'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
Guests: Howard Dean, Wayne Besen, Nicolle Wallace, Carl Bernstein
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST: President Obama has Republicans close to surrender. Rupert Murdoch is going to have to surrender what he knew and when he knew it. And Michele Bachmann‘s husband sure knows an awful lot about gay sex.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This debt limit increase is his problem.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Republicans choose none of the above.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want to make this Obama‘s debt, not America‘s debt.
O‘DONNELL (voice-over): Republicans can‘t deal with the debt. So, they find new ways to avoid during their jobs.
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: John Boehner, who called for an adult moment acted like a child.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the McConnell thing sounds like here‘s another way that I can shirk my responsibility.
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: Saying that President Obama, the debt limit is his problem.
MCCONNELL: We pass legislation, giving the president the authority, the authority to request of us an increase in the debt ceiling.
RUSSERT: If you didn‘t quite get all that, you‘re not alone.
MCCONNELL: But authorize him to request of us that we raise the debt ceiling for the amount that he says he needs.
RUSSERT: Which would, in fact, allow President Obama the authority to raise the debt limit on his own.
DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC HOST: That strikes me as a cowardly posture.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: They all voted on a budget a few months ago that will require debt ceiling increases.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They all look like a bunch of jack asses who can‘t get their work done.
RATIGAN: I see your stupid and raise you two stupids.
O‘DONNELL: Mr. and Mrs. Michele Bachmann surged into the lead in the category of craziest campaign couple of the year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New questions about Michele Bachmann‘s family counseling business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And praying gay away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A joint venture with her psychologist husband.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS: Who through Scripture, they could help him go straight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does my brain make me gay?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jimmy‘s brain is what‘s making him gay.
O‘DONNELL: Rupert Murdoch built his empire by blaming liberals, but who will he blame now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calling Rupert Murdoch—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And sitting there thinking wow, where there‘s smoke there might be a lot of fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media magnate and his son—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Rebekah Brooks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- have been summoned before parliament.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m not hearing a response from News Corp.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Evil—Dr. Evil is probably more kind of benign than you now perhaps, Dr. Evil does the—I don‘t think Rupert Murdoch does that.
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from New York.
President Obama continues to outsmart, out-strategize, and outtalk the Republicans in the debt ceiling standoff, and the Republicans continue to back down, step by step, from their politically suicidal position of refusing to raise the debt ceiling. The operative rule in all Washington budget negotiations is this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to emphasize that nothing is agreed to until everything‘s agreed to. And the parties are still far apart on a wide range of issues. But again, I thought that all the leaders here came in a spirit of compromise and a spirit of wanting to solve problems on behalf of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. Someone always says that to the press after every negotiating session on the budget, and no one believes it except the people in the room who know that it is absolutely true. They know that they have agreed to nothing until they have agreed to everything.
Vice President Joe Biden spent weeks entertaining discussions of massive spending cuts, as much as $3 trillion in spending, that it is now clear that the White House had no intention of ever actually agreeing to in the end, because the White House always knew that the Republicans would never agree to the White House tax revenue proposals—and in a world where nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to, the White House knew nothing was going to be agreed to. In a world where nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to, the White House actually has agreed to nothing, not one penny of spending cuts, not one.
Still, the White House was clever enough to leak that the notion—the notion that it was willing to entertain spending cuts, that President Obama was willing to bend over backwards in the Republican direction and think about spending cuts in Medicare, in Social Security, those ideas horrified some Democrats in Congress and many Obama supporters in the blogosphere.
But just today, the normally astute Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has finally begun to catch up with the president‘s superior strategic maneuvering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: The president has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default. They ask us to join them in another Washington effort to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. They offered us the opportunity to participate in the kind of deliberate deception of the public that has given public service such a bad name in recent years.
We all saw how it worked. The administration carefully leaked to the media without any details the idea it was willing to go along with trillions of dollars in spending cuts, the lack of detail concealed the fact that the savings were supposedly willing to support—the savings they were supposedly willing to support was at best smoke and mirrors.
