'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, September 22nd, 2011, 11 pm show
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guests: Sam Stein, Rich Galen
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Breaking news: the FOX News Republican
primary debate in Orlando, Florida, has just ended. This is a special
edition of THE LAST WORD.
Front runner Rick Perry and Mitt Romney sparred about Social Security,
health care, and what is and is not in their books.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Speaking of books,
and talking about being able to have thing in your books, back and forth,
and your economic adviser talked about Romney care and how that was an
absolute bust and it was exactly what Obama care was all about. As a
matter of fact, between books, your hard copy book, you said that it was
exactly what the American people needed to have that Romneycare given to
them as you had in Massachusetts.
Then in your paper book, you took line out. So, speaking of not
getting it straight in your book, sir, that would be a --
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MEGYN KELLY, MODERATOR: Governor Romney?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Perry --
ROMNEY: ROMNEY: Governor Perry, we were talking about Social
Security, but if you want to talk about health care, I`m happy to do that.
BRET BAIER, MODERATOR: We are going to have a round on that.
ROMNEY: I actually wrote my book, and in my book I said no such
thing. What I said, actually -- when I put my health care plan together --
and I met with Dan Balz, for instance, of "The Washington Post." He said,
"Is this is a plan that if you were president you would put on the whole
nation, have a whole nation adopt it?"
I said, "Absolutely not." I said, "This is a state plan for a state,
it is not a national plan."
And it`s fine for to you retreat from your own words in your own book,
but please don`t try and make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my
book. I stand by what I wrote. I believe in what I did.
And I believe that the people of this country can read my book and see
exactly what it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: When asked about illegal immigration, several Republicans
took the opportunity to attack Rick Perry for signing the Texas Dream Act
which allows the children of illegal immigrants who have lived in Texas for
three years, to have the GED or diploma from a state-accredited high school
to pay the in-state tuition rates at the state`s public colleges and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would build a
fence on America`s southern border on every mile, on every yard, on every
foot, on every inch of the southern border. I think that`s what we have to
do -- not only build it, but then also have sufficient border security and
enforce the laws that are on the books.
I would not allow taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens or for
BACHMANN: That`s a magnet. End the magnets for illegal aliens to
come into the United States of America.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to reinforce what
Congresswoman Bachmann said. I strongly favor 100 percent control of the
border and I strongly favor English as the official language of government.
ROMNEY: We have to have a fence. We have to have enough border
patrol agents to secure the fence. We have to have a system like E-verify
that employers can use to identify who is here legally and illegally. We
have to crack down on employers that hire people that are here illegally.
And we have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government
benefits like $100,000 tax credit -- excuse me, discount for going to the
University of Texas? That shouldn`t be allowed. It makes no sense at all.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now: Howard Fineman, editorial director for
AOL/"Huffington Post" and an MSNBC analyst. Chris Hayes, editor at large
for "The Nation" and host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES." And, Sam
Stein, political reporter for "The Huffington Post," who joins you from
Sam, let`s start with you in Orlando. Was there a sense of a winner
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Very difficult to predict winners minutes
after the debate concluded. But it seemed clear just from the atmosphere
of the debate itself that Mitt Romney came out very strongly, and Rick
Santorum actually came out strong alongside with him.
It continues to amaze a lot of people how poor Governor Perry actually
performs in this debate. He starts out well, but he consistently struggles
in the second half. And then you saw it again tonight, especially on
immigration reform where he tried to defend the Texas Dream Act and ended
up being bombarded from accusations from all these other candidates, and
ended up in a three-minute or so sparring match with Rick Santorum.
When you`re the front runner, you shouldn`t be punching down like
that. And I got the sense that Governor Perry didn`t want to be doing that
O`DONNELL: All right. Let`s listen to his defense of the Texas Dream
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: There is nobody on this stage who has spent more time working
on border security than I have.
For a decade, I`ve been the governor of a state with a 1,200-mile
border with Mexico. We put $400 million of our taxpayer money into
securing that border. We`ve got our Texas Ranger recon teams there now.
I supported Arizona`s immigration law by joining in that lawsuit to
defend it. Every day, I have Texans on that border that are doing their
But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into
our state for no other reason than they`ve been brought there by no fault
of their own, I don`t think you have a heart. We need to be educating
these children, because they will become a drag on our society.
