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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/30/15

Guests: Chris Jansing

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Kerry`s in the marathon this weekend? HAYES: He is. And he was in last year. And he just sent in you can track -- there`s an app now, you can track people to see where they are and cheer them. It`s all very high-tech. Very exciting. MADDOW: That is stupendous. I will never, ever do that in my whole life. HAYES: No. I`m going to try to fix a radiator I guess this weekend. MADDOW: Very good. Happy Halloween. Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday. Happy forthcoming Halloween. You know, I told you something was going to happen. Last night. I told you. I told you this was all about to blow up. I didn`t know it was going to blow up exactly the way it blew up today. But boy, did it blow up. I was more right than I thought I would be. Wow. What a day this has been in politics. I want to start, though, with the news that is latest breaking. And that is NBC News`s new national poll, which is just out tonight. This is the NBC News poll done online by Survey Monkey and Survey Monkey is a funny couple of words to say when talking about a poll but this is a big scientific poll. This is the real deal. And these brand new numbers are interesting. They polled on two different things. The first thing they polled on is the horse race, who`s winning nationally in the Republican field. And this new NBC News national Republican poll has Donald Trump and Ben Carson tied at the top. They are tied and they are way ahead of anybody else. Both Donald Trump and Ben Carson have 26 percent of the vote, which means between them, they`ve got a majority of the entire vote in the Republican field nationwide. Donald Trump and Ben Carson both at 26, and this is the rest of the field. The other headline I think other than Trump and Carson being tied at the top with just a huge lead and a huge proportion of the vote between them is that Ted Cruz does pretty well here. He`s the only other candidate in double digits, barely. He`s at 10 percent. Now, of course, down at the bottom of the field these are pretty terrible numbers for Christie, Huckabee, Kasich, and Rand Paul. They`re all tied at 2 percent, which is just terrible numbers for that group of candidates. The guys who are all at 1 percent or less kind of expect to be there now. But do you expect Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich to be at 2? Two percent? If that tier of candidates keeps averaging national poll numbers that look like that, those guys will not be on track to make it on stage for the next debate. Two percent. Honestly, though, these are also pretty disappointing poll numbers for Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina. They`re at 5 percent and 4 percent respectively. But if you want some insight into why these shifts that we`re looking at now may be happening inside the Republican field, why you see some people moving up and some people clearly moving down, you may be able to get some insight into that from the other thing that they polled on in this new NBC national Republican poll other than the horse race. They polled on who do you like for the Republican nominee, the horse race part of it. But then they also asked if people watched the Republican debate this week on Wednesday night. And among people who watched the debate, they asked basically, who won? They asked who did the best job in the debate and who did the worst job in the debate? And you can use those results, the answers to those two questions, to get an overall net score for each candidate. So, you take all the people that said a certain candidate did the best job. Subtract from that number those people who said the candidate did the worst job, and you get a net overall performance score for each of these candidates, kind of a neat way to do it. And if you look at that net result on the debate for each of these candidates -- well, Ted Cruz is right at the top. So, ah, maybe that`s why Ted Cruz is the only other candidate who`s in double digits overall in the horse race. Ted Cruz is ahead by kind of a lot. And he`s perceived to be the winner. He`s got a plus 23 net score. The beltway media I think mostly decided that Marco Rubio was the winner. That is not how Republican viewers nationwide saw it. They saw it that Ted Cruz won. And that presumably might be what`s driving overall support for him. But now, look at the other debate performance numbers from the other candidates. Again, this is a really big national survey of Republican voters and here`s how they ranked performance in the debate. Ted Cruz is at the top. And then below him, it`s Marco Rubio, then Ben Carson, then kind of a big jump down to Donald Trump at plus 8, then Carly Fiorina at plus 4. Then Bobby Jindal who`s at a net debate performance score of zero, meaning to balance it out, he was not perceived as having really won or lost. Below Bobby Jindal, though, all the results are negative. For all of these candidates, more people thought these candidates did poorly in the debate than did well. Below Bobby Jindal, it`s Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and then George Pataki and then Lindsey Graham and then John Kasich and then Rand Paul. And then -- who are we missing? Oh, right. Oh, right. Yes. Look at the very bottom. That number is very small up there. But can you see that? Approach your television. At the very bottom, look at that. Jeb Bush. Look at the size of his negative result. His net score, his net performance score in that debate is negative 36. I mean, looks like Rand Paul did terrible with a negative 5. But Jeb Bush is more than seven times that bad. That is off a cliff. If you want to know how bad things are for Jeb Bush right now, that is as good a metric as we have got. One of these things is not like the others. That`s a bad metric. You can also choose today`s personnel metric, and we got one of those today from Jeb Bush as well. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting this afternoon that the chief operating officer, the COO of Jeb Bush`s presidential campaign is no longer the COO of Jeb Bush`s presidential campaign. We don`t know if Christine Ciccone quit that job or if she was fired from that job. I think clearly we can anticipate that the Jeb Bush campaign might want to spin that high-level departure as best they can, they`ll want to -- they`ll want that to look more like Jeb Bush is knocking heads together and firing people and turn his campaign around. They will not want that to look like his top staff is leaving because his campaign is failing but we don`t yet know the backstory behind that top-level departure. I mean, at a time when the Jeb Bush for president campaign may not be able to endure all that much more bad press, it maybe a blessing for them today that just as "The Wall Street Journal" was reporting that Jeb`s campaign COO was out under mysterious circumstances and nobody was commenting on why, just as that was happening, which was undoubtedly going to be a big new wave of bad news about Jeb Bush, as that happened, a much bigger political news wave broke right on top of it and swapped today`s round of bad Jeb Bush news. And that much bigger story as we sort of saw coming last night is that the Republican candidates for president have collectively decided to blow up the Republican primary process. Tada! We did see this coming a little bit last night when candidate Ben Carson said he was calling the other candidates together to demand new moderators and a new process for the Republican debates here on out. Politico then reported late last night that all of the campaigns or at least almost all of the campaigns would be meeting in Washington this Sunday night to basically go on strike. I mean, if you think about, it what`s happened here is the Republican presidential campaigns, all of them, this giant group of candidates, they have basically decided to walk out on the RNC. They`re walking out on the Republican Party and instead saying they`re going to organize their own debate as candidates. The Republican primary process of nominating that party`s presidential candidate, the candidates have decided they don`t like the Republican Party doing that anymore. They no longer feel like going along with how the Republican Party wants this process to go. And so, they`re now going to pick their own debate process. They`re going to pick their own debate formats, pick their own debate moderators and the RNC can do whatever it is they want to do, but the RNC`s going to have to do it without any candidates because the candidates are doing it themselves. Honestly, it`s like these guys just discovered union rights. Solidarity. And, you know, the candidates, if you think about it, in terms of the leverage here, in terms of who has the party they kind of have the party dead to rights. I mean, the party can have its carefully selected rules and its program of sanctions against candidates who don`t exactly do what the party wants them to do and it can have its deals with media organizations to run these things according to rules and, you know -- but if the candidates opt out, who`s to stop them? Nobody has any leverage over them whatsoever. So, that was the news last night. The Republican candidates looking to start a revolt against the Republican Party convening a meeting this weekend. That news sort of continued through the early part of the day as we learned that yes, it`s not just a few of the campaigns, all of the campaigns together are meeting on Sunday night and the RNC is not invited to that meeting, the candidates jumping ship, leaving the RNC out of it, doing it themselves. That was last night and that was this morning. And then, I`m not saying this next news from today is related to that but at midday today came the laugh out loud announcement from the RNC, I can only speak for myself, I laughed out loud. Maybe everybody else thought it was very serious. I laughed. Midday today, there was this announcement by the Republican Party that they would be basically leaving the management office, walking outside, picking up a picket sign and joining the picket line against themselves with the guys who just walked out on them. The RNC today announced their great leap back into the supposedly settled primary process to try to regain relevance in the face of this revolt by their own candidates. The RNC all of a sudden declaring today that NBC News and Telemundo will have their Republican debate suspended in February. It`s put on hold. It`s not going to go ahead. Take that. And NBC News put out a statement in response saying this was a disappointing development and they hope to work something out with the Republican Party here. You know, and that will be fascinating to watch. I have to tell you I have no insider information to give you on this matter. Technically, we are a sister network to CNBC, but NBC News doesn`t have any editorial control over CNBC. We`re a family in corporate terms, but we`re the kind of family that doesn`t talk very much, even at Christmas or Thanksgiving. Not even really at birthdays. We don`t even really have each other`s phone numbers. But as that issue gets handled by the people that are going to handle it, just consider -- step back from that little drama. Consider the players here. This is the RNC. This is the Republican Party saying to NBC and Telemundo you cannot host an RNC-sponsored presidential debate anymore. Well, what if there aren`t any RNC-sponsored Republican presidential debates anymore? I mean, the candidates seem determined that the RNC is not going to have anything to do with the process anymore. The candidates are determined they`re taking over, the RNC is irrelevant, the RNC is no longer even invited to their discussions. They say they`re going to decide at this weekend`s -- they`re going to decide what they want to do. The RNC desperately wants to be there at that table and the RNC will not be. As for what the candidates might do on their own terms, well, apparent debate winner Ted Cruz already has a very specific plan in mind. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How about a debate moderated by Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh? That would be a debate. But instead -- SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: I`m in. And I think I can speak for the other two, they`re in as well. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Well, that`s a plan, then. If you don`t know -- you probably know who Rush Limbaugh is. You probably know who Sean Hannity is if only because that was the man speaking to Ted Cruz there in that clip from the FOX News Channel. The name Mark Levin, you may not be familiar with that name. Just for a little taste of Mark Levin, here was Mr. Levin on his conservative radio program giving his reaction to the CNBC debate on Wednesday night. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MARK LEVIN, THE MARK LEVIN SHOW: Now, I didn`t agree with every candidate on every issue. That`s quite beside the point. That wasn`t even the purpose of this debate. This debate was a historic debate. It was a historic debate because the Republicans, not all of them, but most of them on that stage had had enough! Enough is enough. And I say that Reince Priebus should be fired over there at the Republican National Committee. I don`t know. Did you hear that today from 12 different people? I doubt it. I don`t know. That guy`s an incompetent. He`s a boob! The head of the RNC needs to go. These debate formats are preposterous. And let us not forget. The moderator food fights did not begin with CNBC. It did not begin with CNN. You know damn well who it began with. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: He means FOX News, who had the first debate. What he means is that FOX News is biased against the Republican Party. And why is FOX News biased against the Republican Party? Because they`re left wing! (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) LEVIN: These media corporations, all of them left wing at the top, every damn one of them left wing at the top. They have decided that they`re going to control the process. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch and everybody else who runs FOX News, their left-wingers. You can`t trust them. We have to throw these communists out. And Reince Priebus, the head of the RNC, he`s a left-winger too. He needs to be fired. And that`s who Ted Cruz thinks could put the moderate back in moderator. That`s who Ted Cruz thinks should be moderating the Republican primary debates from here on out, for balance he`ll be there alongside Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. Now, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, what do you think about that? Now, actually, somebody really did ask Reince Priebus what he thinks about that. Watch this. I find this just astonishing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HANNITY: This is what he said maybe should happen in the future. I want to get your thoughts on it. CRUZ: How about a debate moderated by Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh? Now, that would be a debate. PRIEBUS: I think he`s right. You strive to get to a place where the people that are doing the moderating are going to put on a fair show. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party, wants the Republican Party debates moderated by the man who wants him fired because he is left wing and incompetent and a boob. Just like those communists at FOX News -- which is an amazing thing to watch unfold. I mean, not even so much as a matter of political science. That`s just amazing to watch as a matter of human psychology. Do you like this guy? Yes. I like this. I`m supposed to. As a matter of practical expectations, though, for what`s going to happen next, I think what we just saw there means nothing, because I don`t think it matters what Reince Priebus thinks. I don`t think it matters that what the Republican Party wants to do or its chairman wants to do because I don`t think the Republican Party or its chairman gets to decide what happens next in the Republican primary. I think the Republican Party has just been completely thrown out of the Republican Party`s process of choosing their nominee for president. What happens next? Joining us now is Chris Jansing. She`s NBC News senior White House correspondent. She`s covering the presidential campaign. Chris, it is great to have you here. Thank you. CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Great to be here. MADDOW: You have been I know discussing this planned Sunday meeting with the campaigns. What`s the latest you know about what they`re going to do? JANSING: Well, there`s a lot going on. Let`s start with the fact that Reince Priebus has apparently been calling organizers. He called them multiple times last night. He called them again today and said let`s all come to a nice agreement. Let`s talk. To which they said, you`re not invited. MADDOW: So, he`s calling the campaigns and saying I want -- JANSING: There are a group of organizers who are putting this together who may be outreach to the campaigns. It was just late this afternoon, early this evening that Jeb Bush`s campaign became the last campaign to say yes, we will send a representative to this meeting Sunday night to figure out what we`re going to do about the debates going forward. So, those organizers are picking up the phone, and it`s the RNC and the RNC is saying, we