Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, July 11th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Guests: Sen. Dick Durbin, Jonathan Capehart, Martin Bashir

           

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  John Boehner became speaker of the House with help from wacky Tea Partiers like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, and with help from Rupert Murdoch‘s corrupt media empire.  I wonder why he‘s having such a tough time governing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If each side wants 100 percent, then we can‘t get anything done.

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  The president goes big, Republicans go backwards.

OBAMA:  I have bent over backwards to work with the Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The one thing he won‘t accept is a short-term solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Boehner‘s people and Republicans on Capitol Hill will say they are ready to eat the peas, but those peas can‘t have flavor of tax increases.

O‘DONNELL:  Speaker Boehner is caught between the Tea Party and catastrophe.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  He basically caved in on Saturday night after pressure from Eric Cantor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Cantor threw cold water all over that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Eric Cantor has the power in the House.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS:  What can you tell me about the relationship between Speaker Boehner and Eric Cantor?

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Dick Durbin joins me.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, John Boehner did most of the talking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Boehner is, in some ways, along for the ride.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Not all House freshmen Republicans believe that the United States would actually default.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I will be voting no on increasing the debt ceiling.

JON ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  These are ignorant people feeding lies to their constituents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dr. Evil only asked for $1 million.

O‘DONNELL:  Tax pledges aren‘t the only problem for the Republican candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did two Republican hopefuls really sign a pledge suggesting a return to the days of slavery?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The marriage vow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Back tracking from controversial pledges of their own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Michele Bachmann and former Senator Rick Santorum have signed that pledge.

BACHMANN:  America is also in need of some tough love.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Would you sign this pledge?

RICK SANTORUM ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, the answer is yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A portion of it suggested that African-American children were better off as slaves.

BACHMANN:  Together, we can take our country back again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sarah Palin telling “Newsweek” magazine that she thinks she can win the presidential election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That “Newsweek” cover should have said, “I‘m still here.”

O‘DONNELL:  And the news for Sarah Palin‘s boss gets worse.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  The “News of the World.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The U.K. hacking scandal continues to widen.

HAYES:  Part of the Murdoch empire.

MITCHELL:  This is a violation of the law, this hacking scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The anger against his company is so great at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And this is their Watergate moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.

So, now, the Democratic president wants bigger spending cuts than the Republican speaker of the House.  How could it possibly have come to this with a president who began the year with no plans to cut spending in order to raise the debt ceiling?

What you are now witnessing is the most masterful rope-a-dope ever performed by a president against an opposition party in Congress.  It began months ago with the president‘s repeated insistence on what prior to this year was always taken as a basic fact of American governance, that the debt ceiling must be raised, there is no choice, it must be raised.

The president had to make this argument in the face of Tea Party forces who do not take government seriously, who believe every word spoken by any Democrat is a lie and who provided the winning margin to make John Boehner on speaker of the House.

On election night 2010, once John Boehner‘s rise to the speakership was ensured, it was easy to see this day coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Our debt ceiling is now $14.3 trillion.  It will need to be raised in the coming year.  This, by the way, is a challenge for Boehner and the House.  His worst challenge.  He must, and he knows it, pass an increase in his Republican House of Representatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  That night, some members of the political media and all members of the Tea Party had no idea what the debt ceiling is, because in the past, the debt ceiling increases have been routine.  But John Boehner who had voted for debt ceiling increases knew exactly what I was talking about, and knew that night that this would be his biggest challenge as speaker.  Boehner has been politically forced to speak out of many sides of his mouth during the debt ceiling saga.  For the purposes of pandering Tea Party, he referred to the date when the debt ceiling absolutely must be raised as, quote, “an artificial deadline,” knowing full well there was absolutely nothing artificial about it.  Boehner had to say such things to placate the most ill-informed and downright crazy members of his Republican caucus in the House, who only months ago were forming sentences with the phrase debt ceiling for the very first time in their lives.

