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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/28/15

Guests: Dan Rather, Martin O`Malley

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Great to have you here. So, a broadcast network, television network is offered a multimillion dollar ad buy. That`s an ad buy for multiple blockbuster ads to run across the network, to run on the super successful super high-profile late-night comedy show, and the ads will also run on their evening newscast and on their morning newscasts. The ads will run on their world famous weekly news magazine show. It`s a multimillion dollar advertising deal, and it`s to run ads for a new movie made by Sony Pictures. This is a mainstream movie. Obviously, Sony Pictures is a mainstream movie studio. But in this case the broadcast network does the unthinkable in business terms. The broadcast network in this case turns down the money. Turns down the deal, and says they will refuse to run any of those ads on any of their programs. At the same time, the conservative cable news network you might have heard of called the FOX News Channel, FOX News and the raging right-wing New York City tabloid newspaper owned by the same billionaire who owns FOX News, "New York Post," both FOX News and "New York Post" go on the warpath against this movie. "The New York Post" denounces the film as wacko. The FOX News Channel brings out not just Karl Rove, but Chris Wallace as a host to both denounce the movie on "FOX News Sunday". What is going on is a provocative confluence of events between this new movie and up-to-the minute current political events, and the trailing ends of a scandal that once afflicted the Republican Party that may not be over, in a way that`s freaking some people out, because just as the Jeb Bush for president campaign has started to roll out reformed President George W. Bush as a key element of the Jeb Bush for president campaign, George W. Bush has been raising funds for Jeb all along, he`s been making statements of support for his brother all along, but now they`re at the point in the campaign where they`re actually having Jeb Bush and George W. Bush do joint political appearances for the first time as the Bush family coalesces around Jeb`s presidential campaign to try to rescue it. Just as the Bush family and the Jeb Bush campaign and the Republican establishment more broadly is banking on former President George W. Bush being sufficiently politically rehabilitated in the public eye, so much so he could potentially be a plus and not a minus for his brother`s presidential campaign, just as that is happening in our current politics, one of the great unresolved scandals of George W. Bush`s public life`s just been acted out on film by Robert Redford, Kate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, should I go on? And they big movie is freaking out not just the players involved in that old scandal to the point where one broadcast network is turn down millions of dollars free for nothing. They don`t watch the ads for that movie on their air. It`s not just freaking people out connected to the scandal, but freaking people out who have anything to do with this story. Here it goes. One of the interesting and new things about the last presidential race we had in 2012 is that it was the first election since Vietnam in which neither major party candidate had any military service at all. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney ever served in the military. That was the first election like that since Vietnam. But that dynamic is likely to be the similar dynamic this year. None of the Democratic candidates for president who are still left in the race have ever served in the military. On the other side, the only way the Republicans will nominate somebody who served I that they pick either Jim Gilmore, who is reported to still be running for president, but there`s no proof of that, or Lindsey Graham, who is making a real go of it and will not quit the race, but he is roughly if you`re rounding, at zero percent in the polls. He did spend last night prepping, but getting drunk in front of a whole bunch of reporters in a bar in Boulder, Colorado. So, maybe they`ll pick Jim Gilmore and Lindsey Graham and the streak will be going, the streak will pick back up again. But in all previous elections before 2012, the military service record of one or more of the candidates came up as an issue. Not just as an issue as to whether or not it was a good qualifications for that candidate becoming commander-in- chief. Since Vietnam, the military service of various candidates in every election since that war has been an issue about which there has been some political discussion or some controversy. It happens in every single election. Take, for example, the race in 1988. That race was then Vice President George H.W. Bush to succeed Ronald Reagan as president. George H.W. Bush himself obviously had a heroic and storied military career as a naval aviator in World War II. He really went through some of the horrors of World War II, and served with incredible distinction. But Vice President Bush picked as his running mate Dan Quayle. In that 1988 race, I think it`s kind of forgotten now, but the Bush/Quayle campaign got criticism that during Vietnam, young Dan Quayle did not serve in the Vietnam War. Instead, he got himself a coveted position in the Indiana National Guard, which had the effect basically of insulating him from any real threat of being sent over to the fight. That criticism of Dan Quayle apparently stung the Bush/Quayle campaign enough in 1988 that they decided to hit back on that exact