Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: August 10, 2016 Guest: Michael Crowley, Matt Katz
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for now. We`ll be back tonight live at 11:00 Eastern. Why not, right? You`re not going to want to miss that.
THE RACHE MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Steve.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Pulling double duty, Chris, I respect that.
HAYES: You got it. Let`s play too.
KORNACKI: All right. Thanks for that, Chris.
Thanks to you at home for joining us tonight. Rachel has the night off.
Well, let`s just start with this. If you happen to look up at your TV in your office today, that`s something we did around here, something we do around here all the time. We saw something we don`t see all the time.
Look at this. This is a major office building here in New York City, not just any major office building. That`s the Trump Tower. That`s Donald Trump`s office building.
He works there, he lives there, and there was a man suction-cupping himself to the glass and trying to scale the tower. You see there, police got involved, this pretty bold, pretty daring. I guess you`d say it`s a rescue. The guy didn`t want to be brought back inside. They brought him back in anyway.
This was quite a scene that played out. It was on local TV here. It was national TV, more than two hours. This looked like the only thing people were watching.
If you caught a glimpse of this at some point in the day, you couldn`t take your eyes off it. You don`t see it every day. Again, that was at Trump Tower here in New York City. Thought we would show you what played out this afternoon. A bizarre scene.
And, meanwhile, away from Trump Tower today, on the campaign trail, the fall-out continuing for Donald Trump, from his comments yesterday, that supporters of the Second Amendment could maybe do something to stop a President Hillary Clinton from appointing judges. Some saying it was a clear and blunt incitement to violence by Donald Trump. Some saying it was more of a tasteless joke, a joke about violence against Hillary Clinton. And some seeing it more as Trump being rambling and incoherent and spitting out a half-formed thought that just sounded terrible.
But what everybody sees no matter what they thought they heard, what everybody sees is yet another massive headline dominating controversy starring Donald J. Trump. And that is the story of this campaign played out over and over again.
Donald Trump is provocative. He`s inflammatory. He can be outright crude. He spews insults, he stirs outrage, he disparages opponents, he tears into the media -- just one explosion of controversy after another. It`s been non-stop for 14 months now and counting.
And there are consequences for Trump from all of this, for the 14 months of controversy that he`s been stirring. Some of those consequences, let`s be honest, some of them are good for him. He`s built a base. That base was big enough to beat a field of 17, and to win the Republican nomination for president.
Basically, Donald Trump used all of that outrage, and all of that controversy to rile up enough voters to engineer a hostile takeover of a major political party. That`s no small thing. Donald Trump did achieve that.
But, but, that comes at a price, a big price. All of that outrage, all of that controversy, it`s rubbed even more people the wrong way, among all voters, not just Republican primary voters, among all voters, the people who will vote in November, Donald Trump`s unfavorable number has shattered records among modern presidential candidates. He`s the least popular nominee for president on record.
He`s also right now, falling behind Hillary Clinton by large margins. Four polls in the past week have Clinton up by double digits over Trump. Those are margins we were not seeing at the same time in the presidential race four years ago. Donald Trump is facing major defections from his own party.
Senator Susan Collins from Maine said this week, she can`t and she won`t vote for Donald Trump in November. She`s not the first Republican senator to say that. She is the sixth.
These are the negative consequences for Donald Trump, of the kind of campaign that he`s running. Here`s another one for you. This man right here, do you recognize him? He`s running for vice president this year, on the Libertarian Party`s ticket. His name is William Weld.
William Weld is a former Republican who left the party this year because of Donald Trump. William Weld has a serious resume. He was the governor of Massachusetts back in the 1990s, back when he was a Republican. He was a Republican who won in a very Democratic state, a very blue state, Massachusetts.
And how did Bill Weld do that? How did he win in Massachusetts as a Republican? It`s funny you should ask, because you answer has everything to do with why Donald Trump is in such a hole right now. If Donald Trump doesn`t win in November, this will be the biggest reason why. And it`s the same reason that Bill Weld was able to launch his political career in the first place. So that`s my set-up for you.
Now return with me, if you will, to the fall of 1990. It was a different time. President George H.W. Bush is threatening war against Saddam Hussein. "Goodfellas" is just hitting the theaters. The Cincinnati Reds are on their way to an unlikely World Series title. And in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, a political earthquake hits when a man named John Silber stunningly wins the Democratic primary for governor.
