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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/09/12

Guests: Dabo Adegbile

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: All right. Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour. It was a huge news day in Washington today. You sort of expect after a national president election, that you get a few days of afterglow, letting it all sink in with no big new things happening. And if maybe that was the way it went over the last couple days, that definitely ended today. Starting with this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much. Now that those of us on the campaign trail have had a chance to get a little sleep, it`s time to get back to work. And there`s plenty of work to do. As I said on Tuesday night, the American people voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in that spirit, I have invited leaders of both parties to the White House next week so we can start to build consensus around the challenges that we can only solve together. In a time when our economy is still recovering from the great recession, our top priority has to be jobs and growth. That`s the focus of the plan that I talked about during the campaign. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama, of course, spoke publicly the night that he won his second term when he gave his big victory speech in Chicago. Thereafter, though, I mean, he did speak privately to some campaign volunteers in Chicago. We likely would have never known about that or seen any tape of those remarks if not for the fact that the president, while speaking with volunteers, he did something which he almost never does. He choked up and he started crying when he was thanking his volunteers and so that tape ended up being very widely seen. But that was not a public event, and today`s remarks in the East Room of the White House were the first time that President Obama has made an official public statement of any kind since election night. And you could tell that in part by the huge round of applause he got as he walked into the room. Applause from people who are invited to attend the speech and from a bunch of White House staffers who may not have seen the president and the vice president since they earned themselves another term and ensured all of those White House staffers continuing employment at the White House for the next four years. So needless to say, everybody in the room was all very happy to see him. In these remarks that he gave today, though, the president proposed that Congress act right now to extend the Bush tax cuts that are due -- Bush tax cuts that are due to expire at the end of the career. The president said Democrats and Republicans both agree that those tax cuts should be extended for all income under a quarter million dollars a year. And so, he said Congress should pass legislation to just do that right now since everybody agrees on it, even if the two sides are likely to keep fighting about what the tax rate should be for income above a quarter million dollars a year. He`s essentially saying let`s take action on what we agree on. And let`s keep debating on what we disagree on. The president, in fact, took his pen dramatically out of his pocket and waved it in the air at one point in these remarks today. He said he was ready to sign a bill doing that extension of the bush tax cuts right now. That moment from him was going to be the biggest news today -- until exactly one hour and 45 minutes later when Andrea Mitchell, NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent, broke into MSNBC programming at 2:51 this afternoon with a remarkable scoop. You know, everybody in -- everybody in Washington, everybody in politics right now is so focused on figuring out what`s going to happen in the Obama administration`s second term. There are two components to that. One of them is policy and fighting stuff out with Congress, like you saw the president addressed in those remarks today in the East Room. But the other side of it, the other side of what everybody is obsessed with right now is: who is the Obama administration for the president`s second term? And when Andrea Mitchell got on the air today at 2:51 p.m. and announced that General David Petraeus was resigning unexpectedly and immediately as head of the CIA, that second question in Washington, the question of who is going to hold the most important jobs in the Obama administration now, who is going to run the country on a day-to-day basis - - this thing that everybody knows is going to change, at 2:51 today when Andrea got on the air, that stuff started to change already when Andrea Mitchell broke this news about General Petraeus. We`re going to speak with Richard Engel about this in just a moment in terms of what the news from David Petraeus means for the running of that part of the government. We`re also talking directly with Andrea about her scoop today. But in order to appreciate how big a deal this is, how surprising it is, how not just consequential but potentially further consequential this thing is that happened today, you should know before this was a reportable story, before it was clear what had actually happened and that Andrea was going to report the reasons for him resigning, we were hearing all sorts of things about the potential reasons why he might being resigning. I mean, maybe he had political differences with President Obama. He had to resign because of some huge political disagreement. It was rumored before Andrea`s report that maybe General Petraeus had been in talks to take a job with the Romney administration. He had been plotting that move behind President Obama`s back and that disloyalty was the reason he had to go. There was speculation that General Petraeus was going to have to step down because of something related to the Benghazi consulate attack, which he was scheduled to testify about next week before Congress. Before this was a reportable story and we knew for sure that he was going and why, the theories and the breathless speculation about why David Petraeus was resigning from the CIA went all the way up to and included the idea that maybe he was stepping down to start running as a Republican for president in 2016 right now. Until we knew what happened, people were crawling up the walls about this announcement from David Petraeus today. And then Andrea broke the story and David Petraeus, it turns out, is leaving the CIA because he had an extramarital affair. It was a personal matter -- just an unbelievable news day today. Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent and the host of MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS". Andrea, congratulations on this scoop. Thanks for being here. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, thank you. I have to tell you. I don`t take any pleasure in this. MADDOW: Yes. MITCHELL: In the sense that this is really a personal tragedy. And there are families involved. People involved on all sides. And the men and women of the CIA, an agency that has many things to be proud about, many things to be proud about that, and that is under fire right now for other reasons. MADDOW: Are you totally confident that this affair, this personal matter is the full reason why General Petraeus resigned today? And in so answering, I mean, are we sure that something like that would force him to resign this job? MITCHELL: I am. I have that confidence. We had worked for 24 hours on this story. And as it was evolving in talking to so many people in and out of government, and having covered General Petraeus myself here and overseas, I am absolutely convinced from all the communications I have had from people directly involved that this was a matter of honor. That he felt he had to offer his resignation. The president said to him, I want to take 24 hours to think about it. There was a lot involved. I think absent the FBI investigation, which we are told by law enforcement officials is very, very unlikely to lead to any criminal charges, that is an issue that has to be investigated because there were secure communications involved and there are classification rules. But absent that investigation, I`m not sure whether he could have soldiered through -- a pun I probably should not make, and not have to resign. Perhaps the president would have not accepted the resignation. Dianne Feinstein said she wished the president had not accepted the resignation. She very strongly believes that he was a key and essential piece of the national security community and of this administration. So I`m not sure whether the personal transgression, although there is a code of honor. And he felt strongly that he had frankly screwed up. And he had to pay the consequences. And after 24 hours and clearly consulting his colleagues, other people in the national security community, don`t know who else, the president agreed and accepted it on the phone in a conversation this afternoon. MADDOW: Andrea Mitchell, congratulations on this reporting that led to this scoop. I take your point this is not something to be enthusiastic about having uncovered, given the tragic nature of the news -- but your reporting on this was absolutely cutting edge. Thank you for joining us to help us understand it tonight. MITCHELL: Thank you. MADDOW: Let`s bring in NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel for more. Richard, I know you have been reporting on some other developments about this case. And Andrea mentioned the role of the FBI investigation in terms of how this came to light. What can you tell us? RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: We know the facts. And the facts are that this afternoon, General Petraeus, CIA director, came out and said he was going to resign because of this extramarital affair. He didn`t name any names. And we also know at the same time that the FBI is conducting an investigation, an ongoing investigation into General Petraeus` biographer, a woman named Paula Broadwell. And this is a woman who had close access to General Petraeus and the FBI is looking at the access that she had or was trying to have to his e-mail accounts, and including potentially classified information. As Andrea said, there`s no indication she got very far. That any classified information was divulged. That there`s not going to be big criminal charges and no implication that General Petraeus himself was under investigation for passing along any secrets. But that`s what we learned about the FBI`s piece in this. MADDOW: And is it your understanding or is it our understanding that the FBI investigation into that side of it is the reason that this had to happen today and with some urgency it was going to become widely known if not publicly known? ENGEL: We haven`t been able to confirm that direct link. We have spoken to law enforcement officials who have made a roundabout link into this. But no one has said that the reason he`s stepping down is because there was an FBI investigation into this woman as he`s announcing his extramarital affairs. The timing piece of it, while this FBI investigation may have been a factor, we haven`t been told that it was thee factor that led him to make this announcement today. MADDOW: With -- absent the investigation, had that not happened, the fact of the affair, would that be dangerous enough to somebody in the job as being head of the CIA that that would force a resignation because of the threat of blackmail or anything else that might compromise him? ENGEL: We did speak to law enforcement officials. They said that blackmail is a concern whenever you have