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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/27/12

Guests: Charlie Crist

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for this hour. Today in Washington, the acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency met for more than an hour with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire, along with the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. The three Republican senators emerged from the meeting saying that they were honored by the fact that the CIA director would meet with them, just three random senators and not in some official capacity testifying before committee on the Hill. They said they really appreciated the fact that the administration and the intelligence community was going to such lengths to assuage their concerns to directly, personally answer their questions about the Libya attack in a closed-door meeting with the CIA director himself, even though these are just three random senators who are not even the chairmen of anything. The senators said their questions were answered as best that could reasonably be expected and that they were willing to consider on its merits the president`s nominee for secretary of state, or any other cabinet position. They were willing to hear out those nominations fairly and without prejudice. Yes, right. Of course, that`s not the way it went. Here`s actually what happened after that meeting today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We`re not going to consider this nomination until we get answers to our concerns. All I can say is that the concerns I have are greater today than they were before and we`re not even close to getting the basic answers. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We`re significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn`t get. SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I want to say that I`m more troubled today knowing, having met with the acting director of the CIA and Ambassador Rice. REPORTER: Can you support her as secretary of state? AYOTTE: I have many more questions that need to be answered before I can answer that. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: You just met for more than an hour with the director of central intelligence and with the person about whose comments on a Sunday show you say you have so many questions about. And after a personal more than an hour-long, closed-door meeting just for you, who you run nothing, right? But just for you, just to answer your personal questions -- one-on- one, face to face with those two officials -- all you can say, I have so many questions. Isn`t it starting to seem no matter what answers these guys are given, no matter what access to what information and what officials, they are still just going to keep saying they still have more questions? Here`s one possibility about what maybe is really going on here. Back in 2004, a guy named Mitt Romney was the governor of the state of Massachusetts. If you don`t remember who that is, he was a private equity guy from Massachusetts. He ran the Olympics one year. Anyway, back in 2004, he was in the middle of his one and only term as Massachusetts governor. That same year, the Democratic Party`s nominee for president was a senator from the same state, John Kerry of Massachusetts. If John Kerry had won the presidential election that year, his Senate seat would have become open. So, the governor of Massachusetts, the Republican, Mitt Romney, would have been able to appoint somebody to fill John Kerry`s Senate seat. The Massachusetts legislature totally dominated by Democrats was cognizant that the Republican governor would probably pick a Republican to fill the seat if Kerry got elected president. And so the Massachusetts state legislature decided to change the law. They changed the law so that only a special election could fill a vacant seat. Until then that special election happened, the seat would just have to be empty. Mitt Romney tried to veto that new law. But the legislature overrode his veto, thereby stripping Governor Romney of his power to choose a replacement for Senator John Kerry. Of course, that all ended up being a moot point because John Kerry didn`t win that presidential election that year and so he stayed on as senator. But then fast forward five years. It`s 2009. New, President Barack Obama, the country embroiled in a big debate over national health reform. Those against who were against it were against it to the point of rage. And those who wanted it were excited to be on the cusp of achieving something they had failed to achieve for decades. At the time, the Democrat has a 60-seat majority in the United States Senate, 60 seats is a filibuster-proof super majority. That is enough to pass health reform. And that 60-seat supermajority for the Democrats included Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Senator Kennedy spent his career trying to pass health reform. It was his life`s work. He had done it at the state level with that guy, Mitt Romney. He had worked on it and led on the issue nationally for decades. It was his signature issue. But before he was able to see health reform finally signed into law, Senator Ted Kennedy lost his life to brain cancer. Senator Kennedy died in August of 2009. And when Ted Kennedy died, that meant that his seat did become empty in Massachusetts and the Democrats no longer had their 60-vote, filibuster- proof super majority which frankly they really needed to pass health care. They were short one vote. And knowing this might happen -- and this is really dramatic -- knowing that this might happen, that might turn out this way, before he died, Senator Ted Kennedy took a dramatic step, to plan for the future of the health reform law he had worked for his whole life. This health reform law that his death might