But Boehner also always knew even on election night, that the debt ceiling must be raised.  And that, thanks to the artful pressures applied by President Obama, is now finally the Boehner position.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  We‘re up against the debt limit, and while some think that, you know, we can go past August the 2nd, I frankly think it puts us in an awful lot of jeopardy and puts our economy in jeopardy, risking even more jobs.  I agree with the president that the national debt limit must be raised.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Boehner earned the right to say that, that we must raise the debt ceiling, unmolested by members of his own party, only after months of pandering to the know-nothing section of his party that need to feel that he was listening to their crazy ideas about maybe not raising the debt ceiling.  Boehner has managed his party support by insisting that the debt ceiling could only be raised with accompanying legislation that would cut spending, the most massive cut in spending in the history of the federal government.

In the meantime, as Boehner was struggling with the realities of governing versus the delusions of the Tea Party, President Obama was day-by-day changing his negotiating position and changing it dramatically.  As recently as the middle of April, the White House position was that there did not need to be any accompanying legislation involving spending cuts or anything else in order to raise the debt ceiling.

The Obama administration wanted what they call a “clean bill,” a simple, one-sentence bill that changes the number in the statutory debt ceiling.  That is actually the most common way.  Debt ceiling increases have been written in the past.  All you need is one sentence and pass that bill.

The White House‘s original position to Congress was this standard White House position on the debt ceiling: just shut up and raise it.  And that is what Congress has actually always done.

Joe Biden then led negotiations with House Republicans on how to find a compromise position on the White House position of doing nothing but raising the debt ceiling and the Republican‘s position of cutting $4 trillion in spending while raising the debt ceiling.  Biden and Senate Democrats rope-a-doped the Republicans into weeks, weeks of discussions of trillions of dollars in spending cuts.  In those discussions, the Democrats appeared increasingly willing to go along with trillions in spending cuts, possibly as much as $3 trillion.

Then Biden and the president insisted that there be at least $1 trillion in tax revenue increases and Republican Eric Cantor fell for the Obama ultimatum and walked out of the talks, doing exactly what the president wanted him to do, because Cantor was thereby proving to the country once again that President Obama was willing to be much more flexible and reasonable in his negotiations and compromises with Republicans than Republicans were willing to be with the president.

Now, specific policy issues aside, President Obama has already won the public contest of who appears to be more reasonable, and he won that weeks ago, and the Republicans know that.

Then the president was armed to play much tougher on his inside game in the room, in the White House, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball with John Boehner.  The president has obviously now convinced Boehner that he is serious about the tax revenue that he will not sign a debt reduction package that does not include at least one-fourth of the tax savings that comes from revenue.  The president has obviously convinced Boehner that that is the only way they will get a $4 trillion debt reduction package, the big target that Boehner set weeks ago.

And so, it is Boehner who is now giving up on the big package and saying maybe we should only try to get $2 trillion in deficit reduction.  Maybe the deficit crisis isn‘t so bad.

Now, the harder President Obama publicly pushes for the $4 trillion package, the more Boehner retreats from it.  The president is finally capitalizing on a phenomenon that has been obvious from the start of his presidency, if he is in favor of something, then the Republicans are opposed.  It‘s simple as that.

Here is the president embracing the Republican‘s number, so now the Republicans must be against their own number.  This—this is a work of strategic brilliance by the president.

The president‘s negotiating position, and it‘s only a negotiating position now is three-fold.  One, he wants a big deal, $4 trillion in budget deficit reduction.  The second point: any deficit reduction package must include tax revenue increases.  And third, the debt ceiling increase must be large enough to push our debt crisis forward to at least 2013 before we need the next increase in the debt ceiling.  That, of course, is after—after the presidential election.

The president made it clear today which one of those three negotiating positions is most important to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I‘m happy to consider all options, all alternatives that they are looking at.  The things that I will not consider are a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day or a 180-day temporary stopgap resolution to this problem.  This is the United States of America, and, you know, we don‘t manage our affairs in three-month increments.  We don‘t risk U.S. default on our obligations because we can‘t put politics aside.

I will not sign a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day extension.  That is just not an acceptable approach.  And if we think it‘s going to be hard—if we think it‘s hard now, imagine how these guys are going to be thinking six months from now in the middle of election season when they are all up.  It‘s not going to get easier.

