'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Friday, June 3, 2011
Read the transcript to the Friday show
Guest Host: Thomas Roberts
Guests: Howard Fineman, Michael Isikoff, John Heilemann, Glenn Bergenfield, Jane Newton Small
THOMAS ROBERTS, GUEST HOST: Hi, everybody. Good evening. I‘m Thomas Roberts, in tonight for Lawrence O‘Donnell.
President Obama and Speaker John Boehner will play golf today on Saturday, June 18th. So, will bipartisan get a mulligan especially after today‘s dismal jobs report?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Just when we thought the country was pulling out of this economic recession --
DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC HOST: The big story today—not working.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Only 54,000 jobs were created last month.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither party should see in this, that Wall Street is on our side. They are not.
ROBERTS (voice-over): Jobs go down and the chatter goes up. The politics of unemployment loom over 2012.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The economy it looks like it‘s in a stall.
MITCHELL: We‘re running out of months in order to turn that unemployment number around.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We‘re serious about creating jobs in America. We can‘t raise taxes on the very people who create jobs.
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: We‘ve not had a single piece of legislation to come to the floor since January dealing with jobs. And that‘s what the American people are interested in us doing, is producing jobs.
ROBERTS: The president takes to the road to highlight economic success.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These numbers are a reminder that even though we‘re going in the right direction, we‘ve got to get there faster and we‘ve got to do more.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This industry is back on its feet, repaying debts, gaining ground. There are always bumps on the road to recovery.
ROBERTS: John Edwards could have been president. Instead, he‘s indicted.
MITCHELL: Conspiracy, receiving illegal campaign contributions and making false statements while covering up his affair during the 2008 campaign.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There‘s no question that I have done wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an unprecedented prosecution.
EDWARDS: But I did not break the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government says, you know, there‘s a first time for everything. And they believe that this fits.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s yet another huge embarrassment for a man who suffered so many huge embarrassment embarrassments.
ROBERTS: Sarah Palin‘s family vacation ends.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The local newscast in New Hampshire, on Mitt Romney‘s big announcement day, the lead story in the newscast was Sarah Palin‘s here. She stumped on Mitt Romney‘s big day.
TODD: At some point, does Mitt Romney have to stand up to Palin?
ROBERTS: We‘ll talk to two of the journalists who went along for less than safe ride.
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: This is a bus that Bret Michael said was, quote, “a big much.”
ROBERTS: And it‘s Friday, check out the best of the late night funnies.
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: He who warned, the British, that they were going to be taking away our arms by ringing the bells and making sure that he‘s riding his horse through town.
ROBERTS: That was serious. These are the funnies.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Won‘t you help Sarah Palin learn basic facts about U.S. history for just pennies a day.
ROBERTS: Hi, everybody. Good evening from New York. Great to have you with us.
So, here is some free advice for Republican presidential candidate putting out a press release to slam President Obama on the jobs numbers. Make sure you get numbers in right.
May‘s jobs figure shows only 38,000 new private sector jobs were created.
Republican CEO candidate, former pizza magnate, Herman Cain, did a flip-flop, it wasn‘t 38,000, it was 83,000. And the private sector added 83,000 jobs last month—the 15th straight month of job growth.
It‘s not as good as the stellar jobs report that came out in April when the private sector added a whopping 268,000 jobs. It‘s still positive especially if one of those 83,000 new jobs is your own.
Nonetheless, the jobs report was met with a predictable response from Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: This president continues to give speeches as if he is there for the middle class and the small businesses. But somehow, the rhetoric falls short because the actions have seemed to hinder job growth and entrepreneurial activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: While Majority leader Eric Cantor—excuse me—was at the podium in Washington talking in broad strokes about entrepreneurial activity, President Obama was in Toledo, Ohio, giving one of those speeches to middle class people, auto workers, who are the customer base for a lot of small businesses in Toledo and elsewhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is a economic rock of the community. You depend on it and so do thousands of Americans. The Wrangler you build here directly supports 3,000 other jobs. With parts manufactured all across America, doors from Michigan, axles from Kentucky, tires from Tennessee, and this plant indirectly supports hundreds of other jobs right here in Toledo.
After all without you, who‘d eat at Chet‘s or Inky‘s or Rudy‘s? Or who‘d buy all those cold ones at Zinger‘s? What would life be like here in Toledo if you didn‘t make these cars?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, on the factory floor of a Chrysler plant, in a room full of workers who lived on the brink of becoming part of the unemployment statistic in a jobs report, the president recalled the fierce debate in Washington over whether or not to help the American auto industry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
OBAMA: On the year before I took office, this industry lost more than 400,000 jobs. In the span of a few months, one in five American auto workers got a pink slip. And two great American companies Chrysler and G.M. stood on the brink of liquidation. We could have done what a lot of folks in Washington thought we should do and that is nothing.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We really do believe that these auto makers need help, but they need to help themselves. To the extent that they have hard deadlines, I think they can attract private capital.
