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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, September 19th, 2011

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Guests: Gene Sperling, Robert Reich, Jonathan Capehart, Dan Savage


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: The president comes out with a plan, so
Republicans come out with a phrase: class warfare.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not support any
plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary
Americans.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: The bold President Obama today.

OBAMA: I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely
on Medicare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Social Security is off the table.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, "HARDBALL" HOST: Ending the Bush tax cuts that
favored the wealthy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On tax reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Balance --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama throwing the gauntlet down.

MATTHEWS: Obama draws the line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Drawing the battle lines here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nancy Pelosi came out and said she is
encouraged.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I thought it was a good plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s what President Clinton seemed to say.

CLINTON: I think it would put Americans back to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not going to get passed.

CLINTON: I doubt that the Republicans want it to happen.

MATTHEWS: Will it pass? No.

OBAMA: The speaker says, we can`t have it my way or the highway.

MATTHEWS: Taking a fight to the Republicans.

OBAMA: And then basically says, my way, or the highway.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Republicans are already picking it apart.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: There`s no education
the second kick of a mule.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Republicans saying this is dead on
arrival.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Dead on arrival.

JANSING: You do understand, Congressman, the average person out there
who`s making $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 a year, when they hear that you only
have $400,000 left over, it`s not exactly a sympathetic position.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Class warfare has never created a job.

BOEHNER: Well, I don`t believe that class warfare is leadership.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We`re going to just do class warfare.

BOEHNER: It`s time for us to get serious.

BASHIR: Engaging in class warfare. Really?

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: None of this is about class
warfare.

MATTHEWS: President Obama reacted to the class warfare charge.

OBAMA: This is not class warfare. It`s math.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: This morning in his opening remarks introducing his new
deficit reduction plan, the president showed that he gets the joke about
Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: A week ago today, I sent Congress the American Jobs Act. It`s
a plan that will lead to new jobs for teachers, for construction works, for
veterans and for the unemployed. It will cut taxes for every small
business owner and virtually every working man and woman in America. And
the proposals in this jobs bill are the kinds that have been supported by
Democrats and Republicans in the past.

So, there shouldn`t be any reason for Congress to drag its feet. They
should pass it right away. I`m ready to sign a bill. I`ve got the pens
all ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I`ve got the pens all ready.

You see that little smile about having the pens all ready to sign his
jobs bill? A bill the Republican House of Representatives would have to
pass?

He knows that`s a joke. And he rightly intends it to be a joke on and
about Republicans. Of course, Republicans will not support the proposals
in the president`s jobs bill that they used to support in the past because
now that the president has made those proposals, Obama proposals,
Republicans have to be against them, even though they used to be for them -
- especially the tax cuts in the president`s jobs bill.

So, the president has now made it clear that if he cannot beat the
Republicans at their silly games in the House of Representatives, he will
humiliate them for playing those games. He will take every opportunity as
he did this morning to show voters that House Republicans are standing in
the way of economic progress in this country and need to be removed from
office in the next election and replaced with a Congress that has not
signed its brain away to Grover Norquist`s anti-tax pledge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Anyone who assigns some pledge to protect every single tax
loophole so long as they live, they should be called out. They should have
to defend that unfairness, explain why somebody who`s making $50 million a
year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes
when a teacher making $50,000 a year is paying more than that? Paying a
higher rate? They ought to have to answer for that.

And if their pledge to keep that kind of unfairness in place, they
should remember, the last time I checked, the only pledge that really
matters is the pledge we take to uphold the Constitution. We`re already
hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loopholes saying this is just
class warfare. I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay
the same tax rate as a plumber or teacher is class warfare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That is not the talk of a president who is trying to
thread the needle of compromise with his opposing party in the Congress.
That is the talk of a president who wants to fight first and legislate
later -- a president eager for compromise, a president eager to make a
legislative deal does not call out the legislative leader of the opposing
party like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner gave a speech
about the economy -- and to his credit, he made the point that we can`t
afford the kind of politics that says, it`s my way or the highway. I was
encouraged by that.

Here`s the problem -- in the same speech, he also came out against any
plan to cut the deficit that includes any additional revenues whatsoever.
He said, I`m quoting him, "There is only one option." And that option and
only option relies entirely on cuts.

