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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Friday, June 17, 2011

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Guests: Michael Eric Dyson, Dan Choi, Adam Green, Michelle Alexander

           

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  Some liberals aren‘t happy with the president.  Dan Choi really isn‘t happy with the president.  And tonight, he‘s here to tell me why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dan Pfeiffer went to an event today, a liberal group.  He got tough pushback.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Useful and robust communication.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  The White House communications director meets it progressive blogosphere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Does this mean we can expect a jobs bill from the president?  So, the president is not going to be a jobs bill then?  Why wouldn‘t we have a jobs bill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have a number of proposals—

O‘DONNELL:  On the other side of the spectrum, right wing presidential candidates are also talking about the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) use his speech to attack President Obama.

NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He is a natural secular European socialist.

HERMAN CAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The United States of America is not going to become the United States of Europe.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Very good reason to support my bill to get us out of the U.N. and the IMF and the World Trade Organization.

O‘DONNELL:  And only one presidential candidate agrees with Jimmy Carter, that we‘re all losing because of the war on drugs.

PAUL:  Up until 1937, smoking marijuana was legal.  It was still stupid.  It was legal.  But, all of a sudden, we decided to outlaw it.  Well, nobody has outlawed marijuana.  More people smoke it now than ever before.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  America‘s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS:  Hundreds of American guns ending up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is your brain on drugs.

PAUL:  More people smoke it now than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m watching you.

O‘DONNELL:  And this week in politics, everyone is a comedian.

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I should also tell my story. 

I‘m also unemployed.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY:  But I have my sight on a particular job.

JANSING:  Not funny if you don‘t have a job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Weiner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Weiner.

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  He was going to be rendered impotent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The constituents, the people who voted him into office need him and more importantly, my monologue needs him.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening, from New York.

Emotions are running high in Minneapolis at the annual Netroots Nation Conference for progressive bloggers and activists.  The title of the marquee opening day panel says it all, what to do when the president is just not that into you.  That panel was the site of a dramatic exchange between an Obama campaign volunteer and Dan Choi, who will join me in a moment.

Lieutenant Dan Choi is an Army combat veteran who is discharged from the military for this violation of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. DAN CHOI, ARMY VETERAN:  I am an infantry platoon leader in the New York National Guard.  By saying three words to you today, “I am gay,” those three words are a violation of Title X of the U.S. code.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  That was Dan Choi on “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”

Here‘s what happened yesterday, when the Obama volunteer came to the stage to present Choi and the other panelists with an Obama campaign flyer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA VOLUNTEER:  I can‘t say I‘m for marriage equality, but as a bisexual and I would take a bullet for both of you.

CHOI:  So, you are not for marriage equality?

OBAMA VOLUNTEER:  No—I can‘t.

OBAMA VOLUNTEER:  OK.

CHOI:  Did you not understand?  Here.  I believe I am an equal citizen.

OBAMA VOLUNTEER:  I understand that, but Obama hasn‘t officially gone

on the record

CHOI:  Well, don‘t try to tell me that I‘m a bad person.  Tell him he should believe in my full equality, and then report back.

OBAMA VOLUNTEER:  Civil unions?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Today on day two of the conference, White House communications Dan Pfeiffer participated in a Q&A session where the questions displayed the deep dissatisfaction progressives feel with the Obama administration‘s lack of progress on the variety of issues.  Pfeiffer was grilled about what the White House is doing to get at unemployment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You actually wrote on the White House blog that the president will be the first one to tell you that we will not rest until every American who is looking for a job can find one.  Does this mean we can expect a jobs bill from the president?

DAN PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  You can expect the president put together a number of initiatives that—to create jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  With a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, why wouldn‘t we have a jobs bill?