I think that`s what Texans wanted to do. Out of 181 members of the
Texas legislature, when this issue came up, only four dissenting votes.
This was a state issue. Texans voted on it. And I still support it
CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR: Senator Santorum --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Howard Fineman, those were boos on "I don`t think you have
a heart." That`s not exactly what you want to say to a Republican audience
who doesn`t like anything about his Texas Dream Act.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLTICAL ANALYST: No. And there are two
ironies here. One of them is he is invoking the same states rights
argument. That he is criticizing Mitt Romney for using in terms of
Romneycare in Massachusetts. So, that`s one problem he`s got. The other
problem that he`s got on this issue is he is blaming the feds, basically
saying he wants the feds to do more to protect the border with -- you know,
regardless of what the Texas Rangers are doing.
In another part of his answer, he blamed the lack of support for the
federal government. So, then, he is making an argument in terms of federal
power and federal responsibility which also undercuts the main message of
his campaign which is the states can do it alone.
So, he got caught in both directions on that answer. And I agree with
Sam on a lot of other answers, he was backpedaling and back filling when he
didn`t really know the details. For example on, Pakistan, you name it.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes, it`s a two-man debate. This whole thing is
Perry versus Romney. Was there a winner?
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": Well, I think it was
Romney. I mean, I think Perry, the iconic moment was Perry`s inability to
deliver what was written on his note cards, which was the litany of Romney
flip-flops which has been written out and he presumably has practiced,
attempted to memorize. And he just -- the fact that he completely bungled
I said it was like he was doing his best Will Ferrell impersonation at
the end of it. I mean, he looks like a bad George W. Bush impersonation
during that period. And so, yes, I think it was -- it was a Romney
Can I say one thing about the Dream Act? I don`t think there is any
response that would work, right? From the perspective of the Republican
base, it`s indefensible policy position.
O`DONNELL: It`s like Romneycare. It`s his Romneycare.
HAYES: Right. And he cannot -- whatever he says, he is screwed on
that issue, because the simple policy is so odious to the Republican base.
O`DONNELL: Sam, get in here.
STEIN: Well, let me just say, in talking to the people attended the
debate beforehand, I was shock at how many actually wanted to hear a debate
an immigration policy. This is actually a top issue for the people who are
voting, much more so than health care or Romneycare ever came up. And I
think what you saw with the boos was that they were very disappointed at
what Governor Perry has to day.
The other thing is, at one point in this debate, Governor Perry was
being targeted as a flip flopper by Mitt Romney. The irony, of course, is
that if Romney has a serious weakness in this race is that he has taken up
two positions on basically every issue.
So, if you`re being tarred by the premier flip-flopper in the race,
you know you`re pretty much losing the battle.
O`DONNELL: Howard, from Ponzi scheme in the first debate to "you
don`t have a heart" -- isn`t there anyone in the Perry team who could at
least tell them, where not to go when he is talking about the Dream Act?
Chris has a very important point. There`s no defense of it that`s going to
work. So, isn`t that strategy, say as little as you can about it and get
out of that subject? Move on? Get back to border security?
FINEMAN: Well, he tried. He tried that. He tried that, talking
about border security, talking about the Texas Rangers` recon team, et
cetera. And he tried give the most heartfelt answer that he could, pun
intended, that he could, on helping people who through no fault of their
own or intention on their own are in the state of Texas.
It`s just -- as Sam was saying -- the primary voters don`t buy it.
And, by the way, Florida immigration really matters. It is an issue with
which Floridians are deeply familiar, going all the way back to the issue
with Cuba, and now the with immigrants from all over the rest of the
country, all over the rest of the hemisphere if not the world. And they`re
just not going to accept it from him.
And I would also say that once we get down to the ad-making phase of
the campaign, we`re almost at the phase where we`re talking about
television advertising in the primary states and web-based advertising and
so on, there`s a lot of material here to go after Rick Perry on, whether
it`s immigration or returning Social Security to the states or the
And Mitt Romney is going to be relentless and is very shrewd in terms
of advertising, knowing who his people are. They are just going to carpet
bomb Rick Perry with this stuff from state to state and top to bottom.
O`DONNELL: Chris, the question started with the MSNBC debate when
Perry got in was how is Perry going to do? Because he hasn`t been, hasn`t
had to do much debating in his career in Texas. He`s managed to get
elected without doing a lot of debating.
