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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/17/15

Guests: Bernie Sanders

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you. And we will be keeping an eye on that as well. As Chris mentioned, a tsunami watch issued for Hawaii after that earthquake. Again, this is one of those stories where the early indications are obviously something that you want to be riveted to. The early indications can be very scary. They do not always end up being a scary thing, particularly given the direction in which these things move over the course of the -- over the surface of the ocean. But we`ll watch that closely tonight and let you know as we learn more. But I thank you for joining us tonight. Thank you for being with us. Let`s be honest, I know why you`re here. The Republican Party is hosting its second presidential candidate`s debate tonight, the second of the two debates being hosted on CNN tonight is three hours long. In the three-hour debate, the candidates are being given one bathroom break over the course of the three hours. And that comes after another two hours of a different subset of candidates who were made to debate first and separately from the larger group. So that is five straight hours of Republicans talking. And I know why you`re here. Sometimes that feels like too much Republicans talking. But in addition to the five hours of Republicans talking plan, CNN also made the strange decision to make the main event, the later of the two debates, the one that has 11 podiums on stage, they made this strange decision to pick that weird and large number of candidates for the second debate, 11. The reason they`ve got 11 candidates on stage instead 10 candidates, which is what FOX News did for their first debate, the reason tonight have 11 instead of 10 is because CNN broke its own debate eligibility rules, specifically to let and can a candidate called Carly Fiorina into tonight`s debate. Under CNN`s previous rules she would not have been there. CNN wanted in and so they broke their own rules. In the first debate, Carly Fiorina was not allowed in the main event, she was at the kids table with six other candidates. CNN moved her into the big table tonight so today`s a big day for Carly Fiorina. I think because she`s at the big debate tonight and she`d been at the kids table before really this is a bigger day for her than it is for any other candidate. This is really Carly Fiorina`s moment. And so, naturally, because that`s how it`s going this year for every candidate not named Donald Trump, because today is Carly Fiorina`s big day in the campaign, naturally a giant rainstorm just opened up over her parade. Carly Fiorina has never held public office before. She did run once before, she ran a losing U.S. Senate campaign against Barbara Boxer in 2010 but more than that one failed run for political office, Carly Fiorina is known for having been a business leader, right? She was CEO of Hewlett- Packard for from 1999 to 2005 during which time she made a number of very controversial decisions at HP, including firing more than 30,000 people. She herself then got fired by Hewlett-Packard`s board of directors in 2005, but it was the nice kind of firing. It was the kind of firing where they tell you, you can`t have your job but they also give you $40 million on your way out the door. So it`s kind of this awkward foundation for her presidential candidacy, right? One state didn`t want her as a senator but now she wants the country to want her as president. She wants to run as a business leader. But to most people, firing 30,000 people and then getting fired yourself, it doesn`t seem like a great business record to run on, right? I mean, even if you were able to cash in when you did it, it just doesn`t seem like the kind of thing you want to offer the country. Well, today her big day, the day that Carly Fiorina is participating in the big kids` debate for the first time ever. Today, today, her old company, Hewlett-Packard, decided to remind everybody of the worst part of her business record by putting out this announcement. Literally on the day of this debate HP announces that they are going to be firing another 30,000 people a la Carly Fiorina. And also they may be breaking the company apart. So that happening today is a nice reminder of what Carly Fiorina probably does not want people to think about when they think about her time as a business leader. But even with that, Carly Fiorina today is better off than the boys who are still stuck at the kids` table. I mean, at least first time there was a kids` table debate when FOX News did it there were seven people at that table. It looked like a substantial number of candidates. There was a significant number of people to watch. But between the first debate and the second debate, the kids` table went from seven people to six people to five people to four people after Jim Gilmore fell so low in the polls he didn`t even qualify to name CNN debate at all and then Rick Perry quit the presidential race altogether. And then CNN made this inexplicable decision that they were going to let 11 people instead of 10 people in the big debate so that took away another slot at the kids` table debate. And so, the kids` table tonight was really only four people and it was therefore sort of a terrible and awkward place to be for these guys in political terms. I mean, these four guys who CNN apparently decided to organize left from tallest to shortest like a decrescendo of disappointing height -- really, CNN? George Pataki is there on the tall side, or the left side of the stage. He ended up speaking a lot so that was probably good for him, more people heard George Pataki`s voice tonight than heard in the other parts of his not very impressive campaign. In terms of the guys in the middle, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum both seemed frantic and urgent, but they basically stuck to all the same stuff they always say on their campaign speeches, just more of a panicky tone of voice from those two tonight. South Carolina Lindsey Graham, he had been criticized at the last debate for being morose, one Republican observer told the "Washington Post" that in the last debate Lindsey Graham seemed like someone had quote "just killed his dog." Tonight Lindsey Graham tried to turn that one around by being the jokester of the kids` table. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wasn`t the best law student. By the end of this debate it will be the most time I`ve ever spent in any library. (LAUGHTER) GRAHAM: We`re not going to deport 11 million people here illegally but we will start with felons and off they go. As to the rest, you can stay but you have to learn our language, I don`t speak it very well but look how far I`ve come. Speaking English is a good thing. Ronald Reagan did a couple of really big things that we should all remember. He sat down with Tip O`Neill, the most liberal guy in the entire house. They started drinking together, that`s the first thing I`m going to do as president. We`re going to drink more. (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re having a good debate, but there is this problem of Washington elites and saying wonderful things about each other. GRAHAM: I`ve been called wonderful things but never "elite" before. My dad owned a liquor store or bar in a poolroom. So only in America can you go from being in the back of the liquor store to being elite. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So Lindsey Graham at least brought some levity to the proceedings today. But for all these guys at the bottom of the Republican polls right now, all these guys at the kids` table tonight, they are in a pretty hopeless position. It`s possible to imagine that something might change for them in future but right now if you add up all the support that all four of them collectively receive in the last national Republican presidential poll, all of those candidates on stage tonight, those four guys, all of them totaled combined support in the last national poll was one percent, total combined. And it was easy to add up because three of them had zero percent support in the last poll and only one of them had one. The rest of the field, though, is not exactly a study of contrast in terms of strength. Almost everybody else running right now is stuck in single digits in every national poll. I mean, yes, it`s embarrassing to be Rick Santorum at one percent, but how much more embarrassing is that than being Jeb Bush at six percent? It`s just numerically unavoidable right now. You have to admit that the top of the ticket on the Republican side is so dominant, Donald Trump`s huge lead is so big it`s just squeezing almost everybody else in the race out as they try to find any support. So Ben Carson and Donald Trump are way up there at the top. But until Donald Trump in particular with his big leads, until he is cut down a little, until his lead shrinks, not only is nobody else going to have a chance to be a leader but a lot of people at the bottom of the race won`t be able to get above zero percent or one percent or two percent and there`s going inevitably to be more and more pressure for them to get out of the race entirely just because of how badly they are failing. The longer Donald Trump stay this is far out ahead, the more not just non- viable but sometimes self-parodying it looks like for guys like Jindal and Santorum and Graham and maybe even Chris Christie and Rand Paul to be talking about themselves as the next president of the United States. I mean, the longer those guys stay at one percent because Donald Trump is up over 30 percent, the more ridiculous their odds look at the bottom of the race. And the more inevitable it feels that they will have to get out of the race and maybe soon. And even facing that sort of existential trauma none of his presidential opponents have been able to cut Donald Trump`s lead down at all. But, Donald Trump is now facing two new opponents trying to cut him down from elsewhere in the political firmament, not other candidates but other big hitters in politics. The first one is happening in Iowa. It`s the largest and most influential newspaper in Iowa which, of course, is the "Des Moines Register." The "Des Moines Register" has previously feuded with Mr. Trump. They said after he criticized John McCain`s war record that Mr. Trump should drop out of the race. Since then the "Des Moines Register" has found its photographers and reporters frozen out of all Donald Trump Iowa events. But that`s really not causing them to back down. Heading into tonight`s debate, the "Des Moines Register" has just run one of the most blistering editorials I have ever seen against any American politician in any state in any context let alone a front-runner for a national Republican presidential nomination. This is from the "Des Moines Register." I`m not tuning this up at all. I`m not making it more hyperbolic than it is. This is actually what they published. Here`s how it starts. Every woman has met a Donald Trump. He is the jerk at the bar, family reunion or sporting event who disrespects women. He laughs the loudest at his own jokes and thinks the world resolves around him. He puffs up his chest and stares at yours. If you tell him to back off, he asks if you`re menstruating. Every man has met a Trump, too, he`s the guy who makes comments about your sister, yells out car windows and just won`t shut up. All of just met a Donald Trump. He might be a family member who embarrasses us regularly, he`s the person you probably don`t want to take home to mother. And the idea of that guy being seriously considered as a candidate for the president of the United States is inconceivable. Look at that face he recently said about fellow candidate Carly Fiorina. He called Rosie O`Donnell a slob and a pig. It doesn`t matter what`s written about you quote "as long as you`ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass said the man seeking the job of leader of the free world." These are a few comments made by Donald Trump over the last several years that an overtly sexist candidate continues to poll so well among potential caucus goers reflects negatively on all of us. It`s increasingly difficult to believe he could garner support from any male with a mother, daughter, wife, or sister let alone support from any female. The way he talks about the opposite sex is disgraceful. Then again, maybe it`s just that time of the month for this editorial board. I have never seen an editorial like that about a presidential candidate in Iowa. I mean, there`s a New Hampshire paper, the union leader, that`s really known and proudly known for being brutal in its editorials. Some of the New Jersey papers have prided themselves on being New Jersey crass in the way they`ve gone after Chris Christie. But this is Iowa, and this is the biggest paper in the state. And Iowa is first in the country in terms of the presidential race. What does it mean for Donald Trump to have made an enemy this potent in a place that important? I don`t know, but I`m really interested to watch that space. That is one huge new variable in the Iowa contest. Now, add it this second variable. Add to that a million dollars in anti- Donald Trump ads that are going to start running in Iowa tomorrow. These ads are being run by a group called Club for Growth. Club for Growth is not an Iowa group. They`re a national group. Over the years they`ve earned a fearsome reputation in Republican circles for getting elected Republicans and candidates to vote the way the club for growth wants them to vote. Club for Growth