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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/18/14

Guests: Barton Gellman

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. On December 19th, a United States Senate candidate was at his home minding his own business when he heard a knock at his front door. He later explained to the local newspaper, "the Lusk Herald," that when he peered out the window of his house, he recognized the local police officers of the Lusk police department. But he then noticed that the police officers had others with them. The candidate told the paper, quote, "at first I thought they were there to take me to a FEMA concentration camp to kill me." The local police did not take him to a FEMA concentration camp nor did they kill him. But it was the local employment at the door, accompanied by officers from the United States secret service. And that`s because what they were there to investigate at the house of this candidate for the United States Senate was an alleged stash of counterfeit $100 bills. In the small town where the Senate candidate lives, people had apparently found what sort of looked like hundred dollar bills, and they had actually tried to use them around town. U.S. currency is a federal thing in this country when you come across counterfeit bills. Criminal complaints about that sort of thing do tend to go right to the feds. This is a federal matter when you`re talking about money. So, the secret service took part in that counterfeiting investigation. Now, the Senate candidate in question, his name was Thomas Bleming, and he was charged. Because when they went to his house, this past December, they found something like $20,000 worth of fake currency and fake $100 bills in his house. Ultimately, though, he was able to successfully claim that it was all a big misunderstanding. About three months after they showed up at his house, the charges were ultimately dropped. Mr. Bleming later explained to the press, that those fake $100 bills that were found in his house, they were not intended to look like real American money. He said that money was just souvenir stuff that he brought home from some of the time he spent working abroad in Cambodia and Vietnam as a soldier of fortune. Because that is what he said his job was before he came back to Wyoming, to run in the Republican primary for the United States Senate. He says he has been a soldier of fortune fighting wars for money in Togo and Panama and Burma and Indonesia. He told U.S. news last year quote "I assassinated a guy one time. I can`t say where, but he had it coming to him." And that`s kind of the way he`s been campaigning for the United States Senate. And now that the whole counterfeit money thing is cleared up and he did not have to go to the FEMA concentration camp and they did not kill him, it looks like there`s no reason that Mr. Bleming will not be on the ballot. Running against Wyoming senator Mike Enzi when the Wyoming Senate primary happens in August. I should tell you in a sort of remarkable twist, Mr. Bleming, the soldier of fortune guy there with the rocket propelled grenade, the guy who says he is an assassin, he now says that his campaign platform for Senate, I`m quoting him. He says, "my campaign is all about the right to marry who you want and to light up a joint." He says, quote, "there`s so much hate in the world and a little bit of love won`t hurt anybody. I believe in total freedom and having a good time. My campaign`s all about that, there`s been so much stress and violence in this country. People are killing their neighbors, kids are killing their kids. Maybe they need a little marijuana cigarette, maybe that would help settle things down. Maybe. Take it from me, the guy with the rocket propelled grenade in Burma. Chill out, smoke a doobie, I`m an assassin." And so yes, that is pretty much the competition for Mike Enzi, long time incumbent Republican senator from Wyoming., who otherwise in this kind of a year, in this kind of a republican climate, he might be expected to be facing some kind of robust well funded challenge in his home state from his right flank in the Republican primary, right? I mean, how different is he from Thad Cochran, or from Mitch McConnell, any of these old time guys who have been facing the tea party challengers this year. I mean, this is Wyoming after all, it`s a conservative state? Until a few months ago, I should tell you Mike Enzi did have a very big named challenger who was going at him from his right, trying to take his Senate seat from him in a Republican primary in Wyoming. Until a few months ago, In January, Mike Enzi was going to have to run to hold on to his Senate seat in the Republican primary against Dick Cheney`s daughter. This is one of the weirder things that has happened in this election cycle for these midterms this year. I mean, it was weird when the story started. It was weird when it ended very badly. It`s now even weird in retrospect. I mean, Liz Cheney has been living in the Washington, D.C. area, in Virginia, for many, many, many years. But last year, unexpectedly, she moved back to Wyoming, she made claims that she had actually been living there all along. She declared she would run to unseat Republican incumbent senator Mike Enzi. It was a surprise announcement. Everybody in Wyoming politics, appeared to be pretty much blindsided. Liz Cheney appeared to have lined up no support in the state at all, really, before she made the announcement, that she was going to try to topple the popular incumbent Republican senator, right out of the date things went sort of