Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: November 1, 2016 Guest: Bill Weld
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Chris, thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Tuesday. Happy November. Happy All Souls Day. Happy week till, you know?
Bladenboro, North Carolina, is a small town, less than 2,000 people live in Bladenboro. It`s in rural, southern North Carolina. It`s about 40 miles due south of Fayetteville.
And every year in Bladenboro, North Carolina, they host something called the Bladenboro Beast Fest. I don`t actually know why it`s called the beast fest, but I do know that they have an awesome car show at the Beast Fest every year.
Look, really cool international scout there, the white sort of Bronco-ey looking thing. There`s a super-beautiful old Ford Mustang. Those are really beautiful new Ford Mustang there.
I think this pickup here, I think this is a Ford step side lowered pickup. Forgive me if that`s a Chevy. I think that is a Ford.
The car show`s organized by the southeastern cruisers. They do a really good car show every year at the Bladenboro Beast Fest.
And part of the reason it`s called is the trophies are huge. They give out 50 trophies in this car show every year. Each of the trophies is like the size of a sixth grader.
But the Beast Fest is the annual local thing in Bladenboro and always has this really good car show for such a small town. But one thing that every small town in America gets to know pretty quickly is if you hold your annual town get-together, whatever it is, whether it`s your car show or your barbecue or your fall fest or whatever, if the thing your town does is a thing that happens in late October or early November, every few years you run the risk at your little town get-together that some of the people who are going to show up are going to be candidates for political office.
People who are running for things, right? End of October, beginning of November. There`s going to be politicians there any time there`s any gathering of any size. And at the Bladenboro, North Carolina Beast Fest this weekend, indeed they had that affliction. Two competing candidates for the local seat in the state legislature both attended the car show, both attended the Beast Fest at the same time.
Apparently, the Democratic candidate was there with his grandson in the stroller walking around the beast fest. The Republican candidate was there with his wife and some of his supporter. There were reports that there had been an early voting location nearby. There may have been some sort of tempers raised around that because of jockeying and excitement around voters entering the early voting site. I don`t know exactly. We`ve seen some references to the early voting site nearby.
I also don`t know how things escalated between those two candidates for state legislature at the Bladenboro Beast Fest this weekend, nor do I know how close their physical escalation was to the stroller with the baby in it. But whatever happened between these two guys at this car show, it did apparently devolve into a fistfight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During election season, we all know things can get pretty heated, but over the weekend one race got physical at a family festival.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It involved two candidates for State House District 46 which covers Bladen, Columbus and Robinson Counties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I put my hands in my pocket, told him I did not want to fight him. He kept insisting that we have a fistfight. When I turned to walk away, Mr. Benton sucker punched me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Benton released a statement saying in part, "I will say that I do not advocate violation but I will not be bullied by the Republican Party. I stand up for myself just the same as I will stand up for you, the people I`ll represent in House District 46.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, this was rural North Carolina this weekend. The local Democratic Party chairman later released this statement to the local paper saying that what actually started this fistfight was the Republican candidate, quote, "leaning in close to the Democrat as they were arguing and saying into his ear," quote, "I`m going to break it off in your" -- word that means donkey in another context. I`m going to break it off in your --
The cops were reportedly called. The cops say they did not actually see the fight. But both of those candidates for that state legislature seat in North Carolina have now sworn out warrants for each other after this fight at the Beast Fest.
I think what that means is that both of them are now due to be arrested if they haven`t been already. So, that`s nice.
Every state in the country has contested state legislature seats, state Senate seats. North Carolina is one of the few states this year that in addition to all the normal election stuff they`ve got going on. They`re seen as an incredibly hard fought battleground in their governor`s race this year. They`re seen as an incredibly hard-fought battle ground in their U.S. Senate race this year. They may be the most incredibly fought battleground in the country in terms of the presidential race this year.
So, North Carolina is a little bit of a special case. With one week left before Election Day now, if there is a state in the country where the strain is likely to show, I`m going to guess it is probably North Carolina. I mean, Florida and Ohio are getting their share of attention like they do every four years, but Florida and Ohio are sort of used to getting that attention every four years. North Carolina is not necessarily used to the red hot national spotlight, the incredible pressure they`ve got not just in the presidential race but down the ballot on all these very close nationally important races that they are having right now.
Now, if you have watched this show for a while, you may also remember something a little special about North Carolina politics. You may also remember that North Carolina is home to something called the Voter Integrity Project. That`s a group that was founded in the Tea Party era.
