updated 10/22/2010 9:49:47 AM ET 2010-10-22T13:49:47

Guests: Bill Bradley, Jack Danforth, Gary Hart

           

RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” HOST:  -- hit on not supporting veterans, on veterans at risk, when you see the way those attacks landed like a sledgehammer on both those candidates, why aren‘t more Democratic candidates talking about this?

Now it‘s time for THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  What if we can balance the budget, have a surplus, save Social Security, and keep the Bush tax cuts?  Yes, it can be done.  The problem is: politicians can‘t do it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Problems on the economy, as serious as a heart attack.

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  No one wants to tackle this problem because they feel they‘ll lose their next campaign.  Well, I‘m sick of all of that.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  Thirteen days before the election, Democrats and Republicans are in a campaign fury with one goal in mind: fixing the economy, balancing the budget?  No.  Winning.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t know about you, but I‘m fired up.  Get out there and fight for it.

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We can‘t fix stupid, but you can vote them out.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Give ‘em hell, Harry.

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  We know the sun is about to set on a few folks in Washington, too, don‘t we?

O‘DONNELL:  Democrats and Republicans back to old messages.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  A new drive for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government.

OBAMA:  I‘m not willing to borrow $700 billion that we don‘t have that will then require me to cut investments.

PALIN:  My kid is not your ATM.

O‘DONNELL:  But the real question no politician wants to answer?

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  You tell me specifically, what are you going to do to cut—

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  What programs, what agencies are you going to cut?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  So you won‘t cut, you won‘t raise taxes and you won‘t cut spending—

WALLACE:  Let me ask you a specific question because I still haven‘t gotten many specifics from you on how you‘re going to cut $4 trillion.

CARLY FIORINA (R-CA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE:  You know, Chris, I have to say, with all due respect, you‘re asking a typical political question.

WALLACE:  But that‘s where the money is?

MATTHEWS:  All this bitching about the deficit doesn‘t mean squat because you won‘t raise taxes or cut spending, neither one.

O‘DONNELL:  And instead of a real debate on our economic future, we get this—

REP. JOE WILSON ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  You lie!

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes, it is a shame!  A shame!

BOEHNER:  Hidden from the people?  Hell, no, you can‘t!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell.

If politicians won‘t cover the tough budget question, who will?  Well, how about former politicians?

That was “Esquire” magazine‘s idea when the editors asked me to convene a bipartisan panel of experienced legislators to figure out how to balance the federal budget.  I said I‘d do it only if I could get the A-team, my first choice of participants.  And so, the “Esquire” Commission to Balance the Federal Budget was born.

I joined four former senators in a conference room for three days where we eventually figured out through some painful compromises for all of us how to not only balance the budget, but save Social Security and to—all of our surprise—maintain current tax rates.

Joining me now, three members of the commission, our only absent member this evening, former Republican senator from Oregon, Bob Packwood, who was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

With us from Missouri, that state‘s former Republican senator, Jack Danforth, who was also a member of the Senate Finance Committee.  Also joining us: former Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate, Gary Hart, who served on the Senate Budget Committee.  And with me here in New York tonight, Bill Bradley, also a former presidential candidate and former member of the Senate Finance Committee.

There‘s a lot in this report.  I want to begin by giving the audience some of the specific spending cuts that the commission voted to cut.

It cuts farm subsidies, biofuel subsidies, including ethanol.  It cut spending on NASA missions to the moon and mars.  It cuts defense spending substantially.  It reduces the federal workforce.  It uses an alternate measure for inflation, for adjustments for military—federal and military pensions.

Now, I want to begin with Senator Hart.

Gary hart, you were the leader of the discussion on defense spending.  Tell us how you argued for the commission ending up with the cut of $309 billion in defense spending.

FMR. SEN. GARY HART (D), COLORADO:  Fifteen, almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War, we are still procuring weapons and producing poor structures that mirror what we used during that Cold War period between 1947 and 1991.  The problem is: we are not fighting nation state wars again, such as World War I and World War II.  We are today involved in a regular and unconventional warfare that requires smaller units, much different armaments and weapons.  And we are going to be, unfortunately, facing those kinds of confrontations for decades to come.