It‘s going to get harder, so we might as well do it now.  Pull off the Band-Aid, eat our peas.  You know, now‘s the time to do it.  If not now, when?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  So the only, the only non non-negotiable item in the president‘s negotiating position is the length of time the debt ceiling would be increase.  The president wants the debt ceiling argument over this summer.  He does not want to go into a presidential campaign with the debt ceiling argument still raging.  That is the most important and the only non-negotiable item of the president‘s negotiating position.

He is obviously willing to negotiate on the deficit reduction package, including all the way to the position of negotiating away completely, since he started off with a negotiating position of not needing to do any deficit reduction while raising the debt ceiling.  And he‘s obviously willing to negotiate other internal items within the spending cuts package.

What he seems close to achieving, if he hasn‘t already, is convincing John Boehner that he absolutely will not agree to a deficit reduction package that does not include tax revenue increases.  Boehner has repeatedly stressed that it is impossible, it‘s impossible for him to agree to a deficit reduction package that does not include tax revenue increases, because it doesn‘t have the votes for it.

Here he is today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  But the American people will not accept and the House cannot pass a bill that raises taxes on job creators.  The House can only pass a debt limit bill that includes spending cuts larger than the hike in the debt limit, as well as real restraints on future spending.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  So, if the president can‘t agree to a bill that doesn‘t include tax revenue increases and Boehner can‘t agree to a bill that does, that leaves them only agreeing that the debt ceiling must be raised.  And since the president has successfully and accurately portrayed a failure to raise the debt ceiling as the result of nothing but unreasonable Republican intransigence, Boehner has to consider the political cost to his party, the devastating cost, that his party would be blamed for the economic catastrophe that would strike this country if the treasury fails to meet its debts.

But as we enter the final act of this drama, the game gets trickier every day.

Now, the man who has done more to warn the country against the perils of default, today is saying this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I will not sign a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day extension.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The president has to be careful not to get boxed into saying that publicly, because after months of preaching the importance of raising the debt ceiling, he cannot get caught saying there‘s a version that he will not sign.

Of course, if on August 1st, with default looming on August 2nd, the Congress passes a 30-day extension of the debt ceiling, a clean bill, with nothing else on it, despite what the president says today, of course, he will sign that bill.

What you will continue to hear from the president as the negotiations drag on is this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I‘m prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done.  And I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing if they mean what they say, that this is important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The more he says he is willing to go against his own party, the more reasonable the president sounds to independents and swing voters, and he‘s saying he‘s willing to go against his own party on a spending cut package that the Republicans are already retreating from, a spending cut package that he may never have to go against his party on, but he‘s getting credit for sounding reasonable, which is the most important thing for him at this stage publicly in the negotiations.

And with Republicans refusing to say anything like that, with Republicans refusing to even consider an adjustment in the tax break for private jets, symbolic though that may be, the more relentlessly unreasonable the Republicans sound.

The only way for the president to win the debt ceiling duel is to convince Boehner that the Republican Party could be blamed for the calamity that strikes if the debt ceiling is not raised, and that the president is not bluffing when he says he really does want $4 trillion in deficit reduction, which includes tax revenue increases, and that he‘s not bluffing when he says he will not sign a short-term extension of the debt ceiling.

As of tonight, the bluffer in chief is winning.

Coming up, inside the room on the debt negotiations, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, one of the so-called “elite eight” in the negotiations joins me with the latest.

And later, Michele Bachmann asks for a do-over on a pledge to ban all pornography and marriage equality.  Not those parts, she‘s still cool with that stuff.  It‘s the part about how children born to slaves were better off than children born today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, what Sarah Palin learned from her fake pizza summit with Donald Trump: how to keep a fake presidential campaign alive.

Plus, what‘s going on inside the debt meetings at the White House? 

Senator Dick Durbin was in those meetings today and he will be here.

And I will get him—I promise you, I will get him to tell us every word that every said in that room.  I don‘t care what pledge of secrecy he made for the president.