So, the speaker says we can`t have it my way or the highway, and then
basically says, my way -- or the highway. That`s not smart. It`s not
right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Not smart. Not right.

The president doesn`t come out and call the speaker not smart, not
right -- in other words, stupid and wrong when the president is trying to
make a deal with the speaker. The president is trying to humiliate the
speaker and the speaker has no better response than an empty slogan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: Well, I don`t believe that class warfare is leadership.
And, you know, we could get into this "tax the rich, tax the rich," but
that is not -- that`s not the basis for America. And it`s not going to get
our economy going again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Presidents who are trying to negotiate a legislative deal
with the opposition do not issue veto threats on day one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I will not support any plan that puts all the burden for
closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that
changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious
revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay
their fair share.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president knew Republicans were going to call that
class warfare. But with an NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll showing
that 81 percent of voters agree with the president`s position on the rich
paying their fair share, the president knows if he can`t win this argument
with a Republican House of Representatives, he can win it with voters in
November of 2012.

Joining me now is Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic
Council and assistant to the president for economic policy.

Thanks for joining me tonight, Gene.

GENE SPERLING, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Thank you, Lawrence. Thank
you for having me.

O`DONNELL: Gene, you put this package together with the Obama team
and the president. And I`ve seen a lot of these packages put together.
This does not look like a package designed to appeal to the opposition
party in Congress. This reads to me like a package that is in effect a
presidential manifesto saying this is the way. I want to do it.

SPERLING: I would slightly disagree with that, Larry, in the --
Lawrence, in the following way. I think this was a deficit reduction plan
and American Jobs Act that he proposed earlier that does speak his values,
but it is very much speaks to the mainstream of the United States, the
mainstream of American workers out there. As you just said, the
overwhelming number of people in our country believe that if you`re going
to do long term deficit reduction, there has to be shared sacrifice. They
are for spending cuts and spending constraints.

But as the president called for, they don`t believe you should put all
the burden on the middle class, on seniors, on the most vulnerable, and
then ask nothing from the most well off. So, this isn`t about class
warfare, as they say. It`s about what our country has always been about.
And that`s shared sacrifice. You and I both know that there are
Republicans in the Senate. There are Republican experts outside,
businesspeople, who would agree that you have to have a balanced plan. And
that has to include revenues on the most well off together with spending
cuts.

So, I think what he`s done is speak to the mainstream of America. He
has spoken his values. And I think by putting out something that`s
balanced, I think it is going to cause a convergence and I think there will
have to be those who come and work with this president because we got 9.1
percent unemployment, 14 million Americans out of work.

Are they really going to say that they`re going to oppose the
president`s plan to cut payroll taxes for every worker and every small
business? Are they really going to say that laying off hundreds of
thousands of teachers in our schools right now is not a problem? I really
think that when they hear from the American people, you`re going to see
them come towards the president and we will have a chance to get some
meaningful progress this year.

O`DONNELL: Well, Gene, you`re also -- the president is in a re-
election campaign. It seems to me that the threat that he`s laying down
today is, look, Republican Congress, you can cling to your very, very ,
very unpopular position here as long as you want to, I`m not moving off of
this point and I will take this as they say in the capitol -- you know, I
will take this to the voters.

That`s the inside the game threat when people in legislating are
saying to the other side, if you want to continue to fight this way, you
know, forget about what happens here in the Congress, we`re going to take
it to the voters. That`s -- it seems to me that`s what I was hearing the
president say today. He`s ready to take this all the way to the voters
next year if he has to.

SPERLING: But I want to make very clear, we need the American Jobs
Act. We need the $1.9 million new jobs that is projected to create in
2012. We need to get something done. That is our aim. Of course, if
people stand in the way and there is higher unemployment and less growth
and less people working because people block the will of the American
public and stood in the way of the kind of compromise the president wants,
of course, he will make that point.

But I do want to make clear that with this kind of pain in our
economy, with people suffering, this president put forward an American Jobs
Act that as you said included not only infrastructure, school construction,
putting teachers back to work. It also included a payroll tax cut that
virtually every Republican, including Michele Bachmann and John Boehner
have supported repeatedly.

