Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Friday, August 19, 2011

Read the transcript to the Friday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Guest Host: Melissa Harris-Perry
Guests: E.J. Dionne, Jennifer Lawless, Bob Edgar, Baratunde Thurston

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST: Out of all the shocking things you`ve
heard about Rick Perry this week, the most outrageous may be the statement
you were not supposed to hear.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want you to join
with me as I share his word.

HARRIS-PERRY: Is Bank of America answering the prayers of Rick Perry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bank of America, we will help you out.

PERRY: So God bless you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bank of America plans to cut 3,500 jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bank of America, we will help you out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s on top of the 2,500 jobs cut earlier this
year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perry has problems.

PERRY: It`s a theory that`s out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like he`s always been with us.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Shoot from the mouth style.

PERRY: You`re smart enough to figure which one is right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Treason, evolution, and global warming.

PERRY: I needed to watch what I say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rick Perry is an idiot, and I don`t think
anybody would disagree with that.

PERRY: The other Republicans are still praying for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Little men from mars?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scoffing at science.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ask him why he doesn`t believe in science.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perry said this.

PERRY: In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jon Huntsman coming out saying, listen, that he
does believe in evolution and climate change.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I am not the only potential
candidate.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First rule of
war is know your enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Want to go all the way.

BACHMANN: Oh, my goodness, yes!

PERRY: Christine O`Donnell tells NBC that she`s a victim.

CHRISTINE O`DONNELL (R), FORMER U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Borderline
sexual harassment.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: He asked you about gay marriage.

O`DONNELL: Creepy line of questioning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was asking about her stand on same-sex
marriage.

O`DONNELL: Personal intimate questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was asking about same-sex marriage.

O`DONNELL: Lust in your heart is committing adultery. So, you can`t
masturbate without lust.

MITCHELL: Whatever her name is.

O`DONNELL: I`m sorry, I`m hearing -- I`m having problems with my
audio.

MITCHELL: Whatever her name is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plugging her new book.

MITCHELL: One wonders why anyone would even want to read a book from
Christine O`Donnell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS-PERRY: Good evening from New York.

Rick Perry appears to be all hat and no cattle -- at least when it
comes to his Tea Party credentials. Remember how he was bragging about his
job`s record in Texas, how he managed to create all these jobs in the state
even during the economic downturn?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: There have been some over on the left that said the fact is
that those 40 percent of the jobs created in America since the 9th of June
-- or, excuse me, since June of 2009, was just luck.

Well, Mr. President, America`s crisis is not bad luck, it`s bad
policies from Washington, D.C. Jobs come by keeping taxes low, by
controlling spending, by reforming tort laws and ensuring the regulations
are fair and predictable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, except that most of those jobs were government
jobs, funded at least partially by the federal stimulus money which Perry
once predicted could lead Texas to secede an anti-tax Tea Party.

Now, clearly, Perry has no trouble railing against Texas and the
Recovery Act while happily accepting the taxpayer-funded help in the state
of Texas. Now, it may be happening again.

On Wednesday, Perry spoke at the politics and eggs breakfast in New
Hampshire, but it`s an interaction Perry had afterwards that`s got a lot of
people talking today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bank of America, we will help you out.

PERRY: Sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY-PERRY: Wait, what? Did an official from Bank of America just
side by a Republican presidential candidate, all cloak and dagger style,
and say he would help him out?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bank of America, we will help you out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That`s what happened. It turns out that Bank of
America, that official is James Mahoney, who sits on the board of directors
for the New England Council, which sponsored the politics and eggs event.

Bank of America issued this statement today. Quote, "Bank of America
does not endorse presidential candidates, the reference was about following
up on the substance of the speech about job creation and economic growth."

What Bank of America did not mention in its statement is that Mahoney
is chairman of Bank of America`s New Hampshire PAC.

"Politico" broke that news tonight, saying, "While Mahoney doesn`t
appear to be a registered lobbyist, he is a chairman of Bank of America`s
New Hampshire PAC, an influence post focused on dispensing political cash,
not a policy post." Surprise, surprise.

If the line Bank of America, we`ll help you out was in a movie script,
it would take place in a darkened parking lot in the middle of the night.
Kind of like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Follow the money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re just following the money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Don`t worry, we`ll be following the money.

And campaign donations as this race goes on.

But here`s what we do know: Bank of America has already helped out
Rick Perry. Aside from donating more than $125,000 to Perry`s
gubernatorial campaigns, the bank bailout which handed Bank of America to
the tune of $45 billion, handed Perry, not related to me, the political
ammunition for his 2010 primary campaign against Senator Kay, as he called
her, bailout Hutchison.