poorly. Particularly her efforts to portray herself as a regular down home Wyoming gal, who had always lived there. She got into some trouble with that right away, when she tried to buy a Wyoming resident fishing license, even though she had been living in Virginia, until about five minutes before, and so she didn`t actually meet the residency requirements to get a resident fishing license. And if you live in a big city, or you know, like fishing, this may sound like a sort of picky you matter, Liz Cheney`s fishing license. But in a hunting and fishing state like Wyoming, where basically official responsibilities of the state`s governor every year go on a one-shot antelope hunt, screwing up the fishing license thing, specifically around your residency requirement, when nobody believes you are a resident in Wyoming, that was a very bad first step. And the fishing license thing, got a ton of publicity in Wyoming, right after Liz Cheney announced she was running for Senate. And it only bolstered the existing presumption that she really did not know much about Wyoming, she had never really previously cared much about Wyoming, and she was looking for some state, somewhere in the country where she could run for office, get the maximum help from her very famous family name. And then it also did not help that her very famous family could not keep themselves out of the news about her campaign or what turned out to be its many weird and melodramatic plot developments, like, say, take this headline from the Casper star tribune. Former Wyoming U.S. senator Alan Simpson says Lynne Cheney told me to shut up. Lynne Cheney, of course, is Liz Cheney`s mom, Dick Cheney`s wife. This story made the national press too. Lynne Cheney told me to shut up. Summarize this, there was some sort of dispute between Wyoming U.S. senator Alan Simpson, and Liz Cheney`s mom, at a Liz Cheney campaign event sort of, maybe? Regardless of the details, a shut up was allegedly thrown. Alan Simpson later said it was three shut ups that was denied by the Cheney`s side, but later confirmed by witnesses who say they heard the shut ups. Then the Cody Enterprise newspaper posted a photo of the alleged shut up happening at the event. And then after Liz`s mom denied she really did say shut up, Alan Simpson wrote a statement to the Cody Enterprise newspaper saying that Lynne Cheney was telling, in his words, a bold faced lie. This is Alan Simpson talking. That`s twisted comment is one damn bald-faced lie. And I have a belly full of it. I`ve never been called a liar before and it sure as hell won`t work this time. Now, I know folks can get into the old pitch of he said she said, and so, I`ll just leave it to l the good people of Wyoming to know who is telling the truth here. I lay my reputation flat on the line before my fellow Wyomingites who know me. But I sure don`t have to take that guff from anyone, whatever, whoever, ever! The exclamation point is in the original. He goes on to say, in public life, I have been called everything, and that goes with the territory. It`s a contact sport. I`ve been called fool, idiot, boob, bonehead, dink, slob, greeny, soot-covered slob and all the rest. And that is fair, believe it or not, in politics. But what is not fair -- seriously, it goes on and on and on and on and on for more than a dozen paragraphs, and this is in the paper in Wyoming. This was the character of the Liz Cheney Senate campaign in Wyoming. Wyoming`s not that big, mom, did you have to? Apparently mom had to, and it went on and on and on, and then it was time for more drama. Liz Cheney has a sister, her sister Mary, is openly gay. And as conservative as Dick Cheney has been on everything else in the world, Dick Cheney has always been fairly progressive on gay rights. And he has cited his daughter coming out, and his daughter`s life living an openly gay life when defending his position on gay rights matters. Liz Cheney, though, when Liz Cheney announced that she was running for Senate in Wyoming, she apparently decided broadly, in terms of a broad strategy, that the only way to win that Senate seat would be to position herself far to the right of the incumbent. Far to the right of Mike Enzi. And one of the things she decided to attack him on was that he was too soft on the issue of gay rights. Liz Cheney herself went on the FOX News Sunday TV show and apparently for the first time ever in public she said, after she had started this campaign, that she herself was against gay marriage, she thought it was wrong, apparently she did not give her gay married sister a head`s up before making that announcement, and then it went like this. Quote "things erupted on Sunday when Mary Cheney and her wife were at home watching FOX News Sunday, their usual weekend ritual. Sister Liz Cheney appeared on the show and said that she opposed same sex marriage. Taken aback and hurt, Mary Cheney immediately took to her facebook page to blast back. Liz, this isn`t just an issue in which we agree. You`re wrong and on the wrong side of history. Then Mary Cheney`s wife went further, touching on Liz Cheney`s relocation from northern Virginia to Wyoming to seek office. Liz Cheney is already battling accusations of carpet bagging. He quote from her facebook page was this. I can`t help but wonder how Liz would feel if she move from state to state, she found out her family was protected in one state but not the other. Yes, Liz, she adds, in 15 states and the District of Columbia, you are my sister-in-law. I am your father. Mary Cheney, then actually did a follow-up interview with, about her sister`s which she describe as