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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/05/14

Guests: Jose Diaz-Balart

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you for that. And thank you for those of you joining us at home this hour. His name is California Chrome. And on Saturday, California Chrome won the 140th running of the Kentucky derby. Even though California Chrome went off as the favorite, his story really is a classic underdog tale. In a sport that`s all about line annual, his parents weren`t from fancy horse stock. His trainer is 77 years old. That`s older than anyone who`s ever trained a Kentucky derby winner. His two owners are outsiders in the world of big-time horse racing. Not long ago, they turned down an offer of $6 million for their horse. So, if you`re into a good Cinderella story, Saturday`s Kentucky Derby had one for you. Even if horse racing isn`t your thing, you can always go to the derby just for the booze, I guess. If you care about politics, there was an additional reason to be paying close attention at Saturday`s Kentucky derby. The man on the left in that picture right there, you know him, he`s Rand Paul. He`s Kentucky`s junior senator. On the right, with that thumbs up sign, that`s Rupert Murdoch. That`s the Rupert Murdoch who owns a conservative media empire, "The Wall Street Journal," FOX News, "The New York post." Rupert Murdoch and his media outlets have a ton of influence in today`s Republican Party and Murdoch was there on Saturday at Rand Paul`s invitation to watch the Kentucky derby and, in the words of "The New York Times" reporter who was allowed to document everything, to allow himself to be paraded for six hours by Paul, quote, "like a prize horse." Murdoch explained to "The Times" that he had never been to the Kentucky derby and when Paul invited him, he said, "Absolutely. It`s a good thing for me," Murdoch said. "Rand Paul is a very interesting man." It`s a very interesting man who just a few weeks ago Murdoch said he probably would not vote for, for president. It was in an interview last month that Murdoch called Paul Ryan, quote, "The straightest arrow he had ever met", called Jeb Bush, quote, "a man of very fine character." But in that interview, Murdoch said that Paul was dead last on his list of possible Republican presidential candidates. He said that while he agrees with Paul on some things, he really disagrees with him on other things, quote, "too strongly, perhaps, to vote for him." That`s what Murdoch was saying about a month ago. So, Rand Paul would clearly like to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016. If you want to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016, you don`t want Rupert Murdoch saying he wouldn`t vote for you. So, for Paul, what happened on Saturday actually represented a potentially major step forward. He got Rupert Murdoch to come down to Kentucky. He got him to spend the day with him, to get to know him a little. And the simple fact that Murdoch was willing to do all of that, it`s another sign that Paul, who, remember, comes from an outcast family in Republican politics, Rand Paul is having some success in mainstreaming himself into the Republican establishment. If Paul is able to win over Murdoch and other establishment figures like Murdoch, his chances of actually being the Republican presidential nominee in 2016 are going to go way up. But here`s the problem. That same Republican establishment dearly wants to win back control of the U.S. Senate this year. It`s definitely within their reach. But Rand Paul right now might just be 24 hours away from costing his party a crucial Senate seat, a seat that Republicans badly need to win if they`re going to reclaim the Senate in November. Meet Greg Brannon. He is running in tomorrow`s Republican primary in North Carolina. You may or may not know Greg Brannon`s name, but in a way if you don`t know him, you already do know him, because you know him if you know the name Sharron Engel or if you know the Christine O`Donnell or Ken Buck. These were all the little known outside the establishment Tea Party candidates who derailed establishment Republican candidates in Senate primaries in 2010 and who then went on to lose general election races that a generic Republican candidate probably would have won. That was one of the stories of the 2010 election. It was a great year for Republicans, no question about that, but it could have been an even better year for them, a year in which they won back the Senate, if only they hadn`t nominated those fringe candidates. So, that was 2010. Democrats took what happened that year to heart and in 2012, they recognized that they could actually help the Tea Party get those fringe candidates nominated in primaries and thereby increase their own party`s chances of hanging on to the Senate. That`s exactly what Claire McCaskill did in Missouri in 2012. Her poll numbers were very bad, Missouri was a Romney state. McCaskill basically at the start of the year had no business winning a second term in the Senate, except there was one potential Republican opponent that she thought she could beat, that she thought might be so extreme that even voters in red state Missouri wouldn`t be able to check off his name. And that guy was Todd Akin. McCaskill quietly bankrolled ads that ran during the GOP primary race that called Akin, quote, "Missouri`s true conservative" and touted his, quote, "pro-family agenda." She was trying to pick her opponent. She was trying to make it more attractive to conservatives and it worked because Akin won the primary. Then, of course, he went on to make those comments about legitimate rape and by November, the race wasn`t even close. McCaskill won by 15 points. He won the campaign that at the start of the year she had no business winning. And that was one of the reasons why Democrats could hang on to their Senate majority in 2012. They actually increased their