'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, Nov. 18th, 2010
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guests: Rep. John Mica, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Jonathan Cowan, Ari Melber,
Gov. Charlie Crist, Penn Jillette, John Tyner
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST: Thanks, Rachel.
O‘DONNELL: In Washington, no one turns doubt the president‘s personal invitation to the White House—no one. It doesn‘t matter what party you‘re in—until now.
The Republican congressional leadership stood up the president today.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: On Capitol Hill, meet the new boss—it‘s the same deal.
O‘DONNELL (voice-over): On the day the Republicans were too busy to meet with the president, this is what they did.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The administration needs to come towards us. It‘s certainly not to keep on doing what they‘ been doing.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, OHIO: We think that Obamacare will ruin the best health care system in the country.
O‘DONNELL: Instead of working with Democrats on extending unemployment benefits.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Voting down unemployment benefits, these are people with children—
O‘DONNELL: Republicans made speeches about the only thing they care about: tax cuts.
BOEHNER: We ought to extend all of the current tax rates. We made it clear what we‘re interested in.
O‘DONNELL: And after months of this—
BOEHNER: Hell, no, you can‘t!
O‘DONNELL: The soon-to-be speaker said this—
BOEHNER: It‘s a shame the majority in Congress didn‘t pass the budget, didn‘t pass any appropriations bills.
O‘DONNELL: And even on national security—
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: President Obama called in the cavalry today to try to get the nuclear arms treaty ratified.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Based on our consultations with Senator Kyl—
O‘DONNELL: Republicans still just say no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Jon Kyl told NBC today there is no chance this treaty gets passed this year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New developments in the fight to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a tough sell.
O‘DONNELL: And as the truth of the president‘s intervention in the auto industry becomes clearer every day—
OBAMA: The American auto industry is once again on the rise.
O‘DONNELL: -- Republicans continue to attack the saving of General Motors.
BOEHNER: We‘re talking about tens of thousands of Americans who were punished.
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell.
Two days after the Republicans got wiped out in the congressional election of 2006, President Bush invited Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer to the White House where they, according to Hoyer, had a, quote, “very positive discussion about moving forward.”
President Obama extended a similar post-shellacking invitation to Republicans to meet at the White House today, but they declined because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had better things to do—like give a speech to the Federalist Society, calling for the repeal of the health care bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: We‘re serious about repealing and replacing the health care bill. We will make the case for repeal through vigorous oversight and votes on full repeal of this terrible bill even as we vote to eliminate its worst parts. And we‘ll continue to fight it in the courts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Of course, McConnell is not serious about repealing the health care bill because his minority party in the Senate doesn‘t have the votes to do that. If McConnell had given any version of that silly little speech to the president in the White House meeting today, the president would have no doubt has politely reminded McConnell that his veto pen makes him more powerful than McConnell ever will be.
House Republicans also spent the day blocking an extension of unemployment benefits and trying to force a vote to take away federal funding from National Public Radio, which is 1/100 of 1 percent of the federal budget.
Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership showed up at the White House meeting. House speaker, soon-to-be minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, told the president that House Democrats remain committed to allowing the Bush tax rates to expire for incomes over $250,000, while the president told Senate Majority Leader Reid that he is free to pursue compromise with the Republicans in order to get a tax bill through the Senate.
Joining me now are: Republican Congressman John Mica of Florida and Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.
Congressman Mica, do Republicans realize what a huge public relations mistake they made by not showing up at the White House meeting today?
REP. JOHN MICA ®, FLORIDA: Well, a huge public relations mistake has been made for the last two years of the entire Obama administration and the four years of Democrat control.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Weiner, I‘ve got to say, from where I‘m sitting, working great for you guys so far. This is shades of Newt Gingrich, you know, losing public relations battles with President Clinton when he took over the House of Representatives.
Did you think you were going to get this lucky this quick?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Look, one of the—first of all, you are right in your intro that when the president calls and says, “Let‘s sit down and meet,” particularly at the beginning of a new Congress, it‘s not only the polite thing to do, but if you‘re really serious about governing, that‘s kind of what adults in Washington do. They sit down and they talk even when you disagree.
But, you know, putting aside the atmospherics of this, which obviously are bad for the Republicans—I think part of this is that they don‘t know who they are yet. Are they the party that wants to sit down and try to solve problems, like Mr. Mica usually is, are they the party of these new guys that came into the town that wants to deconstruct everything and burn the place down? I think one of the reasons Republicans didn‘t accept the invitation is they have no idea what their message is and what they believe right now and that‘s going to be a problem for the whole country once they were in charge.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Mica, if the constituents of yours in your Florida district says to you, what was going on, why wouldn‘t Mitch McConnell speak to the president when the president invited him to—how do you explain that to a constituent?