Is he getting better? He`s done three of these things. I`m not
seeing very much of a step up from one to the next.
HAYES: No. And I think there is a genuine plateauing effect that
we`re seeing. And I think that`s counter posed against Mitt Romney who
clearly has improved. I mean, from -- in every respect as a candidate, he
O`DONNELL: This is one of those classic examples of give a front
runner, in this case, Romney, some real competition. And it makes them
HAYES: Yes, absolutely. And I you`re seeing that from Romney.
But you`re also seeing that running for president is really hard. And
-- I mean, I remember people talking about how listless and out of it and
awful Barack Obama`s debate performances were and his stump speeches were
in Iowa in the fall of 2007, you know? So, there is a learning curve,
definitely and it`s still early.
FINEMAN: Lawrence --
O`DONNELL: Yes. Go ahead, Howard.
FINEMAN: Lawrence, can I say that having talked to a couple of the
top Romney people over the last couple days, they think that their guy is
invigorated by this kind of thing, that when he stands alone, when he`s
making that stump speech, you know, all the wooden qualities and plastic
qualities of Mitt Romney come out. But when he`s face to face and standing
next to a guy who wants to get in his way, Mitt Romney is a tough guy and
it`s better that he be tough and combative than plastic.
So, they`re actually liking these confrontations because it humanizes
Romney or at least makes him seem more human.
HAYES: If you give Romney someone to lay off, he lights up.
O`DONNELL: Sam, I thought Perry`s timing of his entrance into the
campaign was brilliant simply because he waited long enough and created
this momentum, this anticipation, this hope, this expectation. Certain
disappointment already out there with the shape of the Republican field.
He comes in, surges to the top of the polls.
But I`m now wondering, was his team delaying his entry into this race
because he wasn`t ready to stand on stage with these candidates?
STEIN: Well, it is clear now that he`s not exactly comfortable in the
national spotlight. It`s a lot different in Texas. You know, ironically
here, Rick Perry saved himself a lot of trouble and a lot of money by
entering this proceeds late. He got in. He vaulted met immediately to the
top. He didn`t have to spend a dime.
Now, that`s actually what`s benefiting Mitt Romney right now. I
talked to a top Republican strategist, the one of these campaigns, who
said, you know, the longer that Romney doesn`t get hit on his glass jar,
which is this strategist`s word, the longer he doesn`t have to spend his
considerable political war chest.
So, Mitt Romney is basically staying back. He`s got all this money
that he`s going to drop, just like Howard said, on a huge barrage of
advertisements as soon as it gets critical. And that`s going to be a real
challenge for Perry to overcome.
O`DONNELL: OK. Weirdest moments of the debate, last round of
question. Who on this stage would you choose as your vice president?
Romney, of course, was smart enough to avoid it -- as was Perry. Perry
gave a kind of strange answer.
But Newt Gingrich won, Chris, the vice presidential sweepstakes. At
least two of them chose night Gingrich. Huntsman, I think threw just his
political career away, choosing Herman Cain as his vice president right out
there on the stage. It doesn`t get stranger than that.
FINEMAN: On the basis of yellow ties.
O`DONNELL: There`s a presidential moment for you.
STEIN: A smart move to choose a tie color.
HAYES: I thought that question was so interesting because it`s kind
of -- it`s a good question, actually, I thought. And it`s also the kind of
question an expert, someone who is practiced swats away.
So there is this real division between the people that knew enough to
swat it away because you don`t have to answer the question. It is the
first thing you`ve learned and the thing you have to get drilled into your
head because being a politician is totally unnatural. Human conversation
is interaction and answering questions. And you have to unlearn that
And the people that learn that impulse go furthest as presidential
candidates. And you really saw in that question, who is ready and who is
not in that respect?
FINEMAN: Lawrence, can I also second something that Chris said. I
thought watching Rick Perry try to get out of his mouth the attack line,
the attack lines on Mitt Romney who was there just waiting to get hit was
really very revealing, because it showed not only had he not practiced
enough. And, by the way, I remember talking to David Carney who is the top
adviser to Rick Perry back a couple months ago when Carney was trying to
slow down the train of getting Rick Perry in the race because they knew he
had to practice a lot. They had to get him up to speed.