PFEIFFER:  Well, we—

(APPLAUSE)

PFEIFFER:  I think it‘s a—it is a false statement to say we don‘t have a jobs bill.  We have a number of proposals to create jobs that are sitting in Congress that have not been acted on, primarily being blocked by Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Pfeiffer was also pressed about the White House‘s position on women‘s issues, including the ban on federal funding for abortion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PFEIFFER:  The Hyde Amendment was the law of the land and so -- 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s renewed every year.  It is not the law of the land.  It is renewed every year.

PFEIFFER:  And if we tried to reform it in health reform, there would be no health reform.  And that was the choice.  It was a very simple choice.  And so—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was a simple choice?

PFEIFFER:  Well, it‘s—you have two options.  From the fact you have two options, it‘s not an easy choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And Pfeiffer was asked about the president‘s position on gay marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In 1996, Illinois Senate race questionnaire, Barack Obama wrote, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages.”

PFEIFFER:  If you actually go back and look, that questionnaire was actually filled out by someone else, not the president.  There was a long debate about this -- 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So, it was a fake questionnaire?

PFEIFFER:  Well, I can tell you, the president‘s position has been consistent on this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So, the president has never favored same-sex marriage?

PFEIFFER:  The president‘s position is that he has been against it.  But he has said that the country is evolving on this and he is evolving on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now from Minneapolis is Lieutenant Dan Choi, a gay rights activist who was discharged from the Army for violating “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Dan.

CHOI:  Great to be with you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Dan, I‘d like to just make your case about what it is you wish President Obama would be doing.

CHOI:  I want him to keep his promises.  I know that there are a lot of other programs that tout a standard of how to judge a president.  Many people who are his political hacks come on and say, no, he is the best president in the history of all presidents.

I disagree.  The standard is promises made, promises kept, promises denied, and the demand for equality.  I demand that I‘d be treated as an equal citizen for the country that I fought for and risked my life for.  And I don‘t think it‘s too much to demand that the president and Dan Pfeiffer come clean and stop giving bald-faced lies to patrons who filled the convention center.

He knows he was for gay marriage, for my equality.  And before Dan Pfeiffer cut off the question, he actually said that he would fight any measures that would deny that kind of equality.

And so, I am offended.  I am insulted.  I am—I feel like an abused child here.  I feel like a battered wife.

And so, in my opinion and in the opinion of a lot of people that filled that room, there‘s good reason why Andrew Breitbart probably had a better reception than Dan Pfeiffer.

O‘DONNELL:  Dan, I have to ask you this point about the Obama Senate campaign questionnaire says that he‘s in favor of gay marriage, and then the Pfeiffer answer to that was, well, no, no, that was filled out by a staff person, it wasn‘t true.

Which do you prefer to be true—that Barack Obama was once, at least once, politically in favor of gay marriage, then had a—for the politics of convenience, a change of position, or what is seemingly the Pfeiffer position, oh, no, no, no, Barack Obama has always been opposed to gay marriage?

CHOI:  I would prefer the truth.  And I don‘t think that in matters of the truth we have a choice.  We believe that this country was founded in the rights of the people to know exactly what the truth is, and so long as anybody tells a lie, the number one that is a violation that should get people so angry, so agitated, get them to finally demand what the baseline fundamental promise and the baseline fundamental behavior of anybody in office should be to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

Today, the president failed.  I am so disappointed.  I wish the president finally evolve and wrestle forward—not backward, from his position in 1996.  And especially in this state.

O‘DONNELL:  Dan—

CHOI:  During his presidential election, we‘re going to see something like a Prop 8 that happened in California.  I wish he could finally stop saying God is in the mix.  I wish that he can say, these are equal citizens and if my parents were allowed to marry, then these people should be allowed to marry as well.

O‘DONNELL:  Dan, isn‘t the action now on gay marriage in the states?  Isn‘t the president somewhat irrelevant?  We are here in New York state, we are one vote away from getting gay marriage legal.  Shouldn‘t the concentration politically be on states?

CHOI:  The president is never irrelevant.  I think the people that say the president doesn‘t have the power, or those people that say the president simply cannot do that because of traditions or because of our system of regulations that say the president is supposed to defend DOMA, as he has done for the past three years, I think that‘s a bogus assumption about where the government must be.