(BEGIN VIDOE CLIP)

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: I could not give a blank check
for $700 billion to anyone. I wouldn`t have given it to Ronald Reagan.

NARRATOR: Just one day later, Senator Hutchison bailed on Texas and
voted for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Hatch, aye. Mrs. Hutchison? Mrs. Hutchison,
aye.

NARRATOR: Senator Hutchison, voting with Washington since 1993.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: I can`t wait for the ad that says Governor Perry,
benefiting from Washington in 2011.

And just this week, Bank of America`s announced it will lay off an
additional 3,500 employees, another gut punch to an already struggling
economy. One of the reasons Bank of America is struggling is its never-
ending stream of mortgage lawsuits and all Perry is offering is a platform
of fewer taxes, less regulation, less consumer protection, and more risk.

Wall Street would just love another helping of that.

Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist, E.J. Dionne. Nice to see
you, E.J.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be with you, happy to help you
out.

HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly. Now, look, I`m assuming there`s nothing
illegal happening in the video. But from the moment, I saw it, I thought,
wow, this feels unsavory. It feels icky. What should we be thinking as we
see that interaction?

DIONNE: Well, I think what you saw on the videotape is kind of
transaction that happens quite a lot in politics, Mike Kinsley, the great
political writer, once said the things we should look out for are not the
things that are illegal in politics, but the things that are legal in
politics. I think there are a couple things here. First, once again we
see the dangers opened up but that Citizens United decision, which would
make it easier than ever for corporations to have more and more influence
on our politics, it just takes the lid off and regulations off.

And secondly, I think you`re seeing a kind of hypocrisy on the right
where a lot of them ran against the bailout, but they are also opposed to
the kinds of regulations that would make it less likely that we`ll need a
bailout the next time.

I think you got this odd situation for the Obama administration where
progressives think we are kind of too soft on the banks, and yet all these
folks who did very well in the last couple of years think Obama is too
tough on them and so, they are turning to folks like Rick Perry.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you about the Citizens United decision just
a bit more, because I know many of us shuttered about this, and then when
we heard Republican presidential Mitt Romney say corporations are people or
persons, it felt like, oh, they are Citizens United walking around on the
campaign trail.

But is there reason to believe that decision should benefit one party
over the other, or is it just sort of a problem of big money in politics in
general?

DIONNE: It is a problem of big money in politics in general, but on
balance, most of the time, obviously, the big money has been more on the
Republican side than the Democratic side.

But when I heard, we were talking about this today -- the best reply
to Mitt Romney "corporations are people" actually came from Justice Stevens
in that Citizens United case. He said, "Although they make enormous
contributions to our society, corporations aren`t actually members of it."
And I love this line: "corporations have no consciousness, no beliefs, no
feelings, no thoughts, no desires. They are not members of we the people
by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

And I would love to emblazon that on a billboard up in New Hampshire
before the election is over.

HARRIS-PERRY: Might be a slightly complicated billboard, but I hear
you. Let me suggest this, though -- when we look at Rick Perry`s economic
policy, really the vision that he has laid out prior to this exchange with
the Bank of America representative, it seems like what Perry wants to do is
fewer taxes, less regulation, is that the sort of thing that Bank of
America and other sort of enormous banks want? Is that why we might have
heard that whispering moment between them?

DIONNE: You know, two things, one is I think it`s pretty common for
people who head PACs or this gentleman wasn`t a lobbyist, but people who
are lobbyist, to say that sort of thing to politicians. I do think it
happens all the time.

But the answer is yes. I think that, you know, the corporate world is
trying to -- does not like regulation, it doesn`t think that regulation is
to protect, you know, mortgage holders or consumers is in their interest.

So we`ve had this fight in the country since the time of Teddy
Roosevelt, and we will continue to have it, and our elections are designed
to settle a question each time about whether we think there ought to be
some rules here, which paradoxically, by the way, protect the honest
corporations who would actually like to sort of care about the public
interest in the common good.

HARRIS-PERRY: E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post," I appreciate you
making good sense of that very interesting clip for us. Thanks for being
here.

DIONNE: Thank you. Good to be with you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks.

Christine O`Donnell is talking a new book after walking out on two
interviewers that she said were being sexists. Is there a double standard
about sex in politics? That`s next.