What is required is restructuring our military forces and our force structure, and procuring different kinds of weapon systems.  That is in the national interest.  It will also save us money.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Danforth, the discussion that Senator Hart led, as you recall, was not cutting for cutting sake, but actually cutting defense spending in order to have a better military posture in the world.

How would you sell that idea to fellow Republicans who—many of whom want to campaign on being strong on defense and see any defense budget cutting as an indication of being weak on defense?

FMR. SEN. JOHN DANFORTH ®, MISSOURI:  The enemy that we are preparing for is different now than it was during the Cold War.  In the Cold War, the threat was the Soviet Union.  And the threat was a world war, major attack, missiles, nuclear weapons and so on.

Now, the threat is terror.  It‘s, as Gary Hart said, unconventional.  It‘s small countries, Afghanistan, Iraq, maybe Iran, and the problems that they pose.

But it is not the sort of global confrontation that the Soviet Union presented us with.

O‘DONNELL:  Bill Bradley, if you were running for president again and imagine a world where Gary Hart was your campaign manager, as he was in a presidential campaign at one time, and he comes to you and says, here‘s our idea for defense spending.  Let‘s cut it by $309 million, and argue that we will be in a stronger defense posture after doing it.

Would you get up there on the presidential campaign stage and go with that?

FMR. SEN. BILL BRADLEY (D), NEW JERSEY:  Based on where we are in the world today?  No question.  I mean, this is one of those moments when we can cut spending and have a stronger defense.  I think that‘s what we‘ve done in the commission.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Danforth, we were not tasked with the objective of fixing Social Security solvency for the next 75 years, but you and your fellow commissioners quickly got all responsible on me and went ahead and did it, principally by gradually increasing the retirement age, adjusting the calculation of cost of living increases.  Those are both politically dangerous things to do, opposed by some Republicans, by some Democrats.

What is the case for doing that?  How would you convince Republicans to take the risk of doing it?  And how would you get Democrats to go along?

DANFORTH:  Well, everybody is talking about the national debt, the deficit, the need to do something about it.  I hope that that‘s not all cheap talk, because the fact of the matter is that by the year 2025, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the national debt will consume 100 percent of federal revenue.  There will be nothing left over for anything else for national defense, for homeland security, for the National Institutes of Health, for the national parks, the prisons, anything else that the federal government does.  Nothing will be left over.

We‘ll have to go abroad.  We‘ll have to go to China to borrow money for our national defense.

So, the fact of the matter is that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and taxes must be on the table, some combination of them.  We can debate what that combination is, but they must be on the table.  The interest on the debt is something that we have to pay.  There‘s no choice on that.  But if you don‘t do something about Social Security, then we have very, very few options left.

So the question is: how can we do it, how can we do it in a gradual way, in a fair way.  But I think it‘s really important for all of the people of our country to understand that there is no simple way to deal with the problem of the debt.  You can‘t just do it by waste, fraud and abuse.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Bradley, in the increasing of the retirement age, which is a real hot button issue, you suggested that there‘d be some accommodation for those workers who are involved in hard labor—that raising that age should involve some adjustment for that.  What do you have in mind?

BRADLEY:  I think narrower expansion of the disability program would allow people who are working very hard labor jobs to get access to some money through disability.  And therefore they would be able to offset the Social Security age going to 70.

I think the point that also has to be made is we‘re not talking about Social Security being at 70 next year.  I mean, according to what we‘ve suggested, it will be at 70 in 2056, which gives people a long time to adjust.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Hart, there are Democrats now in lobbying organizations and Democratic side of it who are trying to get Democrats to swear to not, as they say, touch Social Security benefits in anyway, to keep Social Security benefits off the table.  That would make the provisions that were dealt with in this report impossible for the Congress to do.

What would you say to Democrats who are considering taking that pledge of not doing anything on Social Security benefits?

HART:  Well, they‘re selling out future generations.  Senator Danforth has stated the case eloquently.  We don‘t have any choice.

In the two months since we made these deliberations, I‘ve heard at least half a dozen serious discussions in the media about balancing the budget.  Every one of them said we will have to raise the qualification age.

Now, if you talk about benefits in terms of how much people receive, we didn‘t reduce that.  We just lengthened the period of time they have to wait until they receive those benefits.

