'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Guests: Howard Fineman, Ed Schultz, Norman Ornstein, Roger Simon, Melissa Harris-Perry
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: We now know most of the members of the new
congressional super committee, and there is nothing democratic about it. I
don`t mean democratic as in party, I mean democratic as in democracy.
DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC HOST: People of the United States of America,
your Congress is bought.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This super committee is so
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Republicans are complaining about the
Democrats on the super committee because they are Democrats.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC ANALYST: Republicans object to Harry Reid`s
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Max Baucus, John Kerry, Patty Murray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suppose he should have picked the Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than qualified.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of the Republicans.
CAPEHART: Republican picks have signed a pledge --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By Grover Norquist.
CAPEHART: -- against any tax hikes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dave Camp, Fred Upton.
HARRIS-PERRY: Really is going to have to be who can fight
CAPEHART: Eighty-two percent of Americans now disapprove of the way
Congress is doing its job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s also very disturbing, the lack of
HARRIS-PERRY: This super committee is so distressing.
O`DONNELL: Melissa Harris-Perry can`t stand talking about the super
committee. So, she`ll review a movie for us instead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, I`m going to do it. But I need to
make sure she understand this ain`t no game.
O`DONNELL: Republicans are trying to explain how losing two Senate
seats in Wisconsin is actually a win for them.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: What we saw happen in Wisconsin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two seats picking up last night was decent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is sort of a test for progressives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is devastating for unions.
O`DONNELL: Ed Schultz joins me.
ED SCHULTZ, HOST, "THE ED SHOW": I can`t do this story tonight
without having fun with these people.
O`DONNELL: And Iowa gets crazier as the candidates get ready for the
TIM PAWLENTY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve got more than one
HALL: They`re also preparing for tomorrow night`s big debate.
PAWLENTY: On how to put the hammer down.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fun and
entertainment. We`re always going to have a petting zoo for the kids.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who let the dogs out? Who,
O`DONNELL: Good evening from New York.
We now know the nine members of the 12-person joint select committee
on deficit reduction, who have until Thanksgiving to agree on at least
$1.25 trillion in government savings.
Today, House Speaker John Boehner appointed Congressman Jeb
Hensarling, who will serve as the co-chair of the committee. He is also
the Republican Conference. He will be joined by Dave Camp, who chairs the
ways and means committee for the Republicans in the House, which has
jurisdiction over taxes and the entitlement program, Social Security and
Medicare. Also, Fred Upton, who chairs the energy and commerce committee,
which has partial jurisdiction over Medicaid.
None of the three are members of the House Tea Party Caucus.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also made his three
appointments today. Retiring Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, who serves on
the Senate Finance Committee, will be a member. Rob Portman, who is on the
budget committee and served as budget director under President George W.
Bush, and Tea Party favorite, Patrick Toomey, a member of the Senate Budget
Committee, who once served as president of the Club of Growth, a
conservative anti-tax group.
All of the Senate and House Republicans appointed to the super
committee have signed Grover Norquist`s pledge to never raise taxes in any
way, including by closing tax loopholes. But two of the Republican
senators, Kyl and Toomey, violated the Norquist pledge when they voted in
favor of Senator Tom Coburn`s bill to repeal the ethanol tax credit.
Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed the three
Democratic members of the Senate who will serve on the super committee.
Senator Patty Murray, a member of the budget committee, will serve as the
Democratic co-chair. She is head of the Democratic Senatorial, Campaign
Committee. She will be joined by Senator John Kerry, who serves on the
finance committee, and Senator Max Baucus, who is the chairman of the
Senate Finance Committee.
The House of Representatives is a democratic institution designed to
represent people. The United States Senate is not. It is designed to
The state of Montana has less than half the population of Brooklyn,
but the state of Montana gets two senators and the state of New York gets
two senators, even though New York has 20 times more people than Montana.
In a democratically-designed Senate, if Montana gets two senators, then New
York gets 40, and Texas and California would get even more.
As undemocratic as the United States Senate is by design, the new
super committee is the most undemocratic assembly of legislative power
we`ve ever seen.