And later, "The Onion" always gets a great laugh. But do its
political jokes also show us the truth about our nation`s ludicrous
politics?

That`s ahead on THE LAST WORD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: "We reject pedestals, queenhood and walking 10 paces
behind, to be recognized as human, levelly human is enough." That`s from
the feminist organization, Combahee River Collective. But in politics, are
women treated equally? That discussion is next.

And while we are quoting people, Gandhi once said, "Those who think
religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is."
But why are Republicans are doing a better job connecting with America`s
faithful? That`s still ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Former Republican Delaware senate candidate Christine
O`Donnell is back in the news, promoting her new book, "Troublemaker: Let`s
Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again."

The Tea Party candidate became a favorite media punch line last year
when her politically incorrect confessions about witchcraft and
masturbation surfaced from the 1990s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: We need to address sexuality with young people. And
masturbation is part of sexuality, but it is important to discuss this from
a moral point of view.

The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So,
you can`t masturbate without lust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: To O`Donnell`s surprise, the media still wants to talk
about sex.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: About to ask you a question I don`t ask most
of my guests, I have to be honest with you. Do you still think
masturbation is wrong?

O`DONNELL: Let`s not even go there.

MORGAN: Why, you went there?

O`DONNELL: Well, again, like I said, and again, I go into detail
about where I was at that time in my life and why I chose to go on that
show and do that interview.

MORGAN: Sure, I get all that. But, I mean, you know, your views on
sex and stuff are relevant, if you`re going to be a politician.

O`DONNELL: Well, there are not, because there aren`t laws outlawing
sex. And if there are, they should be on the local level as I make the
case for local control as opposed to federal control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: O`Donnell, who`s, of course, not related to Lawrence,
ended up walking off the set of that interview because she said that Piers
Morgan was, quote, "creepy" and that had these creepy questions that felt
like, quote, "borderline sexual harassment."

She talked to "The Today Show" this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He throws it in there, in the middle of these sex
questions that he would not ask with a man. And then he goes into a
personal nature and starts prying. Imagine if Bill Clinton were there,
would he ask him, do you still hang out with Monica Lewinsky? Come on, we
talked about it in the 1990s. Do you still have the fascination with
cigar, Bill? Come on, what`s wrong with this? No.

And if he did ask a male former candidate that, the outcry would be
that it belonged on pay-per-view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I am no fan of Christine O`Donnell`s policy, but
does O`Donnell have a point? Is there a double standard applied to female
politicians, especially when the subject is sex?

Last month, Tim Pawlenty`s top advisor said Michele Bachmann would be
tough to beat in Iowa because she`s, quote, "got a little sex appeal."
Former Governor Sarah Palin called a photograph of herself in running
shorts on the cover of "Newsweek," a sexist and out of context photograph.
And, of course, Hillary Clinton had to contend with these in every novelty
gift shop when she ran for president.

Joining me now is Jennifer Lawless, the director of Women and Politics
Institute and associate professor of government at American University.

Hi, Jennifer.

JENNIFER LAWLESS, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Hi. How are you?

HARRIS-PERRY: I`m really excited actually to speak with you. I teach
your book about women running as candidates in my class, and so, when this
reemerged in the context of Christine O`Donnell, I thought it would be
really fantastic to have this conversation with you.

LAWLESS: Well, thank you for having me.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let`s start with Christine O`Donnell. Is she
right? I mean, is this fair? Was she, in fact, getting a set of questions
or having those questions asked of her in a way that was different than a
male politician?

LAWLESS: I don`t think so. And the reason I don`t is two-fold.
First of all, part of the reason she became a national political figure is
because of those kinds of statements and because of her widespread appeal.
And as a result, anything in the book is fair game.

Second, she went on the show to promote the book. And so, I think
it`s a little disingenuous to say that she was treated unfairly when she
was garnering the kind of publicity for her book tour.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let`s leave Christine O`Donnell alone for just one
second because, after all, she didn`t actually hold office. But there is
another person who has a similar narrative, and that is Sarah Palin. And
Sarah Palin made this kind of striking comment that Democrats would, if
they had an opportunity to do it again, vote for Hillary Clinton rather
than Barack Obama.

Is this is sisterly feminist appeal on Sarah Palin`s part? Is she
saying something about the quality of women`s leadership? Or is this
really just an attack on the incumbent president?

LAWLESS: I think it`s probably the latter. I could imagine her
making a similar statement even if Hillary Clinton had not been the second
choice in the 2008 election.