But this is—this isn‘t a discretionary operation we were involved in.  This is a matter of national urgency.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Bradley, some Democrats are really digging in their heels about any kind of movement on Social Security at all, really pushing it of the table.

And one of the things you will hear from some is: if we just let those Bush tax rates go up in the top bracket, we can then cover Social Security.  But that would violate the principles Franklin Roosevelt had in founding it, which is that Social Security is a self-funding operation.  And once you move nit that direction, you‘re starting to move it into the territory of the general budget, aren‘t you?

BRADLEY:  Well, Social Security is really compact between two generations.  Therefore, it‘s financed internally.  This would not be, as you say, financed internally if you raised other taxes.

I think the important point on Social Security, and quite frankly on defense, is that we‘ve gotten ourselves internationally into a position where we‘re dependent on foreign capital, whether we like it or not.  The Chinese, the European, the rest of the world, the Japanese, have financed our deficits.  And unless we take some action to show them that our long-term structural deficit will decline, it‘s quite possible that they will dump their dollars and we‘ll end up with higher interest rates and end up with a much deeper recession than we‘re already in.

And so, I look at this and say, the only way you‘re going to show long-term structural changes in the deficit is by addressing things like the defense budget and Social Security and health care.  Of course, in this bill, we—in this deliberation, we chose to not change President Obama‘s health care bill, to leave it as it is.  And I think that was a wise thing to do.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Danforth, there is one item in this package about health care, which goes to the question of malpractice reform.  And the commission takes its stab at malpractice reform to do some—and there‘s a presumption that it will have some affect on the federal budget.

Even if only symbolic, is that kind of compromised by Democrats toward Republicans on malpractice reform, the kind of thing you have to have in a package like this in order to pick up Republican support on other items that Republicans aren‘t enthusiastic about?

DANFORTH:  Well, I think what‘s going to happen, what should happen after this next election is the president should convene a meeting, probably at Camp David and get the leaders on both sides in Congress together and throw the key away and say, we‘ve got to come up with something.  And I think it‘s going to be a very hard thing for people in both parties to agree to.  There are major philosophical differences.

We did do something on the cost of health care.  And that is we recommended getting rid of the exclusion from taxes for insurance benefits.  And I think that that will reduce the cost of health care.  I think that will be more difficult for Democrats to swallow than the so-called medical courts.

O‘DONNELL:  And it‘s a serious tax provision.  It raises a lot of money to simply treat health care benefits as taxable income.

Senator Bradley, there‘s another big revenue raiser in there, which is $1 -- additional $1 of gasoline tax in this bill.  The last time a gasoline tax went through the Senate, you will recall the pain that we had in raising it 4.3 cents which we finally were able to do in 1993.  It hasn‘t been raised since.  Raising it $1 is a bold stroke.

What would your argument be for doing it?

BRADLEY:  Well, there are multiple arguments.  One is that we‘re paying a big tax now, but we‘re sending it to OPEC.  We reduce what we consume because of a higher tax.  We would be keeping it inside this country.

Next, it would reduce the carbon footprint in our country, because it would reduce gasoline use.  And if we, at the same time, we raise the gasoline tax—remember, it‘s not going to be $1 until 2020.  If we raised it gradually over the next eight year, at the same time, we required the automobile companies to produce cars that got double the mileage, which is what—

O‘DONNELL:  Which is part of the recommendation that you have on the report.

BRADLEY:  Which is part of the recommendation, which just—just to the mileage that exists in Europe today, you would find Americans spending no more money on their gasoline than they spend now because they‘d have a more fuel efficient car.  We‘d be able to reduce our carbon imprint.  We‘d be able to ensure our energy security and our national security.

On one level, it‘s a no-brainer.  And people who don‘t face up to this are really on all of those fronts saying, we don‘t really have an idea what to do.

O‘DONNELL:  Jack Danforth, what do you say to your Republican friends who just will not be able to believe that you‘d be willing to sign on to a gradual $1 increase in the gasoline tax?

DANFORTH:  I don‘t like any kind of tax increase to tell you the truth.  I think what we did was come up with a compromise and the nature of the compromise was to cut back on spending and to raise revenue.