majority, something that seemed impossible at the start of the 2012 cycle. So, that story, the story of 2012, the story of Claire McCaskill. That brings us to what`s happening right now in North Carolina. That`s where Democrat Kay Hagan, who is in serious danger of losing her seat this fall, is trying to pick her opponent too. She wants that opponent to be Greg Brannon and it`s easy to say why. Brannon opposes abortion even in the cases of rape and incest. He`s talked about the Second Amendment possibly extending to ownership of nuclear weapons. He`s also said that the Supreme Court has, quote, "zero power of enforcement." So that`s just a taste of Greg Brannon. That is the Republican establishment`s worst nightmare in North Carolina. He is someone who could cost them a Senate seat they would otherwise be very competitive to win. So, of course, the guy that the Republican establishment does want to win tomorrow`s primary is not Greg Brannon, he`s a man named Thom Tillis. He`s the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives. He`s got the backing of North Carolina`s Republican governor, the backing of Jeb Bush and as of today he`s picked up the backing of Mitt Romney, all big Republican establishment figures. He is who Republican -- the Republican establishment thinks is their best shot of beating Kay Hagan this fall. That`s probably why Kay Hagan has been running this ad during the Republican primary race, knocking Tillis for once sort of saying something that wasn`t completely disparaging about Obamacare. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) NARRATOR: Politicians, these days you got to watch `em close, real close. Here`s Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis describing Obamacare. THOM TELLIS (R-NC), SENATORIAL CANDIDSATE: It`s a great idea. NARRATOR: That`s right. Thom Tillis called Obamacare a great idea. Tillis even supported an Obamacare exchange in North Carolina. So, Thom Tillis thinks he can attack Kay Hagan over something he calls a great idea? Watch close. Seems like Thom Tillis wants it both ways. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And, of course, Kay Hagan supports Obamacare but she`s running ads slamming Thom Tillis for calling it a great idea. She is trying to fuel a conservative revolt against Tillis in tomorrow`s primaries. She wants to run against Greg Brannon. Who else wants Brannon to win tomorrow`s primary? Well, Rand Paul does, because after spending Saturday with Rupert Murdoch in Kentucky, Paul headed to North Carolina today to stump for Greg Brannon on primary eve. All of the Republican establishment wants Thom Tillis to be their candidate in North Carolina, but not Rand Paul. And he might get his way, or at least he might prolong the fight between those two Republican candidates, because if no candidate gets more than 40 percent of the vote tomorrow in North Carolina`s primary, then there`s going to be a runoff in July. That would be two more months of negative ads and one Republican spending money bashing another Republican. In order to avoid that scenario, one of the candidates, Tillis and Brannon are the two leading candidates by far, one of those candidates needs to get more than 40 percent of the vote tomorrow. The most recent polling which is out today shows the establishment favorite, Tillis, at exactly 40 percent. Exactly the number he needs to break to avoid that runoff. There`s Greg Brannon in second place at 28 percent. It would appear that the momentum is absolutely on his side. Just in the last week, Brannon support has gone up by eight points in that poll while support for Tillis dropped by six points. So, there is a scenario where Greg Brannon forces a runoff in North Carolina tomorrow and there is a scenario in which that runoff means that he goes on to win the Republican nomination. And if he`s up against Kay Hagan in November, there`s a very good chance that he will lose statewide. If Republicans can`t beat Kay Hagan in North Carolina in 2014, the odds of them winning the Senate would be cut dramatically. And that would be in large part thanks to Rupert Murdoch`s new friend, Rand Paul. Joining us now is NBC News political correspondent Kasie Hunt. Kasie, it`s great to have you here tonight. Thanks for stopping by. KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Great to be here, Steve. KORNACKI: So, look, you know, it`s only one poll. There`s all sorts of caveats you can put what we`re seeing in these numbers today, but last week this poll had Thom Tillis at 46 percent, today 40 percent. All the news in North Carolina today is Rand Paul is in town, he`s supporting Greg Brannon. Is Rand Paul of just mucking this thing up completely for the Republican establishment? HUNT: He certainly could be contributing to it, but I will say there is a factor that we haven`t discussed yet, which is Democratic groups have been on the air waves just slamming Thom Tillis for being associated with staffers who had affairs with lobbyists and who resigned. (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: So they didn`t get the memo from Hagan, that, hey, we want to do that after the -- HUNT: Well, you know, but they`re looking forward. The reality is Democrats are looking for this to go to a runoff because a runoff is so unpredictable. The electorate is so small that it could end up creating a situation where Brannon is the nominee and that`s something that Democrats have wanted to have happen since the beginning. Now, they have backed off recently, as we`ve seen these polls that showed Brannon was going to get above 40 percent. KORNACKI: Tillis was going to get -- HUNT: Excuse me, yes, Tillis was going to get above 40 percent. They started to say, hey, we actually weren`t trying to meddle in this primary. It`s all fun and good. We didn`t actually try to do something that we didn`t achieve. But as you can see but the momentum may be shifting. I think Paul is probably contributing to that and I