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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/06/14

Guests: Dave Helling, Mark Udall, Rick Perlstein

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Good evening to you, Ezra. Thanks for that. Thanks to you at home for joining us for this hour. Rachel has the night off. 1996. 1996 was the year that presidential campaigns came to the World Wide Web. It was Clinton and Gore versus Dole and Kemp. And it was the first year that American voters could dial up to the Internet at 2,400 BPS and once the Internet finally loaded, they could learn about the candidates. The Clinton/Gore `96 site featured an email from Clinton himself, encouraged the voters to join the electronic barn-raising, as he called it, and make 1997 "net year", whatever that meant. In an effort to campaign in all platforms, the Dole camp online campaign had a Dole interactive page and had a fun selection of images to, quote, "customize your computer`s desktop environment," so you could choose your support on your PC for Bob Dole. You could even change your desktop wallpaper to a picture of Leader. Leader was Bob and Elizabeth Dole`s pet dog, the aspiring first dog. Dole was running as a man from the Heartland, a Kansan, someone who`d grown up in the worst of the depression, who would pitch in to help his family make ends meet. He was a war hero too. And that was, and that is Bob Dole -- a small town, Middle American Republican. Not a loud, abrasive Tea Partier, but really more of a pragmatist, a moderate, an Eisenhower Republican. But as that campaign was heating up back in 1996, Bob Dole was in big trouble. He was way behind Bill Clinton. And so he did something dramatic. He quit the Senate. He was the Republican Senate leader, but he just walked away in the middle of the campaign, an all or nothing gamble, the presidency or nothing. And when Bob Dole did that, it was up to the Republican governor of Kansas to appoint someone to take his Senate seat. And that governor was the same kind of Republican as Bob Dole. And that governor appointed to the seat another moderate, pragmatic, Eisenhower-type Republican. And that decision did not sit well at all with a very conservative and very ambitious freshman Republican congressman. And his name was Sam Brownback. And Brownback challenged that new appointed moderate Republican senator in a primary in 1996, and he won. Big. And this was a defining moment for the hard right conservative movement that Brownback represented. They finally had struck a big blow to the moderate Republican establishment in Kansas. Brownback`s campaign manager for that `96 race explained that the election was a choice between, quote, "idea-based Republicans versus status-based Republicans, people who were Republicans because their daddies were, Rockefeller Republicans." And it was those Rockefeller Republicans that Brownback was after when he went back to Kansas from Washington to run for governor in the year 2010, an election that he won handedly with a more than 30 percent margin. This was a very big deal in Kansas when this happened. It has long been a very Republican state, but Sam Brownback represented a very different kind of Kansas Republican -- far to the right, anti-government, basically a Tea Partier. The anti-Bob Dole. And when he became governor in 2010, he and his fellow conservatives sought to settle the score with that old moderate wing, once and for all. Just two years ago in 2012, Brownback supporters led a purge of Kansas` moderate Republican state legislators, going after them systemically in primaries, to drive them out of the statehouse, to replace them with right wingers that shared his agenda. And they got their way. They cleaned House in 2012. That same year, Brownback ushered in one of the biggest tax cuts in Kansas history. One of the biggest tax cuts of any state for decades. He combined tax brackets, he cut state income rates, he chopped rates for business owners, saying this would all create tens of thousands of jobs and be, quote, "a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy." Brownback`s Tea Party Kansas experiment hasn`t quite worked out that way. Cutting taxes so much has meant there`s not as much revenue for the state. In the last year, revenue was down nearly half a billion dollars. Brownback`s Kansas is now in by what some estimates is now a mid-sized recession. And just today, the state`s credit rating was downgraded again. Standard & Poor`s cited the effects of Brownback`s tax slashing as the primary reason for doing that. All of this has had a huge effect on the state`s education spending. Earlier this year, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state was not spending enough on public schools and colleges, which may be part of the reasons that Sam Brownback is now at risk of losing his job. He is now running in a dead heat race against his Democratic challenger -- in Kansas, the reddest of the red states. Kansas, in that state, the Republican governor is in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis. There have been other signs of peril for Brownback, too. In the lead up to last night`s Republican`s primary in Kansas, more than a hundred politicians and activists officially threw their support behind that Democratic challenger, not their party`s candidate, not their party`s governor. And now there`s more, because something very strange and something potentially very important happened in that Kansas primary just last night. Brownback won it, but that`s not the headline. The headline is that he received barely over 60 percent of the vote, 63 percent, to be exact. And if that doesn`t sound that bad, consider who he was running against. His challenger`s name was Jennifer Winn. She`s the owner of a landscaping business in Wichita. She had raised only $13,600. Brownback, $2.8 