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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/21/12

Guests: Bob Herbert

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening and thanks for staying with us for the next hour. Happy Thanksgiving Eve. This is one of those days when no news is supposed to happen. But it turns out there is a lot of news today, including a lot of news to be thankful for. Not least the cease-fire in the Middle East that broke out this evening, which we will be getting a live report on from Richard Engel in Gaza in just a couple of minutes. But I`m also thankful tonight to be able to report that the election has finally concluded in Arizona, where it took them 14 days to count votes and announce the results this year. In the end, it turns out that all three competitive congressional races in that state went to the Democrats. But the competitive U.S. Senate race for Republican Jon Kyl`s old seat, that seat stayed Republican. And yes, the county sheriff who did the whole taxpayer-funded stunt about having his cold case posse uncover the fraud of President Obama`s birth certificate, that sheriff did get re-elected, barely. Last time he won by a 13-point landslide. This time he won by much less than that, but did get re-elected. And that public publicity-hungry Arizona sheriff is not the only Arizona Republican elected official who has lately been fixated on the president`s birth certificate. The Arizona secretary of state this year threatened to keep President Obama off the ballot in Arizona for this year`s election. Because, you know, Kenya, or whatever. And because that is the record of Arizona`s secretary of state, the state`s current top elections official, I think nobody had very high expectations for him in terms of how well he would do running elections in the state of Arizona. And indeed, the Arizona elections this year went horribly. And it took them 14 days to even come up with the results. But they do have results. And surprise, I`m thankful to report that that same Arizona Republican secretary of state, who was a birther and who threatened to screw up the whole national presidential election because of his flirtation with birtherism, and who supervised what appears to have been a pretty terribly botched election in his state, that guy, that secretary of state in Arizona has now responded to his botched election by saying that he is not proposing making the next election worse. And this is news -- because Republicans in Wisconsin and Ohio and Iowa since the election have proposed making voting and voter registration even more difficult the next time around than it was this time. But this guy, Ken Bennett, Arizona`s Republican secretary of state, the birther guy, today he did not do that. Instead, he is proposing just sort of normal, technocratic reforms for Arizona, that seemingly are not designed to make things worse. He`s proposing voting centers, where anybody in the county can go vote, no matter where your specific precinct is. It`s been in lots of other places, even used in some parts of Arizona. It is now panacea, but it is not the pursuit of further voter suppression, from a Republican elections official. And for that, I imagine Arizona voter who is stood in these long, long lines this year, and then had to wait 14 days for a result, for that, I imagine Arizona voters are thankful, as am I, as somebody who wants our voting process to be where the two parties compete and not how they compete, I am thankful for that news today. And while we are on the subject of being thankful, I will also say that I am thankful for this guy, former Utah governor, Jon Huntsman. Yesterday, President Obama`s campaign manager, Jim Messina, did an event for, in which he explained that the Obama campaign was very relieved that the Republican Party did not pick Jon Huntsman as their nominee to run against President Obama this year. Obviously, Governor Huntsman did run for president this year, for about five minutes. But he got out quickly and cleanly once it became clear that the Republican Party this year was not going to pick a guy who tweeted things like this: "To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." Yes, that was not going to work for the Republican Party this year. And so, Jon Huntsman got out, early. And while the Obama campaign must have been relieved when he exited the race, the fact that he exited the race completely, without having to go through the worst of the nonsense from the Republican primary, and the fact that he got out in a way that largely kept him from being associated with the ultimately losing and now politically toxic Mitt Romney campaign, all of that means that Jon Huntsman is alive and well in American politics. Jon Huntsman is available to be a potential leader in the future Republican Party. And whether or not you like the Republican Party, frankly, that party having somebody available for a leadership role, who has been a successful governor and a successful ambassador to China, who has a constructive mutually respectful relationship with President Obama, who was willing to put country first enough to work for President Obama, even though he is a Republican, a guy who believes in science and isn`t embarrassed about it, to have that guy survive in Republican politics this year in 2012, while Mitt Romney disappears forever -- I mean, hearing Jim Messina admit now how highly President Obama thinks of Jon Huntsman, and how much he was worried about him as an opponent is a remainder to be thankful for Jon Huntsman, and frankly, hopeful that he keeps his hat in the ring in his own party. And thankful today, too, that the first post-election direct mail thingy that I got from Rick Santorum -- remember him -- was