Dick Durbin, he‘s going to be next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Debt ceiling and deficit reduction negotiations are set to resume tomorrow at the White House.

After today‘s session, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid‘s office issued the kind of statement that indicates the parties are not exactly moving closer together.  “Republicans are insisting on cutting senior‘s benefits instead of closing taxpayer-funded giveaways to billionaires and corporate jet owners.  They want to cut Medicare without touching special interest tax giveaways.”

A Democratic source tells NBC News that House Republican Leader Eric Cantor dominated the discussion on the Republican side while John Boehner spoke only a few times, including once simply to agree with Cantor.

My next guest was on the Democratic side of the table at the White House talks today.

Joining me now is assistant majority leader, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Senator.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  It‘s good to be with you.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, you were in the meeting this afternoon, I know you‘ve been sworn to secrecy.  But come on, it‘s just us talking here.  You can tell me everything that went on.

DURBIN:  I‘ll be glad to spill my guts.

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  You get a feeling in these meetings, even if you can‘t go into much specifics.  You always do come out of it with a feeling of how close are we, how close are we to a finish line, how does it feel?  Does it feel deadlocked?  What was your feeling walking out of the room today?

DURBIN:  Well, at least we understand one another a little better, but we‘re not close to an agreement.  The president made it clear, though, this is his second night in the row that we‘ve met—or second day in a row.  And he said we‘re going so meet every single day until we get it done.  He‘s determined.  He‘s personally invested in it, and he‘s really putting us all to the task we cannot let this economy slip even further by failing to extend the debt limit.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, it seems to me that the president is winning that basic argument, that I never thought we‘re going to have to have, which is do we really have to raise the debt ceiling.  You hear John Boehner now saying very clearly, yes, I get it, I know, we really do have to do it.

Is that the feeling in the room?

DURBIN:  Yes.  And the good news is that the craziness you‘re hearing out of the Iowa caucuses on the other side is not being repeated in the room.  The people who are there are grownups.

We understand, if we don‘t extend the debt ceiling, we know what‘s going to happen.  The full faith and credit of the United States is going to be in question.  Our credit rating, if you will, in the world is going to be in question.  We‘ll see interest rates go up.

I can‘t think of a worse thing to happen to our economy.  That‘s a real job killer.  Everybody at the table knows that.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, given that message which I think the Democrats and Republicans have delivered successfully, the importance of raising the debt ceiling, and I don‘t mean successfully out there to the masses, many of whom still believe it isn‘t necessary because they don‘t like the sound of it.  I think a lot of that has to do with how the polling question is asked.

But here we have the president today saying I will not sign certain versions of a debt ceiling increase.  How can he take the position that there‘s a debt ceiling increase that would pass the Senate and House of Representatives and come to his desk and he would just stare at it and not sign it?

DURBIN:  I think he understands the impact if we start limping along month to month or every two or three months extending the debt ceiling what that does to our economy in the eyes of the world.  What the people who make these decisions take a look at is how serious about our debt and our future.  And the president is saying let‘s get serious.  That‘s why he went to John Boehner personally and said, we need a big deal, something that really is honest and decisive and tells the rest of the world that we are tackling our problems head-on.

John Boehner came 24 hours later and said, sorry, I can‘t sell it.

But the president has made it clear—don‘t send me this six-week, six-month, whatever it is, because I‘m not going to put the United States of America economy through that.  What we‘re going through with the recession is bad enough.

O‘DONNELL:  It seems to me that the president has been brilliant in getting John Boehner to say first that he couldn‘t sell a $4 trillion deal that included tax revenue increases to his caucus, when in fact, it may be that President Obama could not sell the same deal to Democrats that might be necessary to vote for it in the House of Representatives or Democrats in the Senate.

DURBIN:  Well, make no mistake, it would be difficult.  When you put entitlements on the table, a lot of Democrats say, we‘re out of here, we‘re not going to talk about it.  I understand that, because it‘s painful.