Here is the map of the super committee as we know it. This shows the
states in congressional districts that they represent. When Nancy Pelosi
adds her three choices, three more congressional districts will be
included. The committee will represent 15.2 percent of the American
people. The committee could have represented more people than that simply
by choosing one senator from California, both of whom are Democrats, so one
of them would be a Democrat, and one senator from Texas. Both of those
senators are Republicans, so that would be a Democrat and Republican.
Just one senator from California, one senator from Texas represent the
two most populous states, together they represent 20 percent of our
If you then threw in a New York senator, which would be a Democrat,
and a Florida Republican senator, say, and then throw in a Democrat from
Illinois and a Republican from Pennsylvania, which they do have in the mix
already, you would get to 41 percent.
And then the House members, all of whom represent roughly the same
number of people, so it doesn`t really matter where they are from, could
bring you up to a maximum, a maximum of 42.4 percent of the people
represented by a committee designed like this. But we didn`t come close to
that democratic maximum, which would still be a minority.
And so, the most momentous budgetary decisions of our time will be
made by a committee that represents only 15 percent of the people. Most of
the Congress already feels left out of this process, and now, 85 percent of
the American people have every right to feel completely left out of this
Joining me now, "The Huffington Post" editorial director and MSNBC
analyst, Howard Fineman. Also, resident scholar at the American Enterprise
Institute, Norm Ornstein.
Thank you both for joining me tonight.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC ANALYST: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Norm, you`ve seen this before, but this problem of getting
a group together that is divided equally between House and Senate
invariably was going to lead to a small minority of the country actually
being represented by the elected officials chosen by this committee. Is
there any way this committee can claim to be representative of the country
that`s going to have to live with the decisions it makes?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: At this point,
Lawrence, what they are representative of is their leadership. These are
the people the leaders wanted to basically sing their tune.
And what`s even, to me, as striking as the geographical lack of
representation, is if you look at Republican views and public opinion
around the country on things like taxes on the rich, you have a group of
Republicans who aren`t representative of their own party. That pledge is
not one that a healthy majority of Republicans agree with. So, this is a
problem, and it`s a problem, of course, with the "gang of six," which was a
self-selected group that`s even somewhat less representative in terms of
But whether this group can come together with something with this very
powerful bring it out majority vote, and then an up-or-down vote in each
House that Americans will see as legitimate is a challenge that goes beyond
O`DONNELL: Howard, the committee has amazing power when you think
about it, because they have power in success, they have power if they
actually do come to an agreement, because their work product would then be
fast tracked legislatively, basically you couldn`t filibuster it in the
But if they fail, if they can`t come to any agreement at all, they
have, in effect, legislated an automatic trigger that imposes Defense
Department cuts and other cuts. And so, there`s going to be a result of
this committee going to work.
Given the composition that we`ve seen, so far, and there`s only three
more House members that Nancy Pelosi will chose, what can we say now of the
prospects of this committee reaching an agreement?
FINEMAN: Well, a couple of things, Lawrence.
First, I was just talking to a leading member of the House on the
Democratic side about who those three Democrats were going to be, and he
told me look, Nancy Pelosi`s got a problem because the House Democrats,
unlike other parts, other three parts of this puzzle here, have to deal
with a Congressional Black Caucus, have to deal with a Hispanic caucus,
that`s all white males, white males and one woman. And that`s going to be
a factor there that goes not just to geography, but to demographics, which
The second thing here, as far as whether they`re going to be able to
reach a deal and how much power that they have, I don`t think there`s any
question that there`s been nothing like this. Norm who knows better about
congressional history can tell me, but it`s unlikely that there`s anything
been like this, at least in modern history.
And it`s an ironic result, forced in essence by the Tea Party, which
is supposed to be about grassroots power, democratic power with a small
"d," the end result of what the Tea Party engineered by way of
confrontation in the name of democracy and grassroots power was to create
something that is the opposite of grassroots and as close to monarchy in
the hot Congress as we`ve seen.
O`DONNELL: Norm, when I look at the actual workings of the committee,
I hope you are as unsurprised as I am that the chairman of the finance
committee is on there and the chairman of the ways and means in the House
is on there, since those are two committees with jurisdiction over
virtually everything that`s being discussed other than the Defense
Department budget cuts, and they also bring their staffs with them, who are
the only professional staffs in the Congress who are actually capable of
working on legislation involving all of these matters.