apparently politically motivated change of heart on this gay rights issue, and how she explains how there would be no Cheney family holidays this year. She explained how she would not be supporting her sister`s candidacy for the senate. And they were not talking. Then dad, Dick Cheney, and mom, Lynne Cheney, decided to further the matter by coming out publicly to take sides between their two fighting daughters on this issue. They decided that they would publicly side with Liz Cheney, the one who after all is running for office. Trying to appear to be more anti-gay than the incumbent Republican senator she was trying to topple. In this fight between their daughters, they came out to support the anti- gay one who was running for office. Are we having fun yet? This was the Liz Cheney Senate campaign in Wyoming. She declared it all over in January. Liz Cheney withdrew, thus clearing the way for the guy with the RPG who thinks she might need a joint and we all need a little more love. So Liz Cheney`s last foray into politics. Indeed, the last foray of any Cheney family member into a political effort was basically a short lived comedy of errors masquerading as a Wyoming Senate race. But Liz Cheney has been around a little bit, in her other forays in public life, have also been honestly pretty poorly received. When her father was vice president, she did get a job at the state department. And then in 2006, so in the second Bush term, where vice president Cheney`s influence particularly on foreign policy issues started to wane, part of the government seminal the biography about Dick Cheney, angler, goes into great detail about how vice president Cheney`s efforts to start a new war against Iran, were thwarted as he lost influence in the second term. While he was still trying to hold on to that influence and advance that idea of bombing Iran in the second Bush term, Liz Cheney at the state department was in 2006 appointed to head up a secretive group called the Iran/Syria policy and operations group which was widely seen as basically the starter war with Iran planning cell inside the state department. It was a secretive group, the most information that was ever published about it, was after it had quietly been shut down, even though there had been no contemporaneous announcement about it being shut down at all. The Bush administration broadly and the state department, in particular, really didn`t seem to want to talk about it until it was gone. Liz Cheney`s Iran/Syria policy and operations group existed for a year, and then they did away with it, not only did they not get the war they wanted with Iran, they also got pretty publicly and embarrassingly disowned by the Bush administration. The Bush administration actually sort of made a half serious effort at trying to make the thing go away without ever really acknowledging that it existed in the first place. Incidentally, Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state at the time that was happening, she was back at the state department today having her official portrait unveiled. No Cheneys were in attendance for that. But after Liz Cheney`s unpleasantness with the Iraq war planning group at the state department and getting shut down, after that unpleasantness at the state department, once President Obama was elected, Liz Cheney then formed another group, called keep America safe, the group founded in 2009 basically to advocate for war with Iran, war with Syria, war with North Korea, more war with Iraq, more war with Afghanistan, even at one point a fake gesture toward a potentially at a war with China. Keep America safe was the group that tried to stoke the ground zero mosque controversy, right? I went to CPAC, the conservative political action conference in 2010. I picked up a bumper sticker at the keep America safe booth. I was looking for Liz Cheney to ask if she`d let me interview her. I didn`t find her, but I did find their bumper sticker that said Guantanamo saves lives. That was kind of their politics. They were also the group that tried to advance this me, which they called the al Qaeda seven. They were trying to event the idea that lawyers in the justice department who had worked on terrorism and detention cases after 9/11, those lawyers themselves must be al Qaeda terrorist sympathizers if they ever worked on terrorism cases. That was even a step too far for many conservatives. Liz Cheney`s group got denounced for that by people like Bush attorney general Michael Mukasey and Kenneth Starr, remember him from the Starr report? Chief counsel of the national security council under George W. Bush. All these former Bush administration officials, all these very conservative lawyers who might otherwise be on the Cheney side of things on national security issues. They were verbally and vocally disgusted by Liz Cheney`s group keep America safe. Their Al Qaeda seven stuff. And that keep America safe group ended up as host not found. The group ended up quietly dissolving. Interestingly they never announced it was shutting down. They never announced it was going anywhere. You can still find their You Tube clips around, but their Web site now just goes into redirect nowhere land. They just evaporated without saying a word. They never said good-bye. Think Progress went looking for them sometime last summer, noticing that their e-mail and their voice mail links appeared to just be dead. I mean, the Think Progress folks tried to find the Liz Cheney group physically, quote, "an attempt to visit keep America safe`s offices to discern whether the organization is still active resulted in an expected trip to