John Silber, if you don`t remember him, if you didn`t know who he was back then, John Silber was a serious man. He was the president of a major institution, Boston University. He was a scholar of philosophy, a writer, he had served on a presidential commission. So, he had a serious and heavy resume. But no one -- and I mean absolutely no one -- saw this coming.
Silber had been buried in that race, barely made the primary ballot and he looked like a really bad fit for the Democratic Party. He was conservative on a lot of issues. He was conservative on a lot of social issues, a lot of cultural issues. He had been an ally of Ronald Reagan.
But the biggest reason why people thought he had no chance, he had a volcanic temper. And he was a candidate who was defined by controversy.
Let me give you a taste. When asked about the cost of health care for the elderly, John Silber cited King Lear and he declared, "When you`ve had a long life and you`re ripe, it`s time to go." That`s a candidate for major office saying that.
Silber called Massachusetts a welfare magnet, quote, "for people who are accustomed used to living in a tropical climate." He suggested some women were guilty of child neglect, in choosing careers over home life. Those are just some of the things he said in that campaign. That`s a small taste.
There was also this, the big debate right before the primaries. Silber was already losing in the polls. He was asked why he hasn`t given any speeches in inner city Boston, where crime rates were higher and there was a larger non-white population. He was asked that. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN SILBER, BOSTON UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: I will tell you something about that area. There`s no point in my making a speech on crime control to a group of drug addicts. I think it`s far better for me to stand on the steps of the house -- of the statehouse and make my address there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: You can imagine the reaction that that comment provoked.
There was a name for comments like that, for comments like the ones I was reading just a minute ago. They started calling them "Silber shockers". And Silber shockers were the story of the 1990 campaign for governor in Massachusetts.
Every day, a new headline, a new controversy, a new outrage, an angry candidate insisting the media was twisting his words, was trying to beat him. That played out over and over again.
And there were people, plenty of people, who loved it, who loved John Silber for it, who thought he was shaking up the system upon there were enough of them that Silber pulled off the shocking upset and the one the polls didn`t predict, and he won that Democratic primary for governor of Massachusetts. His when he pulled that off, his coalition was blue collar, it was lower income, it was white.
Does that sound at all familiar? Does that sound at all like the coalition that Donald Trump has been trying to put together?
But when Silber won the primary, he still had another challenge. He had to turn around as the Democratic nominee and had to get elected in the general election. That`s where Bill Weld came in.
Weld was a moderate. He was more liberal than Silber on social issues. He was more conservative on economic issues.
Silber in the general election campaign, well, he kept on being Silber. At one point, he called Weld, quote, "an orange-headed wasp, and a back- stabbing son of a bitch." That`s a quote there from John Silber.
Some people absolutely ate it up. Other people were horrified by it. A specific type of voter was horrified by the Silber shockers -- suburbanites, white collar professionals, people with one or more college degrees. These are people who are very similar to the people who are turning against Donald Trump right now. They were horrified by Silber shockers in 1990 and they`re horrified by things that Donald Trump says today.
So, that was the story of that campaign. It was close, though. Days before the election, it looked like Silber was on the verge of pulling it off. He was going to have just enough votes to win. People had their doubts about him, but they were angry in 1990. They were very angry.
Silber agreed to do a television interview. It was supposed to be easy. A local TV anchorwoman, Natalie Jacobson (ph), that was her name. She was going to come to his house. She was going to go show people the personal side of Silber, the personal side of his family.
This was a gift to Silber. This was an easy way to score points to, soften his image, to make people overlook all of the controversy, all of the outrage.
And so, with hundreds of thousands of voters watching just days before the election, this is what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANCHORWOMAN: What do you see as your strength, and if you will, if you think you have one, a weakness?
SILBER: I think that my strength is competence. And my strength is honesty.
ANCHORWOMAN: OK. And your weakness?
SILBER: And I think that I -- well, you find the weakness. I don`t have to go around telling you what`s wrong with me. The media have manufactured about 16,000 non-existing qualities that are offensive and have attributed them all to me. They`re had a field day. You can pick any one of them.
ANCHORWOMAN: You don`t think that`s a fair question? If you ask me that, I can tell you what --
SILBER: Maybe you have no faults.
ANCHORWOMAN: Well, I do have some.
SILBER: I`m not interested in your faults.