BOEHNER: It‘s not just that Washington can begin to throw money at anything and everything and expect things to turn out OK.
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The right process for an enterprise in trouble is not to be given free money from the taxpayers with a bailout.
OBAMA: I placed my bet on you. I put my faith in the American worker. And I‘ll tell you what, I‘m going to do that every day of the week because what you‘ve done vindicates my faith. Today, all three auto workers are turning a profit. That hasn‘t happened since 2004. Today, all three American automakers are gaining market share, that hasn‘t happened since 1995. And today, I‘m proud to announce the government has been completely repaid for the investments we made under my watch by Chrysler because of the outstanding work that you guys do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Joining me now, senior political editor for “The Huffington Post,” MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman. And John Heilemann, national affairs editor of “New York Magazine” and the author of “Game Change.”
Gentlemen, it‘s good to have you on tonight.
Howard, I want to start with you. Today‘s events at the Chrysler plant felt really personal even emotional. So, how much risk did the president take when he made that decision to put it—have the back of the auto industry and go ahead with this educated gamble of a bailout?
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he took a big risk. And I think he‘s entitled to feel vindicated and thankful as he was today in Toledo.
The problem that he had is that other parts of the American economy aren‘t coming back the way the workers in Toledo helped Jeep and Wrangler do specifically the housing industry. That‘s what‘s dragging things down.
And in a private meeting this week with Democrats, the president himself said the housing situation is what could drag this economy back down into the ground. That‘s the banks. That‘s the mortgage foreclosure system.
FINEMAN: That‘s the failed programs of the government trying to help that out. That‘s the real story—unfortunately, not the auto industry.
ROBERTS: And, John, how much of an impact, though, is the auto success story going to have in 2012? Little, if unemployment is still so high?
JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, it could have a pretty big effect, Thomas, in a bunch of important states. You know, you think about the manufacturing base of the country. So many of them, not just the auto companies but all the companies that serve the auto companies in places like Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois—those are huge ball ground states for the president. And those are place where is the economies would have been much, much worse off now had the auto industry not been able to recover in the way it‘s been able to recover.
That said, look, I mean, if the unemployment rate is still over 9 percent a year from now, I just don‘t see there‘s any way in which the president is not going to be in substantial political trouble, even in those states and certainly in a lot of other states across the country.
ROBERTS: Howard, do you agree with that how it‘s going to play out in the Rust Belt?
FINEMAN: Yes, I think the Rust Belt‘s up for grabs. Look, if the president hadn‘t succeeded in this, if the workers hadn‘t succeeded, if the executives and car designers and these marketers hadn‘t succeeded in the way they have with Chrysler and G.M. and Ford, then things would be at complete disaster in the Rust Belt. Now, the president has a fighting chance.
But as I said, other parts of the economy, specifically housing prices, what‘s happened is in 19 of 20 of the biggest cities, housing prices have continued to decline many, many millions of people are underwater on their mortgage. Foreclosures are at a terrible rate. That makes people feel less well-off and makes them fearful of the future, and that drags the whole economy down.
That‘s what the president‘s dealing with. It‘s housing more than autos at this point.
ROBERTS: Yes. Personal security is a huge issue for most everyone in this country, especially right now after the recession that we‘ve been through and trying to bounce back.
I want to play you, though, a sound bite from today—Mitt Romney going after the president at a town hall in New Hampshire this afternoon. And we‘ll talk on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: We elected Barack Obama. A guy we didn‘t know terribly well, who didn‘t have a very extensive record.
No experience in the private sector. No experience in leadership. No experience really in negotiations.
And we said let‘s give this guy a chance because he was so well-spoken and promised a lot of things we liked.
Now, three years later, into his fourth term, we don‘t have to just look at the promises. We can look at the record.
And the truth is that Barack Obama has failed America. I believe it‘s time to have someone who‘s actually had a job, do the job of getting jobs for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, Howard, will President Obama will able to get away with just talking about how bad the economy was when he came into office, or does he really have to defend what he‘s done to improve it? I mean, defend even extending the Bush tax cuts which technically could be called the Obama tax cuts now?
FINEMAN: I‘m sorry, go ahead, John.
HEILEMANN: I‘m sorry, Howard. Go ahead. Sorry.
FINEMAN: Well, he‘s going to have to defend the record to some extent. But I think because of the continued difficulties of the economy, because as John Heilemann said we‘re probably going to have an unemployment rate, you know, at least 8 percent, no president has been elected in modern times with that kind of unemployment rate.
