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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

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Guests: Mark Halperin, Steve Kornacki, Rep. Blake Farenthold

           

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  As our budget crisis worsens by the day, our politics is dominated by Twitter, bad pizza and bad helicopter rides.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  I was pranked.  I was hacked.  I was punked, whatever it is.

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  Demagogued.  Demagogued.  Demagogued.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  Republicans in Washington are still trying to kill Medicare and not raise the debt ceiling.  But the anti-social media is fixated on a Twitter scandal.

WEINER:  I didn‘t send anything to anybody.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  Weiner is saying it was a prank.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  He was the victim of a prank.

WEINER:  The implication here is that somehow I did something wrong to someone else.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST:  This is someone who is thinking about running for the mayor of New York City in 2013.

WEINER:  I‘m an easy name to make fun of.

O‘DONNELL:  The congressman is having a tough time with the anti-social media.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS:  It seems to me he‘s making it so much worse.

CILLIZZA:  He didn‘t send the picture.  He‘s not addressed the whole where did the picture come from.

WEINER:  I didn‘t send that picture out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s not a picture of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here‘s a guy who‘s typically very friendly to the media.

WEINER:  I‘m not sure it rises—no pun intended—to that level.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This story of Anthony Weiner is not going away as much as he insists that it does.

WEINER:  Jon Stewart might have had it right last night.

JON STEWART, TV HOST:  No way in real life my memory has this cat has a lot more Anthony and a lot less Weiner.

WEINER:  I can take it.  I‘m a big boy.

O‘DONNELL:  And in the newest reality show, rich people pretend to like Times Square pizza.

STEWART:  Joan of Anchorage is back just to time to cure my PTSD—post-Trump sadness disorder.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sarah Palin in New York this morning eating pizza in Times Square with Donald Trump.

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  Everyone who came to New York wanted to go to chat with Donald Trump and have a slice of pizza with Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s just two kids having lunch.  Just chatting each other up.

O‘DONNELL:  Republicans are so bummed about their candidates that they‘re still trying to recruit more bad candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chris Christie wants to cut your pension, but look at him fly around in his helicopter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Let‘s talk about this helicopter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He took his helicopter to his son‘s baseball game.  Got out of the helicopter, gotten to a limo and then drove over to the field.

MITCHELL:  Not the best political imagery right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are clearly people at home who are looking for opportunities to take out the knife.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from Los Angeles—where sex scandals are taken far less seriously than they are in Washington.

Indeed, Washington takes sex scandals more seriously than possibly anywhere else in the world, including the Vatican, which obviously has a very consistent record of under-reacting to sex scandals and sex crimes.

Unfortunately, for friend of the show, Congressman Anthony Weiner, his Twitter traffic is now being judged by Washington‘s puritanical standards after this photograph was tweeted from Anthony Weiner‘s Twitter account to a 21-year-old woman in Seattle.  Congressman Weiner insists he did not send that tweet himself and has said he‘s not sure who else has access to his Twitter account.

The congressman believes that the picture was sent from his Twitter account by a hacker.  He explained it to NBC‘s Luke Russert this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  I was pranked.  I was hacked.  I was punked, whatever it is. 

Someone sent out a picture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The ultimate question of what—of every interviewer that the congressman faced today was this -- 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS:  That‘s not a picture of you?

WEINER:  You know, I can‘t say with certitude.  My system was hacked. 

Pictures can be manipulated.  Pictures can be dropped in and inserted.

One of the reasons that I‘ve asked a firm that includes an Internet security arm is to take a look at what the heck happened here, wants to make sure it doesn‘t happen again.  But let‘s kind of keep in mind why this is so silly.  You know, someone committed a prank on me.  Somehow got access to my Twitter account and, by the way, you know, put up a picture that made fun of the name Weiner and that‘s what happened.

RUSSERT:  You will not flat out deny that that photograph is not you?

WEINER:  Here‘s what I will say, I will say that we‘re trying to figure out exactly what happened here, whether a paragraph was manipulated that was found in my account, whether something was dropped into my account, whether a photograph was partially my account.

RUSSERT:  But is it possible that that photograph was on your BlackBerry, on your computer, that you or somebody else may have taken of you and then someone hacked in and took it off there?

