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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/20/15

Guests: Liz Mair, Karen Tumulty

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: I`m going to end this segment by recommending dean`s writing on these issues particularly about the way the medical cartel functions in the U.S., which is an under-recognized problem. I`d like to see some disruption there. Dean Baker and Kish Roger (ph), thank you both. That is "ALL IN" for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now, with Steve Kornacki, in for Rachel. Good evening, Steve. STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening to you, Chris. Thanks for that. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has the night off tonight. So, do you believe the polls? How real is what they`re showing? Those are big questions right now in politics. For example, take the new Monmouth University poll out today in Iowa. That poll shows Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker leading the Republican race in that critical first in the nation caucus state. Walker built a real lead in the polls out there. He`s first place now. You can see there with 22 percent. And in second place, right behind Walker, Donald Trump. He`s moved up in Iowa. Here`s the key to that number. That 13 percent you see there for Donald Trump in second place in Iowa. The poll was taken over three days, this past weekend. It was taken Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was on Saturday in the middle of that poll being taken that Donald Trump really stepped in it. He says what everyone assumed he did, when he was in Iowa on Saturday and he seemed to scoff at the idea that John McCain is a war hero, that this is the key now. The pollster that took that poll, Monmouth University, they say when they called voters in Iowa on Sunday, right after Trump said all that he said about John McCain, there was no drop-off in his support that they could find. There was no immediate backlash against Trump, at least not in Iowa, at least not in that poll. In that finding, the fact that there was no backlash that surprised a lot of people today. Now, how about this poll? This is a second poll out today. "The Washington Post"/ABC News poll came out just this afternoon. This is a national poll. Not just Iowa. This is the best poll yet for Donald Trump. He`s in first place, 24 percent of the vote, almost doubling up Scott Walker who is back in second place at just 13 percent. Now that poll, that ABC/"The Washington Post" poll also comes with fine print. It was also taken over the weekend but in this poll, there apparently was a drop-off in Donald Trump support on Sunday, on the day after he tore into John McCain. So, this is what we`re trying to figure out right now. Is Donald Trump going to pay a price for what he said? Is he already paying a price for what he said about John McCain, for what he keeps saying about John McCain? Or is he going to defy the laws of political gravity? Is he going to survive this? Could he get somehow stronger from this? This is a situation that in many ways is unprecedented. Obviously we know that Trump has been surging over to last month but these sorts of surges have happened plenty of times before. We saw it in the 2012 election plenty of times over in the lead-up to Republican primaries and caucuses that year, when the former CEO of Godfather`s Pizza, Herman Cain, remember him? He stormed to the top of the pack in late 2011, and then he melted down. He didn`t make it to the starting line in Iowa. We saw something very similar with Newt Gingrich. We saw it several times in fact with Newt Gingrich back in 2011 and 2012. We saw massive spikes in his polling numbers. There were times when he was blowing out Mitt Romney. Gingrich was so confident at one point he said it was all over. He was going to win the nomination. There was no way to stop him. But then it really got serious because Gingrich won the South Carolina primary. He won the primary big. And suddenly when he did that, when he won South Carolina primary in a runaway, suddenly it looked like he could actually win the nomination. It`s that exact moment when Newt Gingrich did that, when that reality started to dawn on the Republican establishment, it`s that moment that the establishment decided they had to do something. They looked at Gingrich. They saw a general election disaster in the making. There was no way -- this is what they decided -- there was no way Newt Gingrich could represent their party that fall against Barack Obama. They did not want to nominate him and so they swung into action. And there`s an art to what they did here. There`s an art to how the Republican establishment handled that surge by Newt Gingrich. It was actually pretty simple. They found every piece of ammunition they could find and they used it. This was not a takedown by the mainstream media by what conservatives see as liberal media. This was a takedown orchestrated by Republicans, by conservatives, by voices that the voters of the Republican Party, by the Republican base, voices that they know and that they trust. These are the voices who started trashing Gingrich and started trashing him relentlessly. This is an example, "The Drudge Report". This is a major player in conservative media. When Gingrich won South Carolina, when it suddenly seemed possible he could be the Republican presidential candidate unless something happened, when that happened, "The Drudge Report" devoted itself to putting out banners. Gingrich repeatedly insulting Reagan, a callback to something Gingrich said before. That`s a big crime in the Republican Party, saying something negative about Ronald Reagan. Here`s another example, Ann Coulter going out and telling that Republican base, "Re-elect Obama, vote Newt." There`s Bob Dole, a former Republican presidential candidate giving the Romney campaign a statement, Gingrich`s rival campaign, a statement, about just how bad Gingrich would be for the party if he was nominated. This was a statement that the conservative "National Review" said the Romney campaign then passed along to them. Bob Dole wrote back then, "I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it`s now time to take a stand before it is too late." Now, all of this, all of this activity against Newt Gingrich was effective. It was brutally effective. Republican voters heard Republican voices -- voices they trust telling them that Newt was bad news and they listened. That was the end of the Gingrich surge. So, that`s the formula. That`s how the Republican establishment takes down an insurgent candidate that rockets to the top of the polls but who the establishment absolutely doesn`t want the party to nominate. And now, this brings us to Donald Trump because Donald Trump is playing that role. Donald Trump is the surging candidate who the establishment wants the party to have nothing to do with. Trump surge, of course, was sparked by comments about Mexico and Mexicans last month. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best. They`re not sending you. They`re not sending you. They`re sending people that have lots of problems. And they`re bringing those problems with us. They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists and some I assume are good people. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Those comments obviously sparked controversy. Trump wouldn`t back down in the face of that controversy. And a big chunk of the Republican base as a result rallied behind him. That`s how he surged over the last month in this race. Now, this was tricky for the Republican establishment to handle this as it happened. They didn`t like Trump going out there and saying all of this, but they also couldn`t really fight him when it came to the issue of immigration. It`s because when you stripped away the inflammatory rhetoric, Trump`s stance on immigration deeply resonates with the conservative Republican base. So, it was tough for Republicans to condemn him while also agreeing with his basic policy views. A poll showed that around 70 percent of all Republicans agree with Trump when it comes to the issue of immigration. So, the best in the face of all this, the best the Republican national chairman Reince Priebus could do was to place a call to Trump, a call in which he reportedly gently scolded him and asked him to tone it down. And Trump even disputes that that happened that the call went down that way. He said that Priebus called him to tell him he was doing great. To tell him he hit a nerve and should keep up the good work. So, when Trump spoke out on immigration and got into all of that trouble, the Republican establishment couldn`t do to him what they had done to Gingrich four years ago. They didn`t have the right ammunition on that subject. But now maybe, maybe -- they do. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: John McCain goes, oh, boy, Trump makes my live difficult. He had 15,000 crazies show up. Crazies, he called them all crazy. I said they weren`t crazy. They were great Americans. These people if you would have seen these people, you -- I know what a crazy is. I know all about crazies. These weren`t crazies. So, he insulted me and he insulted everybody in that room. I said someone should run against John McCain who in my opinion has not been so hot. I supported him -- and I supported him for president. I raised a million dollars for him. It`s a lot of money. I supported him. He lost. He let us down. But, you know, he lost. I never liked him as much after that because I don`t like losers. But, Frank, let me get it to it -- FRANK LUNTZ: He`s a war hero. TRUMP: He hit -- he`s not a war. LUNTZ: He is a war hero. TRUMP: He is a war hero -- LUNTZ: Five and a half years -- TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK, I hate to tell you. He`s a war hero because he was captured. OK? You can have -- I believe perhaps he`s a war hero, but right now, he said some bad things about a lot of people. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And with that, with those comments in Iowa over the weekend, Donald Trump handed worried Republicans a weapon that`s much easier for them to use against him in a Republican primary than anything that he said about immigration. Here he is attacking John McCain, this guy who was one of the first ones in and one of the last ones out of Vietnam. He was shot down over North Vietnam on his 23rd bombing mission back in 1967. He nearly drown when he parachuted into a lake, fracturing both arms and a leg. He was pulled out by North Vietnamese who proceeded to torture and interrogated him. He was offered release a number of times by the North Vietnamese but each and every time John McCain refused. He refused because he said, because he was waiting until every man who was a prisoner before him was released. McCain spent 5 1/2 years in captivity as a prisoner of war. That is John McCain and that was his service to our country -- service that Donald Trump seemed to question, ridicule this weekend. And so, now, the Republican Party can all read from the same script and condemn Donald Trump for what he said. The RNC releasing this statement in direct response to what Trump said, quote, "Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine, period. There`s no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably." In the past, this would probably be the beginning of the end for Donald Trump. If we were looking at a regular candidate, we would be sure that is what`s going to happen right now. But this is why there`s some suspense, this is why there`s some uncertainty, this is why we`re not quite sure what`s going to happen here -- it`s because Donald Trump isn`t playing by normal rules of political combat. He`s not backing down here. He`s not giving an inch. That`s going to overcomplicate this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: You said John McCain was -- you liked people who didn`t get captured. TRUMP: No, no, I do like people that don`t get captured. I like people -- (CROSSTALK) REPORTER: Are you blaming John McCain for his capture? TRUMP: I am saying that John McCain has not done a good job. REPORTER: Why would you say you like people who don`t get captured? It`s a simple question. TRUMP: I do like people -- I do. Why? People that don`t get captured I`m not supposed to like. I like people that don`t get captured and I respect the people that do get captured. REPORTER: Why would you say that in the context of John McCain? TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. I like the people that don`t get -- you have many people that didn`t get captured. I respect them greatly. You have people that got captured. I respect them greatly also. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: So, in response to all of this, John McCain went on this network earlier today and said that Donald Trump doesn`t owe him an apology but he does owe veterans an apology. And Trump for his part took the opinion pages of "The USA Today" to ratchet up his criticism of McCain. Not to concede to here, saying he doesn`t need to be lectured by McCain. Donald Trump is not backing down here. The Republican establishment has been loudly condemning him for what he said, far more Republican voices doing this, far louder Republican voices than anything we heard after his immigration comments. But Donald Trump is not conceding anything to them. He`s only getting more defiant, more aggressive, trying to throw it right back in their faces. The way these things usually work, key opinion shapers in the Republican universe latch on to something like Trump`s comments. They start beating that drum and then Republican voters eventually follow them. That formula has worked in the past and the polls will slowly start to shift. The bubble will burst. That`s what usually happens. But this is an unusual situation. We have seen this play out before in terms of what the establishment is doing right now, is trying to do right now. In the past, it has worked. It worked with Gingrich four years ago, but they`ve never tried it on someone like Donald Trump. And that is the key variable here. Joining us now is Liz Mair, former director of online communication for the RNC. Liz, thanks for being here tonight. LIZ MAIR, FORMER RNC ONLINE COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me. KORNACKI: So, the Republican establishment goes to war with Donald Trump. Their weapon right now is John McCain and these comments. What effect do you think it`s going to have? MAIR: I actually think in this case that may not be the thing that takes Trump down. I actually think that Trump has a real numbers problem as a result of these comments. This country has a lot of veterans. We have a lot of people who served their country and who didn`t suffer nearly as badly as John McCain did for it. If John McCain`s service isn`t considered honorable and meritorious, what are those people -- what`s those people`s service considered to be by Donald Trump? That`s a real problem. The establishment can say whatever it wants to about this. But I think the more that these comments are publicized, the more you`re actually going to have grassroots individuals and actual voters saying if he thinks that about John McCain, what does he think about me? What does he think about my husband? What does he think about my father? That`s not -- the numbers will not work for him. KORNACKI: I guess the question I have about that, though, those same grassroots Republicans you`re describing, what they already think of John McCain, so many of them as a politician, not as a war hero. MAIR: Those are a lot of the same people that actually got John McCain the nomination. There are a lot of grumpy old men out there who many of them have military records and did serve. And they were drawn to John McCain, are they also liked in some cases people like Ron Paul. They like the grumpy old man. KORNACKI: Sure, but you would say -- MAIR: Those people are not -- KORNACKI: There has been. I mean, one of the themes of politics for the last decade or so, Republican politics for the last 15 years, starting when John McCain ran against George W. Bush, and he was blasted as relying on Democratic voters to beat him when he did immigration reform with Ted Kennedy in 2006 and 2007, there`s been a particular strain of conservative disgruntlement with John McCain. MAIR: Yes, but -- KORNACKI: So, I guess my question is, when I look at the response we`re seeing from some Republicans like Rush Limbaugh today sticking with Donald Trump on this, the Drudge Report which teamed up against newt four years ago sticking with Trump, I`m wondering if the fact this is John McCain has anything to do. MAIR: Yes, I think for certain people, that`s true. There are certain people who have real issues with John McCain. But that`s actually the sort of establishment that you`re talking about. What I`m saying is when you`re actually looking at the voters, the people who ultimately have to cast the votes, the people who you saw with that "Washington Post"/ABC poll, you saw the numbers drop off sharply for Trump between Saturday and Sunday, those are the people who will take him down. I don`t even know if it`s going to be the establishment, although you also do have very important voices like Erick Erickson of Red State, also hosts a widely listened to talk radio show who has been extremely critical of Trump. And let`s not forget, another problem of Trump has or hasn`t been as highlighted, is he also made some comments over the weekend I believe also in Iowa that have been seized on by a lot of Christian conservatives and evangelicals, where he basically said he`s never had to ask God to forgive him for anything and basically equated communion to just eating a cracker. That is not going to play well with the evangelical base of the party. The comments he made about John McCain are not going to play well with veterans. Veterans were a core constituency that actually helped McCain get the nomination in 2008. Trump has a real numeric problem with these two comments, and he`s probably going to keep shooting his foot and create more of a numeric problem. KORNACKI: Yes, that`s the question, too -- (CROSSTALK) MAIR: I think when you look at further polling, you`re going to keep seeing this slide. This is going to be an issue. KORNACKI: We haven`t seen the slide yet. That`s the one thing. MAIR: "The Post" poll, I think, yes. KORNACKI: These numbers are new, and we`ll see what the fall is, but we haven`t seen the slide start. I want to get this news in. This is just out tonight, "The Des Moines Register", the top newspaper in Iowa, the key, first in the nation caucus state with an editorial calling on Donald Trump to get out of the presidential race. The headline on this, "Trump should pull the plug on his bloviating sideshow." They say the best way Donald Trump can serve his country is apologizing to McCain and terminating this ill-conceived campaign. Do you think, the resonance -- this is the mainstream media now. This isn`t the conservative media saying this. Do you think this has an effect? MAIR: I generally tend to think editorials don`t influence public opinion as much as they reflect it. Same thing with endorsements, right? So, you know, you say you get an endorsement from the, I don`t know "The L.A. Times", does that lead people? No, probably it`s more indicative of where public sentiment has been. So, I would tend to say this probably validates the concerns a lot of people have that Trump has shot himself in the foot and he`s got an actual problem with voters. I think he does legitimately have a problem with evangelical voters at this point. I know that there are a lot of people who are coming out of church this weekend, who were very, very bothered what they heard him say, with regard to forgiveness and with regard to communion. And, clearly, veterans are very, very unhappy about the comments about John McCain. The fact he`s doubling down, just means that that`s going to get more air time, and more and more veterans are going to have a chance to hear him essentially denigrating their service by proxy. KORNACKI: It is interesting -- of all people, Rush Limbaugh said today, though, the pattern in these in the past has been when the candidate sort of comes under fire from the establishment like this the candidate will back off a little, and will try to apologize. The variable with Trump is he will throw it back in their face. It would be interesting to see how that plays out. MAIR: I think this is true. Yes. KORNACKI: Liz Mair, former director of online communication for the RNC, thanks for coming tonight. MAIR: Thank you. KORNACKI: Appreciate it. Much more 2016 news to get to tonight, including yet another presidential announcement set to take place tomorrow. Bernie Sanders with another eye popping display this weekend. More record crowds for the 73-year-old senator in Texas and Arizona. That`s coming up next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: It`s not every day you get to see a presidential candidate in their shorts, but today is your lucky day because this right here is a Republican presidential candidate without pants. Just some boat shoes and a pair of shorts. Now, this picture is from behind so it`s a test. Can you name this presidential candidate? Give you a second there. Time is up. And the answer is -- Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio. That is Governor Kasich this past weekend, testing out the old podium. That spot there is where Kasich is going to officially launch his presidential campaign tomorrow. It`s a venue called the Ohio Union. It`s on the campus of Ohio State University, the Ohio State University. Tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, John Kasich is officially going to become the 16th Republican candidate in the race for president of the United States. The Republican race for president is the one that`s gotten the most of the attention so far. But there were some big developments this weekend on the Democratic side as well. Many of them concerning a gentleman named Bernie Sanders. That story, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: We sometimes forget what a slug fest they had back in 2008. Now, technically back then, there were eight candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, at least at one point. But very quickly, it became a two-way contest. It was Obama versus Clinton, Obama the insurgent. He struck first with a big win in Iowa and then Clinton bounced back in New Hampshire. Then she beat him again in Nevada. At that point, it looked at that moment like she was home free. She started out as the big front runner. She was the establishment favorite. Then, she took a hit and righted her ship and now she was rolling. That`s how these things had always pretty much gone before. That`s how it was supposed to play out again. Hillary would coast to the nomination after that. But this time back in 2008, something funny happened. The next primary after Nevada was in South Carolina. And in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton lost again. She lost big. She was crushed by Obama. The margin was nearly two to one. It was more than two to one in fact. And that was when it became clear just how different, how extraordinary, how unprecedented, the Obama campaign actually was, because Obama was playing the role of insurgent candidate back in 2008. In a typical Democratic primary, the insurgent candidate does well with one specific segment of the party, typically white liberals, and then loses because the rest of the party base doesn`t play along. But Obama in 2008 put together a coalition that no one had ever put together before. On his way to becoming the first African-American president, Obama managed to unite the white liberals who backed him as the insurgent candidate and the African-American voters who tend to favor the candidate of the establishment. No Democratic insurgent made a coalition like that work before. But Obama did it in 2008 and in South Carolina was where everyone realized for the first time that it was really actually happening. So, in 2008, the insurgent Obama beat the establishment favorite Hillary Clinton and won the Democratic nomination. He did what so many other