a UPS store in downtown Washington, D.C. It`s a very safe UPS store, though. So, that was the last thing Liz Cheney did before her Senate race. That one just folded up and slithered away. And now, there`s today and look, you`re still here. Dick Cheney in a cowboy hat and Liz Cheney together today decided to bless us by launching a new organization to advance the Cheney way in American politics and presumably to give Liz something to do. The group is called Alliance for a strong America, they launched today with this op-ed in "the Wall Street Journal" with a press release that was published basically as a column at the "Washington Post." Also, they published this web video featuring the mentioned cowboy hat. And they also posted this web page. And you know, Dick Cheney is a former vice president of the United States and as such, stuff he does inherently has some heft and get some attention. But I have to tell you, there is sort of a slap to hash minor league field to this new thing that they`re doing. They do misspell their own family name on the Web site. No apostrophe, unless what we`re about to learn is something about something you possess. You don`t need to -- they also seem to have been in a real hurry with the Web site planning over all. The group is called alliance for a strong America, but if you type it in, what you get is this, a white page that says page ok. If you go to alliance for a strong America, again, that`s the name of the group, if you go to alliance for a strong America dot com what you get is this, it was just set up today apparently in response to Dick and Liz Cheney. A strong tells a strong America means not listening to Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney wrong on Iraq since 2002 when he pushed for war, why listen to him now. You can click the video there and hear Dick Cheney in a night music explaining why it would be a such a terrible idea to invade Iraq and topple Saddam. They have this big nice list of Dick Cheney quotes from before the Iraq war. The things he lied about, or that he was at least very disastrously wrong about, Mr. Cheney`s quote "it`s been pretty well confirmed that the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with a senior official of Iraqi intelligence service in Prague last April. That did not happen. Dick Cheney in 2002, there`s no doubt Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction, that was not true. Dick Cheney in 2003, my belief is, we will in fact be greeted as liberators, I think it will go relatively quickly in weeks rather than months. Dick Cheney claiming repeatedly that Iraq was behind 9/11. Dick Cheney claiming repeatedly that al Qaeda and Iraq were working together. Dick Cheney saying in 2005 that Iraq was in his view, in the last throws of the insurgency. Really? 2005? That`s what you`ll find at on the day that Dick and Liz Cheney launched alliance for a strong America. Again, the dot org is just nothing., I should let you know this breaking news here,, we actually bought is that one today as a favor to the Cheney family, so as to make sure it doesn`t fall into nefarious hands, we are keeping that Web site safe for the Cheney family. Right now, if you go to, you will find that we have made it redirect to what I thought might be just a convenient place holder for the Cheneys. It`s the place where you would go online in the Wyoming state government to get your fishing license if you wanted to do it the legal way. It`s very easy, it turns out. They`re very clear about what the rules are. The actual Web site that they did set up today without buying any of their other domain names, it is If you forget that and you typed in stronger, you end up at a Web site of a totally unrelated Pac. I don`t know what this is. goes to a blank page. Stronger America doesn`t even sound like anything in the name of the group they found today. But if you remember it enough to try to find them online, you are likely to end up at this guy`s web site instead - - instead of Dick and Liz Cheneys. Lots of Iraq war architects are circulating in the press right now. And the print press on TV, lots of Iraq war cheerleaders who made false statements and wrong predictions to get us into the Iraq war in 2003, all now still around being quoted again. Insisting on expressing their opinion about questions over U.S. military intervention in Iraq now. And all of these folks from John McCain to Lindsey Graham to Paul (INAUDIBLE) to Paul Bremer to Kenneth (INAUDIBLE), Bill Crystal, Judy Miller, and all of them, they`re all really testing the limits of whether they are really are no consequences for foreign policy disgrace and failure, as long as you`re pro war in this country. When the country honestly, a significant portion of the country is convulsing at the sight of these people as we try to have a reasonable and informed debate now about what to do in Iraq now, and they continue to pollute it with their unapologetic presence. But the Cheneys? For them, for Dick Cheney in particular, for Dick Cheney and his daughter, it`s almost at a different level. It`s almost at a level that approaches parody. I mean, the Cheneys op-ed in the wall street journal today is about war in Iraq and it accuses the Obama administration of misleading rhetoric about Iraq. Really? Mohammed Atta and (INAUDIBLE), pretty well confirmed did you say? And that guy is very upset about misleading rhetoric when it comes to Iraq? The Cheneys reemerging today is the biggest story in Republican foreign policy today. I think Republicans are starting to feel nudge about having been so wrong about Iraq and having nobody who has got tinted by the Iraq fiasco. And then he sort of leadership position in Republican foreign policy discussions when we have those as a nation. Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney with this foray today, they are telling the Republican party to not be embarrassed about what happened. Embrace it, run with it, demand everyone listen to you again on this subject. Is this just an effort at political and public rehabilitation for Liz Cheney, because she has nothing to do now, and she has just suffered through a string of really embarrassing failures in trying to become a public figure? Is this about advancing a new generation of Cheney leadership for the nation? Or is this not about the future? Is this about the past? Is this part of a larger project to vindicate the Cheney legacy, especially on war to try to put a shine on Dick Cheney`s very unpopular tenure as vice president. Most importantly, though, who listens to this stuff? I mean, from the outside, it`s ridiculous, right? Seeing Dick Cheney in a cowboy hat and Liz Cheney at their misspelled website telling us that they know what to do in Iraq. It is like watching a particularly humorless hand-handed lefty satire in a student theater production at hemp state in 2004. I mean, nobody would accuse the Cheney family of something this on the nose, this brazenly obnoxious, unless they did it themselves. But they did it themselves, there they are, and from outside, it`s crazy, it is laugh out loud territory. But from the inside, does it work? Does it work inside the conservative movement? Do they have an audience? Is there a wing of Republicanism even today, that is a Cheney-ite wing, where something like this is reviewed as a bizarre family craft project? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: These are reporters and photographers rushing into the oval office today to snap some very non-candid pictures of President Obama and the four congressional leaders from both houses. John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, before they had a closed door meeting today with President Obama about the absolutely terrible situation in Iraq. Iraq has requested U.S. air strikes to help in its ongoing struggle against Sunni militants there. The United States has agreed to send 275 troops who will be combat equipped to protect American assets and lives in the region. The president updated the leaders today on the administration`s views on Iraq. The president also quote "asked each of the leaders for their view of the current situation, and pledged to continue consulting closely with Congress going-forward." Whether or not the president or Congress decides to take any sort of military action, those decisions right now, that`s all happening in Washington now against the backdrop of a lot of Republicans, political backdrop of the reemergence of the essentially, the Iraq war cheerleading team from 2002 and 2003. And specifically, Dick and Liz Cheney today, former vice president and his daughter today announcing themselves back on the scene with an op-ed, a press release, a new Web site and a video, announcing they would be forming a new organization to try to keep alive the Cheney-ite faction of republican politics about war. How is that going to affect things in Washington now during this debate? Joining us now is Barton Gellman, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, author of angler, the Cheney vice presidency. Mr. Gellman, thank you very much for being here. BARTON GELLMAN, AUTHOR, ANGLER: Thank you. MADDOW: Let me ask the most -- I guess the most present question first, which is, whether or not there is a strong and willing audience now for Dick Cheney and his efforts to not just keep his ideas alive, but to sort of put a shine on his legacy as vice president. GELLMAN: You know, there`s so many levels to what Cheney did today. It could be, let`s blame someone else for this strategic catastrophe that Iraq became. He always said that history would judge him. He might like to influence that. But he really does want to affect current policy, current politics. And this could be seen as a shot across the bow of Rand Paul, for example, and other parts of the multifaceted civil war inside the Republican party, one of its dimension is on any dimension as foreign policy. And Cheney doesn`t actually won in Iraq war 3.0, I don`t think. But he wants the sort of muscular policy that he saw himself leading behind that, to carry on. MADDOW: The -- as somebody looking in on this from the outside, the lack of self-awareness for what it takes for somebody with Vice President Cheney`s record on Iraq, to accuse somebody else of misleading rhetoric on the subject of Iraq, it`s -- I talk a lot, but it renders me speechless. Is that -- is that self-conscious? Does the vice president, in your view, in your reporting on him, do you think he recognizes or can see at all the way that he is seen by other people? Does he know why he had a 13 percent approval rating when he left office? GELLMAN: Well, he thinks he had a 13 percent approval rating because the American people didn`t understand what it takes to protect them. He`s quite convinced of his rightness. He thinks the public is fickle and not very well informed. And he, therefore, uses a fairly sort of blunt hammer in trying to form public opinion. Not as blunt as other members of his family. I mean, in the Cheney family, he is the moderate, he is the sort of subtle nuanced guy, and so, although this "Wall Street Journal" op-ed today skated right up to the line of some of the emotional power of accusing the president