WEINER:  This is the problem—this is the problem is that we could theoretically keep following these questions, what other things wrong and the like.  I‘ve asked a firm who e specializes in this, who does it for big corporations, to come in with Internet security type people to try to do a forensic example examination of what happened, if necessary to call in the authorities.  But we‘ve got—at some point, I think it‘s fair for me to be able to say, enough.  I‘m done talking about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  You‘re not the only one who has noticed that to the question of is that a picture of you Congressman Weiner did not say yes or no.  To abide by NBC‘s puritanical standards, we are showing a pixelated version of the picture which makes it seem just a bit dirtier than it actually is.  For those of you brave enough to take a peek at the contours of a human penis under cotton, you can find the photograph online very easily.

The longer you look at the picture especially the un-pixelated version, the more you begin to understand why Congressman Weiner might not want to deny that that is a picture of him.  In fact, the longer I look at it, the more I don‘t to deny that it might be a picture of me.

And I want to hereby stipulate for the sex scandal press that from the start of my Twitter account some months ago, many members of my staff have had access to it.  Some of them have occasionally tweeted for me at my word for word direction, but in fact, most of my tweets have actually been done by my hand at a computer or on a BlackBerry.

So, remember, if you find scandalous tweets from me out there, the LAST WORD staff has always had access to my Twitter account and I too reserve the right to use the hacker defense.

If Anthony Weiner was a cable news host, he could glide right by this Twitter episode, or at least I as a cable news host would like to think so.  But Anthony Weiner is in politics and surviving certain kinds of photographs can be difficult in politics.

This photograph ended a political career in a record two hours and 27 minutes.  If Buffalo Republican Congressman Chris Lee had bothered to hang around for another day or two, he would not have found me among the voices who might have been calling for his resignation.  I for one found the shirtless photograph harmless and was not scandalized by it and had nothing mean-spirited to say about Congressman Lee the night we covered the news of this photograph and his resignation.  In fact, I wished him luck with his wife in getting her forgiveness for the episode.

Many congressmen have engaged in much greater violations of Puritanism and survived politically, especially liberal congressman representing liberal districts.  In 1982, my mother‘s Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts was revealed to have had an affair with a 17-year-old male congressional page.  Given the conventions of the day, the media had every right to assume this was the end of Congressman Studds career.

Before leaping to that conclusion myself, I called my mother and asked her what she thought of the situation.  She told me she didn‘t like the apparent predatory nature of her congressman‘s conduct, but she said, he was a very good congressman who was very good on all of the issues that mattered to her and she would vote for him again.  And she did vote for him again.  In fact, Congressman Studds was re-elected six times after that and eventually retired after 24 years in office after unapologetically admitting his homosexuality and becoming the first openly gay member of Congress.

In 1987, Barney Frank became the first member of Congress to voluntarily acknowledge that he is gay.  Two years later, he found himself embroiled in the dealings of a sexual companion of his and that mess ended up getting him dragged into an ethics committee investigation.

His Massachusetts‘ constituent‘s reaction was the same as my mother‘s reaction.  He‘s a good congressman who represents them well on the issues that matter to them and so they wisely ignored the details of his personal life when casting their vote on who should represent them in Congress.

Now, I don‘t suppose you have to be from Massachusetts to have this kind of sanity in your voting pattern.  But apparently, it helps.  Nothing should matter to you less than the legal sexual conduct of any politician.

You have seen me have fun with Newt Gingrich‘s string of marriages and extramarital dalliances, some of which have led to marriage, only because Newt Gingrich presents himself as being morally opposed to the kind of behavior he himself has engaged in.  I for one would happily vote for Newt Gingrich tomorrow, even if he had more wives than Mickey Rooney, especially if he had the same wives as Mickey Rooney.

Former Senator John Ensign‘s extramarital affair didn‘t bother me in the least and would never have affected my ability to vote for him.  But his possible criminal misuse of money to cover it up was newsworthy and would affect my voting decision.

Newt Gingrich‘s policy positions would affect my voting decision.  It‘s Newt Gingrich‘s policy provisions that would prevent me from voting for him, not his marital history or his personal history.

Republicans have a much tougher time surviving so-called sex scandals because they spend so much time preaching against the kind of behavior they then get caught doing themselves.  So, Republican careers die this way because the politicians stand convicted of hypocrisy.  And because the politician‘s career has been largely supported by people who actually believe that family values is something you can vote for.

