IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/6/15

Guests: Jake Sherman, Amy Klobuchar

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: And, by the way, I hope that scandal you`re talking about destroys fantasy sports because I think they destroy the concept of cheering for a team. CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Wow, that`s strong words. I stayed out of fantasy sports purely because I know I would get addicted and spent too much time on it. That`s why I`ve stayed out of it. No moral objection. That`s just time objection. KORNACKI: Anything that keeps people away from it, I`m happy. But thank you for that, Chris Hayes. Have a good night. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel is off tonight. And let`s start with a trip in the time machine all the way back to the summer of 1987. Gary Hart, he was the original overwhelming front- runner. He had just dropped out of the race for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. Democratic field then suddenly had a new, young, rising star. He was a senator from the state of Delaware. His name was Joe Biden. Now, Joe Biden back then was many things. He was a prolific fund- raiser. He was an energetic campaigner. He was also just about to get a major national boost in recognition. He was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And in that role, he was about to run the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Robert Bork, Robert Bork was an extremely controversial pick that President Ronald Reagan had just sent up. This was a major event in politics. Most of although, back at that time in 1987, Joe Biden was gaining a reputation as a captivating speaker. And a Democratic presidential debate in Iowa that July, he wowed the audience with an eloquent and inspiring closing statement, the consensus after that debate seemed to be that Joe Biden had come out on top, that he was going to head into the fall with the wind at his back. That was Joe Biden`s position as the summer of 1987 came to a close. But then, on September 12th, 1987, NBC News, "The Des Moines Register" newspaper and a "New York Times" reporter named Maureen Dowd all came out simultaneously with a story that cast that barn-burning Iowa debate performance in a very different light. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TV ANCHOR: Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden today faces a controversy that his opponents could use in raising questions about his character. Three weeks ago at a debate at the Iowa state fair, he used phrases identical to those delivered by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock. Biden did not attribute the words to Kinnock. Instead he said they were his own thoughts. Was it is plagiarism? Ken Bode reports. KEN BODE, REPORTER: Joe Biden is known as one of the best orators in the Democratic Party. So it was no surprise at a forum in Iowa recently, he knocked their socks off with a stirring close. Listen. JOE BIDEN, THEN-SENATOR: I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is it that my wife is sitting out there in the audience, is the first in her family to ever go to college? BODE: People in Britain would have been familiar with those words. They heard the same ones in a political commercial from Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. NEIL KINNOCK, LABOUR PARTY: Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get the university? Why is Gladys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations? BODE: Biden saw the Kinnock commercial and evidently loved it. KINNOCK: Was it because they were weak? Those people who worked eight hours underground and then come up and play football weak? BIDEN: My ancestors who worked in the coal mines in Pennsylvania don`t come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours. BODE: Biden had told other audiences he admired Kinnock. Not this one. This one he later said he had listening in hushed silence. BIDEN: No, it`s not because they weren`t smart. It`s not because they didn`t work as hard. It`s because they didn`t have a platform upon which to stand. KINNOCK: Anybody really think that they didn`t get what we had because they didn`t have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment -- of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand. BODE: Aides to Biden say another Democratic campaign is passing out the Kinnock commercial to discredit Biden. That`s true. They also say it wasn`t conscious plagiarism that Senator Biden has been under great pressure preparing for Bork hearings and that night he was just on automatic pilot. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: September 12th, 1987, did you catch that toward the end there from Ken Bode, the NBC News correspondent? He said aides to Biden say another Democratic campaign is passing out the Kinnock commercial to discredit Biden. That`s true. The whole plagiarism story was put out by a rival campaign back then. At the time, no one knew whose campaign was responsible for putting that tape out. But once the story was out, once that is piece aired on NBC, once Maureen Dowd`s story ran in "The New York Times", once that happened, it had a life of its own. Reporters started looking into Joe Biden`s other speeches, all of his writing. There were more instances of passages apparently lifted from other politicians including it seemed Robert Kennedy. Biden was forced to admit that he plagiarized a law review article during his first year of law school. The entire thing snowballed into a giant media scandal, and in a remarkably short 11 days, it was all over. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GARRICK UTLEY, NBC ANCHOR: The presidential campaign claims another victim as Senator Joseph Biden drops out of the race. ANNOUNCER: "NBC Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw. UTLEY: Good evening. I`m Garrick Utley. Tom Brokaw is on assignment. Once again, the question of character dominates presidential politics. First, it was Gary Hart who pulled out of the race because of his relationship with Donna Rice. Today, it was Democratic Senator Joseph Biden. In his case, the transgression was using other people`s words and ideas, while embellishing his own record. Here`s John Dancy. JOHN DANCY, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Joe Biden found himself living the presidential candidate`s worst nightmare. Television crews lying in wait for him everywhere, at the train station where he wasn`t, and at home where he was. The cameras presence part of this year`s now familiar drama, the candidate in trouble. This afternoon, the familiar end to the drama as Biden pulled out of the presidential race. BIDEN: I made some mistakes. But now, the exaggerated shadow of those mistakes has begun to obscure the essence of my candidacy and the essence of Joe Biden. I`m angry with myself. For having been put in the position, put myself in the position of having to make this choice. And I am no less frustrated for the environment of presidential politics. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: And that was it, September 23rd, 1987, Joe Biden at that moment took himself out of the presidential race. It was five months before the first primary was held in 1988. And a week later, we found out exactly how this all happened. We found out because Biden`s rival for the nomination it turned out Michael Dukakis was forced to apologize. Two of the aides to Dukakis, two of his top aides, including his campaign manager sent to reporters a videotape with clips of the similar Joe Biden and Neil Kinnock speeches. Dukakis fired both of those aides and, of course, we know what happened from there -- he did go on to win the Democratic nomination. He lost in the fall to the Vice President George H.W. Bush. Bush became the president of the United States. It turns out, the whole episode, the whole Biden episode had started with a phone call between Maureen Dowd at "The New York Times" and Dukakis`s campaign manager, John Sasso, who tipped her off to the story. Dowd asked for proof and then the campaign sent her and also sent to NBC News that videotape that you just saw. And Dowd`s article accusing Joe Biden of plagiarism appeared on the front page of "The New York Times," the nation`s newspaper, the paper of record, on September 12th, 1987. NBC followed that night with the piece we just showed you. By September 23rd, that was it. Joe Biden the big rising star in the Democratic field in 1988, he was out of the race. It was a stunning collapse for Biden. It was a reminder of how powerful a phone call to "The New York Times" can be. So, let`s fast forward this year. Joe Biden went back to the Senate. He presided over the Robert Bork hearings. He helped to derail the Bork nomination. It made him a hero to liberals. He crafted some major legislation in the 1990s, became something of an expert on foreign policy. He restored his reputation, and he took that restored reputation and he tried it again for the presidency in 20 years later in 2008. But his candidacy went nowhere that year except that he did end up on the ticketing with Barack Obama. He became vice president of the United States. He got almost all the way to the top, 20 years later and is fulfilling at that job has been for Joe Biden, the dream of the oval office, the ultimate prize, the top job that dream is still there. Joe Biden is 72 years old right now and this is it. We are staring at it right now. His final chance. If he ever wants to take one last shot at the presidency, it is here, 28 years after that campaign fell part. He really is down to about ten days right now to make his decision. He may be thinking how is this deadline different from any of the other arbitrary time lines that had been reported about when Biden will decide whether to run for president. Well, it`s because the vice president is genuinely coming up on some hard nonnegotiable real world deadlines he`s going to need to meet if he`s going to compete for the nomination. You know how this works, in order to win the primary, you have to win delegates. In order to win delegates, you have to be on the ballot in primary states. To be in the ballot in any given primary state, you generally have to submit signatures, you have to pay a filing fee, you have to do something proactive and the deadline for getting on the ballot in several states, those deadlines are fast coming up. These are the states with the deadlines that come up first. Alabama, that`s the first one, on November 6th. That is exactly one month from today. Arkansas comes three days after that. Michigan, November 17th. Florida at the end of the month. New Hampshire the first in the nation state is somewhere in there, too. If Joe Biden doesn`t make a decision in the next ten days or so to start organizing to start putting a team together to start raising some money, maybe to start gathering signatures to get money ready for fees to get on these ballots, he`s going to start missing deadlines. If he starts missing deadlines, it means he misses on the chance to win delegates. Candidate`s going to need 2,232 delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president. That`s the red line right there. As you can see, if Joe Biden doesn`t get on those November deadline ballots, he loses on the chance to compete for 500 delegates. Those hundreds of delegates would be guaranteed to go to someone else, all of this before Biden even entered the race. That`s hard to come from. If he were to wait longer, it would become just