We`ve been covering them as a national news story ever since the 2012 presidential campaign because in the 2012 presidential campaign, the Voter Integrity Project in North Carolina famously claimed that they had identified 30,000 dead people who were registered to vote in North Carolina. They got a ton of great press for that in the state and nationwide. It was the scandal, this lurid scandal about zombie voters and the Voter Integrity Project, they basked in the attention they got, 30,000 dead people swamping the rolls in this state.
That story did get awkward when these supposedly dead people in North Carolina started turning up, raising their hands, talking to the press, making a pretty convincing case that they were, in fact, not dead. They were alive. We hosted an elections official in North Carolina at the time who confessed to us how many man-hours, how much work, how many resources the state was having to put in to chasing down these supposedly 30,000 dead people on the rolls after they got so much press.
Ultimately, they were not able to find a single instance of voter fraud despite all those headlines. They hadn`t been able to find any real dead people really voting.
And it was kind of a funny story, right? It`s funny to have all these people whose names were on the dead list coming forward very much alive and saying, I hereby attest, I am not dead. It was a funny news story around that presidential election.
But it was important. I mean, in 2008, the presidential race was decided by a measly 14,000 votes. This group trying to cut 30,000 people off the rolls, cut 30,000 live voters off the rolls by claiming they were dead, it was funny, but politically, it was a pretty big deal.
Well, this year, the pressure on North Carolina is even hotter than it was in 2008 and 2012. And it turns out that Voter Integrity Project is still around. They haven`t gotten any less creepy over the years. I should tell you, after we reported in them in that presidential race in 2012, the Voter Integrity Project responded by hounding one of the young producers of this show personally and threatening her that she needed to get right with God, sort of an implied or else. None of us took kindly to that.
In this year`s election, though, here`s what the North Carolina Voter Integrity Project looks likes now. Now, I`m going to show you this from their website. If you are watching with your kids, I`ll tell you this is offensive. So you might want to take a second to clap a hand over your child`s eye or just hit pause for a second.
This is from the Voter Integrity Project. This past week, their feature story at their website, headlines, "Raping the Retard Vote." This is North Carolina`s Voter Integrity Project. They later changed that headline to "Reaping Vulnerable Voters." Still the same story, though. Why the photo of Kim Kardashian, I don`t know.
But in this hot, hot moment in the bright, bright spotlight for North Carolina, their Voter Integrity Project is still classy as ever and they`re once again making national news. This time it`s because of one of their volunteers who also happens to be the secretary of the Moore County, North Carolina Republican Party. She alone has reportedly persuaded the local board of elections in her county to throw more than 400 other people off the rolls just in time for the election this year.
This time the Voter Integrity Project, they`re rolling tears. They`re not claiming that live voters are dead. This time they used a mailer from the Voter Integrity Project from the "raping the retard vote" people, they used a mailer from them as the basis for challenging hundreds of legitimately registered voters in Moore County, North Carolina.
They`re claiming that the way they sent out these mailers they all must be struck off the rolls and the local board of election said OK. NAACP lawsuit filed today says this trick with the mailer was actually used to strike thousands of people off the rolls in multiple counties in North Carolina just over the last couple of weeks. Even though federal law, the National Voting Registration Act says you can`t do that. You can`t do anything to systematically purge names off the voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election.
This is obviously a matter of some urgency. The NAACP is now asking for expedited action from a federal court to stop these activists from throwing voters off the rolls, to reinstate voters who probably don`t even know they`ve been thrown off the rolls by this technique and won`t know until they show up on Election Day and all of a sudden can`t vote.
The Voter Integrity Project and Republican activist have who have been organizing these purges, these hundreds of thousands of challenges to voters in North Carolina over these last couple of weeks, they`re so far making the case that there is nothing illegal about what they`re doing because there`s nothing systematic about it. They`re just individual citizens who happen to know several hundred or maybe several thousand of their fellow North Carolina residents who really ought to be banned from voting. They`re just trying to clean up the voter rolls. Nothing systemic about it.
If there is strain in the system, if there`s a potential for abuse or intimidation in the system, the pressure on North Carolina right now I think makes that state a good candidate to watch in terms of where the strain is likely to show. Early voting in North Carolina is producing numbers that make it look like a dead tie so far in that state. The polling in North Carolina makes it look like a dead tie in that state. The numbers couldn`t be closer.
