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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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Guests: Eugene Robinson, Howard Fineman, Jennifer Granholm, Jonathan Alter, Margaret Carlson


LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  On January 27th, 1992, a political sex scandal became a chaotic media circus at a press conference in a New York hotel—atmospherically similar to what we saw yesterday in a press conference in a New York hotel.  I wasn‘t the only one who was certain then in 1992 that the politician at the center of that scandal was finished in American politics.  He went on to become the 42nd president of the United States.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think, you know, he‘s going to come under, I think, a lot of pressure to resign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The man should resign and we should move on.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  Republicans want Anthony Weiner out. 

Democrats are a little more forgiving.  But just a little.

ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR:  What Anthony Weiner did as far as I know up to now didn‘t hurt anybody other than himself and maybe his good wife.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  I wish there was some way I could defend him, but I can‘t.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a loose rope around their ankle.

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS:  Republicans are going to keep this in the media as long as they can.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER:  The last thing we need to do is enmeshed in a discussion about Congressman Weiner and his Twitter activities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What will the House Democrats do?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR:  Nancy Pelosi has a desire to quickly remove as much of that rope as possibly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The next seven days are going to be very, very hard for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will he or won‘t he end up with his job a year from now?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  Not if the New York tabloids are any indication.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The most important story of the day, “The Naked Truth.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Constituents in New York City love their guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re not easily shocked in New York.

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN:  This story officially became sad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Anthony Weiner enough said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The actual part of, you know, men doing stupid things, we do stupid things sometimes.

O‘DONNELL:  For a look at Anthony Weiner‘s future, we‘ll look to the past.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS:  No one wanted this presidential campaign to get sidetracked by stories of an extramarital affair.  But tonight, that‘s exactly what‘s happened as a result of allegations against Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.

DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC HOST:  A hundred and fifty thousand years of human duplicity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  David Vitter is still sitting in the United States Senate right now.  He did break federal laws, he did break state laws, he did cheat on his wife and he got reelected.

MITCHELL:  To point out that Eliot Spitzer did resign.

O‘DONNELL:  And Mitt Romney thinks his past will help him in the future.



MITCHELL:  For the first time, Mitt Romney edges ahead of Barack Obama.

ROMNEY:  People get tired of seeing the same person day in, day out.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST:  This is great news for Mitt Romney.

ROMNEY:  I‘ll finally get the nomination.



O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.

A day after Congressman Anthony Weiner admitted to sending sexually suggestive text messages and photos to six women other than his wife, the backlash and the details of the sex scandal that so far still includes no actual sex continued to dominate the headlines—none of them flattering to the congressman.  Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart whose Web site first broke the story says he is holding back at least one photograph which ABC News says, quote, “shows a man‘s erect penis,” end quote.

On the “Today” show, Matt Lauer tried to press Breitbart about whether he would release that photo?


ANDREW BREITBART, BLOGGER:  If Anthony Weiner decides to make this a jihad against me for his interpretation of putting me into this situation, you know what?  I‘ll take that as a—you know, you said an insurance policy, maybe.  If he wants to open himself to an investigation, there a lot of women.


O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Weiner obviously had hoped that yesterday‘s press conference would put what he called terrible mistakes behind him.  House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter today to the ethics committee calling for an investigation into the matter and Democrats are not eager to defend the congressman.


REID:  I know congressman Weiner.  I wish there was some way I could defend him, but I can‘t.

REPORTER:  What advice would you give him if he asked you?

REID:  Call somebody else.


O‘DONNELL:  Hours after the congressional committee put out press releases calling for more than a dozen Democrats in Congress to return campaign contributions they have received from Congressman Weiner‘s campaign committee, one Democrat announced she‘s doing just that.  Ohio Congresswoman Betty Sutton says she is donating $1,000 campaign contribution from Weiner to local charities in her district.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus took it a step further today, issuing this statement: “Congressman Weiner‘s actions and deceptions are unacceptable and she should resign.  We do not need an investigation to know he lied and acted inappropriately.  We need a resignation.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor agrees.


CANTOR:  We‘ve got a lot of serious challenges going on in this country and a lot of work for Congress to do.  The last thing we need to do is be enmeshed in discussion about Congressman Weiner and his Twitter activities.

I think it is up to Congressman Weiner and his constituents to make that decision.  I don‘t condone his activity.  I think he should resign.


O‘DONNELL:  And with that answer, Eric Cantor lost all hope of ever winning THE LAST WORD‘s prize for consistency in reaction to political sex scandals.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  When you‘ve got Republican leaders like Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina or Nevada Senator John Ensign admitting to extramarital affairs and staying in office questionable use of either private funds or state money in the case of Sanford, doesn‘t the GOP, with all its talk of family values, risk looking like a bunch of hypocrites?

CANTOR:  Look, I mean, is anyone happy to see all that have happened?  No.  I mean, it‘s not good.  But listen, we have our thoughts with their families and they themselves.

WALLACE:  If you‘re going to talk the talk, why not walk the walk and say, you know what, they should step down?

CANTOR:  Well, listen—I mean, again, I say in the instance of the people in South Carolina and Nevada, it is up to them.


O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson; also “Huffington Post” senior political editor and MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

Eugene, we see that consistency is very hard to come by in reaction to these things.  This one seems purely partisan.  I can‘t remember a single Republican saying that Vitter should resign.  Even saying that Ensign should resign before he resigned, as well as all these other Republican scandals that we‘ve had in the last couple of years.

Do they actually think that we‘re not going to roll this videotape on this in these situations?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, to mix up an old proverb, if you want consistency in Washington, get a dog, right?  You don‘t expect consistency.

Nonetheless, you know, I don‘t think Weiner‘s going to be able to survive this.  I really don‘t.  I think there was no actual sex that we know of in this incident and there were no laws broken that we know of.  But there was creepiness.

And I think to go through an ethics investigation where all that kind of comes out, was it just six women, was it more than six.  Did he send a tweet on his official BlackBerry or not?  Meanwhile, with Breitbart holding the sort of (INAUDIBLE), so to speak—over his head, I just—I just don‘t see how he survives this.

O‘DONNELL:  Howard, these scandals have been left to voters in these states.  That‘s what happened with Vitter in Louisiana.  He got reelected.  Charlie Rangel found in violation of House rules by the ethics committee, serious rules involving financial transactions, gets re-elected with 80 percent of the vote in his district.

Why can‘t Anthony Weiner stick with it in his district and get 80 percent of the vote like Charlie Rangel?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I suppose he can try.  In some sense it‘s not entirely up to him.  It‘s a somewhat different situation from Charlie Rangel, in that Anthony Weiner‘s story is one that Republicans across the country could attempt to use, hypocrisy notwithstanding, and one they‘re willing to go to in a way they would never go to Charlie Rangel for other reasons.  Reasons of accusation of racism, et cetera, et cetera.

I mean, the fact that Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, who‘s exquisitely sensitive to the fault line—the cultural fault lines of politics as they play in the election season, would run in the other direction the way he did is an indication of what is eating at Democrats here.  What they‘re worried about an ethics investigation as Eugene said, the play by Republicans in swing districts.  The fact you had a Democratic congresswoman of Ohio, swing state of Ohio, giving the money back—it just shows you that the Democrats aren‘t going to stand with Weiner, who by the way on the personal level, they don‘t like a whole lot.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, let‘s get to that, Eugene.  In these situations, friendship matters.  I know with Charlie Rangel decades of friendship of people who were throwing their arms around him every day, hoping he could get through this.  We saw that with Danny Rostenkowski when he was in trouble, and other guys who have been there for decades and built up loyalty and friendship for decades.

How much does that matter here and what kind of friendship deficit is Anthony Weiner working with in the House right now?

ROBINSON:  Well, he‘s a scratchy guy.  And he doesn‘t have the sort of loyalty and years of friendship that say Charlie Rangel enjoyed.  Everyone was rooting for Charlie Rangel to survive his scandal somehow and as you noted he did.

But there‘s also just the kind of unattractiveness of this scandal.  The question of—let‘s assume he does tough it out.  He does go through an investigation to have put his wife through that, to have put the women with whom he corresponded through that establishing that they were all over 18, for example, and that this activity was all consensual and all the details coming out.

What sort of political image will he have other than, you know, a cad who doubled down on his caddishness by dragging—dragging these women through this sort of inquisition.  I don‘t see this playing out well.  I really don‘t.

O‘DONNELL:  Howard Fineman, there‘s a flash poll in New York City overnight where a slight majority comes out in favor of Anthony Weiner not resigning, staying in office.  Is that number—is it your sense in the way this story is likely to play out in the next couple weeks, is that number likely to change in one direction or the other?

FINEMAN:  Well, part of the problem Anthony Weiner‘s got and the Democrats have got, Lawrence, is they don‘t know what else is out there.  You don‘t know what other pictures are there.  You don‘t know whether the women are there.  You don‘t know the rest of the story.

You don‘t know what‘s going to happen with his marriage to Huma who he adores, but may not, you know, be in it for the long haul.  You don‘t know.  She hasn‘t spoken yet.  Nothing‘s happened yet.

Don‘t forget that Hillary Clinton was Huma‘s, you know, mentor and good friend which complicates things in a number of directions.  There‘s just—there‘s a lot more possibly to the story here that makes it difficult—difficult for the Democrats as much as for Weiner himself, I think.

O‘DONNELL:  I want to get from both of you quickly before we go.

Eugene first, how this cam pairs to the Bill Clinton scandal that we saw play out in a hotel ballroom here in Manhattan, in a press conference in 1992.  Gennifer Flowers playing audiotapes of Bill Clinton talking to her obviously in the midst of an affair.  That turned out not only to be survivable, the guy got elected president of the United States.

ROBINSON:  Anthony Weiner is a talented politician.  He‘s no Bill Clinton.  He doesn‘t have that sort of charm.

You know, Bill Clinton was the come back kid.  I‘m not sure that Anthony Weiner is.

O‘DONNELL:  Howard, quickly, compare Weiner to Clinton.

FINEMAN:  Well, I guess if Anthony Weiner‘s forced to resign, in the history of sex scandals, nobody will have gotten less for greater sacrifice.

O‘DONNELL:  Howard Fineman and Eugene Robinson—the line of the night, so far, belongs to Howard Fineman.  Thank you both for joining me tonight.

FINEMAN:  OK.  Thanks.

ROBINSON:  Good night.

O‘DONNELL:  Later in the show, we will unveil a new segment, the media circus that MSNBC missed.  We will travel back in time and imagine what it would have been like if this network existed when Gennifer Flowers had her bombshell news conference about her relationship with presidential candidate Bill Clinton.

Also, the Republican lies about taxes.  Now that Tim Pawlenty has come out with a crazy tax plan, will Mitt Romney be forced to come out with an even crazier tax plan?  Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm joins me next, as the Romney campaign heads into her state.


O‘DONNELL:  Coming up in one early and therefore meaningless poll, Mitt Romney is now polling ahead of President Obama despite Romney‘s own dismal jobs record.  Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm joins me next as Romney‘s campaign heads into her state.

And on the birthday of the Bush tax cuts, candidate Tim Pawlenty announces an even more dangerous tax plan.  That‘s tonight‘s “Rewrite.”


O‘DONNELL:  President Obama says he hopes the latest jobs report showing an increase in the unemployment rate back up to 9.1 percent is just an abnormality and not a longer trend.  And he‘s trying to convince voters that his administration has made progress recovering from the financial crisis that they inherited in 2008.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We are on the path of recovery, but it‘s got to accelerate.  Recovery‘s going to be uneven.  And there are going to be times where we are making progress, but people are still skittish and nervous and the markets get skittish and nervous.  And so, they pull back because they‘re still thinking about traumas of just two and a half years ago.


O‘DONNELL:  But a recent poll shows that a majority of voters, a majority of whom don‘t really know anything about the economy, don‘t believe that the economy is recovering and blame President Obama for the struggling economy.  That view has helped Republican Mitt Romney to pull ahead of President Obama in a poll that asked voters who they would vote for if the 2012 election were held today.

Forty-nine percent chose Romney and 46 percent chose Barack Obama.  Romney is the only Republican who defeats President Obama in a theoretical matchup.  Sarah Palin loses most dramatically—losing with 40 percent to President Obama‘s 55 percent.

After announcing his presidential bid, Romney said he was going to keep a low profile saying, quote, “Your greatest enemy is overexposure.”  That may be particularly true in Romney‘s case where even the conservative group Club for Growth has accused him of being a flip-flopper and liberals are attacking his record on job creation.

While Romney accuses President Obama of surrounding himself with people who, quote, “have never worked in the real economy,” end quote, his critics point out that Romney‘s experience in the real economy was in the role of corporate raider, a job that made companies more profitable by laying off employees and killing jobs.

When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, his state ranked 47th in the rate of jobs growth from 2003 to 2007.

Joining me now is former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Governor.


O‘DONNELL:  Governor, I want to take a look at some video of Mitt Romney‘s boyhood home being destroyed in Detroit last year, as I read to you from a 2008 op-ed that Mitt Romney wrote in 2008 saying “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”  That was the title of his op-ed piece in which he said, “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that they‘re chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry good-bye.  It won‘t go overnight.  But its demise will be virtually guaranteed.”

Governor, as we know, that bail out was delivered.  How‘s the American auto industry doing?

GRANHOLM:  Oh, it‘s such—this contrast that you just set up here is so remarkable because in the same—at the same time he‘s saying “Let Detroit go bankrupt, don‘t give them the rescue that they‘re asking for,” this was during that election year.  This was at the end of 2008, when he had won here in the primary, as the son of the auto industry.  His father was the head of American Motors.

And when he wrote that op-ed in “The New York Times,” which, by the way, was purely opportunist.  He saw—put his finger up in the air, saw which ways the polls were headed and he goes after his own home state throughout the halls of the auto industry.  People‘s hair was on fire.  They couldn‘t believe that they were being stabbed in the back in such a horrible way.

So, of course, the auto industry now—there was a rescue.  In Michigan alone, just General Motors and Chrysler have hired back 12,000 people.  Over 50,000 people hired back just in General Motors and Chrysler.

If this had gone the way Mitt Romney wanted it to go and there was no rescue of the auto industry, then we would have seen 1.4 million people unemployed.  In Michigan alone, it would have been a 20 percent unemployment rate.

So, now that this has worked out pretty well and that the auto industry is paying back their loans and the Obama administration‘s smart intervention has put them on a path of profitability and hiring, interesting that when Chrysler said that it was done paying back its loans last week, Romney says, whoa, they followed what I was suggesting.  It‘s only—they followed me.

It‘s an incredible—I mean, the guy is shameless.  I just can‘t believe that people are going to buy this fellow.  I mean, there‘s a whole string of flip-flops that I know you know about.  But to me, he‘s here in Michigan tonight at a fundraiser with his hand out.

I think that people who want to donate should be looking at when the auto industry was asking for a donation.  I think they should give him the same answer.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  He keeps the flip-flops coming.  It‘s not just—it‘s not just the old flip-flops from when he was a liberal governor of Massachusetts.  He keeps creating new ones.

On these early polls, Governor, as we know, they are meaningless—these highly theoretical matchups of a sitting president against a theoretical nominee.  They are so unreliable, for example, that in June of 1995, comparable position to where we are now, Bob Dole who was the likely Republican nominee at that time, Bob Dole led President Clinton 49 to 40 percent.  He had a bigger lead in this kind of theoretical poll over Bill Clinton at that time in the campaign.

So, it doesn‘t seem like there‘s very much in that poll for President Obama to be worried about.

GRANHOLM:  No.  I mean, you know how this works, Lawrence.  I mean, the campaign hasn‘t even begun yet.  Campaigns are all about a choice.  People don‘t know.

Mitt Romney, you cited the job statistics that Massachusetts was 47th out of 50th.  I mean, this is an economy that‘s diverse.  I mean, Massachusetts economy is supposed to be a knowledge economy.  How did it get to 47th out of 50 states during this period of time when he was governor?

So, it‘s going to be—believe me, people are going to be able to have a selection here.  And yes, it‘s going to be a tough race.  I don‘t think there‘s any question about it.

But I know that the administration is going to be out there every day trumpeting their successes and their plans for how they‘re going to put America on track.

O‘DONNELL:  Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm—and I hope future candidate for some office that I could vote for without having to move to Michigan, you know, something like president of the United States - - thank you very much.

GRANHOLM:  Oh, no.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks for joining me tonight.

GRANHOLM:  Thanks, Lawrence.  Appreciate it.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: today is the 10th birthday of the signing of the Bush tax cuts.  In honor of that, Governor Tim Pawlenty manages to come up with a new tax plan that is built on Republican lies about taxes and, luckily for us, does not have a chance of becoming law.  That‘s in “The Rewrite.”


O‘DONNELL:  Still ahead this hour, remember in 1992 when Gennifer Flowers held a press conference to expose her 12-year affair with Arkansas governor and presidential candidate, Bill Clinton?  Oh, you‘re under 30 and you don‘t remember it at all?  Well, stick around.  It‘s sci-fi night on LAST WORD.  We‘re going to travel to 1992 and re-enact our reactions to what was then the greatest political sex scandal of our time.

And next in “The Rewrite,” Tim Pawlenty‘s tax lies.


O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  Tim Pawlenty, who on this program and nowhere else is considered the front runner for the Republican nomination for president, picked today, the tenth anniversary of the Bush tax cuts, to announce the stupidest tax cut proposal ever advanced by a Republican front runner for the party‘s nomination for president, thereby proving once again that he has exactly what it takes to be the front runner in today‘s Republican party, the Republican party that believes Paul Revere‘s job was warning the British. 

In today‘s Republican party, the difference between the real leaders like John Boehner and the gadflies like Sarah Palin is that the real leaders know when they were saying stupid things.  John Boehner, for example, has been in Congress long enough to understand that the debt ceiling must be raised and has voters to raise it himself a few times already. 

But he is now willing to say all sorts of stupid things publicly about not raising the debt ceiling.  Sarah Palin, on the other hand, would have posed a lie detector test when she said that Paul Revere‘s job was to warn the British because she wasn‘t lying. 

Lying is when you are saying something that you know isn‘t true.  What you heard was Sarah Palin‘s very best attempt at explaining Paul Revere‘s role in American history.  Who are you more comfortable with?  Who do you feel is more dangerous to you?  A politician who understands the basic truths of governing and is willing to lie about it for his political convenience, or a politician who is drowning in her own relentless ignorance and has no idea of the magnitude of his ignorance? 

I, for one, have grown slightly more comfortable with the lying politicians who understand the basics of governing and are willing to lie about it to score political points, simply because there is so much more of that in our politics than the sheer ignorance thing.  And there always has been. 

In our political history, up to and including the present day, nothing but nothing has been lied about more than taxes.  By the time Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, Republicans had been successfully lying about taxes for so long that the only way Clinton could find to countered what Republicans had lied about was to do what apparently came so naturally to him, both as a person and a candidate, and lie about it himself. 

Bill Clinton campaigned on a middle class tax cut.  After taking the Oath of Office, he flip-flopped and pushed through congress the biggest tax increase in history because it was the right thing to do for the government and for our economy.  It was the single most important and politically most difficult step in getting the budget deficit under control and moving us toward a balanced budget. 

And when Bill Clinton left office, the budget was better than balanced.  He left us with 128 billion dollar surplus.  The good thing about political liars is that they are sometimes capable of flip-flopping and doing the right thing.  Politicians who are completely ignorant have virtually no possibility of ever landing on the right thing in their guessing game about what to do or say next. 

Tim Pawlenty‘s big lie about taxes that he announced today is that America suffers from too much taxation, which he knows is a lie.  And that it‘s time to cut our already low tax rates to much, much lower tax rates, and actually eliminate most of our income tax rates, leaving only two, a bottom income tax rate of 10 percent and a top income tax rate of 25 percent. 

This takes the decades old Republican tax plan of starve the beast, the beast being government, of course, to a new logical extreme.  The real reason Republicans want to cut taxes is not to stimulate economic growth.  They know that doesn‘t work the way they claim it does. 

They want to cut taxes because they want to make government unable to do things liberals want government to do.  They want to make sure the government is starved.  The government never has enough money. 

That‘s the easiest way to keep government small.  To take our 35 percent top tax cut rate down to 25 percent and then crush all our other intermediate tax rates to a bottom 10 percent would cut the flow of revenue to the Treasury by something on the order of 50 percent, at least. 

Balancing the budget would then mean cutting government in half, at least.  And then the ensuing economic depression would cut government revenues even more dramatically, leaving the economy and government in a death match that, in the end, would end up killing both of them. 

Tim Pawlenty and his economic advisors know all that.  They also know that his plan would never even get a hearing in Congress.  But it certainly is a lie worth telling to get elected.  As you listen to Tim Pawlenty and other Republicans lie about taxes in this campaign, you would never know that federal taxes are at their lowest level since 1950. 

Federal taxes are taking just 14.8 percent of our national income, our gross national product.  Federal taxes have been hovering at below 15 percent of our income for the last few years.  Our taxes are lower than Japan, lower than Britain, lower than all European countries, and of course, lower than Canada. 

But Republican talk about taxes has always been a reality free zone.  Democratic talk about taxes unfortunately is usually only slightly more realistic than Republican talk about taxes.  Democrats commonly suggest that the tax code can work all sorts of wonders that we have time and again proven it cannot do. 

Targeted tax incentives, commonly described as corporate tax loopholes for certain kinds of businesses, have never created the jobs or the economic growth that both Democrats and Republicans have promised from such schemes.  But finally a tax plan has emerged that makes more sense than anything anyone in Congress or the White House has proposed in American taxation in my adulthood. 

It is the Fairness in Taxation Act, introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and surely on its way to nowhere legislatively.  It would provide for higher tax bracket for the rich, the truly rich.  Not people making 250,000 dollars a year, not couples making 250,000 dollars a year. 

It would provide new tax brackets for millionaires, for real millionaires.  For incomes over a million dollars, the new bracket would be 45 percent.  Over 10 million dollars, taxes would go up one percent to 46 percent.  For incomes over 20 million dollars, it would be 47 percent.  For incomes over 100 million dollars, the tax rate would be 48 percent.

And the top tax bracket would be for incomes over a billion dollars at 49 percent. 

Those rates on those 21st century incomes, which we now know to be common in our economy—all of those rates are still lower than the top tax bracket when Ronald Reagan was president.  All of those tax brackets are more than affordable at those income levels.  All of those income levels are now taxed at a maximum of only 35 percent. 

And everyone who lives at those income levels employer, at great expense, accountants and lawyers who found legal tax avoidance strategies that reduce their real income tax rate to something far below 35 percent.  None of them, not one of them actually pays 35 percent of their income in federal taxation. 

No one does, not one taxpayer. 

Tim Pawlenty now says he wants to cut their official tax rate ten full points down to 25 percent.  If that happened, none of them would actually pay 25 percent.  They would all pay much less than that through legal tax avoidance schemes, including simple deductions like the home mortgage deduction, which for them is a deduction of interest over a million dollars on the interest they‘re paying on their mortgages. 

Now that Pawlenty has put tax lying pressure on Mitt Romney, don‘t be surprised if Mitt Romney wants to cut the top tax bracket to something even crazier, something below 25 percent. 

What every Republican is going to continue to lie about in the face of all the facts to the contrary is that tax cuts will magically increase revenue to the federal government.  With the Bush tax cuts, we now have a ten-year irrefutable proof that that is a lie. 

But you would have to be born yesterday in our politics to believe or hope that there could ever be a mathematical proof or a set of facts that could ever get Republican presidential candidates, even the smart ones who know better, to stop lying about taxes.


O‘DONNELL:  For another perspective on Anthony Weiner‘s troubles, tonight in our very first Media Circus that MSNBC missed segment, we go back in time four years before MSNBC was born, to January 27th, 1992, when the political sex scandal of the day erupted into a media circus, as it did yesterday, at a press conference at a hotel in Midtown Manhattan. 

Come back with us in time and imagine what it would have been like if MSNBC had the chance to cover the biggest bombshell that hit the Clinton campaign for president. 


TOM BROKAW, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  Bill Clinton took his case to the people today, saying the woman who claims a long love affair is a liar, which is the same charge she made against him today. 

ANNOUNCER:  This is “NBC Nightly News” with Tom Brokaw, reporting tonight from NBC News headquarters in new York. 

BROKAW:  Good evening.  No one wanted this presidential campaign to get sidetracked by stories of an extramarital affair.  But tonight that‘s exactly what‘s happened as a result of allegations against Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, widely regarded to be the leading Democratic candidate until last week. 

The issue is who‘s lying?  Clinton or the woman who today made her charges public? 

NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell is covering the story for us tonight.  Andrea?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tom, Bill Clinton had hoped that his appearance on “60 Minutes” last night would end further questions about his personal life.  That was wishful thinking. 

(voice-over)”  At an elementary school in Jackson, Mississippi, this morning, it was the first question a reporter asked. 

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m done with this.  I‘ve said everything I think I should say.  My wife has.  We‘re through with it.

MITCHELL:  Last night on “60 Minutes” --. 

CLINTON:  I have acknowledged wrong doing.  I have acknowledged causing pain in my marriage.  I have said things to you tonight and to the American people from the beginning that no American politician ever has. 

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  You know, I‘m not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.  I‘m sitting here because I love him and I respect him and I honor what he‘s been through and what we‘ve been through together. 

MITCHELL:  He implied having been unfaithful to his wife, but avoided a direct answer.  He denied a long-term relationship with Gennifer Flowers, calling her a friendly acquaintance.  At a news conference in New York, Flowers, who had been paid by a supermarket tabloid for her alleged confessions, called Clinton a liar. 

GENNIFER FLOWERS, ACCUSED BILL CLINTON OF AFFAIR:  Yes, I was Bill Clinton‘s lover for 12 years.  And for the past two years, I have lied to the press about our relationship to protect him.  The truth is I loved him.  Now he tells me to deny it. 

MITCHELL:  Flowers would not ask questions about her background and what she had been paid to go public.  “Newsweek Magazine” reports that Flowers embellished her resume, that she had never appeared on the television show “Hee Hah” or won beauty pageants, as she claimed. 

Her lawyer insisted she has done some of those things, but acknowledged that her resume was not completely accurate.  Flowers also produced a tape she claims she made of phone conversations with the governor.  But she released only excerpts, not complete tapes. 

There were obvious breaks in the conversation, indicating the tapes were edited.  There is no way to independently verify their authenticity.  None of the conversations prove her claims.  In one alleged excerpt, she suggests that the governor helped her get her state job. 

FLOWERS:  The only thing that concerns me, where I‘m concerned at this point, is the state job. 

CLINTON:  Yeah, I never thought about that.  But as long as you say you‘ve been looking for one, to check on it, if they ever ask if you talked to me about it, you say no. 

MITCHELL:  Clinton‘s office says he referred her for the job as a routine matter.  Late today, Clinton again denied Flowers‘ charges. 

CLINTON:  She didn‘t tell the truth.  She hired a lawyer a year ago—a year and a half ago to say that anybody who said that was a liar and would be sued.  She admitted that she changed her position for money. 

MITCHELL:  It is not yet clear how all of this will affect the outcome in New Hampshire three weeks from now. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I thought it was an exercise in hypocrisy.  I thought that he didn‘t answer the questions. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think people have put these charges behind them.  I think it‘s the media that‘s keeping it out in front. 

MITCHELL (on camera):  Part of Clinton‘s strength was the perception that he was more electable than the other Democrats running this year.  Now that is in question.  Still leading party members say if he is telling the truth, he can survive. 


BROKAW:  Thank you, Andrea. 


O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, Jonathan Alter and Margaret Carlson. 

Jonathan, you were at that press conference with Gennifer Flowers today. 

What was the feeling in the room, anyway Bill Clinton can survive this? 

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  I think people are just unsure.  The media‘s unsure about how to handle it, Lawrence.  After leaving the hotel ballroom where that press conference by Gennifer Flowers took place, I went over to studio and appeared on the “Phil Donahue Show.” 

The audience was perplexed as to what to make of this.  The media critics were perplexed as to whether the media should go there or not.  I wrote that “”Newsweek” story that showed that she had lied about some parts of her resume.  So we‘re not sure how much to believe Gennifer Flowers.

But clearly the idea that she was just an acquaintance of Bill Clinton is not true. 

O‘DONNELL:  Margaret Carlson, listening to those tapes today, I don‘t see anyway Bill Clinton can survive this.  Do you?

MARGARET CARLSON, REPORTER:  I don‘t see how President Clinton could survive, either, Lawrence.   I was at “Time Magazine” at the time, opposite Jonathan at “Newsweek.”

And I thought the minute there was live person, you know, pictures, a moving picture, taps that all of the rumors about Bill Clinton were coming to fruition.  They were there for all to see in the flesh of Gennifer Flowers, not to put too fine a point on. 

So I thought he‘s not that well known.  He‘s doing well in New Hampshire.  That‘s partly because nobody wanted to run against George H.W.  Bush, who was at about 90 percent popularity.  At that moment, I said, no. 

He cannot survive this. 

O‘DONNELL:  Never seen anything like it.  Margaret Carlson and Jonathan Alter, stay with us.  Much more ahead on tonight‘s bombshell story, Gennifer Flowers, telephone tapes of her conversations with her lover, Governor Bill Clinton, Democratic candidate for president.


O‘DONNELL:  And we‘re back in 1992 on the day when Gennifer Flowers played her telephone tapes of presidential candidate Bill Clinton to a packed press conference in a hotel in midtown Manhattan.  Let‘s listen to a portion of those tapes. 


FLOWERS:  Well, he‘d better not get on there and start naming names. 

CLINTON:  Well, that‘s what I mean.  You know, if all the people who are named deny.  That‘s all I mean, I expect them to come look into it and interview you and everything, but I just think that if everything‘s on record denying it, you‘ve got no problem. 


O‘DONNELL:  Back with me again, Jonathan Alter and Margaret Carlson.  Let‘s take a look at the latest poll in New Hampshire.  It shows Bill Clinton about 21 points ahead, big lead over Bob Kerrey in second place. 

You‘ve got Clinton at 39, Kerrey at 18, Tsongas, local hero, at 14, Senator Harkin at five, Jerry Brown at three percent.  Margaret  Carlson, this looks like Bob Kerrey‘s moment.  I don‘t see what prevents him from running right up to the front of the pack now, Clinton collapsing.  Bob Kerrey fills that in. 

CARLSON:  Well, you have him and you have Tsongas who could take advantage of the situation.  But there is a way in which Bill Clinton could take advantage of the situation, which is he is not that well known.  He can show that he can handle a crisis. 

This is an opportunity to be not like Gary Hart, whom you‘ll recall was a grim fleeting presence after the Donna Rice affair.  So there is an opportunity. 

And one thing we know is that Hillary Clinton is not going to break character.  She‘s shown that.  She is going to play the good wife all the way through. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jonathan Alter, I guess we‘re going to find out what kind of difference that makes.  Just four years ago, 1988, the Democratic front runner Gary Hart collapsed in a sex scandal.  His wife was not very publicly supportive of him.  You see Hillary Clinton in the “60 Minutes” pieces really trying to hold this candidacy together. 

ALTER:  Right.  Last night on that special edition of “60 Minutes”, monster audience, right after the Superbowl.  I happened to be at Steve Kroft‘s house for a Super Bowl party.  We watched this interview. 

Afterward, I was talking to Don Hewitt, the founder of “60 Minutes,” on the phone.  Hewitt said to me look, this might actually help Bill Clinton.  It‘s a huge amount of national exposure.  Now he‘s not exactly getting off on the right foot with lot of people who don‘t know him. 

But it might enhance people, as Margaret said, thinking he responds well in a crisis. 

Bob Kerrey is not responding well to this.  He‘s kind of a mess.  Out in the campaign in New Hampshire last week, he was very unimpressive when I watched him.  Bill Clinton, on the other hand, was able to kind of segment the different parts of his life and he was great on the stump.

O‘DONNELL:  Bob Kerrey doesn‘t have to do a thing, Jonathan.  He just watched Clinton collapse.

That will have to be “THE LAST WORD” for tonight.  Jonathan Alter and Margaret Carlson, thank you for joining me.  And thanks for playing along in our media circus that MSNBC missed.


Good evening, Rachel.


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