'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, August 4, 2011
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guests: Howard Fineman, Richard Wolffe, Robert Reich, Paul Goldman, Sen. Bernie Sanders
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: House Speaker John Boehner said he got 98
percent of what he wanted in the debt deal. Does that mean he got 98
percent of what he wanted today?
ANNOUNCER: This is an NBC News special report.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it is 4:00 on Wall Street. Do you know
where your money is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The closing bell on Wall Street at this hour
seeing a day that saw investors flee the market.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Wall Street has a bad day, and everyone has
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was not a reaction to the debt ceiling.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Stocks are taking a tumble on Wall Street,
amid fears of a global economic showdown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, in light of the debt crisis.
BILL FLECKENSTEIN: We have a broken financial system.
DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC HOST: The stock market was down 500 points
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: So, it`s not the overseas markets.
MITCHELL: Fears on the double dip.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: End of the intervention by the government
officials in the form of some sort of stimulus for the markets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got the deal, but we also got the tank.
O`DONNELL: Republicans got what they wanted.
MATTHEWS: Republicans got nearly everything they wanted in the deal.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY LEADER: Shining balls --
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I got 98 percent of
what I wanted. I`m pretty happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does nothing for the economy right now, nothing
BOEHNER: Ninety-eight percent of what I wanted.
CANTOR: Shining balls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re cutting spending too soon and too fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A belief among what I`ll call faux-conomists out
there, some of whom are on the right, some of whom are on the left, that
austerity in the United States right now will bring prosperity.
BOEHNER: Ninety-eight percent of what I wanted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not the case. That is not the case. That
is not the case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Incentives (ph) is exactly right.
O`DONNELL: But Republicans still blame the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no scenario right now for this economy
being thriving when the president runs for re-election in 2012.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Every presidential election
comes down to basically a simple question: are you better off today than
you were four years ago?
MITCHELL: President Obama is trying to put the debt fight behind him,
and focus now on jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put this in the category of the last thing
President Obama wanted for his birthday.
O`DONNELL: Breaking news tonight: the Dow plunged more than 500
points today, its worst day since the financial crisis in 2008. All of the
market`s gains for 2011 were wiped out this afternoon.
There could be a number of factors contributing to the market`s
quaking, not least of which is the ongoing economic trouble in the European
Union, the largest economy in the world. And then there`s what`s happening
in the United States.
Here is one analysis given on CNBC minutes after the markets closed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this market is sensing that we`re at the
end of the intervention by the government officials in the form of some
sort of stimulus for the markets, some sort of job growth initiatives, at
least for the time being. And I think this market feels like it`s on its
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We learned last week that the recession at the end of
George W. Bush`s second term was worse than initially measured. Revised
numbers show a shocking 8.9 percent loss of GDP, which provoked this
analysis in "The Economist": "Had the new Obama administration seen that
the economy was shrinking at close to 9 percent per year, it might well
have pushed for a much larger stimulus plan, and might reasonably have
expected Congress to agree to it. If government was too thrifty before, it
looks downright stingy in the light of new information. Against this
backdrop, fiscal policy is tight and growing tighter. Government
consumption and investment has dragged growth down in five of the last
seven quarters, thanks to cuts at the state and local level and falling
defense spending. More cuts are coming."
Let`s not forget what John Boehner said when the deal was done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: When you look at this final agreement that we came to with
the White House, you know, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I`m pretty
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Howard Fineman, editorial director for
"The Huffington Post" and MSNBC analyst.
And Robert Reich, former labor secretary in the Clinton
administration. He`s now a professor of public policy at the University of
California at Berkeley.
Howard, how happy is John Boehner tonight?
Oh, I don`t think he can be happy at all, because any number of polls
show that the American people don`t think that the budget deal, the debt
ceiling deal, was helpful in its specifics or in general with the economy.
And I think there`s widespread feeling in the country and around the world
that the spectacle that we just went through is a contributor to what we`re
seeing now on Wall Street.