And so, although, Patty Murray technically has the title of the Senate
chairman, Hensarling technically has the title of the House chairman, it`s
real de facto going to be chairman of ways and means, chairman of finance.
They`re going to be the people sitting there with the real answers to
what`s possible, aren`t they?
ORNSTEIN: There`s a lot of truths to that, Lawrence. And it`s going
to be interesting to see if Max Baucus who as you well remember was a key
figure in a kind of midwife in the Bush tax cuts in 2001, who`s regretted
it to some degree, really picks up that particular cudgel to do something
Dave Camp has worked a lot on tax reform. And one thing we know is
that if you`re going to get a deal here, it`s going to be tax reform and
return for revenues, you`re going to have to pull something off the shelf
But I would mention two other people that we need to keep a very close
eye on. Of course, Rob Portman is one. If there`s any deal, it`s not
going to be 12-0, 11-1, it`s more likely to be 7-5, may be six Democrats
and one Republican. It could be 5-2. But Rob Portman is the key to
whether you`re going to get any kind of broad-ranging deal.
And I think John Kerry, who`s a kind of surprised choice here on a way
because he`s not one of those key figures on the committees, maybe the guy
who could pull Portman into some kind of larger deal, if it`s all doable,
and you can`t be super optimistic here.
O`DONNELL: Howard, politics has broken out already. Patty Murray is
getting criticized because she`s the head of the Democratic Senate Campaign
Committee. Her job is defeating Republican senators running for
reelection. And Republicans are saying she doesn`t belong on that
What`s the practicality of having her on the committee, given she`s
next in line to be budget chairman? And then what about the politics of
having her on the committee?
FINEMAN: Well, the practicality of it is, as Norm said, and as you
pointed out. These are, for the most part these are team players. These
are people that the leadership trust, in this case, Harry Reid trusts her.
But I agree with Norm`s analysis here. I think the key people to look
at are going to be Portman who, you know, started off on the moderate side
of the Republican Party at one time. He was a budget director. You know,
he`s a guy people like that seems to be of the deal making kind, a
reasonable guy on his side.
And, John Kerry, who after all, don`t forget, was the Democratic
standard bearer of 2004, who`s been, you know, aching for a role, you know,
that suits his history and that he believes his talents. And I think he
will see this as a historic opportunity to try to get something done. And
that`s very -- I think it`s interesting that they picked him.
These people, for the most part, they could have -- the two sides so
far could have gone more to the extremes than they did. They did go for --
for the most part, they went for leaders. They went for people who know
how to work within the system who are not there to sort of plant the flag
or merely make the point. And that at least raises the possibility of some
kind of deal. I agree with norm those are the two key people to watch.
O`DONNELL: Norm, one of the interesting thing about Chairman Baucus
is, although he did vote in favor of the Bush tax cuts, he also, in 1993,
voted for the biggest tax increase in history, something he doesn`t
advertise in Montana very much, but he was crucial in negotiating certain
elements of that tax. For example, he`s the one who held the gasoline tax
down to under a nickel, 4.3 cents.
O`DONNELL: He has credibility going both ways on taxes, talking to
Republicans and talking to Democrats on taxes. So, he may be the key man
in terms of figuring out exactly what a tax package might look like.
ORNSTEIN: That`s absolutely right, Lawrence. You`ve been around him
You know, there have been times in the past when he drove his own
party leaders up a wall, particularly Tom Daschle But I don`t think he and
Harry Reid have a pretty good relationship and understanding here and I
don`t think he would be on the committee unless Reid that he would be
But also, your key point: they know that with a very limited time
frame, either they are going to do something relatively modest, fail to do
something. And given what`s happening in the markets, the pressure must be
enormous, or do something big. And the something big has to include a big
tax package, and you can`t just start slapping it together.
One other point I`d make, Lawrence -- Rob Portman was also trade
representative. This is a guy who knows the world and he knows that the
global economy is teetering at the edge of the abyss. That may be an
incentive and it will be a crossroads for him, how much of a party
loyalist, how much do you break that mold to try and save the world?
