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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/23/15

Guests: Jeff Merkley

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Yes, we will see. I`m not holding out hope. David Weigel, thank you very much. That is "ALL IN" for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks. HAYES: Hey, great interview last night. MADDOW: Oh, thank you very much. HAYES: That was really -- it was satisfying and riveting in a way that those often fail to be. MADDOW: That -- you know, I felt like as soon as I got off the air, my dad texted me about it. And he wrote -- he said, what did you think? I know what I thought about it, what did you think? The only thing I could say is, I felt like I was juggling live cats. HAYES: Yes. Well, you did a good job. They all landed. MADDOW: Thank you very much. That`s very nice of you to say, my friend. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We actually have an update coming up on the rick Santorum interview from last night, because there is a trailing end from that interview that we`re going to hope to sew up tonight. It`s not exactly what you think, but we`ll be revisiting that in just a moment. Very nice of Chris to say those nice things. First, though, I want to show you what the Donald Trump phenomenon looked like in the year 1992. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROSS PEROT, FORMER INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they`ve got a point. I don`t have any experience in running up a $4 trillion debt. I don`t have any experience in gridlock government where nobody takes responsibility for anything and everybody blames everybody else. I don`t have any experience in creating the worst public school system in the industrialized world and most violent crime-ridden society in the industrialized world. But I do have a lot of experience in getting things done. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In getting things done. Sound familiar? That was Ross Perot running for president in 1992 running as an outsider, a non-politician, a businessman who didn`t care how you`re supposed to play politics. He just knows how to get things done. Today, this year`s businessman presidential candidate continued to dominate the political news. And this year`s Ross Perot character, this year`s outsider, businessman, I can get things done kind of guy, self- financing candidate who doesn`t play by the political rules -- well, today this year`s version of that candidate, Donald Trump, made comments that put the Ross Perot election of 1992 at the very center of American politics. It put that Ross Perot election -- he elevated it to make it the most important piece of American history in today`s politics. Unfortunately for us, though, as a country, that Ross Perot election of 1992 is a history that almost everybody gets totally basically wrong. Right now, Donald Trump is running for the Republican nomination for president, right? But starting a few days ago, starting this past weekend, he`s been raising the prospect that he might not keep running for the Republican Party`s nomination. He might run as an independent instead. When he has been asked about it at least starting a few days ago, he has at least been refusing to rule it out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Respectfully, we remember the 1992 election, Ross Perot cost us that election. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you go on record today in saying that if you can`t get the Republican nomination, you will not run as a third party candidate? TRUMP: No. No. No. I won`t go on record as saying that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was on Saturday. Mr. Trump being asked if he would rule out a third party candidacy, he said he would not rule that out. Today, Mr. Trump expanded significantly on that idea. He`s now openly threatening to run as a third party candidate unless the Republican Party starts being nicer to him. This is from "The Hill" newspaper today. Quote, "Pressed on whether he would run as a third party candidate if he fails to clinch the GOP nomination," Mr. Trump said, quote, "I`ll have to see how I`m treat bid the Republicans. Absolutely if they`re not fair, that would be a factor." He told "The Hill", quote, "The RNC has not been supportive." So that threat that he might run as a third party candidate has caused a lot of things to happen today. But one of the things that has caused to happen is that it has led to an eruption of terribly wrong common wisdom and bad history, in terms of talking about the recent political experience we have as a country with this subject. The Ross Perot 1992 election thing, this is one of those stories where it didn`t happen all that long ago. The truth about it, the facts about it are totally knowable and they`re out in the open but we have invented a giant national lie that we tell ourselves about what happened in that race. And the lie really is the common wisdom. The lie about that race is much more commonly asserted than what is true about that race. And it makes me crazy. Donald Trump today is threatening to run as a third party candidate. And instantly, everybody just gets it wrong in terms of explaining what that would mean, explaining the historical precedent for what that would mean. So, here, for example, is "The New York Times" today. Mr. Trump is positioning himself to be a Ross Perot-like spoiler in the general election. That was "The New York Times" today. "New York Times" two weeks ago, thinking ahead about this prospect, made the same mistake. Quote, "Any top-down campaign by Republicans to