million. Her campaign was stymied by her past personal bankruptcy and a son who had been charged with first-degree murder. She was not supposed to be a serious challenger. She was supposed to be a nuisance candidate. And she walked away with nearly 40 percent of the vote against the sitting governor in his primary. This is a serious warning sign for Sam Brownback. And it`s also more than that. All the way down, the Republicans bowed in Kansas last night. Challengers did far better than you would expect in margins against Republican incumbents. Incumbent Congressman Tim Huelskamp just barely held off his primary challenger. He got 55 percent of the vote after having Kansas farmers betting against him and pouring money into his challenger`s coffers. Three-term Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who was initially expected to win his party`s nomination easily for a fourth term, but his Tea Party challenger chased him until the end. Milton Wolf was his name. He`s a distant cousin of Barack Obama, also a radiologist who caused the stir when it was reported that he posted x-rays of some of his patients` ailments on his Facebook page. He hounded Roberts during the campaign for a debate. Roberts never gave in and gave him that debate. Looking like a hard race for Roberts, who had to fend off hard spending as well from the Senate Conservatives Fund and others who were trying to knock him out. He did pull it off last night, though, very slim, though, 48 percent to 41 percent. And the lesson of last night`s hard-fought battle wasn`t lost on Pat Roberts who had this to say in his victory speech. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Now, the truth is, Republicans in Kansas and nationally cannot afford the kind of intraparty fratricide that we have seen recently. Friends, we can`t afford to waste scarce resources and energy tearing ourselves apart. We cannot afford a fractured party. The stakes are just too high. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That message was not lost on the Republican Governors Association. They hit the air waves in Kansas for the first time this morning, with a new ad buy against Governor Brownback`s Democratic challenger. This after it seemed like the Kansas governor`s race at the start of this year was going to be a freebie for Republicans. It`s Kansas, after all. Last night`s primary told a very different story. One person who seems not to have taken it all in, though, is Governor Sam Brownback. When he was asked last night about the tighter than expected races, he didn`t seem too fazed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: What`s going on within the Republican Party here in Kansas? Why is there at least some degree of dissatisfaction with the folks that have been representing them from the Republican side? GOV. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Well, I think a big part of it is Barack Obama. That a lot of people are so irritated at what the president is doing, they just are -- they want somebody to throw a brick. And just, they`re irritated about what has happened to their country. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: They had him confused with Barack Obama. That`s Sam Brownback`s line, and I guess he`s sticking with it. You know, we think of Kansas nationally as just another red state, but there is a war going on in that state`s Republican Party right now. Sam Brownback and the Tea Party wing took it over a few years ago, but there are a lot of Republicans who are not happy about that, who are fighting back, right now. That is the story in Kansas this year. The question is, will that cost Brownback his job? And the other question is this -- is the Republican civil war that we`re seeing play out in Kansas right now just a preview for what we might soon see elsewhere across the country? Joining us now is Dave Helling. He`s a reporter for the "Kansas City Star." David, it`s great to have you back. So, that comment from Sam Brownback, that explanation of, well, they had me confused with Barack Obama. I guess that`s the first time I`ve heard of those two guys being confused for one another. But I`m tempted to ask you, I don`t mean this too flippantly, but we look at this challenger Sam Brownback had in the primary, who was supposed to be a nuisance candidate, gets nearly 40 percent. If Sam Brownback had a real challenger last night, could he have possibly lost the nomination? DAVE HELLING, KANSAS CITY STAR: Probably not. You know, he runs much of the party apparatus, Steve, in Kansas. So, I think almost under any scenario, he was going to be the nominee for re-election as governor. But you`re exactly right. The fact that Jennifer Winn was able to get about 40 percent of the vote is a huge warning sign, among many others, for the Brownback campaign. And the reason you heard him talk in that interview about Barack Obama, and in fact, the reason that Sam Brownback said Barack Obama`s name last night more than he said Paul Davis` name, is that if he is to prevail, Brownback, in November, he`ll have to make this a race about ideology. He`ll have to make Paul Davis and Barack Obama almost co-candidates. If he can make this race about ideology in Kansas, then I think he thinks the Republican vote will turn out and he`ll be re-elected, Brownback. KORNACKI: You`ve been covering, obviously, Kansas politics for a while. And as I say, nationally, we look at it and say, oh, it`s a red state. But the civil war within the Republican Party that`s going on right now, can you give us a little bit of context about just in modern Kansas history, have you ever seen anything like this moment? HELLING: Well, we`ve seen versions of this moment, as your introductory notes talked about, for 20 years. I mean, like a lot of other states, Steve, the insurgent Republican Tea Party conservative movement