O`DONNELL: Yes. He brings a lot of practical experience to this,
which is what you need.
Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and MSNBC political
analyst Howard Fineman -- thank you both for joining me tonight.
ORNSTEIN: My pleasure.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Stephen Colbert`s super PAC is making its first
move. We`ll show how Colbert is spending all that filthy super PAC
campaign money that he`s raising. That`s in the "Rewrite."
And a big win for Democrats in Wisconsin as they take two Senate seats
away from Republicans. What does it mean for the prospects of recalling
the Republican governor and what does it tell us about next year`s
presidential election? Ed Schultz, just back from Wisconsin, joins me --
O`DONNELL: Here`s who`s not represented on the congressional super
committee. If you don`t live in one of those colored states, you are one
of the 85 percent of the American people who is not, not represented by the
congressional super committee.
Coming up, what the recall elections in Wisconsin mean for 2012, and a
controversial film about white women and their black maids in the Jim Crow
South opens today.
If you follow Melissa Harris-Perry`s tweets, if you followed the ones
from the theater today, you have a pretty good idea of what she`s going to
tell us about this movie.
O`DONNELL: After successfully unseating two Republican state
senators, Wisconsin Democrats are now setting their sights of forcing a
recall of Republican Governor Scott Walker. Last night, Jessica King and
Jennifer Shilling beat their Republican incumbent opponents in what was
seen as a referendum on Walker`s agenda which included taking away
collective bargaining rights from employees. Four Republican state
senators did manage to hold on to their seats. Democrats fell one short of
what they needed to become the Senate majority in Wisconsin. Republicans
remain in control of the Wisconsin Senate now, 17-16.
Two Democrats still face recall elections of their own next Tuesday.
In order to trigger a recall election of Governor Walker in 2012,
Democrats will need to gather 543,208 signatures starting in November.
Walker carefully avoided a partisan victory lap over last night`s
Republican wins, issuing this statement. "In the days ahead, I look
forward to working with legislators of all parties to grow jobs for
Wisconsin and move our state forward."
Joining me now, just back from Wisconsin, our man in Madison, host of
"THE ED SHOW," Ed Schultz.
Ed, it was very exciting to have you out there last night covering
This is, to my eye, an amazing win for Democrats. They just ripped
two Republican Senate seats away from the Republicans in the middle of
their term. These guys are supposed to be comfortably governing as
Republicans, and now, they are out.
And we talked about the history of recalls last night. This is the
rarest form of democratic exercise in this country, and we saw the
Democrats take two.
SCHULTZ: You can see victories on both sides, depending how you want
to look at it, Lawrence, I agree with you. You go into six districts and
win two of them on Republican territory is awfully big, also considering
the money thrown out there.
But moving forward with the possible recall of the governor, where was
this kind of statement back when the Wisconsin 14 was on the road back in
January? Where was this attitude from Governor Scott Walker about wanting
to get together with Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller and let`s work
together on jobs?
He`s had a shift in attitude because he knows he`s on thin ice in
Wisconsin fishing in the springtime. I`m telling you right now, 11 percent
of people in the state voted last night. It`s a population of 5.2 million
people, 3 million voters -- the second highest turnout in the nation in
Well, a fraction of these people voted last night. And the
metropolitan areas, Milwaukee and Madison, which make up 2 million people
collectively, they weren`t involved in this process.
So, I think Governor Walker sees what`s happening here. He sees
there`s a change in attitude, that it was an overreach on the part of the
Republicans and losing these seats are big. They`re not high-fiving and
slam-dunking today. They are coming out saying, well, maybe we ought to
work together on jobs, which, I think, is really the right approach to take
at this point.
I think they`ll get the 500,000-plus signatures. I think he`s in
trouble early next year.
O`DONNELL: They got -- they did very well to get the signatures they
got on the recall elections they had, right? They got more than they need
in a lot of cases.
SCHULTZ: They did. And the crown jewel that they were looking for
was that they wanted to get Alberta Darling. That did not happen. They
got well over the amount of signatures that they needed.