And what you have to show is what you‘re doing with these entitlement programs is buying them solvency and some life blood.  The fact is, untouched, Medicare is going to run out of money in a few years.  And the fact is that Social Security, the strongest program we have on the books, has 25 years of solvency, and then runs into problems.

If we deal with those issues honestly, take the savings from those programs and put them in the strengthening Social Security, strengthening Medicare, I think some Democrats would be more open to this conversation.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, the debt ceiling votes have almost been almost ignorable in the Congress, they were few controversial versions of it, so much so that many in the media weren‘t aware of it, they would go by unnoticed.  There was a debt ceiling vote during the Bush presidency where both you and Senator Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling.

DURBIN:  That‘s right.

O‘DONNELL:  Is that a vote that at least the president today wishes he could get back when he‘s sitting in that room insisting on the importance of raising a debt ceiling when he had his one chance to vote on it in the Senate, he voted against it?

DURBIN:  Well, he said that.  And, you know, I can tell you what happens.  And I think you know this because you worked up on the Hill here.  If you‘re not in the president‘s party, you say it‘s the president‘s responsibility to do it, and then look over your shoulder to make sure it passes.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

DURBIN:  You know?  Let‘s be honest about that.

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s right.

DURBIN:  You don‘t want to go home and explain it if you don‘t have to, but you certainly don‘t want to see the United States default on its debts.  So, it gets passed each year.  It‘s not pretty and people take political advantage of it.  But we know the bottom line, it has to pass.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, what each party always makes sure of is that there‘s no more than 49 votes against it in the Senate, and they kind of know that it‘s going to work that way.  It‘s always been done in the Senate any way in a fairly cordial way.  This new world in which there are members of the House, certainly, and possibly some new members of the Senate who actually don‘t believe that it has to be raised, it seems has cost you months in this debate, just getting them to the point or getting Boehner to the point where he can say publicly he knows it has to be raised.

DURBIN:  Yes.  You‘re right about that.  And I will tell you some of the theories they have about why we don‘t have to extend the debt ceiling are ludicrous.  If we don‘t do this in the month of August, we‘re going to have $172 billion to spend and we‘ll need $306 billion, which means the government will have to make a choice, Social Security recipients, federal employees, combat soldiers.  I mean, you go right down the line and you say, I don‘t want to make that choice and we shouldn‘t have to.

Plus, in August, we‘d have to borrow more money.  What do you think we‘ll have to pay in interest if we‘re not credible in making our regular payments?  So, there‘s a lot of stake here.

O‘DONNELL:  Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois—thank you very much for joining me tonight.  It looks like you have a lot of late nights coming up.

DURBIN:  Good to be with you.

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you, Senator.

DURBIN:  Coming up, Michele Bachmann is now backing away from a pledge that‘s too crazy even for her, but that‘s after she signed it.

And potential FCC trouble for Rupert Murdoch as suspicions about the hacking scandal spread to the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  In the Spotlight tonight, why it‘s good to read before you sign.  Last week, Republican presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum raced to be the first to commit to the latest campaign pledge, this one written by the Family Leader, a right wing religious group in Iowa, called the Marriage Vow. 

It asked the candidates to pledge sexual exclusivity to their spouses, something Newt Gingrich might have some trouble with, as well as to fight against same-sex marriage, abortion, what they call quickie divorces, all forms of pornography, and, while they are at it, women in combat and Sharia Law. 

The preamble tried to establish that marriage is in crisis and needs to be defended.  Quote, “slavery had a disastrous impact on African American families.  Yet, sadly, a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father, in a two-parent household, than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA‘s first African-American president.” 

After a media backlash, Bachmann‘s campaign spokesperson said that she didn‘t read that part when she signed the vow and declared that Bachmann was like really, totally, wicked anti-slavery. 

“In no uncertain terms, Congressman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible.”  She just can‘t bring herself to say slavery was horrible, period. 

The Marriage Vows writers decided to remove that paragraph from the preamble, issuing a statement.  “After careful deliberation and wise insight and input from valued colleagues we deeply respect, we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued, and such misconstruction can detract from the core message of the Marriage Vow, that all of us must work to strengthen and support families and marriages between one woman and one man.  We sincerely apologize for any negative feelings this has caused and have removed the language from the vow.” 

Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart, “Washington Post editorial writer and MSNBC contributor.  So, Jonathan, that‘s the latest lesson on reading every bit of the pledge before you sign.  But do you get the feeling that even if Bachmann had read the whole thing, she still would have signed it. 

JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Oh, yeah.  She still would have signed it.  There is one silver lining in that paragraph that you read, that wonderful statement on slavery.  At least they are not Birthers.  They admit that the president of the United States is, indeed, an American Citizen. 

So that‘s the one silver lining here.  But look, that paragraph would never have gone in there if the person who wrote this or the committee that wrote this had even bothered to—I don‘t know—watch “Roots.”  Anyone who has seen “Roots” or knows anything about American history would know that a child born in slavery, whether the mom and the dad is there, that doesn‘t matter.  They are living under slavery, under the constant threat of pain, anguish, death, you name it. 

That paragraph there I think was a lame attempt—and the second paragraph also is a lame attempt at trying to garner, for whatever reason, some sort of support, perhaps, from conservative African-American for whom homosexuality is a problem. 

O‘DONNELL:  Michele Bachmann signed it.  She‘s now in the latest Iowa poll sitting at the top.  She‘s edging out Mitt Romney at the top of the poll, indicating that the kind of things that Michele Bachmann is interested in is what a very large number of Iowa Republicans are interested in.  These crazy notions like we have to prevent Sharia Law.  We don‘t want quickie divorces.  I don‘t know what a quickie divorce is exactly—

CAPEHART:  Me neither. 

O‘DONNELL:  These are presidential issues, quickie divorces, Sharia Law, women in combat.  This is what you have to run on in Iowa. 

CAPEHART:  Yeah, because, remember, social conservatives—one, Iowa is a caucus state.  That‘s when your friends and neighbors, co-workers, all get together on a very cold night and, in front of all your friends and family and neighbors, cast your vote for who you‘re going to vote for.  And Iowa tends to favor the socially conservative candidates, which is why you don‘t see Mitt Romney from Massachusetts or John Huntsman from Utah bothering to campaign there.  They just don‘t figure that they can break through to those social conservatives. 

So for someone like Michele Bachmann, this vow and these social conservative issues are a winner.  We‘re seeing it in the polls. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jonathan, as you know, on this show, we cannot leave the discussion of Republican candidates without noting that, in that same poll, Tim Pawlenty inched up a couple of points in that poll.  He‘s now tied with Herman Cain.  The Pawlenty steam roller is starting. 

Jonathan Capehart, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

CAPEHART:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, the lame stream media finally does right by Sarah Palin.  “Newsweek” puts her on the cover and fills the magazine with flattering photographs and a love letter to Palin.  “Newsweek” gets tonight‘s Rewrite. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  The once-noble “Newsweek” and now the fastest sinking ship on the newsstand, in a desperate attempt to boost newsstand sales of a five dollar magazine that is 68 pages long, 17 and a half of which are advertising, has put this lie on its cover this week.  Sarah Palin‘s lie, quote, “I can win” goes uncontested in “Newsweek‘s” lengthy, adoring profile. 

She‘s echoing Donald Trump‘s loony mantra, I could win, which he became even more insistent about after he ended his fake presidential campaign.  “Newsweek” allows Palin to say, quote, “I do believe I can win,” without discomforting her in any way by referring to the polls that show she‘s the most unpopular politician in America. 

Nor does “Newsweek” think it is in any way helpful to your understanding of the Palin phenomenon today to know that she is the most unpopular politician in Alaska, with only 39 percent approval rating. 

Palin has seen those polls.  She is smart enough a politician to know that the polls indicate she could not even win the Republican nomination for presidency, never mind the presidency. 

So she knows she‘s lying when she says “I can win.”  But the only Palin poll that the “Newsweek” article refers to is the 80 percent approval she had in Alaska before John McCain chose her as his running mate.  In other words, before she actually became the national political performance artist now known as Sarah Palin. 