And you have to ask them, does something -- does a tax cut for all
middle class families become a bad idea just because President Obama
proposed it? Are you willing to block even tax relief that experts say
would create 600 to 1 million jobs, just the tax relief portion, just
because President Obama is for it?

And are you really going to betray the bipartisan areas that you and I
both remember, Democrats and Republicans used to work together on, like
transportation, and infrastructure, and putting people back to work when
you got 9 percent unemployment. I think it`s going to be very hard for
them to just say no. I just do not believe doing nothing is going to be an
option for them.

O`DONNELL: Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council -
- thank you very much for joining us tonight, Gene.

SPERLING: Thank you. Thanks a lot.

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Robert Reich, former labor secretary in
the Clinton administration. He`s now a professor of public policy at the
University of California at Berkeley and the author of "Aftershock."

Thanks for joining me tonight, Bob.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Good evening, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: This is a fighting president going out in the Rose Garden
this morning with that speech. There was nothing conciliatory there. It
seems to me that he is confident enough in these positions that he`s
outlined and their voter appeal. That he`s going right over the head of
Congress on day one and willing to actually ridicule and make fun of the
speaker in his announcement of what he wants to do legislatively.

REICH: This is a new Barack Obama. This is a feisty president who is
in an election year contest right now.

You know, I would have predicted, Lawrence, that the big battle to
come was over Medicare, Republicans wanted to cut it, maybe Democrats not
wanting to cut it. Or maybe the big battle to come would be over the jobs
plan.

But no, the big battle to come is over whether we increase taxes on
the wealthy. And it`s a battle that not only Americans are siding with the
president on, but it`s a moral battle as well. The top 1 percent are now
taking home 20 percent, more than 20 percent of total income -- the more,
and a larger portion than they`ve taken home in 90 years. And they`re
facing lower taxes, and lower tax rates than they faced in 50 years.

And what the president is saying is, Americans are on their backs.
Most Americans are either jobless or afraid of losing their jobs or their
wages are going down. They can`t make ends meet. And you at the top, you
have got to play your part -- enough of this.

And I think most Americans say, yes, that is a moral argument that I
agree with.

O`DONNELL: You know, it`s my sense that the Republicans were so
unready to deal with the specifics of the president`s proposal that they
just fell back on the class warfare line today. And I think they`re seeing
the same polls that everyone else sees. They know that the public is on
the president`s side on the taxation issues.

There were other areas to go at, I think, in the specificity of what
the president released today for the Republicans to maybe try to maneuver.
But it seems to me that they fell into the president`s trap perfectly since
they`re so reflexive on taxation that any mention of a change of taxes sent
them right into class warfare mode.

REICH: I think it was a trap. I mean, the interesting thing,
Lawrence, is that you had these polls showing Americans overwhelmingly -- I
mean, these polls are very -- it`s not just one poll. I mean, you got
about 12, 15 different polls showing Americans overwhelmingly of the
opinion that the rich have to pay their fair share, that they`ve got to pay
more taxes. If we`re going to get out of this debt bubble problem we are
in.

And what the Republicans did was to say, reflexively, because they`ve
all taken this pledge they`re not going to raise taxes on the rich or
anybody, what they say reflexively is class warfare -- which sets Democrats
up to say, obviously, well, wait a minute, the top CEOs in this country
that have been raking in $10 million, $20 million each and are laying off
American workers, the ratio of corporate profits to waging that has not
been as high as it`s been now since before the Great Depression -- who is
actually waging class warfare? It is people at the top in control of the
biggest corporations on Wall Street. They have been doing it.

And that`s what Democrats -- not the president -- but that`s what many
Democrats are going to say because the Republicans have now opened up the
issue of class warfare.

O`DONNELL: And it seems the Grover Norquist pledge is costing them
politically, allowing the president as they have done to describe them as
having signed away forever for the rest of their lives any consideration of
closing tax loopholes. And that`s one of the forgotten elements of the
Norquist pledge is it doesn`t allow them to even close tax loopholes
because that would raise tax revenue. The president is able now to
identify them as protecting every single one of those tax loopholes,
corporate jets, whatever it is, in the code.

They`ve got to defend every one of those against the president in this
argument.

