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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/19/13

Guests: Ryan Grim, Barney Frank

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Do you ever watch the prison shows here on MSNBC? They come on Friday nights, after our show, usually, and they`re always playing on the weekends? The prison shows on MSNBC are really good, and they get really good ratings. So I know that you say, oh, no, I`m not watching them. Statistically speaking, at least some of you are. Actually, a lot of you are. Actually, more of you that are watching me are watching the prison shows. But if you have ever watched one of MSNBC`s really excellent prison shows, you have probably seen it start with a warning that the subject matter may be for mature audiences only. You`ve seen that, right? Well, this here, tonight, is not an MSNBC prison show. This is, in fact, our lead story tonight about what is happening in Washington right now, and whether or not we`re going to have a government shutdown. But in order to do that story, I actually have to air that same warning now, before I show you what happened today in Washington. So, here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: Due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. Now you have been warned. Now, here`s Dana Bash on CNN. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANA BASH, CNN: I want to read you a quote. Again, this is a quote from a House Republican leadership aide about a fellow Republican senator, Ted Cruz, saying, quote, "Wendy has more balls than Ted Cruz". (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Tada! I`m sorry about playing somebody on CNN saying "balls" on television. That is what the warning was about. But this really happened. The full quote, to be fair, it`s from a senior Republican leadership aide. The full quote is, "It is disappointing to see that Wendy Davis has more balls than Ted Cruz." So, really, it is a sad story, it`s a disappointing story. But that is the story. And that is the way that Republicans in Washington are talking about each other right now. Congratulations, Wendy Davis. What is happening here, big picture, is that the Democratic Party and the Democratic president made a huge political effort, a huge and costly and time-consuming political effort in the president`s first term to pass health reform. And it was difficult. And it ended up costing them a lot of seats in Congress in the midterms. And a lot of the delay in terms of how long it took them to past, that was Democrats fighting amongst themselves about how to move forward and whether to move forward. The president`s chief of staff at the time reportedly wanted to abandon the effort because it was just too hard. And back in 2009, when we were in middle of that fight, when everybody could see how hard it was on the Democrats, and the Democrats were fighting for it but nobody know if they were actually going to get it and how it was actually going to work out, back in the middle of that, back in 2009, Republicans were really excited -- because, yes, maybe they were going to lose on this issue, but they could see what a heavy lift this was for the Democrats. They could see the way the struggle to get this thing passed was dividing the Democrats against each other, turning the Democrats against each other, splitting their party. They thought that that was their chance to destroy the Democratic Party and to destroy the presidency of Barack Obama. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) JIM DEMINT (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: If we`re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: "It will break him." That was Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina speaking in his inimitable robotic way in the summer of 2009. The Republicans and the conservatives did not get that Waterloo. They did not stop the passage of health reform. Health reform passed. It became law. It got ruled constitutional at the United States Supreme Court, and it`s now going into effect. Republicans, of course, say they still hate it, but it is going into effect. And now, the political effect of health reform does turn out to be the aforementioned Waterloo, but the side that is breaking apart is not President Obama`s side. It is the other side. There is a huge war of words going on right now in American politics, with more insult and invective and people having to say the word "balls" on CNN that we have seen over any partisan issue, lately, when it`s one party against the other. Now, the fight that is happening right now, which is completely over the top, it is entirely among Republicans. And their attacks on each other are turning out to be rather vicious. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Senator Cruz, just yesterday, a senior House Republican aide said, "It`s disappointing to see that Wendy Davis has more guts than Ted Cruz." Now, he used a different word than "guts." But other Republicans have called you a phony and a joke. How do you respond that? SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Well, I`m always impressed with the courage of anonymous congressional aides. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Which is a good comeback, but it`s not just people who want to be anonymous, it turns out. And it turns out it`s not just congressional aides. It`s, for example, Congressman Tim Griffin of Arkansas, who`s a Republican, saying, "So far, Senate Republicans are good at getting Facebook likes and town halls and not much else. Do something." Then there`s Sean Duffy, a congressman from Wisconsin, also a Republican, saying, "House agrees to send bill to Senate that defunds Obamacare. Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Mike Lee refuse to fight, wave white flag and surrender." So, that`s Republicans attacking Republicans. And in that case, it`s Republicans in the House attacking Republicans in the Senate. Now, when members of the Senate attack each other, there`s this sort of genteel Senate rule, which says they`re not supposed to say each other`s names while they`re attacking each other. So, they`re still sticking each other with rhetorical sieves, they just don`t say each other`s names when they do it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Most of the people who are doing this are new and did not have the experience that we had when the American people who don`t like government, but don`t want it to be shut down, reacted in a very negative fashion towards Congress for doing so. To somehow think we are going to defund it is simply not going to happen at this time and it will, in my opinion, as it did before, harm the American people`s view of the Republican Party. But I can tell you, in the United States Senate, we will not repeal or defund Obamacare. We will not. And to think we can is not rational. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "not rational." Senator John McCain, world-respected arbitrator of what is and what is not rational. Not all the time, but maybe in this case, he`s right. Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee was even more blunt in his comments, but, again, they don`t say each other`s names, which is really weird about the Senate, but that`s the way it goes. Bob Corker said today, quote, "I didn`t go to Harvard or Princeton," what he doesn`t say there is, like Ted Cruz did, "I didn`t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count. This is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position." Again, there are no Democrats in these fights. There are no liberals in these fights. This is all Republicans and conservatives going after each other and it has been amazing to watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: We can`t have the government shut down. We can`t be kamikazes. And we can`t be General Custer. NICOLLE WALLACE, FMR. BUSH COMMUNICATION DIR.: When Republicans run into the street, despite the fact there`s a flashing red light, they`re going to get hit by the cars and killed. So, this is stupid politically, this is stupid at a policy level. We are going to let our party run into moving traffic against a red light. It`s idiotic. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Beyond Republican Congressman Peter King and former George W. Bush communications director Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC this morning, there`s also Karl Rove in "The Wall Street Journal" today, calling what some Republicans are trying to do with this government shutdown, quote, "ill- conceived". He said that "no sentient being believes it will succeed." As usual though, Ted Cruz does sort of have a point in that the best insults and invective do come from people who are not willing to put their name on it or to be seen saying it. So, hence, you get the anonymous Republican source, CNN "balls" comment. But you also get an unnamed House Republican aide, calling Senator Ted Cruz a, quote, "joke, plain and simple." You get a Republican operative allied with House leadership, describing Ted Cruz as, quote, describing Ted Cruz as, quote, "idiotic position" and saying Ted Cruz, quote, "officially jumped the shark this week." Another senior House Republican aide telling "The Huffington Post", "If there is no plan to get the defunding Obamacare provision passed in the Senate, or even a plan to fight to get it passed in the senate, then what we`re talking about isn`t a plan to defund Obamacare -- it`s just a plan to shutdown the government and hope for the best. That is not a great plan." Again, this is all Republicans talking about other Republicans. It`s just chaos. It`s not just a day of like long knives in Republican politics. Today is a day of long knives when everybody has them out and is using them in a mosh pit. Just look away. The king of them all, the winner has to be the anonymous, what do they say? The phrase was "senior House Republican leadership source," who told Ryan Grim at "The Huffington Post" today, that in his or her view, quote, "Ted Cruz is the leader of a secret cabal of leftists that are seeking control of the conservative movement. Their aim is to force the party to take on suicidal missions to destroy the movement from within." I cannot top that. But, see, this is interesting insight into the conservative mind. Liberals always think that it`s performance art, right? Like we look at somebody like Ann Coulter as being maybe secretly a liberal comedian, who is doing an extended performance art project to make conservative pundits seem really unreasonable and unlikable and super mean, or Carl Paladino. Maybe he is performance art. Maybe he`s the new Andy Coffman, standing there with his baseball bat, talking about how mad he is, sending around mailers that have scratch and sniff garbage smell, being proud of the people having sex with horses, racist porn that he sends around to his political colleagues. Liberals look at Carl Paladino or Ann Coulter or Herman Cain, 999, my favorite poet is Pokemon, liberals look at those people and think that those people are maybe artists, liberal artists, who are designed to make clear through hyperbole what is gross but sometimes true about conservatism and Republican politics. That`s what liberals think. Conservatives, on the other hand, we`re now learning, do not think about performance art. They do not think it`s art. They, instead, think it`s a conspiracy, organized by liberals to plant hyperbolic self- destructive slippery slope radicals in very public