insurgents before him had tried and had failed to do, like Gary Hart back in 1984, Paul Tsongas in `92, Bill Bradley against Al Gore in 2000. They all had their moments, but they all ultimately fell victim to the same demographic trap. Now, let`s fast forward to this year -- this year`s insurgent candidate. Of course, you know him, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders is technically an independent. He`s a self-described socialist, which actually makes him pretty much the perfect candidate for the chunk of the Democratic Party where insurgents tend to draw their deepest support from those white liberal voters. Sanders has been drawing huge crowds as a candidate. He has presented way more of a challenge to the establishment candidacy of Clinton that most people had expected. But so far, Bernie Sanders is nowhere when it comes to African-American voters. Sanders has polled as low as 9 percent among nonwhite voters overall, and as low as 2 percent among black voters. So, with that kind of showing, Sanders can`t win or even make this a contest for too long. He says he`s trying though. His campaign officials say they are making inroads. And this weekend, at the annual Netroots Nation conference of progressive activists, Bernie Sanders faced open opposition from the voters of color he is trying to win over and he needs to win over. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDERS: "Wall Street Journal" poll -- Wall -- (HECKLERS SHOUTING) SANDERS: I will answer your question, but I would like to speak for a few minutes. I was told that that -- MODERATOR: A couple of more minutes and then we`re going to get. SANDERS: I was told we had 15 minutes, right? MODERATOR: Watch me. A little shorter than that, sir. A little shorter than that. SANDERS: The issue is -- HECKLER: Black lives! MODERATOR: Hold on one second. SANDERS: The issue is that it is -- HECKLER: Black lives! (HECKLERS SHOUTING) SANDERS: Shall I continue? MODERATOR: Hold on. Hold on. SANDERS: It`s OK with me. Listen, black lives, of course, matter. And I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and for dignity. If you don`t want me to be here, that`s OK. MODERATOR: No, sir, we want you to be here and address that and all of the other questions. SANDERS: I don`t want to out-scream people. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That was how Bernie Sanders spent his Saturday at Netroots Nation. Now, you can feel bad for Sanders because he was sandbagged there and conference organizers willingly stood by and let him get shouted down by protesters, but he also seems to have adjusted his message to in response to what happened. By Sunday, Sanders was directly addressing the Black Lives Matter movement. He did it again at his rallies yesterday in Texas where he got more huge crowds and where he spoke out about police brutality as he gets ready to move his campaign into heavily black states like Georgia and, of course, the all important South Carolina, the first stop after Iowa and New Hampshire. Does Bernie Sanders need to change his message if he`s going to break out of his white liberal base? Could he expand his appeal? Is there a message out there that would let him do that? Does Sanders have any chance of reassembling that magical Obama coalition that made history back in 2008? Joining us now is Karen Tumulty, the national political correspondent for "The Washington Post." Karen, thanks for being here. So, Obama put this together. This coalition we`re talking about in 2008. Bernie Sanders has a piece of it. It`s the piece that sort of is as you there for the insurgent. Do you see a scenario where he`s able to expand it like Obama did? KAREN TUMULTY, THE WASHINGTON POST: He`s got a couple problems. Obama not only brought in the African-American vote and really they didn`t believe -- I mean, Hillary Clinton was leading Barack Obama among African- Americans until Obama won Iowa. So, African-Americans were believing this guy had a shot, but Obama also appealed to independents, moderates who were as burned out on the Iraq war as liberals were at that point. So, there are a lot of questions right now about Bernie Sanders. I think that his reaction to that outburst at Netroots Nation sort of showed that he doesn`t have, at least not yet, the bandwidth to get beyond his basic core message of income inequality. In the meantime, you do see Hillary Clinton who has, you know, a great comfort with these issues kind of outmaneuvering him. He talks about jobs, not jails. She, today, on her Facebook page said we need to acknowledge hard truths about race and justice and one of those is that racial inequality is not nearly a symptom of economic inequality. We saw her husband a couple days ago acknowledge that his policies of the 1990s had made -- had created the incarceration problems that so animate so many African-American voters. KORNACKI: Do you think it`s interesting watching what you`re describing and watching that play out these last few days did, especially Hillary`s comments today in that Facebook forum. Is it an indication that Clinton campaign is worried about Bernie Sanders and they see that he`s struggling when it comes to African-American voters right now, they see how important African-American voters are to the coalition she needs to win and they`re basically trying to head him off right here? TUMULTY: Exactly. I mean, we`ve been seen this, too, that she`s talking about income inequality, about middle class issues. It`s -- we are seeing she`s obviously nervous. There`s still a real question whether Bernie Sanders is going to end up being Howard Dean of `04 or has the potential to build that coalition. He also doesn`t have the kind of infrastructure that Barack Obama already had at this point. His ground operation is nowhere near the kind of campaign that Obama had put together. KORNACKI: It`s interesting, too, if you look at the poll numbers that Bernie Sanders has right now, it`s been impressive in a way that he`s gotten to the point I don`t think anybody saw that coming. I don`t think, for instance, Martin