REICH: Not only defend every one of them, but they`ve got to defend
the principle to take a pledge to Grover Norquist who is not elected, who
is somebody who has a very special particular interest in this case in
protecting the rich from having more taxes that take away a little bit of
their extraordinary wealth, that that kind of a pledge, tying their hands,
is constitutionally part of their responsibility.

Well, most Americans say, no, I don`t want a representative who is
going to tie his hands and take a pledge to somebody I don`t even -- I
don`t even know. I want somebody who`s going to represent me and my
values. And the president is using that and that kind of bind the
Republicans are in against them.

O`DONNELL: Quickly, professor, before you go. Grade the president`s
rollout today and this particular circumstance with this bill.

REICH: Well, I give him an A-minus. The only reason I`m not going to
give him an A, I would like the tax reform proposal to go far wider and
bigger, including capital gains taxes. You know, capital gains taxes are
one of the big, big loopholes in which and through which the rich drive
their Ferraris.

O`DONNELL: Well, I`m giving him an A because I`m feeling generous.
And he`s up against those crazy Republicans.

I get -- I get the point on the a-minus. You want to encourage your
student to keep trying harder.

REICH: Keep trying harder. This is the right president and this is
the right time. He`s done exactly the right thing morally and politically.

O`DONNELL: Right. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich -- thank you
very much for joining me tonight.

REICH: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Republican presidential candidates`
response to the plan -- of course, were predictable and false. Tax
increases kill jobs. We`ll bust that myth next with Ezra Klein.

And Donald Trump says Willard M. Romney is participating in the Trump
primary by coming to visit the reality TV star in New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama says it`s not class warfare.
It`s math. We`ll do the math on the president`s economic proposals with
Ezra Klein, next.

And later, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry share a little secret.
Something they don`t want voters to know about them. We will, of course,
reveal their secrets in the "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Either we gut education and medical research or we got have to
reform the tax code so that most profitable corporations have to give up
tax loopholes that other companies don`t get. We can`t afford to do both.
This is not class warfare. It`s math.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Time for the math. That was President Obama today making
the argument that deficit reduction legislation should include corporate
tax revenue increases.

The proposal the president outlined includes $1.5 trillion in new
revenue through a combination of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for
individuals who make more than $200,000 per year and families who make more
than $250,000 per year. As well as limiting tax deductions for high income
earners and closing corporate loopholes and tax breaks.

The president`s proposals provoked a chorus of simple-minded attacks
from the Republican presidential candidates relying on slogans, not facts.

Mitt Romney released a statement reading, "President Obama`s plan to
raise taxes will have a crushing impact on economic growth. Higher taxes
mean fewer jobs -- it`s that simple." Wrong, Mitt.

Michele Bachmann wrote, "Mr. President, you don`t create jobs by
increasing taxes on job creators. The president`s plan to raise taxes on
the American people is the wrong policy to create economic growth and
jobs." Also wrong.

Rick Perry went with, "President Obama`s plan is a bait and switch
that offers more than $1 trillion in higher taxes for a promise of
temporary tax relief. The president penalizes investment when it is need
most, discourages charitable giving and doubles down on a failed government
stimulus strategy." OK. Rick Perry gets half a point on discourages
charitable giving, but he`s wrong on everything else.

Today, the president argued that his proposed tax revenue increases
would grow the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: All I`m saying is that those who have done well, including me,
should pay our fair share in taxes to contribute to the nation that made
our success possible. And I think most wealthy Americans would agree, if
they knew this would help us grow the economy and deal with the debt that
threatens our future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC
contributor Ezra Klein. Thanks for joining me tonight, Ezra.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening.

O`DONNELL: All right. You brought your pencil and paper. We`re
ready to do the math here.

It is a marvel to me that after the 1990s, which in effect the raging
economy of the 1990s began with a Bill Clinton tax increase, what was then
the highest tax increase in history. Still is the highest tax increase in
history. The rate stayed that way for the entire decade and we`re still
stuck in this discussion that Republicans want to cling to the notion that
those Clinton tax rates would be disastrous for job creation.

KLEIN: It has not seemed to be a discussion particularly amenable to
evidence. But let`s try some anyway. We got a graph from the Center of
American Progress that I brought along tonight.