positions in the conservative positions in the conservative movement to make you guys look bad. It`s fascinating. When confronted with the same kinds of people having the same kind of effect on how Americans view conservatives, liberals trust art to do that. Conservatives trust liberals to do that. They think that we cooked up Ted Cruz. You know what? I wish liberals were that smart. But liberals are not helping with this, at all. This is a full-blown, vituperative and occasionally profane fight, solely among Republicans. About how hard they want to wage a fight that they all acknowledge will be futile anyway, against something that Democrats feel very comfortable about, and are unified around. This is the kind of day in politics where Democrats just shut up, pop popcorn, and watch the other side self-destruct. But how does this end, and who is likely to be left standing in this very, very ugly fight? Joining us now is Ryan Grim. He`s the Washington bureau chief for "The Huffington Post" and he is the guy who got the leftist cabal quote today, for which I will be grateful forever. Ryan, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here. RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: What -- the leftist cabal anonymous source who spoke to you in those terms about Ted Cruz, was that purely out of frustration, or is there an actual belief that there is an effort to do harm to the Republican establishment and that`s what Senator Cruz and these others shut down the government guys are doing? GRIM: Well, it`s mostly a joke, but it has a certain amount of resonance among Republican leadership aides, because they feel like he is a smart guy, and so it`s obvious that what he is doing is destructive to the party. Now, they don`t want to go all the way and say, well, therefore, he must be a liberal plant. I think it was mostly in jest that he was saying that. But they`re asking themselves, what is going on here? What is this guy thinking? And then you think, well, he is Canadian. He is Ivy League. He was a Rhodes Scholar, and maybe the pieces do start coming together. MADDOW: As an almost-Canadian Rhodes scholar myself, who would love to see that outcome, I plead guilty. I have to say, on the Senator Cruz factor, the part of it that doesn`t -- the part of it that seems like just desserts is how angry so many Republicans have been at him since he`s been in the Senate for frequently embarrassing them, for running ads in people`s home districts to try to push them on positions that will be unpopular with their constituents and things like that. But the part of that doesn`t necessarily make sense to me is why they`re so aggrieved at him. Why do they think he`s the one that put the whole party in this very bad decision? GRIM: That part is very tactical. And as of yesterday morning, House Republican leaders were thinking, you know, the only way that we can get bailed out of this situation is if Ted Cruz kind of jumps the shark, if he starts attacking our rank and file members. And lo and behold, a couple hours later, he did just that. And so, while there`s at of umbrage and outrage that was being expressed on the surface, for people who actually didn`t want the government to shut down and thought that this was a dumb plan from the very beginning, they were giddy. And so, what they`re doing now is they`re training everybody`s fire on Ted Cruz. So where it used to be, everybody kind of debating how this was going to go and it was Ted Cruz, aligned with House Tea Party members against John Boehner and Cantor, now, it`s Boehner and Cantor allied with the rest of the House, all hating Ted Cruz. So that`s a much better situation, if you`re John Boehner or if you`re Eric Cantor or if you`re Obama or Democrats or the country, for that matter. MADDOW: Is it sustainable? I mean, to the extent that this is a proxy battle which stands in for the larger war for the Republican establishment and sort of the Republican insurgency, who wins this battle and how does it factor into that larger war? GRIM: It`s always hard to predict the future, but this very well could be the turning point, because if you think about where the power of the Tea Party lies, it`s in their very credible threat against House leadership. But House leadership can now turn them towards Senator Cruz. So whenever they`re up against, say, a government shutdown, debt ceiling, whatever else they`re getting pressured to do, all Boehner has to do is say, look, if your buddy, Ted Cruz, can come up with a strategy where this can get all the way through and the pressure isn`t all on the House, then I`m willing to do it. And Ted Cruz can`t do that, and they know, the Tea Party knows that Ted Cruz will just put all the pressure on House Republicans, so they`ll say, forget about it. You know what, you know, we`ll pass our bill, you know, so the House will pass their C.R., that will defund Obamacare. Then the Senate will push it back to them. And the House will say, well, look, we tried, Ted Cruz failed. He`s the loser. He`s the one that the base should start hating on. And then they`ll just move forward. And you can -- you can reenact that pattern, I think, for the rest of 2014, which is probably all we`re going to see of John Boehner. MADDOW: Wow, it`s just -- it`s the exact strategy that works against the biggest guy in dodgeball. I mean, it`s like, I learned this in third grade. Too late, but I learned it. GRIM: That`s right. MADDOW: It`s amazing to see. Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for "Huffington Post" -- Ryan, thanks very much for your time tonight. It`s good to have you here. GRIM: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a best new thing in the world coming up tonight that goes back to our friends at CNN, but in a good way -- and that made me very, very happy. That`s coming up at the end of the show tonight. Stay with us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MARLIN STUTZMAN (R), INDIANA: I believe that this is our time. This is when it really matters. Yes, we voted to repeal Obamacare 30 to 40 times, but this is when it really counts. This is when it`s time to put up or shut up. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The reason that "Governor Ultrasound" is called that, the reason that Bob McDonnell of Virginia has the nickname "Governor Ultrasound" even now when he might be turned out of office or criminally indicted for a totally unrelated scandal, the way Bob McDonnell got the ultrasound nickname is because of the bill he supported as a state legislator over many, many years, and that he signed into law as governor of Virginia, which requires Virginia women to get ultrasounds even if they do not want them, even if they do not need them, and even if their doctor does not want them to have them. The state legislature and "Governor Ultrasound" are the ones who have decided what medical procedure you will have and you will pay for by order of state law. Thus he is known as "Governor Ultrasound". But rightfully, he should not be the only "Governor Ultrasound", because he is not the only Republican governor to sign a forced ultrasound law in the last few years. They have them in Texas, in Louisiana, in Indiana, in Kansas, in Arizona, in Wisconsin, this is a relatively recent invention, this idea that state government should force you to have an ultrasound, essentially as the price of having an abortion, if you and your doctor do not want you to have an ultrasound. It`s a relatively recent idea. But since the idea took hold, Republicans have been pushing it all over the country. And the push for these laws happened all at once, all over the country, not because Republican governors and legislatures all got the same idea all at once, but because of model legislation, a group called Americans United for Life. It`s a big well-funded anti-abortion group, they published a model bill, a template, essentially, for state legislatures on ultrasounds. The Sunlight Foundation did an analysis of more than a dozen Republican-controlled states, where they moved ultrasound legislation. And they found overlapping language that seemed to indicate that all of these bills were derived from the Americans United for Life model bill on forcing women to have ultrasounds. Model legislation is something that a lot of different groups do on the left and on the right. There`s nothing scandalous about that as a tactic in and of itself. What`s remarkable about the forced ultrasound stuff is Americans United for Life have been so successful for it, even though the Republican Party is ever and always trying to bill itself as a small government party, right? The Freedom Party, the party that leaves you alone, except for the ultrasound wand that they insist must be ins -- never mind. It doesn`t matter if you say no, doesn`t matter if your doctor says no, small government Republicans are mandating that it be done to you and that you pay for it. It is ideologically awkward, right, which makes the widespread success of that model legislation all the more remarkable. And now, we know what is next from this remarkably successful group. The vice president of operations from Americans United for Life, the guy who was there actually running the operations of that group during the time that they published their model legislation on forced ultrasound, the guy who saw it taken up by Republican legislatures across the country, saw it moved as legislation in more than a dozen states and signed into law all over the place, even in places where it was blocked by the courts because it simply seemed really, blatantly illegal. The guy who was in charge of that success for Americans United for Life, the guy who was in charge of actually running the day-to-day operations of Americans United for Life during that forced ultrasound heyday now has a new job. Now, he is running the day-to-day operations for this group, which launched a high-profile ad campaign telling college students today that they shouldn`t let the government play doctor. Hmm? So the last place he worked was helping Republicans pass legislation to force women to have ultrasounds against their will. The new place he works, this is what they do. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD) (MUSIC) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Let`s have a look. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ahh! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So these ads got a lot of attention today, because they`re so creepy. They`re designed to be creepy, right? There`s also one where it`s a young man instead of a young woman and he`s due to have a prostate exam instead of a gynecological exam. The idea is not that it`s bad for the government to be forcing you to have specific medical procedures against your will. The idea here is that it is bad to have health insurance. That`s what this ad campaign is. It is a "don`t get health insurance ad campaign. You`ll be fine! Be uninsured! It`s actually part of a larger campaign to, in fact, to get you to promise to not get health insurance. They want you to sign your name and pledge on your honor that you will not get health insurance. And to whom are you making that pledge? You`re making it to the Koch brothers. This group, running these "don`t get health insurance" ads, is funded by Charles and David Koch. Incidentally, the Forbes list of the richest people in America was just published again this week. Charles and David Koch are tied. They are the fourth and fourth richest people in the United States. Of