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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/27/15

Guests: Lee Miringoff

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It`s great journalism, and you can own it as a physical object. HAYES: That`s right. Exactly. MADDOW: Amazing. Great stuff. Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. All right. What I`m about to do here, it has a great visual payoff. I only say this as a public service, right? If right now you are doing the dishes and listening to me and not watching, just come over here to the TV. Just watch this for a second, because it has a visual payoff that you need to see. All right. The context here is the state of Alaska. The state of Alaska, the most important thing about it for this purpose, the state of Alaska is freaking enormous. The state capital in Alaska is marked there in red, way down there in the southeast corner of the state. I mean, it`s still opposite northern Canada. It`s still really far up there. But as Alaska goes, Juneau is way down there. The largest city in Alaska is Anchorage, which is quite a bit northwest of Juneau, sort of south central Alaska. If you want to go way up there, the biggest city in interior Alaska, way up north from Anchorage is Fairbanks. But if Fairbanks isn`t enough for you, there`s Fairbanks. If Fairbanks isn`t extreme for you, if you really want to go to the very tip-top, if you want to go to the end of the road and beyond and America`s great northern frontier, you keep going and keep going further than that, and then you keep going further than that, and you will eventually get to a place that they named in such a way as to try to convince you to not go there. The name of the place is Deadhorse. Deadhorse, Alaska, in Prudhoe Bay. And there is a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW viewer named Dara (ph) who lives in Deadhorse, who lives up there in Prudhoe Bay and she sent us this picture. She says, as the only store in town, the Prudhoe Bay general store is the backdrop for most anyone who has been through Deadhorse. Prudhoe Bay is a large oilfield where big oil companies send people to work for weeks at a work camp, working there can mean big money for those workers. It is their livelihood and it`s safe to say they support the oil industry. Dara went on to explain in this letter that she wrote us that not only in Prudhoe Bay but Alaska, generally, she doesn`t know too testimony liberals, right? She says the main news channel everybody is watching up there is FOX. Hello. But she said she headed to the Prudhoe Bay general store the other day. She needed to get some supplies. She went to the store. When she got to the store, she got a pleasant liberal surprise. We have to zoom in to see it. Can we zoom in? What`s that? Tada! Bernie Sanders for president. Dara wrote to us, quote, "Bernie appeared in the most unexpected of places and it made my day." Bernie Sanders, the independent socialist from Vermont making his mark in Deadhorse at the end of the Dalton highway in the northern most reaches of oil town red state Alaska. is the Web site, if you want to send us stuff. People first started realizing that something special, something unexpected was going on with Bernie Sanders` campaign when he turned out really unusually large crowds in liberal strongholds like Madison, Wisconsin. This is a Madison rally turned out 11,000 people. In Denver, Colorado, he turned out between 5,000 and 6,000 people. They had to do an overflow room. In Portland, Maine, he turned out 8,000 people. They had to move the venue in Portland, Maine, from a nice little waterfront spot to the hockey arena in town. When Bernie Sanders announced his presidential run in Burlington, Vermont, there were 5,000 people there for his announcement. And yes, 5,000 people is a lot of people anywhere. No other candidate, Democrat or Republican, has turned out a crowd that size even once this year. But 5,000, you know, consider this. That town that Bernie announced in only has a population of 40,000 people. And 5,000 of them came out to see him announce. That`s a significant chunk of that old city. So, people first started realizing something was going on with his candidacy with these unusually large crowds, outsized crowds compared to the rest of the presidential field in either party, people that were turning out to see Bernie in liberal strongholds. But then that script got flipped on its head, because Bernie Sanders wasn`t just going to liberal strongholds. He went to, let`s say, Phoenix, Arizona. Red state Phoenix, Arizona. Bernie Sanders turned out 11,000 people to see him in conservative Phoenix, Arizona. He then went to Houston, Texas. And 5,000 people turned out to see him in Houston. And then he went to Dallas, Texas. Another 8,000 people turned out to see him in Dallas. Nobody is ever going to call Dallas, Texas, a liberal stronghold, right? But now, Bernie Sanders iced the cake, because last night, Bernie Sanders went to Louisiana. He went to the Pontchartrain Center, in Kenner, Louisiana, and nobody knew whether he would be able to turn out another one of his Bernie-sized giant crowds in the Deep South, right? Not just the deep red state but in the deepest Deep South. But hours before Bernie Sanders was due to speak in Louisiana people started lining up. By the time he was ready to start speaking in this state where President Obama lost to Mitt Romney by 18 points. By the time he was ready to start speaking, there were between 4,000 and 5,000 people turned out in Louisiana, to see this liberal 73-year-old independent socialist from Vermont. They were there to cheer their guts out for him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t know that we can squeeze any more people in here. Thank you very much for coming out. Some people told that Louisiana was a conservative state. Guess not. Which leads me to why I am here in Louisiana tonight. I`ll tell you why. Let me begin by just telling you that I think my colleagues in the Democratic Party have made a very, very serious mistake. And that is they have kind of written off half of America including Louisiana. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) And I`m here to tell you that the time is now for us to fight in 50 states in the country. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Bernie Sanders building a one-man 50-state strategy for the Democratic Party, appearing before a huge crowd, somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 people this weekend in deep red state Louisiana. You know, he`s doing this deliberately. This is not like he`s just sort of following his nose and going places that he`s interested in appearing at. Before he even declared formally that he was running, Senator Sanders did events in South Carolina, in Alabama, in Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, just in the last two weeks he`s been to Arizona, and Texas and now Louisiana. He`s running -- I mean, it`s not a red state campaign specifically. He`s running an all-state campaign. It is one thing to think of it as a waste of time for Democratic candidates. Since those states as a whole will never go for a Democratic candidate in a general election except in extreme circumstances. But, you know, before you get to the general election, you do have to win the nomination. And even red states hold Democratic primaries. And whether or not these red state appearances where he`s turning out thousands and thousands and thousands of people to come see him, whether or not these huge appearances in the red states help him compete in the primaries in those states when it comes time for Democratic primaries, whether or not he wins those states ultimately, what Bernie Sanders is doing and the way he`s campaigning is blowing everybody`s minds, that he`s turning out that many people anywhere in the country to hear and to cheer for that kind of an unapologetic liberal message, right? The beltway is not used to that sort of thing. There`s that many liberals can fill a room anywhere let alone in -- a red state? Yes, yes, there are. But, you know, if that room he was speaking in there in Louisiana looked at all familiar to you, if that`s sort of camera angle and the look there, if that`s tingly your politics spidey sense somehow, that seemed a little familiar, is because that`s the same Pontchartrain Center which Bernie Sanders stuffed 5,000 cheering liberals into Louisiana last night. That`s the same building, the same place where Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana held his presidential announcement a few weeks ago, except when Bobby Jindal was there he was only able to turn out 1,000 people. Whereas Bernie Sanders turned out a crowd between four and five times that size. Did I mention he`s from Vermont? The Bernie Sanders phenomenon is totally befuddling to all mainstream political pundit expectations, totally befuddling to the Beltway press. I firmly believe that anything that foils the common wisdom that spectacularly, it has to be good for us as a country, right? Shakes us up a little bit. Whatever caused the common wisdom needs to be changed because the common wisdom is wrong and the Bernie Sanders phenomenon is not a flash in the pan. This has been going on for a couple of months now. The latest NBC-Marist polling from the early states, which came out this weekend shows that Hillary Clinton has a very big lead over Bernie Sanders in Iowa. But in New Hampshire, look, Bernie Sanders is polling within seven points of Hillary Clinton. It is the unlikeliest of events, right? Liberals aren`t only alive. They are making themselves known in giant numbers in unexpected places. It`s confusing the heck out of everyone in politics. Very exciting. Common wisdom basically has no idea anymore. And that is not only true on the liberal side. It`s not only true on the Democratic side. It`s also true in a very, very different way on the Republican side. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s a terrific place, Iowa. Terrific. We just got in. We drove in -- I`m driving through these beautiful feeds. I want to grab that corn like you`ve never seen, so rich, so beautiful. Even the Republican guys I`m running against, it`s like, you`re not going to hear that. You know, they protect each other because they say that could be them, that could be this, I got to take it easy. I don`t want to -- me? I don`t care. I say the truth. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You want to grab the corn, how? Trump speaking in Iowa this weekend. He held what he called a Trump family picnic in Oskaloosa, Iowa. I don`t actually think the Trump family was there. I think it was a Trump picnic for your family. But it was a picnic. They served a lot of food. Donald Trump got a lot of people to turn out. Part of the common wisdom, part of the smart beltway take on the Donald Trump candidacy on the Republican side has been that his bluster, his celebrity swagger might have some superficial national appeal. Certainly gives him a ton of name recognition. But, you know, people of Iowa, the Republicans of the good state of Iowa, they wouldn`t like that brashness. They would see right through it. They had see him as superficial and uncouth. They wouldn`t like it. Donald Trump would never play in Iowa. Iowans like nice. They wouldn`t like Donald Trump. That common wisdom turns out to be wrong. Donald Trump is playing in Iowa. He`s doing very well there. And he`s doing very well there at the direct expense of the other candidates. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: So, I`ll just tell you. So, I`m on the plane and I see this vicious tweet because I`ve been nice to Scott Walker. He came to my office three, four months ago and presented me with a plaque, because I helped him with his election. I didn`t know what the hell he was doing, but he was fighting and I like a fighter. Does that make sense? So, I`ve been very nice to him. But he brings me this beautiful plaque. I don`t know who pays for it. Does he pay for that or does Wisconsin pay for it? I don`t know. But it`s beautiful. And I`m being very nice to him. And then, today, I read this horrible statement from his fund-raiser about Trump. I said, oh finally, I can attack. (LAUGHTER) Finally. Finally. Except Wisconsin is doing terribly. It`s -- first of all, it`s in turmoil. The roads are a disaster. They are borrowing money like crazy. They projected a $1 billion surplus. And instead of a $1 billion -- I wrote this stuff all down although I don`t need it because I have a really good memory. It turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion, and money all over the place. It`s -- the schools are a disaster. They are fighting like crazy. There is no money for the schools. The hospitals and education is a disaster. He`s the only guy that`s ahead of me. I can`t believe I`m in second place. I finally am second place to Iowa but he is next door to me. But, folks, will you please put me in first place so I feel better? (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Donald Trump speaking this weekend. Apparently, he brought a note. He had something to read. Speaking this week at something that he called the Trump family picnic in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He turned out about 1,300 people for that Trump event. And, you know, if that were Bernie Sanders, that would be a tremendous disappointment. But for any Republican candidate, including Donald Trump, 1,300 people counts as an absolute mob scene. And that little salvo against Scott Walker appears to be the signal that Scott Walker will be the Republican candidate who Trump feuds with this week. Last week, he decided that his feud would be, two candidates, it would be with Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I was coming up and I see your senator. What a stiff. What a stiff. Lindsey Graham. By the way, by the way, he`s registered zero in the polls. Zero. He`s on television all the time. Then I see Rick Perry the other day. He`s so -- you know, he`s doing very poorly in the polls. He put on glasses so people will think he`s smart. It just doesn`t work. You know, people can see through the glasses. But he`s got the glasses an, the whole deal. These politicians run and run and win and sometimes they lose. They keep running. That`s all they do is run. Most of them don`t know what they are doing. They just run. Like you wind them up and they run for office. They don`t do anything when they get there. I know them better than anybody. They say they didn`t like the way that, you know, I`m a little loud. I`m a little too strong. They don`t like it. Then, I watch this idiot Lindsey Graham on television today and he calls me a jackass. He`s a jackass. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Is there more? Here`s another way the common wisdom is wrong about the Republican presidential race this year. With Donald Trump so far ahead in the polls and with the media being so much more interested in what he has to say than what any of the other candidates, the common wisdom had been that one of the few remaining paths to success for the lesser known Republican candidates would be for them to pick a fight with Donald Trump, because then at least their name might sneak into some of the Donald Trump media coverage. Both Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham played that to the hilt last week after Donald Trump went after them, they did everything they could to sort of hype their feuding with Donald Trump and play it up. It turns out, though, the common wisdom was wrong, neither Rick Perry nor Lindsey Graham appears to have been helped in the polls by having those fights with Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump`s numbers continue to rise. Theirs do not. Neither of them seems on track to be even making it into the debate next week. National poll numbers should not be important at this point in the presidential race but national poll numbers will actually be enough to effectively end some big name Republican presidential candidacies by next week because FOX News has decided that national polling will be how they decide who they`re letting on that debate stage next week and who they will not let debate. And right now, we still don`t know which polls FOX is going to count for deciding that cutoff because they`re not saying. But when we take our best guess at their methodology, when we build our own who is allowed to compete cable news derived random number generator, by our calculations, averaging the last five national polls, neither Rick Perry nor Lindsey Graham is on track to make it in the debate, even though they picked a fight with Donald Trump and everybody said it would be their ticket to getting mentioned more, to upping their name ID, to getting