ANCHORWOMAN: I wish you weren`t so defensive, because this is not a defensive posture here that I`m hoping to create. Rather than one of understanding so that people watching this could get a better sense of who you are. If you ask anybody what do you see as your strengths and weaknesses, that`s not meant as an antagonistic question. It was meant rather to have insight into how you view yourself.
SILBER: Well, I take very seriously responsibilities that go with offices. And if my job is to represent the people of Massachusetts, I`m going to do that. And I`m not going to worry about the hurt feelings of people who are standing in the way of those in need. I`ll clear them out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: You could almost see the exact instant there when John Silber realized he overreacted. John Silber and Natalie Jacobson, days before the gubernatorial election in Massachusetts in 1990. People in Massachusetts still talk about that interview to this day.
And a few days later, a few days after that aired, John Silber lost the election for governor to Bill Weld. It was a close election. But things happened in that election that you will never see again in politics.
Think about this. John Silber, he was the Democrat. He lost some of the most liberal bastions, not just in Massachusetts, but in America. In that election, John Silber lost Brookline, Cambridge, Amherst, he lost Provincetown. Those places all voted Republican. They voted against John Silber in 1990.
The suburbs, the white collar suburbs of Massachusetts, they voted overwhelmingly Republican too. All of that put together was just enough, just barely enough to make Bill Weld, Republican Bill Weld, the governor of Massachusetts.
And the one word to explain what turned all of those people off, what turned them away from the Democrat, what turned them into the arms of Bill Weld, the one word that made Bill Weld the governor of Massachusetts -- temperament.
After all of those Silber shockers, only 37 percent of voters on Election Day said they believed that Silber was temperamentally suited to be their governor. The number for Bill Weld, 66 percent. Look at that gap there on basic temperamental fitness for office.
And that was it. Too many controversies, kept too many people from being able to pull the lever for John Silber. Temperament is what cost him the election.
Now, John Silber is not Donald Trump. And I say this, by the way, as someone whose introduction to politics was the John Silber campaign.
I was in sixth grade then. We had a mock election. I got to play John Silber. Look at this, I still have my button. I still got my Silber button from the fall of 1990, 26 years later.
I have a soft spot for the guy, a guy who was a lot more complicated in real life than all of the controversies made him seen. This was a guy who had integrated the University of Texas back in the 1960s, among other things. He was different, a lot more interesting, a lot more nuanced than all of those outbursts.
But in the campaign of 1990, in the election of 1990, that didn`t matter. Because what the voters of Massachusetts heard and saw every single day were controversies caused by Donald Trump -- excuse me -- caused by John Silber, controversies that raised questions every single day in ways big and small in their minds about his temperament.
Now, think of that. Think of Donald Trump. Think of the Trump controversies. Think of the outrage. Think of the question of temperament.
And look at this, a new poll this week, 61 percent of voters say Hillary Clinton as the temperament required to be president, the number for Donald Trump, 27 percent. It is Silber and Weld all over again, 26 years later. And that, that may be the biggest problem for Donald Trump when it comes to this current Second Amendment controversy.
Whatever he meant, what it translates into is more controversy, more reason for more people to doubt whether he has the basic temperament for the job of president of the United States. Even if Donald Trump recovers in the next few days, the next few weeks, even if he gets back into the polls, gets back into the race, this is ultimately the biggest threat of all to him, that the voter who goes into that booth in November, the voter who likes some things about Donald Trump, the voter who is angry at the system, who wants to give the system a jolt, the voter who looks at Donald Trump`s name on the ballot, stares at it, maybe puts the pencil over the check mark box, but then pauses, and wonders, am I sure? Should we really do this?
That`s what the kind of temperament gap we see in this race can do. It did in John Silber a generation ago. It made Bill Weld, want current libertarian candidate for vice president, it made him the winner in Massachusetts back then. It made him a political player. It made his career.
And right now, when you look at those polls, and when you listen to all of the noise generated by Donald Trump, by that comment he made yesterday, all of the controversy, you realize that could be the thing that ultimately stops Donald Trump in November -- the question of temperament.
Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, columnist with "The Washington Post."
E.J., a Massachusetts native, a Massachusetts political junkie like me, I was looking forward to getting that story in tonight.
I know you remember the Silber-Weld race very well. The reason I wanted to put this into the show today, Election Day 1990, the betting money said John Silber was going to win the race. What we found a lot of people went into the booth and they just couldn`t check his name off.
