'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, August 9, 8p show
Read the transcript to the Tuesday 8p show
Guests: Ed Schultz, E.J. Dionne, Jonathan Alter, Dana Milbank
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: What are the voters in Wisconsin telling us
tonight about what`s going to happen in the presidential election next
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Finally today, total recall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democrats trying to take back control.
O`DONNELL (voice-over):: It`s recall day in Wisconsin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six Republican state senators are up for recall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ed Schultz, live from Madison.
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST: The people are responding at an unbelievable
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats are angry in Wisconsin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What today`s big recall election in Wisconsin
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The players on both sides right now are turning
out and pulling out money into Wisconsin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Money in politics is the root of all political
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty darn (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: Ooh!
O`DONNELL: Washington has lots of suggestions for the president`s
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: What can the president do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Physically, what do you do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really credible changes to the budget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More aggressive tone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call the four leaders of Congress back to
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: The best move would be to say --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shiny balls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty darn (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
O`DONNELL: The Obama campaign thinks Mitt Romney is weird.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney, get the phone.
MITCHELL: They plan an aggressive counter attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assault on both Mitt Romney`s personality.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To disqualify the opponent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And also his business background. Americans think
he`s awkward. They mention, his love of skinny jeans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other guy looks weird in skinny jeans.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Weird.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shiny balls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weird.
O`DONNELL: And "Newsweek" cannot knock Michele Bachmann off message.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My name is
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An unflattering "Newsweek" cover.
BACHMANN: Ah-ha. Well, we`ll have to take a take a look that, wont
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crazy eyes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What really is the power behind your campaign?
BACHMANN: I`m an Iowan and I was born here.
Make Barack Obama a one-term president.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can call this napkin a
paper towel, but it is a napkin.
O`DONNELL: Good evening from Washington.
We are now just one hour away from polls closing in Wisconsin where
Democrats are trying to take back control of the state Senate through a
recall election and make history in the process.
When Republican Governor Scott Walker signed a budget bill in March
stripping employees of their bargaining rights, Democrats vowed to continue
the fight through the recall process, but Republicans used the recall
process, too. Petitions were filed to recall six Republican senators and
three Democrats. According to Wisconsin law, the elections are held on the
Tuesday of the sixth week commencing after the date the filing officer
files the petition.
Tonight, six incumbent Republicans are fighting to hold on to their
Senate seats. If Democrats win at least three of those seats, they will
regain control of the Senate where Republicans now hold a 19 to 14
advantage. On August 16th, the last two recall elections will be held. In
those elections, two Democratic senators are trying to hold their Senate
seats against a recall election.
The first election was decided on July 19 when Democrat Dave Hansen
held his senate seat against a recall challenge. Prior to this year`s nine
recall elections in Wisconsin, the United States of America has seen only
20 state legislative recall elections in the last 100 years.
Joining me now from Madison, Wisconsin, the host of "THE ED SHOW," our
ambassador to Wisconsin, Ed Schultz.
Ed, thanks for joining me tonight.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Thank you, Lawrence. I`m having a
hard time hearing you. The crowd is just awesome here tonight.
The intensity, the anticipation is absolutely riveting here in the
Badger State. These Americans are just maybe an hour or two away to find
out if they have been on a successful journey to recall what has been a
radical agenda by the governor of this state. And let me give you an
example of just how intense everything is, Lawrence, in district 14, in
Portage, Wisconsin, Luther Olsen, hasn`t been challenged in 16 years, being
charged by Fred Clark, the Democrat.
It`s a 45-minute wait to vote at this moment. And there are traffic
jams in Portage, Wisconsin. The vote total right now, we are told, greater
than that of the governor`s race and greater than that of the most recent
Supreme Court case, in which David Prosser was successful.
And keep in mind, in this district, a Democrat has not won in 114
years. This is remarkable political stuff that is unfolding here in the
Badger State. It is something that the entire country is watching right
Nowhere else have six representative senators been challenged at this
level, and the amount of money that`s poured into this state -- and,
Lawrence, I really do believe this is really the first big test of the
influence that the Supreme Court decision of Citizens United is going to
have at the state level, and it is a template in many ways for the
progressives around this country to put together a model as to how they are
going to fight it.