this kind of conversation, whenever you have the CIA director, who has all of the nation`s secrets on his computer. When you have him talking about extramarital affair, they said that blackmail is something that they are immediately concerned about. And they didn`t say in this case they had found any evidence about specific attempts at blackmail. But that`s obviously a concern. When you`re having someone probing around the CIA director`s e-mail and the CIA is talking about openly having had an extramarital affair, it leaves you in a vulnerable position. MADDOW: In terms of David Petraeus in this specific role, obviously, he`s most known for his role in the Iraq war and then going to Afghanistan, President Obama dispatched him to Afghanistan after General Stanley McChrystal was fired -- had to resign there because of other kinds of personal indiscretions. But how important was Petraeus leadership specifically at the CIA? How big a blow is this to the agency? ENGEL: He actually wasn`t very popular in certain circles inside the CIA. His own personal security staff, and this we`ve heard from multiple sources, not just today, but over the last several weeks, didn`t really like him. They thought he brought in his own people. He was not an insider from the CIA. The CIA is a bit of an old-fashioned club. They like it if you come up through the ranks. There was some talk that -- one person at the CIA and one person formerly at the CIA put it to me this way: the CIA would have had to ask the FBI to look into e-mails that were suspicious. MADDOW: Yes. ENGEL: So the CIA handles its own security. The FBI would have had to have been brought in to examine somebody suspiciously trying to pry into the director`s account, which does not suggest a real warmth within the organization. MADDOW: This is an incredible resignation with incredible timing. I have a feeling as we get more detail as it goes forward, this could become an even more important story. Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent -- thank you. I have a feeling we`ll be talking about this again shortly. All right. Hey, who is in charge of the Republican Party now? Simple question with a very difficult answer. That`s coming up and more. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hey. So, beyond the first appearance of the president since the election and the shocking surprise resignation of General Petraeus as head of the CIA, there was another bomb shell dropped late today from the United States Supreme Court. Big news day today. That`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Another question about a fire brand in his party. The man who ran for vice president, still congressman, Paul Ryan. Congressman Paul Ryan, is he the leader of the Republican Party now? REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Oh, I wouldn`t think so. Paul Ryan is a policy guy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, I wouldn`t think so. John Boehner laughing in the face of the idea that the leader of the Republican Party from here on out might be Paul Ryan. Ha, that guy? The Republican Party picking its new face, its new leader after their electoral disaster this week, that is going to be an amazing thing to watch over the next few weeks, months, years. I mean, here`s just a case in point. It was an overall electoral disaster for Republicans to lose the presidency, right? I mean, it was thought to be impossible for them to lose the presidency. Nobody since the Great Depression has been reelected as president with an unemployment rate like the one we have now. But Barack Obama managed to do it, or the Republicans managed to blew it, depending on how you look at it. But just take as a case in point, the tremendous Republican disaster in the United States Senate. I mean, they had a bad night on Tuesday night. But in the Senate, I mean, it was a sure bet that the Republicans were supposed to retake control of the Senate this year -- a sure bet. They are only defending 10 seats and the Democrats were defending 23. That`s a tilted playing field like this. And not only did the Republicans not retake the Senate, the Democrats held on to control and increased their margins. That`s impossible. That is an impossible Republican failure in a year like this. And the depth of that failure is bottomless. I mean, look at how they failed the more astonishing it is how badly they failed. Not only did Mitt Romney lose the presidency, but in terms of losing Republican Senate candidates in 11 states, the Republican Senate candidates did even worse with voters than Mitt Romney did in those states, Mitt Romney who lost. The country said no to Mitt Romney this week, but they said, oh, no, no, no to Republican Senate candidates. It was a catastrophe from North Dakota to Florida and everywhere in between. Who was to blame for that? That is not esoteric matter. There is actually a named person in charge of making sure Republicans win Senate seats. There`s somebody in charge of that for every election, and that specific person in this election obviously failed catastrophically. That specific person is named John Cornyn. And today, the Republican Party appears ready to respond to his atrocious failure at this job this week, by giving Mr. Cornyn a promotion. He`s getting a reward for nearly shooting the moon in the Senate, for doing as bad as humanly possible at the last job the Republican Party gave him. The Republican Party moving forward apparently would like him to be the number two Republican in the whole Senate, right behind Mitch McConnell. And that is called failing up, which is amazing on its own terms, in terms of Republicans in the Senate. But I think we also should wonder if that is instructive for how the Republican Party is going to deal with the overall question of who their