issue. And so, they sent the Bush/Quayle campaign cochairman out on to TV in August of that year to say that actually Dan Quayle was not the scandal. The real National Guard scandal from the Vietnam era was on the Democratic ticket. That year, the Democratic presidential nominee was Michael Dukakis, his running mate was Lloyd Bentsen, and the Republicans that year alleged that Lloyd Bentsen had done something terrible, he had pulled strings in 1968 to get his own son, Lloyd Bentsen III, into the Texas Air National Guard, so that Lloyd Bentsen`s son could avoid serving. That was the counter punch from the Bush/Quayle campaign after the questions were raised about Dan Quayle avoiding service in Vietnam. That counter punch ended up going horribly wrong when it turned out one of the people who Lloyd Bentsen`s son served alongside in the Texas Air National Guard while busy not going to Vietnam, one of the other people in that unit was Vice President Bush`s son George W. Same unit. He also somehow miraculously found himself with a coveted spot in the Air National Guard unit in Texas along with the sons of other Texas prominent families, rather than in a jungle in Southeast Asia. In that campaign, despite all that back and forth and lots more besides, ultimately Poppy Bush and Dan Quayle won that election. They lost the next one to Bill Clinton who his own controversies around his own decisions around the Vietnam service or lack thereof. Bill Clinton went on to serve as two terms for president. By the time the Republican Party was ready to take the White House back again, the Republican candidate was the next time around the aforementioned George W. Bush, Poppy Bush`s son. And the story of his service in the Texas Air National Guard, how he got that spot in the Texas Air National Guard, what was the character of his service once he was in the Texas Air National Guard. That issue simmered as sort of an intriguing back-burner biographical/political story through out his first effort to become elected president and throughout his first term in office. And after 9/11, the start of the Iraq war, Democrats picked John Kerry to run against George W. Bush in 2004. And when Republicans and conservative groups in 2004 decided that they would attack John Kerry that year on the basis of his war record, claiming that John Kerry didn`t deserve his medals, he had somehow faked his apparent heroism in Vietnam, once that happened, it was bound to be next that George W. Bush`s contrasting experience from a that time period when he was not serving in Vietnam and instead was serving under somewhat mysterious circumstances in what was called the champagne unit of the Texas Air National Guard, after the whole swift boating thing, it was bound to happen this aspect of George W. Bush`s life was going to become an object of political focus and ultimately a lot of really, really aggressive reporting in that election of 2004. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Now, P Bush`s own record of service in the National Guard is tonight once again under a microscope. Some have requested whether a young George Bush failed to report for a time during the early 1970s. REPORTER: The key question, whether then-Lieutenant Bush showed up for required duty between May of 1972 and May of 1973. That`s when political opponents like the Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe accuse the president of being, quote, "AWOL". The White House has never been able to produce a fellow guardsman to confirm that Mr. Bush performed his duties. And there`s a contradiction. While the record show Mr. Bush performed duties in Alabama and Texas during the key period, his superiors don`t recall him showing up. JOHN KERRY (D), THEN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He owes America an explanation of whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. They should prove it. TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Late this afternoon, word that some of President Bush`s missing military service records now have been found. REPORTER: The newly found record showed that Bush received no pay from the National Guard for the months of July, August and September 1972. REPORTER: Today, a "Boston Globe" investigation found more gaps in George Bush`s service. In Boston in 1973, when the young George Bush promised to meet his guard commitment while attending Harvard Business School. "The Globe" found no proof he did. That say critics proves Bush, as the son of a prominent politician, got special treatment. In 1988, during the debate over Dan Quayle`s guard duty, Bush was asked if someone made calls for him. GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: If you want to go into the National Guard, sometimes people made call. They probably should have called up the National Guard up on those days, maybe we would have done better in Vietnam. REPORTER: On "Meet the Press" last winter, the president defended his service. BUSH: I put in my time, proudly so. REPORTER: Today, the White House responded to Democratic criticism. DAN BARTLETT: He met his obligation. So, we don`t great with "The Boston Globe`s" assessment of the story. REPORTER: Under pressure from "The Associated Press", also investigating the president`s guard service in Alabama, the White House last night released 17 pages of newly found documents to prove he did show up for duty there at least eight times. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Newly found documents. This was a major story in the 2004 campaign. That was a bunch of different news stories. On for months and months and months in the 2004 campaign, lots of different news organization coming at it from lots of different angles were all working this particular story, all trying to tease apart of different threads of the sort of mysterious time in George Bush`s life, as groups were trying to dismantle John Kerry. They were going after John Kerry as if there was also some dishonorable or something to be embarrassed about. On the other side of the aisle there were intriguing and unanswered question. Did he get into the guard unit? Did he eventually get saved because he dad was a congressman and his grandpa was a senator? Once he got into the coveted National Guard unit, did he get a coveted job as a pilot as some sort of a political favor to his family as well? That was a hard job to get. He didn`t get good scores on the aptitude test you had to get in order to become a pilot. How did he get the pilot gig? Has he served his time in the National Guard, and got a transfer at one point to the Alabama guard so he would work on a political campaign in Alabama that his family was interested in? Did he meet his obligations when he was in Alabama? Did he meet his obligations when in Texas? All the other candidates with considerable military service records have just released all their records, and the press at least has had those records to go by. With George W. Bush there were really lots of gaps in his record, lots of things that were missing, lots of stories that just didn`t have clear answers to them. There was a lot for the press to chew on. In the campaign the press really did chew on this for months. The papers did. The TV news organizations did. This was a major journalistic ever. The earliest ones from that clip just from our archives, the earliest were February of 2004. The last one I showed was from September of 2004. This kind of reporting was going on all year long. In fact the last story I showed you was specifically from September 8th, 2004. That last clip with Andrea Mitchell reporting on the new reporting from "The Boston globe" and newly found documents, September 8th, 2004, NBC Nightly News, September 8th. "Nightly News" airs at 6:30 p.m. That night, September 8th, 2004, 90 minutes after that nightly newscast, another network aired their own original story on that subject that night. And it was just one in a series of stories, right? They added their own original story to the mounting people of aggressive reporting on this issue that so many news agencies were so interested in at the time. After that "Nightly News" broadcast we just showed many from 6:30, at 8:00 that night, September 8th, 2004, CBS aired a story on "60 Minutes 2" basically the version of "60 Minutes" that aired on Wednesday night instead of Sunday night. They ran their own story on George W. Bush`s military service during Vietnam, and after months if not years of interest in this as an issue, in the midst of this mounting and widening tide of journalistic interest in this story, in this part of George W. Bush`s past, I mean, even that night the White House still producing what had previously been thought to be long lost documents, from the `70s, from George W. Bush`s military reports documents they hadn`t found before, they were still fending them that night. In the midst of this crafting wave of intense political and journalistic interest in this very sensitive subject, when CBS ran its story that night on September 8th, 2004, that ended it. That ended all of it. It`s like the story had been this spewing volcano of scandal and political consequence, unanswered questions, and intrigue, murky implications, and it had been simmering for years, it had been boiling for months, this volcano had been spewing throughout the 2004 campaign, and then that "60 Minutes" piece aired that Wednesday night, and it was like somebody stuck a cork in the volcano. It`s all over, it came to a screeching halt. It`s done. Instantly without one report, that one night, that story changed from George W. Bush`s Vietnam era military service and how he got into the Air National Guard and whether he showed up and what happened to all his missing records, that was all swept out. In its place, the whole story became fonts and typewriters and CBS. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BROKAW: Now to the political storm over a CBS News report Wednesday night that contained documents that raised new questions about President Bush`s service in the Texas Air National Guard. The documents themselves are the story tonight. The questions is, are they fakes or real? REPORTER: Are the new documents real? One computer Web site says the type style is too modern to have used more than 30 years ago. REPORTER: The address of the fighter squadron is perfectly centered, difficult for a typist. Two other red flags, the use of curly apostrophes and a reduced size "th" both markings rarely available on early `70s typewriters. REPORTER: So, were the documents forgeries? Today, one of the experts CBS News initially asked to examine the memos, Linda James, said that she expressed serious misgivings about the validity of the documents, but said she was ignored by CBS News producer who went on to other experts. REPORTER: Tonight, White House officials who maintain the president fulfilled duties cannot say where the documents are fake, but they argue the suspicions alone have undermined their importance. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The suspicions alone have undermined the importance. Whatever those documents are about doesn`t matter anymore if we cast doubt on the documents. The scandal following that "60 Minutes" segment on September 8th, 2004, the scandal about fonts and the specific documents, that scandal about that broadcast, about that specific reporting on that specific part of that broader story, that ended the whole broader story. That CBS scandal just supplanted months and months and months of reporting by lots of different organization about George W. Bush`s National Guard service record. Now, all of a sudden, the whole story wasn`t about President Bush, it was about CBS. It was that backlash that ultimately ended the long and storied career of one of the giants of American journalism, who will be with us here in a moment to talk about this. But the question that CBS was addressing in that report, the questions about George W. Bush`s time in the National Guard, those questions really did just disappear in the uproar over CBS and its fonts and the documents that they used in their report. The overall story fell away into nothingness for a long time, not just past the presidential election that year, but for the rest of George W. Bush`s time in office. Now, there are three things happening related to that scandal which absolutely engulfed the news media in late 2004 right before the presidential election that year. Now three things happening. Number one, George W. Bush is back as the rehabilitated hero of the Republican Party who`s going to save his brother Jeb`s presidential campaign. Number two is that this freaking movie just came out about it starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett, telling the story again, for a lot of people the first time they have heard it. And number three, the third thing that was going on here, is that what the scandal was about, those documents that allegedly show George W. Bush going AWOL during his time at the National Guard, that issue of the realness or fakeness of those documents, that issue was never actually resolved. A bunch of people lost their jobs over it, including ultimately Dan Rather at CBS, but nobody was ever able to say with authority whether or not the documents used by CBS in that report were actually fake. That continues to be unresolved to this day. So, that lingering mystery about the story and now the resurfacing of that story all these years later, that is coming at a pivotal time in U.S. politics right now, and it`s freaking a lot of people out. We have just the right person to talk about it all. Dan Rather joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`ve got a big show tonight with two very big guests. First, we`ve got legendary news anchor Dan Rather, who is here live, next. He`s going to sit right there with me. And then, we`ve got Democratic presidential candidate Martin O`Malley here. Lots coming up tonight. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BROKAW: A mistake. CBS News now admits it was wrong about documents on a report on the president`s National Guard Service. The man who provided them admits he misled CBS. Today, CBS News anchor Dan Rather and the news division acknowledge they cannot prove the authenticity of documents they used in a story about George W. Bush`s National Guard service. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was 11 years ago, during the 2004 presidential campaign. All of that is now back in a whole new way, with help from some very attractive actors like Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are the chances you have something alcoholic in there? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better than average. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long have we known each other? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Jesus, is it that bad? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re going to start an investigation and CBS wants to appoint an independent panel to take a look at how the story is put together. And I`m going to announce it tomorrow. I`m going to apologize for the story on air. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Andrew asked you to apologize? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn`t ask. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dan, that`s surrender -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever since Burkett changed his story, Andrew feels CBS can`t afford the risk to his reputation. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, God, he knew even before we went down there, just wanted to put them on tape. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mary, you`ve got to promise me something, stop worrying about me. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s not going to happen. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve got to protect yourself now. We all do. Thank you for the drink. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was a lawyer`s name on a business card that he threw down on the table there. That was Cate Blanchett as producer Mary Mapes. That was Robert Redford as Dan Rather. It`s the new movie called "Truth". Joining us now is the real Dan Rather, who`s imminently better looking than Robert Redford. He`s now the president of News and Guts Media. Dan Rather, thank you so much for being here. It`s nice to have you here. DAN RATHER, NEWS AND GUTS MEDIA: Well, thank you for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: I`m sorry to pander to you there with the Robert Redford crack. But I don`t know what you say to someone who had Robert Redford portray them in a film. You did not -- you didn`t make this film. This isn`t your movie. RATHER: No. MADDOW: But I have to ask if it tells the story in the way that you remember it, broad strokes. Do you agree with the basic case of the movie? RATHER: I do. The movie is