make impossible to pass, thinking about the affect that his death might have on the prospect of passing health reform, Senator Kennedy wrote a letter before he died urging that the governor of Massachusetts, by that time was a Democrat, urging that the governor of Massachusetts be allowed to fill an empty Senate seat if one were to open up. And with Mitt Romney gone, the Massachusetts state legislature agreed. And so they changed the rules again. So the new Democratic governor, this man, Deval Patrick, could fill Ted Kennedy`s seat with an interim officeholder until a special election could be held, thereby restoring with this interim officeholder the Democrat`s 60-vote margin. And so, at the last minute, with that assist from the recently- departed champion of health reform, Ted Kennedy, the Democrats filled his seat with an interim senator and they squeaked the health reform bill through with zero Republican votes and President Obama signed it into law and now everybody calls it Obamacare. Even the Democrats call it Obamacare and they mean that in a good way. But then in the meantime, there was the small matter of the special election to elect somebody to take over the full remaining portion of Senator Kennedy`s term. It was a strange election to permanently fill Ted Kennedy`s Senate seat. There was one race on the ballot in that election. The turnout in Massachusetts was very low. It took place amid-a right wing backlash to the Democrats passing health reform with zero Republican votes. Tea Party money and Republican money from all over the country poured into the state of Massachusetts and this unknown guy who happened to be a Republican won that special election in January 2010. I mean, the next time Massachusetts got a chance to reconsider that vote for Scott Brown was two and a half years later, and in that election, which is this past one that just happened, Massachusetts frankly reverted to form and picked the Democrat. They picked Elizabeth Warren to oust Scott Brown from that Senate seat that he held for less than a term. But, actually, the Elizabeth Warren/Scott Brown race was pretty close by Massachusetts standards. The margin in the Senate race, this election, had the Democrat winning by eight points, which sounds like a lot in a normal state that would be a lot. But in the presidential race, on that same night in Massachusetts, the Democrat won the presidential race by a heck of a lot more than eight points. The Democrat won the presidential race by 23 points. And that is a fairly normal margin by which Democrats beat Republicans in the state of Massachusetts. So given that, Scott Brown losing by only eight, that can be considered kind of a victory. It`s at least pretty close. And after that loss, that Scott Brown loss, and than credibly- expensive and incredibly hard-fought race, immediately thereafter, Republicans wanted to talk about how to get Scott Brown back to Washington. And now, today, to them it seems so close they can taste it, because although John Kerry is still a senator from Massachusetts, after his very high-profile role in the Obama campaign and a very high profile speaking gig at the Democratic National Convention, where he brought the House down, after that, John Kerry`s name was instantly put forward as one possibility, a leading possibility to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. That, of course, would result in him leaving his Senate seat after all, which would mean there would be a temporary replacement appointed and then there would have to be another special election to fill out the rest of his term, in which Scott Brown would be the Republican nominee again, which would be the best chance again that Massachusetts could ever have -- putting a Republican in the Senate any time soon. Which is why Republicans got so excited when John Kerry`s name was floated as a potential next secretary of state. His name was floated, along with one other name for that job. Remember who the other name was? Republican senators were very, very quick to point out that they really prefer John Kerry to be the nominee for secretary of state over this Susan Rice person -- a ringing endorsement for John Kerry from Republicans in Washington, because, of course, if John Kerry becomes secretary of state there`s going to be a special election for a Senate seat and a certain former senator could potentially run in that special election, and there would be this chance that Scott Brown could be back in Washington. So, the Republicans say emphatically and repeatedly and to any reporter who will listen, we prefer John Kerry over Susan Rice for this job please. And if John Kerry doesn`t get secretary of state and he`s maybe going to get secretary of defense instead, I say woe be unto any feasible rival for that gig -- somebody who might get that cabinet position ahead of him too, since that too would stop his Senate seat from opening up, which Republicans would please like to happen. And you know what? Maybe this is nuts. Maybe this is nuts. Maybe this is why to simplistic. But maybe this makes more sense than the contention we`re supposed to believe, which is that two active investigations, multiple hours-long classified briefings, a statement from the president, a statement from the U.N. ambassador, a closed-door, one-on-one meeting with that ambassador and a personal one-on-one/ask-me-anything with the director of the CIA have not given John McCain enough opportunity to ask whatever questions he wants to ask about remarks made on a Sunday morning talk show two and a half months ago. Maybe this makes more sense than that. Joining us is somebody who is more much levelheaded on these matters than I am, Andrea Mitchell, NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of MSNBC`S "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS." Andrea, thank you so much for being here tonight. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It`s my pleasure. I love your theories. It makes as much sense as anything that`s happening right now in Washington about this potential nomination. MADDOW: Well, I wanted you to be here in part because I knew you would debunk my theory, right? Which is very obviously and admittedly born of frustration. Could any of this just be the manifestation of these Republican senators wanting John Kerry in that seat instead of somebody else? MITCHELL: I`m not sure, but it`s -- we`ve all been scratching our heads over theories because there really is a reason to investigate Benghazi and that`s to investigate why after five attacks -- not just intelligence warnings, but attacks -- why the consulate wasn`t closed, why security wasn`t beefed up? That`s why a high-powered group ordered by Hillary Clinton under law is investigating for the State Department. It`s led by Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the joint chiefs and former Ambassador Tom Pickering, a former deputy secretary of state, a former U.N. ambassador -- men of the highest caliber. They have a panel group. They are going to report very soon, report to Hillary Clinton. She has said she will not leave office before she personally presented it to Congress, which she is mandated to do. So, this is going to be an uncomfortable exit, arguably, for Secretary Clinton because she`s going to have to answer as to why the State Department did not improve security. That is what presumably these senators would be investigating. So, Jay Carney and others in the White House are trying to scratch their heads and say, why what was said on Sunday morning television which is not under oath and it is not right out of the old or new testaments, why that has become writ so large and why we`re going through this with someone who has not yet been nominated? That`s all rather curious. MADDOW: And you -- you are -- this is why I wanted to talk to you about it, because this is the thing that`s so frustrating, that there are real things to talk about here. And the -- why this attack was able to go so far that it actually killed the U.S. ambassador? Why there wasn`t better security? All that stuff seems reasonable and is being investigated through the channels you think it would be investigated in. In terms of Susan Rice`s predicament here, is she essentially just being caught up in a proxy war? I mean, her role in this, she had nothing to do obviously with the security matter, here. The picking on what happened on the Sunday show -- is it a proxy for something else? MITCHELL: I asked that very question today of someone who has understood these things, Nick Burns, far better than I, former ambassador, former top official both at the NSC and State Department. And he said he thinks it`s a proxy war. Maybe there`s a personal issue between one or another of the senators and Susan Rice. She did work for John Kerry in the `04 campaign. She worked for Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. She was in the Clinton administration as an assistant secretary for Africa. Her policies in Africa and Sudan, in particular, were controversial. There were other issues she`s been involved in, but she`s got a very big job at the U.N. There are meetings on Thursday and a General Assembly vote has been scheduled on Palestinian statehood, a symbolic vote, but a vote that has really gripped the attention post-Gaza of all of the Middle East and the Middle East experts. And presumably, the U.N. ambassador ought to be someone well regarded around the world and is and now she`s fighting for her future life in this very partisan atmosphere in Washington. It is very puzzling. The White House is sticking by her for now. She`s not yet been nominated. Harry Reid put out a statement today saying that they believe the -- he believes that the committees that are in charge, foreign relations committee chaired by John Kerry should be in charge of this and not members from other committees like homeland security and intelligence and armed services who are getting involved in this. But as you pointed out, none of the Republican senators asking questions chair anything. And it`s becoming very personal and very puzzling indeed. MADDOW: One last sort of puzzling element of this to me, Andrea. I just want your perspective on this because you`ve covered these matters for so long and you understand the context here. That it seems sort of remarkable to me that you would have the acting director of the CIA personally accompanying Susan Rice to that meeting today. And again, this is not formal testimony before Congress. This was no -- there was no committee of Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham and John McCain. They don`t run anything there. Is it unusual or remarkable to have the leader of the CIA personally involved like this? MITCHELL: It was remarkable to me. And it seemed as though -- I described her on "Nightly News" as her wing man. It seems as though he was there to take the blame, to protect her, to defend her, to take some of the incoming. And it did seem for an acting director of the CIA to be put in that position rather extraordinary. He himself is under consideration to become the permanent CIA director. There is, of course, a lot of cabinet shuffling that may take place. Interesting that people are talking about defense secretary as though the job were open. Leon Panetta has not said when he wants leave and he might want to stay longer by some reports. And John Kerry has not said that he`d be interested in that job. Some people have said that he would take it, but others even closer to him say that that is not the case. And no job has been offered. So, this is -- let`s just put it awkward because if she is nominated and they do fight this through, who is going to chair that committee? And that hearing is the gentlemen from Massachusetts, the senior senator, John Kerry. MADDOW: It`s not quite Kremlinology because it`s America, but it`s getting closer. It`s fascinating stuff. Andrea Mitchell, NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent -- Andrea, thank you so much. It`s really great to have you here. MITCHELL: You bet. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Elsewhere in Republican land, John Boehner was polishing his tough guy act today. What everybody else calls threatening all Americans and people around the world with imminent economic disaster, he`s now calling leverage. That moment in heroism is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`m the most reasonable, responsible person here in Washington. The president knows this. He knows that he and I can work together. Now, the election is over. Now it`s time to get to work. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Republican House Speaker John Boehner or as he prefers to be known as it says in the Celtic script in his full back too, Mr. Responsible. That was two days after I don`t know about the tattoo thing. I made that up. That was two days after President Obama won reelection. "The president knows I`m the most reasonable and responsible guy in Washington." And you know, in some ways, John Boehner has proven himself to be pretty reasonable over the years. In June 2002, during George W. Bush`s first term in office, congressional Republicans were faced with the issue of raising the nation`s debt ceiling. That`s the limit for how much the country can borrow to pay for things. And no politician ever likes to raise the debt ceiling. Nobody likes to think the country has to borrow money, but we do. And so, in June of 2002, when that debt ceiling vote came up, that inevitably does, John Boehner voted yes. Let`s do the responsible thing. Let`s raise the debt ceiling. It`s the responsible thing to do. Two years later, November 2004, John Boehner voted to do it again. He voted again under President Bush to raise the debt ceiling. April 2005, at the start of George W. Bush`s second term, John Boehner votes in favor of raising the debt ceiling. No matter how philosophically opposed you might be to borrowing money, however, distasteful it is to you, ideologically, everybody realizes that as long as we are borrowing money, not raising the debt ceiling, defaulting on our debt, would be a very irresponsible thing to do. It would be a disaster for the country. Everybody realizes that. Mr. Responsible himself, John Boehner, realizes that. He says so. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Do you agree with administration officials and other economists that defaulting on the faith and credit of the United States would be a financial disaster? BOEHNER: That would be a financial disaster not only for our country, but the worldwide economy. WALLACE: So defaulting on the full faith and credit is unacceptable to you? BOEHNER: I don`t think -- yes, I don`t think it`s a question that`s even on the table. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Failing to raise the debt ceiling is not even on the table. That`s what John Boehner said last January. And yet just a few months later, with that voting record and with that stated understanding of how bad it would be for this country to not raise the debt ceiling, there was John Boehner, leader of the congressional Republicans, threatening to not raise the debt ceiling, threatening default -- after decades of voting to raise the debt ceiling, no questions asked under President Bush and under previous presidents, under President Obama the Republicans decided they were not going to do it anymore. Right around this time last year, Republicans threatened to let the country go into default unless President Obama met their demands. They explicitly recognized that it would cause harm to the country if we failed to raise the debt ceiling, but then they said they were happy to do that. They were willing to incur that harm, to inflict that harm on the country, in order to get other stuff that they wanted. And in the end, those threats from Republicans did hurt the country. For the first time in our history, the United States, because of that brinksmanship, lost our perfect AAA credit rating. The ratings agency Standard & Poor`s downgraded the U.S. credit rating -- meaning that we would have to pay more interest on money we wanted to borrow. This was something that had never happened before in American history. This was not a natural occurrence. This was a choice that one side made to cause that problem after they decided for decades under other president that that problem should be avoided. Here`s how S&P explained their decision to downgrade when they made it. They said, quote, "The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America`s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective and less predictable than what we previously believe. That statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy." Republicans decided in 2011 that they were going to use the full faith and credit of the United States of America as leverage for getting stuff they wanted. And it had concretely negative, unprecedented consequences for us as a country. And now, apparently, this year, the lesson they have decided to take from that experience is we should do that again. It`s amazing to me. This is from today, quote, "President Barack Obama made a demand of House Speaker John Boehner near the end of their first White House meeting on the fiscal cliff earlier this month: Raise the debt limit before year`s end. Boehner`s response: there was a price for everything." A year after congressional Republicans forced the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, they are apparently gearing up to do it all over again. Speaker Boehner told