But the practical fact would have been at most about a couple of billion in cuts up front with empty promises of more to follow. And I‘m proud of the fact Republicans refused to play along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: The president has not only killed all Republican hopes of a huge $4 trillion deficit reduction package, he now has Republicans giving up on something even half that size. And today, Mitch McConnell took the Republicans in the Senate at least a giant step toward total surrender.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: One thing that I just had an opportunity to brief my members on is a sort of last choice option. If we‘re unable to come together, we think it‘s extremely important that the country reassure the markets that default is not an option. And reassure Social Security recipients and families of military veterans that default is not an option.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Strategic flip-flops do not get bigger than this in the Senate. That‘s right, you just heard Mitch McConnell say that he is willing to give the president everything, everything that the president wants, but not yet exactly in the form that the president wants.
The McConnell plan for raising the debt ceiling would occur in three stages over the period of many months, including a final third vote next year, in the election year, which the president does not want. He wants to avoid votes on this thing in election year.
As designed by McConnell, Congress could actually try—it will fail
but try to claim that it wasn‘t actually voting for an increase in the debt ceiling at all. The tricky McConnell plan would ask Congress to vote on a resolution disapproving first, a $700 billion increase in the debt ceiling, and then two other $900 billion increases in the debt ceiling.
McConnell expects that a majority in Congress would cast that easy vote to disapprove those resolutions calling for raises in the debt ceiling. He then suggests that the president would, of course, simply veto Congress‘ disapproval of increasing the debt ceiling. And by vetoing Congress‘ disapproval, there would be an increase in the debt ceiling.
Now, there isn‘t a Tea Partier out there who isn‘t smart enough to see that McConnell‘s plan for voting to disapprove of the debt ceiling is actually Congress‘ way of enabling the president to raise the debt ceiling.
The McConnell plan would also attach to the resolution the requirement that the president specify the budget cuts that he would suggest making in amounts identical to the increase in the debt ceiling, but the spending cuts the president would identify, the president would not—would not be required to actually execute.
So, McConnell‘s position as of tonight is to raise the debt ceiling in exactly amount—the amount the president has specified he wants, without requiring any spending cuts at all, not the requirement of one dollar in spending cuts, none, zero.
That is identical to the Obama administration‘s original position on raising the debt ceiling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What is not appropriate, given the consequences and the stakes, is to hold a positive vote on raising the debt ceiling hostage to something else, because a game of chicken with our economy is a hugely risky affair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said at that time that the White House always wants, that he said that they wanted, quote, “a clean and done increase in the debt ceiling.”
A clean bill means a bill with nothing other than an increase in the debt ceiling in the legislation.
Harry Reid said this today about McConnell‘s proposal: “I‘m not about to trash his proposal. It‘s something I‘ll look at.”
Now, remember how to translate these statements that go on in the budget negotiations. Remember what Harry Reid said last night about what the Republican‘s position was yesterday.
Quote, “Republicans are insisting on cutting seniors‘ benefits instead of closing taxpayers funded giveaways to billionaires and corporate jet owners. They want to cut Medicare without touching special interest tax giveaways.”
Full of fighting words yesterday from Harry Reid. That‘s what Harry Reid says when the other side is being completely unreasonable and Harry Reid has no expectation of coming to an agreement with them. Today, when Harry Reid says, “I‘m not about to trash his proposal, it‘s something I‘ll look at,” what he really means is that in all my years of negotiating with these people, I have never seen them come this far in our direction, but I don‘t want to say that now because if we let the Tea Party know how close the Republicans are to giving the president everything he wants, McConnell might have to retract his offer.
President Obama is not the only one who got in trouble with his supporters by allowing himself to appear, to appear to agree to things he never actually agreed to.
In a closed-door meeting today with House Speaker John Boehner, John Boehner was forced to say this to House Republicans. Quote, “I told the president the tax hikes were off the table, but we could talk about tax reform. Let me be crystal clear on this, at no time, ever, during this discussion did I agree to let taxes go up.”
Nothing‘s agreed to until everything‘s agreed to. And with nothing agreed to, President Obama is keeping the pressure on the Republicans, continuing to successfully hang them with the responsibility of what happens if the United States government, for the first time in its history, defaults on debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell the folks at home that no matter what happens, the Social Security checks are going to go out on August the 3rd? There are about $20 billion worth of Social Security checks that have to go out the day after the government is supposedly going to go into default.