course, if you combined their money, they would worth together, $72 billion, which would make them as rich as the richest guy in America, Bill Gates. If you have that much money, you know what you don`t need? Health insurance. If Charles or David Koch get sick, and I hope they do not, if they do get sick, they could just buy whatever they think might be the best hospital to treat them. I mean, David Koch at one point in his life says he did get cancer, which is scary and bad, but what he did in response is he bought MIT, a new cancer research center, which is awesome, but not everybody can do that. Exact numbers are hard to find, but the average total cost of treating the consequences of, say, a severe heart attack, can run to be about $1 million per person. Maybe you might have a less severe heart attack, in which case, try three quarters of a million dollars for your out-of-pocket costs. If you get cervical cancer, you`re expected cost of treatment over the first six months can range from about $4,000 for the easiest to treat to more than $45,000 for the hardest to treat, and that`s just the first six months, never mind the follow-up care after that. Even if it`s just a broken leg, if you`re writing a check to treat your broken leg, the average cost of treating a broken leg can be over $10,000. And nobody wants any of those things to happen to them, but those things do still happen, usually unexpectedly. And if something terrible, like cervical cancer, happens to you, would you like to be able to get treatment for that cancer? Yes. Then, unless you`ve got $45,000 cash on hand to fork over at the window to pay for your treatment, you`re not going to get treatment unless you have health insurance. That`s why we have health insurance. That`s why we have a whole system of health insurance. That`s why every industrialized nation in the world has some kind of a system of health insurance. It`s a system. And everybody who can get into the system should be able to go to the doctor when they`re sick and get medicine to treat their illnesses and not be bankrupted by some bad surprise that they don`t have cash on hand to pay for the treatment of. The Koch brothers have launched this new ad campaign today to tell people to not get health insurance -- young people, especially -- because getting health insurance is part of an evil Democratic plot to try to get more people to have health insurance. And that is just like the doctor playing -- the government playing doctor. And the government playing doctor is creepy. You should take that from the people who brought you government-mandated vaginal ultrasounds in Texas and Virginia and all across the country. Trust them. They know what`s creepy. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So it was the winter of 1980. A bleak time for America`s sports self-image. And the Winter Olympics came to Lake Placid in New York. The Soviets had by far the best hockey team in the world. The United States, not so much. Now, we all know what eventually happened at the 1980 Olympics, right? USA! USA! But do you know how it happened? In part, it was some amazing psychological trickery that was played on the ragtag underdog U.S. hockey team by its own coach. Coach Herb Brooks wanted his team to be unafraid of the big, bad Soviets who were definitely a better team. He wanted his guys to be loose and confident and to go out there and play with all they had. So, as the big game approached, Coach Brooks repeatedly told his players, pointed out to his players, that the Soviet team`s captain, Boris Mikhailov, a player more talented by anybody on the U.S. team by a mile, he went out of his way to point out to them that he was not to be feared. In fact, he would tell his guy that Mikhailov, they should notice, look a lot like the guy from Laurel and Hardy, the skinny one, Stan Laurel, as in there`s no way any human being can fear the skinny guy from Laurel and Hardy, so do not fear Boris Mikhailov. Look at him, laugh in his face, be not afraid -- and it worked. With no reason to believe they could win, the U.S. team played fearlessly and they eked out the most famous upset in all of American sports in all-time. USA! USA! All because of a ridiculous and hilarious doppelganger. And now, there`s another one. And it`s the best new thing in the world today and it`s come right up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole point of going in and having these limited strikes, I was told, was to punish Assad for those chemical weapon strikes. Now we`re willing to say, well, Russia`s on it, we don`t need to punish him anymore, let`s get rid of the chemical weapons, and I`m sorry, Cornell, but no one believes that that`s actually possible. They`ve been moving chemical weapons, Hezbollah probably has them already. This is a farce. It`s kabuki theater and we`re all in for a very rude awakening. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we should go in and start dropping bombs? Is that your point? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, absolutely. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to put our muscle where our mouth is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "we need to put our muscle where our" -- that was a host on CNN, who`s a very nice person. She used to work here. That was a host on CNN volunteering, I think, personally, to go to the Middle East and personally fight in a new American war there. At least, I think that`s what happened at the end there. Play that pa again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we should go in and start dropping bombs? Is that your point? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, absolutely. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to put our muscle where our mouth is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "Our muscle." In this case, because I do not think she is enlisting in the Marines, I think this is probably a royal "we." Another pundit who has a job talking in a television studio talking tough about a war who ought to be started and volunteering other people, other people`s children, to go fight that war. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: First of all, the tyrant Assad is a big winner. USA could have pulverized his military machine, but because of the so-called compromise, the USA will not bomb him. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The so-called compromise, which has so disappointed all the pundits who were really looking forward to the next war that they would advocate, but not themselves fight in. This so-called compromise is the plan for Syria to give up its holdout position as one of only seven countries in the world to not sign the chemical weapons convention. To sign that convention, declare its weapons, and start working through an international process of inspections and verifications to give up their nerve gas and their sarin and their mustard gas, which as of two weeks ago, they didn`t even admit they had, but which now they admit to and say that they will hand over. President Obama never proposed that the U.S. military start fighting the Syrian civil war for one side or the other. The only proposed U.S. military strike, specifically because of chemical weapons. And now, Syria`s chemical weapons are an issue that is being settled diplomatically, instead of by the use of U.S. military force. And it turns out the American public loves this idea. The latest "Washington Post"/ABC News poll asked Americans if they like this plan to have the U.N. take over and destroy the chemical weapons as an alternative to U.S. missile strikes -- 79 percent of Americans say, yes, I like this idea. This is a better idea than sending the U.S. military, whether or not it includes a pundit brigade. Seventy-nine percent is a very high level of support for any policy, ever. People love this outcome. People also hate the idea of using the U.S. military in Syria, and they love the plan to have Syria turn over its chemical weapons, even with not great confidence in this same poll, that Syria will turn over its chemical weapons, people still prefer very strongly that this is the right course to pursue, instead of shooting missiles at them. The polling is really, really clear. The polling says, according to the American public, what we are doing now makes sense. Pursue this diplomatically, do not send the military. That`s what the public thinks. But the pundit brigade does not agree. David Ignatius at "The Washington Post," which "Washington Post" was, of course, the mother ship of all Beltway common wisdom, David Ignatius wrote a really interesting column today, kind of coming clean on this. Even as his own paper was running yet another story today, calling the president weak and un-commander-in-chief like for finding a peaceful way forward in Syria, his paper today quoting an ex-John McCain staffer, saying, "This was President Obama`s worst moment." Even as "The Post," on its news pages, not even just its opinion pages, continues the beltway lament that we didn`t go to war again when we could have, there`s David Ignatius, admitting how puzzling it is that even though President Obama has accomplished goals that most Americans endorse, the public overwhelmingly backing the course that President Obama has chosen, quote, "yet the opinion of elites is sharply negative." Quote, "The mystery is why this outcome in Syria is derided by so many analysts in Washington." It is a remarkable thing that has just happened in our country. The American public really did not want another war. We did not have another war. The president instead found a diplomatic way forward that the public loves. The issue was chemical weapons and Syria is now on track to get rid of its chemical weapons -- without the war that we didn`t want, that apparently we`re not going to have, because we didn`t have to have it. We did it without firing a shot. Win, win, win. The public loves it. The media and almost the whole pundit class hates it. Why is that? Joining us now for the interview tonight is Barney Frank, former Democratic congressman of Massachusetts. Congressman Frank, it`s really nice to have you back. Thanks for being here tonight. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Why do you think there is this disconnect between American public opinion and what we hear from the pundit class? FRANK: Well, there a two disturbing aspects of it. One is, and this particularly troubles me, and I just saw my old colleague, who I`d always worked well with, Leon Panetta, actually criticizing Barack Obama, saying, before I go to war, not in clear self-defense, was before I make this discretionary decision to start war, I`m going to ask Congress. And Panetta attacked him for that and many of the media have, when they talked about the president`s weakness. It`s because he apparently has this belief in democracy and said, look, if we`re going to use armed forces, if we`re going to send our young people in to be killed, sometimes we have to do that, it should be a decision with the broadest possible approval in the society and I will ask for Congress. Now, for years, decades, there`s been in drum beat of the presidents acting unilaterally or being highhanded. And what you have is on the part of some of the media, the view that the president is always -- well, you know, in the Middle Ages, there was a saying that the king could do no wrong, which meant that if something wrong happened, blame somebody else, because you wanted to preserve the monarchy`s