also think Democratic ads could be a factor. KORNACKI: So, talk a little about Thom Tillis, because again, up until really these polls in the last few days, I think there was the general expectation, yes, he`s going to break 40 percent and win this thing and it`s a victory for the Republican establishment. There`s been a lot of talk in this race in North Carolina and some other races, Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, Thad Cochran, Mississippi, that maybe the Republican establishment has sort of learned how to tame the Tea Party. But when I look at what Thom Tillis has done, I don`t know, tell me if you share the same assessment, when I look at what Thom Tillis has done to position himself for this thing, he`s basically gone and adopted Tea Party rhetoric, Tea Party positions on issues. There`s a clip of him going around where he has the same position on global warming as Greg Brannon, so in a way it seems like the Tea Party maybe has tamed Thom Tillis. HUNT: Tamed Thom Tillis or tamed other candidates across the Republican establishment. That`s how Democrats would cast what we`re seeing across the map in this Senate election. If you look at somebody like Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Congressman Tom Cotton, he didn`t face a competitive primary. The Democrats would say, hey, this is a guy who`s a lot more conservative than the kind of Republican that would have previously been able to run, maybe a more successful race against Senator Mark Pryor, who`s, of course, a vulnerable Democratic incumbent down there and he`s working to cast Tom Cotton as someone outside the mainstream. Since, Tom Cotton is still unknown, that argument may be starting to work. I think you`re seeing that in other races across the map as well and I think in North Carolina, one of the risks that the establishment has taken in playing so heavily in this primary and having to set him -- Thom Tillis up against these other candidates is the potential for him going too far to the right and damaging himself in the general election. Whether it`s going to go far enough that they`re going to create a situation where you had a Todd Akin, I would tend to doubt that. I mean, they knew and Senator Claire McCaskill was setting herself up to run against somebody they thought was going to potentially make a major mistake. That`s something that Thom Tillis is probably less likely to do. He`s been in politics for a while, speaker of the state house, et cetera, et cetera. He`s not in that typical mold. Whereas somebody who maybe is less experienced on the political stage might put their foot somewhere that then Democrats could use to ultimately win the general election. KORNACKI: Yes. I gave you a couple of quotes in the intro there, the list on Brannon already before the general election is so long Democrats, you can see why they`re salivating. It`s interesting to me, we talk about 2010, we talk about 2012. It will be interesting if Brannon somehow forces this to a runoff and if he wins the nomination, does that reenergize the sort of Tea Party uprising? I think that`s (INAUDIBLE) watching for. Anyway, Kasie Hunt, NBC News political reporter -- thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate it. HUNT: Thanks, Steve. KORNACKI: Vice President Joe Biden may have just made big news in that signature Joe Biden way, by accident. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, ACTRESS: Hello? JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Selena, what are you doing? DREYFUS: Oh, God. I thought you were the president. Hey, listen, are you going to the snore us dinner tonight? BIDEN: No, I`m not going, man. I`ve been there once. It`s a bunch of politicians trying to explain politics to Hollywood. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That is from the video that kicked off the White House Correspondents Dinner over the weekend, showing Vice President Joe Biden with HBO`s "Veep" star Julia Louis Dreyfus. They were playing hokeys, skipping out on a dinner, and driving around in a yellow Corvette, binged on ice cream. They got tattoos. That was quite a night for the two of them. But the truth is, if you really want to know, the truth is that the vice president actually missed the correspondents dinner because he was in Miami. That`s where he was giving a commencement address to the 2,000 graduating students at Miami-Dade College. It was during that 17-minute speech when Biden called for immigration reform. When he did that, this happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: The immigrant community represents something special we never talk about. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop deportations. BIDEN: We`ll do that too kid but let me finish my speech. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, that comment from Biden is getting all sorts of scrutiny. Because if, to use the word Joe Biden is fond of using, if he literally meant what he said, then it`s a huge development. So, again, when he was asked to stop deportations by that person from the crowd, Biden said, "Yes, we`ll do that, just let me finish what I`m saying, kid." Now, sure, he might have just been saying whatever came to his mind to quiet the heckler down and move on with the speech. That may have been nothing more than vice presidential non-speak that you saw right there. But the reason a lot of people think it might be a lot more than that because Biden has a bit of a history when it comes to spilling the beans, like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: You`re comfortable with same-sex marriage now? BIDEN: I -- look, I am vice president of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying are entitled to all the civil rights, all the civil liberties and quite frankly, I don`t see much of a distinction beyond that isn`t. GREGORY: In the second term, will this administration come out behind same-sex marriage, the institution of marriage? BIDEN: I can`t speak to that. I don`t know the answer to that. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: But Biden apparently did know the answer to that because just three days after that "Meet the Press" appearance, President Obama suddenly came out to endorse same-sex marriage. The White House insisted it had been Obama`s plan all along to publicly support gay marriage at some point but Joe Biden forced the issue with that appearance of "Meet the Press." He basically sped up history. So, here`s why Biden`s answer to that heckler could be loaded with significance. A couple of months ago, President Obama asked Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security to look into deportation policy, to see if there were avenues to implement a more humane deportation policy. Since then, we`ve been waiting for the results of that review. So, could Biden`s line at the commencement address have actually been a knee-jerk reaction of what`s to come? Is he getting ahead of history again? Today is Cinco de Mayo and Biden used the occasion it to call for comprehensive immigration reform and talk about just how significant passing the bill into law would be. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: I think the gigantic thing, I think when we pass this bill, when we pass immigration reform, it is going to have profound foreign policy impact. Not only in Mexico, but throughout the entire hemisphere, because we`ll be saying, hey, all these folks we treat with respect, view them as citizens, and they are as competent and capable and welcome as anybody else. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And Biden wasn`t the only member of the administration using Cinco de Mayo to push for immigration reform. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The majority of Americans agree with me on this. It`s time for members of Congress and Republicans in the house to catch up with the rest of the country. So I need all of you to go out there and mobilize, particularly over the next two months. Tell them to get on board, get on board with business leaders and faith leaders, law enforcement, Republicans and Democrats across the country, say yes to fixing our broken immigration system. Let`s get it done right now. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: So, should we expect a change in deportation policy in the ne near future? And what are the chances Boehner will do what Obama and Biden are calling on him to do, that he`ll risk the wrath of the right and actually put immigration reform bill on the floor of the House for a vote sometime this spring? Joining us is Jose Diaz-Balart. He`s network news anchor for Telemundo and host of the Sunday public affairs show "Enfoque". Mr. Diaz-Balart, thank you for joining us tonight. JOSE DIAZ-BALART, TELEMUNDO: Good to see you, Steve. KORNACKI: Let me start with the question that we`re all trying to get inside Joe Biden`s head. What is your read on what happened in that speech and that answer he gave? Do you think that`s a significant response? DIAZ-BALART: I think it is. I was at both the Biden breakfast this morning and the event that President Obama hosted at the White House some hours ago when they talked about immigration reform. And, Steve, I think it`s important to put into context the vice president`s words because he talked about the importance of an immigration reform bill for, let`s say, Latin America and how they view us. But he also before that talked about the economic positive impact that immigration reform would no doubt have on the U.S. economy and on strengthening our country. But having said that, I think that the vice president is really reflecting a mood that I`m seeing more and more in the White House, which is if the Republicans don`t get their act together, people that work behind my back for us and present some form of immigration reform before this summer break, I would not be surprised if the president of the United States of America unilaterally acts, like he did with deferred action, where he gave millions of young children who were brought here through no fault of their own, many have known no other country than the United States and yet were undocumented, and fearing deportation, he gave, the president did through deferred action, a two-year process whereas they can search for their American dream. I would not be surprised if the White House unilaterally acts if the Republicans simply do what they have been doing in the House as far as immigration reform all year, which is squat. KORNACKI: So, you`re saying something interesting there about sequencing, the idea of unilateral action on deportation policy comes only if the process in the House stayed stalled. What was interesting to me was -- I was in Washington over the weekend and did an interview with Nancy Pelosi for our show for "UP" on the weekends, little plug for "UP" right there. DIAZ-BALART: Lovely show, by the way. KORNACKI: Thank you. I was asking her about this and she said she thinks there`s going to be a window of time around June when all these Republican primaries are over, because the whole thing holding us back are Republicans terrified of losing in the primary. By June, these primaries are basically done and she said she thinks that`s when John Boehner could act to bring this to the floor. What do you think the prospects are of that happening in June? DIAZ-BALART: Maybe because I`m a salty dog covering the Hill, and pretty much world politics for three decades now, I`m not as optimistic as Nancy Pelosi seems to be, as far as the president seems to be, because he`s pretty much made it clear that he is going to wait until at least the summer recess to see if something comes out of the Hill. I personally, Jose Diaz-Balart, don`t see this happening because of the different political tugs and realities that exist for Republicans. Not just the primaries, but for the November vote. Why would Republicans risk changing