OBAMA: Well, this is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans‘ checks. These are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out each month.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you guarantee as president those checks will go out on August the 3rd?
OBAMA: I cannot guarantee those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven‘t resolved this issue, because there may simply not be in the coffers to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell will no doubt at some point be desperately trying to convince Republican members of Congress that it will be great for their campaigns, great for the Republican presidential campaign if President Obama gets to raise the debt ceiling without doing any spending cuts at all. That the Republicans will have tricked the president into the political suicide of not doing any Medicare cuts, not cutting Social Security.
But not doing any spending cuts was President Obama‘s original position. On the debate stage in his reelection campaign, the president can say, I was in favor of doing the big deal, I was in favor of the $4 trillion in deficit reduction, but the Republicans refused because they wanted to protect tax breaks for corporate jets and tax breaks for hedge fund operators and Wall Street billionaires and I bent over backwards—he says that all the time—I bent over backwards to reach a compromise with the Republicans. But they wouldn‘t do it. They just kept insisting on ending Medicare as we know it and cutting Social Security.
There is so much more to come in the debt ceiling drama. But as of tonight, the Republicans are coming increasingly close to giving the president everything he really wants in this crisis and everything he really needs to be able to say in his reelection campaign next year.
Joining me now is former Governor Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic National Committee and a CNBC contributor.
Thanks for joining me tonight, Governor.
HOWARD DEAN, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Lawrence, thanks for having me on.
O‘DONNELL: You know, when this crisis started and this standoff started and we started hearing Tea Party people saying, forget it, you know, let the nation default—I really saw no root to how the president could even get to where he is tonight. In my experience with doing debt ceiling increases when I worked in the Senate, it was a one sentence bill, and you passed them, you know, late at night and they weren‘t really contentious. You know, the other party voted against them, but they made sure it passed as Senator Durbin was explaining here last night.
I just didn‘t see how the president could get the Republicans to go into reverse on this, but he really does now seem to have them on the run.
DEAN: Well, in some ways, it‘s the Republican Party that‘s doing this to their own leadership. Last week, I was actually praising Speaker Boehner because he was actually talking about a grand compromise. Tonight, he‘s in full retreat. He‘s—I think his speakership in some ways has collapsed, because he‘s just not able to deliver what has to be done for the country.
And what has to be done for the country is there should be a grand bargain. We should raise taxes on people who make tons of money and people who have corporate jets and get rid of the oil company loopholes and raise taxes on millionaires and all that stuff. And also, we should make growth adjustments in Social Security and we ought to capitate Medicare. You can save money on Medicare without taking away benefits.
But that‘s the solution to the long-term solution to this problem. The Republicans don‘t have the stomach for it. They are putting their party and they are running scared. They are putting their political interests ahead of the country. That‘s going to hurt them terribly in November, I have to agree with you.
I am frankly astonished that one week collapse of the leadership of the Republican Party.
O‘DONNELL: Well, there is that theory that Wall Street has kind of backed Republicans up against the wall and said, OK, the game is over. You guys can‘t risk what we do for a living. You can‘t risk this entire economy. You can‘t risk the world economy with this game you‘re playing.
I mean, I don‘t know what‘s gotten through with Republicans in terms of coming up to the basic agreement with the president of “yes, we do have to raise the debt ceiling.”
Do you suspect its Republican-moneyed interest that have explained that to them?
DEAN: It‘s not the Koch brothers and the far right, no. But it is the business community.
You know, in Arizona, after the crack pot that runs the Senate out there passed that crazy immigration bill, the Chamber of Commerce, not exactly a left wing group, went to him and said, I don‘t want anymore of this stuff. And they went to their Republican members of the Arizona Senate and got them to stop six more bills like because it was bad for business.
This is not just Wall Street. This is small business. This is big business. This is the business community coming to a common sense position.
We‘ve got to reduce the deficit, and in order to do that you got to raise revenues, because it‘s not fair to take this all out of the middle class.
And the president is right about that.
I think your analysis was right. I think the Republicans are on the run. It‘s not so much just President Obama that‘s got them on the run. They‘ve got themselves on the run.