Obama at the White House that the debt ceiling is, quote, "my leverage." Despite having direct experience of how this plays out, despite using the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip last year and knowing what that did to the country, now, John Boehner says he sees doing it again this year as his leverage. > (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: I`m the most reasonable, responsible person here in Washington. The president knows this is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And I will destroy the American economy single-handedly unless you give me something that I want. But I haven`t decided what it`s going to be. I will tank this nation`s economy. I will lower the nation`s credit rating again. Thus, wiping away tens of billions of dollars of American wealth by my own decision unless you give me what I want, because I`m the most reasonable man in Washington. We can have disagreements on matters of policy. We can disagree on the ideological tales we tell each other about how to get to the best outcomes for the country. We can even disagree about basic values about exactly what kind of country we ought to be. But the thing you can generally assume about everybody who is in public service is that they are public servants, right? They want the country to be better off. No matter how you want to get there. Whether or not some people think you`re wrong or whether or not some people even think you`re dumb or misinformed, there`s a general assumption that if you`re involved in American politics, that at least means that what you want is a good future for America. You`re out to help America, not hurt America. You want America to be stronger and better and healthier. Hurting the country on purpose when you know that`s what you`re doing violates the most basic thing that we think we can assume about why people go into public service, why anybody would go into public service. I think it means that what you`re doing can`t even be called public service. None of the Republicans are making these threats again. Incredulous Democrats are already starting to talk about maybe there are ways that President Obama could just raise the debt ceiling unilaterally? If Republicans really are going to do this again, could President Obama come up with some way to do this on his own just through the executive branch? It is hard to believe that the president would try that, but it is not more hard to believe than the fact that he may ultimately be forced to try it because the Republicans are holding the economy at gunpoint and seem perfectly willing to pull the trigger. I do not know how this is going to end this time, after what happened last night. But wow. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hey, here`s a little clip and save moment for you from today`s news. The one thing that Republicans control in Washington is the House of Representatives, right? They have a majority there. And today, the Republicans decided who they are putting in charge of all their committees in the House. So, this guy will head the Agriculture Committee. It`s this guy for Appropriations. It is this guy for Armed Services. It will be this familiar fellow for Budget. The Republicans have picked and announced who is going to run all their committees in the House. In other words, they have put in charge everyone they have the power to put in charge of everything they are in charge of. And here they are. Do you know anything about their selections? Here. Here is the whole group of who the Republicans picked to run their committees. They picked these 19 guys. Notice anything? So, yes, this is what you can clip and save for the next time someone in the Beltway tells you how seriously the Republican Party is taking their diversity problem this year. Clip and save, fellas. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Republican Charlie Crist ran for governor of Florida the usual way. For example, by eating possum at the local eating possum festival. By shaking a lot of hands. Charlie Crist knew Florida and he knew Florida politics right down to the last rescued loggerhead sea turtle. Charlie Crist was a moderate Republican and a proud member of the reality-based community as a Republican. And as Florida governors go, Governor Crist was exceedingly popular. He carried approval ratings of over 50 percent. And also 70 percent within his own Republican Party. But then something happened to Florida Governor Charlie Crist, specifically something happened to his career. In February of 2009, in the worst of the economic crisis, with the nation shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs, Governor Charlie Crist hugged, physically hugged the newly inaugurated Democratic president. He hugged President Obama at an event in Fort Myers and he said that President Obama`s economic stimulus plan was going to be good for Florida and good for the country. A few months after he hugged President Obama, Mr. Crist announced that instead of running again for governor, he was going to make a bid for the United States Senate. At the time, the idea was to keep a Republican in that Senate seat. A Senate seat that was opening up where the Republican incumbent wasn`t going to run again. Charlie Crist was popular, so he presumably could do that. He could hold that seat for the party. He jumped into the Republican primary only to find he was running there against Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who was an anti-stimulus Tea Party candidate. Mario Rubio and his supporters just wailed away on Charlie Crist for the hugging and for the stimulus. And it worked. Mr. Crist dropped out rather than get walloped. He stayed in the race as an independent, but then, in the general election, he got walloped by Mr. Rubio and Mr. Rubio went to take that Senate seat. And that was how popular Florida