a political overture wrapped around the idea of buying made in the USA Christmas presents. Yes, Rick Santorum, it wasn`t about evil Obamacare or how horrible it is that gay people want to get married or some imagined war on religion or any of the other Rick Santorum shtick we all got to know so well this past year and a half. It was instead about buying made in the USA stuff. OK. Let`s start there. Let`s talk. I am thankful to report that the Republican governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, is suggesting that the Iowa Republican Party should get rid of its straw poll. He`s not suggesting getting rid of the Iowa caucuses, just the straw poll, which is not a real poll or a real election of any kind. It`s just a Republican Party fund-raiser, where Republican candidates bribe people and bus in people from all over the state for a big fake contest that the national media habitually threats as if it is a real thing even though it is nonsense, which you can tell by the fact that Michele Bachmann of it this year before her campaign promptly imploded. The Iowa straw poll means nothing. It is a hoax that the Republican Party of Iowa perpetrates on the country and the candidates every year, and the media goes along with it, every year, even though we all know that`s true. But now, the Republican governor of that state says it is ridiculous, let`s get rid of it. That would be a blow against cynicism. That would be a blow for political rationality. And I am thankful for that news. Not all symbolic political events are pointless, though. And in today`s news, I am also thankful that there is a somewhat bizarre political tradition in this country at Thanksgiving time of the president of the United States pardoning a turkey or two, so they get to live and not die, even as the country prepares to cook and eat the carcasses of millions of birds of their same species. In our American culture, it is very rare that we celebrate mercy, right? That we model mercy, as laudatory behavior by a strong leader. And so I am thankful, every year, that we go through this mercy pageant, where the president issues a formal pardon to those big, awkward birds. This year in particular, I am thankful that the birds were named Cobbler and Gobbler. Cobbler and Gobbler. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, they say that life is all about second chances. And this November, I could not agree more. So, in the spirit of the season, I have one more gift to give. And it goes to a pair of turkeys named Cobbler and Gobbler. The American people have spoken and these birds are moving forward. (LAUGHTER) I love this bird. (LAUGHTER) Now, I joke, but for the first time in our history, the winners of the White House turkey pardon were chosen through a highly competitive online vote. And once again, Nate Silver completely nailed it. The guy`s amazing. He predicted these guys would win. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I am thankful that the president made a Nate Silver joke when he pardoned the Thanksgiving turkeys, Cobbler and Gobbler, this year. I`m thankful that Nate Silver`s professional success this election season has at least temporarily put a halt to the nonsense questioning of whether polling is real, of whether numbers can be trusted to be true, even when you do not like what the numbers indicate. If you are thankful that Barack Obama was re-elected as president, I have to say, you are probably not thankful that John Boehner was re-elected as speaker of the House. And vice versa, if you`re psyched about John Boehner, you`re probably not psyched about President Obama. But there is one thing about the re-election of both of these men that I think is maybe worth being thankful for. I am thankful that John Boehner forever and President Obama may be only recently -- these two men have been willing to show emotion in public. To be big, tough, American leaders of the highest order, right? Both of them in positions where they really answer to no one but the voters, and they are willing to be seen shedding a tear, without shame. I am thankful for that in our national American leadership. I am thankful that the brilliant BBC series, "House of Cards," about the most evil politician ever, a mini-series that I`ve watched a million times and I`ve been addicted to for years, I am happy, I am thankful, I am thankful that "House of Cards" is being remade by Kevin Spacey and it comes out in February. I`m thankful for NBC White House producer, Shawna Thomas, who sent us this picture for the lines of early voting in Houston this year. And we posted that online and that led to our viewers from all over the country sending us pictures of long lines when you guys went to vote early, which helped us bring national coverage to the issue of just how long people were waiting in line to vote, even before the long lines on Election Day itself. We could not have covered that story without you guys sending us data for us to follow up on. And I am very thankful that you watching this show consistently send stuff into our blog that helps us cover the news in a way we could not do otherwise. I am thankful for that. And while we`re on the subject, honestly, I`m thankful for everybody who had the stamina and resolve to stand in those long lines to vote this year. I`m thankful for anybody who volunteered in the election effort on any side, whose job it was to talk people into voting, and to help people stick it out, despite how hard they made it in some places this year to actually get your vote cast. I`m thankful that regardless of the two candidates in this case and their two parties, in one state this year, it proved untenable to win a seat in the United States Senate by mocking and attacking your opponent