We know that Barack Obama`s approval ratings are low. We know that
congressional approval ratings are low. We know that people are frustrated
with the status quo.

So, I think that Republicans, in an attempt to distance themselves
from the Democratic status quo, are even trying to get Democrats to think
about alternatives.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. That said, in the same class where I teach your
book, I also took a week where the students, mostly young feminists, by the
way, self-identified by feminists, read both Hillary Clinton`s
autobiography and Sarah Palin`s first book, her first autobiography. And
even though most of them disagreed with Palin`s policy positions, they
actually found her life story to be pretty compelling.

Is Sarah Palin actually a good feminist role model? Is there
something we ought to learn from her in the context of women in politics?

LAWLESS: Well, there`s no question that she opened up the political
process for women. She was a mother with young children. She started out
at the local level. She was a mayor of a very, very small town and she was
able to climb her way up very, very quickly.

And so, I think she demonstrated that you don`t necessarily have to be
part of the political establishment to succeed in politics. And that in
and of itself is very attractive, especially to younger generations.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I had laughed sometimes, but the thing I like
best about Sarah Palin and even Christine O`Donnell is that like the men
who preceded them, they didn`t wait to be perfect to run for office. I
mean, again, I don`t -- I am not as a progressive Democrat for the most
part not in agreement with their policy positions, but I do find it
interesting that they have this kind of audaciousness about their
willingness to go ahead and run for office, you know, sometimes office much
higher than what they appear to be qualified for on paper.

But I know in your research you find women are very reluctant to run
for office.

How do you square on the one hand, the reluctance of women who have
great capacity and skill and the sort of audaciousness on the other hand of
these women?

LAWLESS: That`s a great question. We -- Richard Fox and I surveyed
and interviewed about 4,000 women and men, who on paper look the same --
lawyers, business leaders, political activists, and asked them about their
interest in running for office. And we found that women were significantly
less likely than men to self assess as qualified to run. And what was more
interesting, women who didn`t think were qualified to run didn`t think
about running.

Men who self assessed as unqualified to run still had a good chance of
throwing their hat into the ring.

So, I guess in a way, the Sarah Palins of the world are helpful in
identifying that unqualified women too should have political ambition. But
I think we should find examples of women who were willing to put themselves
out there. It`s just important to realize that Sarah Palin, Hillary
Clinton, Nancy Pelosi -- these famous faces obscure the reality that 83
percent of the members of Congress and 44 of the state governors are still
men.

HARRIS-PERRY: Jennifer Lawless with the Women in Politics Institute -
- it`s really important for us, you know, in a week where we`re seeing, for
example, Gloria Steinem`s new documentary in all of this for us to pause
and ask what do we mean when we say we want to see more women in politics.
So, I appreciate this conversation with you.

LAWLESS: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks.

Now, in polite conversation, there`s certain topics you`re not
supposed to discuss. Two of them are religion and politics. Up next,
we`re talking about both.

And later, the comedians of late night get tonight`s LAST WORD.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O`BRIEN: The CEO of Starbucks said that President Obama
shouldn`t be vacationing during a crisis. Yes, he said Obama should be
trying to get Americans back to work so they can afford a $9 cup of coffee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Still ahead, are Republicans better than Democrats at
courting religious voters. And if so, why? The connection between the
pulpit and ballot box is up next.

And later, the comedic minds of "The Onion" love to poke fun at our
political system. But the thing is, there`s a whole lot of truth in the
punch lines. One of the brilliant minds behind America`s funniest
newspapers joins me. Ahead on THE LAST WORD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: In the 2010 midterm elections, the all important
Catholic vote, a quarter of the electorate, swung to the Republican party
with 54 percent voting for GOP Congressional candidates. It was a 12 point
increase from 2008.

Now, Republicans also saw a six point increase in the number of white
Protestant voters in the 2010 midterms. There was little media analysis
done of why this shift took place. But what we do know is that in the last
decade, the Republican party has more openly and aggressively mixed
religion and politics.

President George W. Bush effectively used dog whistles, like when he
referred to the "wonder working power of the American people" during his
2003 State of the Union Speech. That was undoubtedly familiar to
Evangelical listeners, who know the hymn, but would have passed unnoticed
by others.

Recently, the religious fervor has grown more overt. Where were you
on August 6th? I know where Texas Governor Rick -- not related to me --
Perry was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His agenda is not a
political agenda. His agenda is a salvation agenda. He is a wise, wise
God. And he wise enough to not be affiliated with any political party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right, Perry was speaking before 33,000 people
in Houston`s Reliant Stadium. Governor -- seriously, no relation -- Perry
boldly proclaimed his faith at this prayer event called "The Response."
Now we know the not so hidden agenda behind that event.