The fact that he couldn`t execute the most basic maneuver of what his
attack line of the next month or two would be -- you know, Romney the flip-
flopper thing was very revealing, because Rick Perry doesn`t understand it
from the inside out and can`t repeat it from the inside out.
O`DONNELL: All right. That`s going to have to be our LAST WORD for
this segment. MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman and the "Huffington
Post," Sam Stein -- thank you for joining me.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: You`re going to stay with me, Chris.
Coming up next, the Republican strategist Rich Galen will join us.
We`ll look at more of tonight`s debate performances.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with a special edition of THE LAST WORD. The
Republican debate in Florida has just ended.
Let`s listen to the front-runners, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney exchange
thoughts on Social Security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PERRY: Those people that are on Social Security today, those people
that are approaching Social Security, they don`t have anything in the world
to worry about. We have made a solemn oath to the people of this country
that that Social Security program in place today will be there for them.
Now, it`s not the first time that Mitt has been wrong some issues before.
ROMNEY: There is a Rick Perry out there saying, almost to quote. It
says that the federal government shouldn`t be in the pension business.
That it`s unconstitutional. Unconstitutional and it should be returned to
the states. So you`d better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop
Now, my own view is we have to make it very clear that Social Security
is the responsibility of the federal government. Not the state
governments. We`re going to have one plan and we`re going to make sure
that it`s fiscally sound and stable.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, the former aide to Newt Gingrich,
Republican strategist Rich Galen. Also, Chris Hayes, editor at large for
"The Nation" and host of MSNBC`s "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES."
Thank you both for joining me.
Rich, get in here. On the two-man race.
RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well --
O`DONNELL: We`re not going to rule out the Gingrich possibilities
GALEN: Newt is living from debate to debate. He`ll raise enough
money on this debate tonight to stay alive for another week or two.
O`DONNELL: OK. But in that front-runner race, do you see a winner in
GALEN: I disagreed with Howard. And I think e from the last segment.
I thought Perry did what he needed to do. You guys are expecting some
silver tongued devil to emerge out of Texas. That`s not who he is. That`s
not what he`s going to do.
He is what he is. And I think he is pretty comfortable in his skin.
And that little exchange that you just showed, one of the things that you
tried to tell your candidate in these things is -- if you`re good at it --
if you have, as we were talking about it earlier, an attack line. Keep it
simple. They gave Romney a 17-point attack line and he got tangled all
So, I think that in the exchanges, Perry held up perfectly well. In
my post-game analysis, I said I thought Romney played to a tie.
O`DONNELL: So, Rich, to correct our thinking on what the Republican
audience is seeing there, would you expect any movement in the polls either
way based on what you saw them do tonight?
GALEN: No. I don`t. Well, yes, I do. I think probably Bachmann
will move up. I thought she got herself back into the conversation. I
mean, either you buy her act or you don`t. If you don`t, it doesn`t matter
what she says. If you do, it doesn`t matter what she says.
But I thought she got herself back into the rhythm of thing. So, she
may see a bump out of this. But I think amongst the top two, it`s about
where it is.
I think that Perry, his arc has sort of stalled after that remarkable
launch. And I think what he wanted to do today with Carney and his team
wanted Perry to do tonight was to restart that second stage. And I think
it came pretty close.
O`DONNELL: Chris, we could talk all night about the specifics of
Social Security and the things that Rick Perry says about it. But the fact
that the Republican presidential primary debate is turning on Social
Security with one of the front-runners trying to portray himself as the
defender of Social Security with no specifics behind that defense, and
another one clearly as a threat to Social Security -- is that a good or a
bad thing for the Democratic campaign?
HAYES: It`s a good thing, I think. I mean, I think the moment in
which Romney saw daylight to Perry`s left on Social Security was the first
moment as far as could I tell in the entire Republican campaign where
anyone saw anything to be gained by getting through anyone` left on
anything. And so that shows something.
I also think it is interesting because it highlights the fundamental
demographic core of the Republican Party. This is the "government hands
off my Medicare" problem, right? Which is that the same party that is a
party that is most hostile to social insurance and the grand program that
are the foundation of that is also the party that draws most heavily on
Americans who used the biggest program, Medicare and Social Security,
And that`s a hard thing for them to square. And Romney, I think,
understands just how visceral and important that is.
