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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, June 6, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

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Guests: Maggie Haberman, Steve Kornacki, Alex Wagner, David Frum

           

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  Where can you have a sex scandal without any actual sex?  Only in American politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  I am deeply regretting what I have done.  And I am not resigning.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS:  That was quite an amazing press conference.

DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Extraordinarily titillating and stimulating sexual content.

WEINER:  To be clear the picture was of me.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  A tearful and emotional Weiner.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  Right wing blogger Andrew Breitbart reveals more photos than Anthony Weiner admits he lied.

WEINER:  My primary apologies, as I said several times, is to my wife, Huma.

MATTHEWS:  When all else fails, the truth.

WEINER:  This was a very dumb thing to do.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  New photos, shirtless photos, the area below his waist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If somebody ask you if that‘s a picture of your penis, you either say no or you say yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Were you fully erect?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it was really great.  I think he didn‘t make his wife stand up there with him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Where is she right now?

O‘DONNELL:  While Congressman Weiner was preparing his apology, Breitbart stole his mike and claimed he was a victim.

RUSSERT:  Essentially hijacking the press conference.

ANDREW BREITBART, BIGGOVERNMENT.COM:  I‘m here for some vindication. 

He once said meet the fire with fire.  I mean, come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Things that are much more consequential than a man‘s penis.

O‘DONNELL:  Sarah Palin is still victimizing American history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Speaking of great Americans -- 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Defends her Paul Revere comments.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  You realize you messed up about Paul Revere, don‘t you?

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  I didn‘t mess up about Paul Revere.

Ringing those bells and making sure as he‘s riding his horse through town -- 

BILL MAHER, TV HOST:  Paul Revere was warning the British.

PALIN:  He did warn the British.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I totally was in a professor mode there like I‘m, yes, come on, come on, you have an answer.  Give it to him.

MAHER:  Washington, apparently, was crossing the Delaware to bomb an abortion clinic.

O‘DONNELL:  And how does Palin feel about victimizing Mitt Romney?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She obviously stepped all over Mitt Romney‘s announcement.

PALIN:  I apologize if I stepped on any of that P.R. that Mitt Romney needed or wanted.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS:  Chris Wallace even seemed a little mused by that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why didn‘t she just say I apologize to the little man?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m sorry, I just can‘t help it.

MAHER:  I think anybody can be president in this dumb (EXPLETIVE DELETED) country.  OK.

RICK SANTORUM ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m running for president of the United States.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York, a city that is trying to begin to recover from the wildest circus of the year.

Steps away from this studio, only four hours ago in a Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, Congressman Anthony Weiner collided with a blogger Andrew Breitbart who had joined forces with ABC News to force the congressman to tell the truth about his life in cyberspace.

On May 28th, Breitbart‘s Web site, BigGovernment.com, claimed that this photograph of an underwear covered penis was sent to a woman not his wife by Congressman Weiner.  The congressman denied sending the picture, claiming his Twitter account had been hacked.  But found himself awkwardly unable to deny that it might actually be a picture of him.

ABC News revealed today that Andrew Breitbart then handed over all of his investigative files to the network for a report that ABC News broadcast tonight, which includes an interview with the woman who received that photograph and who now says she received many other email messages and texts of a sexual nature from the congressman.  This morning, Andrew Breitbart revealed more photographs, including a shirtless photograph that appears to be Congressman Weiner and two photographs that clearly are pictures of the congressman.

The photograph where the congressman is holding a sign saying “me” was in response to a request by the woman to prove that she really was communicating with a congressman.

Congressman Weiner then scheduled a press conference at 4:00 p.m.  today, knowing that ABC News was closing in on him with the Breitbart‘s help.

But before he could get to the microphone of his own press conference, Andrew Breitbart himself showed up and seized the microphone as the congressman‘s staff looked on in helpless shock.  Breitbart clarified some aspects of how this story has emerged and explained just how difficult it can be to try to have family fun on a vacation in Palm Springs while you‘re trying to destroy a congressman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BREITBART:  I want to hear the truth from Congressman Weiner.  Quite frankly, I‘d like an apology for him being complicit in a “blame the messenger” strategy.  That was clear what happened -- 72 hours in Palm Springs with your family is excruciating when you are being challenged.  Andrew, why aren‘t you on vacation?  Why won‘t you get off the phone?

Because I‘m being accused of being the hacker against the congressman. 

