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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/11/13

Guests: John Stanton, Eric Schlosser

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday. All right. This is going to be kind of a fun show. This is going to be one of those shows where something might go terrifically technically wrong, in which case, it might even be more fun than if it works. I`m just warning you. All right. Today in our nation`s capital, it rained. Dreary morning commute in the D.C. area today. Because it was raining hard at times this morning, that meant the rainy morning come meet around the beltway from Virginia to Maryland and the D.C. area, it went at a rather dreary, raining morning speed. But today was special. Today was also supposed to be the day of the massive freedom truckers protest ride, where they were going to bring Washington to its knees with a massive convoy style protest that was going to shut down the Washington Beltway. Remember that movie, convoy, from 1978? I loved that movie. The conservative TV network, FOX News Channel, has been hyping the trucker protest all week. The trucker protest organizer said they expected thousands of truckers to take part today. One radio host who was helping to hype the trucker protest in the conservative media said he thought if 3,000 truckers turned out, that would inspire a nationwide general strike of 100 million Americans to, quote, "get out on the street, get out on the roads and demand that our legislature follow the Constitution." That did not happen. Just a few guys showed up and they have not yet inspired a general strike of 100 million Americans. Virginia state police spokesperson said today, quote, "it was pretty much a nonevent." A Maryland State Highway Administration said the same thing. Their spokesperson told "The Washington Post," quote, "nothing materialized." So, basically, it was a rainy day commute. Maryland says there were a few accidents around college park, but that was because of the rain, not the truckers. That said, though, the truckers protest got so much hype, particularly in the conservative media, that I think a lot of people local news felt like even though it didn`t really turn out to be much of anything, it`s been hyped so much they had to go cover it. They had to go at least cover the few guys who showed up. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) REPORTER: They started early this morning, they say they plan to go through the weekend here and what they are basically doing is just driving over this speed, the minimum speed limit so that they`re not cited for impeding traffic. It`s their way of demonstrating against the Obama administration and Congress, not because of the budget impasse, but for a variety of grievances. JOHN JOHNSON: Ain`t nobody that wants anything violent to happen. Everybody`s talking about, you know, oh, we need a civil war, we need a revolution, stuff like that. We need a peaceful revolution is what we need. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody knows about the Crosby Stills Nash song, you know, the four dead in Ohio. How about the four dead in Benghazi? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay out of the our health care. Let the doctors handle that. Don`t get into things they don`t understand. REPORTER: So, you see they have a variety of issues they`re upset about. Mr. Johnson there that you saw was actually cited by Maryland State Police for going 39 miles per hour. Virginia state police say they`ve had no issues since this morning. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sherrie Ly is live in Woodbridge, Virginia, with a closer look now. And, Sherrie, have you seen many more truckers for the cause this morning? REPORTER: Well, Allison and Sarah, we have not seen a whole lot of those truckers coming through. We understand they`re up around the beltway area, but given the numbers, they may be very easy to miss if you`re out there. No impact on traffic so far. REPORTER: The biggest issue out here has been people driving too fast for these very slick conditions. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: So, the trucker protest did not turn out to be as exciting as the right was hoping it was going to be. Tomorrow, it`s supposed to be more rain in the D.C. area. Tomorrow`s stunt is supposed to be Glenn Beck picking up trash. The former FOX News host who now does a thing on the Internet machine, he says he will pick up trash tomorrow at Washington landmarks along with a Tea Party group. The press release says the only reason federal monuments and parks are closed during the federal shutdown is because, quote, "The Obama administration has petulantly tried to make the shutdown some political gain." They believe that the shutdown of the government doesn`t actually shut down things run by the federal government, except for the ones President Obama feels petulant about. So, those are the ones to which they will send Glenn Beck tomorrow to collect trash. This is actually the press release from the event which was sent out for FreedomWorks. A little awkward for FreedomWorks specifically to be doing an event with Glenn Beck right now, trash related or otherwise, because Rosie Gray of "BuzzFeed" today just reported on why in this sort of moment of Tea Party glory that we were having as a nation, with the government shutdown and the Republicans hurdling the country towards default and hitting the debt ceiling, that the Tea Party, no nothing confrontational politics really bringing the country to its knees in a way they have long fantasized about. FreedomWorks, in the middle of all of this, has been nowhere to be seen. And it turns out, according to a new reporting from "BuzzFeed", that`s because FreedomWorks with broke, after being founded by the billionaire Koch brothers and raising more than $40 million last year, after firing Dick Armey and being able to afford to give him $8 million to make