O`DONNELL: Rich, do you agree with Steve Schmidt and other
Republicans who suggest and some of the polling that we`re seeing now, that
suggests that the Obama campaign, if they have to face Romney or Perry,
should be cheering for Perry to get the nomination? They have an easier
campaign against him?
GALEN: Oh, I don`t think there is any question about that. And to go
to Chris` point, what the Romney campaign is doing, they are playing --
they are using Social Security specifically to make that point, to talk to
moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats, and the broad reach of
independents to say between these two guys, who do you think, A, can beat -
- who are you more comfortable with? And when they say Romney, then he
These things will become more important as we go to actual voting.
But I think Chris is right. That`s exactly what the Romney campaign is
doing. They`re playing a very strategic game. They think they found kind
of a hinge against which they can pivot for the next four months in Social
O`DONNELL: Chris, is there anyway for the Obama campaign to deal with
having a preference in terms of these possible nominees? Is it, you know,
just criticize Mitt Romney and sort of lay off Perry? Is there anyway to
play that game?
HAYES: You know, I think they toyed a different point in elevating
certain people and they certainly tried the sort of death hug to Romney`s
Massachusetts health care. I mean, they`ve taken every opportunity in the
past. But now that I think -- now that Perry is in the field, I wonder
whether we`ll see more of that, essentially -- particularly if it looks
like Perry is declining relative to Romney.
I don`t know ultimately how much weight that carries but I do know
that there is a degree to which a throaty endorsement -- the president has
the power to give what kind of endorse many that will resonate in the
Republican field in a negative way. We may see some of that as the field
GALEN: Yes, you`re right, Chris. If he takes a lesson from when
Harry Reid did in the Republican primary in Nevada, he will see very
clearly how to accomplish that.
O`DONNELL: What is that lesson from Nevada?
GALEN: Well, Harry Reid was brilliant. He maneuvered the Republicans
into nominating the very person he knew he could be and he did. He was a
brilliant piece of political strategy.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there for tonight.
Republican strategists Rich Galen and MSNBC`s Chris Hayes -- thank you
both very much for joining me tonight.
GALEN: Thanks, guys.
HAYES: Thanks a lot.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, for every execution in America, there is
someone who is the executioner. Someone whose job it is to kill. That`s a
government job we should not be trying to create.
And Troy Davis wasn`t the only person executed in America last night.
There was an execution tonight you`ve probably heard nothing about. You`ll
hear more about it in tonight`s "Rewrite."
O`DONNELL: At 11:08 p.m. last night, this country`s most recent death
penalty debate climaxed in the execution by lethal injection of Troy Davis
in Jackson, Georgia. Most arguments raised against the execution of Troy
Davis focused on the particulars of his case, the possibility of his
innocence, the room for reasonable doubt.
But there is another problem present in every execution that is
usually ignored. And that is how can we as a society ask anyone to do this
kind of killing for us? What are we asking of the firing squad, that is
still an execution option in Utah? What are we asking of the people who
deliver the lethal injections, the people who`ve done that 36 times this
No one wants to grow up to be an executioner. But someone does.
Someone somewhere in a kindergarten class in this country today is going to
grow up to be an executioner. No one hopes that for any student in any
American classroom today. No one wants that.
We don`t know who the actual executioner of Troy Davis was last night.
That information is not released. That person lives with this knowledge,
goes home with this knowledge, goes home to his or her children with this
knowledge. What -- what are we doing to those people?
Joining me now, Jeanne Woodford, the executive director of Death
Penalty Focus, which opposes capital punishment. She is a former warden at
San Quentin Prison in California, where she oversaw four executions.
Thanks for joining me tonight, Jeanne.
JEANNE WOODFORD, DEATH PENALTY FOCUS: Thank you very much for having
O`DONNELL: Tell us about this job. We have a job in America -- we
have a government job in this country, executioner. We keep it secret. We
don`t want people to know who it is. It`s a combination of shame and the
safety of the person and just -- but we do -- after the execution, we send
that person home from their government job to just deal with this.
Who are we doing that to? What are we doing to those people?
WOODFORD: Well, I think that it`s a very difficult job. And you
know, I describe this job as starting far before that night. I ask people
to imagine waking up in the morning and going to work 30 or 60 days prior
to an execution. And that is about when you know there`s going to be an
And you go to work planning to kill a human being. And you go to work
to practice that and to plan for that. So it has an impact far before that
night. And certainly it has an impact after the execution.