I think our government must be with the people who say, we‘re fighting for marriage, yes, in New York.  But for the president not to say anything about it, I think, is—for whatever reason—his own kind of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” about a moral issue, a civil rights issue.  And one that history will judge him—was he on the sidelines?  Did he make excuses or was he truly there for the people?

And we are going to remember that not only in history but in this upcoming election.

Now, I tell you one thing, Lawrence, if this president wants the volunteers from 2008, I would ask him to go to the universities and ask the kids, the new first time voters, 18 to 23, 24 years old, ask them what they think about marriage and the rights of gay people to live equally.

And I think if he did come out and say, yes, I believe gay people are equal, you would have a lot of volunteers.  I would be out there.

But as of right now, no, I don‘t think that I should not endorse a president that does not endorse my full personhood.

O‘DONNELL:  Dan, I want to take that point you made about the volunteers.  Stay with us.

I want to expand the conversation to include Adam Green, who is the cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and a friend of this show, also at the Netroots Nation Convention.

Adam, the point that Dan just made about the energy, the enthusiasm, the recruitability of young volunteers, that seems to be possibly the most important element here for the Obama campaign, with the kind of disaffection we are seeing in Dan Choi and other progressives.

ADAM GREEN, PROGRESSIVE CHANGE CAMPAIGN CMTE:  Absolutely.

President Obama‘s ability to get those young people to vote for him and his ability to re-attract the young people he had last time.

And the really thing to know about the Netroots Nation Convention in beautiful Minneapolis, it‘s the biggest one, 2,200 people.   And the people who are listening to Dan Pfeiffer speak today are some of the people who worked hardest in 2008 to get this president elected.  People who want him to succeed passing the popular progressive change he campaigned on.

And, you know, Dan Pfeiffer is actually—I worked with him very closely in 2002 on the Senate campaign.  He‘s a really smart guy.  Today, some of his answers seem to be a little bit coy or intended to not really answer the question.  But, you know, as he let down some progressives in the room on issues like, will the president cut Social Security or cut Medicare, a big realization.

Understand is that it‘s not just progressive activists that have this position.  It‘s key young voters.  It‘s key independent voters.  And we‘re really looking for inspiration from this president going forward.

O‘DONNELL:  Adam, I was at Netroots last year in Las Vegas.  I can‘t there this year, unfortunately.

But I know the rooms are filled with varied opinions.  It‘s not one opinion in that room.  And there are some people who have some feelings.  And others have others.

So, what is your sense about the kind of dissatisfaction, liberal and progressive dissatisfaction, that we‘re seeing exhibited in some of the video coming out of there and what we‘re hearing from Dan?  How much of that represents what percentage of what‘s going on at Netroots?

GREEN:  Huh!  That‘s really an interesting question.  I probably wouldn‘t put a percent on it, but you‘re absolutely right.  There are different opinions in that room.

I think that most people are unified in wanting the president to succeed at passing popular progressive change.  But the levels of dissatisfaction and his inability to either fight for that change or pass that change does vary.

But, you know, one thing that I think is really strong sentiment in the room is that it‘s not enough for the president to state a policy preference.  I support the public option.  I support Social Security.  The president has to actually fight for it.

And what we saw when he took on Paul Ryan‘s Medicare plan in a rare moment where it came in public at George Washington University and completely debunked Paul Ryan‘s plan, that activated the public.  And it got Democrats and all progressives totally aligned on the same side.  It was absolute unity.

And, basically, what the message of lots of people in that room is, that we need this president to keep doing that on every issue, not cut this behind the scenes deal.  And, again, some of the answers from Dan today that were a little wishy-washy were on issues where the president is not actually engaging the public and is instead trying to cut deals with Republicans.  That‘s recipe for dividing his party.

O‘DONNELL:  The wishy-washy answers were from Dan Pfeiffer, not from Dan Choi, who is still with us.