The Republican senator of North Carolina is Richard Burr. He`s an incumbent fighting for his political life. It`s turning out to be an incredibly tight Senate race in North Carolina. The last NBC poll in North Carolina had that Senate race literally in a tie. The Real Clear Politics polling average for that Senate race right now has Richard Burr up but by less than a point.
Remember how I said the strain is starting to show in that state? Well, it`s important to note that the election really has already started in North Carolina. They`re in their second week of early voting. Election Day itself only a week from today, like it is everywhere.
But today, the largest newspaper in the state of North Carolina reported that their senator, Richard Burr, is refusing to release information to them, to the newspaper about any of Senator Burr`s campaign appearances. He will no longer tell the "Raleigh News and Observer" what he`s doing to campaign or where he might make a public appearance. He`s keeping it secret from the newspaper. I mean, huh?
It was weird this year when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had his media blacklist with all these national news outlets, whose reporters he would not let into his events. That`s weird enough at the presidential level. But in the Senate race, Senator Richard Burr is taking that a step further. He`s not letting the "News and Observer" know about his events and appearances so that maybe they can`t cover them, he imagines?
I mean, at this late date in the election in North Carolina, how can the effort of trying to exclude that one newspaper from knowing about where you are, how can that possibly be worth it? I mean, Senator Burr, they`re going to figure out where you are, right? I mean, they`re reporters, not that big a state. You`re like booking rooms and talking to crowds and stuff. Other reporters still know where you are.
They will find you. Are you sure it`s a good use of your time to try to keep your whole campaign secret from the state`s largest paper? Got anything better to do in this last week? The strain is showing.
And North Carolina, of course, is not the only place where it`s tight. Overall in terms of Senate control does seem like races are tightening, in swing states all across the country, by our count today, polls put six different Senate races within margins of three points or less. How is that for down to the wire?
Right now, fivethirtyeight.com and "The New York Times" both still project that Democrats are favored to take control of the Senate but that probability in both cases is small and shrinking, 67 percent at FiveThirtyEight, 59 percent at "The New York Times."
You can also see tightening in the presidential race, in part from the way campaigns are using their resources right now. Clinton has more cash on hand than Trump does. Her campaign is spending that cash, shoring up her defenses in blue states or purple states that the campaign previously appeared to consider safe.
The Clinton campaign is up with ads now in Wisconsin, in Virginia, in Colorado, in New Mexico, in Michigan. The Trump campaign is also moving into some new territory. Two of those states are also places where Clinton is right now. Both the Clinton campaign and the Trump campaign have ramped up in Michigan and in New Mexico. Those were not the battlegrounds as recently as a few days go, those are not states Trump was focusing on before.
But if you are serving this landscape right now and you are looking for signs of strain, I have to tell you, there was also one very acutely weird element of what the Trump campaign is doing right now, which is it`s new today. It is a very strange thing they`re doing as they`re shifting resources and strategy in this final week. I think the strain is showing here more acutely than anything else we`re seeing. And that really weird story is next.
MADDOW: Just before 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time today, Donald Trump`s main social media guy tweeted out this. It was aimed at Pennsylvania voters. You see the tweet there.
"We hear you Pennsylvania. You can change your early vote by calling this number." Hmm? Then you see the visual there.
"Pennsylvania, regret voting for Hillary? Want to change your vote? Just call this toll-free number."
It`s kind of amazing, right? Have you ever seen anything like this in any election let alone a presidential election? You can change your vote just by calling this phone number? You can change your vote by calling this phone number. Really?
No. You have never actually seen anything like that before because, no, you cannot change your vote by calling that phone number. You cannot do that. This is such a weird thing to be happening at any point let alone in the last week of the campaign.
I mean, that phone number, if you call it, it goes to the Pennsylvania state elections office. But no way, no how can you change your early vote by calling that phone number.
For one, you can`t early vote in Pennsylvania at all. You can absentee vote if you arrange it in advance and you attest to having an excuse as to why you cannot vote on Election Day and if you do that and you can actually vote on election day after all, you do have the option to show up on Election Day and sign some papers works with local elections officials, telling state to go find your old mailed-in absentee excuse ballot, the one you sent in a few weeks ago. And that if they find that, they can void that and instead you can vote in person that day on Election Day. So, maybe that`s what the Trump campaign means.