accurate, based on a book that Mary Mapes did. I was pleasantly surprised that Hollywood didn`t take some of the liberties that it sometimes take. It`s accurate. What happened is I remember this first person witness. But keep in mind, Rachel, this has been 11 years ago. For someone who may be sitting in a living room tonight and asking, well, this happened 11 years ago, why should we -- I think it resonates today, because when people say what`s happened to the news, what this film is about, more than it`s about Mary Mapes, me or even former President Bush, it`s about what`s happened to the news, why it happened, how it happened, and why everybody should care about it. MADDOW: I thought that movie could have just easily been called "Courage" not only because of you using that as an on-air sign off in that functioning as motif in the film, but because of the some criticism you raised since this all happened. You had a legal battle with CBS over this and other matters -- RATHER: I did. MADDOW: -- in which you basically said that CBS broke protocol for a news organization in not defending your reporting, and not having the instinct to stick up for you. Is that still how you feel? RATHER: Yes, not only how I feel. It`s what the facts dictate. Look, make no mistake, you know, I had 44 years at CBS News, and it didn`t end all that well, but I had 44 great years, 24 years in the anchor chair. It`s so far behind me now. I`m doing my own work, working full time, that until this movie got made, frankly I didn`t think about it very often. But the great tradition of CBS News, what made it a great news institution and a national treasure, which I think in some ways it still is, but it had a long history, the whole history was the corporate entity separated itself from the news division, said there was a firewall between the corporate entity. For the first time in history, they didn`t back their reporters on a story that was true. The reason this movie is called "Truth", there`s no question, it`s a fact that the basics of the story was correct. It was true. MADDOW: The stories of the -- the allegations in the story about the president`s service. RATHER: Well, what are facts -- one, through political influence, a younger George W. Bush at a younger time in his life, which he himself said was a troubled time, political influence, basically his father`s influence got him into the National Guard. That`s a fact. Fact two -- once he got into the Air National Guard and performed at least fairly well, and by some accounts fairly well, he disappeared for a year. Nobody disappears in the U.S. military without some consequence, but he did. And then interesting enough, the records of that period were destroyed. That`s -- those two things are true. That`s what the story was about. Now, those who didn`t like the story -- we were in the middle of a political campaign, presidential campaign, they couldn`t attack the facts of the story, the truth of the story. So, they shifted, very successfully, giving credit in that`s the word, they shifted the argument, not whether the story was true, but whether in the process of putting the story together, whether we had made any mistakes in the center of the documents. Now, we made mistakes in the process, but the mistakes we made in the process don`t deter the fact -- don`t erase the fact that the story itself was true. MADDOW: But the scandal around the reporting problems in the story had the political effect of exhausting the entire issue. RATHER: Right. And, for example, those who didn`t like the story for political or ideological, or some other reason, they attacked the documents as forgeries. In fact, "The Wall Street Journal" recently in discussing the film said that the documents were exposed to be forgeries. That is untrue. Here we are 11 years later, and nobody is -- has proven yet that the documents were forgeries. It`s a fair argument to argue, well, Dan, you and CBS didn`t prove the documents were what they were. I think we did, but that`s open to argument. But again back to the point, see, having this kind of discussion, this is exactly what they wanted. They wanted to discuss documents. They wanted to discuss -- there`s no question, saying, the two basic facts were true, and a lot of people who were in that unit, so-called, quote, "champagne unit" of the Air National Guard, which was put together for the specific purpose of making sure that people who joined that unit wouldn`t have to go to Vietnam. And so, the story is true. But I recognize, a lot of people this far back would say, well, I don`t know, it was a scandal, something wrong with it. The basic truth of the story there was nothing wrong with. "The Boston Globe" had put it in print as early as 2000, and they had -- but nobody in television, nobody in television had ever touched the story until about the time we got to it. Now, as you pointed out, NBC did 90 minutes before we were on the air, did a version of the story. MADDOW: Right, there was a lot of different threats of that story being pulled. RATHER: I think it`s important to also node up to and including this time, former President Bush has never denied the basic facts of the story, nor has anybody in his family or anybody close circle around him. They say, well, the documents were forged, that`s game, set and match, but it isn`t for any thinking person. But up to and including now, they have never denied the story, because the story was true, it was truth. MADDOW: That characterization by you in your own term and in this new film is causing a lot of political agita, that this may be 11 years ago, but it is today as well. Dan Rather, former "CBS Evening News" anchor, president now of News and Guts Media, thank you for talking this through with me. I appreciate - - I know it take trust to talk about this issue because it`s been so froth for you. Thank you for being here. RATHER: Well, thank you very much for having me. MADDOW: Thanks, Dan. We should note that CBS News has maintained all the along that they stand by the results of their independent review into that report back in 2004, which found flaws in the reporting process. I should tell that you in terms of their response to this movie tonight. But there`s a reason there`s so much agita being caused by this film, why CBS is refusing to advertise it on their air. There`s a lot to this. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Governor Martin O`Malley is a Democrat running for president of the United States. But tonight, he decided to crash the Republican debate in Boulder, Colorado. Quite uninvited, and I`m sure quite unwelcome, but also quite unrepentant about it. And Governor O`Malley is going to join us live from there, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So he said he would marry Carly Fiorina. A Republican candidate for president of the United States played a game, some of you might have heard of, a game that I can`t name on TV, even on cable. The gist of the game is you have to pick among three people who you would date, who you would marry and who you would make disappear forever. In this case, the candidate was playing among Carly Fiorina, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. His choice was that he would date Sarah Palin, he would make disappear Secretary Clinton, and he would marry Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, quote, "because she`s rich". That was a charming window into the mind of senior senator from the great state of South Carolina. That was Senator Lindsey Graham. Last night, he was out and about late night, late night, kind of partying, and playing that game about women in politics. He at one point climbed behind the bar in a drinking establishment in Boulder, Colorado. He did shots with reporters. He poured rounds of whiskey. He very poorly poured glasses of beer that were just whole glasses full of foam. At one point, he raised a toast to Donald Trump and ask everybody in the bar to toast Donald Trump with him. That was Lindsey Graham`s debate prep last night. And tonight, he took his seat at the kids` table at the third Republican presidential debate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Without the sacrifice of the veteran, all of our hopes and dreams are at risk. Just a few days ago, Hillary Clinton said the problems with the V.A. are being exaggerated by Republicans. They are not. They are real. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What Senator Graham was talking about right there tonight is something that happened on this show last week. I had Secretary Hillary Clinton here for the interview, I asked her about this newly fashionable idea in the Republican circles that the V.A. should abolished, that it should be privatized. Here was her response. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Do you -- do you have any new ideas for trying to fix it? I mean -- there -- you can`t find a person in politics who doesn`t say we shouldn`t do right by our veterans. But for some reason, this can`t get fixed fast enough. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, and I don`t understand that. You know, I don`t understand why we have such a problem, because there have been a number of surveys of veterans. And overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment. Now -- MADDOW: Much more so than people in the regular -- (CROSSTALK) CLINTON: That`s exactly right. MADDOW: Yes. Right. CLINTON: Now, nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see, and the constant berating of the V.A. that comes from the Republicans, in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have. MADDOW: But in part because there has been real scandal. CLINTON: There has been. And -- but it`s not been as widespread as it has been made out to be. Now, I do think that some of the reforms that were adopted last year should be given a chance to work. If there is a waiting period that is just unacceptable, you should be able to, in a sense, get the opportunity to go out, have a private physician take care of you, but at the cost of the V.A. But I think it goes deeper than that, because if you look at not only V.A. health care, but the backlog on disability determinations, there`s something not working within the bureaucracy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Secretary Clinton went on to talk in that interview about some of her ideas for fixing the V.A. She also talked about her belief that the V.A. is unfunded. But since she gave that answer here on Friday night, presidential candidate Jeb Bush, and now tonight, Senator Lindsey Graham, also Senator John McCain, they`ve all criticized Secretary Clinton as underplaying the problems in the V.A. Since that interview and since that criticism, the Clinton campaign has come out to clarify Secretary Clinton`s comments saying that wait time and mismanagement in the V.A. are, quote, "systemic". They also said that her comments on this show were, quote, "misinterpreted". But that has not stopped the conservative criticism. Today, Senator John McCain with a conference call with reporters in which he told them that Senator Sanders has a better record on veterans issues than Secretary Clinton does. That, of course, generated a flurry of headlines like these in the conservative media, "Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton has report of advocacy for vets." "Bernie is better than Hillary on veterans." "Bernie`s up on veterans care, Hillary`s done nothing." Here`s the thing, though. Senator Bernie Sanders has essentially said basically the same thing as Secretary Clinton has said about the V.A., and he has also said it right here on this show. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I remember talking to you about the scandal in the V.A. of wait times and V.A. facilities lying about wait times while that scandal was emerging. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Yes. MADDOW: You were supportive of General Eric Shinseki staying as head of the V.A. SANDERS: Yes. MADDOW: Long time after some veterans groups and some other people are really calling for his head. Now, that he is gone, do you think it was right that he stepped down? Has Robert McDonald then doing any better at trying to fix the V.A.? 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 that it is very easy -- the V.A. 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 every medical facilities in America. If all you talk about are the negative things, then people get a certain view of the V.A. I, when I was chairman, I had all of the major veterans organization in front of me, American Legion, all of them, I said, tell me, when veterans get into the V.A., do you think of quality of care is good? And they said it is good to excellent. That is how most veterans feel. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK, there you have it. Senator Bernie Sanders basically saying the same thing as the comments from Hillary Clinton that conservatives have tried to turn into a scandal for her, and tried to during into a wedge in the Democratic presidential field particularly between those two candidates. We have heard now on this show from Hillary Clinton and from Bernie Sanders on this very touchy subject. They both said very similar about things about it. We have not, however, heard on this issue from the Democratic candidate who is my next guest here. (COMMERIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FORMER GOV. MARTIN O`MALLEY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, and their sniping and bickering back and forth about who`s shouting and who`s not, who is sexist and who is not are distracting from the life-and-death importance of this issue. There`s not another nation on the planet that allows as many of its citizens to die deaths because of guns, as we do. And we need to -- the sort of bickering they`re engaged in is part of the reason why you have so much dysfunction in Washington. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The entire Republican presidential field is in Boulder, Colorado, tonight for the third Republican debate. But Democratic candidate Martin O`Malley crashed it tonight. He chose to be there today and tonight to talk about the issues of guns specifically and to go after his Democratic opponents on the issues of guns. Joining us now for the interview is Democratic presidential candidate, former governor of Maryland, Martin O`Malley. Governor, it`s great to have you here. Thank you so much. O`MALLEY: Thank you, Rachel. I`m sorry I`m not in studio. MADDOW: Yes, we`ll get you here -- O`MALLEY: But I`m out here -- MADDOW: Go ahead, sir. O`MALLEY: I`m out here in Colorado. You know, they have beautiful outdoors, and I`ve been searching for the elusive species called a Republican candidate with the spine to take on the NRA. So, we`ll see if we can find one here tonight. It might emerge, like Bigfoot. MADDOW: Why make the case for gun reform at the site of the Republican debate, specifically? I mean, the place where there isn`t a consensus on gun reform is in the Democratic Party. The Republican Party is 100 percent unified on this, totally all against reform all down the line. O`MALLEY: Because before Colorado became the site for tonight`s Republican debate, Colorado was the site of Columbine, and Colorado was the site of Aurora. And there were a lot of moms and dads who lost sons and daughters in those massacres, and they want this to be an issue that we address as a people. And our country works best when both parties are actually addressing the pressing issues facing our country. So, so far, there had not been a direct question asked in the Republican debates, and I emphasize the plural of debates, about gun safety. So, I wanted to be out here with the moms against gun violence to try to elevate this issue and to -- that`s how you bring people together and forge a consensus. We`re not going to solve our problems if we can`t talk about them and address them. MADDOW: You`ve been really specific about what you think should be basically the gold standard for gun safety reform. You`ve been very specific about what policies you think would make a real difference. You`ve also been through the battles over this governmentally in Maryland in terms of passing gun reform in your state. What did you learn in passing such aggressive gun reform in your state in terms of how to beat the NRA when them and all of their forces are arrayed against you? O`MALLEY: What I learned was this -- that the vast majority of us have come to understand that we`ve got a problem as a nation, that there are far too many Americans that are dying because of guns and gun violence. So, we kept inviting people to come back to the table of democracy, if you will, and offer your solutions. I mean, after the slaughter of the innocent in Newtown, Connecticut, I made a top priority of my administration to pass comprehensive gun safety legislation, and it included