The constituents of liberal Democrats are under no such delusion.  Anthony Weiner can easily be re-elected in his district no matter what he tweets.  And nothing has developed in this story so far that would prevent him from being elected mayor of New York, a job for which he is more than qualified and well-suited.

New York voters know that there is nothing that should matter to them in this Twitter story as voters.  Sure, they might find some fun gossip material in it, but as voters, they are smarter than the political media that thinks there is something terribly important about Anthony Weiner to be learned from his Twitter account.

We can only hope that the majority of American voters are not far from understanding that human sexually is just that, human—that it comes in as many variations as there are people, that there is no particular form of sexuality, no particular level of promiscuity or no amount of abstinence that makes someone better at thinking about what our tax rates should be.

Voters need to realize that sex doesn‘t matter when it comes to casting their votes.  Luckily for Bill Clinton enough voters came to that conclusion just in time to make him president and to re-elect him.  The maturation curve of the American voter is obviously running a bit higher than the maturation curve of the American media.

We will continue to dwell on sexcapades long after the American voter considers them irrelevant to the question of how to govern the United States of America.

Still to come tonight, New Jersey‘s Republican Governor Chris Christie takes a state helicopter to his kid‘s baseball game.

And Sarah Palin stays on the publicity tour and Donald Trump ties to keep his name on the list of fake presidential candidates.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  New Jersey Governor Christie takes a state helicopter from his son‘s baseball game back to the governor mansion, not so he could continue doing the people‘s business, but so that he could meet donors from Iowa who want him to run for president.

And Sarah Palin‘s family vacation is still being treated as a will she/won‘t she run trip.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Sarah Palin‘s barely legal personal publicity tour and family vacation has arrived in Boston.  After that, according to “The Hill” newspaper, the Palin tour will head to the first presidential primary state, New Hampshire.

The trip is barely legal because it is being funded with money from her political action committee, Sarah PAC.  That money has been raised and is supposed to be spent under the strict regulation of federal campaign financing laws.  It is specifically illegal to use that money for a family vacation.

When Palin was asked in Washington, D.C. if this tour is a family vacation, she did not deny it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you going to say it‘s a family vacation kind of thing?

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  We‘re meeting a lot of good folks already.  The mission that we are on is to highlight America‘s foundation.  And that‘s the nice thing getting to bring the family along for the ride.  But making sure that people are aware of where America came from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The Federal Election Commission does not have the resources to police the use of the billions of dollars raised under federal campaign finance laws.  But Sarah Palin has openly invited an investigation into her use of this money.

For the FEC not to now immediately start an investigation of Sarah Palin‘s use of campaign money would be a crime of its own.  The FEC has investigated the use of campaign money by these candidates.  And those candidates never invited the media to chase them on a family vacation through New England financed with campaign funds.

Of course, you should never expect the political news media to investigate a Palin campaign finance violation because the political media generally does not have a working comprehension of campaign finance law.  And when it comes to Palin, they are so busy covering the flashy images she delivers that they rarely bother to look at the details inside Palin world, legal or otherwise.

Palin continues to make it abundantly clear that she is not running for president by meeting publicly with the biggest joke in the short history of the current Republican presidential campaign.  Donald Trump and Sarah Palin briefly merged their reality show last night at a Times Square pizza joint normally populated entirely by tourists who don‘t know where to get good pizza in Manhattan.

Palin is smart enough to know that there is no good political reason to ever associate with Trump in any way.  But she also knows that there is no one else she could meet with in Manhattan who could help her create a bigger stir in the entertainment media.  Palin and Trump both know very well what business they are really in.

And every step each one of them takes proves that.  This morning, Palin and Trump kept the game going.  Palin was her same old boring self.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  You know, I don‘t know if I‘m going to be running yet.  And I‘m sorry that I give you guys the same old boring answer on that one.  But nothing‘s changed, you know?  I‘ll decide when the time is right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Donald Trump found a way to say absolutely nothing while he was talking about Palin in the following 53 words on his video blog that has been posted on the Web site of the interment show “Extra.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION:  I don‘t know whether she‘s running or not.  I have a feeling she might not be, but I was not able to figure that out.  I asked her very directly.  I‘m not sure that she knows, but if she did run, I think she‘d really be a factor.  So, let‘s see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Trump once again picked FOX News morning show “FOX and Friends” as the one place where he could get away with the laughable lie that he is still thinking of running for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  She‘d love me to get back in.  I had great poll numbers, but I had really a decision to make.  But if I‘m not happy with what I see, I could very easily change my mind—that I can tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, you might still get in it?