Now, if you‘re talking about taxes, there are different kinds of taxes.  Some forms of taxation are more destructive to the economy than others.  I think a consumption tax is less destructive to the economy than, say, raising the marginal rates of income tax or the corporate tax.

So I think that this is—as taxes go, I think that this form of taxation is less damaging to the economy than other possibilities.

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  We‘ll continue our conversation and talk about how at lack of bipartisanship in D.C. is keeping us from solutions like these.

Also ahead, President Obama is work on closing the enthusiasm gap with women voters.  Chuck Todd joins me.

And later, the assassination of Dr. Tiller.  Rachel Maddow joins me to talk about her extensive investigation of how and why the murder took place.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  The government‘s budget crisis solved.  Our bipartisan conversation with former Senators Jack Danforth, Gary Hart and Bill Bradley continues.

And later, with 13 days until the election, what has gotten better for the Democrats?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  And we‘re back with the “Esquire” Commission to Balance the Federal Budget.

Rejoining me to discuss the nearly impossible politics of balancing the budget are: former Senators Bill Bradley, Jack Danforth and Gary Hart.

Bill Bradley, we—the group agreed to a couple of principles.  One, that spending would be limited to 20 percent of GDP.  There were some of us who were willing to see spending be higher of that in relation to GDP, but the compromise of Democrats and Republican, that‘s where it ended up.

That‘s what‘s true of all of these items, is that they are compromises between Democrats and Republicans?  We just heard Jack Danforth, not crazy about the gasoline tax, but willing to do it in the full set of these compromises.  There are things in here that everyone involved had some strains with.

One of the risks in cutting spending at this point in a recession, or in the crawl out of a recession is what is that going to do to the recession?  So, how did the commissioners come down on that?

BRADLEY:  We decided no cuts would begin until 2013.  By 2013, we hoped the economy would be coming back.

Speaking as one person, not the commission, I think there ought to be a very big fiscal stimulus early in the New Year in order to get unemployment down in America.  If we get unemployment down, it will cost the federal government less and people will have more money to spend, and they‘ll hire more people to pay for the goods that the individuals will have to spend on.

And so, I think it was a very wise decision for us to say we‘re waiting until 2013 for any spending cuts.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Danforth, I think probably your proudest point in this package is that in the end, the commission was able to keep tax rates where they are now—otherwise known, condemningly on the Democratic side of the world, as the Bush tax cuts, including the Bush tax rates for the top tax brackets.

Would that alone be enough to bring more Republicans into signing on to a package like this?

DANFORTH:  It would help.  But the general position of Republicans is they don‘t like taxes in any form.  I—I mean, clearly, I do not agree with my friend Bill Bradley that the failed stimulus program of the past should be followed by yet another one.

But increasing taxes during a recession would be a disaster.  If you want to hurt the economy, one way to do it is to increase the marginal tax rate.  So again, the form of taxation is really important if we‘re going to do that.

It‘s going to take a lot of discussion by Republicans and Democrats, and I think that this is going to be a real test to President Obama after the election.  If he can convene both party, the leaders in both parties at some place like Camp David and say, look, we‘re not going to come out of this place, we‘re not going to conclude this meeting unless we‘ve come to some sort of reasonable agreement on getting the national debt under control.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Hart, I don‘t think anyone is going to accuse you of joining a package that includes the Bush tax rates because you desperately want to protect the wealth of the super rich.  But will you—do you think you will be needing to teach some of your fellow Democrats the art of compromise that creates packages like this?

HART:  Well, first of all, I have nothing against wealthy people or wealth for that matter.  So that‘s—it‘s not that I have any animosity towards wealthy people necessarily.  When they mess up the economy, that‘s something else.

But I do—what we accomplished, we did not by finger-pointing.  I think President Obama and most of my party‘s leadership has been willing to compromise on a whole range of things, but they have faced an opposition party that has made a policy decision early in ‘09, virtually lock step, to oppose almost everything the administration has done.  And so, I don‘t think the chance of the Camp David meeting is going to happen, given that attitude right now.

But on—if I may, I didn‘t get a chance to add on the gasoline tax.  We‘re putting 40 percent to 50 percent of our national defenses in the process of protecting oil imports from the Persian Gulf.  That‘s mostly naval assets.  But we‘re also fighting our Second Gulf War, and oil has a lot to do with that.