When you—unless you‘re willing to stand up to do the right thing, you‘re going to look bad and you‘re going to like you can‘t lead the country.
And I used to say when I was running for president, you cannot trust Republicans with your money. They started this enormous deficit after Clinton and Gore had a big surplus, and they just have no fiscal responsibility at all.
O‘DONNELL: So true.
Before we go, you know, Nancy Pelosi was on the show recently and she was complaining about not being at that time been included in the budget negotiations. She is now. She‘s given a statement tonight saying she couldn‘t be prouder of the president‘s leadership. He really seems to have this under control now.
Former DNC chairman, Howard Dean—thank you very much for joining me tonight.
DEAN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, Michele Bachmann‘s husband tells one story about what kind of therapy his psychology clinics use on gays and lesbians. An undercover investigation turned up a very different story. That‘s next.
And Carl Bernstein says Rupert Murdoch may be at the beginning of his own Watergate. Carl Bernstein joins me, coming up.
And in the “Rewrite” tonight, I‘ll explain to Newt Gingrich why it‘s safe for him to sign a pledge that he will be faithful to his wife, his third wife, the one he started the affair with when he was still married to the second wife.
O‘DONNELL: Michele Bachmann signs a marital fidelity pledge in Iowa while Newt Gingrich refuses to. I‘ll explain to Newt why it‘s actually safe for him to sign that thing in the “Rewrite.” In fact, if you want to get ahead of me on this one, go find the pledge online and study the footnotes.
But before we get to that, why did activists target Michele Bachmann‘s husband for an undercover investigation? That‘s going to be next.
O‘DONNELL: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has a long record of publicly opposing same-sex marriage and once even fled—filed a criminal report claiming to be trapped and threatened by lesbians in a public restroom. But new undercover video of the Christian-based counseling clinic Congresswoman Bachmann co-owns with her husband, Marcus Bachmann, has left her uncharacteristically quiet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A couple of news reports say --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, no interviews.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- that Bachmann and associates are practicing reparative therapy. Can I get your thoughts on that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No interviews, sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that a no comment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: The undercover video was shot by Truth Wins Out, a gay rights group that opposes the pray away the gay therapeutic strategy of some Christian groups. One of their members took a hidden camera to Bachmann and Associates clinic and asked whether he could be cured of his homosexual thoughts and feelings.
THERAPIST: I think it‘s possible to be totally free of them. But the truth is God, God has designed, he designed our eyes to be attracted to the woman‘s—to the woman‘s body. To be attracted to, you know, everything, you know. To be attracted to her breasts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Although Marcus Bachmann has denied that their clinic offers reparative therapy to turn people straight, he has called gay people barbarians and said that the public education system is, quote, “giving, full wide open—doors open to children to encourage action steps.”
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MARCUS BACHMANN, REP. MICHELE BACHMANN‘S HUSBAND: We have to understand barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined, and just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn‘t mean that we‘re supposed to go down that road. That‘s what‘s called the sinful nature, and we have the responsibility as parents and authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings to move into the action steps.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Joining me now is Wayne Besen, founder and executive director of Truth Wins Out.
Thanks for joining me tonight, Wayne.
WAYNE BESEN, TRUTH WINS OUT: Glad to be here.
O‘DONNELL: So, what prompted you to do this investigative video of the Bachmann operation?
BESEN: There were a lot of questions out there, given his past, whether they did this kind of therapy. We said you know, let‘s find out.
O‘DONNELL: Because they‘ve denied they‘ve done this kind of therapy.
BESEN: They‘ve denied that, but have been incredibly anti-gay. And Marcus Bachmann gave a seminar—
O‘DONNELL: Does a denial of that have anything to do with the federal funding that the clinic gets?
BESEN: That could be the case. I think that they have something to hide. They are clearly trying to back track now. They are stonewalling. They‘re being evasive and they‘re not answering the question. I think there‘s a reason for that and it may be the funding, and I think this should be looked into.
But they should not be getting funding for therapy that‘s rejected by every respected medical and mental health organization. Therapy that doesn‘t work, destroys lives, it‘s incredibly harmful.