In an email sent yesterday to thank attendees, organizers wrote,
quote, "today I want to introduce you to the Champion the Vote, CTV, whose
mission is to mobilize five million unregistered conservative Christians to
register and vote according to the Biblical world view in 2012."

Notice the assumption that there is only one Biblical world view and
that necessarily benefits the Republican candidates. Then there`s
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who is using Peter E. Waldren as one of her
Evangelical organizers.

"The Atlantic" points out that Waldren spent 37 days in prison in 2006
on charges of terrorism in Uganda, after being arrested for possession of
assault rifles and ammunition. At the time of his arrest, one right ring
blog hailed him as being, quote, "an arms dealer of the lord."

The charges were dropped after what Waldren said was an intervention
by the Bush administration. When asked about Waldren`s role and
background, Bachmann`s press secretary told "The Atlantic," "Michele`s
faith is an important part of her life. And peter did a tremendous job
with our outreach faith effort in Iowa. We are fortunate to have him on
our team and look forward to having him expanding his efforts in several
states."

So with all of this religious fervor coming from the Republican
presidential candidates, I`ve been thinking about the lack of such fervor
on the left. With the dismissive and sometimes murderous history of
institutionalized religion, it`s easy to understand the progressive desire
to eliminate God talk from political life.

But I submit this: in a time of such turmoil and strife, in a time
when deepening unemployment strips our faith in the future, when the mean-
spirited policies of economic austerity undermine our sense of collective
responsibility, and when the need for inspired action seems so acute, why
not look to the rich multiple faith traditions of progressive people and
movements as a tool of progressive social change?

When the American left allows conservative thinkers and politicians to
be the only interpreters of religious texts, it cedes to them a tool that
was once used to make moral and ethical claims as a basis for public
policies. Emancipation, civil rights, labor protections, our social safety
net all benefited from political arguments rooted in strong moral and
religious language.

For those who have the fewest resources to resist inequality, a
powerful and justice-loving God is an important political tool. And
there`s this: some 61 percent of Americans say they are less likely to vote
for someone who does not believe in God. So in 2012, Democrats may do well
not to allow Republicans to offer the only interpretations of the divine.

Joining me now, president and CEO of Common Cause, Bob Edgar, a former
congressman and a former general secretary of the National Council of
Churches of Christ in the U.S. Thanks for joining me tonight.

BOB EDGAR, CEO, COMMON CAUSE: It`s great to be with you tonight.

HARRIS-PERRY: So what do you think of this thesis? Are Democrats
taking the right approach by basically not mixing religion and politics?
And by the way, I get why there`s an impulse for that. But it does feel
like the Republicans, therefore, are the only ones who get to claim the
divine on their side.

EDGAR: Well, I think since the 1970s, when I served in Congress, and
the religious right, led by Jim and Tammie Baker and the televangelists and
others, have a civil marriage with Ronald Reagan and made Ronald Reagan the
Christian president, and Jimmy Carter, who taught Sunday school almost
every Sunday, the other person not to be supported as a Christian.

I think there has been this unusual marriage between the political
right and the religious right. I`m a progressive who believes that we
ought to have separation of church and state, but not separation of people
of faith and institutions of government. That`s why just two weeks ago I
helped organize 11 faith leaders, Jewish, Christian, Roman Catholic,
Protestant, liberal and conservative, who had faithful act of civil
disobedience, very similar to Dr. Martin Luther King`s act in the rotunda
of the Capital.

Because Republicans and Democrats were both talking about numbers, but
not seeing the faces of children that are going be hurt by the deficit
debate. I think the Democrats, the progressives, those in the middle who
aren`t hard core radical Christian right, they ought to use their faith
statement. And they ought to read the Bible in such a way as they
understand that God cares about poor people. God cares about the
stewardship of planet Earth,

I`m unusual. I`m a little bit like Forrest Gump. I`m both a
religious leader and a political leader. I run Common Cause. And the
statistics that you used earlier about how the Roman Catholic vote and the
conservative vote in the 2010 election was so much higher, I worry less
about that for 2012 than the money that`s going to flood into the system,
particularly the money from conservative political forces fueled by
conservative religious forces.