And what you`ll see on it is -- they did something interesting. They
looked at job creation over periods of time which had different top
marginal tax rates, different top tax rates for the people the Republicans
call the job creators. And what they found, I think, is essentially
destroys this argument. The best years -- the best years for job creation
in this country actually had the highest marginal tax rates.

If you look at the best five years since 1950, you`ll find tax rates
above 70 percent, at the highest rate. And --

O`DONNELL: Yes. And the highest bar there is in the 75 percent to 80
percent top tax bracket. That`s when you really saw job creation just
roaring along.

KLEIN: And that little tiny red line, the little itty bitty one with
the no job creation, that`s where we are now -- very, very low top marginal
rate, very, very low job creation.

And, now, I don`t want to go too far. I think it`s important to say
that we don`t want extremely high marginal tax rates. They do discourage
work. We don`t think taxes are in general a great thing for the economy,
but nor for that matter are spending cuts to things like unemployment
insurance.

What we tend to find is that taxes are not the driving factor behind
the economy. Republicans have a tendency to make taxes seem monocausal,
the economy is a simple formula. And one end of the formula is taxes. And
when they`re low, the other end of the formula does well, and when they`re
high, it does poorly. That simply is not true.

O`DONNELL: And these are, by the way, that list that we saw was a
list of the actual legislative tax rates at the time. The reality was that
no one was actually paying those top rates. The reality was even when the
rate was 90 percent, people were in effect paying around 50 percent which
is still much, much, much higher than now. And it had absolutely no
negative impact on job creation.

Where do we go from here in this debate, Ezra? The -- I was surprised
Republicans today, really, they didn`t come up with any specificity other
than Rick Perry. I got to give him credit. He noticed there was a
limitation on deductibility proposed by the president. So, that would
include deductibility for charitable giving if you gave, you know, $1
million to some charity, you would not get a 35 percent tax deduction on
it, you get a 28 percent tax deduction on it. And that may inhibit some
charitable giving around the edges. That`s possible.

Other than that, there wasn`t a word of specificity in their
responses.

KLEIN: No, not a ton of it. And irony of this conversation is, the
Republicans are going to push it down in the wrong direction.

If you talk to Republican economists, if you talk to Glenn Hubbard who
is advising Mitt Romney, what he`ll tell you is that the real types of
taxes you got to worry about are marginal rate taxes. You don`t want to
raise marginal rates, it discourages work.

He`ll also tell you it`s not a bad thing to clean out expenditures and
loopholes from the code, things like the itemized deduction that Perry`s
talking about. Things like all the many, many, deductions we spend
trillions of dollars on every year.

But the part of the tax -- the type of tax increase that is popular is
increasing marginal tax rates on the rich, a type that is unpopular is
going after deductions which my colleague, Lori Montgomery, pointed out in
this weekend`s "Washington Post," actually tends to benefit a lot of middle
class households.

So, Republicans are going to end up getting the exact type of tax
increases that they like least and that has the best argument for being
economically damaging and they`re going to be able to block the type of tax
increases that we should actually be doing, which would create a broader,
flatter code and encourage economic growth more aggressively.

O`DONNELL: "The Washington Post`s" Ezra Klein -- thank you very much
for joining me tonight, Ezra.

KLEIN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Ralph Nader wants a primary challenge against President
Barack Obama, Democratic primary challenge. I`ll talk about that with
Jonathan Capehart, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, Ralph Nader wants to challenge
President Obama in a Democratic presidential primary. Nader doesn`t want
to run, himself, but he is hoping to find a slate of liberal candidates to
campaign against the president for the Democratic nomination.

In a statement today, Nader said, "without primary challengers,
President Obama will never have to seriously articulate and defend his
beliefs to his own party. Given the dangers our nation faces, that option
is unacceptable."

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is reveling in his role as he who
must be revered in the Republican presidential primary field. After Rick
Perry came to New York last week to kiss Trump`s rings, team Trump
announced that Mitt Romney is on his way to New York next week to kiss
Trump`s cufflinks or whatever`s left to kiss.