of treason, it`s always hedged. He seems to be indifferent to America`s enemy. He`s either blind or indifferent. He`s -- he seems to be ushering in Iran into Iraq. There`s always some little bit of a hedge, I mean, Liz Cheney were writing that on her own, or if Lynn Cheney were writing it, all that stuff would be gone. MADDOW: In terms of the substantive legacy of the Cheney vice presidency, and especially with regard to war, as the president and Congress grapple with whether or not the United States is going to do something else militarily in Iraq now, are there -- is there a substantive legacy of the way that Cheney changed the approach to war as American policy? That the United States now has to decide whether to walk back or continue with? GELLMAN: Well, one of Cheney`s big strategic objectives was what -- the people in his office, internally called the demonstration effect. That by coming in and squashing Saddam Hussein, the United States would demonstrate its power and deter other enemies. The -- that sort of depends on the outcome. And, you know, $2 trillion later and 4400 American dead, well over 100,000 Iraqi dead, I mean, no one can see what happened as a victory. I mean, the Bush administration did not hand over to the incoming president use of Iraq all sort of nicely wrapped up in a bow, problem solved, mission accomplished. They left with a big mess on their hands, and it was Cheney`s idea in the first place, he did not want a long-term occupation. He wanted to, as he called it, stand up a government, to stand up security forces and get the heck out. And it is he who made the bed with the sort of -- with the Shiite dominated government, he hoped it (INAUDIBLE). But he settled for Maliki when that didn`t work out. And so, you know, they`re reaping the fruits of the policy that he created. MADDOW: Which outrages him greatly. It`s a remarkable time we`re having, I feel like I`ve got my binoculars on backwards right now. (LAUGHTER) Barton Gellman, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author. Barton, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here. GELLMAN: Thank you. MADDOW: We`ll be right back, stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Behold, the single greatest photo caption in the whole photographic history of American political campaigning in the 1990s. The best. The photo is from 1996, it`s from the Associated Press. It`s not dancing. It`s what seems to be a photo of a giant cigarette getting a friendly patdown from a police officer. This is what the caption says, best caption ever, "Buttman protesting against Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole`s book signing in the Westwood section of Los Angeles Wednesday gets a gentle shove from a Los Angeles police officer who`s trying to keep him and fellow protesters across the street from the event." A gentle shove for Buttman. Not Batman, Buttman. In 1996, this giant cigarette, name of Buttman, he popped up everywhere that Bob Dole went to -- on his "I want to run for president" book tour. Buttman. There he is. He was played by different Democratic Party staffers, and the idea of having Buttman follow Bob Dole around was basically a political stunt by which the Bill Clinton campaign could accuse Bob Dole of being too cozy with big tobacco. Get it? A giant cigarette, big tobacco? After a while the Bob Dole people started getting annoyed at the big cigarette guy turning up at all their events, they apparently floated the idea of having not a Buttman but a Joint Man follow Bill Clinton around everywhere that he went. Basically to say that Bill Clinton`s a stoner. Joint Man never happened, sad to say. But political campaigns do regularly do these kind of stunts where people dress up in funny suits. Before they ran against Bob Dole in 1996, it was 1992 when Bill Clinton was up against George H.W. Bush, and the Clinton folks sent a guy in a chicken suit to all of the Bush campaign stops as a way of calling President Bush too chicken to debate Bill Clinton. President Bush apparently did not love this and he and his campaign ended up getting in a few well publicized fights with the chicken. This has just become a thing that campaigns do to try to get under the skin of the rival candidate, right? Ruffle some feathers. Maybe use the great visual of the person in the funny suit to get the metaphor of the allegation you`re trying to make into the paper or on to TV. In 2008 the GOP got a hold of a squirrel suit and they sent one of their staffers out in a squirrel suit to follow Barack Obama. Their idea in L.A. was to try to link candidate Barack Obama to the voter registration group ACORN, which Republicans are trying to turn into a scandal. The name of the group was ACORN, squirrels arguably like acorns so at least it made some visual sense to have the squirrels visibly bother the Obama campaign, thereby getting the ACORN issue at least visually into the coverage of his events. The squirrel had a blog and a Twitter feed, the squirrel seemed to have a good time on the campaign randomly. Here`s the anti-ACORN squirrel for Richard Simmons for no good reason. The squirrel claimed to fire up the squirrel community against Barack Obama. The whole thing was king of so fused with a bit of humor. 