leader is and what they stand for after this electoral drubbing they took in this week`s election. "The Washington Post" reporting today that the Republican Party is going to undertake a big internal review of what went wrong on Tuesday. It will reportedly take place over the next few weeks and months, spearheaded by the Republican Party national officials. The goal of the review is to determine, quote, "what went so wrong and how to fix it". Good idea. Yes, let`s review. And it`s a good idea because the informal process so far of the right trying to figure out what went wrong for Republicans this election, that informal process so far is not going well. Republicans have so far decided that hurricane Sandy is the reason Mitt Romney lost. They have also decided that fact checking is the reason Mitt Romney lost. Karl Rove said it`s Democratic voter suppression is the reason Mitt Romney lost. Really? There`s also a satirical blog post, a piece of comedy written about military votes not being counted. And that got the right excited that that was the reason Mitt Romney lost until they realized that blog post was satire. The Republican effort so far to diagnose what went wrong on Tuesday, why Mitt Romney lost, that effort has not gone very well. Take conservative columnist and FOX News talking head Charles Krauthammer. In "The Washington Post" today, Mr. Krauthammer took a stab at diagnosing what ails the Republicans now. Specifically, he assessed why the Republican Party has an issue with women voters. And this was his assessment, quote, "The problem here for Republicans is not policy but delicacy -- speaking about culturally sensitive and philosophically complex issues with reflection and prudence." Republicans don`t have a policy problem when it comes to women`s issues, in other words. They just speak about their policy preferences with insufficient delicacy. See, women don`t mind that this is how Republicans are governing with respect to women`s rights. They just like to hear that their rights are being repealed in more flowery prose. I mean, the Krauthammer diagnosis is that Republicans should just find a more delicate way to describe things like mandatory medically, unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds at the order of Bob McDonnell. You can say that more softly. You can say it in cursive, if you want to. But it`s still going to bring protesters out on to the streets to line your walk of shame into the building from which you are trying to govern that way. In Ohio, Mitt Romney lost women by 11 points. He lost the state. He lost the presidency. Since Republicans are telling themselves that the gender gap has nothing to do with policy, you want to know what Ohio Republicans have done since the election on Tuesday? Ohio Republicans today said they`re going to reintroduce their bill from last session to ban almost all abortions in Ohio. That should take care of your problem with women voters. The Republican Party right now finds itself at a crossroads once again. In the year 2000, we knew George Bush`s choice of vice president, Dick Cheney, would never himself run for president. I mean, not healthy enough, not young enough, not popular enough. We knew 12 years ago that George Bush was coming into office with no heir apparent, with no obvious successor. Since the end of George W. Bush`s two terms in office, the most interesting thing in all of American politics has been watching the Republican Party try to figure out who their leader would be post George W. Bush. We knew it would never be Dick Cheney. It did not end up being John McCain. It definitely did not end up being Sarah Palin. For awhile it looked like it would be Michael Steele when they picked him to run the party. Maybe? No. How about John Boehner? Speaker of the House -- previous speakers have been able to fashion that job into a national leadership role. But John Boehner has not done that. I mean, no disrespect, but nobody thinks of him as the leader of the Republican Party. Mitt Romney did have that job. Mitt Romney for awhile was the leader of the Republican Party. We can prove it with evidence. This past June, President Obama walked out into the Rose Garden and announced he was going to stop the deportation of kids who were here without papers through no fault of their own. When President Obama announced that, Beltway reporters immediately went to the Republican leaders in congress to see what`s the official response from that? What`s the official Republican position on that issue? And here`s what the reporters were told by the Republicans in Congress. Quote, "Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that GOP lawmakers will wait for Mitt Romney to take the lead on immigration policy. Quote, `Most members are interested in what Romney has to say about this issue and we`re going to withhold judgment, most of us, until that time,` McConnell said." Mr. Romney was not just the de facto leader of the Republican Party. He was the stated leader of the Republican Party. Now that he`s lost the presidency, obviously nobody thinks that Mitt Romney going forward is going to continue to play the role of leader of the Republican Party. "The Boston Globe", in fact, reported this week that Mr. Romney is likely to move to La Jolla, California, to spend more time with his car elevator, presumably. But in Mitt Romney`s short time as leader of the Republican Party, when he was their presidential nominee, he made leadership decisions about the party. About what the party is like, about what the party looks like to the rest of the country. He made leadership decisions particularly in terms of who he would dignify with his embrace, who among everybody in the Republican Party he, Mitt Romney, leader of the party would privilege, who he would elevate. He elevated guys