marginalize Mr. Trump might encourage him to follow through with a threat to run on third party ballot, a scenario reminiscent of Ross Perot`s 1992 campaign, which diverted crucial voters from President George Bush." Here`s CNN today. "Should he run as an independent, Mr. Trump would be following in the footsteps of Ross Perot. In the 1992 presidential election, Ross Perot caused immense trouble for Republican President George H.W. Bush in his campaign against Bill Clinton." You know what? That is not at all what happened. When Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, I think Republicans just couldn`t believe that this guy, this random young Arkansas governor had beaten an incumbent Republican president. They just couldn`t believe it. And so, it started off I think as this myth that Republicans like to tell each other to make themselves feel better about that election, to make themselves feel better that Bill Clinton somehow hadn`t legitimately been elected president in his own right. Wasn`t like the country looked at President George Bush and Bill Clinton and decided they wanted Clinton instead. That truth was too much for Republicans to deal with. That was too much to absorb. So then they invented a different story to tell themselves. They started telling themselves this little myth. I think it started off as a Republican bedtime story to soothe them, to make them sleep better about 1992. They told themselves this story that the only reason Bill Clinton got elected in 1992 was there was this other guy in the race that screwed it up. George W. Bush wrote in his own book that he believed the only reason his dad lost the presidency that year, the only reason his dad was a one- term president because of this candidacy from Ross Perot. He said he believed that even though he couldn`t show you any evidence to prove it. Dan Quayle, the guy who lost to the White House alongside Poppy Bush in 1992, he`s been pushing the Ross Perot myth harder than anybody. I mean, more than 20 years later, Dan Quayle still trying to make people believe it. He wrote in "The Washington Post" in 2010, "Speaking on behalf of the Bush/Quayle campaign, to this day we believe Perot cost the Republican Party the White House in 1992." I get why Republicans like to tell each other this story. It is a cuddlier feeling, I`m sure, to think that their President George Bush, Ronald Reagan`s vice president, it`s a cuddlier feeling I`m sure to imagine that he was really on his way to sail into the second term, he would have done it, if it wasn`t not for that meddling kid from Arkansas, but that meddling little short guy from Texas with the big ears who skewed the race and stole it from the Republican Party. They would have had it if it weren`t for Ross Perot. I understand why Republicans want to tell each other this story. It delegitimizes the whole Clinton presidency in the same way they tried for years to delegitimize the Obama presidency saying he wasn`t really the president. He swooped in from Kenya somehow to steal it. They don`t like to think they`ve been beaten fair and square. So, they tell themselves it was somehow a trick, it`s an asterisk, some sort of an aberration that shouldn`t have happened that way. And, you know, if Donald Trump does end up running as a third party candidate, who knows what effect that will have on the election this year. We`ll have to see when it happens. But it is a knowable truth that the last time a self-financing businessman candidate did run a third party candidacy in 1992, it did not cost the Republican White House the presidency that year. Everybody is saying today that it did. But it just didn`t. That`s not how it went down. Bill Clinton was going to beat George H.W. Bush in 1992 anyway with or without Ross Perot. We know that for two reasons. One is the numbers. And one is the single craziest thing that happened in that election that year. I mean, the numbers part is easy. I mean, they did exit polls for people who voted for Ross Perot. If you hadn`t have voted for Ross Perot, who would you have voted for instead? Those people split down the middle, 38 percent of them said if they hadn`t voted for Perot, they would have voted for George Bush; 38 percent of them said if they hadn`t voted for Perot, they would have voted for Clinton. Thirty-eight and 38, and 38 and 38 do not add up to 100 percent. And the rest of the people said they wouldn`t have voted for Bush or Clinton. They would have stayed home had Perot not been on the ballot. So, yes, Ross Perot that year, in 1992, he brought out people that wouldn`t have otherwise voted. That doesn`t take anything from either candidate. And in terms of what votes he did take from other candidates that might have otherwise gone to Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush, it was an exactly even match in terms of whose votes he stole. And it makes sense when you look at how he ran. I mean, Ross Perot was neither a conservative nor a liberal candidate. He was super progressive on some issues, super progressive on abortion rights, super progressive on gun control. He was to the left of Bill Clinton. He was to the left of Barack Obama on trade issue, which was his signature issue. He was also conservative on some issues. He was conservative on the deficit. He was conservative on law and order issues. He was a total mix. He really wasn`t a Democrat or a Republican or a liberal or a conservative. He was Ross Perot. And he appeared to -- appealed to all sorts of people. He took votes equally from both sides from the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate. We know that from the numbers. And if there is any evidence that Ross Perot`s presence in that election threw it one way or the other, the evidence we`ve got suggests contrary to what Republican mythology would have you believe, the evidence that we`ve got suggests that having Ross Perot running in that race actually might have hurt Bill Clinton more than it hit -- more than it hurt George H.W. Bush. I mean, Bill Clinton may have beaten George Bush even worse had Ross Perot not been running that day. And we know that because of something unbelievably nutty that happened right in the middle of that year`s election. So, that`s the 1992 election. 