2008. Right? But now, somewhat randomly, something weird has happened about the squirrel. Because the Republican Party has apparently decided to revive the exact same squirrel, except this time they don`t have a squirrel related metaphor to push, you know, ACORN or something, which kind of made the squirrel make sense. Now this time they just appear to still have that squirrel costume laying around, and so they`ve decided to use it again for whatever reason. Look. Look. It`s the same squirrel costume they used for the ACORN gag, which kind of made sense for the ACORN gag, but now they`re using it to attack Hillary Clinton. What does Hillary Clinton have to do with squirrels? Precisely nothing. It`s just the same costume, recently used for a totally different and unrelated political attack, this time appearing at a different candidate`s events but the squirrel now makes no sense. At Maddow Blog today we tried to figure it out. I mean, what`s the point here? Is Secretary Clinton supposed to be squirrely? Does she steal from bird feeders? Is she prone to chewing on electrical cables and maybe shorting out your stereo? I mean, what`s the allegation here? What`s the connection between a squirrel and Hillary Clinton? There`s no sense in which the squirrel-chasing Hillary Clinton makes any sense. It`s not even related to any allegation whatsoever, unless you get close enough to the squirrel to notice that the squirrel is wearing a squirrel T-shirt which says, "It would be nuts to elect another Clinton to the White House." That`s it. That`s the connection that`s justifying recycling the squirrel suit. The world of bizarre and inane politics of the arrayed forces against Bill and Hillary Clinton has always been at some level inexplicable. But right now, is the rights` Hillary Clinton obsession and her potential presidential candidacy, and the rights` obsession with Benghazi about to foretell the next big dumb thing all of our politics is going to revolve around? That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hillary Clinton has a book out, you might have heard. Last night she did an book interview on the FOX News Channel, and guess how that went? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Madam Secretary, obviously the big news today is on Benghazi, and the capture of Abu Khatalla. I heard you earlier today say by way of context that it took more than 10 years to pinpoint Osama bin Laden. HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Right. BAIER: Isn`t there a difference in this case in that Abu Khattala was hiding in plain sight, openly giving interviews to reporters like our own Gregg Palkot? Should Khattala be read his Miranda rights and be tried in U.S. civilian court? As for more specific Benghazi question you may have had imagined that. CLINTON: OK. BAIER: Did you talk to Charlene Lamb that evening? Did you talk to Secretary Panetta that night? Madame Secretary, in your testimony before the Senate on Benghazi on January 2013, you stated this, quote, "I certainly did not know of any reports that contradicted the intelligence community talking points at the time that Ambassador Rice went on the TV shows, the Sunday shows." Do you stand by that statement? In the Benghazi chapter, you acknowledged that on the night of the attacks you received a State Department Operations Center bulletin in which in the book you say it`s a report, that Ansar al-Sharia has claimed responsibility. How did that report come to you? (INAUDIBLE) suggested President Obama, you had a conversation on the phone. Roughly around 10:00 p.m. CLINTON: Yes. BAIER: Did you talk to him before you put out a statement or after? Do you know where the president was during the attack? Did you talk about the video with President Obama? Two quick follow-ups on Benghazi then I want to move to something else. Why is the State Department telling the Libyans, the Libyan ambassador it was Ansar al-Sharia, and yet telling the American people at the same time it was this video? What exactly are you taking responsibility for? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s pretty much how it went. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did a book tour interview on the Benghazi news channel yesterday, and wouldn`t you know it, the interview was pretty much all about Benghazi. Yesterday when the news broke that the alleged leader of the Benghazi attack was in U.S. custody after a U.S. Special Forces and FBI raid in Libya, the reaction on the FOX News Channel when the news came in was to suggest that the arrest was a conspiracy, that it had been timed specifically to coincide with Hillary Clinton`s book release. The timing was just too perfect. The right is obsessed with Benghazi, the right is obsessed with Hillary Clinton. Now President Obama says he intends to have the alleged Benghazi attack leader tried here in the United States in a regular court. He will not be delivered to Guantanamo, he will be brought back to the United States and tried on terrorism related charges here in a federal criminal court and will face imprisonment in a U.S. federal prison if he is convicted. Does the craziness of the relevant political orbit here around Hillary Clinton and around Benghazi and around freaking out about terrorism in our country mean we are about to have our next round of fighting about whether or not terrorism suspects actually get tried? Joining us now is Jennifer Rodgers. She`s a former assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York and the executive director for the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity of Columbia Law School. Mrs. Rodgers, thanks very much for being here. JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: I think that we are going to have a big fight about this because of the overlapping political spheres and interest here. With this suspect Abu Khattala reportedly being held on an American ship outside of Libya, being interrogated by FBI officials, we