O`Malley saw that coming, he thought this might be him. But at the same time, if you look at it, what he has right now is what Elizabeth Warren had. A year ago everyone tested Elizabeth Warren against Hillary saying she should get in the race and Elizabeth Warren looked at the numbers a year ago that Sanders has now and she said not enough to win, not enough to even try, I`m not going to run. TUMULTY: Certainly as formidable as Hillary Clinton was the in `08, I think she is even more so now. These crowds that Bernie Sanders are drawing, they`re impressive. I`m not sure they`re significant. What`s more significant is the fact that he has raised $13.5 million and three-quarters of it is from small contributors. So, he does have a lot of passion and energy out there. But the question is whether he can take that and build upon it and broaden it. KORNACKI: Yes, that`s the key question going forward. A lot of polls will be coming out. Let`s see if he starts making headway where nobody thought he would make headway. That`s the key test for him. Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for "The Washington Post" -- thanks for your time tonight. All right. Still ahead, the U.S. starts a new era with two long standing and supposed enemies. Diplomacy is breaking out in all sorts of historic ways. That is coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Just like you and me, sometimes politicians hit the gym in order to clear their heads and to think. Sometimes, it`s to zone out and work on guns, sometimes to flip through the opinion pages between reps, maybe it`s just to work off a little on-the-job stress. Politicians go to the gym just like you and me but unlike you and me. But unlike you and me, sometimes what they`re trying to workout there is how to avoid nuclear Armageddon. How that last part works is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: So, do you want to see two U.S. senators on a horseback ride together? Well, sure, who wouldn`t? So, here you go. This is how Arizona Republican Jeff Flake and Nevada Republican Dean Heller spent their weekend. They took a ride at Heller`s ranch out in Nevada. It`s the ranch, by the way, where he grows alfalfa. Flake posted this photo to Twitter. He noted that the ranch is called, get this one, Heller High Water. Give that a minute to sink in. This is a good reminder that some senators actually are genuinely good personal friends, and sometimes the stuff that gets discussed on the weekend horseback ride is more important than what gets discussed on the Senate floor. For instance, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller are also two of the only Republican senators who have supported President Obama`s moves to re- establish ties with Cuba. Now, maybe that`s a policy belief they hold independently of any conversation they ever had or maybe it started as a conversation on a nice, long horseback ride or something like that. Or, for example, take the Senate gym. It`s not just the place senators go when they want to work out. It`s also the place where important relationships can be formed, sometimes across the aisle. That`s what Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York told me when I sat down with him on Friday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: A guy I work with on issues even though we`re miles apart is Jeff Sessions. A lot of relationships ironically start in the Senate gym. Most Republicans exercise early. Most Democrats exercise late. But I exercise early. KORNACKI: Is there a reason for that? SCHUMER: I don`t know. You will have to ask some P.E. guy or some psychologist or something. But -- so I get there early. Who is in the gym? Lamar Alexander, one of my best friends. John Thune who I work closely with. Jeff sessions. I recruited Marco Rubio to be part of our group of eight being in the gym. Dick Durbin was in the gym. He`s even earlier than me and he helped recruit him, too. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Because the Senate gym is where Chuck Schumer talks with his colleagues, because the gym is where he sometimes recruits colleagues to support his position on things. That gym may play a pivotal role in the Iran nuclear deal. Think about this: Chuck Schumer is a key vote. Chuck Schumer is probably the key vote when it comes to this deal. He`s a close ally of the president, he is also one of Israel`s fiercest advocates in Congress. And on top of that, he`s poised to be the next Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate. Now, the fear among the deal supporters, obviously, that includes the White House is that if Schumer decides to go all out against this deal, he could also bring quite a few Democrats with him. I asked Schumer about the tough position he`s in on this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCHUMER: I`m not going to comment until I read the document. That`s what`s going to guide me. Look, when I think the president is wrong, I go against him. I just voted against the trade bill and TPA because I thought it hurt middle class incomes. The president talked to me regularly on this issue. But I told him, unless it changes, even if it helps corporate profits, I`m not going to be for it if it decreases middle class incomes and I think it does. So there are times when I`ve broken with the president before when I really think that I have a different point of view and the right thing is not what he`s doing. KORNACKI: You mentioned that you are a very sort of staunch defender of Israel. Advocate for Israel. And not only is Benjamin Netanyahu very outspoken against this, the prime minister of Israel, but the leader of the opposition in Israel also is against this. You have basically the Democrat and Republican in Israel are against this. Could you be pro-Israel and still -- SCHUMER: There are all kinds of -- many people, many different places have many different opinions. I got to read it. Listen to them but make up my own mind. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, Schumer is such an important vote when it comes to the Iran deal that Republicans and pro-Israel groups have actually made him a centerpiece of their efforts to derail this deal. One pro-Israel group funded a six-figure web campaign targeting Schumer earlier this year. Its executive director told "The Hill" last week "If Schumer comes out and says I looked at the bill and studied the details and think it`s a good deal and will stop Iran from getting weapons, there will be zero hope of overriding an Obama veto. If Schumer says this doesn`t do it, it lifts the arm`s embargo and doesn`t have any time anywhere inspections, then we have a fight on our hands. He is a lynchpin or a bellwether." Could Chuck Schumer really derail his president`s biggest foreign policy priority and still become the top Democrat in the Senate? Well, he pointed out he bucked the president on another big priorities, the Trans Pacific Partnership, that trade deal he was just talking about, because he said he thought it was wrong. On the other hand, could Chuck Schumer who describes himself as a guardian of Israel, could that Chuck Schumer really go against AIPAC and the Israeli government on their biggest priority? Well, he`s done that before, too. He voted against the Gulf War back in 1991. So everyone is looking to Chuck Schumer but so far he`s staying mum. Meanwhile, today, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to move towards lifting sanctions on Iran. This is a critical step in making the nuclear deal work. But the idea of sanctions relief infuriates congressional Republicans, not to mention their reflexive distrust of anything having to do with the United Nations, but perhaps most damaging to the deal was the endorsement this week from Iran`s supreme leader. Without his support, of course, the deal would go nowhere, but now, skeptical members of Congress can point to his support as evidence that a deal must be bad for the United States. The ayatollah`s derisive comments about the U.S., his insistence that the deal is a victory for Iran`s nuclear program, those don`t help when it comes to the politics of the United States either. This week, Secretaries Kerry, Moniz and Lew will brief members of the House, including a session just for house Democrats, and they`ll testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So, how exactly is the Obama administration going to sell this deal in Congress? Is it just a matter of avoiding a veto override, or do they think they might be able to be convince skeptics over the next two months? Joining us now is Steve Clemons. He`s editor-at-large at "The Atlantic" and MSNBC contributor, as well. Steve, thanks for being here. STEVE CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. KORNACKI: So, let`s start with the United Nations and the ayatollah. The U.N. to make this deal work has to do what it did today. For this deal to work, the ayatollah has to be behind it, has to support it. So, these are necessary steps. How much do they complicate domestic politics here in the United States when it comes to this congressional vote? CLEMONS: They screw things up a lot when it comes to how Congress feels about itself and its role. The 15-0 unanimous vote in the U.N. essentially puts a gun to the head of Congress and says if you want to defect, if you want to isolate the United States and walk away from the rest of the world, go ahead and do it. But right now, the fundamental issue of countries like France, Russia, Germany, England all on board to move in a different direction. So, it`s in a very different place. The ayatollah is a little bit different. He can come and sort of kick and spit at this thing, and that actually isn`t necessarily a bad thing. And to the degree that he remains ambivalent isn`t good. If he`s overjoyed with what`s going on, that would also be read as a canary in the coal mine as a bad thing. So, I think the more that certain sectors of Iranian society raise negative things about it, that`s probably good for prospects in Congress. But, ayatollah, remember, even when Sadat did his deal with Israel, he remained very unpopular in Egypt. It`s not clear that Rouhani and Zarif and the momentum that they have right now will be sustained over time. We`ll have to see how it plays out in Iranian politics. KORNACKI: So, let`s talk about in terms of domestic politics. Let`s talk about Schumer and his role in this. Right now this is pretty much -- I know there are some exceptions -- pretty much right now this breaks down as Republican/Democrat typical partisan divide issue. The risk for the White House trying to get this deal through is Schumer after he reads this decides he`s against it and not only then is Schumer against it but that could offer a bunch of Democrats cover as well to turn against this thing. That is the root to this thing being derailed. How likely do you think that is? CLEMONS: It`s going to be complicated for Chuck Schumer, because he`s going to have to meet a standard that the president is asking Republican critics to meet, which is what is his alternative? Is he a man just of a predetermined sentiment for Israel or can he rise above that and think through the nuts and bolts of a serious national security deal and either make a principled case for it or a principled case against it. If he ends up going against it, the question is he flamboyantly against it or is he just modestly against it? Modest opposition is something that the White House can deal with. Flamboyant opposition is likely to bring on a lot of other people that want to be in Chuck Schumer`s world. We`re talking about Schumer offending the president`s priorities. There will be followers of Schumer who want to be careful of their priorities as he`s heir apparent to become leaders. So -- KORNACKI: I think that`s such an important distinction. You can be against something or you can really be against something. There`s a possibility for Schumer to try to split the difference a little bit here. How about the other side of this? We say so much reflexive opposition from Republicans just across the board on the Republican agenda. Is that going to apply here or