TRUMP:  I‘m not happy with what I see.  And I will make a determination sometime into the future.  Absolutely.

If I did it as an independent, I could do it very much later.  I mean, there is no deadline whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your NBC deal, how would you walk away from that?

TRUMP:  Because that ends in, you know, about, really about a month past from right now.  So, in other words, in 11 months, I‘m totally free to do whatever I want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now is Mark Halperin author of “The Page” on Time.com and MSNBC senior political analyst, my old job.

No seriously, Mark.  That was my old title years ago.  Thanks for joining me tonight, Mark.

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST:  I‘m doing my best to fill your gigantic shoes, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  You‘ve gone more than I ever have in that job.

Now, the Palin fraud as I see it, you see this differently.  You think there actually is the possibility that this is leading to a presidential campaign.

HALPERIN:  I do.  Although the caveat, Lawrence, as I write in “Time” magazine coming out tomorrow, trying to analyze or predict with Sarah Palin is going to do it like China predict Lady Gaga‘s next outfit.  It‘s impossible.

So, if you treat her as a rational actor, most of what she‘s done since the end of the 2008 campaign suggests she‘s not interested running for president.  But I think what she‘s doing with this bus tour suggests that she is thinking about it.  But if you look rationally at the field, if she entered this race now and got a few breaks and handled herself well, I think she‘d be the leader in the national polls and a strong candidate in Iowa and South Carolina at least.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Mark, you and “Game Change,” the book you co-authored

with

HALPERIN:  John Heilemann.

O‘DONNELL:  -- John Heilemann, you studied Palin and the Palin campaign very, very closely.  I think your camera in effect went in closer than anyone ever has in that world.  What did you find in there that you think now is giving you clues as to what she‘s really up to now?

HALPERIN:  That she‘s very ambitious and she believes she belongs on the national stage.  That it‘s something that she‘s comfortable with and interested in seeking.  And she doesn‘t—I think she‘s got a certain amount of resentment towards the political establishment, evidenced during the campaign—as we wrote about in “Game Change”—but also since then taking on the Bush family, for instance, referring to them as blue bloods.  In a way, that suggests to me, that the more people like you, with all due respect, suggest she‘s not going to run, she‘s a joke—I think it makes it more likely that she will run to prove people wrong.

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  Let me say it again, she‘s not going to run and she‘s a joke.

HALPERIN:  What will you do if she runs?  Will you eat a shoe?

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  I‘ll resign my position immediately as the -- 

HALPERIN:  You know what?  If she runs you should eat a large pepperoni pie from that horrid place they went yesterday.

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  There‘s no chance of it.  There‘s absolutely no chance of it.  And we should come up with some sort of little MSNBC bet between us.  But what I like about this, Mark, is you‘ve dug into her very closely and thought about the details of her history that you know and that you worked on discovering.

And I‘m just look at it globally.  I‘m just looking at her from a much

greater distance and what I‘m seeing is a television performer.  What I‘m

seeing is a celebrity.  What I‘m seeing is somebody who very consciously

deliberately quit politics when she quit halfway through that governorship

and that was a decision from which no politician could ever, ever recover and run for any other office even halfway successfully again.  And so, that‘s what‘s driving my analysis.

           

HALPERIN:  A politician who didn‘t have her skill I think would be dead.  And a politician who was running against a strong field would be dead.  But she‘s running against three—the three most likely nominees, all have flaws in terms of running for the Republican nomination.  And she quit the governorship—I‘m not here as an apologist for her—she quit the governorship because under the laws of the state, her family was going to be bankrupt by litigation and public records requests.  And she wasn‘t interested in doing that.

I‘m not saying that‘s a positive for her.  But I don‘t think it‘s a reflection of her ambition, her level of ambition or her interest in public service.