mentioned more by people who when they are contacted by pollsters -- having big fights with the Donald Trump last week did not work. Common wisdom also said that Donald Trump`s comments about John McCain`s war record would hurt him, that those comments would effectively end his presidential candidacy. That common wisdom was also proven wrong. Since he made those remarks, Mr. Trump is not only still in first place in national polling, support for him has risen by six points in the CNN national poll which came out yesterday. In the new NBC/Marist poll out of New Hampshire, Donald Trump is down a little bit in that poll. But he`s still in first place in New Hampshire. In Iowa, the NBC-Marist poll has him in second place to Scott Walker. But his numbers in Iowa are on the rise. The idea that the John McCain comments would hurt him has been utterly disproven. Beltway common wisdom was that Donald Trump was just going to be this flash in the pan, that he would fade or it was just an embarrassing little phase the Republican Party was going through -- none of that is turning out to be true. The beltway common wisdom said the party would outmaneuver him. They would figure out some way to keep him out of the debate so the debates would showcase the real candidates and keep him out and keep the whole thing from being a circus act like they were the last time around. That is not happening. The Beltway common wisdom has been wrong, wrong, wrong. And heading into the Republican debate which are about to start, the clear front runner for the Republican presidential nomination really is Donald Trump. It really does look like the governor of Texas, the governor of New Jersey, the governor of Louisiana and the governor of Ohio either definitely will not be allowed to debate or they are on the bubble and we can`t tell from here. And we have now, because of that tipped over into the Republican establishment and the Beltway press, realizing that they have been wrong about how this was all going to play out. Something happened this weekend. We have now tipped over into them realizing that all of their common wisdom about what would happen here has been wrong. This really is happening. And they have started to freak out. Republican pollster Frank Luntz telling "The Associated Press" today that this FOX cutoff for the debate really will be the end of a lot of these Republican presidential candidacies next week. A lot of these ought to be top tier candidates are about to have their campaigns over and done next week. Talking about the debate, he tells the "A.P.", quote, "If you`re not on stage, you are irrelevant. You don`t matter. Unless you have some serious ad dollars, it`s not a glass ceiling. It`s a concrete ceiling." Republican strategist David Payne telling "The Hill" today, quote, "We`ve never seen anything like this." Republican strategist Ron Bonjean tells "The Hill", quote, "If you`re not there at that first debate, it`s out of sight, out of mind for voters." But there is an aspect to be in that so far is not getting covered at all. It`s basically the dirty little secret of what FOX News is about to do to the Republican Party. It involves a tiny little bit of math but it also involves the end of some of the most promising Republican political careers in the country. That dirty little secret is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have a champion, a world champion. His name is Alan Francis. And he is the world champion of the sport where close actually really counts for something. That`s because what Alan Francis is the world champion of is horseshoes. Alan Francis won his 20th world horseshoes title this weekend in Topeka, Kansas. Alan Francis is so good, that 88 percent of the time he threw a horseshoe in this competition, 88 percent of the time he got a ringer. His ringer percentage, he was nearly 8 percentage points closer to perfection than the runner-up. In horseshoes, close is awesome. Close is everything in horseshoes, the closer the better. But close really does only count in horseshoes and hand grenades. Close is a real headache in politics right now. There is closeness of a very uncomfortable and very consequential kind. And that story is next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. The first part you know. For the first Republican presidential debate next week, the FOX News Channel has decided to only allow ten candidates to debate. They are allowing onto the debate stage, candidates in the top ten in an average of five recent national polls as selected by FOX News. Now, if the debate were going to be held tonight, averaging out the last five national polls as selected by me, this is who I think might be on that stage -- Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, John Kasich -- it`s a bit of a squeaker at the end. The candidates left off, again, in my calculations right now, would be both Ricks, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, none of them would make it. But look at the numbers. Look at the cut off line. I mean, in that difference between the candidates, John Kasich would be at 2.6 percent. He`d be in, while Rick Perry would be at 2.2 percent, and he`d be out. You know, yes, it seems scientific when you include the decimal point and you line them up and say this, John Kasich polling better than Rick Perry. We`ll draw the line between them. But all of the also-rans are within two percentage points of each other. The margin of error in these polls is somewhere between 3 percent to 4.5 percent. When you take that into account, I mea, your polling averages look something like this. I mean, George