Governor Charlie Crist got effectively purged from the Republican Party. This was how his demise was explained, right? "The hug that doomed Crist`s Senate bid." Charlie Crist, you embraced the Democrat. Get out of the party. You are done. That`s how the story has been told. But maybe there`s something else about Charlie Crist and what happened to him that is important to his legacy but has mostly been forgotten. Now that former Governor Crist is back around. Now, that he`s no longer just that guy who got run out of the Republican Party, now that Charlie Crist is also the leading independent speaking on behalf of President Obama at the Democratic Convention, now that Charlie Crist is being mentioned as a top contender if not the contender to replace the deeply-unpopular new Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott, to get his old job back, maybe as an independent. Maybe even as a Democrat. Now that all that is going on in Charlie Crist`s afterlife, I guess, another story is percolating in the Florida press to which attention should be paid. This year, for this election, Florida Republicans cut the days for early voting almost by half, right? You have seen these pictures in our coverage of what happened in this election. When the lines stretched from dawn until dawn, Florida Democrats and the League of Women voters, they asked Governor Rick Scott to explain the time for early voting by one day. Governor Rick Scott said, no, let the people stand in line. Florida had seen this kind of problem before. Back in 2008 when Crist was governor, Governor Crist extended early voting. He saw those long lines of Florida voters then and he extended early voting. It was with a boost from early voting that Barack Obama won Florida and ultimately won the White House. The common wisdom is that Charlie Crist got purged out of the Republican Party for the crime of hugging President Obama and supporting the stimulus as good for Florida, right? But maybe the story goes further back than that. Just before the election, MSNBC`s Joy Reid reported this to us from south Florida, just before the election. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Actually, you talked about Charlie Crist, Rachel, earlier and the fact that he did sign that executive order extending voting hours. That was the beginning of the end of Charlie Crist`s tenure in the Republican Party. It was the beginning of the rupture with his party, because Republicans in the state blamed Crist for Barack Obama winning the state. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In that other less-told, maybe scarcely-remembered version of the story, Republicans told themselves that maybe it was Charlie Crist who cost them their party the state of Florida in 2008 when he allowed that early voting. Maybe that was traitorous to the party. Well, this year as the state`s debacle by design, debacle on purpose election unfolded with those five, six, seven, eight-hour lines, a former chair of the Florida Republican Party has been telling reporters that Republicans cut early voting for had election not out of concerns about voter fraud, like they said, but rather that are the hidden purpose of suppressing Democratic voters so Democrats couldn`t win the election. When the former party chairman says that, Florida Republicans now respond, well, don`t listen to that guy. He`s not a reliable source. He`s under indictment for stealing money from the party, and so he is. But now the story is getting more interesting, because now, more sources are coming forward. Another source, an anonymous consultant telling "The Palm Beach Post" that Florida Republicans specifically wanted to cut down on turnout by African-American voters. That`s an anonymous source, so fair warning, grain of salt, et cetera. But hey, wait, here`s another name that`s one you`ll recognize. Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist telling "The Palm Beach Post" that the Republican Party asked him when he was governor to reduce early voting so they could cut the Democratic turnout. Quoting "The Palm Beach Post", Crist said in a telephone interview this month that he did not recall conversations about early voting specifically targeting black voters, but he said, "It looked to me like that`s what was being suggested and I didn`t want them to go there at all." Wow. With all the caveats about Charlie Crist being in the Republican dog house, and maybe running as an independent or a Democrat and so on and so on -- but wow, right? I mean, at this point with what just happened in Florida, Charlie Crist is a man with a story to tell. Charlie Crist is maybe more than any other in Florida who has a story we should all be listening. And Charlie Crist joins us for the interview, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHARLIE CRIST, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: On Tuesday, you`re going to choose a path for our nation. Down one road is extremism where Roe versus Wade is overturned and being moderate is curse. That`s the road Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and Marco Rubio want to take us down. It`s a dangerous road. And the polls say I`m the only one who can stop them. So, if you`re sick of the extremism and the gridlock, then join our fight for common sense. I`m Charlie Crist and I approve this message. Don`t forget to find me online nine on your ballots. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Charlie Crist urging Florida voters to avoid the road of extremis and gridlock during his 2010 run for Senate. But notably having to close with a reminder that he`s going to be nine spots down on the ballot, because he was running as an independent. That race did not go his way. But nobody thinks that Charlie Crist`s role in politics is over, especially not now. Joining us now for "The Interview" tonight is the former Republican governor of Florida Charlie Crist, who is now an independent. Governor, thank you very much for being here. It`s really nice to have you here. CRIST: Good to be with you, Rachel. Thank you. MADDOW: Republicans have not stopped the process of purging moderation from their ranks. Not even after their results from this last election. In the couple years since you fell victim to that process in your former party, how do you think it has affected them? CRIST: Badly. I think that, you know, the notion of continuing to put forward people that are more extreme rather than moderate and to continue to push out people that want to talk about common sense solutions to problems that affects people`s lives every single day is not a recipe for success, it`s a recipe for disaster. And if they continue on that path, that`s what we`re going to continue to see -- less and less gains in elections. And it`s unfortunate for the Republican Party, but if that`s the path they decide to go down, that is the fate that they will enjoy. MADDOW: Is this one of the things where you see it happening in both parties? You think there`s a mirror image where it`s happening on both sides or is this sort of unique to the Republican Party right now that they are going through a process that the rest of American politics is not going through? CRIST: Well, it seems that way to me, Rachel. I don`t see the Democrats doing this sort of purging, if you will. Do you see the Republicans doing it? And I`m not really sure why. I don`t know what has stimulated it. I suspect that part of it began with the economic downturn. People get frustrated, they get depressed, unhappy. And ones to blame are not going to be them. It`s going to be some other entity or individual and it`s got to be -- someone`s got to be held accountable. Whether in fact the person held accountable really is the one who deserves it is almost meaningless, it doesn`t matter. But that`s what`s happening. And you know, reasonable people like Richard Lugar and others that did not survive a primary challenge, which would have happened to me if I would have stayed in the primary with Senator Rubio, and I wish him the best, you know? I want him to do well because I want my state to do well. But I`m sorry about the fact that it seems that the Republican Party, or at least some in the Republican Party. I mean, my mom and dad are still Republicans. They are good people. They have common sense. I love them to death. But the leadership in the party, at least so far, seems bent on continuing down this path. And that`s unfortunate for our country. MADDOW: Let me ask you about a policy matter that we have been reporting on, because of this election season. But also more broadly, "The Palm Beach Post" said a couple of days ago that during your term as governor, Republican Party leaders approached you as governor, talking to you about changing early voting in order to suppress Democratic voter turnout. How do those conversations go? And when Republicans -- you were a Republican at the time -- were having those conversations. Was the conversation explicitly about doing that for partisan gain? CRIST: Well, there were explicit indications that that was occurring. And I think they knew better than to confront me directly with it because I think it was pretty well known how I felt about trying to be more fair, more open, more inclusive and making sure that we had a government, a state government here in Florida that would continue to reach out and work with Democrats across the aisle at the time and work with all people. And so, usually, they would go to somebody in my administration and say, you know, can you run this by the governor and see what he thinks? And, you know, whenever somebody would come to me with that kind of proposal, I`d say, well, tell him not to waste their time, it would get vetoed if they try it. And I just think it`s wrong. And it`s why I ended up signing the executive record order, Rachel, to expand the early voting hours back this 2008. And it really did displease a lot of Republican. Bu, you know, when you`re elected governor of your state, you`re not elected governor of the Republicans or Democrats, you`re elected governor of the people, and you have a duty and obligation -- at least that`s what I felt -- to look out for all of the people. And you`re not supposed to be partisan when carrying out something as precious as the right to vote, something that people have fought and died for in our country, and I just felt partisanship involved in democracy at that level was absolutely wrong. MADDOW: I feel like because of your position and where you were governor and because of how recently it was, I feel you`re in this unique position to shed light for us about what`s in between these two parallel tracks we`ve got. What -- it seems what`s going on with these restrictions on the ability to vote, putting all these new hurdles in between people and their ability to cast a vote, whether it`s shortening early voting, or whether it`s requiring documentation they never had to show before in order to vote, all of these different things, restricting voter registration, it seems clear that it`s being done for partisan purpose. But then when you listen to Republicans talk about it, they always say, oh, no, it`s not partisan at all, it`s only about voter fraud. There`s this big problem with voter fraud and it is about voter integrity. Is it clear to you that that is just bunk? That that is just a story that`s being told to cover up why they`re really doing it? CRIST: It`s crystal clear to me. You couldn`t be more right in my humble opinion and you know, certainly, we can say this about all these roadblocks that are put in the way of people exercising their right to vote and we saw it in dramatic fashion this last election day in Florida, in my home state. How do you think