FINEMAN: What the president is going to have to say is he can‘t say it‘s morning in America which is what Ronald Reagan said in 1984. But President Obama is going to have to say it‘s going to be midnight in America again if the Republicans come back. So, it‘s going to be a lot more fear about the return of the Republicans than bragging about his successes so far.
ROBERTS: All right. John, jump in there. I know you wanted to say something.
HEILEMANN: Well, no. I just I think, look, I thought Mitt Romney said a lot of things today. And it‘s interesting to which, the extent to which, you know, four years ago when Romney ran for president, he tried to run as the most conservative guy in the room on every issue—the most conservative on social issues, the most conservative on foreign policy and the most conservative on exhibition.
This time, his focus is laser beam-like in the sense that all he wants to talk about is the economy. And what he said today was President Obama owns this economy. And I think there is some fundamental truth to that.
HEILEMANN: You can—there‘s no question that the Bush economy was a huge challenge for President Obama coming in. He had a huge mountain to get—or a huge hole to dig us out of. On the other hand, it is four years in. And four years from now when people are going to their voting—the polling places, they‘re going to be looking at this economy and they‘re going to judge it as the Obama economy.
HEILEMANN: And how they feel about the economy and where it‘s headed is going to reflect what they think about what the president has done and they‘re not going to be thinking about George W. Bush anymore.
ROBERTS: Right. It‘s the “what have you done for me lately” attitude.
Now, Mitt Romney does have a business in public service record. He has experience in those genres. But yet, the Republicans are slow, if at all, to rally around him.
So, do you think the Republicans have the discipline, John, to keep the campaign focused on the economy and not let it become about the divisive social value wars? And also, in your opinion, and I want both of you to speak to this in a second. But, John, I‘ll start with you—do you think Mitt Romney needs to become more provocative to actually get that support, that Republican support to rally about him?
HEILEMANN: Well, I think that—the answer to the first question is, there‘s no doubt that among the establishment candidates, the big three right now in the Republican field, that‘s Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and assuming that Jon Huntsman gets in, Jon Huntsman—all three of them are going to be extraordinarily tightly focused on the economy. That will be their goal is to relentlessly focus on the economy and not get caught up in social and cultural issues.
While the rest of the field maybe attempted to drift into those areas and one of the big questions facing them, one of the big challenges that all three of those guys, whoever is the nominee in the Republican Party, is going to be whether they can, in fact, stick to that discipline and be as focused on the economy as Bill Clinton was in 1992 for the Democrats.
ROBERTS: Howard, though, what do you think about Mitt Romney and what he needs to do to become a more provocative candidate? I mean, right now, he‘s one of the only official candidates that‘s coming to this level with any type of experience while the rest of the people are faking it on the sidelines.
FINEMAN: Well, John and I both were in New Hampshire yesterday where Mitt Romney officially kicked off his campaign. It was—it was a nice picture, but it was dull, dull, dull.
And I think two things. First of all, I think Romney‘s being undervalued a little bit conventional wisdom because I think the drift of the issues is coming in his direction. And he does have some legitimate business and management experience to discuss.
But the Republicans at the grassroots also want a fighter who‘s going to really take it to Barack Obama. You can‘t overstate how much the Republican grassroots dislikes Barack Obama. And I think for Mitt Romney to have a real solid chance here, he‘s not only got to be in the right place to get the momentum from the issue, which is the economy—he‘s got to show he‘s a tough campaigner, a lively campaigner and a fighter because you know Barack Obama knows how to run a good campaign.
So, I think that‘s the other thing based on people we talked to in New Hampshire that they‘re going to be looking for. And I don‘t think Romney has figured out how to do that yet.
ROBERTS: Gentlemen, thanks so much. MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman and “New York Magazine‘s” John Heilemann—great to see both of you tonight. Thanks again.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
HEILEMANN: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Coming up, John Edwards says he‘s been done wrong, but not this particular wrong. NBC‘s Michael Isikoff joins us to talk about the indictment he faced today.
And listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. Not if you‘re listening to Sarah Palin‘s version. Have you heard this? Her distorted history is coming up.
ROBERTS: Still to come tonight, there‘s a first time for everything. Why the indictment of John Edwards is unique and what the defense has to say about it.
And if you thought Donald Trump‘s method of eating pizza was savaged by the late night comedians, you should see what they said about Sarah Palin‘s bus. The Friday funnies are coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There‘s no question that I‘ve done wrong. And I take full responsibility for having done wrong. And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I‘ve caused to others. But I did not break the law. And I never ever thought I was breaking the law. Thank you all very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: That was former Democratic Senator John Edwards today after pleading not guilty to charges of violating federal election law by using campaign contributions to conceal an extramarital affair and child with documentarian Rielle Hunter during his campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
The trial is going to focus on contributions by two wealthy donors of about $725,000 and $200,000 that helped pay the way for the travel and accommodation expenses necessary to keep Hunter from media attention.