for being part Native American. Particularly on this holiday, I am thankful that in 2012, running an overtly race-based campaign could take an incumbent who everybody thought would probably win and hold on to his seat, could take that incumbent and instead have him lose his seat by eight points. After that campaign, regardless of who he is, I am thankful that that campaign was a failure. I am thankful that the satire site, "The Onion", ran this headline in the middle of the Petraeus affair scandal. Right? "Nation horrified to learn about war in Afghanistan, while reading up on Petraeus sex scandal." Yes, yes. "The Onion" gets it right again. Sometimes satire gets it better than outrage and explanation ever could. And this goes in the pantheon of perfect "Onion: headlines. I`m thankful for foreign correspondents and for news organizations who pay them and pay their expenses, which are considerable, and who give them the freedom to explain exactly what it is that they are seeing out there in the big, dangerous world. I`m thankful that we are at a time in American media where we have foreign correspondents who are not only daring and capable, but who are critical and independent and uncowed by anyone. I am very thankful for that. I`m thankful, specifically, for ABC`s Martha Raddatz, who is the first foreign correspondent to ever cross over into the role of solo debate moderator in the presidential season. She was the solo vice presidential debate moderator this year, and she ran a freaking excellent debate. And while we are on the subject of people on other networks, for whom I am thankful, I am specifically thankful for Mark Knoller at CBS, who I`ve never met, but whose Twitter stream is an always on constant stream of short and declarative factual statements explaining very basic details of the president`s movements and all sorts of political things that all of us end up needing detail on. Why isn`t there going to be a second refueling when the president is coming back from Asia? Mark Knoller`s on it. Tail winds from Japan. What was in the bags of food handed out at the White House charity event? Mike Knoller`s on it, and it includes yams. I`m thankful that in just a few weeks, the great city of Chicago is going to be organizing a welcome home parade to mark the end of the Iraq war. A parade on December 15th to thank Americans who have fought in Iraq and who have fought in Afghanistan. I am thankful for the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who themselves decided to self-start veteran`s cleanup and recovery crews for the coast in New York and New Jersey when hurricane Sandy hit. I`m thankful there is still an American automobile industry, when it was not at all clear just a few years ago that that would be true. I`m thankful that the American automobile industry not only exists, but it is kicking butt. I am thankful for that. I`m thankful that when my pal, Xeni Jardin at got diagnosed with breast cancer this year, Xeni decided to go public with it in a way that has led millions of people to look at the issue of cancer differently and more critically in a way that is uncompromisingly unpatronizing and very smart, like everything she does. I`m thankful for Xeni. I`m thankful for the reporter name Terry Camp at the local ABC affiliate in Flint, Michigan. He`s the reporter who got vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan to admit that contrary to what the NRA was saying and multi-million dollar ad buys around the country, actually, President Obama wasn`t changing gun laws to take anyone`s guns away. And then Paul Ryan pulled off his microphone and his handler put that piece of paper up in front of the camera and then Paul Ryan never did another local news interview until he lost the election and the campaign was over. I`m thankful for local news reporter who is work generally in lousy conditions with lousy support for lousy pay, and who do things as widerangingly wonderful as KTLA covering the story of the Glendale bear wandering the streets of Los Angeles, to CBS Atlanta, building this wacky graphic to accompany the story of the Georgia Republican state senators holding a seminar on President Obama`s mind control techniques, to the political reporter for the ABC affiliate in Miami who had the big pitcher of water thrown all over him, when he was bravely trying to report on the story of the scandal-ridden now former congressman, David Rivera. I`m thankful, specifically, for James Carter, who brought the infamous 47 percent video from Mitt Romney to light with help from David Corn at "Mother Jones" magazine. And that video, of course, ended up being a bigger deal, even, than how distracted everybody got by the fact that James Carter is the grandson of former President James Carter. I`m thankful for reported local politics blogs, some of which are partisan and some of which aren`t. Sites like Ecletablog in Michigan and Plunderbund and Ohio capital blog in Ohio for reporting out and documenting local political stories in a way that we really need nationally, but we sometimes can no longer get from the local more official press, since the business model has cost so many reporters their jobs. I`m thankful for the "Jackson Free Press", specifically, staying on the Mississippi voter ID story, when those of us up here in New York were having a heck of a time trying to follow the twists and turns of that Mississippi voter ID story any other way. And we couldn`t have done it without them. I`m thankful to the "Miami Herald" for keeping this great reporter, Carol Rosenberg, on the Guantanamo beat, even when the country has largely turned away from that story. Carol Rosenberg`s reporting is definitive and relentless, and it is a service to the country that the "Miami