the focus from what they believe is a winning issue, Obamacare, and maybe now the Benghazi stuff that they`re going to start working on here on the Hill and talk about something that would take their focus away from that, even if it`s something that would benefit the U.S. economy, that would cause 11 million people to come out from under the shadows and contribute to this country, for national security, for the economy it would be great. Politically, is it great? That`s not something I can answer but I`m not optimistic, Steve. KORNACKI: Yes, I can certainly understand that. Quickly, we`re short on time, but I do want to ask you -- I mean, if it gets to the point where it doesn`t get through the House and we`re looking at some unilateral action being taken by the White House, how broad do you think that would be? I`ve heard different interpretations of what they might do. Do you think it would be a major sweeping action or narrow focused one? DIAZ-BALART: I think it would have to be narrow. I`ve talked to the president nine times about this and every time he said I`m president, I`m not a king. I think he`s going to do something. But, Steve, let`s not forget there have been 2 million deportations under the Obama administration. That`s the entire population of Slovenia taken out of Slovenia, and that`s what we`ve been living through here in the Hispanic community. Every family has been affected by it one way or another. You know what? The president is feeling the pressure. What he`ll do, I think it`s going to be limited. It`s not maybe what blanket some people are calling for, but he will act, I firmly believe, if by July there is no movement behind me. KORNACKI: All right. Jose Diaz-Balart, he`s a news anchor for Telemundo, host to their Sunday public affairs show -- DIAZ-BALART: And, Steve, real quick, your show is arriba on the weekend. KORNACKI: Thank you, thank you, appreciate that. DIAZ-BALART: Just clarifying. KORNACKI: Appreciate that. Just ahead, the prosecutor-turned-congressman who`s got Republicans newly psyched. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: When you`re a political figure, people sometimes throw things at you. In the last election when Republicans were trying to pick a presidential candidate, a few of them ended up having glitter thrown on them by people who didn`t like their opposition to gay rights. Last month in Las Vegas, someone threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton. I`m not sure we have a clear reason for that one yet. And today, Hillary Clinton got something else thrown at her. Something so big you could see it coming from a mile away. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Way back in August of 2009, that was during President Obama`s first year in office, in that summer a brand new political season was born. That long, hot summer in 2009 was, as you may recall, the dawn of the shouty town hall political season. When question and answer sessions with your local congressman turned into something like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THEN-REP. BOB INGLIS (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What`s that? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m afraid of Obama. INGLIS: Why are you afraid? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a socialist. (SHOUTING) INGLIS: A good news suggestion up here. The suggestion was to watch Glenn Beck. Here`s what I suggest. Turn the television off when he comes on. (BOOS) (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That was six-term Republican Congressman Bob Inglis from South Carolina. For saying that, Bob Inglis had to go. Aside from telling his constituents to turn off Glenn Beck, Inglis was also a climate change realist and often said so out loud. He also invited Tea Party ire when he voted for the TARP Wall Street bailout back in 2008. So for those and other various crimes in 2010, Bob Inglis got utterly destroyed by the Tea Party favorite in South Carolina`s Republican primary runoff. He lost by an almost unimaginable margin of 42 points, one of the biggest drubbings ever for any incumbent member of Congress. Inglis got blown out of the water by this guy. His name is Trey Gowdy, a former prosecutor and now a second term congressman from South Carolina. And today, Trey Gowdy just became one of the most important people in the Republican Party because he just got handed the newly formed select committee to investigate the State Department`s handling of the attacks against our diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. Today, House Speaker John Boehner picked Gowdy for this very special GOP honor of heading up a select committee. Remember, a select committee is not just any old committee. The select committee is reserved for high level scandals. It was the select committee that was used for Watergate and for Iran Contra and now for Benghazi. Republicans are giving Congressman Gowdy the golden pitchfork on this one in part because since taking off as he`s been on the leading edge of Republican conspiracy theory investigations. He was bulldog presence at all of the House Oversight Committee sessions. He`s been hitting on all of the conservative causes. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Fast and Furious was fundamentally flawed in its conception, flawed in its execution and flawed in its explanation afterward. Mr. Chairman, I counted 17 separate factual assertions by Ms. Lerner, not those three its sentences my colleagues like to cite. Seventeen separate factual assertions. We`re going to find out what happened in Benghazi and I don`t give a damn whose career is impacted. We`re going to find out what happened. (END VIDEO CLIPS) KORNACKI: And they have been finding out what happened for going on two years now. With eight congressional committees in both houses spanning 13 hearings and now a select committee, which congressional Republicans are hoping will really find out, this time really for real what really did happen in Benghazi. What this whole thing is really, really about is up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: The public hearings that get so much attention are the last things that should happen. We need former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton up giving hours and hours of depositions before they put her back out in public testimony. That`s the way to find out what happened. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And that was John Bolton, the former Bush administration U.N. ambassador, demanding what many on the right are also demanding, more scrutiny of Hillary Clinton`s role in Benghazi. In a way, it`s easy to understand why. Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination in 2016 and at least at this far-out point, she runs comfortably ahead of every respective Republican opponent. So, the politics are obvious. Republicans need to bring down Hillary`s poll numbers and here`s a vehicle to try to do that. But what`s so interesting about watching this all play out right now, about watching Republicans convene a special Benghazi committee and ratchet up their rhetoric and try to connect Hillary to it, what`s so interesting about is that what Republicans are really trying to do here is to undo a huge political mistake they made a few years ago, a political mistake that has been instrumental in turning Hillary into the overwhelming 2016 favorite that she is right now. To really fully appreciate the story, you probably need to go back to 1992, back to when Bill and Hillary were brand new to the national stage. Bill was running for president that year, so it was no surprise that Republicans unleashed a hard-hitting and at times very personal assault against him. That`s politics. But what was different about 1992 was that the right also gave that same treatment to Hillary, to the wife of the Democratic nominee. They thought she was a fair target because she was promising to play an active policy role in her husband`s administration. You get two for the price of one. That`s what Bill famously said during that campaign. So the right savaged Hillary as a radical left wing feminist. That year`s Republican convention was littered with attacks on her. If you want a taste? Here is it, this was Pat Buchanan speaking in primetime at that convention. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAT BUCHANAN: Elect me and you get two for the price of one, Mr. Clinton says, of his lawyer spouse. And what -- and what does Hillary believe? Well, Hillary believes that 12-year-olds should have the right to sue their parents. And Hillary has compared marriage and the family as institutions to slavery and life on an Indian reservation. Well, speak for yourself, Hillary. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That`s how the right talked about Hillary Clinton back then. That`s pretty much how the right talked about her throughout the entire two terms of the Clinton presidency. She and her husband more or less got the same type of treatment from the right. They were the two leading faces of the enemy party and so they were to be attacked and opposed at every turn. Actually, it kept right on going even when Bill Clinton`s presidency ended. It`s because Hillary had won a Senate seat and Republicans knew what we all knew. She was probably going to run for president some day, that the prospect of a Clinton restoration was very real and that the Clintons were still, even after leaving the White House, they were still the face of the national Democratic Party. And so, for instance, in the wake of 9/11, the right strained to place the blame on Bill Clinton. Remember when he got into an argument with a FOX News host over that? Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Why didn`t you do more to put bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were president? BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think it`s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say I didn`t do enough claim that I was too obsessed with bin Laden, all of President Bush`s neocons thought that I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say I didn`t do enough said I did too much, same people. I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him. The CIA was run by George Tenet that President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to. He said he did a good job setting up all these counterterrorism things. The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came there. WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir? CLINTON: No, because I didn`t get him. But at least I tried. That`s the difference between me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That was back in the fall of 2006. That was back when Hillary was just getting ready to launch her presidential campaign. That was when Barack Obama was still just a second-year senator and all the chatter was just starting to pick up that he might run in 2008 as well. Back then, everyone figured that if Obama did run, he wouldn`t stand a chance against Hillary. It had been almost 15 years by then that the Clintons had been on the national stage. And for all of that time, they had been the enemies in chief of the Republican Party. And then this happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It is now 9:00 p.m. in the East and Barack Obama is projected to win a substantial victory in North Carolina over Hillary Clinton. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And now, this is the point, this is the moment that Republicans made that mistake that they`re now regretting, that they`re now trying to erase, because it was in the spring of 2008 when it became clear that everyone had been wrong, it became clear that Obama was actually going to win the Democratic nomination, that there wasn`t going to be a Clinton restoration at all, when Barack Obama suddenly supplanted the Clintons as the face of the national Democratic Party. It was at this moment that Republicans suddenly, after 15 years of nonstop attacks, that they suddenly let up on the Clintons. Actually, it`s more than that. They didn`t just let up on the Clintons. They started to lionize the Clintons. They drew up a new Clinton caricature. No longer were they a pair of radical immoral ideologues. Suddenly, with Barack Obama their new enemy in chief, Republicans began talking about the Clintons wistfully. This from "The New York Times" in 2010 under the headline "Some in GOP find soft spot for Bill Clinton." Quoting, "Senator Orrin Hatch will go down in history as a better presidency than the sitting one." Sean Hannity of News, who has verbally abused Mr. Clinton for years, recently referred to him as "good old Bill." Republicans in Congress began speaking about him with respect, even pining. When Barack Obama became president instead of Hillary Clinton, the right tried to rewrite its own history. Forgot all about Monica Lewinsky and impeachment and that old caricature it had of Hillary and praising the Clintons became a way of attacking Barack Obama, holding up Bill and Hillary as examples, as shining examples really of practical, cooperative, bipartisan Democrats, examples that in their telling the current president fell far short of. Here`s what that strategy did: that is the trend line of Hillary Clinton`s favorable rating. If you look closely, you can pinpoint the exact moment that all of this started happening, when the right`s attacks on the Clintons stopped and the praise began. Right there in the spring of 2008. Her popularity skyrockets and it reaches levels she had never before seen. The right spent a lot of the Obama presidency talking up the Clintons as a way of trying to take down Obama. Now, they`re facing the consequences. Hillary Clinton`s image was battered and bruised at the end of the 2008 primaries. But Republicans have been instrumental in building her back up and then some. Now, as that special Benghazi committee comes together, we`re watching them scramble desperately to try to undo everything they have done for her these past six years. Joining us now is Republican strategist and MSNBC contributor, Steve Schmidt. Steve, I mean, I grew up, sort of came of age following politics in the 1990s, so I just have these memories sort of tattooed on my brain of the Republicans just relentlessly going after the Clintons. Then when I`ve listened to how Bill Clinton has been talked about by so many Republicans and Hillary Clinton for that matter, especially when she was at the State Department and I look at what`s happening now -- Benghazi investigation being an example of it -- I kind of think to myself Republicans are sort of waking up at this moment saying, gee, maybe we shouldn`t have been talking them up this much. STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, Steve, Hillary Clinton and President Clinton have been on the national stage for a long time now, and we have a tendency in this country that when a former president leaves office battered and bruised, over time their image is rehabilitated. President Clinton is someone obviously with considerable charm. I think that when people look back on that era in American history, the 1990s, it was a time of peace and prosperity. There were some big bipartisan deals that got done. I think people look back on that with a lot of nostalgia after the last -- since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the two wars, the economic crisis, the collapse, the partisanship and dysfunction in Washington. I think people look back on that era with a lot of nostalgia and the result of it has been that Hillary Clinton and President Clinton are the most ecumenical political figures, most political figures in the country, and that makes 2016 a daunting task for any Republican nominee. KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, when I -- when I hear about Republicans sort of looking back, people in general looking back wistfully on the `90s and bipartisanship, I remember they did impeach him in 1998. SCHMIDT: Sure. KORNACKI: So, it wasn`t this necessarily great time of tranquility in the Capitol. But I wonder when I look at the Benghazi select committee and I see sort of the rhetoric towards Hillary especially changing on the right, it kind of makes me -- I`m trying to think of what the psychology is in the Republican Party right now. They know she`s the clear favorite for 2016. We don`t know if she`s going to run. Everybody kind of assume she does. But is there thinking in the Republican Party that they can attack her so much right now that they can maybe keep her out of this race? Is that sort of the -- SCHMIDT: No, I don`t think that anyone in the Republican Party believes that any action taken or not taken by a congressional committee is going to impact her decision whether she wants to -- whether she wants to run or not. I mean, look, the danger for Republicans here, and this is true of all oversight or investigative committees, is there`s a thin line between select committee and kangaroo court. And the reality is that it`s usually the overreach that results from investigations like this that hurts the people doing the investigating, not the people who are being investigated. So, Republicans have a thin line to walk here. The most important thing is when you`re thinking about a presidential campaign, elections are always about the future. They`re not about the past. And I do think there are some legitimate questions that have to be answered with regard to Benghazi. But saying that is that the Clintons have been beneficiaries of a lot of Republican excess over the last two decades. And I would be worried as this committee gets rolling that it becomes something that more resembles what went on in the last -- in the late 1990s, which did not help Republicans in that `98 midterm election, for example. KORNACKI: Well, I