But look at what they sent out. That is not what the Trump campaign is walking people through here. Can we show that again? Put it back up there. There we go.
Do you want to change your vote? Call this number. That is not what the Trump campaign is walking people through there. I mean, after starting off the day with this just before 8:00 a.m. today, the Trump campaign did eventually delete that tweet. They later went back to the subject and they`re apparently trying to get people in multiple states now to see if they can unvote their already cast early votes.
I mean, just for perspective here, this is the last week of the presidential pain. Candidates all the way from fist-fighting local car shows, state legislature wannabes, those guys all the way up to presidential elections, campaign at every level at this point are trying really hard to get people to vote 40 otherwise might not vote.
But the Trump campaign instead is trying to get people who have already voted to individually try to convince election officials that they should be allowed to take back their already cast early vote, so that they can then vote a second time because maybe they`ll vote differently the second time than they did the first time if they can get their vote that they already cast rescinded. That`s the plan. Knock yourself out. Knock yourself out.
This is -- Trump campaign is trying to do this in four states now. This is their effort. This is a wild time right now in American politics. Not just in terms of the closeness of the polls but the closeness of the polls is driving up the stakes for anybody who is in a hotly contested race or for anybody who cares about the outcome of a hotly contested race anywhere in the country.
I mean, in the modern era, we`ve also never before had the FBI insert itself as a factor into the final stages of a presidential race. We`re dealing with that factor now as the FBI director stands by his decision to hint darkly about something unexplained involving Hillary Clinton while simultaneously today what appear to be anonymous FBI sources leaked to "The New York Times" that Americans should see nothing to worry about in any of the investigations you might have heard about concerning Donald Trump.
So, the FBI is playing this remarkable role in this election, making these unprecedented, vague but worrying statements about one candidate while leaking exculpatory information about the other candidate, a week out from the election. This is something we`ve never seen before from the FBI.
We also in the modern era have never seen a popular sitting president of the United States campaigning his heart out for his would-be successor. That did not happen with George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan or our modern two-term presidents. But that is happening right now and boy, howdy, it is, with President Barack Obama.
How is that going to affect things heading into Election Day? Tonight, we`ve got former Massachusetts governor, libertarian vice presidential nominee Bill Weld, who is here for the interview. I`m very happy about that. He`s in a very interesting position right now.
I`m also very happy to say our next guest tonight is the one and only Tom Brokaw. If there`s a man you would like to get some perspective, right, some calming wisdom at an increasingly wild time like this, I think that person is Tom Brokaw. And he joins us here live, next.
MADDOW: Today, President Obama had a message for Columbus, Ohio, that was inspiring and energizing about this election. It was also, I have to tell you, mostly about Taco Bell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because I`ve been watching the World Series, I am aware that because Francisco Lindor stole second base in game one, everyone gets a free taco at Taco Bell tomorrow.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I mean, this guy was so fired up about the free taco, look at him. I have never seen anybody so excited about a free taco. This guy right here.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Now, there is a reason -- the reason I`m bringing this up, if you can find the time to get a free taco, then you can find the time to go vote.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Here in Ohio, you can vote right now. You can vote right now. You can vote and then go get your taco.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
It`s like a combo meal. It`s like you get something good for your soul and then you get something good for your appetite.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama`s taco bell friendly pitch to get out the early vote in Ohio. Cast your ballot, get some free Taco Bell.
Not the most serious moment on the campaign trail but also a good reminder that politics really is just one thing that is going on in most people`s lives, even if politics do feel a little bigger than usual right about now.
Joining us now is the great Tom Brokaw, longtime anchor of "NBC Nightly News." Now, NBC News special correspondent.
Tom, thank you so much for being here.
TOM BROKAW, LONGTIME ANCHOR, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Always a pleasure.
MADDOW: Amid all the normal election craziness, free tacos and all, is this normal? Is it always this frenetic? Does it always feel so wild at this point?
BROKAW: It`s often frenetic. You`ll remember that George Bush and John Kerry had a crazy last week. In fact, John Kerry was closing fast and then on the Friday night before the election, Osama bin Laden issued a jihad against the United States and a lot of people pulled back, thought Thursday is what we`ve got, he`s our guy going against him.
Also at the very end, John Kerry felt very strongly he didn`t do as well in Ohio as he deserved to because of the placement of ballot boxes and everything, but it`s never gotten this crazy before.