Dan Choi, I want to go back to you, quickly, before we go.  Just for one more question.

CHOI:  All right.

O‘DONNELL:  And it‘s not about endorsing a candidate.  You said you‘re certainly not ready to endorse Barack Obama.  I don‘t endorse candidates, either, but I do vote.  And I think it becomes pretty obvious if you listen to me who I vote for.

If the election were held tomorrow, who would you vote for president if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee for president and any one of the Republicans out there today is the Republican nominee for president?

CHOI:  I love that choice.  What a menu.

I do think that some of the Republicans are probably the worst thing to happen to this country and the gay community since AIDS and HIV.  I don‘t think that anybody should be forced into that kind of dilemma.

And, honestly, we‘re not.  I used to say the same thing, Lawrence, in Iraq, because we were forced to.  We‘d ask the Iraqis, what do you think about your situation?  But isn‘t it better than Saddam Hussein?

(LAUGHTER)

CHOI:  And Iraqis would say, look, that was four years ago.  You‘re in charge now.  And when you talk about a crisis, when you talk about this president getting battered from the right and from the professional left and the unprofessional left, I think, we need to realize the only way to get yourself out of a crisis is to lead.  And I hope this president does that, in that way, we won‘t have to have these false choices.

I choose equality,  I choose the First Amendment, because when I look at the Constitution, I don‘t read DNC, RNC, HRC, or any kind of particular group or standard of how to participate in government—I read the individual right to stand-up and protest for redress of grievances.  That‘s what I‘m doing.

And this president, even though he is federally charging me for protest at the White House—I do hope that he does lead.

O‘DONNELL:  Dan, I want you to come back to talk about those federal charges, about the protests at the White House.

Adam Green, thank you for joining me tonight again.

And, Dan Choi, you are welcome back on this show at anytime to talk about your feelings about the way this presidential campaign is going, the way the president has been dealing with your issues.  And specifically, I want you to come back and talk about that protest arrest.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CHOI:  Thank you.

GREEN:  Thanks.

O‘DONNELL:  On Monday, we‘ll continue this conversation in an

exclusive interview.  David Axelrod, senior strategist for the president‘s

re-election campaign, will join in defense of President Obama on these

issues.

Coming up, another burst of truth from a Republican.  A former Georgia governor actually says Georgia is probably not a state to be seen in if you are of a different color.

And another former Georgia governor and Democratic president says the war on drugs is a failure and repeats what he says over 30 years ago that marijuana should be decriminalized.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: admitting you have a problem is the first step.  The world needs to admit it has a problem with the war on drugs.  It lost that war.

Now, a former president boldly explains how the body count in that war has hurt us all.  And he repeats the plea he made 30 years ago to decriminalize marijuana and hopes he will not be ignored again.

But, first, Georgia‘s former governor, Republican Sonny Purdue, says his states immigration law makes Georgia look unwelcoming to anyone of color.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  It has been a week of extraordinary truth telling in the Republican Party.  The truth being told are not extraordinary, they are simple.  They are obvious, but it is extraordinary in today‘s Republican Party that a conservative Republican senator or a conservative former governor would speak such truths.

First, there was Senator Tom Coburn on this program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA:  We‘re going to fix the country.  And some of that is going to be revenue increases.  That‘s the only way you‘re going to build a compromise and get it signed by this president.  I understand that and everybody else—the fact is most people won‘t admit it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  We have seen the first crack in the wall that Grover Norquist has built to prevent Republicans from ever setting foot in the zone of sane tax policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY:  It is a big deal.  We are seeing sanity, as you put it, finally dawn on Republicans.  You have Tom Coburn and 32 other Republicans in the Senate saying enough.  We‘ve got to be practical.  We‘ve got to be reasonable and we‘ve got to get a deal with this budget deficit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  But, then, Tom Coburn was outdone by former governor of Georgia, conservative Republican Sonny Purdue who told a more painful truth about his state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SONNY PURDUE ®, FORMER GEORGIA GOVERNOR:  I wanted Georgia to be known as a state that was friendly and welcomed people.  And while I absolutely believe in the rule of law and people should be here legally, I think we need to be hospitable and kind and passionate.  There‘s a legitimate worker shortage where there‘s a fear and perception that Georgia is probably not a state to be seen in if you‘re not—if you‘re of a different color.  I don‘t think it‘s what Georgia wants to be known as.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  A real fear and perception that Georgia is probably not a state to be seen in, if you are of a different color.

