra, I expect President Obama to get a modest bounce out of this, maybe in the order of two points, two and a half points, and the polls won`t play completely out, because, after all, we have the foreign policy debate coming up next Monday night. So we`ll have another set of polls at that time. The race right now has been as hot as a burning stump for a long time. Last night put kerosene on that. The race is still close, very close by anybody`s estimation. The key, as we said before, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. Governor Romney, partly because he`s bounced from the last debate, seems to have pulled up at least even, probably a little ahead in Florida. Virginia, almost dead even. But President Obama clings to a whisper close lead in Ohio. Now, if you do the Electoral College math, it`s very hard to see how Romney can win, if he doesn`t win at least two, and he probably needs three, all three of those states, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. On the other hand, if President Obama can just win Ohio, he`s probably going to win the election. MADDOW: One of the reasons that I think the vice presidential debate was very fun to watch and last night was very fun to watch, they were just good debates, that they covered a lot of other ground that hasn`t really been trod in this campaign. And I think last night in particular, we got to a bunch of issues asked by those voters in the audience that are the kind of things that undecided voters might be hung up on, even if the Beltway press hasn`t. Things like differences between you and George W. Bush. I didn`t much like Obama, but I really didn`t like the last Republican president, how are you different? I -- you saw my introduction there. I was struck by the fact that Mr. Romney chose to put Condoleezza Rice out on the campaign trail today after that whole discussion. What did you make of that? RATHER: This is a puzzler. On the night after -- a few hours after the candidate who is trying to separate himself from President George W. Bush, the very next morning, at an early event, up comes President Bush`s principal foreign policy adviser, Condoleezza Rice, with his vice presidential candidate. Somebody in the campaign, Romney campaign, has got to be asking, whose idea was that? Now, there are plenty of people, not all of them Democrats, who are saying, you`re more likely to see the return of a woolly mammoth than you are to see Romney able to separate himself completely from the George W. Bush record. But since he`s trying so hard to do that, why send Condoleezza Rice out first thing the next morning. It makes no sense to me. MADDOW: That was the morning. And then in the afternoon, the Romney campaign made a big announcement about their new military adviser`s group. And the headline name that they put out, front and center, the marquee name from that group would get reports in every article was Tommy Franks, the general from the initial invasion of Iraq, from the Bush administration in 2003. I mean, I don`t -- I wonder if they`re playing a game of chess here that I can`t see. That they think there`s something good about associating themselves with the Bush foreign policy? Or the Iraq war, specifically? RATHER: Listen, Governor Romney has some good advisers around him. It`s a puzzle to me, whether you like candidate Romney or not, he has some good advisers around him. And these things, trotting out Condoleezza Rice, trotting out Tommy Franks, which tie him directly to the Bush administration simply do not make any sense. Having said that, Rachel, I thought this was a great debate last night. I went through the historical record and have seen all of the televised debates. This was, I think, the best single debate that we`ve had in the history of the television debates and the three debates, the two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, as a threesome, are by far the best series of debates that we`ve had. It`s rather encouraging. The format last night worked. I did like the idea that real people were asking real questions. The best question of the night, you`ve already said, was the women who said, look, I`ve got my concerns about you, about President Obama. But you, Governor Romney, I want to know how you explain the difference between you and President George Bush. Best question of the night. MADDOW: Absolutely. And I think the best question thus far, I think Candy Crowley deserves credit for choosing good questions. RATHER: I`m glad you raised that. Candy Crowley, you know the Republicans believe they lost the debate last night when they start whining about the referee. And let the record show that Candy Crowley brought, she brought honor to the whole business of moderating, she honored the profession of journalism. She did her job. You don`t have to be a Republican or Democrat or a Muslim (ph) to acknowledge that she did a good job. And the fact that Republicans are whining about it tells you they pretty much know they lost. Maybe a modest loss, but a loss. MADDOW: Dan Rather, it is an honor for us to have you here. Anytime you want to be here. Thank you so much, sir. RATHER: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks so much. MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. After last night, how long did you think you`d have to wait for the inevitable video of women standing on the steps of the Ohio Republican Party`s headquarters dressed up like binders? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CROWD: Equal rights not binders! Equal rights not binders! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There it is. We knew it was coming, and there you go. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CROWD: Equal pay, not binders. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Very exciting. More ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: After last night`s debate, after what was, I think, a pretty clear win for President Obama, what seems to worry the Romney campaign the most is the meme that sprung from Mr. Romney`s weird reference towards binders full of women. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I went to a number of women`s groups and said, can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And so as the Obama campaign launched a Web site at bindersfullofwomen.com and a million Tumblrs were born, texts from Hillary, LOL, to the very idea that Mitt Romney was still using binders and there was the Facebook page and there was the video game that I`m not really sure how you win, but it works kind of like the Atari game Kaboom, and there was the Twitter feed for Mr. Romney`s binders. Of course, as all of that was happening last night and today, the Romney campaign fired up their patented meme doubling machine. They tried to make it seem like President Obama was the one with the big, embarrassing binder problem. The Republican Party put out this picture of a binder, an empty binder and said, this is President Obama`s binder, his binder of policies. See how it`s empty?! See, Obama`s the one with the hilarious binder! Did you hear a binder thing from the debate! It was a thing about Obama! This is insane, right? But this is what they do. This is their trick, meme doubling. War on women? Your war on women. The overall problem here is that Mr. Romney brought up the binder story as a way of avoiding answering a very direct question on policy, which was: does he support fair pay for women? His running mate, after all, voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the campaign`s first response to a question about that policy, when asked by "Huffington Post`s` Sam Stein, the response was memorably noncommittal. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Does Governor Romney support the Lilly Ledbetter Act? ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Sam, we`ll get back to you on that. (END AUDI CLIP) MADDOW: That was six months ago. Last night, this was still an unanswered question. Would Mitt Romney support Fair Pay Act for women? We know his running mate was against it. Is he for it? Mr. Romney gave no answer about the policy at the debate. That`s when he instead wandered off into the now-infamous binders anecdote. His campaign followed up last night. Senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie said, quote, "Mitt Romney was opposed to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Act at the time." But then today, about 12 hours later, the campaign sent out another change, in the form of a correction from Mr. Gillespie saying, no, no, no, "I was wrong when I said last night Governor Romney opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, he never weighed in on it." So the problem for Mr. Romney last night, it was for the purpose of avoiding a question, or a direct statement about that policy that Mr. Romney wandered into his crazy anecdote about binders full of women. He thought apparently that was safer territory than actually addressing the policy. That was the problem last night. The problem for him today is that even the awkwardly distracting anecdote about binders turns out to be poison for him. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I went to a number of women`s groups and said, can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Which was very uncomfortable. Joining us now for the interview is Shannon O`Brien. She ran against Mitt Romney in the 2002 Massachusetts governor`s race. That was a race, of course, that Mr. Romney won. Shannon O`Brien, thank you for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have you back. SHANNON O`BRIEN (D-MA), ROMNEY`S RIVAL FOR GOVERNOR IN `02: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: That `02 campaign is at the heart of today`s debunking, if you will, of the binders thing. Can you explain to us what was going on in 2002 at that time that Governor Romney was talking about last night? O`BRIEN: Well, it was fascinating for me to listen to that story. I called on another one of Mitt`s Massachusetts myths. And he`s made himself the shining knight. The fact is, there was a group, MassGAP, which is the Government Appointments Project, put together by a number of bipartisan women`s groups. At the time there were approximately, I don`t know, 30 percent of women in high-ranking positions in that administration. And this group got together and demanded, frankly, of me and of Mitt Romney that we make a pledge, that we pledge to bring more women into, whether it was my or his administration. So we actually signed, I think he did too, signed the pledge. So when he goes and says that he was out finding all these women, the fact is, the women beat on our doors and said, take these binders. So, at least the binders, I think, was truthful. MADDOW: But the binders -- so you`re saying, just so I get this right, it`s not that Mitt Romney realized that all of his cabinet, potential appointees, as he mentioned last night, were too male in terms of the pool, and he needed -- he sent people back to go find binders full of women in order to change the gender makeup of the people he was considering for his cabinet. You`re saying that you guys were both offered these binders before you were ever in a position of appointing anybody? O`BRIEN: I`m saying that I`m sure the things that was delivered to him may well have been in a Staples binder, was these groups had a discussion with both candidates well before he got sworn in in January. So these people were putting together resumes and women who had the right credentials to serve in some of these high-ranking positions. So the real absurdity is that he said he looked around and that he personally went out and met with groups to go out and find these women, as if this was some sort of affirmative, good act on his part, of him standing up for women. It just really is not that truthful. MADDOW: So people were standing up for women, it just wasn`t him who was initiating it? O`BRIEN: It was the bipartisan women`s groups who were standing up for women. And the good news is he actually did appoint women to his administration. So he can get a little bit of credit for that. MADDOW: Sure. Well, did he put in place any actual policies in terms of benefiting working women, affirmative action for women, the kinds of things that were being discussed last night? O`BRIEN: Not so much. Well, I`m not really aware of any policies. When he first came into office, he did have something like 40 percent, 42 percent of the people in some of the higher ranking positions in his administration. But by the time we got to the end of