“Newsweek” does everything it can to make the madness of Sarah Palin seem reasonable.  Consider this paragraph explaining why Palin did the unthinkable and quit her governorship half way through her term.  “After the 2008 election, Palin tried to do something that hadn‘t been done in 20 years, return to the governor‘s chair after defeat on a national ticket.  Michael Dukakis was the last to manage it in 1988. 

“Former Democratic allies now treated her like the opposition.  And disaffected Republicans were not inclined to come to the rescue.  Political opponents bombarded her administration with ethics complaints.  And though all were ultimately dismissed or settled without finding of wrongdoing, Palin lost her motivation to stay in the job and fight. 

“‘It was like she going to work every day in handcuffs,‘ Todd told me.” 

OK, number one, she was not going to work every day in handcuffs.  Number two, Democrats in Alaska had no power to make governing impossible, since it is a Republican state.  And three, many more governors have much more difficult relationships with their legislatures and do not quit. 

And finally, let‘s consider the first line of this defensive paragraph about Palin quitting her governorship.  “After the 2008 election, Palin tried to do something that hadn‘t been done in 20 years, return to the governor‘s chair after defeat on a national ticket.  Michael Dukakis was the last to manage it in 1988.” 

When you say Michael Dukakis was the last to manage it, you are implying that others have tried and failed to manage it, because it‘s so impossible in the last 20 years, between Dukakis and Palin.  In fact, no one else has tried to manage it between Dukakis and Palin.  No other sitting governor has lost on a presidential ticket in that time period. 

So another way of writing that sentence is the last sitting governor to lose on a presidential ticket had no problem managing the return to his governor‘s job.  Such is the pathetic pro-Palin tilt that permeates this utterly absurdist piece. 

Palin obviously negotiated and successfully demanded “Newsweek”‘s cover in order to cooperate with the magazine.  “Newsweek” said she‘s worthy of the cover because of, quote, “her standing as a possible presidential candidate with presumed front runner potential.” 

But, of course, as viewers of this program knows, Sarah Palin is never going to run for president or any other elective office.  She has discovered the joys of the responsibility-free celebrity and the millions in income that are hers through deft management of that celebrity. 

Surely some at “Newsweek” are smart enough to know this and may have decided to go with the Palin cover because, with Michele Bachmann soaring in the polls, they are only days away from the utter irrelevance of Sarah Palin. 

As to why “Newsweek” decided to give Palin the softest treatment the lamestream media ever has, the answer actually lies at the end of the article, where “Newsweek” inadvertently confesses to the deal it obviously made to Palin for the cover, the flattering photography, and the puff piece. 

“‘The mainstream press is becoming less and less relevant,‘ she said. 

Adding that she would have no hesitation in shunning media outlets she does

not trust.  ‘I would say no to those who have lied about me.  There is no

need to reward bad behavior.  I‘ve learned, you know, once bitten, twice

shy.  I have learned.‘” 

There‘s “Newsweek” telling you that she would have no hesitation in shunning media outlets she does not trust.  That means “Newsweek” had to make promises to her to get her trust.  I have specifically avoided mention of the author of the “Newsweek” piece because he has done good work in the past and he surely will again and should not be known for this love letter to Sarah Palin. 

We‘ve all done things for money.  This week, it was his turn.  Speaking of the money, it turns out that this week‘s “Newsweek” is, for once, worth every penny of the five bucks it costs at the newsstand because of Carl Bernstein‘s masterful article, “Murdoch‘s Watergate.”

We‘ll be back with more on that after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve always said I‘ve tried to write articles in a truthful way.  And, you know, what better source of getting the truth is to listen to someone‘s messages. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re not uncovering corruption.  You‘re not bringing down institutions that are inherently corrupt.  You‘re just trying to find out who‘s sleeping with who.  It‘s about selling newspapers. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you have a free press and a decent democracy -- 

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You want nothing to do with a free press or a decent democracy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolute garbage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  More damaging details are emerging in Rupert Murdoch‘s phone hacking scandal.  For the first time, other News Corp properties are being implemented in the growing scandal.  The U.K.‘s “Guardian Newspaper” reports hackers working on behalf of Murdoch‘s “Sunday Times” and “The Sun” newspapers targeted former Prime Minister Gordon Brown‘s voicemail, as well as his bank, medical, and legal records. 