integrity. Today, the view of many in the media is the president can do no right, so that when he makes this important democratic step that many of us have been looking for for years, it now becomes weakness. By the way, you see, as far as many of my colleagues in Congress are concerned, while many of them in the past complained about highhanded presidential action, they really wanted to duck the tough vote. The other part is, the media has just decided to be critical. Again, it`s partly that you don`t get points, you don`t get leadership, you don`t distinguish yourself by praising someone. A sharp mind shows how bad things were. And in fact, by the way, I think the president was right to threaten the use of force. It looks like we`re getting a good result, because he threatened the use of force. He then said, I`m only going to do it if it`s democratically done, and the Russians stepped in. And as you said, the Syrians, from having denied they had any capital weapons, have now at least committed to getting rid of the weapons which two weeks ago they said they didn`t have. MADDOW: In terms of the expert class opinion on this subject, on national security matters, and you`ve been very critical of the size of the defense budget, the fact that so much in national security is sort of exempt from consideration, you`ve been so outspoken on these issues for so long, do you feel like the expert class, kind of the think tank class, the people that get booked on TV shows when these things are being debated, are they structurally hawkish? Are they always going to be structurally pro- war? FRANK: Yes. Well, they`re suffering from severe cultural lag. It was true for 50 years. First with Hitler and the communists, there was an existential threat to our existence. It was declining as the Soviet Union declined. What happened was, Cheney and Wolfowitz and that crowd managed to pump up terrorism. And I think there`s kind of an unconscious bias in the press. It`s much more important to write about potential threats to national security than about more humdrum stuff. But you make a very good point, Rachel, because here`s what I want to follow up on. I thought it was useful to threaten that strike, and if the Syrians had not moved and the Russians didn`t involve, a very quick strike there. It never made sense to me to get involved the way John McCain wanted to in the whole civil war. But what we have now is a kind of a disconnect. It`s clear that the American people have decided that this policy of intervention, militarily, into the internal affairs of Iraq or staying in Afghanistan and elsewhere is a mistake. We should be taking the next step. If we`re not going to do that intervention, let`s stop paying hundreds of billions of dollars a year to have a capability that we`re not going to use. MADDOW: If there is a cultural lag, like you`re describing, sort in the expert class and also in the media on this, what`s the corrective? It seems to me there has to be a corrective if 80 percent of the country thinks something`s a bad idea, and 80 percent of the media is telling them the opposite. FRANK: Well, it`s a little analogous to another issue dear to both of our hearts, same-sex marriage. Reality is a very good way to eviscerate myth. I think the reality of the American people`s view now that we are way overextended and need to the do more of this is going to break through. But there`s a very simple response. What we should now be moving on, those of us who think this way, is Afghanistan. The American people, as you cite, were overwhelmingly against a new involvement in Syria. Every argument against a new involvement in Syria applies with greater force to continuing to stay in Afghanistan. We`re spending much, much, much more money, more people are being killed, it`s more destabilizing. So, I would hope that some of my colleagues would now be renewing the effort that some of us have made in the past, put an amendment in. The president suffers a little bit from that cultural lag himself. He says he wants to get out of Afghanistan at the end of next year. I don`t understand why another year is there. As I said, when I was for four more years, it wasn`t for four more years in Afghanistan. So I would hope right now, very specifically, let`s push my former colleagues to vote on a resolution that says, we will be out of Afghanistan as soon as practical, shooting for the end of this year. If it takes more time for that logistically, OK, to protect everybody`s safety. But we should be building on that. And I believe, once members of Congress are confronted with that choice, they`re going to hear there their constituents that they ought to make it. MADDOW: I think you are -- I think you are right that if that was floated, that people would be surprised by the depth of public opinion in favor of something like that. Fascinating proposal. Barney Frank, former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, I miss seeing you here more frequently, sir. It`s great to have you back. Thank you. FRANK: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Best new thing in the world today is coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: You want to see the world`s very first Arctic class supposedly ice resistant oil platform? Here it is. It`s a whole new idea. Never been tried before. Untested. It`s out in the Russian part of the Arctic. It`s owned and operated by Gazprom. When the Soviet Union fell apart, the Soviet Ministry of Gas Industry turned into Gazprom, and Gazprom now owns this giant one of a kind death star oil platform above the Arctic Circle. Environmental groups say that this thing is going to be a disaster. They say Gazprom doesn`t take nearly the precautions that it should when it drills. The whole arctic region