Pataki is polling at an average of.4 percent. But if you target in sort of a best case scenario for him with a margin of error, maybe he`s at something more like 3.4 percent. That would put him above John Kasich and Chris Christie and put him on the stage. Alternately, with the margin of error, a worst case for Ted Cruz his 4.4 percent really could be below 2 percent which would mean he wouldn`t be on stage. And when you start saying all the candidates are polling somewhere this these vicinities and we`re going to draw the line, here, it starts to soundless scientific and more totally arbitrary, right? Close your eyes and pick a spot. This is just an approximation, right? This is an approximation based on what we can tell and what we know about polls. I`m not a pollster. But I can do the math. I can read the polls and you can too. We don`t know how the folks over at FOX News are going to be making their calculations and who`s allowed to round and who is allowed to be said to be in a tie. There`s no election, there`s no actual voting to decide who can participate in the debate to become the Republican nominee for president of the United States. FOX News decided there`s just this imperfect national polls and a whole bunch of candidates and that pesky margin of error and they`re going to drop the guillotine somewhere in the middle of that list. I`m not a pollster but, fortunately, we do have a real live professional pollster here who can tell me if this is all as random and crazy as it seems to me. Joining us now is Dr. Lee Miringoff. He`s the director of the Marist Poll. Dr. Miringoff, thank you for being here. LEE MIRINGOFF, MARIST POLLING DIRECTOR: It is as random and crazy as you said. MADDOW: It is. I mean, when I started comparing the margin of error to the margin of difference among candidates, it looks like total nonsense to draw a dividing line between. MIRINGOFF: Well, these are meaningless decimal points. So you`re exactly correct. In fact, I agreed with 99.03 percent of what you just said. But what`s the margin of error? MADDOW: Yes. MIRINGOFF: Well, all polls are estimates. They`re all within a range. If I tell you President Obama in the latest NBC News/Marist poll his approval rating of 46 percent, plus or minus 3, that means it`s a range, 43 to 49. So, when you identify in these polls a mar you margin of plus three or four percent, you can draw a circle around tons of these candidates. And some are going to make it into the debate and some aren`t. And although there`s a science to polling, there`s an art to it, and not all these five polls are gong to get averaged, they ask questions the same way. They don`t necessarily do likely voters, registered voters, undecided whether they are leaning. I mean, there`s all kinds of things that make poll A different from poll B. Quality`s not the same. So, that makes it even more of a judgment and interpretation. And I guess the bottom line is, do we really want public polls affecting the process that we are measuring? And do we want the media affecting that which they are supposed to be covering? And when you have polls determining eligibility, you are doing that and the campaigns are reacting because they have to get a bump up or they`re not going to make the cutoff. MADDOW: Well, you got it, I mean, it`s just an opposite, right? The polls are supposed to reflect and give us a picture of what`s happening in the campaign. You are not supposed to campaign in order to change the polls. MIRINGOFF: That`s correct. But that`s what they are doing. They`re coming up with kind of, you know, hitting golf -- you know, cell phones -- MADDOW: Hitting cell phones with a putter, right. Yes. MIRINGOFF: And chain saws with the tax code and all kinds of things like that to try to get a little attention when Donald Trump is getting so much. And the best plans of the GOP to have Donald Trump will now be in the middle of that debate with Jeb Bush on one side and Scott Walker on the other side. This is exactly the last thing the Republicans want. And to say you are being inclusive as a party when you knocked out perhaps the governor of the state where the very debate is going to be occurring, Kasich in your count sort of a .2 in, but he may be a .2 out. MADDOW: Yes. MIRINGOFF: And maybe the only ticket he gets is to sit in the front row. So, the whole thing is a bad use of public polls. I don`t know if we want pollsters affecting the process as much as this is. Particularly the first debate when people should really have a chance. There are other ways they can do this. MADDOW: It`s a scene setting debate. Here is your menu of options. If you`re not on the menu that first day, you might, as well be out. How should we think about these polls that have a margin of error of let`s say 3 or 4 percent and let`s say half the candidates in that polling result actually have a lower number as their result. Then the margin of error -- MIRINGOFF: Because the margin of error technically -- and I want to give you a three credit course here in survey research. It`s technically done at the 50 percent mark. So, at the details down at the extreme, it isn`t even the 3-point whatever percent you`ve been talking about. It`s not that precise. So, it doesn`t stay constant, 0 to 100 percent. So you don`t have to know that to become a participating member of this democracy, but pollsters and the media should be kind of wary that this is how this is being used. And, you know, sometimes candidates don`t do well in national polls. Sometimes they do. Last time in 2012, Gingrich was ahead at one point. Santorum was ahead at one point. Romney, of