want to be a part of this, we agree with you. And they basically said too little too late. MADDOW: Wow. JANSING: Yes. MADDOW: So is it fair to see the shot at NBC and Telemundo as being an effort by the RNC to show common cause with these campaigns to say listen, we`re on the same side, you`re mad as heck, well, we`re mad as heck, too, we`re all pulling in the same direction, let`s pull together? JANSING: I can only tell you what a couple of campaigns told me, which is exactly that. They said he needed to do something to show us, those of us who are disenchanted, and that`s not exactly the words he used, but who aren`t happy, or as one person put it to me, an unmitigated disaster, calling the RNC, to show that we actually are on your side. That`s what they think is going on here. They said basically, you`re kind of the casualty of what has happened. MADDOW: Well, Chris, in terms of what happens here, there`s been so much about this campaign this year that`s been uncharted territory, just things that have never happened before. JANSING: I`m telling you, the spin room, which is what happens, we all go and all the journalists are there with the folks from the campaigns, we all just shake our heads. There are people who are covering their tenth presidential campaign who have never seen this. No one has ever seen anything like it. MADDOW: So, can the Republican Party be ejected from the debate process? When you talk to these campaigns and the organizers of these events, do they see -- is this as a protest action where they`re getting the RNC`s attention or do they have a plan to do it without the Republican Party? JANSING: The answer is they actually think they want to do something but no, they don`t have a plan. So, here`s what they`re going to do. They`re going to get together and everyone`s going to come in and they`re going to say this is how we think the debate should go. Let`s just step back for a second and say these are folks who have been competing against each other and they have extremely different agendas. If you`re Ben Carson or you`re Donald Trump, your agenda is to stay on top. You`re doing great despite all the odds. You are the unexpected front-runners. If you are Bobby Jindal or Lindsey Graham who are just trying to tread water, who want maybe any opportunity for free air time, you have a very different set of priorities. So, all these different competing people and priorities are all going to come in together, and they`re going to try to in an evening figure out how many debates there should be, how long they should be, how long the opening and closing statements should be, who should have control over the moderators, should there be limitations on what the questions are. You`re getting the idea. MADDOW: It`s almost like there ought to be an objective broker who only has the Republican Party`s interests broadly at heart who should make these decisions. Oh, wait. (CROSSTALK) JANSING: And when they come up with a plan then what do they have to back it up, right? That`s exactly to your point. Are they going to say, well, we`re just going to do unsanctioned debates, we`re just going to find our own place, hold our own debates, and do it ourselves and we`re going to have Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh do the questioning? What happens then? Now, there are some very serious people who are part of this effort who want to say, how do we actually get some information out, it happens every single campaign cycle, people complain about the debates, the American people aren`t getting the information that they need. It`s fascinating to see and hear after the fact, as we will, what happens next. MADDOW: Yes, to see it turn from complaint, which we`re used to, to revolt, which we`re not used to. This is going to be absolutely fascinating to watch. Chris Jansing, NBC News, senior White House correspondent. It is an honor to have you here on my set. Thank you for being here. JANSING: My pleasure. MADDOW: Thanks. JANSING: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: We got lots more to come tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we also just got the first new national poll numbers on the Democratic side since Vice President Joe Biden announced last week that he`s not going to be running for president. And even though Vice President Biden is out, turns out at least in this first national poll, it doesn`t really move the numbers between the remaining Democratic candidates. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at this knew NBC poll is at 50 percent, which is where she was back in April, when she had the field to herself. Senator Bernie Sanders, you can see here, is more or less holding at 30 percent. It`s a 20 percent gap between them. Martin O`Malley and law professor Lawrence Lessig, they remain in the territory known as just slightly north of negligible. But clearly, Vice President Biden taking himself out of the running has not dented Secretary Clinton`s fairly commanding lead nationwide in the Democratic race. We`ve got lots more ahead tonight. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is the story that I have been looking forward to doing an update on like this, ever since we first started covering it. Do you remember all the church fires? The church fires in the St. Louis area. There has finally been an arrest. We have been following the story closely. The first church arson happened October 8th. Within just a couple weeks there were six more, all in a really tight geographic area, all within a few miles of each other in greater St. Louis. These were all arson fires. They`re all deliberately set, all set at the doors of various churches. And a number of the churches that were targeted were primarily African-American churches. But not all of them were. At least one was a very racially diverse congregation. Another church was almost entirely a white congregation. Most of the churches targeted in these arson attacks sustained minimal damage. But one of them, the New Life Missionary Baptist Church, was nearly destroyed by the fire. They still haven`t been able to hold services inside. Again, they`ve been having their congregation meet outside. But today, officials announced that they have made an arrest. The man arrested is a 35-year-old local African-American man. He`s been charged in two of the fires. Officials say the man lives in the greater St. Louis area. "St. Louis Post Dispatch" says he has a long court record including questions about his mental health. Police say surveillance camera footage led them to trace the suspect`s car to the worst of the fires. They say when they then searched the suspect`s car, they found a gas canister with gas still inside, as well as a thermos that smelled of gas. We reached out today to the pastor of that one very heavily damaged church, the New Life Missionary Baptist Church. His name is Pastor David Triggs. We had him here on the show just days after that fire gutted his church. I have to tell you we got a lot of feedback about his appearance on this show. People told us they were very moved by how big-hearted and positive he was being even as his congregation had just been burned out. But Pastor Triggs told us tonight that he is glad the suspect is off the streets. He praised the efforts of local law enforcement and the way officers worked with the community to solve this. And when you think about where this happened, of course, the relationship between the African- American community and law enforcement in the St. Louis area has been a strained relationship for a long time. It was all but shattered after the shooting of Michael Brown last year and the protests that followed. But Pastor Triggs today told us the arrest after all those churches burned, he told us that at least to him it restored a level of trust. Police say they do not yet have a motive in this case but the suspect has been charged with second-degree arson in two of the fires. He remains a suspect in the other five attacks. We`ll keep you posted as we learn more but I`m happy to at least give you this update. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: See if you can spot new prescription-strength professional political advice in action. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Meet Governor Jeb Bush. His once healthy presidential campaign had grown tired. Listless. His poll numbers and his spirits were flagging. JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve got a lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that. REPORTER: That was last weekend before his doctor-prescribed revolutionary new breakthrough in professional political advice. Governor Jeb Bush agreed to take professional political advice twice a day for a week. See if you can spot the change. BUSH: I`m having a blast, and I`m -- I`m getting my views validated and challenged at the same time. It`s a phenomenal way to grow intellectually, spiritually. Physically, I`m in phenomenal shape for an old 62-year-old guy. In fact, I think we ought to have five-hour debates, not two-hour debates. REPORTER: Not two-hour debates. Five-hour debates. Bring it on! Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is now in phenomenal shape. And you can be too. Ask your super overpriced campaign consultant spin doctor and feel the difference for yourself. It`s a blast. Paid political advice is known in some markets as Reboundatrex, trytryagain, or grin-and-bear-it-tol. Take only as directed. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Yesterday afternoon during peak Jeb Bush campaign freak-out, a document, a long document from the Jeb Bush for president campaign mysteriously leaked to the press. It leaked to "U.S. News & World Report." The document was a 112-page internal campaign blueprint, all sorts of graphs and metrics to try to assure Bush campaign donors and supporters that everything`s fine, Jeb Bush is in great shape. And we don`t know exactly. That leak may have been strategic. It may have been a way to try to quiet questions about the campaign. But whatever it was meant to do and whatever it did overall, in a very granular sense it was also a interesting look inside the Jeb campaign and what they think is important. For example, my favorite slide was on page 38, which reveals that the Jeb Bush campaign thinks that one of the key metrics people ought to look at to determine Jeb`s viability as a presidential candidate and is his brother`s favorability rating. Look at the title "GWB," meaning George W. Bush, "improving nationwide. And the graph does show George W. Bush`s favorability rating going up now to 52 percent from a low of 33 percent after he left office. And, you know, the issue of George W. Bush`s popularity is interesting on all sorts of different levels. Mostly when you think of his persistent unpopularity, though, you think about foreign policy. You think about the multiple ground wars he launched when he was president, the unpopularity of those wars, hundreds of thousands of American troops getting bogged down in the Middle East. That in part is what gave George W. Bush that 33 percent favorability rating when he left office. But today, it was his predecessor. It was the man who took office pledging to end those wars, who started a new ground war, in Syria. Today, the Obama administration announced that for the first time, American troops will be deployed to Syria. They`ll be on the ground in Syria in an ongoing way. This isn`t just a raid. They`re going there and staying there. The plan is to help the fight against ISIS inside Syria. The announcement was made not by President Obama himself but by his press secretary, Josh Earnest. The White House through that symbolism and some other methods as well went to great lengths today to just downplay this as much as possible. But however much they wanted to downplay it, this really is a major shift in U.S. policy. They said today it`s going to be less than U.S. -- excuse me -- less than 50 U.S. special operations forces in Syria. Those forces will technically be advising and assisting U.S.