him go away when they fired him, FreedomWorks now is broke. They reportedly just had to take out a $1 million line of credit in order to try to keep their thing together. $1 million coincidentally is also the amount of money that FreedomWorks has just given to Glenn Beck, so that they can be paid corporate sponsors of his Internet TV show. They`re having to take a loan for a million dollars because they have done things like pay Glenn Beck a million dollars. But that does buy them the right to appear alongside Glenn Beck at the trash event tomorrow in the rain in Washington, D.C. And you thought your shutdown week was going poorly. I mean, FreedomWorks really is in the kind of disarray it seems they are in, it might help to explain the confused messaging from them. I mean, their even tomorrow, the trash event, the Glenn Beck trash event is essentially to say they are for the shutdown. They`ve been advocating for the shutdown all this time. They`re all for the shutdown. They`re not against the shutdown at all. But they are outraged by the shutdown. It`s confusing, right? It`s a very confusing message. FreedomWorks and Glenn Beck picking up trash is a confusing thing. It`s not just them being confusing right now as we head into the second weekend of the government shutdown, the messages from other right wing groups are even more central to this fight are getting more confusing as well. If there`s one group that`s been right out in front of the get rid of Obamacare at all costs caucus, that, of course, would have to be Heritage Action. They`re the group that bought half a million dollars in ads against Republican members of Congress to pressure them to take a hard line, to pressure them to shutdown the government as a way of trying to defund Obamacare. And Heritage Action comes into this fight with a long history of advocating against raising the debt ceiling. They`ve called raising the debt ceiling just a nonstarter, something that shouldn`t be discussed from the beginning. So, Heritage Action, if you`re trying to get a grip on their position, they came into this thinking absolutely, do not raise the debt ceiling. This is all about Obamacare for us, pour everything you have into the Obamacare fight and do not raise the debt ceiling. But now, this week, heritage action has changed their minds on the debt ceiling part. So, instead of don`t raise the debt ceiling, now, they have decided as of this week, please do raise the debt ceiling. Heritage Action announced that they`re actually just fine with raising the debt ceiling because it`s still about Obamacare for them, and that will somehow help them get rid of Obamacare. So, this is Heritage Foundation. Don`t raise the debt ceiling, now, please do raise the debt ceiling. But for them, it`s all about Obamacare. Next up, in terms of influence, probably the Club for Growth. The Grover Norquist anti-tax conservative group, they also had a change of heart this week. The Club for Growth used to be all about refusing to raise the debt ceiling. For them, it`s not about Obamacare. It`s about all sorts of other stuff. But their message all along has been do not raise the debt ceiling. This week though, the Club for Growth also announced that -- look away if Republicans do decide to raise the debt ceiling. So, it`s still not about Obamacare for them, but now, their new message is please do increase it. We want lots of non-Obamacare related things, but don`t hit the debt ceiling on our account. That was their message change this week. Now, the Koch brothers funded Americans for Prosperity Group, they get points for consistency in their devotion to hard core shutting everything down. They want the government shut down. They do not want to raise the debt ceiling. They want none of that. So, for them, it is not particularly about Obamacare. It`s not really about Obamacare for them. But they are definitely willing to hit the debt ceiling for all the other stuff they want. So, that`s AFP. At least they have stayed the same. They`re funded, though, by the Koch brothers, right? And the Koch brothers, they have been funding not just AFP, but they`ve been funding to the tone of hundreds of millions of dollars, basically all of the groups that have been demanding a government shutdown as a way of trying to killing Obamacare. They funded all of these groups. They funded Heritage Action. They funded AFP. They funded all Tea Party groups. All these groups that have been government shutdown as a way of trying to kill Obamacare. Shut down the government, right? Shut down the government, it`s all about Obamacare. They`ve spent over $200 million in a year on these groups that have been pushing for a government shutdown over Obamacare. But this week, they changed their mind and decided actually, we do not want a government shutdown anymore. Please do not shut down the government over Obamacare. They wrote a nice letter to the senate saying we never meant that, we take it all back. They wrote a letter to the Senate saying, yes, we still sure hate Obamacare, but whatever made you think we want a government shutdown? Just because we spent over $200 million trying to get that. In terms of the actual Republicans inside Congress, it`s the freshman House Republican, Mark Meadows from North Carolina who you recall wrote the initial leader demanding the shutdown, wrote the letter to John Boehner, right. He rallied 80 other House Republicans to demand the shutdown over Obamacare in the first place. So, Mark Meadows is staying firm right now as of wanting the shutdown. He`s the guy who asked for it in the first place. But now, he has an interesting change of heart, because he still wants to shut down the government, but for him, it was all about Obamacare. Now, it`s no longer about Obamacare. He said after he got the shutdown, that for him, it`s no longer about Obamacare anymore. That seems to also be sort of where the House Republican leadership is. They still want the shutdown, used to