O`DONNELL: And do we have any programs that deal with what the
executioners go through? This is not easy for them. Even if they think
it`s easy for them, they are suppressing all sorts of feelings and have to
manage all sorts of feelings before and after the fact. What treatment do
we -- counseling of any kind do we provide for them?
WOODFORD: Well, I can speak for this state, California. And in this
state we do provide pre and post counseling for everyone involved in the
execution process. We really do try our best to help people through the
process. And I want to tell you that, for all intent and purposes, it is
the warden who is the face of the execution.
It is the warden that people believe carries out the execution. And
that is done to protect the staff who are involved in the process.
O`DONNELL: Exactly. And we protect it because we`re at some level
not proud of what we`ve done.
WOODFORD: Well, I think that`s certainly true. You know, many people
don`t want their families to know that they`re involved in this process.
They`re concerned about what their children might think of them. And I
don`t -- I agree that it often doesn`t hit people right after the execution
and sometimes it`s years later.
And I do know that it has an impact on people. And that is why I`m
with Death Penalty Focus, seeking to abolish the death penalty in this
O`DONNELL: When we think about the inhumanity of the death penalty,
we ignore the people we`re asking to do this for us.
WOODFORD: I agree. We are ignoring the people that we ask to do
this. And is it right to ask a public servant to kill out -- the killing
of a human being? In my mind, it is not. And certainly, I have been
involved with capital punishment for over 30 years. So I know it from all
points of view.
Not only are we causing harm to the staff, but I do not believe that
it brings any kind of remedy to the victims` families. It is a costly,
ineffective process. And that`s why we`re going forward to try to end
capital punishment in the state of California.
O`DONNELL: Jeanne Woodford, thank you very much for joining me
tonight. And thank you for the work you`re doing.
WOODFORD: Thank you so much for having me.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the execution of Troy Davis drew an
unprecedented amount of media attention. But where was the outrage over
Derek Mason, who was put to death in Alabama just over an hour ago? That`s
next in the Rewrite.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s Rewrite. America had its annual media
spasm over the death penalty yesterday. And now it`s back to business as
usual. At 6:49 p.m., central time this evening, in Atmore, Alabama, Derek
O`Neal Mason was executed. And no network shifted to live coverage of the
event or even bothered to report it.
No coast-to-coast expressions of outrage. There was no argument over
Derek O`Neal Mason`s guilt or innocence. He confessed and was found guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the execution-style shooting of a convenience
store clerk in the store that Mason was in the process of robbing.
Before shooting 25-year-old Angela Kagel (ph) in the face twice, Derek
o`Neal Mason forced her to take off all of her clothes. How am I doing on
eliciting your sympathy for Derek O`Neal Mason? How about outrage over the
I know what you`re thinking. You`re thinking Derek O`Neal Mason is
not the case to use to build outrage over the death penalty. Nor is the
case of Lawrence Russell Brewer (ph), who was executed at 6:21 p.m.,
Central Time, yesterday in Huntsville, Texas.
Many of you will remember his crime. He was found guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt of the 1998 hate crime murder of 49-year-old James Byrd
Jr. Lawrence Russell Brewer and two of his friends chained James Byrd to
the back of a pickup truck and then drove along a bumpy asphalt road at
2:00 in the morning.
They drove for at least three miles with James Byrd dragging 24.5 feet
behind them at the end of that chain. Six hours later, when what was left
of James Byrd`s mangled body was found, the sheriff who found him at first
thought he was looking at animal road kill.
Lawrence Russell Brewer`s execution yesterday passed virtually
unnoticed by the national media at the very moment when they were covering,
minute-by-minute, developments in a possible stay of execution for Troy
Davis, which was then followed by Troy Davis`s actual execution at 11:08
p.m. in Jackson, Georgia.
Many death penalty protesters were heard on this network and others,
all focusing on the injustice being done to Troy Davis. But the legendary
civil rights hero Dick Gregory, who has been protesting the death penalty
longer than anyone you heard from yesterday, was not one of the voices of
protest heard in that coverage of Troy Davis.
Yesterday, Dick Gregory was in Huntsville, Texas, protesting the
execution of hate crime murderer Lawrence Russell Brewer. Dick Gregory
knows that there will always be unjust executions. There will always be
some executions of the innocent as long as there is a death penalty.