The Chinese news agency -- I think the China news agency said
something about madcap follies of brinkmanship, which is a pretty good
headline. And the ambassador of the European country that I talked to the
other day just shook his head and said he couldn`t believe that this great
country was behaving the way it was.
So, that`s where we are in this country and in the world right now.
O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, can the president and the Democrats use this
stock market as a teachable moment about economic cause and effect?
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Well, it`s too risky, I think,
Lawrence, to use one day`s stock market fall to center a campaign or
But, look, it`s pretty clear right now that what has happened is that
the market is worried about tomorrow`s unemployment report. It`s very
concerned about the report that came out last week from the Commerce
Department that there was no second quarter growth almost to -- to speak
of, almost no first quarter growth. The economy is dead in the water. And
now, with this new agreement over the debt limit, the government`s hands
are basically tied with regard to any additional jobs programs, any
additional jobs stimulus.
I think the market is saying -- and ideology aside, I mean, the market
is speaking right now and saying, look, the problem -- the central problem
of this economy is not the debt. The central problem with the economy is
joblessness and low wages and lack of growth.
O`DONNELL: Howard, let`s listen to what Mitch McConnell said on FOX
Business. He was saying what he thought Wall Street wanted to hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: It`s the template for
the future. In the future, Neil, no president -- in the near future, maybe
in the distant future, is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increase
without a re-ignition, a reigniting of the same discussion of how do we cut
spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next
president, however that is, is going to be asking us to raise the debt
ceiling again in 2013, so we`ll be doing it all over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Howard, that was McConnell speaking before the stock
What would McConnell say today if he was talking to a Wall Street
FINEMAN: Well, I agree with Bob that you don`t want to just look at
one day. But the fact is over the last 10 days, it`s been a slide into
disaster. And I think one translation of what Mitch McConnell said was
Hoover -- you know, Hoover and more Hoover. Or 1937, if I have the year
right, Bob, correct me, 19 -- you know, it was 1937 all over again, when in
the midst of the depression, it was decided that we were recovering and we
didn`t need any more stimulus.
So, I think it`s problematic. But beyond the substance and the
argument over Keynesianism versus something else, the other problem is the
collapse of our decision-making institutions. And I do think this affects
the markets, because the markets look at the United States, and it`s the
lack of ability of its political leaders to decide anything, and anything
other than a cataclysmic fashion, and say it`s no way to run a railroad or
If 82 percent of the American people -- and that`s in the new CBS/"New
York Times" poll -- say that they disapprove of the way that Congress is
handling its job, that`s the highest number on record, 82 percent. That in
and of itself, I think, affects the psychology not only of consumers here,
but analysts of America, inside America, and people around the world
looking at whether this society is capable of governing itself.
O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, we have another poll out today, a "USA
Today"/Gallup poll, which I think indicates that the American people may
have a higher economic literacy rate than Congress. It says that 41
percent believe that the debt deal will make the economy worse, 33 percent
say it will have no effect, only 17 percent were tricked into thinking that
the debt deal will make the economy better.
Where do we go from here, Bob? And given that the deal is done, what
maneuvering room is there for the government on the economy?
REICH: Well, Lawrence, hopefully -- I mean, remember Congress is now
back home. They are hearing hopefully very loud and clearly from their
constituents that jobs and wages and growth have to be front and center.
Now, that may mean -- and I`m being perhaps a cockeyed optimist here --
that may mean with that when Congress reconvenes in five weeks, it is
possible for the president to go back and say, we need a jobs package now.
Look, you mentioned economic literacy. I mean, the public knows
what`s going on. The public knows that consumers are 70 percent of the
economy. Consumers cannot spend.
They are worried about jobs. They have huge debt obligations right
now. Their mortgages are swamping them. And their home values are going
They know that unless you have a jobs plan and the government is
actively engaged in trying to deal with that gap between full employment
and where we are right now, which is a demand that is very, very low and
continues to be very low, we`re not get to going out of the gravitational
pull of the great recession.