He said nothing.  He allowed for that to go.

His minions perpetuated that false, malicious mean.  And then he went on CNN to attack me.  I feel he was complicit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Breitbart also announced that he has a much more graphic photographer of Congressman Weiner than any we have seen and he explained why he has not released that photograph.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BREITBART:  You know what I would be accused of if I released this photo?  I‘m doing this to save his family, OK?  And if this guy wants to start fighting with me again, I have this photo.  But I absolutely—I‘m not doing this for nefarious purposes.  I‘d like and apology for him for allowing for his political protectors, that was his strategy was to blame me—to blame me for hacking.

Oh, don‘t worry, Breitbart‘s a regular whipping boy.  We can accuse him of anything and the press will not hold those journalists to account no matter what they say.

And so, I‘m here for some vindication.  I‘m trying to do the decent thing here.  I‘m trying to do the decent thing here and not release the photo.

If this guy decides to start attacking me and saying that I‘m making all this stuff up like he did last week and he wants to fight with fire—

I mean, come on.  It is news, my friend.  It is what—it is news.  I know of countless other Web sites and news organizations that would put this out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  ABC News revealed that the photograph that Breitbart is holding back, that that picture, quote, “shows a man‘s erect penis,” end quote.

Breitbart who lives and works in Los Angeles says he was in New York today at the Weiner press conference mainly to demand an apology from the congressman for lying about Breitbart‘s initial reports being false and based on computer hacking.  Minutes after Breitbart left the stage, Anthony Weiner entered, carrying a prepared statement and step up to the microphone that had just been sound check by Andrew Breitbart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  Thank you very much for being here and good afternoon.

I‘d like to take this time to clear up some of the questions that have been raised over the past 10 days or so and take full responsibility for my actions.  At the outset, I‘d like to make it clear that I have made terrible mistakes that have hurt the people I care about the most, and I am deeply sorry.  I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friends, and supporters and the media.

Last Friday night, I tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle.  Once I realized I had posted it to Twitter, I panicked, I took it down, and said that I had been hacked.  I then continued with that story and to stick to that story which was a hugely regrettable mistake.

This woman was unwittingly dragged into this and there‘s absolutely no responsibility.  I‘m so sorry to have disrupted her life on this way.

To be clear, the picture was of me and I sent it.

I‘m deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife Huma and our family and my constituents, my friends, supporters, and staff.

In addition, over the past few years, I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, email, and occasionally on the phone with women I have met online.  I‘ve exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.

For the most part, these relations—these communications took place before my marriage, though some have sadly took place after.  To be clear, I have never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time.

I haven‘t told the truth—and I‘ve done things that I deeply regret.  I‘ve brought pain to people I care about the most and the people who believe in me—and for that, I am deeply sorry.

I apologize to my wife and our families, as well as to our friends and supporters.  I‘m deeply ashamed of my terrible judgment and actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Weiner has insisted he has never had sex outside of his marriage and that he will not resign.  He also maintained that nothing in what you just heard ever interfered with his ability to do his job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  I am deeply sorry that I lied about this.  But, at the end of the day, I lied because I was embarrassed.  I lied because I was ashamed of what I had done and didn‘t want to get caught.  But my—did I violate the Constitution of the United States by lying about posting a Twitter post?  I certainly don‘t think so.  I haven‘t spoken to anyone who did.

If people want to say that this is a violation of my oath because I sent a Twitter that I regretted and I lied about it—obviously, people are entitled to that viewpoint.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The congressman repeatedly apologized to his wife, the only really offended party in this story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  My primary sense of regret and my primary apology goes to my wife.  My wife is a remarkable woman.  She‘s not responsible for any of this.  This was visited upon her.  She‘s getting back to work.

And I apologize to her very deeply.  I‘m here to express my apologies. 

I‘m here to take responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And with repeated prompting from reporters, Anthony Weiner found himself saying the magic words, exactly what Andrew Breitbart demanded, he say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  I apologize to Andrew Breitbart.  I apologize to the many other members of the media that I misled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The most sensible reaction to everything we now know about Congressman Weiner was offered to ABC News by the woman at the center of the sex scandal in which there was no sex.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I don‘t think he‘s a bad guy.  I just think he‘s got issues, just like everybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now is senior political writer for Politico, Maggie Haberman who was at the historic press conference.

Thank you for joining us, Maggie.  I don‘t know where to begin.