But the harsh reality for the Democrats is getting signatures is one
thing, getting people out to vote is something else. What I saw on the
ground in Wisconsin is that they are going to have a little more
coordinated effort. They had all these people come in. They had all this
enthusiasm, but it really wasn`t channeled. It was more like winging it
when it comes on to scientific template on where do we need the help?
I had two Democratic senators say to me last night, we didn`t get the
vote out where we needed to get it out. I mean, all this enthusiasm is
great, but they`ve got to target it a little bit better because the
Democrats are not going to be able to fight this amount of money.
O`DONNELL: The thing about politics is, every play has been run
before, the game has been played -- except in recalls. So, if they are
saying, hey, we didn`t do exactly -- we didn`t execute exactly how we
wanted to last night -- well, no kidding, because you`ve never done this
I think they did an amazing job when there`s no template for how to do
SCHULTZ: There`s no template for fighting this kind of money.
Imagine, $8 million of outside money that can`t be identified that comes
through these groups for a state Senate race? This is how Alberta Darling
won last night.
Now, they basically spent $8 million to get 5,000 votes to put her
over the top. You take that money out or a fraction of it out, I think
you`ve got possibly a different outcome.
But a lot of the door-to-door work that was done by progressives in
the state, they kept hearing back -- I`m not going to get too involved in
this one, but when you want to recall Governor Walker, that`s when I`m
going to get involved.
O`DONNELL: Ed, we got to go. But, quickly, I know you`re hearing
about this about at 10:00 on your show -- the implications for next year,
for President Obama, for the Democrats running next year -- the lessons
SCHULTZ: Well, that`s coming up real soon in my opinion. I mean,
President Obama and the white House did not engage in the collective
bargaining fight in Wisconsin. Does that mean that they`re not going to
get involved in the recall of Senate bill five in Ohio? I think they`d be
making a real mistake.
This might be Wisconsin, but it`s a universal issue to attack
collective bargaining. And I think the White House needs to step up and
get the president involved. He`s the biggest player in the Democratic
Party. And to middle class families, this is what they need. They need a
fighter in the ring right now.
O`DONNELL: We`ll have more from Ed Schultz tonight, host of "THE ED
SHOW," live tonight at 10:00 p.m. -- more about Wisconsin.
Ed, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
SCHULTZ: Thank you, Lawrence. Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up: Republican presidential candidates are
preparing for the Ames straw poll, which, if history repeats itself, will
probably have absolutely no impact or meaning in the 2012 race.
And Stephen Colbert makes his first big ad buy in Iowa with his super
PAC cash. Colbert has picked the presidential candidate he is backing and
that candidate may not be too pleased. That`s in the "Rewrite."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you build it, he will come. If you build it,
he will come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Spotlight, the Iowa Straw Poll. Kevin
Costner`s Oscar nominated picture "Field of Dreams" was shot in Iowa, where
the Republicans take the movie`s most memorable line very seriously. "If
you build it, he will come."
Republicans have built the Ames Straw Poll, which takes place this
Saturday. And no matter how many times it has demonstrated its irrelevance
to even predicting the winner of the Iowa caucuses, never mind the
Republican nomination or presidency, they all keep coming to the Ames Straw
They being Republican candidates for president and about 700 members
of the news media, who are expected to show up in Ames on Saturday. Roger
Simon writes in "Politico," quote, "the Ames Straw Poll is a delightful
fraud, an amiable hoax, that most people in Iowa don`t care about, but the
national media eat up because the event seems so charmingly Iowan. To its
credit, there is no man behind the curtain. Its fraudulence is open and
above board. It`s organized bribery on a grand scale."
Joining me now, Roger Simon, chief political columnist for
Politico.com. Thanks for joining me tonight, Roger.
ROGER SIMON, "POLITICO": My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Roger, how dare you. I -- don`t you understand MSNBC will
be covering -- special coverage on Saturday of this thing that you`re
saying is a fraud?
SIMON: I think MSNBC should cover it. It`s an amiable and enjoyable
fraud, and it is part of American political life. But let`s be honest
about it. The campaigns buy up thousands of tickets at 30 dollars a piece,
hand them out for free, get people to get on buses and go to air-
conditioned tents and eat free food and drink cold drinks for free and
watch free entertainment.