We are right now within about a 50/50 probability of a double dip back
into a kind of a deep recession. It`s 19 -- could be 1937 all over again.
The American public knows this. But they have to communicate it to
O`DONNELL: Howard, plenty of Republicans stood up there and said we
have to do these spending cuts to get the economy going again. They were
making a "it will help the economy" argument.
What are they going to be saying when they get back in September?
FINEMAN: Well, I`m not sure. I think they are going to say if Mitch
McConnell has anything to do with it, they`re going to say cut more.
And, by the way, let me make what sounds like a small point but really
isn`t one. Over the years, and Bob knows this, spending cuts have cut back
on the ability of the government to collect data and do research about
what`s actually going on in the economy. And I dare say there will be more
cuts as a result of the deal that they just made.
The fact that we knew so little about what really had been going on in
the economy at the time when Barack Obama was making fateful decisions even
before he became president of the United States is shocking. And we need
real time information about what`s going on in what is still the largest
economy in the world.
And it`s a small point, but if you cut government, and if your
attitude is you want to cut government, you blind government to the
realities that it needs to understand in order to help lead the country and
the world. Small point, but I think all to the point of what McConnell is
up to here.
O`DONNELL: A serious point, Howard. It`s what guides policy makers.
O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, as a former labor secretary, you got an
early look at all of these government statistics on the economy, the Bureau
of Labor Statistics. How surprised are you that these revisions that have
been done lately have shown that things were so much worse than we thought?
REICH: Well, it is surprising. I mean, we do have -- Howard is
absolutely right. The data -- capacity of the government is not nearly as
good as it was before. But you got all of Wall Street, all of the private
sector looking at whatever data they have, and everybody basically called
it wrong. A lot of people who should have known better and still should
know better have said that all along -- well, everything will be fine if we
just cut the government and cut government spending.
Well, the fact of the matter is -- state and local governments are
cutting like mad. Have been cutting and now we have tied the hands of the
federal government with regards to any kind of an expansionary stimulus
boost to the economy. We`ve actually generated a fiscal drag at the
federal level, at the state level, while consumers are not and will not
This is the worst of all worlds. And I think that we`ve got to go
back to the drawing boards.
And when Congress comes back, the president has got to say, here is a
jobs bill. This is the most important thing in the country right now to
Americans. And I`m going to fight for it.
O`DONNELL: MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman and former Labor Secretary
Robert Reich -- thank you both for joining me this evening.
FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.
REICH: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up: the effects of the debt deal on the president
and his re-election campaign. Richard Wolffe joins me.
And Grover Norquist thinks that taxes won`t be on the table when the
super committee votes on the deficit reduction plan, because any Republican
on the committee will have signed Grover`s tax pledge, and will never allow
taxes to be raised. We have a solution for that. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Happy birthday, Mr. President. You didn`t get what you
wanted in the debt deal, and now with the stock market crashing, the
Republicans will try to make you own it. The president`s next steps with
And Chris Christie`s not running for president, and he probably
couldn`t win anyway, because he`s a bit rough on voters who ask him
questions. But what`s really going to ruin his chances is what he said
about Sharia law. That`s in "The Rewrite."
O`DONNELL: The verdict is in. And America doesn`t like the debt
ceiling deal. According to "USA Today"/Gallup poll, 46 percent disapprove
of the deal and 39 percent approve. Only 29 percent see it as a step
forward in addressing the federal debt, 22 percent see it as a step
backward. Tea Partiers really hate the deal. Just 22 percent of Tea Party
supporters approve of the agreement, while 26 percent of Republicans
approve of the agreement.
The strongest support for the deal comes from Democrats, with 58
percent of Democrats supporting the deal, even though it does not include
the balanced approach on spending cuts and tax revenue increases advocated
by President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Support was highest among moderate Democrats, with 66 percent
supporting the deal, while 60 percent of liberal Democrats supported it.