I have talked to a number of grassroots workers today that have told
us that they think that the ground game by the progressives to beat back
these six Republican senators has been highly sophisticated. They have
been brilliant on the basics. They have done everything they`ve had to do.
And the turnout today, there was really nothing here to judge what
kind of turnout we were going to have in Wisconsin, because we`ve never
been here on a Tuesday in August, on the 9th day of the month, making such
a mammoth decision.
And so, this has just everything you want. You know, the corporate
tax rates were cut by Governor Walker, it hasn`t created jobs. In fact,
the unemployment rate is now higher in Wisconsin than when he came into
office. The personal tax rates that Governor Doyle had, they have been
rolled back. The attack on labor, attack on the middle class.
I mean, this race has everything for you, and it is amazing to see
this all unfold. Very intense, and the anticipation is very high as we are
just a few hours away from getting, I think, the final results here in
O`DONNELL: Ed, I want to go back to your reporting on the 14th
district. Luther Olsen, when he ran in 2008, was unopposed. Now, you`ve
made the point that the district has been Republican for over 100 years.
But running unopposed is an indication of our national office of just how
solid the 14th district lock has been for Republicans until possibly
That wasn`t even one of the districts that I had my eye on as a
possible swing. So, if that thing is running as tight as it`s running,
that`s a very good sign for other districts, isn`t it?
SCHULTZ: There`s no question about it. Jon Erpenbach, senator, told
me earlier, we`ll have him on "THE ED SHOW" later tonight, we have the
ground game, we have the boots on the ground, but we don`t have the money
This is a classic battle of two titans politically going at it in two
different ways. Now, obviously, you can`t underscore the impact the Tea
Party groups have had here the last five days. And that`s why it`s so hard
to judge what`s going to happen in some of these other districts other than
the 14th, which we were talking about. A lot of it is unpredictable.
What does a great turnout mean? Does that mean the Citizens United
money has worked? Does that mean Republicans have awakened to support a
governor in the 30 percentile when it comes to approval? Does that mean
that the Democrats have found the template to defeat Citizens United and
the big corporate that comes in?
I mean, this race has everything. It is so futuristic. It is so on
the cutting edge. It is transforming how politics is going to be run, I
think, in this country.
And it is a real message to Ohio with Senate Bill 5 that is now
finally on the ballot, where they got far more signatures than they needed.
It`s a real message to Michigan where Rick Snyder and his radical
agenda and some of the things they have passed in that state such as a
financial management decision to come in and run a municipality if they
don`t like the way it`s being run financially. I mean, this really is a
message I think, Lawrence, to the rest of the country on what has to happen
for the progressives.
O`DONNELL: Ed, the turnout is -- you`ve said it`s hard to judge what
it means, and also in these races, we don`t have very much polling in these
kinds of local races. In fact, it`s very common to have no polling at all.
So, you`re left standing there in the streets of Wisconsin trying to get a
feel for it, trying to get a guess at it.
A lot of the districts that are in play tonight were won, in fact, all
of them were won by President Obama, some of them were real squeakers last
time for the Republicans, some of these incumbent Republicans won with --
one of them, Alberta Darling won 50.4 percent of the vote when she won.
Another one, Randy Hopper, won with 50.1 percent of the vote.
So, there`s definitely with any real anti-incumbent feeling here,
there are a few Republicans are who are very much in danger of getting to
three doesn`t seem impossible tonight.
SCHULTZ: No, it doesn`t seem impossible.
And keep in mind -- these are pretty much rural districts. This
recall tonight does not involve the city in which I`m broadcasting from,
Madison, Wisconsin. It does not involve Milwaukee.
Suburban Milwaukee it does involve. But all of these districts are
pretty much rural areas.
And for the turnout to be what it is, I think, is really something for
the archives. It`s really interesting the way this is unfolding. And the
polling that you were talking about, they don`t have anything to measure it
against. And there`s polls all over the place.