think we`re sort of waiting for the moment if this all the comes full circle maybe three, four years from now if Hillary Clinton actually becomes president and the right`s attacking her full-time and then we start hearing the narrative of, you know what, we never knew how good we had it under Barack Obama. I kind of wondering if we`ll come to that point. Anyway, Steve Schmidt, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate the time. Big day for New Jersey tomorrow in the investigation of the George Washington Bridge lane closings. We have got a preview of that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: We have an update for you on the mystery of the George Washington Bridge lane closures, one of the scandals that has threatened New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s political future. Tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m., the special legislative committee investigating those lane closures will meet. And there are a lot of questions and there`s a lot of interesting speculation about what exactly is going to happen at that meeting. And there are two things in particular to keep an eye on when they convene tomorrow morning. The first thing is that there are four Republicans on that 12-person committee and those four Republicans have become very annoyed with the committee`s Democratic leadership. They`ve been arguing for weeks now that the committee is nothing more than a partisan effort to take down Chris Christie. And some of them have even been dropping hints that they might walk away from the committee altogether, that they might boycott tomorrow`s hearing and every other hearing in the future. So, we don`t even know for sure whether the Republicans are going to show up tomorrow morning or if they do show up what they`re planning on doing. So, that is one thing to be watching for. But the second and the potentially more significant thing, second bit of suspense on the eve of the hearing has to do with the only person who is scheduled to testify at the hearing tomorrow. Her name is Christina Renna. Brief refresher for you. Christina Renna was the second in command under Bridget Kelly, now former deputy chief of staff to Governor Christie, who ordered the lane closures in that famous "Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee" e-mail from August 13th. Kelly headed up what`s called the office of legislative and intergovernmental affairs, and Renna worked for her. And in the report released by lawyers for Governor Christie`s office back in March, Renna was portrayed as someone who could speak with authority about her former boss. Renna told the Christie administration`s lawyers about this e-mail from Thursday, September 12th, in which Renna told her boss that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was, quote, "extremely upset" about the amount of traffic in his town to which Bridget Kelly responded, quote, "good." Renna told lawyers for the governor`s office that months later to delete that e-mail exchange and Renna said she did delete it but not before she also forwarded the e-mail to her personal e-mail account, then later gave it to a superior after it had become publicly known that Kelly was involved in the lane closures. Renna also offered some hints in that report concerning the culture of the IGA, where staffers sometimes use the personal e-mail accounts to conduct government business and would sometimes be instructed to be not responsive to certain mayors and where certain staffers kept track of mayors considered not in line with the IGA`s mission. Now, the report that came out of Christie`s internal investigation, that`s the Mastro report, it had an obvious problem. It was conducted by the lawyers for Christie`s office. They did all the interviews for it. They chose what to use. They chose how to write the report. The report claims to exonerate Christie. But as Charlie Stile writes in his column today in the "Bergen Record" newspaper, ever since that Mastro report came out, Democratic lawmakers have been interested in Christina Renna and they`ve been interested in what else she might know, what maybe she didn`t say or wasn`t presented in that report. Because by the time that report came out Christina Renna had already resigned her position and she hired a lawyer of her own. Her records had already been subpoenaed by the legislative committee. And just a few weeks ago, the committee issued another subpoena for Renna to testify. And that is the testimony that is set for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. All of this comes amid signs that the criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney for New Jersey may be intensifying. U.S. attorney`s office recently subpoenaed the legislative committee for all of the documents it has collected as part of its investigation. There`s some suspense and a lot of chatter about what Renna might say tomorrow and there are a few reasons. Number one, she`s no longer with the Christie administration. She`s left her job. She`s not on the team anymore, at least on paper. Number two, she will be under oath when she appears before that committee. And number three, as we said just a minute ago, there is every reason to think that the U.S. attorney`s going to be listening very carefully to what she says and to maybe what she doesn`t say at that hearing tomorrow. As Charlie Stile wrote today, "Democrats feel like there might be more that Renna hasn`t yet said about the lane closures," and if there is something she knows that could widen the scope of these ongoing investigations beyond what she told Governor Christie`s lawyers, then tomorrow is the day to spill it." All of this is going to play out 12 hours from now. And you can be sure that we will be watching. And that does it for us tonight. Rachel`s going to be back in this seat tomorrow, and I will see you next weekend on my show "UP." Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END