about impossible. So, right now, as Vice President Joe Biden is forced to make this decision, there`s actually no denying the country is in something of a Joe Biden moment. It`s because of the tragic loss of his son Beau. It`s because of how he has handled it with such public grace and dignity. It`s because he has bared as a grief to the nation. You saw him do this on Stephen Colbert`s show and elsewhere. He`s more popular right now, Joe Biden is, than he`s ever been before. He`s more popular than any of the other Democratic candidates and he`s in a political position that he`s never been in before. Look at this, less than a year ago, Joe Biden`s favorability in an NBC poll was a negative 3 points. This month though, that same poll he`s jumped to a plus 12 favorable rating. That`s a stunning turn around. That puts him in better position than Hillary Clinton when it comes to that question, better position than just about anybody else on the national political scene. But now, as Joe Biden`s star is once again on the rise, as he is starting to gain momentum, as he faces those hard deadlines and makes this choice, now there`s a new controversy. And just like 28 years ago, just like back in the summer of 1987, one of the most prominent players in it is Maureen Dowd of "The New York Times." Back in August, Dowd published a column in which she said that Biden was exploring a run for president. She wrote that his son Beau had urged him to run while he was on his deathbed. Quoting from that column, "Beau tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons, that the country would be better off with Biden values." This was a remarkable story when it ran. It got everybody talking. It was also remarkably un-sourced, caused a lot of mystery. And today, "Politico" published an explosive piece that claimed that Joe Biden himself leaked that story to Maureen Dowd in "The New York Times." The "Politico" piece cast the vice president`s move as, quote, "calculating". Quoting from the story, "Biden effectively placed an ad in `The New York Times` for his presidential aspirations." Now, a spokesman for Biden said, "The bottom line on the `Politico` story is that it is categorically false and characterization is offensive." We reached out to Maureen Dowd today. Her office declined to provide a comment. Obviously, she and her source are the only ones who can say for certain who told her what for that story, but that column she published in August, it was unusual. Not only did it contain these intimate details of Beau Biden`s last interactions with his father, some of the most personal moments in Joe Biden`s life, but one passage was even written from inside Joe Biden`s head. Quote, "At the table, Beau told his dad he was worried about him. My kids dying in anguish Joe Biden thought to himself and he`s making sure I`m OK." Even before today`s "Politico" piece, a reader half column would have to wonder where did she get something that intimate? Even and as a columnist, you would expect such a statement to be qualified with I don`t know, two sources characterizing the vice president`s thoughts as or some language like that. If it is true, if it`s true that Joe Biden leaked his son`s deathbed wish and its explicitly anti-Clinton motivation if he leaked that to "The New York Times", was it calculating? Was it just Joe Biden saying what came to his mind? We know that`s how Joe Biden talks so many times. He`s talking to a reporter after all who despite all those events in 1987, he has now had a good professional relationship with her for years. Maybe he was just talking and talking and talking and that`s one of the stories that came out. If it`s true though, does it change anyone`s feelings about Joe Biden? All those warm feelings that people started having about Joe Biden over the last six months? And on Joe Biden`s end, does this "Politico" piece be as a chilling reminder that if he does make the decision to get into the race for president, that politics are going to be as nasty as ever? And nothing, not even his son`s death will be off-limits? Does it make him think that remaining above the fray like he is right now, well-liked, well-respected on the sidelines, does it make him think that maybe that`s where he wants to stay? He`s got a decision to make and time is running out. Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist who covered the 1988 Joe Biden campaign for "The New York Times", along with Maureen Dowd. E.J., it`s nice to have you with us tonight. Well, I want to start with just your interpretation of this whole -- call it a saga, because I remember when I read that Maureen Dowd column back on August 1st, I was struck by the intimate detail about Biden`s literal thoughts being quoted on the page. I sort of always assumed to myself, Joe Biden must have talked to her for this. How did you read that? E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: First of all, it was fun to sit here and see my life of 28 years ago roll before my eyes on your monitors. Yes, I did cover that campaign. And I think this is a really peculiar controversy. I am quite sure Joe Biden has talked to Maureen Dowd and if you notice in their statement, they didn`t deny that he talked to Maureen. And Joe Biden was very open for a long time about what beau Biden said to him. In "The Wall Street Journal" a month before, there was a story, more than a month before, June 28th, there was a story that Beau Biden had wanted his father to run for president. So, that wasn`t a secret. You know, there is a spin being put on this story that Biden said this stuff in order to I guess the words in "Politico" are put an advertisement for his campaign for himself. I`m sorry, maybe I`m naive. But I`ve heard Joe Biden talk about the death of Beau Biden. He