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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/25/14

Guests: Sherrilyn Ifill

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning, Chris. Thank you. HAYES: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. All right. Here is my personal Eric Holder moment. It was not a personal moment that I had with Eric Holder. He was not there but it was about Eric Holder and it was personal. And it was very, very clarifying. It was 2010, I was in Alaska. We were up there to cover the Joe Miller, Lisa Murkowski U.S. Senate race that year. And up until the very last minutes of that trip to Alaska, it looked like I had gone there to talk to Lisa Murkowski and that`s it. Looked like I was not going to get an interview with the other guy, with Joe Miller himself. But at one point on that trip, I did find myself on the streets of Anchorage in the middle of the next best thing to Joe Miller. I found myself in the middle of a crowd of Joe Miller`s Tea Party supporters. And they agreed to talk to me and this is how that went. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Good luck you, guys. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks very much. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eric Holder, and we disagree with that. MADDOW: She what? (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rode it to confirm Eric Holder. MADDOW: And why are you against that? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we`re -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he`s anti-gun attorney general this country has ever had. MADDOW: What`s he done against guns? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, at this point, well, it`s what he hasn`t done against guns? Let`s ask that question. Let`s look at his voting record beforehand. And I`m sure you guys -- MADDOW: Eric Holder wasn`t an elected official. (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I`m asking is look at what -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vote for Joe. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at what -- MADDOW: What`s he done on guns that you`re upset about, though? Just so - - I mean. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I honestly -- I`m not -- I don`t know enough about him to answer that truthfully, Rachel. MADDOW: Can I just ask why are you upset about Eric Holder? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he`s anti-gun. MADDOW: What has he done that`s anti-gun? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t have all the facts but I know that he is anti-gun. MADDOW: There`s no specific thing that he`s done that you guys are upset about? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, just look at his press releases. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s all I can say. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at this press release. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Press releases look where he`s coming from. MADDOW: I will. But what press release? Like about what? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything. Just type into Google, Eric Holder and Second Amendment or Eric Holder and firearms. And you`ll find plenty of ammo. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was a perfect man-on-the-street encapsulation of what Eric Holder brought out in American conservatives as attorney general. He made them so angry and so upset. He was the number one issue for them in an Alaska Senate primary. He was enemy number one. Even worse than President Obama himself. Even if they could never quite put their finger on exactly what it was, about -- why do we hate him so much? Eighty-two different people have had the job of attorney general over the course of the history of the United States. And 80 out of the 82 of them have been white men. The one African American man we have ever had as attorney general of the United States is Eric Holder. The one woman we`ve ever had as attorney general of the United States is Janet Reno. And both of them were so viscerally hated and so vilified by the right, that it occasionally lost local coherence. It was pure emotion to the point where it became almost pathological. Visceral thing. I mean, the tenor of the vitriol against the Janet Reno over the years is perhaps best represented by a joke made by Senator John McCain in 1998. I will not read out loud Senator McCain`s joke but -- there we go. But I will point out that Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the president and first lady of the United States, was a teenager at the time that John McCain made this joke about her. This was John McCain at his classiest. But it`s also fairly representative in terms of the way conservatives and Republicans talk about and felt about Janet Reno. The right hated Janet Reno so badly that they just couldn`t see straight. She was the only woman who has ever been attorney general of the United States. The only African American to ever be attorney general of the United States. Today he announced his retirement from the job. His tenure in office -- during his tenure in office, he, too, got Republicans so upset, so over excited so overwhelmed with their emotional hatred for him that things with Eric Holder, like with Janet Reno, they sometimes didn`t just get vituperative and over the top. They sometimes got weird and hard to follow. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: You don`t have access to the FBI files. You don`t know what the FBI did, you don`t know what the FBI`s interaction was with the -- with the Russians. I know what the FBI did. You cannot know what I know. That`s all. REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. And that is simply the -- I did not assert what they did or did not do. I asserted what -- (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman -- GOHMERT: My point -- I cannot have a -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order. GOHMERT: He`s challenged my character -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, regular order please. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend. GOHMERT: When you attack somebody`s integrity and say they made statements that were not true, then of course that is -- raises a point of personal privilege. But the attorney general failed to answer my questions about what was -- (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend. The gentleman -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Chairman. GOHMERT: -- aspersions on my asparagus. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What was that at the end there? That was May of last year. Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert so flustered by how upset he is, by the presence of Eric Holder that he accused the attorney general of -- just the end part there? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend. Gentleman -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Chairman. GOHMERT: Aspersions on my asparagus. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Aspersions on my asparagus. Silence. That was last year, in May. Then this year, almost a year later in April, Eric Holder and Louie Gohmert met again in the same room in Congress. And the follow-up exchange between aspersions on my asparagus guy and the attorney general of the United States, the follow-up exchange between the two of them produced undoubtedly the greatest sound bite yet from any member of the Obama cabinet. For the duration of the Obama presidency, nobody in his cabinet has ever had a piece of tape as good as this. This is as good as it gets. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLDER: That`s obviously a matter that is under consideration by the courts. Now we have taken a position on that. I wouldn`t want to get into something that, as I said, a pending matter. GOHMERT: Well -- (LAUGHTER) It is your opinion that matters on whether you tell -- attorneys general how to act in the states? Or how you approach businesses or individuals that have this biblical view that the president had when he was a senator in 2008. So I thought it was rather important. Well, let me ask you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman has expired. GOHMERT: Unfortunately. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair recognizes the gentleman -- HOLDER: Good luck with your asparagus. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Good luck with your asparagus. Eric Holder, throughout his tenure as attorney general, has made Republicans see red. He`s driven them to destruction. I mean, they accused him of casting aspersions on their asparagus. They held him in contempt of Congress. The first time that`s ever done to a cabinet officer. But interestingly, the contempt vote was kind of an interesting, historical anomaly other than the fact that it had never happened before to a member of Congress. The count itself was a weird number. You know how there are 400 something members of Congress? So close votes in Congress. They`re usually 200 something to 200 something. In this case, the vote on Eric Holder was 255 to 67? Which means it did pass but that`s a weird number of people to be voting on something inside the House of Representatives. And that is because the vast majority of the Democratic members of Congress was so disgusted by that contempt vote against Eric Holder that they didn`t even bother to vote no. They instead just walked out of Congress in a giant group in protest and refuse to have any part in the whole spectacle. And so, yes, when the history of our nation`s first black attorney general is written, a lot of it will have to be about how Republicans and conservatives hated him with such unharnessed, raw vitriol that the stuff they threw at him was even more flammable than the typical stuff that they throw at the nation`s first black president. But even so, even as the absorber of all that opprobrium, even as this lightning rod or a heat shield for the president even, as some people have said about him. Even with all of that, this attorney general will also have to go down in history as one of the more consequential attorneys general of the modern era. It was Attorney General Eric Holder who called the incredibly restrictive Texas voter ID law a poll tax. As attorney general, he successfully sued Texas and South Carolina to stop their discriminatory voter ID laws in 2012. The same year, he successfully sued Florida to stop them from getting rid of their early voting. After the conservative majority on the Supreme Court effectively killed the Voting Rights Act, undaunted Attorney General Eric Holder sued Texas again and also North Carolina. And he also had the Justice Department join lawsuits against Ohio and Wisconsin to put the Justice Department squarely on the side of voting rights as it became mainstream Republican politics to attack them. Finally, rolling back the sentencing disparities and the sentencing hysteria that turned our nation`s war on drugs into the largest prison population on earth, that was Attorney General Eric Holder. Letting two states legalized pot even though pot is still illegal as a federal matter, that was Attorney General Eric Holder. Refusing to defend the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act and putting the Justice Department on the side of equal marriage for the first time ever, that was Attorney General Eric Holder. Getting the FBI to start taping their interrogations for the first time ever in the history of that opaque agency, that is Attorney General Eric Holder. Unprecedented federal investigation and oversight of local police departments to get them to stop discriminatory policing, that was Attorney General Eric Holder. Oh, and rebuilding the Department of Justice that was a smoking hulk when he got there. That, too, is Attorney General Eric Holder. Very deep in the coverage today about Eric Holder submitting his resignation, there was this interesting detail about the first thing he`s going to do now that he`s announced his resignation. He sort of goes into a lame duck period now, right, where he has announced that he is retiring but the understanding is that he`ll stay around until his replacement can be confirmed by the Senate. But interestingly, the very first thing on his schedule after making his retirement announcement today? The next thing he`s going to do is that he`s going to Scranton tomorrow. Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scranton, Pennsylvania, is not having a justice crisis of national importance. There isn`t like civil unrest in the streets of Scranton that the attorney general has to jet in to try to calm. No, the reason he`s going to Scranton tomorrow is because of the 93 U.S. attorneys in the country, the one in Scranton is the only one that Eric Holder hasn`t visited yet. And so he is completing his goal tomorrow of personally visiting every one of the 93 U.S. attorneys` offices all over the country during his tenure. As a sign of support for those federal prosecutors. And encouragement to try to give them all a boost. To have the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the nation come and see their office and visit personally in their district. It`s a totally fitting reminder that when Eric Holder arrived in Washington as attorney general in the first place that pair of words, U.S. attorney, was almost always followed by the word scandal. Because the previous administration had used the Department of Justice, not so much as an ideological laboratory, but more like an ideological burn pit. Instead of professional federal prosecutors, the U.S. attorney job under George W. Bush became something that you handed out to campaign donors. Like -- if it`s an ambassadorship to an unimportant country. Career prosecutors, career justice personnel, apolitical, competent, life-long civil service employees were pushed out in order to make the Department of Justice more like a branch of the Bush-Cheney campaign team. They saved the worst for the civil rights division. They essentially decimated that critical part of the department. And so part of what Eric Holder had to do as a new attorney general was start to rebuild the Justice Department, in many ways, from the ground up. Because that`s what the Bush administration did to it. They ground it up. Now since he`s been AG, Republicans have imagined themselves into a lot of feverish scandals concerning Attorney General Eric Holder. Honestly the one that came the closes to being a real scandal, the thing that led to the contempt vote and all the rest of it, that was the Fast and Furious program which Republicans got so upset about during his tenure, even that was something that had been created during the George W. Bush administration. I know, I could hear them screaming from across the street as they say it. This is going to make people feel very uncomfortable. But the scandalous Fast and Furious program, the scandal of Eric Holder`s tenure, Fast and Furious, was created in the George W. Bush administration. Eric Holder is actually the one who ended it. And that`s the biggest knock made out against him. At least the biggest knock against him that even came close to being something about policy and not just spitting and swearing in his general direction. The fact that Attorney General Eric Holder made conservatives so inexplicably angry, it is an important fact of his tenure of AG. It does not always mean, however, that he always made liberals happy. Liberals fault him for not prosecuting more criminal wrongdoing against the banks and financial institutions that caused the economy to melt down. They fault him for authorizing wiretaps of AP reporters and editors that were way too broad and has still never been adequately explained. He chose not to prosecute torture by CIA officers. The FBI is still allowed to exonerate itself of all wrongdoing whenever it shoots somebody. There`s definitely a critique of the Eric Holder tenure from the left. And there`s more things to say from that direction as well. The ridiculous political fact that he was forced to reverse a decision to try alleged 9/11 perpetrators in federal court, that`s still hanging on (INAUDIBLE) and will be forever, and as his tenure goes down in history, that will be a big part of it. I mean, had there not been such an outcry, had he been able to go ahead with his plan to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other 9/11 guys in federal court in the United States, by now, if we`re honest, those guys would probably be tried, convicted and tucked neatly away in a federal prison somewhere. Because he was turned back on that decision for political reasons, instead their cases continue to languish and to be an international spectacle of how we don`t actually know what we want to do with them. But Attorney General Eric Holder`s list of accomplishments is a long list. On civil rights in particular, his tenure is going to be remembered not just for what the Department of Justice did under his leadership, but also for his willingness to speak bluntly and speak personally on hard truths about civil rights and race. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLDER: The news of Trayvon Martin`s death last year and the discussions that have taken place since then reminded me of my father`s words so many years ago. And they brought me back to a number of experiences that I had as a young man when I was pulled over twice and my car searched on the New Jersey turnpike when I`m sure I wasn`t speeding. Or while I was stopped by a police officer when I was simply running to catch a movie at night in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. I was, at the time of that last incident, a federal prosecutor. So -- (APPLAUSE) Trayvon`s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son. Like my dad did with me. This was a father- son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world. I had to do this to protect my boy. I am his father. And it is my responsibility to not burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must still confront. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Eric Holder speaking last year. This year, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and then his body was left in the street for hours afterwards, and that city erupted night after night for weeks. It was a personal visit from Eric Holder, the attorney general, who seemed to be the only one who could calm Ferguson down after those weeks of eruptions. Well, today as he announced his retirement, he was introduced by President Obama and he received an extended, extended, extended ovation in the White House. And then when he spoke, he was very emotional. He -- as you saw, he is a man who is willing to speak in personal terms about hard things. But I don`t -- not sure that we have ever seen him as emotional and as personal in public as he was today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLDER: Whatever my accomplishments, they could not have been achieved without the love, support and guidance of two people who are not here with me today. My parents, Eric and Miriam Holder, nurtured me and my accomplished brother William, and made us believe in the value of individual effort and the greatness of this nation. My time in public service which now comes to an end would not have been possible without the sacrifices too often unfair made by the best three kids a father could ask for. Thank you, Maya. Thank you, Brooke. And thank you, Buddy. And finally, I want to thank the woman who sacrificed the most and allowed me to follow my dreams. She`s the foundation of all that our family is and the basis of all that I have become. My wife, Sharon, is the unsung hero. And she is my life partner. Thank you for all that you have done. I love you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After the attorney general finished that speech today, President Obama gave him a hug and said to him off camera, as everybody else stood up to give him that standing ovation, you could hear the president say, "Good job. You got through it." Eric Holder stepping down today from a very, very consequential tenure as our nation`s first African-American attorney general and as the only attorney general who has served thus far during the Obama administration. There are two years left. How will they replace him? No, seriously. In a technical sense, how will they replace him? That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLDER: Years ago, some of these same issues drove my father to sit down with me to have a conversation which is no doubt familiar to many of you about how, as a young black man, I should interact with the police. What to say and how to conduct myself if I was ever stopped or confronted in a way that I thought was unwarranted. Now, I`m sure my father felt certain at that time that my parents` generation would be the last that had to worry about such things for their children. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder talking last year before the NAACP. Attorney General Eric Holder today announced his retirement. When he was first nominated to be attorney general, he was confirmed pretty easily for the post in 2009. But then he very quickly became a lightning rod for, if we`re honest, occasionally unhinged criticism over these past five and a half years. There is no bigger boogieman on the right than Attorney General Eric Holder, and I`m including President Obama himself in that assessment. What shoes does this attorney general leave to fill? And how difficult will Republicans be able to make it to confirm anybody President Obama might want to choose for the job after him? Joining us now is Sherrilyn Ifill. She`s president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Miss Ifill, thank you very much for being here. It`s a real pleasure to have you here. SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND PRESIDENT: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: What do you think Eric Holder`s most enduring legacy will be? Obviously we know that the nation`s first African-American general, that will always be the first line that`s ever said about him in the history books. But what else is going to make history about him, too? IFILL: Well, I think he has been so courageous and so bold in two areas that I think are too often not really focused on when people think about the attorney general of the United States. The first one is the civil rights area that you talked about. What the attorney general has done in the area of voting rights and his willingness to speak powerfully about the importance of civil rights. Many people may know that the attorney general`s sister in law was Vivian Malone, the young woman who was the first student to desegregate the University of Alabama. It was Governor Wallace standing in the courthouse door against her. So he feels deeply in his personal self. And he was willing to speak powerfully about civil rights. You talk about the voting rights cases that he`s worked on. We`ve litigated shoulder-to-shoulder with the Justice Department until the attorney general`s leadership. The Texas voter ID case both in 2012 and this year. That trial just ended on Monday. And the day of the Shelby County decision, he had the civil rights legal teams