is threatened by it being there. To dramatize that case, one environment group went up there yesterday to protest. It was Greenpeace. They went out to this big new Russian oil platform in the Arctic. They went in six vessels including their own big ice breaking ships. It`s called the Arctic Sunrise. Yesterday, five of their activists tried to board the Russian oil platform. The Russian oil platform guys turned fire hoses on them to try to knock them off the rig. Then the Russian coast guard turned up and Russian coast guard opened fire. They shot at them. Nobody was killed or injured, but the Russians held everybody at gun point. They took two of the Greenpeace activists into custody. These are the Russian coast guard officers that you can see in some of this footage. You see they`re wearing military uniforms and balaclavas. You can see that guy is holding a gun. They`re brandishing guns. At one point, one of the guys is holding a knife. You can see it. Look in the bottom center of your screen there. Something in me doesn`t understand pulling a knife when you`re the one on an inflatable boat. Maybe that`s why I`m not Russian coast guard. For what it`s worth, I should say that the Russian coast guard isn`t organized the way ours is. Their coast guard is actually part of what used to be the KGB, in case that helps understand it. As of tonight we`re told two detained activists have not yet been released. They`re being held at sea by the Russian coast guard since yesterday. So, yesterday, it was the activists boarding the oil platform and then getting attacked at gun point and knifepoint by the Russian coast guard. Today, it was the Greenpeace ship itself that was boarded by the Russians. According to this Greenpeace tweet from about 12 years ago, the Russian coast guard had boarded their ship from a helicopter, they rappelled men down the ropes from the helicopter, onto the Greenpeace boat. A few minutes later, this, quote, "Russian authorities on board with guns. They`re breaking into the communications room." Quote, "This is pretty terrifying. Loud banging, screaming in Russian. They`re still trying to kick in the door." And then this, a few hours later. Russian media say Arctic Sunrise, that`s the ship, will be taken to the Russian city of Murmansk, which is in the far northwest of the country. Keep in mind that this is Greenpeace`s version of events. This is how Greenpeace says things went down. But -- I mean this is what things were look when the Russian coast guard was only arresting two people in the confrontation. Today, they detained the whole ship and its whole crew. Greenpeace HQ says they lost all contact with the ship after Russians took it over, after the Russians boarded and took it over to. Today, people in D.C. showed up at the residence of the Russian ambassador to the U.S. demanding activists and ship be released. At this hour, that still has the not happened. Even if they are released, it is not clear how this end. This was apparently the second time in two months that the Russian coast guard has shot at the Greenpeace ice breaking ship in the Arctic trying to publicize and disrupt drilling efforts. However this issue pans out, in the short term, these activists and their ship right now are in Vladimir Putin`s hands. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I am tempted to say the best new thing in the world today is this moment of inexplicability, which happened on CNN just a little while ago this evening. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Does Pravda well, like you get a freelancer rate? MCCAIN: I am hoping I get a chance to go over to Russia and do a face to face interview with "Pravda" look forward how to that opportunity. Maybe while I`m there get a chance to chat with Vladimir, you know, maybe take my shirt off, we can do some things together, huh? ANDERSON: Arm wrestle or something? Senator McCain, appreciate you`re on. Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the loudest uh in the world. It`s tempting to call that the best new thing in the world if only Mr. Cooper on CNN keeping his composure, as John McCain tells him he wants to take off his shirt with Vladimir Putin and do some things together. Mr. Cooper holding it together for that is an excellent, excellent thing. But this is better -- behold the best new thing in the world today. Oh. Why the long face? This dog was reportedly a stray, found on the streets of Kiev in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine. We know this because the dog`s picture was posted by a Ukrainian newspaper this week under a tag called oddities. If you can`t read the alphabet, trust me. But as to why this picture of a street dog is an oddity. Does he look at all familiar? Thank you, Google translate. On Khreschatyk found a dog like a Putin. Seriously, it`s true. The dog is a dead ringer for Russian President Vladimir Putin. It`s amazing. It`s amazing. Even more so when you lay the pictures on top of each other. The resemblance -- look, it`s uncanny. It`s like Putin`s face is coming out of the dog. The Internet, of course, exploded over this today, basically my whole morning. All speculation about what exactly is Putin-esque about this dog? Is it the eyes with the same expression, gaze upon me for I am a bad ass? Is it the bridge of the nose, remarkably similar in shape? I think on their own neither of the things would be enough. I think the real reason this dog is so Putin-esque is because the dog is shirtless. And a magnificent watch the wind, caress my skin while I ride horseback come hither John McCain kind of way. Shirtless Vladimir Putin having a Ukrainian stray dog doppelganger obviously the best new thing in the world today. Yes. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END