That is a conservative Republican former governor of Georgia speaking in reaction to a bill signed into law by the current conservative Republican governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal.  Georgia‘s House bill 87, which goes into effect July 1st, is an Arizona-like immigration law.

It authorizes police to check the immigration status of the suspect if he cannot provide accepted identification and to detain and hand over to federal authorities anyone found to be in the U.S. illegally.  It punishes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants.  And requires businesses to use the federal E-verify program to ensure their newly hired workers are illegal to work in the United States.

Civil liberty groups like the Anti-Defamation League, Mexico and 10 other Latin countries have all filed lawsuits in hopes of halting the law from going into effect in July.

But the effects are already being felt.  Fewer migrant workers are harvesting Georgia‘s produce.  And hiring enough farm workers has become more difficult.

Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst and professor of sociology at Georgetown, Michael Eric Dyson.

Michael, thanks for joining me tonight.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Michael, I‘m just hearing the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction saying that Georgia is maybe not the place, he said, “It‘s probably not a state to be seen in if you are of a different color.”  Did you ever expect that kind of truth, what you know to be a truth to be heard from a Republican governor in Georgia?

DYSON:  Not in recent times.  Not in my wildest imagination.

We know that Georgia has been repopulated by the influx of black migrants, so to speak, black people going back to the South.  We know from 1790 to about 1910, 90 percent of black people lived there.  Then they have the great immigration out, now, they‘ve returned, 57 percent of black people living in the South.  Georgia, the state has the biggest black population.

But also, you have increasing numbers of Latinos and other migrants who are looking for the land of opportunity, who are looking to expand the horizon of their, you know, potential success in a nation that claims it will welcome them.  And I think this kind of law is the manifestation of the most, I think, powerful denunciation of the great American spirit.

And I think that this former governor has been brave to say let‘s be humane and decent in our treatment of all the people.  Let‘s not have witch hunts, that we‘ve take cover under law to provoke and let‘s treat each other as human beings and a place welcoming and not trying to disdain people and send them away.

O‘DONNELL:  Michael, is there a history in the south, as harsh as that history is, of this kind of statement emerging where others might not say it in other environments, that the truth in certain ways is easier to see in a Southern environment?

DYSON:  Well, there‘s no question.  I mean, obviously, the South is taking its lumps.  But one of the things that we can appreciate about the South is that there were things that were made explicit, that were explicitly articulated from segregation and Jim Crow down to the Southern strategy.

We know that there have been vicious diatribes launched against anybody who wasn‘t a white male of a particular origin.

So, the reality is that the South has been a laboratory to really explore the ills of American integration, of American desegregation of the will for us to live beyond the vicious realities of race.  But, at the same time, I think, that by this governor being honest, we know history of the South is one of extraordinary torture over the nature of race in America.

Listen, Lawrence, we are about to celebrate—some people are—the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  That‘s the reality we contend with.  This conservative governor has done a great thing.

O‘DONNELL:  Michael Eric Dyson, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

DYSON:  Thank you, sir.

O‘DONNELL:  Just ahead: if you think the war in Afghanistan has gone on too long, remember that the war on drugs has gone on four times as long.  And everything about drug use in this country has gotten worse during that time.  A former president speaks the truth about America‘s longest war.