course, was ahead. Cain was ahead. I mean, who am I missing? MADDOW: Bachmann maybe? MIRINGOFF: Bachmann early on. So, you know, these national polls are now determining who will be around the table for what are the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primaries, much more important than perhaps the national toss-ups because those are the events to shape who actually gets how tickets out of Iowa and who copies on to South Carolina. And that`s different than the national polling is all about. MADDOW: Seeing the shove on to pollsters and seeing how uncomfortable pollsters are with this responsibility ought to be sobering enough that they should pitch this whole idea. There is still time. They could still pitch this idea. MIRINGOFF: I think it, how about one hour, eight people. Another hour, eight other people chosen at random. MADDOW: Chosen at random. That`s what Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire Republicans suggested to the RNC. The RNC has given the one- finger salute on that subject so far. But I think there`s still time they could do it. MIRINGOFF: It`s not this finger, is it? MADDOW: No, it`s different finger. I`ll show you later when you`re older. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Lee Miringoff is director of the Marist poll. It`s great to have you here, Dr. Miringoff. MIRINGOFF: I appreciate it. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Lots more ahead, including NBC`s Richard Engel live with us tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One way to do something controversial, to do something that might upset a whole bunch of people is to try to hide what you are doing under cover of darkness. Do it at night without an announcement so nobody is able to physically see what is going on. Sometimes that works. And sometimes, the sun comes up and everybody is able to see what you were trying to be secretly up to. Literally, the sun saves the day. There is a remarkable story in today`s news out of Portland, Oregon. It`s a story that became news, a story that came to light at daybreak literally. It`s an amazing story. We`ve got the details on it coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Remember "make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom"? That was from al Qaeda`s weird glossy broken English propaganda magazine, which is called "Inspire." I think that was the same issue of "Inspire" where they also had that weird article about how to turn a pickup truck into a big death tractor. Al Qaeda has used "Inspire" magazine for all sorts of things. They used to put out wanted posters of people they want to kill around the world. They do bomb recipes. They do inspiring, you know, end of the world sermons. Al Qaeda has done 13 issues of their magazine "Inspire." An American guy named Adam Gadahn was thought to be a key player in producing the magazine for al Qaeda, making sure it had international English language appeal. But President Obama announced in April that Adam Gadahn was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Since then, there has not been another issue of "Inspire". The last one came out last December. There has not been a new one since. Now of course, times are a little different in apocalyptic death cult terrorist circles. Al Qaeda is kind of old hat now. The new international upstart is ISIS. And if you want to get a nut shell understanding of the different kind of appeal being made by ISIS versus al Qaeda, consider that al Qaeda called its magazine "Inspire." ISIS calls its magazine "Armageddon". "Dabiq". Dabiq is not a literal translation of Armageddon, but it is basically the same idea. Armageddon is supposed to be the final battle between Chist and the antichrist at the end of the world. The word Armageddon comes from a specific place, a place called Tel Megiddo, which is basically a hill in northern Israel, a strategically important spot. And in terms of biblical prophecy, that hill is supposed to be where the final battle happens between Jesus and the antichrist to bring about the end of the world. It`s supposed to happen at Tel Megiddo. It`s Armageddon. Well, in Muslim apocalyptic mythology, the equivalent, the rough equivalent to Tel Megiddo, the equivalent to Armageddon, the literal place where the final battle is supposed to happen between Muslims and their enemies at the end of the world, the equivalent place is Dabiq. It`s D-A-B-I-Q. And like Armageddon, which refers to a specific place in Israel, Dabiq isn`t just an idea about the end of the world. It is also a specific place that you can find on a map, a place where people live. The town of Dabiq is a town of 3,000 people inside Syria. It`s about six miles from the Turkish border in northern Syria. There is nothing particularly notable about Dabiq as a town except for its symbolic role in end of the world apocalyptic Muslim mythology. But that`s enough to get ISIS to name their magazine after it. ISIS has gone out of their way to stage a bunch of propaganda videos in Dabiq including the horrific murder video in which they killed American Peter Kassig. In that video, one of the ISIS terrorists says in the video, "Here we are burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive." ISIS ends a whole bunch of their propaganda videos with this footage of a guy walking with the ISIS flag over a landscape that appears to be in Dabiq. And they play over this footage, they play an audio track promising that ISIS will burn the crusader armies in Dabiq. This little town in Syria just happens to be totally central to ISIS`s end of the world apocalyptic appeal. It`s