The biggest question is: did Edwards cover up his affair for campaign purposes?
The Justice Department argues he did. And that money is therefore subject to federal campaign finance laws that say no individual may donate more than $2,300.
The indictment reads in part, “Edwards knew that public revelation of the affair and pregnancy would destroy his candidacy by, among other things, undermining Edwards‘ presentation of himself as a family man.”
The Edwards‘ legal team insists that money was used for personal purposes, to conceal the affair from his wife and is therefore not subject to those campaign laws.
A former FEC commissioner who was Edwards‘ 2008 campaign counsel supports that claim and in a statement, reading, “It is my view that these payments would not be considered to be either campaign contributions or campaign expenditures within the meaning of the campaign finance laws.”
If convicted, however, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Joining me now NBC News national investigative correspondent, Michael Isikoff.
Michael, it‘s good to have you here.
So, when we go through this and look at what was laid out before us today, what do you make of the John Edwards‘ statement after reading the indictment?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I‘ve got to say it‘s not the strongest kind of statement you want to make if you‘re going to be defended in a criminal trial. You did wrong, but you never thought you were breaking the law. Well, a few people who get charged are willing to admit they‘re breaking the law.
But that said, I mean, it is an interesting case on a number of levels. It is a novel case because these were not campaign these—the moneys at issue did not go into the Edwards‘ campaign. They went from two wealthy donors who had contributed to the Edwards‘ campaign. But in this case, they were giving the money to others through a lot of substitution in some cases. But, ultimately, for the purpose and care of upkeep of Hunter, Edwards‘ mistress, who was pregnant with his child and it came during the time that he was running for president.
In fact, if you look at the indictment, it‘s pretty striking. Some of those big payments for flying Rielle Hunter around the country, putting her up in luxury hotels came in December and January while he‘s campaigning during the Iowa caucus. And the Justice Department‘s argument is: clearly, if those had been made public at the time, they would have blown up Edwards‘ campaign, destroyed his candidacy. And so, therefore, they were in effect campaign contributions, even though they never went into his campaign committee.
ROBERTS: Right. NBC News, though, can confirm tonight that a plea deal and negotiations they broke down over terms of a prison sentence. So, Michael, how willing was the Edwards team to take this to trial in light of the fact that everyone was trying to say, OK, we‘ll give you this deal, but there has to be jail time involved?
ISIKOFF: Right. Well, look, I don‘t think they wanted to go to trial. I think it‘s clear they don‘t want to.
The facts are pretty damning. They‘re pretty ugly. You take them before a jury and you lay out what John Edwards did. You lay out the lies he was telling publicly. And then at the same time soliciting, you know, 96-year-old Bunny Mellon to make these payments for the care and upkeep of Rielle Hunter. That‘s not something you want to present to a jury.
So, they were interested in a plea deal. There were I am told some pretty intense negotiations. They were very close.
But, at the end of the day, John Edwards was not willing to go to prison over this. So, the negotiations broke down, that‘s why he was indicted today.
ROBERTS: Michael, you bring up Bunny Mellon. Let‘s talk more about that, because the Justice Department indictment includes a note on one of the donors that is Rachel Bunny Mellon sent to Edwards‘ former campaign aide after the media reported that Edwards‘ received a $400 haircut in. Now, in this note, it reads, “From now on, all haircuts, et cetera, that are necessary and important for his campaign, please send the bills to me. It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions.”
Explain to all of us why this note could be so important, a linchpin to the Justice Department‘s case.
ISIKOFF: Right. You know, that‘s the closest thing to a smoking gun in this case because it clearly shows Bunny Mellon‘s state of mind about what she thought she was doing here.
Now, in this case, she‘s talking about the haircuts.
ISIKOFF: What she‘s clearly saying, you know, anything for the campaign, important for the campaign, please send it to me and we can work around these government restrictions about disclosure and how much. And that‘s clearly right after that note is sent is when John Edwards and his personal aide, Andy Young, hit her up, solicit her to start making big payments for Rielle Hunter. So, It‘s a pretty damning note.
ROBERTS: And last but not least, Edwards‘ lead attorney, Greg Craig, was White House counsel under President Obama. Explain why this may ad a different level of—I guess intrigue to what‘s going to be going on behind the scenes with this?
ISIKOFF: Right. Look, Greg Craig is a long time Washington lawyer, a top flight lawyer. But he had some political baggage in this case, being President Obama‘s White House counsel for the first year of the Obama presidency.
And here, John Edwards in what was probably not his smartest move, he‘s made a lot of dumb moves, but I think this one‘s got to be added to it, hiring an Obama insider to go lobby the Obama political appointees and Eric Holder‘s Justice Department to block this indictment, to overturn the recommendation of the U.S. attorney‘s office and the public—the career prosecutors in the public integrity section—basically gave Holder Justice Department cover to step in.