MICA: Well, first of all, the new Congress doesn‘t meet until January 5th. Quite frankly, I‘m going back tomorrow and tell my constituents I‘m most disappointed that the folks in charge and the White House and the majority that‘s now controlled by the Democrats in both houses came back this week and didn‘t take care of the most important thing, and that is putting people to work. Not just extending unemployment benefits and doing it in a matter to add to the deficit, but there‘s no plan to deal with the tax uncertainty that every American is facing, and business is facing and won‘t begin hiring people until we settle.
We should have done that this week and that‘s what we should be working on.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Mica, let me get this straight. Unemployment benefits add to the deficit, but, I guess, in your view, tax cuts do not?
MICA: No, we actually offered an alternative. There‘s plenty of money sitting around, stimulus money that hasn‘t been spent, other money and other accounts that hasn‘t been spent without adding to the deficit.
Listen, you must be on another planet because the people sent a very clear message: stop the spending, stop the deficits. We heard it. We heard it.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Weiner, what did you want to hear coming from the White House meeting among the Democratic leadership and the president on tax cuts?
WEINER: Well, look, for one thing—
O‘DONNELL: Tax rates.
WIENER: For one thing, I think it‘s pretty clear from the way the Republicans have behaved this week, that the best intention of the president to try to find compromise—it‘s difficult to compromise with a group that really doesn‘t even know what they want or being, frankly, stubborn about it. You know, you hear Mr. Mica say, wish we would have come to some agreement on taxes. Well, one of places you do that is by sitting down at the White House and hearing what the ideas are.
Look, I think that to a certain point, we have to realize, bipartisanship compromise, they‘re a mean, not an end.
And to some degree, I think the president is learning what many of us in Washington learned a long time ago—these Republicans don‘t want to compromise because there‘s nothing they want to do. They just know what they‘re against. They don‘t know what they‘re for. And that‘s why the conversation would have been short nonetheless.
And I want to just say this, you know, Senator McConnell, in a rare moment of honesty, I think made us understand what the Republicans believe -- they want to do everything possible to make sure the president of the United States, our president, is a failure. That should never be. I don‘t care what your party is. That should never be your dividing philosophy.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Mica, if in the lame duck session in the House, the leadership brings up a bill to extend the Bush tax rates for all of the tax brackets except the top tax bracket and you are allowed to vote yes or no on that bill—how will you vote on that bill?
MICA: I heard your exception. My vote would be no. Because I think we should—
O‘DONNELL: So, you would be voting against a tax cut for all brackets except the top bracket. You‘d vote know on that kind of tax cut?
O‘DONNELL: And how would you justify that to your constituents, about 99 percent of whom live below the $250,000 tax bracket?
MICA: Well, some people just don‘t seem to get it—but it‘s the people who actually have the money, the money to invest in creating jobs and expanding the economies and getting America going again. Those are the folks that need some tax certainty, some tax breaks. We should lowering our corporate rate.
We‘re now one of the highest rates in the world. We see jobs going overseas, that‘s because our rates are high because government is putting additional controls and mandates on business.
People in Washington just don‘t get it. They‘d rather sit around and extend unemployment benefits, extend unemployment benefits. There‘s a better way and we can do it.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Weiner, should the Democrats force Congressman Mica to cast that vote, to vote against tax cuts for all taxpayers below $250,000?
WEINER: Look, I‘m open to different ideas and how to structure this, maybe it should be higher than $250,000, maybe it should be higher than $250,000, maybe we should have extra cuts for small business like Senator (INAUDIBLE) wants.
But I have to tell you, in what Mr. Mica just said, and if you were paying attention, he said let‘s not give a break to people who are looking for work, who have children who are potentially not going to have Christmas this year. But let‘s figure out a way to lower the corporate tax rate. So they voted no on providing unemployment insurance for people who frankly are going to be probably pushed into Medicaid and on to public assistance anyway.
O‘DONNELL: A more expensive program than unemployment insurance.
WEINER: A hundred percent.
MICA: Wait, wait, didn‘t you hear what I just said?
WEINER: Mr. Mica, let me just finish my thought. The problem is that I believe is honestly what the Republicans believe. They believe lowering corporate rates is a more important thing that deficit spend on than a relatively small amount of money to extend unemployment insurance. That‘s what I think President Obama is going to have to deal with for the next two years, which is why I think, to some degree, we need to dig in.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Mica, go ahead.
MICA: Well, again, I didn‘t say we shouldn‘t extend unemployment deficits.