has a very efficient system for bending Republicans to their will and it works in Congress in particular like magic. First the Club for Growth puts out an alert telling elected Republicans how they`re supposed to vote on a specific bill up in Congress. If you`re an elected Republican who decides to ignore that alert, if you decide to vote contrary to the way Club for Growth has told you to vote, then more than likely the Club for Growth will start running ads against you in your home district. They`ll try to bury you with a primary challenger in your own party primary. They pride themselves on essentially firing elected Republicans who don`t toe the Club for Growth line. So the Club for Growth, whatever you think of them, for years they have been a serious power player in Republican politics. And now that Donald Trump is the prohibitive front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, it is the Club for Growth that has stepped up to argue most aggressively against his candidacy. This week, Club for Growth called a press conference in D.C. to unveil their new million dollar anti-Donald Trump ad campaign. And because the Club for Growth is such a heavy hitter there was anticipation about this killer punch they were about to throw against Donald Trump. Again, this is not just one of the other people running for president, this is a heavyweight Republican operation. These are big political guns being trained on Donald Trump for the first time since he has been the front- runner. So they had their big Washington unveiling of what their big ads are going to be. They`re going to start running tomorrow in Iowa, a million dollar buy. All that anticipation, right? What will are they going to hit Donald Trump with? Nobody`s hit him like this before. What have they got on him? And I swear to you, this is what they came up with. This is how they say they`re going to stop Donald Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Supreme Court`s kilo decision gave government massive new power to take private property and give it to corporations. Conservatives have fought this disaster. What`s Donald Trump say about the decision? DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I happen to agree with it 100 percent. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump supports eminent domain abuse because he can make millions while we lose our property rights. Trump, the worst kind of politician. Club for Growth action is responsible for the content of this advertising. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s it? The Club for Growth has been telegraphing they`re going to hit Donald Trump hard, they are going knock him out of the race even though nothing else could but this is what they came up with? Donald Trump favors the Supreme Court Kilo decision from a decade ago, the Kilo decision. Which if you know case law that maybe Donald Trump wants to take your house. In fairness, they also put out a second ad that compares Donald Trump with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton but the Donald Trump want yours house something is what Club for Growth is now dumping a million dollars into. These ads are going to start running tomorrow in Iowa. And who knows? Maybe they`ve struck focus group gold here. Maybe this he`s stealing your house ad resonates with Republicans more than I can get my Commie Pinko (ph) liberal brain around. But if that`s it, if the kilo decision ad is the best they`ve got, is that the best the big money establishment power brokers and conservative politics can muster against Donald Trump, then it is looking brighter for Donald Trump now than it ever has before. That can`t really be it, can it? There is one ray of sunshine, though, for anybody on the left or the center or the right who wants Donald Trump to not become the Republican nominee for president of the United States, and it turns out to be something that we uncovered somewhat unexpectedly here on this show last night. That story has developed later today and particularly it has developed tonight in a way that is really, really bad for the presidential front-runner and that`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So last night we brought you a story from the very, very top tier of Republican national politics that I almost couldn`t believe was sitting there unclaimed in plain sight. Well, today with some terrific digging that story got even better I guess is the right word. It at least became a much bigger scandal. Stay right there, you need to hear this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Boy, oh, boy, I didn`t expect that. You know Joel and the group called and they said would you come over and speak? I`m here for a certain reason, you know, it`s called tomorrow night. So I got here and they asked a couple of days ago would it be possible to come over and say a few words. An endorsement from your group with so many veterans, hundreds of thousands of veterans, I really appreciate that, Joel. I did not expect it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Hundreds of thousands of veterans, Joel. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump last night did a campaign event on board a decommissioned battleship called the USS "Iowa." We had known an event this was going to happen. It was sort of inherently funny because Mr. Trump has no personal history of military service although he says he felt like he was in the military because he went to a military- themed prep school. He also has no expertise whatsoever on anything related to national security. And so naturally he has to go stand on a battleship right underneath the 16-inch guns. Part of the reason that event last night got so much live national press attention is because it had been billed by the campaign as Donald Trump`s major foreign policy address. Since he`s been the Republican front-runner Donald Trump has yet to give a policy address of any kind let alone a foreign policy address and since he`s the presidential front-runner it seemed like that was going to be a newsworthy thing. Turned out to not be a newsworthy thing, at least not for that reason. There was no foreign policy in it at all and it frankly wasn`t even that much of a speech. What it was, was a fund-raiser. A fund-raiser for a group called Veterans for a Strong America. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Boy, oh, boy, I didn`t expect that. You know, Joel and the group called and they said would you come over and speak? I`m here for a certain reason, you know, it`s called tomorrow night. So I got here and they asked a couple days ago would it be possible to say a few words. An endorsement from your group with so many veterans, hundreds of thousands of veterans, I really appreciate that, Joel. I do not expect that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Let that be indelible in your mind. Donald Trump last night saying this group he was raising money for included hundreds of thousands of veterans. That does not appear to be the case. In fact, veterans for a strong America does not appear to have any members at all. If you wanted to become a member of Veterans for a Strong America, there is no way for you to join. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America, you want to go check them out? You go check out, check them out online, here`s how you join. You want to check out veterans of foreign wars, you go check them out, find out about them, here`s how you join. There`s no way to join this Donald Trump group which nobody heard of before last night. And it really does appear to be just one guy, the guy in the glasses there. The reason this fiasco of Donald Trump wrapping himself up in the mantle of veterans support and saying he`s raising money for veterans, although he is raising money for a group that doesn`t appear to represent any veterans other than its one founder. The reason this fiasco maybe be good political news for opponents of Donald Trump and people who are hoping Donald Trump might eventually blow up as a presidential front-runner, is that this guy, the Donald Trump just hopped into bed with and then his big battleship event for and race money for and basically plated his political trump with by saying, this is his legitimacy on the issue of veterans. That guy is really somebody who Donald Trump should have Googled. As we reported last night, the client that Mr. Joel Arends worked with on her U.S. Senate campaign in South Dakota last year, his client in that campaign just last year was later convicted on 12 election-related felonies. She says on the basis of advice given to her specifically by Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship. Further googling might have turned out news that Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship was also involved in the Arizona governor`s election last year in a way that now has him under investigation by two different parts of Arizona state government including a referral for investigation to the state attorney general. Further googling by Donald Trump or his campaign might have next turned up this rather lurid story of Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship being part of a super PAC scam operation that apparently relieved some naive old guy in Texas of several million dollars of his own money. Pro- Publica calling it an egregious example of what can happen when people running super PACs, use super PAC contributions to basically hire themselves. A little further googling might have revealed that "the Associated Press" first posted today, that just last month the IRS posted this public notification that Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship and his group Veterans for a Strong America, they just had their nonprofit status revoked officially because they haven`t filed tax returns with the IRS in at least three years. We knew last night according to their last FEC filing this group that Donald Trump did his battleship event with, they only had $30 in the bank and about $300 of outstanding obligations. Something just didn`t seem right about Donald Trump calling this a group with hundreds of thousands of people and doing this big high profile fund-raiser for them. But now that we know more about that this group or I should say this guy, which appears to be the whole group, it now seems clear that Donald Trump and his campaign are either in on some kind of scheme with this group that is not a nonprofit or Donald Trump and his campaign just got duped and taken for a ride by a guy who you could sass out pretty easily with literally one page of googling and 30 spare seconds. In either instance, that`s the kind of base-level failure in a presidential campaign that doesn`t bode well for the long-term viability of that candidate just in terms of the basic functions of what it takes to run. Maybe Republican voters don`t care and it doesn`t look scandalous to them. But if he keeps doing stuff like what he did with that fake veterans group on the battleship last night, the "Des Moines Register" hating his guts is going to be the least of Donald Trump`s problems in Iowa. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [21:31:40] DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vaccines are very important. Certain ones, the ones that will prevent death or crippling. There are others, a multitude of vaccines which probably don`t fit in that category and there should be some discretion in those cases. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You take this little beautiful baby and you pump, I mean, it looks just like it`s meant for a horse not for a child. And we`ve had so many instances, people that work for me just the other day, two years old, two-and-a-half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic. I only say it`s not -- I`m in favor of vaccines. Do them over a longer period of time. Same amount. CARSON: It is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that. And I think are cutting down on the number and the proximity in which those are done. (CROSSTALK) TRUMP: And that`s all I`m saying. CARSON: And I think it`s appropriate. SEN. RAND PAUL, (R-KY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I`m all for vaccines, but I`m also for freedom. I`m also a little concerned about how they`re bunched up. (END VIDEO CLIP) RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I don`t know who won last night`s Republican debate, but I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks they lost or at least that America`s infants lost because of the anti-vaccine conspiracy theories that were put forth on last night`s debate by frontrunner Donald Trump. And then basically supported by the two medical doctors up there on the day as well -- Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Ben Carson. You could see the American Academy of Pediatrics freaking out during the debate as the candidates went down that conspiracy theory rabbit hole on vaccines. The American Academy of Pediatrics started tweeting out, basically, no, no, no. They`ve got this wrong. Don`t listen to this. They put out a formal statement about why vaccines are important and they don`t cause autism. They distributed a video of a pediatrician explaining why it`s important to take them on the right schedule instead of spacing them out like Dr. Trump said and the other actual doctors there last night. So let`s turn now to the democratic frontrunner in New Hampshire, maybe in Iowa, too, Senator Bernie Sanders. MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview is Vermont senator and Democratic candidate for president of the United States, Bernie