like Kris Kobach, the Republican guy who wrote Arizona`s controversial "papers please" immigration law. He was Mitt Romney`s immigration adviser. He made and then kept as his national campaign chairman and his most ubiquitous campaign surrogate a man named John Sununu, who called President Obama lazy and not very bright and said President Obama needs to, quote, "learn how to be an American." Mitt Romney`s national campaign chairman. Mr. Romney also elevated and dignified by his presence, I`m sorry to have to say the name, but this guy, Donald Trump. Mitt Romney as the leader of the Republican Party, as their presidential standard bearer, flew out to Las Vegas to personally receive Donald Trump`s endorsement. Mr. Romney`s running mate Paul Ryan held special in-person events with Donald Trump. Donald Trump did robocalls for the Romney campaign throughout the campaign and he wasn`t freelancing. Mitt Romney asked him to do it. Mitt Romney did have the leadership reins of the Republican Party for a brief moment as their presidential candidate. And what he did with that position of leadership is going to haunt the Republican Party`s prospects of being taken seriously for a long time to come. So the question now, as it has been for many years now is, who`s next? Who runs that party? Who is their leader now? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One unaffiliated candidate made a mark on the 2012 election. He`s an Englishman who did not spend a nickel on a campaign or give one speech. He`s an Englishman by the name of Charles Darwin who made the most excellent mark of anyone on any ballot across the country this year. That excellent story and an accompanying beverage, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DARALENE JONES, WFTV (voice-over): We pressed the governor today and he refused to admit he made a mistake and dodged my question about it over and over again. (on camera): Do you regret not extending early voting? GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Well, you know what`s great about our state is people got out to vote. What we`re doing is the right thing. The right thing happened. We had a big Election Day. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Boy, did they ever in Florida. That was reporter Daralene Jones from WFTV in Orlando trying to get an answer from Florida Governor Rick Scott about this. Voters stuck in line for eight hours and more in polling places around the state of Florida after Governor Scott cut the days for early voting and refused to add any of them back when the lines were that long. He says it all worked fine. The right thing happened. Florida officials say the lines pop up mostly in big cities with diverse population. They say that as if that`s self-explanatory in terms of why you got long lines. But, serious, Florida officials -- have you guys been to L.A., Los Angeles? Really big city. Really diverse. We have been getting letters from people who vote in California where they opened tons and tons of polling places that serve much smaller groups of voters than the way you deal with it in Florida. In California, for example, they vote at the Neptune Society Columbarium. They vote in their neighbor`s garage. They voted at headquarters of the Venice Beach lifeguards in Los Angeles. What Californians do not do, not generally, is stand in line and wait eight hours to vote. After the cake splat of an election in Florida and several other states, we`re watching for ideas about how to fix our broken election system. Election law expert Rick Hasen says we should declare Florida an election disaster area and bring in the feds. He says Congress should nationalize the running of elections for every state, with voter registration that follows you for life and the option of using your thumbprint as ID at the polls. The Brennan Center for Justice is recommending that Congress require early voting in every state, the same amount, and set a standard for number of voting machines so every polling place has enough to go around. If you want to take the long view, Senator Hillary Clinton`s old Count Every Vote Act is kicking around from 2005. Then-Senator Clinton wanted to declare a federal holiday for voting. She wanted to send money to the states for modernizing their elections. Here`s just an idea from me, but how about when Hillary Clinton finishes up her time as secretary of state, about she and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O`Connor lead a commission on reform, a national nonpartisan election reform commission? I would be for that. Who would be against that? We`re getting to a point we can`t ignore the failings of our election system. We can`t guarantee the vote to citizens and then ask those citizens in states around the country to stand in lines that start before dawn and end after midnight. We cannot guarantee citizens the right to vote and then look at these pictures and call it good. We cannot. It is beyond our national conscious to accept this scandal as the state of the franchise, even if you are in the political party that stands to profit from making voting harder. These images are beyond our national conscious. And yet, because voting is a federal issue and elections are administered by the states, we do not have federal leverage over how elections are conducted. About the only leverage we have as a country federally is the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 to make sure that African-Americans could vote. You want to see the lines at the polls? Look at this. "Bloomberg News" dug up this old photo today. This is Birmingham, Alabama, in 1966. The first big election held in the South since Congress passed -- after Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act puts the states in the old confederacy under special scrutiny