A very clear message was sent about increasing the debt. The debt is well over $14 trillion and growing. We could have done an extension, taken money that‘s sitting in accounts—I mean, there‘s billions and billions of dollars sitting in stimulus accounts and other accounts that I could cite that hasn‘t been spent. So, we don‘t have to end the deficit.
We can also put people to work. People who I talk to want a job, they just don‘t want another government unemployment check. And we can do that.
And I‘d be glad to work with—Anthony is a great guy. I‘d like to work with him. I think we could have a meeting of the minds and come together.
But we should be sitting down, talking about positive solutions to put the country to work. Then I don‘t have to even worry about the unemployment benefits.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Weiner, two other agenda items for the lame duck session: the DREAM Act and “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” What are the prospects for each of those?
WEINER: We were elected for a full two-year term. We still have a couple of months left here. We should be governing based on our Democratic principles. Both of those things should pass.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Mica, you‘re going to be the chairman of the transportation committee in the House. You have said that you think that the TSA, the airport security, has gone too far. How have they gone too far and what is your view of this new pat down system at the airports for people who don‘t go through the full body scans for fear of the radiation exposure?
MICA: Well first of all, on the question on the DREAM Act, no—no to granting lower tuition to illegals.
O‘DONNELL: It does not do that, Congressman. It does not do that.
You can vote against it for another reason, but not that one.
MICA: Well, again, that‘s the way I interpret it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s wrong (ph).
MICA: And again, that shouldn‘t be even on the agenda at this point.
On the TSA matter—I think the TSA has overstepped its bounds. I have no problems with using the body advance imaging or pat downs. But it shouldn‘t be done for primary screening. It should be targeted to people who pose a threat, who set off some alarm on are only a watch list. But it shouldn‘t be used and people have already seen the videos of children, elderly and others.
We‘ve got to focus attention and our resources and technology and efforts for a small handful of bad guys instead of millions of Americans who are trying to go about this country in a free and open manner.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman John Mica, Republican of Florida—thank you very much for joining us tonight.
MICA: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: And we‘re going to be following what you have to say about the airport security issue going forward in your committee.
Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York—thank you for joining us also.
WEINER: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Outrage over the new TSA pat downs at airports is growing. In Orlando, officials there have dropped the TSA in favor of a private security firm. Coming up: we‘ll talk to an air traveler John Tyner who set off this firestorm with the simple words, “Don‘t touch my junk.”
And we will debate what led to the Democrats‘ big defeat in the House in the midterms. A new poll out explains who turned away from the Democratic Party and why.
O‘DONNELL: Sarah Palin‘s endorsement power—it backfired big time in the Alaska Senate race, but worked in Florida, and so far, on “Dancing with the Stars.” Governor Charlie Crist will try to make sense of the Palin factor and explain why he might pardon Jim Morrison before he leaves office. Yes, that Jim Morrison.
And the Democrats‘ shellacking on November 2nd—a new poll says it was not disappointed liberals who drove the election night losses.
O‘DONNELL: There is a new school of thought about why the Democrats lost so many congressional seats in the midterm elections. Simply put: they weren‘t liberal enough. This theory has never before found voice in the aftermath of Democratic congressional loses.
The last time the Democrats took this kind of shellacking in 1994, the undisputed conventional wisdom was they lost because they had been too liberal—having past gun control, having tried to pass a massive new health care plan, and having actually succeeded in passing the biggest tax increase in history.
Soon after that shellacking, President Bill Clinton actually publicly apologized for raising taxes, and spent the remainder of his presidency as a minor editor of Republican congressional governance.
The conventional wisdom seems to remain the dominant school of thought on the recent midterm elections, but the “they weren‘t liberal enough” theory continues to command attention on this network and on many blogs.
Joining me now to debate this issue—in the “they weren‘t liberal enough” corner: Ari Melber, correspondent for “The Nation.” And in the “they were too liberal” corner: Jonathan Cowan, president of the moderate Democratic think that, Third Way.
Jonathan, I want to start with you. Your group has a new poll out analyzing the election results. What do we learn from that?
JONATHAN COWAN, PRESIDENT, “THIRD WAY”: We learned three things, Lawrence. First of all, the droppers, the people who voted for Obama on ‘08, but stayed home, they‘re not the liberal—
O‘DONNELL: Why aren‘t they called the stay homers? We‘re calling the droppers.
COWAN: They dropped off.
COWAN: Exactly. They dropped out of our equation. Those voters, those droppers, they‘re not the liberal Democratic activist base, people said they were. They are split. Forty percent of them are independents. That‘s one thing we learned.