And later, Mitt Romney makes a joke about being unemployed.  In tonight‘s “Rewrite,” we‘ll see why Romney joking about being unemployed is the fastest way to kill his campaign for president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This yours? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your mother said she found it in your closet. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know, one of the guys must have—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Must have what? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look, dad, it‘s not—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where did you get it?  Answer me.  Who taught you how to do this stuff? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You, all right.  I learned it by watching you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Parents who use drugs have children who use drugs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  In The spotlight tonight, today is the 40th anniversary of America‘s longest war, the war on drugs.  The war was cynically declared by the ultimate in presidential cynics and poseurs, Richard Nixon, on this day in 1971. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  America‘s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse.  In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The war on drugs has been continued, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, by every president since Nixon.  Jimmy Carter was the first president of the war on drugs era to realize that our drug policy was misguided. 

In today‘s “New York Times,” in an op-ed piece, Jimmy Carter says we

should call off the war on drugs.  In the piece, Jimmy Carter writes, “in a

message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the

possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of

treatment for addicts.  I also cautioned against filling our prisons with

young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying

‘penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an

individual than the use of the drug itself.‘ 

These ideas were widely accepted at the time.  But in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and Congress began to shift from balanced drug policies, including the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, toward futile efforts to control drug imports from foreign countries.  This approach entailed an enormous expenditure of resources and the dependence on police and military forces to reduce the foreign cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium, poppy and the production of cocaine and heroin.  One result has been a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin America countries.” 

In his op-ed, President Carter also points out that 500,000 people were incarcerated in America when he left office in 1980.  By the end of 2009, 2.3 million people were in prison in this country. 

Joining me now is Michelle Alexander, an associate professor of law at Ohio State University and the author of “The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness.” 

Michelle, thank you for joining me tonight.  What has been the affect of this mass arrest program, basically, which is what you could call the war on drugs, that‘s been going on for all of these decades.  What‘s happened to our prison population as a result?  And obviously, we haven‘t gained any real ground on controlling drugs in this country, have we? 

MICHELLE ALEXANDER, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY:  Yes, as Jimmy Carter correctly noted, the war on drugs has been the engine of mass incarceration in the United States, leading to the quintupling of our prison population in the space of just a few short decades. 

But what he and many commentators have minimized or nearly ignored is the racial dimension of this war.  This has not been a war on drugs.  This has been a war on poor people of color.  Although studies have shown now consistently for decades that people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, this drug war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color. 

In fact, in some states, 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison have been African-American.  The drug war is a big part of the reason why today there are more African-Americans under correctional control, in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decades before the Civil War began. 

And once swept into the criminal justice system, even for crimes as minor as possessing a small amount of marijuana, you are branded a criminal and stamped with a felony record or criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. 

You may be denied the write to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits.  So many of the old forms of discrimination that we supposedly left behind in the Jim Crow era are suddenly legal again once you have been branded a felon. 

O‘DONNELL:  Michelle, the use of marijuana—just the use of marijuana has landed people in prison, ruined their lives.  This is something that has been admitted to by people who are nominated by presidents to be in the cabinet, the use of marijuana, and were using things like that to destroy the lives of young people who don‘t have any legal resources to survive charges like that.

ALEXANDER:  That‘s absolutely right.  There‘s a certain amount of irony—or I dare say hypocrisy coming from the Obama administration today.  Barack Obama, himself, has admitted to using marijuana and cocaine, you know, as a young man.  If he had not been raised by white grandparents in Hawaii and attended white colleges and universities, if he had been raised in the hood, the odds are high that he would have been stopped, frisked, searched, arrested.  And far from being the president of the United States today, he might not even have the right to vote. 

So I would hope Obama would have there but for the grace of God go I attitude for the millions of folks cycling in and out of the prison system for relatively minor drug crimes. 

O‘DONNELL:  I look at Jimmy Carter‘s words of decades ago, saying penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.  It seems like the most minimal humane approach to drug laws.” 

Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at Ohio State University, thank you for your work in this area, and thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

ALEXANDER:  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Mitt Romney is telling the truth when he says he‘s unemployed.  But Mitt Romney‘s unemployed life is very, very different from every other unemployed American.  That‘s in the Rewrite.