None of the policymakers involved got high grades in the poll, but
President Obama fared better than the rest with 41 percent approving of his
performance, while 29 percent approved of John Boehner`s work on the deal.
And 27 percent approved of Harry Reid`s performance.
Joining me now is Richard Wolffe, MSNBC political analyst and author
of "Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House."
Thanks for joining me tonight, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: My pleasure, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Richard, the struggle for survival inside the Obama White
House has never appeared more difficult than it is right now.
O`DONNELL: But, politically, in this game where everybody got
damaged, the president, as the poll indicates, got damaged the least.
WOLFFE: Yes. We in pundit land need to eat some humble by here.
Look, we all thought this rupture with the base that we talked about,
with the progressive caucus, would be translated across progressives in
general. These polls suggest that the president`s bond with his base, with
progressives, with not just Democrats but moderates. And, by the way, not
just moderate Democrats but moderates across the spectrum, that is still
And that tells you what this narrow path is for the election next
year. It`s not just the base, but these moderates, not independents, but
moderate voters that this president has got to get that coalition together,
because those are the people who are naturally with him.
O`DONNELL: Richard, it seems that despite -- as you say, all the talk
among pundits and then among some Democratic members of Congress when they
are disappointed at different things that the president entertains,
different options that he discusses, it seems that people who voted for
Barack Obama to be president of the United States are still glad they voted
that way. They still seem ready to vote that way again.
O`DONNELL: Especially among registered Democrats. It`s hard to say
what the energy level is. But the support level is consistently showing up
in these polls, isn`t it?
WOLFFE: It is. And also, it`s a personal trust and a bond they have
with the president, because they trust him to make the right judgments
about the economy. They trust him -- they like him as an individual as
well. More than actually they approve of his job.
And this kind of points to something that`s been a hole for this White
House all along, which is what`s the storyline here, what`s the narrative?
If the economy isn`t getting better in any palpable way, so you can`t just
say, well, things are getting better right now, you actually got have to
tell another story about what the president has done and what his record
And that comes down to his personal judgment. Has he made the right
choices of being the best choice for the people when the economy tanked,
when the markets tanked, when the car makers were going under? That`s the
story that is implicit in these poll numbers that I don`t think yet we`ve
really seen with any clarity from the White House.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the president last night at a fundraiser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m always amused when
the pundits in Washington , you know, say, boy, Obama hasn`t gotten this
pass yet or some of his supporters are disappointed about this, you know,
the campaign was so smooth. And it was, you know -- I`m thinking, what
campaign were they watching?
When the American people join together, we cannot be stopped. We say
to ourselves, yes, we can. It doesn`t matter how tough a week I have in
Washington, because I know you`ve got me -- you`ve got my back when I come
to Chicago, when I travel across the country, I know we can`t be stopped.
And I know we will bring about the change that all of us believe in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Richard, you`ve got my back. That seems to be the new
chant for the re-election campaign. He does seem to be finding voice, a
way to strike some of the notes of the 2008 campaign.
WOLFFE: Yes. Well, this is the critical piece of it. Look, he is
still Barack Hussein Obama. He has got to be the outsider. He has got to
be the guy running against the Congress that has only 14 percent approval.
And that means the choice has got to be laid out -- not just against
the Republican opposition he`s got, but on this issue of taxes, on the way
Washington works. So, yes, he`s got to get back to being the change guy,
and that`s a difficult plan for them.
But he`s right that through 2007 and 2008, it was anything but a
smooth journey. They careened from highs to really desperate lows. And
there was no smooth trajectory. It wasn`t straight up into the
O`DONNELL: Richard, how much of his vote is he going to be able to
inspire in effect by work -- by showing just how impossible this Republican
House of Representatives is that he`s going to be dealing with for the rest
of this first term?
WOLFFE: Well, it`s -- it will take him some of the way there. But
really, Congress is only a symptom. It`s not a cause here. It`s a symptom
of the bigger debate about the role of government, the purpose of it, and
especially, it`s going to come down to taxes.