Had they done so, had they quashed the indictment at Greg Craig‘s behest, this would have been a political scandal—seen as a political scandal much like the U.S. attorneys scandal that sabotaged the Bush Justice Department. You know, Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, the head of the criminal division, would have been forced to come up to Capitol Hill and explain why they intervened at the behest of the political importunings of Greg Craig.
It was not—it gave them no political cover.
ISIKOFF: And the Holder Justice Department said we‘re not going to touch this with a ten foot pole, blessed the indictment.
ROBERTS: Michael, how fast is this going to move?
ISIKOFF: You know, it will take a while. There will be a lot of legal arguments and motions back and forth I think this will—but, you know, at the end of the day, John Edwards looks like he‘s going to go to trial. It‘s not—it‘s going to be quite a circus when he does.
ROBERTS: NBC‘s Michael Isikoff—thanks so much, Michael.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Coming up: the family side of the Edwards indictment. A long time friend of Elizabeth and John Edwards joins us for a look at what this could mean for his children.
Plus, the journalists who spent their week on Sarah Palin‘s family
vacation. That‘s coming up
ROBERTS: When breast cancer took Elizabeth Edwards‘ life just six months ago, she left behind three children ages 28, 12, the youngest being 10. John Edwards became the primary caretaker for the younger children. Today, the grand jury indicted him on six counts of violating campaign finance laws during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Edwards could now face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Joining me tonight is Glenn Bergenfield, a friend of both John and Elizabeth, and godfather to Edwards‘ youngest son, Jack. Glenn, it‘s nice to have you here tonight. I want to find out first and foremost, what is the impact of the indictment on the Edwards‘ family at this point? They had to have the hindsight of knowing that this was coming down the line at them.
GLENN BERGENFIELD, EDWARDS FAMILY FRIEND: I guess so. First off, you‘re talking about young kids to begin with. And young kids have things to do. Emma‘s going to camp in a few days. Jack‘s finishing up the basketball season.
So John‘s doing the best he can to try to make sure that, in the face of one unbelievable setback after another, that the kids still have a childhood.
ROBERTS: We understand with Emma and Jack, 12 and 10, sure, he wants to protect them from this. His older daughter, Kate, though was there standing behind him at this press conference today. How do you—or how have you observed Kate‘s family role change since the passing of Elizabeth?
BERGENFIELD: Well, Kate‘s got to do a lot of what Elizabeth was doing and help John to raise her brother and sister. She‘s—it‘s been at a big cost, I imagine, to her career. I was there at Christmas. She was there before I got there and a long time after I left.
She‘s out of law school just a couple of years. It‘s probably, from just a career point of view, not the best time to be doing it. But she‘s doing what you do in a family.
ROBERTS: Has her relationship with John been a roller of late?
BERGENFIELD: No. I don‘t think so. I think Kate stands behind her father and loves her father. It hasn‘t been a roller coaster.
ROBERTS: When we talk about and see John Edwards on the baseball field and seeing him with the kids and doing the things that most parents are doing with their kids throughout the year, how has it been for him taking to this role as a single parent?
BERGENFIELD: Well, I mean, John was an involved parent before this. Obviously when he was running for president less so. For a long time, he hasn‘t been running for president. He‘s been getting the juice boxes and bringing them for the team, and doing the things that parents do, and now that single parents do.
He‘s had to have a lot of very serious grown up discussions with these kids, because the indictment is just the latest of, you know, so many difficult things that they‘ve—these kids have had to learn.
ROBERTS: The other child that we‘re not talking about yet is Quinn. That is the child that he shares are Rielle Hunter. What is the relationship with Rielle and his other daughter?
BERGENFIELD: I don‘t know about his relationship with Rielle. But I do know he goes to see his daughter regularly, from what I can tell. Tries to be a good father there, too and do the right thing by Quinn, as well as his children with Elizabeth.
ROBERTS: Glenn, you‘ve been a friend of Elizabeth and a friend of John‘s since law school. From a personal position, are you angered to see that this family has been put in this position?
BERGENFIELD: Yes. I was angry tonight listening to this whole build up. First of all, the 400 dollar haircut. That is like the worst haircut in the history of haircuts. I am so tired of hearing about that.
To hear from a respected reporter that that‘s the smoking gun of a case, it makes me think that the case is—I know we‘re not on the cable TV channel where I can use a swear word. This is—if that‘s the smoking gun, this is a case that shouldn‘t have been brought.
Enough‘s happened already. John‘s doing the best he can to raise these kids. This is just—it‘s a political act. Maybe it‘s sport and fun for some people. But it isn‘t for the family.
It‘s—I think this is a disgrace.