So, the fourth real sign that we have is the intensity of all of this
and where this could go is the turnout that has been strong all day long.
And we should point out, in some districts, it has been at presidential
levels, such as the case with Roberta Darling, who really is the closest
ally to Governor Scott Walker, who was very involved in writing the anti-
union legislation. She is being challenged by Sandy Pasch, who is up
against almost $9 million.
Now, think about that. These are rural areas in Wisconsin.
You know, I go back to my roots of Fargo, North Dakota, and I think of
Senator Steve Mathern (ph), and I think about what would Steve do if he was
facing an avalanche of like $8 million or $9 million, in a rural area, in a
I mean, I just find it absolutely amazing, the money that has come in.
You can`t turn on the TV, Lawrence, without seeing just one bashing ad
after another. You can`t turn on the radio without hearing another bashing
ad after another.
But it`s one of the archives. It`s -- I have to say, it`s exciting
being here. It`s exciting seeing this all unfold and I think this is
rewriting the book of political science or at least adding a new chapter to
O`DONNELL: Ed, the polls close at 9:00 p.m. How quickly will they
get the votes counted in these districts?
SCHULTZ: Well, that`s a great point. There are some election experts
here in Wisconsin that think this is going to roll in pretty fast. That we
may have all totals in by 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight.
And so, I think we`re going to have some conclusions here within the
next probably 90 to 120 minutes. I mean, I think it`s going to roll in
There really have been no stories of any kind of real voter problems.
In one district, there was one machine that went down and that was quickly
replaced and the county clerk assured everyone that all the votes were
counted and everyone in line was able to vote except for some people that
may have left. But there really has been reports of any irregularities
that we have heard of as of yet.
O`DONNELL: Ed Schultz, host to "THE ED SHOW" on MSNBC. Ed, you`ll be
live tonight with results at 10:00 p.m. from Wisconsin. And, Ed, I hope
you could hear me now because I want you to take as much of the 11:00 hour
as you need to keep covering the results of this election in Wisconsin in
tonight. Thanks for joining me tonight, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Lawrence, good to be with you. Thank you so much.
O`DONNELL: Coming up: everyone is criticizing President Obama for not
doing enough. But what can he really do now about the economy? E.J.
Dionne joins me.
And, Rick Santorum compares marriage to paper towels and napkins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: (INAUDIBLE) napkins, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Coming up, everyone seems to think that the weak economy
is now completely President Obama`s fault, including people who believe we
live in a capitalist society where the free market controls the economy.
E.J. Dionne joins me next to sort out the confusion.
And if Mitt Romney wins the Republican presidential nomination, the
Obama campaign is ready for him. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: When President Obama began his address to the American
people yesterday afternoon, the Dow stood at just over 11,000. By the end
of the day, it had dropped another 200 points, ending the worst single day
stock market plunge since the 2008 crash.
That prompted this headline on the cover of today`s "New York Post,"
"Tanks a Lot! O`s rally ends in Dow`s massacre." Inside the story read,
"With stock markets in free fall yesterday, a desperate President Obama
tried to turn things around by delivering a rallying speech but it was so
lackluster, it led to a full scale financial massacre."
The "New York Post" story failed to mention that any substantive
government efforts to improve the nation`s economic outlook will have to
wait until Congress returns from recess, four weeks from today.
Today, MSNBC`s Andrea Mitchell asked Gene Sperling, the director of
the president`s National Economic Council, why the president does not press
Congress to return sooner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENE SPERLING, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Andrea, entitlement reform
MITCHELL: Why not have John Boehner come back to Washington and have
them sit down and pick up where they left off?
SPERLING: Andrea, the issue, and let`s just be very clear -- the
issue is not how many times they meet together. The issue is getting a
meeting of the minds that we need, bipartisan compromise.
We need everyone to stop drawing firm lines in the stand. Every
budget expert, every independent expert, everyone knows that requires a
combination of entitlement reform and tax reform that both contribute to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: When Congress does return, the joint select committee on
deficit reduction will begin to negotiate further government savings.