did talk a lot about it. He did talk about how he felt, how Beau Biden felt. And anybody who has kids knows that that is a devastating loss. And I just refuse to believe that when he was talking to anybody, including Maureen, he was -- he had somewhere in his head the notion, especially at that time when it was so fresh, that notion that he was putting a feeler for a campaign. I just really can`t believe that. If makes me naive, I`m happy to be naive. KORNACKI: No, I had the same doubt I think and the aim question. I thought of the Biden who the nation saw on Stephen Colbert`s show a few weeks ago who was struggling to put words together at times, who was jumping from one anecdote to another. I imagined that conversation playing out whether it`s with Maureen Dowd or somebody else. And maybe this is one of the details that emerges from Joe Biden just putting his thoughts together like that. That seems entirely plausible to me. But when we look at the raw politics of this, he is facing a decision here right now. Part of that decision, I imagine, is do I want to subject myself? Do I want to subject my family at this time to negative attack politics? And like it or not, that`s one way of reading what happened today. Do you think what happened today has a bearing on his decision or will? DIONNE: I think it might. I think you were exactly right at the beginning of the show when you said that when you`re out of politics, when you`re not a candidate, people tend to be nicer to you. And the moment you become a candidate, then every action that you take including talking about your son hob died suddenly gets put into a political motif. And you know, I think Beau Biden will play a big role in this decision in his head one way or the other. On the one hand, running could be his way of answering Beau Biden`s request that he run, a way to move forward with his life. And if he doesn`t run as he said to Colbert, I think it will also play a big role because he will just decide he is not ready, he is not in a frame of mind to run for president. So, I do think Beau is central to this. I just don`t think Beau is central to a kind of calculating strategy. KORNACKI: I put you on the spot here. Just a real quick answer. Does your gut tell you one way or the other if he`s going to get in this thing? DIONNE: You know, my gut a long time ago said he wasn`t going to run. A few weeks ago it said he was going to run. If Biden is trying to confuse us, then he`s totally confused me. But my understanding from a conversation tonight is he hasn`t made up his mind and hasn`t made up his mind on a date. They`re very aware of the deadlines put up there. They`re ready to roll when he announces if he announces. I just don`t think he`s there yet. Now I have absolutely no idea what he`s going to do. KORNACKI: You and many, many other people. We are all waiting to see. E.J. Dionne, columnist with "The Washington Post", thanks for joining us tonight. DIONNE: Yes, good to be with you. KORNACKI: All right. Much more ahead here on this very busy news night, including a remarkable argument for gun controlling from nearly half a century ago. And -- (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: And there`s lots more ahead tonight. As House Republicans fight over who should be the next speaker, Hillary Clinton punches back against the committee designed to bring her down. That and much more still to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s also as we now know very clearly the way that the Republicans are trying to bring my as they admit poll numbers down and so, excuse me, so you know, I`m very committed to answering questions, to being as transparent as possible. I`m scheduled to testify before their committee, which we now know is nothing but a partisan exercise. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That was Hillary Clinton yesterday to NBC`s Savannah Guthrie attacking the house select committee on Benghazi. This after Republican majority leader Kevin McCarthy basically let slip last week the committee was created to lower Hillary Clinton`s standing in the polls. Clinton obviously seeing a big political opening here and today, she upped the ante with this new ad. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN AD) AD NARRATOR: The Republicans finally admit it. REPORTER: Republican Kevin McCarthy saying the committee investigating Benghazi and Clinton`s e-mails was created to destroy her candidacy. REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. What are her numbers today? AD NARRATOR: Republicans have spent millions attacking Hillary because she`s fighting for everything they oppose from affordable health care to equal pay. She`ll never stop fighting for you and the Republicans know it. CLINTON: I`m Hillary Clinton. And I approve this message. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And that ad is actual Hillary Clinton`s first national ad of this campaign. It started airing today on this network and on CNN. It`s going to air through Thursday. And Thursday is a very important day for Kevin McCarthy because Thursday is when his fellow House Republicans are going to meet and he hopes officially select him as their candidate to become the next speaker of the House. McCarthy was quick to respond today to this new Clinton ad. His office saying, "The mission of the select committee on Benghazi is to find the truth -- period. The integrity of Chairman Trey Gowdy, the committee and the work they accomplished is beyond reproach. The serious questions Secretary Clinton faces are due entirely to her own decision to put classified information at risk and endanger our national security." Now, Kevin McCarthy also has two opponents in that vote among Republicans that`s going to take place on Thursday. One