O‘DONNELL:  I think she has absolutely no skills, by the way, and that she would get devastated and wiped out on a debate stage.  I think she knows that and won‘t do it.

But, Mark, to that point of the investigations that were going on there, there‘s a massive amount of Palin email that‘s going to be released in the reasonably near future from her very short time in the governorship.  What kind of things do you expect to be in that massive haul that we‘re going to have pretty soon?

HALPERIN:  Well, I think we‘ll get a fuller picture than we have of the role her husband played.  He was very involved, often sitting in on meetings and being involved in personnel and other decisions when she was in office and he was the “first dude” as she called him.

And I think we‘ll get more insight into some of the decisions she made.  Her record as governor has some strong points to it.  It has some mavericky things.  It has some things that she could talk about and run against three governors with longer records of accomplishments.  We may get insight into that that‘s a positive for her.

I suspect it‘s a portrait like we normally get.  If you‘re someone that doesn‘t like her, there‘s nothing but negative stuff.  If you‘re someone who like her, who likes her, you‘ll probably see some positive things as well.

O‘DONNELL:  And Donald Trump has admitted that his NBC contract prevents him from even pretending to run for president again for another 11 months, where upon he is pretending that he has the kind of wealth to launch an independent financial campaign.  Of course, he doesn‘t.  He works for NBC, just like you and I do.  He doesn‘t have the money to do it.

Is there any possibility that the media can be fooled by Donald once again?

HALPERIN:  Yes, although I don‘t see eye to eye with you on this one either.  I think he‘s much more serious about running before than you do.  He spent a fair amount of time about talking to people working for his campaign.  I don‘t know why he would have gone through hours and hours of meetings if it were all a charade.

O‘DONNELL:  Because he needed to complete the charade.

HALPERIN:  But he didn‘t really publicize the meetings very much.

MATTHEWS:  He got it out to you—he managed to link it out to the people who need to know it so that he can fake people out.  That‘s the game.

HALPERIN:  Well, I think—I think that the reality is you‘re more right than wrong.  But he, like Sarah Palin, looks at this field and says this is a field that can be taken down by a strong, late entry.  And if you‘ve got the ability to manipulate the media, as both of them do to extraordinary extent, you could imagine a scenario of getting in late and riding a populist wave to a nomination.  It‘s never happened before.  But they both have the ability I think and both have the ambition to think about doing it more preciously than you do.

O‘DONNELL:  OK, thanks, Mark.  MSNBC senior political analyst, Mark Halperin, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

HALPERIN:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, the utter failure of Sarah Palin to comprehend the significance of immigration to American history.  That‘s in “The Rewrite.”

And Republican Congressman Paul Ryan wants the president to stop says the Ryan plan kills Medicare even though the Ryan plan kills Medicare.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  In the spotlight tonight, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie takes a free ride at taxpayer expense.  That‘s after calling for workers to give up benefits in the name of shared sacrifice and cutting the cost of government.  Yesterday, Christie decided to avoid traffic and take his state‘s brand new 12 million dollar state police helicopter instead, and take it to his son‘s high school baseball game. 

The governor landed on a sports field next to the game and then got into a black car with tinted windows to ride all of about 100 yards to the baseball field.  Christie and his wife then left during the fifth inning, getting back into the car and then back into the helicopter, which was designed for homeland security duties and transporting critically injured patients. 

Christie‘s next stop was the governor‘s mansion to meet with Republican donors from Iowa who were hoping to draft him into the 2012 presidential race.  Bruce Rastater (ph), an Iowa energy executive, said Christie was uniquely suited to carry the party‘s message in 2012.  Christie has pledged to cut what he calls wasteful spending, including all of the money for New Jersey‘s Office of Climate and Energy. 

On Thursday, Christie abandoned the northeast‘s ten state cap and trade statement to lower carbon dioxide from power plants.  Christie‘s political posturing for the national stage could hurt him on the state level.  Democratic New Jersey State Assemblyman John Wisnewski criticized the governor‘s use of the helicopter, “the people of the state of New Jersey should not be required to pick up the tab so he can meet with Iowa donors.  He‘s a governor who as U.S. attorney would rail against elected officials blurring the line.  But this governor has selective memory and selective outrage.” 

Joining me now is Steve Kornacki, politics editor for Salon.com. 