because those states and other places earned special scrutiny on account of their past behavior. The Voting Rights Act is there to make sure Texas doesn`t wrongly purge its voter rules or Mississippi doesn`t start requiring new forms of ID that make people unable to vote who should be allowed to vote. It`s not much, but the Voting Rights Act is more or less what we have in terms of federal leverage, federal enforcement for the right to vote. Today, on a day that could not have been a bigger news day any way, today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that they are going to hear a challenge to the Voting Rights Act, to the central part of it. The lead plaintiff in the case is Shelby County, Alabama, just outside Birmingham. They`d like that special scrutiny to please go away. They`d like to handle it themselves. Joining me now is Debo Adegbile. He`s the acting president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Mr. Adegbile, thanks very much for joining us tonight. DEBO ADEGBILE, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE & EDUCATIONAL FUND: It`s good to be with you. MADDOW: You defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court the last time it was challenged in 2009. How serious a threat does this case pose to the Voting Rights Act? ADEGBILE: I think it`s a serious threat. Any time a core civil rights statute is before the Supreme Court, testing its constitutionality, we need to wake up and focus on it. So, we`re not happy that the case is back there. We don`t think it needed to be there. But we`re prepared to defend it as we have successfully in the past. MADDOW: Is the -- am I right to describe the Voting Rights Act, particularly the parts of it that are being challenged with this case, as sort of maximum point of federal leverage over whether or not the states do right in administering our elections? ADEGBILE: I think it`s really a core protection. It`s a fundamental piece of the whole civil rights canon. And so many civil rights statutes are based on the model and the decisions upholding the Voting Rights Act. So, it`s really amongst the most important statutes, not only civil rights statutes, but statutes of any kind that our federal legislature has passed. MADDOW: I am struck by the timing here. I mean, I don`t understand the inner workings of the Supreme Court to know enough about why they would make an announcement about a case like this kind on this kind of a time frame. I`m struck by the timing just because of what else happened this week in our national elections. Is it -- should I -- is it just a coincidence? ADEGBILE: Well, it`s hard to know. We won`t know until we get to the justice`s writings years after they retire about the timing. There was an appeal that was working its way to the court. We were looking for a ruling or a decision to hear the case possibly before the election. Ultimately, it didn`t come until after the election. And so it`s hard to say what`s in the timing. But the fact of the matter is, you never want this type of challenge before the Supreme Court because this is a core aspect of our nation`s march toward progress. MADDOW: If you could change election law, if you could at least advise Congress about how to change election law, what could be done at the federal level, are there things that could be done that would dramatically protect the franchise better than it`s protected now? ADEGBILE: Absolutely. The first thing we shouldn`t do is take down those protections that we`ve had, which is the issue presented in this case. What we need are more protections, not fewer. And the recent activity across the country targeted at many communities tells us we need more protection. There are some big things to do -- universal registration or some type or registration that allows 18-year-olds to be registered when they have their birthday. Something modeled on selective service registration or the like but applies across the board. That would be very helpful. Expand early voting, right? Let`s not have those lines because we have a bigger period when people can exercise their franchise. I think that would be important. And another thing we saw this time in the elections that we don`t need to have is this idea that people can go to the polls and challenge voters on Election Day. That sort of an anachronistic piece of the voting story - - and let`s not have people there intimidating voters. Challenges can be done long before election time and let the folks that administer elections have everybody vote. MADDOW: And on -- let`s take specifically that piece about early voting, because that`s on people`s minds now because of the restrictions on early voting, that really had -- the Republican officials that restricted early voting this year never made an argument for why they are restricting. They just said, we have enough time. We have enough time. We have enough time. They never made a case for why they needed to get rid of the time that was there. What about the division of labor, the jurisdictional division of labor between Congress saying we ought to have more early voting in every state in the country and the states asserting their own rights to run elections as they see fit? How do you see that both morally and legally breaking down? ADEGBILE: So in a sense that comes back to the Voting Rights Act. The ideas that were used to advance the discrimination against minority voters in Birmingham and other places was this idea of states rights, that the states can administer their elections and even interpret the Constitution in the way they see fit and that there wasn`t a uniform federal standard. The Voting Rights Act was a definitive answer to that question, that the Constitution must be followed and it`s not for the states to pick and choose. It was an important turning