Second thing we learned is the switchers—the people who went from voting for Obama in ‘08 to voting for a Republican in 2010.
O‘DONNELL: The weirdest—just the weirdest people.
COWAN: All over the place. Those people, not only are they more moderate and conservative and independent, they didn‘t just move away because of the economy, they thought Obama and Democrats were too liberal. Sixty-four percent of them said they‘re more liberal than I am.
And the third thing we learned, and this is good news for viewers on your network, Republicans and Tea Partiers who they got a mandate, they did not. They got a chance. Nothing more.
Bottom line: if we go further left, we are heading off the electoral cliff for the long run.
ARI MELBER, THE NATION: Where have I heard this before?
Listen, here‘s the first problem with this poll since this is our starting point. We started with your poll. It‘s only 10 states. And if you look at Nate Silver‘s analysis, seven of those 10 states had the highest enthusiasm gap of Obama voters from ‘08 to 2010. What that mean is that a bunch of people who voted for Obama didn‘t turn out. And you‘re (INAUDIBLE) the droppers or the dropouts or what have you.
But if you look at places where actually there was high Obama turnout, which I would argue is much more important than the hypotheticals you‘re playing with, in Colorado, four-point Obama edge, Senator Michael Bennet, who was an advocate for the public option, a new strong Democrat—I don‘t know if he‘s super liberal. I would just say he‘s strong and bold and he won. And he won with 89 percent of the Obama voters, three points higher than his opponent because he consolidated his base. He won.
In Washington state—in Washington state, Senator Murray, who opposed the Iraq War, who‘s been a strong progressive advocate. I wouldn‘t say she‘s super liberal. I don‘t even know why you‘re so hung up on the terminology. I would just say she turned out her voters, 13-point Obama edge. She won a tight race.
So, we can look at a couple who won or we could play word games.
COWAN: A couple of points for you, Ari. First of all, the 10 states were the 10 battleground states where the next election will be decided. They weren‘t random states. So, they really matter.
O‘DONNELL: I just want to add one thing about the context on the poll also. In our exit poll on election night, which was a 50-state poll, it said that 56 percent of the voters thought the government was doing too much. And something like 30 -- I don‘t have (INAUDIBLE) around, it was in low 30s, government not doing enough—which seems to be a larger version of what you‘re—
COWAN: Yes, absolutely. A couple points on that. On the deficit, these switchers and droppers were both concerned about the deficit. Switchers, people who moved away from Obama, said the deficit was a serious problem, except 76 percent of them said Democrats weren‘t serious about it. There is no disputing it in—not just in our poll, but in all the evidence, people moved away from Obama because they thought they were concerned with too much big government, too much spending.
Last point on this, Ari, and this is again not in dispute. If liberals had turned out in 2010 in the same level they had in 2008, we still wouldn‘t have gotten the House back. No one disputes that fact.
MELBER: Right, because you‘re stuck on the L-word, which just reminds me so much of usually opponents of Democrats, not Democrats themselves.
O‘DONNELL: Ari, let me give you—I‘m going to let you choose the vocabulary. When 56 percent of the voters say government is doing too much, what do you want to call it? I mean, you call it whatever you want. But we feel like that traditionally encompasses the concept of liberalism in government.
You know, the reason we try to use these adjectives is so that we can actually—we understand it‘s more complex, and human beings are more complex than that. And there are—you know, pro-abortion tax cutters out there, and we get all that. But we use these adjectives to try to just be able to have a conversation about these voting blocs we‘re talking about.
So, but go ahead—what would you call it, the people who think government is doing too much—would you call them conservatives? What do you call them?
MELBER: I would call them people answering a framed question, which you‘re free to ask. But here‘s the votes I would like at to government. If you look at McCain district that the Democrats were defending, there are about 49, the Democrats who won those districts, nine out of 11 voted against Obama‘s health care proposal.
That is where I think you are on to something. And it is true. And those defensive positions, the people who voted against health care did better. But—
O‘DONNELL: And let me get something straight. Let me get something straight. Would you be OK with that as a Democratic Party strategist, that this is the way you win in that district and we just want you to win because we need as many votes as possible for Nancy Pelosi as speaker?
MELBER: Yes. I think we have to separate principles—
O‘DONNELL: So, we all agree.
O‘DONNELL: Ari, go. You go.
MELBER: I granted you a point which you‘re half right on the McCain districts. And there are—
O‘DONNELL: And, by the way, whenever you agree with the other side, you get to talk longer.
O‘DONNELL: It goes both ways.
COWAN: Yes, I like your tie.