Thanks for joining me tonight, Steve. 

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM:  Sure. 

O‘DONNELL:  Steve, is this yet another instance of Republicans looking for another candidate to save them from the bad candidates, and if they ever got this candidate, they would actually then discover what‘s bad about him? 

KORNACKI:  Well, there‘s a lot of truth to that.  The grass is always greener on the other side when it comes to unannounced presidential candidates.  And I do think the interest that‘s out there in Chris Christie, a guy that‘s been governor for less than two years and before that really didn‘t hold major office—major elected office at least—speaks in a large measure to the discomfort that Republicans have with their field. 

But I do think it also speaks to some of the political strengths that Christie has shown in the last couple of years.  He‘s a genuine sensation among sort of the Republican grassroots on Youtube, on cable news, Republican Fox cable news at least. 

He has strong communication skills, generally.  When you compare him to a guy like Mitt Romney, who can come across as pretty phony, when you compare him to a guy like Tim Pawlenty, who has a problem with being really too boring and too stiff—Chris Christie, say what you will about him, he comes across like he has some blood in his veins. 

So I think there is some genuine interest in Chris Christie himself among Republicans.  I do think there really is this thirst for another candidate.  You‘re right.  We saw that when Wesley Clark tried to get in the Democratic race late in 2004.  We saw it when Fred Thompson tried to get in the Republican race late in 2008. 

When these guys get in, they don‘t usually look as well.  But I do think he‘s a guy to keep an eye on it at least. 

O‘DONNELL:  I think what‘s important about the helicopter episode, in addition to its unethical nature, is that it shows, in fact, that this is somebody who‘s not ready for prime time, who doesn‘t understand what it‘s like to be under close inspection.  And that no, you don‘t take the state helicopter to your kid‘s baseball game or take the state helicopter to a political event that has nothing to do with governing the state of New Jersey. 

I think this little episode exposes the kind of thing that people are glossing over with Christie. 

KORNACKI:  I think that‘s true.  In a way, you can say that this does demonstrate something about his judgment, and judgment that would be an issue in a presidential election, just in terms of the kind of decisions he makes. 

I would say somewhat in his defense, just having somebody who lived in New Jersey and covered New Jersey politics, the governor takes the helicopter somewhere he shouldn‘t story is sort of a freebie that every political party gets when the other party‘s guy is in the governor‘s office. 

I remember—one of the first things I covered in New Jersey was Jim McGreevey with all of his inappropriate helicopter trips.  But you‘re right.  There‘s a jump to the national stage and this stuff just doesn‘t fly there. 

But I think the real risk to a story like this for Christie, when we

talk about then national stage, is this really underscores a balancing act

a unique balancing act that he faces among presidential prospects.  That is he‘s the Republican governor, the conservative republican governor of a very blue state. 

           

When he was elected in 2009, he won by 4.5 points.  That marked the second biggest landslide for a Republican in New Jersey in 37 years.  That is the margin for error he has.  It‘s basically nonexistent. 

So a story like this—if there‘s a Democratic story governor, a story like this isn‘t necessarily going to hurt that much in public opinion in New Jersey.  When you‘re Chris Christie, you‘re a conservative Republican, it hurts a lot, because you don‘t have much of a margin for error. 

When you‘re talking about going nationally, you‘re talking about taking these positions like you outlined on climate change, that are really going to help you on the national stage in the Republican side, the erodes things further. 

Chris Christie, looking ahead to 2013 in what right now would be an iffy campaign for re-election at best.  He‘s got to be very careful as he shows any interest in the national stage.  Everything he does nationally hurts him in the state. 

I can tell you, this guy spent a decade of his life trying to be governor.  He loves the job.  I think he‘d like to be president, but he doesn‘t want to lose the governorship. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  His popularity in New Jersey among the voters who are actually paying attention to him on a day-to-day basis is very, very low.  He‘s dropped down to a 40 percent approval rating.  He‘s got a 45 percent disapproval rating now in New Jersey.

The New Jersey polls show that Barack Obama would beat him in New Jersey.  So this notion—I found this notion that these guys in Iowa have and these other people have about Christie is ludicrous, because the voters who are actually giving him a close look really don‘t like what they‘re seeing. 