They vote, if they want to. But they don`t even have to listen to the
candidates speak. That is not exactly a voice of the people-type event.
Yet as you pointed out in your clip, it has been built and the media buy
into it. We pretend there`s a real game going on.
Iowans don`t pretend that. I crunched the numbers before I came. If
14,000 people show up at Ames, and that`s a reasonable figure, that`s 2.3
percent of the registered Republican vote. That`s like 97 percent of
registered Republicans stay away.
It`s a nine-person ballot. It allows write-ins. So it`s unlikely the
winner will actually get more than 50 percent of the vote. So the winner
is going to come away with somewhere around one percent or less. And the
media is going to go crazy and say this shows something about how the
results will turn out next February.
Well, you know, it almost never does.
O`DONNELL: And so the fraud part is that there`s, in effect, a 30
dollar poll tax to vote. And most people, almost none of them, pay the
poll tax. The poll tax is paid for them by candidates. And so in effect,
the votes are for sale.
Let`s look at the winners of this thing. It started in 1979. There
have been five of these Republican straw polls. In 1979, George H.W. Bush
won. Ronald Reagan went on to get the nomination and the presidency. 1987
produced the ridiculous result of Pat Robertson winning this thing. 1995
had Bob Dole tie with Phil Graham. Phil Graham disappeared from the
campaign. Dole did end up with the nomination, which is a rare outcome for
1999, you had George W. Bush, finally someone who won it, who went on
to get the nomination and win presidency. And then last time around, Mitt
Romney won this thing and then won just about nothing else after it. So it
is not something that is very predictive of what is going to happen next.
And even in a case like George W. Bush, no one needed this little straw
poll to indicate how strong the candidacy of George W. Bush was when he was
SIMON: Exactly, and the media say, in their own defense, that look,
not many people vote, but it`s a sign of organizational ability to get
people to this event. Well, you know, it`s on a bright and sunny day. It
can rain, but it`s usually been sunny in the past. I`ve been to four of
these things. You get them on air-conditioned buses to an air-conditioned
tent to a very nice air-conditioned coliseum.
The Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State University, where they play
basketball -- basketball is the state religion of Iowa. It`s a very nice
place. That is not a sign of caucus night, which is scheduled for February
6th, next year, the dead of winter, at night, where people sometimes have
to drive two or three hours, stand usually in an Elk`s Lodge or a library
And they don`t get to see any candidates. There are no media
superstars to see. That takes real organization. And you know what, only
about 20 percent of Republicans even bothered to go to the caucuses four
O`DONNELL: Roger, we just can`t tell Chuck Todd that we did this
segment tonight, because he`s going to be ruining his Saturday anchoring
much of our coverage. We`re going to delete this one from our website. No
one is ever going to see this again. We`ll take it out of the rerun of the
"Politico`s" Roger Simon, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
SIMON: Thank you, my pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Steven Colbert`s Super PAC cash is going to one
candidate in Iowa. He just has to Rewrite the guy`s name to do it. Steven
Colbert makes tonight`s Rewrite.
And Melissa Harris-Perry reviews the new film "The Help." She Tweeted
from the theater today a lot of what she thought about it. So for some of
you, it might not be a big surprise. But stay with us for Melissa Harris-
Perry. That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": There will be others who say,
Steven Colbert, what will you do with that unrestricted Super PAC money?
To which I say I don`t know. Give it to me and let`s find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, Steven Colbert rewrites Rick Perry.
He actually just rewrites Rick Perry`s name and in the process answers the
question, Steven Colbert, what will you do with all that unrestricted Super
PAC money that`s he`s been collecting. And he`s been collecting it from
contributors he calls his heroes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLBERT: But remember, it`s not just your ideas I want. I also want
your cash. So much that I put the names of the brave Americans who donate
on my crawl of heroes down here. Of course, Colbert Super PAC is all about
building bridges. That is why I was truly gratified recently to see that
even after the things I`ve said about Muslims, I received a contribution
from Arab American viewer Suq Madiq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He can be so juvenile. The first thing that Colbert`s
Super PAC has done is create an ad for Rick Perry. The ad is aimed at
participants in this weekend`s straw poll in Ames, Iowa, urging them to
write in the name Rick Perry, who is not officially participating in the
Iowa straw poll.