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I wanted to say a couple of things. First, I`d trade all my time just to hear you do your sixth grade John Silber imitation. That would be awesome.
I was so happy to do this segment, because we both are united in trying to persuade the country that everything important in American politics either originated in Massachusetts or is connected to our home state.
And I was glad you said that Silber is not Trump in that he was an intellectually serious and complicated guy. But you`re absolutely right on this temperament point.
And I think the political analysis that is so parallel is about those suburban voters. In this election, it`s college-educated suburban Republicans who are fleeing the Republican Party in very large part because they don`t think Donald Trump is suitable to be president. It`s not even about ideology. It`s about whether they can trust him. It`s about whether he flies off the handle.
In Massachusetts, those same kinds of people, college-educated suburbanites, happen to be liberals and Democrats. And again the parallel, the other parallel that I think is so striking, a lot of people thought Silber would win, just like a lot of people are saying Trump speaks for a lot of people, he speaks for me, he grabs people`s attention with his own shockers, to use a phrase from 1990, and he`s going to win.
But I think it`s the quiet voters, almost the common decency voters who say, we don`t want a leader who talks like that, and in the end, they decided that race in Massachusetts, and I have a hunch, those voters will decide the race this time.
KORNACKI: It`s interesting dilemma for a candidate, maybe for Donald Trump now, maybe for John Silber back then. I mean, there`s always the question with candidates like this, who are so volatile, how much of it can they control. But you see this dilemma maybe with Donald Trump, where the things that he would need to do to reassure the kinds of voters you`re talking about, about his temperament, to project an even-keeled image maybe to make them think he`s more presidential. You can also see the part of Donald Trump that says, yes, and that`s going to -- I`m going to stop being interesting to the people who like me already.
DIONNE: Right, I think that is a parallel, but the other difference, I think, is that Silber said outrageous things that he believed, even when they were unpopular. To tell senior citizens, who make up a big part of the electorate, that when they`re old, they`re ripe, and it`s time for them to go, that`s not exactly a way to win votes.
Donald Trump and Silber had an intellectual arrogance. I think Trump`s arrogance is altogether different. It`s not clear to me that Trump ever says things that would get himself into trouble because he believes them. I think he says a lot of things because he thinks they appeal to the kinds of voters he`s trying to win.
KORNACKI: All right. E.J. Dionne from "The Washington Post" and the pride of Fall River, Mass -- no one else I`d wanted to talk to for this segment tonight. I appreciate it.
DIONNE: Fall River voted for Silber, by the way.
KORNACKI: That`s right. Fall River as a Silber town, blue collar. That`s right.
E.J. Dionne, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
KORNACKI: All right. Still ahead tonight, Donald Trump -- well, he just did it again. The latest controversial thing that Trump had to say just moments ago, straight ahead.
Stay with us.
KORNACKI: I want to talk about campaign stage craft. On Monday, Hillary Clinton had a rally down in Kissimmee, Florida. Once again there, she hit Donald Trump over his economic plan. He had just given a speech about that on the same day.
Seated right behind Hillary Clinton while she was on stage, giving that speech, was the father of the Orlando nightclub shooter. He`s spot shadowed here. This is a man who himself has espoused some extreme views.
This is not exactly the person you want to be featuring in camera shots right behind you, while you`re a presidential candidate, giving a major speech in Florida, or frankly anywhere.
So that was a campaign flub on the part of the Clinton campaign. And it happened again tonight. In the past hour, this time, it was on the other side of the aisle, though. This was at a Donald Trump rally in Ft. Lauderdale, still in Florida. The rally actually is still going on right now.
But look at this, sitting right behind Donald Trump, spot shadowed on the stage, showing a close-up of him there. If you recognize him, that is former Congressman Mark Foley from Florida. Now in 2006, ten years ago, Foley left his seat, his house seat in Florida, after making repeated sexual advances and exchanging -- or providing sexually charged material to several young teenage pages, congressional pages. That led to him resigning in the midst of that scandal.
And tonight, he`s on stage in the camera shot at Donald Trump`s rally, right behind him there.
So, that was the stage craft news that came out of Donald Trump`s rally. Again, a rally that`s still ongoing. Donald Trump made some news, though, with what he said at this rally. We`re going to bring that to you next.