Herald" has kept her on that beat. I am thankful to the Republicans and to the conservatives who will brave the people on their own side who tell them not to do it and who will nevertheless come talk to liberal hosts like me and the other liberal hosts like me here on MSNBC. And yes, that means Steve Schmidt and Michael Steele and Meghan McCain, who we`ve been able to bring on board officially here at this network. But also, everybody else on the right, who was willing to come on just as a guest, because you are not afraid to leave the echo chamber. I will not say your name here for fear it will get all your Christmas party invitations rescinded from your friends on the right. But you know who you are and I thank you. And I hope there are more of you next year. I`m thankful for C-Span. I`m thankful for the election that we just went through. And I`m thankful that it is over. And that it really, really, really, I swear, really is too soon to start talking about 2016 -- for a long time, it will be too soon to talk about 2016. I am thankful for that. And for the fact that through this flawed and contested, but ultimately noble system of regular elections and representative democracy, what we have in this country are peaceful transitions of power. I am thankful for all of that. And you know what? I am thankful for the fact that the highest profile person in our entire country other than our president is our nation`s top diplomat. With tonight`s cease-fire in the Middle East, I am very, very thankful for diplomacy -- American diplomacy and just diplomacy. We have more on that just ahead, live from the Middle East. There is a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Eve, including the fact that ours is a country that makes a holiday out of thankfulness. There`s a lot ahead tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza took effect today, it was 2:00 p.m. on the East Coast of the United States, with a time difference that meant it was 9:00 p.m. in Gaza. And this is how people there reacted. After eight straight days of very fierce fighting, very welcome news. Today, when the fighting stopped, people poured into the streets of Gaza, cheering. Now, it was not a given that the cease-fire would happen today. Not, especially, after a bomb exploded this morning on a bus in Tel Aviv in Israel, injuring dozens of people. After that bombing, the rockets out of Gaza into Israel and the bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli military continued right up until the cease-fire was scheduled to go into effect. Right up to the minute. I mean, the cease-fire was scheduled to go into effect at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, right? At least one Israeli missile landed in Gaza as 1:57 p.m. Even after that, at 1:59 p.m., four rockets were launched into Israel from Gaza. But then a minute later, the cease-fire was due to take hold and it stopped. What was immediately noted, I think, particularly for those of us watching from over here, watching from the United States, was just how much our own country ended up being at the center of the effort to stop the fighting. We`ve been talking on this show the last few days about how the nation of Egypt is really the key connection for the United States to both sides in the fight right now. And that was driven home today by the fact that when the cease-fire was announced, it was announced by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Egypt`s foreign minister at a press conference in Egypt. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: In the days ahead, the United States will work with partners across the region to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, provide security for the people of Israel. Ultimately, every step must move us toward a comprehensive peace, for all the people of the region. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The leader of Hamas held his own press conference in Cairo today, during which he said that while his side agrees to the cease-fire, his fighters have, quote, "their hands on the trigger." In Jerusalem, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke about the cease-fire agreement. And he`s also put kind of a remarkable statement explaining why Israel was agreeing to it. Look at this. "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this evening spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama and acceded to his recommendation to give the Egyptian cease-fire proposal a chance." He acceded to what President Obama wanted. In other words, this is the American`s idea, not mine, but I`m going to go along with it, because they`re advising me I ought. It`s very specific language, highlighting how central the United States is and what`s happening right now, but also, sort of distancing Israel from the cease-fire, making it our American cease-fire and not theirs. The most important thing tonight for people who are living in range of the rockets and the airstrikes is that, of course, the cease-fire appears to be holding, at least for tonight. In terms of how long it is likely to hold and whether it has created room for more robust hope of ongoing peace, of course, remains to be seen. But we do know whatever happens next on the diplomatic side of this conflict, at least right now, it is our government, the U.S. government, that is right there, right there in the middle of it. Joining us now live from Gaza is Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent. Richard, thank you for joining us again tonight. It`s nice to have you here. Can you tell us what it`s been like in Gaza since the announcement of the cease-fire? RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: There has been a tremendous celebration here, but