If you include, internalize those costs into a gallon of gasoline, we are paying $6 to $7 a gallon for our gasoline.

So, the best way to get off of that is to eliminate our reliance on Persian Gulf oil, and we can do that by that gas tax.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Bradley, the controversial Bush tax rate, I for one—never having run for office like you guys—am happy to solve every problem through taxation if I could, and go for much higher tax brackets.  When Babe Ruth was hitting home runs, the top tax bracket cut in at $5 million of income.

But what you and Bob Packwood discovered over time was: no matter how high those rates were, there were so many loopholes and deductions in the code that no one was actually paying those very high rate, 70 percent, sometimes 90 percent going back in time.  And that was the impetus behind the 1986 compromise that reduced rates dramatically and closed loopholes.

Is there anything wrong with Democrats trying to keep tax rates down, which became the final objective of this committee?  This commission?

BRADLEY:  Well, I think our objective was to balance the budget and we found ways to do it, in which the income tax system maintained a 35 percent rate, but was a progressive income tax system.  And we made it more progressive by reducing the value of people‘s deductions who are in the upper income brackets, thereby saving billions of dollars.

So, the income tax system is more progressive.  The rate stays where it is now.  I think the principle is also more affirmed than in the current code, and that is equal income should pay equal taxes.  That‘s what‘s fair.

O‘DONNELL:  You have worked in a more detailed way than most Democrats on the issue of taxation.  Do you think there‘s something wrong in Democratic rhetoric on taxation?  Is there something in it that makes Democrats sound a little too eager and willing to raise taxes?  Especially that top bracket piece?

BRADLEY:  Well, this is a debate that was first held in 1980 and I did the amendment and used all the language.  And here we are, it‘s the same thing all over.

And I think there‘s another way and the other way is to go at that tax base where all of the tax loopholes essentially drain the federal budget by giving special benefit tax cuts to very narrow groups.  And every time you add one of those, you put pressure on the rates to go up.  If you reduce the rates, that puts pressure to close the loopholes.  But it has to be one whole package.

O‘DONNELL:  The reporters in this month‘s “Esquire”: Former Senators Bill Bradley, Jack Danforth and Gary Hart.  I‘ve had so much fun being in the room with you, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Chairman!

O‘DONNELL:  It was fantastic.  Thank you all for your time tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: President Obama is working to create Tea Party levels of enthusiasm among Democrats.  Can he do enough in the final days of the campaign?

And later, some parents are angry about these photos of the stars of “Glee.”  They‘re calling it borderline pedophilia.  That‘s tonight‘s “Rewrite.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  With just under two weeks before the election, focus has shifted to the all important voting bloc of women.  Recent polls show women are frustrated over the economy and seem to be pulling away from Democrats.  So, no surprise here, the White House released a report today from the National Economic Council on how the president‘s policies are helping women when it comes to job, education and health. 

Joining me now, NBC News chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd.  Chuck, according to the new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, there‘s a clear gender enthusiasm gap among voters; 62 percent of men say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year, compared to 51 percent of women. 

What does the White House need to do to close that gap?  And if they were to somehow close that gap, would that enthusiasm go to Democrats in this election? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well look, there‘s been a gender gap in American politics for 20 years.  It really did get exposed a lot by Bill Clinton.  He sort of first was successful with it. 

But women support Democrats in greater numbers than men, pretty much no matter the level of race when you go on the federal level, for House races, Senate races and on presidential races.  But when you look at that enthusiasm number, you‘re sitting there going wow.  Well, no wonder, in this two weeks before the election, the White House is rolling out this—hey, women, look at what we‘ve done for the economy, because that is among their base problems. 

When you look at who supports the president, where he has the best ratings, it‘s among—part of the base, it‘s African-American.  It‘s Hispanics.  It‘s young voters.  But it‘s also unmarried women.  By the way, you do have to sort of slice up women.  Married women with children are more swing voters, or even slightly lean Republican as a group.  It‘s more of the single moms, single women and also working women that Democrats are doing better with. 

O‘DONNELL:  And by the phrase, Chuck, slice up women, I just want to clarify that what we mean here in political analysis—

TODD:  Now you just got me in bigger trouble.

