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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/19/12

Guests: Kofi Annan

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Everywhere you go the Republicans say, well, it`s about the economy. It`s about jobs. You`re damn right it is. It`s about Freeport, Illinois. That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is coming up right now. And, Rachel, the folks of Freeport want to say this to you tonight. (CHEERS) RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Ed, if I could teleport my way to Freeport right now, I would do it. I`m there with you in spirit, man. That`s so awesome. Hello, Freeport. So great. Thanks, man. Have a great weekend. Woohoo! Ed has the life, man. All right. I want to thank you for staying with us this hour. Happy Friday. When Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at last night`s Al Smith Dinner made one of his jokes about President Obama, that was also sort of an implicitly a shot at the first lady. One of the interesting things is the first lady, herself, was not in the room. Mr. Romney was there with his wife, Ann Romney, but the president was there without the first lady. Michelle Obama was not in the room. I think that is what made Mr. Romney`s joke more awkward than it otherwise might have been. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Campaigns can be grueling, exhausting. President Obama and I each very lucky to have one person who`s always in our corner, someone who we can lean on and someone who`s a comforting presence without whom we wouldn`t be able to go another day. I have my beautiful wife, Ann. He has Bill Clinton. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Which is a funny joke, but he`s also a little bit mean to the first lady, right? Mr. Romney did go on at the end of his remarks to say very nice things, very nice and serious things about the whole Obama family. That sort of softened the blow there a little bit. Michelle Obama was also the subject of a self-deprecating joke from President Obama, himself. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, it`s back to campaigning. I`ve been to cities and towns across our great country, and I hear the same everywhere I go. Honestly, we were hoping to see Michelle. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was not President Obama`s funniest joke of the night, but it turns out that what he said there is actually kind of true. At least the underlying point of it, which is that people apparently really, really like to see Michelle Obama out on the campaign trail. This is Mrs. Obama today speaking at a campaign rally in Racine, Wisconsin. There were something like 2,500 people, capacity crowd crammed in to see Mrs. Obama. We know it was a capacity crowd because there was also a line of people several blocks long outside who were trying to get into see her but who could not get into the room. So when President Obama says people are sometimes disappointed that they do not get Michelle, I don`t know about people`s comparative feelings about seeing the two of them, but the first lady is a very, very effective campaigner on her husband`s behalf -- as she showed today in Wisconsin. At the Al Smith Dinner, though, the bookend pair of jokes told by both candidates that was even a weirder pair than the sort of mismatch between those two mentions of Michelle Obama last night, the even weirder bookend pair of jokes told by both candidates was the bookend pair of jokes told about the governor of New York state. Yes, the Al Smith Dinner takes place in New York. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, was there. Both candidates took time in their speeches to make jokes about Andrew Cuomo. And the weird thing is they both made essentially the exact same joke. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) OBAMA: Tonight, I am here with man whose father was a popular governor and who knows what it`s like to run a major northeastern state and who could very well be president someday, and I`m hoping it is Andrew Cuomo. (LAUGHTER) ROMNEY: I`m pleased to once again have the chance to see Governor Cuomo, who`s already being talked about for higher office. A very impressive fellow, but he may be getting a little ahead of himself. I mean, let me get this straight. The man has put in one term as a governor, he has a father who happened to be a governor, and he thinks that`s enough to run for president. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Andrew Cuomo sitting right up there on the dais, almost right next to the candidates as they were giving these speeches seemed to be enjoying himself greatly as they made fun of him in the most flattering way possible. One thing that is interesting about Andrew Cuomo, as governor of New York, he got elected to that job in November 2010. Think about November 2010. That was an election in which basically every other race in the country went Republican. And now, people think of New York as a very Democratic state and it will certainly go blue in the presidential election, but New Yorkers sometimes elect Republicans to statewide offices. I mean, Republican Governor George Pataki was not that long ago and given what was going on around the country in 2010 it is not inconceivable that November 2010 could have offered a very closely fought race for the New York governorship between Andrew Cuomo, Democrat, and whoever the Republican was. It turned out not to be a close race at all. Andrew Cuomo won by a 30-point margin -- a 30-point margin. Why did he win by a 30-point margin? Because this is the guy the Republicans had running against him. Crazy Carl. Remember him? The Republicans ran crazy Carl Paladino as their gubernatorial nominee against