his gubernatorial term, he had lost interest in governing Massachusetts. He was already off running for president, or at least staking that out. And so, the numbers had shot back down to 25 percent, frankly lower than what the previous administration had. So he lost interest, and I guess maybe the women in his administration lost interest too, because they left. MADDOW: So he did have a high initial number female appointees, but they fled when his administration sort of pooped out toward the end? O`BRIEN: Well, again, it was 30 percent before he got there, 42 percent when he launched, and we the time he left, it was something like 25 percent women. MADDOW: Shannon O`Brien who ran against Mitt Romney in the `02 Massachusetts governor`s race, and who now has a national role in telling what it was like in Massachusetts at that time. Thank you for helping us understand this tonight. Really appreciate it. O`BRIEN: Thanks. MADDOW: All right. Mitt Romney`s worst moment last night -- I mean, really, really bad, concerned an issue on which the right were absolutely sure they had President Obama nailed into the debate. Now that the right turns out to be the nailee instead of the nailer, boy are they mad about it. And that brings out bad behavior. And that is straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It seemed too strange to be true when Mitt Romney embraced Donald Trump after Donald Trump became a full-time birther, questioning whether President Obama was secretly foreign. It seems too strange to be true, even though it was true. What is stranger than that is who is on the Mitt Romney campaign plane today. Hold on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When Mitt Romney got on his campaign plane today to go do some post-debate events in Virginia, a reporter at Politico.com named Dylan Byers noticed a very surprising sight on the Mitt Romney campaign plane. It`s this guy. The Romney campaign has apparently credentialed as a member of the press corps to travel with Governor on board his plane this guy, from "World Net Daily". That`s the Web site that has done all of the exclusive reporting about President Obama`s birth certificate. At the "World Net Daily" super store, you can still buy the "where`s the real birth certificate?" yard sign. But maybe now that Jerome Corsi`s book on "where`s the Obama certificate" is down to 78 cents on Amazon.com, Mr. Corsi has moved on into a new conspiracy theory about President Obama, which is that the president is secretly gay. Actually I should say secretly gay married. I should secretly gay married to a whole bunch of different guys who he killed because he`s a secretly gay married murderer. Also, the ring he wears says he`s a Muslim and he`s gay married and he`s a murderer. That`s Jerome Corsi. The Romney campaign credentialed Jerome Corsi today and put him on the campaign plane with the candidate. But, you know, honestly, the "World Net Daily" web site kind of sucks now. It`s always been -- but now that they`ve tried to move on from the birth certificate conspiracy to the new conspiracy theory about Obama being secretly gay married, it`s clear that it`s really just not giving them the same juice that it used to. They`re not pushing that many stories, nobody is really linking to them. The best stuff in their super store now is all about how to protect themselves from home invasions. I mean, it`s just sad. It`s clear they`re not able to energize as many people as they used to with their crazy conspiracies. And I think that`s because of what feels good about a good conspiracy theory, what gives conspiracy theorists their appeal. Like in the case of the birth certificate, right, what those folks were saying, Donald Trump and "World Net Daily" and Orly Taitz, and Joe Arpaio and Steve King and all the rest of them, what they were claiming, even if you didn`t follow all the steps about Kenya and the grandmother and the newspaper and how the infant must have been moved and the pre-planning and all that stuff with it, even if you didn`t follow all the steps, ultimately what they were selling you was the basic idea that President Obama is not actually president. He is secretly foreign. He is ineligible therefore to hold office. So therefore even though it seems like we`ve got this man as president -- feel better, he`s not really president. He`s not eligible to hold the office. So he`s secretly not holding the office. Don`t you feel better? The problem with "World Net Daily" now is that their new theory, President Obama being secretly gay married, it doesn`t elicit the same feeling, right? Nobody needs to be comforted about that. Nobody needs to be comforted that President Obama doesn`t really love Michele. All right? Nobody needs to feel that way. But that dynamic and in conservative politics that animates those conspiracy theories, it does not only happen on the fringes. We`ve seen it over and over again as Republicans increasingly isolate themselves in our country. They stay more and more inside a media bubble where they do not hear any neutral or contrast points of view, where you can go all day from conservative talk radio to conservative cable news, to conservative blogs, to Republican politicians, importantly, who are playing only to those talk radio hosts and cable news shows and bloggers in a loop that just gives people what they want to hear in those settings. And in that environment, when something happens that makes people feel uncomfortable, there is an almost irresistible impulse on the right now to just assure people that uncomfortable thing isn`t really happening. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable jobs numbers, these Chicago guys will do anything, can`t debate so change the numbers. JACK WELCH, FORMER G.E. CEO: I don`t know what the right number is, but I`ll tell you, these numbers don`t smell right when you think about where the economy is right now. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Sadly, no. The unemployment rate really is below 8 percent. I know it feels awful to you because of your politics, but the unemployment rate really is below 8 percent. It is 7.8 truly. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unemployment is going down, just as a factual matter. Why would Congressman Ryan in defiance of facts suggest otherwise? SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: I think what he was saying is the truth which is unemployment is higher today when the president took office. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: No. That is not true. I know you want to think that Congressman Ryan said the truth when he said that, but he did not. The unemployment rate is factually going down. And that must feel awful to you guys, but it really is the truth. Truly. That impulse on the right now did not just down play or distract from or try and explain away things they didn`t like, like people have always done in politics. The impulse not to do that normal stuff, but to instead assert that uncomfortable facts just aren`t real facts, that the president isn`t really president, that the unemployment rate hasn`t really gone down, that closed loop, cuddle yourself, la, la, la, pretend it isn`t happening impulse that`s what made the right`s presidential candidate last night walk into this horrible wall. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I`m the president and I`m always responsible. And that`s why nobody is more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I did. The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror. ROMNEY: I think it`s interesting that the president just said something which is that on the day after he attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror. OBAMA: That`s what I said. ROMNEY: You said in the rose garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you`re saying? OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor. ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror. OBAMA: Get the transcript. CROWLEY: He did in fact, sir. So let me call it an act of terror -- OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mitt Romney repeating the story told about the subject on the right in the way that is very satisfying to conservatives. The way this story is told on the right is a story that tells conservatives exactly what they want to hear and what they wanted to believe about that bad, bad President Obama. A comforting story about how this bad president never used that word terror in talking about these attacks until two weeks that happened. This awful guy. I mean, that story must feel great if you`re a conservative, if you`re against this president. And if you only experience reality as mediated through the conservative media, you might think that is really what happened. That is not what happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today, we mourn for more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake: justice will be done. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You can count on three-two-one until the right starts saying that the tape has been doctored and the transcript has been forged from a fax machine in Hawaii. Mitt Romney getting it wrong last night because he apparently consumes the right wing version of reality instead of the real reality outside the right wing conservative media bubble, that was the story of the night when he face planted on that story. Just a shocking, stylistic, and substantive face plant by an excitable candidate who decided to take a leaping, round house punch while his opponent was standing there at his most presidential. And the guy taking the punch not only missed his target, he punched himself out in the process, splat. That was the story of last night. But the story of today was that the right decided that was too painful. The right decided what happened to Mr. Romney there felt too bad. That they were going to make themselves feel better by telling themselves that did not actually happened, telling themselves that Mr. Romney actually did land that punch, that he was right and he looked great for it. Look at the lower third on FOX News today when they were talking about this. This was on their day side program in which FOX says when supposedly when they were not doing any opinion at all, just straight news, fair and balanced -- look at it -- debate interruption by Candy Crowley steps on major moment for Governor Romney. Oh, darn that Candy Crowley. Her pointless interruption ruined Mitt Romney`s big moment when he was just nailing Obama for not saying the word terror in the Rose Garden that day. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In the right wing world, President Obama never said that. Part of the reason I think this country would be better off if the Web site "PolitiFact" didn`t exist is because "PolitiFact" has encouraged relativism on the subject of whether or not stuff happened as a mainstream thing. So like when Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" and he went on CBS News and defended his call to let Detroit go bankrupt, including that headline, "PolitiFact" fact-checked whether or not Mitt Romney did say `Let Detroit go bankrupt," and they found that half true, because basically they don`t think that Mitt Romney likes to be quoted saying "let Detroit go bankrupt" or something, even though he did. So half true? "PolitiFact" last night looked into whether or not President Obama used the phrase act of terror the day after the Benghazi attack when he gave that speech in the Rose Garden. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation. (END VIDEO CLI) MADDOW: "PolitiFact" said yes he did say that but it`s only half true because people on the right say maybe he didn`t mean it when he said it. This infection is leading the conservative media, through purportedly arbiters of fact like "PolitiFact," these baldly false, conservative feel- good assertions about noble facts that come from the right end up becoming just the other side of a political issue. We`re taking an objective look and that is bull. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. The unemployment rate is below 8 percent. The day after the Benghazi attack, the president called it an act of terror. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel better, but do not confuse your "World Net Daily" caliber, therapeutic, conservative, alternative reality, fantasy bubble for what actually happened, because stuff really does actually happen. And eventually you really do have to deal with it. 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