really began at the grassroots about 20, 25 years ago. And it has bubbled up through the state legislature, to House races, statehouse races, eventually reaching the governor`s office and the Senate races. And so, this is playing out across the country. The difference in Kansas is that it is a pure play. The Republicans have passed a tax cut. They control every statewide office, they control all the congressional offices, it`s really a referendum on the sort of tax- cutting approach that many Republicans want to see pursued in 2016. If Sam Brownback losses, that will be a signal to the rest of the country that the sort of traditional tax-cutting approach won`t work. If Brownback wins, I think that encourages that wing of the party nationally in 2016. So, there are a lot of people, a lot of people paying attention to what`s going on in Kansas. KORNACKI: Yes, and we`ve had you on to talk about this before and talk about 2016, certainly, there`s also the element that Sam Brownback has been a little interested, at least, in 2016. So, his own ambition is on the line a little bit, too. But, Dave Helling, "Kansas City Star" reporter -- thanks so much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate that. HELLING: You bet. KORNACKI: Lots more ahead tonight, including Rand Paul taking a page out of the Ronald Reagan playbook, and maybe not the most flattering page. The man who wrote the book is coming up next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: For any of you who have been hoping we would say the name Oscar de la Renta on this program -- well, this is your lucky night. The saga of the Bob and Maureen McDonnell trial continues straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: On President Obama`s second full day in office, the White House press secretary almost forgot he was supposed to ban torture. This was January 22nd in 2009. Obama had promised that one of his first action as president, he was going to ban torture. So, he sat down that day with a stack of executive orders to sign. These were the first executive orders of his presidency. And the first one he put his pen on was the order to close Guantanamo. And when he signed that, the whole ceremony almost ended right there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There we go. (APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve got one more. CROWD: There`s one more. There`s one more. There`s one more. OBAMA: There are three of these. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several more. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And once that was cleared up, the president did sign his executive order banning torture. And later that same day, the second day of his presidency, he gave a speech at the State Department declaring the detention practices of the George W. Bush era CIA were officially over. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: This morning, I signed three executive orders. First, I can say without exception or equivocation, that the United States will not torture. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: So that`s what Obama made clear at the very beginning of his presidency. The United States is not going to torture. But the fact remained back then, and it remains today, that the United States, and specifically the Central Intelligence agency of the United States, had tortured. The CIA had tortured people in American custody. And so, pretty much from the moment President Obama signed that executive order banning torture, there`s been a fight in this country about how to reckon with the fact that we did torture people. And that fight hasn`t been just another Democrat versus Republican battle, the kind we see on just about every issue in Washington. It has also been, it has maybe even more prominently been between Democrats and Democrats. About a month after President Obama signed that executive order in 2009, the Senate Intelligence Committee, that`s the committee in the Senate responsible for overseeing the CIA, that committee announced that they were going to investigate those torture allegations. They were going to launch a full and thorough review of the CIA interrogation and detention program. And beyond just figuring out what had happened in the past and why it had happened, the Senate Intelligence Committee was going to try to answer some more important and fundamental questions, like, did torture work? Did it lead to valuable information, as the Bush administration insisted that it did? Did it stop any terrorism? So, the Democrats in Congress were leading this effort to investigate what happened at the Bush CIA, from the very beginning, the Obama administration was not too keen on this idea. But Senate Democrats pressed ahead anyway. Their party`s guy was in the White House, it was making him uncomfortable, but they pressed ahead, despite that. Senate Intelligence Committee also vowed to make a version of their final report public, to declassify it, and to make it a part of the public record, so that everyone could see it. Senate Intelligence Committee began working on that report more than five years ago now. And we have now found out that during this investigation, the CIA actually spied on Congress. It spied on Senate staffers, who were working on that torture report. The CIA tried and failed to get those Senate staffers in legal trouble for working on that report. And after completely denying those allegations, after saying it was ludicrous to imagine the CIA would or could ever spy on Congress, CIA Director John Brennan finally had to acknowledge just last week that it did happen. And he also had to apologize for it. That was last week. And this week, the next shoe was going to drop. That report, that report five years in the making was going to be made public, finally. But that hasn`t happened this week. And it`s because a