MELBER: So, I said you‘re half right. Where you are wrong—dead wrong is in these wave districts. Those are place where is Democrats picked up in ‘06 or ‘08, regardless of how McCain did. And there, the Democrats who were for Obama‘s health care proposal did better than those who opposed it.
OK, now, that‘s a universe. So, I would argue to you that we have to distinguish between defensive areas and the now, on the final point, and I‘ll turn to you, the final point is—
O‘DONNELL: That sound like a good distinction.
MELBER: There are only 11 of those types of districts that Democrats are left depending, whereas there are 40-some-Obama districts that currently have Republican members. So, I think you have some points here, but I think you are overstating it.
COWAN: But, Ari, here‘s my fundamental problem. I don‘t get how the left can—and I‘m a Democrat. I‘m a good Democrat. I don‘t get how the left can look at an election in which we ended up with lowest number of House Democrats since the Truman administration, we spent $1 trillion on health care, $800 billion on a stimulus package, reregulated Wall Street, and conclude that voters didn‘t think we did too much, we went too far, they want us to get control of the deficit and come back to the center.
If we persist in believing that only going further left is the strategy to regain a majority, and by the way, to govern effectively, we‘re not going to govern effectively. That‘s not the core of our problems now, and we‘re going to go further into the wilderness.
O‘DONNELL: We‘ve got to go. We‘re going to continue this because it‘s going to continue for two year, I think. But I just want to get one label thing straight before we go. You referred to the left.
O‘DONNELL: What are you? You‘re a Democrat—
COWAN: I‘m moderate. I‘m a moderate Democrat.
O‘DONNELL: OK. So, a moderate Democrat and you see another group of Democrats as being liberal Democrats?
COWAN: I don‘t use it pejoratively.
COWAN: It‘s a proud word. I‘m not using it the way the right wing uses it.
O‘DONNELL: You‘re trying to identify your place on a scale.
COWAN: And the idea that there is not meaningful distinctions between liberals and moderates is bogus. There are some real—there are commonalities, I agree with you on that, but there are very real meaningful distinctions and we ignore them at our peril.
O‘DONNELL: All right. To be continued. Jonathan Cowan of the Third Way and Ari Melber of “The Nation”—thank you both.
MELBER: Thank you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: The Republican governors are meeting in California, and behind the scenes, the power brokers are doing everything they can to get Michael Steele out of the leadership spot at the RNC. Governor Charlie Crist joins me to talk about the revolt inside the Republican Party.
And that bizarre shooting in Wisconsin. A man shot his TV after watching Bristol Palin on “Dancing with the Stars” on Monday. THE LAST WORD investigative staff has talked to the local sheriff and there‘s more to the story than what‘s been reported so far. Breaking news on “Dancing with the Stars”—next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Don‘t retreat. Just reload.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: That advice from Sarah Palin comes in the same week as a story of a Wisconsin man who fired a shotgun into his television set after watching Bristol Palin on “Dancing With the Stars.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kyle and Lacy and Jennifer and Derek will face off against Bristol and Mark for the trophy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: The shooting has been the subject of much analysis all week. People saying Bristol‘s clearly unjustifiable success set the man off. But this happened Monday, before Bristol advanced again on Tuesday. LAST WORD producer Joanne Denue (ph) called the sheriff who handled the case. It turns out, as usual, the truth is complicated.
Sheriff Dave Mahoney (ph) tells us that Steven Cowen (ph) was already suffering from mental and emotional stress. He was also deeply upset with his family for hiding his guns. Who wouldn‘t be?
And he had been drinking. As Cowen watched Bristol dance on Monday, like many of the 17 million viewers, he was outraged, believing she was still in the competition because the audience vote was obviously juiced by Palin supporters. His wife says it was enough to send him over the edge he was leaning over already.
He found the gun, shot the television and after a 15-hour standoff surrendered to the police. He‘s been charged with reckless endangerment.
Bristol defended herself, mistakenly thinking she‘s won because of hard work. Next week, she‘ll compete against the incomparable Jennifer Gray whose mother does not command a large voting bloc of fanatics.
Coming up, President Obama took a lot of heat for bailing out the auto industry. Today, GM is back in a big way. According to Republicans, we were going to be a socialist country by now because of that bailout. That‘s tonight‘s Rewrite.
And will Charlie Crist‘s last act as governor of Florida be the pardoning of the Doors front man Jim Morrison? Governor Crist is in the Spotlight tonight.
O‘DONNELL: In San Diego today, Republican governors from across the country got together for the Republican Governors Conference. Their ranks bolstered after this month‘s election. Their goal now is to find a message and shake the notion that theirs is party only for white men. One person who was absent from the conference, Florida‘s Republican, turned independent Governor Charlie Crist. Crist is set to leave office in January, after losing his race for Senate to Florida‘s Tea Party candidate Marco Rubio.