KORNACKI: All right. So we got a lot of moving parts. We were telling just a minute ago about this Donald Trump rally. It is taking place right now, as we speak in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Looks like it just finished up.
You`re seeing Donald Trump acknowledging the crowd after giving his speech. And moments ago, in the speech he was delivering to that crowd, Trump took his criticism of President Obama and his foreign policy in the Middle East to new levels. Trump said in this speech that President Obama is, quote, "the founder of ISIS."
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: In fact, in many respects, you know, they honor President Obama. ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He`s the founder of ISIS, OK? He`s the founder!
He founded ISIS. And I would say, the co-founder would be Crooked Hillary Clinton. Co-founder, Crooked Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right. So, again, that was just moments ago down in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
And joining us now is the NBC News correspondent who has been covering Donald Trump since he started his run for president 14 months ago, Katy Tur. She`s in that arena down there in Ft. Lauderdale.
So, Katy, I believe, correct me if I`m wrong, Donald Trump has been using that phrase, the founder of ISIS, in reference to Hillary Clinton before. Has he not used this in reference to President Obama before? Do we know specifically what the connection is he`s trying to make there?
KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Here`s the thing I`m not sure if he`s ever said -- I`m sorry. Sorry, go ahead.
Anyway, in terms of founder of ISIS, I don`t think I`ve ever heard him say that Hillary Clinton was the founder of ISIS, or President Obama was the founder of ISIS. And correct me if I`m wrong, I haven`t heard those terms put together for those two people, but he has suggested, in the past, repeatedly, that they basically enabled ISIS to rise, with President Obama`s policies in the Middle East and through Hillary Clinton`s policies in the Middle East, specifically invading Libya, deciding to go into Libya and interfere, or in his words, interfere there.
So calling them the founders of ISIS, though, is a step further than we have seen in the past. Certainly something that`s raising a number of red flags already. Donald Trump trying to link Obama in some way to a terrorist organization.
Remember back after the Orlando massacre, he seemed to suggest that President Obama might have known something about it or was willingly not stopping it, because he had some ties to terrorist groups. That`s what he was suggesting back then. He backed away from that since then.
And tonight is the first time I`ve seen him go that extreme when it comes to trying to link Obama or Hillary Clinton to terrorism.
KORNACKI: Now, we know when Donald Trump veers into this very provocative, even inflammatory territory, you think of last week with the Khan family, all of the reporting was that the people around Donald Trump, the brain trust in the campaign, they were dismayed by that. They didn`t like the way he handled it. They didn`t like the fight he was picking there.
Is the reaction the same to this? Or is this the kind of sort of provocative rhetoric they want him to be out there doing?
TUR: I got to tell you, Steve, it happened a couple minutes ago, so we haven`t had a chance to get much reaction from various sources in D.C., and sources around the country, and within the campaign.
But what I can tell you from past experience with his experience, provocative statements have not necessarily gotten much pushback from his aides or advisers, at least in a public way. They believe that Donald Trump is being himself and that his message, even if it`s not politically correct, resonates with a certain number of voters.
But if you look at the polls, the support for him is fracturing. He`s not expanding his base of support. He`s not expanding the tent. He`s solidifying the base of support he`s had now for the primaries, and that`s why you`re seeing the support start to eat away in swing states, states that he desperately needs to win, states like Ohio and New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. And even Iowa.
White, working class voters still support him in a pretty strong way, but even those male workers are starting to slip off of the Trump train, if you will. So, controversial statements like this, although the campaign may push back and say, no, no, that`s just him being him, are starting to eat away at Donald Trump`s potential to grow his support.
KORNACKI: All right. Katy Tur down there in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where again the Donald Trump rally just wrapping up in the last few minutes. You can see the room starting to clear out there. Katy Tur, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.
All right. We got much more ahead. Please stay with us. Quick break, back right after this.
KORNACKI: OK. We were just talking to Katy Tur down there in Florida, she mentioned all the difficult polling Donald Trump has faced in some key battleground states. We talked about the temperament issue in this race. So, we thought let`s check in at the big board.
The state of this race right now, these were the results from 2012, Clinton with the blue states that Obama won. Trump with the red states that Romney won. The name of the game for Trump, he`s got to flip blue states and make them red. The name of the game for Clinton, she`s love to make some red states blue. Let`s check in on how they`re doing. Le`s start with Trump.