do you see a scenario where the White House could actually win over some Republicans? CLEMONS: I talked to Senator Joe Manchin who is a Democrat but he`s sort of in the middle of this. He has good insight into what some of the Republicans say. There are some things that would move people like him and others, and that is to understand, for instance, from the administration what went wrong with the North Korea deal. So, in the North Korea deal, let`s look and understand the nuts and bolts. We provided them energy aid, food aid. We had promises, we had inspectors. We had deals where our nuclear weapons labs were involved in monitoring their materials and it all went awry and they have nuclear weapons today. So, some people, and that includes people like Bob Corker, want to understand the dimensions of that and how this nuclear arrangement is going to be substantially different. Corker continues to impress me as someone who is differentiating himself from knee-jerk Republican opposition, continues to keep his powder dry. He comes from a place of skepticism and he may shame some others who look at this not in a knee-jerk way or raw political way because it`s such an important arrangement he may inspire a chunk of people. I still think the Senate largely is going to vote in opposition, but I think at the end of the day, you may end up with a couple Republicans that actually end up supporting the arrangement. KORNACKI: All right. We`ll look for Schumer on the Democratic side, Corker on the Republican side, two keys to this deal. Steve Clemons, MSNBC contributor and editor-at-large for "The Atlantic" -- thanks for joining us tonight. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Still ahead tonight, the remarkable scenes out of Washington, D.C. and Havana, Cuba, today as the relationship between the United States and Cuba continues to thaw. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: This much was the scene in Chattanooga, Tennessee over the weekend as people gathered around a makeshift memorial along Lee Highway in front of the armed forces career center, one of the two military facilities that came under attack on Thursday by a lone gunman. Four marines were killed in the Thursday morning attack at the second facility, the navy operational support center and marine corps reserve center. Those marines were Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, Lance Corporal Skip Wells, Staff Sergeant David Wyatt and Sergeant Carson Holmquist. On Saturday, a fifth service member also passed away, Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith died from injuries sustained during that shoot-out at the navy operational support center. Over the weekend, we learned a little bit more about the gunman. His family says for years he suffered from depression and had a history of substance abuse. And that last year, he left the United States to visit Jordan for several months, apparently in an effort to escape some of those bad influences back at home. That trip took place prior to a DUI arrest in April of this year. So, that is what we learned over the weekend. There is still a lot we don`t know about the circumstances of this attack, including the motive. The FBI is leading that investigation. They`re reportedly in the process of conducting an analysis of the gunman`s cell phone and computer in an effort to determine whether he was influenced by or involved with the terror group ISIS. Although officials have told NBC News it does not appear at this point that he was involved in any terrorist groups. And then, there`s the investigation of the crime scene. The FBI has not released many details about the course of events that led to the deaths of those five service members at that second military facility location. But today, "The Washington Post" is reporting that authorities have recovered a pistol that may have been privately owned and used by one of the marines killed in the course of that attack. They are trying to determine, based on forensics whether the gun which does not appear to be a standard issue pistol for military personnel was used to wound the gunman during the shoot-out on Thursday. In the meantime, officials are taking steps to ensure this kind of attack is not replicated. Last night, the commander of the U.S. Northern Command sent out a directive to increase security at recruiting stations in reserve centers across the country. The shooting has prompted governors in seven states to authorize the arming of full-time National Guard members in an effort to beef up security. Be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: This weekend with very little fanfare, the U.S. men`s national team won their match against Cuba. They didn`t just beat Cuba, they throttled Cuba, 6-0. The game, though, did have some historic significance. It marked the last international competition between the U.S. and Cuba before the two the countries restore normal diplomatic relations. It has been more than 54 years since President Dwight Eisenhower severed ties with Cuba, closed the U.S. embassy in Havana amid deteriorating relations with Fidel Castro. But, today, for the first time since January 3rd, 1961, the U.S. embassy in Havana was officially open for business, with hundreds lined up to apply for visas. And back in Washington, D.C., the Cuban embassy was raising its flag over the D.C. embassy for the first time in 54 years, surrounded by cheering fans and diplomats. Also, some protesters showed up to chant the name of long-time leader Fidel Castro. America`s embassy in Cuba will not officially raise the U.S. flag until next month when Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit. Many questions remain about America`s crippling trade embargo, about Cuba`s human rights abuses and the base at Guantanamo Bay to name a few. But after more than 50 years, having both embassies open for business seems like a good place to start. 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 to you, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. 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