But the Romney campaign has not confirmed that Romney has yet sunk so
low as to seek an audience with his Trumpness. Republican candidates are
not as stupid as they seem on the Trump front. They know Donald Trump is a
politically powerless object of ridicule who has no electoral following.
But Donald Trump does have access to media microphones whenever he chooses.
And the candidates know that if they show him respect, he is easily co-
opted and unlikely to then attack them publicly.

There is no one left on television who can bear Donald continuing to
pretend he might ever run for president. So Donald has taken to websites
to spout that particular lunacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, "THE APPRENTICE": If the Republicans pick the wrong
candidate -- and that could happen -- and if the economy continues to be
bad, which I`m almost sure will happen, because we have very poor
leadership, I would certainly think about running as an independent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC contributor, Jonathan Capehart,
opinion writer for "Washington Post" and senior Trump correspondent here at
THE LAST WORD. Jonathan, let`s start --

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "THE WASHINGTNO POST": Hey, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Let`s start with Ralph Nader, because this is a new
development, this notion of he actually wants to get a bunch of liberal
candidates to challenge the president. And I guess it would be his hope
that they would somehow end up on a televised debate stage, where they
would be challenging the president from the left on all his policies, and
the president would have to defend them. What are the chances of that
happening?

CAPEHART: I was going to ask, who are these people who want to sign
up for this, what would basically be a suicide mission? You`re going to be
run against a sitting U.S. president, a member of your own party, further
damaging that person. Can you imagine? Who would have the guts to go
after President Obama when the economy is so bad, when he`s finally taking
-- you know, visibly taking the fight to the Republicans?

Who`s going to have the guts to do that? I can`t wait to see who that
person is? And who`s going to heed the call from Ralph Nader of all
people.

O`DONNELL: Well, if it isn`t Ralph Nader, who absolutely has had the
guts to do that kind of thing in the past --

CAPEHART: Look what it got us.

O`DONNELL: I don`t see who`s there. It certainly isn`t anyone I
think that we`ve actually heard of, because everybody that you could think
of to the left of the president has already said that they wouldn`t do it.

CAPEHART: Right.

O`DONNELL: Let`s get over to Donald Frump and the Republicans. He
has become a mandatory stop. My theory is they`re doing this just so
Donald can have dinner with them. They can charm him. Then when Donald is
on some Fox News show or something, he won`t say negative things about
them. It`s just to try to quiet Donald down about them.

CAPEHART: If you talk to Donald Trump, as I have --

O`DONNELL: As you do.

CAPEHART: As I do. He will tell you that -- he quotes the "News Max"
piece that says Trump has become his own Iowa, a must see person on the
campaign trail for Republican candidates. Donald Trump will tell you that
they come to him because -- not because they ask him for money. He says
Rick Perry hasn`t asked him for money. Michele Bachmann hasn`t asked him
for money.

What they`re looking for is his endorsement. Because, according to
Donald Trump, he taps into that energy and angst and anger within the
American populous over what`s happening to the economy, what`s happening
with jobs, and particularly, he says, they love what he has to say about
China and how China is, quote, "ripping us off."

O`DONNELL: All right, let`s listen to what Donald said about Romney
on "Good Morning America."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If you look at his record as governor, it wasn`t totally
stellar. His job production was not great at all. In fact, it was the
third worst in the nation. There`s some pretty negative things with
respect to Mitt Romney, which frankly he`s going to have to overcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: See, that I think is what it`s about for Romney. Here`s a
guy who has access to "Good Morning America," which is where the voters
are, "The Today Show," those kinds of shows. He has access to it. He can
say things like that which will be very damaging to Romney. Romney just
needs to just shut him up.

It isn`t about, you know, will you endorse me. It`s just, would you
please stop saying mean things about me?

CAPEHART: Right. Hey, let`s have a dinner, not at that pizza place,
but maybe at John George (ph) or some other restaurant, so I can talk to
you, Mr. Trump, about what it is -- what my plans are for the country, how
I`m going to run this race, and to convince you that if you`re not going to
endorse me, to at least stand down, either in terms of your criticism or
for a potential independent bid for president, which you have said and I
believe he ultimately won`t end up doing.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC contributor and opinion writer
for "Washington Post." Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney`s darkest secret is actually on his
birth certificate. That`s in the Rewrite.