Today, we learned that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has appointed
his three Senate Democratic choices for the committee: Senator Patti Murray
of Washington will serve as a co-chair. She will be joined by
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and Montana Senator Max Baucus, the
chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist and Brookings Institution
senior fellow, E.J.. Dionne.
E.J., thanks for joining me tonight.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: God to be with you.
O`DONNELL: There is confusion abroad in the land that we are a
staunch capitalist society and, of course, the invisible hand of the free
market guides all until we decide it`s all the president`s fault and we
live in fact in controlled economy, Soviet style, that the president has
the leverage to control in the White House, and he`s just getting it wrong.
Can you help America with the understanding of what government can do?
And most interestingly, what can government do now during an August recess
when government can`t agree on anything?
DIONNE: Well, I think it`s a free market economy unless there`s a
recession and the Democrat is president.
DIONNE: Right then, we`ll have a Stalinist system.
DIONNE: I mean, you know, I think that -- first of all, the notion of
having Congress come back, nothing could be worse for Obama right now to
get caught up in that vortex of dysfunction. His numbers went down in part
because everybody hated the whole picture. So, having them out of town for
awhile is a good thing.
But there are things for Obama to do and I think the striking thing is
he`s really let the Republicans move the entire debate to the budget
deficit when the plurality or majority of the country says job creation is
the problem. And this recent, you know, unpleasantness on the stock
market, what`s happening in Europe tells us growth is the issue.
And I think -- I have a long list of things he could do, and I think
what he needs to do is put them to the Republican Congress when they get
back and say, yes, we should do his things about raising unemployment --
you know, renewing unemployment insurance, payroll tax cuts, infrastructure
banks, do something about the mortgage problem, add aid to state and local
Every time we add private sector jobs, we`re losing state and local
jobs. Put it together, put it to the Congress, and if they want to vote
against it, then let them. But he`s got to take some leadership. I think
leadership is as cliche in politics, but I think he`s got to look strong.
O`DONNELL: Should he be doing this as individual bills or one big
DIONNE: I think he needs a big and substantial package to say I`ve
already said I`m serious about the deficit but we`ll never get a handle on
deficit if we can`t get growth again. And I think that the Obama folks are
all concerned about voters in the center, and most politicians are.
Voters in the center are not easily categorized. I mean, you`ve move
this little piece and you win them. They also care about strengthening
conviction in the president. I think that`s what he needs to show at the
end of this debt ceiling mess.
O`DONNELL: Chris Matthews has this idea that`s kind of wonderfully
old-fashioned. I mean, wonderful in the sense this sort of thing used to
work, which is to simply say, OK, I want to do this infrastructure stuff, I
want to fix these bridges. I want to do -- repave these roads, and specify
the congressional districts in which he wants to get these things done,
Republican congressional districts, the votes he would need and just create
that image of the school bus going over the bridge in September, the bridge
that might not be safe enough because your member of the House of
Representatives is refusing to go forward with the kind of building we
DIONNE: I don`t think that`s a bad idea. I think one of the lessons
of the stimulus fight is the Republicans were brilliant of playing both
ends of it because they said the stimulus was bad and it didn`t work, but
all kinds of individual members of Congress took credit for every dime of
stimulus spending in their districts. This kind of reverses the process
and challenges them and said, are you really going to vote against this
But I think more generally, it`s about saying I do have ideas how to
get us moving. I inherited this mess. I can`t fix the whole thing.
You`re right, it`s a free market economy but we can do more than we`re
O`DONNELL: There`s a lot of talk about serious players in the
Congress don`t want to be on the super committee. Harry Reid just puts
some very serious players on there. He`s got the chairman of the Senate
Finance Committee on there, which, by the way puts the Senate Finance
Committee staff on the committee, in effect doing the work for them, which
is a smart move; but those three senators can speak clearly for the
Democratic majority in the Senate.
DIONNE: Right. And I think it`s worth noting no one of the gang of
six on that three. I think Baucus maybe -- that his significance besides
the able staff of the Senate Finance Committee is that he can put revenue
on the table.