Dick Gregory knows that as long as you protest the death penalty only
-- only when you think it`s being applied against an innocent man, or if
you protest the use of the death penalty only because you believe there is
reasonable doubt, and you don`t protest the cases where there is no doubt,
you don`t protest tonight`s execution of Derek O`Neal Mason, or yesterday`s
execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer, you are in effect saying there are
right and wrong ways to administer the death penalty, and we should just do
It`s all we have to do, just do it right.
But as long as we have Derek O`Neal Masons and Lawrence Russell
Brewers, we are going to have Troy Davis`. The death penalty is a human
system created by human beings, run by human beings. That means there is
human error built into it. A human system is not capable of perfection.
Government does nothing flawlessly. Government cannot flawlessly kill
people. If you give government the power to kill people, you are giving
government the power to make mistakes killing people. And government will
make those mistakes. The protest against Troy Davis` execution was the
largest protest against the death penalty in 11 years in this country.
In those 11 years, we have executed 672 people, including Derek O`Neal
Mason earlier tonight. No more than one or two of those executions a year
got national media attention. This year, 34 people were executed in this
country before Troy Davis, including Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was
executed three hours and 47 minutes before Troy Davis, over the protest of
You couldn`t stop Troy Davis` execution by just protesting Troy Davis`
execution. The only way to stop Troy Davis` execution is to stop all
executions. If you`re outraged at Troy Davis` execution but weren`t
bothered by Derek O`Neal Mason`s execution tonight in Alabama, weren`t
moved to protest the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer last night, then
you`re sure -- you are absolutely sure to find yourself outraged and
protesting another execution, maybe not for another year or two, but surely
another one will come along where you`re convinced that the condemned man
or woman is actually innocent or at least had a grossly unfair trial that
leaves any reasonable person with reasonable doubt about the guilt of the
person to be executed.
If you save your outrage for that execution, if that`s the next one
you`re going to protest, then you will probably have Troy Davis deja vu.
The time to fight that next unjust execution that`s going to happen in the
next year or two is right now.
O`DONNELL: Despite 72 percent of Republicans saying they do not want
Sarah Palin to run for president, Sarah Palin`s political action committee
is at it again. They`re teasing her supporters with a potential Palin 2012
run. The "Des Moines Register" obtained a fund-raising letter sent Tuesday
that reads in part, "Governor Palin is on the verge of making her decision
of whether or not to run for office. Someone must save our nation from
this road to European socialism. Do you think it should be Governor Palin?
If so, you can send your best one-time gift to Sarah PAc today to help her
elect more common sense conservatives and show her that we support her if
she decides to run."
We have new guidance here at THE LAST WORD on the future of Sarah
Palin in the just released book written by her almost son-in-law, "Deer in
the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin`s Cross hairs," Levi Johnston
writes about Sarah Palin as governor of Alaska.
"I hate this job," she used to say. "I could be making money
joining me now is friend of the show Levi Johnston. Making money is
what she`s up to, right, Levi?
LEVI JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS": That`s what it`s all
O`DONNELL: That`s what I`ve been calling all along. I`ve been saying
no chance of running for president. She`s making money. This is working
for her. And to make more money, she wants to tease people into thinking
she`s a factor in presidential politics.
JOHNSTON: Definitely. As long as she can milk it, you know, make
people think that she`s going to run, she`s making a lot of money off of
O`DONNELL: That`s it, America. Case closed. Levi Johnston says
she`s not running for president, right? It`s ridiculous.
JOHNSTON: Yeah. I mean, there`s times I think she will. But the
more I think about it, I just -- I don`t think she`s quite dumb enough to
O`DONNELL: Now, last time you were here, you were, speaking of dumb
enough, thinking about running for mayor of Wasilla.
O`DONNELL: Did you smarten up and rethink that?
JOHNSTON: You know, yeah, I actually smartened up real quick. After
they started throwing all the books and everything at me, you know, I
quickly realized that I was not qualified for it. And you know, in years
to come, I might try it. But as of right now --
O`DONNELL: Let someone who desperately needs that, you know, do that.
And besides, it would cut into your nightclub time, this mayor thing. You
don`t want that.