O‘DONNELL:  We need to segment women in our polling analysis into various categories, subgroups beyond just the word women.  OK, got that one cleared up. 

Chuck, the—what are the races that are tightening.  What are the—where‘s the surprise good news for Democrats right now? 

TODD:  Right now I think it‘s Pennsylvania.  That‘s the one that—you talk to Republicans and they will say, boy, Pat Toomey took his foot off the gas.  You talk to Democrats and they say, hello, this is Pennsylvania.  There‘s a reason why it has turned into this semi-reliable Democratic state. 

I say semi; Republicans can win there, but it always takes—they need a little extra help when they‘re able to pull it off, to do races like that, because look at the sort of—where all of the get out the vote money is, Lawrence.  You know this very well in politics.  You‘ve got labor unions.  You‘ve got African-American communities.  All of that is in Pennsylvania.  All of those resources being brought to bare in Pennsylvania. 

So the combination of the president helping in Philadelphia and out there.  He‘s already been there.  He‘s already been there once.  Guess what, he‘s going there the final weekend.  That tells you a lot about how they feel Pennsylvania is going.  And then throw in all the labor money that is going in there, and suddenly—you know, James Carville likes to say that Pennsylvania is—it‘s Pittsburgh in the West, Philadelphia in the East, and Alabama in the middle. 

Well, the T is how they slice up Pennsylvania.  Right now—Toomey has always been doing well in the T.  He‘d been edging in and creeping up and doing well in the Pittsburgh suburbs and Philadelphia suburbs.  Now the Democratic machinery is kicking in.  And that‘s what‘s really closed that race. 

O‘DONNELL:  The president was in Seattle today.  He was campaigning for a woman senator, Senator Patty Murray.  Let‘s listen to what he said to say about the budget. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If we‘re going to get serious about the deficit, then we‘re going to have to look at everything; entitlements, defense spending, revenues.  How do all those things fit together so that we can have a sustainable budget that invests in the things that we absolutely need for our long-term future, and we stop funding some things that‘s nice to have but we can‘t afford. 

That‘s going to be a tough conversation, which is—it‘s interesting now when you listen to the Republicans talk about out of control government spending, and then you ask them, well, what would you cut?  There‘s this deafening silence. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Chuck, we just had a discussion on this show with three former senators who did join a group deciding what they would cut in the federal budget.  I just heard the president say that he‘s willing to consider entitlements.  There are Democrats out there saying absolutely will not think of Social Security in any way.  It‘s hard to imagine after this election how the federal government—how the Senate and the House is going to be any more capable of dealing with the tough questions than they are now. 

TODD:  It is—you‘re absolutely right.  Because you‘re wondering where is the center, because you‘re going to have a Republican party that‘s going to have to mind the base.  You‘re going to have to have a Democratic party where, frankly, all of the quote, unquote centrists are probably going to be the ones that lose in the House.  So you are going to have a more partisan potentially House caucus.  Whether they‘re in the majority or the minority, that ideologically is going to be the case.

So finding the, quote, center and seeing—and it‘s not just finding the center.  As you know, Lawrence, nobody seems to think getting 50 percent of what they want is a victory anymore.  It‘s all or nothing on these things.  But, you know, I‘ve been fascinated watching what Cameron is doing over in Great Britain.  I think the interesting thing is everybody talks about when everything has to be on the table that‘s entitlements and taxes. 

You know the one thing you don‘t hear about is defense.  That‘s what happened in Great Britain.  Cameron put defense on the table.  That‘s going to be interesting.  Does that get put on the table?  When you look at the budget, it‘s basically entitlements and defense that eat up all of these things.  And the question is, are these members of Congress going to be willing to give up an air base in their state?  Good luck with that. 

O‘DONNELL:  We just heard Gary Hart on this program making the case for defense cuts in order to provide a better and stronger defense.  That‘s not an argument the Democrats have tried yet.  We might be hearing it from Barack Obama next year. 

Chuck Todd, thank you very much for working late with us late tonight again. 

TODD:  You got it, sir.

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you.  Did Scott Roeder act alone when he assassinated Dr. George Tiller, or was it part of a broader conspiracy by anti-abortion groups?  Rachel Maddow joins me. 