-backed rebel groups who`ve been fighting ISIS in Syria. They`re going to be trying to give those groups quicker access to equipment and U.S. logistical support. But -- yes, you cut to the chase. This is American troops on the ground in Syria in a way that has been explicitly off the table up until this point. When President Obama announced the first U.S. military action inside Syria in 2013, he said explicitly then and he has said since that U.S. boots on the ground in Syria was just not an option for him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many of you have asked, won`t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? My answer is simple -- I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. What we`re not talking about is an open-ended intervention. This won be another Iraq or Afghanistan. There would be no American boots on the ground. In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq. This is not Afghanistan. This is not even Libya. We`re not talking about boots on the ground. The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground I think would be a profound mistake and I want to be very clear and very explicit about it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It would be a profound mistake. But that is what the Obama administration announced very quietly today -- American boots on the ground inside Syria, which is unavoidably, something President Obama has explicitly said would not happen. Well, the White House went out of its way today, and this is stressed as well by a lot of the press reporting about this, they went out of their way today to stress that the total number of troops being sent into Syria is very small. They say it`s less than 50 special operations forces. But bottom line here, it`s not like we`re sending that number of troops because that`s the size of the ground force that the Pentagon and the administration believe we need on the ground in Syria. Now, in fact, the senior official indicated today, told "The Associated Press" today that this is just the beginning of the commitment, not the end of it. The official telling "The A.P." that, quote, "a first group of forces, possibly a couple of dozen, will go relatively soon to assess the situation and determine which groups on the ground the U.S. can best work with. More special operations forces would follow once the U.S. better determines what the needs are." So, it`s some number smaller than 50 troops now, but they`re there to figure out what work should be done by the troops who come next. So, here`s my question: how many more of them are there ultimately going to be? How much danger will they be in? What will they be trying to accomplish on the ground? Is what they are likely to accomplish on the ground likely enough to work that it is worth the risk to put them there? How big of an escalation is this going to be? Joining us now is NBC News national security producer Courtney Kube. Courtney, thanks for being here. I feel like there`s little incremental developments like this that keep seeming like a big deal and proving themselves so. This is a pretty significant change, isn`t it? COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER: Absolutely. I mean, what we`re talking about here initially is these 50 U.S. Special Operations forces who will be going into northern Syria. But as you mentioned in the intro, this is very significant. This is U.S. troops on the ground in Syria. And despite the fact that the administration has said they`ll be going in in an advise-and-assist capacity, they will not be, quote/unquote, "outside the wire", it`s sort of hard to imagine a place in Syria that`s not dangerous right now, that`s not outside the wire. Just the very nature of the fact that they`re going to be there in the country, in a country that is so divided, that is so dangerous, it`s hard to imagine that U.S. troops will not be in danger just by virtue of the fact that they`re there. MADDOW: Courtney, in terms of I guess the risk, obviously that`s not the only way to think about military operations in terms of the danger that they`re putting themselves in. You have to think about the likelihood of success for what they`re going to be able to do as well. There are two sides to all of those considerations. But it does seem like there`s a lot of very unquantifiable things about the risk they`re going in, not the least of which is the fact this is now becoming an international conflict. There are reports of Iranian troops on the ground in Syria and Hezbollah fighters on the ground inside Syria and even Russian troops on the ground inside Syria, although the Russian government would deny that. Is there worry -- are they acknowledging worry either at the Pentagon or the White House that this may end up being not just involvement in a Syrian conflict but a big international conflict? KUBE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there`s hundreds of Hezbollah troops, hundreds of Iranian troops that are there, and they`re actually making some progress on behalf of the Assad regime over in the East and up toward the north right now. They`re helping Assad stay in power, as is, of course Russia, as we`ve talked about on the show. Russians are conducting airstrikes, they`re using artillery, and they`re supporting these Hezbollah and Iranian troops there on the ground. They`re pushing forward. They`re really -- Assad was sort of on his heels not long ago until these troops came in there and started pushing forward. So, it`s