What we`ve done is we divided the blue states from 2012, the Obama states that he is targeting into three categories. Based on what we`re seeing in the polls right now. That`s all we`re looking at, the polls.
How many of the blue states that Obama won in 2012 that Trump needs -- wants to flip in 2016? How many of them is he ahead in right now? Well, you see that column is blank up there, none. He`s not leading in any of them.
How many of them is Trump within striking distance of? I`d say that means mid-single digits, down six, down five, down four. He`s not ahead, but you could see maybe if things break his way, maybe getting ahead. He`s got four states right now that he`s within striking distance, we`d say. That`s the good news for Trump.
The bad news for Trump is if you gave him all these states, if you gave him all the red states that were up there from 2012, and you gave all of these, that would only add up to 265 electoral votes. Remember, you need 270. He would be short.
So, Donald Trump doesn`t even have enough states within striking distance to hit 270. These are states he needs to put in play, where he`s down nine points, ten points, double-digits right now in the polls. So, he`s got a lot of work to do. That`s the challenge for Donald Trump. That`s the first part of the challenge.
Here`s the second problem for Donald Trump. It`s not just turning blue states red. Hillary Clinton right now is actually better positioned to turn red states blue. There are polls out in the last couple days that have Hillary Clinton leading in Georgia, a Mitt Romney state in `12. In North Carolina, a Mitt Romney state in `12.
There are polls that have her in striking distance in Arizona. There`s one that had her down only five in Kansas yesterday. A poll that had it at one in Missouri. Even in Utah, Donald Trump way under 50 percent right now out there.
So, there are states right now, Hillary Clinton, the bottom line, she is in better position, if you go to the red-blue map from 2012, Hillary Clinton right now is better positioned to take some of these red states and make them blue than Donald Trump is to take these blue states and make them red. When you`re Hillary Clinton, you start out with the advantage. Very bad news for Donald Trump.
Back after this.
KORNACKI: So while Donald Trump has been dealing with defections from his own party, Hillary Clinton has been finding some unlikely allies in her corner, expat Republicans. But not just any former Republicans, many of these are old-school foreign policy neocons. Many of them now backing Hillary Clinton`s campaign for president.
While obviously the Clinton campaign will take any more support it can get, it is putting some of her supporters in an awkward situation. These neocons coming on board for Hillary Clinton, we`ll talk about that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So that was an off-hand, throw-away remark from Hillary Clinton made towards the end of a primary debate that Rachel and Chuck Todd were moderating back in February. But in the wake of that remark, this was a sample headline in the liberal press the next day. Quote, "In debate, Hillary Clinton boasted that she is supported by Henry Kissinger, accused war criminal who oversaw policies that led to millions of deaths."
In fact, invoking Henry Kissinger`s name was so inflammatory to some on the left, Bernie Sanders brought it up as an attack at the next debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country. I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.
CLINTON: Well, I know journalists have asked who you do listen to on foreign policy and we have yet to know who that is.
SANDERS: Well, it ain`t Henry Kissinger, that`s for sure.
CLINTON: That`s fine, that`s fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, especially in the heat of a tough primary, that moment left some Democrats scratching their heads.
Earlier this week, 50 Republican officials, including top aides and cabinet members for George W. Bush signed a letter repudiating Donald Trump. And today, the Clinton campaign released a list of nearly 50 Republican officials and business leaders who are now actively endorsing her campaign for president.
And it has left some progressives wondering, for instance, why would the Democratic presidential nominee want the endorsement of John Negroponte? Not only was John Negroponte deeply involved in the Bush administration and its handling of the Iraq war and terrorism policies, he was the ambassador to Iraq, the first director of national intelligence. For many on the left, Negroponte`s name is also synonymous with the Iran Contra scandal from the 1980s, also allegations of abuses by American-backed paramilitaries when he was ambassador to Honduras under Ronald Reagan, again, back in the 1980s.
Now, plenty of people admire both John Negroponte and Henry Kissinger as great statesmen, as an elder statesman in Kissinger`s case. But to some of the base of the Democratic Party, just the mention of their names triggers deep antipathy. And yet Hillary Clinton`s campaign has put out, quote, "feelers" about a possible endorsement from Henry Kissinger.
So, what does Hillary Clinton gain by courting the support of figures who are so polarizing within her own party? What does it tell us about the kind of foreign policy she might pursue?