of them is Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the other is Dan Webster of Florida. Neither of them though appears to have anywhere near the level of support that McCarthy does. McCarthy is expected to win that vote on Thursday with ease. But that won`t necessarily settle the matter, because to become speaker, you need to win a majority in a vote of the full house. Both parties coming together every member declaring his or her choice in public. And that vote, that vote of the full House is still three weeks away. And during that vote, any Republican who doesn`t want to vote for McCarthy doesn`t have to. When they`re called on, they can call out any other name they want. Doesn`t have to be someone who`s a member of the House right now. And this isn`t just a theoretical thing. The last two times there were elections for speaker back in January of 2013, back of January of this year, there were multiple Republicans who refused to vote for John Boehner. John Boehner came awfully close to being denied the majority he needed to continue as speaker. In 2013, there were 12 Republicans who defied Boehner in the vote of the full house they either abstained or voted for other random people like former Congressman Alan West or Colin Powell. This year, in 2015, more than double, 25 Republicans turned on Boehner on the house floor, the biggest depiction that any House speaker had faced in over a century. Now, Boehner still had enough votes to hang onto the speaker`s gavel, but it was very close and it was very embarrassing. So, for Kevin McCarthy as he looks ahead to the big vote in three weeks, the magic number for him is 28. He can afford up to 28 defections from his fellows Republicans. Anything more than that, and he won`t have a majority. He won`t have enough to become speaker of the House. Joining us now is Jake Sherman, senior congressional reporter for "Politico". Jake, thanks for joining us tonight. So, OK, let`s give McCarthy the win this Thursday when the Republicans vote. Let`s take it to the full vote of the house, 25 defections for Boehner, the last time we did one of these. Is there a chance there will be more than 28 defections when Kevin McCarthy faces the full House? JAKE SHERMAN, POLITICO STAFF WRITER: Three weeks is a very, very, very long time for him to hang on. I think most people most insiders that I`ve talked to expect he will be able to win the speakership and, fortunately, for McCarthy, John Boehner was looking out for him and pushed off the majority leader down the road into November, the number two and number three slots. So conservatives are expected to try to take out perhaps Steve Scalise who they don`t consider conservative enough for them, and they`re going to try to direct their energy that way. But, listen, these floor votes are never easy. The House is in a constant state of chaos. So, you really -- if you`re a gambling man, you do not put money on Kevin McCarthy winning. But, obviously, he thinks he`s going to win. And that`s why they`re holding the vote on Thursday. KORNACKI: Game this out a little bit from the sort of conservative renegade standpoint. If they want to deny him the majority in this vote, let`s say they do that, let`s say he gets stuck on 205 or something like that. So, then, there`s a second ballot. What is the theory? At that moment he is sort of rebuked. A new candidate emerges? Is there a name out there? What happens? SHERMAN: I mean, there`s really only a couple people who could get to 218 which is the magic number to win that you were referring to. Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan are the only two people that most insiders in the capital think could get to the level. Jason Chaffetz and Daniel Webster who are running for the speakership now don`t stand any chance of getting to that level. The problem is, I was talking to one these agitators who led the charge that led to John Boehner having to step down, they kind of shook everything up and caused this huge mess. But they really don`t have the next step. They don`t have a candidate. There`s not one candidate who is running for speaker majority leader or whip from the freedom caucus or the right -- the right flank of the House Republican conference. So, they were able to mess things up for John Boehner and put Kevin McCarthy at risk but 30 votes isn`t enough to put forth their own candidate. That`s a problem for them. KORNACKI: Very quickly, I`m curious about this, too, because there`s a report that Ted Cruz will meet with some of these conservative who gave Boehner such a hard time. He is going to meet with them tomorrow. From Kevin McCarthy`s standpoint, is he at risk of having to overpromise to the conservatives to keep them in line? SHERMAN: Absolutely. There`s no question. He is constantly overpromising. That`s what you have to do to win an election and hope that people kind of forget and realize they don`t want to the shut down the government, they don`t want to default on the debt, and they don`t want to do all these things that the Republican establishment really wants to avoid. I wouldn`t put a ton of stock in the Ted Cruz news. He meets with these guys all the time. And he has pizza and that`s basically all that comes from it. KORNACKI: All right. Jake Sherman, senior congressional reporter with "Politico", thanks for your time tonight. Appreciate it. SHERMAN: Thanks. KORNACKI: And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our forecast, well, how about that. Boy, I tell you. I don`t know what to say. Whew. Sunshine. That`s amazing. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That`s South Carolina weather man was overcome with emotion after seeing sunshine in Columbia for the first time in a long rainy while. The death toll from the devastating flooding in that state is still rising, 17 people are now confirmed dead, most of them in South Carolina. Roughly 11 trillion gallons of rainfall soaked the Carolinas in the past week. Columbia, South Carolina, got six months worth of rain in just two days. Search and rescue efforts around the capital city are going to continue tomorrow. Officials say they will stay out there until the entire county has been covered. Be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: In May of 1968, a young Democratic presidential candidate held a campaign event in Oregon, where he addressed what he said was the need for gun control in this country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT F. KENNEDY, THEN-U.S. SENATOR: Now, does that make any sense that you should put rifles and guns in the hands of people who have long criminal records, people who are insane, or people who are mentally incompetent, or people who are so young they don`t know how to handle rifles and guns? As presented by the John Birch Society as somebody`s going to come in, the federal government is going to take your guns away, or take your rifles away. Nothing is going to happen about that. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That, of course, Senator Robert F. Kennedy. And he actually went on to lose the primary in Oregon that month. It was a huge upset. He lost to Eugene McCarthy, but he quickly bounced back and less than two weeks later after that speech, he won the California primary. It was on that night just after he claimed victory in California just after he vowed to fight onto the convention in Chicago and to win there. It was just after that that Bobby Kennedy then just 42 years old was assassinated. He was shot to death by a man armed with a .22 caliber handgun. But that speech that Kennedy gave in Oregon days before he was killed, it was remarkable, not just because of the subject matter. It was also striking because of the reaction he got. The crowd there in Oregon heckled him at points like when he suggested that some people shouldn`t have guns. "The New York Times" reported at the time "a man in a cowboy hat booed loudly and shouted, "They`ll get them anyway." It`s also striking about this article you`re looking at is this. Look at it, the date line. Kennedy was speaking that day in Roseburg, Oregon. And now, of course, Roseburg is back in the national spotlight following last week`s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College. But so too is the sentiment heard in that 1968 newspaper article, the sense that no matter what the legislation, no matter what the solutions on the table, the wrong people will always get their hands on guns. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unfortunately, in this case of mental illness or in the cases of someone who just wants a gun to carry out a crime, they`re not going to follow the law. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course it is the person behind the gun. Guns don`t kill people. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Guns don`t kill people. The refrain we`ve been hearing for years. And today, Ben Carson went a step further. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TV ANCHOR: Dr. Carson, if a gunman walks up and puts a gun at you and says what religion are you -- that is the ultimate test of your faith. CARSON: I`m glad you asked that question because not only would I probably not cooperate with them, I would not just stand there and let them shoot me. I would say, hey, guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me but he can`t get us all. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Given remarks like this and given the fact that Ben Carson is now consistently polling as a top tier Republican candidate for president, it would seem as if gun legislation is politically impossible. But not everyone in Washington thinks so. And one of the senators who doesn`t joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: In a political season where doing anything about guns seems all but impossible, one senator thinks she may be able to get something done. Senator Amy Klobuchar has proposed a bill that would make it more difficult for domestic abusers to obtain firearms. Joining us is Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota. Senator, thanks for taking a few minutes tonight. So, I`ll start by asking you about this legislation. The scope of it is very narrow. You`re dealing with a very specific issue here given all of the failures to get gun legislation through really over the last decade plus. Is that what the key is to really narrow the focus? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, I think the key is to look at what we can get done pragmatically. That doesn`t, of course, hurt big gun owning state. My state, hunting. I always look at things, does it hurt my Uncle Dick and his deer stand? The answer with my bill, the background check bill that I think is so important that narrowly was defeated last time, the answer is no, it doesn`t. What my bill does is makes very clear that if you`re convicted, convicted of a stalking crime, which we know a lot of the domestic homicides involving intimate partners start with stalking, over 50 percent of them, then you`re not going to have access to a gun. It also changes some definitions with domestic abuse that are really important and even the Republican witnesses supported the change to include dating partners, when we had a hearing on this bill last year. So, I think that bill is a strong possibility. There is a bipartisan effort in the House, the Republican cosponsor with Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Also, the background check bill. I think we need to look at ha again. Senator Manchin put together