So, Andrew Breitbart, my guess is that—I know Andrew, I have a feel for how he would take this.  It‘s an open press conference at the Sheraton.  I could walk in there.  Any tourist could walk in there.

My guess is Andrew went over intending to challenge Anthony Weiner and ask him a question.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO SR. POLITICAL WRITER:  Oh, sure.  I think that‘s a very safe guess.

O‘DONNELL:  And that is, in fact, I think what “Politico” and others

are reporting.  And that when he started to get questions from the media

around him, that it was the media there that suggested to him, why don‘t

you go to the microphone, what, so he could all hear him?  Was that

HABERMAN:  Yes, ironically it was actually a WCBS News reporter Marsha Kramer (ph) who was threatened with arrest by Anthony Weiner‘s office last week who suggested that Andrew Breitbart go to the podium, it would be easier for everyone to hear.  That having been said, it—

O‘DONNELL:  And it was going to be a lot more fun.

HABERMAN:  And it was going to be a lot more fun.  But, you know, and it was certainly a little less scary.  And, you know, fewer cameras, but it was definitely spectacular to watch.  I mean that in every sense of the word.

He literally hijacked the ballroom.  We all kept watching the door to se if Anthony Weiner was at the door and he arrived already.

It was among the most spectacular bits of political theater I have ever seen.  And we‘ve seen a lot in New York.

O‘DONNELL:  A lot of New York—this is the place, by the way, that just re-elected to his congressional seat, Charlie Rangel, with 80 percent of the vote, who had been through an ethics committee investigation that didn‘t go well for him on financial matters.  There‘s a lot you can survive in New York.

It was in a hotel ballroom in New York during the 1992 presidential campaign that Gennifer Flowers played a tape recording of Bill Clinton, candidate for president, talking to her during their extramarital affair that Bill Clinton was conducting.  That we thought was the craziest thing ever to happen.

HABERMAN:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  And it may be.  It may be crazier than what he saw today.

What was your sense in the room with the local media especially about the survivability of this for Anthony Weiner in New York?

HABERMAN:  Well, there‘s a general feeling that he can probably hold on to his seat.  You know, it‘s very, very hard to oust someone who really has nothing to lose, right?  I think he say he‘s not resigning.  I think there will be some calls for him to resign from Republicans.

It‘s obviously not helpful that the House leadership on the Democratic side has called for an investigation.  With that having been said, I think he will sit this out, assuming nothing else comes out.  If there‘s another shoe that drops, if he was less than honest about the facts, if there was anything that he didn‘t claim off the bat, then I think he might have to reassess that.  But as things stand now, I think he will hold on.

However, his seat is among those that I believe is very much at risk and now more so of being carved up in redistricting.  New York is going to lose two seats.  One of them is downstate.  The Democrats have no incentive to hold on to his now.

O‘DONNELL:  But it will never—it won‘t be carved to the point where a Republican can pick it up in that area of New York City?

HABERMAN:  No.

O‘DONNELL:  It will be fewer Democrats in the delegation as a result of it.

HABERMAN:  That‘s right.

O‘DONNELL:  This was what they call a full on Ferraro—not just in the New York media, but in the political media every since Geraldine Ferraro after she was chosen as the first woman to run on the vice presidential ticket had to give a very long press conference involving the business dealings of her husband.  And what she did was go out there at the height of that controversy and stay until every single question was answered.  Not just do the 10 minutes we‘re done get out of here.  But wear out the press corp.

Weiner was doing a version of that.  He stayed out there for as long as the questions made sense.  Once the Howard Stern guys started dominating the question—

HABERMAN:  That was when he started leaving.  Stage he left.  Yes, that was the end.

I mean, look, he had a strategy, right, which was he told the lie.  He was going to stick to the lie, which is the hacking story, and then he was going to stand up until every last bit of mud had been thrown at him and he assumed the press would go away.

The problem is, the more interviews he gave, the more questions came up because he wasn‘t really providing answers or he was providing new answers like the one that is memorable to Luke Russert, that he couldn‘t say with certitude that this was not a picture of him, but that didn‘t send it.  That answer absolutely made no sense and it was a red flag to a lot of reporters.

I think the other problem for Anthony Weiner is he‘s been very media friendly over the years.  He has a very good relationship with a lot of reporters.  And so, I think he thought that would sort of carry the day.