The Colbert Super PAC issued a press release today explaining the
content and the intent of their ad supporting Rick Perry. Quote, "The ad
entitled "Episode IV, A New Hope," urges Iowans to write in the name of
Texas Governor Rick Perry. Thanks to last year`s Supreme Court ruling in
Citizens United, Super PACs can receive and spend unlimited amounts of
money as long as they do not coordinate with a particular candidate,
because that would be wrong, also illegal.
"Currently, there are seven different Super PACs vying to become the
primary recipient of that sweet, unlimited, Perry cash. `I called dibs on
Rick Perry a long time ago,` said Steven Colbert, president and assistant
equipment manager for Colbert Super PAC. `I recognized that he has the
tough talk, the cowboy boots and the history of shooting coyotes during
morning jogs that our country needs. So if anybody is going to be taking
unlimited donations and then not be coordinating with his campaign, it`s
going to be not us.`
"So to prove we`re truly uncoordinated, we`re asking those to write in
Parry with an "A," as in America, Iowa, or president. You can feel
confident he`s not asking us to do that."
The new ad begins airing today across the greater Des Moines
metroplex. Colbert Super PAC is an independent expenditure only committee
dedicated to empowering citizens to embrace freedom, liberty, and free-
berty. Colbert Super PAC is officially known as Americans for a Better
Tomorrow Tomorrow. But if you give them enough money, you can call them
whatever you want.
America, I give you Steven Colbert`s very first use of the dirty,
filthy campaign money he`s been collecting in his relentless effort to
subvert the American democratic process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLBERT: A storm is gathering over Iowa, a money storm. Out of state
groups like Grow PAC and Jobs for Iowa PAC are flooding the Iowa airwaves,
telling you to vote Rick Perry at the Ames straw poll. They think they can
buy your vote with their unlimited Super PAC money.
But Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow ask what about our
unlimited Super PAC money? We want you to vote for Rick Parry too, but not
their Rick Perry. Our Rick Parry.
On August 13th, write in Rick Parry. That`s Parry with an "A" for
America, with an "A" for Iowa.
Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow is responsible for the
content of this advertising.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s something else I want to write about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would need your help. I want to interview you
about what it`s like to work as a maid. I`d like to do a book of
interviews about working for white families. We can show what it`s like to
work for, say, Elizabeth?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You what miss would do if she knew I was telling
stories on her?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was thinking we wouldn`t have to tell her.
The other maids would have to keep it a secret too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Other maids?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I was hoping to get four or five, to show
what it`s really like in Jackson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s a scene from the new movie "The Help," which is
from the book of the same title by Katherine Stockett. It`s a depiction of
the life of African-American maids in the south in 1963.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put mamma in the chair before she breaks a hip.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not deaf yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- she looks like the winning horse at the
Kentucky Derby. All those flowers and bows.
Forgive me, lord, but I`m going to have to kill that woman, Abilene.
Now she going and putting pills and marks on her toilet paper. But I carry
a paper in from home to my own house. That fool don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Oprah Winfrey tweeted today "hey, Tweets, if you liked the
book `The Help,` you`ll delight in the movie. Opens today, can`t wait to
hear what you think."
Because the book generated some controversy and the movie is already
generating more, we asked Tulane University professor Melissa Harris-Perry
to join the opening day crowds at the theater and answer Oprah`s question,
what do you think.
If you followed Melissa`s Tweets today, this is what you saw as she
Tweeted from the theater.
"I`m one hour into `The Help` movie. I`m not sure I can make it
through to the end, arrgh." "I read the book. I knew, but the images."
Then, "hard to tell whether it`s the representation of black women or
white women that`s most horrible."
And then "thank God magical black women were available to teach white
women, raise their families and to write books."
And then "and thank God plucky white girls could give black women the
courage to resist exploitation."
Then "and man oh man, was Jim Crowe full of giggling good times in the
Then "oh, I loves me some fried chicken. This line was just uttered
in `The Help,` seriously."