Andrew Cuomo -- the guy with the baseball bat. That`s how we got New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. It is also, that campaign is how we got a legitimate innovation in American political campaigning. Carl Paladino was such a crazy candidate, such a crazy out there campaign, that he invented something in American politics that I think has never been done before, which is scratch and sniff. A scratch and sniff political flier which even now, two years later after that election, still sort of smells. We keep the Carl Paladino scratch and sniff mailer in a sealed box in our office because it still wreaks. The Point of this flier, this mailing, was to accuse somebody of being trashy or something. But the Carl Paladino campaign scented the flier so it smells like trash. And then they mailed it to people`s homes. Amazing he lost, right? Whatever you think of Carl Paladino and the Republican Party for running him for governor of a real state, this flier was a basic level innovation in American politicking. I`m not sure why nobody did it before but I think this was the first ever scratch and sniff political mailing. Well, now, this week we have had another fundamental innovation in American politics, something brand new. Carl Paladino invented the first campaign mailer with a smell. But we now, as of today, have the first campaign mailer with a sound. AUTOMATED VOICE: If it`s a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. MADDOW: Not a special effect. Look. AUTOMATED VOICE: If it`s a legitimate -- MADDOW: You believe it? I can`t believe nobody came up this before now. We have had greeting cards that sing to you and say where`s the beef, or whatever for years now. I think this is the first time we have ever had somebody use this technology in a political mailer. AUTOMATED VOICE: If it`s a legitimate rape -- MADDOW: It does go on and on and on. It`s not just the quote. It goes on and is essentially a full audio ad against Todd Akin. Unlike the Paladino stink mailer, at least this one when you close it, it stops, right? This one, the stink goes on. This talking mailer is being sent out against Todd Akin, who`s the Republican Senate candidate from Missouri this year. This was not sent out by his opponent`s campaign by the Claire McCaskill campaign. It was sent out by a Democratically leaning super PAC. But this is obviously clearly designed to benefit her in the election. Claire McCaskill is a very good campaigner. Some of her ads in this election I should say, other than the talking mailer are among the best ads I`ve seen a Democrat run anywhere. Whatever you think about her politics, she`s a very good campaigner. And even has a very, very good campaigner it was almost impossible to imagine Senator Claire McCaskill being able to hold on to her senate seat this year just because she`s the senator from Missouri and Missouri is trending more and more strongly Republican. This is going to be a difficult race, right? The only reason she is not, however, just competing for this race, the only reason she`s not just competitive for holding on to her seat, she`s actually pretty far out ahead in her state right now. The only reason is because Republicans picked a Carl Paladino type to run against her. The Republicans picked Todd Akin. And there are a lot of things that are Neanderthal about Todd Akin. I mean, if you leave this mailer open long enough and listen to the spiel, it eventual gets to the part where he calls federal support for student loans a stage 3 cancer of socialism. So, yes, there is a lot that is Neanderthal about Todd Akin, but it is his Neanderthal-ism specifically about women and women`s rights that is defining this race in Missouri. Even after a valiant effort to make it seem like Todd Akin has lots of female support. Look, I am a women. I`m a women. Even after this valiant effort to make it seem like ladies love Todd akin, Mr. Akin is losing women in Missouri by a 27-point margin according to the right-leaning Rasmussen poll in Missouri -- losing women by 27 points. Gender gap is really important in that senate race and in a number of Senate races. Republicans are on the losing side of the gender gap in otherwise competitive Senate races in Virginia, in Wisconsin, in Massachusetts. Republicans are even on the losing side of a gender gap in a Senate race where their candidate is the woman, running against a guy, in Connecticut, which is maybe not surprising. After two years in which Republican politics have been more aggressively and successfully hostile to women`s rights, particularly to women`s reproductive choice, than they have been since Roe versus Wade was decided. The gender gap is also now an animating feature, of course, of the presidential campaign. As we saw in the NBC/Marist poll that came out yesterday for Iowa and Wisconsin, the gender gap in both of those states where President Obama is leading -- the gender gap in both those states is 18 points. The Republican side knows it desperately needs to close the gender gap if they`re going to win this race. The Democrats know they are actually really dependent on that gender gap. They are dependent on that gender gap persisting. And that as much as anything else in the race is driving what the candidates and campaigns are doing now 18 days out from the presidential election. Today, here`s how you could tell. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Mr. Severely Conservative wants you to think he was severely kidding about everything he said over the last year. I mean, he`s changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping. We`ve got to -- we`ve got to name this condition that he`s going through. I think -- I think it`s called Romnesia. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, do you notice anything about the visual here? Not what he just said, but look at the visual. It`s President Obama speaking at a rally in northern Virginia today. And we checked and it was not a 100 percent female audience at the rally, but that is a 100 percent female array of very, very, very happy Obama supporters positioned behind the candidate for the camera shot at that event today. And that is not an accident. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: If you say you`re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you`d sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work, you might have Romnesia. If you say women should have access to contraceptive care but you support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive care, you might have a case of Romnesia. If you say you`ll protect a woman`s right to choose, but you stand up at a primary debate and said that you`d be delighted to sign a law outlawing that right to choose in all cases -- man, you definitely got Romnesia. (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In addition to that campaign event in Virginia today, the Obama campaign also released yet another new ad on the subject of Mitt Romney`s abortion position. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seeing this from Mitt Romney, then take a look at this. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: If Roe v. Wade was overturned, Congress passed a federal ban on all abortions and it came to your desk, would you sign it? ROMNEY: Let me say it, I`d be delighted to sign that bill. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Banning all abortions? ROMNEY: I`d be delighted to sign that bill. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to mislead us -- that`s wrong. But ban all abortions? Only if you vote for him. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is the seventh ad that the Obama campaign put out on this subject. What you saw at the beginning of the ad, what they`re referencing there when they say see this, right? What they`re referencing there is that for the first time, even though the Obama campaign has been hammering them on this issue all year long, for the first time, the Romney campaign, the other side, has finally put out one of its own ads defending Mr. Romney on this issue -- sort of defending him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, those ads saying Mitt Romney would ban all abortions and contraceptions seemed a bit extreme. So I looked into it. Turns out, Romney doesn`t oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother`s life. This issue`s important to me, but I`m more concerned about the debt our children will be left with. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So she goes on to say, I voted for Obama, but I`m going to not vote for him this time because Romney is not so bad, right? The message here is this is not at important an issue. Debt is a real issue, that`s something to really vote on, but don`t vote on this because: (a) this is not a real issue, and even if it is an important issue for you, be assured that Mitt Romney does not have an extreme position on the subject. Sure, what you might have heard may sound extreme, but he`s not really extreme. Not when you really look into it and type on your computer and ask "PolitiFact". No comment from me on the "PolitiFact" part of that. We know why the Romney campaign thinks it needs to say that Mitt Romney doesn`t oppose contraception at all -- which you saw them say in that ad. Mr. Romney`s aides told "The New York Times" about this ad that they are trying to change the perception among undecided women that Mr. Romney holds very conservative positions on social issues. The Romney campaign says its own polling and focus groups are finding undecided voters are troubled by whether Mr. Romney`s positions on issues like abortion and contraception were too unyielding. So, they say they want to make it sound like his positions aren`t that extreme, they have to make it sound like Mr. Romney has not taken extreme positions on these issues. But Mr. Romney really has taken very, very, very, very conservative positions on these issues -- including contraception. That is why in the second debate this week, Mr. Romney went out of his way to make himself sound like he hasn`t taken the position that he really has actually taken. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I don`t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Actually when you say "I don`t believe that," you totally do believe that. You do. You do. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) RADIO HOST: Listen, I got to ask you here about -- there`s a -- "The Washington Post" has got a blog out here saying Jim Heath, a reporter for a TV station in Ohio, just tweeted a remarkable piece of news: Mitt Romney told him he does not support the Blunt Amendment that would empower employers and insurers to provide health coverage they find morally objectionable. What happened here? ROMNEY: I didn`t understand his question. Of course I support the Blunt Amendment. I thought it was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception. So I was simply, I misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt Amendment. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: What does the Blunt Amendment do? It lets your boss determine whether or not you get access to contraception through your health insurance. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I don`t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, yes, you do. Yes, you do, because you support the Blunt Amendment which does exactly that. I`ve had two competing instincts about this issue for a long time during this campaign. I`ve been conflicted about whether the Romney campaign and the candidate, himself, does not understand his own position or whether they`re purposely misrepresenting his position. I have been conflicted about this up until today. Even with the Romney campaign admitting that they were trying to make him appear less conservative than he is on these issues, even with them admitting that, I had not been sure, right, I couldn`t shake the feeling, I still suspected that he really just doesn`t focus on this issue enough to understand what his position is and so he keeps misstating it. That it`s just a big mistake that he keeps making over and over again. I think he is a good actor because I`ve been feeling like, oh, he`s just flubbing it, it`s nothing deliberate. I kept thinking it could not have been deliberate, until today, until this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Well, let me just take the Blunt Amendment and contraception. I think that what Mitt Romney is saying now is the same as he has said, that women should have access to birth control of their choice. The Blunt Amendment dealt with a religious exception. If it is a religious-based hospital or charity, and -- ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: You know, it`s also employers. HUTCHISON: Do not want to offer that -- the employers of those charities and those hospitals that are religious-based should have the option of not covering that with insurance. That doesn`t mean they wouldn`t still have access and -- MITCHELL: If they could afford it, but that`s a big expense outside of their employee-based insurance. HUTCHISON: Well, I think that if they choose to work, if they`re, say, Catholic and choose to work in a Catholic hospital, I think the Catholic hospital should have the right to exercise something that`s so much a part of their religious beliefs. And that`s what the Blunt Amendment did. And I don`t think Mitt Romney has changed his view on that at all. And I think he does believe in that access and would stand up for that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Absolutely, blatantly, fundamentally untrue from a U.S. senator acting as a surrogate for Mitt Romney. What she just described there is not what the Blunt Amendment is. Mitt Romney really does support a policy that`s not just about religious employers. It`s not just about Catholic hospitals. It is about any employer anywhere in the country being able to block their employees from getting birth control through their health insurance. Sounds awful, right? That`s why it keeps coming up. Picture your boss. Does your boss want you to have the pill? Do you not know? Do you want to find out? Because that is actually one of the choices you have in this election between your boss deciding whether you get the pill under your health insurance or that not being your boss` business. That really is the choice, because Mitt Romney really does support the Blunt Amendment and the Blunt Amendment really does give your boss the choice about whether or not your contraception is covered by your insurance. And the Romney campaign and the Romney campaign surrogates, including U.S. senators and the candidate, himself, Mitt Romney, are just flat-out, repeatedly, over and over again lying about this bluntly. Hoping that people do not understand the truth and that people vote for Mitt Romney because they believe something that is not true about what he stands for and what he would do as president. Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, host of MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" who pointed out to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison that what she was saying was not true, even if the senator keeps saying it over and over again. Andrea tweeted after the interview, clarifying what the Blunt Amendment actually does. Andrea Mitchell, thank you for being here tonight. MITCHELL: Thank you for the opportunity to further clarify. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: When -- sorry, go ahead. MITCHELL: Rachel, I think there`s even a moral as well as a religious exception for the blunt amendment. So it`s rather ambiguous, and it is, as you point out, correctly, and thanks for bringing that to everyone`s attention, it`s not only religious institutions. Religious institutions also have non-Catholic employees. MADDOW: Also there is the repeated problem here with the Republicans who support the Blunt Amendment, including Mr. Romney, describing it repeatedly as not at all that. And I wonder what your take is on why they`re doing that, Andrea. My instinct for a very long time really until I saw that interview you did today with Senator Hutchison is they were doing it out of ignorance and, honestly, I was bothered they didn`t care enough about the subject to get their own policy right on it. Now I sort of feel like they are -- it`s a concerted effort to hide the facts of what the stance really is. Do you have any -- is there any way we can know that? Do you have instinct on it? MITCHELL: Well, my instinct watching the debate is certainly that something`s going on here. We know from the polling data that they do think they had some advantage after Denver and were narrowing the gap in at least some of the polls, not in our NBC News/Marist/"Wall Street Journal" polls today in Wisconsin and in Iowa. But they are in some of the polls seeing a narrowing of the gender gap among the -- you know, college educated white women who are the targets of both campaigns now. And you`ve seen the rhetoric from both campaigns and you pointed out the women who were surrounding President Obama at George Mason University in Virginia today. So this is clearly the target audience. They are very narrow groups of people