be about Obamacare, now, they say it`s not about Obamacare. They`re not even negotiating about that anymore. They`re still trying to figure out what it is about now. On the debt ceiling part of it though, John Boehner`s whole idea all year long is that he didn`t want to fight about the shutdown. He wanted to fight about the debt ceiling. He wanted to not raise the debt ceiling without a big ransom paid by the Democrats and the president on all sorts of things. So, he didn`t care about Obamacare specifically. So, it`s not about Obamacare, right? But there`s all sorts of specific stuff that he wanted to get for the debt ceiling. Maybe even that specific stuff. Just other stuff. He wanted to get something, but he didn`t want to raise the debt ceiling. That`s where he thought he had the most leverage. That`s been pretty much his position all year. Well, now, in the second week of getting crushed in the polls and making no progress toward anything that he purports to want, for John Boehner, it is still not about Obamacare, but John Boehner`s new idea is maybe just for a few days, let`s raise the debt ceiling. We could just do it for a couple of days, couple of weeks, give me some of what I want, maybe? Good plan? That brings us to the Senate Republican, who met today with President Obama. They completely reject what the House Republicans are saying. For them, it is not about Obamacare. They say we`re never going to defend Obamacare. Why are we fighting about that? But they don`t want to raise the debt ceiling, not even for just a few days without some concession. So, same goes for them for the government shutdown. The only way they want the government reopen, the only way they want the debt ceiling raised is if they get their other demands met. So, it`s not about Obamacare for them. It`s -- they need something, but they are willing to open up the government. So, can you keep track of that? I mean, one by one, if you`re the kind of Republican in Congress, God bless you, who likes to or needs to take cues from right wing activist groups, or even if you`re just looking for cues from your colleagues in Congress, it is hard to imagine what those cues are telling you to do, all those contradictory instructions, right? It`s hard to imagine if you`re a Republican in Congress. But even without the Republicans, petty the poor Republicans, petty the White House, right? Trying to figure out what it is that the other side wants, if you`re from the outside looking in at the right, right now, trying figure out what they want -- this is our summary of their demands as best we can figure them. This is what they`re saying they want. And this is just the mainstream stuff. This isn`t going to the fringy group like the trucker who says he wants to drive around the Washington Beltway all weekend because of Benghazi. This is not including like Michele Bachmann, for example, who said this week in Congress that she is legislating to get America well-positioned for the apocalypse because we have now entered the end times. This is just the current or recently positions of Republican congressional leadership and the main conservative interest groups that Republicans are listening to right now in Washington. This is a collection of what they want. This is what they say is important to them. This is why the government is shutdown for 11 days and counting now, and why we are hurtling toward hitting the debt ceiling and the intended prospect of catastrophic, international, unprecedented, economic conflagration, because of this very clear message. The big idea in Republican politics for the past few years is the collapse of internal organization in that party, right? I mean, TV networks and talk radio guys and rich billionaires who are willing to spend on campaigns and activism, they can get Republican members of Congress to jump much more than their own ostensible party leadership can. And because of that, there`s no real leadership inside the party, right? There`s no internal coherence to what they`re doing and that makes for messages so mixed that it is sometimes a hilarious exercise to try to figure out what they are saying and it is hilarious that this is their purported message right now, right? It is hilarious, except for the fact this mess is what House Republicans are trying to read right now as their instruction manual, their detailed instruction manual for reopening the federal government and avoiding a catastrophic default disaster that would crash the world economy and destroy the dollar for a generation or more. They`re looking for a way out of this mess by reading what this crowd is telling them to do. Good luck to us all. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS POLITICAL PRODUCER: There was NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll that came out yesterday that shows significance damage to the GOP brand. Is that how you view it? Have you been doing the right thing or do you think you`ve done damage to your party? SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Well, you know, the polling has varied and I`ll know that poll was very heavily weighted with an awful lot of Democrats, with an awful lot of Obama supporters and 20 percent of the people polled were government workers. If you look at the sample that they surveyed, 20 percent of the people they talked to were government employees, 20 percent of this country are not government employees. HUNT: So, you would take issue with methodology as opposed to the results? CRUZ: I think it was a poll, if you seek out liberal Obama supporters and ask them their views, they`re going to tell you they`re liberal Obama supporters. That`s not reflective of where the country is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Just ask President Romney. The polls are skewed. The Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of the architects, of course, of the shutdown, telling NBC News Kasie Hunt today that the polls are skewed, specifically