into his office to say we`re going to make sure that we protect the voting rights of racial minorities. He already had a plan for how he was going to redeploy lawyers within the department to ensure that those protections remained in place. So he`s ever mindful of civil rights and he made it front and center. And then the second thing which is maybe even more remarkable is the work that he`s done around criminal justice. Remember, the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. He -- himself is a former U.S. attorney, a prosecutor, and yet he was willing with all of his law enforcement bona fides to expend some of that capital to speak the truth about over incarceration in this country, about overly long drug sentences. And then to put his money where his mouth is and actually change real policy. Going to his U.S. attorneys and instructing them to stop over charging in drug cases involving non-violent drug offenders. That is huge. No attorney general has done that in the past. I can`t imagine one who would do it in the future. Reorganizing the clemency process at the federal level to ensure that those who are in jail for overly long terms for nonviolent drug offenders have an option to use the clemency process. This is extraordinary. And he could do it because he actually does real law enforcement bona fides but he can only also do it because he was willing to be courageous and because he was willing to set a tone and set a portfolio for himself as attorney general that is not really like any that we`ve ever seen. MADDOW: I think that`s a super important point in terms of him having served at so many different levels of law enforcement. Not only was that interesting in terms of what he came to believe needed to be done but he then have the wherewithal and the know-how, the nets and bolts know-how to know how to get it done in a way that would make real change. Again, it`s an excellent point. I want to ask you about his tone a little bit. We left off as the title of this segment that quote from him to Louie Gohmert about good luck with your asparagus. In part, because I feel like it`s the sort of under-appreciated and interesting thing about him that he was so pugnacious with his critics that he would -- you know, he said to Congressman Gohmert at one point, don`t go there, buddy. You know, he was willing to wave his finger at people. He was willing to go toe-to-toe with people defending both himself and to respect for the office. Do you feel like as a matter of sort of his public presentation that that was a hard thing to calibrate given how upset the right always was with him? IFILL: Well, it was hard, I think, for him to calibrate. But I think what many people appreciated about it is that it was just so honest. He was just who he is and he was not willing to allow people to cross a certain line with him. And I have to tell you as an African American, for many of us, it was very important for us to see this attorney general do that. As an African- American man. When he was being attacked in ways that we found so disrespectful, you know, attacks on whether or not he was intelligent. Attacks on his integrity. And we all know that the president has had to walk a fine line. He`s a politician. He`s the president of the United States. And so in some ways, many of us have been very relieved to have the attorney general be able to forcefully stand up for himself, many of us felt in some ways that he was defending our collective dignity. Because we don`t believe that he would have been attacked in the ways that he was attacked and the disrespectful ways that he was attacked, some of which you showed in the earlier sequences if he were not African-American. And he himself was willing to say that. So that tone, that pugnacious tone was important because it also held off, I think, some of the criticism that came against him because he showed his willingness to fight it out. But it was also important for those of us watching him for our own sense of integrity and dignity and for his willingness to stand up to those who came against him, and to say I`ll only allow you to go so far, even as the attorney general of the United States. MADDOW: That`s right. And he leave that office having not letting anybody shrink it an inch by the way they attacked him in that role. IFILL: That`s right. MADDOW: Because of the way he thought on that. Thank you for that point. That`s excellent. Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. It`s great to have you here tonight. Thank you very much. IFILL: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got lots more ahead tonight including best new thing in the world that after a lot of back and forth has finally been approved for family viewing. But it was a hard road to hell. Stay with us. That`s ahead. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLDER: One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of black people in this nation. Simply put, to get to the heart of this country, one must examine its racial soul. Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as a ethnic melting pot in things racial we have always been and we, I believe, continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, I know it. You know it. Let`s just admit it. We do not talk enough on this show about Polish politics. Headlines have been dominated recently by events in the Middle East, in Iraq and Syria, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, the near breakup of the United Kingdom. And yet even with foreign politics dominating our show somehow Poland -- nothing. Well, that shameful failure ends tonight because it must. Best new thing in the world is coming up right at the end of the show tonight straight from Poland. It is one of the best things we`ve done in this program in a very long time. I almost can`t wait. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, they are coming back to vote. I thought it would never happen but they are coming back to vote. More than a month after the airstrikes started in Iraq, apparently that wasn`t enough to get them to come back and vote on authorizing this thing, but now that it`s not just an air war in Iraq, but also an air war in a second country, Syria, as well, they have finally decided to end their vacation to come home interest their legislative districts and they`re going to vote and, yes, it is a surprise. Tomorrow, though, they are going to vote. It`s finally going to happen. Amazing. I speak, of course, about the British parliament, they have called off their recess and coming back to vote in their parliament on whether or not to authorize a British military campaign against ISIS. Their Prime Minister David Cameron supports that campaign but British military forces have not been participating in it thus far because parliament hasn`t voted to authorized the British military to do that. That`s why they`re coming back for a vote. British newspapers say if the vote is yes, British warplanes will be ready to take off immediately after the vote is taken. Here? Not so much. Our Congress has not nearly as much interest in this matter. Although it felt like they might for a second today when we got this headline from "The New York Times." look, Boehner says new Congress should debate military action. Hey, then if you read that fast you might think, wow, OK, the speaker of the House is changing his mind, Congress is going to debate authorizing the war. And then you slow down and you read it again and you realized word "new" is doing a lot of work in that headline. What it means is that he doesn`t want this existing Congress to debate this military action. He wants it to be the new one, the next Congress, as in the one that isn`t elected yet that will convene next year in 2015. Speaker Boehner telling "The Times", quote, "Doing this with a whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don`t think that`s the right way to handle this." Of course, it wasn`t the right way to handle it before they went home for their vacation in order to stand for re -- up until this point, we had been operating under the assumption that our Congress basically had two options. Now, that the war has started in Iraq and Syria and say it`s going to be a years` long effort, we figure they had two option. Congress could come back from the two-month vacation they just gave themselves and vote on authorizing the war, like the Brits are doing, or if they really want the to wuss out they could stay on vacation until the elections in November and then come back after the elections in the lame duck session and vote on authorizing the war then. Today, John Boehner opened up door number three when he suggested, no, no, how about next year instead? So, no vote on the war before it started. No vote once it started and they were still in session. No vote once the war expanded into a second country. No vote before the election, now he says no vote after the election either. It`s kind of feeling like maybe they don`t want to vote on this thing at all -- which is amazing in its own right given the Constitution. What`s more amazing, though, that while the leadership in Congress says ISIS, this fight against ISIS is not their thing, it`s not their problem, they don`t want to vote on it, they don`t want to debate it, they don`t want to do anything about it, they just want to stay home and campaign instead -- while that is happening with this Congress, this is how Republicans are campaigning for House seats right now across the country. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AD NARRATOR: We don`t know the growing threat we face today. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are they coming for us? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are actively working to come for us. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there`s it`s no longer a fringe terrorist group. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These fighters could be a significant threat to our homeland. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is an ad just released in multiple congressional jurisdictions by the National Republican Campaign Committee. Do you feel afraid of ISIS? Are they coming for us? Well, then vote for us. We promise to go home and run ads like this to scare you instead of meeting even the absolute barest minimum constitutional responsibility to at least talk about this threat. We are afraid to even talk about it. So, if you feel afraid, vote for us. Astonishing. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Can you referee a game while also playing in that game? It seems like an obvious question with an obvious answer, but it has been a central and unanswered question in the race for control of the United States Senate this year. In the great state of Kansas, the tremendous Senate election that`s unfolding there right now, this man, Kris Kobach, describes himself as the referee in that race. Mr. Kobach is the secretary of state and top elections official, a Republican and as the self-described referee in that Senate race Kris Kobach has made a serious of calls that all happened to favor his own side in that Senate race, trying to force the Democrat who had been losing this that race and who quit the race to try to stay in the race. And then trying to order state Democrats to put a new Democrat on the ballot when the Supreme Court said that the other guy had to be let go. And Kris Kobach wants the Kansas Senate race to be a three-way race with the incumbent Republican senator facing split opposition from both a Democratic candidate and independent candidate. Kris Kobach wants to force it to be a three-way race in Kansas and that, of course, would greatly help the chances for the incumbent Republican Pat Roberts. But in this race, Republican Kris Kobach is not only from the same party as Senator Pat Roberts he`s also a member of Pat Roberts` campaign committee. And so, Kris Kobach describes himself as the referee for the election rules, but in terms of the Pat Roberts campaign, he is also sort of a player in the game. Well, this week, MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt went to Kansas and she got an interview with Kris Kobach and she asked him about his dual roles in this race. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You`re comfortable holding a position essentially with Senator Roberts` campaign and being secretary of state and deciding this case? KRIS KOBACH (R), KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I would put position in quotation marks. I`m one of the cast of thousands on a honorary committee where, essentially, you know, Roberts people call the offices, all the elected Republicans and say, would you be on our honorary committee? And so, it`s a meaningless position. And, of course, if we had any inkling there would be any controversy surrounding a Senate race where people were, you know, potentially violating our election laws, then, of course, I would have said no, I can`t. But just to be courteous, you didn`t want to tell the senator no. HUNT: And you don`t want to remove yourself now from the committee? KOBACH: I mean, it would be a purely symbolic gesture at this point. So, I mean, if people are into symbolism, then I think that`s important. But the bottom line is, I have to enforce the law as it is written, not as some people want it to be. HUNT: But you`re going to stay as an honorary member? KOBACH: Sure. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Sure. So, that`s the Kris Kobach part of this Senate race. The other new big factor here is that national Republicans have begun jetting into Kansas in an effort to prop up the campaign of Pat Roberts which looks like it`s in real trouble. At an appearance on behalf of Senator Roberts this week, Kansas legend Bob Dole, he vocally went after some other Republicans, specifically he blamed Senator Ted Cruz for shutting down the government and costing Republicans crucial votes. Then, this morning, at a pancake breakfast for Senator Roberts, former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, she championed Pat Roberts for standing with Ted Cruz on the way to that same government shutdown over Obamacare. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: He, one of the few senators fulfilling campaign promises, doing what the American people asked him to do, standing there on the floor with Senator Ted Cruz to do what they could to get rid of Obamacare, fulfilling his promise. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, which way does Pat Roberts want to play this, right? Does he want to be a goat with Ted Cruz or want to be a folk hero with Ted Cruz? The hard working Kasie Hunt put that question to Pat Roberts today. Watch what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: Senator Roberts, you campaigned in the last week with Bob Dole and now, with Sarah Palin. SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Sure. HUNT: Bob Dole criticized the government shutdown and Ted Cruz. Sarah Palin praised you for standing with that. Whose side are you on? ROBERTS: Both. How about that? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: How about that? Asked to choose between two seemingly irreconcilable ends for the shutdown or against the shutdown, Pat Roberts picks both. How about that, Kansas? Joining us now from Overland Park, Kansas, is Kasie Hunt, MSNBC political correspondent, who seems to be having a really good time out there. Kasie, thank you for joining us tonight. HUNT: We`ve been having a wonderful time in here. Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: From your reporting on the ground in Kansas, watching all this happening, how does it seem like things are going for Pat Roberts? HUNT: Well, being on the ground here I would say it became abundantly clear very quickly how difficult this race is going to be for Pat Roberts. We were out in western Kansas with Bob Dole. It`s a conservative part of the state, the area where Pat Roberts used to represent in the House and if the voters there aren`t excited about him, it`s going to be hard for him to get the traction that he needs to win this race. And the voters that I talked to there, most of them had come to see Bob Dole, and a number of Republicans said they were still trying to decide. So, at this point, it`s for Roberts becoming a race against time, so they did send in national operatives here to Kansas to try to redo his campaign, once it became clear that Orman was going to be a real threat, but the campaign they`re mounting now is one that, you know, under normal circumstances they would have mounted six months ago. It`s their trying to paint Orman as a liberal Democrat and try to turn this back into a traditional partisan fight. MADDOW: How is Orman holding up against the criticism? As you say, it`s sort of being mounted against him later than it would in a typical campaign. But how does he look as a candidate and how is he dealing with this new wave of criticism now that they brought in all these national Republican bigwigs? HUNT: So, I spoke to Orman on this trip and he is somebody who comes across as a pretty polished candidate for someone who is new to the arena. He`s comfortable in a retail setting. He`s funny. He tells jokes. You know, he`s still getting his footing under him in some ways. There are some areas where he wasn`t 100 percent sure-footed in his answers, but I think that what`s really going to be the test for him is how he continues to handle how the