And tonight‘s Rewrite, some parents are upset with photos of the “Glee” cast in “GQ,”     calling them too racy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  Parents across the country are outraged, just outraged, that the actors of a TV show that constantly deals with the many facets of human sexuality have appeared in a sexually suggestive photo spread in the magazine “GQ.”  The actors on the Fox show “Glee” are featured in the magazine‘s cover article this month.  The photo‘s naturally play with the show‘s high school setting. 

As always, the outrage that has been manufactured over this one comes from the Parents Television Council, a cult that was invented to complain about TV and pretend that the TV remotes don‘t have channel selectors or buttons that turn the infernal machines off. 

The Parents Television Council says the photo shoot borders on pedophilia.  The presumed objects of the pedophilia in the photos are 24 and 28 years old.  The Parents Television Council adds, quote, “sadly, this is just the latest example of the overt sexualization of young girls in entertainment.” 

What they meant to say there is this is just the latest example of overt sexualization of actresses in their mid 20s.  Latest example indeed.  Before these pictures of the “Glee” cast, we had this.  In this 1946 photo, Marilyn Monroe was about 20 years old. 

Then there was Madonna at 20 in 1979. 

Here‘s Heidi Klum in a photo taken 13 years ago, when she was 24. 

The Parents Television Council is, at some point, going to have to realize that the censorship battle is lost.  For better or worse, 21st century children are constantly surrounded by sexual imagery on television and online.  The parenting challenge on that front is not to hide that from children, but how to prepare them for understanding and dealing with human sexuality. 

The Parents Television Council says that all this sex in the media is, quote, “it isn‘t good for families.” 

But without sex, there would be no families.  Sex is a very, very good thing, like air travel.  And yes, both do have their risks.  And children, as well as adults need to understand those risks.  In the homes of the Parents Television Council members are all sorts of things that are dangerous to children, steak knives, whiskey, keys to the car, occasionally angry dogs. 

Good parents control their children‘s access to the dangerous things in their homes.  And the parents who think the TV remote control is dangerous can control that, too. 

The 20-something-year-old actresses in “Glee” should be very proud of the lessons they are teaching teenage girls about the complexities of decisions involving sex.  Decisions every teenage girl is going to have to make on her own, without her parents present to control those decisions, as Sarah Palin found out the hard way. 

What the sex-shy Parents Television Council should be saying is thank you, Ryan Murphy, for creating “Glee” and delivering to us each week examples we can use to caution our children against having sex until they are much older than those wonderful singing actresses in your show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  On May 31st, 2009 at 10:03 a.m., Dr. George Tiller was in the foyer of his Wichita, Kansas church, handing out the church bulletin when he was shot once with a handgun and fell dead on the floor.  The veterinarian who tried to revive Tiller would testify that within seconds, Tiller had stopped breathing.  His story is now being told in a new MSNBC documentary, “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  -- county, 911. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi.  Somebody just came in and shot somebody at our church.  Dr. George Tiller was just shot. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why did you kill him? 

SCOTT ROEDER, MURDERED GEORGE TILLER:  The lives of those children were in imminent danger if someone did not stop George Tiller. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was meant to have a cause.  I was meant to have a purpose. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Tiller set himself up as the abortion provider for all late-term abortions. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Some people despised him, obviously, and some people thought he was a great humanitarian, providing a necessary service. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR (voice-over):  The anti-abortion movement had one mission in Wichita, Kansas: shut down Dr. George Tiller‘s clinic by any means necessary. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Their approach was to wear him down and to peck at him from every angle. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Find out where the child killer lives.  Find out where his wife has her hair done. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  From harassing him personally at his home to harassing the staff, patients come into the clinic. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He was a vile, despicable human being.  He was a murderer. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Out there somewhere is one soul who is listening to all of this and wants to be the person that rights the wrong. 

ROEDER:  If someone didn‘t stop him, they were going to continue to die.  The babies were going to continue to die. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And Scott Roeder thought he was the redeemer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, the familiar voice of the narrator in that clip is, of course, our own Rachel Maddow.  The documentary debuts Monday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern in Rachel‘s time slot. 

Joining me now, herself, Rachel Maddow.  Rachel, some stories we cover are news.  Some stories are history.  Sometimes we know it when we‘re covering history.  When did you realize that this moment in the national abortion argument was history worth documenting this way? 