And it`s been almost nine months since President Obama signed the
repeal of Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell. And as of midnight tonight, gays and
lesbians will be able to serve openly in the military. Dan Savage joins
me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. You know, I`ve always felt
funny about guys who don`t want you to know their first names. Are you
with me on this? I mean, what else don`t they want us to know about them?
These guys are lying to you in the very first thing they say to you. Like,
hi, I`m Mitt Romney.

No, you`re not. You`re Willard Romney, Willard M. Romney. Then
there`s hi, I`m Rick Perry, and I`d like your vote for president of the
United States. Well, yeah, I know you`d like my vote. But how about
telling me your real name? Which is actually James Richard Perry.

That`s right. The two front-runners for the Republican nomination for
president have rewritten their first names. Now, I think I know -- I think
you know what Willard Romney doesn`t like about his first name. I have no
idea what James or Jim Perry doesn`t like about his first name.

I would love to have Jim as a first name. So simple. No confusion.
Anyone can spell it. That`s actually why I`ve been using Jim as my
Starbucks name for years now. I`m Jim at Starbucks, because I would never
ask them to try to write an eight-letter name on my Starbucks cup. But
everywhere else, I endure life with a first name that I don`t really like,
because not using my first name just seems too phony to me.

And I`m sure I`m not the only one who feels this way. Willard M.
Romney is obviously afraid that his first name makes him sound like, you
know, some kind of rich guy. He thinks Willard sounds too old-fashioned,
too weird, maybe even too Mormon. But what Romney doesn`t seem to
understand is that American voters are very open minded when it comes to
first names.

They`ve sent more than enough Georges and Johns to the White House.
But they`ve also elected a Zachary, a Millard, a Ulysses, a Rutherford, a
Chester, two Franklins, a Dwight, a Lyndon, not to mention a Barack. So
Willard should relax about his real first name.

Unusual first names have never hurt anyone running for president. In
fact, the three presidents who didn`t use their first names went with
middle names that were more unusual than their first names. Steven
Cleveland used his middle name, Grover. Tom Wilson ran with his middle
name, Woodrow. And John Coolidge ran and won as Calvin Coolidge.

So Willard Romney actually has a better chance of winning the
presidency if he goes with his real first name, instead of trying to hide
it, like a con man or a cult leader. You know, like L. Ron Hubbard whose
real first name, of course, was Lafayette.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: When Air Force Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich (ph)
was buried in 1988, his tombstone read, "when I was in the military, they
gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

Now, 23 years later, the estimated 60,000 gay Americans currently on
active duty and those gay Americans wanting to join the military will no
longer have to hide their sexual orientation. One minute after midnight,
the repeal of Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell goes into effect, nearly nine months
after President Obama signed it into law.

The Pentagon says it is fully prepared for the change; 97 percent of
the military has undergone training in the new law. And the military has
begun accepting applications from openly gay recruits. The United States
Army became the first branch of the armed services to formally end its
Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell policies, sending this announcement: "from this day
forward, gay and lesbian soldiers may serve in our army with the dignity
and respect they deserve. Our rules, regulations and politics reflect the
repeal guidance issued by the Department of Defense and will apply
uniformly without regard to sexual orientation, which is a personal and
private matter.

"For over 236 years, the U.S. Army has been an extraordinary force for
good in the world. Our soldiers are the most agile, adaptable and capable
warriors in history. And we are ready for this change. Accordingly, we
expect all personnel to follow our values by implementing the repeal fully,
fairly and in accordance with policy guidance. It is the duty of all
personnel to treat each other with dignity and respect while maintaining
good order and discipline throughout our ranks.

"Doing so will help the U.S. Army remain the strength of the nation."

Joining me now is Dan Savage, columnist, author and co-founder of the
It Gets Better Project. Thanks for joining me tonight, Dan.

DAN SAVAGE COLUMNIST: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Dan, here we are two years, nine months into the Obama
administration and they got it done. And I must say -- I must tell you, in
my experience with legislative timetables, as politics and governing goes
in Washington, that`s fast.

SAVAGE: It is fast. And it didn`t happen in a vacuum, however.
There was a lot of screaming and yelling. Unlike other Democratic
constituencies in the first couple of years of the Obama administration,
the LGBT community made it known -- was very loud and held the president`s
feet to the fire, that we expected action on DADT, action on DOMA, action
on ENDA, that we didn`t see, or there would be consequences.

The Democrats delivered on the president`s promises around repealing
Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell, after the midterm elections in 2010, when the
percentage of the gay vote going to Republicans jumped and the amount of
money coming from gay donors to Democrats and Democratic organizations
dropped because gay, lesbian, bi and trans voters and donors were very
dissatisfied with the foot dragging we saw coming out of the White House.

They read the writing on the wall after 2010 and delivered on this.
This is a victory. It`s a victory for the white house. They`re glad now
that they did. Early in the administration, there was talk about pushing
the DADT repeal to after 2011, which now we know would have killed it,
because once Republicans took the House, there was no chance.

So we`re really pleased. I think everybody -- every right thinking
American is pleased about this development. But we can`t be naive about
what it took to make this happen.

O`DONNELL: Dan, envision for me where we will be a generation from
now, let`s say 20 years from now, on what this will mean in the American
military at that time. Will it pass in the way that integrating --
racially integrating the military did, such that a few decades later, it
was just inconceivable that it was ever any other way?

SAVAGE: I believe so. I think actually the adjustment is going to be
quicker because LGBT Americans are already integrated into the military.
They`re just not out to people. People are going to be able to come out
now to their colleagues. Out Serve did a poll of LGBT people in uniform
right now. And 40 percent of them, just 40 percent, plan on coming out in
the next week to some of their colleagues in the service.

People are going to realize that they`ve been serving alongside LGBT -
- their fellow citizens who are gay or lesbian, bi or trans for years.
It`s not -- the period of adjustment is going to be swift. As we`ve seen
in every other major military across the world that has ended their bans on
LGBT people serving openly, it`s a huge non-issue.

Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, once they repealed
their exclusionary policies about gay people serving in the military,
everybody was surprised that there wasn`t a lot of Sturm and Drang. There
wasn`t a lot of controversy. There really wasn`t a lot of fallout. It`s
going to be a non-issue.

O`DONNELL: Dan, there`s nothing like making Americans sound stupid
about these issues than a Republican presidential primary campaign. And so
we are in the midst of one right now. I want you to listen to something
that Michele Bachmann said on Jay Leno`s show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Well, that whole pray the gay away
thing. I don`t get that.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, see, I think
-- when I heard that, I really thought it was like a kind of a midlife
crisis line, pray away the gray. That`s what I thought it was.

LENO: Two gay people want to get married, that`s their business.
That doesn`t concern us. I mean, why is that even an issue?

BACHMANN: Well, because the family is foundational. And marriage
between a man and a woman has been what the law has been for years and
years.

LENO: I know. I tried it myself. It works great for me.

BACHMANN: See, there you go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Dan, when she tried to make a joke about pray away the
gray, you know, as a midlife crisis, it`s clear that one of her writers
told her to try to on this show anyway get away from that kind of rhetoric,
if you can.

SAVAGE: Michele Bachmann`s been ducking the question about gay
marriage in every mainstream appearance that she makes. She still speaks
in dog whistles. What we`re going to see from the Republican right is what
happened with race on the Republican right. It shifted from overt racism,
overt statements of prejudice and bigotry, to dog whistles for the racists
out there. They still want to scoop up their votes.

You know, it`s not -- it shouldn`t be lost on anyone that while we`re
on the eve of repealing Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell, finally tonight, today David
Cameron, the prime minister of Great Britain announced -- Tory,
conservative prime minister of Great Britain, announced that they are
moving to legalize full civil equality for gay people in the United Kingdom
by legalizing finally marriage rights for same sex couples.

And you know, we`re seeing from the right here this back peddling and
this hemming and hawing about the inevitable full civil enfranchisement of
gay and lesbian Americans. It`s just embarrassing. Bachmann is
embarrassing on this issue and so many others.

O`DONNELL: Author and columnist Dan Savage, from Chicago tonight,
where he kicks off his national college tour for his MTV series on
Wednesday. Thanks for joining us tonight, Dan.

SAVAGE: Thank you for having me.

END

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