Joining me now, host of the “Martin Bashir Show,” Martin Bashir. 

Martin, this is tonight‘s story I know nothing about.  I was out of the country all last week.  I was in a former British colony, Malawi, in Africa, where they aren‘t really paying much attention to the Murdoch scandal. 

Take me through this.  What is the latest in it?  And what is the most damaging elements, as we sit here tonight? 

MARTIN BASHIR, “THE MARTIN BASHIR SHOW”:  Basically what emerged was that in 2004, Prince William, who‘s recently been in the United States, had a knee injury.  And he had a phone conversation with a doctor that nobody else knew about.

And it suddenly emerged that the story about his knee injury was in “The News of the World” newspaper.  So the press office at Buckingham Palace made a complaint. 

That was the start of an investigation, which continued and continued, led by “The Guardian Newspaper,” which over the last week has revealed that they hacked over 4,000 people‘s private voicemails on phones, home phones, and mobile phones. 

These included everybody from members of the royal family to the prime minister of the United Kingdom to a young girl, Milly Dowler, 13 years old, who disappeared.  They hacked her phone and listened to cries of appeal from her parents.  And then when the phone messages were full, they would delete the messages.

And this led the police to believe that the young lady was alive.  And eventually they found her dead body.  It‘s also emerged that “News of The World” journalists hacked the phones of parents of deceased members of the armed forces in the United Kingdom who were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

O‘DONNELL:  What were they hoping to find in hacking those calls? 

BASHIR:  Obviously, they were looking for information about families.  They were looking for details about Millie Dowler.  Did she disappear, this 13-year-old girl?  Was she with her boyfriend somewhere?

So they had access. 

O‘DONNELL:  The number of people who would have to be involved in this exercise sounds pretty big. 

BASHIR:  This is remarkable.  In 2007, the managing director of “the News of the World,” who is now the managing director of “the Wall Street Journal,” Les Hinton, went before a House of Commons select committee and said there was one rogue reporter at “the News of the World.”

It‘s now emerged that it was rife throughout the paper, that virtually everybody involved was hacking someone‘s phone for stories.  And that‘s why Rupert Murdoch took the decision at the weekend to close that newspaper for good. 

That‘s a newspaper that‘s existed for 168 years.  No more. 

O‘DONNELL:  And the law on this in Britain? 

BASHIR:  Oh, it‘s a criminal offense.  But what‘s worse is it‘s now emerged that they also had fiscal financial relationships with serving police officers. 

So, for example, one individual, a member of parliament, was discovered to be meeting men at a particular place called Clappem Common (ph) in South London, near where I used to live.  But what happened was he would be arrested by a police officer, and within five minutes, a “News of the World” journalist and photographer were on site. 

O‘DONNELL:  What is the jeopardy for Murdoch at this stage, personally? 

BASHIR:  Well, today, his shares lost about three billion dollars. 

O‘DONNELL:  If he can be found to have known about any of this—because owners of these newspapers, when they read them and they see some gold in there, they call up and say, hey, how did you get that? 

BASHIR:  He has said that he knew absolutely nothing about any of this.  If it‘s possible that he or his son, James Murdoch, knew and were involved—and remember, James Murdoch was asked by a House of Commons committee about whether he knew.  And he said he didn‘t. 

If they did, then that places them in very serious jeopardy, in fact, perjury. 

O‘DONNELL:  Martin Bashir, thank you very much for bringing me up to date on a story I know nothing about.  You can see Martin Bashir every weekday on MSNBC at 3:00 pm, Eastern. 

Again, Martin, thanks for joining me tonight.

END   

<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.  All materials herein are protected by

United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,

transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written

permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,

copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

PASTE THE TRANSCRIPT HERE, LEAVE THE LINK

Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET


Sponsored links

Resource guide