That money, given the Supreme Court`s decision on Citizens United, is
going to have a corrosive impact on the presidential campaign. Billions of
dollars are going to be spent by both parties. But corporations are going
to have such a big voice that that will overshadow any voice by
conservative Christians or liberal Christians on either side.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask about precisely that. I had just enough
Sunday school in my childhood to know there actually is a set of arguments
not only in Christianity, but in many world religions about the particular
ethical, moral, religious, even sort of God-based justice relationship that
we are meant to have to money, right?

So when I hear you say I`m more concerned about the money, I guess
part of what I`m asking is is there a way that, in fact, progressives who
may not have as much money, might in fact be able to employ the tool or the
effectiveness of a religious argument about, for example, fairness,
stewardship of the Earth, caring for one another. These are the kinds of
ecumenical believes that it feels like animate so many world religions.

EDGAR: I think that`s absolutely right. You can find the Golden
Rule, to do unto others as you would have done unto yourself and to love
God, in 26 different religious traditions. And ending the poverty that
kills, healing the Earth, working on peace and nonviolence, these are
fundamentally core issues for the Muslim community, the Christian
community, the Jewish community, and many other traditions.

And it`s those folks who need to come together. Hubert Humphrey said
the moral test of government is what we do for those in the dawn of life,
our children, those in the twilight of life, the elderly, and all of those
in the shadows of life, the poor, the sick and the disabled.

We`ve got to get away from cherry picking our Biblical text and really
understanding that God is calling us to have elected officials who have
strong faith and respect those that have no faith at all, but who have core
values, core principles, that help all people.

We need a government that`s of and by and for the people, not of and
by and for the moneyed interest, the corporate interest. And I think often
the ultra right wing conservative Christians that you hear so much about
have confused their religion with their economic policies, as opposed to
looking deeply into that religion and caring for one another as the
Biblical text calls us to do.

HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate your statements. And, in fact, we heard
from Pope Benedict yesterday that there was a sort of move towards talking
about economic policy. We tend to think about, you know, the Catholic
Church as being just about a sort of pro-life movement, but also hear about
economic policies.

Is that indicative that maybe the Catholic Church is also moving in
precisely this same sort of direction?

EDGAR: Absolutely. His predecessor, Pope John Paul, had a favorite
saying. He said "I dream of a world where none will be so poor they have
nothing to give, and none will be so rich they have nothing to receive."

I think a commitment to ending the poverty that kills, healing the
Earth, is a commitment that cuts across all religious traditions. And I`m
happy that the Pope had said what he did.

HARRIS-PERRY: Bob Edgar, thank you so much for joining us tonight, I
know this can be a tough conversation to have and I appreciate your
thoughtfulness in it.

EDGAR: Great to be with you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks.

Still to come, where else can you read headlines like "Pawlenty
supporters can only dream what it would have been like if their candidate
had dropped out two months later." And quote, "Obama makes it through
another day of resisting the urge to launch all U.S. nuclear weapons at
once."

You`ll meet one of the snarky geniuses behind "The Onion."

And later, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Tim Pawlenty, one of them
is out of the race for president. But they all have a spot on the late
night comedy shows.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Today the White House released this photo from Martha`s
Vineyard. It shows the president`s counter terrorism chief briefing the
president on national security. And it`s also the White House`s
transparent attempt to stave off criticism that the president is enjoying a
leisurely vacation while the economy limps along.

Now, one newspaper predicted such criticism would be common for the
president, who inherited a recession and a rapidly rising unemployment
rate. While most press trumpeted the Obama victory as historic and the end
of a racial barrier, or evidence that yes, we can, the day after Obama was
elected president, "The Onion" published the headline, quote, "Black Man
Given Nation`s Worst Job."

In what has turned out to be nearly prophetic reporting, the article
read in part, quote, "in his new high-stress, low-reward position, Obama
will be charged with such tasks as completely overhauling the nation`s
broken down economy, repairing the crumbling infrastructure, and generally
having to please more than 300 million Americans and cater to their every
whim on a daily basis. As part of his duties, the black man will have to
spend four to eight years cleaning up other people`s messes that they left
behind."

Now, the worst job in America got worse last November when a stubborn
Republican majority claimed the House of Representatives. Three months
later, "The Onion" published this headline: quote, "Republicans Vote to
Repeal Obama-Backed Bill that Would Destroy Asteroid Headed for Earth."

After the debt ceiling bill passed, "the Onion" ran this: quote,
"Obama, Debt Ceiling Deal Required Tough Concessions by Both Democrats and
Democrats Alike."