But before he does, he is considering at least one high profile pardon, a posthumous pardon for Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors. Morrison was charged for indecent exposure during a now infamous concert appearance in Miami in 1969. Morrison died while his conviction was on appeal and still pending.
In our Spotlight tonight, Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Governor, your pals are all in San Diego. You are, I guess, a recovering Republican governor.
GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (I), FLORIDA: Or recovered.
O‘DONNELL: Or recovered. What is it? Why aren‘t you there? Don‘t you feel you have lesson, having been elected as a Republican governor, having run in a Republican primary for a Senate seat that then moved you into the world of the independent? Don‘t you have experiences that you want to bring to them and say you guys are going of track?
CRIST: Well, certainly you could share those kinds of thoughts and information, but I would rather be here with you tonight. So I‘m here in New York City.
O‘DONNELL: The only Republican governor who would rather be here with me.
CRIST: Well, actually independent governor, for the facts. But it‘s a pleasure to be here. It really is.
I think that what‘s happened in the Republican party, certainly the right wing of the party, is that it‘s gone very hard right. There‘s no question about it. I mean, I‘m a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. And I really believe that‘s what the country is today, and I think the direction that it will end up going.
But we‘ve had a pretty strong swing this year. And, you know, I‘ve suffered from it on election night, and credit to my opponent Marco Rubio. I hope he does a good job and I believe that he will. But it is what it is. And being hard right and saying you would not do anything with President Obama is what you had to do to be elected.
I would stand up to the president when he was doing something I didn‘t agree with, but I also stood with him. And that was my sin. When he came to Ft. Myers, Florida and I thanked him for coming and helping our economy and trying to get things back to work in the Sunshine State and the country.
O‘DONNELL: Analyze the Florida vote for me. There‘s a lot of surprise about Marco Rubio, clearly a candidate who in the eyes of Democrats is threatening to Social Security—he‘s willing to try things with Social Security that would obviously reduce benefits. And Florida is thought of as the Social Security state. You have all those retirees down there. And people expect them to vote very reflexively on Social Security issues.
They didn‘t seem to vote that way this time. What was going on inside the Social Security debate in that Senate race?
CRIST: Well, I think it really depends on how you look at the numbers, Lawrence, because in our race—it was a three-way, obviously. You had the Republican, Marco Rubio, the Democrat, Kendrick Meek, and myself as the independent. If you add together the numbers that Congressman Meek and myself received, that was a majority in that election. And I think that those people who voted on that side of the equation were people, including seniors, who were concerned about Social Security and Medicare.
You know, it is what it is. And, you know, we have a U.S. senator who‘s a bright young fellow, but didn‘t get a majority of the vote in the Sunshine State that has a significant amount of senior citizens. So it seems as though Congressman Meek and I split the vote.
O‘DONNELL: Jim Morrison has been dead for decades. He was convicted of indecent exposure in Florida for during a concert apparently, according to the court‘s finding, exposing himself. Even there, the evidence is questionable. There‘s no real photograph of it and all that.
What makes his case of interest to you, to the point where you‘re actually considering it, given that if we‘re going for posthumous and historic pardons in the history of Florida, surely there are more egregious violations of justice in our system than the Jim Morrison conviction.
CRIST: Well, it‘s one that‘s brought to your attention. Just like in any profession, things that come to your desk you deal with. This was brought to my desk a number of years ago. I started to look at it then. The more I looked into the case, the more briefings I got about Jim Morrison and what happened that evening, the less and the more flimsy the evidence appeared to be.
I‘m a former attorney general. I believe in justice. I think we need to do what‘s right when you have the opportunity to do so .. Because the people of Florida were kind enough to elect me four years ago, I sit in that chair now. And that‘s the reason why.
O‘DONNELL: He was convicted of this at a time when strippers were on stages in Florida here and there, right? How did it even happen?
CRIST: They‘re probably still there tonight.
O‘DONNELL: Well, yeah. But I mean, how did it—I can‘t—do you understand how he could have even ended up getting prosecuted for this at that time?
CRIST: I think it was a sign of the times, to a degree. Anita Bryant was around. They had a huge meeting at the Orange Bowl to say, you know, what was decent, what was indecent. The fact of the matter is this: there were no photographs that showed him, you know, being indecent. There was no video. And when you talk to members of the band, they will testify to the fact that there was no indecent exposure that actually occurred.