O`DONNELL: Now, normally, when we have book authors on the show, we
frequently will read passages of the books. But I realized you`re here,
you can -- why not just let you do the reading? Can you do this passage
here that gives us a little bit of a flavor of what your life was like in
and around the --
JOHNSTON: I don`t have to read it out of the book. I can just tell
O`DONNELL: Why don`t you just read that passage so viewers and book
buyers will know what they`re in for on this book? Just the highlighted
JOHNSTON: "That night, Sarah went out to a meeting. We were upstairs
in Sarah -- or Bristol`s room, when Todd`s diesel truck came up down the
driveway. So we decided to chance it and take a shower together."
O`DONNELL: It`s in the book.
JOHNSTON: You would pick this one.
O`DONNELL: It`s in the book.
JOHNSTON: "We were in the middle of shampooing each other`s hair when
we heard the truck came back. I freaked. I was drying off my hair with
one hand and hers in the other. As we pulled our clothes out of a pile on
the floor, I tried to make it downstairs before he got inside, but it was
slow. We listened to Todd coming through the open -- coming in and opening
the fridge. Then I heard the creak in his recliner. When I snuck on my
cap, we rolled downstairs, I had to look to -- I had to look like most
obvious perp in Wasilla. None of it mattered. Bristol`s dad was asleep.
We were more careful when we went to a bubble bath downstairs in Sarah`s
O`DONNELL: We can cut it right there on the Jacuzzi. Thank God for
that recliner, huh? He just would fall asleep right away. Once you heard
the creak in the recliner --
JOHNSTON: We knew we were good.
O`DONNELL: You knew minutes away, he was going to be snoring, right?
JOHNSTON: That or watching a basketball game.
O`DONNELL: Levi, this was risky business for you in that house.
JOHNSTON: It was, yeah. I mean, that -- I could have been dead right
O`DONNELL: OK. So what would Todd have done if he caught you? Is he
an angry guy? Does he have a temper?
JOHNSTON: Well, I imagine. If I had a daughter and I`d come home and
the boyfriend --
O`DONNELL: Wait a minute. If Levi Johnston has a daughter, if he
comes home to that scene, isn`t he going to be a little more understanding
since he lived through that himself? Come on.
JOHNSTON: We`d be out back, I think.
O`DONNELL: Now, this is a little part that surprised me here. If you
could just read that highlighted section there.
JOHNSTON: "I`m the one," Bristol said, "who should be having the
baby, not Sarah." The Palin kids call their parents Todd and Sarah when
they`re tense. Bristol looked at me, "let`s get pregnant." That`s it.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, that`s it. That`s how it happened?
JOHNSTON: That`s pretty close. You know, we had talked about a baby.
After Sarah got pregnant, had Trig, that`s when it really -- we really
started going for it.
O`DONNELL: But didn`t you think, wait a minute, I don`t have the
income for this? How are we going to -- I mean, no thinking at all?
JOHNSTON: I`ll tell you, I started thinking my -- it didn`t work
because, I mean, it hadn`t happened yet anyway. So I was just young. I
didn`t -- if it happens, it happens.
O`DONNELL: You had run the risk before?
JOHNSTON: Yeah. We had. Yeah. And I mean, it never happened. So I
was like, you know -- I was young, I was like whatever, let`s -- let me
tell you, it happened real quick.
O`DONNELL: But now that you are a father, there`s nothing to regret.
When there`s a baby there and there`s a kid in your life, there`s nothing
to regret about that.
JOHNSTON: Nothing. That was -- Trip being born was the happiest day
of my life, and I wouldn`t change it for anything.
O`DONNELL: And if we sell enough of these, "Deer in the Headlights,"
on sale this week, we`ve got a college education right here.
JOHNSTON: College education. I can go back home and get my pilot`s
license and become a guide in Alaska.
O`DONNELL: What are you doing? Tank is here tonight. He takes you
everywhere you go in New York City. He`s there with my guy Anthony, who
takes me everywhere I go in New York City. I told Anthony to find out from
Tank where you guys are going tonight, so we can all hang together. Where
are you going after the show?
JOHNSTON: I don`t know where we`re going.
O`DONNELL: All right. I`m following Tank. Levi Johnston, thank you
very, very much for coming back and joining me this evening.
You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com.
You can follow my Tweets, @Lawrence. A special edition of THE LAST WORD is
coming up at 11:00 p.m. tonight. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" is up next.
Good evening, Rachel.
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