1992, summer of `92, July, Bill Clinton was accepting the Democratic Party nomination for president. Literally that day, the day he was going to give his speech accepting the nomination, hours before Bill Clinton`s speech at the Democratic convention that year, shocker, out of nowhere. Ross Perot dropped out of the race. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Ross Perot, who the Texas billionaire who went from being a front runner in polls just about a month ago today became an asterisk, a dropout, a quitter. The man who promised his legion of admirers a world class campaign a change in American politics today unexpectedly offered his admirers instead an excuse. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: An excuse. This was a shock, it was really weird. July 1992 the election was going to be that fall, it`s the day that Clinton was accepting the Democratic nomination and Ross Perot shocked everybody by announcing that he was dropping out and he did sort of make a weird excuse for why he was dropping out. He had this long explanation about how he thought the election was going to be decided in the House of Representatives instead of being decided by the voters, and he didn`t want that because of when the new president would take office if the House had - - honestly, it did not make any sense. But he dropped out that day. And there had been increasing worries at the time that maybe the pressure of the campaign was getting to him, that maybe the pressure was -- he didn`t seem well. But for whatever reason, Ross Perot cracked up a little bit and got out in July of the election year. He got out of the race in July. And then he decided to get back in in October. What? July, August, September, Ross was not running anymore. He got back in in October, which was really weird. And when he got back in, honestly, he seemed more -- than ever. A week before the election, one week before the election, Ross Perot went on "60 Minutes" and explained that the real reason he had to drop out in the middle of the summer had nothing to do with his strange theory about the House of Representatives deciding anything and the timing and the new president -- blah blah blah. No, it turns out he explained a week before the election, the real reason he had to drop out was because of a secret plot that he uncovered involving the CIA and a photo of his daughter that somebody had doctored to make her look like she was a lesbian. And it was all going to ruin her wedding. What? Seriously, that`s what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: He made the charge Sunday in his first campaign outing since getting back in the race, saying the Republicans planned to distribute the fake photo of his daughter Caroline before her august 23rd wedding and to -- PEROT: Smear her before her wedding and actually disrupt the wedding ceremony. REPORTER: Perot repeated the charges last night on "60 Minutes". PEROT: This is Watergate 2. REPORTER: Top aides to President Bush, including spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, called Perot`s allegations preposterous. MARLIN FITZWATER: Never been a dirty tricks against Ross Perot. REPORTER: Now, he claims it was because the Republicans mounted a dirty tricks campaign against his daughter Caroline. The family says the plan was to portray her as a lesbian. PEROT: I got this report from a fella in Arizona, through an intermediary, saying that he had seen a doctored photograph that they were going to give to tabloids to smear my daughter before her wedding and they were going to disrupt the wedding in the church. REPORTER: The key source of the allegations appears to be this man, Scott Barnes, a convicted wiretapper and known peddler of hoaxes. At least one part of Perot`s account first aired last night on "60 Minutes" doesn`t square with the facts. PEROT: I didn`t want "60 Minutes" to run it. I didn`t give them the story. I told "60 Minutes" when they first called me, I said approach this with great skepticism. REPORTER: But in August, Perot discussed the story with NBC News, and claimed that there were videotapes and documents to support some of his allegations. The FBI investigated Perot`s allegations and so far has found absolutely no evidence of dirty tricks. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, Ross Perot is kind of a nut ball. At least the way he ran for president was a little nut bally. That was a week before the presidential election that year. And yes, even with being that nutty right before the election and having been not running for a president for July and August and September, he did go on a week after the "60 Minutes" thing and took 20 percent of the vote, almost 20 percent of the vote, 19, 20 percent. And Republicans have forever more decided to blame Poppy Bush losing that election and losing the White House on the presence of Ross Perot and on that 20 percent of the vote that Ross Perot got. But the exit polls prove it`s not true. The exit polls prove that he`d equally took votes from Bill Clinton and Poppy Bush. And that weird period of time when he dropped out of the race from July to October because of something about the House of Representatives or maybe something about the CIA and his daughter looking gay but not really being gay, and they`re going to disrupt the wedding and a guy from Arizona through an intermediary. I mean, that really weird period where he dropped out of the race, if it were true that Ross Perot was a spoiler for the Republican Party, that Poppy Bush would have won re-election, would have stayed in the White House if it weren`t for that darn Ross Perot, well, if that were true from that time that Ross Perot was out of the race, Poppy Bush would have done better in the polls, right? And that whole interregnum where Ross Perot was hunting down the fake lesbian PhotoShopping CIA intermediaries to save his daughter`s wedding, I mean, that whole period would have been a golden age for Poppy Bush, right? Poppy Bush is going to get re-elected. Look how far ahead he is in the polls. If this myth about Ross Perot stealing that election from the Republican Party were true, when Perot was out of the race that year, Poppy Bush would have been doing great in the polls. In reality, the opposite of that happened. When Ross Perot was off being too crazy to run for president, when he was out of the race for those few months, the person who actually did better in the polls with Ross Perot out of it was Bill Clinton. His polls went up during that time. The historical evidence suggests very strongly that if there hadn`t been that third party supposed spoiler in the race of 1992, Bill Clinton would have beaten Poppy Bush even worse than he did beat him. And he beat Poppy Bush really badly that year. Poppy Bush did worse as a proportion of the vote in that race than any incumbent President had done in 80 years. Poppy Bush did not lose the presidency in 1992 because of Ross Perot. Poppy Bush lost the presidency in 1992 because he had a 33 percent approval rating. He would have lost to a chia pet. And now, we are facing the prospect of another outsider, somewhat conservative, somewhat hard to place businessman who doesn`t play by the political rules and he might self-finance and run a third party candidacy against both the Democrats and Republicans. Oh my God won`t that make debates more fun. We`re facing that again. But what the Republicans are trying to sell you about this prospect, what they`ve been trying to sell you about this prospect forever, what the beltway press today is eagerly repeating and regurgitating as if 1992 was too long ago for any of us to live through it, the story they are telling you about what it would mean for Donald Trump to run as a third party candidate, that that would doom the otherwise inevitable Bush presidency. Well, that was not true for Poppy Bush in 1992 and if you are extrapolating from that experience, there is no reason to believe it would be true for Jeb Bush in 2016 or for whoever else the Republicans pick to be their nominee. Bad history makes for bad punditry. The Ross Perot myth you keep hearing today is a myth. It is total bunk. We have no idea what the Donald Trump third party candidacy would be like and who it would help and who it would hurt. For now, Donald Trump is the clear unequivocal front runner for the Republican nomination, as hard as that is for other Republicans to grasp. He`s beating all other Republican candidates. Republicans should stop worrying about what they`re going to do if he hypothetically is the third party candidate and they should worry about what they`re going to do if he is the actual Republican nominee. MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What would you do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here? TRUMP: First thing we have to do is strengthen our borders and after that we`re going to have plenty of time to talk about it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump not wanting to answer Kasie Hunt`s question today about exactly how he would deal with the issue of immigration if he were elected president. Mr. Trump threatened today to leave the Republican Party and run as a third party candidate for president if the Republican Party doesn`t start being nicer to him. But as of now, he is still the front runner for the nomination of the Republican Party, and that makes for a pretty unpredictable days in the lives of our nation`s political campaign trail reporters. Joining us now is Kasie Hunt, MSNBC`s political correspondent. Kasie, thank you for your time tonight. I imagine you are a little exasperated. HUNT: This is the end of a very interesting day, Rachel, on the campaign trial. I will say that. Unlike any I`ve experienced in my career to date. MADDOW: What was weird about today`s campaign trail in Laredo, Texas? HUNT: Well, I have to say, Rachel, this had all of the trappings of what would otherwise be an actual presidential visit. When you travel with the president, Air Force One lands on the tarmac at the local airport, greeted by local police, everyone gets into a motorcade, the cops close down the street, you drive to your destination. You drive back. You take pictures with the cops on the tarmac. All of that happened today except it was all centered around Donald Trump who as we know at this point is still a presidential hopeful not actually the president of the United States. So, the pageantry surrounding this was pretty intense. Now, the actual substance of it, so far, you know, it`s been a little light. Those border patrol agents who initially invited him down rescinded that invitation at the last minute. He did meet privately with some border agents while he was at the bridge crossing