DIONNE: If they want to talk about revenue, having him there, Kerry
is a national figure, he`s endorsed Obama`s big deal and that Patti Murray
is a loyal party person who`s not going to go way off from where the
majority of the caucus is.
O`DONNELL: And she`s on the budgets committee, John Kerry is also on
the finance committee. So, these are the people who know the nuts and
bolts. They`re not going to be confused by what`s being discussed there.
What should the Democrats do in the House in terms of appointments to
DIONNE: Well, I think that -- I guess I might finesse it and get some
sense of what Boehner is doing in the House, because if he really cares to
the Tea Party and says absolutely no one who`s even a moderate
conservative, then you know where this committee is going and you might put
some more militant people on there.
I think she needs a couple of people who are very strong on the
Democratic position like Schakowsky or Barney Frank. And then somebody more
moderate, I mean, maybe put Steny Hoyer on. There`s always talk about
there`s a little sort of tension between Pelosi and Hoyer, put him on there
-- I think that would be a good symbol and he can rally some of the
O`DONNELL: But most of all, let this Congress stay away from
Washington for the month of August. The president should not be calling
DIONNE: I don`t think anyone in the country wants to see them come
back to Washington.
O`DONNELL: "The Washington Post`s" E.J. Dionne, and the Washington
experience, tells us how to get through this month of August. Thank you
very much for joining me tonight, E.J.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, people who want 100 percent of the downgrade.
Why the people of FOX News got exactly what they asked for.
And a look at the Obama 2012 campaign`s strategy on how to stop
Willard M. Romney if he`s the nominee. Two words: he`s weird.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I got 98 percent of
what I wanted. I`m pretty happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Boehner`s 98 percent now includes the Standard &
Poor`s downgrade, and he was not the only person wishing for it. Since
April, when Standard & Poor`s issued its first warning about a possible
downgrade, hosts on FOX News have openly begged for a downgrade, just as
they begged Congress not to raise the debt ceiling because they have
absolutely no idea what that would mean to the world, but they were sure
that not raising the debt ceiling and getting a downgrade would be bad for
President Obama, and they are always going to come down on the side of what
they think is bad for President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let them default.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let them go. What`s going to happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re a brave guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s going to happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Armageddon is going to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is it going to be Armageddon?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t deserve a AAA rating. I welcome a
downgrade. I really would. I think it would be the pain from which
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t we deserve, Matt Welsh (ph), a bond rating
lesser than AAA? I mean, we don`t pay our money back from our wealth. We
don`t pay our debts from our wealth. We borrow money in order to pay our
How could any bond raters give us a good bond rating when that`s been
the habit and practice since World War II?
The government of the United States of America does not deserve and
ought not to enjoy a AAA rating and shall lose it shortly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Such patriots. They asked for it. They got it. >
Still ahead in this hour, "Politico" reported today that the Obama
campaign has a new strategy, make people think Willard Romney is weird and
socially awkward. Like that`s going to be hard. That`s next.
And later, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum tries to
draw a comparison between a napkin and marriage and a paper towel. And it
gets like all wicked metaphysical. That`s ahead in the Rewrite.
O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, today "Politico" reported that
President Obama`s campaign staff is already planning how to go negative on
the Republican candidate they expect to face in the general election,
Willard M. Romney. Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod told "Politico"
the Obama campaign is watching Romney`s awkward public encounters.
"Presidential campaigns are like MRIs of the soul. When he makes
jokes about being unemployed or a waitress pinching him on the butt, it
does snap your head back and you say, what`s he talking about?"
The Obama campaign also plans to use Romney`s record as a job
eliminator while CEO of Bain Capital against him, by making Romney, quote,
"the very picture of greed in the great recession."
"Politico" again quotes David Axelrod, "his is very much the profile
what we`ve seen in the last decade on Wall Street. He was about making
money. That`s fine, but often times he made it at the expense of jobs in
An anonymous source gave "Politico" its juiciest quote. "Unless
things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill
That statement is attributed to, quote, "a prominent Democratic
strategist aligned with the White House," which narrows it down to a few
hundred people. That juicy bit got this response from the Romney campaign:
"it is disgraceful that President Obama`s campaign has launched his
reelection with the stated goal to kill his opponent with an onslaught with
negative and personal attacks."