new fight, another fight has now broken out. And it`s between Democrats in Congress and the Democratic White House. And it`s about redactions. Rachel has talked a lot about redactions on this show, including a whole segment about redaction best practices. Anyone can redact a document. Of course, if you want to make parts of a document public, but keep parts of it secret, you redact it. You cross out the information by hand using a very heavy black marker or cut out that information off the page altogether. Well, it turns out that before releasing his torture report, the Senate Intelligence Committee first had to run it by the CIA. So the CIA could redact. They could keep classified any information that they say would be harmful to national security if it ever came out -- anything they think absolutely needs to remain classified. This was the final step before the report was going to be released to the public. And it`s the step that we are stuck on right now, because yesterday, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who`s the chair of the intelligence committee, said the CIA has taken this report and over- redacted it. That it has abused its power to redact. That it is trying to keep too much secret. She said the redactions, quote, "obscure key facts that support the report`s findings and conclusions." And now, she`s vowing not to release that final report until and unless the CIA and her committee can come up with some compromise. She`s also sent a letter to the White House registering her complaints. Democratic Senator Carl Levin called the CIA`s redactions totally unacceptable. Quote, "The classification process should be used to protect sources and methods where the disclosure of information that could compromise national security, not to avoid disclosure or improper acts or embarrassing information. Colorado Senator Mark Udall, another Democrat on the intelligence committee, vowed today to hold President Obama to his promise to declassify the report. Quote, "The CIA should not face its past with a redaction pen, and the White House must not allow it to do so." The White House, for its part, defended the redactions this week, from that Democratic criticism. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was a good faith effort that was made by the administration and by national security officials to evaluate this information and make redactions that are consistent with the need to protect national security, but also consistent with the president`s clearly stated desire to be as transparent as possible about this. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: The president has said that we tortured some folks. He`s also said that part of our national reckoning with that history is to make that history as transparent as possible in the hopes that putting it out on the public record will help ensure that it never happens again. This report from the Senate Intelligence Committee has been underway for 5 1/2 years now. This new fight over those redactions means that the public record will just have to wait at least for a little longer. Joining us now is Senator Mark Udall of Colorado. He`s a member of the Intelligence Committee. Senator Udall, thanks for your time tonight. So, I want to talk about what is potentially being left out of this report, as it`s currently been redacted by the CIA, because you have James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, who said even with these redactions, he estimated that 85 percent of that report that your committee put together still is in place, and he said it would still offer, quote, "a full view of the committee`s report on the detention and interrogation program", that the heart of that report is not lost in this. What do you say to that? SEN. MARK UDALL (D-CO), INTELLIGENCE CMTE.: Steve, thanks for covering this story. Let me start with that. And also, let me just say, those of us on the intelligence committee want to have the strongest intelligence functions possible. We want to secure the American people. But we want to do it under the Constitution, and under our laws. And that`s why this report is so important to be released, so the American people can draw their own conclusions. With all due respect to Director Clapper, 85 percent doesn`t get the job done. You can imagine reading a novel or a non-fiction piece for that matter, and if all the nouns, the what, where, when descriptions are taken out of that novel and all you have left are verbs and articles and punctuation, you`re not going to be able to follow what`s happening. That`s really what the White House and the Intelligence Committee is proposing with these redactions. We`re going to stand our ground on the Intelligence Committee. There has to be more details released. We don`t have to go this far with this kind of redaction. And in the end, the point is to learn from what we did. We detained people, we tortured people. It`s a stain on our history, but we`re at our best as Americans when we learn from those mistakes and vow never to make them again. KORNACKI: Senator, in your opinion, is the CIA, and the administration, for that matter, trying to protect itself, trying to protect the CIA with these redactions? Is that the motive here? UDALL: I can only conclude that to be the case, Steve. I was taken aback by the president`s comments the other day, but there`s clearly an effort on the part of past and present CIA leadership to make it more difficult to understand what happened. We know what happened. We can be a bigger and better country once we acknowledge what happened. And it`s in times of challenge and difficulty where we need to stand most by our values and by our Constitution. My friend, Senator McCain, made that point this week. And that`s why I`m not going to relent. I know Senator Feinstein is firm in her belief that there needs to be as