the new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll is skewed and secretly, people actually love the government shutdown. You heard Senator Cruz say that the new NBC polls which says Americans overwhelmingly blame Republicans for the shutdown and hate it, he says the poll cannot be trusted because 20 percent of the people polled were government employees and according to him, quote, "20 percent of the people of this country are not government employees." It turns out, yes, actually, they are. About 20 percent of the country is, in fact, employed by the government at some level like cops or firefighters or members of the military or teachers. They would turn up as government employees, 20 percent of the country, which is why the poll has that sample size. But Republican Senator Ted Cruz does not believe it. The polls must be skewed. He`s sure of it. Joining us now is John Stanton, Washington bureau chief of "BuzzFeed". Mr. Stanton, it`s good to have you here tonight. Thanks for being with us. JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: It`s good to see you. MADDOW: So, unskewing the polls is back. I have to ask you is this is a widespread thing you are hearing from Republican sources right now that they don`t believe the polling. The polling must secretly be on their side, even though it doesn`t seem this way or is this just a Ted Cruz joint? STANTON: No, I think this is just Ted Cruz frankly. Republicans are mostly broken into two camps on this. They see the polls are doing badly and they are terrified about what that means. And then you have other Republicans who see the polls. They believe what they`re doing is morally right and the polls be dammed. And so, there are few Republicans that you`re going to run into and believe the shutdown is doing any favors politically, other than apparently Ted Cruz. MADDOW: John, we tried to map today what the most influential conservative interest groups are telling Republicans in Congress to do now, are telling them what to focus on and how to tactically move ahead. I expected that we would see them all sort of falling in line with some new strategy that we might be able to map based on what signals they`re sending. It turns out, at least as best as we can map, they`re all saying completely, completely incoherent things if you try to mix them into one big message. At this point, do House Republicans care what these lobbying groups are telling them? Does it matter they`re getting a lot of cross signals? STANTON: No, they don`t. For House Republicans, particular for the sort of core of 40 or 50 members that are really sort of driving this entire process, there is one thing and one thing only they care about, not Obamacare. They want to get rid of Obamacare, or defund it, or delay it sort of in the way that could become permanent. And all these other things are sort of extraneous to them. In fact, a number of them like Congressman Paul Brown today said if there is a deal, that does not include a delay or a defunding of Obamacare, he will not vote for it, and there are a lot of these guys that feel this way. I think that the outside groups are finding themselves in the position in a lot of ways similar to what John Boehner has, which is he`s got these guys and they have these people now they have sort of created and helped bring along and they have become sort of their own entity that care about the thing that they care about, and it doesn`t matter what the people that have helped them get their say. MADDOW: It doesn`t seem like the plan in either the House or Senate right now is to actually move forward on anything that puts Obamacare out front. It seems everything that we`re hearing in terms of what deal might be offered by the Republicans, whether or not Democrats are going to accept it is well passed focusing on Obamacare. So, does this mean those 50 or 60 House Republicans that you`re describing, sort of Paul Broun guys, that they`re going to be left out in the cold no matter what happened? STANTON: Well, that`s a great question. I think certainly in the Senate, that`s what the senate would like to do. Most have gotten well past the point where they feel at all acceptable, they want to try to do something. I think leadership in the House certainly feels that way, they say. You know, that they look at what`s going on and they understand the damage they`re doing to the party and the damage they`re doing, frankly, to the long-term prospects of repealing Obamacare or replacing it with something they feel is better. The problem I think is that leadership in the House understands that to a certain degree, the unity you`re seeing amongst the Republican conference is based on the fact that leadership is doing what these folks want them to do and they understand that the moment they move away from that is going to reopen this old wound that has been there for the last three years, putting themselves and the Tea Party for the wing of the party, and again, it`s unclear to me whether or not they can pull that off, short of using a sort of smaller group of members to work with Democrats to pass something that can get through Senate into the White House. MADDOW: John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for BuzzFeed, I have to say, John, I have to give you special props. We called you tonight to ask you to be on the show, I know you were at a bar where a bondage convention was letting out. It`s difficult to do the pre-interview. So, I want to thank you for soldiering through that for us, big boy. STANTON: It was a little tough. It was a pink bondage bonding. So, you know, that`s a tough thing to do. MADDOW: I love your life. I love your life. John Stanton, thank you very much. All right. Seriously, true story, bondage convention. The old line used to be, "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line." Now, nobody cares what Democrats are falling into, but Republicans are definitely not falling in line. Democrats are -- Republicans are seemingly falling apart, which means everybody is getting their predictions wrong about what Republicans are going to do next. We`ve got important details on that straight ahead. Plus, we`ve got Eric Schlosser tonight for the interview, for an astonishing story that has nothing at all to do with the shutdown, but it might keep you up late tonight. Hold on. It`s all coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAL) (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SANDY RIOS: The implications of this are pretty frightening and, of course, it`s interesting that this is the country from which our president hails, this is lineage. We know his cousin Raila Odinga was -- is a Muslim communist. It`s just amazing. I think he`s the prime minister right now. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: The country from which our president hails is called the United States which does not have a prime minister named Odinga, or anything else, we don`t even have a prime minister. But the fact that the specific proportion of the American right does not know turns out to be important for understanding why the government shutdown did not get fixed today and why I think it is not likely to be fixed anytime soon. And that story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In 2007, an Air Force crew at Minot Air Force Base in Minot, North Dakota, was supposed to load missiles without the nuclear warheads on them on to a B-52 bomber, so those missies could be transferred down to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. The Minot crew did not follow the correct procedures for handling nuclear capable missiles and it turns out they loaded the wrong missiles on to that B-52. They accidentally loaded on to that plane, six missiles with live nuclear warheads on them. The B-52 pilot, clueless about what they were carrying, flew down to Louisiana. They landed at Barksdale and they left those six live nuclear- tipped missiles sitting unguarded on the tarmac in Louisiana for nine hour, until somebody finally realized, oh, my stars, these are not what we think they are. That debacle cost the secretary of the Air Force and Air Force chief of staff their jobs. Nuclear operations at Minot were suspended because, hey, it turns out, temporarily misplacing live nuclear warheads is a fireable offense. That seems good. So Minot temporarily lost their right to safeguard our nuclear weapons. When Minot tried to earn it back, they failed. They failed their comeback inspection. They got an unsatisfactory rating, which is not surprising considering the inspectors finding that, quote, "security personnel could not be bothered to stop playing video games on their cell phones" during the inspection. A couple of months later, a second Air Force base protecting nuclear weapons failed its nuclear safety inspection. That happened five years ago. From Minot to Barksdale losing the nukes thing was bad enough. The aftermath was even maybe worse. Since that incident did not seem to jolt the Air Force to any feeling of concern. Then Secretary of Defense Bob Gates was plainly and vocally horrified. He announced that taking care of and securing our aging and rather useless nuclear weapons would henceforth become more of a priority. Inspections would be rigorous. Commanders would be held to account. The Obama administration would spend billions of dollars more on the nuclear weapons mission. Bob Gates essentially said never again, this would never happen again. Well, fast forward to this year, 2013. President Obama`s in his second term. "Breaking Bad" is over. Alec Baldwin is the newest MSNBC host. More than five years have passed since the terrifying, potentially world ending oops at Minot Air Force Base, right? More than five years to fix what ails the security apparatus protecting our thousands of nuclear weapons, and in March of this year, Minot failed again. The nuclear missing wing earned three D grades. The commander there said the United States was suffering from a rot in the nuclear weapons handling force. Seventeen officers were taken off launch control duty at Minot. In June, the commander in charge of training the nuclear missile cruise at Minot was relieved of his post. Thanks, sir, we`ll take it from here. In August, it was another Air Force base that handles nuclear weapons, at Malmstrom, Montana, which failed another nuclear surety inspection. That was their third inspection failure in the past five years. Then last week, the military`s number two guy in charge of nuclear weapons got fired after they found out he was using counterfeit poker chips at an Indian casino. Now, after the number two guy in charge of our nuclear weapons for the United States military lost his job because of the counterfeit chips in the Indian casino thing, now, today, the number one guy in charge of nuclear weapons got fired, too, and it was not for the same thing. We do not know what his firing is about, but we know what it`s not about. NBC News has been told his firing was not about sexual impropriety or drug use or criminal conduct of any kind or gambling. Whatever it is that caused him to be fired, it said to be an incident of personal misbehavior that occurred several months ago. Beyond that, I cannot tell you because I don`t know. But at this point, really, how are we supposed to feel? Are we supposed to feel good that the Air Force is watching over its commanders very closely and punishing bad behavior a lot whenever it happens, or should we be terrified that so many people in high ranking positions in charge of the most powerful weapons on earth are failing inspections, losing weapons, committing crimes and doing things we don`t understand but the military thinks are fireable offenses. Should we be happy, or should we be terrified? Is both an option? Joining us now for the interview tonight is Eric Schlosser. He`s the award-winning investigative journalist, who`s author of the really excellent