On the other hand, you couldn‘t expect reporters to not do their jobs and not ask questions.  And there were legitimate ones here.

O‘DONNELL:  What did it feel like in the room?  He got very emotional.  He got choked up talking about his wife, talking about his failure, talking about his lying, what was it like to be in a room with that raw emotion?

HABERMAN:  It was shocking.  I mean, I‘ve known of no other way to describe.  And I‘ve known Anthony Weiner since he was a councilman.

So, to see him like this was really, really strange.  And it was raw and it was very tense and you can‘t hear anything else except for the click of the cameras for a very long time while he was talking.  After a while, as the questions wore on, as the questions became repeated, as the answers became repeated, it became a little carnival-like and then you have the Howard Stern guy yelling at the end.

So, that became—you know, the point after he apologized to Andrew Breitbart was I think when it felt like it sort of had worn out its stay and it was time to move on.  But for a while there, it was very tough.

O‘DONNELL:  It takes a lot to bring the New York political media, the local media especially, to absolute silence.  It was really a stunning thing to watch.

HABERMAN:  Indeed.

O‘DONNELL:  Maggie Haberman of “Politico”—thank you very much for joining us.

HABERMAN:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, why scandals and New York City‘s political past show that Congressman Weiner has a very good chance of surviving this controversy.

And “The Rewrite,” why the Justice Department made the right decision in choosing to prosecute John Edward for violations of federal campaign finance law and why the judge should not give him prison time if he‘s convicted.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, more breaking news coverage of Congressman Anthony Weiner‘s news conference this afternoon and what impact it will have on his political future.

Also, the media circus here in New York City today which included Congressman Weiner‘s apology to Andrew Breitbart of all people.  And, questions fired from the Howard Stern gang.

And later, Sarah Palin revels Bachmann style in her ignorance of American history.  This time, she‘s unable to get any of the facts right about the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think he‘s a bad guy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I don‘t think he‘s a bad guy.  I just think he‘s got issues, just like everybody else.  Just like everybody else.  Just like everybody else.  Just like everybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  After Anthony Weiner admitted his involvement today in the first Washington sex scandal that involves no actual sex, reporters were quick to ask if he would resign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Do you think you will respectively stay as a congressman, or should you go ahead and resign?

WEINER:  I came here to accept the full responsibility for what I‘ve done.  I am deeply regretted or regretting what I have done and I am not resigning.

I don‘t want to get into anyone else‘s situation, but I can tell you about mine.  And it‘s one that I regret that didn‘t have to do with my government service per se, and had to do with a personal weakness.  But, you know, people can draw their own conclusion about that.

But I‘m not resigning.  And I‘m going to try very hard to go back to work a better person and a better man.  And I‘m going to try to be a better husband, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Less than one hour after Congressman Weiner left the podium, Republicans launched their first attack.  The National Republican Congressional Committee announced this statement, “It‘s time for Democratic leadership to explain why Congressman Weiner‘s actions never aroused any suspicious and why they rushed to his defense while so many Americans were shocked and confused by his bizarre and disturbing behavior.”

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

Steve, of course, no Democrats rose to Anthony Weiner‘s defense as this thing was rolling out.  So, the Republicans are just kind of making that one up and seeing if they can get anything out of it.  Nancy Pelosi today said let‘s have an ethics committee investigation about that.  Weiner says, sure, let‘s do that.

What‘s the future for Anthony Weiner now?

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM:  I think Anthony Weiner really has to ask himself a basic question, and that‘s, you know, why am I still in politics after this?  Because Anthony Weiner‘s been in the House for 13 years right now and he‘s really had two goals in the house.  The one that‘s existed the whole time is to be mayor of New York City.  He ran in 2005 was all set to run in 2009 before Bloomberg changed the terms limit law, and he‘s been running for 2013 since 2009.

I don‘t think many people in New York believe that after this, he‘s a really serious, viable candidate.

O‘DONNELL:  I do.  I do.  Yes, for mayor.

KORNACKI:  OK.

O‘DONNELL:  But I‘m just one and I‘m not a New York voter anymore.

KORNACKI:  The case against a viable candidate for mayor is simple.  The New York Democratic establishment doesn‘t like him.  He‘s only at 20 percent in the polls right now.  You‘ve got six other options if you‘re a Democrat in New York.  The New York media‘s not going to let this go, you know, for the next two years if he runs.

The second issue, the second reason he‘s been in Congress is to be, really is to be a TV star, which he‘s emerged as for the last two years.  Part of that is part of his strategy to run for mayor in 2013, his base in New York, sort of the outer borough, blue collar voters.  He‘s expanded that base through his television role in the last two years, appealing to Manhattan liberals, liberals in Brownstone and Brooklyn.  It‘s a very successful coalition he‘s kind of put together.  But can he really be on TV right now as the congressman for the next two years?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, he can come on this show tomorrow night.

KORNACKI:  OK.

O‘DONNELL:  I won‘t ask him a single question about it.  I don‘t care about it.  He answered every question today that I could possibly have.

KORNACKI:  OK.  Well, that‘s noble of you, I would say you‘re probably in the minority.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.

KORNACKI:  I don‘t think Anthony Weiner can be Anthony Weiner for the

next year or two.  I don‘t think he can be mayor in 2013.  I don‘t think

his rational for being in Congress applies anymore.  And I‘m not even sure

his

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Two words: Barney Frank got in much, much worse trouble than this involving a full ethics committee investigation.  He went on to become a very powerful chairman.  His future in the House was not hindered by that at all.

KORNACKI:  Barney Frank has applied a much different standard than what he wants in politics than Anthony Weiner.  Barney Frank went to Congress to do something.  Barney Frank went to Congress to work in Congress.  He was a workhorse behind the scenes before the scandal and after the scandal.  All he had to do is protect his seat.

If Anthony Weiner wants to protect his seat next year, I think he can if the district is, you know, survives redistricting.  But Anthony Weiner has never been a guy who wants to work, he wants to put in the long hours behind the scenes in Congress.  His reputation among his colleagues in New York is he‘s the guy that takes the credit for the work that they do.  He can‘t take the credit anymore.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I think we‘ve seen that these kinds of events change a person.  And they can change—when Teddy Kennedy got into public, scandalous trouble like this, it changed the way he approached his work eventually, and that could change the dynamics for Anthony Weiner.

KORNACKI:  Yes.  I think that‘s true.  If Anthony Weiner is still a congressman next year, he‘s a different congressman than he is right now.

O‘DONNELL:  Steve Kornacki, politics editor for Salon.com—thank you very much for joining me tonight, Steve.

Coming up, the preshow comedy before the Anthony Weiner news conference, Andrew Breitbart, the man who brought the pictures to the nation‘s attention started his own press conference using Anthony Weiner‘s microphone and then managed to get an apology from the congressman.

And later, Sarah Palin apologizes to Mitt Romney for upstaging his presidential announcement, but not really.  And she has no intention of apologizing to history teachers for not knowing who Paul Revere was.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW BREITBART, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER:  I‘m not doing this for nefarious purposes.  I‘d like an apology from him for allowing his political protectors—this was his strategy was to blame me, to blame me for hacking. 

Don‘t worry, Breitbart‘s our regular whipping boy.  We can accuse him of anything and the press will not hold those journalists to account no matter what they say.  So I‘m here for some vindication. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  That was one of the opening moments from today‘s circus at the Sheraton Hotel in midtown New York.  Another occurred toward the end, when Howard Stern writer Bengy Bronk (ph), who had infiltrated the press core, shouted questions at Congressman Weiner. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will you help to support Arnold‘s love child. 

WEINER:  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Were you fully erect?  Were you fully erect?  Or are you capable of more? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, “Huffington Post” reporter and MSNBC political analyst Alex Wagner.  Alex, we had your sound turned off, so you couldn‘t hear those ugly questions that Bengy Bronk was asking. 

There‘s a couple of things that happened today, the craziness of the press event just almost unprecedented, were it not for Jennifer Flowers‘ press conference in a New York hotel ballroom.  But the media—the political media is the most conservative place in the world to have these kinds of thins evaluated. 

People pretending that they are hearing the word sexting for the first time, doing that whole what is that mean thing. 

ALEX WAGNER, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Right.  There are some people I think I would prefer to think don‘t know what sexting is in the political media.  For sure, this is now the buzzword that we‘re going to hear for the rest of the week.  I‘m sure Jon Stewart is going to have a lot of fun with that in particular. 

The circus—the only thing could have trumped it was if Shirley Sherrod had somehow showed up in the audience and asked—and sought her moment of vindication.  It‘s not surprising that Andrew Breitbart showed up and sort of tried to take the spotlight upon himself, when given it be opportunity. 

I do think, though, he had a five-minute window where he could have worn the gloss of legitimacy.  He managed to shrug it off summarily by standing up there and making it about him.  When in reality this is about the career of an elected representative. 

O‘DONNELL:  To be fair to Andrew, he was asked by the reporters stand at the microphone—now, of course, the reporters, it was self-serving for them and for us.  Look, we got great video. 

Andrew Breitbart at a microphone doing all that stuff, the media got great stuff out of this thing today.  But going forward here, there‘s a very interesting journalistic moment here in our history.  ABC News went into business with Andrew Breitbart.  One has a fair reason to assume that some money changed hands, that Andrew was paid for his services, consulting to this story. 

WAGNER:  Right.  There is a huge—look, there is a huge question about stories like this, which initially are sort of seen as illegitimate, but are great media story.  We are now in an environment where major channels—look at Donald Trump‘s candidacy.  Major channels spend a lot by giving credence and platform to people who are otherwise seen as whacks. 

In the case of Andrew Breitbart, a lot of his contentions were actually factually accurate.  In that respect, ABC at least can sort of shelter itself under the guise of truth seeking journalism, no matter what side of the aisle it‘s on. 

O‘DONNELL:  I think the trick with these stories is they become stories they can‘t ignore.  When the day began, I had no intention of talking about Anthony Weiner.  When I heard there‘s some new pictures, I still had no intention of talking about Anthony Weiner today. 

I was going to make a point of not talking about Anthony Weiner.  And then it‘s announced Anthony‘s doing a press conference at 4:00.  And by 6:00 it‘s pretty much the whole show. 

It becomes something you can‘t possibly ignore as it gains momentum.  But I think that the obligation is in keeping it in perspective.  The perspectives include Charlie Rangel, a congressman from this very same congressional delegation, was found guilty in the House Ethics Committee of violating all sorts of rules.  He still got re-elected with 80 percent of the vote. 

The media gets carried away pretending every scandal is a first time scandal; we have never seen anything like it.  We have seen things like this. 

WAGNER:  Right.  But I will say, this one in particular—Anthony Weiner—he didn‘t do himself any favors.  I think if you look back to the press gaggle he had last week, he was so contentious with the press.  He almost verbally abused a CNN producer who was asking him legitimate questions.

And given his really high profile in the media and the fact that he had been so active on Twitter, it made for a great story.  And then, of course, there is his last name, which then just took this up to the next level in terms of headlines. 

O‘DONNELL:  You got to give him credit for this, though, for a politician who did tell one big public lie, he did the fastest correction, a one week—teach Bill Clinton how to turn this around in one week or John Edwards.  They dragged out their lies for years. 

“Huffington Post” reporter and MSNBC political analyst Alex Wagner, thank you very much for joining us on this tawdry story tonight. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thanks, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, why the prosecutors in the John Edwards case are doing the right thing and why the judge should not send Edwards to prison if he‘s found guilty.  That‘s in tonight‘s Rewrite. 

Later, the Republican party‘s Palin problem; how long can she keep stealing publicity from the real presidential candidates?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  John Edwards turned down a last minute plea deal that would have saved him the risk of becoming a convicted felon, but would have meant serving time in a federal prison.  Instead, he pleaded not guilty and will go to trial, saying he has broken no law.  And his attorneys will make this case. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JOHN EDWARDS:  In the history of the federal election campaign law, no one has ever been charged, either civilly or criminally, with the claims that have been brought against Senator Edwards. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Greg Craig, an able attorney,. is absolutely right about that.  His words are being echoed by many commentators on this case.  But they are all wrong to use the novelty of the case as a reason not to bring the case. 

No, we have never seen a prosecution like this because we have never discovered a candidate who was trying to get and use a million dollars from rich friends to cover up an affair and the birth of a child within the affair, so he could preserve his candidacy for president of the United States. 

Nothing like this case has ever occurred before.  So, yes, if nothing like this has ever happened before, then it‘s the first time we‘ve had a prosecution like this. 

In other areas of the law, the novelty of a case can be much, much more important.  But not—not in federal campaign finance law, which has an extremely short and thin legal history. 

Modern federal campaign finance laws only began to be enforced about 35 years ago.  We don‘t have 100 years of legal precedent to draw on here.  Because we do tens of thousands of federal drug prosecutions a year, there is massive federal precedent to draw on in that field.  Just as there is in tax evasion cases. 