You also have to remember that Kennedy and Nixon 100,000 votes separated them. It`s got me into this business, 8:00 I sat down in any parents` home in South Dakota, I was 20 years old. Eight o`clock, the next morning, that`s whether I want to be, that`s what I want to do with my life.
By then I was already a political junkie, I was working some in broadcasting. But it really lifted me because it got the whole people engaged. But nothing, nothing like this.
MADDOW: One of the things that on that sort of timeline, I`ve been thinking about 1992 when the Friday before the election, George H.W. Bush, looking back at the election says one of the reasons he thought he lost in 1992 was the special prosecutor from Iran Contra coming out and levying an indictment against Cap Weinberger, the defense secretary.
MADDOW: That`s an indictment that was later dropped in December after the election. George H.W. Bush blamed that announcement from federal law enforcement essentially for having tilted things against him at the very last minute. We`re seeing some shades of that kind of thing, too, with this FBI.
BROKAW: You know, I don`t know. You know, listen, I don`t want to challenge his integrity because I have the highest regard for the president, but at the same time, he also was facing Ross Perot. I think it`s the Ross Perot factor getting almost 20 percent of the vote. No one thought he would get that high.
BROKAW: But he got to 19 percent. That was a big dent in probably votes that would have gone to President Bush. So it was probably a combination of the two.
By the way, the special prosecutor was not at all happy about the indictment being dropped against Cap Weinberger. He thought that he had a solid case, went to his grave arguing that. So, it was -- those were chaotic times, but nothing quite like this.
What I think this says, by the way, is what we`ve known from the beginning, Rachel, is that the country has not been deeply in love in a mass way with either one of those candidates. They`ve got a very dedicated following, each of them. But once you get beyond that people are, hmm, I`m not quite so sure.
MADDOW: We`ll be talking with Bill Weld later on this hour, the libertarian nominee. He`s had an interesting career in Republican politics and then got an endorsement from Ross Perot when he ran for Senate against John Kerry once upon a time. He`s had a very interesting atypical party career.
Because there is that antipathy toward both of those candidates to a certain degree, why do you think that none of the third party candidates really blew up this year? Why do you think there wasn`t an independent challenge even from a mainstream party affiliated candidate who broke off that really would have blown this campaign up?
BROKAW: My guess is that the phenomenal success of Donald Trump in the early stages probably discouraged a lot of people. They saw he was running against convention, he was dominating the screens, he was dominating talk radio and dominating Twitter. He seemed to be an unassailable force. He made it tough for an outsider to come in and do it because of the momentum he had going in.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about one other -- actually, notably unprecedented thing about this election. We haven`t seen in generations a popular outgoing president campaigning his guts out for his would-be successor. It`s different circumstances that explain why our last two-term presidents did it. They all had unique circumstances that explained it.
What we see with President Obama on the hustings for Clinton is something that we haven`t seen before. How do you evaluate the impact of this president on this campaign?
BROKAW: Well, we don`t know yet about the impact. My guess is that he does help her because I think when he goes into the kind of audiences like right there, they say, gosh, if the president is for her, maybe I ought to take another look at her. But I think it`s getting even with Donald Trump for disputing his birth certificate and also challenging everything that he has stood for.
I think the two of them are very effective, Michelle and the president, in getting out there and saying the things that they wanted to say, but there`s a lot of personality in that as well because I think that they think that the president that Donald Trump is bad for the country, bad for the policies, bad for the legacy and they`d rather have Hillary in there who they really are very fond of because they see that as an extension of their political philosophy.
MADDOW: The character of the way they`re campaigning may be different had the Republican nominee been a Ted Cruz or a Scott Walker, or a Marco Rubio or somebody else seeing something different.
BROKAW: I think we would have had a much different race. But at the same time you cannot deny the ability of Trump to fight this guerrilla war that`s who been fighting and stay alive. You know, a week ago, it look like it was all over when we heard the tapes from "Access Hollywood," then boom, the e-mails have come back again.
Now, the Clinton people claim that he cannot get to 270, that they`re hanging on by their fingernails at this point, but they think their get out the vote operation will get them there and then he`s got to win in states where it will be tougher for him to win.
As you know, if you`ve been hanging here long enough, I`m the UFO guy, the unforeseen will occur. This is another example of that. But I also say at this stage, when I look at these big polls, all right, it`s close, everybody is excited about that. The mass polls don`t count.
MADDOW: National polls at this point are meaningless.