Why wouldn‘t that be the same thing that happened when you move out on the campaign trail? 

KORNACKI:  Again, you would look at New Jersey and say it‘s not necessarily representative of the country when it comes to political opinion.  It‘s a state that last voted for a Republican at the presidential level in 1988.  It‘s a that what hasn‘t elected a single Republican to the United States Senate since 1972.  And that Republican, Clifford Case, was essentially a Democrat.  He was more liberal than most of the Democrats in the United States Senate. 

It‘s a very liberal state, a state, in a lot of ways, that‘s gotten a lot more liberal in recent years.  So the simple fact that Chris Christie could win there in the first place, granted in a strong Republican climate, said something for him. 

O‘DONNELL:  Steve Kornacki, politics editor for Salon.com, and authority on New Jersey politics, thanks for joining us tonight. 

KORNACKI:  Sure. 

O‘DONNELL:  In the Statue of Liberty leg of her bus tour today, Sarah Palin told reporters that Lady Liberty reminds her of other countries.  She gets tonight‘s Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN OLIVER, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  In many ways, this bus is the perfect metaphor for your presidential campaign.  It‘s a flag draped monstrosity with no real direction.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  That‘s a really stupid statement because we have clear direction. 

OLIVER:  It‘s a private vacation on a bus with her signature on it. 

Leave her alone, jackals.  Leave her alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  “A really stupid statement.”  How dare she?  John Oliver asking a really stupid thing, impossible.  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  Earlier today, the most recent losing vice presidential candidate who will never be president took her American flag wrapped bus tour to one of this country‘s most beloved locations, the Statue of Liberty. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  It is, of course, the symbol for Americans to be reminded of other countries, because this was gifted us, of course, by the French.  Other countries warning us to never make the mistakes that some of them had made. 

This is a symbol, a reminder of what it is that we can do right in the name of freedom.  And that‘s what I appreciate about the Statue of Liberty. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Palin also Tweeted about her trip this morning, which included a visit to Ellis Island, where 12 million immigrants were welcomed into this country.  “We‘ll highlight the beauty of legal immigrants‘ work ethic and love of freedom while visiting Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty today.” 

Before boarding the ferry to go to Ellis Island, Palin told “Politico,” “the immigrants of the past, they had to literally and figuratively stand in line to become U.S. citizens.  I‘d like to se that continue.  And unfortunately, the Dream Act kind of usurps that.  The system that is a legal system to make sure that immigrants who want to be here legally working hard, producing and supplying revenue and resources for their families, that they‘re able to do that right and legally.  Unfortunately, the Dream Act doesn‘t accomplish that.” 

In fact, the Dream Act applies not to immigrants who knowingly entered this country illegally, but to immigrants who were brought as children to this country by parents wanting to give them a better life.  And yes, those parents entered this country illegally. 

The Dream Act doesn‘t apply to those parents.  It applies to their children only their children.  They are high school graduates who have only ever known life in this country as their home.  A Federal Dream Act would give them a chance to become successful adults and taxpayers by going on to college with access to federal loans and in state tuition.  Or they could serve this country in the military.  Only then—only then would they be given a path—an eventual path to citizenship. 

Democrats understand this issue in a way only a diverse political party can.  The future of this country is going to be built the way it always has been, by embracing others.  There is no more sensible and necessary step for us to take in this direction than passing the Dream Act. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  House Speaker John Boehner told reporters this even that legislation raising the debt ceiling “needs to be done over the next month to avoid negatively affecting financial markets.” 

That is one month before the August 2nd deadline set by Treasury Secretary Geithner.  Legislation to meet the speaker‘s deadline was discussed earlier today at a meeting between House Republicans and President Obama in the East Room of the White House. 

Despite being an off the record meeting, Congressman Darrell Issa posted these pictures to his Twitter account.  Here‘s how Speaker Boehner characterized the discussions. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, HOUSE SPEAKER:  We had a very frank conversation.  I thought it was productive.  I told the president, one more time, this is the moment.  This is the window of opportunity where we can deal with this on our terms.  We work together and solve this problem. 

We know what the problems are.  Let‘s not kick the can down the road one more time.  Now‘s the time to deal with it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Those comments came hours after Speaker Boehner released a statement demanding legislation raising the debt ceiling include “spending cuts that exceed the increase in the nation‘s borrowing authority.” 