Joining us now is Michael Crowley, senior foreign affairs correspondent at "Politico".
Michael, great to have you with us.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, POLITICO: Thanks, Steve.
KORNACKI: So if Hillary Clinton seeks the counsel of Henry Kissinger, if it`s somebody she wants to be associated with, does that tell her anything about her foreign policy values or foreign policy vision? What does that communicate?
CROWLEY: I think, Steve, the main thing that it communicates is that the Clinton campaign would love to demonstrate to voters that the foreign policy establishment and especially the Republican foreign policy establishment and Henry Kissinger is the living embodiment of the establishment, the foreign policy establishment, does not support Donald Trump, does not think he`s fit to be commander in chief. That`s what this is about, is a negative signal about Trump`s qualifications.
I don`t think that Hillary particularly feels that she needs Kissinger to come out and say, "I`m voting for Hillary Clinton." They do have a long standing, warm relationship, have exchanged kind words. He does come with a lot of baggage.
You know, I don`t think I need to tell you that on foreign policy, the Clinton campaign feels like her credentials are quite solid. They`re not worried that voters don`t think she doesn`t understand foreign policy, or she`s not fit to make these decisions, even if they don`t agree with them.
So, really the main thing is peeling Republican validators away from Trump and sending the signal that you can`t trust Trump as commander in chief.
KORNACKI: I mean, obviously, there`s a sizeable chunk on the left that always remembers Hillary Clinton in the vote for the Iraq war back in 2002, that always views her as somebody who maybe by instinct is more hawkish than they`d like a Democratic president to be, than they`d like the leader of their party to be. This isn`t going to reassure them, I guess.
CROWLEY: No. You`re absolutely right. Foreign policy is not the reason that Democrats by and large love Hillary Clinton. She`s pretty far to the right of the Democratic base on a lot of these issues. As you say, voted for the Iraq war in 2002, helped to convince President Obama to intervene in Libya in 2011, pushed for a really large troop surge in Afghanistan, siding with the generals with Obama debated the troop surge.
Her instincts are pretty hawkish, although her advisers will tell you, she`s also a very strong believer in diplomacy. But, you know, that`s one reason I think a lot of these Republicans are comfortable with saying, at least right now, they`re open to voting for Clinton. A lot of them aren`t quite at a point of saying they would support her.
But I don`t think the Clinton campaign worries they`re going to suffer severe damage among their base. I think they feel that Donald Trump is doing them the favor of locking down the base and the priority now is to peel away Republican voters. And again, to send that signal that even the elder statesmen of the Republican Party are saying, you can`t trust this guy, Donald Trump, with the presidency.
KORNACKI: All right. Michael Crowley, senior affairs correspondent for "Politico" -- thanks for the time.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: There are people who believe that Chris Christie and not Donald Trump would today be the nominee for president of the Republican were it not for something called "Bridgegate".
Bridgegate, it`s three years old now, but today, there was news, maybe big news on Bridgegate. That`s next.
KORNACKI: All right. Let`s go back three years, to the end of 2013. It`s Chris Christie`s first press conference since being re-elected governor of New Jersey in a landslide. And there was presidential buzz all around him. But he found himself at that press conference bombarded by questions about a story that had been brewing in the local press, a story about mysterious lane closures on the George Washington bridge that had wreaked havoc on the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Lane closures that some were saying might have been a political dirty trick by members of the Christie administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I worked the cones, actually, matt. Unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there. I was in overalls and a hat, so I wasn`t -- but I actually was the guy working the cones out there.
You really are not serious with that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was early December of 2013. Chris Christie trying to laugh it all off.
But two weeks later, two weeks after that press conference the issue hadn`t gone away, and this time, he was more direct and more serious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I`ve spoken to everybody on my staff and asked anybody around here and my campaign manager if they knew anything more about this that we didn`t already know, and they`ve told me no. And so, you know, the chief of staff and the chief counsel assure me that they feel comfortable that they have all the information we need to have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: He was assured that none of them knew anything.
Now, right now, pretrial hearings are being held for two former Christie administration officials, Bridget Anne Kelly. She sent the "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" e-mail that came to light just a couple weeks after that press conference. Also pretrial hearings for Bill Baroni, a top Christie authority at the Port Authority, the Port Authority which oversees the George Washington Bridge.