when he was on the edge of the Mexican border but it was very brief. And then, as you saw, once the questions started to get specific, Trump was reluctant to go there. Even as he wanted to entertain media appearance after media appearance, take the opportunity to be in front of all the cameras that came down to watch him tonight. MADDOW: Kasie, obviously everybody in the country is both participating in and gawking at the fact that he is getting all of the attention for the -- in terms of the Republican nominating process right now. And actually in terms of the nominating process overall. Neither candidate -- no other candidate from either party is really able to break through right now, simply for the fact that he`s dominating so much of the coverage and so much of the attention. As that continues to wear on day after day, that can`t last forever. But as it continues to wear on, is he changing as a candidate? Is he handling things differently than he was? Is he maturing as a candidate? Getting better or worse at handling the scrum? HUNT: Well, in some ways, Rachel, I think you`ve heard him make some adjustments. You`ve heard him repeating the comments that he made in his announcement about Mexicans coming across the border being rapists. He said that the media was distorting his words. That`s a little bit of a change. He also said, of course, in a recent interview he would change his tone if he became president. He also -- when he was talking to the cameras today -- didn`t go as far as he did with the hill newspaper in talking about how he might mount a third party bid. Instead he said I`m a Republican, I`m a conservative, I expect to win the Republican nomination, which is distinctly different from what he told that newspaper. Now, we don`t know what he`s heard behind the scenes of the Republican Party, but certainly that potential threat of him running as a third party is not doing anything to endear him to the officials that were already looking nervously at the prospect of him dominating that debate stage in just a couple weeks. MADDOW: MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt -- Kasie, thank you very much for your time. I sort of want to wish you a more normal day tomorrow but I hope your life stays this weird. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Thank you. HUNT: I appreciate it. We`ll see how it goes. Thanks. MADDOW: All right. One interesting thing to note: "New York Times" reporting today that in Republican circles, they are now so worried about the potentially disruptive effect of Mr. Trump on the debates that they`ve floated the idea that maybe some of the other candidates should say they won`t participate in a debate as long as Donald Trump is there, specifically because he won`t rule out running as an independent. They say, you know, you got to commit to running only as a Republican or we won`t debate you. Maybe that`s a way they can keep him out of the debates. I doubt it. Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: My interview last night with presidential candidate Rick Santorum, it started out innocently enough. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And now presidential candidate Rick Santorum. RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Love that you`re rubbing your hands there. That`s -- MADDOW: I`m really happy you`re here. SANTORUM: Relishing this opportunity. I`m glad to be here. MADDOW: Other people are not as excited to talk to you as I am? Is that what you`re saying? SANTORUM: No, I think you`re probably as excited as I`ve seen in quite sometime. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You think my excitement weirded him out? The interview I think went great, I thought. I learned a lot. We got him to make some news which I`m not sure either of us expected would happen during that interview. But one important thing got left undone in that interview last night with Rick Santorum, it`s a somewhat serious thing. It is not what you think. And we are going to try to make that right in just a moment. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Do you think Barack was born in the United States? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I do not. REPORTER: Why? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you think he was? REPORTER: Because I`ve seen his birth certificate. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, the hell you have. Nobody`s seen his birth certificate. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Hawaii, the way announcements with for made in the newspapers, they had two types of birth certificates. And that`s why we`re demanding to see the original. One was a proper birth certificate from the hospital. Another was a birth certificate issued based on a statement of one relative only. REPORTER: Do you believe he was born in America? Anyone that believes otherwise is a little bit cuckoo? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn`t say that. I have no idea where he was born. RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: Barack Obama has one thing in common with God. You know what it is? God does not have a birth certificate either. God does not have a birth certificate, neither does Obama. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know why as president he can`t produce a birth certificate. ALAN KEYES, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Is he president of the United States? According to the Constitution, in order to be eligible for president you have to be a natural born citizen. He has refused to provide proof that he is, in fact, a natural born citizen. QUESTION: Would you make the birth certificate an issue if you ran? SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I don`t have a problem with that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go back to January 20th and I want to know why are you people ignoring his birth certificate? (CHEERS) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not an American citizen. He is a citizen of Kenya. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The birther movement. The birther movement. At one point, it included billboards. Remember these? Where`s the birth certificate? The thing about the birther movement was it didn`t just live as a series of YouTube videos yelling at officials about the president secretly being foreign. This sheet of paper that I have had on my desk for six years exactly, look at the time stamp on it -- July 23rd, 2009. Six years ago today, I printed out this sheet of paper, a perfectly preserved artifact of just how insane the birther movement had become by July 2009. It`s a printout of the congressional record on an actual congressional bill that would demand the birth certificate for any candidate who wanted to run for president. And the reason I kept that, the reason I printed it out at the time and kept it is not just to remind myself of that insane time in American politics but also to remember which members of Congress generally, probably shouldn`t be taken seriously on any subject, right? Here`s the guide of original birthers. You can see here with the birther caucus. The birther thing hung around for a long time. It probably reached peak absurdity in 2011 when Donald Trump as part of his flirtation with a White House run in 2012 decided he would take up the birther thing as his major cause. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: If you are going to be the president of the United States, you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. TRUMP: You are not allowed to be a president if you`re not born in this country. He may not have been born in this country. I want him to show his birth certificate. There`s something on that birth certificate that he doesn`t like. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Where`s the birth certificate? By April 2011, President Obama was taking the controversy seriously enough or at least thought it had gone on long enough that he did release a long form version of his birth certificate. Complete with a big to do in the White House briefing room. And at the same time, he also decided to put the whole controversy in its place the way he ought to of by making fun of it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump is here tonight. (APPLAUSE) Now, I know that he`s taken some flack lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald. And that`s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter. Like did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And then just a few hours later, the president of the United States announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed on his orders by Navy SEALs. How about we put that whole birth certificate thing to bed, huh? Four years later, Donald Trump is making another run for the White House, officially this time. He is still a birther and maybe the fact that Donald Trump is now the front running candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, maybe his success as a candidate will be the next test to determine whether the birther movement really is dead. We`ll see. But if you need the best empirical evidence thus far that the birther movement is finally behind us, look no further than President Obama now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Tomorrow, I am going to Africa. (APPLAUSE) I will be going to my father`s home country of Kenya and we will be going to Ethiopia as well. That`s my first visit there. But this is my fourth visit to the Sub-Saharan Africa, more than any other U.S. president, which I guess if your name is -- if you`re name`s Barack Obama I guess that makes sense. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Right now, President Obama is on board air force one on his way from Washington, D.C. to Nairobi, Kenya. It`s a very long flight, 17 hours total. They`ll stop to refuel in Germany. He`s got members of Congress going with him on this trip. So, soon we`ll get the first images back of the president in Africa over the next few days. That will be great to see, honestly. The president`s -- no president has been to either of the countries as a sitting president. At the same time, though, it will also be a test for our political landscape right now. I mean, if this president after all of the birther stuff, right, if this president can go to Kenya without the Republican party erupting in a vestigial birther backlash about how he ought to stay there and how he ought to be deported there and not just sent there and that`s where he`s from, and he`s -- if they can get through this without reverting into birtherism, it will prove that chapter of the Obama era is truly dead. We`ll see. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I have some breaking news for you. But this is very, very preliminary information. I just want to tell you that this just coming in. I cannot give you more detail than I`m about to right now because it`s all we know. But what we know right now is there has been a shooting of some kind in Lafayette, Louisiana. What we`re told is it is a shooting at the Grand Theatre, which is a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. What we`re told by local authorities is there are two people dead and there are six people injured. There were some initial reports that one of the two people dead may have been the shooter, but I cannot confirm that at this point. Again, we`re getting a bit of conflicting information. This information from Louisiana. Lafayette, Louisiana, just coming in right now. We`re going to get more information as we can. I will bring it to you as we get that information. Stay with us here on MSNBC. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In history is written, one of the -- was that a mistake or just fascinating strategy -- moments in the Obama presidency will be this moment on "Meet the Press" in 2012, when Vice President Joe Biden said what he really thought in response to a direct question about gay rights. And he gave that response to that question in a way that apparently blindsided everybody else in the White House. Joe Biden was asked about gay rights and he said he was, quote, "absolutely comfortable with same-sex marriage." And then three days later, President Obama announced that he, too, supported same-sex marriage. Quick pivot. Thanks in large part to Joe Biden getting out ahead in the issue and pushing. But that pivot happened at Joe Biden`s lead. By the time the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality should be the law in all 50 states, it was not at all subtle that the White House was celebrating, that they picked a side in that fight. But that victory this summer was specific to marriage. Vice President Biden is now still in some ways still pushing the envelope in terms of where the administration is at and what ought to happen next on this issue. Vice President Biden was invited recently to give basically a victory lap speech before the advocacy group Freedom to Marry. They threw a party to basically going out of business, because they got what they wanted in terms of 50-state marriage equality. And at that event, Vice President Biden did take a victory lap on marriage. But he also said that he knew exactly what should be done next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Although the freedom to marry and for that marriage to be recognized in all 50 states is now the law of the land, there is still 32 states where marriage can be recognized in the morning and you can be fired in the afternoon. I don`t believe the American people, for that matter, the people in those states, I don`t believe they even know it`s possible that you can be fired because you`re gay or lesbian. And I am absolutely confident that when the people and organizations in this room and the president and I take this fight to the American people, we will win, because all we have to do, all we have to do is let them know what the law allows now. If you think I`m kidding, go to any one of those states when you`re on business. Ask at a train station or at an airport or when you`re having lunch, can someone here in this city be fired just because they`re gay? I lay you eight to five, you`ll get the answer, no, that can`t happen. They don`t even know. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The vice president is correct about that, empirically speaking. Polls consistently find support for non-discrimination laws that protect people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But three-quarters of the American public falsely believe that a federal law already exists banning that kind of discrimination. There is no federal law banning that kind of discrimination. But three-quarters of the public think there is. Well, now as of today, there is a big new effort to make that false perception into a reality in law. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: This legislation is what justice requires. This legislation is what justice demands. And like the recent Supreme Court decision, it is long overdue. No longer should America turn her back on our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters. I said it in the past and I`ll say it again -- we fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis joining a lot of his Democratic colleagues today introducing new non-discrimination legislation. And his role, not just as a civil rights activist, but his key role in bringing about some of the most important civil rights legislation in the 1960s makes John Lewis a messenger here, because the bill they`re introducing today takes a totally different approach to gay non-discrimination than other bills have in the past. This new bill they introduced today would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It`s very simple. It would just say you can`t discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity either. Just like you can`t discriminate on all these other bases that are covered in the Civil Rights Act. No one is honestly all that optimistic about this passing any time soon. Part of the challenge is not a single Republican has signed on to support this idea. Not a single one. Forty Democrats in the Senate, over 150 in the House have signed on, but not one Republican. That`s one challenge. But the other challenge -- I mean, especially after the big gay marriage ruling this summer, the other challenge paradoxically is as Joe Biden said, people don`t believe this is needed because people don`t believe you can get married in all 50 states in the country and yet in most of those states, your marriage can be recognized in the morning and you can be fired in the afternoon if your boss finds out you`re gay. People don`t believe it is true. But it`s true. The lead Senate sponsor of this new legislation joins us next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Today in most states, an LGBT person can get married on Saturday, post pictures on Sunday and get fired from their job or thrown out of their apartment on Monday just because of who they are. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island at a press conference today introducing new legislation that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a whole new approach to the issue of anti-gay and anti-transgender discrimination. Joining us is the lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Senator Merkley, thanks for being here tonight. Appreciate your time. SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Hello. It`s great to be with you. MADDOW: So, is part of the challenge of getting something like this passed, getting support for something like this, that you have to convince people that it is legal in most states in the country to fire somebody just for being gay? People don`t believe that discrimination is legal? MERKLEY: That is absolutely true. Of course, we understand when our children say, really, it was illegal or is illegal -- I know my own daughter couldn`t believe it, but adults don`t believe it either. And, in fact, we had a reporter from a major outlet today who called and said, it`s not really true, is it? That you can be thrown out of restaurant, or denied a rental contract on a house? Yes, it is. It is true in the majority of states in the country and it`s not OK. It is time to end discrimination in a comprehensive fashion and put the end of discrimination for LGBT community on the same foundation that we have for ethnicity and for race and for gender. MADDOW: I am one of the people who, as a member of the gay community always felt like the nondiscrimination fight should have come first before marriage and it didn`t. The marriage fight really not only happened but it won and succeeded beyond anyone else`s dreams. I`m wondering, though, why the marriage success hasn`t created more political momentum here for supporting this nondiscrimination clause. I mean, it seems to me to be less controversial than supporting people`s equal right to get married. I`m surprised that there are zero Republicans signed on to the bill so far. MERKLEY: Well, you know, it was the case for the long time that we had zero Republicans on other civil rights measures, but they came on with time. And this is a whole set of issues. And I want to think the best of this, that they want time to consider it, to look at the details. I think they will conclude -- all of those that supported us on employment, I think they`ll conclude if it`s wrong for someone to be fired from their job because they are gay, or lesbian, or bisexual or transsexual, if it`s wrong there, it`s wrong for them to be thrown out of restaurants, it`s wrong for them to be denied a mortgage, it`s wrong for them to be denied the ability to serve on a jury. I think that that will carry through. People will start to realize -- yes, you can get married but you don`t have the full measure of dignity, the full measure of respect, the full measure of opportunity, if you can get married and then get fired, get married and be denied rental opportunity or be thrown out of a restaurant. So, I think it will help build momentum towards this vision of full equality. MADDOW: Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, this is a very simple idea, perhaps radical in its simplicity, but I share your sense that maybe over time, this is sort of thing that could be as bipartisan that support of marriage is starting to get outside of elected officials at least. Thank you, sir. Good luck on this. MERKLEY: You are very welcome. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, I said at the top of the show we had an update on our interview last night with Rick Santorum. We do have an update on that interview. But, honestly, it`s going to have to wait until tomorrow`s show because we are monitoring breaking news for something happening right now that you need to know about. It is a multiple shooting, I`m sorry to say, at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. Now, we still do not have a ton of detail about what happened here. The Lafayette Police Department has said on Twitter that they received the first call at approximately 7:30 p.m. of a shooting involving multiple victims. The shooting happened, we`re told at the Grand 16 Theater, which is on Johnston Street in Lafayette. At this hour, what we can report in terms of the toll of this shooting is two people have died and six others are treated at area hospitals tonight. Again, this is multiple victim shooting. We do not know the circumstances under which this happened. And we don`t know yet know at this hour whether among those two people dead -- we can`t confirm whether one of those two dead is the apparent shooter in this incident. So, we`re going to be watching this throughout the night. I know Lawrence O`Donnell is going to have continuing coverage of this tonight on "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." But, again, the basics tonight what appears to be a multiple shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. Of course, the emotional resonance is not that it is just another apparent shooting in a movie theater, this is happening on a day when literally the jury in Colorado is considering whether or not James Holmes, the Aurora movie theater massacre shooter is going to get the death penalty for his crimes. That jury is deliberating right now on that case and there`s apparently another mass shooting tonight in another American movie theater. That does it for us tonight. We will see you tomorrow. Now, it`s time for more on this story with Lawrence O`Donnell and "THE LAST WORD". Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END