much declassified as possible. We`re America. We can embrace what happened and be the better for it. KORNACKI: Does President Obama want this report to come out? He`s committed to it. You say you want to hold him to it. Do you think he really wants this report to come out? UDALL: I do. I know -- as you know, I called for Director Brennan to step down recently. And I don`t relish making that call, but I think we need a leadership change at the CIA. The director spied, under his leadership, the CIA spied on the committee. Then he denied that they had done so. And then he called into account or into question the veracity on the committee. And to me, it just signals that there is a movement to prevent this report from being released in the fullest way possible. I trust us as a country to learn from what we did, and to be better for it. And for the life of me, I can`t understand why the CIA wouldn`t work with us. And frankly, respect separation of powers, and our oversight role on the Intelligence Committee. KORNACKI: And just quickly, Senator, are you confident this will ultimately come out in a way that is meaningful? And when do you think that will happen? UDALL: Yes, I am confident. I can`t give you a date certain, but I want to underline, that Senator Feinstein is resolute, I`m resolute, Chairman Levin is resolute. Many members of the Democratic Caucus are resolute. We all understand the stakes if we were to let this report be redacted to the point that it`s meaningless. KORNACKI: All right. Senator Mark Udall from Colorado -- thank you very much for your time tonight. We very much appreciate it. UDALL: Steve, thank you again. KORNACKI: Sure. Straight ahead, Rand Paul, Ronald Reagan, and the art of making it up as you go along. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Even the most hardened politician can, on occasion, appear magnanimous, humble, even gracious. And the occasion to which I refer is almost always a victory speech, when the cost of taking the high road is zero -- which makes the victory speech in one prominent Midwestern congressional district last night one of the more remarkable moments you will ever see a U.S. congressman produce. You just have to see it to believe, and you will. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: So, Rand Paul has really stepped in it. You`ve been seeing some version of that headline all week. By now, you`ve probably seen the video posted online by immigration activists of Senator Paul being confronted by a young DREAMer -- someone brought to this country at a young age, someone who wants a chance to earn citizenship in this country. She tried to talk to him the other day in Iowa, he couldn`t get out of there fast enough, although Senator Paul now contends that his early departure from the table was nearly a coincidence, because he had agreed to go do an interview. And then there was this. Rand Paul -- this is the headline, "Rand Paul says he never proposed ending aid to Israel -- even though he did." And this might be the bigger story of the week about Rand Paul, because it`s actually part of what is becoming an unmistakable pattern with Rand Paul. Here`s the deal: Back in 2011, Paul was making a big deal about cutting out all foreign aid. All the money the United States gives to our allies around the world. And he included in that the $3 billion that we give to Israel each year. Here`s how he characterized it to ABC`s Jonathan Karl, as they took a ride in the Capitol subway. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`m not singling out Israel. I`m a supporter of Israel. I want to be known as a friend of Israel -- JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: But not with foreign aid. PAUL: Well, you can`t give money you don`t have. We can`t just borrow from our kids` future and give it to countries, even if they are our friends. Some people interpret this to mean, oh, you`re not a friend of Israel. No, I want to be a friend of Israel. I think they`re an important ally, but I also think that their per capita income is greater than probably three- fourths of the rest of the world. Should we be giving money to -- free money or welfare to a rich nation? I don`t think so. KARL: Do you think they can handle their own defense? PAUL: I think -- I think they`re probably ten years ahead of any neighboring country. I think their defense is very significant and I think probably well in advance of any of their potential enemies. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And think about this for a minute. Back in 2011, Rand Paul was brand-new to the Senate. He was brand-new to politics. He`d gotten interested because of his father`s presidential campaign in 2008, and he was a total outsider. Republicans had pretty much ignored his dad and Rand was promoting the same libertarian agenda. And that agenda included cutting off aid to other countries, including Israel. But now, three years later, in 2014, Rand Paul is something else. Today, he`s a major player in the Republican Party. He wants to run for president. He`s even leading in some Republican presidential polls. He can go a lot farther nationally than his father ever went -- but only, only if he doesn`t scare his party`s establishment away. And that means distancing himself from some of the more fringy things he said and did before he became such a major figure. So, when he was asked this week about cutting off aid to Israel -- well, he played dumb. He pretended it was a crazy question, that there was no reason to ever think he`d ever wanted to do anything like that. Quote, "I haven`t really proposed that in the past. We`ve never had a legislative proposal to do that. You can mistake my position, but then I`ll answer the question. That has not been a position, a legislative position, we have introduced to phase out or get rid of Israel`s aid. That`s the answer to that question." But Rand Paul did proposal phasing out aid to Israel. He argued very strongly for doing it. Now, technically, maybe he`s right. He may not have put that into legislative language, but there`s absolutely no doubt, on the subject of aid to Israel, Rand Paul is now 180 degrees from where he was just a few years ago. And he won`t admit it. And Democrats are now screaming about this. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, blasted him for his hypocrisy. But this is the prob -- this is the pattern with Rand Paul. Instead of grappling with -- instead of owning up to inconvenient things he said and did in the past, Rand Paul just pretends they aren`t there. He was on this show four years ago, when he was running for the Senate in Kentucky, and he expressed his reservations about the public accommodations clause of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ask him about that now, though, and he insists he doesn`t know what you`re talking about. How could anyone think he`s ever been anything other than a complete and total supporter of the Civil Rights Act? Ask him about his former aide. Ask him about this guy who helped him to write a book in 2010. A guy who used to call himself the "Southern Avenger", used to wear a Confederate flag on -- a mask on his face. A guy who said that John Wilkes Booth, that`s the man who killed Abraham Lincoln, that John Wilkes Booth`s heart was, quote, "in the right place." Ask Rand Paul about that former aide, and Paul will make it sound like you`re falling for some liberal media trap. Quote, "Don`t you have something better to read than a bunch of crap from people who don`t like me?" That`s what he said when journalist John Harwood tried to ask him about the Southern Avenger last year. So, this is Rand Paul`s game. There`s a lot in his past, his very recent past, that can cause real problems for him in 2016. So, he just pretends that it isn`t there. Well, it obviously drives his opponents the nuts. While it opens him up to cries of hypocrisy and phoniness and just plain dishonesty -- here`s the thing: it also might work. It might already be working, because the strategy that Rand Paul is using here -- well, we`ve seen that strategy before, and it`s worked brilliantly before. October 28th, 1990, Jimmy Carter is running for re-election as president, the election is a week away, the race is tied, he`s debating his opponent, and he`s got the perfect way to attack him, because 20 years earlier, when the bill that led to Medicare was first introduced in his Congress, his opponent had attacked it, had warned Americans that it would mean death to the republic if it were ever enacted. That it was, quote, "simply an excuse to bring about what they wanted all the time, socialized medicine." That`s what Jimmy Carter`s opponent had said about Medicare. And he had him dead to rights on it. And he brought it up in the debate and this is how it played out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: Governor Reagan, as a matter of fact, began his political career campaigning around this nation against Medicare. Now, we have the opportunity to move towards a national health insurance, with an emphasis on the prevention of disease, an emphasis on outpatient care, not inpatient care. An emphasis on hospital cost containment, to hold down the cost of hospital care for those who are ill. An emphasis on catastrophic health insurance, so that if a family is threatened with being wiped out of economically because of a very high medical bill, then the insurance would help pay for it. These are the kind of elements of a national health insurance important to the American people. Governor Reagan, again, typically, is against such a proposal. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor? RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: There you go again. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And a week later, Ronald Reagan won 40 states in the presidency. There`s a new book out about Ronald Reagan`s rise in the 1970s, and this is the point it illustrates over and over again, what Reagan got, what he understood about politics and human nature is something his opponents never quite understood. And it`s the same thing that Rand Paul apparently sees today. The strategy that he`s trying to use, that when you`re cornered on the facts, the things that you yourself have said and argued before, you don`t admit it, you don`t try to explain it, you just create a brand-new story -- a story that people want to hear. Joining us now is Rick Perlstein. He`s the author of "The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan." Rick, thanks so much for being here tonight. So, let`s start with this -- because it comes across time and time again in your book, this sort of ability of Ronald Reagan to take inconvenient facts and just pretend they`re not there and he creates a brand-new narrative, and the next thing you know, his opponents are screaming and saying, he can`t do that, he can`t do that -- but the country`s buying into it. RICK PERLSTEIN, "THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE" AUTHOR: Right. Maybe we should recall another debate in which the vice president candidate, Lloyd Bentsen, said to Dan Quayle, "Senator, you`re no Jack Kennedy." I mean, Senator, you`re no Ronald Reagan. I mean, do you really think that Rand Paul has the chops that -- KORNACKI: So, what was -- what was the key to Reagan pulling it off? What did he do that allowed people to say, yes, I know his opponents are saying he had the exact opposite position two years ago, he said something completely contradictory a year ago, and they just ignored it. What was it about Ronald Reagan? PERLSTEIN: Over and over and over again, you know, kind of going back -- not even to the beginning of his political career, but even before the