hugely, symbolically important to them. And that same town Dabiq happens to be smack dab in the middle of what the U.S. government has just said is about to become an ISIS-free zone. ISIS occupies Dabiq and a swath of Syria around it. But the U.S. government says they`re going to will clear them out of there. There is a lot going on in American news right now. The president is on this historic trip to Africa, 2016 presidential politics are in full swing. The debates are about to start next week. Congress had to be in session over the weekend. The Iran deal, there is a lot going on. There`s a lot to fight about right now. But in the middle of all that, we have apparently agreed without any political discussion at all, we have apparently agreed without a fight domestically at all, we have apparently just agreed to pretty massively escalate the war that the U.S. military is fighting in Syria. The U.S. government confirming today that they are starting a new effort to clear a big swathe of Syria that stretches along 60 miles of the border between Turkey and Syria. It`s a big area currently controlled by ISIS. They want to clear it out and make it an ISIS-free zone, 60 miles wide, and then 25 miles deep from the Turkish border down into Syria. You know, at some abstract level, you think about those numbers, 60 miles wide, 25 miles deep. Sounds kind of easy, right? We pick this one little area that we`re going to clear out and make safe. We`re going to scoot ISIS away from this little patch of land. We`re going to clear them out. But, A, that`s a big piece of land. B, ISIS occupies it right now, presumably for some strategic reason they were able to. But right in the center of that land, right in the center of it happens to be Dabiq, the geographic heart of what ISIS claims as its radical pseudo-theological end of the world reason for being. Think they`re going to give it up? NATO is holding a meeting about this plan tomorrow. It`s an emergency meeting. It`s going to be held behind closed doors. NATO has existed for more than 60 years. This is only the fifth time they have one of these emergency meetings called by a NATO member for basically a security emergency. But what apparently is going to result from that meeting is a big new escalation and effectively a big new expansion of this war in a place where it looks like it is not going to be easy. Richard Engel joins us live next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, there`s not been one peep of political argument about it in Washington, but it is now being reported that the Obama administration, the Pentagon has come to an agreement with our NATO partners and our coalition partners in this undeclared war in Syria. As of this weekend, they have apparently come to an agreement that the U.S. military will now participate in a campaign to clear a whole swathe of Syria that is now controlled by ISIS militants, the swath of Syria 60 miles along the border with Turkey. The U.S. military will now participate in a major offensive to clear that whole area as basically an ISIS-free zone in Syria along the Turkish border, working most closely with Turkish forces. Joining us now from Istanbul in Turkey is NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Richard, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here, my friend. RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. There is a lot to talk about. I don`t know where to start. But you don`t need to say "reportedly." I just got a brief from a senior U.S. official who confirmed this news. A new phase of the war is about to begin. Turkey is about to become a major staging ground for U.S. drones, U.S. aircraft, launching from Turkey to attack ISIS targets in this so-called safe zone or ISIS-free zone. Previously and the reason this is significant is previously U.S. aircraft and drones had to leave from the Gulf and travel about a thousand miles from Kuwait or from aircraft carrier to attack targets in Syria and then return back to their bases. Now with the access to these Turkish bases, fighter jets and drones will be just 100, 200 miles away from their targets. They will be able to stage in a much more massive way, carry out much more frequent operations. So I think it could be quite a significant development. MADDOW: Richard, how doable is the plan? I mean, looking at the part of Syria that they`re saying they want to turn into an ISIS-free zone, it is a large chunk of land and a place where is pretty well dug in. How doable is this? ENGEL: You know what? Everything in the Middle East is doable. The part that isn`t doable is the "what`s next?" Can the U.S. bomb is with some Turkish help right now to bomb ISIS out of the area? Probably. I think we are going to see more activity from the area in the coming weeks. But then who controls this area and why? And what are the ramifications for Turkey and the Kurds and the U.S. and Iran and Syria? So, a lot of unanswered questions, and the shape of this agreement is still not, not final. According to this U.S. official I just spoke to, yes, there has been an agreement that Turkey finally is going to cooperate more and allow the use of its territory for attacks against ISIS, but what happens in that territory going forward is still very much an open question. MADDOW: Richard, there`s going to be this closed-door meeting tomorrow, NATO meeting, an emergency security meeting. There`s only been five of these meetings of this type in the 60-plus year history of NATO. Are we going to have some sort of formal announcement about this escalation? Some sort of formal commitment of more resources to