that makes me and my fellow Floridians feel when, you know, MSNBC is able to call all these other states and the one that`s outstanding and lingering for so long is the Sunshine State. There`s a lot of good people here in Florida and it`s very discouraging to see that kind of black eye put on us when it`s not necessary at all. And the fact there`s some massive fraud as the excuse or the red herring to do that is laughable. I mean, the obvious reason -- why else would you take 14 days of early voting and, you know, condense it down to eight days and make that more difficult or make it even harder for people to do absentee balloting here in Florida? You know, certainly, it`s not voter encouragement. To say the least, it is voter discouragement. And I think absolutely the wrong thing to do is as I said earlier, make this precious right more difficult to exercise than easier. This ought to be something that we push as hard as we can to make sure that every Floridian, every American has the opportunity to vote their will and to exercise their right to elect their leaders in the most convenient way possible and people who stand in the way of doing that should be held accountable for having done so. It is absolutely unprincipled. It is wrong and it shouldn`t happen. And here`s the irony. Floridians took care of business. On Election Day, they took care of business and they stood in line even after the presidential election had been called nationally, Floridians stayed in those lines because they wanted to cast that ballot. They were told in essence, this is what you cannot do. When you tell people that, they`re like, really? Who are you to tell me what to do? And so, they were determined. They became infuriated and they absolutely made up their mind they`re going to exercise that precious right and cast that ballot no matter what and they did. And God bless Floridians for it. MADDOW: Charlie Crist, former governor of Florida, demonstrating tonight why Republicans are so freaked out about the prospect of you reentering politics, sir. Thank you very much for being with us. I really appreciate it. CRIST: Thank you, Rachel. My pleasure. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Coming up: something you may not know about John Boehner`s office. Today, it was clothing optional. Brr. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Earlier this year, activists with the group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, staged a protest outside a meat processing plant in L.A. Naturally, that called for human nudity. The women stripped down to their skivvies, got on the meat tray fit for a naked human and wrapped themselves up in plastic wrap. Sweaty. Also this year, a man at the airport in Portland, Oregon, decided to expose the unfairness of the security procedures there by exposing himself at the airport. Arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. And in our nation`s capital, D.C., the world naked bike ride happens every year. Activists take off their pants and hop on a bike to promote alternative energy to protest our country`s dependence on oil and, of course, our dependence on standard issue underpants. Naked protests are a thing. But as far as we can tell, never before have there been naked protests in Congress -- until today. Today, the Longworth House Office Building, which itself sounds like a euphemism, protesting spending cuts on the far side of the fiscal cliff and what that would mean for AIDS funding specifically, there was a nude awakening. Protests in the row, AIDS protesters marching into House Speaker John Boehner`s district office to give the Republican leader the naked truth. Boehner, Boehner, don`t be a -- rhyme with sick. Budget cuts will make us sick. The budget cuts are really rude, that`s why we have to be so lewd. Well, these protesters were trying to lay bare the potential cuts for AIDS that could be part of ongoing budget negotiations. The protests also served to put a new naked spotlight on a major statement expected tomorrow from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On the occasion of World AIDS Day this week, Secretary Clinton is due to unveil a blue print for how the U.S. government could achieve what she has called an AIDS-free generation. Secretary Clinton will make that announcement on Thursday morning. But in advance of that renewed commitment to fighting AIDS, this group, which is known for memorable protests any way, found a way to be more memorable today. One of the groups involved in today`s naked lunch event tweeted, "Watch naked AIDS activists take over Boehner`s office at Congress." That was their tweet that you could watch them and you really could. You can watch these folks put more than a bit of skin into the skin. You can watch the live stream video of naked protesters standing in the office of a highest ranking Republican in the country and that does not happen very often. And because it was that guy`s office, reporters, other reporters just happened toll milling about. And they got a surprise. Sahil Kapur of "Talking Points Memo" accidentally live-tweeted the event, "Seven nude people protesting budget cuts in Boehner`s office right now. Surreal. Protesters tell me they`re sticking around until police extract them. Police threatening to arrest protesters for indecent exposure if they don`t clear out." In the end, there were seven people who were naked in John Boehner`s office, three of them were arrested -- all the girls. John Stanton from "BuzzFeed" summed it up nicely when he said, "There are actually people who woke up today and said today, I`m going to get buck naked in front of John Boehner`s staff." And so it was. Getting naked is a tactic -- a protest tactic. And judging by the wide-eyed tweets from the press as it happened, today, nudity worked. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END