Now, again, this process, this Bridgegate process is moving incredibly slowly. Think of Heinz tomato ketchup. That`s about as fast as this is moving.
But today, today actual real news on Bridgegate, and it may be big news, because of a motion from the defense. We now have coming out today a text message exchange that appears to have taken place during that December 13th press conference we just showed you.
Here`s that text message exchange. Quote, "Are you listening? He just flat out lied about senior staff and Stepien," Bill Stepien, Christie`s campaign manager, "not being involved."
Response to this text, "I`m listening. Gov is doing fine, holding his own up there."
Now, the first aide writing again, "Yes. But he lied. And if e-mails are found with the subpoena or Chris Christie for governor e-mails are uncovered in discovery, if it comes to that, it could be bad."
Now, the person who seems to be saying in this exchange that Christie lied in that press conference is Christina Renna. She was then an aide to Bridget Kelly in Christie`s office. And here she is in these newly released text messages from the end of 2013 saying that Christie was, her words, flat out lying. That exchange, again, December 2013, almost three years ago.
Christie today telling the associated press that the texts are, quote, "nothing new" and he strongly denies that he lied at that press conference. His spokesman today tells us, quote, "The governor`s statements have been clear. Nothing contained in this text message changes that in any way. He stands by those statements completely and unequivocally."
And the governor`s office also pointing out to us that weeks after that December 2013 press conference, Chris Christie said that it turned out he had been lied to by Bridget Kelly. So, maybe that explains what looks like a pretty big inconsistency here. That is one possibility.
The discovery of these texts would seem to raise a lot of possibilities. And we have just the person to help us sort them out.
Joining us now is Matt Katz, Peabody Award-winning reporter for WNYC, author of "American Governor: Chris Christie`s Bridge to Redemption."
Matt, we are very glad to have you with us tonight. So, any way you can translate these texts to us? We just got this exchange suddenly. People are trying to figure out, does it mean a lot? Does it mean nothing? What`s your best interpretation of what we`re looking at?
MATT KATZ, WNYC RADIO: Yes, to put it in a little bit of perspective, this is the first piece of evidence we have so far seen in this three-year-old saga from somebody within Christie`s circle, within the administration, indicating that they believed or perhaps knew he was involved in the cover- up. So, we`re talking not about closing the lanes to punish the mayor. We`re talking about this mysterious three or four-month period after the lane closures when Christie was telling us I was in that room that day during the press conference, when Christie was telling us there was nothing going on, that the administration`s story was that it was a traffic study that they were conducting and that`s why there was a traffic jam.
Now we know that somebody and perhaps many people within the administration and the campaign thought that there was a cover-up going on and that the governor knew about it, and there`s also this phrase that Christina Renna uses. She says Christie`s campaign manager was involved. I don`t know if that means -- we don`t know if that means involved in the actual conspiracy to close the lane, to punish the mayor, or the cover-up in the aftermath.
There`s going to be more that comes out at trial. This trial is coming in a month. And Christina Renna will be testifying. And there could be a whole load of new documents and e-mails that shed light on whether the governor was involved in either the closure of the lanes or the conspiracy to cover it up after the fact.
KORNACKI: And we should know Christina Renna, she testified before the state legislature. They were looking into this. This is about two years ago. She didn`t mention this. This didn`t come up then. But she mentioned these trials are getting under way.
What`s her role going to be in the trial?
KATZ: She`s definitely going to testify. We know that. And her lawyer said today that she won`t talk until that point.
She`s currently a lobbyist and works with the administration and legislators. So, she still has ties with Christie world. And she was the first person to testify when the legislature did their own investigation. And again, like you said, she never brought this up and she also provided a lot of documents, but apparently did not provide these text messages. So she deleted them. And now Democrats are now saying that she should be investigated for possibly hiding evidence, which could lead a whole new road that we could go down involving her and what others close to Christie may have been hiding.
Remember, she also had claimed that her boss, Bridget Anne Kelly, who`s under federal indictment now and faces trial next month, she`d said that Bridget Kelly told her to delete an e-mail that implicated Bridget. So, there`s a lot of moving parts here and we`re going to find out about Christie and the role of all these people in just a few weeks I think.
KORNACKI: All right. Matt Katz from WNYC, thanks for the time. Appreciate it.
KATZ: Sure, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. That`s going to do it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
And now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening to you, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END