The guy went and took his case on appeal. While he was appealing the case, he dies tragically in Paris, France. And before the appeal and the conclusion could come to bear, there was no result. When I became attorney general, my predecessor, Bob Butterworth, told me something very important, that it‘s very important to prosecute the guilty, but probably more important to exonerate the innocent. That‘s why I‘m here.
O‘DONNELL: Governor Crist, on the case for Jim Morrison, thank you for joining us tonight, governor.
CRIST: My pleasure, thank you.
O‘DONNELL: General Motors is back on the U.S. stock market, thanks to the auto bailout. In tonight‘s Rewrite, didn‘t Republicans tell us it would lead us down the path to socialism?
And later, the pat down uproar at the nation‘s airports. I‘ll be joined by John Tyner, the man who voiced the rallying cry, “don‘t touch my junk.”
O‘DONNELL: Time for tonight‘s Rewrite. Let‘s go back to the summer of 2009, when the Republican attack machine was aimed at President Obama for rescuing General Motors. June 1st of last year, John Boehner said this: “does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multinational corporation to economic viability? It‘s time for the administration to fully explain what the exit strategy is to get the U.S. government out of the board room once and for all.”
Also on June 1st of last year, this from South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint: “Billions have been wasted and tens of thousands of jobs have been lost. Now the government has forced taxpayers to buy these failing companies without any plausible plan for profitability. Does anyone think the same government that plans to double the national debt in five years will turn GM around in the same time?”
Again, on June 1st, we heard this from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele: “no matter how much the president spins GM‘s bankruptcy as good for the economy, it is nothing more than another government grab of a private company and another handout to the union cronies who helped bankroll his presidential campaign. This is the real change President Obama has in mind for America, government ownership of our economy, financed with irresponsible and reckless government spending and debt, and no jobs to show for it.”
Other Republican lawmakers called it a disaster, the president‘s, quote, “war on capitalism,” and, quote, “the road to socialism.”
Instead, about 16 months after the president used socialism to stop the bleeding of capitalism, this was the scene at the New York Stock Exchange this morning.
The opening bell cut short for the sound of a roaring Chevy Camaro engine. With GM‘s newest model lined up outside, the auto giant returned to the big board with an initial public offering topping 20 million dollars, making it the biggest IPO in American history. The biggest, bigger than UPS, Kraft Foods, AT&T Wireless, even bigger than Visa.
So to answer Mr. Boehner‘s question from last June, does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multinational corporation to economic viability, let‘s go today‘s headlines.
From “the New York Times,” “GM shares surge on market debut.” . “The Wall Street Journal,” “GM shares rise in return to market.” “Reuters,” “General Motors riding high with IPO and Chevy Volt.”
And as for the claims from Michael Steele and Jim DeMint, billions of wasted, tens of thousands of jobs lost and government ownership of our economy, financed with reckless government spending and debt and no jobs to show for it, well, the president had something to say about that this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: American workers are back at the assembly line manufacturing the high quality, fuel-efficient, American-made cars of tomorrow, capable of going toe to toe with any other manufacturer in the world. In fact, there were plenty of doubters and naysayers who said it couldn‘t be done, who were prepared to throw in the towel and read the American auto industry last rites. We would have lost more than one million jobs across all 50 states. It would have also resulted in economic chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: So, Mr. Steele, Mr. Boehner, Senator DeMint, here‘s your rewrite; repeat after me; way to go, Mr. President. You saved the American auto industry.
O‘DONNELL: Last Saturday, California software engineer John Tyner was passing through San Diego Airport security on his way to South Dakota to hunt pheasant. After refusing the advanced imaging full body scan, the TSA agent notified him he would receive a pat down. John recorded on his cell phone camera what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I‘m going to be doing a standard pat down on you today, using my hands, going like this along your body. Also, we‘re going to be doing a groin check. That means I am going to place my hand on your hip and the other hand on your inner thigh and slowly go up and slide down. I‘m going to do that two times in the front and two times in the back.
And if you would like a private screening, we can make that available for you also.
JOHN TYNER, PASSENGER: We can do that out here, but if you touch my junk, I‘m going to have you arrested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Since then, Don‘t Touch My Junk Guy‘s video has been viewed on Youtube over 700,000 times, and the San Diego TSA chief announced that John faces fines up to 11,000 dollars. Joining me now, the man who recorded that video, John Tyner, and civil liberties tallest and loudest ally, comedian, magician Penn Jillette.
Thanks for joining us, guys. John, what exactly are you charged with here? How do you face a fine of 11,000 dollars?
TYNER: There haven‘t actually been any charges at this point, but it‘s my understanding that the charge would be leaving the airport after entering the screening area without completing the screening process.