beginning of his political career, he developed this ability to kind of perform kind of calmness in the face of chaos -- this kind of blithe affect, this ability to kind of project a mythology that he kind of really did believe in his part. Don`t you remember what he said in 1987, when he was confronted with the fact that he had, in fact, ordered, you know, arms to be traded for hostages in Iran? He said, well, the documents tell me I did it, but my heart tells me that I couldn`t have possibly have done it. KORNACKI: That`s the key to Reagan, isn`t it? There`s this disconnect, there`s the head and there`s the heart, right? PERLSTEIN: And, you know, I mean I -- in the book, I say, you know, Reagan couldn`t possibly have survived the age of Google, because I fact check some of this stuff that went by so fast when he was giving these radio addresses -- KORNACKI: Do you think he couldn`t have -- PERLSTEIN: Maybe, I don`t know. I don`t know! You know, the thing about Rand Paul is -- you know, I live in Chicago, and we have this mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who is very unpopular, he has 35 percent approval rating, and there`s really no one to run against him, because he`s raising $1 million a week. And there`s a very wonderful progressive, the head of the teacher`s union, you`re like, where am I going with this? Her name is Karen Lewis. And I went to a political meeting in which we discussed the possibility of her running for mayor. And none of us really kind of believed that he could beat Rahm Emanuel, right? But we`re like, this is great anyway, because just her standing on the stage with Rahm Emanuel, you know, and calling him out on his nonsense will be useful, right? But the thing we`re seeing from Rand Paul, all these shifts, all these kind of trimming his sails, to kind of fit the current Republican fashion, suggest he`s no Karen Lewis. He`s no Bernie Sanders. He really is in it to win it, you know? He is really fashioning himself to win the Republican nomination. And I think that`s the most kind of -- that`s the bottom line of what`s been happening this week. KORNACKI: Right. PERLSTEIN: There are certain things you have to say. KORNACKI: And that`s the interesting story with Rand Paul. He`s going from that very libertarian, purist streak to now trying to be a mainstream Republican. I do want -- in the time we have left, I do want to make sure to bring this up. This book is causing -- I can`t quite understand it, but there`s a lot of controversy in that Craig Shirley, a conservative who`s written two books about Ronald Reagan, he`s accusing you of plagiarism. I know you cite his work extensively -- PERLSTEIN: Yes, 125 times. KORNACKI: But he`s accusing you of plagiarism. He`s suing. He wants $25 million and he wants I guess all the copies of the books burned. What do you say to Craig Shirley? PERLSTEIN: I`m the worst plagiarist in the world. I cite him 125 times. My Web site links to the pages I supposedly plagiarized. And unfortunately, there`s a smoking gun. I mean, his business partner, he`s a public relations executive, you know, he`s represented Ann Coulter, he`s represented Dinesh D`Souza, basically said, join our offensive, our political offensive against this guy who`s trying to spin Ronald Reagan. So, it really seems like it`s all about his anger at Ronald Reagan. I`m having a lot of fun with it, actually. KORNACKI: You think the incentive here is he`s trying to protect Ronald Reagan from a liberal historian? PERLSTEIN: I can`t see into his heart, but there`s two things I want to say. One is that it`s a good book. I`m saying here, I said this in every interview, that anyone interested in Ronald Reagan should buy his two books. KORNACKI: Craig Shirley`s book, right. PERLSTEIN: He wants to have my book pulped, I want his book read. The other thing is, it`s completely backfiring. I mean, his -- whatever the motive is behind this attack, it`s so thin, there`s a great article in "Salon" by David Dayen, that folks can look up, it`s so transparent. Just from today, my book went from 60 on Amazon to the 20th rank on Amazon. And I`m having so much fun, this outpouring of love, I started this hashtag, #buyinvisiblebridge. KORNACKI: So, it`s getting the Craig Shirley bounce, I guess. We`ll sell maybe a few more here, give it a promotion. Rick Perlstein, author of "The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan" -- appreciate you being here tonight. And it is a good book. PERLSTEIN: Great piece of Rand Paul. You guys did a great job. KORNACKI: Appreciate that. Thank you very much. Ahead, we say happy trails to the greatest reindeer herder/U.S. congressman in American history. Probably the only one, too. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Today at the federal courthouse in Richmond, Virginia, it was day eight of if corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Court proceedings have included lots of salacious details about Ferraris, and Rolexes and designer clothes and golf bags and everything else that made up the more than $165,000 worth of gifts and loans allegedly given to Virginia`s first couple by businessman Jonnie Williams, who testified that he was trying to foster a business relationship with the governor. This week is actually hit on the heart of the case against the former governor and his wife. Yesterday, during testimony by a Virginia health official, the jury saw e-mails from then-Governor McDonnell to the Virginia Health Secretary Bill Hazel, asking Hazel to take a meeting with Jonnie Williams, this the day after Governor McDonnell returned from a weekend vacation at Jonnie Williams` lake house, a vacation from which McDonnell returned in Jonnie Williams` Ferrari. According to testimony and evidence, the Virginia health secretary sent one of his deputies to attend the meeting with Williams. There are also e- mails