new book, "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and Illusion of Safety". Mr. Schlosser, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate you being here. ERIC SCHLOSSER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: When most people think about nuclear weapons and handling them, we imagine highly skilled people doing their j with a lot of focus. What do you discover in the research for your book about the difference between the reality of that work and the image? SCHLOSSER: You know, we go in phases in which there is very careful management of our arsenal, then phases in which it`s more lax. I mean, in my book, I write about the 1970s. There were real problems with illegal drug use among officers and enlisted men handling weapons. There were people smoking pot in launch control centers, people who are using LSD and also had a responsibility with nuclear weapons. So, this isn`t a new problem, and when things got better. But certainly in the last 15 years or so, the air force seems to have lost the plot when it comes to the management of its arsenal and they`re clearly serving moral problems, but most important, problems with the management at the to top. MADDOW: You write somewhat surprisingly, I`ve been fascinated with nuclear weapons and mishaps involving nuclear weapons for a long time. So, your book is fascinating to me, and also I think a real treasure in terms of just deep research. One of the things I did not expect to find was your relative praise for the navy over the Air Force. You say that the Navy`s been better dealing with nuclear weapons handling than the Air Force has. Why is that? SCHLOSSER: Well, right now, most people don`t realize that the Navy has more nuclear warheads than the Air Force. They`re on submarines and there may be problems, we just hasn`t heard about them. But the culture of the Navy started with Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear submarines. And for some reason, the Air Force and its culture seems to have just gone off the rails. They had a much more gung-ho culture during the Cold War and now that there doesn`t seem to be a point to these land-based missiles, there seems to be moral problems. These land-based missiles are really only useful for attacking Russia or China, and the head of the Global Strike Command, the Air Force officer in charge of all of their nuclear weapons said recently there was a remote possibility of Russia attacking us and our having to use those missiles. He said the greatest concern he had was of an accident and I think he`s right. These are the most dangerous weapons as well as the most powerful weapons we`ve built and if we`re going to have them, we need to spare no expense in how we manage them. MADDOW: In terms of the way we`ve dealt with problems, we`ve seen secretary of the Air Force fired, Air Force chief of staff fired, multiple command level officers fired, 17 launch control officers suspended all at once, whole bases publicly shamed and stripped of their nuclear responsibilities. That`s before these last two commanders were just fired within the space of a week. But even with all that accountability, the hits keep coming. Why isn`t that negative reinforcement bringing about any change? SCHLOSSER: Well, I`m hoping that this publicity will lead to a real debate. We need a national debate over our nuclear weapons. How many should we have? Why do we need them? How should they be deployed? All of our weapons systems are ageing. Our missiles, the land-based missiles, were supposed to be taken off duty in the 1980s. They`re still on-duty. Our submarines are getting older. The B-52 bomber, which is our principle nuclear bomber, hasn`t been built since the Kennedy administration. So, I`m hoping we`ll have a real national debate about why we have these weapons, how many we need, how they should be deployed, and part of that will be to ensure the people who manage them have the best training, the best morale, are compensated. I think they have a most important job in our military, which is safeguarding the most powerful weapons. MADDOW: Eric Schlosser, investigative journalist and author of the new book, "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and Illusion of Safety". Eric, I wrote about this topic a very little bit at the end of the book that I published last year. SCHLOSSER: I read your book. You were right on the mark. MADDOW: Well, Damascus accident and the socket wrench setting off the Damascus accident, that`s the central narrative point of your book is so mind bending and I knew it already, but reading it and the way you put it, it`s just -- it`s a real treasure, so thank you for doing this. It`s really important work. SCHLOSSER: Thank you very much. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. OK. Still to come, the premier of the new Alec Baldwin show which starts right at the top of the hour after this show. Tonight is the firs night, it`s very exciting. Also, important news about flying upside down through cloud banks. Please stay with us. Happy Friday. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When human beings first began to fly, they strapped themselves on to the wings. You became your own fuselage, give the propeller a crank, and away you go, flying for at least a second. For the next couple of decades as planes got faster and more sophisticated, the way in which pilots flew really stayed simple. Spin propeller, take speed, know your engines. Daredevils, and fighter pilots, and male runners, they all believed once you understood how to work the mechanics of your plane, you just climbed in and flew, but in one important sense, they were wrong. It turns out that human beings have a particular problem with flying that we didn`t know we had before we tried flying, and the problem can be a very big one. While flying in an airplane, if you can`t see the horizon, we humans cannot necessarily tell if we are right side up on or a slant or upside