O‘DONNELL: And my understanding of the law there is that when you‘re in the screening process, you can leave. They can‘t physically apprehend you if you leave, but it is a little bit like going through a stop sign. They can also write you a ticket for that and you can get an effective fine in the mail for it. Is that what you --
TYNER: Yeah, it‘s my understanding that it‘s a civil charge, not a criminal one. So, like you said—and I have even read on TSA‘s website that you can opt out of it and leave, but they‘re—at least on the website, they don‘t mention this fine. But it‘s my understanding that at least now that if you leave, you might be subject to a fine.
O‘DONNELL: Let‘s listen to what TSA Director John Pistole told the Senate committee yesterday about the reasons for these pat downs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PISTOLE, TSA DIRECTOR: When I came on as administrator in July, I looked at what we were doing to address the threat posed by the 12/25, Abdulmutallab, the Underwear Bomber.
One of the things they found as a common denominator was when they were able to get through—the covert testing were able to get through security, it was largely because we were not being thorough enough in our pat downs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Penn, your reaction?
PENN JILLETTE, PENN AND TELLER: I—mine are all not practical, but rather philosophical. I think that we should have more freedom and always going for more freedoms is a good idea. I think it is security theatre. It don‘t think it really protect us.
I mean, eight years ago, I was going on a flight and they reached up and reached around my crotch without asking me. Now, everybody knows that anyone can touch my crotch that wants to, but I want to be asked first. You know?
O‘DONNELL: You‘re so old fashioned that way.
JILLETTE: You don‘t need movies. You don‘t need to take me to a movie or take me to dinner. I just want to be asked first. They just reached up and grabbed. And I asked the police there if that was assault. And I think when John says, you know, don‘t touch my junk, if they go further, I think that‘s assault, and he should at least be able to split.
I would also like to think that live free or die still meant something and we cared about freedom. But if we‘re not going to care about freedom, at least let a guy split who doesn‘t want his crotch grabbed.
O‘DONNELL: John, I want you to listen to what Congressman John Mica said about this on this show earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICA: I think the TSA has overstepped its bounds. I have no problems with using the body advanced imaging or pat downs. But it shouldn‘t be done for primary screening. It should be targeted to people who pose a threat, who set off some alarm or on a watch list.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Now John, he is the Republican who‘s going to be chairman in the new Congress of the Transportation Committee. That sounds like, I think, from your perspective, possibly a voice of reason entering this from Congress.
TYNER: Yes, I would agree—I would tend to agree with what he had to say. I don‘t think that people should be subjected to a virtual strip search when there‘s no probable cause or reasonable suspicion for it.
O‘DONNELL: Now Penn, you move through airports, recognized, I think, most of the time, as the great celebrity, unthreatening celebrity that you are. But still, you can‘t resist beating up on the TSA whenever you get a chance. Do you get special treatment going through because they know who you are?
JILLETTE: When I wrote about this eight years ago, they tried to give me special treatment and I didn‘t want it. They asked me—and I don‘t know if they would ever do this now. But they actually took me aside after I said I would like to talk to the police and said, if you just call us in advance when you‘re going to fly, we can make this much easier for you, Penn.
But since then, I‘ve been carrying, of course, a security edition of a metal copy of the Bill of Rights. So when you go through, the security edition will set off the alarm. Then you can actually say to the TSA employee, oh, I‘m sorry, here, take my rights.
O‘DONNELL: Let me get that straight. What I‘m looking at there is the Bill of Rights written on metal so that it will set off the screening alarm.
JILLETTE: Yeah, it‘s called the security edition.
O‘DONNELL: Yeah. So then they ask you what‘s that.
JILLETTE: And you just say oh, it‘s my rights, you can take it. It accomplishes nothing whatsoever. It‘s strictly performance art. It‘s for yourself. It‘s so that every time you go through TSA, you remind yourself, this is what I‘m giving up.
It will not accomplish anything. It won‘t get you through faster. It won‘t get you through much slower. It won‘t change the laws. But at least in your heart, you‘re able to say that sentence that‘s so important to say, here take my rights.
O‘DONNELL: John Tyner, are you holding up one of these things, too?
TYNER: Yeah, I‘ve got one also.
O‘DONNELL: So wait—so you—were you looking for trouble, John Tyner, when you went through that?
TYNER: No. Actually, mine—my wallet—I stuffed it in my bag so that it wouldn‘t set off the metal detector.
O‘DONNELL: All right, we‘ve got to go. John Tyner and Penn Jillette, thank you both.
TYNER: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. And you follow my occasional Tweets @Lawrence. That‘s tonight‘s LAST WORD. “COUNTDOWN” is up next.
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