MADDOW:  I didn‘t know instantly that it was worth covering in this way.  But as soon as this murder happened—I remember.  It was a Sunday.  I was home in western Massachusetts.  I was taking a shower, and my partner Susan said I just saw a news alert that a doctor just got killed in Kansas.  I‘m standing in the shower and I thought, that‘s Dr. George Tiller. 

And it‘s because I paid enough attention over the years to the fight over abortion that I knew that this was—if a doctor had been murdered in Kansas, I was pretty damn sure before learning anything else about it that it was this, that it was Dr. Tiller being assassinated finally.  It was a culmination of a campaign against him. 

There just aren‘t that many things like that in American politics.  And yet, there was a pattern of this in the early ‘90s, when—in the first years of Bill Clinton‘s administration, we saw a number of murders of abortion doctors.  And it‘s something that we have to grapple with as a nation, that there is part of our politics that we talk about as politics but is violence.  It‘s a pattern that we‘ve experienced before.  And the prospect that we are about to start this pattern again, with yet more murders, is important. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, part of why you knew it was Dr. Tiller is that he was shot before, in 1993, something that I didn‘t realize until looking at the documentary.  Why did he keep doing this work? 

MADDOW:  He was a very, very resolute guy.  He was determined to not be intimidated.  He understood very early on in a very holistic way what was going on.  He didn‘t take it personally.  He didn‘t—he didn‘t think that what was happening to him was some sort of persecution of him as an individual.  He understood it as a political campaign that was intended almost to culminate in violence. 

So the anti-abortion extremists put out a wanted poster with his photo on it and his description and detailed information about how to find him.  And sure enough, somebody came along and put two bullets in him.  Actually, I think it was one bullet hit him in both arms.  I think it was a very lucky shot.  She was trying to kill him.  His clinic had already been bombed at that point.

Every time somebody came after him, he would come back and say what I‘m doing is legal.  You can not intimidate me.  You can not make me go away.  And he would come back sort of bolder than ever.  Because he was very cognizant of the campaign against him.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, he had lot of enemies, Dr. Tiller, including one nearby in this business who has a very loud microphone, with an audience of millions.  Let‘s listen to what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Dr. George Tiller in Kansas, known as Tiller the baby killer. 

Dr. George Tiller, known as Tiller the baby killer. 

Tiller, the baby killer.  The notorious Tiller the baby killer. 

I wanted George Tiller, Tiller the baby killer, going, hey, I can make more money killing babies now.

OK.  So I‘m the fascist, I‘m the bad guy.  I‘m the problem.  Not Tiller.  No, he—no, no, no.  He‘s a good guy.  And if I could get my hands on Tiller, well, you know, can‘t be vigilantes.  Can‘t do that.  It‘s just a figure of speech. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Now, those are all thing he said before the assassination of Dr. Tiller.  And he did say, can‘t be vigilantes. 

MADDOW:  Can‘t be vigilantes, so—I mean, words have consequences. 

There‘s a very important reason why we don‘t police words in this country.  Instead of policing words in this country, we count on people who have big megaphones to consider the consequences of their words, and to therefore use their words responsibly.  Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn‘t. 

O‘DONNELL:  What would you say to Bill O‘Reilly in terms of going forward in this dialogue? 

MADDOW:  I don‘t really have anything to say to Bill O‘Reilly. 

O‘DONNELL:  I had a feeling you might not. 

MADDOW:  We don‘t talk.

O‘DONNELL:  You know what I have to say to him.  He‘s not working at 9:00 p.m. on Monday.  He should watch this documentary.  “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller” premiers on MSNBC Monday at 9:00 pm.  Rachel, thank you very, very much. 

MADDOW:  Lawrence, kind of you, thanks. 

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll be watching with you on Monday and this Sunday, when you appear on “MEET THE PRESS.”  You are so busy.  That‘s THE LAST WORD.  You can follow us on MSNBC.com and Facebook, and my occasional show-related Tweets @Lawrence.  “COUNTDOWN” is up next.

END   

Copyright 2010 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.  All materials herein are protected by

United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,

transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written

permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,

copyright or other notice from copies of the content.> Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET