'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guests: Howard Fineman, Rich Galen, Hendrik Hertzberg, Barbara Walters, Melanie Sloan, Mark
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST: Breaking news: A Republican has actually done something so stupid he has bumped Anthony Weiner out of our leadoff position tonight.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: Senior aides of Gingrich on his campaign, all the way to the top of his campaign, have quit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Devastating 24 hours for Congressman Anthony Weiner.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Oh, God. Martin, this is not a man about to quit.
O‘DONNELL (voice-over): Team Gingrich abandons ship, and Anthony Weiner refuses to leave.
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: A resignation is not even in his head.
MITCHELL: Democratic leaders are circling the wagons, not to defend Anthony Weiner, but to force him out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can Weiner survive this?
MITCHELL: No one can force a member of Congress to quit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much longer can Anthony Weiner last here?
RUSSERT: That is the $64,000 question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York can be a brutal, but also forgiving political climate.
RUSSERT: Right outside of 30 Rock, huh, Martin? I‘m surprised we all miss it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don‘t rub it in, Luke.
O‘DONNELL: Barbara Walters joins me.
BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”: I think the pictures are disgusting.
O‘DONNELL: Newt Gingrich returns from a cruise ship vacation and discovers his crew has quit.
MATTHEWS: Ghost ship. Newt Gingrich‘s top aides have abandoned ship, leaving a campaign that may be dead. No one‘s there but him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He‘s garnered a great deal of loyalty and affection from his staff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s not been a fabulous campaign, has it?
O‘DONNELL: Mitt Romney has trouble with his own party and the Tea Party and himself.
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the world is getting warmer.
MATTHEWS: Rush Limbaugh says Mitt Romney can kiss the Republican nomination goodbye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most Americans have no idea who Mitt Romney is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Changed his position on so many issues.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Mitt Romney is in Michigan today --
CROWD: Hey, hey, ho, ho! Mitt Romney‘s got to go!
MITCHELL: And they are off.
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from New York.
Newton Leroy Gingrich has commitment issues. That‘s not me or his ex-wives talking, that is the view of his campaign staff, most of whom resigned today following the candidate‘s return from a week-long luxury cruise of the Greek islands. Among the senior staff who resigned just 29 days after Gingrich officially announced he is running are the Gingrich campaign manager, the Gingrich spokesman, two Gingrich senior strategists, as well as his top consultants in Iowa and South Carolina.
A long-time Gingrich aide who resigned today spelled it out to “The Associated Press,” saying, quote, “There was a question of commitment.” “Politico” reports, quote, “Gingrich was intent on using technology and standing out at debates to get traction while his advisers believed he needed to run a campaign that incorporated both traditional grassroots techniques as well as new ideas.”
A look at the Gingrich campaign calendar reveals how committed Gingrich is to not actually campaigning. On May 11th, Gingrich announced his campaign in the laziest way possible, on Facebook.
In the first five days of the Gingrich campaign to nowhere, he held zero events in early primary states—zero.
He gave a speech in Washington, D.C., to an audience including no one who will actually cast a vote in a Republican presidential primary state.
Then, a speech in Georgia and a commencement speech in Illinois.
On the first Sunday of Gingrich‘s campaign, he went on “Meet the Press,” where, who could forget, David Gregory effectively ended the Gingrich campaign by prodding the candidate into characterizing the House Republican budget plan as radical and, quote, “right-wing social engineering.”
Right-wing Republicans immediately then turned against Gingrich‘s obviously already dead campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I am not going to justify this. I‘m not going to explain this. The attack on Paul Ryan, the support for an individual mandate, in health care? Folks, don‘t ask me to explain this. There is no explanation!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Then Gingrich spent a grand total of five days campaigning in Iowa, two days campaigning in New Hampshire, and one day campaigning in South Carolina before leaving on a long-planned cruise of the Greek isles with his current wife aboard the Seaborn Odyssey.
Gingrich‘s first re-appearance on the campaign trail was brief, yesterday in New Hampshire, where he signed one observer called the most absurd pledge ever placed before a presidential candidate. Well, OK, that was me who said that, because it was a pledge who surrendered the president‘s constitutional power over budget decisions and actually commits Gingrich to taking a two-day-course in budgeting before his inauguration, if he is elected president. Obviously, Gingrich need not pencil in the dates for the two-day course.
After Gingrich aides failed at whatever attempt they made at an intervention, they fled the campaign today, whereupon Newt Gingrich finally faced up to his commitment issues, in the laziest possible way by posting this on his Facebook page, “I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign. I set out to run earlier this spring. The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.”
Sunday? So I guess that means he has Friday and Saturday off, two well-deserved rest days after all of this. And Los Angeles Republicans are not exactly going to be the decisive vote in securing the Republican nomination for president.
Joining me now is Rich Galen, a veteran Republican strategist and former Gingrich press secretary.
Rich, I‘m sorry for your loss, I believe, is the phrase in these situations. Rich, you were on this program when Newt got in trouble early on after the fiasco with David Gregory and you gave him some advice through this program about how to handle what was in front of him. Let‘s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think Newt is just going to have to go back, and if he can, reboot the campaign, literally say, OK, that didn‘t work. We‘re going to retool this thing. We‘re going to go dark for about—you‘ve got to go through the Iowa stuff—go dark for a week or so, retool it, and see if he can come back out and start the whole thing again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Now, Rich, go dark and retool. Did you think the way to do that would be on a cruise of the Greek isles with his wife?
GALEN: No, of course, I didn‘t think that. And the unkindest cut of all about that, Lawrence, was that nobody really missed him for the first three or four days of that. And then someone said, hey, where‘s Newt, and then started poking around, and although they wouldn‘t answer it first, they found out where he was. And the optics of are—I mean, it just defies description.
But this is really a sad way for a really brilliant campaign—a brilliant career to come to an end. He reminds me a little bit, and your viewers that are my age will remember this, when Floyd Patterson took one more fight against who was then, I think his name was still Cassius Clay at the time, Muhammad Ali, Patterson was way over the hill, had no business being in the ring, and it just—it was just—it was really hard to watch.
And I think that‘s essentially what we‘re seeing here now is that Gingrich thought he had one more fight in him. And he didn‘t even have two rounds in him, it turns out.
O‘DONNELL: Rich, it seems, on the reporting we have on this so far, that Callista Gingrich, his wife, has a lot to do with what‘s going on in this campaign. You have one of the aides quoted in “The New York Times” saying, we have a spouse who controls the schedule. That‘s a quote.
Meaning, she decided they were going on that cruise and nothing was going to stop them from going on that cruise. It reads like they tried an intervention before the cruise—pleading, don‘t go on the cruise, but it looks like Mrs. Gingrich won.
And the interesting thing about that, of course, is with Newt‘s marital history, Mrs. Gingrich was key to this campaign. He couldn‘t mount the campaign without her at his side, and now, she may be the person who‘s bringing this campaign down with decisions like that.
GALEN: I wasn‘t in the meeting, which apparently was held today, but I‘m pretty sure I know what happened. You had these very senior guys, very professional, they‘ve been doing politics at this level for a long time, and they said, in words to this effect, look, you can‘t—we cannot function if we have to go through Callista for everything. We can‘t function if she gets to go over what we have planned, and then whisper in your ear, that‘s not what you should do.
She may be the best wife ever, but she doesn‘t have any big-time campaign experience or smalltime campaign experience. And it‘s either you and Callista will manage this campaign, or the professionals you‘ve hired will—and we found out what the answer was.
O‘DONNELL: We‘ve seen this kind of thing inside campaigns before, where there are family members, sometimes it‘s a brother, sometimes it‘s a wife, but it‘s someone close to the candidate who has more control than any of the professionals want that person to have. I‘ve never seen it erupt this way, so early, and create a problem like this.
Do you have any advice you want to leave to candidate Gingrich now?
He doesn‘t seem to have followed your first round of advice.
O‘DONNELL: But is there anything? Is there anything other than working on the withdrawal speech?
GALEN: I don‘t even think there‘s going to be a speech. I suspect he‘ll do this debate on Monday night and then that‘ll be the end of the campaign—because at the base of all this, Lawrence, is money. While he was out on the cruise, he should have been on the phone trying to gather his big donors, not only to give their—whatever you can give this year, 2,500 bucks, but open their rolodexes and get 10 or 15 people to give their $2,500, and again with their spouses.
That obviously didn‘t happen. We‘ll see whether or not there‘s any money left in the account at all after this trip to L.A. and the trip back across the country to New Hampshire for Monday night.
O‘DONNELL: Disappointed former Gingrich staffer, Rich Galen—thank you very much for joining us tonight for you in this dark hour for you of the Gingrich world.
Joining me now is Howard Fineman, editorial director for “The Huffington Post” and MSNBC political analyst.
Howard, we‘ve got a total body count now is around 16 Gingrich campaign staffers quit today. I think everyone—everyone—who was on the payroll in Iowa, walked out the door today.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that‘s right. That‘s right.
O‘DONNELL: All of this because of a Mediterranean cruise to nowhere -
well, you know, cruise around the isles. This is one of those unforeseeable disasters. Who would have dreamed someone has to talk the candidate out of taking a vacation in the first month of the campaign?
FINEMAN: Well, the cruise was the proximate cause of this, Lawrence. But I think the staffers, the ones who I know, who have been unhappy from the beginning with the way Newt Gingrich was trying to do it.
And Newt was trying to run for president by the way he gathered power in Congress, which is by giving speeches, by being an arguer, by being a public combatant, by talking and talking and talking, and, you know, you can‘t run for president the way Newt Gingrich was trying to do it.
And I‘ve got to say, a lot of the Republican operatives that I know
and a lot of other Republican supporters and donors and so forth were
always a little bit quizzical about whether this was a real campaign or not
even though he had hired all of the pretty substantiate people who just quit.
Was he in it, really, to do this? Was he in it to get attention? Was he in it to amplify his book sales? Was he in it to give Callista, his wife, a sort of tour of the horizon of national politics?
It was never clear to me at all that he was ever really serious about it. And now, we know for sure that he wasn‘t, at least in the eyes of all the people who quit today.
O‘DONNELL: One of the professional staff who left, Dave Carney, a New Hampshire campaign veteran—said today that you can‘t run a low-budget campaign with a lot of paid folks on the payroll. So, he‘s pointing to payroll difficulties, a lot of high-paid campaign operatives.
There‘s a report of a $40,000 private jet rental bill for the five days in Iowa, getting around Iowa was hard. That‘s why people spend a lot of time there, because they do a lot of hours of driving. They don‘t do that much in the private jet.
FINEMAN: Well, it‘s always follow the money, Lawrence, as you know. And I think, in order to give this kind of Potemkin village campaign the air of the reality and respectability, he hired a lot of expensive people and knowledgeable people—Dave Carney being one of them.
I‘ve known Dave for 20 years, one of the most highly respected Republican operatives in New Hampshire. If you weren‘t taking Newt Gingrich seriously, you looked to New Hampshire and said, OK, well, Newt‘s got Dave Carney in New Hampshire, so he must be serious.
And that‘s expensive. And I wouldn‘t be surprised if that whole fleet of expensive people designed to make it look like he had a campaign began to wonder whether they were going to get paid at some point down the road, because the campaign money that Newt wasn‘t raising was going to have to be used to pay them. He couldn‘t pay them any other way.
He‘d raised a lot of money for his lobbying and research group, he had a lot of personal wealth, but he‘s not going to pay the salaries of those people out of that.
O‘DONNELL: Howard, I‘m so glad you pointed that out, because I just want to isolate for the audience. This issue of a presidential campaign, it requires very particular kinds of staff and serious players. That‘s why it was so easy to predict Donald Trump was not running for president. He didn‘t do any of that hiring.
FINEMAN: Right. Exactly.
O‘DONNELL: It‘s why it‘s easy to say that Sarah Palin‘s not running for president. She‘s done none of that hiring.
But this was the kind of hiring that impresses people and makes us say, OK, this is at least, in Newt‘s mind, a real campaign.
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, I think all of those people realized otherwise. They got together, they know each other, and they came to Newt‘s office and said, you know, this is the way you‘ve got to do it, and he said, no, and that was it.
O‘DONNELL: Yes, and none of those guys need a job.
Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Huffington Post”—thanks very much for joining us tonight.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, Congressman Anthony Weiner says he will not resign. Some Democrats and most of the New York press think he should resign now. But Barbara Walters disagrees. She‘ll join us to tell us why Anthony Weiner should hang in there.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: the political sex scandal that involves no sex. Can Anthony Weiner survive the criticism and stay in Congress? And Barbara Walters will tell us why she thinks the New York congressman should not resign.
Later, how the Tea Party could bring down the Republican presidential nominee in 2012.
O‘DONNELL: Despite more calls for Congressman Anthony Weiner to resign, Anthony Weiner says he‘s got other plans.
Take a look at what he told “The New York Post” reporter on the streets of New York City today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Could you just tell me what you‘re going through now?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Look, I‘ve betrayed—I‘ve betrayed a lot of people and I know it, and I‘m trying to get back to work now, and trying to make amends to my constituents, and, of course, to my family, of course.
REPORTER: Where are you headed today?
WEINER: I‘m going to go back to my community office, and try to get some work done.
REPORTER: That‘s where you‘re headed now?
WEINER: I don‘t know whether to tell you or not, but yes.
REPORTER: But you‘re not planning on resigning?
WEINER: I‘m not.
REPORTER: Are there anymore pictures that are going to come, you think that are going to come forth?
WEINER: As I—as I said at the press conference on Monday that I exchanged inappropriate things with people and, you know, I think that I‘ve now got to deal with those consequences. But it was good to be honest on Monday after I hadn‘t been for a while.
REPORTER: How—I‘m sorry? What was that—the last part?
WEINER: I was completely on honest on Monday after I had not been for a while.
REPORTER: What about your wife and the pregnancy? How are you feeling about that?
WEINER: I have no comment on that.
REPORTER: Do you know if it‘s a boy or girl?
WEINER: See you soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Larry Kissell of North Carolina and Senator Patrick Leahy joined the list of congressional Democrats calling for Congressman Weiner to resign, bringing the Democratic total to nine.
And according to the National Republican Congressional Committee, at least five Democrats in the House have donated money they received from Congressman Weiner‘s campaign committee to charity.
And we have finally heard from the congressman‘s constituents in a New York 1/Marist College poll. Only one-third, 33 percent, of the congressman‘s constituents think he should resign, 56 percent said, no, he should not resign, 12 percent aren‘t sure.
The New York tabloids have no intention of letting this sorry go. A “New York Daily News” editorial today reached yet a new height of hysteria in calling for Anthony Weiner to resign, saying: “Never in the 222 years since the House of Representatives achieved a quorum in 1789 has a seat holder inflicted such an indignity on the institution of American government that most closely represents the people.”
In the more sober pages of “The New Yorker,” Hendrik Hertzberg wrote, “I found his conduct at the press conference quite impressive. Given the circumstances, he seemed genuinely ashamed, genuinely sorry. But he also showed some steel, some determination, some discipline, some dignity. I think he‘ll be around for a while.”
Joining me now, Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor and staff writer for “The New Yorker” magazine.
Thanks for joining me tonight, Rick.
“The Daily News” editorial today really found a new height of madness in this. This is the worth thing—according to “The Daily News”—that anyone in the House of Representatives has done in 220 years. That includes people who have been indicted, that includes people who have gone to prison.
Some perspective, please?
HENDRIK HERTZBERG, THE NEW YORKER: Plus all those members of Congress before 1860 who quit and went to the Confederacy.
O‘DONNELL: And we won‘t even talking about how many of them owned slaves.
HERTZBERG: Right. But “The Daily News,” the New York tabloids are not strong on historical memory.
O‘DONNELL: You know, when I was working in the Senate, Danny Rostenkowski, chairman of the ways and means committee, got indicted. Not one Democrat—not one Democrat said, the indicted member of Congress should resign. Not one.
No Democrats were saying Bill Clinton should resign when the impeachment proceedings started moving against him.
What‘s happened? Are we getting more prudish about this, that this little thing that doesn‘t involve any crime, doesn‘t involve any violations that we know about, that creates this?
HERTZBERG: Well, it‘s a completely—it‘s a completely different time and a completely different context. And this particular—this particular scandal, this particularly set of facts, is so amply and embarrassingly documented, to the ends of the earth, that it feels different.
And it‘s not boring, like things like selling your vote or consorting with lobbyists and then betraying your constituents over it. This is—this is reality TV, at its ultimate. And a lot of people want to vote him off the island.
But, as you say, that may not include the people in his district. And I think he does have a fighting spirit. And I really can‘t see—he‘s kind of a machine that goes in one direction, and I don‘t think he‘s going to stop trying to go in that direction, even if he can‘t possibly get there anymore.
O‘DONNELL: I want you to talk a little bit more about what you saw in that press conference. It was an extraordinary press conference. Most political press conferences, even when it comes to scandal management, you‘re still watching a politician.
It is very rare that you‘re going to see glimpses into the human being. It felt to me like we had some of those glimpses.
HERTZBERG: He stayed incredibly, with a lot of discipline, on his message. His message was that he‘s sorry, that he deeply regrets this, that he‘s hurt his wife and family. And the kind of questions that were being yelled out were the sort that most of us would probably get flustered about.
O‘DONNELL: Even before you get to the Howard Stern questions.
HERTZBERG: That‘s right. Even from the non-Howard Stern press corps, they were pretty unpleasant questions. And he kind of—he kept his focus, and he kind of got through that press conference. And people said, well, he shouldn‘t have talked so long.
But, you know, if he‘d talked for five minutes and then run, that would have been even worse.
O‘DONNELL: What I learned about political scandals a while ago is that they‘re never fair. Meaning, what happens is someone gets caught for something that everyone has been doing, forever. It‘s the first one.
I mean, Gary Hart, say, for example, in ‘88. He gets caught for having an affair. No one ever got caught for that in the modern age. It was never an issue, because reporters weren‘t trying to find out. And it feels very unfair.
I‘ve seen that happen to other office holders where they were pursued for things that people used to get away with, and it feels unfair. And it‘s just that there are rules.
Every day in politics, something can take you down that has never taken down anything else. And this one feels to me like one of those.
HERTZBERG: Yes, and it‘s changed and changed and changed over the years. I guess both of us kind of formed our first immune reactions to this type of scandal during the Gary Hart business.
HERTZBERG: And that was a case where everyone said, well, it‘s not about sex, it‘s not about sex, it‘s about character. It‘s about how he lied.
So, I think my reaction to this story was colored by that, to a certain extent, because that was nonsense. Adultery—lying is kind of an ancillary part of adultery. Adultery doesn‘t happen without lying.
HERTZBERG: And a person lying about adultery or this kind of weird electronic version of it that Anthony Weiner engaged in, a propensity to lie about that does not indicate a propensity to lie about anything else.
O‘DONNELL: Which was the point of Democrats who defended Bill Clinton saying, well, he was lying about sex—and what they were trying to say is, this is one of the smaller territories of lying and it doesn‘t tell you much else about the person.
Now, some of the same people are saying, he lied about sex, therefore he has to go, which is flipping this thing.
HERTZBERG: Well, partly it has to do, doesn‘t it, with the fact that he was president. He was president.
O‘DONNELL: I guess, I guess. We‘re going to have to study these different elements.
Rick Hertzberg of “The New Yorker”—thank you very much for joining us tonight.
This morning on “The View,” Barbara Walters explained why she thinks Congressman Weiner should keep his seat in Congress. I‘ll talk to Barbara, next.
And later, Rick Santorum is campaigning on the idea of freedom of choice in health care, but he continues to believe that you and your doctor should have absolutely no choice about reproductive rights, even if the mother‘s health is threatened by a troubled pregnancy. That‘s in “The Rewrite.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”: I think what he has done is unfathomable. I think the pictures are disgusting. But I think he has hit rock bottom, and this may be what he needed so that he changes his life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Barbara Walters today saying Anthony Weiner should do that work on changing his life, while remaining in the New York Congressional Delegation. Barbara joins me next.
And we‘ll hear from Melanie Sloan, who tracks the ethical violations of politicians. She says this Twitter scandal is not the one we should be worrying about.
And later, what happens to the Tea Party if former liberal Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination? Will the Tea Party go to war with the Republican party nominee or with itself?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTERS: He has been a good and effective congressman. His wife, whom we now know is pregnant, has said that she‘s going to continue with the marriage. His constituents want him.
The Ethics Committee can investigate him and chastise, but not necessarily throw him out. And we had a president named Bill Clinton who went through a great deal of trouble, weathered the storm, and is now not only respected, but he‘s beloved by many people with a very good marriage.
So I think Anthony Weiner should hang in there. He was a good congressman and maybe he can weather this all and be effective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Barbara Walters, this morning, on “the View.” And Joining me now, by phone is Barbara Walters, ABC News anchor and co-host of “the View.” Thanks for joining me tonight, Barbara.
WALTERS: Thank you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Barbara, you summarized my position word for word, more economically than I have been able to. What‘s the view of the rest of the panel on “the View”? Are they with you on this?
WALTERS: Well, let me tell you how this happened. I don‘t do “the View” every day, because I also have duties for ABC News. And as such, by the way, I very rarely give—express opinions.
But I wasn‘t on yesterday, and all of my respected colleagues said, he should resign, he should resign, he should resign, he should resign. And I thought, well, there is another point of view.
So when I came on today, I said, let me tell you the other point of view. And you pretty much heard it summarized. Look, what I think he did is unfathomable. I have seen the pictures. They are disgusting, to say the least.
And in his personal life, he has made an enormous mistake, and more than that. And we don‘t really know why. But I just heard a statistic, which is that 56 percent of his constituents want him to remain in office. And he has been, if you have followed him, a very effective, outspoken, sometimes angry, certainly passionate congressman.
So I felt that there was another point of view. And if he can weather this, the personal stuff is between him and his wife. Yes, it‘s a matter of honor, but primarily, it‘s a matter of his personal life.
And the rest if he‘s an effective congressman and he can live through this, we shouldn‘t lose him—or one should not lose him in congress. I‘m not in his district, as it turns out.
O‘DONNELL: Barbara, you‘ve seen all of the political sex scandals of the television age. I don‘t think a lot of our viewers out there have the right frames of reference when they look at this. This is the first one, the first real 21st century version, since it involves the Internet and Tweeting and all of those things.
Is there something about that social media, that Internet component, that has made this one different?
WALTERS: Well, you know, the more I talk to people, especially people with children, they say, wait a minute, people do this all the time. Well, they don‘t happen to be congressmen. But you know people are texting and sexting, it‘s called, I think, and sending nude pictures.
We are, in that sense, in a different period. But people do make comebacks and people are able to, one thinks, put their personal life on one side and their professional life on another.
That‘s what I was saying. He is a—he has been an effective congressman. Let his people vote him out. But in the meantime, it just goes on and on and on and on. Because it is so prurient. I mean, how can you resist it, as a journalist. You know, what a story.
But, on the other hand, it could be very tragic for him, but also not very good for his constituents, if, indeed, he‘s forced to resign.
O‘DONNELL: Barbara, is it the pictures that change this? When I think back on all the other things we‘ve lived through in this territory, we don‘t have these kind of pictures.
WALTERS: Well, I don‘t think it‘s just the pictures. I think the pictures got worse and worse. I think the whole business of Tweeting and talking with people you don‘t even know and you don‘t really know what their age is, although, evidently, everybody was—there were no minors involved.
I think it began and then just got more and more and more. And then when we saw the pictures, we said oh, my God! Look, there is the case that this is a dishonorable thing to do and that you should trust your congressman or your senator.
But the reality is that we‘ve seen a lot of different scandals of different degrees. And I‘m not saying that this is an honorable man in terms of the way he lives his life. All I‘m saying is, don‘t drub him out. Give him a chance to see if he can put himself—pull himself together and fight through this.
And I am very impressed by the fact that his wife—and a lot of us know Huma, who is a very substantial and quite wonderful woman, who works for Secretary Clinton, is, so far, standing by him, and three months pregnant. And it‘s a personal tragedy as well as, perhaps, a tragedy—it‘s not exactly a tragedy for the nation. But I‘m just saying, let‘s see if he can get through this. That‘s all.
O‘DONNELL: Barbara Walters, the voice of reason, yet again. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Barbara.
WALTERS: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Joining me now is Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Melanie, thanks for joining us tonight.
Could you please, please give us some perspective on this horrific scandal. No laws broken, no money taken, and not even any sex in the so-called sex scandal.
MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON:
Right. They‘re trying to say that this is going to hinge on the misuse of official resources. But frankly, people use official resources all the time to make phone calls, to make their weekend plans. They send a fax. They send an e-mail. And all of that is permissible.
So it‘s really hard to see exactly what the Ethics Committee would hang its hat on here to say, this conduct, this is what violates the ethics rule. Others have said maybe it‘s the lying. So, what, no politician has ever lied to us before? That‘s the kind of thing we see all the time.
So he did behave discreditably. But I don‘t think it‘s enough for a full-fledged ethics censure.
O‘DONNELL: And Melanie, I need you to bring some reality to possible procedures here. There‘s been a lot of talk flying around about, well, the Democrats, what are they going to do? Is there something they can do about it as a caucus, just that half of the House of Representatives? Isn‘t it that there‘s absolutely nothing anyone can do, except send it to the Ethics Committee, where these investigations take a very, very long time?
SLOAN: That‘s right. It‘s before the Ethics Committee. And if you‘ll remember, it‘s over a year and a half ago, now that the Eric Massa scandal, the former New York congressman who was sexually harassing some of his staff, that went to the Ethics Committee. We haven‘t heard back.
The Maxine Waters matter is still before the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee is where ethics investigations often go to die. I don‘t think we should be looking for any kind of immediate reaction from the Ethics Committee.
I also think there‘s a matter of comparing this to other scandals. For example, David Vitter is still sitting there in Congress. And he is a senator. And he was engaged in prostitution, which is actually a crime.
Many of the people who are so quick to judge Anthony Weiner, in fact, gave money to David Vitter, not just continued to support him. So I really feel like it‘s a little bit of a disproportionate reaction to the Anthony Weiner scandal versus some of the other scandals.
O‘DONNELL: Melanie, it‘s my sense that the Democrats who are calling for his resignation are doing it for purely political reasons. Meaning they don‘t think this rises to the level of requiring a resignation or violates any actual rules that they can point to, but they just think it‘s good for the party to get rid of a guy like this, as the party‘s going into an congressional election that‘s going to be close, where they might have trouble getting to that final seat, where they take back control of the House.
And some of the scandals that I look back on, which were much worse, where no one ever called for the Democrat to leave the House of Representatives, existed in a world where the Democrats had massive margins in the House of Representatives. They had more than 100 more seats than the Republicans had, back in the Tip O‘Neill day and in those days of the older scandals.
SLOAN: Well, I also think Speaker Boehner has upped the ante. He forced out members of Congress who were involved in sexual misconduct very quickly. Mark Souter from Indiana was found to be having an affair. He was out in a day.
Chris Lee from New York sent the pictures on Craigslist. He was out before the end of the day. I think with that zero tolerance policy, it has made the Democrats feel more like they have to take a very hard stand themselves.
But in the end, you can‘t push a member of Congress out. They have to be willing to go. And Anthony Weiner saying he‘s going to stick it out. And Republicans are always much more likely to just fall into line and do what their leader says than the Democrats generally are. So I think Nancy Pelosi‘s in a tough position.
O‘DONNELL: Melanie Sloan with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, thanks for joining us tonight.
O‘DONNELL: Up next, how can a presidential candidate who campaigns on health care freedom actually get in the way of women‘s reproductive rights? Rick Santorum is back in tonight‘s Rewrite.
And later, the people of the Tea Party, will they fall in step behind the Republican nominee or trigger mass chaos if they don‘t like the nominee? Some signs are now pointing to chaos.
O‘DONNELL: Time for tonight‘s Rewrite. Republican presidential candidate, former senator, and Google star, Rick Santorum, is staking out the far right in the campaign, in hopes of winning what he calls culture wars. At a campaign stop in Iowa yesterday, at a so-called crisis pregnancy center called Informed Choices, which only offers women one choice, motherhood, Santorum said this—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I was leading the charge on partial birth abortion, several members came forward and said, why don‘t we just ban all abortions. They wanted a health exception, which, of course, is a phony exception, which would make the ban ineffective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: There is no health exception in the federal ban on this type of late-term abortion. It was signed into law in 2003, after contentious debate, and after President Clinton refused to sign such a ban, because it did not contain a health exception.
Mr. Santorum believed then, as he believes now, that a health exception was a loophole, that women and doctors would exploit, making the law meaningless. He believed then, as he believes now, late-term abortion is never, never medically necessary.
And during debate on the bill, back in March of 2003, then Senator Santorum asked for an example. “I wanted a fact circumstance to be provided as to where this would be the best—this would be appropriate—this would be medically indicated.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein gave him one. She read a letter from the chief of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductivity sciences at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center describing the case of a 38-year-old women with three previous cesarean deliveries, whose pregnancy at 22 weeks was putting her at risk of massive hemorrhage and hysterectomy.
The procedure Mr. Santorum calls never medically necessary kept the woman from bleeding and allowed her to avoid hysterectomy surgery. That story didn‘t sway Mr. Santorum. And nothing ever will.
But Mr. Santorum does seem enthusiastically in favor of patient choice for every other medical procedure in existence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: On this day, D-Day, June 6th, in 1944, almost 60,000 average Americans had the courage to go out and charge those beaches on Normandy, to drop out of airplanes who knows where, and take on the battle for freedom.
Average Americans, the very Americans that our government now and this president does not trust to make a decision on your health care plan. Those Americans risked everything so they could make that decision on their health care plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Don‘t worry. Santorum will drop out of the presidential race after Gingrich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There‘s a lot of people out there that are hoping that they may be winning the GOP nomination to run against President Obama. If that person happens to be Mitt Romney, is that a candidate that the Tea Party Express can back?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think that whoever is the Republican nominee, they‘re going to have to have the support of the Tea Party movement, the entire Tea Party movement. If Romney is the nominee, I believe that, you know, we want to defeat Barack Obama. So if Romney is the nominee, we would support him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Those comments put the Tea Party Express in some conflict with two prominent national Tea Party groups. “Interviews with top officials at Freedomworks revealed that much of their thinking about the 2012 election revolves around derailing the former Massachusetts governor.”
Tea Party Patriots‘ cofounder Mark Meckler released a statement following the Tea Party Express comments, reading, “we‘ve heard little support for Romney in the movement as we interact daily with local coordinators and activists. Anyone who says that Tea Partiers would support him is certainly not speaking for the movement at large.”
Joining me now, Tea Party Patriots‘ co-founder, Mark Meckler. Mark, thanks for joining me tonight.
MARK MECKLER, TEA PARY PATRIOTS CO-FOUNDER: Thanks for having me.
O‘DONNELL: Mark, could you support a candidate for president who imposed an individual mandate in health care in Massachusetts, when he was governor?
MECKLER: Well, I just want to help you reframe the question. It‘s really not about what I could do. There are thousands of Tea Party chapters out there across the country. We do our best to reflect their opinion. They don‘t like that idea very much.
O‘DONNELL: OK. Now, there‘s another—that‘s been around as a controversy for a while. There‘s yet another controversy with Mitt Romney that has erupted on the issue of global warming. Let‘s go to what Mitt Romney has said about it. We‘ll listen to that and come back to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the world is getting warmer. I can‘t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don‘t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past.
But I believe that we contribute to that. So I think it‘s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you‘re seeing.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Bye-bye, nomination. Bye-bye, nomination. Another one down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Mark, that was Rush Limbaugh, as you know, saying, “bye-bye, nomination” on that statement that Romney made. Do you think that kills the nomination for Romney?
MECKLER: I don‘t know whether that‘s the final litmus test. There are a lot of things that he has trouble with, certainly, in the Tea Party movement. His stance on man-made global warming is one of them. He‘s just reiterating what he‘s said many times in the past. While it was news in the news cycle, it‘s not news as far as his position.
O‘DONNELL: When he says that it‘s important for us to reduce our emissions, pollutants and greenhouse grasses—gases, that requires a massive governmental regulation regime on industry, on automobiles, on much of what we do that produces energy and uses energy in this country. That sounds to me like the kind of thing that the Tea Party could not abide.
MECKLER: Well certainly I don‘t know any Tea Partiers who would support that kind of regime. It clearly runs counter to the ethos of the Tea Party movement. So I think you‘re correct.
O‘DONNELL: When you hear Amy Cramer saying she, as a Tea Party
operator, could go with Romney, does that indicate to you, since we‘ve
established on this show before that there are several different branches
of the Tea Party, different organizations with the Tea Party and their name
does that mean that we‘re going to see some kind of serious conflict between those organizations, as some go with Romney, some don‘t?
MECKLER: Let‘s be clear about the distinction between the organizations. Tea Party Express is a Republican PAC. It‘s run by Republican political consultants, based in Sacramento, California. Sal Russo, who is the head of it, has been electing Republicans for over 30 years.
Tea Party Patriots is a nonpartisan organization with millions of members and 3,500 chapters. And we don‘t even profess to speak for the movement. We do our best to reflect what we hear from those thousands of local coordinators. I think that Tea Party Express is simply out of touch with the movement.
O‘DONNELL: Is Michele Bachmann, if she gets in the race, the potential presidential candidate who most closely reflects Tea Party values, as you understand Tea Party values?
MECKLER: You know, I don‘t know that I would say most closely. She certainly consistently speaks about Tea Party values. Herman Kaine does the same thing, consistently. I think there‘s some of Tea Party values are expressed by Tim Pawlenty.
I think there are multiple candidates that are speaking to the Tea Party movement. I think they really don‘t have a choice, Lawrence. If they want to get elected in the next electoral cycle, they have to speak to Tea Party values.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Amy Cramer says her position is that, look, the most important thing in the end for anyone in the Tea Party is to get rid of Barack Obama. If Mitt Romney is the vehicle for getting rid of Barack Obama, because he has the nomination, then we have to go with that. Do you think most Tea Party voters are prepared to make that kind of, in effect, compromise as they go into the voting booth?
MECKLER: I don‘t think most Tea Party voters are even thinking about that right now. I think most of them believe that Romney will not be the nominee. They‘re focused on the primaries. And they‘re focused on doing a mature and adult analysis of the candidates. And they‘ll make their decision come primary day.
O‘DONNELL: Mark Meckler, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
MECKLER: Thanks, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com. And you can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Lawrence. Interesting to hear Mark say there that most Tea Partiers do not believe that Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee.
O‘DONNELL: Well, I‘m with the Tea Party on that.
MADDOW: Who do you think is going to be the nominee?
O‘DONNELL: I‘ve been betting on Pawlenty all along, just through this process of elimination, because there‘s something seriously wrong with all the rest of them..
MADDOW: I know that you did that early on, but I had to have believed that—I had to have believed that Tim Pawlenty, some of the shine would be with off him a little bit for you, because he hasn‘t gone anywhere in the past few weeks. His numbers were small and getting smaller.
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