O‘DONNELL: So, what did you find out about therapy? I mean, the little clip I just saw, I see a guy sitting alone in a room with a guy, telling a guy about the attractiveness about women‘s body parts. I mean, does that even—where to begin if you were seriously trying this?
BESEN: Generally, you don‘t have to tell somebody to be attracted to someone.
O‘DONNELL: Does he pull out pictures of women‘s body parts?
BESEN: They didn‘t get to that.
O‘DONNELL: No, that‘s pornography. That‘s against Bachmann‘s rules.
BESEN: Well, he said that. He said, you have to start working towards getting attracted to women, but don‘t use pornography, because that‘s also sinful. That did come up.
They were going to work on his masculinity and they assume being gay is a sickness, it‘s something you can‘t—it‘s not a natural variation of sexual orientation. Something has to go wrong. You have to be molested, have to have bad parenting or something traumatic has to happen.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Bill Wilson, who founded AA was actually hospitalized for alcoholism himself about four times. You find in the quit smoking movement, the quit drinking movement, it is run and populated most successfully by people who have actually done it, who have their own story to tell.
Does that therapist story that he did this himself?
BESEN: This therapist is heterosexual.
O‘DONNELL: So he makes no claim to actually know what he‘s talking about?
BESEN: He actually didn‘t know what he was talking about at all.
O‘DONNELL: Really? How about Marcus Bachmann, which I have to tell you is the single biggest challenge my Boston accent has had on this show, be able to say both of those words. Does he claim any actual personal experience with successfully exorcising the demons of homosexual lust?
BESEN: He claims no success, he‘s never made success and his star ex-gay minister, a woman named Janet Boynes has actually never shown any success either—and because it doesn‘t work. And, in fact, there‘s been many of these so-called ex-gay activists and leaders who had said they had changed and had been exposed. In fact, I photographed the leader of this group, Exodus International, who‘s on the cover of “Newsweek” inside a gay bar hitting on someone, and he had to step down.
O‘DONNELL: Yes. Well, next to that position, hard to hold to.
Now, is it just that like every hardcore anti-gay Republican guy actually at some point is revealed to be gay? From the Ted Haggard—it‘s just—I mean, who am I forgetting? Who hasn‘t yet revealed to be gay who has this virulent anti-gay attitude?
BESEN: It‘s actually a very important question because—
O‘DONNELL: It is?
BESEN: Yes, it is. Because there‘s actually research. In 1986, University of Georgia, Dr. Henry Adams did a test and he showed gay porn, and the men that were most homophobic were shown to be most attracted to the gay porn. I think there needs to be—instead of funding going to the Bachmann clinic, I think there needs to be more research to stops from these self-loathing homophobes from launching antigay attacks.
O‘DONNELL: I think the Young Men‘s (ph) Institute could help them explain that, too.
Wayne Besen, founder and executive director of Truth Wins Out—thank you very much for joining me tonight.
BESEN: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, Newt Gingrich‘s incredible shrinking presidential campaign and why he won‘t sign an anti-porn, pro-marital fidelity, anti-marriage equality pledge in Iowa. That is in tonight‘s “Rewrite.”
But, first, new polls showing Sarah Palin can‘t even break into the top three in Iowa among Republican voters. Why would she even pretend she could win?
O‘DONNELL: In tonight‘s Spotlight, the newest polling shows signs of big trouble for previous front runner Mitt Romney in Iowa. Sunday‘s poll by the conservative news site “The Iowa Republican” shows Michele Bachmann taking the lead with 25 percent support among likely caucus goers. Romney now has 21 percent, followed by a surging Tim Pawlenty, with just under nine percent.
Joining me now, Nicolle Wallace, former communications chief for President George W. Bush, senior advisor to John McCain‘s 2008 presidential campaign and the author of “Eighteen Acres,” which is out in paperback today. I‘m going to run out and get my paperback right now.
Thank you very much, Nicolle, for being here. So this is all about the Pawlenty surge.
NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER MCCAIN 2008 SENIOR ADVISOR: I knew that‘s what you‘d say. He pulled ahead of Cain.
O‘DONNELL: That‘s right, he‘s almost a half percent ahead of Cain. But Bachmann jumping up to 25, Romney down to 21 -- how do you stop Bachmann in Iowa?