they have to appeal to. When I heard him say that he believed women have the right to access to contraception and that employers should not intervene, that`s when I began to look into this a little bit further and just wonder about all of the rhetoric and about the moderating of his comments on these reproductive health issues since the primaries. MADDOW: Do -- if he were just moderating his position, if he were saying, listen, there are Republicans who tried to let -- the people in my own party who tried to let a boss decide whether or not his or her employees were going to have access to contraception under insurance. I understand why people believe that. I don`t. I`ve changed my position on that. I have seen the light. That would be moderating his position. In this case, he is not moderating his position. When the campaign was asked directly about this if this reflects a change, they insist that this isn`t a change. They`re just not describing the position accurately. And I don`t actually know what the political corrective is for that. MITCHELL: Well, we do our fact checks after, you know, after these debates and we pore through the documents. We don`t have all that much time, especially after the last debate because the debate went longer than 90 minutes. At least into, you know, our deadline when we went off the air at 11:00 on the network side. You, of course, on MSNBC and your colleagues and Ezra Klein were still doing fact checking. But it tended to be focused on the economic issues and a lot of people didn`t get to these reproductive issues. Now the foreign policy debate will clearly not be focusing on that although there will be economic -- global economic concerns I think raised by both sides. So these reproductive questions now have -- it`s basically your reporting, my reporting, other people who bring this to the attention because there`s no opportunity to ask questions of either of the candidates. They are not accessible for any kind of news conference or even rope line interviews at this stage in the game. MADDOW: That`s amazing. It`s all going to be played out really in ads and reporting from here on out. NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent, the host of MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" -- Andrea, it is always great to have you here. Thank you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. MITCHELL: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Ahead of Monday`s foreign policy debate, we have a truly incredible guest at the exact perfect moment. Here tonight is the former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Seriously. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Want to see the difference between Democrats and Republicans in one chart? Look, what we have on the left there are the top five campaign fund-raisers for President Obama. On the right the top five campaign fund-raisers for Mitt Romney. Don`t look so much at the names. I want you to look here at the numbers. OK? President Obama`s top fund-raisers have raised $2.6 million, $2.1 million, $2.1 million, $2.1 million, $2 million. Those are his top five most ginormous donors. All in the $2 million range. That`s the Democrats. Here`s the Republicans -- $34 million, $16 million, $15 million, $4 million, $3 million. Behold the difference between two parties. This is put together by the "A.P." today. From their top five donors the Democrats raise, like, 10 million bucks combined. The Republicans get that three times over from just one guy. Over this final two weeks of the campaign, cash is critical -- for ads, for get out the vote, for staffing field offices, for the organization on the ground. The Republicans are taking in that cash from their conservative billionaire pool as if that cash were being shot out of a fire hose. On the other side, though, the comparatively pitiful one little puddle of rich Democrats it turns out is not the only place the Obama campaign is turning for help. It turns out the Obama campaign is raising tons of money from the non- billionaires among us. Today the Obama campaign said that on Wednesday of this week, the day after the second presidential debate, that was the single biggest fund-raising day Barack Obama has ever had -- ever. And that includes the entire `08 presidential campaign. He`s never in his career, not even in 2008, raised more money in one day than he raised the day after the debate this week on Wednesday. How much did they raise? They are not yet saying but we can sleuth it out a little bit. One of the Obama campaign`s previous biggest fund-raising days ever was September 4th, 2008. On that single day we know they raised $10 million. What happened the day before that in order to cause the $10 million inflow? Oh, right. So two of the things that ha exercised Democratic wallets the most in American history have been the national debut of an Alaska governor named Sarah Palin. That was four years ago at the Republican convention. And also a strong debate performance by President Obama this week in New York. Something tells me that somewhere right now, there is a Democratic operative trying to figure out how to get Sarah Palin on a flight to Florida in time for the debate. Some Democrat right now is trying to arrange a direct flight from Wasilla to Boca. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It`s been too long since we had a best new thing on this show. But you know what we all need? A best new thing in the world. And we`ve got a great one tonight coming up at the end of the show. Hang on. It is very good news. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Next big event in the campaign is the third and final presidential debate on Monday. The debate is always a big deal. This one is a bigger than usual deal for two reasons. The first reason is Mitt Romney clearly won the first one. President Obama clearly won the second one. The race overall could not be closer so this third and final debate is a rematch between two candidates who not only think they can win this debate, they think they must win this debate. Just the horse race impact, who`s winning this thing impact of Monday`s debate really cannot be overstated. But the other reason Monday`s debate is a bigger than usual deal for this race at this time between these two men is because of the topic. The first one was just about domestic policy. The second one was a mix after everything. The questions were from voters. That was good. But this next debate, the last one, is totally focused on foreign policy. Whether or not foreign policy is your particular issue for this election the fact that the president and Mr. Romney are finally going to be forced to compete on that subject means that one of the things that has stunk about this election is about to be fixed, just in time. The most interesting question in American politics, to me, still, is what it`s going to take for the Republican Party to recover from the disaster of the Bush/Cheney years. Did they learn anything from that disaster? Did it change them? How did it change them? Who is the new face of the party after George W. Bush and how is that person different from Bush? They are trying to make the new face of the party Mitt Romney, but because Mr. Romney has no experience at all on foreign policy and no apparent deep interest in it, either, his foreign policy advisers have been telling reporters they don`t even think he reads their briefing papers on foreign policy, because Mr. Romney said even the war we are currently fighting was not important enough to him to make it into his convention speech, because the Republicans have nominated somebody with no foreign policy chops whatsoever, the Republican presidential campaign this year just carried over the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney foreign policy core wholesale. I mean, they`ve got Paul Ryan out on the campaign trail this week with Condoleezza Rice. Really? What, Dick Cheney wasn`t available? Oh, actually, Dick Cheney is available. He will be fund-raising for Mitt Romney in Dallas right after the foreign policy debate. They have 24 named foreign policy advisers, 17 of the 24 are from the Bush/Cheney administration. You know, this guy who was attached by a three-foot-long invisible bungee cord to Paul Ryan? He is Dan Senor. He`s who the Republican assigned to be Paul Ryan`s top staffer on the Romney/Ryan campaign. Dan Senor was also the George W. Bush administration Iraq war spokesman in Baghdad. That is who is heading up the Paul Ryan part of the Romney/Ryan campaign. Dan Senor also sits on the board of directors as something called the Foreign Policy Initiative. They`ve got four people on their board. One is Dan Senor. Two of the other four people are special advisers to the Romney campaign, these guys. And yesterday, that group headed by the top staffer to Paul Ryan and two other Romney/Ryan advisers called for an American war in Syria. Are you ready for another American war in the Middle East? This is a presidential campaign that neither side wants to be about foreign policy. Even President Obama does not want that because there are hard questions to be asked of him about why we`re still in Afghanistan and the kill list and drone strikes and all the rest. But the Romney/Ryan campaign has not been capable of asking those questions. They haven`t even bothered to come up with a legible policy on the war we are already in. So, anybody who wants hard questions asked of President Obama on foreign policy, it just hasn`t happened yet. And anybody who was freaked out that Romney and Ryan are such empty vessels on this subject that they would let all the Bush/Cheney people back in to bring us another term of that foreign policy, frankly those questions have not been asked, either. But by virtue of the final debate, we are finally going to get those questions asked. And how the candidates will answer those questions is totally unpredictable, because they have not answered to any of this stuff yet. And so, Monday`s debate is going to be very suspenseful. Anything could happen. Anything could happen. And that makes for great TV. And good politics. And it`s awesome. And to prepare us for that debate, here for the interview tonight is Kofi Annan, who used to run a thing you might have heard of called the United Nations. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Mr. Speaker, not since Hitler have we seen so much evil delivered by one man. This tyrant has amassed a large cache of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and is aggressively seeking nuclear weapons. I urge a yes vote and I urge passage of this resolution. DEBATE MODERATOR: Governor Romney, was the war in Iraq a good idea worth the cost in blood and treasure we have spent? ROMNEY: It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time. I support it now. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: We all agree now as a country starting the Iraq war was a bad idea. Specifically, I`m curious as to whether the party of George W. Bush is onboard with that assessment. Did the Republican Party learn anything from the Iraq war disaster? What did they learn if anything? Did that experience change the party at all? If so, how? That`s the most important series of questions I know to ask about American politics right now, why I`m so interested in the Republican Party trying to find itself and pick its new leaders in the post-Bush and post- McCain era. The one man who probably did more than any single human on earth to stop the U.S. from starting the disastrous war in Iraq is our guest tonight for the interview. Kofi Annan served two terms as secretary general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006. His new book "Interventions: A Life in War and Peace." Mr. Annan, it`s a real honor to have you here. Thank you. KOFI ANNAN, FORMER SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS: Happy to be here. MADDOW: I wanted to start on the Iraq war, because we are on the eve of the foreign policy debate in our presidential election. You say, "By behaving as it did, the U.S. invited the perception it was become a greater threat to global security than anything Saddam could muster, which is a self-inflicted wound, that did immense and possibly lasting damage to U.S. standing in the world." Why do you bookend your own book, start and end your book with a discussion of the Iraq war? Why is it of such outsized importance? ANNAN: It is important because the Iraq war brought divisions within the U.N. and the world that we hadn`t seen for a long time. And as I said at the beginning of the war, that when a country`s attacked it has a right to defend itself. But when it`s a broader question of security for all of us, you cannot do without the security -- the legitimacy of the Security Council can confer. And in this case, the war was -- the war took place without the consent of the Security Council. And we did not find the weapons of mass destruction which ostensibly we went there for. And the U.N. inspectors were not given the time to do their work. MADDOW: You talk -- the theme of the book is interventions. You talk a lot about the responsibility to protect. ANNAN: Yes. MADDOW: And how important it is to protect the sanctity of the idea of humanitarian intervention. To protect the idea of the -- that it is a legitimate use of force to stop gross human rights abuses and genocide. Has the sanctity of that idea, the legitimacy of that idea, been undermined in the past decade because of the Iraq war and because of other things? ANNAN: I think the responsibility to protect norm (ph) came up after the Iraq war. I know it`s something that had been discussed for a long time. But the general assembly endorsed it in 2005. And, in fact, it was one of the reasons why I felt we need rules as to when we intervene and when we don`t. But what was important with the responsibility to protect is we were telling potential dictators that you cannot use sovereignty as a shield behind which you brutalize your own people, but that norm (ph) also puts responsibility on those of us outside the country to intervene, to act. But intervention does not necessarily mean use of force. It can be political, diplomatic, economic, fiscal sanctions, and use of force as a last resort. And if we are going to use force, we have to be certain or have a clear idea that it would improve the situation and not make it worse. MADDOW: Do you feel like the United States` turn with the election of Barack Obama toward a more respectfully multilateralist approach to international affairs is a substantive change, and has it had any unintended consequences? ANNAN: I think it is a substantive change which was appreciated by the world, the rest of the world, is the sense that you have a powerful U.S. which was ready to work with other countries, which is ready to listen, ready to talk and ready to put his views across but open to other sect. And that change I think was very good for the U.S. Obviously, there are those who would object to that sort of non-assertion as a sea of U.S. power, but the rest of the world appreciated the new mood. MADDOW: You write at the very beginning of the book that in your years as secretary general -- I mean, you write generally about the challenge of the United Nations in an era of American dominance, right? But you said that in your years of secretary general, you found yourself playing the role of a global interpreter -- explaining the United States to the world and the world to the United States. What are the things that American government and the American people have the hardest time understanding about the rest of the world? What was hardest to translate? ANNAN: No, there were many were many situations. For example, I can give you an example. I was going to Iran. And I discuss with senior people in Washington that in the dialogue and the exchanges with the Iranians, one has to be careful not always to react to what the Iranians say, senior Iranians, because sometimes it`s not meant for us. Because I had to come from Iran earlier and President Ahmadinejad told me about how he`s traveled around the country, explaining the nuclear research, the Iranian nuclear research to the farmers, and I could imagine the language he would use to explain this complicated scientific research to the farmers. And, of course he may use words we are developing the most powerful whatever. You know? Washington may react. And vice versa, you know? Somebody may say something in Washington, throwing red meat to supporters, and they react. So I was trying to tell both sides that you have to listen to what is being said by the other side. And some of the messages are not meant for you and you don`t have to react. MADDOW: The idea that something is not meant for an American audience is absolutely impossible for an American to understand. ANNAN: You know, because I said, so you shouldn`t even react. You know? And, of course, Washington this is important. They say the Iranians should hear this. Then the Iranians asked me, have you shared with this Americans? It`s very important you tell them. You know, just to give you a simple example. MADDOW: That`s the scariest game of telephone in the world. You have been trying to broker a