And it‘s all over.  It‘s all over, but the late-night comedians are not finished with the Anthony Weiner story. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  President Obama said if it was him, he would resign.  Bill Clinton said if it was me, I wouldn‘t be surprised.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  Willard M. Romney, whose father was the president of the fourth biggest automobile manufacturer in America, never actually had to work for his daily bread, but he thinks he knows something about jobs. 

Romney wanted to be richer than his father, much richer.  So he went to Harvard Business School and started Bane Capital, a private equity firm in which he made hundreds of millions of dollars by buying companies which he then made more profitable by killing jobs in those companies. 

So he definitely knows something about killing jobs.  Then he became a liberal Republican governor of Massachusetts, who brought universal health care coverage to that state.  Now, Romney is going after President Obama for trying to create universal health care coverage and on jobs. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m an American, not a bump in the road. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m an American, not a bump in the road. 

CROWD:  I‘m an American, not a bump in the road. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Romney took his jobs message on the road this week and talked to some victims of the Great Depression at a coffee shop in Tampa. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, maybe I should tell my story.  I‘m also unemployed. 

(LAUGHED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you on LinkedIn? 

ROMNEY:  Yes, actually.  And I‘m networking. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A lot better that what we‘ve done. 

ROMNEY:  But I have my sight on a particular job I‘m working for.  So I know exactly where I‘m aiming.  It‘s not terribly entrepreneurial, but it‘s a lot of work. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  “I am also unemployed.”  Needless to say, Democrats were quick to jump on that line.  Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wassermann Schultz took it very seriously and said “this comment shows that Mitt Romney, a man who wants for nothing and whose only occupation for more than four years has been to run for president, is incredibly out of touch with what‘s going on in our country and around the dinner tables of those who are out of work.  Being unemployed, Mr. Romney, is not a joke.” 

Well, really, almost anything, definitely including being unemployed, can be a joke, if you are a comedian.  No one has ever accused Willard M.  Romney of being a comedian.  What we just was Romney‘s desperate attempt to relate to the unemployed, people who have run out of unemployment benefits and desperately need them extended, which Romney opposes. 

People who have drained their savings account, people who have spent whatever nest eggs they may have had, however small.  Romney is functionally unemployed, but he has no reason to worry about making the next mortgage payment on the 12 million dollar beach front home he bought in California a few years ago. 

He doesn‘t have to worry about the heating bill in his palace on 11 acres of lake front in New Hampshire.  He doesn‘t have to worry about money in any way, at anytime. 

His children and grandchildren and their grandchildren will never have to worry about money at all.  That‘s because, as the “New York Times” reports, “Mr. Romney started Bane Capital in 1984 with an initial fund of about 40 million.  During the 14 years he ran it, Bane Capital‘s investment reportedly earned an annual rate of return of over 100 percent.  By then, Bane controlled assets worth billions.” 

Mitt Romney is so rich that he doesn‘t have a reality show on NBC like pretend billionaire Donald Trump, because he doesn‘t need one for the money.  It couldn‘t be more painfully clear that Mitt Romney knows how to kill jobs.  There‘s absolutely no evidence that he knows anything, anything at all about, how to create jobs. 

Mitt Romney obviously knows absolutely nothing about what it feels like to lose a job.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, the Anthony Weiner story is tragic.  But when you live and work in the city that publishes the “New York Post,” it is sometimes difficult to take stories like this seriously. 

The “New York Post” is, of course, now very proud of itself.  This time for its last three weeks of Anthony Weiner covers.  On the Post website, they are asking you to vote for your favorite. 

Here is a sample of the Post‘s page one headlines from the beginning of the saga that it permanently bannered “the Battle of the Bulge.”  “Weiner Roast” was there first.  Then “Weiner Exposed.”  Followed by “Hide the Weiner.” 

And, of course, who could forget “Naked Truth.”  The longest headline, “Fall on Your Sword Weiner,” which was followed by “Weiner, I‘ll Stick It Out.” 