Williams` personal assistant and Bob McDonnell`s scheduler, that show an effort to get Williams to sit down with Senator John McCain. At one point, Williams` assistant wrote, "Jonnie really needs Governor-elect McDonnell and/or Senator McCain to go to dinner with him. Jonnie said that the governor-elect and his staff can use his jet well past retirement if you guys can make this happen." That meeting never happened. But the meeting between Jonnie Williams and Virginia state officials did happen. E-mail evidence makes it appear that it happened at the request of the governor. This trial is getting a lot of public attention right now because of its "Days of Our Lives" twists and turns. But that`s deliberate. That`s a strategy, and it`s the strategy of Bob McDonnell`s defense team. They want to make this trial about a marriage that was on the rocks, a lonely first lady seeking personal luxury. The defense wants to make this about anything except the exchange of money and goods for the influence of the governor, because that is a crime -- and a forlorn spouse and a shopping spree is not. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: You would be hard-pressed to find a more intense electoral victory lap than in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last night, because last night was the House Republican primary for Michigan`s third district, pitting two-term libertarian Congressman Justin Amash against challenger Brian Ellis. But Ellis had far and away more support from the Republican establishment. He ran a tough campaign against Amash. Nevertheless, Amash won last night`s primary. But he made it clear in his victory speech that all is definitely not forgiven. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: To Brian Ellis, you owe my family and this community an apology. (APPLAUSE) For your disgusting, despicable smear campaign. You have the audacity to try to call me today after running a campaign that was called the nastiest in the country. I ran for office to stop people like you. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: I`d hate to hear Amash give a concession speech. So, that was Michigan`s third district, where the Republican establishment had a tough night. But in the 11th district in Michigan, it was a totally different story. To tell it, we really need to start at the beginning. Thaddeus McCotter, the man, the legend, the four-term Republican congressman from Michigan`s 11th district, who also waged a brief campaign for the Republican presidential nomination back in 2012. The same year that he resigned from Congress abruptly after his staff turned in forged signatures in an effort to get his name on the ballot for reelection. So, Thaddeus McCotter resigned in 2012, putting on a dramatic statement saying that it was time to leave because, quote, "one cannot rebuild their hearth of home amongst the ruins of their U.S. House office." And rebuilding that heart of home away from Congress at such a late date in the 2012 cycle also meant leaving just one other Republican`s name on that primary ballot, a man named Kerry Bentivolio. He`s a part-time Santa Claus impersonator/high school English teacher/reindeer herder from Milford, Michigan. For context, here`s the guy. He is trying to kiss the stuffed reindeer. I`m having trouble reading that one. He was just some random fringe candidate on the ballot in 2012. But then when McCotter imploded, he became the only candidate on the ballot, so he got the Republican nomination. Because this is a Republican district, he won in the fall and he became a member of Congress. And as a congressman, he`s been a reliably conservative vote. He joined with other friends of the Tea Party last fall and he voted not to end the government shutdown. He`s also offered conspiracy theories from Alex Jones and Info Wars in at least one official House Committee on Oversight hearing. He`s daydreamed about impeaching President Obama. But nothing could compare to possibly the single greatest congressional tape this side of C- Span3. Kerry Last summer, attempting to introduce to the floor his fellow member of congress, the distinguished member from American Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. KERRY BENTIVOLIO (R), MICHIGAN: The chair recognizes the gentleman from American Samolia. Mr. Fing -- Faleomabinga. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, in fairness, that is one tough name to pronounce. I covered congress for a year, I still had trouble getting it right. But American Samolia, the best part of that tape, though, was Eni Faleo see, I can`t get it. Faleomavaega`s reaction. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENTOVOLIO: The chair recognizes the gentleman from American Samolia. Mr. Fing -- Faleomabinga. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. REP. ENI FALEOMAVAEGA, AMERICAN SAMOA: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, it is American Samoa. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: I don`t mind you butchering my name, but don`t mess with American Samoa. Kerry Bentivolio has had an interesting run in Congress to say the least, but unfortunately for him, that run has come to an end, because last night, Kerry Bentivolio was defeated in the Republican primary in his Michigan district. Republicans in Michigan swung into action this year to relieve the so-called "accidental congressman" of his duties. And now, Dave Trott is set to face Democrat Bobby McKenzie in the general election this November. But Americans of all partisan stripes will never forget the legacy left by Congressman Kerry Bentivolio, for all the good times, the shirtless Santa photos, the stuff reindeers. And, of course, the Faleomabinga or whatever he said there. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night. Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END