ROBERTS: But you don‘t think that that note sets a precedent for what this contributor, Bunny Mellon, knew that she was giving money for, whether it be a haircut or whether it be to shoo a pregnant mistress around a country?
BERGENFIELD: I‘ve handled a political corruption case. I‘m a lawyer, too. I‘ve handled judges who have been paid bribe money and policemen who have been paid bribes and serious cases. This is about a 400 dollar haircut.
This is absolute nonsense. It shouldn‘t be done. It‘s a novel theory to take a single dad who‘s lost his wife, who‘s lost I guess the respect of virtually all of the country except his children, to do this—I think it‘s a disgrace.
I think it‘s—that‘s the smoking gun, it‘s pathetic. And it‘s a political act. The person who‘s bringing this is a Republican holdover who was the legislative assistant for the former Republican—most conservative Republican senator from North Carolina. And you know, that‘s why it was done. This is politics. This is not the law.
ROBERTS: Glenn Bergenfield, you‘re a good friend to the Edwards family. Thanks for joining us tonight. We appreciate your insight and your time.
BERGENFIELD: You‘re welcome.
ROBERTS: In New Hampshire, non-presidential candidate Sarah Palin stole the media spotlight away from actual presidential candidate Mitt Romney. That‘s coming up.
And then earlier today. Palin Rewrote revolutionary war history. We‘ll show you Palin‘s version of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. You‘ve got to hear it yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: Those people up there who are telling people that you can take this to the brink because it gives them some leverage, they‘re going to own the responsibility. If you allow people to start to doubt whether the United States of America will meet its obligations, that would be catastrophic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: That is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner explaining why not raising the debt limit would be catastrophic. He say it‘s dangerous to play around with it. Geithner has worked in monetary policy since getting his masters in international economics from Johns Hopkins in 1985.
But Sarah Palin says he is wrong. Here‘s how she describes Geithner‘s warnings at last night‘s clam bake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: What I believe are Timothy Geithner‘s false statements to the American public that a catastrophe would befall us all if the debt ceiling isn‘t raised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Palin says Geithner is telling us things that are untrue, that his warnings of not raising the debt ceiling are just overblown. And while deciding you‘re deciding whether or not to believe Palin or Geithner, listen to Palin in Boston yesterday explaining Paul Revere‘s famous midnight ride.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: He who warned the British that they weren‘t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he‘s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free. And we were going to be armed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: All right. Well, according to PaulRevereHouse.org, which says on April 18th, 1775, Paul Revere secretly rode to Lexington, Massachusetts, to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were marching from Boston to arrest him.
They used lanterns, not bells, as signals. He didn‘t fire shots. He stopped at houses to warn militiamen, not to warn British troops.
So who knows if Sarah Palin just jumbled her words, maybe got a little confused or just doesn‘t know the history of this country. But if you‘re still trying to decide between Palin or Geithner, here‘s Steven Colbert putting Palin‘s version of George Washington‘s life in context.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: After stopping at Mount Vernon Palin wrote, “even Piper was able to grass the significance of being in the presence of our first president, who had such diverse interests, when she told me later how hard he must have worked to keep that farm going.”
It‘s true. I cannot imagine how hard he worked with no help other than his African volunteers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Colbert can do a lot better than jokes about George Washington and Sarah Palin. After all, this is the week of Weiner. Could there be a more perfect news story for the late night? The best of the week is still yet to come.
ROBERTS: In the Spotlight tonight, Sarah Palin‘s publicity grabbing bus tour is over, for now, anyway. But not before doing exactly what it was intended to do, grab all of our attention and publicity.
Here‘s the front page of “The New Hampshire Leader.” The huge headline, “Palin Hits the Seacoast.” Palin rides a bus to a New Hampshire clam bake at Fishermen‘s Pier, and it‘s the biggest story on the front page.
In the same news cycle, Mitt Romney making that little announcement in New Hampshire, yes, he‘s running for president. That story merits a tiny, little, almost insignificant mention on the same front page.
All right, so the tour also has plenty of rank and file Republicans asking this question: just what was that all about? During her trip, Palin stopped in Pennsylvania to see Gettysburg and then on to the Liberty Bell. But the reaction from Pennsylvania‘s Republican party chairman, Rob Gleeson, was rather dismissive.
He told “Politico,” “I don‘t think theater wins elections. Running for president is a very serious thing. And you need to deal with it as such. I‘m looking for party builders.”
And for the reporters covering Palin‘s tour, theater is a good word because it‘s a nail biter. “They speed. They run red lights and stop signs. They make last second lane changes and get off the highway sometimes without signaling. They did 70 miles per hour in a 55 zone on I-95. And then after they got off without signaling, flew right past a flashing sign informing them they were going 45 in a 35 zone. On Tuesday, the bus nearly hit a biker turning off Pine Street in Philadelphia.”