And the next day, quote, "Obama Turns 50 Despite Republican
Opposition."

"The Onion" also has a television show. Here`s a segment that ran on
The Onion News Network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go to our top political story today. President
Obama cannot seem to shake the mounting rumors that he does not love his
dog, Beau. It started three weeks ago on right wing message boards,
speculating as to why President Obama was so rarely photographed with the
Portuguese Water Dog given to the first family in 2009.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course the president loves Beau, very much. He
scratches behind his ears. He rubs his belly. He calls him a good boy
multiple times per day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh please. Dog hater.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now, ."The Onion`s" digital director,
comedian Baratunde Thurston. He is a good friend and the author of "How to
Be Black," which is available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Thanks so much for joining me.

BARATUNDE THURSTON, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, "THE ONION": Thanks for having
me. First of all, you`re doing a great job in the seat. I feel you`re
MSNBC`s substitute teacher, except the students love it when you show.
We`re like yes, Melissa is here. I think you`re doing just wonderfully.
We`re matching. I tried to be gray as well.

HARRIS-PERRY: I asked for a chalkboard, but they said it was too
Glenn Beck.

THURSTON: You can`t do that. He owns the whole chalkboard market.
you can do whiteboards. You can do holograms, projectors, Powerpoint.

HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe they could do Powerpoint.

THURSTON: Old school overhead projector. You could work that to
transparency. That could be different. That could be very different.

HARRIS-PERRY: Look, I worried about the fact that I actually get a
tremendous amount of my news from "The Onion."

THURSTON: That makes two of us.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, yes. Why is it that you -- that really did seem
prophetic. Everybody else was really taking this so -- it was serious,
obviously, the election of Barack Obama was a serious moment. But you guys
also caught that, wow, he was becoming president at a time when maybe this
was a tough time to be president. What does "The Onion" have to say about
this year? It`s been a particularly hard one for President Obama.

THURSTON: It absolutely has. I think "the Onion" exists in a long
tradition of satire. In America, you have from Mark Twain on forward. So
the ability to take a comedic take -- sort of angle, but also reveal some
kind of underlying truth is not unique to us. But using the news angle, we
have sort of a unique voice to deliver it in.

So the Pawlenty story that you brought up earlier this week was kind
of perfect, because you look at this field, and it`s just like, OK, this
guy is clearly dropping out. He`s too reasonable. He`s just too
reasonable for the current flavor of the Republican party and what their
demands are driven by the Tea Party thing. But it would have been nice to
keep him around a little bit longer, a few more debates, a few more
condescending press clips. It would have been good for the country, and
certainly good for his supporters.

HARRIS-PERRY: So Perry`s got to be fun for you all, though.

THURSTON: Did you say y`all just because of Perry?

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, no --

(CROSS TALK)

THURSTON: I`m just checking. You said you weren`t related, but then
you said y`all.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s true.

THURSTON: I don`t know, America.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s right. I`m sorry. Is Perry interesting
for those of you who are working at "The Onion" these days? Are you guys
actually rooting for a Perry, a Bachmann, because it will make for good
headlines?

THURSTON: I don`t think so. I think when you look at -- the writers
are people too. They`re American citizens as well. It`s certainly not a
heavily political organization. As you can probably pick up, a slight
lean, but they go in on the Democrats and the left pretty much as much as
we do on the right as well.

So it`s not a matter of hoping for absurdity. But when you find it --
in fact, we were often asked are you going to miss George W. Bush. He was
so good for comedy. He actually wasn`t. George W. Bush was -- he made
comedy too easy. Everybody thought they had a great Bush joke, because
they could talk about how illiterate he was, how much vacation he took,
speaking of --

HARRIS-PERRY: You guys actually make absurdity. My favorite "Onion"
series is the Joe Biden series, Vice President Joe Biden series, with him
waxing the Trans-Am.

THURSTON: He`s like Uncle Joe.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, and you guys made that. He didn`t actually ever
shirtlessly clean the car.

THURSTON: Not according to our photo journalists, but sure, if you
want to stick to that. It was great when the vice president actually
acknowledged what we were doing and said he appreciated it. That was a
high moment for the history of the organization.

So yes, I don`t think "The Onion" itself is rooting for Rick Perry,
sort of, but we will take advantage of whatever opportunities there are in
the world of the real, or create another one. One of our top stories this
week was 96 percent of Americans -- sorry, 96 percent of people in the
world prefer to be an animatronic bear, because it`s just easy. You don`t
have to think. You don`t have to worry about what to do with your arms.
You`re only sliding rails. You don`t have to remember anything. It`s all
in a chip in your head.