Joining me now is MSNBC contributor Jonathan Alter, a columnist for
"Bloomberg View." Thanks for joining me tonight, Jonathan.
JONATHAN ALTER, "BLOOMBERG VIEW": Hi, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Is it wise for the Obama campaign to be out there talking
about what their going negative plans might be for Mitt Romney?
ALTER: I think it`s fine for them to do that, to sort of get their
base going with what the game plan is. Politics ain`t bean bag, as you
know. But this anonymous source who used the word "kill," you know, should
be -- I guess you could say he should be banned from commenting about
politics, whoever he is, because you don`t use the K word ever when it
comes to a presidential candidate or a president.
Having said that, look, they have a game plan. They are going to try
to do to Romney what George W. Bush did to John Kerry in 2004. And that is
to discredit him early and often.
O`DONNELL: You know, Jonathan, I just want to go back to the citation
for that particular quote that`s getting all the attention. I just want to
read it again. Here`s how that quote is attributed in "politico": "a
prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House."
As I said in my introduction, that narrows it down to about 300
ALTER: A thousand people.
O`DONNELL: A thousand, there you go. The other stuff is all David
Axelrod on the record saying things that are perfectly sensible and
responsive to questions he`s getting about Romney and things that he has
said before. So it actually doesn`t read to me as suddenly the Obama
campaign has come out and decided to turn over its cards about Romney.
This story came to them.
ALTER: They have always had two things that they are going to go
negative with. One is his years at Bain Capital. Remember when Ted
Kennedy was running against Romney in 1994 for the Senate from
Massachusetts, he pulled that out. It was a close race. Kennedy won in
the 11th hour by going to people who had lost their jobs as a result of
decisions made by Bain Capital.
And even though that was many years ago, you can expect to see those
same folks in Obama ads. And the other thing that`s very important, that
you`re going to hear a lot from Republicans, is that Massachusetts was 47th
out of 50th in job creation when Mitt Romney was governor. And before this
race is done, if Romney`s the nominee, every voter will at least have heard
that, that statistic, because Romney`s whole campaign is that he could be a
better economic steward for the United States.
And if he wasn`t a good steward in Massachusetts, he`s going to have a
harder time making that argument. Of course, Rick Perry might be the
nominee, so this could all be moot.
O`DONNELL: Right. Jonathan, I think the "Politico" piece raises a
very important question, which is how does a president run for reelection
if the president can`t run on his record of accomplishments?
ALTER: Well, it will be partially on those accomplishments. You will
hear the Obama campaign talking a lot about the auto bailouts, for
instance. They won`t call them bailouts, but how they managed -- against
all expectations, by making a very tough decision, the president managed to
save hundreds of thousands of jobs and help the auto industry recover.
So part of the message will be positive and related to their record.
But there will be -- with 9.1 percent unemployment, there will be a lot of
negativity in the Obama campaign. Anybody expecting anything else is
O`DONNELL: MSNBC contributor Jonathan Alter, thank you very much for
joining me tonight, Jonathan.
ALTER: Yeah, thanks a lot, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: When Rick Santorum talks about marriage, he leaves the
reality zone pretty quickly. And tonight he gets crazier than ever.
That`s ahead in the Rewrite.
And later, how does Michele Bachmann respond to criticism and
controversy on the campaign trail? She wisely doesn`t. How Bachmann is
staying on message. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. Fox News is barring this man
from its Republican presidential debate this week simply because he is gay.
Fred Karger meets all of Fox`s requirements for being in the debate, which
are "the candidate be registered with the Federal Elections Commission as a
presidential exploratory committee or presidential campaign. The candidate
meets all U.S. Constitutional requirements and has garnered at least an
average of one percent in five national polls based on most recent polling
leading up to the registration day."