this fight tomorrow? ENGEL: We are expected to have a press conference tomorrow after that meeting in which the NATO members will come out and express some sort of message of solidarity, messages of concern that there should be an attempt to limit civilian casualties, that this should be limited in focus, but yes, I think we are going to hear a lot more explanation. Let me go back a little bit and sort of explain what`s going on here. For about a year now, the U.S. has been really pressuring Turkey to stop allowing ISIS fighters to transit through this country, and of those 20,000 or so foreign fighters who are now with ISIS in Syria, a very large percentage of them came right through Turkey, and the Turkish government for a long time was turning a blind eye, didn`t want to get involved, didn`t want to pick a fight with is. Thought it was better just to pretend the problem would maybe go away. And Turkey was insisting that it would only do more to tackle ISIS if the U.S. got more serious about toppling Bashar al Assad. And there`s been this back and forth debate and tension between the U.S. and Turkey and relations at some stage were pretty tense. Then, a week ago, there was a major bombing inside Turkey, in it was a horrific suicide bombing carried out by ISIS on Turkish territory. And that was one factor that was a huge wake-up call for the Turks, and after so much American pressure, the Turks finally rolled over and said, fine, we will allow you to do this. But there is another question that I`m hoping you ask me and it involves the Kurds and is central to all of this. MADDOW: Well, the Kurdish question, I mean, obviously, Turkey wants to fight the Kurds as much as it wants to fight ISIS. The Kurds are ostensibly the help mates for America against ISIS. ENGEL: There is a map I believe that your producers have in the cue. And if you pull up that map, it explains a lot of things. So, that map shows the different sections of Syria controlled by ISIS, by various rebel groups, by the Syrian regime. If you notice in the top, there are two green sections right along the Turkish border. Those are areas controlled by the Kurds, and those areas have been growing, because as the U.S. was pressuring Turkey to do more, to close its border and Turkey wasn`t cooperating, the U.S. started to help the Kurds on the other side of the border, effectively saying if the Turks won`t do it, we`ll get the Kurds to do it for us. The Turks have hated that. They hate seeing this Kurdish expansion across from their border. They see it as a strategic threat. They`ve been worried about Kurdish expansion for a century now. Now, look, where that safe zone is going. Right between those two green Turk/Kurdish pieces. It is a safe zone, an ISIS-free zone that is designed specifically to prevent the Kurds to have a stretch of territory that would span all across the border. So, for Turkey, this is a way to push back ISIS and to prevent the Kurds from having too much authority, too much power, too much power, too much land. MADDOW: And it puts American planes in the middle of that Turkish strategic calculation. Amazing. NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, it is great to have you with us from Istanbul. Richard, thank you. ENGEL: Always a pleasure to talk to you. MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We told you a moment ago that we have a story in which the sun plays a key role as the most important detective in the story. That story out of Portland, Oregon. That`s next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This sort of grainy image right here was taken in the waters off of Portland, Oregon, very early on Saturday morning. It was so early that it was still dark. The lights you see over on the left, that`s a ship that was essentially trying to sneak into Portland without being noticed, trying to slip in under the radar I think under cover of nightfall because when day broke on Saturday, the presence of that ship drew a crowd. The ship that was coming in that night was the blue ship that you see in the background there. It`s an icebreaker. That`s part of Shell Oil`s drilling operation in the arctic. In the foreground, you see the protesters who gathered on kayak to welcome that icebreaker to Portland. Earlier this month, that icebreaker suffered a major accident on its way to Shell`s drilling site off coast of Alaska. The ship sprung a three-foot- long leak in its hull. Shell cannot start drilling for oil in the arctic without that ship present. And it`s not like Shell has all the time in the world. They have a small window in which they can drill up there. And that time is now being eaten up as its busted ship gets mothballed and put up for repairs in Oregon. That ice breaker arrived in Portland, Oregon overnight on Saturday, almost immediately, as it arrived, the protests started. Dozens of kayakers pulling up, to where the ice breaker was being repaired and they essentially just surrounded it and parked themselves there. Shell really can`t start drilling for oil until that icebreaker gets fixed and makes the journey, the 12-day-long journey back up to Alaska. What do you think is going to happen when that ship is fixed up and tries to leave to go back to the Arctic? How do you think that`s going to go? We may be the only national outlet covering the story. But this is an absolute mess for one of the biggest companies in the world and it is only getting worse. Watch this space. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Lawrence, I`m sorry, I took your 45 seconds. END THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END