point. And so I think there is a federal role to play, certainly in federal elections, to bring greater uniformity, what we want as Americans is more voting. We want to invite people to the party. Not dissuade them. MADDOW: What do you think of my Sandra Day O`Connor-Hillary Clinton idea? ADEGBILE: I`m all for it. MADDOW: Hey. Debo Adegbile, you were a guy who does not persuade easily, I know, because of your line of work. Thank you for being here. It`s great to have you here. Thanks. ADEGBILE: Thanks so much. Great to be here. MADDOW: All right. The best write-in campaign of a person no longer living of all time, coming up with a drink. Hold on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Breaking news -- legitimately breaking news. We have a call to make in a governors race that we had previously not been able to call. NBC News can now project that in the great state of Washington, the new governor of the state will be the Democratic former Congressman Jay Inslee. Mr. Inslee`s opponent, Republican Rob McKenna, has conceded the race. Mr. Inslee succeeds Christine Gregoire, also a Democrat, who served two terms as Washington governor, but chose not to turn for a third. So, again, Jay Inslee is the new governor of Washington state. Like many contest this year, it was close and then the Democrat won. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Normally, if you get hurt, the worst case scenario is you have to go to the hospital, right? But when the hospital is the thing that is hurt, then what do you do? Right now in New York, there are three hospitals that were so damaged, they have yet to reopen since hurricane Sandy. And that includes the veterans hospital in Manhattan, which as of this past week, looked like this. That`s a lot of water where water is not supposed to be. According to V.A. officials who visited the site, the only MRI machine at the hospital is flooded and lost. The fire suppression system, the whole electrical system, the mechanical systems were all knocked out at the veterans hospital. The basement and ground floor were flooded. One tiny silver lining here is that the building was reportedly structurally sound. It doesn`t need to be knocked down. But when the V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki visited the damaged hospital today, his agency could not say when they expect the hospital to reopen, this incredibly important facility. So Manhattan veterans now are being rerouted to Brooklyn and Queens. The V.A.`s regional office in New York is also closed down still due to damage from the storm. Inside, it is a mess. The V.A. and veterans groups are doing what they can, like this mobile center they have set up to provide some of the counsels and jobs help that the V.A. would usually provide from its shut-down facilities. They set up this temporary pharmacy at the damaged V.A. hospital. This picture was taken today. The storm hit last Monday. The impact of this storm hitting veterans in particular so directly with this double whammy, the V.A. office and the V.A. hospital still being shut down, it`s kind of hard to fathom. But this Sunday is Veterans Day, which means more than ever it`s time to fathom it and give props for the way veterans have been dealing with this particular hardship that hit them specifically in this storm. Veterans have been volunteering in huge numbers to help everybody else. That`s Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America out in the Rockaways. Also, there`s a group called Team Rubicon, a group of veterans from all over the country that volunteers as a group wherever and whenever a natural disaster hits. They have been in New York and New Jersey and the whole region hit by the storm for over a week now. On Sunday, this Sunday, Veterans Day, hundreds more veterans are expected to join them, cleaning up this devastated part of the country, that coordinated storm relief effort is what veterans are doing on Veterans Day, which is the day we`re supposed to honor them. If you want to help out yourself or donate or if you just want to attend a Veterans Day parade this Sunday, we have posted links you might find helpful for doing that stuff at, including some special resource links for veterans who are here in the storm-affected areas who have been making due with this incredible double whammy of no V.A. hospital for the foreseeable future in Manhattan, and no regional office Happy Veterans Day, everybody. It`s an unusually tough one in this part of the country. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TODD AKIN (R-MO), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that`s really rare. If it`s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: From what I understand from doctors. That guy Todd Akin is no more in politics. He lost his Senate bid against Claire McCaskill in Missouri by 16 points. And in order to run for the Senate seat that he lost, he had to give up his House seat in Missouri. So come January, Todd Akin will be gone from national politics. But until then, consider that this guy, this guy who has the magical qualities of rapist sperm, which he says he learned from doctors, this guy, until he has gone from the House, will retain his seat on the House Science Committee. The Republican Party put Todd Akin on the Science Committee in Congress. Also, old Roscoe Bartlett who just lost his seat. Mr. Bartlett was the one who said rape hardly ever causes pregnancies. He knows that because -- well, he knows. But he`s quite sure that`s true. The Republicans put Todd Akin and Roscoe Bartlett on the Science Committee in Congress. Such is the Republican Party`s respect for science. And since the Republicans did hold on to the House this year, the Republicans still get to determine the membership of the House Science Committee. Do you want to know who they`re going to put in charge of it? (BEGINV IDEO CLIP) REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: We don`t know what those other cycles were caused by in the past. It could be dinosaur flatulence, you know, or who knows, you know? But we do know that the CO2 in the past had its time when it was greater as well. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Dana Rohrabacher. Republicans say they may put the dinosaur farts guy in charge of the Science Committee for Congress. Or instead, they might choose this guy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: CO2 is a natural case. Now, does this mean that all of us very to put catalytic converters on our noses so there`s no CO2 that escapes every time we exhale? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner went on to say that it is propaganda that people think there`s anything bad about carbon emissions. And he should know from propaganda, since the place he was speaking at when he said that, when he said that thing about sticking catalytic converters up all our noses, where he was when he was saying that was at the Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute is the group that put up these billboards saying if you believe in global warming, you`re the Unabomber. So those are the two members of Congress House Republicans are choosing between to lead the House of Representatives on matters of science. Another Republican member of the Science Committee who his race and will therefore presumably be rejoining his colleagues there is this guy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL BROUN (R), GEORGIA: I`ve come to understand that all that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it`s lies to try and keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Embryology is lies from the pit of hell. That guy is Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia. And on Tuesday, he won back his House seat and therefore his place on the House Science Committee. There was no suspense about Paul Broun`s reelection because he ran unopposed. But in a development worthy of national recognition, maybe a national round of applause, I need to tell you that nearly 4,000 of Paul Broun`s constituents went into the voting booth on Tuesday and decided that just voting for unopposed Paul Broun, or instead of just not voting for anybody in that race, nearly 4,000 people in his district decided they would write in a worthy opponent for him. Nearly 4,000 in his district went into the voting booth on Tuesday and wrote in the name Charles Darwin -- instead of voting for the evolution is lies from the pit of hell guy -- which is maybe as good a reminder as we are ever going to get in this country that it is not just when things seem dire that we should hope for improvement. Sometimes even when things go great, good-bye Todd Akin, sometimes there is still room for yet more good news on top of something you already thought was pretty good. Even great days sometimes get better, even something, for example, as great as a whiskey cocktail can be improved. So for a cocktail moment at the end of a rather stunning week in American politics, here`s how you make an improved whiskey cocktail. All right. This is a Jerry Thomas drink that dates back to the 1870s. And a 19th century whiskey cocktails, what we now call an old fashioned. An old fashioned is whiskey with sugar and bitters. An improved whiskey cocktail is an improvement on that. The improvement is the addition of a couple of other sweetening agents in very small proportions. So, where`s my glass? Here it is. We start with absinthe. This is a weird preparation technique, but it works for me, put a little bit of absinthe in a glass, I`m not going to measure it because after I swirl it around and coat the glass with it, I`m going to throw it out, into the trash, into the sink. You don`t need a lot of it. You just want the absinthe in the middle of the glass. OK. So now my glass is prepared. While I`m doing this other part, will you put ice in there? Right. So, we`ve got absinthe-rinsed glass that I`m always putting ice in. Now, in terms of making the rest of the cocktail, two dashes of bitters, a quarter of an ounce of this delicious thing that old Italian ladies put on their fruit salad, which is called maraschino. It looks like -- you know old Italian ladies will do this? Yes, it`s delicious. It looks like maraschino but they pronounce it maraschino. And you just want a quarter ounce of this, which is not very much, a quarter ounce of maraschino, and a quarter ounce of sugar water, otherwise known as simple syrup. Just sugar and water in equal volume. Oops, too much -- never do that. There we go. Never pour it back in the thing like I just did. It`s my home bar right. All right. Now, the whiskey part. Two ounces of rye whiskey. If you can get bonded rye, which means it`s 100 proof, you`ll thank me. All right. So two ounces of rye, a quarter ounce of maraschino, a quarter of sugar syrup, two dashes of bitters, and oops -- ice. And this is one of those drinks that you stir instead of shake. And then you strain it into your delicious absinthe rinsed glass that Zoey has filled with ice for you because you`re too slow when it comes to the ice. And the finale, what I like to think of as the part where Paul Broun`s constituents write in Charles Darwin as an opponent for him, even after he already had a really good week as the liberal is the lemon twist, the improved whiskey cocktail. Sometimes even really good things can get better. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again Monday night. Now, it`s time "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Have a great weekend. I`m going to spend it with this. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END