Roberts campaign deals with their opposition research. They`re starting to unload all of their negative attacks, you know, again, a little bit late in the game. They`re criticizing him for his business ties primarily. He is a millionaire investor. He`ll be one of the richest men in the Senate if he`s elected. And Roberts` campaign is focusing on his ties to a Goldman Sachs board member who`s serving time for insider training. And the Orman campaign sort of went underground for a little while as those allegations first surfaced. His team has been very focused on trying to push back against those. So, we`ll see if they continue to be able to weather those attacks successfully or whether Roberts starts to get traction and starts to push Orman`s numbers back down to earth. Roberts himself is really unpopular. So, at this point, it`s kind of become potentially becoming a race to the bottom. MADDOW: MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt live for us tonight in Kansas. Kasie, thanks very much. It`s great to have you here. HUNT: Thanks very much, Rachel. Nice to see you. MADDOW: You, too. This is one of those races where it`s like -- you know, OK, the whole Senate, the control of the Senate did on the line and so you might be covering every boring Senate race around the country because every one of them potentially could be the one that controls the Senate. But in this case, it wouldn`t matter if nothing else was on the line. This Kansas Senate race is so off the hook, it`s unbelievable that it`s happening in Kansas. All right, as promised next, the best new thing in the world. The epic pure joy of the best new thing in the world tonight is worth staying here for. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, I`ve been looking forward to this all day. Best new thing in the world -- this is one of those stories that seems like it might be going somewhere terrible. I swear it has a happy ending. It really is the best new thing in the world today. It`s also a story that seems like it may be could be just an elaborate metaphor for something political or something. It might be. You could make it that. But you know what? It is purely excellent on its own terms. I urge you to just take it as the pure joy that it is. OK, it starts in Poland, in Poznan in western Poland, where the town`s pride and joy is its zoo. Lions and tigers and bears, right, also elephants and giraffes. And at the zoo, they have a whole section for farm animals. In that section, you will find these two love birds, who have lived in the farm animal section of that western Poland zoo for the past decade. The donkey on the left is named Napoleon. His lady friend on the right is Antosia. And the zoo loves these donkeys. The zoo calls Napoleon and Antosia their pair of lovable donkeys. They market them. They love them. They`ve been together for ten years. It has to be said, though, that Napoleon and Antosia -- they are very loving as a couple. Throughout their decade-long relationship, they have produced six offspring thus far, the youngest just two months old. Ten years on, the magic is still there clearly. The problem is that Napoleon and Antosia while loving each other very much and very frequently, they live in a zoo and apparently, some of the visitors of the zoo have taken offense to the point where they have complained at what they are seeing between these two donkeys. They have complained to this woman, a local politician with the conservative law and justice party in Poland. After she got the "donkeys are making too much love" complaint, she said that she too was horrified by the donkeys in love showing their love for each other at the zoo. And as a politician, because she was so grossed out by these donkeys doing this thing, she prevailed upon the zoo`s director that the zoo should separate them. Put them in separate pens, basically so they could not do the deed. And look at them. Pining for one another from across the chain link fence, after ten years of never being apart. Are you feeling outrage? I`m feeling outrage. And a significant chunk of the Polish public got outraged as well. These are some of the Facebook fan pages created in honor of Napoleon and Antosia in Poland pleading with the zoo to end the forced separation. Thousands of Polish citizens see signed on to a petition to reunite them even though the local surplus politician was so offended by them doing it. And then Poland`s 24 hour cable news outlet caught up with the depressed donkeys and it all turned out to be such bad press for the zoo, that this morning, just one week after the separation was imposed, the zoo announced that they had a change of heart. I`ve got their actual statement here. This was their statement. They said it was, quote, "never our intention for animals to feel uncomfortable because of their natural behaviors." And so tah-dah! Look, best new thing in the world. This morning, Napoleon and Antosia were reunited along with their youngest foal. They`re all together again as a family. This is the photo caption from Polskie Radio Public News, "Napoleon the donkey with legs in the air is clearly delighted to have his Antosia back in the pen." Of course, how do they know? Maybe he just needed to scratch an itch, who knows? Also, I think I should tell you I think that`s her and not him with her legs in the air like she just don`t care. Because you know what? It doesn`t matter. Either way, 10 years on, for this couple, the magic is obviously still there. These donkeys are honeymooners for life and now, everybody can just live, eat, sleep, raise their donkey baby and be in love without input from easily offended human politicians. The end. See? I told you, literally the best new thing in the world today. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s 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