Palin herself is already on her way back to Alaska by plane, not by bus. The reporters who lived through that tour are likely shopping for life insurance and renewing their wills for when the Palin bus tour hits the road again.
Joining me now, though, are two of the Palin bus tailgaters, “Time Magazine‘s” Washington correspondent Jane Newton Small, and NBC News producer Shawna Thompson.
It‘s good to have you both with me tonight. Jay, you called this trip unique, comparing to it “the Amazing Race.” What‘s your overall take away from having had this journalistic experience?
JANE NEWTON SMALL, “TIME MAGAZINE”: I think I was lucky. I didn‘t have to do what Shawna had to do. I didn‘t do the whole week. I just made it through Wednesday and then I got off the bus. Or at least off of the—
I don‘t know how you would call. Off of the motorcade, but there was no police escort. There was no sort of anything, except you‘re just following the bus.
It was literally like—you felt like paparazzi, kind of. You were following like Princess Di or something.
ROBERTS: But you didn‘t have the schedule because she said I‘m not giving the lame stream media any type of information about where we‘re going. So you just had to follow along and not know when the bus was getting off the highway or turning around or making a U turn or cutting people off?
SMALL: No. Literally, we were guessing. I remember at one point we were coming up from Philly. We nearly ran out of gas. So we had to stop and pick up some gas. There were some reporters who were following the bus still. And they said, look, we‘ll let you know where we go. Don‘t worry.
So we were trying to catch up. We were coming very close to New York City. And we were going over a bridge and they called to say we‘ve turned and we missed the turn. So we‘re going over the bridge and then we see on the other bridge next to us, literally half a mile away down the river, there‘s the Palin bus going by.
We‘re like, no, stop. We missed them. We had to go all the way into New York, turn back around again, finally found them in Jersey City. And then she was leaving to go see Trumps. We had to turn around to go back into the city for that.
It was just this—the whole trip was like that. It was literally like playing cat and mouse. Where‘s Waldo, a giant version of it.
ROBERTS: It‘s kind of—she who cares the least has the most power. Palin kind of cared the least, keeping everybody at bay, guessing. Shawna, this whole thing almost caught one a deadly situation with the tornado in Massachusetts. Were you around for when that happened?
SHAWNA THOMAS, NBC NEWS PRODUCER: I was. I had been following her up from New York to Boston with my co-worker, Alex Mo. We actually made in one of those unplanned stops at a gas station. And I think all the people who were following her—all the other journalists were so happy we had made this stop. We needed to use the restroom.
We had no idea where we were necessarily going. We stayed there for about 20, 30 minutes. She passed out pocket Constitutions. We got back on the road towards Boston and realized, as the bus slowed down and everyone slowed down, that we were going directly through the path of where a tornado had just come.
You could see flattened out trees on one side, flattened out trees on the other. Alex and I just kind made an executive decision that we needed to cover that and peeled off.
But “the Times of London” guys, who were great, and part of the whole team of reporters who were trying to stay with Palin and know where she was going, stayed with her and helped us find our way back to Palin later on in Boston.
That‘s sort of what it took, was all of us kind of working together and hearing snippets of conversation and rumors and just deciding, OK, so we think this is next, but we‘ve got to stay with that bus.
ROBERTS: Jay, I love this. It was your photographer who was told by Piper Palin “thanks for ruining our vacation.” Palin though wouldn‘t call this is vacation, but couldn‘t call it a media tour either. Little Piper saying thanks for ruining our vacation.
NEWTON: Piper wasn‘t the only one. Actually Willow said to me, when we caught up to them, the morning of—I guess it was Tuesday morning when she went to Gettysburg. There were all these people lined up. There were dozens of supporters, all the press. And the bus was sort of pulled up smartly to the hotel.
Everyone‘s waiting for her to come out. They‘ve got books ready for her to sign. Instead, she takes one look at the crowd and ducks out in a couple of SUVs to go towards Gettysburg. So we had to—you know, all the reporters then rushed to their cars and they find out she‘s gone.
There‘s a dozen cars speeding towards Gettysburg to try and find her. When we finally found her, Willow turns to me and goes, “thanks for ruining our day.”
You just felt bad for them because for them, this is a family vacation. This is time together on this bus with—their grandparents were there. Their parents were there. Her god daughter—Sarah Palin‘s god daughter was with them in Pennsylvania and her family.
Yet, you know, you‘ve got this awkward situation where she‘s dressed up like a candidate. She‘s got the little American flag and Israeli flag lapel pin on her. And she‘s got perfect TV ready makeup on.
The rest of the family is in flip-flops and they‘re doing this sort of sightseeing thing.
ROBERTS: Right. Jay, I want to turn to politics real quickly. You‘ve written about the fact that this is more than a photo op. Do you think that there is more substance to this than being a photo op? Is this testing the waters of a presidential run?