down. Our internal gyro scopes are not great at telling us that information when we don`t have visual cues to confirm which way is up. During World War II, the military discovered that when pilots would fly into a fog or into heavy clouds, they sometimes would emerge on the other side flying upside down with no idea they had been upside down or how long they had been flying that way. Scary, right? It`s also instructed. A psychology instructor named Herman Witkin studied this and came up with a name for it. If you are the kind of person who could tell when you were flying upside down, even in the pitch dark with no way to see the horizon, then Herman Witkin said you were field independent. The more likely to be able to find the shape on the left in these squared grid on the right. That`s how they tested it. You are field independent. If you have a hard time finding the shape on the left and the grid on right, then you are more likely to be called what Herman Witkin said was field dependent, and thus, you are more likely to come zooming out of a cloud bank upside down and very, very surprise. Can you spot the shape on the left in the one on the right? Would you know if you were flying upside down? There`s two kinds of people in the world, at least in this sense. You either see that shape or you don`t. You either stay right side up in the cloud bank, or you don`t. The very first pilots to realize our human weakness with this had trouble convincing other people about it. The man actually standing in this picture got sent to the loony bin twice with being so obsessed with what he had suddenly about what humans could and couldn`t do. Nobody wanted to believe this was true, but eventually, the people who figured out it was true convinced everybody else. And pilots fly with instruments now. We understand through no fault of their own, pilots can be flying upside down or sideways and having no idea about it. So, we take steps to overcome that human weakness. That is how it worked out in aviation. But in politician, we`ve still got people coming out of the cloud bank upside down and mystified about it with no way to get themselves back to earth. Why some conservative politicians think the shutdown is going great for Republicans even as the rest of them see the disaster. That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is the guy who started the government shutdown among the House Republicans. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: You know, it`s interesting when the more we find out, the more we realize how wrong the direction we`re going. And so what we`re going to do is take back our country, 2012 is the time that we`re going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is, we`re going to do it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Send him home to Kenya. That is Mark Meadows, freshman Republican from North Carolina. Freshman, he was elected last year and he was elected last year as a birther. 2012, long after most of the birther movement had folded up their long form birth certificates and gone home, good old Mark Meadows in North Carolina was still out there running and campaigning openly in 2012 on birtherism. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AUDIENCE MEMBER: If the president is not a natural born citizen, then he does not control the military. So the question I have, if your Congress, will you pursue some kind of an investigation to find out whether or not this guy is really a citizen and entitled to those authority? MEADOWS: Yes. You know, I see it as -- if we do our job from a grassroots standpoint, we won`t have to worry about it. You know what, we`ll send him back home to Kenya or wherever it is. ] (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Despite his promises on the campaign trail, Congressman Mark Meadows does not seem to have spent much time investigating the president`s secret birth place in Kenya. But Mark Meadows has really made a mark. He was he a birther congressman, Mark Meadows, who wrote the letter last month demanding that he make funding the government contingent on killing Obamacare, demanding that John Boehner shutdown the government if Obamacare couldn`t be stopped. Mark Meadows got 80 signatures in Congress for that letter, and John Boehner shut down the government by exactly the means that Mark Meadows demanded. And that is how we got to where we are now. And the fact that this shutdown started with a guy who was still running as a birther in 2012, ought to have been more of a signal than it has been about this overall effort. And interestingly, it is the local papers around the country that have started to pick up on this aspect, maybe even more than the Beltway. In Illinois, the paper in Springfield, "The Journal Register" tracked down their two local Republican congressmen who signed on to the Mark Meadows letter, and asked those congressmen, hey, are you guys signing on for this guy for everything. You signed his shutdown letter. Are you birthers too? Staffers for both of those congressmen immediately tried to distance their bosses from Mark Meadows, at least on the birther front. The office of Congressman Rodney Davis told the Springfield paper, those birther comments are highly wrong and highly disrespectful to the president. The office of Congressman Aaron Schock said those comments by that member of Congress are clearly disrespectful and Congressman Schock does not associate himself with those comments at all. So, those congressmen do not agree with the birther part of the agenda of the guy whose shutdown they signed on for. But it`s more important than the Beltway gives it credit for, that this is where our current national crisis sprung from. The failure to recognize that the shutdown really came from the fringe, from the side that was still birther in 2010 has let, I think, to a failure of good predictions at a time when we need them. It`s a really historically important moment in American politics