this bipartisan bill two A-rated NRA senators were willing to really step up and put that bill forward, and certainly the victims families in Sandy Hook, they were so brave and worked so hard to get that bill passed. That has got to be still to me one of the most disappointing days we had in the Senate. KORNACKI: Yes, that universal background checks bill you`re talking about. That was a 2013. That was a different Senate. That was a Democratic controlled Senate. And they were unable to get to the 60 votes they needed to break that filibuster. There were a few Republicans who came on board. There were a few Democrats who defected. Let me ask you about this, whether we`re talking about background checks, whether we`re talking about your legislation. Let me ask you about this, what I hear about the strategic politics of this from opponents of gun control. They say it`s a slippery slope argument essentially. Maybe there`s nothing wrong with universal background checks. Maybe there`s nothing really wrong with what Senator Klobuchar is proposing. But if we give the gun control forces a victory on anything, they`re going to come back for more and then it`s going to start to hurt us. What do you say to that? KLOBUCHAR: I`d say first of all, you have people that are supporting these bills that are strong believers in the Second Amendment that believe you have a right to have guns. But what we`re talking about here is something that 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent, even the majority of gun owners support having stronger background checks, closing those loopholes that allow people to not have background checks when they buy a gun at a gun show or over the Internet. It`s a pretty straightforward idea, Steve. The other thing is to make sure we`re putting the data like we didn`t have happen in Virginia tech, putting the data in the background check system so that the states are doing that. These are pretty straightforward criminal justice ideas, supported by law enforcement. And I think when you look at the numbers of Americans that support this, what we need here is a grassroots movement. A grassroots movement to say, you know what, we know this won`t solve everything. But we have to do something that makes a difference. And this will make a difference. And the people of this country when you look at those numbers, you know where their hearts are, I`m hopeful this will be different this time. KORNACKI: All right. Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota -- appreciate your time tonight. Thank you. KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Steve. KORNACKI: All right. And still ahead, could we be at the beginning of a major change in the Republican race for president? Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought the debate was very fair. I thought the CNN people were very professional. The questions were good. I mean, the one complaint would be it was a long debate. You know, to be three hours has got to be a record. So, I would say the one thing is it was very, very long, three hours. And I hope viewers liked, but you know, they obviously sold a lot of commercials but it was a very long debate. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That was Donald Trump last month immediately following the second Republican debate, complaining about how long he had to stand on the stage, three whole hours. And now just three weeks later, well, while he`s still leading in the polls, there`s a question we want to ask about Donald Trump`s campaign. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Donald Trump`s new show opened this weekend in Mexico City. Well, it`s not exactly his new show, it`s a new show, but it`s about him. It`s an 80-minute sketch made up of Mexico`s most popular comedians basically roasting and lampooning Trump. It premiered last Friday. There`s already talk about taking it to L.A. or Chicago or some other American cities. Donald Trump`s showmanship, his shtick, his persona, it turns heads. That`s part of the appeal of watching him. The appeal of how fun he is, seeing him put on a show, even seeing others put on a show about him. But when you`re a showman, there is one rule above all others that you have to live by. You have to keep it fresh. You have to keep it fresh constantly or you`ll lose your audience. On June 16th, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and it`s now been more than three months since that announcement and since that time, he has succeed wildly in being a presidential candidate than we`ve ever seen before. Trump ridicules his opponent, he tweets outrageous things, he calls people names. He gives out his opponents` phone numbers. He says and does things that are supposed to destroy a candidate and instead he spends the entire summer surging in the polls, dominating in the media`s coverage and becoming the Republican front-runner. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best. They`re not sending you. They`re not sending you. They`re sending people that have lots of problems. And they`re bringing those problems with us. They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people. You know, he lost. So, I never liked him as much after that because I don`t like losers. But, Frank, let me get to it. He hit me -- FRANK LUNTZ: He`s a war hero. TRUMP: He`s not a war hero. LUNTZ: He`s a war hero. TRUMP: He is a war hero -- LUNTZ: Five and a half years -- TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. Do you agree with that? LUNTZ: He`s a war hero. TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. OK? I think she`s got a beautiful face and I think she`s a beautiful woman. (END VIDEO CLIPS) KORNACKI: What Donald Trump managed to do this summer, what he has done for the first three months