SMALL: Certainly the timing was suspicious. Look, June 1st—when they announced this tour, it was a week before the filing deadline for the Federal Election Commission. And so—and everything that she did on Twitter, on Facebook, the side of the bus had her PAC‘s website on it. She was blogging on her PAC‘s website, where it said please contribute as much as you possibly can. give a generous contribution to Sarah Palin.
So clearly fundraising strength was an important aspect of the trip. And it also was about media momentum, sort of getting her name back into the news. She‘s had kind of a low profile of late. Other candidates have sort of taken center stage.
It was really about taking back the momentum, taking back the dialogue. And certainly stepped all over Mitt Romney‘s announcement in New Hampshire. I don‘t think that was accidental.
ROBERTS: Shawna, real quickly, because we got to go, do you think—were there reality TV cameras out there on the fray or was it just all journalists?
THOMAS: I didn‘t see reality TV. I did see some “Daily Show” cameras out there in the fray who had joined in. I think one thing real quick is that she made those historical stops. But then when she got to New Hampshire, she was acting like a candidate.
We didn‘t go to historic stops. We went to a fishery for her to talk fishing issues to New Hampshire fishermen. We went to a clam bake where there were conservative activists there who were all trying to rally up the base.
She met Kelly Ayotte, the new Senator from New Hampshire, at a breakfast this morning, making one more unconventional stop before going to the airport. Those are the things that make you say, well, maybe there‘s something to this presidential run.
ROBERTS: We shall see. Jay Newton Small of “Time Magazine” and Shawna Thomas of NBC News, thanks to both of you.
THOMAS: Thanks Thomas.
ROBERTS: Palin‘s pizza summit with Donald Trump got the attention of the late night shows, particularly Jon Stewart, who had big problems with the way the Donald handled his slice. Your Friday funnies are coming up next.
ROBERTS: So what do a publicity bus tour, a slice of pizza and a racy photo scandal all have in common? If they involve Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Congressman Anthony Weiner, they are all prime material for late night comedians.
Here‘s a look at the best of late night jokes, a roundup from this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLBERT: Speaking of second place, Sarah Palin. The former half governor shook up the presidential race this weekend, launching her One Nation Bus Tour, visiting our nation‘s historic sites. And of course, the lame stream media ambushed Palin with gotcha questions like where are you going and why are you doing this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don‘t actually know where Palin is heading.
She just won‘t say.
JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”: She‘s in the bus wrapped in the Constitution signed by Sarah Palin. How do you not know where she‘s going? This is a Bus Michaels said was, quote, “a bit much.”
COLBERT: The first thing that pops up is this donate button. Won‘t you help Sarah Palin learn basic facts about U.S. history for just pennies a day.
JIMMY KIMMEL, “JIMMEY KIMMEL LIVE”: Here‘s a weird pairing. Sarah Palin tonight had dinner with Donald Trump in New York. She walked in the restaurant, took aim and shot that rodent right off his head, first thing out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They went out for a slice of pizza in New York‘s Times Square.
STEWART: I‘ll forgive you the selection. I apologize. Let‘s just go to the content of your meeting and then—son of a bitch. Mother—and you stack your slices, Donald?
You piece of (EXPLETIVE DELTED). Maybe all those years—all those years of making your hairdo whatever it is that it does, you think you can go around layering (EXPLETIVE DELTED) thing you want to layer.
No disrespect. I apologize. Let‘s continue with the meeting. Are you eating it with a fork? A (EXPLETIVE DELTED) fork?
You‘ve got the (EXPLETIVE DELTED) balls to eat pizza with a fork. You know what, based on how you eat pizza, Donald, I want to see your long form birth certificate. I don‘t think you were really born in New York.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Weiner‘s Twitter account was hacked allegedly. And someone texted a picture of his junior senator to a college girl.
KIMMEL: He told Wolf Blitzer it doesn‘t look familiar. That‘s something you‘re familiar with. I‘m so familiar with mine, if I described it to a police sketch arrest, it would be arrested within minutes.
COLBERT: And—and Tweet. I think I‘ve been hacked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: There you have it. The funnies get THE LAST WORD for the week. I‘m Thomas Roberts, in for Lawrence O‘Donnell.
Thanks for watching. You can watch me weekdays on MSNBC at 11:00 Eastern time. Have a great weekend. But stick around, because this is the part of the night I was looking forward to, the introduction of Rachel Maddow, the intrepid, the fearless. Rachel is there. Hi, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thomas, I‘ve got to tell you, it has been so much fun having you in prime time this week, both filling in on “THE ED SHOW” and tonight on THE LAST WORD.
I think you‘re just great. So it‘s been nice to have you here. Great job, man.
ROBERTS: Thank you. That is a great compliment. I appreciate that.
Have a wonderful show.
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