You`re not worried about your job or your family or whether God exists
or not. So I think there`s a deep level of absurdity that still exists in
"The Onion," but also our political coverage is a little closer to this
world.

HARRIS-PERRY: I love it. And can I just say that truly the greatest
injustice in America today is that you have not won a Pulitzer Prize.

THURSTON: It`s been very disappointing. We`ve been doing fine
journalism for hundreds of years, actually. We did the story on the San
Francisco earthquake, announcing it marked the least gay day in American
history. So that kind of biting and insightful coverage is -- you don`t
see that coming out of "The New York Times," no disrespect to them. But
we`ve been doing a lot of good work.

HARRIS-PERRY: You do not see that. My friend, digital director for
"The Onion," Baratunde Thurston.

THURSTON: Thank you. We`re back on air, season two, Onion News
Network, on IFC, starting October 4th.

HARRIS-PERRY: Fantastic, very good.

Now, Tim Pawlenty`s campaign ran out of gas this week and the late
night comedy writers are offering their own farewell to the first casualty
of the 2012 campaign. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Michele Bachmann`s meaningless win in Iowa, Rick
Perry`s debut on the presidential campaign trail, and the one candidate
Lawrence considered a rational choice for the Republican nomination calling
it quits. Those headlines gave the late night comedy writers plenty of
material to work with this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Presidential politics, shake up in
Republican village. New candidates in, old candidates out, losing
candidates winning, crazy candidates sane. And it all happened here.

CONAN O`BRIEN, "CONAN": Michele Bachmann took first place in the Iowa
Straw Poll. Yeah. Yeah. Michele says she hasn`t been this excited since
she won last year`s Who`s Crazier Than Sarah Palin Contest.

STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Bachmann paid 180,000 dollars
to hand out 6,000 tickets. But it was worth it, because she got 4,823
votes. Bachmann got a commanding 80 percent of the votes she paid for.
That`s pretty impressive.

O`BRIEN: Today Michele Bachmann wished Elvis Presley a happy birthday
even though today`s the anniversary of his death. Oops.

That`s true. When told about the mistake, Bachmann said my apologies
to not only Elvis, but the entire Costello family.

STEWART: The Republicans move into the Fall with Michele Bachmann the
big story. What was that?

That laugh, so familiar, so regional. I can`t place it. It can`t be!
He`s not eligible to run again.

PERRY: Sometimes it kind of takes me awhile to get into something
like this presidential race. But let me tell you when I`m in, I`m in all
the way!

STEWART: Why would the Josh Brolin character from "W" be running for
-- what? That`s a real guy? I interviewed him?

COLBERT: Texas Governor Rick Perry has been in the race only three
days. And he`s already blowing away the competition like it is a
trespassing coyote. In the very first poll, Perry has an 11-point lead.
Eleven. Jim, let`s turn the governor`s collar up to 11.

O`BRIEN: Texas Governor Rick Perry distanced himself from George W.
Bush by saying I went to Texas A&M; he went to Yale. In other words, Rick
Perry`s idea of instilling confidence is to say don`t worry, I`m not as
smart as George W. Bush.

HARRIS-PERRY: It was a disappointing weekend for Minnesota Governor
Tim Pawlenty or T-Paw, as no one calls him. After a poor showing on
Saturday, yesterday Tim Pawlenty dropped out of the race for president. He
says he wants to spend more time lacking charisma with his family.

COLBERT: I was especially sad to see T-Paw go out this way,
considering the epic epicness of his first commercial.

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It takes
extraordinary effort. It takes extraordinary commitment. It takes
extraordinary strength.

COLBERT: So much grandeur, so much stock footage. You should have
played that all the way through to the end. This is how you withdraw from
a campaign.

PAWLENTY: I`m announcing this morning that I`m going to be ending my
campaign for president. We didn`t do well in Ames. We don`t have the fuel
to keep the car going down the road. We needed to get some lift to
continue on and to have a pathway forward.

That didn`t happen. I wish it would have been different, but
obviously, the pathway forward for me doesn`t really exist.

Well, it was disappointing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: The comedians get THE LAST WORD for the week. If
you`re on Twitter, you can follow my Tweets @MHarrisPerry. I`ll make one
last shameless plug for the book. My new one is called "Sister Citizen."
It`s is available now.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" is up next.

END

<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>




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


Sponsored links

Resource guide