BROKAW: No. You have to go state by state. People need to do that. And when they look at state by state, it is a slightly different proposition.
MADDOW: Tom Brokaw, NBC News special correspondent, long time anchor of "NBC Nightly News" -- always an honor to have you here.
BROKAW: Great to be here with you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead this busy night. Stay with us.
MADDOW: To my eternal regret, we almost never get to have live Republicans appear on this show. Tonight, we have one. Sort of.
Jackie, please lock the door before he changes his mind. Thank you.
MADDOW: Independent candidate Ross Perot, as Tom Brokaw just mentioned, he got 19 percent of the vote in 1992. Then he ran again in 1996, but he didn`t run as an independent in `96. He created a new political party called the Reform Party. A competitive third party had never seen plausible in modern politics.
But here was Ross Perot fresh off winning 19 freaking percent of the vote, a fifth of the vote the last time around. He had millions of federal financing to establish a party framework that would outlast him. He was a household name.
In 1996, that second Ross Perot run, his reform party, they didn`t manage to field a whole slate of down-ballot candidates. They did endorse some Republicans and some Democrats down ballot around the country. But there was only one congressional candidate who got a personal in person endorsement from Ross Perot himself.
It was October 30th, less than a week before the election. And Ross Perot flew to Massachusetts to endorse the reform party`s preferred candidate in that state`s U.S. Senate race. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSS PEROT, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, on behalf of the members of the Reform Party, on behalf of the member of the Reform Party, it is my privilege to endorse Bill Weld for the U.S. Senate race. Governor Weld, I believe he`s here today. Come on up.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
My pleasure to introduce Bill Weld.
BILL WELD (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. I want to deeply thank Ross Perot for the honor of his endorsement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bill Weld, Republican governor of Massachusetts, accepting the Ross Perot and Reform Party endorsement for the U.S. Senate race in 1996. It`s kind of a raucous thing. You can hear from the reaction that not everybody in the Reform Party was thrilled with that decision. Some cheers, some boos.
Even if its first year, the Reform Party had internal rifts that bedevil every party. And Bill Weld was a well-liked Republican figure in Massachusetts, but he did not win that Senate race. He lost to the incumbent Democrat, Senator John Kerry.
And that was the story across the board for the Reform Party that year. Ross Perot himself only got 8 percent of the vote in 1996, down from 19 percent when he ran before. None of the congressional challengers the reform party endorsed that year won their races, none of them.
And as quickly as the Reform Party had seemed like it was becoming a viable third party, it became not viable. Four years later, in 2000, Ross Perot didn`t run. The Reform Party got far less federal funding in 2000 because they had the poor showing in `96. There was a nasty fight over who the Reform Party would run for president as their nominee in 2000.
A bunch of people threw their hats in the ring, including Donald Trump, but eventually it was actually Pat Buchanan who ended up leading the party`s ticket in 2000. My old friend Uncle Pat, he failed to win even one half of one percent of the vote that year, in 2000. So then that was that. No more federal financing, no more reform party.
Even that really successful third party had a remarkably quick boom and bust cycle and they are kaput. Ever since Ross Perot did so well in `92 for a generation now, third parties have been trying to chase what he did. They`ve been chasing that elusive 5 percent benchmark for the national vote. They hit that national benchmark. They can get some federal funding. They can make a play for being a viable third party the next time around.
Well, this year one of the guys who`s doing that chasing is Bill Weld. And 20 years after losing that Senate race despite the Reform Party, Ross Perot endorsement, Bill Weld this year is the vice presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party running with Gary Johnson. The Johnson/Weld ticket, honestly, I don`t think he`ll mind me saying, honestly, they have no chance of winning. They didn`t even get close to making the debates.
What they`re aiming at appears to be that 5 percent threshold, 5 percent of the vote nationwide. So, maybe the Libertarian Party could start to become a force to be reckoned with the next time around. At what cost are they willing to pursue that goal, though? One week out, the country actually sort of needs an answer on that. Hold that thought.
MADDOW: I`m very pleased to say that joining us tonight live in studio for the interview is Bill Weld, libertarian candidate for vice president this year.
Governor Weld, thank you so much for being here. It`s good to have you here.
BILL WELD, LIBERTARIAN PARTY VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: I posited just a moment before the commercial break that what you and Gary Johnson are really aiming at this year is that 5 percent threshold to try to get some federal matching funds and ballot access so that the libertarians might be viable in the future.