an international fight, and as you mentioned in the intro there`s really no end. We don`t really know how much bigger this is going to get. A defense official who we spoke with today said that this first 50 is going to go in and they`re going to gauge what`s possible. So imagine what that means. It means that they`re going to go in and say there`s these groups over here that we can work with. And there`s these groups, they`re going to be looking initially at Syrian Kurds, Syrian Arabs and Syrian Turkmen to see which groups there will be the most likely capable partners for the U.S., that the U.S. will be able to support, whether it be with ammunition, logistics, tactics, even weapons, that they can support them and that they would be able to go take the fight to ISIS. So when you consider it that way, this has almost limitless possibility for how big the U.S. role could get in an advising and assisting role in Syria. MADDOW: NBC News national security producer Courtney Kube -- Courtney, thank you. I appreciate that very much. KUBE: Thank you. MADDOW: I will also say the White House, obviously they let Josh Earnest handle this today but it is the president who is on record saying over and over and over again directly to the American people, there will not be boots on the ground. A time needs to come very shortly in which the president explains why that previous assurance no longer holds. It was his promise -- promise to the American people that this would not happen. It is now happening. We really are going to have to hear from the president himself about why his previous advice and promises are no longer operative in this terrible fight in Syria. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On the issue of national security, last night we told you that the Pentagon had just transferred a man out of the prison at Guantanamo and back to his home country of Mauritania. This man had been held for 13 years at Guantanamo, never charged with anything. He`d been cleared for release from Guantanamo six years ago. But yesterday he got out. That was the news we had for you last night. Well, now there`s more to the story because overnight they released another one. And it`s a really interesting case. The very first prisoner who was released from Guantanamo after President Obama was sworn in as president was a British guy, resident of the U.K. who was sent back to the U.K. from Guantanamo about one month after President Obama was sworn in in 2009. Sort of a sensitive issue, right? Brits at Guantanamo. We are such close allies with the British, it`s a little awkward that we have to hold their citizens and their residents as prisoners in our mysterious offshore prison in Cuba. It`s an awkward diplomatic issue in terms of the very close relationship between our two countries. Why can`t the Brits just handle their people if they`re suspected of terrorist offenses? Why do we have to keep them in Cuba? Well, after Binyam Mohammed was freed after the first month of the Obama presidency in 2009, as the first Guantanamo prisoner freed under the new president, that left only one more British guy at Guantanamo, and for that remaining British prisoner, Tony Blair lobbied for him to be sent home to Britain. David Cameron lobbied for him to get sent home to Britain. The head of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbin lobbied. There was this huge cross-party effort at the very tip top of British politics, even celebrities in Britain lobbying for this last British guy at Guantanamo to be let out and sent back to the U.K. It`s been a years-long effort. Overnight last night at midnight, they finally sent him back, after 13 years. He has been cleared to be released for the last eight years. And Britain is our closest ally in the world. But it took all this time. This man was at Guantanamo for 13 years. He has a wife and four kids who live in London, including a 13-year-old son who he has never met. His son was born the day after his father was sent to Guantanamo 13 years ago. His father has never laid eyes on him his entire life. But tonight he will. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One week from tonight, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O`Malley will all be in Rock Hill, South Carolina, for what is being called the First in the South Democratic Candidates Forum, hosted by me. If you have something that you would like to ask the Democratic presidential hopefuls, this is your chance. I would please like your questions. If you go to our Web site,, you can submit the question there that you want the Democratic candidates to have to answer next Friday. If you want a little advice, I would say the guiding principle of your question should be that you shouldn`t know in advance. You shouldn`t be able to predict what the candidate`s answer to that question might be. But if you can come up with questions for them where you really can`t predict how they`d answer, I would love to hear it, Also, we`re taking the show on the road next week in advance of the forum. The forum happens on Friday. But the night before, on Thursday, we`re going to be doing this show live in my personal favorite environment, a bar. We`ll be coming to you live and sober, I promise, Thursday night from a bar in Rock Hill, South Carolina. We`re going to have details on that, and everything else about the forum and everything -- all at Please do send questions for the candidates. This forum is going to be a big deal. I`m very excited. Totally not nervous. I don`t look nervous, do I? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On October 28, 2003, this headline ran in the "Miami Herald": Lawmakers Skip Out for Marlins. Lawmakers did not leave the state capital to go fishing. These Florida state lawmakers actually left to go watch the Florida Marlins baseball team play in the World Series that year. It turned out to be a big deal in Florida at the time, because while those state reps were watching the World Series from the comfort of the Florida Marlins invitation-only owners box in Miami, they were missing what was hyped as one of the most important votes in in-state history, a vote on a $300 million economic deal that was thought to be vital to the state`s economy. And of all those lawmakers who skipped that crucial vote to go watch the game instead, the most famous one of those lawmakers was then State Representative Marco Rubio. The reason Marco Rubio was famous even then 12 years ago is because he was not just a run-of-the-mill state lawmaker, he was the Republican majority leader at the time. So, he probably should not have missed that vote. But that was then. Now Marco Rubio is a United States senator, and judging by his recent comments, he takes voting much more seriously now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you don`t want to vote on things, don`t run for the Senate. If you don`t want to vote on things, don`t run for office. Be a columnist. Get a talk show. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Be a columnist, get a talk show. Don`t run for office. Don`t be in the Senate. That was Senator Rubio in April. Here he was last week. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUBIO: There`s really no other job in the country where if you don`t do your job you don`t get fired. But in this instance, we`re just limiting it to one agency. This should actually be the rule for the entire government. If you`re not doing your job, you should be fired. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You should be fired if you`re not doing your job, so says U.S. Senator Marco Rubio who, by his own standards, should get at least be getting a stern talking to right now, because Marco Rubio really does have the worst voting record of anybody in the U.S. Senate. And that doesn`t mean he votes rightly or wrongly. It means he doesn`t vote at all. He`s missed more votes than any other U.S. senator by a lot. And it turns out these absences have been noted. On Wednesday this week -- actually, it was 12 years to the day that he was called out for skipping that big vote in the Florida house and going to the World Series instead, 12 years to the day, he was confronted by another big Florida newspaper, the "Sun Sentinel." This was their blistering editorial this week on Wednesday. Quote, "Senator Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator this year. His seat is regularly empty for floor votes, committee meetings, and intelligence briefings. Sorry, Senator, but Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job. You`re paid $174,000 a year to represent us, to fight for us, to solve our problems. You are ripping us off, Senator. Look, a lot of us are frustrated by our jobs in office politic, but we still show up to work every day to earn a paycheck. You are taking advantage of us. Your job is to represent Floridians in the Senate, either do your job, Senator Rubio, or resign it." Blistering. That same day the editorial was brought up live in a presidential debate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MODERATOR: So when the "Sun Sentinel" says Rubio should resign, not rip us off, when they say Floridians sent you to Washington to do your job, when they say you act like you hate your job, do you? RUBIO: Yes, let me say -- I read that editorial today with great amusement. It`s actually evidence of the bias that exists in the American media. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Marco Rubio was widely praised in the press for his debate performance, including shutting down his former mentor Jeb Bush in one memorable exchange. But in this particular issue of the "Sun Sentinel", it turns out Marco Rubio did not get the last word, because it turns out hell hath no fury like a newspaper scorned. The editorial board of the "Sun Sentinel" today has a follow-up. Here`s how it starts: "For a guy who keeps talking about new kinds of politics, Marco Rubio is falling back on the oldest dodge in the political playbook -- blame the media. The public deserved better from Florida`s senator at Wednesday`s Republican debate." That editorial then points out that the senator was asked about the paper demanding his resignation and he dismissed them at the debate by saying it`s liberal bias in the media. It turns out the "Sun Sentinel" is not going to take that lying down. They say, quote, "For the record, we endorsed Rubio for the Senate in 2010 and Mitt Romney for president in 2012, because we were frustrated by the pace of hope and change in Washington and they both promised to work hard to make a difference. But ever since he got to Washington, it seems Rubio has been running for higher office." And here`s how they finish it up: "If Rubio wants to be president, he should go for it, give it all he`s got, full steam ahead. But the demands of the presidential campaign have proven too great for him to do his day job. Given that, Rubio should resign his Senate seat." Just to reiterate, in case it wasn`t clear enough the first time two days ago. It is a blessing for any politician to get a big endorsement from a home state newspaper. But it`s a blessing for all of us when that doesn`t stop that paper from aggressively watchdogging even the candidates who they endorsed. And honestly, it`s an inspiration to all of us when a home state paper gets punched at and patronized by a powerful politician, and that paper not only refuses to back down, they punch back even harder. That`s inspirational. That just makes me happy. No matter who the politician is or the paper, that just makes me happy. Well done. Courage. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Now, sorry, prison. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END