WALLACE: A lot of people said after the first debate performance, the CNN debate, where she, I think, exceeded everyone‘s expectations.
O‘DONNELL: Didn‘t fall down. That was the exceeding of expectations, yeah.
WALLACE: But I think a lot of people thought that she may feel the same spot, have the same kind of role that Huckabee had. The difference is Huckabee surged at the end. We called it the Hucka-boom.
She‘s surging now. I think the big question for her is can she sustain it?
O‘DONNELL: How‘s she going to fight off that Pawlenty surge?
WALLACE: That‘s her first and biggest problem.
O‘DONNELL: “Newsweek” had this ludicrous cover of Sarah Palin this week, which they justified by pretending she was a potential presidential candidate, which, of course, she isn‘t. In this same poll, when they include Palin, she comes in fourth behind the surging Tim Pawlenty.
It‘s completely over. She‘s utterly irrelevant, right?
WALLACE: Here‘s my analysis of where she stands, if she‘s seriously thinking about getting in: the good news for her is that the people that like her, like her enough to leave their husbands and wives, their jobs, their dogs and their cats, drive to Iowa and, you know, do things for her like organize caucus meetings and barbecues and cookouts.
The bad news is for her is that that is a smaller group of people than I think you would hope it would be if you were to enter the race this late.
O‘DONNELL: Now, we have the—you know, the responsible men of government now starting to issue these statements—
WALLACE: That‘s the problem. That‘s why I write fiction novels about women.
O‘DONNELL: -- about Michele Bachmann. Former Governor Ridge saying she doesn‘t have executive experience, she doesn‘t have executive experience. They are trying to kill the Bachmann candidacy, the Bachmann surge. They are desperately worried that if Michele Bachmann gets to this nomination or seriously interrupts the nomination process, they are—absolutely have no chance of winning the presidency.
And it will destroy their congressional races on the same ticket.
WALLACE: Yes. Look, the Republicans have never nominated anyone who didn‘t win either Iowa or New Hampshire. So if she gets a win in Iowa under her belt, she can‘t be considered anything less than a viable potential nominee for the Republican party. I think there are a lot of concerns that she wouldn‘t run well nationally.
O‘DONNELL: But you‘re a experienced presidential campaign staffer. What is the best way for the Obama team to help Bachmann get the nomination? What‘s the best thing they can do to help her get the nomination?
WALLACE: Well, frankly, it would be to, you know, have this fight with the Tea Partiers on the debt ceiling. You know, maybe Obama should stop it with all of his civilized talk of a compromise and, you know, listen to the—you know, when—listen, this isn‘t my belief of the best thing for the country. But, you know, I think he‘s certainly capable of catering—to his credit—of catering to all wings of the Democratic party.
I think if the debates in this country end up taking place there for the next two years, we‘re all in trouble.
O‘DONNELL: Nicolle Wallace, we will have you back to give further advice to the Obama reelection campaign. Thank you very much.
WALLACE: Here on MSNBC.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks for joining me tonight, Nicolle.
Coming up, if we‘ve learned anything from Rupert Murdoch‘s media empire, it‘s the value of corporate profits. So what will his company do if he‘s the problem?
And was it necessary for serial adulterer Newt Gingrich to explain why he wasn‘t signing that marriage pledge? That‘s in the Rewrite, next.
O‘DONNELL: Time for tonight‘s Rewrite. Newt Gingrich won‘t commit. No news there, just ask the first Mrs. Gingrich. Or you could ask the second Mrs. Gingrich. Actually, you could even ask the third Mrs. Gingrich, because she is now his closest campaign operative and possibly his only campaign advisor. So she surely must know why her husband is refusing to sign the marriage vow, which has been presented to all of the Republican presidential candidates in Iowa.
Rick Santorum, who is still married to his first wife and has seven children, had no problem signing the pledge, which calls for the candidates to “hereby solemnly vow to honor and to cherish, to defend and to uphold the institution of marriage as only between one man and one woman. I vow to do so through my personal fidelity to my spouse.”