don`t know a lot of confirmed details. But from your experience, what do you think we should expect to happen next upon his arrival in the U.S.? RODGERS: Well, as soon as he arrives, he will be presented in court on the complaint that`s been presented against him which contains three charges. He will receive a lawyer and at that time after the presentment, the assistant United States attorney prosecuting the case will have usually its 30 days in order to present the case to a grand jury and then bring an indictment. MADDOW: In terms of the intelligence value associated with his capture, what are things that cannot be done and that might produce some useful intelligence from this man that can`t be done because he`s being tried in this way, rather than being shipped off to Guantanamo? RODGERS: Well, putting aside the torture and things that we are now passed, he can`t be held indefinitely for intelligence related questioning. There is a charge against him now. But they still can use the public safety exceptions to the Miranda rule to question him about ongoing threats, things that are currently out there. So they will probably -- as we speak, they probably are asking him about what does he know in terms of plots that are currently in place, who`s doing it, where are they going to be, that sort of thing. So they`re doing all of that intelligence related questioning now, and they can do that, and then later they will provide him with his Miranda rights and try to get a statement from him that can be used in court. MADDOW: In terms of a track record of prosecuting terrorism cases through the military commission system setup intended to Guantanamo versus prosecuting people in the typical American court system, what`s the record like? RODGERS: Well, that`s a softball. So there`s been literally hundreds and hundreds of prosecutions, successful prosecutions in the civilian courts of terrorism suspects and as you probably know, very, very few completed actions in military tribunals. Federal courts are great at this, the best prosecutors in the world. So there`s no question that he can be successfully tried in civilian court. MADDOW: Do you think -- not necessarily as a practitioner but just as a citizen, do you think that there are powerful people who are in a position to know who will be seen as experts in this field who are -- will credibly argue military commissions is a better idea? That`s what we ought to do, we`ve had a better experience with them? RODGERS: The only I think argument that makes any sense to me for the commissions is that there is a lower standard of proof there on some of the evidentiary issues. So, for example, the hearsay rules are more lenient and you only need 2/3 of the -- well, there`s military folks but the jury to convict as opposed to unanimous jury in the civilian system. So if you hypothetically had a case where it was a very close call you weren`t sure whether your evidence was up to snuff, then, you know, you can see going with the commissions because otherwise the persons would not be prosecuted. But in a case where the evidence is strong and I don`t have any inside information on this, but what I`m reading seems like there`s fairly strong evidence, then you should definitely go with the civilian court. MADDOW: Particularly given that softball question about the record. (LAUGHTER) This is helpful to understand the substantive matters that are going to underline what I bet is going to be a very dumb debate. (LAUGHTER) Jennifer Rodgers, executive director of the Center for Advancement of Public Integrity, thank you very much for being with us. That really helped. That really helped so thank you. RODGERS: Thank you. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A watch this space alert for you for tomorrow. Tomorrow afternoon, House Republicans are going to vote on the successor to Eric Cantor as the House majority leader after he lost his seat in a Republican primary two weeks ago. The leadership is all expected to shift in that afternoon vote in the House tomorrow. That is going to provide a vivid window for all of us into whether or not the Tea Party has been able to turn that victory over Eric Cantor into a wholesale takeover of their party and its leadership in Congress. We`re going to have full coverage of that closed door vote tomorrow night after it happens. It`s going to be really fascinating. So please plan to be here for that. In the meantime, "Best New Thing" in the world is coming up next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Here are some scenes of the fan celebration after the L.A. Lakers won the NBA championships in 2010. Yes, that`s fire. After the UConn men`s basketball team won March Madness this year at least 30 people had to be arrested for how they celebrated there. Here`s how Detroit celebrates whenever one of their teams wins. But in its first day of the World Cup this year, the Japanese World Cup team lost 2-1 to the team from the Ivory Coast. In their moment of great disappointment, the Japanese soccer fans decided to respond to the loss not overturning cars or lighting couches on fire, but by cleaning up the stadium in which the game had just been played. Look, these are fans. The Japanese team saluted its fans as they picked up trash among the thousands of seats when the game was over. The sports ideal is to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. The fans of the Japanese World Cup team are the greatest manifestation of that in a long, long while. And that is the "Best New Thing" in the world tonight." THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END