of his campaign is to keep things fresh. The number one rule for a showman, he`s always coming up with some new shocking or outrageous or funny twist. Keeping the audience on the edge of its seat, wondering what could possibly come next. And that`s hard to do. To hold the entire press, the entire political world`s attention for three whole months. And let`s give Donald Trump credit. He has managed to do that. But guess what? It`s still only October 6th. The first primary is still four months away. Four months. That`s longer than the entire Trump campaign has lasted so far. That means Donald Trump still has to find a way to keep it fresh for four more months, to stay fresh, to stay exciting, to stay unpredictable, to avoid becoming stale, to avoid falling back on a familiar bag of tricks, to keep that audience from getting restless in its seats, from getting up and just walking away. And that`s why the last couple of weeks have been -- well, they`ve been interesting, because there may -- may be some signs that Donald Trump`s freshness is wearing off. The first indication is his poll numbers. Now, he`s still up. He`s still ahead. He`s still leading in pretty much every poll you see. But his lead has shrunk in New Hampshire. It`s shrunk in Iowa. This according to new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist polling. His rise in the national polls, it has stopped. It`s maybe even receded a bit. Ben Carson is creeping up right behind him in the polls. Carly Fiorina suddenly not so far behind. And then there are his speeches and his rallies, there`s also a chance there. All summer, cable network, and this network very much included, wouldn`t think twice before covering any Trump event live. It was something unpredictable. It was fresh. Last week, when some cable channels did carry a rally for Trump in key New Hampshire live, they`ve all tuned out when he decided to surprise the crowd with some choice words. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: They hate more than anybody in this room hates their neighbor. But it`s political bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you understand? That`s what happened. And then as soon as we left, they knocked the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of everybody. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: So the networks aren`t always carrying his speeches live anymore. They missed that part of it. And when you think about it, that moment seemed kind of uncharacteristic of Donald Trump. Was that maybe his way, swearing, of trying to stay fresh, of trying to add a new twist, the candidate who`s happy to be profane? And now this week, Trump is taking swings at Marco Rubio. He`s trying to do it in a flashy way. He sent a 24 bottle case of Trump spring water to Rubio`s Washington campaign office, complete with his face on it, plus two "Make America great again" towels and bumper stickers and said, quote, "Since you`re sweating, we thought you could use some water. Enjoy." That care package was delivered yesterday. It`s a twist on a strategy that`s worked well for Trump so far. He went after Jeb Bush, he poked fun at Lindsey Graham, he ridiculed Rand Paul. It helped him. It seemed to hurt all of them. But is there a chance with Rubio, maybe he`s picking the wrong target? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Donald Trump is saying over and over again that you`re sweaty -- SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Only when it`s hot. REPORTER: Are those personal attacks getting under your skin at all? RUBIO: No. This election is about the future of America. It`s not about these other things. It can`t be. We can`t afford to get it wrong this time. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That`s the kind of confident, coolly dismissive response that the other Republican victims of Trump`s attacks haven`t been able to muster. Another sign that things might be starting to change a bit for Donald Trump is now he`s starting to answer questions about whether he would get out of the race potentially, telling NBC`s Chuck Todd this weekend that if his poll numbers do drop and the public loses interest in his campaign, many wouldn`t subject himself to the nominating process. Essentially, he wouldn`t let anyone actually see him lose. Now again, Donald Trump is still ahead in the polls. He is still getting plenty of media attention, maybe all of this doesn`t add up to anything. But, but is it possible that all of the tricks that have made Donald Trump the most unusual presidential candidate we over seen, that have riveted the media, that have filled convention hall, that have propelled him to the top of the field, is it possible they`re starting to get just a little old? That Donald Trump, the candidate, Donald Trump the political phenomenon, isn`t quite as fresh as he used to be? When he first started moving up in the polls, a lot of people assumed that Trump`s campaign was bound to end with a bang, some wild, over the top comment or controversy that would derail him in an epic fashion. But maybe that gets all wrong. Is it possible that his campaign will end sometime down the road, not because the masses revolt against him in outrage, but simply because the act stops being fresh and the audience just slowly gets up and files out? A whimper, not a bang. Donald Trump`s demise has been predicted before and so far he`s still standing. Maybe he`ll stay standing all the way through this race. But those first primaries and caucuses in February -- they are still a long way off, and that is a long time for even the most talented showman to keep it fresh. That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back here tomorrow night. And now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END