WELD: In the real world, that`s probably correct. That would give federal matching fund, no more ballot access woes. You know, we thought for the longest time we might have a chance to run the table because we`re such nice guys and centrist party, et cetera, but not getting into the debates really sort of foreclosed that option. So, now, it`s the 5 percent, you`re right.
MADDOW: In the real world, when you talk about trying -- pursuing that 5 percent option, for people who are in states where it`s really close, for people who are in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, these states where the presidential race really might be decided among the two candidates who do actually have a shot at it, do you think that people in those states should vote for you?
WELD: Well, we are making our case that we`re fiscally responsible and socially inclusive and welcoming, and we think we`ve got on the merits the best ticket of the three parties, if you will, and so, you know, we`d like to get there. Having said that, as I think you`re aware, I see a big difference between the R candidate and the D candidate.
And I`ve been at some pains to say that I fear for the country if Mr. Trump should be elected. I think it`s a candidacy without any parallel that I can recall. It`s content free and very much given to stirring up envy and resentment and even hatred. And it`s -- I think it would be a threat to the conduct of our foreign policy and our position in the world at large.
MADDOW: When you say fear for the country, do you mean -- is that hyperbole or do you mean that literally? Do you think it would be a threat to us as a country?
WELD: Well, I think it would be a threat to our polity, as Tom Brokaw has been saying the last couple of days. You know, we`re getting to the point where we`re impinging on democratic institutions in this country. And, I think, you know, it takes a certain, not a suspension of disbelief but a willingness to go along with other people to get the ship of state going forward. I`m not sure that happens in a Trump presidency, frankly.
MADDOW: You described him as unstable. Did you mean that sort of psychologically or what`s the basis of it?
WELD: No, I mean that psychologically. I think he showed in the debates that when he encountered criticism or a challenge, he behaves the way, you know, a bully would. He just doesn`t take it well. He doesn`t deal well with criticism and blame.
I don`t think he could competently manage the office of the presidency given the criticism and the challenge that you face every single day as president of the United States. He just would not be in his element and I think he would wobble off course. And I think the country just can`t have that.
MADDOW: Given that, I`m just going to circle back to the question that I asked before. Somebody listening to you right now in North Carolina knowing that North Carolina may decide who the next president of the United States is. Hearing you in terms of what you think about Donald Trump and being that you fear for the country if he is elected, why wouldn`t it be -- if those are the stakes, and that person is deciding, well, I`m going to vote against Donald Trump, and you concede basically that you`re no going to win -- you and Gary Johnson aren`t going to win the presidency, why would that person not weigh threat to the country, fear for the fate of the country against hope the libertarians get its 5 percent this year, why would a person pick the libertarian vote in that case if the stakes are that high between voting for Clinton and Trump?
WELD: Well, the person could very well decide not to do that, and for someone deciding not to do that, I have a lot to say about Mrs. Clinton that has not been said by others recently, and I think needs to be said. I have known her for 40 years. I`ve worked with her. I know her well professionally. I know her well personally. I know her to be a person of high moral character, a reliable person, and an honest person.
However so much Mr. Trump may rant and rave to the contrary. So, I`m happy to say that, and people can make their own choices.
MADDOW: I feel like you`re butting up against a gossamer ceiling here, a very, in that you`re -- I mean, you`re not getting, you`re not quitting. You`re not stepping out of the race. I heard you say today on MSNBC that you`ll cast a vote for the libertarian ticket, on which you are part of.
WELD: That would be our ticket.
MADDOW: That would be your ticket, you and Gary Johnson`s ticket. But do you honestly believe that Gary Johnson would be a better president than Hillary Clinton?
WELD: I think he would be a good commander in chief, and yes, a commander in chief. Aleppo to contrary, notwithstanding.
He`s a strong governor. And, you know, I believe in the platform of the Libertarian Party, which is different from that the of the other two parties, and I believe that it would be good if the libertarians had a seat at the table to speak truth to power of the other two parties, which now have this monopoly in Washington.
Having said that, I`m not taking anything I said about the massive difference between the two establishment party candidates. One would be chaos for the country, I think. And the other would be a very business- like and capable and competent approach to our affairs.
MADDOW: What do you think? What`s your reaction, I ask this in part because you are deputy attorney general -- assistant attorney genera?
WELD: Assistant attorney general, criminal division.
MADDOW: Criminal division. That`s part of your background, and you`ve had a varied life in public service.
What is your reaction to the emergence of the FBI`s sort of wildcard in these last days?
WELD: It`s incomprehensible. And I can`t see it. Mr. Comey has a good background, but there`s nothing there, so far as it appears, nothing there. So he wrote the letter to the eight Republican committee chairs, copy to the Democrats, saying some e-mails have turned up. And now there are even more e-mails.
We don`t know what`s there, so there`s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that could be of interest to anyone until we conduct our multi-week, multi- month investigation, but I thought you all would just like to know. I don`t get that. That`s violative of any number of Justice Department protocols and procedures many he should have gone to the public integrity section, and said what do you folks think?
It`s a little bit of an odd situation because he`s a former attorney general as well as head of the FBI. So, he may have trouble, you know, keeping on only the investigator hat, forgetting that he`s a former attorney general.
But it`s not a good thing. And I think it`s a distraction, and we should just ignore it, because there`s nothing there, and get on with the business of the last week of the election.
MADDOW: When you say there`s nothing there, the campaign of which you are a part, put out this statement, "re: Clinton investigation" and they put out over your photo, you and Gary Johnson. And it says, "The newest revelations about Hillary Clinton demonstrate why America should be scared of both Clinton and Trump. Parents all over have to apologize to their children for the leadership we are giving them."
This is about what -- this is put out in response to what Jim Comey did. It sounds like you do not agree with this statement from your own campaign.
WELD: That is correct, that is correct.
MADDOW: But they still kept it up over your photo.
WELD: You know, in fairness, Gary and I have not agreed on a number of substantive issues in this campaign, tax policy. We`ve had some influence on each other. I think he`s had influence on him on constructive engagement around the world. He`s had some influence on me in criminal justice reform issues.
So, we keep talking them through. I talk with Gary every other day. We`re on different coasts, usually, but we keep in touch.
And yes, no, I do not agree with that release.
MADDOW: And that seems hard because I feel like, first, let me just say, as a Massachusetts resident who knows something of your tenure in public life there, I`m on a different place ideologically in you, but I have a lot of respect for your career and for your thoughtfulness. I think that you`re a deep thinker and a clear thinker on these things. I have a lot of respect for you. Hope you don`t mind me saying.
WELD: Let me button my coat. I sense something`s coming.
MADDOW: I can`t imagine that you wouldn`t tell a person in North Carolina or Ohio to vote for Hillary Clinton if the choice they were making was between giving the Libertarian Party 5 percent or potentially electing Donald Trump, because you guys don`t have a chance against Donald Trump, and she does, and if they vote for you, you`re helping, they would be helping to elect Donald Trump.
The Libertarian Party hasn`t treated you great if they`re putting out statements that you disagree with over your own name, even now, this one week before the election, I can`t imagine that your loyalty is stronger than your fear of Trump as a president.
WELD: Well, I`m here vouching for Mrs. Clinton, and I think it`s high time somebody did and I`m doing it based on my personal experience with her. I think she deserves to have people vouch for her, other than members of the Democratic national committee, so I`m here to do that.
MADDOW: You`ve had a fascinating career, and I really appreciate your time coming in and talking to me tonight. Good luck, sir. Thank you.
WELD: Thanks a lot. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Governor Bill Weld, the vice presidential nominee of the libertarian ticket. That was the most interesting political conversation I`ve had about this election in months.
Thank you. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: A key super PAC for Donald Trump released three new anti-Hillary Clinton ads today in the race. This is the super PAC that Donald Trump`s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway used to run before she took over the campaign. Now, these ads are running online, Facebook, YouTube, Google.
Three notable things about this pro-Trump super PAC running this last- minute anti-Clinton ad.
First of all, they reported taking in precisely $25 in donations for the entire month of October. Hmm. But the month before that, they took in a bunch of money. They took in more than $2 million, including six figures from a guy you might remember. Eric Prince, remember him? The founder of Blackwater, the mercenary company that was such a big part of the Iraq War that Donald Trump now insists he was against.
Four Blackwater guards, of course, were convicted in 2014 and given huge sentences for opening fire at a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007, killing 17 innocent civilians. Those Blackwater guards went directly to prison, but their Blackwater boss is still very rich from that war. And now, it appears he`s putting some of the booty from that into electing Donald Trump, helping put these ads on your YouTube machine. Thought you might want to know where those ads came from.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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