it is not because people are celebrating that the violence is over. Certainly, people are thankful for that. But mostly, they are celebrating because Hamas believes it has scored a victory. That Hamas has been able to force this cease-fire on the Israelis. Look at what happened four years ago. Four years ago, there was a similar round of violence. Much more serious, because the Israelis entered, destroyed a lot of territory, and then at one stage, the Israelis just said, we`re done and never communicated with Hamas. Right now, there was a negotiated settlement between Hamas and Israel. It didn`t take place directly. It took place through Egypt, the United States, but Hamas feels it gained recognition. There were more than a dozen foreign ministers who came here, came to Gaza, and paid homage to the Hamas leader. Something he never had before. They were able to fire rockets from here in Gaza and hit areas around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, something that hadn`t happened before. Hamas was losing popularity on the street in Gaza, and now its popularity is sky rising. So to give you, an example, tomorrow, Hamas has declared a public holiday, and there are expected to be victory celebrations across the Gaza Strip. MADDOW: Richard, in terms of the way that Israel couched its agreement to this, I wanted to highlight the fact that they named the United States as the party that asked them to do this, essentially saying, or directly saying, they acceded to American will on this. Why do you think they stressed that so much and what do you think Israel is likely to do now? It sounds to me like they`re still holding off the prospect that he could restart air strikes or even a ground war at any time. ENGEL: Well, I don`t know if you can hear it or see it in pixelation on the camera, there are still Israeli drones in the sky, there are still Israeli troops on the northern border of Gaza and along the eastern border of Gaza. So the possibility that a ground war could take place is still a possibility. Clearly, Israel didn`t want that. Part of the reason Israel threw this in the United States` lap is because it`s more palpable to the Israeli people to say, look, we didn`t want to do this. It was forced on us by the United States or this was the United States` recommendation. But also because the Israelis aren`t entirely confident this is going to last very long. But something that isn`t being talked about that is significant here, something that the Israelis have gained from all of this, they have managed to put Gaza in the Egyptian`s lap. They have basically managed to foist this entire problem, this horrible place where I am standing right now. When you were going through your list of what you are thankful for, I am thankful I don`t live here. It is one of the most difficult places in the world. It is desert. It is populated by 1.6 million people. They don`t have a nation. They are run by Hamas. They hate their neighbor, Israel. Israel, their neighbor, hates them. Most of the area is very, very poor. There is a degree of hopelessness here. They have managed -- the Israelis have said to the Egyptians, with this deal, now Gaza is your problem. If rockets come out of here, the Egyptians are going to be responsible for talking to Hamas. Both of you are sort of from similar parties. The Islamic Hamas group, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Israel managed to say, OK, you two sort things out together, and we`ll see how this goes. MADDOW: Richard, one of the other things I was struck by is how vague what everybody agreed to is. I mean, both sides have agreed to not breach acts for this understanding. It`s almost like a fortune cookie, meaningless -- meaninglessly vague. Does that vagueness make a stronger agreement or a weaker one? Does that say anything to you? ENGEL: Well, I think it was -- this got lawyered pretty hard. What that means is that Israel is not supposed to carry out any sort of targeted assassinations. And when you start talking about targeted assassinations in international public documents, you could paint yourself into a legal corner. But there are a lot of -- yes, deliberately, deliberate vagaries in this. What Hamas wants and what Hamas feels that it got was a commitment from Israel to stop carrying out targeted assassinations. In exchange, Hamas won`t fire its rockets. But Hamas, even more so, feels, look at this, look where we have come, that we are almost negotiating, not as equals, but negotiating with the Israelis like a country. There are some people here -- by the way, not everybody here supports Hamas, although that would be something for people in Gaza not to say publicly these days. If you remember just yesterday, Hamas was dragging behind motorcycles, people who were accused of being collaborators here. This is a -- at times, ruthless government. There are people who say what this agreement has created is Hamasastan. It has created a small, very poor, failed state that Egypt now has to take the responsibility for in the Gaza Strip. So this is -- this is a temporary cease-fire. Hamas feels that it has been legitimatized. It feels they have some, as you say, vague commitments from Israel not to carry out any targeted assassinations. Will this be the end of the conflict? Absolutely not. When we were out in these celebrations, all the people were yelling is, "death to Israel, death to Israel" firing guns in the air. So the larger goal of bringing the people who are firing rockets and having them stand victorious in Jerusalem, which is what Hamas wants to do, ultimately, that objective has not gone away. MADDOW: Fascinating, fascinating perspective on this. Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent, live from Gaza in the middle of the night, seven hours later than it is here -- Richard, thank you so much for your time tonight. It`s great to have you on the show. ENGEL: It`s my pleasure. MADDOW: All right. Still to come, guaranteed defuser, for the single most annoying political thing that will come up at your Thanksgiving dinner if anything political comes up at all. We have the solution to that. It`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Still ahead, we have the cure, the antidote for the dumbest political misunderstanding that someone is likely to raise for discussion at your Thanksgiving dinner. We have a cure, and it`s a quick one. That`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: The people of this region deserve the chance to live free from fear and violence and today`s agreement is a step in the right direction that we should build on. Now we have to focus on reaching a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security, dignity, and legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis alike. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Seeing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Egypt today, announcing the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Gaza was not exactly something that could have been predicted when this week began. Hillary Clinton turns out to have been critical to resolving this Middle East crisis. The United States being cited specifically for playing a crucial role in getting the cease-fire. And Hillary Clinton physically being there and making the announcement about this cease-fire after eight days of fighting between Israel and Gaza. It was frankly a testament to the power and to the necessity of American diplomatic leadership in the world. But the cease-fire would happen was first reported at about 12:15 Eastern Time this afternoon. Less than an hour after those first reports that it was going to happen, we got our first response from the Republican Party in this country. The Republican Party`s response today came from, naturally, their foreign policy guy. There`s only one. John McCain. John McCain, along with his shadow, Lindsey Graham, and their new third amigo, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, they released a joint statement today, praising the cease-fire declaration, but then adding were for good measure, quote, "what happens in the Middle East will impact America`s vital national security interests for the foreseeable future and stronger, smarter American leadership is desperately needed." Smarter leadership! Take it from John McCain. Remember, John McCain`s big idea on foreign policy at the moment is that we should not have a secretary of state at all right now. John McCain suggesting that he will personally block anybody from being confirmed as secretary of state in the second term of the Obama administration, because according to John McCain, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who`s a likely candidate for secretary of state, she once said something wrong on the Sunday shows. In the days after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, back in September, Susan Rice went on the Sunday shows and gave the administration`s intelligence agency-approved talking points, explaining what the administration thought at that time had happened in Benghazi. And that, in John McCain`s view, is unforgivable. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Maybe she could start out by publicly coming back on this show and saying, I was wrong. I gave the wrong information on your show some several weeks ago. That might be a beginning. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: But until then, John McCain will block her potential nomination, and anybody`s nomination. No secretary of state for the United States of America until John McCain is satisfied. Susan Rice, for the record, did not give wrong information on the Sunday shows. She described accurately what the intelligence agencies were advising her to say at that time. None of which turned out to be particularly wrong. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence came out yesterday and said, the intelligence agencies wrote and edited her talking points. Late tonight, Susan Rice responded to John McCain publicly castigating her over and over again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SUSAN RICE, U.N. AMBASSADOR: I have great respect for Senator McCain and his service to our country. I always have and I always will. I do think that some of the statements he`s made about me have been unfounded, but I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You know, even if it were true that Susan Rice had said something wrong on the Sunday shows, which is not true, Susan Rice saying something wrong on a Sunday show is the grave alleged sin that John McCain has single-handedly decided should be the basis for the first big fight that he wants the Republican Party to have with newly elected -- newly re- elected President Obama. This is the grounds for him blocking America from having a secretary of state at all right now. He will not confirm anybody to replace Hillary Clinton, because he`s so angry that Susan Rice, he says, supposedly said something wrong on a Sunday show. I mean, if you say something wrong on a Sunday show, if you say something wrong on a Sunday show, obviously, that`s the end! Your career is over. The world has to come to a halt, right? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) MCCAIN: I believe that it will not be nearly as difficult as some allege. I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short. We`re going to prevail. We will win. And it will be one of the best things that`s happened to America in the world for a long time, because it will reverberate throughout the Middle East. Once democracy works in Iraq, the days of the religious extremists and the despots in the Middle East are gone and the breeding ground for terrorism will be -- begin to dry up. TIM RUSSERT, "MEET THE PRESS": What`s our timetable? How much time do we have for Iran to stand down? MCCAIN: I don`t know. I would think we`re talking about a matter of months rather than years. We`re doing fine. We have closed in the last week. If we continue this closer next week, you`re going to be up very, very late on election night. I guarantee you that two weeks from now, you will see that this has been a very close race and I believe that I`m going to win it. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: If it`s Sunday, it must be John McCain on television, frequently saying things that are wrong. Being wrong on the Sunday shows is obviously not a disqualifying thing in Washington, right? You don`t have to stop being a senator or stop being a presidential candidate or stop being a major administration official, just for saying something wrong on a Sunday show. It may be should mean that you don`t get to do the Sunday shows so much, though, right? This is all of 2012, right here. We are obviously mid-November right now. All of the dates in red on this calendar here, those are all of the Sundays we have had this year. This is how many times John McCain has been on the Sunday shows in that time -- uh-huh, yes. Listen, people are sometimes wrong. It happens. But that is not a reason for us as a country to not have a secretary of state, right? I mean, when you are wrong a lot on the Sunday shows, it might be a reason to not keep putting that same old wrong guy on the Sunday shows every week. But not having a secretary of state? No. Actually, there`s no reason not to keep putting John McCain on the Sunday shows. Look, this Sunday on FOX News, John McCain appearing exclusively to share his views on Benghazi, all things foreign affairs -- John McCain on a Sunday. Again, wow, I can`t believe he was available. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Bob Herbert joins us live here next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICE: As a senior U.S. diplomat, I agreed to a White House request to appear on the Sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day, which at that time were primarily and particularly the protests that were enveloping and threatening many diplomatic facilities, American diplomatic facilities around the world and Iran`s nuclear program. The attack on Benghazi, on our facilities in Benghazi, was obviously a significant piece of this. When discussing the attacks against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers. I have great respect for Senator McCain and his service to our country. I always have. And I always will. I do think that some of the statements he`s made about me have been unfounded, but I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaking late today about her comments after the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi in September -- comments which John McCain would like to turn into the basis of a first giant confrontation between his Republican Party which he believes he speaks for on foreign policy -- and the newly re-elected President Obama. Joining us now is Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos and contributor of Bob, it`s great to have you here. Happy Thanksgiving. BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: Yes. You, too. Great to be here, Rachel. MADDOW: Could Susan Rice be secretary of state if the president wanted her to be? Is this sort of John McCain spectacle trying to make an example out of her over now? HERBERT: You know, I don`t know if it is over. I think he is going to keep on trying. I personally don`t think that McCain can block this appointment if the president decides to make it. You know, it`s really weird. You watch these clips and you watch all the times that McCain has been wrong, it`s almost like slapstick, like this kind of hapless approach to foreign policy. It would be really funny if it wasn`t so tragic, because they`re not just -- the Republicans are not just wrong on foreign policy on Sunday morning, they`re profoundly wrong in terms of their policies going forward, so we have this debacle, this tremendous catastrophe in Iraq. They took their eye off the ball in Afghanistan, which is why we`re still there after a decade. They ignored the initial warnings on Osama bin Laden, you know? So it`s really horrifying that scores of thousands of people are killed and yet, they just keep going at it -- wrong, wrong, wrong. MADDOW: Can you think of a way -- I wanted to show the calendar the number of times John McCain appears on the Sunday show, just to show in that sort of I guess blunt measure how much credibility he has on this issue despite his manifest failings on this issue. Can you think of a way that America can draft like a Jon Huntsman or somebody to be the Republican Party`s new mouthpiece on foreign policy if John McCain needs to be replaced? HERBERT: This is an interesting point, because I`m generally not big on bipartisanship. I think it is too much attention in the media. I`d like the parties to just fight it out and be forced to come up with some kind of solution, not one or the other side win. This is though where I think bipartisanship is important. When you talk about foreign policy, when you`re talking about war, when you`re talking about matters of life and death in Israel and Gaza, for example, you need the United States to be an honest broker to try to save lives and bring peace -- that`s when you do want a united front with leader from both parties in this country. And if you had a serious person