Then, "I just timed it. Miss Skeeter`s date got the same amount of
screen time as Medgar Ever`s assassination, sigh."
Then, "the first real moment, violent arrest of black woman."
And finally, "`The Help` movie reduces systematic violent racism,
sexism, and labor exploitation to a cat fight that can be won with cunning
Melissa also sent us an e-mail saying "I think MSNBC is going to have
to give me worker`s comp for putting me through this."
Joining me now is Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC contributor and author
of a new book released this week, "Sister Citizen; Shames, Stereotypes and
Black Women in America," She`s also THE LAST WORD`s film critic.
Thanks for joining me tonight, Melissa.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, TULANE UNIVERSITY: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Melissa, at the bottom of one of your e-mails today,
before you saw the movie, you said -- you said that you were incoherently
angry. Now, I have actually been incoherently angry on television more
than once. You never have. I would give anything to see you incoherently
angry on television tonight. It will be a Youtube sensation, Melissa, if
you want to do it. It will take off. It will go viral.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, undoubtedly. But look, I got to tell you, I went
home and took some deep breaths after this, in part because I think it`s
really easy to frame an African-American woman feminist talking about a
feel-good, happy race movie with a critical eye as kind of a killjoy. It`s
the easiest thing in the world to do.
And I want to be really careful that I point out that look, if you
like the part of the movie that is about the young woman, Skeeter -- my
anxiety is a notion this is about the lives of black women. No, it`s not.
It`s a lovely little coming of age movie about Skeeter, who is the white
woman who is the main character.
The fact is that the African-American woman domestic workers become
props in the movie for her, just as they are basically props in the movie
of real life.
But the notion that this is somehow tapping into the experience of
actual black women domestic workers -- you know, if the debt ceiling is
kind of your sweet spot, the thing that you knew, this one, how black
women`s labor exploitation continues to impact our policy and our politics
and cultural lives today, that`s mine.
So it just -- I know there are a lot of bad movies and a lot of
troubling books, but this one really got to me.
O`DONNELL: Melissa, there`s always this issue in emphasis in movies
like this, where Medgar Ever`s assassination gets this much space, compared
to these other things. And how do you weigh the artistic judgment, which
is not scientific, which doesn`t use historical calculation, but uses an
artistic sensibility to make the judgements about how to lay these things
How do you weigh that when you`re watching a movie like this?
HARRIS-PERRY: The problem is that it is so ahistorical as to be
inaccurate. I think that`s the problem. I get that people want to feel
good. So we reduce racism to this kind of sentimental notion that if you
bake a problematic pie, somehow you can get the one white woman back.
But look, the issues that faced African-American women were not kind
of real housewives of Jackson, Mississippi, mean girls behavior. That`s
not what it was. It was rape. It was lynching. It was the burning of
What this movie does in 2011 is it completes the work that happened
and started in 1923, when the Americans -- the Daughters of the American
Confederacy, along with Senator John Williams from Mississippi, found money
in the federal budget to erect a granite statue of Mamie in the shadow of
the Lincoln Memorial, which had just been dedicated in 1922.
This was the same Senate that refused to pass the Dire Answered
Lynching Bill. In other words, a Senate that allowed black men to be
lynched without federal oversight, to allow them to be lynched with no
consequence in the south, at the same time had the time to pass a bill that
said we can erect a statute to Mamie.
Now this is not granite and it`s not on federal land. But it`s the
same notion that the fidelity of black women domestics is more important
than the realities of the lives and the pain, the anguish, the rape, the
lynching that they experienced.
For that reason, it`s not artistic. It`s ahistorical and it`s deeply
O`DONNELL: Melissa, every view I read today made some of the points
that you`ve made, without the historical specificity that you can get to.
But also, every one of them said Viola Davis was just incredible in her
portrayal on this movie.
HARRIS-PERRY: She is, and what kills me is that in 2011, Viola Davis
is reduced again to playing a maid. I want to see that exquisite acting to
the kind of roles that Viola Davis truly deserves.
O`DONNELL: MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris-Perry -- thank you very
much for joining us tonight, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is up next. Good evening, Rachel.
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