On taxes and the question of raising taxes on people making $250,000
or more, he has majority support among Republicans. Never mind
independents and Democrats. That`s a moral choice. It`s a political
choice. He has to make that case not just about Congress, but for the
O`DONNELL: MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe -- thank you for
joining us tonight.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney hasn`t stopped raking in cash for
his front-running presidential campaign. But where is that money coming
from? The investigation into a shady million dollar donation is coming up.
And the only way to prevent Grover Norquist from controlling the new
deficit reduction super committee is to keep anyone who has signed his
pledge off that committee.
O`DONNELL: Still to come this hour, New Jersey`s Republican Governor
Chris Christie has sworn he won`t run for president, and now he has very
good reason not to run for president. He has crossed the line with his
recent comments about Muslims and Sharia law, and now, he really has no
chance of winning. That`s in "The Rewrite."
And up next, the history lesson that shows why Mitt Romney may be the
Republican front-runner. He might be raising more money than anyone else.
But he just can`t win.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, why Mitt Romney can`t win.
Willard M. Romney has taken in more money than any other Republican
presidential candidate and Restore a Future, a new super PAC created by
Romney supporters to independently advocate for Romney`s candidacy, has
reported raising 12.2 million dollars in the first half of this year. One
million of that came from a company that seems to have briefly existed,
possibly for the sole purpose of funneling a million dollars to the Romney
NBC Michael Isikoff reports WSpan LLC made a million dollar
contribution to the super PAC just six weeks after WSpan LLC was created.
Then, 11 weeks after that, the company filed papers dissolving it as a
WSpan LLC was created in March by a Boston lawyer who works for the
law firm Ropes & Gray. One of Ropes & Gray`s longtime clients is Bain
Capital, the investment firm founded by Mitt Romney. The address listed
for WSpan LLC in the super PAC`s FEC report is 590 Madison Avenue.
The real estate company that manages 590 Madison Avenue has never
heard of WSpan LLC. But Bain Capital, Romney`s former company, does have
offices at that building. Bain Capital said in an email, "Bain Capital has
many employees who actively participate in civic affairs. And they
individually support candidates from both parties. The firm takes no
position on any candidate. And the entity in question is not affiliated
with Bain Capital or any of our employees."
But shady financing of his campaign and his current front-runner
status in Republican primary polls will all amount to nothing, because Mitt
Romney can`t win.
Joining me now is Paul Goldman, former chairman of the Virginia
Democratic Party, and the co-author of this political op-ed entitled "Why
Romney Can`t Win."
Thanks for joining us tonight, Paul.
PAUL GOLDMAN, FORMER VIRGINIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Paul, you have included Romney in the following list.
Robert Taft, Harold Stassin, S.T. Scafoger (ph), Nelson Rockefeller, George
McGovern, Scoup Jackson, Gene McCarthy, Gary Hart, Richard Gephardt. The
list goes on and on and on.
Tell us how Romney got on that list, and what it means to his
GOLDMAN: Romney ran as we know in 2008. Did OK. Got about 20
percent of the vote, 17 percent of the delegates. Now he is trying to come
back four years later to win the presidency.
It`s never happened. That`s why he is on the list. It`s a long list
of losers. And Romney will be added to it.
O`DONNELL: And the losers are people who tried to run for president
four years after losing.
GOLDMAN: Right. It`s the four-year itch. You have to get rid of
that four-year itch. It just doesn`t work.
O`DONNELL: And so Mike Huckabee is the guy who saw this list
apparently. Did you share this list with Mike Huckabee earlier this year,
so that he could make the historically correct decision of keeping his day
job and not running for president four years later? Because Huckabee is
the guy who came in second last time, not Romney. He did better than
Romney in the Republican primaries.
GOLDMAN: That`s true. But I understand he talks to a higher
authority. So he got the word from a higher authority. He did make the
right decision. As you know, if you come back eight years later -- Nixon
came back eight years later after losing in 1960. Reagan actually came
back eight years later, lost, but stayed with it. He finally won in 1980.