peaceful resolution in the tragic situation in Syria. You stepped down as specialist envoy there in August. Do you -- what it feels like is just a layman following it in the news, is that both sides think they`re going to win and that is the reason that neither side wants to talk. Is that your assessment and do you have any optimism about it ending? ANNAN: I think both sides got into the logic of war, and both sides think they could win and their supporters think they could win. And this is the tragic part. I don`t think there`s a military solution after this. You look at the mosaic that is Syria. Syria is a very complex society. It`s an ancient civilization. It`s a society that is not made up of Alawites and Sunnis. You have Christians, you have the Druze, you have Turkmen, you have the Syrians, you have Ismailis, and they all have interest to be protected. And these people who are caught in the middle of war neither necessarily supporting what the government is doing or the opposition are the ones who are in a very difficult situation. And even those who started the grassroots movement for democracy for better governance have lost their voice. They`ve been squeezed out by the two military camps. And we are all focusing on them. And what I believe is required is really very serious attempt to get a political settlement, but that should begin with international community coming together, the council finding a will, bridging its differences and working with the countries who are also divided, and moving in to help the protagonists on the ground. MADDOW: Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The new book is called "Interventions: A Life in War and Peace," which I thoroughly enjoyed. I would have read if it was not my excuse to get you here on the show. Thank you for being here. I appreciate it. ANNAN: Thank you very much. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got the best new thing in the world coming up that will make you very happy. At least it makes me happy. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. OK, we`ve had three debates so far -- presidential and vice presidential. The candidates collectively have spent the better part of five hours arguing about Medicare and Social Security and taxes and China and immigration and jobs. They`ve argued over the rules of the debate. They have argued over freaking Big Bird. But you know what? There`s been no talk at all about how we are treating veterans -- the people coming home from fighting our long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There`s been no talk at all yet about how we are doing as a country at keeping our promises to them. No mention of our veterans at all yet in the debates, and the way we are handling their needs and the promises we made to them as a country. But the bottomless willingness of the D.C. Beltway to not talk about that as an issue, I have to tell you, is not shared by the rest of the country. Outside the Beltway, in a totally nonpartisan way across the country, lots and lots and lots of Americans have been thinking about what happens to this new generations of veterans when they come home -- sometimes with injuries and trauma and almost always in need of a new job. Ordinary Americans are holding their own parades, welcome home troops, love, St. Louis. Welcome home troops, love Houston. Welcome home, love, Richmond, Virginia. Also, welcome home, love, Little Melbourne, Florida, and Tucson and New England, Coastal Portsmouth, New Hampshire, all over the country, citizens taking things into their own hands to mark the end of the Iraq war, to say thank you and welcome home. And, look at this. We just got this. We just got the new poster for a new welcome home parade for post-9/11 veterans in the great big city of Chicago on December 15th. Welcome home. The Pentagon for reasons that I do not start to understand still says they do not want New York City to hold a parade to mark the end of the Iraq war and welcome home the troops. And New York City is where we`ve always done this sort of thing as a nation. New York did throw one ticker tape parade this year, for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. And that in their parade, the football parade, we met the Willis family. Mom Glenda with her grandson Josiah (ph), they brought with them a picture of Army Staff Sergeant Dannel Willis (ph), Glenda`s son, Josiah`s uncle, and not incidentally a huge Giants fan. Sergeant Willis had sent a message from Afghanistan before the big game. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STAFF SGT. DANNEL WILLIS (ph), U.S. ARMY: Hi. How are you doing? I`m Staff Sergeant Dannel Willis from Task Force Wolf Pack. I`m originally from Brooklyn, New York and I want to say hi to my family back in Brooklyn and go, big blue. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: His mom told us that she promised that she would go to the practice raid if the Giants won and she would bring his picture. Well, the Giants won, and New York held the parade and Glenda kept her promise. And she told us it would be compassioned to have a parade for veterans like her son and her daughter in New York. Well, tonight, as yet, there`s still no parade at works for New York City to welcome home the troops to mark the end of the Iraq war. But I can tell you that Sergeant Willis is home from Iraq and Afghanistan and he and his family are here tonight with us watching this show in this very room. So, welcome home, Sergeant Willis -- look, you`re on TV. It is really cool to have you guys here and it is the best new thing in our world today. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Now it`s time for Friday night election edition of "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