Sanders. Senator, it`s great to have you with us here tonight. SANDERS: Great to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: We talked on this show right before you got in the race, and we talked right after you jumped in the race. How do you feel now compared to then? SANDERS: In a slight state of shock. I watch television and I hear a lot about this guy, Bernie Sanders, and I say that`s an interesting guy. I`d love to meet him. Me? That`s kind of what I feel. I thought that we had a message that would resonate with the American people. But the truth is, it`s resonating a lot faster than I thought it would. And one of the problems we`re having now is putting together the political infrastructure, to kind of channel all of that support into constructive and effective political action. So that`s where we are right now. MADDOW: Do you feel -- and this is a little bit personal. I don`t mean it in a prying way. But this process and how much attention you`ve gotten and how much success you have had, is it energizing to you, or is it tiring and overwhelming to you? SANDERS: It is both. I mean, it`s an unbelievable moment to go to Portland, Oregon where the Trailblazers play, you know? And look at 28,000 people, third tier, and say why are these guys here? Oh, I`m speaking. That is really mind-blowing. On the other hand, if you go through a month -- 30 days -- and you don`t have any days off, it gets to you a little bit. I got a day job as the United States senator from Vermont. But all in all, the kind of support that we`re getting, the kind of energy and the kind of young people that are coming out, you know, that energizes me a lot. MADDOW: You`ve been preparing for this your whole life in some ways. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Let me ask you about that, what you raised there about kind of scaling up. Your campaign put out a mass hiring call earlier this week for campaign coordinators to focus on Massachusetts, Georgia, Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Alabama, and Arkansas. All these super Tuesday states. Should we take that to mean that you think you`ve been out-organized a little bit in that state -- in those states, or that you just never thought you would have to do that? SANDERS: What you can take from that is the fact that we have put a lot of resources and energy into New Hampshire and Iowa and Nevada and South Carolina, (inaudible). And now we`re gearing up for the week after. We think we can do very, very well on super Tuesday. I think we`re going to do very well in Minnesota and Colorado and Massachusetts, states to come, and I think we`re going to do a lot better than people think in states like South Carolina, where we`re beginning to put a lot of resources in. MADDOW: Did you learn anything from your admittedly somewhat unexpected success in New Hampshire and Iowa that has taught you how you want to organize in new states that you`re just getting into in a more serious way now? SANDERS: Yes. Our emphasis, what we`re doing now in Iowa, I think we have 50 or 60 people on the ground. We have people already knocking on doors. That`s what we`re doing in New Hampshire. We are obviously going to be on television and the radio with ads. But most of our emphasis is going to be at a grassroots level, just door to door, talking to people, going to meetings. MADDOW: Getting supporters to meet each other in addition to getting the people-- SANDERS: Absolutely. One of the exciting aspects of what is happening right now is I think we have close to 200,000 volunteers. MADDOW: Wow. SANDERS: And this stuff is sprouting up all over the country. I read about it in the papers. We didn`t organize it. A lot of this is spontaneous. And it`s very moving to me. MADDOW: Can you say with confidence tonight that you definitely will be on the ballot in all 50 states? I know getting on the ballot is not an easy thing all over the country. SANDERS: We got a guy whose focus in life is just that. And the answer is, unless I`m very mistaken, yes. We`re in this race to win. You don`t win unless you`re on the ballot in 50 states. MADDOW: You live tweeted last night`s debate. I read a bunch of those tweets. A little sarcasm there. A little frustration. You posted about it on Facebook. Your Facebook post about the Republican debate was the single most viewed Facebook post of any Facebook post about the debate by anyone, but that debate went on for more than three hours, had 23 million people watching. Combine it with the 24 million people who watched the first debate. Are you concerned that Republican candidates are getting that much air time, that much opportunity to articulate their ideas, that much attention, with no equivalent for the Democratic candidates? SANDERS: I think that is a very legitimate concern, and from day one, I didn`t think it was a good idea to limit the debates to six. Rachel, we live in a country where in the last election, 63 percent of the American people didn`t vote. My guess is a majority of the people don`t know which party controls the Senate or the House. Public consciousness is not terribly high, and debates are a means for us to get out, talk about real issues and show the difference between the candidates. But mostly talk about the need for people to be involved in the political process. Because if they`re not involved, if ordinary people are not involved, the billionaire class will continue to dominate what goes on in this country. MADDOW: You turned out these big crowds, you inspired 200,000 volunteers. You move people. If that does not translate this year into you winning the nomination, and I hear you when you`re saying you`re in it to win it, and I believe you. If you don`t win the nomination, will you lead those people or try to inspire those people to do something else? SANDERS: Yes. I don`t know if it`s me as a leader, but what I believe from the bottom of my heart, and I say this every time I speak to people. Let me repeat it here . Bernie Sanders cannot do it alone. Yes, I`m running to win. I want to win, and I think I can be a great president. But no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can take on Wall Street, corporate America, the corporate media, the Koch brothers, all the big money interests, unless there`s a mobilized force of millions and millions of people who stand together and say, you know what, hey, government has got to work for all of us, not just the wealthiest people in this country. That`s what I believe from the bottom of my heart. MADDOW: We`ll be right back with more with Senator Bernie Sanders in just a moment. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEN CARSON, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vaccines are very important. Certain ones, the ones that will prevent death or crippling. There are others, a multitude of vaccines which probably don`t fit in that category, and there should be some discretion in those cases. TRUMP: You take this little beautiful baby and you pump, I mean, it looks just like it`s meant for a horse, not for a child. And we`ve had so many instances. People that work for me just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic. I only say it`s not -- I`m in favor of vaccines. Do them over a longer period of time. Same amount. CARSON: It is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that. And I think are cutting down on the number and the proximity in which those are done. TRUMP: And that`s all I`m saying. PAUL: I`m all for vaccines, but I`m also for freedom. I`m also a little concerned about how they`re bunched up. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I don`t know who won last night`s Republican debate, but I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics think they lost, or at least that America`s infants lost, because of the anti-vaccine conspiracy theories that were put forth in last night`s debate by front runner Donald Trump, and then basically supported by the two medical doctors up there on the dais as well, Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Ben Carson. You can see the American Academy of Pediatrics freaking out during the debate as the candidates went down that conspiracy theory rabbit hole on vaccines. The American Academy of Pediatrics started tweeting out basically, no, no, no, they got this wrong, don`t listen to this. They put out a formal statement about why vaccines are important and they don`t cause autism. They distributed a video of a pediatrician explaining why it`s important to take them on the right schedule, instead of spacing them out like Dr. Trump said, and the other actual doctors there last night. So let`s turn now to the Democratic front runner in New Hampshire, and maybe in Iowa too, Senator Bernie Sanders. I want to get your reaction to that last night. That was one of the, I mean, it made me feel like last night`s Republican debate was like a public health hazard in addition to everything else it was. SANDERS: Well, actually, over the years people of Vermont have met with me on this issue. I think the evidence is overwhelming that vaccines do not cause autism. And it really is a little bit weird for Trump, who has as I presume, no medical background, to be raising an issue. And obviously it is a concern, because when somebody like that says it, you`re going to find thousands of people now who are going to hesitate to give their kids the shots, and bad things may happen. MADDOW: On terms of the relationship between Democrats and Republicans at this point in this national discussion that we`re having. Early on in the process, you and I talked about your proposal. I think it was back in June, that Democrats and Republicans should start debating each other now. Even before the Republican primary process is done. Are you still into that idea? SANDERS: Absolutely. I think the more debates, the merrier. I`ll tell you what I think. I think that Republicans get away with murder. Because they are never challenged. Last night -- I have to tell you, I did quit after two and a half hours. The energy was just sucked out of my body. I was exhausted watching this stuff. In terms of the major issues facing America, did you hear one word from anybody who said, well, you know, climate change is a real threat to the planet, we need bold action? No. Did you hear one person say, well, the real value of the minimum wage has declined significantly over the years, we need to raise the minimum wage? No. Did you hear one person say one word about 30 million Americans not having any health insurance, and the United States being the only major country in the world that doesn`t provide health care to all people or family or medical leave? One word? Was there one word in terms of what the American people want asking the rich and large corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes? Not one word. And in terms of immigration, which you did hear a whole lot about, the majority of people believe there should be a process, a path toward citizenship for undocumented people. Not one of those guys had anything to say in support of that concept. MADDOW: You went to Liberty University this week. Very ideologically unfriendly territory. You were, I listened to the speech, you were very respectful to your audience. They greeted you very respectfully. SANDERS: Yes, they did. MADDOW: They heard you respectfully. With Donald Trump so dominant in the Republican field, I wonder if you are starting to think about a plan for trying to appeal to people who think of themselves not as liberals, not even as centrists, but as moderate conservatives that usually think of themselves as Republicans, but they cannot stomach somebody like Mr. Trump as their nominee. Do you have a crossover appeal? SANDERS: Absolutely. And, Rachel, to the best of my knowledge in the state of Vermont, we got about 25 percent of the Republican vote. Why is that? Because people say, okay, I disagree with Bernie on women`s rights. I disagree with Bernie on gay rights. Okay. But you know what? I believe he is fighting for my kids and for my parents and for the rights of the middle class. And you see a lot of those folks saying, I disagree with him, but I`m going to vote for them. Now, you`re absolutely right. The folks at Liberty University were extremely gracious and respectful. And here was my simple point to them. You guys are a religious group of people. You are concerned about morality. Let`s put it on the table. I disagree with you on abortion rights. I disagree with you on gay rights. End of discussion. How do we come together? Isn`t it a moral issue that in America today, we are seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth? Isn`t that a moral issue? MADDOW: Even if you`re a conservative, you would see that as a moral issue. SANDERS: Absolutely. It is. I think many of them are saying yes. And we`ve gotten some wonderful responses from some of the evangelicals. Isn`t it a moral issue? Listen to what the pope says, what other religious leaders, evangelicals say, about destroying this planet in terms of climate change. These people understand it. They see it as God`s earth and it should be protected. And yet you have Republicans out there, not one of them believing that we have to move aggressively to save the planet. Yes, I think we can reach out in a respectful way, understanding there are very important issues we disagree on. Let`s go forward together where we can find common ground. MADDOW: We have got more with Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, right after this. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: We have a problem in this country, it`s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he`s not even an American. TRUMP: We need this question. (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That`s my question. When can we get rid of them? TRUMP: We`re going to be looking at a lot of different things, and you know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We are going to be looking at that and plenty of other things. OK, go ahead, yes, ma`am, go ahead. QUESTION: You know, I definitely have to ask you a good veteran question. Welcome first of all to New Hampshire. Donald, last night was a disgrace. CNN did not touch on any of the issues that are going on with veterans health care. TRUMP: It`s true. It`s true. I actually asked them about that. There wasn`t one question relating to the veterans. That`s true. QUESTION: Did anyone even ask them why -- I know that`s a Clinton news network. Is it they don`t like veterans or? TRUMP: You know what, there was not one question relating to that, and not too much on the military, by the way, but nothing relating to the veterans. Those days, believe me, are over. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was earlier this evening, Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump in New Hampshire asked about President Obama being a Muslim and the need to go get the Muslims because we have a Muslim problem in this country. Mr. Trump said we`ll be looking into that. Profiles in courage there. But then the follow-up question you just heard there about veterans. And Mr. Trump also had no answer for that. That really is a question worth getting an answer to. We`re back with Senator Bernie Sanders, who is our guest tonight for the interview. Senator, I want to ask you about veterans issues. In part, because even though support for veterans is usually a pretty nonpartisan thing, there are some particularly radical takes on veterans issues among leading Republican candidates this year. Their frontrunner this week did an event on a battleship with a group that he said represented hundreds of thousands of veterans. In fact, it`s a group that no real veterans organizations have heard of. They apparently have no membership. FEC filings show them to have $30 in the bank and there`s only one person associated with the group. The IRS recently revoked their nonprofit status. Mr. Trump says now that that event on that battleship with that one guy from that organization means he has veterans support. Mr. Trump also has no platform whatsoever on veterans issues. And that comes as several other candidates on the Republican side, including the guy running second, Ben Carson, say they want to abolish the VA. They want to privatize the VA. You just finished up a term as chairman of Veterans Affairs in the Senate. What is your response to the Republican positioning on this issue? SANDERS: It`s an outrage. I was chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee for two years. We managed to pass actually a bipartisan bill for some $17 billion to improve VA health care and some other issues. I introduced what was called the most comprehensive and boldest of veterans legislation in modern history, which got us the support of the VFW and the American Legion and the DAV, and many of the major veterans organizations. We only got two Republican votes in the Senate to pass that. Here is the bottom line. As a nation, I think we understand now what we didn`t always understand. You don`t blame the men and women who put their lives on the line for the wars they`re fighting in. All right? We didn`t always know that I think back in Vietnam. I voted against the war in Iraq. That was one of the best votes I ever cast. But I have also worked day and night to make sure that the men and women from all of our wars get the health care and the other benefits to which they are entitled. And in some ways, we`re making progress. In some ways, we`re not. But absolutely the answer is not to privatize the VA. The answer is to strengthen it. MADDOW: I remember talking to you about the scandal in the VA of wait times and VA facilities lying about wait times, while that scandal was emerging, you were supportive of General Eric Shinseki staying as the head of the VA long time after some veterans groups and some other people were really calling for his head. Now that he is gone, do you think it was right that he stepped down? Has Robert McDonald been doing any better trying to fix the VA since then? SANDERS: The answer is I think McDonald is trying his very best to deal with an enormous bureaucracy that is out there. One of the other things, Rachel, which I learned as chairman, is it is very easy. The VA has 152 medical centers and some 800 community-based outreach clinics. Every day there`s a problem. But every day there`s a problem in any and every medical facility in America. And if all you talk about are the negative things, then people get a certain view of the VA. When I was chairman, I had all of the major veterans organizations in front of me. American Legion, all of them. And I said, tell me, when veterans get into the VA, do you think the quality of care is good? And they said, it`s good to excellent. And that`s how most veterans feel. Now, what we try to do and have done is put $5 billion into the VA to increase the number of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel they need, so that we can make sure never again will veterans be put on long waiting lines. MADDOW: Because of those long waiting lines, though, because of the scandal, because of the things the VA hasn`t done right, that`s a big political opening now for the right to try to kill the VA. Is that a concerted effort? (CROSSTALK) SANDERS: Of course it is. It`s the same attack -- look, same thing with the Postal Service. There`s a desire to -- I`ve been very involved in this issue, to privatize the Postal Service. The same thing with Social Security. To privatize or cut Social Security and Medicare. Look at what the Koch brothers and these guys believe. They don`t believe in government. That is their underlying philosophy. Yes, they don`t believe in public education. So there is a concerted attack against every major public institution from the VA to Social Security on down. MADDOW: Vermont Senator and Democratic candidate for president of the United States, Bernie Sanders. You did not know you would be at this point in your campaign when you launched it. And I know, because I can tell. I didn`t know. It is a remarkable thing as a liberal to see the success you`re having and the resonance your message is having. And I don`t know what`s going to happen in the campaign long term, but good luck to you in the long-term. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, two things still to come tonight. The first is Steve Kornacki, yey! The second is that there`s going to be another big Republican presidential debate thing tomorrow. It`s a debate-like thing. It`s not technically a debate, but yes, in case you didn`t get enough, and the details of it are kind of stunning. We`ve got more ahead. Stay with us tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [21:51:55] SANDERS: One of the excited aspects of what`s happening right now is I think we have close to 200,000 volunteers. And this stuff is sprouting up all over the country. I read about it in the papers. We didn`t organize and a lot of this is spontaneous and it`s very moving to me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on the show just moments ago. Joining us now is my colleague Steve Kornacki, the host of "Up" with Steve Kornacki, right here on MSNBC. Hey, Steve. STEVE KORNACKI, HOST, "UP": How are you doing, Rachel? MADDOW: Good. So I know you heard the Bernie Sanders interview. Your political, professional opinion on where he stands in this race right now. It`s really interesting for me to hear him say that it`s a moving experience, that he didn`t expect this, that he was shocked. What do you make of it? KORNACKI: Yes, I know. I thought it was interesting to hear him say that, too. And I think a lot of people are shocked looking at this. I mean, it`s hard to believe just 4 or 5 months ago, it was controversial to say that hey, maybe Bernie Sanders has a better shot against Hillary than Martin O`Malley. And look where we are right now. And now the fact that he`s leading in some of these early states. So I think if you play it out a little bit. Let`s say he`s able to sustain the strength that he has right now in Iowa, to sustain the strength in New Hampshire. You look at two things. First of all, there`s always this battle that takes place between the establishment candidate and the insurgent. Obama played insurgent role in `08. Howard Dean played the insurgent role back, you know, in 2004 and on and on and on. It`s never happened that the insurgent candidate has gone in and won the first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire. You go back like 1984. Walter Mondale wins Iowa. Gary Hart wins New Hampshire. Now we have our race. You know, in 2000, you had Al Gore, the establishment candidate, he beats Bill Bradley in those first two states. That ends the race on the spot. It`s never happened that the insurgent wins both of those. MADDOW: Both Iowa and New Hampshire. KORNACKI: So, yes, I`m torn looking at this between two possible scenarios here. One is a world in which Bernie Sanders actually pulls that off. And right now, you look at it and say, it`s plausible that he could pull that off. Is that a world where there`s such panic and there`s such chaos that things crumble for Hillary Clinton down the line because the flipside is when you look down the line, the states that Hillary Clinton`s campaign is pointing to right now, the southern states, the super Tuesday states, the SEC primary states, these are states where traditionally the establishment candidate has faired very well. The establishment candidate tends to get overwhelming support from black voters. Black voters loom so large in the south. So that`s her firewall. So those two things are sort of in conflict with each other. MADDOW: In terms of the candidates -- in terms of those two candidates facing off against each other, how much do they need to trim their sales or think about their strategy in light of a possible entry from Joe Biden? I mean, I personally -- if you want my personal opinion, I don`t believe that Vice President Biden is going to get in. I just don`t feel like he`s going to. I have nothing to base that on because I don`t think he knows if he`s going to get in. But they have to be planning differently because there is a possibility he might jump? KORNACKI: Yes. It complicates things very much. In terms of if you`re looking at where Biden is taking the support from right now, it`s coming a little bit from the Sanders side. It`s coming a little bit from the Hillary side. It`s not clear that he`s drawing just from one. The problem here, I think this is more of a problem for Biden to think about, too, is this. If you take the national polls right now, Hillary, Biden, Sanders. If you add up the Sanders and Biden numbers, that`s enough to give Hillary a lot of gain. I mean, they`re basically tied with her if you add those together. [21:55:40]So if you`re Joe Biden, you`re saying, my strategy has got to be that I get what I have right now and I`ve got to fold in the Bernie Sanders people. That`s a very tough thing to do when you look at how committed so many of the Sanders voters, specifically to Bernie Sanders. So you would need a scenario if you`re Joe Biden, where basically, you take out Bernie Sanders in those first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire. Bernie Sanders is not considered a factor coming out of there, then you Joe Biden get the one-on-one with Hillary. Maybe you inherit Biden -- Sanders supporters. And then the big wild card if you really want to play this out, the wild card for Biden would be how he can reverse that southern math that usually favors the establishment. Would in that scenario, President Obama, his boss, his close personal friend, would President Obama see Joe Biden coming out of a New Hampshire win and say, I`ll back you in South Carolina. That could change the math. MADDOW: Right. Wow. And just back to the president, listening to Bernie Sanders tonight, thinking about any other candidate trying to inherit his supporters. Trying to match the passion they have. It`s very hard to imagine that being a transitive thing. Steve Kornacki, host of, "Up," weekend mornings here on MSNBC. Steve, thank you. I really appreciate it. All right, we`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So was last night too short? Was five straight hours of Republicans talking not enough for you? If that`s how you feel then I`ve got good news for you, you weirdo. Because the Republican candidates are going to square off again tomorrow night in an event that has an even longer format. I am not kidding. It`s a "Heritage Action for America" forum. Tomorrow in South Carolina. It is scheduled to last six hours. Sadly, even though, it is in South Carolina, Heritage Action has decided that home state South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is not polling well enough to qualify so they will not let him in, but most of the rest of the field will be there including Donald Trump who, weirdly, even though everybody else has normal headshots in their promo materials. For this event, he has been cast as some sort of raptor. That`s a terrible picture. That`s six hours of Republicans talking is on top tomorrow in South Carolina just in case that`s what you needed. That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END