George Bush lost in 1980 to Reagan, was vice president under Reagan.
He came back. So the four-year itch is what has gotten Romney and has
gotten all of the other individuals -- 14 of them who failed to get the
nomination the first time. And Thomas Dewey and Adlai Stevenson both
nominated for president, losing, came back four years later, nominated
again, lost again.
O`DONNELL: And what is it about the four years later that -- is it
just too soon to ask voters to change their mind about you? Because, I
mean, if you lost four years ago, that means a lot of people voted against
you four years ago.
GOLDMAN: I think you`re right. Let`s just take Romney for an
example. Fascinating situation. In 2008, everybody thought he would run
as the moderate. But he didn`t think he could take the moderate vote in
the Republican party from John McCain. So he swung to the right with
social issues. Didn`t work.
Now four years later, he`s back trying to get the McCain constituency
who voted against him, to back him. Pawlenty is really in the Romney mode.
Here is a governor of Minnesota. Everybody thought he would come in kind
of moderate, down the middle. He doesn`t see any room in the moderate
side, so he has been swinging to the right on social conservatism.
The Romney thing just indicates the problem four years -- too quick to
come back. You have to give people some time.
O`DONNELL: Paul Goldman, fascinating history lesson. Thank you very
much for joining us tonight.
GOLDMAN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. >
O`DONNELL: Coming up, THE LAST WORD knows who shouldn`t be on the new
deficit reduction super committee. Anybody who has signed Grover
Norquist`s pledge. >
And Republican Governor Chris Christie has done more damage to his
chance of ever becoming the Republican nominee for president. That gets
him tonight`s Rewrite.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. There are plenty of reasons
why Ann Coulter`s favorite candidate for president who is not actually
running for president, Chris Christie, will never get the Republican
nomination for president. He won`t get it this time of course because he`s
not running. And he won`t get it the next time or the time after that
because of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gail, talk to Gail.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Gail, you know what? First off,
it`s none of your business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: See, that`s just a little too much New Jersey for polite
Republican primary voters in places like Iowa and South Carolina. And
really anywhere outside of New Jersey. And now Christie has shot off his
mouth again and offended crazy Republican primary voters. And there`s a
lot of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: This sharpie law business is crap. It`s just crazy. And
I`m tired of dealing with the crazies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Governor Chris Christie being way, way, way too
reasonable in his defense of a Muslim judge he appointed in New Jersey.
And being reasonable about just about anything is the road to nowhere in
Republican presidential primaries. And Christie knows that.
So he must have somewhere in his statement said something nasty about
Muslims or Sharia Law. I mean, we know the guy cares about his political
viability in the Republican party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is this creeping
attempt -- there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia Law and the
Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And one of the things I`m
going to suggest today is a federal law which says no court anywhere in the
United States, under any circumstance, is allowed to consider Sharia as a
replacement for American law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An issue that is of particular concern to me and
my constituents, and that is the threat of Sharia Law to the United States
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK. Let`s go back to the Christie video. Let`s check the
rest of what he had to say, because he couldn`t just have left it at that,
that this Sharia law business is crazy. Could he?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: Ignorance is behind the criticism of Suhail Mohammed.
Suhail Mohammed is an extraordinary American, who is an outstanding lawyer,
and played an integral role in the post September 11th period in building
bridges between the Muslim-American community in this state and law
I was there for it. I saw it personally. And the folks who criticize
my appointment of Suhail Mohammed are ignorant, absolutely ignorant of
that. And to criticize him because he is a Muslim American, and because he
represented people who were inappropriately detained by the FBI post-9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What? People who were inappropriately detained by the FBI
post-9/11? Oh, that was a slip of the tongue. No Republican ever wants to
admit that that ever happened. Let`s see how he recovers from that one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: And because he represented people who were inappropriately
detained by the FBI post-9/11. The fact of the matter is there were lots
of people inappropriately detained by the FBI post-9/11. It was a very
difficult time for law enforcement.