Karger`s campaign sites five polls, the most recent a Harris
interactive poll, which saw the candidate tied with Tim Pawlenty at two
percent. Karger has also placed at one percent in three polls, one of them
a Fox News poll. And just under one percent in a fifth. And to reiterate,
"Fox`s own rules call for an average of one percent in five national polls,
and the two percent showing in the most recent Harris Poll gets him there."
But Fox News knows that Fred Karger is openly gay. And Fox News is
not about to let an openly gay presidential candidate in a Republican
debate. But Fox News will allow this man in the debate, former Fox News
contributor Rick Santorum, who polls 50 percent lower than Fred Karger in
the Harris Interactive Poll.
Santorum, of course, is not openly gay. But he is deeply confused
about human sexuality and has left many of us concerned for his mental
health when he finds himself irresistibly drawn, at no one`s prompting,
into discussions of gay life.
Here`s Santorum`s latest meanderings on same-sex marriage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can call this napkin a
paper towel, but it is a napkin. Why? Because it is what it is. Right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK, this is the American politician at his worst, right?
When a politician is trying to go all kitchen table on you and pretending
to know the price of milk or what we do with napkins and paper towels,
that`s the way they try to sound connected to us. But it always makes them
sound completely alien.
Only a politician could think there`s some big difference between a
napkin and a paper towel. I can`t remember the last time I bought napkins.
But I buy paper towels all the time, because I use them all the time as
paper towels and yes, as napkins, sometimes folded like that, sometimes
The paper towel is the napkin of choice in my home and always will be.
And today at my desk, I used Starbuck`s napkins to mop up a little mess
instead of paper towels, because I didn`t have any paper towels. That`s
the way America really lives, substituting napkins for paper towels at
will, whenever it makes sense.
Someone who has no comprehension of the American relationship to paper
towels and napkins has no better chance of becoming president than an
openly gay Republican. Let`s hear where Santorum went with this paper
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: I can call this napkin a paper towel, but it is a napkin.
Why? Because it is what it is. Right? You can call it whatever you want,
but it doesn`t change the character of what it is. Sort of the
So people come out and say marriage is something else. Marriage is
the marriage of five people, five and 20, marriage can be between fathers
and daughters -- marriage can between any two people, any four people, any
ten people. It can be any kind of relationship and we can call it
But it doesn`t make it marriage. Why? Because there are certain
qualities and certain things that attach to the definition of what marriage
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Santorum clearly has no idea that many of the holiest men
in the Bible had more than one wife. Bigamists and polygamists are all
over the Bible. But Santorum is very aware that he`s running against two
Mormons who descended from polygamist marriages. And that`s why Santorum
will continue to try to link same-sex marriage to polygamy.
Classy guy, Rick Santorum. Rick Santorum`s political career will be
ending soon. He will go to the Republican convention next year not as a
candidate, but as a Fox News contributor again, unless by then he`s driven
O`Reilly and the gang absolutely crazy by insisting that no one at Fox News
ever use a paper towel as a napkin.
O`DONNELL: The biggest star of the presidential campaign who will
never be president continued her state-wide campaign swing across Iowa
today, trying to rally support ahead of Saturday`s straw poll in Ames,
Iowa. Michele Bachmann stuck to her talking points and avoided any mention
of the "Newsweek" magazine cover that`s generated criticism from Bachmann
supporters because they say the photograph makes her look -- and this is
their word -- crazy. This is all she said publicly when asked about it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re on the cover this morning of what`s left of
"Newsweek" magazine. Have you seen it yet?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, it`s a big close-up, sort of a wild-eyed photo
with the headline "Queen of Rage."
BACHMANN: Well, we`ll have to take a look at that, won`t we?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Michele Bachmann is in the process of proving she is no
Sarah Palin. Palin would have been all up in the lame stream media`s face
complaining about out of context photographs. In fact, when this image
graced the cover of "Newsweek" in 2009, Palin slammed the magazine saying,
quote, "the out of context "Newsweek" approach is sexist and oh so expected
Bachmann has moved on to offering her trademark wildly unrealistic
ideas of what she would do today if she were president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: If I were president today, I would call all the members of
Congress back into Washington, D.C. And I`d say this, look, we are going
to get this AAA credit rating back. And this is what we`re going to do.