The pledge goes on to list several other ways the signers can defend, cherish and uphold the institution of marriage, including, quote, “rejection of Sharia Islam, commitment to downsizing government, banning women from forward combat roles.”
Michele Bachmann is the only other candidate who has had no hesitation in signing the pledge. Personal fidelity to her spouse may be easy for her to pledge, since she is still married to her first husband who knows so much about homosexual lust, exactly what it feels like when it revs up its engines in the brain and in the body, that he can tell you exactly how to turn it off. Shut it down. Never, ever, ever, ever feel gay lust again.
Lust control in the Bachmann family, no problem.
Item number four in the pledge‘s checklist of how to cherish, defend and uphold the institution of marriage is, quote, “vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the institution of marriage, faithful monogamy between one man and one woman, through statutory, bureaucratic, or court imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same sex, et cetera.”
No one in the political media has yet noticed that this particular provision presents an awkwardness for front runner Willard M. Romney, who is, himself, the product of polygamy. His great grandmother was one of five wives of his great grandfather. That‘s five at the same time.
So signing a pledge against polygamy should make Romney‘s hand tremble a bit, even now. This is exactly the sort of thing that explains Romney‘s absence from Iowa, where this kind of crazy right wing paper flies around like winter snow flakes in New Hampshire, the place where Romney is betting all his chips on his first presidential primary win.
The other reason no one is chasing Romney with this pledge is that everyone is having too much fun chasing Newt Gingrich with it. “The Daily Iowan” reports today, “during his visit to the University of Iowa on Monday, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich avoided committing to a marriage vow that has drawn national attention, though Gingrich was the guest of the Family Leader, an Iowa-based conservative Christian group that developed the pledge. He said he wasn‘t yet prepared to sign on to the group‘s priorities.
“The document covers a wide range of socially conservative points, but its first part, pledging personal fidelity to my spouse, that likely presents the biggest problem for the former U.S. House Speaker. Gingrich has been divorced twice and has admitted to cheating on previous spouses, leaving him hesitant to put his name on the vow.”
OK, Newt, a little help here. You‘ve read the first page, you‘ve read the second page. They want your signature right down there at the bottom of the second page. But you got to keep reading, because in any document that has footnotes, footnotes are always the most important thing.
Now, look at that item about personal fidelity to my spouse. Notice footnote number eight is attached to that. Footnote number eight says, “as applicable if married now, wed in the future, or whenever interacting with another spouse, a person of the opposite sex or of personal attraction.”
Now listen to this part, Newt. “No signer herein claims to be without past wrongdoing, including that of adultery.”
That‘s you. “Yet, going forward, each hereby vows fidelity to his or her marital vows, to his or her spouse, to all strictures and commandments against adultery, and to resist the lure of pornography destructive to marital intimacy.”
Newt, the footnote says no signer herein claims to be without past wrongdoing, including that of adultery. With this document, the Bachmanns do not even claim to be without past wrongdoing. Rick Santorum doesn‘t admit to be without past wrongdoing, including that of adultery.
You obviously can‘t. But Newt, read the footnote. You‘ve got no problem with this thing. And if it‘s the pornography thing you‘re worried about, reread that. It says to resist the lure of pornography destructive to marital intimacy. It does not say to go completely cold turkey on porn. It just says to resist it, to do your best.
It‘s just an encouragement. It‘s not an outright banning of porn. So don‘t worry about the porn, Newt. There‘s plenty of leeway on the porn clause. Newt, trust me on this, I‘ve read this thing. This document is no problem for you.
Tony Soprano could sign this thing. So Newt, there‘s no reason to take anymore press flak on this thing. Read the footnotes, sign it. Then get some newspaper reporter in New Hampshire to go chase Romney with it.
O‘DONNELL: More damaging allegations today against Rupert Murdoch‘s media empire as the hacking scandal continues to spiral out of his control. Murdoch, his son James, and News International Chief Rebekah Brooks have all been summoned to appear before the British government cabinet responsible for the press next week. But the Murdochs cannot be forced to appear since they are American citizens.
The scandal is starting to hurt Murdoch‘s bottom line. In a move to help plummeting shares, this morning, News Corp announced it was buying back five billion dollars worth of its own stock. Tomorrow, the House of Commons is expected to pass a motion, supported by all parties, that calls for Murdoch to withdraw his bid altogether for satellite provider Sky B.