And Suhail Mohammed represented as part of his practice at that time
folks who were inappropriately detained. None of them that he represented
ever were charged with any crimes of terrorism. And they were released
because of his diligent and zealous representation of them.
In addition to that, he set up for me, the U.S. Attorney`s office and
the FBI, personally, dozens of meetings with Muslim American leaders across
the state to convince them that federal law enforcement could be trusted in
the aftermath of September 11th, and that they should be working with us to
provide information and leads to help to combat potential terrorist attacks
in our state.
That`s the kind of guy Suhail Mohammed is. And I was proud to
nominate him. I was disgusted candidly by some of the questions he was
asked by both parties at the Senate Judiciary Committee. I thought it was
awful. And -- but in the end, the Senate did the right thing because the
facts were undeniable, that Suhail Mohammed is an outstanding attorney and
will be an outstanding judge.
I am going there to be at his swearing in today because he is someone
who merited my support with my nomination of him. And I`m confident that
he will be an outstanding judge. The second Muslim American to be put on
the bench here in New Jersey. I`m proud to have been able to do that.
But not just because he is a Muslim American. I nominated Suhail
Mohammed because he is a good lawyer and an outstanding human being. And
that`s what people will get to know about Suhail over his time on the
Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all. It`s crazy. It`s
crazy. The guy is an American citizen who has been an admitted lawyer to
practice in the state of New Jersey, swearing an oath to uphold the laws of
New Jersey, the Constitution of the state of New Jersey, and the
Constitution of the United States of America.
And has never been accused of doing anything but honorably and
zealously acquitting the oath he took when he became a lawyer, licensed to
practice in this state. And so this Sharia Law business is crap. It`s
just crazy. And I`m tired of dealing with the crazies.
You know, it`s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just
because of his religious background. And that`s what it`s because, because
I have known him personally now for nine years. And there is nothing to
any of this stuff.
I`m not going to talk about Sharia Law, because Sharia Law has nothing
to do with Suhail Mohammed and his time as a lawyer or service on the
bench, which I know will be long and honorable. And the people of the
county and the people of the state will benefit from it.
I`m happy that he is willing to serve after all of this baloney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Whoa. What -- OK. That earns Republican Governor Chris
Christie THE LAST WORD`s very first standing ovation.
O`DONNELL: Because Congress has only 45 committee, it has just
created a new super committee, a special 12-member joint select committee
on deficit reduction, which will be evenly divided between Democrats and
Republicans, and evenly divided between House and Senate.
That deficit reduction super committee is to consider all ways -- all
ways to reduce the deficit, including increases in tax revenue. Speaker
John Boehner has 239 Republican members to choose from in the House to
appoint to that super committee. But 233 of them have already signed
Grover Norquist`s pledge to never raise taxes in any way, including by
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has 46 Republican senators to
choose from for his three picks for the super committee. But 39 of them
have signed Grover Norquist`s pledge, which is making Grover Norquist feel
pretty good about what the committee will do.
According to "The Hill," Norquist has already been assured by the
right people that House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell will not choose anyone willing to give ground on raising
taxes. And he is confident enough to leave town for the August vacation.
This leaves Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wondering out loud what
he should do. He told "Politico," "so what does that leave the committee
to do? Should Pelosi and I just not appoint and walk away?"
Nancy Pelosi is obviously sick of Republican clowning around. She
said this today: "I`m not drawing any lines in the sand because I think it
plays into their hand. When 12 clowns are in a ring and a sane person
jumps into the ring, he looks like the 13th clown. It is part of their
plan to keep the attention on this. And I`m simply not going to do it."
Joining me now, independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.
Thanks for joining me tonight, senator.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Senator, the Campaign for America`s Future is circulating
a petition reading, "we need leaders like Senator Sanders, Representative
Ellison, and Representative Grijalva on the super committee if we are going
to protect our retirement security and finally tax the rich."