like Jon Huntsman who could sit down with President Obama or whomever the president may designate and discuss these things seriously and come up with a united front, it would really be extremely helpful. MADDOW: I don`t want them to have a united front. I want them to have a big fight. I just want it to be a quality fight between informed people even if they have wildly different perspectives, but where they actually might represent some other people because they`re speaking truth. They have earned it. They haven`t been given that job and sort of failed at it, and they might have -- I am happy for them to have a clash. HERBERT: You can have a fight when you`re trying to determine or put forward your foreign policy, but when you actually get to the crunch, when you`re actually going to war, we have been in war in Afghanistan for such a long time, we had Iraq, and then we have what`s going on in the Middle East now, and in those crisis moments I think it is important to try and have the United States be the honest broker and to have, you know, as much agreement as possible. MADDOW: I just want the debate to -- HERBERT: Right. You want it to be a serious debate, not silliness. MADDOW: Yes, I want John McCain to be replaced as the person who gets to talk about foreign policy. HERBERT: Maybe you`ll get your wish on Jon Huntsman. MADDOW: Yes, maybe. I don`t think so. Me wishing it isn`t going to make it happen. Bob, thank you for coming here. HERBERT: Good to see, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks for being here. Thanksgiving Eve in particular. All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: From the beginning Thanksgiving has been complicated, employee owe politically, morally complicated. The native people showed the colonists how to survive in this new place, and so, the colonists threw a harvest feast of deer and fish and ducks and potatoes and corn and eels, yay, Thanksgiving eels. And then things got ugly more or less for the next 300 years. Thanksgiving has always been complicated. This year in space, Commander Kevin Ford is celebrating a holiday as the only America out there. Commander Ford is preparing a wonderful meal for his Russian space mates, they`re having irradiated smoked turkey and thermo-stabilized yam and some NASA-issued corn bread dressing. You, if you`re lucky, you can have Thanksgiving back here on Earth with friends and family which is also complicated often. At some point your giant uncle, any one of them, is going to set off his giant hands on your Thanksgiving table and say a two-word phrase that starts with fiscal and ends with cliff. Your uncle at Thanksgiving will say, we have to do something about that fiscal cliff and really we have to do something to fix our sky rocketing deficit. Our national deficit that he will tell you has been going up and up and up like a rocket and spiraling out of control like a something going out of control and now, Paul Ryan is just so right, and if Congress and President Obama do not do something to stop the sky rocketing deficit, to sop up the red ink, if they don`t by New Year`s or whatever the emergency is supposed to happen, we will go flying off the fiscal cliff and not like these guys that mean to do that but more like cliffhanger cliff on the "Price is Right" for which going over the cliff is a dire mistake. Beware the fiscal cliff. You will hear this on Thanksgiving dinner -- at Thanksgiving dinner table. When someone inevitably brings up the fiscal cliff and how our sky rocketing deficit is a huge danger to us, do not crawl under the table. Do not give up on Thanksgiving. Help your giant uncle understand what he is freaking out about is not true. It`s is easy. There are visual aids that might help. First of all, the amount of money borrowed by the government has been going down, not up. It has been going down. Our own Steve Benen made you this chart. Look, the red bar is the deficit in `09 when President Obama took office and inherited the deficit from President Bush. Over the next three years President Obama cut the deficit by $200 billion just from last year to this year, so the deficit isn`t growing. It`s shrinking by a lot. Seriously. The folks at Investors Business Daily calculated this week that the deficit is now falling faster than at any time since the end of the Second World War. The deficit is falling so fast it actually might not be able to fall any faster without sending us back into recession. When President Obama started, the deficit equaled 10 percent of the whole economy and now it equals just 7 percent. So, go ahead, boggle your uncle`s mind with this chart. The bars below zero represent years when the deficit grew. These bars above zero represent years when the deficit shrunk. We`re here right now in the deficit shrunk portion of the chart. The point of the shrinkingiest shrinking on the whole chart back to 1950. When somebody starts inevitably mattering about the fiscal cliff and the skyrocketing deficit, they don`t know what they`re talking about and they probably don`t know it is wrong but you can help with visual aids. We have posted both of those charts we just showed you on our blog and you can load them on your smartphone or iPad to pass around the table when you need them. You can print them out on paper in case your uncle doesn`t look liking at these newfangled screen things. Those charts are waiting for you now. We are here for you. You can do this. And then report back and let us know how it went. That does it for us tonight. Have a great Thanksgiving. We`ll see you Monday. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL" guest-hosted tonight by the spectacular Ezra Klein. Good evening, Mr. Klein. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END