elements like universal background checks, fingerprinting licenses in order to purchase new guns and also banning combat assault weapons. Yes, we also addressed mental health issues and better sharing of information. And we also addressed school perimeter safety. But we were constantly bringing back people to that belief we share and the dignity and the importance of every human life. And we found that by focusing on the importance of saving lives, that that`s what allowed us to pierce through. We also acknowledged that there are people with hunting traditions. Not a single hunter was ever denied a hunting permit or told that they couldn`t register or renew their permit. In fact, I encourage hunters to keep hunting traditions alive in our state. So, that`s what we did. I mean, there`s no way to kind of pole vault over the fear and over the division and over the lives and the mistruths of the NRA, and the truth, I found, can actually defend herself. But we have to have the guts and the courage to state it, especially on this issue. And when we did, we were able to bring forward a lot of people in my own party who initially started off as not wanting to pass this legislation. But we had to. And that`s what we`ve got to do as a nation. Look, the vast majority of us as a people actually believe we need to take action and not just have bickering and debates. I mean, Secretary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, instead of replaying the old cultural wars of the past, shouting -- who`s shouting, who`s sexist, who`s not, I think we need to focus on the elements that can actually save lives and keep guns out of the hands of psychopaths and mass murderers. That`s what we need to do. MADDOW: Let me ask you, sir, about another question where conservatives have lobbied a lot of criticism at Secretary Clinton and some at Senator Sanders. Veteran groups like IAVA have criticized them both for playing down problems at the V.A. O`MALLEY: Ah, yes. MADDOW: On the other hand, conservative, including a big bunch of Republican candidates this year have also said problems at the V.A. mean that we should abolish the V.A. Do you think the V.A. needs defending? Or is it defending it just excusing and apologizing for the problems there? O`MALLEY: No, the V.A. needs improving. And you could say that about any number of departments in our federal government. Unlike Senator Sanders, and unlike Secretary Clinton, I`ve actually run big governments. I`ve actually been responsible for oftentimes very, very dysfunctional big departments. So, I do know something about process backlog. I knew -- I had known something about using modern technology so that people don`t slip through the cracks and fall through the cracks. This is what I see happening in the V.A. and we, by the way, in my state made full employment a strategic goal of my administration for the last year and a half. Not because we were doing well, but because we were losing too many of our veterans when they came home and they were falling through the cracks. What I see has happened in our Veterans Administration is this -- there is a sort of double squeeze that`s gong on right now with aging veterans who are using the V.A. more and a whole lot of veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, from a long tour of duty, with really critical needs. But the V.A. has not updated the sort of feedback loops, the linkages by way of technology so you don`t have a separate database over in the Department of Defense and a brand-new database in the V.A., and then without the openness and transparency to actually tell the V.A. administrators and managers that hey, we have a growing backlog, especially for veterans who need help because they have a cancer diagnosis. We don`t have enough doctors that can actually fill this need, therefore we need to do some emergency vouchers or what-have-you so that people can get the medical help they need. And these are all things that I`ve learned to do and other department and agencies, parole and probations in our own state and corrections with a unified case management system, we had the worst backlog actually for processing building permits in the city of Baltimore. We went from the worst to the best. And V.A. (ph) wait times. Look, these are things you learn to do as an executive. And what we need in our federal government is a new way of governing, a new way of management that embraces openness and transparency, doesn`t try to hide waiting lists, and does things in ways so that citizens can actually get customer service numbers or patient service numbers and so that we embrace this new technology to hold everybody accountable for serving individuals better. That`s something I`ve learned how to do. That`s something Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, God bless them, have never had any experience at. MADDOW: Democratic presidential candidate, former governor of Maryland, Martin O`Malley -- thank you so much for being here, sir. O`MALLEY: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: And I will see you next week in South Carolina. O`MALLEY: Hey, looking forward to it. Thanks a lot. MADDOW: Me too. We`ll be right back. Thank you, sir. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A scandal of me running off to South Carolina with Martin O`Malley next week is true. Next week, all three Democratic presidential candidates are going to be joining me in South Carolina at the Democratic Candidates Forum at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Friday, November 6th, next Friday here on MSNBC at 8:00 Eastern. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END