Senator Sanders, what are the chances of you getting a seat on that
SANDERS: I wouldn`t hold my breath, but I would certainly like to
serve. But the fact of the matter is the Republicans are not going to ask
the wealthiest people and the largest corporations to contribute one cent
toward deficit reduction. The real issue is whether the Democrats will
hold firm and make sure that they protect Social Security, which has not
contributed one penny toward our deficit, whether they are going to protect
Medicare and Medicaid and other important programs.
That`s what the issue is.
O`DONNELL: So, senator, you think the fight now is -- are you saying,
look, forget about taxation. Those guys are locked in. It`s hopeless.
SANDERS: No. Forget about it completely. It`s even absurd to talk
about it. They have been enormously successful in saying that they will
defend to the last breath the richest people in this country and the
largest corporations. That`s what they`ve said. That`s what they`ve
done. That`s what they will continue to do.
The real question, Lawrence, is what the Democrats will do. Are they
going to go in with similar force, similar strength, and say, excuse me,
you`re not going to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. And
we`re going to hold the line on that.
Probably what the fight will evolve into is whether or not we make
significant cuts in defense spending. As you know, we have tripled defense
spending since 1997. We got weapons systems out there that were designed
to fight the Soviet Union.
We can make some significant cuts. I hope the Democrats are forceful
in that area.
O`DONNELL: Senator, strategically, that Republican position on
taxation is a two-pronged thing, because it does obviously completely
protect what they want to protect in the tax code. But then it leaves
Medicare, Social Security as the big targets because that`s what -- when
they look for the money, that`s where they see the money.
SANDERS: Right. No, that`s right. I`m sorry.
O`DONNELL: So are Democrats going to unify around this position since
Republican leaders are basically openly talking about we won`t put anyone
on there who will consider taxation? Should Harry Reid -- Harry Reid is
asking, what should I do? Tell Harry Reid what he should do.
SANDERS: Well, I told Harry. As a matter of fact, I just spoke to
Senator Reid the other day. And what I said to him is, Senator Reid, do
not appoint anybody to that commission who will cut Social Security,
Medicare, and Medicaid. The goal must be, at the very least, to start
making significant cuts in military spending, which has tripled since 1997.
O`DONNELL: Now, Leon Panetta, the new secretary of defense, came out
today saying that the automatic triggered cuts to defense spending would be
very, very difficult for the Defense Department to handle, for him to
handle. Was that, in effect, the administration trying to put pressure on
the super committee to actually reach some kind of agreement, and not rely
on this trigger?
SANDERS: Well, first of all, I don`t agree with Leon on that. The
reality is that if you extrapolate over a 10-year period, you`re looking at
a military budget of probably somewhere near seven trillion dollars; 500
billion dollars is less than one percent. So I think as we move forward
toward serious deficit reduction, and as we try to protect education and
health care and environmental protection and nutrition and all of the other
programs that this deficit reduction package is going to cut, clearly,
clearly we have got to take a harder look at military spending than just
500 billion over a 10-year period.
O`DONNELL: Senator, is there any prospect of this committee getting
to know each other so quickly and coming to an agreement quickly that the
Senate Finance Committee or the Appropriations Committees couldn`t come to
if they got together in their normal function?
SANDERS: No. I don`t think it works like that. I think the
Republicans have made it very clear that they`re going to protect the
wealthy and the powerful. And we will see how strong the Democrats are.
But, you know, everybody there knows each other. Only 100 people in the
The fight has got to be -- look, Lawrence, in my view, the deficit
reduction package that was just passed is extremely unfair. It is going to
hurt tens and tens of millions of people. I think the best that we can do
now is hold the line. I think we`ve got to go to the American people, and
say -- and get a new Congress out there that will do what the American
people want, which is to protect Social Security, Medicare, education,
Medicaid, and ask the wealthy and large corporations to begin paying their
O`DONNELL: Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you very much for joining us
SANDERS: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is up next.
Good evening, Rachel.
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