There is obviously an even much richer body of legal precedent in our homicide laws, since murder has been illegal for a lot longer than drug possession has been illegal, and a lot longer than we have been paying income taxes. 

Federal prosecutors bring a tiny, tiny handful of cases per year involving violations of campaign finance law.  Sometimes only three or four of those cases.  Many of those cases have involved first time applications of campaign finance law. 

If in this case you have sympathies for John Edwards, as I do, you should consider where you want to apply those sympathies.  I chose not to let my sympathies get in the way of prosecuting John Edwards or convicting him. 

But at the sentencing stage, if that comes, I for one believe John Edwards has already paid the full price for any violations of campaign finance law and that he should receive no sentence of jail time.  Nothing beyond a fine that should not be more than the cost of the government‘s prosecution. 

Consider the alternative if John Edwards did not face prosecution.  It would mean that any candidate would know that he or she could get a million dollars or as much money as they wanted, 10 million dollars, 20 million from rich families to cover up facts about themselves that they know would destroy their campaigns. 

Just do the thought exercise and imagine if say a Republican senator from—I don‘t know—Louisiana was found using a million dollars secretly given by friend of his to cover up his relationship with a prostitute in order to preserve his ability to be re-elected.  Think about that. 

What would you want federal prosecutors to do about that?  Campaign finance law is inadequately enforced now, as Sarah Palin‘s recent family vacation demonstrates.  She used money raised under federal campaign finance laws to pay for her bus tour, a tour her child not unreasonably called a family vacation. 

Palin can indeed continue to use that money in countless ways that benefit her and her family and have no political purpose whatsoever.  And she can get away with that for as long as she wants, because she knows and every federal candidate knows that the Federal Election Commission does not have enough enforcement personnel to examine the millions and millions and millions of expenditures that every federal campaign fundraising committee lists on their endless FEC forms every year. 

Candidates are already getting away with figurative murder in what they do with the money that they actually report having collected and report having spent.  The Edwards‘ prosecution is not about that money.  And I am sure the Edwards campaign used that money, the reported money, to the benefit of the Edwards‘ family, perhaps not as much as the Palin family has, but in similar violation of the spirit of the law of campaign finance. 

The Edwards‘ prosecution is about a separate million dollars that secretly existed outside the reportable amounts allowed.  As money increasingly poisons our politics, as it gains more and more power over the political process, this is no time to sit idly by when a candidate who has secretly used a million dollars outside of the campaign finance system to preserve and protect his candidacy is discovered. 

The prosecutors in the Edwards case are not out to teach John Edwards a lesson.  John Edwards has already been humbled.  If humbling is not enough for you, Senator Edwards has also been humiliated.  He has also been shamed. 

And he will remain shamed for the rest of his life.  The prosecutors know that.  The prosecutors are out to teach a lesson to all candidates for federal office that no, from now on, forever, they cannot reach out to their rich friends and secretly obtain as much money as they want, a million dollars, whatever they need, to cover up whatever they have to cover up, in order to preserve their electablity, to preserve the chance, to preserve the dream of becoming president of the United States. 

You don‘t want them to be able to do that.  Those prosecutors are on our side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Today Rick Santorum announced that he is running for president on the steps of the Sommerset County Courthouse in western Pennsylvania, the state where Santorum lost his Senate seat in 2006 by a mere 18 points. 

But Santorum, like Republican front runner Willard M. Romney, had to share his big day.  In his pre-presidential announcement appearance on “Good Morning America,” Santorum was asked about who else, non-candidate Sarah Palin. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Real quickly, did Sarah Palin get it right on Paul Revere or not? 

RICK SANTORUM, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  To be honest with you, I‘ve been hunkered down.  I have no idea.  I haven‘t been paying attention to this one, George.  I‘ll pass on that one. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  A Republican presidential candidate‘s announcement can‘t compete with Palin‘s latest bout of misspeaking. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  We were where Paul Revere hung out as a teenager, which was something new to learn.  And you know, 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‘re going to be armed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  That was Palin on Thursday at a bakery in Boston, giving her version of Paul Revere‘s famous ride, after being asked a question from a local reporter that had nothing to be with Paul Revere. 

When “Fox News Sunday” Chris Wallace told Palin she was wrong about Paul Revere, Palin did what she always does, she gets defensive and blamed us the media. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  You realize that you messed up about Paul Revere, don‘t you? 

PALIN:  You know what, I didn‘t mess up about Paul Revere.  Here‘s what Paul Revere did.  He warned the Americans that the British were coming, the British were coming, and they were going to try to take our arms.  We got to make sure that we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of our ammunitions and our firearms, so that they couldn‘t take them. 

Remember that the British had had already been there, many soldiers, for seven years in that area.  And part of Paul Revere‘s ride—and it wasn‘t just one ride.  He was a courier.  He was a messenger.  Part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there that, hey, you‘re not going to succeed.  You‘re not going to take American arms. 

You are not going to beat our own well armed persons, individual private militia that we have.  He did warn the British.  In a shout out, got you type of question that was asked of me, I answered candidly.  I know my American history. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Warn the British.  All right, here is the shout out, got you question that Palin was asked. 

(BEGNI VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What have you seen so far today and what are you going to take away from your visit? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now is David From, former speech writer to President George W. Bush and editor of FrumForum.com.  Thanks for joining me tonight, David.  It doesn‘t get stranger than that. 

Paul Revere warned the British.  I went to school.  I grew up in Boston.  Please tell me it‘s not just in Boston that Paul Revere is some kind of local hero where we actually learned the details about him. 

DAVID FRUM, FRUMFORUM.COM:  Let‘s hope not.  There‘s a fantastic book by David Hackett Fisher (ph) about Paul Revere‘s rides that we can recommend to everybody.  In fact, it was quite a good history seller.  And I think what you saw there was a case of panic and improvisation, and as you said earlier in the show, a distraction from the real news of the day that was important for Republicans, which was the launch of the Romney campaign, the man who is likely going to be the Republican nominee, and who has been saying a lot of interesting things as he‘s campaigned in New Hampshire these past days. 

O‘DONNELL:  She pretended to apologize for stepping on Mitt Romney‘s announcement day.  But she clearly had every intention of doing that. 

FRUM:  She must have loved high school.  That little—I am so sorry that your boyfriend called me instead of you.  I never meant—but you know what, I don‘t think she did succeed in overshadowing him.  Yes, she dominated the front page of a particular newspaper in that state. 

But the fact is he is leading in the state.  He is the Republican front runner.  And it has been a good week for Republicans.  We heard last Tim Pawlenty say some brave and welcome words about America‘s subsidies to ethanol.  Time for them to stop.

In New Hampshire, we heard Mitt Romney acknowledge the reality of global climate change and the need to at least begin to think creatively and do something about it.  So we have had from the people who are likely going to seriously contest the nomination serious truth telling that points the way to a governing Republicanism that can respond to real national problems.

O‘DONNELL:  David, Chris Wallace shocked me yesterday by saying after the Palin interview that he thought she was really sharp and really good and legitimate presidential campaign material, after seeing—after doing that interview with her.  An interview in which she once again got it wrong that Paul Revere‘s job was to warn the British. 

You Tweeted today “2012 is a winnable election for the GOP.  Don‘t let Fox blow it for us.” 

FRUM:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  How would Fox blow it for Republicans? 

FRUM:  Here is the opportunity for Republicans: the economy remains very sluggish.  We are getting close to that decision moment.  And the unemployment numbers continue heartbreaking.  The personal income numbers continue heartbreaking. 

And the American people, they have a decision mechanism.  Did the incumbent deliver.  And the incumbent who doesn‘t deliver may have a lot of excuse.  He may have tried his best, but he doesn‘t.  Then they turn to the alternative, if the alternative does not discredit themselves.

The one issue that can save President Obama from a bad economy is the ability to run against the Republicans on the Medicare issue.  If Republicans are driven by media voices into a stampede of unanimity where everybody has to say yes, we are all signing up for this Ryan plan, and that is going to be our ballot issue for 2012, there is no need to cooperate with that narrative. 

That does cooperate with the core Obama message, which is a vote for the Republicans is a vote to end Medicare.  The Republican message should be a vote for Republicans is a vote for economic recovery, for jobs, for less regulation and lower taxes. 

O‘DONNELL:  So those who want to see the election outcomes that I want to see should cheer for Fox News to continue to issue orthodox commandments for all the candidates to follow. 

David Frum of the Frum Forum, thank you very much for joining me tonight. 

FRUM:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  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.  Good evening, Rachel.

END   

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