and we only have very fuzzy ideas about what`s going to happen next. This is the most mainstream story in the world, right? The federal government is shutdown for two weeks now. We`re facing economic apocalypse with the debt ceiling collapse, which is due on Thursday. And so, every American has a stake in this very big story. And every local newspaper and every anchor in every pundit in the country, every talking on every street corner is trying to understand this crisis, trying to predict where this is going to go. And to do that accurately, you have to know where this crisis is come from. And where this is coming from is not a mainstream place. The mainstream and the rest of politics are playing with a different deck of cards from the guys who started this thing. They -- I don`t mean it in the derogatory way, I mean it in a descriptive way -- they have a different set of values. They have a different sense of what is normal. They have a different sense of what counts as reasonable politics in America -- and failing to appreciate that, means that we fail to develop reasonably accurate expectations for their behavior. And that has become really important. So, polling comes out. The Gallup poll and the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, and "The Washington Post"/ABC poll, and the CNN poll, and the Pew Research Center polling, all of this new polling scientifically polling Americans showing that Americans hate the shutdown and they blame the Republicans for it. You might expect that to cause the Republicans to alter their behavior or at least try to rebut the presumptions behind those opinions in the polls. But instead the response from the drivers of the shutdown is, polls, those are skewed. We have our own poll. Ted Cruz did pay for his own poll to rebut the other real ones. And in his own poll shows that Republicans are doing great. Jim DeMint on the occasion week two of the shutdown that has infuriated the nation is still describing it as a temporary slow down. There is no shutdown at all. In the wonderful of Jim DeMint, things are going great. Predicting their behavior can`t be done accurately if you think they`re people who are not afraid by those poll numbers. They`re not afraid by them. Consider where these guys are coming from. Look at the people they hear from. Look at where Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint are spending this weekend. They`re both at the Values Voter Summit this weekend. Both Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint sharing their schedule with birther luminaries, like conservative talk show host Sandy Rios who has this to say about the recent terror attack at that mall in Kenya. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) RIOS: The implications of this are pretty frightening and, of course, it`s interesting that this is the country from which our president hails, this is his lineage. We know that his cousin, Raila Odinga, was -- is a Muslim communist. It`s just amazing. I think he`s the prime minister right now. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Actually, not the prime minister of Kenya anymore, not a Muslim, not a communist, and not the president`s cousin. Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint are spending the weekend with people like Sandy Rios and birther who tend to sound more reasonable like Frank Gaffney. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) FRANK GAFFNEY: On so many other points involved in this issue, however, for example, where the president was born, there seems to have been, well, a lack of documentation to say the least, to put it, again charitably. What`s going on with that? (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: You want to know who`s doing the plenary session at that Values Voter Summit with Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz this weekend? You want to know? Yes. Yes. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GLENN BECK, RADIO HOST: Are you out of your mind? America. I ask you sincerely, are you out of your mind? I mean, I really sincerely thought this weekend, maybe it`s time to move to Canada. It`s time to move to Canada because these people are not screwing around. If you don`t think they`re going to scoop people up, they will. They`ve upped it now. Now they`re putting a bigger fence around. Now they`re putting armed guards around it. This is the beginning of teaching the American people a lesson. Don`t you screw with us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: He used to be on TV. He`s now on the Internet machine, but he will be hosting the afternoon session at the Values Voter Summit tomorrow and then they can settle in for a breakout session with Joseph Farrah who makes a living selling birther bumper stickers. Where is the real birth certificate? Along with specialty items like the real birth certificate book.] Joseph Farrah is also warning if it would come to this, because you have a secret Muslim, gay, Chicago-style gangster president who was quite frankly not even born was just found under a rock in the Serengeti. This is where the drivers of the Republican government shutdown are spending their weekend and this is their milieu. This crisis in Washington right now is not a normal Republican versus Democrat fight that can be understand through the lens of previous Republican versus Democrat fight. If these were normal Democrats versus normal Republicans, this would be resolved by now. What happened inside the Republican Party is they really handed this one over to the fringe and it means that anybody who is operating under anything that we can learn from a previous political playbook is wrong. There`s no way to make predictions about what happens now without understanding where this all started. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again. Now, it`s time for the premiere of "UP LATE WITH ALEC BALDWIN." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END