Joining me now, Carl Bernstein, a contributor to both “The Daily Beast” and “Newsweek,” and author of “Murdoch‘s Watergate,” featured in the July 18th issue of “Newsweek.”
Carl, thanks for joining me tonight. The comparisons about Watergate are very strong in your piece. One thing you talk about is Nixon‘s attempt to insulate himself from the decision making and the moves that he knew, in some ways, were taking place under him. Ultimately it was impossible to completely insulate himself from that. Is that the likely situation here with Murdoch?
CARL BERNSTEIN, “NEWSWEEK”: I think it‘s impossible to be a crystal ball gazer. I wrote a piece that I hope is a thoughtful piece. You talked about it last night in great terms, saying that this is a massive abusive power, much like Nixon abused his power, that journalism is not a license to abuse the free press, that the Murdoch enterprise has acted like thugs, not like reporters, that somewhat like a mafia outfit.
The Murdoch enterprise has its respectable businesses, and then it has its tabloid businesses, particularly like “News of the World.” I would love, with you, to have a really good discussion about journalism, which I think this is really about journalism and the abuse of journalism.
One of the things Murdoch does is he over-simplifies everything in his tabloids. Black and white, everything is black and white. And I think we only have got about three minutes here. So I think it‘s almost impossible to have the kind of discussion about this really fascinating, the most powerful man in media probably in the last 75, 80 years, has a kind of power in the political system unlike anybody in media has.
It‘s about the abuse of that power. Why don‘t we, you and I, come back and talk about it when we don‘t have three minutes?
O‘DONNELL: His power is bigger in the U.K than it is here, isn‘t it?
BERNSTEIN: I would say yes, but I think he‘s got huge power in this country through his readership. He owns “the Wall Street Journal” He owns as well “the New York Post,” which has been terribly influential in a horrible way, in terms of changing the agenda of America‘s newspapers to manufacture controversy, to gossip, to sensationalism.
And also on the air, he has been the most influential figure in journalism over the last 50 years in the English-speaking world. And we‘re all the poorer for it, despite the fact that he saved some newspapers, that he created the Fox Television Network, Fox News, which is another example of really—you know, good journalism is the best obtainable version of the truth. That‘s not what Murdoch practices.
O‘DONNELL: You talk about when you and Bob Woodward on the Watergate investigation were going for the best attainable version of the truth, you would at certain points come up to the limits of that. And at the limit of it, it becomes a question of morality and ethics, what you can do when you hit the limit of available versions.
BERNSTEIN: Look, we are not choir boys in journalism. We‘re not alter girls. This is something where common sense and decency ought to guide us. What the Murdoch organization has done in its journalism, what it calls journalism is in the sewer. Hacking, thugs, you know, bribing policemen, this isn‘t journalism.
This is something else. This is a different profession.
O‘DONNELL: How did they cross the line on this scale? When you look at the stuff going on in the Nixon administration, it involved dozens of people.
BERNSTEIN: This is where the comparison is apt. Murdoch created this culture in his institutions. Whether he knew about these particular instances, we‘ll find out, just as we found out whether or not Nixon knew about the illegalities in the culture he created in his White House.
Let me say one other thing since we‘re talking about journalism. Last night, you took a hit at “Newsweek.” It seemed to me you didn‘t like a piece in “Newsweek,” It‘s one thing to argue about a piece.
But since we‘re talking about journalism, to just go after the whole magazine in the way you did, saying it was declining or whatever, when circulation is up or whatever, let‘s—we need to avoid this kind of thing in our business. This is the kind of thing that Murdoch has made his bones on. Let‘s calm the discussion.
O‘DONNELL: I said buy “Newsweek” this week because of Carl Bernstein‘s article. It‘s worth the 5 bucks—
BERNSTEIN: Let‘s come back and have a good discussion because this story is going to be the most important story in the world in many ways in the last 25 years. So, I‘d love to come back and talk about it.
O‘DONNELL: We will do that. Carl Bernstein, thanks very much for joining me tonight.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is up next.
Good evening, Rachel.
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