First, we`re going to tell the markets that there will be no default on the
debt. We`ll make sure all the interest payments are made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Dana Milbank, opinion writer for "the
Washington Post," Thanks for joining me tonight, Dana.
Watching that clip, I realized there is no way Michele Bachmann can
scare American more than by beginning a statement with "if I were president
today." There`s nothing scarier than that.
DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, this is true. And you say
that she will never be the president. I think 99 percent likelihood you`re
correct in that. But she`s more plausible --
O`DONNELL: You`re a scientist about this. You`re leaving the one
percent. That`s what I mean by political scientist.
MILBANK: She`s no Rick Santorum, let`s face it. But she`s more
plausible than I ever thought she would be. And she`s hired top-flight
campaign people. She`s actually listening to them. .And they are very
deliberately positioning her as Sarah Palin with gray matter and Sarah
Palin with self control. The discipline is extraordinary.
O`DONNELL: What we`re seeing is Ed Rollins, who`s running the
campaign, has simply sat her down in the way they do with all candidates,
and said look, here`s how it works: you do this, this, and this. And she`s
following the advice, which is really simple to follow.
And what makes it so fascinating is her predecessor, Sarah Palin, who
couldn`t do any of that.
MILBANK: The first thing Ed Rollins did was he got in a fight with
the Sarah Palin campaign, saying she hadn`t been serious. It caused this
big kerfuffle. But I think it really laid out a marker for what Michele
Bachmann is intending to be.
The discipline is extraordinary. You can always hire these guys,
raise money, hire Ed Rollins, hire these guys. But then they wind up not
listening to them. The advisors fight. We remember the Hillary Clinton
Michele Bachmann is listening. And she is being extraordinary. She
may look crazy in a photograph. This woman is not crazy.
O`DONNELL: Does she run any risk of becoming Jon Huntsman here, of
becoming so careful and so boring that, you know --
MILBANK: I think she`ll be just fine. Everybody is dogging her about
the -- what her husband`s clinic is doing. And she`s saying we don`t want
to talk about the clinic. They created jobs, which is a brilliant answer.
Maybe they are converting gay people over here, but darn right, it`s a
small business creating jobs for America.
So she`s on message. She`s not riling up her base the way Palin did,
taking her base a bit for granted, and actually reaching out to sort of
O`DONNELL: She`s even brushing aside things like same-sex marriage,
hot-button items the candidates like her in the past have liked to exploit.
A simple kind of brushing aside, saying we have more important stuff to
talk about. I`m running for president.
MILBANK: Right, because she is keeping the big picture out there.
The Palin route was to just wind up the base over and over again, part by
attacking the media and part by playing the victim. She is saying look --
she actually has a pretty good corner on the Tea Party crowd. She`s
reaching out beyond that into Mitt Romney`s territory here by saying I am a
Now she may have some crazy ideas, but people are seeing a serious
O`DONNELL: Now it feels like the political media is giving her huge
credit for not being ridiculous.
MILBANK: Low expectations.
O`DONNELL: But doing the most basic thing, you know, like having
shoes that match, you know? It`s like she`s getting credit for that sort
of stuff now.
MILBANK: And Mitt Romney, no matter what he does, is going to be
ridiculed by the media. But she comes in with the advantage of low
expectations. That`s why I think you can`t entirely write her off. She
has really been formidable.
O`DONNELL: How does Rick Perry, if he gets into this, deal with
Michele Bachmann? Those two are fighting for the same votes.
MILBANK: They are. And the polls indicate that even without him
being out there and campaigning, he`s actually slightly ahead of her
generally. He has a very solid appeal to the Evangelical crowd. But he
doesn`t quite have that electric appeal that she has. I think she has a
way to light up crowds that Rick Perry may seem a little goofy.
O`DONNELL: Dana Milbank of "the Washington Post," thanks for joining
You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com.
You can follow me Tweets @Lawrence.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" is up next. Good evening, Rachel.
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