And a new Republican demand came in today‘s meeting when Congressman Paul Ryan told President Obama to stop describing his Medicare reform plan as a voucher program. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  I simply explained what our plan is, how it works.  It‘s been misdescribed by the president and many others.  So we simply described to him precisely what it is we‘ve been proposing, so that he hears from us how our proposal works, so that in the future he won‘t mischaracterize it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Later, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney if President Obama believes he has, in Ryan‘s words, misdescribed the Ryan plan. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No.  No, he doesn‘t.  Look, as I said, there is no question that there are differences.  There‘s no question that on the issue of Medicare, we have significant differences.  And what the president has made clear is that he doesn‘t believe that we need to end Medicare as we know it, to dismantle the program as it currently exists, in order to achieve significant deficit reduction. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, someone who was in the room today, Texas Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold, who was in that meeting with the president.  Thank you for joining me tonight, congressman. 

REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD ®, TEXAS:  Always fun. 

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, did you learn anything from President Obama today? 

FARENTHOLD:  I think we came to some agreements that there is a problem that we need to fix.  And to get the problem fixed, we‘re going to have to turn down the political rhetoric and start talking intellectually rather than emotionally.  That was the message that I think the Republicans brought. 

And that ties into what Paul Ryan was saying.  We‘re not throwing grandma over the cliff by trying to end Medicare as we know it.  We‘re trying to save it.  And it‘s just a matter of using words and coming together and talking and not taking it to an emotional level, but dealing with it on an intellectual level far enough in advance that we are not under a time crunch to get it done. 

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, when Bill Clinton was running for president the first time around, he campaigned on the phrase, “end Welfare as we know it.”  When he got into the presidency, he actually worked toward ending welfare as we know it.  And he said that.  And then in fact, with the support of Republicans in Congress, he did in fact “end welfare as we knew it.” 

Why are you guys afraid of embracing the fact that you really do want to end Medicare as we know it? 

FARENTHOLD:  Well, I think—because I think that—those are emotional words that tend to indicate we‘re throwing grandma under the bus, which is not the case.  We‘re trying to save a health care system for our senior citizens that will work. 

The president believes it can be done through massive government control of the system and almost a nationalized medical system.  But we believe it would work better under the private sector and with competition and patients making the choice—patients and doctors. 

O‘DONNELL:  And how much profit are you willing to allow the private sector to pull out of the Medicare system and to pull out of tax dollars? 

FARENTHOLD:  It‘s not a matter of how much profit somebody does and doesn‘t get.  That‘s the beauty of the free enterprise, competitive system that various doctors and insurance companies working on this will be negotiating in order to get the costs down, just like the various insurance companies do with your private plan now. 

Everybody has a different contract with the different doctors and they all compete to see who‘s in what network. 

O‘DONNELL:  But, you know, congressman, the way I see it, you guys do want to kill Medicare.  You want to replace it with a different program.  And you want to call it Medicare.  And OK, call it Medicare if you want to after you‘ve changed it so completely.

But I don‘t see why you‘re so afraid of acknowledging how dramatically you want to change this program.  It would no longer be an entitlement that actually would cover people‘s expenses.  It would be a very, very strict limitation on how much expense it would cover.  And then it would force people to find their own way when their expenses went beyond that. 

FARENTHOLD:  Well, let‘s hear a plan that takes care of this financially, where the system doesn‘t go bankrupt in a matter of 15 or so years.  Give us another plan to work with.  We came up with one.  If we can get a workable plan from the president or from Senate, we‘ll listen. 

We‘re not married to our ideas.  We‘re willing to listen.  We‘ve come up with a plan.  The president‘s massive health care reform plan of the previous Congress I think has been clearly rejected by the American people.  I see the election that brought me into office as evidence of that. 

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, I think you have just said the things necessary to find an agreement down the road.  Democrats in the past have found ways of trimming Medicare costs going forward, as they did in 1993.  They cut the rate of increase of Medicare significantly, while keeping that structure in place.  I think they can do it again. 

I think you‘re open mind to that possibility is welcome.  Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

FARENTHOLD:  My pleasure.  Have a good night. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you. 

You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. 

You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence.  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next.

END   

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