Then the inevitable, “Obama Beats Weiner.”  Finally, today‘s “New York Post” cover, “Weiner‘s Rise and Fall.” 

You can see all of “the “New York Post” covers online.  Predicting “New York Post” covers has never been easier than over the last three weeks.  And late-night comedy writers have never had more to work with. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, “LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON”:  Well, huge news.  It looks like Congress just lost its Weiner.  That‘s right, one second he‘s in, next he‘s out.  Typical Weiner.

JAY LENO, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  Did you see him when he stepped down today.  He was talking act his parents.  Take a look. 

ANTHONY WEINER, FORMER CONGRESSMAN:  I want to express my gratitude to my family, to my mother and father who instilled in me the value that carried me this far, my brother Jason, and of course to my wife Huma, who is still with me -- 

LENO:  It all starts at home.

CONAN O‘BRIEN, “CONNAN”:  Yesterday, Congressman Weiner contacted Nancy Pelosi to let her know that he was resigning.  Yes.  Weiner let her know by texting her a picture of his penis cleaning out its desk. 

LETTERMAN:  President Obama said if it were him, he would resign. 

Bill Clinton said, well, if it was me, I wouldn‘t be surprised.

O‘BRIEN:  Big Republican debate tonight.  You excited about that? 

We‘ll add applause later.

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Last night, Republican presidential hopefuls gathered on the set of the world‘s most patriotic game show, America‘s Got America. 

It was time for the debate, which began with the comparing of the Christmas cards. 

TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m the father of two beautiful daughters. 

HERMAN CAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Father of two, grandfather of three. 

RICK SANTORUM ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Seven children.

ROMNEY:  Five sons, as you know, five daughters-in-law, sixteen grand kids. 

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have given birth to five babies and I‘ve taken 23 foster children into my home. 

STEWART:  We have a winner. 

STEPHEN COLVERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  There‘s no doubting what the bombshell of the evening was. 

BACHMANN:  I just want to make an announcement here for you, John, on CNN tonight.  I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency of the United States today. 

COLBERT:  What the—huh?  Someone in a presidential debate is running for president?  That‘s like going to a wedding and the couple announces they have applied for a marriage license.  No one could have seen it coming. 

LETTERMAN:  Newt Gingrich was so impressed with Michele Bachmann, he gave a 200,000 dollar gift certificate from Tiffany‘s. 

JIMMY KIMMEL, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”:  On Friday, the state of Alaska released more than 24,000 pages of emails Sarah Palin wrote when she was governor.  How can someone who doesn‘t read write that much?

I looked through some of the emails myself.  You can search them online.  You can put a word in and—there‘s a lot of praying and shooting and believing. 

She hates the letter g.  She will not end any words with it. 

O‘BRIEN:  Many Palin have noticed that Palin likes to use “flippin” instead of the “F” word.  She says flippin, yes.  For instances, one email says, I wish my daughter and Levi Johnston would stop flippin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Late night comedians get THE LAST WORD.  You know, the “New York Post” headlines on the stories inside the newspaper were just as good.  Here is today‘s “Weiner Finally Yanks Himself.” 

Six pages of coverage in today‘s “New York Post,”  Their final.  It won‘t be their final Weiner day, They will come up with more.  I promise you.  They will not let this story die. 

Coming up Monday, my exclusive interviews with David Axelrod and Meghan McCain.  And we‘ll also talk to a Republican who worked for Ronald Reagan, worked in the Reagan White House, who will expose the big Republican lie about tax cuts. 

Up next, of course, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”  Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Lawrence.  I have to say, the interior “New York Post” headline today about Anthony Weiner I thought was a baseball headline. 

O‘DONNELL:  What does it mean?  Is there a double entendre?

MADDOW:  I assume that it was an insult to the New York Yankees.  I‘ll read anything that way.  Thanks, Lawrence.  Have a great weekend. 

END   

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